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POLL: Five to Pull / One to Pass: Sept. 2


Batman: Gotham After Midnight (trade paperback)

Creative team: Story by Steve Niles; Art by Kelley Jones


Villain to Watch: Since this is a Halloween story, I think we can count on seeing a smattering Arkham's arches.


They say: Trick-or-treating in Gotham City can be terrifying - and tragic. Tonight, two people are invited to a party where they will be challenged to surviving the night in the most horrifying haunted house imaginable.


I say: I gotta be honest with you. I generally don't include trades in "Five to Pull / One to Pass," but this week is so, well, weak, that I was thisclose to renaming the feature "Five to Pass / One to Pull."


Luckily, ever since "Long Halloween," the Halloween-themed Batman stories have been among my very favorites. Gotham is the perfect setting for a little late-October fun, and Batman is the perfect protagonist -- seeing as his entire persona is driven by a unique kind of "haunting."


Besides, Philadelphia is already cooling down after a long, hot summer. And there's only one thing to get me into the right frame of mind for mulled apple cider and thick sweaters... and that's a nice, crisp, Autumn Batman adventure. Can pumpkin pie be far behind?


House of M: Masters of Evil #2

Creative team: Story by Christos N. Gage; Art by Manuel Garcia


Villain to Watch: The Hood


They say: What is the Sapiens Rights League, and how is it connected to the Hood's crime spree? That's what S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to know, and they're sending in the elite Red Guard to investigate. Here comes Rogue, Nightcrawler, Mystique and Wolverine! And when several members of the Hood's super-villain gang are captured, will he stage a mid-air Helicarrier jail break...or is there no honor among thieves?


I say: This series had an excellent launch, playing on all of the themes of the classic "massive super-villain team-up." The Hood is at the crux of the gathering, promising everyone the same sort of promises that Lex Luthor had made a year-or-so back to his "Society." The characterizations of these Marvel baddies are done very well, and the art is solid.


Throw in the old jail-break storyline, and it sounds like a heck of a good time. Plus, can you go wrong with a team that puts Batrok the leaper on the cover? I submit you can not.



Justice League Cry for Justice #3

Creative team: Story by James Robinson; Art by Mauro Cascioli


Villain to Watch: Promethius


They say: The team welcomes two new members as Supergirl and Shazam join the roster! And it's just in time, too, because when Prometheus is finally caught and his evil machinations are revealed, the League finds out they may be unable to stop him.


I say: "Cry For Justice" has had a few moments of real quality storytelling. The dialogue has been enjoyable. And the art is extremely good. I'm not captivated, mind you, but I'm far from bored.


Besides, Promethius has a phenomenal track record as the centerpiece in major Justice League sagas, so his presence in this issue holds a considerable bit of promise.


And I'm still waiting to hear more about Lady Blackhawk and the Huntress.



Strange Tales #1

Creative team: Story and Art by Paul Pope, Peter Bagge, James Kochalka, Molly Crabapple, Nicholas Gurewich, and more


Villain to Watch: I see on the cover Red Skull, Dr. Doom, enchantress, Ultron and... Fin Fang Foom!?


They say: At long last, the wait is over!! Marvel is proud to present the debut of this hotly anticipated three issue anthology showcasing Marvel's greatest characters re-imagined by the best and brightest talents working in independent comics today. Don't miss what's sure to be one of the most exciting collections of comics short stories ever produced!!! Every issue stars a stunning array of the best, most exciting cartoonists on the planet-showcasing the Marvel Heroes as you've never seen them before! Featuring the long-awaited Peter Bagge 'Incorrigible Hulk' serialized over all three issues!


I say: Sounds like a home run to me. Short stories by some very bright talent. All they need to do is make it weekly and print it on newsprint and "Wednesday Comics" is in trouble! Seriously, "Strange Tales" is one of those Marvel titles that is steeped in history. and this incarnation shows every promise of doing that tradition proud.


And, if you'll notice, Marvel is recognizing a couple of webcomics' best in this book: James Kochalka and Perry Bible Fellowship's Nicholas Gurewich. A PBF approach to the House of Ideas? That's a solid pull right there.



Wednesday Comics #9

Creative team: Stories by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Dave Gibbons, Kyle Baker, Walter Simonson, and more; Art by Eduardo Risso, Michael Allred, Jimmy Palmiotti, Kyle Baker, Adam Kubert, Amanda Conner, and more


Villain to Watch: Everyone from Catwoman to the Nazis


They say: DC's new, 12-issue weekly series, reaches its incredible conclusion in September. Here are just some of the highlights of this third and final month: In "Batman," Bruce Wayne digs further into a steamy murder mystery. It's a classic noir tale by the Eisner Award-winning "100 Bullets" team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. "Metamorpho" dives into a fever-dream of an adventure, written by New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman with art by Eisner Award-winner Michael Allred (Madman). "The Demon and Catwoman" make a deadly detour after Selina Kyle attempts to rob Jason Blood's collection of antiquities, taking her into unexpected territory. Written by Walter Simonson with art by famed DC cover artist Brian Stelfreeze. "Deadman" is warned off of pursuing a serial killer by the only being who could do so: Rama Kushna. It's a tale of mystery and mystics written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck, art by Dave Bullock. "Kamandi" explores the living nightmare that is the world after the Great Disaster in a sprawling tale written by Dave Gibbons with art by Ryan Sook. The feathers fly as "Hawkman" heads into slam-bang action, as written and illustrated by Kyle Baker. "Sgt. Rock" is captured by German forces - but will the Rock break? Find out in a gritty wartime epic written by Adam Kubert and ilustrated by legendary comics artist Joe Kubert. And don't miss these continuing features: ? "The Metal Men", written by Dan DiDio with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. "The Flash", written by Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl. "Supergirl," written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Amanda Conner. "Green Lantern," written by Kurt Busiek with art by Joe Quinones . "Superman," written by John Arcudi with art by Lee Bermejo. "Adam Strange," written and illustrated by Paul Pope. "Wonder Woman," written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell. "The Teen Titans," written by Eddie Berganza with art by Sean Galloway.


I say: "Wednesday Comics" is coming to an ending September. So don't expect there to be any more.


Wink.


Let's face it, this series has been very well-received. Fans love it. DC has built part of its business around weekly titles such as "52" and "Countdown to Final Crisis" -- all of which have ended. So, it makes sense to put a weekly offering out. The printing costs are lower (no glossy covers, cheaper inside pages). And it's easy from an editorial standpoint because there's no expectation of continuity. Heck, creatively speaking, it's wide open.


So, go ahead and pull this one for two reasons: (1) You may as well get used to it... it's gonna be around for a bit and (2) It's damned good.


Oh... and (3)... You're never -- ever -- gonna see "Blackest Night: Wednesday Comics." Now that's reason enough right there.

...And One To Pass...


Marvel Zombies Return #1

Creative team: Story by Fred Van Lente; Art by Nick Dragotta


Villain to Watch: sinister Six


They say: What happened to Spider-Man, Colonel America, Power Man, Giant-Man and Wolverine at the end of Marvel Zombies 2? Where were they transported to... and more importantly, when? A frightening five-part weekly event shambles to life here, penned by resident (evil) Marvel Zombies 3 and 4 scribe Fred Van Lente and three of today's hottest novelists of zombie fiction! In this first chapter, your friendly neighborhood undead arachnid arrived in the swingin' college days of his distant past, and when the Sinister Six threaten his loved ones, he siezes the opportunity to undo all the horror he's caused as a flesh-eating freak. But can a monster truly become a hero, no matter how guilt-ridden he is? Or will he learn the hard way that with great hunger also comes... great hunger?


I say: Sorry, Marvel, but the Dedicated Competition is giving us all the zombies we can stomach. And more.


And, I'm all for hype-speak in a title solicit, but "three of today's hottest novelists of zombie fiction"? What exactly does one have to do to become one of today's hottest novelists of zombie fiction? I mean, the dialogue pretty much boils down to "brains.... brains...." right? How exactly does one tell the hot from the not in this supposed genre? -- punctuation?