Comic Fodder

DC Comic Reviews: Week August 15, 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.

And, we're back.

For Part 1, go here.




THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD 6
Written by Mark Waid; Art by George Pérez and Bob Wiacek; Cover by Pérez

Waid's tendency to treat material, new or old, with a certain reader level of DCU lore works to his advantage with Brave and the Bold. Perhaps as much "continuity porn" as the new series, Booster Gold, Brave and the Bold gives readers opportunities to see team-ups and mash-ups of the DCU that require the reader to mostly know who characters are walking in. This is a return to the concept as it appeared in the original Brave and the Bold series, as well as DC Comics Presents, and any number of other titles.

In this issue, Waid and Perez wrap up their astounding first six issue run on Brave and the Bold, continuing to set the bar perhaps too high for any writer/ artist team which will inevitably have to follow. The art continues to be among the best in perez's storied career, with rich background detail, varied character details in facial make-up, and a terrific understanding of how superheroes can fill a page.

The story's MacGuffin turns out to be a bit of a set up for bringing in the dormant DC property, Challengers of the Unknown, and integrating their origin in as a means for confronting the menace presented by the keepers of Fate's book, as well as suggesting further adventures are possible for the Challengers.

The ending may be a bit of a cheat, but it works from a logical standpoint, and is set up early enough that it doesn't feel too much like deus ex machina.

Nobody will ever suggest Brave and the Bold is the most challenging book put forth by DC, but for an entertaining read, Brave and the Bold has been a welcome surprise month and month. The first six issues of the series can be marked down as a success. Hopefully more is to come.



ACTION COMICS 854
Written by Kurt Busiek; Art and cover by Brad Walker and John Livesay

Increasingly, the Jimmy Olsen portion of the grinding Countdown title has begun to feel as if its being handled a bit more entertainingly in Busiek's work on both Superman and Action Comics. What's even more surprising is how much story is crammed into this quick three-issue storyline, as the menace of the Kryptonite Man is resolved (for the time being), a new, weirder Titano appears on the scene, Krypto is returned to the Super titles after languishing for a lengthy stretch, Mr. Action is given a bid for the JLA, and the knowledge of Clark's secret identity as exposed in this week's Countdown is dealt with.

Despite all of the disparate plot elements, Busiek pulls off the trick of not just making the action seem logical and storybeats make sense, but ties together the various elements to make the story's various threads a bit greater as a whole. It's nice to see a comic story handled competently, even if it is a bit of Countdown-driven silliness in many ways, but in other ways, it manages to re-establish Jimmy in a new light within the Superman comics (in the pages of Superman comics, no less, rather than relegating the change to the pages of Countdown). In addition, for the first time in years, the term Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen carries a bit of weight once again.

It's enjoyable to see Jimmy explored once again as a character in a bit more of a modern context, while maintaining some of the innocence and charm of the character as he's been portrayed for more than fifty years, right down to wanting to hug it out with Titano rather than clobber him into submission. Busiek seems to get the character as well as what works within a Superman title that sets it aside from other superheroic titles. Whether that sort of comic will appeal to the modern comic audience is the unknown factor in that equation.



CHECKMATE 17
Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann; Art Chris Samnee Cover by Kalman Andrasofsky

Readers of Checkmate are, no doubt, eagerly anticipating the upcoming storyline within Checkmate, "The Fall of the Wall". In the meantime, Greg Rucka revives Bronze Age villain, The Master Jailer, as the new candidate for security chief for Checkmate HQ, The Castle.

Half fill-in, half character study, this issue remains within the mind of Carl Draper (the guy formerly known as Master Jailer) on the day of his final tests for the role of "castellan". Perhaps a bit jittery on the outside, Draper is a churning sea of insecurity on the inside, his jail a fractured psyche and a mind keen enough to know how broken he really is. While a lot of action occurs during the "test", the real action is the test to see if Draper will hold, all while trying to keep out an array of very real threats to the Castle.

Perhaps not the strongest issue of the series, Rucka and co-writer Trautmann still manage to deliver.

Artist Chris Samnee is an unfamiliar name, but his work retains the same naturalistic/ sketchy vibe established by Jesus Saiz on this title and OMAC.

Recommended.



JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 12
Written by Brad Meltzer; Art by Ed Benes, Sandra Hope and Eric Wight; Standard covers by Alex Ross; Variant cover by Michael Turner

Writer Brad Meltzer came to fame for comic readers with his character-centric tale in Identity Crisis. His Justice League of America was no less a character driven title, often to the chagrin of his critics who seemed baffled by the non-sequitur style dialog and somewhat experimental use of the medium to relay meaning using the medium of panels and words and occasionally not spelling out every beat for the reader.

In short, this reader saw Meltzer's JLA as non-plot driven, and, in its own way, a JLA for an adult audience looking for more than just slugging it out with Despero for the millionth time. The characters remained themselves, if they were not moreso than themselves than they've been portrayed since Morrison slipped in the occasional character moment in his fast paced, mind-bending tales (who can forget Bruce calling Clark out in the Mageddon cloud?).

Assembling a team of DC's finest as a strike squad and pitting them against cosmic baddies is not an easy task, but writing these characters so as to reflect adults in a sometimes uncomfortable working relationship is the ground Marvel usually tries to cover, and usually resolves with hero on hero fisticuffs. Meltzer has taken that relationship one step further and illustrated the JLA not as a family, per se, but certainly old comrades-in-arms who understand the stakes of their game and have learned to know one another well. For good measure, he's tossed in the eyes of the next generation with Hawkgirl and Red Arrow, and the always-an-outsider with Red Tornado.

In years to come, writers will find themselves indebted to Meltzer for not treating the JLA as heroic cyphers or untouchable icons. Each character can be treated as more than their powers and a piece on a chess board. Moreover, despite his intention to leave, Meltzer left future writers with lovely seeds for future storylines he may never return to resolve. That kind of foresight is monumental in keeping the readership coming back month after month rather than trying to boost sales every six months with a rotating team of writers and artists who cares nothing for the teams who preceeded them.

While mistakes were made, and not every beat was perfectly handled, Meltzer's JLA was always at least an interesting read and managed to create new expectations if it did not meet the average reader's understanding of what a JLA book is supposed to be.



That's it for this week.

I'm certainly feeling more charitable regarding this week's 2nd portion of reviews than I was feeling with some of the first batch. Maybe it's the Thai food I had for dinner.

I'm not reviewing "Countdown" every week anymore, depending upon review load. I also neglected to review the awkwardly titled "Outsiders: Five of a KInd: Thunder and Martian Manhunter". It just didn't really strike me one way or another.

So, what did you like? Not like? Are you thrilled to see Meltzer gone on JLA? Is Busiek stinking up the pages of Action? Where did I get it wrong?


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

Thanks for the kind words on Checkmate 17; it was a lot of fun to write.

Best,

-E

-- Posted by: Eric Trautmann at August 22, 2007 11:18 PM

hey, Eric! Welcome to Comic Fodder. Thanks for stopping by.

Reviewing my review, it actually sounds harsher than I'd meant to come across, so make of that what you will. Checkmate is among DC's best, and I hold the title to a higher standard. I can gladly say that you guys delivered another solid issue.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your work at DC and elsewhere. Keep us posted!

-- Posted by: ryan at August 23, 2007 1:06 AM

Not at all; nothing is ever perfect, certainly not in comics, and I'm not afraid of criticism. :)

As Greg has recently stated in his blog (http://ruckawriter.livejournal.com), I'll be co-writing issues 21 through 25 of Checkmate, so there's definitely more DC work coming.

Thanks again!

-E

-- Posted by: Eric Trautmann at August 23, 2007 1:09 PM