DARK HORSE COMICS
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Page M33 – Rapture #1 (of 6), $2.99, 40 Pages
Written by Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma, Color by Val Staples

Oeming’s demonstrated a real talent on his creative efforts, especially on his non-franchise works which are always worth checking out. This one looks interesting – so often, writers like to try and be original by telling their own story about what it would be like in a world where Super-heroes appeared… the stories have their variations, but the concept has been done to death. This title takes the opposite tack – what it would be like for all the super-powered heroes and villains to vanish, leaving the world in shambled behind them. As the title suggests, this story is thematically tied to the biblical rapture, painting the heroes and villains as warriors in the promised battle between heaven and hell. It looks like there is a lot going on here… this is definitely going to be worth your time.

And hey – full color, $2.99… and 40 pages? A real bargain considering the way comic prices have been going up and content going down these days.

Page 34 – Aliens #1 (of 4), $3.50, 32 Pages
Written by John Arcudi, Art by Zach Howard and Mark Irwin

Dark Horse is really ramping up for the 30th Anniversary of the Alien film – their effort on Free Comic Book Day will be an Aliens/Predator special, followed by this issue which will relaunch the Aliens comic franchise. (Predator will follow closely thereafter). Aliens was a popular comic in its heyday, so it will be nice to see it return. Comics focusing on a villain or an antagonist are always difficult, but so long as Arcudi sticks with what works, this title should be a success.

DC COMICS
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Page 64 – Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1 (of 6), $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Joe Casey, Art by ChrisCross

There are three Final Crisis Aftermath books hitting this month, all focusing on either unknown or low profile characters. This one seems a little different – this team first appeared in Final Crisis, and are supposed to be Fifth World versions of the Forever People. The team seems to be more concerned with image than heroism, and this story will show what becomes of them after Final Crisis, when no one seems to have noticed the “contribution” they made. Could be good – art should be solid… of the three, this one seems to have the most potential.

Page 80 – The Last Days of Animal Man #1, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Gerry Conway, Art by Chris Batista & Dave Meikis

Animal Man has been at the center of some interesting stories over the last few years. This one looks like it is in the mold of Marvel’s “The End” books. Gerry Conway is handling the writing chores which gives this title some promise – personally, I always find these “End” stories to be much more interesting when they are written by old-school guys who actually had a hand in creating legendary characters. Could well be interesting.

Page 81 – Power Girl #1, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Art by Amanda Connor

Finally! This one was announced how long ago? We got a taste of this team’s work on the recent Terra mini series, and that ended up being pretty good. This title might have had a little more oomph if it had come sooner – interest in Power Girl really peaked around Infinite Crisis, but better late than never. Power Girl, despite the controversy around how she is portrayed at times, is a very interesting character with a lot to offer storywise. Pick this one up.

Page 100 – Astro City Dark Age Book 3 #1 (of 4), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Kurt Busiek, Art by Brent Anderson

Time to dust off those old Astro City issues and get caught up, the third chapter of the ongoing story is finally getting started this month. Really, the only weakness in this title is how infrequently it comes out. We got a one-shot back in February of 2008 – prior to that, the last issue of Dark Age (Book 2) came out in November of 2007. (issues of Book 2 came out about once every 3 months)

Astro City is a fantastic comic, but it is incredibly difficult to follow on a monthly schedule. If you don’t mind delays and are patient with that sort of thing, you should definitely pick this issue up. Otherwise – watch for the trade. It will be a good read, it all depends on your personal patience.

Page 105 – Starcraft #1, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Keith Giffen & Simon Furman, Art by Federico Dallocchio

Well, the World of Warcraft comic did ok for a while, so why not try Starcraft? Actually, Starcraft might make for a better ongoing comic, truth be told. Giffen should add a hint of humor to the book which will make it more appealing than it otherwise would have. Usually video-game comics are something to avoid, but there are some things with potential on this one. Worth trying out.

Page 108 – The Unwritten #1, $1, 40 Pages
Written by Mike Carey, Art by Peter Gross

Man, when it comes to value, this one is even better than the Rapture comic, and that is saying a lot. A 40 Page, regular issue for $1? That is how you give something to the reader and make them want to try your comic.

The Harry Potter theme seems to be strong here – with a series about the adventures of a “boy wizard” being at the forefront. Of course, that is just a prop, the comic really is more of a blend of Fables and Thursday Next – an exploration of the concept of fiction and reality coming together.

Oh, and this team was responsible for Lucifer – another reason to give this book a shot. In fact, if Carey has long-term plans for this title, it would be a good idea to jump onboard now. If it is anything like Lucifer, it will be a fantastic series that is nearly impossible to jump on board in the middle.

IMAGE COMICS
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Page 136 – Olympus #1, $2.99, 24 Pages
Written by Nathan Edmondson, Art by Christian Ward

Here is a bit of genre blending I haven’t seen before – Mythology, and crime drama. In a way, it kind of makes sense. What would existence be like today for Castor and Pollux, who were granted a kind of immortality by Zeus? Of course, the old gods still exist in the modern world, and old faces don’t want to abide by the current order. Series shows some promise, even after seeing a couple preview pages.

Page 150 – Dead@17: Ultimate Edition TP, $24.99, 408 Pages
By Josh Howard

Hey now, neat to see this one over at Image. I imagine this means a new Dead@17 will be coming at some point from Image. Not that Viper wasn’t a good place for it (Viper remains the home of awesome comics), but Image is certainly a bigger venue for the title. If you still haven’t sampled Dead@17, you should check this omnibus out. It’s decent reading.

Page 156 – Invincible #62, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Ryan Ottley & FCO Plascencia

It funny how Image is still promoting Kirkman’s books with an “On Time in 2009! Guarantee” even though they broke that guarantee 3 weeks into the year.

Still no apology or even acknowledgement about that. It’s kind of sad, really.

Page 165 – Evil and Malice Save the World, $14.99, 128 Pages
By Jimmie Robinson

This is definitely the antithesis of Robinson’s more famous work, Bomb Queen. This trade collects the story of a pair of 13 year old twin daughters of a villain who rebel against their father(as any teenage girl would) by becoming superheroes. Knowing his sense of humor, I can see him making an all-ages title work. Definitely one to take a look at.

MARVEL COMICS
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Page M12 – Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1 (of 4), $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Chris Eliopoulos, Art by Ig Guara

Sweet – the Marvel Universe did need more Niels! Well, the title on this is a little misleading, Lockjaw isn’t entirely a “pet,” and outside Redwing, the remaining aren’t really pets of Avengers. But then, that is looking at this too seriously. This series is all in good fun, after all. Chris Eliopoulos has exactly the right sense of humor for this book, it looks like it is going to be a humorous read, right in the middle of the summer event season. Just in time!

Page M17 – The Trojan War #1 (of 5), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Roy Thomas, Art by Miguel Angel Sepulveda

Unlike other Classic Literature adaptations “Marvel Illustrated” has done, this one looks like it is only partly based on Homers’ Iliad and Odessey, but is instead drawing upon them and “other ancient sources” to tell the story from a different perspective. Thomas pretty well started his career with the sword and sorcery stuff, so this is right up his alley. Sepulveda previously did the art chores on the Marvel Illustrated adaptation of The Illiad – if you liked the look he brought to the table there, you should be pleased with this one.

Page M21 – Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem Book #1 (of 2), $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Stuart Immonen and Mark Bagley

Who hasn’t said something to the effect of “Hopefully Ultimatum is good, but even if it isn’t, as long as they don’t screw with Ultimate Spider-man, it will be ok?” Everyone who has ever talked about Ultimatum has said something to that effect. Even when the poor reviews for the event rolled in, still, Ultimate Spider-man was the light at the end of the tunnel. After the book’s cancellation was announced, everyone naturally assumed that they would just be relaunching it with a new #1.

Now this… a book told from J. Jonah Jameson’s perspective, “memorializing” the “death” of Spider-Man. Are they actually going to kill him off? Even if it is just for some gimmick to put the female-clone in there, it is maddening to think that they would actually level the one consistently good thing in the Ultimate Universe.

I just can’t get my mind around it…

Page M32 – Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1 (of 5), $3.99, 32 Pages
Written by Paul Cornell, Art by Mark Brooks

Still missing Young Avengers? Well, this title won’t entirely fill that need. On the cover is a new Young Avengers team taking up the whole “underground teenage hero” gimmick. Of course, it wouldn’t be interesting unless this new team crossed paths with the old – so it looks like you long-lamenting Young Avengers fans will have something to look forward to after all. Could be good.

Page M45 – Captain America #50, $3.99, 48 Pages
Written by Ed Brubaker, Art by Luke Ross

The big issue 50 – no, Steve Rogers doesn’t look to be coming back. Sure, Marvel could surprise us but knowing their track history, that info will be leaked to the press before the issue comes out, if that were the case. Instead we are getting one of the tried-and-true anniversary issue formats where Bucky Barnes contemplates his most and least favorite birthdays over the years, wrapped up in an action issue.

Page M50 – Howling Commandos #1, $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Jesse Alexander, Art by John Paul Leon

At first, this seemed like just another effort at a war comic. Tucci’s Sgt. Rock is doing very well over at DC, and this was just Marvel’s effort to parrot that. Looks like there might be a little more to it though – in the solicit, Marvel says that this story “sets the stage” for the upcoming Captain America: White series from Loeb and Sale. I can’t recall set-up stories for any of their previous colors efforts, it will be curious to see where they are going with this. If you are getting White, you might want to give his issue a shot.

Page M54 – Planet Skaar Prologue, $3.99, 40 Pages
Written by Greg Pak, Art by Dan Panosian

You know, maybe not bad. Planet Hulk seemed like a silly idea when it first started up, but Greg Pak made that something to remember. His son, Skaar, being exiled to Earth might just make for an interesting event series. Curious that the mini about his “sister” is ongoing at the same time. Wonder what big Hulk plans Marvel has in the works.

Page M68 – Nova #25, $2.99, 32 Pages
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Art by Andrea DiVito

Congratulations to Nova this month! As ongoing books go, Nova was always something of an underdog. To this point, the longest a Nova title lasted was the original Man Called Nova, which went on for 25 issues in the late 70s. With this issue Nova ties that mark, and since we haven’t really heard a cancellation announcement, it looks like it will pass that original mark. Who says the underdogs don’t have their day? Looks like we aren’t getting any sort of anniversary special here but we really don’t need one. In conjunction with the War of Kings event, this issue finally finds Richard Rider attempting to wrest control of the Nova Force from Worldmind. Should be a very exciting issue.

INDEPENDENT COMICS
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Page 232 – Buck Rogers #0, $.25, 16 Pages, Dynamite Entertainment
Written by Scott Beatty, Art by Carlos Rafael

The look is weird, but if there was ever a concept that had a lot of miles left in it, it is Buck Rogers. The original show quickly took a turn for the worse when they tried to make it into a Star Trek clone, many of you probably recall. Dynamite promises a “modern edge,” which could go either way. This is one to tentatively be excited about, at least until we get some preview pages and see what it is going to look like. Can’t beat a quarter though.

Craig’s Top Five of the Month

#5 – The Last Days of Animal Man #1, $2.99, 32 Pages, DC Comics Strong character that has been in too many underrated stories not to take a chance on.

#4 – The Unwritten #1, $1, 40 Pages, DC Comics/Vertigo A new Mike Carey series could be the next long-term hit. Always have to check out his books early.

#3 – Nova #25, $2.99, 32 Pages, Marvel Comics A big milestone for nova, and a huge issue.

#2 – Power Girl #1, $2.99, 32 Pages, DC Comics Almost waited too long for this!

#1 – Rapture #1 (of 6), $2.99, 40 Pages, Dark Horse Oeming is always good for an outstanding story.

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