Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week May 16, 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.



And we're back. Time for more reviews! Because you care.

Here is Part 1 of this week's reviews.



COUNTDOWN 50

DC's continuing weekly series takes a second issue, and the results are better.

And here's something I think I shall go ahead and address up front: Do you really think that Jimmy Olsen knowing the identity of the Red Hood and Nightwing was a mistake? It's possible. It's possible that somehow nobody in DC's creative departments, between the writer, editor, assistant editor, Dini, the letterer and even the person in the mail room didn't notice that Jimmy Olsen had this knowledge, and that it's up to the the DC Nation to find these sorts of mistakes. But somehow I doubt it.

The issue begins the "Jimmy Olsen Must Die!" storyline that fans of Mr. Action have been eagerly anticipating since the ads and convention reports regarding Countdown began this Spring. Jimmy is following a story on the death of Duela Dent, using his pal, Superman, to help him track down The Red Hood, who was the last person to see her alive. (Why Superman isn't bringing in the Red Hood if he's that easy to find is another story).

It's good to see Jimmy back, front and center in a title, and smack dab in the heart of a DCU feature like Countdown seems like a great opportunity to remind readers of how Jimmy managed to spin out of the Superman titles and hold his own in both "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen" as well as a featured character in "Superman Family". (Yeah, yeah... that Showcase Presents: Superman Family collection totally won me over if I wasn't already.)

The Mary marvel storyline is still establishing itself, but it would be nice to see a bit more context about this Mary Marvel. As someone who hasn't followed much in the way of Captain Marvel (not that there's been much to follow of late...) I'm not clear on Mary's age, what she was doing before Infinite Crisis, or much in the way of anything about the character. Hopefully DC will see fit to elucidate.

Also in this issue, the promise of Countdown acting as a spine to DCU continuity came to fruition as panels from recent issues of the JLA/JSA: Lightning Saga as well as some of the action from between the panels of the current Flash series (most likely winding up in the Villains Defiant story arc for Countdown). The context of the series is interesting, and it will be fun as a reader to see how the pieces of the DCU puzzle fall into place as more issues are released.

In some ways, this series seems far more intriguing as the events of the DCU are seen reflected in the pages of this series, just as the events of this series will most likely be reflected in other titles as the Countdown continues. Clearly DC is remaining cozied up to continuity, and as Marvel is currently seeing, that's not necessarily a bad thing for sales. Whether DC can pull of a story that will resonate with readers in the manner of Civil War remains to be seen, but, then again, a Countdown would indicate the series is counting down to another enormous DC event.

Readers may wish to consider that Countdown, like "52" may be a series best considered an investment of time and patience. Unlike many series, Countdown has been plotted over 52 weeks and will surely not put all of the cards on the table in the first few issues. Anymore than readers would expect to see all of the mysteries of a novel resolved in the first chapter, readers may need to see Countdown as a commitment. It's up to DC to ensure that the commitment pays off.



THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE 12

The Flash's Silver-Age villain line-up? The Black Flash? A 30th Century Iris Allen?

Seemingly not much happens in this issue, but readers should feel as if something is occurring. Guggenheim seems to have grabbed the wheel of this book and pulled it from a death spin and back into the race. Clearly creating a scenario which is set to bring enormous change to the Flash title, (right down to a new Jessie Quick) it seems possible that, for once, DC is set to actually listen to their readership and not try to outsmart them with "we know better" decisions. And, possibly, a new generation of Speedsters.

It's unfortunate that this title was off to such a rocky start, as surely the title lost a great number of the readers who initially signed up for a new run with the Scarlet Speedster with pointless story arcs and odd character decisions. Whether the series actually delivers on the promise or editorial insists that the readership doesn't know it's own mind once again won't be known until the story arc concludes, but readers can cross their fingers and hope for the best.



JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 9

Meltzer and Johns continue their tour through the DCU as the JSA and JLA team-up to recover the lost Legionnaires from the various points of their entry into the 20th Century. And, in turn, dish out a new Silver Age for the DCU that may or may not be of this Earth.

It would be interesting to find the last time that Gorilla City was mentioned in the DCU with anything less than a sneer, or the last time a writer saw the potential for this seeming throw-back of a concept. But with a playground as well equipped as the DCU's, it's worth reminding readers that the DCU can contain all of the fantastic concepts of the past, and, in the right context, those ideas can still work extremely well.

The mystery of the Lightning Saga deepens as the Society and League attempt to bring the lost Legionnaires together once more to determine what might have sent them back 1000 years. Meltzer's observation via Red Arrow regarding "the way things work" is a neat trick of heroes speaking aloud the thoughts of the reader who knows something is off, but is unsure why. That sort of unselfconscious narrative reflection is a tough trick to pull off, but somehow Meltzer seems able to have his characters reflect upon the well-worn expectations of superhero comic readers, and use those expectations to the story's advantage without a 4th wall breaking wink and a nod.

The mystery of the brain of the Ultra-Humanite grows as readers catch a glimpse of the likely culprits in the displaced Legionnaire case, with Degaton, Ultra-Humanite and Despero reflecting upon a lifeless body of Dolores Winters from the future.

Really, this reader has no idea where this story is going as of yet, but with the knowledge that there are multiple Earths, time-traveling villains and Power Girl reflecting on some poor romantic decision making, there are a lot of factors to keep the reader engaged. Not the least of which, for this reader, was the return of Gorilla City.

Ed Benes' art remains exceptional in character renderings, capturing of moods, alien landscapes and most of what's thrown his way. However, his insistence on bikini-cut lower-halves on the women's costumes is, at times, all together distracting as one pauses to consider the likely discomfort of such a get-up. In such a well-crafted, well-drawn story, this sort of distraction is utterly unnecessary.

The Lightning Saga only has a few issues left, and readers such as this one will be sad to see it go.




SUPERGIRL 17

With the promise of some sort of explanation for the rest of the series, I picked up this issue. And while I sort of think I understand what Joe Kelly is doing, one has to sort of wonder "why?". Under Berganza, the Superman titles already suggested what would become of the world under a red sun. But as Berganza isn't particularly tied to any continuity, even his own... the results are a bit different (in the Zod-Centric Superman storyline, ALL of the heroes lost their powers under a red sun).

It seems as if DC Editorial from on high has asked Berganza and Kelly to condense a longer story-arc into a fairly brief storyline intended to wrap up the last year's worth of issues. The results are a bit messy, and seem likely to be somehow explained away as Superman faces down a Zombified East Coast population and stomps about wishing the Phantom Zone monsters would just put up a fight (all while wearing the Dark Knight Returns Batman armor).

...and, of course, the reveal that Zor-El isn't Zor-El (thanks to some "qutation marks" and a shadowy panel), and is therefore likely one of the villains from the "Candor" storyline from earlier this year, as, really... who else is it going to be?

In most ways that count, the issue makes no sense. Including the final splash page re-appearance of the SIlver-Age Supergirl, whom readers must suspect at this point Berganza and Kelly will be dipped before they'll give readers a Supergirl they're actually interested in seeing. Whether DC has decided to throw in the towel and return to a more traditional take of Kara Zor-El remains to be seen, but there's a lot of wreckage the writers will have to clear away in order to make the character salvageable.

Probably best to just pick this title up when the next creative team comes aboard.




All in all, this week seemed to bring in a good haul. DC fans should be excited about the Lightning Saga and The Flash. Countdown is beginning to show its colors for where its actually going and how it will be handled. And Supergirl continues to be Supergirl.

So what did you think? Is the Lightning Saga too DC insidery? is Gorilla City for chumps? is Countdown a Letdown?

We're looking for your comments, questions and feedback!

Come on, I can take it.



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Ryan is your resident reviewer of DC Comics. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas. He likes Superman.
ryan@filmfodder.com