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Best Comics in September Part 1: Holmes vs. Houdini and the Death of Wolverine

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Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

Men of Wrath #1

Jason Aaron got my attention with Southern Bastards, and here comes another terrifying trip into southern brutality and another grizzled old badass. Ira Rath is a contract killer, a man utterly without mercy. Within the first few pages we get to see him perform an act so unbelievably evil it's hard to believe that this is our hero. Yet, somewhere deep inside the now-dying, but still unstoppable murderer is another life that isn't born of cold-blooded death.

The story was inspired by Aaaron;s digging into his own family history, where he found out that his great great grandfather had stabbed and killed a man over an argument about a sheep. From there, a kind of curse was formed on the line, with others in the Aaron family meeting their own strange deaths. That idea of the sins of the father being visited on the son is old hat for Aaron, but it has lost none of its edge in the hands of the master.

I was excited about the new Thor before, but the more and more I come to know Aaron and his deep take on family and violence I more and more I can't wait to see what he does with the wielder of Mjolnir.

Rating: 8 of 10

Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #1

In general I don't have a lot of truck with Dynamite and their endless parade of public domain crossovers. It's good fun, but often cheap and they can be very sketchy with the writing.

The team-up of the Great Detective and the master of the escape, though, was just too tempting to pass up, and it's well worth the buy. Houdini comes to London on tour, running into Holmes as he gives a demonstration at Scotland Yard as a test of his abilities. Holmes is actually incarcerated there, having recently begun using a highly unusual drug that leaves him wandering the streets incoherent until he's arrested.

The two men clash amiably on the nature of Houdini's talents, and though Holmes is his usual arrogant self it's not enough to really faze the sort of man that buries himself alive for a living. Eventually the two are confronted with something neither man would ever believe; a real spiritualistic power, and the hunt is on to avenge a gruesome murder.

Anthony Del Col penned a fantastic script that added new dimensions to both the historical magician and the legendary figure of fiction. It's a roaring read that you won't regret.

Rating: 7 of 10

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1

OK, so if you haven't been following Marvel Nick Fury is dead again. Not only is he dead, but it';s revealed that since World War II he's been holing up in a secret space station murdering non-Earth threats with a one-of-a-kind sniper rifle in an identity known as "The Man on the Wall". Now, he's bequeathed the role to Bucky Barnes.

Last time I checked in on Barnes he was doing fairly standard, but awesome spy stuff with Black Widow. This is a startling new direction for the character, and a space opera shift in tone that has is different from anything you've ever seen from the Winter Solider before. I'm not sure that any other character in the entire Marvel universe would have been suitable for a position like this.

Ales Kot writes an amazing story, including a hilarious interaction with Namor when Barnes and he take on underwater drug smugglers. More than that, though, is the art by Marco Rudy. I don't think anyone since Dave McKean can be said to have such a unique and disturbing style. It makes the book slightly hard to follow at times, but it's majestic in its scope. Nothing else would sell this weird story so well.

Rating: 7 of 10

This story continues on the next page.Death of Wolverine #3

Not really, of course, Marvel will fund Howard the Duck 2 before they'll kill off Wolverine. That said, it's one of the few times that the old bastard has actually been in danger. His healing factor is completely burned out, making him more vulnerable than he's been in years. Knowing that, a mysterious person has put out a bounty on his head. The bounty decreases with time, so every mercenary and assassin in the universe is on his trail getting sliced and diced one by one as Logan's reserves run low.

Jumping in near the end of the miniseries I get reminded why I love Kitty Prude so much. She endlessly remains the most underrated badass around. You never expect her to show what a lifetime living under Logan's tutelage has done, but within the first few pages she physically humiliates and cripples Lady Deathstrike, saving Logan.

I miss the Kitty/Logan pairing. It was the worst part of the whole Avengers vs. X-Men megaevent; walking away from the dynamic of the two running the Jean Grey school. Here there's even a hint of a hidden romantic intention on Kitty's part, though that turns out to be something other than what it appears.

In the end, Logan gets one step closer to finding the man who started this ball in motion, and he grimly moves toward it while saving as many innocents as he can. This arc feels almost more like a Punisher book than a Wolverine one, but it's a wicked addition to Logan's mythos.

Rating: 8 of 10.

Batman Eternal #26

Following the end of the Death of the Family storyline I took a break from all things Batman, but now stuff is getting even more interesting. Hush is back, and even more determined to take the place of both Bruce Wayne and Batman by breaking his childhood friend. As always, Thomas Elliot is one step ahead of Wayne, and things are getting ugly.

Alfred has been hospitalized with a massive dose of Scarecrow's fear venom, and the crisis has brought Red Hood, Batgirl, Red Rob Robin, and even Stephanie Brown back to the side of Batman. He's teetering on the edge of defeat, but finally starting to learn to trust the strength of the young squad of brilliant fighters that he raised. Joining them is Alfred's daughter Julia, whose day job is in British special forces. She's a gift of a character that gives the reader a firm place to stand in the story, while also holding her own in the most dangerous and dysfunctional family of heroes in comic history.

Fond as I am of Batgirl and Red Hood, I think they're honestly starting to work better as part of a team book than on their own. I'm particularly keen to see Jason Todd go up against Hush. The two have much in common, so it should be interesting.

Rating. 7 of 10.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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