I'm finding these days that the best comics aren't from the "big 2". They're actually being put out by independent publishers who rely on licensed properties to turn a profit, and of late, I'd rate them ahead of DC and/or Marvel.
Dynamite, for example, is giving fan fiction affectionados a real treat with Masks, which adapts an old Spider pulp story by adding The Shadow, The Green Hornet & Kato, Miss Fury, and, soon, a 20th century Zorro. The Shadow was the selling point for me personally, and I'm digging this story very much. In New York, criminals have taken over the city, and it seems that the force behind it all may also be in control of state government. Heh, in real life, some people might think that's actually true of a certain long tenured politician. The inestimable Alex Ross is painting the interiors, as well as doing some of the variant covers. 'Nuff said. Rating: A+.
Dynamite is also home these days to no less than Sherlock Holmes, who stars in a brand new miniseries, The Liverpool Demon. Holmes & Watson, thus, are thrust into a case involving the supernatural, and in the opening issue, Holmes demonstrates his skills while at the same time indirectly debunking fortune tellers. Oh, what fun. Rating: A.
Idea & Design Works (IDW) launched a Joe Palooka miniseries this week, but it's not the boxing hero you remember from Ham Fisher's comic strip back in the day. Instead, this Palooka is a MMA fighter named Nick Davis, on the run after accidentally killing a man while trying to stop some robbers. It'll be interesting to see where this goes, but anyone expecting a revival of the classic strip will be sorely disappointed. Davis obtains the Palooka monicker when he takes a last minute MMA bout south of the border, and wins, drawing the attention of his pursuers. If you're into MMA, you might want to give this a look. Rating: B.
DC is taking a chance on alienating their long time readers, especially in the back pages of All-Star Western. Some of the backups have been good, and one of them, the newly created Barbary Ghost, guested in the Jonah Hex feature in last month's issue, before exiting stage left with Hex's squeeze, Talullah Black, to take care of an ongoing case. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War hero, Tomahawk, is no longer a clone of Daniel Boone, but recast as a Native American. I am so not digging. Cinnamon was a solo act when she was introduced to readers in 1978, but now she's been reconfigured as 1/2 of a romantic team of crime solvers with Nighthawk. That I can buy. We've been introduced to a Victorian ancestor of Dr. 13, The Ghostbreaker, to try to explain why the present-day Terrence Thirteen became so interested in debunking the supernatural. Maybe writers Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray are just being given too much carte blanche, or it may be an editorial decision. However, future issues will offer attempts to tie in the former Wildstorm team, Stormwatch, to the 19th century. Spare me. The Shade, a long time villain who'd been reconfigured as a sort-of anti-hero during James Robinson's run on Starman in the 90's, will get the same treatment. I'm sorry, but some ideas should be left on the cutting room floor.
I'll go on record now as saying I'm not on board with Marvel's forthcoming Superior Spider-Man. He's supposed to be better than the Spidey we all know and love, but with a grittier feel to him. Give me a break! What is this obsession with replacing Peter Parker in the webs? They pulled it off in the Ultimate line, but in the mainstream, now known as Marvel NOW!, I doubt it'll actually work. You know what they say. If it ain't broken, don't fix it.
Now, let me close out with news that long time fans will actually appreciate. It's been reported that come 2014, the Star Wars comics will shift from Dark Horse back to Marvel, which adapted the original trilogy, and managed to keep Star Wars in publication for nearly a decade. Since Disney purchased the franchise from creator George Lucas earlier this year, this was inevitable. Look for those original Marvel books to be reissued, by Marvel, instead of Dark Horse, right around the time the license change takes effect.