But the first book up for review today is something different. I notice from the legal indicia that the title is still 'officially' Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I decided to go with the cover title since it establishes a clean break for the new creative team (and a lack of Supergirl). So - 

Legion of Super-Heroes #37: This one marks the return of veteran LSH writer Jim Shooter, who's done some other things since his last run. Being such a special occasion, I decided the time was right to sit down and finally read a full issue of this series - I figured it'd be a good opportunity to see if as unwieldy a thing as LSH could appeal to a new reader curious about the switchover.

The result is firmly OKAY. From my perspective as a novice reader, Shooter does an impressive job of parsing sections of the series' extensive cast so that their personalities can be sketched in quickly, without overwhelming the story. The current status quo is swiftly established - Lightning Lad is an inexperienced leader, leading to bureaucratic troubles and iffy reactions to danger alike, while others in the crew strive to cope. If there is any word that best describes this writing it is efficient.

That's not to say there aren't some curious burps; the issue begins with all of the characters being identified via caption, their powers included underneath regardless of whether they use them in the story, but then suddenly switches to only giving the names via caption while establishing character abilities through dialog. It's no big deal, but the first time I saw "LIGHT LASS" with no powers underneath, I thought "oh no, even DC can't remember what the hell she does!"

I can't say the plot is at all striking or surprising. You'll need the will for Shooter's melding of would-be youth enthusiasm (extreme snowboarding!!) and mannered space-speak, leading to the occasional howler: "And the body on those perky yumdrops...! Makes my metab rate spike!" Indeed, there's a nervous teenage horniness running through the thing, not just in the multiple glimpses of bare flesh, but the anxious attitudes of the characters - it's non-adult thing, something that I most associate with shōnen manga today, though I recall the approach from some of Chris Claremont's teen mutant comics, from the era of... Jim Shooter.

It's all well enough tuned to character introduction, and some might find it charming. The visuals do the trick with little fuss. Penciller Francis Manapul has a firm grip on a certain character design aesthetic, although the inks and color effects (by 'Livesay' and Nathan Eyring, respectively) have a tendency to outline his figures sharply in action sequences, creating a somewhat detached, 'pasted' feel. Certainly not bad; same goes for the whole. I'll stick with it for a while.

The Punisher MAX #53: The penultimate issue of writer Garth Ennis' penultimate storyline on the series he built, and there's some conflict. On one hand, this is an action-heavy issue that serves to explode the story's ever-building intensity into a veritable barrage of violence. On the other hand, there's an element of wheel-spinning to the conflict, aggravated by the nature of the revelations the issue is built around.

I kind of wish Ennis hadn't taken this extra step with arch-villain Barracuda, who has the source of his violent nature revealed: Daddy kicked the shit out of him when he was a kid, and he's spent his whole life impotently striking back. It's just about the easiest, most familiar route to motivation (and audience sympathy!) I can imagine, and stands out as grossly typical against the otherwise world-weary, relatively nuanced characterizations Ennis gives the series' villains - they're often prone to defiantly revealing their motivations before Frank finishes them off, and while all of them are loathsome, they do react well with the bleak outlook of the series. Barracuda's revelation seems easy in comparison, and quickly prompts his transformation into a horror movie-type quasi-sympathetic human monster, who just keeps coming.

And yet, I can't deny that this stuff fits with perfect logic into the storyline's ongoing 'parenting' theme, and pings with some satisfaction against Frank's own resignation as to the situation lil' Sarah has gotten into. There's a collection of really nice moments, from the image of spent cartridges pouring into the baby seat to Frank's method of getting Barracuda's attention in a firefight, and a clever poke at the use of torture in suspense entertainment. Hell, it's even pretty fitting with the series' deadpan-excessive, blackly comic tone to have the villain screaming about papa then lurching around wailing "HAW!!" and "FUCK!!" with strips of flesh hanging off him while Frank tries to detach a baby from a live bomb.

Strange particulars. It's still a GOOD installment of the story, in spite of my hesitation. It can be wrapped up well next month.