- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to Mr. Zad’s comic critique

Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy, one shot (DC Comics, $2.99) - The villains took over DC Comics in January with issues devoted to answering the question “What happens when evil wins?” and shining spotlights on the likes of Deathstroke, Kobra and Prometheus. An issue was reserved for the gray-skinned rhyming monster who has been menacing members of the Justice Society and Justice League in comics since 1944.

What’s the story? The origin of one of Green Lantern’s ugliest foes and Gotham City’s favorite serial killers gets a fresh coat of paint. Solomon Grundy, also known as Cyrus Black, appears to have spent every week since 1885 living, dying and coming back to life. It sounds exhausting, and his transformations into a wooden, massive oaf should not be confused with the Incredible Hulk, but they might be after one reads this book.

Writing strength: DC writing stalwart Geoff Johns of Flash and JSA fame crafts the paper-thin tale of recurring resurrection with a redundancy of murder and violence that could have been compacted into a two-page spread. “Black pus filled my lungs,” our villain exclaims. Yuck, we get the point.

Artist’s style: Scott Kolins takes full advantage of Mr. Johns’ graphic script and Grundy’s many-faceted looks and rebirths to create a grisly monster gallery. He illustrates a short list of guest appearances such as Alan Scott and Red Tornado’s head within pages that demonstrate a variety of ways Grundy kills and dies.

Pop-art moments: Grundy’s encounter with Killer Croc in the sewers of Gotham is the clear highlight of the issue. The two villains in a slimy turf war that ends in a bloody victory may get a gasp from readers.

Read it or leave it? Grundy has gotten much nastier than I remember him from the days of Challenge of the Super Friends. This book not only sets up his upcoming seven-issue miniseries, but also gives mature readers a much more graphic exposure to a classic character of the DC Universe.

Skaar: Son of Hulk, Nos. 1 through 5 ($2.99 each, Marvel Entertainment) and Savage World of Sakaar, one-shot ($3.99, Marvel Entertainment) - Between conquering a planet and beating the armor off Tony Stark, the Incredible Hulk managed to sire a son. His offspring, Skaar, is part of a monthly series and lives on a world as violent as his nasty attitude.

What’s the story? Skaar was born in a sea of fire during an explosion that killed his mother, Queen Caiera. With a motto of “If it bites, kill it,” he finds himself wandering dangerous lands of Sakaar with an unquenchable rage directed at nearly anything in his path.

Acting as a savior to the refugees of the planet, Skaar battles against the barbarian Axeman Bone and his minions while allying with Princess Omaka to find the Old Power he is prophesied to possess.

Writing strength: Greg Pak led readers from the Planet Hulk story line through World War Hulk and now goes back to the planet Sakaar to chronicle the difficult ascent to misunderstood monsterhood for the young green warrior. Mr. Pak channels Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard for an evolving, action-packed epic filled with brutality.

Artist’s style: Former Hulk illustrator Ron Garney brings the hostile planet to life. Unfortunately, his sketchy style and Paul Mounts’ muted color schemes never deliver the type of adrenaline rush I required to completely embrace the artwork.

Jackson “Butch” Guice’s work on the backup story is a finely detailed expose of the characters and environments looking as sharp as the Axeman’s favorite weapon.

Also, the Savage World of Sakaar one-shot boasts some beautiful pages by Carlo Pagulayan and Gabriel Hardman.

Pop-art moments: I loved Mr. Garney’s look at Skaar surviving as a child, complete with Brood-like creatures munching away at him, as well as the brute’s battles against the dragons of Fillia. Mr. Hardman’s depiction of Skaar battling an Eleha’al vine would make Frazetta proud.

Read it or leave it? Big sword, big fists, always angry and ready to decapitate,Skaar is my kind of fellow. Mr. Pak has spun an intense tale to grab Hulk lovers’ attention and fans of a certain muscle-bound Cimmerian. It’s just a matter of time before father returns to see how much trouble his irradiated offspring has caused. I can’t wait.

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