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Comic Blitz: Dungeon Parade, Lone Racer, The Phantom and More

All-Star Superman #7 (DC; Grant Morrison, writer; Frank Quitely, artist; Jamie Grant, inker, colorist) – The Bizarros have arrived, and these are not your father’s Bizarros. Although if your father had some Bizarros, come to think of it, that might be pretty cool. These Bizarros are flawed versions of what Danny Boyle might envision the Body Snatchers to be: they touch you, they become you, and you become them. And you sorta go apeshit. Thus, we get Bizarro Superman and the cube world of All-Star Htrae hovering above the planet, ready to bring down doom. Well, after the last issue it seemed like Morrison might be on the mend and was actually tempering his whacked out ideas with some actual, you know, decent writing and dialogue. The main problem with this issue is that it starts in such a weird place, with the attack already well underway and Superman dumping what looks to be a giant ginger root into space then suddenly being attacked by grey clones of Iceman circa 1963. I kept thinking I had missed an issue between 6 and 7. Regardless, it’s coherent–not as good as last issue, but it gives me hope that the mirror universe version of Morrison might have gone back to where it came from. Foolish of me, I know.

Dungeon: Parade, Vol. 1: A Dungeon Too Many (NBM; Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, Manu Larcenet) – Apparently a somewhat side tangent between Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 of Dungeon: Zenith, I could read stuff like this all day. Our heroes, Herbert the Duck and Marvin the Dragon, are working at the Dungeon, which is setup like any dungeon you would find in a tabletop roleplaying game. Indeed, they specialize in luring adventurers in and either wiping them out and taking their stuff or letting some escape with a bit of treasure in order to bring other would-be scavengers calling. The insanity begins when someone shows up and interviews the Dungeon Master, only to then open a competing dungeon next door. Then later, there’s mayhem involving a lamp that grants wishes. The art style is perfect, and would translate easily (I would think, anyway) to animation, which would be great, honestly. I would put something like this into the SDI Saturday Morning Lineup. And the humor is constant: how can it be otherwise with a vegetarian dragon and a duck as your protagonists? Fantasy and role-playing freaks will want to nab this.

Lone Racer (Top Shelf; Nicholas Mahler) – Lone Racer is a faded star of the track circuit. His wife is ill, his career is in the sewer and his only contentment is found hanging out at a bar with a couple of friends. Will he turn to a life of crime? Will he have an affair? Will he rise again? The inherent problem with stories that talk about how life can get you down is that, well, a lot of us are pretty down to begin with. There’s a fine line between “Tell me something I don’t already know” and a story you can relate to and actually enjoy. Mahler’s book falls squarely into the latter. First, it has a fine sense of humor, such as how convincing eight beers can be. Next, there’s the odd but endearing drawing style, which we enjoyed muchly on Van Helsing’s Night Off, where bodies barely look like bodies and you could land a plane on people’s noses. The story by itself doesn’t break any new ground, but is an enjoyable and quick read.

The Phantom 14-15 (Moonstone; Mike Bullock, writer; Carlos Magno, art; Bob Pedroza, colorist) – The Phantom tells Kit a story of how he, when he was just a purple novice, went to America only to find his aunt had been brutally assaulted. The Ghost That Walks (and Provides Beatdowns) then has to learn a lesson about restraint when he goes after the gangs that almost killed an old lady, the bastards. Well, I’ve said this before, but I much prefer The Phantom in comic form than in comic strip form. The trouble with Phantom and Prince Valiant and all such strips, for me anyway, is that you got maybe ten seconds of storyline, then you had to wait a day. Or in the case of Sunday strips, a whole week. So I never was able to get into them. As a comic book, though, you’ve got a friend to talk to. What you’ve got here is your standard play on the tried and true “When I was a young adventurer, boy did I make some dumb mistakes” storyline, except this time the adventurer in question wears what looks to be purple boxers. It’s nicely executed but I find Magno’s artwork to be really nice. When it comes to books like this, I find I like realistic, tight artwork. Now if somebody wanted to get Bill Sienkiewicz to do a few issues, I wouldn’t fight you off, but for now this title keeps trucking along briskly. I think this will create more fans of the character than it will lose.

Spawn 165-166 (Image; David Hine, story; Lan Medina, pencils 165; Brian Haberlin, pencils, inks 166; Edgar Tadeo, inks 165; Andy Troy, Matt Milla, Brian Haberlin, colors, 165; Andy Troy, color, 166) – I’ve mentioned before that I like where this comic appears to be going. The armageddon saga wrapped up all the madness of the previous issues as best it could, and now the series looks to be headed in a new direction. We get an interlude with Mandarin Spawn in 165, with Lan Medina providing pencilwork that reminds me of the late, great fu genre comics that Crossgen put out. Le sigh. The story concerns a misshapen human who can feel no pain, delivered into the hands of a governor’s court that is filled with bored sadists. Spawns are all about vengeance, so you can probably guess where the story will end up–but regardless, the journey to get to the end is nice, all the same, and filled with the requisite asskicking and severing of limbs you could hope for. Nicely done. I won’t say too much about the following issue, 166, because it’s obviously the start of something else, and it takes the book into a place I think it should head: into flat out horror. The story is that Spawn put the world back the way he thought it should have been after Armageddon, but something’s still well and truly fucked. Some very messed up bits in here that could lead some interesting places, and I’ll be watching to see how they make the transition from superhero to holy/unholy/something avenger to…what? Where does Spawn fit in a horror comic? Is he a screwed up John Constantine but with a CG cape? I dunno. It would be cool to find out.