Comic Fodder

DC Weekly reviews: Week of January 4, 2007

...we interrupt the One Year Later comprehensive overview for some weekly business...

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 or DC's Vertigo imprint, drop us a line and we'll take a quick peek.

The week was probably owned by Marvel with the release of issue #6 of Civil War, plus a new Civil War: Frontline. However, DC didn't shirk from its responsibilities, and showed up to the game as well.

52: Week 35

The greatest experiment in comics continues with this week's installment of 52. There seems to be some gallows humor (and do I detect a bit of Morrison?) as Lex Luthor stands calmly at the heart of a rain of suddenly ex-metahumans (soon to be ex-ex-metahumans), plunging from the sky and into the streets of Metropolis. Somehow Luthor is seamlessly morphing from diabolical businessman to mad scientist in a manner which makes complete sense from a character standpoint and has a very real basis in the established Luthor character. In many ways, the Luthor storyline is owning 52.

The Infinity Inc. character arc may be about to play itself out in a fairly predictable fashion, but one still can't help but pull for Natasha Irons as the reality of her situation slowly kicks in.

On the whole, a momentous issue as the cracks are definitely beginning to be seen in the dam, and it feels odd to say this, but... I am curious if the writers can actually tie up all of the dangling plot-threads in 17 issues, and if those threads will actually all lead to one point.

Manhunter #27

Manhunter manages to struggle on with low numbers, but a valiant underdog sort of nobility. The thirty-something, LA-bound cast continues to provide much of what could be considered attractive about the book, but Andreyko occasionally fails to remind us why we should care about the wide supporting cast. For readers drifting in to see why the fan-base has fought to keep the book alive, little to no explanation is often given as to who people are and how they're relevant to Kate Spencer, our titular Manhunter.

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time following the legal proceedings which are taking up the brunt of the current story-arc in Manhunter, and honestly, the whole thing is a bit tough for me to buy.

I was going to give a synopsis of Sacrifice, but it began running longer than this review. You're on your own.

At long last Wonder Woman will stand trial for the murder of Max Lord. However, Wonder Woman is being tried by Grand Jury in LA for a "crime" she committed in Switzerland against a known rogue federal agent. To complicate matters, at this time in Checkmate, Sasha Bordeaux (the Black Queen of the United Nations sanctioned Checkmate) could be considered a witness as she was present for Max Lord's co-option of Checkmate for his own means, and is in possession of unedited images of the murder. Bordeaux could easily testify against Lord (or for Wonder Woman), as could the rest of the Checkmate staff and Superman, exhonerating Wonder Woman.

Too many "why's" come up that simply make no sense, and seriously detract from enjoying the issue. Why the trial is taking place in what appears to be an LA municipal court house hasn't really been explained, or what motivation the prosecution would pin on Wonder Woman. Why Wonder Woman is not being tried at The Hague, as she had previously submitted to in her own title, is baffling. Why Wonder Woman would hire small time attorney Kate Spencer, aside from her dubious super-affiliation, is convenient only to the Manhunter comics. A reader can appreciate the desire to incorporate the realities of a grand jury, as Andreyko sees them, but the whole thing is playing out like an odd Law & Order episode spun out of control. I suppose I could consult with an attorney on all of this, but (a) while I know more lawyers than I can shake a stick at, I don't know any international law attorneys, or even federal attorneys, and (b) it's up to Andreyko to clear that up for the reader. As a comic which tries to pride itself on "realism", it would be nice to feel as if the proceedings made sense.

Plus, wouldn't someone tell Wonder Woman that wearing her costume into court and to lunch is, maybe, a bit much? Especially when it's the same outfit she wore in the video? Might I suggest a lovely sweater set from Ann Taylor? It's details like this that the Rucka and Jiminez runs on Wonder Woman never would have let happen, but, in the hands of sloppier editors make Wonder Woman come off less ludicrous (or as a murderous psychopath in a swimsuit).

More than anything, with Wonder Woman only three virtually plotless issues into the new series, the Manhunter stories are difficult to contextualize. Sure, Wonder Woman will be exhonerated (I don't foresee DC letting the Maid of Might run about as a convicted killer), so aside from bringing Manhunter more tightly into the DC fold, the story seems kind of moot. Still Wonder Woman is receiving more exposure here than in her own book, it seems, and better handling here and in the JLA than in her own title. Just as Manhunter has shown up in Birds of Prey.

Also, why are there Knights of St. Dumas appearing, fresh from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? And what's going on with Cameron Chase and her boyfriend? There's no doubt Andreyko knows his characters, but I fear he and his editor are living a little too close to them. I've read three issues in a row, and more than a dozen issues of the series, and I can't tell you what's happening here.

Oh, and "Ted Kord" shows up at the end. Uh-huh.

UPDATE: Jan. 13th, 2007

Comic Fact Checker Suspension of Disbelief is here for us.

Here and here

Apparently I was wrong on some speculation. Terrific! I don't mind standing corrected, but I still don't really buy that this trial would be occuring at all.

Superman #658

Busiek's story continues to engage, but the delay in shipping between months is taxing on the reader as one wonders: wasn't there a Russian super-alien or something running around a few months ago? Weren't we concerned with that?

With the flashforward to a potential future history, Arion continues to paint a neatly bleak picture of the fall of the DCU, which, of course, our intrepid reporters from the Daily Planet and Lex Luthor seem to be some of the beleagured final survivors. The extrapolation of a Superman-centric DCU is fairly interesting, despite the Khyber-super-villain's nebulous motivations and background, as Busiek chooses, instead, to investigate the survivors of such a debacle. Particularly as the survivors are Superman's loved ones.

Thanks to production delays, next month, we'll see something completely different as Superman takes a break from the "Camelot Falls" storyline to give our creative team a little break.

Busiek's dialogue demonstrates a certain welcome maturity to the Superman titles, even when his stories seem to fall to a familiar beat. Busiek seems very in touch with the cast and characters of the Superman books, from Perry White to Luthor. This compliment extends to Superman himself, whom writers occasionally seem to take for granted or mischaracterize (see Chuck Austen).

It's unfortunate that Superman's very talented artist Pacheco is falling behind. The extended storyline will now enjoy an additional delay as February's issue breaks from the current storyline to tell the reader what fate has befallen Krypto since the death of Superboy. Some readers really enjoy Krypto, and this reviewer will be counted among their number with no sign of embarassment, so this reviewer's feelings are mixed about another delay, but increased Krypto coverage.

You simply cannot have enough of a flying dog with a cape and heat vision for my $3.00.

The All-New Atom #7

Writer Gail Simone starts this issue off on the right foot. Not five pages in and we're treated to a scene of our hero eating pizza and watching awful TV with his new colleague, Panda, and a giant floating head (named "Head") I'd assumed we'd never see again after the last story arc. If the first few pages of the issue reintroducing us to the evil Dean of Ivy University and microscopic psychopath Dwarfstar didn't get the reader off on the right foot, then Simone had me at giant floating head as roommate/recurring character.

The All-New Atom has given up on taking itself seriously and has decided to play to one of Simone's strengths, her fine appreciation for the absurd. Within a few panels, cowboys are riding roughshod all over Ryan (aka: The Atom) Choi's living room and harassing the head and Panda.

There's a cowboy vs. Atom fight, which I won't get into, but mostly succeeds, before the audience is introduced to a far more flippant (and green) version of Degaton. In short, something is going on in the timestream, and it's up to the Atom to save the day, in a Linear Men related storyline.

Simone should have serious reservations about both time-travel and Linear Men storylines. Time-travel, once introduced, is inherently messy. And the Linear Men, while possibly relevant to "52", haven't made much of a splash in the DCU since some early-90's Superman stories. Still, Simone has found an interesting dilemma for The Atom, and the knowledge that it's supposed to wrap up next issue certainly makes it a bit more enjoyable.

The book on the whole, however, doesn't always deliver on a comedic level, and the situations are such that any hope of drawing in the vicarious bad-ass crowd (you know who you are) is next to zilch. That said, Simone appears to be finding her own voice with character bits, including Choi's worries regarding his ability to interest his students, and generally adding a level of zaniness to the proceedings.

One editorial complaint: I understand the appeal of placing Giganta in the book as a possible love interest, but from an editorial standpoint, DC is already showing cracks in post-Infinite Crisis continuity. Is a known fellon teaching classes (you do pretty much have to break the law to lose tenure...)? Is she attacking Wonder Woman in that series? What gives?

All-Star Superman #6

Obviously Morrison's take on The Man of Steel has clicked with comic readership in a way that few other Superman titles have enjoyed in years. Sales of the book are tremendous, and the general chatter is good.

Morrison's stories have thus far been self-contained, but returning to a few ongoing issues such as Superman's "12 Labors" which, I am guessing, encompass a 12-issue run of this series. After reading "decompressed" story after "decompressed" six issue story which could have easily fit into one or two issues if comic writers hadn't figured out how to maximize the amount they can get paid while moving the story to a snails pace to ensure a six-issue collection, fairly self-contained stories are a welcome change of pace.

Morrison's got a rare gift, mixing his over the top presentation of Superman with the earthy characters of Smallville in a seamless fashion. Quitely manages a cinematic feel to the layouts, giving Smallville and its inhabitants plenty of breathing room, but moving effortlessly in the next panel to a super game of fetch with Krypto. (Again with Krypto, who here is back to the "A Boy and His Dog" space romping depicted in a great solar-system wide game of hide and seek. I continue to stand by my blind devotion to Krypto.).

Morrison takes us past the silver-age homage to Smallville and demonstrates that even some of his own concepts were always meant to fit into the wild ideas of the Silver Age comics published under Mort Weisinger. The trio of Supermen appearing from different era's seem as at home on the pages of All-Star Superman as they might have in a Weisinger-era tale. It's fascinating to see the blending of that tricky time-travel working so well in a story which first appears to be a flashback tale, until one realizes how all of the players fit in, right up to the second to last page.

The Chronovore plot is nowhere as important as the ideas that hang off of the threat, and, in fact, merely provide a launching pad for Morrison's investigation of Superman's devastation at losing his adopted father and the generational aspects of the Superman dynasty, perhaps beginning as much with Jonathan Kent as Kal-El or Jor-El.

In short, the series continues to amaze. What might have become of the Superman franchise had Waid and Morrison been handed the reins circa 2000 is still only a fever dream for Morrison and Superman fans, but, no doubt, any additional time Morrison has had to prepare to bring us All-Star Superman was well worth it.

All in all, a mixed bag of a week. Some enjoyable titles, mostly with All-Star Superman to give Civil War #6 a run for its money. Few to no hints as to the nature of the end of 52, nor of any summer events. The second-tier mainstream books could have done more to deliver, but there's always next month.

What did you think? We'd love to hear from you.