Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review

Birds of Prey 123

by Tony Bedard and Michael O’Hare

O’Hare grabs my attention right away with his depiction of the Joker. At first he appears darkly, clownishly dangerous, with just the right amount of shadow framing his sinister face. As soon as he opens his mouth, though, he is the wacky random nonsensical version of the Joker; it does not mesh as well with the previous demonstration Bedard showed us of Joker’s cunning and brilliance. While I like that Barbara does not feel afraid (and she’s better than me, with a gun pointed in her face!), there was a bit of anti-climax to the confrontation. The backgrounds were not very well done, leaving us only close-ups of two people talking.

The rest of the issue is actually better than the Barbara-Joker bit, as the Calculator is his old arrogant self, and Barbara tricks him into thinking he has met the Oracle at last, when it is only Infinity standing in for her. The other villains are uniquely sinister each in their own way, and the last couple revelations keep things interesting. It is fun to watch this story unfold, and I am looking forward to finding out what happens next. This is the issue that feels like the series has made it over the hump of transitioning the Black Canary out of the team, and focusing on the next chapter in the saga of the Birds of Prey.

Final Crisis: Submit 1

by Grant Morrison and Matthew Clark

Chronologically, this is a better story to read first before you crack open FC #4. This one-shot opens up on an apocalyptic world, with Black Lightning distracted from his mission by a family which just happens to be headed up by the newest Tatooed-Man. The art is decent enough, if unremarkable, but there is one full page of an electrified bus blowing through the town that I enjoyed a lot.

The story sidetracks itself in one easy panel, with Black Lightning suddenly espousing his philosophy about the benefits of formal education. It reads like a boring textbook itself, and is totally out of place with the circumstances. Morrison plants all sorts of patient understanding comments in Jeff’s mouth, managing to pretty much reform Richards, the Tatooed-Man, in their short journey. For anyone who remembers how angry Jeff Pierce used to be, and knows what conditions are like when you’re actually on the run for your life, having to put up with lengthy commentary on philosophical subjects is not something that normal people get sidetracked with while actively on the move. It interrupts the flow of the story.

The overall thrust of the story is that Richards will take the place of Back Lightning in Final Crisis 4. I did not see much of a story worth an entire issue, and the transition from a normal world to a charnel house was all too abrupt. It would have been better to open with a little narrative that showed the transformation of the normal world into this new hell-hole first, and then move into a condensed version of the rest of this one-shot. Too much of the Tatooed-Man’s verbiage makes him sound like an oppressed person from the ghetto raging against the man; by the time everything is done, it is not believable that the guy was really a hero the entire time.

One of the worst tie-ins so far, when the tie-ins have been the highlight to this event. I am also confused about the death of Thunder in Batman and the Outsiders, and her appearance here, just in terms of when things happened.

Final Crisis 4

by Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesus Merino

We start this story in the middle. Instead of getting a big super hero fight where we see evil win, we have skipped ahead to the point where all we get to see is the bodies of heroes strewn about the streets. At least in the other Crisis stories, we got to see a handful of good battles along the way. Here all we get is broad strokes, with none of the juicy details that show enough of the actual struggle. Somehow the Ray’s commentary about having dragged a guy through a shield doesn’t mesh with the fact that Green Arrow is already putting his foot on said guy when Ray shows up. The only way I can make it work is if Ray dropped the guy off and went out to get other unspecified supplies, and is talking about delivering the guy when he comes back the second time. It’s clunky.

Morrison handled things much better with a previous story (Rock of Ages) when writing the JLA, in which Darkseid had taken over in the future. In only a couple of issues, Morrison successfully established a horrible future, and a handful of heroes left; he had a great artist, and the story read well. This feels like a repeat, but an event this large with the billing of “Evil Wins…”

Why didn’t we get to see evil winning? It’s already mostly done by the time we get to this issue. We get at most a two-page recap that has skipped over all of the good stuff. Why did we bother with a grand page depicting the assembly of all of those super-heroes to go fight when we don’t get to see them do it? It feels like there was an entire extra issue of the series that I have missed.

There are already annotations elsewhere that point out all of the continuity flaws associated with this issue, so I won’t recap them here. In a previous review on another comic, I pointed out the historical debate about whether a thumbs-down was a good thing or a bad thing, with references to the thumbs-down being a wish from the crowd to have the victor throw down his weapon and spare the life of the defeated. Morrison uses the modern version where the thumbs-down means death and destruction. It might have been more imposing, except I had already seen it in Terror Titans #1, so yet again, reading a piece of Morrison’s work feels like another re-run.

There is a big reason why Rock of Ages had such a big impact and why here it all falls flat, and unfortunately, it is due to the artist. I really like J.G. Jones and everyone else, but they have made everything too “pretty.” In a world that is falling apart, the Hall of Justice looks impeccably maintained and intact, as if there had never even been an initial breach. We never get any additional information on the lame fact that Oracle managed to unplug the entire internet with a cyber-wave of her hand. The shock troops are all nice and shiny, nothing like the despised atmosphere that Apokolips used to emanate. Where is the decay? Where is the stench?

We are still ending up with some nice art, but not enough explanation for the story. What explanations there are always link back to something Morrison has done before, as he attempts to connect his Seven Soldiers of Victory storyline with his Rock of Ages future. Morrison could have saved us a lot of time and money just by giving us one page showing all of his comic works, and drawing line graphs to show us how they all connect and lead into each other.

Superman: New Krypton Special 1

by Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Pete Woods, Gary Frank, and Renato Guedes

Tons of writers and artists worked on this, and it comes across nice, with the mourning of Jonathan Kent, a great daydream of revenge, and some good reminiscing of the past. Gary Frank maintains his attempt to reflect Christopher Reeve in his renditions of Clark, and I am still enjoying that aspect of his art. It might have felt more natural for Clark to stay with his mom longer, but they did need to move the story along, because the population of Kandor really does need to be addressed.

The slightly spoiled part of the story is Supergirl’s reunion with her parents. As someone pointed out to me, the rendition of Kara’s mother reaching out to her makes it look like she is offering to breast-feed her daughter; a very poor layout that was the butt of many jokes at the comic store. The depictions of their reunion looked forced and unnatural, and it even looks like Kara is almost pulling herself away from her parents during the group hug. Also, no tears by anyone involved at any stage. I’ve had warmer receptions at Antarctica!

This special had the lead-in of the special on Jimmy Olsen from last week, and we get to see more of the plot to kill Superman, and who is behind it. With the one glaring exception of the Supergirl/parent reunion, this was a nicely rendered and nicely written comic.

Tangent: Superman’s Reign 8

by Dan Jurgens and Wes Craig

backup story by Ron Marz and Andie Tong

It’s Superman vs. Tangent Superman, and I was so trying to keep political mentions out of comic books, but it felt like the Tangent Superman was the “intelligent” liberal who had all the answers to the world’s ills, and was going to take the reigns of power and “fix everything.” The regular “conservative” Superman kindly tried to point out that man has individual liberty, and should be left to make his own mistakes, but the very idea of self-determination was immediately met with derision and then force by the guy who was convinced he could solve everything since he had all the power. Was this supposed to be a simple tale of good versus evil? Am I projecting too much of current American political ideology into a funny book? Is DC: Decisions infecting everything I look at now? Somebody make it stop!

Things look bad for the heroes, as Tangent Superman starts destroying our most famous monuments, while our Batman is off to find “the only weapon that will help us win.” Cool. The backup story is a little better this time, as it focuses on Tangent Batman, who has one of the cooler costume designs I have seen lately, and a really good origin.

This series won’t win any awards, but it actually reads smoother than Final Crisis, and hasn’t run into any publishing/scheduling problems like DC’s meta-event has. The whole Tangent project feels like a continuance of the exploration of worlds from 52, side-stepping the Countdown mess. I think I am actually enjoying this more than the story in Final Crisis, unless you include all of the tie-in mini-series (but that’s hardly fair, is it?).

Okay, now that I have committed the heresy, someone needs to jump in with a good argument as to how Final Crisis whips Tangent’s butt. Story only, the art doesn’t count: we only got Wes Craig here; he can’t compete against Jones, Pacheco AND Merino!

Trinity 21

by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Fabian Nicieza, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino are in action together again for a neat cover. I am digging these crumbling stone remembrances of the trinity. Good reveals here as we get to see the pasts of the three villains, including the revelation of who was masquerading as Despero. Without making us feel like we are missing any other action, Busiek brings us up to date on the motivations of all of the bad guys, and sets the stage for even them to be in trouble in this new universe.

Bagley’s art is awesome these days. He is genuinely growing as an artist. I wish I knew how much was him, and how much was collaboration with the rest of the creative team, but the final result is gorgeous. I’m not talking about just the art itself anymore, I’m talking about the amount of detail, about the coloring choices, about the panel layout choices, about the placement of the lettering to help the flow of the comic. The total package is one of the most pleasurable things I have read this month.

The backup story, by comparison, looks like it belongs in the animated kids JLA magazine, but the writing is good. John Stewart tries to remember essential facts, still hampered by the Void Hound. Without the trinity around, Firestorm searches out the next big gun he thinks can help him, the same guy who has already started becoming something of a mentor to the younger hero: John Stewart. This development does not come easily in the comic universe, but it feels like the start of a great friendship between the two, and it will be interesting to see if other writers will continue to grow the Green Lantern/Firestorm association in the future.

Much like 52, I am already looking forward to having the entire collection one day and re-reading it in as close to one sitting as I can manage. It’s always a good sign when you know you’ll want to re-read a series purely for enjoyment (and not out of feeling like you’re doing research homework, as in Final Crisis).
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Hey Thunder didn't die in Batman and the Outsiders. She was just in a coma which I am sure she will get out of before Final Crisis. Remac died. Did you actually read that issue?

-- Posted by: DCUBoyMW at October 27, 2008 2:50 AM

That's true; maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, since I never liked the suddenly-full-grown child of Black Lightning appearing from thin air in the first place. Chalk it up to disparities in the storylines due to publishing dates.


-- Posted by: tpull at October 27, 2008 9:05 PM