Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week July 18, 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.

We're back for Part Deux. If you're looking for Part the First, look no further.

Anyhow, here's some more of the same.

On to the pain!



CHECKMATE 16
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson; Cover by Karl Kerschl

Freed from the constraints of the Outsiders/Checkmate crossover, Rucka gets back on track delving into the murky world of international espionage/ internal power grabbing.

Fresh from the disaster during the mission to Oolong island, Sasha Bordeaux is examined by Mr. Terrific's JSA pal, Dr. Midnight. The beginnings of Bordeaux's relationship with Mr. Terrific is told in flashback, and literally through the eyes of Bordeaux herself.

Fire's recent doubts are mitigated by a return of an old friend as seen in recent issues of Birds of Prey. Allies within Checkmate are recalled by their governments, only to be replaced by former foes. Meanwhile, internal tensions appear to come to a boil as Waller's agents go into play.

Still probably the smartest book in DC's line-up, and possibly one of the smartest across all of the DC imprints, Checkmate is far more interesting in its calm acceptance of good and evil existing on a spectrum rather than the good/evil binary system usually portrayed in the DCU. Rucka continues with the story he began in issue one, and is able to portray the budding romance between Bordeaux and Mr. Terrific as both human and as dangerous a compromise as any so far revealed in the comic.

Readers aren't going to find much in the way of action this issue, coming so close on the heels of the Checkout crossover, but they will find an issue taking time to re-establish characters and the conflicts of the book while continuing the existing storyline.

Again, its always hard to write about comics this consistently well executed without simply gushing. Chechmate remains one of the DC books you should have on your subscription list.



COUNTDOWN 41
Story by Paul Dini; Script by Adam Beechen; Art by Dennis Calero; Breakdowns by Keith Giffen; Covers by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

The curious time compression of the DCU continues as Superman is hanging out at the Daily Planet while simultaneously battling Amazons in our nation's capital in Amazons Attack. However, this reviewer is not one to dwell on editorial inconsistencies of this stripe.

DC Comics' learning curve in the world of weekly comic creation continues as multiple plot lines continue in a granular enough form that this reviewer is sort of at a loss as to how to review any single issue. Clearly there's more afoot here with Lightning Saga refugee Karate Kid (not the new one, the one in the collar). And Jason Todd's murderous behavior is now toned down to impish impudence.

Perhaps the case is that Countdown shouldn't be unravelling a mystery as much as uncovering a mystery earlier on which must be dealt with. The accusation that not a whole lot if actually occuring in Countdown doesn't seem quite accurate, but this granular approach to each issue seems to give readers only snap shots of a greater story, and if teh story itself is not greater, then the glacial pacing for a standard DC B-List writer story spread over 52 issues isn't exactly a huge draw. Right now the idea that I've got another 41 weeks of following around Pied Piper and the Trickster hasn't been hugely attractive, and I keep waiting for something to actually happen with Mary Marvel.

I'm also no longer clear on why "Bob", Donna and Jason Todd are trying to track down Ray Palmer any more.




JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 11
Written by Brad Meltzer; Art by Gene Ha; Cover by Michael Turner; Variant cover by Ha

Most likely asked to write a tie-in issue to Amazons Attack!, writer Brad Meltzer plays good DCU citizen by telling a story of survival far more gripping than the usual boots to the head which normally proliferate the funny book magazines.

Once more ignoring DC's policy of plot and action over character, Meltzer borrows from his novelistic background to use a life or death scenario to dig deep into his characters and find their mettle, choosing two of the characters he's added to the team which, in the post Morrison/Waid-era, many readers no doubt could see no viable reason for bringing up to the big leagues (or, in Vixens case, returning to the big leagues).

Gene Ha's work was deeply memorable in the Alam Moore ABC title "Top 10". Here, Ha manages to find the danger and energy inherent in the traumatic situation of being buried alive by two of the JLA's less than big guns. Buried under a building's worth of rubble which has slid into the Potomac (part of why I'm thinking maybe this is an Amazons Attack cross-over, or could be), Red Arrow and Vixen find themselves trapped in an air pocket, disoriented, deeply injured and facing certain death.

Ha's use of claustrophic paneling. outlines in chaotic scribbles and floating in a sea of black does as much to tell the story as the conversation between Roy and Mari. Further, he dips into his paints here, rendering the scenes in their twisted, filthy, cramped ugliness.

Readers looking for kicks to the breadbasket are going to be disappointed. Readers looking for Eisnerian use of paneling and pushing of the medium to tell a story are in for a treat. Whether these characters were superheroes or two average folks in a terrible situation, the compression of their situation forces truths to the surface, creates trust between those who've previously shown little more than ambivalence and tests the characters in a way the average fight with Despero would never allow.



ROBIN 164
Written by Adam Beechen; Art by Freddie E. Williams II; Cover by Patrick Gleason and Wayne Faucher

According to Adam Beechen, Batman is doing a simply horrendous job of keeping the streets of Gotham clear of all sorts of meta-powered no-goodniks. Apparently, having a mind to recruit super-crooks and a few hours on your hands is enough for the average teen-ager to build a team of meta-criminals. That, Mr. Beechen, is some lazy, lazy writing. It's one thing for Beechen to get lazy and write these sorts of scenes, but its quite another for editor Pete Tomasi to let that sort of thing make it to the page.

Add in a fascinating storyline around Tim possibly joining the tennis team, and there's no stop for the reasons to recommend the title.

I'm as much a fan of the idea of a teen hero as the next guy, but somehow, lately, Robin isn't really grabbing me. Perhaps its the influence of the many super-powered criminals in the title, Tim's seeming blase attitude about being Robin, or the lack of a supporting cast outside of Batman and Alfred (and Zoanne who is leaving our Boy Wonder confused and who still feels woefully undefined and temporary almosta year after her first appearance). Beechen might do well to go back and read some 70's era Spider-Man and see the troubled life of an embattled young hero who still went to school, took care of his ailing aunt and made time to hang out at the Coffee Bean.

It is true that Tim isn't Peter Parker, so let's not travel that path, but there is room for character development for Tim. Beechen di an excellent job of setting up Tim as his own character eraly on in OYL. Now, he needs the opportunity to make the Boy Wonder work on his own and quit worrying about the long shadow of the Batman.

And I don't normally do this but... If "Skill" isn't Cassandra Cain, I'll eat my hat.



SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL 4 (OF 4)
Written by Jeff Smith; Art and Cover by Smith

Even when this series got a bit messy in places, it was still one of the most genuinely fun reads to come out in a month. This reader is going to miss Smith's translation of the World's Mightiest Mortal and the amazing world he seemed to be busily setting up around Billy Batson.

Rather than coddling his boy hero, Smith never shied away from threats which might be levied against any superhero (and this was to Billy rather than Captain Marvel), and wrote Billy smartly enough that he was self-sufficient and self-reliant enough that his merging with Captain Marvel seemed like a worthy fit.

With giant robots from beyond, snake/worm entities and a creepy little Attorney General causing all sorts of trouble, the four issue series managed to set up characters, create an interesting threat for Billy to sqaure off against, and still introduce little spitfire Mary Marvel.

And, of course, a multi-story Captain Marvel resolving the situation in style.

Hopefully DC will be able to continue with the adventures begun in the title, with Smith in some sort of creative capacity. It would be a shame for this story to be the end.



That's it for this week. Talk back. Let me know what you think!

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