Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week April 18, 2007 Part 2

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.

We're back with Part 2 of our weekly comic reviews.



Justice League of America 8

If Justice League of America were truly a new series and not just the latest volume of long-running team book, a cross-over at this stage might feel a bit premature. But number one issues don’t mean what they used to, for good or ill, and while this cross-over may ultimately be a bit messier than necessary (had DC been able to keep Meltzer and Johns in line long enough to properly establish their new teams), the Lightning Saga seems to be off on the right foot.

The collegiality of the DCU works to the storytelling advantage of team-up as JLA 8 acts as the set-up which will lead into the rest of the storyline. The interplay between characters both old and new is a treat as we get to see those little character tidbits that can define reader perception of not just a character, but a team. Bits like the two-fisted, blind folded chess game by Mister Terrific work on multiple levels as we see Terrific’s strategy unmasked, and can possibly guess what he wanted the true lesson to be to the players involved. The “capture the flag sequence” gets into bits of character for all involved, and hints at things to come for Red Tornado. Good stuff.

More so than in any of his own titles, Meltzer’s Batman is oddly… human. Treasuring items like Justice League invitations, drinking from an expensive tea set, and wanting to fix the wound to his pride regarding his level of martial skill as viewed by Superman? It’s the little bits that make all the difference. It would be nice to be sure Meltzer had such a clear grasp of The Man of Steel, but the overall take on the team is so much better than the plot/trash-talking that so many writers bring to the page that you hope even the veterans are taking notice.

The Earth-2 idea rears its head once again as Karate Kid is NOT the same Karate Kid of the 31st Century currently appearing in Legion of Super-Heroes. Further, there’s once again a definite connection between the 31st Century Legion and Superman, hinted at by Superman’s data entry into the JLA files on the character. That hint in issue #0 of the series of a coming discovery of Earth-2 looks like it’s happening sooner rather than later, and with time-travel thrown in for good measure.

And, with Dolores Winters, circa 1948, making an appearance, can there be much doubt that the Ultra Humanite is going to be behind all this brain washing and other tom foolery?

Again, Meltzer says as much through what isn’t said as what’s in the dialog balloons and color-coded caption boxes. Some readers are going to like this style of writing, but folks looking for things to be spelled out for them are going to find the comic wanting.

Artist Shane Davis, who was doing superlative work on Mystery in Space, seems to have been hijacked from those duties for the much higher profile gig on JLA.

All in all, a fun issue, capping the fun with the two-page spread of what I shall call Too Many Superheroes and the promise of a good old-fashioned JLA/JSA Crisis on Multiple Earths-style team-up.

As DC has been doing of late, it’s not that the ideas coming to the page are new, but they are managing to revive some of the gems discarded in the post Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU. If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you might as well do it really well.

Looking forward to JSA #5.



MANHUNTER 30

There's something off about Manhunter as it enters its 30th issue. Perhaps its that Kate Spencer has spent so little time in costume since OYL. Perhaps because the storyline itself so poorly reflects the happenings of the rest of the DCU, especially Wonder Woman and JLA. Perhaps because so little of the case presented makes any sense, right down to the fake-out with Blue Beetle and bringing in Circe for two panels. (Circe met Everyman? Really? Ok, I guess. I bet we see that again.)

Further, the sub-plots surrounding the supporting cast of characters not only completely fail to support the main storyline, but seem to be spinning off into unnecessary directions. Knights of St. Dumas? A He-Man villain and an old Firefly costume? For some reason Andreyko likes to steer clear of exposition, and with a monthly book that was supposed to draw in new readers with the OYL jump (and which is supposed to be drawing in new readers to justify the reprieve DC has offered up), Andreyko should be trying a little harder.

Further, "The Knights Who Say Dumas"? Monty Python references? Eh.

Manhunter does have a lot of promise as a truly unique character set-up with one of the better thought-out supporting casts in comics, but aside from the initial premise, Andreyko seems to be struggling to find something to actually do with his creation. Further, the question of how Manhunter will function as a defense attorney seems to somewhat deflate the concept behind Manhunter as the prosecutor who was sick of seeing super criminals escape justice. Perhaps there's more room for courthouse drama, but, at best, switching sides of the aisle in the courtroom now makes Spencer appear to be a bit of a Daredevil clone at best, and a fairly curious hypocrite at worst (not that actual attorneys don't make this sort of switch, but... anyway...)

This series has lurched to a stop once again as DC has decided to re-new, and one assumes, reinvigorate the series. Here's to hoping that when the title returns this summer Andreyko will have found a way to fulfill on the promise of his title.



SUPERMAN/BATMAN 34

Wow. This was really, really bad.

Readers of this column know that I don't spend much time talking about art, but Pat Lee's art is not good. His page layout is bland, his framing of action is claustrophobic (probably to avoid having to draw backgrounds) and his depiction of the World's Finest was so muddy and sloppy that I'm at a bit of a loss. It is true that I am not a connoisseur of Manga-style comics, but I know when something isn't working for me as a consumer. Nor do I feel that in a Superman/Batman comic should I make excuses for what I perceive to be shoddy workmanship.

Further, what are the chances we'll get a chance to see any of the Metal Men aside from Platina in full detail? The chances seem increasingly slim...

It's not terribly clear if Mark Verheiden's script was properly interpreted by artists Pat Lee, but while there's plenty going on here, the proceedings are so plodding, it's difficult to either interpret portions of the action or care. Are we to understand that the Metal Men never existed before? That Superman and Batman can no longer remember the Metal Men? After the events and continuity depicted in 52?

No doubt the four architects could have dreamed up some way to reintroduce the Metal Men in some way which feels a bit more focused than this issue which practically has "hey, we feel obliged to do a Metal Men story to gauge interest in a new series" written in the margins.

Disappointing.

Also, with Metallo such a question mark in the first issues of this series, this is a fairly inauspicious first issue coming off a lackluster story arc.

At one time a similarly scoped title was referred to as "World's Finest", and while this series certainly started off with a strong viewpoint and strong story lines, since Loeb's departure from Superman/Batman, the title has slumped into arcs that feel vaguely like inventory stories from writers who are in over their head.

The series is in need of an editorial shake-up. The same magic Loeb was able to bring to Superman under Berganza, the team was able to replicate on this title. But without Loeb, Berganza is struggling. Stunt casting artists isn't going to be enough, nor are bland story arcs from semi-popular writers.



Special Johnny DC Review
THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES IN THE 31ST CENTURY 1

This Fall Kid's WB launched a new Saturday morning cartoon featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes in their own series (but not their animation debut). The show has managed to bring the high-concept of Legion to a new generation and translate the idea in a fun, palatable way, with no small amount of action.

As with all DC animated projects, DC has launched a Johnny DC comic series to accompany the comic (and that, kids, is what we call synergy!). Issue #1 of the Legion of Super-Heroes hit the stands this week, and while it's a fun read if you've seen the show, and like and good first issue, there's a boat-load of exposition to get new readers straightened out, for some odd reason the issue was done in a mix of TV interview style and Clark Kent as character from a high-school romance manga, complete with improbable body language and lots of dramatic posing. For the kids!

Philosophically, I'm not sure why DC would try to imitate manga (which I also don't understand in Superman/Batman 34) with one of their comics which, in theory, could be used as gateway drug into the greater world of the DCU. But of far greater concern was that the page layout of the TV interviews is not terribly clear, and the dialog non-sequiturs of the interviews might well throw off a kid. Heck, i was thrown off.

My hope is that this series takes off and finds the strength that Gotham Adventures, Superman Adventures and Justice League Adventures have all managed to find once they hit their stride. Legion of Super-Heroes has had a tough time of it since COIE, and it would be great to see the concept find a home in one form or another. After all, it seems the JLA/JSA crossover of "The Lightning Saga" may be about to reintroduce the lost versions of the Legion, perhaps scuttling the current Legion series.




So a rough week with some interesting highs and abysmal lows. World War III was DOA from some perspectives, while 52 struggled to tie together a few remaining plot points.

JLA once again stood above much of the competition with great big superhero action embedded in smaller character moments. Dig it.

Next week I'll have your reviews posted in something resembling a timely fashion.



So did you miss me? I missed you. Did you think World War III was the Black Adam Bomb and I'm just missing out on something? Feel free to posit a conflicting viewpoint or insult my intelligence.

Come on, I can take it.