Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part One

It's a heavy week. Let's see how many I can write up before the girlfriend gets impatient...

Batman and the Outsiders 12

by Frank Tieri and Ryan Benjamin

There’s a new cliché in comic books these days. I was hoping they would not use it quite so much, but Tieri starts this issue at a grave site, and then flashes back to two days ago. As a setup device for a story goes, television and movies have used the heck out of this device. Innovative shows like Lost and Heroes have improved upon it. Lazy comic writers are ruining it.

In some backwards perversion, instead of giving us a cliffhanger at the end, or at least a good ending that makes us want to check out the next issue, this device is now used to somehow make the cliffhanger the first page, and grab our interest in the rest of the story. Although it can be used well, the number of times we go into a flashback after the first or second page in comic book land is getting monotonous. In the old days, there would be a standard fade into the thoughts of a main character, with some images and thought bubbles that gave a recap to any reader who missed the previous issue. Sometimes those could be a little tedious. Here, the suspense lasts all of one panel before we figure out it’s Anissa (Thunder) who dies.

In a miraculous bit of storytelling genius, Tieri then moves the action further back in time, all the way to “earlier that night.” That’s right, after a cliffhanger at the front that is revealed after one panel, we have to go further down this boring rabbit hole; it ends smack dab in a Batman R.I.P. crossover. Green Arrow figures out it’s a fake Batman, and moves to stop an incoming code the fake tries to send to Remac. Batgirl somehow manages to countermand him and insist they let a villain who has impersonated Batman actually infect Remac. Just wait, it gets worse.

Green Arrow stomps out of the room, and the group lets Remac get infected with the virus. Remac promptly kills Thunder (excuse me, it actually takes her a few more hours to actually pass away), and then explodes. So the two newest creations in DC relating to the Outsiders are now toast. All of the setup that Chuck Dixon did with the Remac character just went up in smoke. Oh, oh, and wait! Green Arrow showed back up four panels after HE LEFT!!!! He was ineffectually attacking Remac, after which an explosion takes out the top two or three stories of their building… and none of the others are even scratched. This is storytelling that might satisfy you if you were a five year old, and if you weren’t paying attention.

Now for the part that’s even dumber: Robin manages to unlock an encoded message within the booby trapped encryption, consisting of a message from Black Glove. Here’s the message: hopefully there is no one to hear this message, because you’re all dead. What nimrod dimwit would record a message when he’s hoping to kill all of the recipients first? Has everyone on the entire comic book forgotten how to tell a story? The artist concentrates on the characters the whole time, so we get no background details and a very sparse coloring job. The only good thing about this comic is the cover… but that was done by Calafiore and Purcell. Everything on the inside stinks to high heaven.

If Tieri doesn’t watch out, he could join the ranks of Chuck Austen as people who should never be allowed near comic books again.


Booster Gold 13

by Rick Remender and Patrick Olliffe

Rick Remender has moved onto the writing chores for Booster, and the opening sequence wonderfully illustrates how frustrating his job can be. I have a slight problem with so many innocent civilians dying when Superman is right there, but I suppose that’s the purist in me. No sooner is that mission accomplished than Booster and Michelle return than Starro has reared his ugly… head? Starro possesses Rip Hunter and travels back in time to change history. Upon tracking him down, Skeets gets into Starro’s stolen time bubble, but is only able to disable jumps further back in time. Okay, there’s an emergency lockdown, but it only works in stages?!? Toss in that this same scenario is going on in Marvel’s Cable series at the exact same time, and it gets a little thin.

Still, Ollife’s pencils are good, and Remender brings in Chronos and Lady Chronos from the recently canceled Atom series. I figure we will see more of these two in the next few months, as Booster himself had a cameo in the Atom series regarding some time-travel mission dealing with the Chronos pair. The transition to a new creative team does not carry over the same feel of urgency that seemed to permeate Geoff Johns run, but Remender does a halfway decent job almost all the time, and sometimes he’s really good. I’ll keep watching to see if the title can maintain its momentum.


The Brave And The Bold 18

by Marv Wolfman and Phil Winslade

The Raven/Supergirl team-up concludes here, as the son of Captain Triumph struggles to connect with his father. The dilemma is interesting, for Triumph shifts between realities, and every time he phases back in, the reality concerning him actually changes a little bit. It’s like a pocket version of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but contained to one guy and his immediate surroundings, like how his wife met him. It’s a cool idea, and something as close to an original concept as I’ve seen in DC comics for quite some time.

Winslade’s art is not too shabby, but the “temporal matrix” part is a little too reminiscent of the Matrix movies themselves, with its digital underpinnings. I’m not sure if the effect is that good, as the other aspects of the matrix are more reality-altering in their aspect. It all blends into some kind of demonic ones-and-zeroes kind of thing, which might have gone over better if there was a narrative description explaining what the environment was actually supposed to be.

Overall a good read, with next issue featuring Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger. For this title, it would be helpful to the reader if they would list each new creative team in their ‘next issue’ blurb at the end. The scheme that Mark Waid had in the beginning, with a larger narrative for the various team-ups to tie into, is no longer present. The title will now probably resemble random team-up adventures with no constant presence, unlike Marvel’s old team-up magazines that always featured Thing or Spider-Man as a constant. It will be impossible to recommend the series as a whole with the constantly rotating creative team, so I guess we’re on an issue-to-issue basis now.

That said, if the stories are at least as good as this two-parter was, it keeps my recommendation.


The Flash 245

by Alan Burnett and Carlo Barberi

In the latest attempt to create some drama for Wally West, Burnett retcons some additional angst into his life from when he was Kid Flash. It doesn’t work here, though, as the retcon simply paints him as a slightly different version of Impulse, which he wasn’t. The tension Burnett tries to attribute to Wally as Kid Flash is not true to the character, and since many of us are old enough, and most of us still have all the back issues, we can prove it, rabid fanboys that we are. This attempted retcon is incorrect, and adds nothing of value to the character; it actually does harm by trying to make him less distinguishable from the character of Impulse.

Next, Burnett ruins his own story consistency, by having Wally ask Dr. Midnight why what’s wrong with him is happening now. Dr. Midnight is already aware that Wally used his powers to cure the speed growth of Wally’s two kids, and it changed his physiology, followed by saying that they won’t know more without further tests. Just like a doctor! The problem? Wally figured out this much already last issue! All by himself, without any tests! So the entire beginning sequence moves the story forward… about zero. I don’t have super-speed, but I’m already impatient at this point. Did Burnett not even read his own comic last month?

The next flashback is worse, as the phrasing covers the time Wally and Dick Grayson quit the Teen Titans at the same time. “It was the first time I ever beat him to the punch,” Wally thinks, because Wally announced he was quitting a whole two seconds before Dick did. Excuse me? This is one of the fastest man alive, thinking that he never beats someone else to the punch? Wally was always the first one to get any punches in! Poor phrasing, and not the way Wally would be thinking about things. It just lumps more poor retcons with bad grasp of the nature of the man that is Wally West.

Give this title a big fat pass.


Justice Society of America 19

by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, and Dale Eaglesham

Ah, a good comic finally! Booster and B&B just weren’t going to be enough to get my comic fix this week. Jerry Ordway continues his art for the Earth-2 sequences, Eaglesham does a great job on the inside, and Alex Ross paints an awesome cover. Johns has a great grasp on all of this mass of characters, and each one sounds like a unique individual.

Starman’s case is intriguing, as he actually regrets being cured of madness, because madness was part of the plan for success. You don’t hear that every day. The main drama involves the heroes finally putting their foot down and trying to stop Gog from entering Kahndaq, which you just KNOW will mean a confrontation with Black Adam soon. The lines are drawn, with the soldiers who see the logic in killing enemies siding with youngsters and those whom Gog has already helped. Notice, though, that Dr, Midnight has been cured by Gog, and he still stands against him.

Why does Gog let them fight? Why does he not solve this little irritant on his own? Unknown. But it all gets wonderfully sidetracked by the last couple pages, which you just have to see to believe. We’ve got some great art and some wonderful stories here, folks, that are fresh and modern, while also harkening back to the grand team-up days of classic JLA/JSA stories.

One of my favorite DC titles.


Robin 179

by Fabian Nicieza and Freddie Williams II

We have reached the middle of the story, as Robin tries to cope with a chaotic, gang-ridden Gotham devoid of Batman’s presence. There are some nice touches here, with Tim loving his car, with Spoiler’s unique way of getting out of her predicament with Ulysses, and Freddie Williams II is working harder at his art, which I appreciate (some of his proportions are off, but that’s a very small gripe at this point).

Red Robin knows that Batman is gone, though, and he choreographs events to draw Robin into the thick of the gang fighting. Do we get to find out Red Robin’s story next issue? Or will they tease us longer? I’m giving them more issues to impress me. They have done better with the past few issues, and this one was lightly above average.


Titans 6

by Judd Winick and Julian Lopez

Sigh.

The Titans are captive in a desert, so of course we get nothing but blue skies for backgrounds, and dirt. Thanks for the fantastic art, guys. Then, they flashback to seven hours earlier. Yup, that’s right, Winick does the same modern comic cliché stuff that Tieri just did in the Outsiders title, so can you guess how this review is going to go?

The clunky dialogue flows from one character to the next is a weird stream-of-consciousness way, with each member able to complete the thought of the person next to him or her. There is no individuality, these guys might as well be a bunch of bees from the same hive. Switch to Trigon's sons, and there are three new ones, so we now have living representatives of all seven sins. Gee, that’s never been done before! Think Shazam is a little peeved?

To mess up all of the clichés further, one sin is announced as Avarice, but the actual son is introduced as Greed. These guys are so far gone, they can’t even keep their words right. If the writer can’t keep his words consistent within six sparse pages of each other, is it asking to much have the editor do his (censored)- (censored) job?!? The ensuing battle lasts only a couple pages, as Raven knocks out all of her brothers. Setting aside how lame the idea is that Trigon somehow gave birth to living personifications of the seven deadly sins, how did Raven get to be Pride?

The deus ex machine is that a piece of jewelry Raven gave to Donna somewhere off-panel ages ago contains a slice of Raven that is pure. Gee, you think her missing that part of herself is what let Raven turn all evil in the first place? Later, Raven claims the Ramat Stone won’t work twice. We have no idea why. See, that might require an explanation. Instead, Raven is able to do something she has never shown an ability to do before: she yanks a ton of magical objects from nowhere and claims they can all kill her, and each Titan has to agree to take one. Want to bet she has an exact number for the current incarnation of the Titans?

So the one stone can’t work, but she has seven others? None of the Titans argue against this outlandish idea for even a second; they all immediately agree. Am I the only one who thinks this is the worst idea ever? I can just imagine a villain knocking out Garfield in a fight and picking up a magic candle. “Hey, what’s this do, I wonder?” Whoops, Raven dead.

Sigh.

Next enter Jericho, who is already acting evil in DC Universe: Decisions. Will this tie in, since Winick is writing both titles? Or do we get a completely different version of Jericho in this title? Do I really have to buy them to find out? Do you see what torture I go through just to inform the fans? Oh, have pity on me…

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