Comic Fodder

DC Comics Week 1/24/2007 - Part 1

Each week Comics Fodder will bring you reviews of a few titles from DC Comics. Not all titles will receive a mention. Should readers feel a certain title has been overlooked from DC Comics, DC's Vertigo or Wildstorm imprints, drop us a line and we'll take a quick peek.

I apologize as we're a bit behind this week. Only three reviews for this post. More to come tomorrow.

THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #8: The final issue of the Bilson and DeMeo run on the newest volume of The Flash. Readers should be excited to be able to pick up issue #9 as new writer Mark Guggenheim takes over the title. However, Bilson and DeMeo manage to cause a lot of property damage on their way out the door.

We learn that Bart Allen is familiar with the Inertia/ Reverse Flash protege (this information would have been helpful earlier in the series), MOTA isn't going to kill his own daughter, and that in Flash comics, a beam/ straight line fired from a cannon will curve around the Earth. All the way around. Amazing.

As of the conclusion of this issue, Man-Child Flash is now in a mature sexual relationship with a woman with virtually no self-esteem (or at least managed to consummate a relationship in a Vegas hotel room. I hereby retract the "mature" part of the previous statement). He's accidentally moved to Los Angeles, and is planning to become a police officer of some sort. Readers should watch to see if the LAPD will allow you to become a police scientist without a college degree.

For some reason the art changes in the last few pages as Bart returns to Central City to have a story arc wrap-up with Jay and Joan Garrick. Sadly, this change led me to believe that cooler heads had prevailed and DC would take an about-face on the "Flash in LA" idea, and then let Bart's "relationship" run its course. This didn't happen.

Readers have enjoyed the generational aspect of the Flash guarding Central/ Keystone City, as well as the relationship between the various speedsters. DC probably feels that they need to set Bart apart from the rest of the Flash legacy in order to establish him as the one, true Flash. Eh.

We'll see what Guggenheim does with a title that should be one of DC's best.

52 WEEK 38: The two storylines which take center stage this issue are the Charlie/Renee storyline and the island of mad scientists and the product of their work.

Renee's journey is over. What Rucka and Brubaker started in the pages of Gotham Central now ends on the slopes of the Himalayas. It's probably safe to assume that before we've reached week 52, the DCU will have a new Question, but the creators have not let Montoya reach this new era without putting her through the wringer. Rarely does a comic manage to follow a character through such a transformation, nor does it manage to demonstrate the will and conflict within a character.

This reader will mis Vic Sage/Charlie Szasz/ The Question. Too often characters are needlessly replaced during DC's big events, but for once, the creative team seems to have worked towards the end/ replacement of Vic Sage with care for both the first to wear the mask and the protege.

Meanwhile, on the island of mad scientists, the reveal of three of the Four Horsemen is handled with a cinematic quality that Giffen and Bennett manage to nail (with some help from Hi-Fi colors). Let the debates begin regarding the actual design of the horsemen we see here, but this reader thinks they work pretty well as far as giant robot/ cyborg walking beings of death go.

The Magus/ Morrow exchange doesn't seem to portend anything too healthy for Magus, and, of course, the line-up of mad scientists awaiting the appearance of the Horsemen is something the writers seem to genuinely enjoy bringing to the page.

Lastly, Natasha Irons is back in character, right down to the kack for hyper-invention which she showed working alongside Steel in the Superman comics. The intrigue behind the Infinity Inc. story is really picking up.

All in all, 52 continues to impress, especially as the various threads begin to point toward something very big and very scary on the horizon.

CHECKMATE #10: Last week, Checkmate received a mention as one of the comics you should be reading. With the conclusion of the three-part story "Pawn 502", writer Greg Rucka and penciller Jesus Saiz managed to keep us from retracting our praise of this title.

The "Pawn 502" storyline maintains the thread that Checkmate is a counter-terrorism/ espionage unit that is equipped to take on the very bad people in the DCU through commando-style strikes, well placed spies and a lot of work up front. The last two issues of Checkmate had brought in the Shadowpact, DC's resident magical superheroes, in order to assist with a "mystical" conundrum they've run up against in planting their pawn within the Kobra organization.

Rucka manages to do a lot in the this issue with hints and suggestions, and a second reading of the issue is required once he pulls his final, grand reveal. Some of the throw-away lines suddenly make much more sense, and events in the story simply pull together much better in the way of many good thrillers. This is a tough trick to pull, and it's likely that a reader without much invested might not go back to see how Rucka cleverly managed to assemble his outcome. That's too bad, because this is one well choreographed piece of work.

The four-color heroics of the Shadowpact are handled in a much more muted, far spookier manner than in their own title as Checkmate deputizes the magical supersquad and puts them to work in the name of global peace. Whether Willingham can ever pull back enough to let his characters simply work their magic the way Rucka has done here remains to be seen. Its an interesting perspective, and reflects a Vertigo senisiblity more than the current trend in DC's handling of magic as a battery for super powers. And, in the context of Checkmate, makes far more sense than brining in a supersquad used to smashing things for best results.

Rucka should also be commended for knowing where to draw the line between capable, hard-nosed leader and power-drunk egomaniac that other writers too often misses in attempting to paint his characters as a "bad ass" (see Ultimate Nick Fury and Jenny Sparks). Bordeaux remains believable as a leader able to draw the loyalty of her organization and the respect of her peers, without threatening people's families and lives every time someone doesn't jump at their command.

There's a lot of that these days, and too often the writers seem intent on painting their "super leader" as the picture of "tougher-than-nails" at the expense of credibility.

More to come tomorrow...

It is obvious where the storyline is going, yes, but it is better than fobbing it off in a few panels or simply having the replacement character emerge sans explanation. So, I agree with you. Too bad, though, because the Question to be replaced is interesting enough.

-- Posted by: JMD at January 29, 2007 4:55 PM

I'm personally interested to see where they take Montoya for the remainder of 52. Just because she may don the mask and fedora doesn't tell me yet what she'll do with it.

Still, as a guy who has most of the original Question run sitting in his boxes, and was hoping for a post-JLU Question rennaissance, I'm going to miss the guy. But don't expect to see me becoming a "Vic Sage is the one, true Question!" nut on the message boards. For once they retired a character with some sense of dignity and purpose.

-- Posted by: ryan at January 29, 2007 5:13 PM

They'll bring him back. They'll ruin whatever credibility they established with this storyline. They always do. They always do.

-- Posted by: JMD at January 29, 2007 7:39 PM