Comic Fodder

DC Comics Reviews Week January 31, 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.

As far as events, new releases or even the release of a major title go, it was a largely sub-par week for DC Comics. That's what happens when you can't manage to keep creative teams on track, I suppose. Even the much anticipated Action Comics Annual missed it's ship date, possibly to distract readers from noticing that Action Comics will most likely miss it's currently scheduled release at the end of the month.



52 Week 39:

Revelations are made regarding the Everyman project. Ralph takes a swim and runs into an old friend. Will Magus isn't afraid to think small. The Black Marvel family may need a green thumb. Natasha Irons has a particularly bad afternoon.

It's not going to help anyone if, when I write about 52, each time out I state that the story moved forward, the writing and art were well executed. I will try not to do so in the future.

I had read online that a few people took exception to the final panel starring Natasha's boyfriend. I'm not sure this panel is much worse than the pages and pages of Stephanie Brown's fate in the War Games storyline which I could have done without. Sure, it's a fairly odd choice to display the guy in such a graphic fashion, but at this point, DC knows they have an adult audience. Is it really anything you don't see or receive by inference on CSI?

52week39.jpg

For some reason it really hit me this week (and specifically during the Kahndaq scene) how the structure of 52 as a series with a master-plan and a limited run seems to offer so much more of a coherent structure than the avergae ongoing told in 6-issue story-arcs. This darn thing seems to actually lead somewhere. Series such as Vertigo's Sandman and Preacher have similarly had clear ending points the writers could wrap things up. Only time will tell if this sort of strategy is necessary to sustain a weekly comic. In a way, I sort of hope so.

The story elements were well-executed, and the developments with Luthor were of particular interest. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out. There's an odd promise of action within the comic which never occurs (Montoya fights a Dragon!), but I suppose we'll see that next week.

The back-up features are always fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Waid/ Van Sciver rendition of the origin of Mr. Terrific, was really spot-on.



BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #214:

Final issue of this series. Ah, man. Does that make me feel old. I remember trying to decide, as a smart investor, how many copies of the first issue of this series I should buy when DC pitched the series . If memory and my long-box are any indication, I bought one.

The series has perhaps been most famous for being very hit and miss. Why DC decided to cancel this title to replace it with the nigh-identitical "Batman Confidential" is a mystery I'll leave for other readers to ponder.

After a few forgettable issues in a row after the Jones/Olivetti run, the series reminded readers of the potential behind the concept of Legends of the Dark Knight with the final issue. Christos N. Gage tells a fairly compelling story of a Gotham criminal (Leland Linday) who, looking at taking the stand to testfiy against his former bosses, must make a decision whether he wishes to risk the legendary wrath of the Batman, or choose not to testify and risk the deaths of his entire family at the hands of gun-for-hire, Deadshot. The trappings of the typical Batman intimidation-technique fall apart as Lindsay gives in to a more concrete fear than what the Batman can provide, all too aware of Deadshot's reputation.

Gage works well with artist Phil Winslade, packing the pages with information and panels (perhaps the equivalent of most of the recent multi-issue "Grotesk" storyline in Batman) into a single issue. Winslade's art works exceedingly well in the streets of Gotham as it worked well in New York's darker corners in the briefly-lived Monolith series.

Inventory story or not, this wasn't a bad issue to close out a series that was scattershot in its performance. As mentioned above, I don't feel as if I'll particularly miss the series as Batman: Cofidential fills the exact same slot left in the wake of this title.



TEEN TITANS #43:

As much as one can enjoy the break-neck pacing of a good superhero scrap, Teen Titans has turned into little more than a series of fights. Every scene, no matter how innocuous, seems to end in pitched battle. The series seems to be losing any sense of pacing as Johns crams in wall-to-wall action, as if he has no idea what to do with the series in the absence of a fist-fight, leaving the reader to wonder "is this filler?"

New characters have been introduced (Miss Martian), and a former major character has been brought back from the dead as a Teen Titan (and with a decidedly better haircut than the one he sported in the Perez-era) after trying to kill all the Titans in the first arc (Jericho). Little is done with the new characters, no Tower tour, no establishing the current team line-up. Unfortunately, Johns refuses to actually deliver on the premise of Teen Titans, which was supposed to be a series about seeing the characters relate to one another "on their weekends". The current mode of the team suggests that the Titans would do better to merely split up lest they continue to attract Slade Wilson and Friends.

The issue isn't devoid of good bits. The explanation for Batgirl's going-loco is cleared up in fairly short order (and also raises multiple questions regarding Cassandra Cain in a post-Infinite Crisis DCU). The introduction of "Match" hints at a lot of good character bits. Whether these moments will ever actually be explored is doubtful, given Johns' recent lack of focus on the book.

Robin scribe Adam Beechen is scheduled to join Johns for a few issues and will then eventually take over the book. Beechen has show a bit more pensive and thoughtful approach to the Robin comic that may well extend to the rest of the Titans line-up. Like many plot-driven DC titles, Titans needs to breathe and give the characters room to interact as both a team and as individuals. And this needs to happen outside of the realm of slugging it out with supervillains.



BLUE BEETLE #11:

I can only think that this issue (and issue 10) was commissioned to hint at events-to-come in the DCU.

Last issue, apropos of nothing, Blue Beetle's gal-pal, Brenda,found a MotherBox in her aunt's study. The MotherBox accidentally Boom-tubed her way to another planet where she was chased by deadly but adorable death muskrats. Beetle followed, and then sort of met a New God named Lonar. In this issue, Brenda runs into a taciturn Metron of the New Gods and Beetle continues to do what any two heroes do upon meeting: duke it out for no reason with Lonar.

I'm a fairly enthusiastic fan of the New Gods, but I was not up on my Lonar lore. I had to do some Googling to catch up (Lonar was in Forever People, a series which has stuck with me like a fever dream, and, thusly, i cannot recall much in detail. Rogers seems to believe most people know the New Gods, Lonar, and Metron without bothering to explain a whole lot. He's also written an astoundingly incurious pair in Brenda and Jaime as our eyes and ears. Sure, they're game for whatever plan Metron and Lonar dream up to save the planet, but... I dunno.

I sort of believe that if I was trapped on an alien planet with aliens from yet another planet, I'd take a few minutes to pursue my goal of lifelong education. And to get a little exposition going.

The big DC clue we're dropped is that the giant guy, Devilance, from early on in 52 is pursuing the New Gods across the cosmos. Metron sez:

You see, Devilance was on a mission to hunt all of the New Gods. He realized it would be easier to trap them here, at this chokepoint, rather than chase them across the galaxy.

Wow. I know a little about the New Gods. THAT sounds like a story. Why am I reading this story instead?

We also learn that Jaime shouldn't be able to keep his armor's AI from killing all threats, so that's an interesting twist to the proceedings. Aside from these two points, a lot happens, but not a whole lot occurs.

I'm partial to newcomer Rafael Albuqueque's art (please, God, do not let that be a pseudonym). Rafael has his own take, but it's very, very much in line with the established look for the series with a dash of Scott McDaniel.

This series has so much potential, but the endless mysteries could really stand a little more resolution, rather than wrapping the mystery in an enigma and then smothering it in secret sauce.



JSA CLASSIFIED #22:

Three weeks ago I took a look at issue #21 of this series, and at the time knew issue #22 would probably provide more of the same. There are so many things wrong with this issue in both story and dialogue, it's questionable whether it's really worth cataloging all of Simonson's half-baked efforts in a review.

Thug #1: An intruder! Thug #2: Stun him! Thug #3: The Science Council will delight in his excrutiatingly slow execution. Hawkman: Screw that! (Hawkman throws chain/ mace thingy, knocking out all three in an unlikely maneuver) Hawkman: I got a lot to do, and I'm on a tight deadline!

I want Simonson's page rate.

From Starfire swiping Carter's wings to the Thanagarian guy just happening to have wings on hand for Carter, to the inane "banter" between Kendra and Carter while battling Blackfire, right down to Thanagar's seriously chilly shadow area of no-return... And then just happening to have the technology on hand, that with the flip of a switch removes Blackfire's super-powers... And Kendra just happening to get a "taped" confession...

There's just so much here in 22 pages, and with so very, very little for the reader to enjoy. Including Simonson's blocky, rushed art.

Hawkman deserves better than this. But, really, so do people dropping $3.00 on a comic. There are simply too many comics out there that show a little respect for the reader's intelligence to settle for Simonson's throw-away script and art (if, in fact, the script preceeded the art, which I kind of doubt).



ION #10:

My. This was an oddly paced issue. But for the first time in 10 issues, this 12 issue series is beginning to have a hint of a direction. Elements are drawn in from the Wildstorm Universe, the old Monarch armor shows up (I think this was part of Battle for Bludhaven, which I didn't read), the Monitors are mentioned for the first time in a while, and the Tangent Universe characters.

Perhaps this series should have run two-to-four fewer issues, but the series, after a number of confusing zigs and zags, now hints at big things on the horizon for both Kyle Rayner and the DCU. And the "Ion: Guardian of the Universe" title now sounds a whole lot more approriate. I'm not certain I understand, exactly, where Marz is going, but I'm in through the end of the series. Yes, the Multiverse exists.

I confess, I'm not a huge fan of the "Kyle Rayner: Everyman" take on the character in the face of intergalactic and multi-dimensional challenges (I confess to having a greater appreciation for Morrison's JLA version of the "kid on a learning curve"). I know this seems to work with Spider-Man, but somehow I have a much harder time believing a Green Lantern would still be wisecracking to the face of unknown species after the first few weeks. There's just something a bit borscht-belt about giving Rayner a joke or comment about how he isn't going to try to keep up everytime someone he doesn't know speaks to him. If Rayner isn't going to keep up, why should the reader?

All that aside, probably the best issue of the series. Keep your eye on Ion, especially in light of the recently released DC promo image.



That's it.

That's what DC had for readers this week. There was also a new issue of Hawkgirl which "continued" the story from JSA: Classified, but I couldn't muster the energy to review it when the review would have been so similar to the JSA: Classified series.

Not a terrific week, honestly, but they can't all be gold.

Did I bag on a great issue? Miss something entirely? What did I get wrong?
Questions? Comments? Come on, I can take it.