Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part Two

NOTE: Spoiler for the last page of Reign in Hell below, so avoid if you haven’t already read the latest issue.

DC Universe: Decisions 4

by Bill Willingham, Judd Winick, and Howard Porter

Howard Porter is a really, really good artist. Let me get that out of the way. I appreciate how he tries to give each person an individualized face, rather than draw a bunch of stock faces that are all identical. Jericho was revealed as the main culprit, and the explanation is that Jericho has been taking personalities along with him every time he jumped into someone’s body. It is reminiscent of Rogue in Marvel, but it might give a little explanation that dates back to when Jericho first flipped out.

I have a lot of pain involved with the Jericho character. He was one of my favorite characters, and then DC took the Titans to a special format, one that was not available to me at the place my mom bought my comics when I was younger. In the space of time that I was not reading the Titans, Jericho was transformed from one of the gentlest of souls into a villain, and it never sat right with me. Marv Wolfman has said in interviews that turning Jericho bad may have been one of the worst things he ever did as a writer, at least on the Titans. I held out hope that he could return and be a good guy again when Geoff Johns brought him back, but it hasn’t happened yet. Now Winick has his hooks into him, and I fear for the worst. Somebody start a write-in campaign and demand a good Jericho back, now!

With the politics set aside and the heroes addressing things that actually need super-heroic attention, the story picks up fast. At the end, Superman comes out to say the obvious thing that every hero should already have known: like police, heroes serve and protect, they do not govern. Police have been drawn into politics in real life, via their unions and their politically hopeful sheriffs and commissioners, but those are the regular human guys, and it may be too much to ask them to refrain, even if many of us think it’s a good idea. The main thing, though, is that the heroes are there to fight for right no matter which politician wins, and the two parts should be kept separate. And Lois still doesn’t know who Clark voted for. Heh.

The concept of this series was poor, and it felt distasteful reading each part, as most of the characters had to reduced to poor shadows of who they truly are to make it work. This final issue almost redeems them, but only almost. It would have been better to do this with new heroes, established as archetypes, maybe in a Vertigo series. Then we wouldn’t have these types of qualms about certain heroes saying and doing certain things. Still, Superman’s speech to the nation was a good one, and very well written. I think I can safely say I liked this final issue.

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns 1

by Geoff Johns and Shane Davis

It’s a Final Crisis tie-in, and those have mostly been good so far. It’s written by Geoff Johns, who has a good track record, and drawn by Shane Davis… are you kidding me? You haven’t picked this up already? This book is awesome! Go get it, you don’t even need a review!

Still there? Sigh. All right, let me convince you. We have green, yellow, and purple corps, now here comes the red, with a little peek at the blue. This is not the normal cliché formation of a massive group of people and suddenly granting them powers. This is a well-planned creative exercise where the writer has made an effort to give us a glimpse at many of the characters, and to make sure ahead of time that we understand the motivations that could move them to join something like the Red Lantern Corps.

The art is magnificent, and you can tell these guys have thought long and hard about the various colors, and what they mean in the grand scheme of things, to the point that it dictates some of the character designs. This is not people just throwing out random suggestions in a bar after several beers, folks, this is good structure. The story continues in Green Lantern 36. If you don’t like this, I want to hear from you and find out why.

Madame Xanadu 5

by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley

And now for something completely different. Typically, when characters are moved over to the Vertigo universe, strange things happen to them. Phantom Stranger and Madame Xanadu? Maybe not risking as much, as they have rarely been front stage in DC stories. I have gone from hesitant reader to full-fledged advocate of the series in these first five issues.

The historical settings alone are great, and I always find myself hoping that the references will spark the interest of a kid somewhere, who will find a good book to describe more of the history of whatever era Xanadu finds herself visiting. Hadley’s art is refreshing in its simplicity, giving nice details to the structures, but avoiding too-intricate work on the people. The style is perfect for the series.

For something a little different than the standard super-hero fare, but still distantly related, for something that has great art that all ages can enjoy, and for a nice adventure where you don’t really know what is going to happen next, try this title.

Rann/Thanagar Holy War 6

by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim

Whatever drugs Jim Starlin is slipping onto the pages of this series, they’re working. The two-page spread showing Synnar’s new base is ultra-cool, and I immediately started trying to figure out how I could get past its defenses. You know you’ve got something good when it makes your brain think that way. The odds are quickly established to be on the cosmic level, as Adam Strange tries to deploy planetary forces to attack the threat. The attack force is quickly defeated, driving home exactly how powerful this enemy is.

A lot of this is exposition, moving the story along to explain what has been going on. To Ron Lim’s credit, he engages the eye nicely, altering the viewpoint to keep us entertained, even when it’s just talk. The origin of the creature that is now known as Synnar is a bit of a stretch, but as long as you accept that God is not truly all-knowing and all-powerful, you can accept the idea that this guy was the architect whom God used to create everything, and he was able to survive an uprising against God and successfully hide all of these years. It becomes a small mess when Synnar gets this powerful, because even a God who is not all-knowing should be able to detect him by now. I guess the only thing we can take away from it is that God knows the good guys will prevail, so why should God intervene directly? I mean, if Synnar really presented that much of a threat, God would have probably squashed him by now.

While not as captivating as DnA’s work on Marvel’s cosmic characters, this series has been a pleasant diversion, giving us some good art and screen time to some rarely-used people, and I am still enjoying it. Only two issues to go, which is probably a good thing, because it is not good enough to be able to sustain an ongoing monthly series without a better-planned structure. DC may not have need for something more, since Johns and Tomasi are crafting cosmic stories in the Green Lantern-related titles, and events like Final Crisis generally have a more galaxy-wide feel to them than things like Secret Invasion have.

Reign in Hell 4

by Keith Giffen and Tom Derenick

We have a smorgasbord of characters involved in this series, and so much going on that it is hard to go through them all without devoting an entire review segment to it. Suffice to say, we are halfway through the story, and the pacing is good enough that I am not tired trying to keep track of everything.

Giffen transitions among the cast with expertise while simultaneously managing to craft a sense of how the overall war effort is going for each side. It is rare talent for someone to be able to give a good picture of both the individual perspective and the big picture. The only thing that would be better is a map of some sort each time to depict which faction controls each part of Hell. Doctor Fate joins the fray at last, and the fight between Blue Devil and the Demon ends up releasing… the “real” Lobo?!? I can’t wait to read next issue, things just got really interesting!

Justiniano does the pencils for the backup story, and Giffen still uses too much banter between Dr. Occult and his guide. It is not nearly as gripping as the main story, so I still have to hope for a payoff in the next couple of issues. Pacing-wise, it feels like their journey is dragging out too long, and not maintaining enough sense of purpose to keep me interested.

Trinity 22

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

Things are switched around on us this issue, as McDaniel and Owens get to do the art for the first segment of the story, showcasing Hawkman in his incarnation as Prince Khufu, and explaining the potential significance of the scroll case. The transition to the present is movie-screen perfect, and Busiek even fits in one of his characters from the Power Company series, Skyrocket.

The next portion shows us that the transition to this altered universe is not perfect; there are some strange happenings that are confusing everyone. It’s a nice setting, reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths with the sense of something wrong in the way worlds are merging, but different enough to stay away from the feel of a cliché, and present an interesting challenge. The story does not give everything away in this issue, as the creative team leads us in a certain direction. Readers who have been paying attention can probably see where this is going in a general sense. That said, it is not something I consider to be too predictable. Nicely done, and we only have to wait a week to see the continuation!

We have reached a point where the pacing matches the periodicity of the series, such that a weekly wait is just the right amount of time in between issues, and I am enjoying the weekly aspect of this series more than I was for Countdown or 52.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Checking in to prove I'm not dead.

Also, couldn't agree more on the Green Lantern special. I think what Johns is doing in this title is completely underappreciated. I've seen some folks online who didn't like the comic, but they weren't terribly persuasive. Yes, the Red Lanterns seem a bit extreme, but the last thing we need is for the Lantern books to become the same basically peaceable and polite place as the Trek Universe.

I'm enjoying the implications of the various rings, and feel like the DCU is expanding in a well-thought out manner under Johns' guidance.

Not to bag on Starlin's stuff, but given a choice for my cosmic book this week, I'd pick up the Red Lanterns comic.

-- Posted by: Ryan at November 3, 2008 1:58 PM