ComicsAlliance's Chris Murphy reviews the biggest -- and best -- books coming out this week.

SO IS THERE A BAT-PLOW? - Batman 80-Page Giant

If you love Batman, and scientific studies have shown that if you're reading this column in which comics are reviewed then there's a better than fifty percent chance you do, then the idea of an eighty-page Batman-centered comic probably has you excited. Now that I've got you interested, it's time to deflate that bubble by giving you the sad news that only eleven of these eighty pages focus on the Dark Knight.

Instead this book tells tales of Gotham City and its inhabitants, all tied together by the unifying theme of a severe blizzard with record low temperatures grinding Gotham to a halt. As a New Yorker currently staring into the gaping maw of the vicious yeti that is three or more months of winter, reading this book was a chilling warning of the days ahead.

As a student of human nature, I feel obliged to point out that generally you end up with more crime in the summer and less crime in the winter, especially during heavy snowstorms, as people simply don't go outside. And as we all know, going outdoors leads to human interaction. And human interaction, of course, inevitably leads to someone taking a lead pipe to the head and losing their wallet.Although this being Gotham, I'm willing to accept that the normal rules are all off and it's all crime, all the time, no matter what the weather. Obviously these people take what they do seriously. So, finally, as a comic book reader and Batman fan, what did I think? Like any anthology it presents stories that are of varied quality, but overall it's good. It's not great, it's certainly not a must-read, but if you've got a love of Gotham and its diverse criminal population, you'll have a good time with this one.

Let me touch on some of the highlights. By far my favorite story in this one was "The Hero of Orphan Alley", written by Mike Raicht with art by Clayton Henry. It follows three young civilians in a run-down Gotham neighborhood who, inspired by Batman, take up vigilante crime fighting. Operating under the belief that there's always been a number of Batmen at the same time, they all dress in identical costumes and start patrolling rooftops. But they quickly come face to face with the realities of making that decision in a world with actual supervillains.

The idea is obviously a little reminiscent of past series like "Kick-Ass," but seeing it played out in one of the established big two universes makes it feel fresh. Also worth mentioning are the artistic contributions from Kat Rocha and Josh Finney in a Catwoman story, and one page of Batman artwork by Stephanie Buscema that ever so carefully balances the line between badass and cute. Oh, and if you were the comic reader who wanted to see a story where Batman's butler Alfred Pennyworth helps a prostitute reform by taking her to a high society dance, they finally made that, so you should go pick it up.


"Forgetless" is a series that asks readers to imagine the following scenario: What if professional models experiencing temporary financial difficulties turned to the exciting and lucrative world of murder for hire? And the more I think about it, the more completely believable a series of events like this becomes.

The fashion industry is not generally known for employing people who aren't self-centered. A supermodel's superpower of not caring about anyone besides herself could be the first step on an admittedly long path that ends in not caring whether anyone besides her is alive. And if people are willing to pay you a lot of money to take advantage of the fact that you don't care whether or not somebody lives or dies, that's not the worst fall back career in the world. It sure beats retail.

So now that we've all agreed that fashion models are essentially unfeeling killers waiting for the right circumstances to take the lives of their fellow human beings, let's move on to the story itself, shall we? The title of "Forgetless" is taken from the name of a series of parties, the last of which is in progress as the book opens.

Sonia, the story's central model/assassin, is there because she's recently decided to make the career change to hired killer after her friend Sara had some success in the field. This last "Forgetless" party marks an opportunity for her to complete her first assignment. Which she probably would have been able to pull off had it not been for an unfortunate case of Koala ex Machina saving the intending target's life.

I have to say I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Its reliance on telling jokes in the form of in-character asides formatted like Twitter messages, along with its reverse chronological presentation of events, are tricks that have been exhausted by this point. On the one hand they do work for the particular story being told, but on the other hand neither presentation style is done well enough to make them a fresh, original twist on the idea.

There's also the artwork, which I must say I didn't find appealing in the main story. Characters' bodies and faces are awkward in a way that makes me unsure whether it's a stylistic decision or poor execution. And characters all look so similar and yet are drawn inconsistently, meaning that it took me a while to be certain whether or not two scenes featured the same character or two different characters. But most significantly, it's worth pointing out that I don't think I enjoyed the story in the way its writer intended.

There are some times when you like characters and the tension comes from the fact that you want to see them triumph over adversity and achieve their goals in spite of all the obstacles thrown at them. When I read "Forgetless," I didn't like any of the characters and spent most of my time waiting for circumstances to go wrong so that terrible things could happen to them. The main reason I'm interested in continuing to read the series is, frankly, the promise of events go badly.

Oh, and I should mention the B-story. It involves a bunch of high schoolers from New Jersey attempting to figure out a way to get to that same last "Forgetless" party. Every panel in which they appear makes me root for their eventual fate as murder victims of the main characters to arrive as quickly as possible. This wish has yet to be fulfilled as of the conclusion of the first issue. But, again, more reason for me to keep reading, I guess?

SCARED STRAIGHT - Incorruptible 1

Mark Waid and Peter Krause's "Irredeemable" asked the questions: What happens when the world's most powerful superhero suddenly goes bad? What would make him do such a thing? And how would his old friends react? Now in "Incorruptible," Waid and Jean Diaz look at the same universe through new eyes, asking "What if the world's most dangerous villain suddenly went good?"

Issue one hits the stands this week and while I like Waid's work, I'm not convinced on this one just yet. Bad guy turned good guy Max Damage (who I assume either choose his supervillain name when he was twelve or else hired a PR firm with a staff of twelve-year olds to come up with said name) makes his reasons for his change of heart clear.

Ever since the Pluton
ian, the central character of "Irredeemable," went rogue and started destroying the world, the rules are different now. As Max says, it isn't a game anymore. He's seen the stakes, he's seen that no one else seems able to make a difference, and now he's taken it on himself to stop the Plutonian and put the world right again.

Now, I want to like this series, and I'm certainly not writing it off just yet, but I didn't see enough into the characters in the first issue to instantly be excited by it in the same way "Irredeemable" drew me in from the start. Max Damage, who disappointingly does not seem to have an accompanying theme song of any kind, spends most of the premiere issue being silently grim while bullets bounce off his face and torso. He emotes so infrequently that he makes Frank Castle look like Goofy. Think of every stubble-bearing, emotionless, verbal minimalist action hero you've ever seen in comics or movies, smash them all together into one harder than hard person, and that's how Max Damage comes off in issue one.

After disappearing for a month following the Plutonian's first really bad day, Max reemerges and does three things to demonstrate his newfound desire for justice. First, he stops his former accomplices from mowing down a group of police officers. Second, he tells his hot underaged sidekick girlfriend, who is actually named "Jailbait", that he is no longer interested in her as he is good now and so that would be wrong. And last, he sets fire to all the money he has ever stolen which, just like Scrooge McDuck, he keeps in one big vault.

I will admit that "Incorruptible"'s first issue leaves me wondering just how bad Max was before his change of heart. The fact that the police casually throwing around phrases like "leaves a trail of bodies as long as the Nile" hint that it was pretty bad, but we don't get to see just yet. And I'm certainly curious what exactly happened to cause him to spontaneously develop a conscience, an event which is also briefly hinted at in the issue's conclusion.

But for the moment Max remains an intriguing mystery, and the promise of development to follow is more a result of Waid's work on "Irredeemable" than of the premiere of "Incorruptible." And because I've seen both good books and bad books start off with this kind of low information, high action attention grabber, it's tough to be certain of how this will ultimately turn out.