Underground Reading: The February Plan by James Hall Roberts
Graphic Novel Round-up: Few Men's Ruin, but All Men's Fear

Graphic Novel Round-up: Slashers, Slayers and Spies

FrayFive graphic novels with female protagonists (needless to say, all are written by men).

Fray (Whedon / Moline): Certainly better than "Buffy: Season 7", Fray captures some of the goofy spirit that made the television show so enjoyable for so long. Despite Whedon's best efforts, it still feels like a toothless attempt at TV series. There are no emotional connections deep enough to surprise or shock the reader, although Whedon tries his best. The art is better than average, and supports the gimmicky future that Whedon has built. 

Queen and Country: Operation Broken Ground (Rucka / Rolston): Once I figured out how to tell the characters apart, this became a much better story. Still something always a bit awkward with a female super-agent ("That's my girl," boasts her boss), written and drawn by men, but this is still better than most. I enjoyed the realistic (I assume) portrayal of the world of espionage - the politics, the bureaucracy and the backstabbing. 

Hack/Slash Omnibus (Seeley / Lots of Folks): I really liked the cult feel,  especially when the comic book stayed near its core concept - Cassie Hack as hunter of B-movie-style serial killers (like "Dexter", I suppose). A few of the stories - "Girls Gone Dead", "Slice Hard" and the collection of "Trailers" - were great. Campy fun with the genre. Unfortunately, Seeley strayed from the core concept most of the time. His attempts to add more depth (especially in the egregious "Evil Ernie" cross-over) just come across as lurid and patronizing. At its rare best, Hack/Slash is "Scream", but the rest of the time, it felt like one of the inferior sequels. 

Tales of the Slayers (Whedon & Friends): Not anyone's finest hour, this feels like an attempt to bilk hard-earned pocket money from the Whedon-starved masses. The Espenson/Russell collaboration is the best of the lot, but even it feels like a rejected script from "Season 2" instead of a clever Austen pastiche. The Whedon/Sale story is predictable and unchallenging, but the Sale art looks good. The others all feel rushed and, worse, boring. 

Black Widow: Homecoming (Morgan / Siekiewicz): Black Widow has improved exponentially over the past few years - transforming from an ineffectual sex object to a svelte superspy. This modern adventure in high-tech espionage, part of the Marvel Knights line, is the Widow at her best to date. Although still a little prone to wandering around in her knickers, she's ditched the silly super-trappings and gone straight for the role as a lethal spy. The entire plot is a raised finger to her past, and thank god for it. Siekiewicz's art - normally reserved for a much more psychedelic storyline - is solid, but feels slightly out of place.