Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week July 18, 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.

I want to apologize for the missing week of July 11, 2007. Work was a bear, my in-laws came into town, and then my cat, Jeff, began barfing everywhere. After two trips to the emergency vet and a week on meds, Jeff seems like he's doing a lot better, so both he and I thank you for your patience.

jeffthecat.jpg
The patient thanks you for your patience

So it was a huge, huge week both this week and last week at DC AND at Marvel. So I'm feeling a bit bad about missing last week for your DC reviews. That said, it's my hope you've formed your own opinion and moved on.

On to the pain!



ACTION COMICS 852
Written by Kurt Busiek; Art and Cover by Brad Walker and John Livesay

This issue spins off the events of Countdown (note the "Countdown 41" bar adjacent to the UPC code), following the path of young James Bartholomew Olsen as he ponders the meaning and use of the sudden appearance of super powers of his own after years of playing observer to Superman and other metahumans across the DCU. It certainly can't hurt the reader to be aware of Jimmy Olsen's career as more than a supporting in the Superman titles in the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DCU, and know that Jimmy has had a wide array of super powers (usually from radiation and/ or mysterious potions and serums. You don't think the transformation of Jimmy into Doomsday in the pages of All Star Superman was an accident, do you?). Recently DC even released a "greatest hits" of Jimmy's amazing transformations for a bit of catch-up for the uninitiated.

As Jason and I have been discussing a bit in the Blogging Countdown columns, Countdown and the DCU in general have been riding a fine line between paying homage to the past with new stories using old elements and utter fan-boy self-referential gibberish. Busiek seems to know how to ride that line better than some, keeping the reader in Jimmy's shoes well enough that his perspective on what's happening works for readers new to the ideas as well as readers who know Elastic Lad used to hit on most of the ladies of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

One of the side-effects of the pre-Infinite Crisis trend of DC to assign writers in short shifts to any title was that the supporting cast of Superman only occasionally received attention, and usually only for a page or two. Using Jimmy as the focus of the story helps to define the world around Superman, and tie him in more closely to the events of Countdown (wherever that might be going).

Busiek isn't afraid to go a little old school with the story, right down to including thought balloons rather than captions, throwing Jimmy into self-imposed danger and retelling the tale of how Jimmy got his hands on a signal watch to begin with (even if the threat bordered on ethnic stereotyping. Of robots. Anyway...). There's a lot of story here, and Busiek juggles it well, working in three separate stories within the issue, between Jimmy's pondering how to use his powers, the fate of the Kryptonite Man and the flashback sequence. Clearly, decompression has given way to longer story arcs stretching over multiple issues, but no six page sequences of three-panels per-page of characters not doing a whole lot.

The art wasn't really my cup of tea. I can appreciate the desire to go juvenile with a Jimmy Olsen story, but Brad Walker is no Kevin Macguire when it comes to facial expressions, and Jimmy's head seemed to squish like a balloon half-filled with water from panel to panel.

Overall, a good read for Superman fans, and folks looking for a bit of fun in their comics. Interesting to see how Countdown is working its way through the DCU.



ALL-FLASH 1
Written by Mark Waid; Art by Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett and Daniel Acuña; Covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz

Wally West returns as The Flash, tying up the events of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 and JLA/JSA: The Lightning Saga.

The events of the story serve mostly to draw closure to the story of Bart Allen while re-establishing Wally as the Flash. However, Waid seems reluctant to tell us much about the past year-plus of Wally's absence in which, pretty clearly, he, Linda and the twins were gone much longer from their perspective than the world of the rest of the DCU.

What will most likely be most controversial about this issue is the fate meted out by Wally to annoying Super-Villain, Inertia, primarily responsible for the death of Bart Allen. A living death for Inertia seems a bit extreme, and while Wally's feelings seem understandable, especially given the utter lack of remorse on the part of Inertia, no doubt this move will be debated as being "Un-Wally-like" until Inertia is sprung from his entrapment and returns to the DCU. But let never be said that Wally didn't appreciate cruel irony.

The art in the book has been much discussed, especially the new work by Karl Kerschl. Of the work in the book, from several artists (see above), Kerschl seems to capture the hyper-sonic world of the Flash with the most flare and crackling energy.

On a personal note, I first read Flash around issue 20 or so of the Wally West run. And while I am not a reader who would say "To me, Wally West is The Flash", I am certainly glad to see Wally return to the DCU. Further, I'm interested in how Waid and others will handle a literal family of Flashes.

This reader is looking forward to issue #231 of The Flash to hit the stands.



AMAZONS ATTACK 4 (of 6)
Written by Will Pfeifer; Art and Cover by Pete Woods

With a rip-off opening sequence, the issue just sort of devolves into further disappointment as the story begins to make less and less sense, until giving us the predictable answer to all of the series' questions in the final panel.

Amazons Attack is rapidly becoming the poster child for bloated, editorial-driven story-arcs in which there's so little genuine motivation for the story that the actions performed by characters seem completely derived from editorial decisions rather than any rational (or irrational) character decisions.

In this issue, we see Superman pluck Wonder Woman from a fight with Hippolyta which could end the war rather than (a) take down Hippolyta, or (b) let Wonder Woman take down Hippolyta. As far as the characters are concerned, Hippolyta is responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Washington DC. She's perpetrated acts of war on American soil. But all Superman does is swoop in and remove Wonder Woman from an opportunity to end the conflict. After all, we've given up on the democratic model for the amazons as instituted by Jimenez, so now we're talking lines of succession, which would give Diana an opportunity to send the Amazons back to Themyscira.

Aside from prolonging the story into six issues here and a few more issues in the Wonder Woman title, this move makes absolutely no sense.

Meanwhile Supergirl and Wonder Girl decide to become enemies of the world's foremost military might by attempting to kidnap the president (while fighter pilots shoot at the nose of Air Force One. Uh-huh.). Air Force One then crashes, but doesn't burst into a fire ball.

We learn the Bana Mighdall always had super-technology (ret-con to suit the story), and are recruiting American female superheroes to help them... attack America?

Superman, meanwhile, manages to turn a herd of Amazons into sitting ducks for the US military, and then leaves the scene with his two newly minted terrorists, Supergirl and Wondergirl, in tow.

And in case you can't keep track of events or for some reason decided to jump in here in the 4th issue of the series, we get Circe in the final panel with caption boxes reminding us why nothing in this series is either good, nor makes sense. "Her name is Circe. Enemy of human and Amazon alike." Which, one should point out, Hippolyta might have considered before teaming up with her, if that's Hippolyta at all. Which, it probably isn't. "She's supposed to be dead." Which seemed unlikely when she was supposedly killed. "She's not." Thank you, Will Pfeiffer.

In some ways this series is more offensively dumb than the Heinberg mess which kicked off the new volume of Wonder Woman, or the misguided issues by Jodi Picoult. Those series showed a clear ignorance of the characters of the Wonder Woman series, including the Maid of Might herself. This series is just insulting in its insistence on ignoring logic, setting up established characters to behave with the restraint one normally attributes to a meth-addled Springer-guest and leave some serious mars on the records of two of the DCU's most prominent up and coming characters. What's more embarrassing is that once the series wraps, no doubt the fact that Supergirl and Wondergirl took down Air Force One will never be mentioned again.



Birds of Prey 108
Written by Gail Simone; Art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood; Cover by Stephane Roux

As if there was any question that our plucky leader, Barbara Gordon, was going to retake control of the Birds of Prey, the anti-climactic conclusion to Simone's run on Birds of Prey comes to an end with an unsatisfying conclusion that suggests Barbara probably should have done this seven issues or so ago and saved everyone a lot of trouble.

Further, the question of why the rest of the Birds of Prey didn't just leave Spy Smasher standing on an air strip or to let her leave alone is never resolved as Huntress and Manhunter verbally spar with the Spy Smasher. One would assume that he greatest challenge to any team of successful caped vigilantes would be that they'd have a bit too much personality to be cowed by a government agent in $200 shades (in fact, the lack of compromise on the part of Huntress and Black Canary was once a hallmark of the series).

The eventual comeuppance of Spy Smasher is ultimately dissatisfying for readers as the question of Oracle as Spy Smasher's deeply compromised target is never resolved, and the threat of physical violence at the hands of a bunch of superheroes is the only deterrent to keep Spy Smasher from simply sending in the local PD and bringing Barbara in to the local precinct. And, really, are all of those heroes going to put themselves on Spy Smasher's seemingly high-visibility hit list by beating her up? (one assumes the heroes weren't going to bury her in a shallow grave).

What's equally puzzling is why Simone/ Spy Smasher continues to insist that the masked, anonymous vigilantes "belonging" to Oracle would report to Spy Smasher instead of Oracle. Simone never really built a case that Spy Smasher had enough dirt on them to convince anyone to show up for punch and pie, let alone international espionage.

This storyline could have been a lot more fun had either the set-up or conclusion worked. I enjoy a good comeuppance as much as the next guy, but I suspect that Simone's early departure from BoP to work on Wonder Woman, etc... may have left her too few pages in which to wrap things up.



BLACK CANARY 2 (of 4)
Written by Tony Bedard; Art and Cover by Paulo Sequeira and Amilton Santos

It's unclear what the game plan is for Black Canary (or Green Arrow for that matter) over the next year, but what I had assumed would be a fairly straightforward engagement, pointless mini-series or two, and then new status quo for Black Canary is making me a bit uncomfortable. In short, I just kind of wish Ollie and Dinah would have a conversation on panel so we, as readers, would know what is going on.

The mini-series is greatly hinging on the "will-they-or-won't-they" aspect of the marriage question, and had solicitations not recently been released with Green Arrow II (Connor Hawke) on the cover rather than Ollie, I would still be pretty sure I knew what was going on. So, in a way, DC is making it work. Unfortunately, Dinah's glacial decision making after thirty years of supposed romance int he comics sort of leaves one thinking "if you have to think about it this much, then maybe this isn't a great idea." (I'll be here dispensing relationship advice all year, folks. Feel free to send in all your romantic questions to ryan@filmfodder.com).

I will also buy a dog with a cape who can fly, but I sort of have a hard time believing a 50 pound kid of indeterminate age, no matter her training, is going to take out highly trained, armed dudes from The League of Assassins. Yes, the sequence is sort of cool, and serves a purpose in explaining how Sin is destined to be the next Lady Shiva, but... come on. Was anything really accomplished by the tomfoolery that couldn't have been accomplished with those same ninjas just grabbing her? That said, I am so glad my principal never had to utter the words "Are those NINJA costumes? I'm calling the cops." Or maybe she did. But you sort of lose the grip on the reality of the comics when ninja attacks become something that's a possibility in a school (I mean, aren't ninjas supposed to sneak around..?)

The issue is, however, somewhat intriguing as Merlyn and his pals from the League of Assassins ponder the state of the League (reflecting upon events in other titles such as Robin and Batman) and the plot is revealed. There's a lot of reliance on the idea that readers picked up the OYL issues of Birds of Prey and the final few issues of Green Arrow. Fortunately, Bedard is able to build up Merlyn as a character in a manner which Winick was never able to do in the pages of Green Arrow, and the plot is simple enough that the exposition provided should catch the readers up to what's been going on. Provided you know who Lady Shiva is supposed to be.

To our lovelorn Emerald Archer, if he were a pal of mine and the girl he'd just asked to marry him needed time to think about it and began palling around with her ex (no matter the reason), I think I would advise my pal to give up on the girl. You're just asking to wind up on Dr. Phil. (again, send your romantic queries. I assure you, my advice is rock, rock solid*).



CATWOMAN 69
Written by Will Pfeifer; Art by David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez; Cover by Adam Hughes

I don't know what was supposed to happen in this issue based on the cover art and solicitation. I don't actually follow Catwoman, but occasionally I'll pick up an issue out of curiosity and because I like a good Adam Hughes cover.

This issue ties in with the events in Amazons Attack 4, as Batman returns to Gotham to recruit Catwoman to infiltrate the Bana Mighdall. It's not clear that the events of this issue will be that important to the upcoming events of Amazons Attack, but it explains the page or so of conversation about Batman's return to Gotham, etc...

Falling in to this issue provided me with most of the problems I have picking up any series mid-run. I vaguely know what's going on, but not really. I guess Catwoman had a pseudo-identity set up that is now in tatters, which sets the emotional groundwork for this issue. Not knowing much about that, I'll just accept that and move on.

One is left still wondering if Batman is not, in fact, Catwoman's baby daddy (as he is also Talia's), and the bit with a babyseat in the Batmobile is sort of cute.

The issue itself works pretty well, tying in to the Amazons Attack storyline as it does. The art is well rendered, and Will Pfeiffer seems more at home playing in the streets of Gotham than he does trying to write about a foreign invasion in our nation's capital.

Readers looking for a sideline tie-in to Amazons Attack which is far more coherent than the actually Amazons Attack storyline may wish to pick up this issue, which, again, has nothing to do with the cover.




That's it. Sorry. There was a whole lot of DC this week, and I wound up going to see the new Harry Potter movie during some of the time I had allotted for reviews.

We'll be back tomorrow with more reviews and unasked for opinions.

So what did you think? Loving Amazons Attack? Was All-Flash all lame? Was Action Comics a mis-fire? Speak up!

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

*Ryan's romantic advice is for novelty purposes only. Ryan is not a counselor, has no idea what he's talking about, and his advice usually boils down to "You should order a pizza and watch 'Dragonslayer'." Neither Filmfodder.com nor Ryan are in any way responsible for the grim, grim fallout of following his suggestions.