Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week March 7, 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.



I apologize for any delay you may or may nor notice in the delivery of this week's reviews. Busy, busy.

No doubt the media buzz/ blitz surrounding Captain America was the big story of the week, and deservedly so. DC just didn't come out swinging this week.

Let's get to the pain.



52 week 44

The exception to the rule, this week's issue of 52 appears to be the tipping point for the event which is to follow. As has been the pattern of the past few months, this issue follows mostly one story line to a close. Sort of.

With Osiris dead, Sobek is revealed as a murderer and the source of Khandaq's woes as one of the Four Horsemen from several weeks ago. Pitched battle ensues.

Somehow the issue mised the emotional beats I would have expected from the action that occurs on the page. Perhaps the writers were rushed, but as strong as some of the other storylines have been, this issue did not manage to create the impact of the conclusion of the Ralph Dibny story, nor the end of the Steel/Luthor story-arc.

Still, it's difficult to be entirely disappointed with the conclusion of the issue as the magnitude of the fallout promises a heck of a story.



ALL NEW ATOM #9

Ah. Another Super Hero who had it rough in high school. Has any bully in the history of man really been able to force a nerd to do their homework? And then we have to see yet another nerd trying to win the prettiest girl in school..? Do nerds really take these kinds of beatings without their parents intervening, or someone else at the school?

Gail Simone reaches into the cliche bag and pulls out a whopper. There's virtually no new territory here. And, as I note with every issue, why is Ryan Choi from Hong Kong? What was the difference between what they're attempting here and what could have been done had he been from, oh, say, Coffeyville, Kansas? I assume the difference is some sort of tax write-off Gail's working on turning a vacation into "research".

For a two-issue story-arc, there's no attempt made to inform the reader as to why Ryan Choi is supposedly so infatuated with the titular character of Jia (aside from her beauty), nor any explanation of how a schoolyard bully became a flaming nunchuk-weilding undead demon. I guess ghost zombies are "fun", which is how this book has been pitched, but there's little joy in Mudville with this issue.

Curious that Simone's Birds of Prey storyline is also currently taking Barbara Gordon down memory lane. Did Simone recently attend a particularly painful reunion?

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shrink! shrink! ...ah, never mind.

Only 9 issues in, this series could really afford to spend more time getting a grip on the Atom's supporting cast (one of the most promising supporting casts in some time), getting Ryan Choi acquainted with his own powers, and spending some time on exposition expanding upon what the story is with ivy Town. This journey to another side of the planet and delving into Choi's past seems a bit premature.

Those "Search for Ray Palmer" posters offer the reader some hope for a new direction. We'll see.



DETECTIVE COMICS #829

A fill in issue as the Dini team catches up.

This story, while grounded in serious real-world concerns, is actually a fun diversion and the kind of issue that works well in an established series like the Batman franchise. We already understand the Batman/Robin relationship, we are fully aware of Robin's level of competence, and we have some background knowledge that Bruce Wayne keeps miniature Batcaves of a sort stationed around town, including within Wayne Towers.

This set-up allows for more room for writer Stuart Moore to play, and creates a believable, Batman-esque plot complete with a high-tech, grounded foe, a la Firefly. The story feels right, and, moreover, it sheds some light on the current status of the Batman/Robin relationship. The post OYL Batman and Robin is far more enjoyable a read than the constantly bickering pre-Infinite Crisis scenario.

My one quibble: This is Detective Comics, and I always appreciate an actual detective story in my Detective Comics.

Art is by former Aquaman artists Andy Clarke, who is adept at the streamlined hero thing, and draws great, expressive faces, but his Bruce Wayne in a suit, which is how Batman appears for the duration of the issue, looks like Nerf-Bruce.



HELMET OF FATE: ZAURIEL

A lot of long-time readers remember writer Steve Gerber fondly from Howard the Duck, Omega the Unknown and other projects. I haven't read those. I picked up his Vertigo series Nevada several years ago and was utterly non-plussed by the title.

I was completely unimpressed with this issue.

Zauriel was introduced during the Grant Morrison run on JLA as part of a storyline in which renegade heavenly hosts decide to make their presence felt on Earth. Here, Zauriel is treated essentially like a run-of-the-mill superhero on an intergalactic mission, a la late-70's, early 80's Superman stories. There are pastel colored alien princesses and the whole bit.

Some stuff happens, and we get some recaps of the prior Helmet of Fate issues as Gerber prepares to take over the upcoming Doctor Fate series. For a comic dealing with an angel walking the Earth, this comic spends a page or three touching on the religious overtones, and then immediately removes the character from any sort of faith-based context, launching him across the cosmos. With one issue, it seems Gerber would have wanted to aim for the fence, and instead, he's chosen to hit a grounder right at first.

I dunno. This comic was really... not good. I'm not adding Dr. Fate to my pull list, though I'll buy the first issue to see if Gerber is more on his game there than here.



JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #6

Something about the conclusion of this six-issue story-arc was incredibly satisfying from a character perspective, but utterly unsatisfying as a Big Superhero Story (tm). Despite howls of rage against the content of Identity Crisis (your mileage may vary), Meltzer managed to find unique voices for a good chunk of the DCU's A and B-List players and tell an intimate story playing out in bedrooms and cars rather than zipping across rooftops or hovering in the Ionosphere.

Red Tornado has languished as a DC character, and hasn't been a major player in my twenty years of comic reading, but I am well aware of the former positioning of Reddy as one of the DCU's more complicated characters. Freed from playing Mr. Belvedere to Young Justice, Red Tornado's tragic existence gets to play out on a larger scale, and, somehow, Meltzer makes the "Robot with a Homelife" a guy you can't help but pull for.

However, the Superheroics of the issue lost me somewhat. As much as I was interested in the JLA taking on Amazo, I'd lost track of how Vixen was wrapped up in this caper, and as those issues are buried in the long boxes, I'm going to have to flip through the trade at some point to tie this whole series back together. That said, as in identity Crisis, readers will probably enjoy his use of the caption box as characters are written as competent, intelligent and using more strategy than merely brawling their way through a fight. the captions occasionally lean toward "more tell than show", but it also seems illogical that characters would spend the duration of a fight shouting to one another as is often portrayed in team books.

All that said, it still just sort of felt like "The JLA attack Amazo. And beat him." The real fight was, of course, for Reddy's life and soul occuring elsewhere. In some ways, this seems like a gross miscalculation and a story that should have taken place starting around issue #18 or so, when Meltzer had time to actually build up Reddy and his pathos to the audience. It just seems off to begin a new series, explore other historical aspects in minute detail, and then toss readers into the Red Tornado deep-end.

I'm also not terribly sure that repeatedly comparing Solomon Grundy to a tree was an accurate analogy. I'm no arborist, but part of why trees break and bend the way they do is that they can't do things like get out of the way or bend at a joint. That's why we use trees to make houses, whereas people tend to fold up or walk away when you try to use them as building supplies.

Overall, a promising start, and I certainly enjoy the character-centric approach Meltzer brings to the table. Here's to hoping that the title continues to improve.



MANHUNTER #29

Kate confronts Wonder Woman with the evidence which will absolve her of any wrong doing, but Wonder Woman is afraid of sullying Superman's reputation. Apparently Superman (aka: reporter Clark kent) has no access to news outlets. He's missed the whole "Wonder Woman on trial" thing going on, but was apparently willing to help out all along. Our Man of Steel finally shows up and explains the situation, but it takes a call from Kate Spencer to Lois Lane to make it happen?

This whole hearing bit is falling apart. Very little of it makes sense except that Manhunter, as a title, is trying to build closer ties to the DCU to fend off falling sales. The Everyman reveal seemed like a bit of a no-brainer. Readers my not have guessed Everyman, but as Didio has been making it clear Ted Kord is dead, it was safe to guess our Beetle here was an imposter. With a Beetlemobile...

For some reason this series just doesn't work for me. It would be beneficial if a die-hard fan could step up to the plate and go to bat for Andreyko.



OUTSIDERS #46

I'll follow this series through the Checkmate Cross-Over, and then I'm out. I'm not entirely certain what the point of this series is anymore.

I'm a fan of Black Lightning, but Winick's machinations for getting him into jail are so convoluted and unnecessary that it gives Ma Hunkel as superhero a greater sense of plausibility. Of course, this is comic book logic, and in order to get our heroes in a place where they can have their super-Oz storyline, we've got to make it believable that nobody would kill Black Lightning right out of the gate.

Winick does show a knack for character interaction, and his build up of the Grace/ Anissa relationshiop has a nicely organic feel, even if it does tend toward the saccharine. But I'm not clear on the "why" other than that Winick feels back in his comfort zone writing bedroom scenes.

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Captain Boomerand and Black Lightning prepare to melt the icy hearts of the vilest criminals through interpretive dance...

I'm also not sure what happened in the "Gettin' to Know Iron Heights" sequence, but there's mention of how the villains are forced to wear their costumes, but then they're dressed in orange jumpsuits. Nice work, Joan Hilty. We pick up on Captain Boomerang in Iron Heights, presumably picked up following Johns' run on Flash. Not a bad intro, but not exactly anything to write home about, either.



SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL #2 (of 4)

I'm going to go out on a limb here. I like this comic. I like this comic a whole lot. But I also don't think Jeff Smith is writing a comic that's going to go into reprints for the next fifteen years.

There's no question that this series is better than any Shazam/ Captain Marvel work from the past decade or so, and it certainly isn't as bogged down in trying to turn a kid's story into a "grim'n'gritty" superhero tale. Smith embraces the flight of fancy and uses the same skill contrasting innocence against darkness that he developed with "Bone". Short of a Krypto story, it's tough to imagine this formula working elsewhere in the DCU, but Smith certainly manages to sell the story.

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smashy, smashy..!

However, the pacing which fit Bone as a sprawling epic seems oddly stilted in a four-issue limited series. In some ways, the series almost reads like scenes stitched together more than as a direct narrative flow. There's some pretty amazing coincidences (such as Mary at the circus, in the front row), and some odd pacing, including the abrupt bestowing of powers upon Mary.

The characterization of the Alligator Men and Dr. Sivana works very well in the hand-wringing realm.

Still, the series is fun, and worth the cost of admission. And, it IS a comic that I'd put in the hands of first-time readers both young and old.



SUPERMAN/ BATMAN #32

What was once a sort of dopey but really fun series has, in the span of one new writer, become plodding, run of the mill and kind of dumb.

It's difficult to fathom how Jeph Loeb, whose output is always exciting but has the logic of a Tasmanian Devil on Amphetamines, managed to pull off such genuinely enjoyable stories where Verheiden's seemingly endless story could feel so joyless in the telling. Further, how Verheiden and editor Eddie Berganza could misstep so crucially on a Batman mischaracterization boggles the mind.

Like most mind-control stories, all that's left is waiting for the heroes to snap out of it, which we know they will, and which compromises any elements of suspense except for finding out how many pages Superman and Batman will beat the tar out of one another until someone comes to their senses.

In addition, the writer gets the joy of, no doubt, pitting Superman and Batman against their own allies, trying to free them without killing anybody.

It seems like we've seen this story too many times.




Maybe I was having an off week. And I'm always cranky when I fall behind on my reading and reviews. I also wasn't very much into the Mighty Avengers this week, if it's any consolation.

As always, some hits and misses. I'd like to see Gail Simone really dig into Ryan Choi and the cast and setting of the All-New Atom. There's simply too much opportunity there to have the concept turned into standard teen-angst whining, even if it's a decade removed.

DC's titles seem to be getting too comfortable between events. There may be more narrative value to these events than anyone wants to talk about.



So what did you think? Questions? Comments? Did I say something stupid? Come on, I can take it.