Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week April 4, 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.


A special note: Readers may note that I'm not reviewing 52. At this point, 52 is moving along so fast and is so close to the end that it's difficult to discuss each issue as a stand alone issue. I found myself having a progressively harder time discussing the issue rather than the series with each review, and that's something I'm pondering as a personal failure. Further, I'm having a hard time believing 52 will draw new readers at this late date. Perhaps we'll revisit at the end of the series.

Also, I feel obligated to note when I drop ongoing titles from my pull list at my local comic shop. This week I dropped Wonder Woman. I'll be picking up Amazons Attack, but the Picoult run on Wonder Woman is not what I was looking for. That said, I'll be leafing through the next issue to see if things don't get better, and will definitely pick up the first issue of whichever writer takes over Wonder Woman after Picoult.


THE ALL-NEW ATOM 10

This title is rapidly headed for my personal chopping-block.

This series seemed to begin fairly well, although the ideas seemed a bit jumbled. "It's nerves," I told myself. "Gail was given one of Grant Morrison's fever-dream black books on how to revitalize a character, and she's trying to make it her own."

However... This story is now on the second issue of what seems to be a three issue arc, and the book has lost focus, completely. Nothing in the past two issues has been tied to the fundamental concept behind The Atom, and that is mad science and getting microscopic.

Why Gail chose to use a ghost story for her third, and potentially defining arc, is a bit of a head scratcher. The ghosts are frustratingly ill-defined and seem bent on doing nothing more than beating up our lead character who, we learn in this issue, is a complete sap. There is not only nothing sympathetic about any of the characters in this story-arc, but bizarre, poorly constructed motivations for our lead character. It's unclear if Gail believes the audience at any time should side with Jia, as there is nothing remotely interesting or sympathetic about the character. the notion that our lead is still hung up on this uninteresting girl from a decade prior is sort of sad and stalkerish, and doesn't speak very well of anyone, including how Simone thinks of her character.

Further, the story hinges on the notion that Ryan Choi will not shrink down to microscopic size and merely fly away from the ghosts. I don't get it.

I don't get anything going on in this issue or the one prior to it. With the entire DCU to investigate and in which to wrap up our hero, why Simone chose to tell this story at this point in the series is mind-boggling. As is the current practice, the character and his supporting cast was not firmly established in the opening series, and this point seems like an excellent opportunity to do some of that exploration. Including establishing what Ryan Choi plans to do as The Atom. Super scientist? Explorer? Vigilante?

This series is going nowhere fast. And I'm rapidly growing to actually dislike the portrayal of the protagonist.



DETECTIVE COMICS 831

Writer Paul Dini, perhaps one of the writers in comicdom who knows Harley Quinn best, finally touches upon the comic-version of his animated creation. Is there any other character in comics whose voice the reader can't help but hear in their head with every new word balloon? It's uncanny. Strike that... it's a little creepy.

Elements of prior issues in Dini's run on Detective return as the new Scarface and "Sugar" bust Harley out of Arkham, just as she's trying to go straight. The unwanted jailbreak gives Harley an opportunity to shine as more than a simple sidekick to the Joker, and uses Batman as supporting cast as well as in any villain-centric episode of the animated series.

Dini insists that the issue be fun (and it is), and there's certainly pay-off for viewers of the animated series, as well. There's probably a good amount of fudge room for other writers to interpret Harley's desire to play on the side of the angels.

Dini is a solid storyteller, and while this issue as a stand alone might be a pleasant diversion, what's working particularly well is Dini's consistency of well formed stories that link together, but work just as well as a stand-alone.

Kramer's artwork is... Kramer's artwork. Solid, decent stuff, and at its best when characters are in motion.

We say this every month: Pick up Detective.



JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 7

Readers of this site will note that I routinely ask that a series slow down between high-octane story arcs for a little dash of character development. It's my personal opinion (and feel free to argue) that it's these periods of quiet in which we get to know the characters enough to care about whether or not any of them get their skull rung by an Amazo android.

As he did in Identity Crisis, Meltzer spends time characterizing the JLA, fleshing out relationships and hi-lighting personalities. He's even managed to insert a bit of the first day of school jitters for the entire team as everyone reunites and simultaneously figures out how they'll fit in to the new squad. Meltzer seems well attuned to the idea that the JLA should be regarded as the place superheroes go when they go to work. Like any writers before him, he's found a way to make the JLA the title to define working relationships, but rather than relying on banter between the JLA as they face down another menace, he's writer enough to give characters face time and not worry that he might be boring the audience.

Meltzer and Benes' depiction of the new JLA, from their headquarters on Earth resembling the Hall of Justice, to their satellite in near-Earth orbit all makes sense and works as DC often works best, by polishing off the ideas that won't go away and turning them into something new to please as many fans as possible. It's writing with an eye on the past without being a slave to the past.

I'm still a bit perplexed at the complaints regarding Meltzer's work. Even among some of the top-tier writers, few are able to say as much with a few lines of dialogue or a well phrased caption, and few are able to say more with mise en scene in almost every panel (I shudder to think of the scenery descriptions sent to Benes). Meltzer provides the strongest characterization in the DCU, and few can provide the multi-layered mode of storytelling that is what some readers are regarding as "slow motion storytelling". That seems a fairly concrete reading of what could be lauded as densely a packed narrative fully utilizing the action comic medium and DCU publishing palette.

Benes' post-Jim Lee artwork continues to impress on the page, very much complimented by inker Sandra Hope and the four color, bright-and-pop-tacular work of colorist Alex Sinclair.

This issue was the "knock it out of the ballpark" issue that this title has needed. Well done.



SUPERGIRL 16

Okay. I was curious and I bought the issue. Heck, I read the first eleven issues or so, so why shouldn't I be curious as to what DC was going to pull out of their pocket as the solution to the ongoing Kara Zor-El origin confusion?

This is a way out for Berganza, Kelly and Sable. And it does tie together elements from the prior 15 issues (as least what I read myself and then subsequently saw in the reviews of others). But the whole thing kinda/sorta reminds me of how far off base prior post-Crisis Supergirls have been. I'm not entirely clear why DC hasn't found a way to simply retell the origin of Supergirl in much the same way they have every other character. Sunstone spikes and intangible demons from the Phantom Zone? Even if this IS the origin (and if it sorta makes sense), do I really want to read a series about Kara Zor-El endlessly hunting possessing spirits? Especially when the logic as dictated by this issue suggests that the only way to beat the ghosts is to kill the hosts by stabbing them with her crystal kabobs?

The current storyline simply feels like it's dipping into the mid-90's Image Comics-well for more stories about nebulous demon types, lots of glowing evil eyes and lots of stabbing and shouting. We already have these comics, and, honestly, Supergirl already chased demons about in the Peter David run on Supergirl. So, seriously, DC... what the @#$%?

More than anything, though, DC seems as if it simply isn't interested in finally giving readers a definitive vision of either Krypton or Krypton's last days. It's probably a questionable call to allow Eddie (how many Superman origins can I throw at the wall until something sticks?) Berganza to continue to muck about with Superman's origin. And, yes, Joe Kelly, Mark Sable and Eddie Berganza spent issue 16 needlessly embellishing the origin of Superman in the pages of Supergirl in order to give their girl a mission. Readers of Berganza's era of Superman stewardship won't be surprised to see such inconsistency or lack of foresight when it comes to the Superman franchise.

It's simply odd that in finally responding to readers' endless requests to return Kara Zor-El, a character with more than 30 years of publication history, DC can't seem to keep the car on the road and just give readers back something resembling Kara Zor-El. At some point an editor and writer will take the reigns on this title (perhaps as early as when Idleson takes over) and try to turn Supergirl into the character readers have been asking to see for years. At that time issue 16 will ALSO need to be explained and folded into continuity as some sort of Manchurian Candidate programming by Darkseid or Zod or some other mustache twirling villain.

Sadly, what's lost in the shuffle is the interesting question the issue raises over the wisdom of sending criminals into the Phantom Zone as a "humane" solution.



SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 28

Waid's Legion is still terrific fun. The Dominators storyline is shaping up to be a bit of a doozy, and we're treated to a lot of well written scenes, from the reappearance of Dreamgirl to Cosmic Boy's bad-ass revenge (hey, I bought the ruse). Plus, Waid's Supergirl is always a much more interesting read and far less annoying depiction of the character than anything going on over in the Supergirl title.

Still, with such a large cast, it's difficult to keep track of most of the characters from issue to issue. Waid is still assuming readers are already down with the history of the Legion and the personalities of the Legion, and with issue #28, I still feel as if I don't have much of a grasp of the what's going on in this title aside from the "A-Plots". Taking time to get in those character beats, as Meltzer is doing in JLA, shouldn't be considered dangerous territory. And whether Waid handles those chores, or whether the next writer who takes on this title handles that change, it can only help.



SUPERMAN 661

This issue was not good.

For a single-issue, fill-in story, readers should still expect more from a Superman comic than this half-baked, two-fights-and-a-chase, paint-by-numbers issue.

Readers of this site will note that I happily read Wonder Woman, but the recent treatment of Wonder Woman has left me cold. In this issue Wonder Woman is kinda/mostly portrayed as the highly competent Amazon that readers have come to expect, paired with the new concept that Wonder Woman has somehow never seen things like computers in a coffee shop (how she's supposedly maintaining a secret ID at a government agency is going to take some explaining).

A few years ago, during the Phil Jimenez run on Wonder Woman, Jimenez more or less put the Lois/ Wonder Woman competition issue to bed. The signs of Lois' jealousy do show up a few places within the issue, and there's something a bit... not so funny about Lois making suggestion to Clark about his relationship with Wonder Woman three times in five panels within the first few pages of the story.

What's interesting is that Busiek and this Richard Howell fellow who helped him write the issue did find a reasonable threat to Superman, and one for which Wonder Woman and Lois would pair up to make an excellent foil. There's a certain Silver Age quality to the team up, as well as how easily defeated the villain is once Lois and Wonder Woman run a Google search and then punch the villain in the head. Especially considering how many pages were spent setting up the villain's origin. It is somehow surprising that the writers established that the villain was thousands of years old, but somehow Wondy and Lois get the drop on her and take her out ina matter of seconds.

Alas, the finished art by Eduardo Barreto started poorly (what's up with the unfinished leg on the splash page on page 1?) right through to the villain's wardrobe plucked from Kirby's cast-offs. This work just didn't seem ready for prime-time, let alone for what's supposed to be one of the DCU big-gun titles.

Bleh. Next issue we're back to Camelot Falls.



SUPERMAN/ BATMAN 33

That's it? Despero? And grays?

The post-Jeph Loeb era on this title is a bit like Elvis, prior to the Hawaii comeback special. This comic is still coming to work and putting on a show, but... what's the point?

This series has been going on for months, and as this issue revealed, the entire storyline should have been two issues. Not really a bad story, but simply forgettable. And thus, I will spend no more time worrying about it.



Some really, very good stuff this week. And then some surprise disappointment. Superman? Man, that was not good. Not sure how it was decided that issue was a better idea to put out than the upcoming Krypto issue, but...

I'm loving the new JLA, and I understand that puts me in a minority. I saw some light with Legion, and I was willing to go back to the well for Supergirl, just to see what Berganza and Kelly had to say for themselves. Sadly, it just wasn't much.

Well, there's always next Wednesday.

Questions? Comments? Want to vent a bit? Come on, I can take it.



Also, don't forget that we're looking for writers to join us here at Comic Fodder. Look here for the application procedure.

Good stuff Ryan. I was enjoying the JLA reboot for the first few issues before just deciding to wait for the trade. I like a character driven drama and Meltzer does a great job here with his understanding of the players and their motivations. And the artwork is wonderful.

It's sad to hear that the Superman title is, once again, a hit or miss proposal. I'll buy Camelot Falls (if and/or when it makes it to TPB) - hopefully the one-shots will be missing from the collection by that time.

I suppose I'm most interested in your take on the new, post-Loeb Superman/Batman. I am just now finishing up the first arc in trade, Public Enemies. And although I really like the artwork, I think this book (series?) suffers from too much hype. I was really looking forward to this run (I just recently bought the three arcs/books in soft cover) but Public Enemies is striking me more as a, "Let's see how many heroes and how much action we can cram into these pages..." rather than a providing much of a rewarding plot. If each arc is like this... meh.

Were you a fan of the Loeb Superman/Batman? It seems the hype was pretty good so I'm assuming you were. As such, perhaps you could tell me what I'm missing?

-- Posted by: Brian at April 9, 2007 10:46 AM

Loeb's stuff can often feel like a huge summer blockbuster, and, as such, there's a whole lot of action and often feels as if there's not a whole lot of, shall we say, content. I admit that I find Loeb to be a fun read most of the time, but I'm also aware that it's a guilty pleasure. Sometimes you just want a roller coaster ride.

Loeb's run on Superman/Batman did wind up defining some of the DCU as Infinite Crisis was coming up, especially the arc you just read. In some ways, the wham! bang! action stories by Loeb then become a bit more meaningful than intended, by the nature that his stories can shake up the status quo. I found it particularly interesting that so many people read the Superman/Batman first arc when so few had followed Loeb's Supeman stories. That series essentially wrapped up what he'd done on Superman.

But, yeah... it's mostly lots of explosions.

I think readers can wait for Camelot Falls to come out as a collection. The first part has already been collected in hardcover, but it's probably worth waiting to see if DC will put it out eventually as one big book, with the fill-ins as back-up.

Hope this helps.

-- Posted by: ryan at April 9, 2007 12:15 PM