Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week May 30, 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.


Firstly, a salute to my local comic shop, Southside Comics, which was literally closing its doors for the final time when I picked up my comics at 7:00 on Thursday evening. Southside was efficiently run, and you couldn't find a friendlier manager than manager, Ty. But the rent went up, and there's not much anyone can do about that.

So, thanks, Southside, for being my comic shop of choice upon my return to Austin. I'll miss Ty's excellent service and willingness to go above and beyond when I started whining like a tired puppy because he didn't have a copy of Amazons Attack #1 left by the time I arrived. (I know, I was surprised it was that popular, too. I hadn't put it on my pull list as I assumed I could walk in and grab a shelf copy.)

I have already moved my pull list to a place near my office, so hopefully we won't have too many bumps along the way as I make my transition.

Comics that won't be reviewed: Amazons Attack #2 and Countdown 48. In the loss of shop, I missed out on the last copy of Amazons Attack #2. Again, so much for walking in and pulling this off the shelf. I've asked for it from my new shop and will hopefully get to it next week. As per Countdown, I recommend checking out the new series "Blogging Countdown" I'm writing with Jason. That will probably end up taking the place of a Countdown review.



ACTION COMICS 850

It's an anniversary issue, and as its a Superman comic, an anniversary issue is usually used to recap Superman's origin (now retold more often than the once prolific, post Batman: Year One death of the Wayne's) and as an excuse to increase the page count.

Busiek, Johns and Nicieza are officially credited as contributors to the issue, which speaks to a certain solidarity currently occurring among the creative teams working on the Superman titles, and given the "anything goes" approach to the Superman books editor Eddie Berganza took for the year or so leading up to Infinite Crisis, the team-effort is a welcome sight.

The writers use the issue to re-tell Superman's origin, more completely detailing some version of a current definitive version of the culture and last days of Krypton, but also broach the subject first touched upon in Action Comics Annual #10 and currently playing a major roll in the JLA/JSA cross-over regarding Superman's time with The Legion of Super-Heroes. Using Mark Waid's current run on "Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes", Brainiac 5 assists Kara Zor-El in an attempt to view the past and determine where in the past Kara Zor-El hails from.

Further, the writing team touches upon the re-established Multiverse, in an organic and coherent way that, even without a Masters in DCU, a reader would most likely understand the basics of the Multiverse as slightly different versions of familiar concepts, all while throwing the reader a neat narrative bit and giving Renato Guedes an opportunity to recapture the first adventure of the Man of Steel in the first portrayal of the Superman costume from Action Comics #1, as well as other familiar touchstones and portrayals of Superman over the years.

However, the real story centers around Supergirl's resentment toward her cousin as she captures conversations of Kal-El's own conflicted feelings in dealing with Supergirl as the stern parental figure, acting as any parent might, not knowing if he's making the right decisions but doing the best he can to protect his cousin. Add in a bit of a heart-wrenching scene between Lois and Clark's inability to bear children, and the issue seems intent on refocusing the Superman titles back to the wide cast of characters which once populated the various DC series from the Silver-Age until Crisis on infinite Earths (and is it possible Argo City is floating in space, protected by a sheet of lead?).

So, yes, in a single issue there's a whole lot here.

After spending a year playing hide the ball with the history of the DCU, the powers that be are filling in the pieces and connecting the dots between the 21st and 31st Century. For good or ill, the DCU isn't just a two-dimensional puzzle, and there's always the possibility at this point in the mega-narrative of DC Comics, that Supergirl has been on the wrong vibrational frequency since arriving in the future.

Despite all the continuity, the issue is crisply written and manages to push a lot of the buttons of Superman as both icon and as a very human character. Supergirl's viewpoint works well as that of the doubting-thomas who sees Superman as a "square" and discovers the character through a series of contextualized moments and vignettes. Moreover, the issue promises moments to come, moments that, should Busiek and Johns write to those points and deliver the scenes as successfully as the reader can imagine them should be an interesting new era for The Man of Steel.




BLUE BEETLE 15

Jaime ponders the nature of his powers in light of what he's learned from The Reach, and as many a young Texan has done when deciding to figure out what to do with himself, Jaime heads to Austin's own STAR labs. It's always a little bit of fun when you find your hometown mentioned in a comic, and an extra bit of exciting when Superman guest stars, which means he's left the confines of Metropolis and passed into your town, even in imaginary state.

One geographic bit of trivia... Phoenix is mentioned as having a STAR labs, and any self-respecting Southwesterner would know that Phoenix is about six hours drive time from El Paso (less if Jaime lives on the west side of El Paso), while Austin is ten hours drive time. I like to think that Jaime's decision speaks to him knowing which town is likely to be slightly more fun. Anyway, DC Comics... I know you have to put these comics out on a quick turn around and all, but didn't anybody Google Maps this to make sure it made sense?

Not much happens (but some occurs), and you sort of have to figure that DC is setting Jaime up for a fairly major story-arc with The Reach. The introduction of Livewire into the mix as being able to receive and absorb the energy from the Scarab almost surely predicts Livewire's eventual inclusion in the Reach storyline.

After giving the title a while to let Jaime find his footing as a character, the guest-starring bits from guy Gardner and Superman are a good idea, if not to draw in GL and Superman readers, then at least to fit Jaime into the DCU proper.

As Bully might say, this comic is fun. There seems to be some chatter in the comic blogosphere lately about Blue Beetle as a good read, and this reviewer would like to concur. DC certainly isn't publishing anything else like this series at the moment, and as oddly ordinary as Jaime is portrayed, as a kid with a mom who runs to the panaderia for breakfast, some friends and a fairly normal suburban home, in many ways Jaime is infinitely easier to grasp than Tim Drake, Supergirl or the other teen heroes dotting the DCU landscape (except for maybe Misfit or Cyclone).

Rogers understands how to build a scenario and characters in order to raise the stakes of the sure-to-come superheroics, and with the rush to plot and combat in so many other titles, this sort of difference is a welcome change of pace




GREEN LANTERN 20

Speaking of leaping headlong into battle... Johns' Green Lantern wraps up the "Mystery of the Star Sapphire" storyline, veering into new territory regarding the nature of the rings, the history of the Zamarons (which suggests more history for the Guardians, too), and a hint of a possible new set of players in the much-hyped upcoming Sinestro Corps/ Green Lantern Corps face-off.

The conclusion of the storyline was surprisingly satisfying, with a moment by Hal Jordan that reminds you what separates Hal from other heroes, as he outwits the Zamarons, the Star Sapphire and surprises his two love interests with a move that might be questionable but absolutely works within the story as well as a bit of character development for our cocky test pilot (it's moments like this when one can see how Hal and Ollie might be able to see eye-to-eye despite political differences).

Johns somewhat explains the Zamarons, but as someone relatively new to the Green Lantern franchise, this reader was aware that there was some history here that I was missing. Most likely the history of the Zamarons isn't as important as the explanation given for who they are as well as their relationship to the Star Sapphire. And, of course, this puts them on the table alongside Parallax and the Guardians as major players on the cosmic chess board, so I look forward to learning a bit more.

As rushed as Johns was getting into the storyline, his wrap up of the action and handling of the nuances of Carol Ferris/Hal Jordan relationship resonated remarkably well. Hopefully Johns can take a breather long enough with the series once the Sinestro Corps storyline is complete to more fully explore the characters.




JSA CLASSIFIED 26

According to ICV2.com, this series was ranked 93rd in April, with only 22,052 copies sold. While rankings are rankings, its a shame so few readers of the current JSA series (#10 at 98,000 copies) are also picking up this companion title which expands terrifically well upon the individual members of the JSA. Unlike Justice League of America, which features characters who appear in their own titles, JSA: Classified gives each character an opportunity to shine on their own.

Frank Tieri's storyline is fairly simple, a gambling ring which bets on the outcomes of metahuman battles and all things metahuman. While certainly the storyline seems like it should include JSA original villain, Roulette, the scale of the operation is hinted at being perhaps smaller scale. For the purposes of the story, it doesn't really matter, but longtime readers of the current run on JSA will certainly raise an eyebrow.

Featured in this issue is JSA staple, Wildcat, whose background is as interesting in its own way as the best of origins, with his past set in the heyday of mid-twentieth century boxing. Wildcat works well as a character with a shadier past whose better nature is his saving grace, despite his street-smarts and willingness to get his hands dirty. In a manner, Wildcat has also been portrayed for decades as a fighter who knows he should be past his prime, and yet who still seems to come out on top as one of the ageless founding members of the JSA. The boxing past comes into view as Wildcat flashes back to an incident from his past that left another boxer dead (seemingly at the hands of a gambling ring) as Sportsmaster introduces him to the world of "Super Sports".

While none of the tales in JSA: Classified have been genre-defining stories, the series is an enjoyable read for the same audience willing to be one of the 98,000 readers picking up the main title. Readers may enjoy finding a bit of depth to the characters of the JSA series that Johns isn't always able to bring to the page in dealing with such a large cast.



JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA 5

"We were Legion."

The Lightning Saga continues, heading on its way to becoming the defining story of the post-One Year Later era. Silver and Bronze Age Legion elements mesh seamlessly with the past two decades worth of portrayals of DCU mainstays. The failed reboots of the Legion and even the current, moderately successful run on "Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes" seem moot as Superman recalls bygone Legion tales (now, most likely, needed to be brought back to print as a trade).

As the story is in mid-stream, it's difficult to address specific plot points, but the interesting bits regarding 31st Century medicine, Liberty Belle's interest (as she's currently in post-marital bliss with Hourman) in seeing even Wonder Woman paired up is a nice aside, and small details like the Legion of Doom HQ, the team-up of Red tornado and Cyclone, and Superman's realization of Sensor Girl's powers at play all work very well and should be an argument in anyone's book for the sort of details that can be handled well when continuity is observed and made a part of the narrative.

As a reader with minimal background knowledge of the Legion, Johns and Meltzer have made it remarkable easy to follow the storyline through exposition and well crafted dialog. Most certainly there's a love for the Legion books prior to COIE (after which the Legion never quite recovered). It seems the creative team is aware that without Superboy as the core upon which the Legion could form, the series never held together. Unfortunately, with the fate of "Superboy" still up in the air (Jerry Siegel's family recently won legal rights to ownership of the character), flashbacks and storylines featuring a young Kal-El in the 31st Century seem impossible. But that doesn't mean that the writers can't create a bit of nostalgia and sentiment in the form of Superman's dedication to the Legion.

Looking forward to the concluding chapter of the story as well as the promised appearance of Citizen Steel.




TEEN TITANS 47

And so it begins that DC makes "Countdown" must reading as the narrative spine of the DCU.

The cover promises the death of a Titan, but the death refers to the funeral for Duela Dent (AKA: Joker's Daughter). Not only is the Week 51 of Countdown must-read material, but this week's issue of Countdown (not reviewed here) is also must read as Donna refers to events of the issue within the context of this issue. Readers hoping for a solitary, stand-alone experience for Countdown and Titans are going to be disappointed. Readers picking up multiple DC series and Countdown may be a bit more intrigued.

Jason Todd, the re-animated corpse vigilante with the worst-kept secret identity in comics, pays a visit to the Titans, and ends up getting a kick to the crotch from Robin and Teen Titans writer Adam Beechen (with Robin as Beechen's proxy). There's most likely some bit of editorial comment being worked out here, but I'll leave that to each reader's imagination.

As a contingent of Titans (with Nightwing) investigate the death of Duela Dent, they briefly stumble in a bit over their heads and are teleported back to Titans Tower where the Superboy clone, Match, is going a bit nutty.

This issue is a breather issue between larger events in the lives of the Titans, and, given the non-stop action Johns had thrown the direction of the series since OYL, the characters experience a much needed break, also giving readers a moment to catch up before being thrown into the next action sequence.

For good or ill, Beechen's tenure on the book isn't to last. In short order Sean McKeever is scheduled to take over the title. Whether Beechen's run will feature the Titans trying to play catch up as the events of Countdown unfold is unknown. However, his voice for the book already seems well placed and his understanding of teen characters defining themselves through their angsts displays a bit of insight which was well needed on this title.


Overall a good week, I thought. Did you see anything you liked? Read anything which irritated you? Is the Legion of bozos? Does Blue Beetle just chap your hide?

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