Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Overdue Backstory

Everyone remembers House of M, right? Right?

Before Messiah Complex, One More Day, World War Hulk, Planet Hulk, and Civil War, House of M was the major Marvel event that shook the cosmos and rearranged the entire universe. During the eight-issue series, we saw a number of House of M spin-offs, some good (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four), others not so much (Hulk, Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men). The one thing missing was a House of M rendition of one of the most important teams of all time, the Avengers.

So how do you make a version of the Avengers in the House of M continuity? Steve Rogers never took the Super Soldier serum. Giant Man's a scientist stooge. Thor's still dead. Hulk is... the Hulk. So how's it done? Simple, you tell the story of the B-Team superheros who are the first to meet psychic mutant Layla Miller and set the gears in motion for the downfall of the House of M.

And so we begin with Luke Cage, recently self-removed from prison and walking the neon-lit streets of Times Square with one thing on his mind: revenge. See, his childhood friend set him up and left him to die in prison, and now Cage is back, after being experimented on and subsequently escaping from prison, prepared to rectify that issue. And after he does that, he single-handedly becomes the fastest-rising kingpin of organized crime in New York, one looking out for the dwindling "Sapien" populace. One thing remains true of Cage in this reality: Before he was black and at the bottom of the social ladder, now he's just a homo sapien (not homo sapien "superior") and in the same place. And it doesn't seem he would have it any other way.

About halfway through the first issue of this miniseries it turns from a blaxploitation comic to a sapianploitation comic with the addition of other non-mutant heroes who don't have a place in this new world order. Iron Fist, Moon Knight, The Prowler, Tigra, Misty Knight and Mockingbird (setting up an obvious future Mockingbird death scene) appear, but probably most important of all Cage's new recruits is his first, Hawkeye. As you can guess, this is the first chronological appearance of Hawkeye's "rebirth" after being killed by the Scarlet Witch in "Avengers: Disassembled." Hawkeye is a wonderfully rendered character, angered that "in a world where the girl-next-door shoots lasers from her eyes, people decided skill with a bow didn't mean much," and genuinely wants to prove himself in that world.

And what great writing brought that about! House of M: Avengers may be long overdue, but the writing certainly wasn't shoved out the door unfinished. Christos N. Gage (Authority) is a writer who has impressed me with what little I've seen of him so far. I loved the X-Men miniseries he wrote for World War Hulk and this series looks to be just as good in the script department. If he focused on comics instead of trying to write TV shows and movies like The Breed and Teenage Caveman, he might be up there in the Geoff Johns and Matt Fraction category. I wish I could say the same of the first issue's artwork. The use of shadows in the cover art is a bit much, but not a deal-breaker. Inside, however, is art that ranges from pretty good to pretty pathetic. That it all comes from one artist, Mike Perkins (Captain America) is astounding in and of itself. We usually like Perkins' work, but parts of this issue seem rushed, while others look great set against the mediocrity surrounding them. Perhaps those issues will be settled later in the series.

And I definitely can't wait for the rest of this series to show up on comic store shelves. House of M: Avengers #1 may be well past it's due date, but this was a story that for too long had gone untold, and while I didn't love the first issue, I certainly liked it enough to patiently wait for issue 2, and then the rest of this series to materialize and show Marvel fans what they'd been missing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cap's Dead, But Not the Captain!

"Nobody's dead but Bucky."

Wait, Bucky's alive? Winter Soldier? Ooookay....

In the great tradition of comic book companies bringing a long-unused character back from the dead in order to sell a few books, we here at The Latest Issue are proud to review Captain Marvel 1, also known as "Hey, that's not Billy Batson!" #1.

Actually, our good friend Mar-Vell isn't dead yet. No, the story doesn't take place before the events of Jim Starlin's The Death of Captain Marvel, back in 1982.

Or does it?

Actually, this Captain Marvel story takes place not long after the Marvel Civil War, during which a time-displaced Captain Marvel accidentally got ejected from the Negative Zone and immediately was put to work as warden of the new superhero gulag that our friend Steve of Stevereads so pleasantly reminds us exists each and every time we review a Marvel comic. Iron Man had a reason for giving Mar-Vell such a ridiculously silly assignment: He didn't want Marvel to die.


As any fan of science fiction will tell you, time travel is tricky business. Our friend Brian said so in his Sound of Thunder review on Moving Picture Trash. Change something, even the smallest thing, and you could seriously frack up the space-time continuum. Mar-Vell has already fought Nitro in the battle that caused the cancer that eventually ended his life, so he already carries this curse in his blood. He will eventually die of cancer, once he's returned to his own time. But if Mar-Vell were to take up arms in the conflicts that come naturally as a superhero, and he were to die before returning to his own time... You see where I'm going with this. Marvel doesn't want to die on his back. He wants to eventually die a warrior's death. So he abandons his post in the Negative Zone prison. And he leaves.

He disappears.

To France, where he spends his time at the Louvre looking at paintings and pondering a life that ended poorly, at least in his opinion. This lasts as long as it takes for some idiot super-villain named Cyclone to find Mar-Vell, try to make a name for himself by offing an already-dead hero, and wind up paste.

The ensuing story involved a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Heather Sante, a strange cult that worships the return of Captain Marvel, and Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (I know he's got a movie coming out, but does IM have to be in every comic Marvel puts out these days? Avengers, Order, Thunderbolts, Penance, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, etc until I throw up), all of which is compounded by the fact that it's a scant five-issue series, a sign that the company doesn't have much faith in attracting too many new fans with this new, improved CM.

And is he really improved? The Captain Marvel who died almost 25 years ago was comfortable with his inevitable demise, knowing he'd lived a full life, the only way he knew how. This Marvel hates the idea of dying "in my bed. On my back." He wants to die in battle, an honorable death. Apparently the Kree became Klingons when I wasn't looking. It's a bit much, creating an emotional paradox where there had existed none before.

And yet we can't hate this title. We actually like it very, very much. Brian Reed (Ms. Marvel, New Avengers: Illuminati) was tabbed to write this series, and he's done a spectacular job. The dialogue is crisp, the storytelling is smooth, and it really couldn't have been done any better. Despite the inconsistencies of Marvel's character, it's really only something people who read earlier Captain Marvel would pick up on, and how many of those people are still reading comics? The artwork by Lee Weeks (Incredible Hulk) is incredible. Vast landscapes and enclosed spaces, closeup faces and action sequences, none of it looks poor in the slightest. There are a few panels with nonexistent backgrounds, but such minimalism is rare and gives the art almost an old-timey look to the not-too-recent history of comic art.

We really didn't know what to think of the return of Captain Marvel. For geeks with long memories, this should be the start to a spectacular series, even if it's one that's far too short. I fear new fans will miss this book, however, and I feel I have to urge them: Read this book! It's fantastic and shouldn't be missed by anyone!

On a side note, be sure to also check out The Death of Captain Marvel. It's old, but damn good, and you should see for yourself a tribute to one who was once right up on that pedestal with the Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Law and Order

If you could be a super-hero for one year, would you?

Marvel's Civil War storyline has been accused of a lot of things. The continuity was confusing, characters appeared in seven different places at the same time, Sally Floyd was introduced, and to of course hear Steve tell it, every Marvel character is now complicit with the murder of Steve "Captain America" Rogers and any issue in which a certain character doesn't go over to Tony Stark's Helecarrier and punch him in the head is a travesty for the company. Not my words, mind you, but I say simply that Marvel seemed to drop the ball on what should have been a universe-changing event. Only two major changes have taken place: Almost all the heroes in the US are under the watchful eye of S.H.I.E.L.D. and only a few major players remain at large, BUT that will probably change before the end of next year; Also, Captain America was killed, BUT we'll see how long that lasts. Marvel's flip-flopped before, and there's really not any reason to think these major changes are actually that for the long run.

However, often overlooked are the many successes that came about after the dust settled. Avengers: The Initiative is starting off as a great series, the New Warriors story is extremely good, Mighty Avengers and New Avengers have both been solid titles, Ms. Marvel has been fantastic since the Civil War, and Immortal Iron Fist has been just wonderful. But no post-Civil War title has been more original and as interesting as The Order.

Of the 50-States Initiative that Tony Stark (Steve's nemesis) had started, California's program was the most unique. Instead of using established heroes, drug up from the bottomless annals of the Marvel Universe, they decide to draft volunteers. Civilian volunteers. People who want to be more than they are, do more than they can. And so these people are trained to be the best they can be, are given nanite injections that artificially create superpowers that last one year, and are tasked with protecting the state of California from anything that would threaten it.

And what a litany of threats California has. When the Order isn't defending the San Gabriel mountains from the flames of the Infernal Man, preventing a sleeper Russian nuclear team from accidentally blowing up the California seaboard, or protecting the shoppers on Rodeo Drive from a swarm of Zobos (think Zombie-Hobo hybrid), they're facing internal disputes (like the ones between speedster James "Calamity" Wa and psychokinetic Mulholland Black), political pressure (the California Historical Society wants them kicked out of the building they own because it's a historical landmark) and the ever-mysterious "M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W." who would seem to like nothing more than to see the Order fail.

We enter issue 4 of this series written by Matt Fraction (Punisher War Journal, Immortal Iron Fist) and drawn by Barry Kitson (Legion of Super Heroes) with the the re-emergence of Zobo hordes once again attacking downtown Los Angeles. Even worse, there appear to be exactly twice as many of the loathsome bastards as when the Order faced them in the third issue. Then, to add insult to injury, the team is undermanned, with Calamity getting the day off (and off-grid) and Mulholland being placed on a special assignment to determine how and why a former Order operative was found dead less than 6 hours after being fired. It isn't long before S.H.I.E.L.D. sends backup, but big question still unanswered is who created these things, and why.

One of the best parts about the series so far is the attention to character development. Each issue starts with the "interview", the one these volunteers took before being accepted into the program. We learn a bit about their history, and get an insight into how they came to volunteer for the program. In this issue, we look at Magdalene "Veda" Marie, daughter of a German father and a Mexican mother, who at a young age decided she wanted to focus on tae kwon do and help orphans. Then she grew up, won tournaments, got noticed for modeling, transitioned to actress (one that could do her own stunts, no less), and used the money she gained to help orphans. Now she has the power to create golems from the earth and control them in battle. Quite a career so far.

While I question the need to artificially create superheroes for the state of California with the current super powered population exceeding that of several small cities (and why wouldn't any of them volunteer for California anyway?) it's only a slight nitpick. I unabashedly love The Order and how the series has progressed so far. Fraction is a fantastic writer, one that truly understands pacing, suspense, action, and the human condition. He plunges you right into this drama of normal people becoming something greater than themselves. Kitson's artwork is not always consistent, sometimes it seems like he spent more time on some panels than others, but is mostly very good, and his style compliments the story being told perfectly.

I can't stress this enough: The Order is a superlative series, and you should be reading this book if you love superhero comics, period. If you haven't yet, pick up the first four issues at your local comic shop, and ogle at what probably comes closest to perfection this side of the Marvel/DC threshold.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christopher Reeve Returns!

I always hate sharing reviews, like the one I share today with our sister publication Stevereads. It always feels like I'm doing something unoriginal, retreading on someone else's work. But in this case, I have two things going against me: one, last week had shown a dearth of possible review choices, essentially leaving me with this one; and two, this issue is too damn good not to review!

Now, there are two kinds of comic fans in this world. There's the kind who've never heard of -- or only heard of in fleeting glimpses -- the Legion of Super-heroes. Every once in a while, when they appear in the continuity, these comic fans couldn't care less. For them, the Legion is nothing too special.

Then, there are the Legionnaires. Probably the most devoted fans ever, these fans look upon every instance of the Legion in DC history as scripture, who know every Legionnaire's terribly-conceived nickname and history, from Bouncing Boy to White Witch, Braniac-5 to Timber Wolf. And this issue we're reviewing tonight, Action Comics #858, is for them. Written by Geoff Johns (fast becoming our favorite DC scribe) and with art by Gary Frank (Squadron Supreme), this issue begins a new Superman-Legion storyline that could be fantastic when all is said and done.

It all begins on an alien planet in the distant year 3008, where civil war has run rampant. Two parents strap their child into a rocket and, inspired by the tales of Krypton's last son, launch it into space and towards Earth, so that it may live a full life and become a new hero to the people of earth. After some travel, the rocket crash lands in the heart of Smallville (There's even a sign: "Welcome to Smallville - Birthplace of Superman!") where it lands in a crop field. What is it with aliens and crop fields, anyway? Ahem. Moving on...

A couple, driving by in their "hover-truck", witness the crash and look to see what it is. When they see an alien baby has emerged from the pod, they do what any person on Earth in the year 3008 would do.

"We kill it."

And so it begins, and we are returned to today, where Christopher Reeve -- I mean Clark Kent -- is suffering the usual doldrums of being a shy, sensitive young man in Metropolis. He can't make any friends, his best friend is an obnoxious photo-geek named Jim Olsen, and as far as Lois Lane is concerned, she might not exist. So after getting a chewing out by Perry White over his self-confidence issues (Perry's no smooth talker, let's say that much) Chris -- I mean Clark -- gets what he thinks will be a brief reprieve when Braniac starts tearing up a nearby park and Christopher -- I mean Clark! -- leaps out a window and changes into Christopher Reeve -- dammit, I mean Superman! Turns out this isn't just some random Braniac attack, though. It's actually a message from Braniac's descendant, Braniac-5. Turns out something terrible is happening in the future (as alluded to in the recent JLA and JSA story lines) and now Braniac-5 feels he has no choice but to bring Chris -- I mean Superman -- to the future to solve what's happening.

This is a good first issue, but I still feel a little lost as far as some of the more Legion aspects go. I'm no member of the Legion fan club, that's for sure, but I'm slowly but surely leaving the other end of the spectrum after some Steve-approved Legion reading. Even I know the story, first told back in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), where Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy (later Lightning Lad) first recruited young Superboy to the future to become an honorary member of the Legion. But there's still a lot about the Legion I don't know, and it's not something that can really be picked up overnight.

Also, the art is a little... I don't really know what to think of the artwork by Frank. The layouts are gorgeous, and the backgrounds are beautiful. It's the character art that I have a problem with. Besides the fact that by now we know who played Frank's favorite version of Superman (hint: it ain't Dean Cain), all the characters not portrayed by a dead celebrity (and that doesn't count a young Christopher Reeve -- I mean Clark Kent!) are a little creepy-looking (okay, that covers the young Kent) The eyes are a little too wide, as if they all belonged to the same suicide cult, looking for new recruits. It's like butter-face. Every thing's good "but the face".

This issue and probably this whole series should be the best thing to happen to Legion fans and non-Legion fans alike. For the fan-boys, the very appearance of the Legion should be reason enough to pick up this book. For non-Legion fans, the opportunity to learn for yourself about the Legion should be the perfect pretense for picking up this book and the subsequent issues. As I said before, Geoff Johns is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, and as long as he keeps writing for Action Comics, I'll take a gander.

Just no more Christopher Reeve... please!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Latest Issue... Now with Less Summarization!

Many of you have let me know that I summarize a bit too much in my reviews, and you're right! I've come to realize that I'm letting too much of the plot come off in my reviews, even unintentionally, and now the new, leaner reviews I've tried out the last couple of times have worked better than I could have imagined! So from now on, no more plot spoilers for those of you who simply enjoy me berating the hell out of Omega: The Unknown for paragraphs on end. I'll review, and hopefully you'll read these titles on your own and feel the same way I do.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

... And Justice for All

One word: "Wow."

Still with me? Good. I may still be relatively new to this whole comic book business, but I can say I think without a doubt that Justice Society of America 10 is the greatest comic I've read, certainly in recent memory.

Now, to fully understand it, you need to go back in time to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and learn there were once TWO Supermen, Earths 1 and 2. Kal El, the original Superman, and Kal L, the one who's cousin is Power Girl. Got it? Good.

Apparently, at the end of that Crisis, when the Multiverse was destroyed, Kal L (Earth 2 Superman) was stuck in the only universe left (Earth 1) with no purpose whatsoever. When Infinite Crisis came around (95-96) DC killed off Kal L and Power Girl (his cousin) mourns his death.

Still got it? Maybe? Well, don't worry if you don't understand every emotion coursing through this book, because all you need to appreciate this issue are a pair of eyes and a sense of wonderment. It's gorgeous, from the Geoff Johns and Alex Ross storytelling, to the Dale Eaglesham artwork, to the specially painted pages by Ross, this comic comes nothing short of brilliant.

To summarize, at the end of JSA 9, the team had solved the problem of a dead super-villain causing an inextinguishable towering inferno by having Starman (Thom Kallor) create a black hole and toss the dead Goth inside. This apparently had the dubious effect of bringing a whole new Superman from... somewhere, none of them knowing quite who he is.

Remember when I said there was supposedly no Multiverse? Uh, yeah. Didn't take, I guess. Actually, taking Marvel's explanation of chronal physics (Steve is frothing at the mouth about now) a new Universe exists for each choice of every decision that is made. So even if the Multiverse was destroyed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, there's no reason to think that new universes didn't immediately start popping up since. Okay, end of the Marvel allegory right there.

Anyone who's read Kingdom Come (and shame on you if you haven't, read it and come back later) will know exactly who this man is. This is the Superman from Earth-22 (as Starman refers to it), transported from an Earth where superheros run rampant, and only Superman and his allies were keeping it from destroying the people they'd sworn to protect. All the Sudden, this Superman finds himself in what is almost a complete opposite, where teams like the Justice Society keep those kind of things from happening to begin with, where people are protected by the heroes, not protected from them.

There's one sequence (if you check out this book, you'll know it when you see it) that is just done beautifully. I won't give any details away, just read it if you haven't already... or, hell, even if you have read it already. I've reread that sequence a dozen times already, and it still hits me right there, every time. As I said before, the artwork by Dale Eaglesham is good enough anyway, but when the new Superman thinks back to his Earth the flashbacks are done in gorgeous Alex Ross paintings. It makes me desperately want a new Alex Ross book to read, or to just go back and reread Kingdom Come. There's simply nobody like Ross. There really isn't anything wrong with this issue. The ending does seem a little slapped together, but not so much that it detracts from the rest of the book. And that's really just a minor quibble.

Probably the most intriguing part of all this is that DC's new promotional ad is a two-page spread reciting: "...And Evil Shall Inherit the Earth." Among other interesting parts of the spread are a trio of Supermen who appear to be the "evil" supermen. One is Hank Henshaw, the robotic Superman who appeared after The Death of Superman. But one of the others is this alternate Superman, apparently harnessing the power of the Atom. It's one more piece of the puzzle that we're getting from this current JSA run, and I can't wait for more from this team, and to see where it all ends up.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Jolly Green... She-Hulk?

Consistency is always a good thing. For instance, I purchased She-Hulk 22 the other day. I brought it to the register and my favorite bookstore clerk, Ann, rung me up. She scanned the bar-code, but before she placed it in my bag, she glanced at the cover. She got this look on her face, like someone stuck a Ceti Eel into her ear canal, and remarked: "She-Hulk? My god, look at her breasts!" Later that day, my friend Mary noticed my copy lying on the kitchen counter and remarked, "My god, look at her breasts!"

And it's true. Jennifer Walters, AKA "She-Hulk", AKA "Shulkie," AKA "Big-Breasted Green Girl" (OK, I made that one up) has the only pair of FFF's in the universe this side of the pornographic industry. But we love her. Not because of her mammoth mounds, per se (although we imagine there are some virgin readers who wouldn't if she was, I dunno, the Hulk) but rather because the last few years we've been treated to fantastic storytelling by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton; and perhaps more importantly, because Jen is an irreverent, funny, friendly, driven human being we can all identify with. The only difference between us is that she can turn Green and hurt people when she doesn't want to be herself. Not a bad deal.

At the end of She-Hulk 21, Slott ended his run as writer on the series. Jennifer Walters, previously de-powered in the wake of World War Hulk. got her gamma-radiated powers back. She got her lawyer job back at her old law firm, GLK&B. She was hanging out with her best friend, Guy "Pug" Pugliese. All was right with the world.

Well... not so much. When Peter David takes over writing a title, it's a big deal. He's got the experience that comes from writing every hour of every day you can over a lifetime. His recent run on X-Factor is fantastic. And it can possibly be assumed that this run on She-Hulk will eventually be the same. I say eventually, because it sure isn't there yet.

She-Hulk 22 opens in New York (where else could it be?), where a wannabe super-thief, calling himself "Hi-Lite" breaks into the New York Museum of Antiquities to steal a cup purported to be the basis of the Holy Grail. It sure didn't look like the cup of a carpenter, but Hi-Lite obviously had a buyer ready because he was just about to make off with the cup when he was interrupted by a security guard. Firing blindly with a laser cutter, Hi-Lite grazed the guard but almost did more than that, as the guard then seized up and had a heart attack. Not wanting a murder on his conscience, Hi-Lite applied CPR until paramedics and police arrived on the scene to resuscitate the guard. He was then immediately arrested.

Now, if this had been a Dan Slott story, our lovable She-Hulk would be defending this villain with a conscience (who's cousin just happens to be one of her nemeses, guess which one!) and get him perhaps a second chance on the right path. Uh... no. Instead, we're introduced to Jennifer Walters: F.B.I.


She's working for a subsidiary of GLK&B called Freeman Bonding Inc. and is apparently a registered bounty hunter, tasked with bringing in Rockwell "Hi-Lite" Davis for skipping his court date. "How it all happened is a funny story. I'll probably talk about it when I stop crying."
Why not now, Peter David? Remember what I said about consistency? What did you do to She-Hulk, Peter?


Sorry about that. It's like when someone tapes over your favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica with a Three Stooges marathon. There's nothing wrong with the Stooges, but Galactica is infinitely better.

And that's the problem here. By changing the continuity, or at least altering it to his style of narrative, he's taken away (at least for the time being) part of what made Shulkie a unique, fun read. It's not bad, but I enjoyed Dan Slott more.

That's not to say it's all bad. The artwork, penciled by Shawn Moll (Outsiders) is light years ahead of the previous Rick Burchett work, even though Hi-Lite, listed as 25, looks like a 40-year-old in his mug shot. (Spoiler!) The return of Titania and her boyfriend Absorbing Man is compelling, although it illustrates that Titania is She-Hulk's only REAL nemesis besides life as Jen Walters. And as I said before, there's no reason to think David's story won't get better.

She-Hulk 22 is not She-Hulk at her finest. But I refuse to give up on the old girl. I'll buy the next issue, and perhaps the next, until I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Peter David has ruined the series. I really don't want for that to be the case, but we'll be keeping a watchful eye in her direction, hoping David can catch this particularly green-tinted lighting in a bottle.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Bold and the Brave

I've been struggling lately.

I've been trying to figure the proper place to review my first DC comic. Anyone who's paid attention knows that every comic review I've done so far has been of a Marvel comic book (technically Marvel Zombies vs. the Army of Darkness was a collaborative between Marvel and Dynamite Entertainment, but I digress) and the reason for that is simple. I don't usually read DC comics.

This can be traced to when I first started reading classic comics. my favorite character as an uninitiated reader was Captain America. I knew next to nothing about his history, though, and my colleagues Steve and Elmo thereby embarked me on the classic Avengers runs, when characters such as Giant-Man and Hercules were regular characters, and Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were just getting their legacies started. Avengers led eventually to Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Cable/Deadpool. She-Hulk, Nova, Thunderbolts, and the like. Note the relationship. All Marvel titles. Steve has been especially adamant of making me take notice of what he firmly believes is the superior comic company. Slowly, I've been accepting reads of several titles, not the least of which were the vaunted super-groups, Justice League and the Justice Society of America. I've been pleasantly surprised by some of it, though I can't in good faith agree that DC is that much better than Marvel, especially since the latest Justice League run has been even by Steve's admission pretty bad, and when the 52 and Countdown series have been either partly or completely convoluted to the uninitiated.

But that brings me to one title that DC has put out that is not bad. In fact, it's been very, very good! The Brave and the Bold is the classic formula of a superhero match-up, in which DC heroes pair-up in stand-alone stories that follow a central story that eventually brings everybody together for a big showdown. So, in one issue you'll have Supergirl teamed up with Lobo, which turns to Batman and the Legion of Superheroes, which turns to Green Lantern and Batman, all without breaking the central continuity.

In The Brave and the Bold 7, a pair of very similar heroes team up in a true stand-alone story, as Wonder Woman and Power Girl team up in a tale involving a second-string villain, the Philosopher's Stone, and red kryptonite! It all begins in what we can only assume is Egypt, since we're never told exactly where. Wonder Woman and Power Girl are duking it out with what must be a battalion of resurrected mummies. Now, let's face it. Mummies are not going to be much of a threat to these two. Wonder Woman, with her super strength and indestructable bracelets, is the toughest woman in the business. And let's not forget Power Girl, seemingly a second-string superhero but for the fact that she's basically a female Superman without the weakness to this universe's kryptonite (since she's from another universe's Krypton). There should be conceivably no stronger all-female pairing in the entire comics industry, and the pair should have no problem with any obstacle placed in their path.

Well, that's only about half true. Power Girl seems to have an authority problem, as she doesn't exactly take well to any idea of Wonder Woman being the brains of the outfit. She prefers to punch her way through an army of the undead, wheras WW naturally carries the wisdom of Athena so she doesn't rely overly on brute strength. After Wonder Woman's idea for stopping the mummy threat pans out, the two are about to part ways, Wonder Woman back to her Justice League, Power Girl back to her Justice Society. Retreiving WW's Lasso of Truth from the rubble, PG is in the midst of handing it to her when Diana asks her:

"Where are you off to now?"

"To murder Superman in his Fortress."

Naturally this brings on the "uncomfortable silence" as neither woman can quite believe that those words came out of PG's mouth. When both regain their composure, WW believes that Kara has obviously been brainwashed, and has to physically restrain her with the Lasso to try and figure out who did this, and why. She finds a blank spot in PG's memory, and only a few stray words make it. One is of special interest to Wonder Woman: "Megistus."

This leads the duo to the Royal Library of Alexandria, where Diana explains the legend of Megistus. Apparently, he was a powerful sorcerer who had the usual power trip and stole the treasures of the Library with the intent of becoming the most powerful sorcerer ever. He hadn't been seen in ages, and for that matter, neither had the Library, supposedly lost in time. But, with a few magic talismans and oils, Diana solves THAT problem with what amounts to very little effort.

There's more, but I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise for any of you, would I? Really, I have almost no problems with this issue, or this run as a whole. The pairing of these two powerhouse females is truely inspired, with the wise and noble Wonder Woman almost bickering constantly with Power Girl, who is much less mature, more likely to lead with her fists. She's almost at a teenager level of immaturity, she has all this power but she doesn't have the training or will to use it wisely. Honestly, could you say you'd be different? You have the power to beat the living crap out of bad guys, and when you face off against someone who for all intents and purposes can't be beaten by brute strength alone, wouldn't you be bitter and angry, too? She also seems to have a natural dislike for Wonder Woman, as if she thinks WW believes she's so much better than PG. It's a perfect imperfect match. The Bob Wiacek (Omac Project) and Tom Smith (JLA/Avengers, JSA) artwork is very good, clean and uncluttered. and the writing by Mark Waid (Legion of Superheroes, 52) and George Perez (too many works to account) is great. A story of conflict and resolution at it's best, and despite a few shortcuts to keep things moving at a brisk pace, it's done very well.

I only had a few complaints about this book. One: a poor attempt to tie it in to the main storyline at the end was mostly unnecessary. The inclusion of the Challengers of the Unknown as a whole is pretty confusing to me, but that may be mainly because I don't know anything about them. But my biggest complaint about this title was the 8 page "advertisement" in the very middle of the book for a certain fish-shaped cracker. It's easily removed, and doesn't take any energy to skip, but 8 pages??? What, is DC that hard up for cash? At least when Marvel takes a couple pages to advertise items, it's usually their own merchandise or an upcoming series.

The Brave and the Bold is a solid series that has successfully integrated both great storytelling and compelling action, and they continue this trend in issue 7. If you're going to read DC, this had better be one of the titles you're picking up on a regular basis. If not, now's the time to get in gear.