Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week June 13, 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.



Not exactly a week full of huge event comics, but we did see the conclusion of Alex Ross's Justice. The narrative spine of Countdown has as of yet to really make any impression on the rest of the DCU, and it seems as if readers are being asked to wait for an awful lot as DC gets around to telling the big event stories.



BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL 6
Written by Andy Diggle; Art and Cover by Whilce Portacio and Richard Friend

A comic which pitches plot over anything resembling characterization, which defies any sense of logic, and uses a Dr. Doom trick to get away with the finale...

Not exactly an auspicious start for the replacement title for "Legends of the Dark Knight".

While the world can certainly use a Batman title which is relatively in-continuity while taking place at any point in the Dark Knight's career, it would behoove DC to make sure that the stories which take place within a six-issue run on a series can't be summed up in a ten-page Silver Age story. This is the sort of story which is supposed to be filled with "awesome" set pieces and moments, but which has absolutely no more resonance than the X-treme Mountain Dew commercials of the mid 90's. The series might as well have been out-of-context images of Batman riding a dirt bike, climbing rock walls, snow boarding and stickin' it to his parents who funded his X-treme lifestyle.

There's a cop-out ending featuring a self-destructing robot of Luthor, and the government's inability to peg the attempted overthrow of the United States military on Luthor because he didn't happen to be around when the cops showed up... Nevermind the fact that all of the robots which were used for the overthrow were part of Luthor's defense initiative... What this flashback story is supposed to be showing the reader is the event which precipitated Batman's decision not to allow Wayne Industries to continue on as a defense contractor (apparently Wayne Industries is privately held and has no board of directors). Which, it seems, would leave the US without two of the major players in defense contracting and cripple the good ol' US of A's military, when nothing in the story actually tells the reader about the unfortunate side-effects of violence or the military-industrial complex which might lead to such a decision. Rather, as the supercontrol freak we know and love him to be, it seems Batman would be more interested in leaping at the opportunity to get his fingers into the US defense systems to ensure such an event could never happen again (see: OMAC).

And, of course, there's the "trojan virus" solution to the whole rampaging robot affair. We really just don't see enough of that plot idea.

Throw in While Portacio's rushed art, and there's not much to recommend this comic as a read.

I'm not sure how this comic went from inventory story to the launch of a new title, but hopefully someone at DC recognizes that this is no way to launch a new title.



COUNTDOWN 46
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; Art by Jesus Saiz; Breakdowns by Keith Giffen; Covers by Ed Benes

Some things seem like a good idea on paper, but invoking demons by singing "Echo and the Bunnymen" tunes detracts from not just the impact of the story (and if Mary Marvel is a teenager, she knows who Echo and the Bunnymen are? Really?), but also from poor Echo and the Bunnymen's considerable career. There's also something to be said for the Gotham PD taking a demon made up of dead babies into custody when it seems it required the power of Shazam to keep this guy in check, previously.

Mary demonstrates the first signs of her eventual fall by actually enjoying her powers a bit, giving readers a moment of pause as it seems Mary is set to drift down a completely predictable path toward corruption and redemption. It does raise the question of whether Adam's gift was tainted before he ever received it, or if his long association with his gift was the factor which may have warped the power.

DC introduces a new character in this issue as the oddly named Forerunner beats holy hell out of both Donna Troy (isn't Donna supposed to be a god of some sort?) and Jason Todd. The best news here is that Jason's helmet splits in half, so it's possible that's the last we'll see of the helmet-not-a-hood.

And, of course, Jimmy olsen stumbles upon Sleeze, the fallen New God sent to Earth by Darkseid as punishment and who made readers uncomfortable about twenty years ago when John Byrne told a story in which Sleeze used some mind-control powers to get Superman and Barda to star in some super-porn (no, really). Inappropriate.

At any rate, with clues from Blue Beetle (the recent voyage to the planet full of homicidal teddy bears) and 52 (the Devil Lance portion of the cosmic tale), we have an idea that perhaps someone is hunting New Gods across the DCU. How Jimmy will be involved remains to be seen, but it's an intriguing puzzle, especially when paired with Elastic Lad Jimmy and his other transformations.

Readers will need to continue to show a bit of patience if Dini and Co. don't immediately fill in all of the clues, but the arc of the story seems to be moving along at a fairly brisk pace. The vignette mode and quick cutaways of a weekly comic featuring multiple characters and stories looks good on paper, but the patience of some readers may be wearing thin after multiple issues, weeks and so little revealed. Whether 52's eventual move to focus on one storyline at a time becomes par for the course for Countdown as readers look for a bit more meat to each issue remains to be seen.



GREEN ARROW 75
Written by Judd Winick; Art and Cover by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

The series comes to an end with more of a whimper than a bang.

DC has already been hyping the wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary in their solicitations for some time, so the likelihood that Ollie's proposal to Dinah came as a surprise to anyone (especially with the cover image) is incredibly slim. Whatever master plan Winick had coming into Green Arrow's OYL jump was derailed with too much Deathstroke and Jason Todd and far too little of the interesting premise he'd established of a literally walled city in a supposedly free society and with Oliver Queen as an upstart mayor in a city recovering from shocking disaster.

Unfortunately, those dual paths of Deathstroke and Jason Todd filled up too many issues as Winick gave in to his desire for overly elaborate fight sequences and hammy fight dialog. Further, Scott MacDaniel's rendering became increasingly sketchy and loose as the focus became less on characters and more on improbable poses and fight sequences.

Whether Winick meant for the "water arrow" to be a roll-your-eyes plot device or whether he just couldn't be bothered to come up with a cooler gimmick to remove the wall from Star City, the whole idea smacks of laziness. (I mean, really? A compound which dissolves cement, steel girders, etc...?) It's nothing that couldn't have been done a handful of other ways, including with a lot of TNT or, heck, some sort of vote going out to the city's populace and a tale really about the power of the people. Instead, we get a tale about the wonders of chemistry.

Looking forward to Tony Bedard's Black Canary series, and maybe even Green Arrow: Year One.



GREEN LANTERN CORPS 13
Written by Dave Gibbons; Art by Patrick Gleason and Prentis Rollins; Cover by Gleason and Christian Alamy

The mystery of the yellow spores is somewhat resolved. But if we know one thing about Green Lantern comics, color-coding is everything, and those solicitations and ads for The Sinestro Corps special, as well as the Sinestro Corps back-up features in the Green Lantern title should suggest that a heck of a lot more is afoot.

The story wraps up in dramatic GL cosmic fashion, with character defining action as Mogo makes an amazing sacrifice in order to defeat the threat and preserve the Corps. Nicely, Gibbons avoids unnecessary moments and keeps the conclusion focused on the matter at hand. There aren't any moments of compromised GL's playing possum just to add in a small jolt of plot, nor are there GL's who make unrealistically dumb decisions just to add to the dramatic tension.

Gibbons took a few issues, but he's hit his stride. Less time is spent on expository dialog as more Gibbons becomes comfortable with the world he's built, more free to work details directly into the story rather than asides and short speeches. He's handling multiple characters very well, maintaining individual voices for each character and keeping his eye on the ball as to how the characters interact with each other. These are the sorts of things a book featuring 7200 protagonists is going to require in order to ensure the series can be developed beyond some sort of GL police procedural, and it seems Gibbons and Gleason are well on their way to ensuring they define not just the world, but the characters inhabiting the world. Hopefully DC will allow both to stick with the series, and allow them to place their stamp on what defines the GL Corps for the next several years.

Right now, GL Corps (and Green Lantern) should be a recommended read. Looking forward to the Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special.



JLA: CLASSIFIED 39
Written by Peter Milligan; Art by Carlos D'Anda; Cover by Howard Porter

Kid Amazon has the worst girlfriend currently going in comics. Maybe even worse than when Carol Danvers turns pink and starts trying to kill/ have sex with Hal Jordan. Really, it's not clear what Frank sees in Sara, but she sure seems willing to make him jump through hoops and run away when he's hit a rough patch.

The trouble mentioned at the end of the last issue, that being that Frank was supposedly going crazy, is nowhere in evidence as Frank makes some fairly rational decisions to try to use his powers for good in order to keep them from becoming a corrupting influence, no matter what his programming suggests.

At this point, its not clear what the plan might have been for Frank by Ivo and Amazo. A little clarity as to why they couldn't simply build a robot to perform whatever functions they'd planned to use Kid Amazo for is left unanswered, not to mention why they felt that he needed to be a college student, no less a philosophy major, leaves too many unanswered questions. The overall struggle of Frank fighting a losing battle against his programming is interesting, but Milligan seems to easily distracted and unwilling to fill in the blanks in too many key places while throwing red herrings out there such as Frank's supposed madness.

It's not really bothersome that the JLA plays second-fiddle in the narrative, but it is a bit irritating that the characters behave a bit out of character, such as why does Wonder Woman talk to Sara without considering giving her protection or options? Nor ask Frank to speak with her himself?

What's curious is that this arc was once intended to be released as a graphic novel, but the story just doesn't seem strong enough to warrant that sort of treatment.



SUPERMAN/ BATMAN 36
Written by Mark Verheiden and Marc Guggenheim; Art and Cover by Pat Lee and Craig Yeung

The best thing one can say about this issue is that it marks the end of the Pat Lee art and the horribly mismanaged return of the Metal Men.

Editor Eddie Berganza needs to be singled out for his inconsistency in selecting artists to work on top-flight books. Bringing Pat "What's a background?" Lee on to this title has done it no favors. Returning OMACs to the DCU so quickly after the conclusion of both "Infinite Crisis" and the lackluster Bruce Jones penned OMAC series isn't as interesting a plot device as Verheiden and Guggenheim probably assumed. Further, it suggests that some writers aren't willing to give up on the scheming, anti-social Batman which we were supposed to bid adieu at the end of 52.



JUSTICE 12
Written by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross; Art by Doug Braithwaite and Ross; Cover by Ross

The phenomenal series, stretching two years and 12 issues, concludes.

Ross, Krueger and Braithwaite have managed to tell a story massive in scope, incredible in drama, and incomparably illustrated. This story captures the sort of majesty for which superhero tales should always strive, treating the characters as both human and far more than human, and bringing wonder to the page rather than treating the powers, the characters and their world as a foregone conclusion.

Collections are already available. This reader is waiting for an Absolute Edition.



That's it for this week.

I'm not sure I'm sold on Batman: Confidential at this time. As hit or miss as Legends of the Dark Knight could be, I could understand why DC may have wanted to replace the series with a continuity defining series filling in Batman's past, telling tales such as the Matt Wagner Mad Monk series, etc... Instead we get what feels like an inventory story.

It seems as if Judd Winick may be a title killer, with both Green Lantern and Green Arrow under his belt, and Batman requiring a bit of a 52/OYL jumpstart to get the series going again. And it seems as if Outsiders is being taken away from him at the conclusion of the Checkmate crossover. Winick certainly has his fans, but he seems unable to move narratives forward beyond an initial idea and some semi-snappy dialog.

Countdown is working, but there's also a weird sense of time-bending while you're reading it. perhaps that's in part due to the real-time expectations set by "52". To some extent, I'm still getting my head around DC jumping back into the compressed time model of comics while still utilizing the weekly format.

References to ongoing series such as Amazons Attack are being made in real time, and all of this suggests that editorial is actually doing its job in a way which seemed all but lost just three years ago. Readers may suffer through some growing pains as DC Editorial gets their act together, but it seems as if the effort is finally paying off.

Oh, and next week will probably see the return of Barry Allen. See you there.

But the question is: What did I get wrong? Was Green Arrow really working for you? Is Pat Lee just a misunderstood genius? Is Alex Ross an overrated hack?

Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

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