Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part One

These comics are not only in alphabetical order this week, but also in order of best to worst! How often does that happen?

Action Comics 866

by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

It seems like half of DC’s comics are written by Geoff Johns these days. That’s good for continuity and allows for larger stories to be painted easier on a large canvas, but if you don’t like his writing, you’re out of luck for some of your favorite characters. Luckily, I tend to like most of what he does.

This story arc begins with a retro-history of Brainiac appearing on Krypton; at first it appears Brainiac is not in his green-skinned humanoid form that we can tell, more of his 80’s reinvention in grey steel. The end of the issue shows us a different side of Brainiac, and raises some questions. They’ve got me hooked enough to come back and see what happens, anyway.

In the present, they bring back some old cast members, Cat Grant and Steve Lombard, and spend a few pages with some clever dialogue to reintroduce them to the reader. There is a definite attempt to cast Clark and Lois as Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in the way that Gary Franks draws them on the page. Given that Franks has a tendency to have a lot of his faces look alike, I have to give him some props for working so hard on Clark’s face the way he did.

Booster Gold 10

by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz

Speak of the devil, it’s Geoff Johns again! One of the cool things about this series is the appearance of Rip Hunter, and the showcasing (pardon the pun, insiders) of his pathos regarding his time-travel life. Rip has always been a great character, but the character hasn’t had a creator to really care about him and give him a chance to shine in quite some time. Between this and the revitalization of Adam Strange and Captain Comet lately, it feels like the good old days at DC.

We learn that Booster’s dad has been tracking him for some time now, and we also learn more of the brains behind the whole plan. Rip Hunter and his team work on preserving Booster’s life-history, while the Blue Beetle comes to terms with the fact that he can’t let Booster rip up the whole continuum just to keep the Blue and Gold team together. There’s a little stuff at the end involving Black Beetle that I don’t know much about, and I can’t tell if that’s because I don’t read the current Blue beetle series, or if it’s just more allusion-to-the-future stuff that Johns is weaving into the storyline. As such, you sort of feel like “so what?” when you read it. If a fellow fan out there has the low-down on Black Beetle’s story, let me know.

Green Lantern Corps 25

by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

When a title like Flash or Wonder Woman is cancelled, you can be sure that the title will be re-launched at some point. But for an ensemble series, that is not so certain. This is not like the Justice League, where you have some of the more popular heroes gathering in one place. However, in the space of two short years, this Corps title has managed to give us some nice characterization for many of the members of this intergalactic police force. Sales were good as long as it crossed over with the Sinestro War, how will it fare now?

There is still some inter-linkage in the form of the emerging opposing corps that are growing throughout the universe. The big danger is, once all of the crossovers and linkages are run through, can the title stand on its own? The reason I bring this up is because this issue is in the middle of a crossover, and it’s already in trouble. The story revolves around the mercy flowers that Mongul has been using, as seen in the regular Green Lantern series, and it takes all issue just to learn the backstory. Once that is done, Mongul comes in and knocks everyone out with one blast. This way of treating the Corps sheds light on a couple of problems with the series.

One, the art by Gleason is a little too cartoony, and is mostly saved by the efforts of the colorist. Two, the power levels of the power ring are so inconsistent from one panel to the next, it becomes hard to gauge the appropriate sense of urgency of each encounter. The same Corps member can be shown creating a vast construct that does multiple things at once, and in the next panel, a villain can knock that same Lantern flat on his back with nothing more than a punch or a flip of a tentacle. Without a more rigorously-defined layout of abilities and limitations, the structure of the story itself has a tendency to become elastic and open-ended, following the whimsy of whatever the artist wants to portray. For example, why is Yat unable to launch himself and escape the planet’s gravity? Why can no other Lantern help him? Why is Stel somehow the only Lantern that can achieve breakaway velocity? Does he have more willpower than Gardner or Raynor? No, it’s because he is artificial and can reconfigure his body to fight the gravity. Here’s the million dollar question: why is Stel being an artificial being suddenly more powerful than a power ring?!? Unless greater attention is paid to the power and limits of the rings themselves, the story elements will make no sense, except to follow the lazy plot direction of the writer.

Finally, characterization: specifically, the lack of showing much character growth or revelation in a particular issue. The success of ensemble shows, whether in movie, TV, or comic format, is to continually focus on the different characters and give us a glimpse inside so we care more about each one, and grow to care about the group as a whole and their interactions with each other. This issue did not do enough in that regard, and it is a hard thing to maintain for every issue. Unless this comic improves on every level, it is destined to fail in less than two years. I’m rooting for it, but I think they need a different creative team to pull it off.

Titans 3

by Judd Winnick and Joe Benitez

Winnick is failing to impress me right out of the gate. He takes up three entire pages of art to recap how Raven was conceived, without nearly as much detail as we could have been given, and then immediately fumbles with an attempt at humor. Here’s a tip: when one character makes a joke, don’t try to artificially reinforce it by having another character dwell on the joke and insist it was funny. The joke was, in fact, not funny at all, and trying to spend extra time convincing the reader that he should be laughing when he’s not is a waste of time and space.

The major reveal through all of this is a cliché of Bad Writers, Incorporated. We have started off the reboot of the Titans with a rerun, in the form of Trigon. But wait, he’s got allies in the form of other children. That’s right, we are treated yet again in comicland to a whole host of siblings that Raven has, that she has somehow had for years, that nobody else ever knew about. He has taken an impressive, cosmically powerful force that nearly took over the entire planet, and managed to reduce him to a caricature and introduce a “new’ threat by spontaneously generating family members. It’s one thing when each writer does it, but enough is enough with the same writer pulling the same shtick. Didn’t we get enough of this in the Outsiders, when we suddenly had to accept that Black Lightning had sired a grown child that we never knew? Toss in the compressed DC time, and it really makes no sense. It’s slightly easier to believe in Trigon’s case, but it’s still a writer’s hack job.

Next, he makes Nightwing look like an amateur detective just starting out, like Winnick forgot he was trained by one of the world’s greatest detectives. For a good treatment of Dick Grayson’s mental prowess, check out New Teen Titans (first series) #38, “Who Is Donna Troy?” then, come back and read this current issue, and try not to throw up.

Finally, after a rookie attack by Trigon’s children, they just show up and reveal themselves. Why now, as opposed to any time in the last five years, if they’re so arrogant? And forget about the whole way this story started, with every person who used to call him or herself a Titan being under attack, because I predict that will magically disappear, with only the newly-formed current team being the target after this. Because Winnick has never had anyone make him conform to following a logical story sequence before, so why start now?

The art by Benitez isn’t much better. It’s a ton of big panels with few details, trying desperately to do funky things with the panel layouts to try to make us think there’s something more artsy going on than there really is. He tries too much, with panel tricks on almost every page, but he can’t be bothered to draw a decent tree. Or a decent cardboard box, for that matter. There is so little story here, he wastes two entire pages having Nightwing and Starfire make out. This reboot is already a bust.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.