Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week June 27, 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.



You know, when you get into the week-in/week-out deal of trying to review 7 or 8 DC Comics, not every week is equal. Some weeks the reviews flow freely as DC had a stink-bomb of a week. Other weeks are more challenging if something sort of exciting occurs and you have to spend a lot of time writing and writing as you get to the point.

This week was a strong shot of interesting and a plane load of mediocre. So I'm revved up to chat about a few titles.

So, ON TO THE PAIN!!!



AMAZONS ATTACK 3 (OF 6)
Written by Will Pfeifer; Art and Cover by Pete Woods

Apparently Will Pfeiffer/ DC's method of making Supergirl more sympathetic and win over more converts to the
character is to throw her in with a murderous army killing our nation's leaders and tourists. It's difficult to communicate how mind bogglingly ill-conceived this particular editorial decision really might be. If Pfeiffer/ DC Editorial is attempting to show how difficult it is to make the right decision in times of war/ battle, or merely muddle the lines between black and white, the point is a bit ill-taken.

The timeline for Amazon's Attack also makes absolutely no sense. Thus far, it seems as if the strike on Washington DC has been occurring for about two days, tops. At least that's about as long as it seems believable that an occupying force would have been in DC without supplies, and or cause the sorts of carnage which the Amazons seem to be perpetuating without the military showing up with plane-loads of bombs as a non-Military solution to be sought. (More on this in the look at Teen Titans 48).

The characterization of Hippolyta continues to feel miles and miles off, but, of course, the characterization doesn't feel off for the witch Circe, who has typically been cast as eee-vil. Curiously, the story is hinging on the Amazon's blind devotion to their queen (who was supposedly reincarnated by the known villain) and who is not acting at all like herself. I'm not suggesting that Circe is posing as Hippolyta, but I will state that the characterizations between the two are close enough that sure the Amazons know when their leader has gone off the rails. Especially when one can assume that knowledge of Ares' (God of War, btw) has a mad-on for the Amazons.

And, of course, the insistence that the Amazons are somehow lacking in technology contradicts significant portions of DC lore, including, one might add, the Purple Death Ray which was, supposedly, the crux of why the US supposedly took Diana into custody in the first place. One gets the feeling that nobody is minding the store.

Readers who never followed previous Wonder Woman series might buy into the twist, but for those of us who followed the post COIE Wonder Woman to varying degrees might feel that Pfeiffer and Co. are writing towards an editorial mandate and forcing square pegs into round holes in order to ensure that whatever the denouement of this series/ cross-over might be, it happens through force rather than a natural story-arc.

The issue ends with Supergirl and Wonder Girl supposedly landing on the nose of Air Force One and asking the President to land the plane. Which, while kind of neat in the abstract, seems kind of silly when you think about trying to yell at someone from the nose of an airplane.



WONDER WOMAN 10
Written by Jodi Picoult; Art by Paco Diaz ; Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

A few pages into the issue, Jodi Picoult tries to play to the readership by making a two-part joke about Wonder Woman mistaking Frank Miller for Arthur Miller, which indicates that Wonder Woman is equally illiterate in pop-culture and mid-20th Century theatrical icons. Further, the joke veers out into high school book club territory, and assumes more people care about the Everyman character from 52 than probably really do. Really, it's rare to see a joke fail on so many levels, but a tip of the hat to Ms. Picoult for really trying.

But it's exactly that sort of thinking that's what's keeping Picoult's Wonder Woman from working. The insistence on the hammy Nemesis side-kick, the off-topic, casual voice of Wonder Woman while in the middle of having spears hurled at her head, the revelation that she's been supposedly not living life (wasn't that the point of the entire year away in 52?, not to mention "avoiding death"? Wasn't she a part of immortal warriors living on an island dedicated to peace and knowledge-seeking?).

There's a battle which may or may-not symbolically take place in the DC Mall's "reflection pool", as Diana and Hippolyta slug it out and throw verbal barbs at one another. Things do seem to come to a head... next issue. Really, aside from Nemesis being taken out of the story by bees and his reveal that he was on to Agent Diana Prince's dual identity suggests that the end of the this run will also see the end of Diana's time at the DEO.



TEEN TITANS 48
Written by Adam Beechen; Art by Al Barrionuevo and Bit; Cover by Tony S. Daniel

We circle back to the fundamental timeline issue with the Amazons attacking. What seems to have taken place in two days has already led to Cassie (aka: Wonder Girl) Sandsmark's mother being held at a make-shift internment camp as someone with Amazonian connections. Along with, I might add, a whole truckload of other people. Who are those people?

Supergirl makes her debut as a character in Teen Titans, where she continues to bury herself as an unsympathetic brat of a character (readers may note that Supergirl editor Eddie berganza is on this book as well), insisting on pummeling US troops if she and Wonder Girl can't get their way. Surely the outrage is believable, but so is a quick conversation with a nearby adult to at least try to sort the mess out.

A meaningless fight ensues between the Titans and the Blonde Justice duo, who insist that the government made the war, not the Amazons who showed up and began lopping off school kid's heads.

It's not really clear what DC plans for either Supergirl or Wonder Girl, but one has to wonder how much more interesting the story might have been to see characters actually attempting to work with the government, to understand the complexity of the situation and use minds rather than fists. Sadly, neither writer Adam Beechen nor editor (shocker) Berganza.

For reasons that seem vague at best, Supergirl and Wonder Girl flee the internment camp and decide to team up with the Amazons, which leads to the scene at the conclusion of issue 3 of Amazons Attack! wherein they attempt an illegal roadblock at 6500 feet. Apparently Wonder Girl and Supergirl missed the day at Teen Side-Kick school wherein teen superheroes aren't really supposed to throw in with invading armies because their mother has as of yet to secure the services of a good attorney.

This issue, while probably a necessary tie-in to the Amazons Attack! series, is a non-starter.



Amazons Attack Event Round-Up

There's something about how poorly managed this cross-over seems to be that's almost making me nostalgic. Mostly, one gets the feeling that Dan Didio threw poor Jodi Picoult under bus by starting her on Wonder Woman and then dumping the Amazons Attack storyline on her. One gets the feeling that, were she writing a Wonder Woman: Year One storyline that her take might actually have some merit. Sadly, too much has come before, both in post-COIE continuity and the insinuated post-Infinite Crisis continuity to believe in a Wonder Woman displaying the "Frank Miller joke" level of naivety.

Absolutely nothing about the series makes sense, which is too bad. Pete Woods' art in the Amazons Attack series is fantastic, but the framing device he's been handed by Pfeiffer and Picoult feels cobbled together and rushed out to the readers. If this was Didio's way of apologizing to readers for the false start with Heinberg on the title, he may wish to review his editorial apology as handled by returning Wally as the Flash (minus the "Dead Bart" thing).

What's most surprising is that, for as little thought seems to have been put into contextualizing the Amazons Attack! event, even less was put into the Amazonian battle plan or any explanation of how a bunch of folks with swords are supposedly invading a city surrounded by military bases and with no small number of plans intact for invasion, ever since the White House got a little toasty during the War of 1812 (and at least those invaders had powder muskets).

Playing the two teen heroes most in need of rehabilitation in the DCU for saps probably isn't going to help them long-term. Somebody take them out of Berganza's hands.



BLUE BEETLE 16
Written by John Rogers; Art by Rafael Albuquerque; Cover by Cully Hamner

John Rogers' take on Blue Beetle picked up where Keith Giffen left off and has rapidly gone from a series trying to find its feet to one of the most enjoyable reads of each month. Apparently, many DC readers have not received the memo regarding Blue Beetle, so let me take the opportunity to encourage you to pick up an issue or two and check this series out.

The "Reach" storyline continues in the background, but goes mostly unmentioned in this issue as the events of the greater DCU begin to poke a bit into Jaime's sphere. The "Posse" characters from the first story-arc reappear as Jean Loring/ Eclipso kidnaps the infant of one of the magic-wielding Posse (hey, remember when the scarab was supposed to be magical and not alien tech? That was fun), and Superman/ Doctor Thirteen character Traci Thirteen shows up to put a stop to the shenanigans.

Just in case readers were concerned the series was going to revel in teen angst, it's worth noting that the issue is actually named "Total Eclipso: The Heart". And if that's not worth your $2.99 entry fee, I cannot help you.

Rogers handles the teen characters attempting to play superhero-rescue-squad with a wink and a nod, recognizing that the sort of work that would come with superhero-dom is a bit hard, and probably not something many teens would leap right into. This knowledge plays directly into the climax of the issue (one I refuse to give away), and gives the characters a bit of depth that works, even as readers might not get quite the ending they expected.

Again, this book isn't selling terribly well, and that's a shame. Unlike many of the OYL series, Blue Beetle has found its footing and, monthly, is a contender for one of DC's most enjoyable titles.



COUNTDOWN 44
Written by Adam Beechen; Art by Carlos Magno; Breakdowns by Keith Giffen; Covers by Ed Benes

A bit of coming clean: I didn't read the prior maxi-cross-over featuring Monarch when it came out, and the lack of a trade collection ever making an appearance suggested to me that I didn't miss much. At some point, I read a bit online in regards to what the series was about, but it sounded like a lot of what was going on at DC at the time that kept me from being seriously invested in the DCU proper.

For better or worse, I did read the Ion limited series, so I am a bit familiar with the fact that Monarch could be Captain Atom. Just as, I guess, he was supposed to be Captain Atom in the original series, but DC pulled a switcheroo at the last minute to keep readers guessing (real good, DC).

Monarch (who may or may not be Captain Atom jumping between worlds via The Bleed) recruits the spiritually broken Forerunner to join his dimension hopping posse and (possibly) stick it to the Monitors. Apparently Forerunner is riddled with self-esteem and daddy issues.

Anyhoo, the Mary Marvel story takes an abrupt turn for the shady as Mary rejects Billy's help and advice (as DC walks away from Winick as a writer, one has to wonder how long the whole Edgar Winter Captain Marvel thing is going to last), but its also fairly apparent exactly what narrative arc Mary Marvel is going to follow. After all, how long can DC toy with Mary before returning to the status quo? Especially with Wonder Girl and Supergirl already filling the quota for bratty over-powered teen girls crossing the line between irritating pain and outright villain.

And, Jimmy explores his powers a bit.

As long as I'm taking this "breaking the fourth wall" tone today, I might as well admit how difficult it is to actually review any given issue of Countdown. With just a few pages dedicated in each issue to numerous storylines, it's kind of tough to talk about narrative structure, themes, etc... I welcome readers to check out the Blogging Countdown series currently running here at Comic Fodder.



GREEN LANTERN: SINESTRO CORPS SPECIAL
Written by Geoff Johns; Art by Ethan Van Sciver and Dave Gibbons; Cover by Van Sciver

The first salvo in what appears to be a major event for DC, the Sinestro Corps Special delivers upon the promise of how creative use of the serial comic format can create a rising sense of tension as clues are dropped (even when the events in question didn't necessarily seem like clues), and when those events are tied together and the threat revealed, create a scenario for the reader whose resolution can't be envisioned the moment the antagonist and their plan is unveiled.

For months Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps have been both hinting at a threat (the yellow spores in Green Lantern Corps) and blatantly offering up bits of the story, such as back-up feature "Tales of the Sinestro Corps". The back-up features managed to paint a picture of the sort of recruit Sinestro was seeking for his Corps. In the Sinestro Corps Special, the plan is put into motion and the "why" of Sinestro's plot is revealed, giving Sinestro a level of depth and continuing the character as portrayed in Emerald Dawn II and beyond.

Wisely, Johns and Gibbons have revealed enough about the Sinestro Corps that the first volley in the battle not only works, but the readers fully understand that the attack upon Oa is only the beginning of Sinestro's plans for the DCU. Further, the manipulation of Kyle, the reveal of the nature of Ion and the escape of Superboy Prime and the Cyborg Superman all suggest the storyline to come will be of a scale rarely seen in the DCU (even those resorting to multiple Earths). The story may not be accessible to first time readers, but the pay-off for DCU fans promises to be extremely high.

Like all good villains in comics (and often in life), Sinestro does not see himself as a criminal, per se. He is the persecuted hero of his own tale, attempting to remake the world in the manner which he believes with every ounce of his being to be correct. This sort of characterization reflects believable antagonists for any story as their motivations are as pure in their own way as the those of the heroes, and is why characters such as Doctor Doom, Luthor and others endure. It's not enough just to be a bit bent.

If Johns' writing on Teen Titans has been a bit spotty of late, readers can forgive him for his loss of focus if the coming Sinestro Corps war storyline reaches half its potential.

Art by Van Sciver surpasses work from GL: Rebirth. Pages which caught me included the examination of the Cyborg Superman by the Guardians and presenting Qward as a world spawned from a fever dream of Heironymus Bosch, swarming with the greatest monsters the DCU has to offer.

Readership of Green Lantern and GLCorps has been in decline, and that's a bit unfortunate. Hopefully readers will feel inclined to pick up this issue, which is certainly readable without having followed the past few months of either title (but it helps). The Sinestro Corps Special is the sort of work where Johns shines, pulling together plot points, re-imagining existing DC characters and creating a seemingly unbeatable scenario into which the DCU heroes can be thrown.

It's apparently en vogue once again at DC to pay attention to continuity, and its books like this one that give you a feeling why continuity across a universe, a device found almost solely in mainstream comics, give the reader an idea why continuity was a good idea in the first place. Had Peter Tomasi, the GL editor, decided that he would continue bringing on new writers every six issues on both GL books, the slow build to war that is now bursting forth onto the page would have been impossible. In this case the foreshadowing and build to this point has been interwoven into the past several issues to such a degree that the appearance of the Sinestro Corps is organic and has context within the greater DCU.

Further, the inclusion of past villains from titles across the DCU suggests DCU-wide implications for the scope of the conflict. What "Our Worlds at War" and "Amazons Attack!" could have been, this turn of events has an opportunity to actually deliver upon.

Let's hope they don't let us down.



JSA CLASSIFIED 27
Written by Frank Tieri; Art and Cover by Matt Haley and Jerome Moore

For all the universe spanning action taking place in the DCU, JSA Classified is a welcome diversion. In this second issue of a 2-part story, Wildcat faces down the criminal organization which has created a gambling racket around the outcome of metahuman brawls as they take place on the street. The real conflict, we learn, is that Wildcat has issues to resolve regarding own father's weakness when it came to gambling, and how it affected his family.

Frank Tieri's story is taught, with well-placed flashbacks. Wildcat continues to be the lug whose got unplumbed layers for writers to explore.

Not always the strongest of DC titles, JSA Classified does manage to surprise in bits and spurts. As the JSA title proper doesn't feature characters with their own titles, JSA Classified is a terrific companion piece when Justice Society of America itself leans occasionally more on plot than characterization. Unfortunately, the days are long gone when packaging the two as a single buy was an option.




That's it for this week. As I mentioned at the beginning of the reviews, it was a bit of an odd week with some very strong entries and then there were the Amazons Attack! tie-ins. The strength of the Sinestro Corps one-shot seems to come not just from the strength of Johns as a writer, but because its a story he chose to tell. Amazons Attack has the hint of editorial mandate about it, and readers can only be left wondering why... Clearly pieces are being moved into certain positions that satisfy Didio and the powers that be, but the whole operation seems forced and contrived.

It's a shame that so few are keeping up with Blue Beetle. I'd love to hear of a single reader whose picked it up thanks to my insistence that it's a title worth reading (and I know you readers are out there... I can hear you breathing).

I am curious to hear back what you think (especially Fanboy Wonder) in regards to the Green Lantern Corps special.

Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? Is Amazons Attack! the new Dark Knight Returns? Do you love how DC is handling Supergirl and Wonder Girl? Is Blue Beetle for chumps? You tell me.

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