Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week February 14, 2007

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.



Firstly, I spologize for the lack of images, etc... My computer's motherboard chose this week to go to that cleanroom in the sky. I'm borrowing the wife's beloved MacBook, and, ironically, I am having trouble with some fairly basic functions. So bear with me.

Overall, it's difficult to see a theme for this week in the DCU. In fact, the theme might well be the inconsistency of the DC line. Lots of very different comics this week with a lot of different results.



OMAC #8

A stunningly clunky conclusion to what had been a lackluster series. Like all writers who are willing to try something new, Bruce Jones has his supporters and detractors. I think he bats about a .250, but he always shows up to play.

From the solicitations and cover for issue #7, we know some of the action shoe-horned into this issue was supposed to occur earlier in the series. I have no idea what the @#$% happens at DC sometimes, but it's pretty clear that everyone involved had pretty much given up on OMAC by this issue. Except for me, who paid for it and brought it home. And so, $24.00 poorer, I feel at liberty to whine.

This error is rife with logical problems, characters behaving out of character, seriously condensed plot points and a switch to a fairly uninspired artistic choice with former artist Renato Guedes gone AWOL. It's lots of little things, like monitors somehow maintaining power and continuing to show images after being ripped from the Brother Eye satellite. Vienna somehow knowing she's been "sterilized" by the satellite, and becoming completely devastated, as she somehow had built up a lot of expectations in the fifteen minutes/pages that had passed. Superman somehow now able to see the satellite despite it's cloaking field when the satellite's invisibility from everyone on Earth BUT the Blue Beetle was a major plot point of Infinite Crisis.

This series was a big, ol' dud, sticking nowhere close to either Rucka's smart OMAC Project series in tone or quality, nor even hinting at the crazy weirdness of Kirby's original OMAC run.

What was DC thinking? Aside from providing a demonstration of how a fool is parted from his money?



TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #5 (of 8):

It's a bit of a relief that the Spectre story took a sharp turn in the right direction in this issue, but it's also suggestive of the notion that maybe the original pitch was never intended to run eight issues. In this tale, the Spectre finally leaves the world's worst apartment building to pursue a colorfully clad mad gunman and the mysteries that surround his maniacal behavior. Cris Allen employs some of his well-honed detective skills, and the Spectre's modus operandi becomes all the more unpredictable to Detective Allen.

Possibly the best Spectre story of the series thus far.

However, the real darling of Tales of the Unexpected isn't the chalky fellow in the green trunks and booties. Rather, Azzarello and Chiang's Dr. 13 back-up feature stands to become some seriously essential, self-reflective DCU reading.

In this issue, Azzarello rips off the pretense of playing cute with DC's forgotten characters and pointedly states the mission of this story. Our little omniscient friend Genius Jones:

Because The Architects don't believe we need to exist. .... The one's who decide Who's Who... and Who isn't. They are the official guides to the universe. When it was decided that the one fashioned by Architects that preceded them didn't make cents, they knocked the old one down and built a new one.

With a continuous line of publication stretching well back over 70 years, DC Comics and the DCU are littered with discarded ideas and ideas that the writers and editors of DC Comics have had no use for in decades. Perhaps merely to maintain the copyright on some of these characters, but more likely to remind readers of a different era of comic storytelling, Azzarello has crafted a story which recognizes and acts upon the notion that there are no bad ideas, only poor execution. Did the success of Dark Knight Returns and the mantra that "comics aren't just for kids!" have to mean that comics had to lose the spirit of fun and the absurd?

Even one of Azzarello's own creations, the walking Mt. Rushmore (last seen in the Superman head-scratcher "For Tomorrow" ) makes an appearance, and a clue to readers who'd rejected the idea out of hand during the series' initial publication.

There's a lot more to be said regarding Azzarello's statement, and it's one we'll revisit as the series cmes to a conclusion.



BATMAN #663

What is a comic book? Pictures with words? Perhaps for the first time, Morrison asks the Batman title to change formats and rather than present the story in the traditional format of sequential art, Morrison delivers a tale in prose, with illustrative art provided by mixed media artist John Van Fleet.

Most assuredly, had the powers that be decided this story had to be told in panels, this story could have supported a one-shot special every bit as powerful and every bit as successful as the now legendary Arkham Asylum graphic novel from the early 90's.

Perhaps now long-forgotten as Morrison's Batman run has been interrupted by the Grotesk storyline, the series began with a person in a Batman suit shooting the Joker. This single issue reveals the depthsof the Joker's insanity in a way which has only been hinted at in the "show, don't tell" world of action-oriented comics, makes some sense of Harley Quinn's mad love, and gives us a glimpse into Batman's mind as he moves through the mysteries and the final confrontation.

Very little of The New happens here, but what we do get is an entirely fresh look at events we may feel we've seen a thousand times before as each writer takes a crack at a Joker story and does little more than recycle elements of the past.

However, Morrison is dealing with the past few decades of Batman comics as continuity, referring to mainstays such as the Grant/Bolland classic, The Killing Joke, and recognizing that prior to Infinite Crisis, the Joker had once again fallen in with the cast of The Killing Joke. It's rewarding for readers to see this kind of continuity, and feel as if the story of the Joker and Batman shares not just a present, but a past and a future.

As per the Joker's latest "incarnation", we'll all be watching to see what this means for the future.

John van Fleet's art is... interesting. His 3D, cg characters lack refinement, but much of the rest of the illustrative art seems to work much better. including clown faces and rich, textured backgrounds and washes. It's not as satisfying as Dave McKean's work, which the story seems to beg for, but overall, it surpasses being labeled "serviceable".

In a way, it's a bit easy to feel robbed by the issue. How would this comic have looked as sequential art? How would Morrison have overcome the challenges of translating such a story from prose to panel? We'll never know. instead we get one of the most unique issues in Batman's lengthy publishing history. And perhaps, one day, it might be adapted.



MANHUNTER #28

Something about this issue just seems off.

Why is Beetle's ship attacked? The Mad Men? Really? Do we really need more of the order of St, Dumas from the mid-90's Broken Bat/ Azrael-let's-tie-everything-into-Catholicism-90's-craze storyline? As much as I appreciate continuity within books, why bring back a concept from a Batbook that wasn't mourned when it passed?

I suppose, as a reader, I might have felt that the drama of Wonder Woman in court was enough. As would have been a Ted Kord in a suit and tie on the witness stand. This just seems... unnecessary.

Further, for a book constantly on the verge of cancellation, this book isn't exactly endearing itself to new readers. I'm a bit lost as to what Cameron Chase is up to, who her steel-jawed foe is, and why I'm supposed to care. I've honestly just forgotten between issues. I don't know why Shaw, the former Manhunter, is running around meeting mysterious sects, and is it really wise to have your character ALSO groan about what seems like an unnecessary plot twist?

I see a lot of people cheering for this series as one deserving to miss the axe, and I will admit, the art is generally well done and the characters mostly/ somewhat act like humans rather than cartoons, but the plotting of the series is clunky and meandering. The supporting cast is each trying to carry their own storylines rather than playing in subplots, and the star never put on her mask in the past two or three issues. There's something to exposition, and both Andreyko and his editors are writing too much to the trade and to the existing audience.

So, as a fairly new reader, what am I reading?



GREEN ARROW #71

Judd Winick seems completely enamored with his resurrection of Jason Todd, even if that isn't necessarily how any of the rest of us might feel. Stripped of a Batbook in which to have his brilliant re-creation of Todd/ The Red Hood acting as a criminal mastermind, he's brought the dual-masked Hood to Star City to team-up with low-rent Green Arrow villain, Brick. To.... well, it's not clear. But it's clear Winick really enjoys writing the Red Hood, and he loves the idea of the superhero team-ups where the heroes switch villains.

I'll save my venom for DC's short-sighted decision to return Jason Todd to "life" for an entire column some day, but I can't help but let my irritation with Winick's aimless storytelling bubble over. What is this story about? Other than giving readers an opportunity to see Batman appear in a Green Arrow comic? Winick had actually set up a semi-interesting post-disaster scenario for Green Arrow, and after finally seeing GA's OYL recovery, I was hopeful that we could get on with the business of the new order, but instead we're fiddling with guest-appearances and pointless battles that last the better part of a 22 page comic. Battles that, I might add, are both ruses, and in a way, somewhat pointless.

Get on with it.



JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #3

To nobody's surprise, Johns is treating the return of the JSA as a great, big event. Three issues in, and this title may be surpassing all others for the best OYL re-launch. (I actually read this title before 52 this week, which broke my habit of the past several months' worth of Wednesdays.)

A threat unique to the JSA continues to reveal itself, a villain uniquely appropriate to the JSA reveals himself, and Wildcat's son may be much more of a fighter than anybody gave him credit for. Further, the line between present Continuity and Kingdom Come continues to blur.

Eaglesham's art perfectly suits the tone of the book, with a clean, unstylized look with a modern flair for action and detail. Characters have distinctive faces, and costumes are well realized. (Special kudos for not putting the newly dubbed Cyclone in something other than skin-tight stripper gear).

I know I'm not doling out a lot of criticism for this title, but Johns' commitment to building a better team-book, with a flavor unique to the DCU, is working exceedingly well. Any other writer on the book might handle the JSA as a mere team book featuring DC's catalog of characters that can't swing their own title, but Johns is busily creating one of the most sensible (in DCU terms) teams to see the comic page. Add in a dose of old-school threats and action, mix in Eaglesham's work, and JSA is a deeply satisfying read.

The question is: after reintroducing these characters, does Johns have plans for this book that can exceed the prior run of JSA?



JLA: CLASSIFIED #34

An interesting tale of the JLA, taking a look at one of The Red King's failed attempts to find the correct path toward taking over the world... this issue is not-really an Elseworld's story, nor is it a true story. Not a hoax, not a dream...

In this reality, The Red King attempts to go Dr. Evil and puts together a world-ending device to try to hold the planet hostage. Unfortunately, due to a bad line of JavaScript, the machine goes kablooey and the Red King accidentally dooms Earth. On camera. You have to love that.

Superman is first to learn of Earth's imminent demise, and pulls together the planet's resources to move the entire population to Mars. As frought with complications and BS as the Slott/Jurgens resolution is, the story itself borders on a good read, mostly due to the When World's Collide drama of standing on a planet that's about to give up on you.

Unfortunately, it also has a slight feeling of filler as there's little that's innovative in the telling of the story, presentation of the art, and, in a way, it isn't really moving the overall tale of The Red King particularly forward.




GREEN LANTERN CORPS #9

You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see an issue of Green Lantern Corps that actually featured The Green Lantern Corps. As much as I'm enjoying the adventures of Guy Gardner, I suspect writer Keih Champagne and previous writer Dave Gibbons may have been a bit too excited about the possibility of writing a Guy Gardner story.

There's simply so much potential for way-out sci-fi stories with so many aliens interacting (now doubled to 7200) in a way perhaps only seen in the now-forgotten Alien Legion series. DC has once again fallen into the trap of forgetting that their readership was not all reading and collecting previous incarnations of their titles twenty years ago, and that a 6000 foot view of the GL Corps would probably be a bit of fun to explore, as much as following the decidedly human Guy Gardner on his adventures.

End rant.

That said, this story provides readers with a previously unseen "branch" of the GL Corps, known as "The Corpse", which is the sort of deeply upsetting name black-ops guys with a well-developed sense of gallows humor probably would call themselves if they all spoke English.

A new villain meets his end, or has he...? A new heroine undergoes a curious, Captain Comet-ish transformation, and we get a reference to a long-forgotten JLI Annual involving carniverous penguins (you had to be there).

The end, to be truthful, was a bit anti-climactic. And I'm not sure how it benefits The Corpse to do a mind-wipe, but that's apparently SOP with these guys.

Overall, this issue wrapped up the storyline well, but with 7200 more GL's to choose from, it would be great to see this title actually focus on more of those characters and storylines rather than merely giving Guy his own title (which I would welcome, depending on the creative team).




A scattershot week, with some good, some bad. Definitely some room for improvement. In a market as quick to turn on you as the current direct market, DC can't just hope their readers will keep picking up titles out of familiarity and hoping for a jackpot like old ladies at the Indian Res Casino sitting at the video poker. Every storyline needs to work, or at least put up the illusion of an attempt at effort. That's just not happening. There are just too many titles sleep-walking their way through the motions.

No overall hints as to the future of the DCU this week.



Did you totally hate Batman? Are you a screaming Manhunter fan? Preach it to me. You know I said something bone-headed.
Questions? Comments? Come on, I can take it.