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Action Comics No. 858

Published by DC Comics. Plot and script by Geoff Johns. Pencils by Gary Frank. Inks by Jon Sibal.

The Deal: This issue marks the start of Geoff Johns' solo run on Action Comics. A few months ago, Johns was writing the book with famed film director Richard Donner. But now Johns is handling writing chores by himself. This issue also marks the first part of the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story arc, which retcons Superman's history a bit to (once again) link him with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Good: Before I start talking about the story Johns has crafted for this arc, let me say that Gary Frank is one bad artist. And that's "bad" meaning "good." His work is a perfect blending of smooth, economical shapes with sharp, angular lines. His art is stylized, but it's not lacking in cinematic pacing or logical storytelling. In other words, this guy can draw some pretty-ass comic book pages. As for the story ... I know some folks will not be happy with what Johns (or DC) has done. If you've been reading Superman since the 1980s, when John Byrne revamped the character, you may know that a costumed Superboy never existed. As a result, his connection with The Legion of Super-Heroes was wiped out of continuity. But the rebirth of the multiverse (see 52, Infinite Crisis and Countdown) has prompted the folks at DC to retcon Superman's history once again. So according to current DC history, even though the costumed Superboy is still wiped from existence, a young Clark Kent did make friends with teens from the future. And I like that bit of retconning. Let's face it, Superman is a tough character to write. He's been around since the 1930s and there ain't much new stuff you can do to the guy. Johns' way of turning back the clock, at the very least, freshens up the character. I'm all for freshness.

The Bad: Nothing to see here. Move along.

The Verdict: Not all retcons suck. Buy it.

The Immortal Iron Fist No. 10

Published by Marvel Comics. Plot and script by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. Pencils and inks by David Aja and Kano.

The Deal: Check it out -- the latest issue of The Immortal Iron Fist, starring the martial arts champion known as Iron Fist. This edition is round three of "The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven" story arc, which pits Fist against a bunch of other "living weapons" in a centuries-old battle to determine who has the best kung fu. No, seriously. They're also fighting for other stuff, too, but I'm not exactly sure what that other stuff is yet.

The Good: I like this book. I've always been a fan of Iron Fist ... well, actually, I probably liked his costume and powers more than I liked his personality or anything like that. But Brubaker and Fraction have added so much depth to the Iron Fist mythos that they've made the guy under the yellow and green tights -- and his world -- incredibly interesting. This particular issue is short on action, but long on mystery. Iron Fist isn't even actually in this issue (hope that didn't spoil anything) but this month's story further compounds the macabre machinations put in motion by the bad guys. I wouldn't necessarily consider this a jumping-on point, but it's not a throwaway issue, either. Oh, and the art should go in "The Good" column, too. David Aja's work is sort of a cross between the heavily shadowed art of Mike Mignola and Michael Lark's gritty, bare style: two great styles that go great together.

The Bad: Honestly, I have a hard time following all the details of this comic. Tons of characters come in and out the book, and the writers don't always state names or biographies when folks jump "on screen." Thank God for the recap page in the front of the book. One day, this story will make an amazing trade paperback. For now, I guess I'll have to read very closely.

The Verdict: If you've been reading The Immortal Iron Fist, don't stop now. If you haven't picked it up yet, grab a copy and read slowly.

Reviewed materials furnished by Heroes Aren't Hard To Find: www.heroesonline.com.

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