The date is February 27…please mark your calendars.

On this day a deluge of superhero related quality was dispensed to the purveyors of our weekly comic establishments, and everything was good. It was very good.

The last time I came home with a hole in my wallet of this size, carrying a plastic bag of such weight…it became a column known as Rapid Fire. One could consider this a rebirth, or perhaps even a revamp, but for all intents and purposes…this is the remix. And I’m being a little more forceful this time around.

Anyone that spends a considerable length of time on the internet, skimming the harsh realm that is the message board has heard the whispers. The murmurs. Spoken in hushed tones and empty rhetoric. They say the superhero is dead. That they hold minimal creative value. That they are the enemy of this modern industry and will drag it to the bottom of the well like so much dead weight.

It’s February 27 and you’ve been proven wrong. Apparently, with the correct creative team at the helm, men in tights can be made to have value and emotional weight. The enlightened must obtain the following recommendations, and utilize them in slapping the complainers across the mouth. Then slap ’em again for saying the Ultimate books suck.

These are your instructions…you need only follow them.

Batman #600 (DC Comics)
Batman vs. Nightwing. No this isn’t some imaginary tale, fanboy speculation, or mind-control scheme. This is emotional neglect at its highest point. This is a son betrayed by the man he calls father. This is one of the best Batman stories you’re going to read for a long while.

Ultimate X-Men #15 (Marvel Comics)
A mature and complicated look at what it means to be a mutant in the twentieth century. Complex ideologies and the real-world application of mutant powers contained in a single issue that illuminates just what an Ultimate can do.

Green Arrow #12 (DC Comics)
I hate Green Arrow. Only a bit more than I hate Hawkman. Kevin Smith focuses on aspects of humor, romance, and impromptu superheroics to once again make me forget Oliver Queen’s costume and his boxing-glove arrow. And DC is letting Smith get away with all kinds of implied sexuality and innuendo. Gotta love that.

JLA #63 (DC Comics)
Joe Kelly continues his first Justice League arc by examining what happens when the heart of the League is dealt a crippling blow. The world is coming apart, the Golden Lasso is broken, and Wonder Woman, the soul of the world’s greatest heroes and the only one that can put things right, has gone missing.

Action Comics #788 (DC Comics)
Superman’s sense of morality is tested when caught in the middle of an age-old blood debt. Does blood truly demand blood? Oh yeah, and Lois Lane realizes she hates her superpowered husband.

Daredevil #30 (Marvel Comics)
Forget the red tights, Bendis has turned this book into a hard-boiled crime novel. Betrayal, defiance, and a secret identity that isn’t so secret anymore. This is the Sopranos with a poor blind man caught in everybody’s damn crosshairs. And the Kingpin of Crime can’t keep him safe any longer.

The Legion #5 (DC Comics)
The heroes of the thirtieth century learn that mercy and acceptance must be extended to all beings, and that vengeance is seldom justified. An enjoyable interlude in the main plot line that makes its point, and positions new enemies for the reformed Legion. As if Ra’s al Ghul wasn’t enough to worry about.

Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #11 (Marvel Comics)
This is a comic about the Hallmark creation that is Valentine’s Day. Spider-Man is featured, though most of his time is spent unconscious in an alley. Peter Parker unwittingly committed to dates with two women. Someone puts ex-lax in Jonah’s coffee. And Flash Thompson still can’t get any. Hilarious.

New X-Men #123 (Marvel Comics)
Professor X is dying and Jean is prepared to deliver his last will and testament to the free press, emphasizing mutant influence in the creation of a potentially utopian society. Guess it won’t mean much if the nano-sentinels and the Shiar Empire, now instructed to kill all mutants, doesn’t finish them off first.

Captain America: Dead Men Running #2 (Marvel Comics)
Steve Rogers, drugged out of his mind, and trapped in the jungle with a group of blood-thirsty mercenaries. The kind of dirty, grimy environment that we’re not used to seeing Cap in. That’s why it works. Get a little blood on the shield of liberty and watch as ideals strain under the pressures of reality.

Wolverine/Hulk (Marvel Comics)
Haven’t followed Sam Kieth since his Maxx days, but he brings his decidedly unique brand of storytelling to two of Marvel’s headliners in this Marvel Knights series. You won’t understand everything that’s happening when you finish this one…but you’ll definitely be interested in picking up the next installment and impressed by the artwork. No other book is going to look or read like this one, so go get it.

Ultimates #2 (Marvel Comics)
The Avengers for a new century aren’t assembled overnight, and so far it’s been quite enjoyable watching the pieces slowly falling into place. Bruce Banner feeling overshadowed by the intelligence of Hank Pym and intellectually frustrated? Nick Fury with the world’s biggest budget assembling the world’s superhuman defense force? Art by Bryan Hitch? Good shit.

The preceding are how superheroes are done correctly, with an emphasis on real-world concerns and frightening believability that cause one to forget about the silly costumes and codenames. The recommendations above deliver heartbreak, romance, humor, drama, and crime noir…but the protagonists involved happen to be wearing tights. Big deal.

Is the superhero dead?

According to the evidence presented on February 27….not quite.

Brandon Thomas

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