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Demo #6
by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
Published by DC Comics

While being published under DC's Vertigo imprint for this 6-issue stint, Demo was formerly published by AIT Planetlar. It's actually one of the titles that grabbed the attention of DC and pretty much paved the way for Brian Wood's rise to stardom. The original series was 12 stand-alone issues, and the new series continues in the same vein. Don't pick up this book expecting your traditional superhero fare. While the characters involved do exhibit superhuman abilities, they're not trying to be super. They're not trying to be great. In fact, they're really just doing what most of us do every day - trying to be normal. Instead of trying to change the shape of the world for humanity, they're just trying to change their own little piece of it. Wood creates a vivid, personal portrait of these people. At times, it can even feel like you're spying in on moments that are meant to be strictly private.

In this particular issue, we get the story of a very unique couple. They're drawn to each other - quite literally. Though their personalities are terrible for each other, they have to remain physically close. Extended periods of absence actually causes physical pain for them. Now you can interpret this as a metaphor for people who constantly get themselves into destructive relationships.

Whether or not that's what Wood intended, I'll leave up to you. The beauty of the issue, as in the rest of the series, is how the characters deal with the circumstances they find themselves, and eventually find some modicum of peace.

Being the last issue of the series, a collected edition should be available in your local bookstore pretty soon. I do recommend, though, that you pick up the original 12-issue series first. While each issue is satisfying on its own, you get a more full picture by reading everything together.

Who should read this book:
People who like character-driven, introspective stories.
People who can appreciate a good b&w book.
People who breech feed (see Shark Week for more details).


Scarlet #1
by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Published by Marvel

You may be familiar with this creative team from their multiple award-winning run on Daredevil. That title as a whole has always been one of my faves for the past 6 years. I can't say it's underrated, as all the critics and superfans agree that it is consistently awesome. Non-comics readers (civilians, as I call them) don't really recognize the title too easily. However, I think it was the work of Bendis & Maleev that really elevated Daredevil to monumental status among those that care. So when I heard that the creative team would be releasing a title under Marvel's ICON imprint, I was sold even before I picked it up. ICON is the home to Kick-Ass, Nemesis, Powers, Criminal, and some of the best independent books on the market. Plus, they're creator-owned, which means that if a movie is made, or if there's any merchandising rights, the creators get that scratch, not the publisher.

Being independent, Bendis can write anything he wants. He doesn't have to cater to the direction that the editorial staff wants to go in. He doesn't have to pull any punches, and the way this first issue sets up this series, it looks like Bendis aims to make full use of that creative liberty.

The premise: We've all wanted to change the world. We've been fed up with the system, jaded by by an economic infrastructure that we have little or no power to affect. We've seen abuse of authority and longed to cry out against it, with no one to listen to us even if we could. Scarlet, the titular character of our story, stands poised to enforce the changes that she feels need to be made.

Her life is turned upside down when a crooked cop takes his power trip to another level. Instead of just sitting back and allowing herself to be a victim, she rises up and becomes a hero. But what does that really mean? Can we really go up against the system and not expect any consequences?

What should jump out at you immediately is how awesome Maleev's art is here. I think the dude's brilliant, with a really solid eye for composition. He knows how to use shadows to his advantage, and plays with light to set a specific mood. While I'm mentioning him, be sure to check out "N.", which he adapted from a Stephen King short story with Marc Guggenheim. If I'm not mistaken, it may still be available as a motion comic on iTunes. Don't quote me on that, though. If it's not, the collected edition is available in bookstores now.

Who should read this book:
People who dig badass chicks.
People who are tired of the system.
People who hunt for mythological creatures.


Superman #701
by J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows
Published by DC Comics

This is the first issue of Superman that is brought to us by J. Michael Straczynski, who you may be familiar with as the creator of Babylon 5. He also wrote a years-spanning award-winning run on Amazing Spider-Man. Now get ready for this comment: This is the single best issue of Superman that I have read in the past 5 years. Superman is my favorite hero of all time. I attribute much of personality traits to lessons that I learned from reading his books. Moving forward, when people ask why he's my top guy, I will refer them to this issue. This is where the awesome comes in - you won't see Supes fighting giant robots in this issue. He doesn't face off against any maniacal genius, or insane criminal mastermind. He's not fending off an alien invasion of Earth, or trying to seal a tear in the space-time continuum.

No, in this issue, Superman goes for a walk. The story arc is titled "Grounded" and that's pretty much how you see him the entire time. He takes a stroll through Philadelphia and makes a personal difference in the lives of the people he comes across. He doesn't save them by using his amazing abilities. He saves them by doing something we can all do - listen, and care. I love that because we get so much of a glimpse into the "Man", and not the "Super". We're reminded that Superman isn't a hero just because of his powers. It's his humanity that makes him a hero. In that sense, we can all be heroes. We can all make a difference and improve the lives of the people around us, just by being the best we know how to be.

Before I forget, let me point out this gorgeous cover by John Cassaday. I think Cassaday's one of the best artists in the business today, and this cover is a great example of why. Though it's simple, it totally evokes the tone of the story, and portrays Superman as heroic, despite possible flaws. If they make this cover available as a poster, I am all over it.

To close out, if there's only one comic that you will be picking up this year, let it be this one. And when you do, don't keep it to yourself. Pass this on to other people to read, and encourage them to do the same. I love comic books, and it's one of my life's goals to get as many people reading them as I can. J. Michael Straczynski just made that a whole lot easier for me.

Who should read this book:
People who have been long-time fans of the Big S.
People who want to remember being awed by superheroes.
People who buy bookshelves to display things other than books. Like toys.


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Nooch's Comic Reviews

More people should be reading comic books, dammit. As the resident comic book elitist, Nooch has made it his personal quest to get more noobs heading into their own dimly-lit comics dungeon every Wednesday to peruse the vastly under-rated world of sequential art.

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