Arts : Straight shooter

52 #1-3
Story: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art: Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Jack Jadson
$2.50, 32 pages

DC writers started the 52 series to do something different with a superhero comic, and they’ve succeeded. Sure, the concept of a year in weekly “real-time” episodes is basically a ripoff of 24, but it’s still a new idea for comics.

A weekly comic series would be hard enough to pull off, but the writers manage to make it work without Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman. Characters like John Henry Irons (Steel), Renee Montoya (from Gotham Central), and Ralph Dibny (the Elongated Man) are the stars here. So far, DC hasn’t gone for the easy bad-guy choices, either. Lex Luthor makes a cameo, but 52’s major bad guy as of week three was Black Adam.

Look at 52 as a peace offering to DC’s most obsessive fans. Infinite Crisis brought some serious changes to the DC universe’s continuity, no trivial thing when you base your identity on knowing who taught Clark Kent middle-school biology. But DC executives know that psycho comic weirdos can’t stay mad too long when they find out there’s a new series featuring Booster Gold (seriously, how cool is that?). 52 also works wonderfully as an excuse to drop by the comic-book store every Wednesday. That alone should make it worth $2.50.

Marvel Romance Redux: I Should Have Been a Blonde #1
Story: Peter David, John Lustig, Keith Giffen, Mike Leib
Art: Gene Colan, Sol Brodsky, Dick Giordano
$2.99, 32 pages

Several artists and writers have mined the silver-age romance books for comedy gold. Apparently, there’s quite a bit funny about books written by middle-age men for an adolescent girls’ market. Marvel Romance Redux takes the old books and changes the speech bubbles and captions to make stories about animal sacrifices and schizophrenic freak-outs starring preps and bobbysoxers.

The book’s first story, “Patsy Loves Satan,” involving a girl’s engagement to Beelzebub, is good for several sick laughs, but after that the joke starts getting old.

If you’re in the mood for a funny book and you’ve read every available Jhonen Vasquez comic, Romance Redux is good for a quickie. Otherwise, you won’t be missing much if you let this one walk out of your life forever.

Fell #5
Story: Warren Ellis
Art: Ben Templesmith
$1.99, 24 pages

If you’re broke but need a comic fix, don’t meet the comic-book guy in the alley behind the store. Just grab an issue of Fell. Any issue.

At $1.99, Fell’s one of the best bargains you can get anywhere. Every issue’s a self-contained story about Detective Richard Fell, a cop in the rough city of Snowtown. That’s all you need to know going in, as Warren Ellis makes every effort to shed any cumbersome continuity problems.

The May issue is a great place to start reading, with Fell interrogating an armed Taxi Driver-type, trying to push him into a confession without pissing him off. You get a better story in these 16 pages (the other pages are bits of the script and letters) than from most $15 trade paperbacks.

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