DARK HORSE COMICS
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Page 30 – Aliens #1 (of 4), $3.50, Dark Horse
Written by John Arcudi, Art by Zach Howard and Mark Irwin

Potentially a decent story – licensed properties can be hit an miss, but Dark Horse looks like they are putting some effort into this one. John Arcudi could be the man to tell an interesting Aliens story – he definitely has a handle on the subtle horror genre from his work on B.P.R.D. This is a little more overt, but I can see the style translating well. This four issue mini is set to be the first of three new properties – the other two most probably being a Predator and Aliens vs. Predator. Issue #1 is due out in May, but there will be an Aliens vs. Predator issue put forth on Free Comic Book Day. Should be a good month for fans of the property.

Page 52 – Neil Gaiman Presents: The Twilight of Gods and Other Tales, $12.95, 288 Pages
Written by Richard Garnett, Art by Henry Keen

This is a collection of short stories – but one that might be of interest to comic readers. It is the first of a series of books collecting “long-unavailable” works that have supposedly been personally selected by Neil Gaiman. The genre has a lot of outstanding short stories to offer, so it stands to reason that these volumes will be outstanding reads. The first title will collect twenty-eight stories, and will tend towards a mythology subject matter. Could be worth checking out.

DC COMICS
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Page 67 – Batman: Battle for the Cowl – Man-Bat #1, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Joe Harris, Art by Jim Calafiore

This one looks like a one-shot – probably about right for an event and character like this. The gist of this issue finds Doctor Phosphorus seeking out Kirk Langstrom to help him power himself up. Seems little chance that this is going to have much of an impact on the main Battle for the Cowl story itself, but it should be a fairly decent side-show.

Page 75 – Supergirl #40, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Sterling Gates, Art by Jamal Igle & Jon Sibal

This issue promises the big reveal of Superwoman’s identity – just about the right time… this isn’t something they should stretch out for much longer. We are really only just into Gates’ new run, and most of it has been tied up in New Krypton, so it is very difficult to say just how much Supergirl has improved with the new team (if at all). Gates, Igle, and Sibal have done a decent job so far – it is no longer difficult to read this title which is a huge improvement. Whether or not the book has become something that must be read remains to be seen, and is something we likely won’t know until we get a little more distance from the whole New Krypton story. So far, so good though.

Page 77 – The Flash: Rebirth #1 (of 5) 40 Pages
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Ethan Van Sciver

This event has been on the radar for some time – DC is very excited for it, DC fans are excited about it, and those who read and enjoyed Green Lantern: Rebirth have some fairly high expectations for this story.

You really can’t deny that this team did an outstanding job on Green Lantern: Rebirth, despite misgivings about returning Hal Jordan to life. Even though the entire Green Lantern family has been fantastic ever since that series, the story wasn’t great because of Hal Jordan – in fact, he really didn’t even need to be here. Johns has done a fantastic job fleshing out the Green Lantern Universe, and that has in-turn produced some amazing stories.

While there was a case to be made for returning Hal Jordan to life, Barry Allen is a tougher problem. Hal Jordan wasn’t totally dead – hosting The Spectre kind of made it easier to bring him back. Barry Allen was gone though – his death was an iconic moment in the history of the DCU, and DC has gone through great lengths to make it clear that Barry was gone for good. And unlike Green Lantern, there really can only be one Flash. Kyle, John, and Guy are every bit as legitimate Green Lanterns as Hal, but there is only one “Flash” at a time. Jay Garrick might still carry the name, but he isn’t the Flash, the Fastest Man on Earth.

The thing is – DC doesn’t need Barry – they have a perfectly good Flash in the name of Wally West – a former sidekick that took the mantle in the wake of Barry’s death, and was really the first mainstream sidekick to take over the mantle of his old partner and successfully make it his own. Wally West is the Flash – and Barry has become this old icon that is very much the past. A lot of the recent success of Wally West is due to Johns’ writing – he wrote the final great Flash run, stories so good that the franchise seems to have been floundering every since Johns moved on.

Is bringing Barry Allen back the right thing to do? Certainly not. It diminishes his sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths, diminishes a great character in Wally West, and generally seems like a sensational ploy. But will this event be good? Unquestionably. Johns is on fire at DC, is a masterful Flash writer, and despite the fact that it would probably be better for the DCU if Barry Allen stayed dead, this series is going to be a can’t-miss read.

It will be curious to see whether or not Johns utilizes Marv Wolfman’s CoIE loophole to bring Barry back…

Page 82 – Justice Society of America #26, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Dale Eaglesham and Nathan Massengill
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Well, it looks like DC is quietly marking Geoff Johns’ departure from this book with a trio of covers that will match-up to complete an Alex Ross painting of the entire Justice Society – fairly fitting. The issue itself will be a one-shot entitled “Black Adam Ruined My Birthday,” featuring Stargirl’s big day. Johns has been writing Justice Society for a decade, and during that entire long run it has been one of the most consistently great titles in the entire DC line-up. It is going to be really weird having someone else write this book – whoever Johns’ successor is has enormous shoes to fill.

Page 107 – Prototype #1 (of 6), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Art by Darick Robertson

Normally, these comics based on “upcoming hit” video games are just something to ignore. They are almost always a clear marketing ploy, and something best ignored. The creative team on this title does change that a little bit – Palmiotti, Gray, and Robertson should make a great team for this kind of story – part crime drama, part “super-powered killer.” No idea if the title is going to be good or not, but the team is good enough to at the very least warrant a chance.

Page 113 – The Literals #1 (of 3), $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges, Art by Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy

This issue will be part three of the 9 part “The Great Fables Crossover” that will begin in Fables #83, and continue in Jack of Fables #33 before moving on to this issue. The Literals, of course, are the group of beings which we have seen in Jack of Fables that embody literary notions like “Revise” and the “Pathetic Fallacy.” The idea of Literals has been popping up in both titles for some time – Willingham in particular is very good at slowly building story concepts, and Kevin Thorn (who turned out to be an incredibly powerful Literal) first popped up around 30 issues ago in Fables. The crisis in this crossover will come about when Jack reveals the existence of the Literals to the rest of the Fables – who will likely decide that they are going to attempt to eliminate the beings that probably created them. Both Fables and Jack of Fables are consistently outstanding books – this crossover has the makings of something really special. Definitely worth checking out.

Page 119 – Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1 (of 3), $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Cameron Stewart

Well, the first Seaguy series was something of a head scratcher (in the sense that the first two issues were great, and the final one left you wondering “Huh?”), and Morrison looks to be starting a brand new one here. Makes sense – he just got through with his runs on All Star Superman and Final Crisis, so maybe he is looking for something a little smaller scale. If you missed the first Seaguy, I strongly recommend checking it out before trying this title out. If you read the last Seaguy – well, you know already whether this is something you will enjoy or not. It is certainly unique.

IMAGE COMICS
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Page 140 – Viking #1, $2.99, 24 Pages
Written by Ivan Brandon, Art by Nic Klein

Genre blending has become more common these days, though I can honestly say this is a new one. Viking looks to be a mix of a normal Viking take, and a gritty crime thriller. No idea how this blend is going to work out, though there really is only one way to tell. Points for originality at the very least.

Page 157 – The Astounding Wolf-Man #15, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Jason Howard

Well, so much for On Time in 2009.

It really isn’t too much a surprise. Since October of last year, we have heard from Kirkman and Image that every one of his titles would be on time in 2009. He managed to keep that promise for two whole weeks.

That’s right, kids, this time it’s for real. Every single one of my titles – Walking Dead, Invincible, Astounding Wolf-man, and Brit – will now be guaranteed to ship by their solicited date. This isn’t an empty promise…

After starting as promised with The Walking Dead #57 (shipping on January 7th) and Invincible #58 (shipping on January 14th), Kirkman and company already dropped the ball with The Astounding Wolf-Man #12, which shipped a week late on January 28th. Of course, the ship date was quietly changed on imagecomics.com, and there has been no mention of it at all in comic press circles. Brit #12 – the final issue, was solicited for release on January 28th has still not been released, and thus far it doesn’t appear in Diamond’s shipping list for this week.

Well – the question remains. Robert Kirkman said that this was not an empty promise. Image Comics declared it a guarantee that these titles would ship on time all year long. The question is – what will Kirkman and Image do now that the promise has already been broken? My guess is, sweep it under the rug and hope no one notices.

We can probably dispense with tracking the issues now, all things considered…

MARVEL COMICS
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Page M5 – Captain America Comics #1 70th Anniversary Special, $3.99, 48 Pages
Written by James Robinson, Art by Marcos Martin

Trivia note – Timely Comics was founded in 1939, and their first publication in October of that year was Marvel Comics #1. (After a significant run as Atlas Comics) Timely would come to be known as Marvel Comics some 22 years later.

So as it is, 2009 represents Marvel Comics’ 70th Anniversary, and this month they are putting out a few issues to commemorate that. This one might upset a few Captain America purists, telling the story of a young Steve Rogers and his heroics before being given the Super Soldier serum. Not sure what the angle is on that, but it could be good. Will have to wait and see. Of course, also included in this issue is a reprint of an old Joe Simon/ Jack Kirby Golden Age Captain America story – fair warning.

Page M6 – Sub-Mariner Comics #1 70th Anniversary Special, $3.99, 48 Pages
Written by Roy Thomas, Art by Mitch Breitweiser

This is the second of Marvel’s 70th Anniversary issues to be released this month, and the only one that focuses completely on one of the characters that actually appeared in that first issue of Marvel Comics – Namor (Captain America didn’t come around until a couple years later). This issue features a pair of new Namor stories, plus a reprint of his first appearance in Marvel Comics #1. A sore point if you are one who isn’t a fan of reprint issues, but there is a bit of new content in this issue, so that should make up for some of it.

Page M8 – Marvel 70th Anniversary Celebration, $9.99, 104 Pages
Written by John Rhett Thomas

This book will basically be an epic “Saga-style” retelling of Marvel’s entire history, with highlights of memorable moments throughout their 70 years, a few “remastered” reprints, and a couple articles about the restoration process. Might be fun for the comic history buff – avid comic fans should know most of what is presented in this issue, but in something like this, presentation is everything. Most devoted Marvel fans will probably want to pick this title up.

Page M15 – Ultimate Spider-Man #133, $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stuart Immonen

Wow – certainly didn’t see this coming… this issue is tagged as the final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. Considering this was one of Marvel’s most acclaimed titles, and one of its consistent best-sellers, it is a real shock that they would end it. Of course, you can expect that it will relaunch very soon after Ultimatum ends (if not before), but until it is announced you can’t be sure of that. Strange Marvel would mess with what works – this title sold well enough without a “New #1” gimmick, and it was the one thing in the Ultimate Universe that was doing just fine as it was. Cancelling this book, even for a relaunch, seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It will be curious to see what Marvel does next here.

Page M21 – Amazing Spider-Man Family #5, $4.99, 64 Pages
Written by Tom DeFalco, Abby Denson, Marc Summerak, and Tony Lee, Art by Ron Frenz, Colleen Coover, Todd Nauck, and Mark Robinson

As promised, this month begins Spider-Girl’s permanent stint on Amazing Spider-Man Family, with a story about a “Gwen Reilly.” Not as good as a continuation of her ongoing, but at the very least she is still around in some form. Hopefully this lasts a good long time – it would be a shame to lose this character each month.

Page M34 – Skrull Kill Krew #1 (of 5), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Adam Felber, Art by Paulo Siquera

Avengers: The Initiative brought the Skrull Kill Krew back into vogue – it was only a matter of time before we got a mini series of some kind. The solicit is a little mysterious about the setting of this story, and whether or not the current roster will be featured, but it stands to reason that Ryder will be the focus of the story, and the original 1995 story was invoked, so there might be a continuation of that story at some point. This is an untested writer (another of those TV writers trying to transition into comics), but the concept is a sound and timely one. Could be a fun series.

Page M35 – Spider-Woman #1, $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Alex Maleev

Back together from their legendary Daredevil run, Bendis and Maleev are set to tackle this new Spider-Woman series. Not sure how that style will work with this character, but the two have done great work together in the past, so the title is at the very least worth trying out. This series, as expected, will focus on Jessica Drew’s return, and how she will cope with the live her replacement made for her.

Page M51 – Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1 (of 2), $3.99, 40 Pages
By Various

Tough to know what to make of this one. It could well be a great concept – a group of “also-rans” in their own anthology. Trouble is, none of them are the classic D-Listers that would guarantee this book a cult following. Eliopoulis’s mini-Marvels have a large enough following, and they don’t fit the mold, Luke Cage is hardly an also-ran… heck, even Elsa Bloodstone doesn’t fit the mold. The original version of the character might, but after what they did to her in Nextwave, and considering the “trendy” status that book had, she also doesn’t really quite fit.

This book could be a lot of fun. It would be a lot more exciting if you had a Great Lakes Somethingorother, Slingers, Spider-Girl, original New Warriors book, but this will have to do.

Page M54 – Exiles #1, $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Salvador Espin

Exiles fans are probably breathing a huge sigh of relief right now. Claremont’s run on this book wasn’t exactly well received, and with this relaunch Marvel is fixing that problem by assigning Jeff Parker to take over the writing chores, and bringing Blink back to the book where she belongs. It’s safe to say that it is finally a good time to come back and give Exiles a chance again.

Page M56 – Timestorm: 2009-2099 #1 (of 4), $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Brian Reed, Art by Eric Battle

This could be extremely exciting news to fans of Marvels 2099 characters, or their worst day ever. This series promises to be something of a crossover (at least, that is how it appears), in which modern 616 characters meet up with newly re-imagined 2099 counterparts. So long as the original 2099 versions heavily influence the new versions, everything should be ok. Could well be a great book.

Page M63 – Deadpool: Suicide Kings #1 (of 5), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Mike Benson, Art by Carlo Barbieri

Ah, it is a good time to be a Deadpool fan. With his high-profile part in the upcoming Wolverine movie, Deadpool is getting a good deal of page time, including this mini series. It has been a long time since the last Deadpool mini (since before his original ongoing!), but he always made a good subject for a short, standalone story. Hopefully this series is decent.

INDEPENDENT COMICS
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Page 213 – Ignition City #1, $3.99, 32 Pages, Avatar
Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Gianluca Pagliarani

Gotta say that this title looks like a lot of fun. Sci-fi has been so homogenized in recent years, it is nice to see some of the old classic forms making a comeback. No idea about the specifics on the plot, but the setting will be a gritty, old-west style outer space with dirty, smokey spaceships and outlaw adventurers with laser pistols on their hips. Almost steampunk, without the steam. Some real promise with this series.

Page 227 – Irredeemable #1, $3.99, 32 Pages, Boom! Studios
Written by Mark Waid, Art by Peter Krause

Boom! seems to be ending up on the radar an awful lot these days, don’t they? Waid takes a look at a superhero who is pushed down the road of evil. Sure, we have seen that kind of story before, but it is true that it is pretty rare that we see the evolution from good to evil, and that is what Waid is going to explore here. It should be a pretty interesting journey.

Craig’s Top Five of the Month

#5 – Justice Society of America #26, $2.99, 32 Pages, DC Comics -Johns says goodbye.

#4 – Exiles #1, $3.99, 40 Pages, Marvel Comics – Exiles hopefully gets back on track. Long overdue.

#3 – Amazing Spider-Man Family #5, $4.99, 64 Pages, Marvel Comics – Spider-Girl finds a new hope.

#2 – The Literals #1 (of 3), $2.99, 32 Pages, DC Comics. – A Fables crossover… should be a lot of fun.

#1 – The Flash: Rebirth #1 (of 5) 40 Pages, DC Comics – Definitely not on board for bringing Barry Allen back, but you know this series is going to be outstanding.

The opinions in this article are the writer’s alone, and no not necessarily reflect the views of X-World Comics or comiXtreme.com.