Today is the new thing.

*52 Dept: Jeez, Booster had to move out of his condo pretty quickly – I understand the shorthand necessary for the telling of these types of stories, but doesn’t he have any substantial liquid income? He mentions that his endorsement deals have been eroded by other superheroes – in three weeks? Not enough funds paid, in over two months, even with all those deals? Aren’t there any contracts in the DCU? I’m holding out hope that Week 8’s little medical confidentiality flub was part of the plot, so egregious it was, but stuff like the Booster bit this issue doesn’t quite fill me to spillage with confidence. Ah hell, it's superhero shortcuts – “Stop confusing me with logic.” Self-awareness?

Luckily, this issue does have a bang-up Clark Kent focus, even though the whole ‘fired!’ scenario is also a bit far-fetched. Still, it’s lots of fun (even slightly subversive) seeing Clark resorting to damsel-in-distress techniques picked up from Lois in order to score hot scoops with Metropolis’ newest super-savior, at least while he’s not injuring himself by shaving or picking up hot kitchenware, or confronting the thousand other tiny dangers he’d never needed to worry about when invincible. Stripped of his powers, Clark really is clumsy and oafish, which is a great bit of irony divined from a keen understanding of both his powers and character – naturally he fits into the role without complaint, yet still makes use of his sense of morals (which he never needed the sun to develop). Lois’ and Perry’s individual reactions to Clark’s hi-jinx are also priceless.

And even more luckily, that’s half the issue! The rest consists of the aforementioned Booster vignette, another chat between scientists (that subplot merely creeping along), and some semi-interesting if stiffly written Black Adam material - and *ugh* that quasi-romantic cute banter! If that’s the other option, he could go back to ripping people in half. On the sunny side, it actually looks like History of the DCU might go into some interaction with the main plot for its final installment – not that it makes the feature any better, but any sign of life is cause for a parting of clouds by this point.

Shaolin Cowboy #6

Man, I guess the old ‘using details taken from large images with new word balloons as additional pages’ stunt is going to be a regular one for writer/artist Geof Darrow – when he did it last issue, I thought he might be going for some sort of wacky multi-issue paste-up panel game, but this time he does it for a totally different sequence. No less than five pages are wrung out of it – a zoomed-out full-page splash blown up into two consecutive double-page splashes. I’m not all that bothered though, for two reasons: Darrow’s art is already so detail-loaded and beautifully designed that he can actually do this sort of thing without the feeling that they’re seeing the same stuff more than once, plus the comic is an extra-sized 30 pages of story for $3.50, half a buck below the back-of-Previews standard for 22 color pages.

Anyway, this is a slightly weaker issue of Shaolin Cowboy, which is to say it’s merely fine entertainment instead of an outstanding sugar high of a comic. It’s another all-action issue, with the Cowboy trapped in the belly of a gigantic city/lizard, taking on the same unstoppable foe he’s been fighting since issue #4. By this time the baddie’s nothing but a severed head with a blade lodged inside his mouth, and he’s even less than that by issue’s end, but that doesn’t stop him from summoning a mighty school of sharks to bedevil the Cowboy, who’s only trying to paddle down a river of bile, garbage, and corpses. It goes without saying there’ll be a ‘jump the shark’ pun, plus multiple plays on the word ‘school,’ and since it’s a Geof Darrow comic you can rest assured that every label on ever discarded can and bottle in that stream of slime will have a label logo and a distinct shape (contrast with 52 where even Clark’s Notice of Termination, which takes up about a quarter of its panel, is clumsy nonsense on its face – I know, I know, apples and oranges).

The problem is the wordplay isn’t quite as peppy (or bountiful) as before, and the action is colored a bit too dimly (Lovern Kindzierski handles the lion’s share of the hues, though letterer Peter Doherty steps in to “re-jig” a single page). I understand that this is an affirmative creative choice, as the issue's final page brings up back up into the sunset and fully popping hue, but I couldn't help but feel the dankness of the beast's belly was overpronounced to the point of detracting from the all-important action. It's still well-staged - Darrow whips up a great little dance among dead cows and boat motors, the Cowboy's double-chainsaw bo staff ripping out gobs of Jaws all the while, and keep your eyes peeled for the flying hunk of metal at the end of the chase, a nice pratfall set up good and early. And who could resist the Mad Fold-In trick with the word balloons at the end? Very clever.

As is that last page, since an 'ass-ologue' can plainly go at either the front or back of a story, right? If only more newish companies would look at "the corporate zombies over at Burlyman 'Entertainment'" they might learn to appreciate the value of nurturing a mere two series in a comics line, and filling them with careful attention (if not a need for speed in release). This title has been somewhat up and down in sales, but issue #5's 13,280 copies is more up from issue #3's 12,386 than down from issue #4's 13,505 (let alone the under-12,000 numbers for the first two issues). It's a book you want to see build more steam, even after a slightly dewier outing such as this one.