Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week May 9, 2007 Part 1

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.

This week something new is really beginning to bug me. DC has decided that exposition and back story are something that one should find at Wikipedia rather than within their own titles. Editorial captions pointing readers to related stories are long dead, but so are basic introductions and explanations of the identities of major characters in stories all over DC Comics. You can probably expect for this complaint to be an ongoing theme for a few weeks.

All right. On to the pain.



COUNTDOWN 51

DC's newest weekly series begins.

Countdown is slated to be a "new" idea in comics, a series which acts as a backdrop to the rest of the DCU. It doesn't take much imagination to understand that events like "Infinite Crisis" and "Civil War" have been paving the way toward creating editorially driven series intended to direct the nature of the universes themselves. As much as the Marvel U has been altered by the events of Civil War and "The Initiative"-marked titles reflect the ramifications of those changes, Countdown may be intended to suggest the greater currents of the DCU. Perhaps a lesson was learned from "Countdown to Infinite Crisis", and writing teams may go with their own stories or tie into the story lines of "Countdown". But, certainly, if "Countdown" does become must reading for DC readers, then the effects of teh series will be felt across the line.

Writer Paul Dini has chosen to start with a "slow burn" entry to the series. Rather than begin with a cataclysmic event, the series begins with an ominous conversation between Darkseid and Desaad over a "gameboard" featuring characters from the DCU. The full-page ads let readers know Darkseid would be deeply involved in Countdown, and this prelude not-so-subtly hints at some very tidings for the DCU.

The opening sequence is followed by a lengthy and not-terribly-interesting scene featuring "Joker's Daughter" and the Red Hood.

DC has increasingly fallen into the habit of insisting their readership is more familiar with their character base than even seasoned readers might find themselves. It is one thing to know who the Joker's Daughter is, and quite another to actually be familiar enough with the character to actually care when anything happens to her, or to become excited when a story centers around a relatively unused piece of DC"s past.

We also see Jason Todd use a few pistols in a highly unlikely manner, followed by a Jason Todd(who was last seen in Green Arrow portrayed as a criminal and who now seems like yet another superhero. It's an odd bit of characterization that demands an explanation. Perhaps as much as Duela's knowledge of the Red Hood's secret Identity (and the illogic of why someone might kidnap a popstar when one could be blackmailing the Batman...).

The appearance of The Monitors suggests the direction of the series as a cross-Multiverse caper, which hints, possibly at what the series might be counting down too. But with 51 issues remaining, speculation as to the direction of the series seems more than a bit premature.

The issue also features Mary Marvel's exit from hospital, now seemingly powerless and friendless. The set-up suggests a bit about where the direction of the "Seduction of the Innocent" might be headed, and that might be okay.

We do see two of the Monitors from the Brave New World one-shot and sporadic appearances of the past year locked in conflict over living anomalies which have crept between worlds. Clearly the new multiverse will be a bit more policed in this regard than the prior Multiverse, which allowed anyone with a crystal ball or a good pair of running shoes to zip between dimensions. the conflict makes sense, within a certain DC logic, and surely this conflist will be key to the Countdown.

Finally, the series ends with The Source Wall instructing the Monitors to find Ray Palmer. And, really, this was probably both the biggest surprise of the book as well as the most exciting sequence. Only time will tell how this plays out.

Overall, the issue is mildly interesting, but lacked either characters or a hook which suggested a reason why a reader not deeply vested in the fate of the DCU should give a rip. The recent success of "52" may have DC erroneously believing that B-list characters can carry a series, However, that does not excuse the fundamental problem DC is currently experiencing as characters with a rich history (but limited exposure in the last decade or so) such as Duela are placed into a comic with minimal introduction and no context. Whether DC expects for readers to turn to Wikipedia or simply have the knowledge in their head regarding fairly obscure characters is unclear. And it's a bit taxing. With nothing in the way of exposition, it seems a bit absurd that editorial expects for readers to care for or vest an interest in characters. Moreover, it seems as if DC seems unaware of the need to catch up readers under the age of 35, and that's no way to build an audience.

Were this a solitary incident, it could be excused, but with the rise of writer Geoff Johns and Editor Dan Didio, it seems as if former traditions to add captions and dialog explaining who anyone is (or why we should care) have gone the way of the dodo. And that's too bad. It would have made this issue less confusing, more relevant and a lot of fun.



GREEN ARROW 74

Once one overcomes the fact that the cover seems to have nothing to do with the actual content of the comic, (unless you want to debate the meaning of the word "exposed" in the context of the story) the story itself is a character building tale tilting towards: the upcoming conclusion of the series, the upcoming Black Canary and Green Arrow Year One mini-series and the upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary series.

In this issue Green Arrow and Black Canary hook-up. That's pretty much what everyone will remember, anyway. There's some more of Winick's increasingly diluted Mayoral story of Oliver Queen, which was supposed to be about Oliver Queen's exposed identity, but... that doesn't happen. Instead we head towards a fight with Deathstroke and some guy in sunglasses who, for the life of me, I don't remember from any preceding issue. Which doesn't exactly speak volumes for the series. Is this the guy Deathstroke met in prison? Who was he?

Perhaps one of the downsides to McDaniels' art is that too many characters wind up looking too much the same. But, yes, he seems to work very, very fast.

And for some reason Merlyn and Brick have decided to go AWOL.

Anyhow, the series ends soon enough, and with it will end the flailing Queen administration storyline, the "wall" storyline and a lot of unanswered questions. Aside from the colorful idea of putting Oliver Queen in charge of the city and the flashback sequence to Green Arrow's recovery and decision to carry some implement other than a bow and arrow, the OYL run of GA has been a bit murky, at best. Pointless cameos by the Red Hood and Batman, almost no use for Speedy, and an established Mayoral staff which was then left for dead...

Perhaps editorial simply had other plans and Winick was unable or unwilling to play ball. Perhaps Winick is walking the slow path to the DC exit last seen taken by Devin Grayson. It's tough to say. But of late, GA has been unfocused at best, and confusing at worst.

As with Countdown, a little exposition or the occasional narrative caption would be welcome. At this point, this reader is excited about a new direction for the Green Arrow and Black Canary (and their many literal and figurative children).



GREEN LANTERN CORPS 12

Writer Dave Gibbons continues down a path that should be fairly rote, but somehow manages to make the old "mind control" story shtick work like a charm. Perhaps because the mind-controlling force seems embedded in Mogo, the planet Lantern, or because the intrigue surrounding the mind-control isn't portrayed as red-eyes and hand-wringing, but instead a fairly complex plot to reasonably compromise Gardner while taking out allies and building suspicion within the Corps...

Whatever it is that Gibbons is doing, with this issue as much as the Corpse run, this series seems to have hit a reasonable stride. Especially as this storyline easily balances the Guy Gardner as suspect arc, the discussion back on Oa and the plot surrounding Lanterns Iolande and Natu.

Plot threads spreading back over several issues are now paying off, and it seems that the early issues of GL Corps perhaps didn't give Gibbons enough room to work as he spread the seeds for a fairly complicated story requiring a multitude of characters (and the mystery villain still not revealed). Unlike Winick's run on Green Arrow, which spread simple storylines out until there's nothing left, GL Corps requires more page count in order to figure in all of the angles. And its both the vastness of the potential cast and the complexity of maintaining that cast that's becoming a strength of the book rather than a strike against it.

The art in the comic continues to be of a middling-quality, with Patrick Gleason and Tom Nguyen trading arcs within the comic. This reader would like to see more of the detail of a Shane Davis handling the alien landscapes and species of the series. But, both Gleason and Nguyen do manage to infuse a terrific amount of personality into their characters themselves.

Right now, Green Lantern Corps is on a roll.



JLA CLASSIFIED 38

The Kid Amazo storyline continues.

Amazo works to retrieve his youthful upgrade/son and turn him toward the family business, ie: convince the cyborg/robot which has been walking among humans for a while believing itself to be human to find his inner WMD and turn it on the Justice League.

What's curious is DC's vague definition of Amazo to begin with, who never appeared so much to be a single robot as much as a series of robots, none of which expressed a huge amount of personality, nor any more motivation than being Ivo's gun pointed at the JLA. In most cases, Amazo seemed little more than a plot contrivance, so this far more "human" Amazo does work, but outside of trying to turn his son against the JLA, there doesn't seem to be much motivation for our vulcan-eared bucket of bolts. What, indeed, would a sentient Amazo want?

The addition of Frank Halloran as Kid Amazo is a neat trick, as is Amazo's interest in seeing his legacy work alongside him, sense of humor about his role as "father-figure" and all.

What works less well is Milligan's clunky dialog and pointless squabbling between Batman and Martian Manhunter. Perhaps it was exactly this tendency to write Batman as a jerk itching for a fight that led to the OYL rebirth of the kinder, gentler Batman. But there are a few other bits, such as J'onn reading a robot's mind(?) and Batman describing Halloran's robot side as "evil" that simply didn't work.

There also seems to be some portion of the story lost as Halloran goes from confused college-kid to ranting robot in some indeterminate amount of time, and with little reason to see why or how he went off his nut. It's possible that some portion fo the story needed to be cut to bring the Kid Amazo storyline from it's original length as a graphic novel to a story-arc within JLA: Classified. But this shift arrives with no warning and as a completely abrupt shift for Halloran who has thus far been speaking in narrative captions, none of which indicate a path toward joining the straight-jacket brigade (who now has bubbling beakers and test tubes? Wasn't he a philosophy major?).

Unfortunately, a story which started off strong despite some narrative and dialog problems seems to have decided to take an abrupt turn towards the disappointing in its final pages.


So, Countdown? Are you excited yet? Is Green Arrow still really working for you? Is Green Lantern Corps just boring you to tears?

What did you like? What did you hate? What did I get wrong? What did I say that made me sound like an idiot?

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