Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week February 21, 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.



Goodness. I came home with quite a few comics in my bag this week.

Of course, the pile included the Civil War conclusion and the latest Amazing Spider-Man. I'm not the Marvel reviewer, so I'm going to forego any comments regarding those two titles.

For so many books released this week, I was surprised at the "Not bad" to "Really?" ratio. Some days are better than others.



52 Week 42

The Ralph Dibny story comes to a head, but any reader who's been following the series should doubt this is the conclusion. It's issues like this that make me wish I didn't bag and board my comics and stick them into a box, only to be lost in a stack of 50 pound boxes. There's so much of the mystery that unspools, that points to so many little things, that it's tough to not want to pop open all of those back issues and follow Ralph just prior to his pitch-perfect detective story denouement.

Plus, Montoya takes one more step toward answering The Question.

Anyone who has chosen to follow 52 should feel the pay-off has been well worth the admission. The weekly series provides that immersiveness that has traditionally been the domain of television and a relatively more satisfying read than had all of these storylines been released individually. Interesting that after trying to find success in the book market after all these years, it's the television format that's paying narrative dividends (and generating pretty good sales).

Readers should be looking forward to Countdown.



AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS

This may be the last review readers see for Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis.

The issue was dull, the story went nowhere and the big ending where we're supposed to get the "The End" with a "?" dissolved in... Kusiek is not a bad writer. I have no idea what happened on this title. And, I'll be honest, I kind of liked the Fisherman as a just a crazy guy with a thing for a rod'n'reel.

The relaunch of Aquaman was sort of boring and unnecessary. The DCU was complicated enough with what seemed to be two Atlantis's (one for Aquaman and one for Lori Lemaris). What the DCU Earth-1 didn't need was a barbaric civilization of sea-dwellers spanning 3/4's of the planet and a "new" Aquaman, who just happens to have Aquaman's name.

Sure, the whole Sub-Diego thing didn't make much sense (sinking a city?) and the writers played too coy with the mysterious forces at work that might, in any way, be able to cause a city to sink, let alone reveal how crippling a huge American city would benefit anyone... But Sub-Diego had potential, and for a while, the idea sold some comics. And, unlike the Busiek run, it also kept Orin/Aquaman from looking like a stand in for a Pirates of the Caribbean character.

We'll see what the next creative team brings to the table, but I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps they should deep six the title and come back with another try in a year or two.

Also, DC Comics need to agree on the location of Atlantis. Is it in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans? Just... make a decision.



BIRDS OF PREY #103

I probably would have enjoyed this issue a bit more if the story hadn't skewed toward the end of the 2nd act of "Mean Girls". I understand that writer Gail Simone must find a foe for her wheel-chair-bound deus ex machina, but the insertion of an old "college rival" who is now in one of those positions dreamed up by Warren Ellis to show how bad-ass this government agent is supposed to be... You know, where they're at such a level of clearance that either the President actually answers to them, or the President doesn't know they exist. Or both. And, of course, it's usually a "she", and "she" is usually a witch on wheels.

There's a column in this somewhere, but at risk of winding up on the wrong side of 'When Fangirls Attack", that column will never see the light of day.

It's not that the issue is particularly bad. It's that the Spy Smasher character isn't anything new, and the whole thing seems so absurd as the two characters banter over IP2IP voice conferencing, tied in with the fact that Oracle's agents are in the field while she's taken dinner with Lois. I understand this is supposed to be fun, but with the patented high-school-girl movie cliche of the mean girl making things hard on Barbara... is there really any other resolution than that Spy Smasher will get her comeuppance? And not in a fun Sissy Spacek at the Prom sort of way?

Add in a 17 year old girl who thinks she's going to control the mob (and will take over so that Huntress will have a storyline), and I can rapidly feel myself losing interest. Which is a shame.

On the whole, I love Gail Simone. But derivative wanna-be Jenny Sparks/Special Agent Brand/Director Hill/(hell, throw in Amanda Waller) characters are the new "your book has to have a Wolverine", and being asked to believe that the mob is run somehow like an Egyptian dynasty with girl-Kings? You have to have a have a certain level of verisimilitude, or the fantastic elements of the story start bleeding over one another until you wind up with a lot of clutter that keeps you from appreciating the good elements that originally drew you to the title.

I'm rooting for BoP to pull out of this storyline without disappointing. I'm all for a book with a cast of strongly written female characters and which doesn't pride itself on how many butt-shots the penciller can squeeze out.

I'm being critical not because the book isn't still a relatively fun read, but because I think I'm seeing some places where the title seems in danger of going off the tracks. You can pull it out, Gail! I know you can!



BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1

Mark Waid! George Perez! If any two creators know how to present DC's mainstays, it should be these two. A team-up book may be the perfect format for Waid. Who could better work through the nutty character interaction of new partners and old allies as they're thrown into work together? A writer like Waid not only knows how Batman stores his bat-a-rangs, he's thought about it, and he knows how to work it into a story in a completely natural fashion (no, that doesn't happen here, but it could, is the point). When a writer can live and breathe the characters this well, the posturing slips away and the natural conversations can begin. And, for long-time DC readers, the results can be quite rewarding.

Hal Jordan:

Eight times out of ten, we enter a toom like, the Royal Flush Gang pops out. I hate those guys.

Perez is back in fine fashion, with heroes that look like humans and with noticeably different faces, even between lantern-jawed Jordan and lantern-jawed Bruce Wayne. Truly, a lost art in the age of grafitti artists and sub-par manga influenced cartooning. He actually appears to draw backgrounds, just as he did once upon a time in the Titans Tower and in books like Sachs and Violens. It's just plain, solid work, and it's good to see Perez's work looking this good (Bob Wiacek on inks).

Looking forward to this book delivering as Superman/batman continues it's steady de-evolution.

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THE HELMET OF FATE: BLACK ALICE

Ah, man.... Now it's pick on Gail Simone week.

See the comments above about loving Gail.

This is also not a bad issue. Black Alice is Gail's pet character which she likes to toss into BoP when opportunity strikes, and whom I believe appeared in Day of Vengeance in some serious capacity. She's a goth high-schooler with a mopey attitude and the ability to steal the magical powers of any other DCU character when she's in a pinch. Kind of neat.

At it's heart, this is an issue about the price of magic with the semi-sentient Helmet of Fate as the catalyst for the story, as Black Alice (aka: Lori?) attempts to "own" the helmet and force it to do her bidding. It bids, but pays her back in some ways which seemed a bit more Spectre-ish than Dr. Fate-ish.

I pose this question: Did any comic creator go through high school without getting the snot knocked out of them everyday by a gleeful band of jocks? And were goths and geeks really secretly beautiful, misunderstood magicians and poets? Or just kids in black t-shirts?

Maybe I'm too old, or perhaps my school was the only one with jocks who were really in touch with their inner-child. I simply don't understand why every comic featuring a kid (expect for Invincible) sees fit to have the lead play Peter Parker to everyone else's Flash Thompson. That's not to say the girl's with stripey socks didn't play a part in my interest in girls during that era, but... I dunno.

That said, I was glad to see the jocks were but thinly disguised characters from the Archie comics.

Not altogether a bad issue. I just don't know if I can pick up too many more comics that default to the "Puny" Parker bit, especially since that hand was played in the Helmet of Fate: Ibis the Invincible one-shot a few weeks ago in this same title. People complain about Hal Jordan acting like a cocky jerk, but if they're out of high school and this is what they're relating to... seek counseling.*

If Gail wants Black Alice to find a name for herself, Gail has to bring more to the table than this. She sets up some interesting elements of Black Alice's home life, and leaves them dangling, as if to be continued... but this is a one-shot.

That said, well done, Duncan "uncredited in the solicits" Rouleau. The art was almost reminiscent of Bachalo's work in Shade: The Changing Man circa 1994.



ION #11

In a weird turn of events, this series starts to go somewhere. Sure, it's quite literally the 11th hour, and a minimum of 3 issues of this series were now nothing but filler and a shout-out to Ron Marz's sometimes-well-remembered run on Green Lantern, and we DID learn a few things in the past three issues or so... But Marz is also assuming we all read his GL. And we didn't. Pulling Grayven out as his grand reveal, and then having him monologue through his intricate plot was semi-interesting, but with no reference point for me as a reader, I wasn't exactly doing backflips.

Looks like Kyle Rayner will be the Guardian of DCU-1/ Earth-1, even if Marz still treats the lantern powers like a gun instead of The Most Powerful Weapon in the Universe (tm). I don't know who Grayven is, but his name is vaguely 90's'ish, as is his dopey head gear, so I'll guess Grayven appeared in the Kyle Rayner issues of Green Lantern. We do learn Grayven has been the mastermind behind the seemingly random, un-interconnected events which have driven away readers since the series began. Except for the bikini-clad space princess several issues ago. I don't think that she's coming back.

I'm in a mood, so I'm bagging on this comic, when I shouldn't. This is the big "Ah-HAH!" moment, which is even littered with exposition for guys like me who didn't read Marz's GL. Donna Troy is actually very well characterized. The action actually makes sense, sort of, and Greg Tocchini's art has grown on me over the past several issues.

The bottom line is that nothing in this series couldn't have happened in 4-6 issues. This isn't exactly Watchmen we've got on our hands. But it IS an important key to where DC seems to be going with the DCU.

Too bad nobody told Didio and Marz that brevity is the soul of wit.



Robin #159

I remember when all my girlfriends used to get blown up.

After Spoiler/ temp-Robin took the dirt nap, followed closely by the mobster's daughter (whose name escapes me) in War Crimes, if I were The Boy Wonder (and that is what I like to be called), I'd be putting my love life on hiatus. However, given Bruce Wayne's dating record as his example, one can appreciate why Robin has jumped back on the horse and is willing to try again at romance.

No, Zoanne doesn't get blown up, but if you've been following Robin for the past few years, it's sort of a hard idea to forget. But forget we do, and the results are pretty good.

This is the sort of issue that I might put in the hands of someone new to comics. It's not that it's that good (but it is good). The set-up is simple: Robin wants to go on a date with a pretty girl who seems like a good match. "Dad" wants to go stop crime/ go shoot hoops and is embarassing son to some extent. Apparently unlike every other comic writer, it's possible Beechen went on a date or two in high school and understands the young adult's twin desires to please Dad and also to have a social/ love life.

There's something here for new reader's to grasp on to. After all, they will understand that Tim is Robin's secret identity. They will appreciate Tim's anxiety as someone one a first date, and someone who is secretly Batman's sidekick. Zoanne is believable as date material from a male reader's perspective. Smart, witty, and apparently very patient.

The action is a bit perfunctory, but fits well with what Beechen is trying to establish. Tim wants Zoanne as part of his civilian life, and he does not want to mix her up in his life as Robin. Even when that life comes literally crashing in on them.

The closing bit with Bruce and Tim also seems to show a bit of promise for how DC is now defining the Batman/Robin relationship as watchful guardian letting his protege spread his wings.

Again, a good comic to stick in someone's hands. No dwelling on old continuity, the story has action but is heavy on touchstones for characterization.

Beechen taking on Teen Titans is a good match. Johns has a tendency to drive a bit too hard in the direction of plot, and Beechen doesn't appear to be afraid to work around the notion that plot can come from character. Freddie E. Willaims II on art chores is a very good match for a younger, lighter Batman book.



THE SPIRIT #3

I can't actually make you buy anything. This may be one of the highest quality books DC is currently putting on the shelves. This issue is, to boot, more or less a re-telling of The Spirit's 65+ year-old origin. For your benefit.

Come on, what do I have to do just to get you to try it? Put down the copy of Heroes for Hire, Arana, Rush City or Trials of Shazam. Try something new, even if it is 70 years old.

Go buy this comic.



Superman #659

How is Superman only at 659? Isn't Batman well past that? I guess Superman slipped behind production at some point in the past 70 years. Go figure.

You can usually tell an inventory story by the solicitation, and if you thought "Is Superman an angel? A messenger from heaven itself? One woman believes with all her heart, but her faith in Superman may lead to disaster" sounded like a story Matt Idleson was saving for a rainy day, go get yourself a cookie.

I have no idea what happened to the Krypto story that was supposed to appear in this issue, but The Dog of Steel is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get a story about a woman who mistakenly takes the coincidence of Superman appearing at her rescue during two consecutive emergencies as a sign that God has blessed her with the ability to call upon an angel when in times of need.

Believing she can perform the miracle at will, this, unfortunately, gets her into a spot of trouble.

There are actually quite a few interesting undercurrents in the story regarding Superman's feelings regarding his inability to stop every crime or disaster when people are counting on him, but there are also some questions of faith and pride. Moreover, the story also outlines how Superman's presence has the effect of inspiring others to action, a theme often talked about in the abstract, but which has often been difficult to illustrate. After all, it's far easier to imagine assisting the world with a bullet-proof body and the ability to lift a tank than it is to imagine how that would inspire one to leap into action with no super abilities.

An inventory story, but a good issue, especially with a framing bit that references the ongoing "Camelot Falls" storyline.



Wonder Woman #4

I missed something. When did Diana lose her powers? Why can't I remember anything from previous issues when I read this comic?

I had no idea what was going on when I picked up this issue, and I'm still not really sure why I should care. Reviewers who are spending time praising this cheesecake-and-poses, haphazard comic should head to the trade paperback section of their comic shop and pick up the Perez, Jimenez and Rucka runs on Wonder Woman. Heinberg may me the Wonder Woman fan he claims to be, but his Diana is the two-dimensional superheroine cynics have long associated with the character.

There's definitely reference here to the Perez run (this is Circe, after all), and we do get a brief explanation as to what happened with Ares and Circe after Rucka's run. But none of the conflicted warrior/ peace-ambassador of those era's of Wonder Woman ever bubbles to the surface. Instead we get a fairly slap-dash story of Wonder Woman making a brave-but-stupid two person assault on Circe with Hercules.

Both the Rucka and Jimenez runs were solid runs, which fell under the radar as readers bemooaned how they "couldn't get into Wonder Woman" while never actually buying an issue. Jimenez's got me into the book, the release of the Perez collections got me into the mythology of the Amazons, etc... and Rucka's run really grounded Wonder Woman and provided a well defined, thoughtful character that COULD preach peace and kill a monster when push came to shove.

There actually is (or was) an interesting character to Diana as presented by Perez, Jimenez and Rucka (and probably by others who handled her in between). Unfortunately, too many comic fans are, for whatever reason, unwilling to give Wonder Woman a chance. A launch with a new number one issue was a good opportunity, and while Wonder Woman isn't presented as incompetent, quite to the contrary, there's just not much here. There's nothing for new readers to hang on to as the plot chugs along, and there's only the faint echoes of the previous run to reward long-time Wonder Woman readers.

With Themyscira gone, a secret identity was a good idea for Wonder Woman, but I'm not clear at all on the rationale for placing her within a government organization (what is she? DEO?) that would pick up on her identity in two mouse-clicks. And, apparently, she walks into the JSA HQ in her secret identity alongside Wondergirl and Donna Troy. Real stealthy.

And, last but not least... how uncomfortable does Rachel Dodson get inking the prominently displayed butts and boobs of her husband's work? I assume the money makes the tears go away. It's little details like Diana reading from a book at just the right angle so both her chest and butt are presented like a dumb Maxim spread of a naughty librarian. All women are always leaning slightly forward with her chest thrust out (perhaps due to the massive size of those chests), and butt thrust upward whenever drawn from behind.

Enough already. Luckily, Drew Johnson is coming back to the book at some point.

Time to wrap this mess up and move on to the next creative team.

I did hear somewhere that the next issues will not be written by Heinberg, and that Will Pfieffer will have to pinch-hit to wrap up this turkey.

Well, it's better than the new Flash.



A fairly solid week. Aquaman just needs to be retired until someone wiser than me can figure out what to do with the idea. No over-arching themes to the week, and no peeks too far into DC's future. As the old school DCU pushes into the current line-up in writers, charcters and artists, the stronger the DCU seems to grow.

All in all, not a bad sort of week.

And, Gail, I feel awful. Bad enough to apologize for maybe being a little rough. I know you're a darn good writer, but somehow two books in one week didn't do it for me. Just keep in mind, you're always hardest on the ones you like best.



Did Gail TOTALLY deserve it? Was Aqauman simply brilliant this week? I know I got something wrong.
Questions? Comments? Come on, I can take it.



*And, moreover, I'm sorry... I know the comics and movies will tell you otherwise, but those jocks didn't wind up pot-bellied knobs while the geeks all won in the end. Most of those jocks forgot about you five minutes after graduation, went to a state college, got married to a reasonably attractive woman, became an accountant and let their kids run crazy in movie theaters, then headed to the Applebee's.

You, on the other hand, are reading comics featuring a weird revenge fantasy from high school (which was 13 ago), and worrying about the inaccuracies of Nic Cage's portrayal of Ghost Rider.