Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part 1

Justice League of America 31

by Dwayne McDuffie and Shane Davis

I keep getting the sense that the JLA title has turned completely into a walking advertisement for other series and other events. McDuffie has been a great sport, playing ball the entire time… and it stinks. Shane Davis has come on board to make the art as good as ever, but the story makes zero sense.

DC is coming out with a new Justice League mini-series, in which Green Lantern forms his own team. The series will not be out until July. So this issue of this JLA comic starts out addressing the fact that the first part of the mini-series, ‘A Cry for Justice,’ has already started. We won’t get to see it for four months!!!! It was one thing to have a book or two come out late, forcing us to read things out of order or sit on good comics without reading them. It was bad enough when we kept getting stories that go off on a Tangent (sorry, there was no way to avoid that pun), or vain attempts to mark a new Milestone (okay, that one I could have avoided, but I need to make the point), or co-opted for Final Crisis. We have hung in because the art was good, we like the characters, and we hoped this was going somewhere.

Instead, we start with a plotline that isn’t even in existence yet, and use the rest of this issue to tear the team apart in a totally artificial way. And isn’t the cover just lovely, showing Batman walking away from the team as if he had a choice in the matter. There are so many things said by different characters that rings false, I hardly know how to cover them all. The stupidest thing might have been Superman claiming that Batman “barely tolerated” him.

Less than twelve issues ago, Wally promised Wonder Woman he would rededicate himself to the team. He completely acknowledges that conversation, while doing a one-eighty in his talk with the Canary, effectively ditching the team. None of the veterans speak to each other in the way they normally do, and it feels like I’m watching people who have been occupied by body snatchers, making them all say horrible things they would never really say to each other. Vixen comes out of nowhere to make racial insults against John Stewart?!? Zatanna insults the Detroit team, and Dr. Light joins in? These are not respectful heroes who acknowledge that some of those people have died in the line of duty, these are punks!

Canary ends up with a roster consisting of what looks like John Stewart, Vixen, Doctor Light and Zatanna, and we know Firestorm would definitely be there. That looks like a strong team to me. Instead of logically trying to recruit any additional members they might feel are need, Dinah disbands the team?!? Everything is so artificial here, nothing makes sense. All of these heroes have had these conflicts with their team duties forever, but people like Flash and Wonder Woman decide at the exact same time when Bats and J’onn are gone, and everyone knows Superman is leaving, to jump ship? The heroes we know would have stood closer in solidarity, recognizing the need for their loyalty, which is what they used to have, and part of what made the team great.

This stinks entirely of artifice, so they can promote their mini-series and try to make a stab at some controversy. It’s very poor story-telling. Either McDuffie has too much control and nobody is watching the shipwreck, or he’s entirely too nice, and letting all of DC’s big editorial plans steer the story into ludicrous waters. I’m not on the inside, so I have no way to tell.

I handed the book to the guy who owns my comic book store, and asked him to read it. He was confused the entire time, and shook his head throughout most of the comic. It’s a shame, because the art is a lot of fun.

Madame Xanadu 9

by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley

This issue may have one of the best covers out for this entire month. With a magic theme involving Zatara, it’s very clever. The setting is now the early days of World War II, and we are moving quickly towards the present. There is always a focal point in the time era where Wagner stops, a reason for us to explore this particular time period; if you know your DC history and recognize the cop, you’ve already guessed by the third page, but it’s still fun all the way through to the end.

There are a ton of great elements to this issue, one of the most constant being Amy Hadley’s clean artwork. The tarot cards are used well, and I have to wonder if anyone will tie any of these events into some kind of relationship with the tarot references over in the Trinity series. The new “magic” of the radio makes a great counterpoint to Xanadu’s abilities and experience, and her relationship with Zatara is also fun.

The tension builds with this issue, as Xanadu plots more than ever on how to foil the Stranger, despite the possible consequences, given the degree of importance for the upcoming supernatural phenomenon. We know she has been angry for quite some time. How far will she go in her opposition to the Stranger? And what other DC magical characters will we get to see next? This is a great place to have fun with DC’s magical roster, and I am enjoying it more than the attempt in Reign of Hell.

This is the best issue yet of the series, but I’m not sure if you can reach that conclusion without being along for the entire ride, to appreciate the buildup. Best to make sure you buy the entire series!

Superman 686

by James Robinson and Renato Guedes

Some of the choices made for the layout are awkward. Robinson does ye olde bird-plane-man shtick for Mon-el, but it feels too corny. The narration announcing him is pushed over one note to also introduce Guardian, which makes no sense. You’ve got Mon-el flying right there, why not have his description closer than Guardian’s? What’s worse, Steel receives almost as much screen time, but no introduction narrative box. Ptheh!

Superman tosses Jimmy over to Mon-el as if he was a dog, and Jimmy wags his tail appropriately, and the clichés continue. Supergirl has already adopted an identity close to Clark, and now Mon-el gets to be the new Jonathan Kent. From out of nowhere, Robinson inserts Rampage, a third-rate villain used by John Bryne ages ago for a throwaway fight with no other meaning than to showcase how wet behind the ears Mon-el really is.

Guedes does a good job on art, and you can tell he’s working hard on his backgrounds in most places. There are still traces of corniness and cliché even with Superman gone from the title, and I had hoped that those would fade away. It will take another issue or two to see how well the writing can sustain a Superman title with substitute Supermen. It has happened once before, but I don’t know how good it was for sales.

Wonder Woman 30

by Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti

Here’s the best thing about this issue I liked: the lasso outlines for borders when Genocide was torturing Etta Candy. ...That was it.

Wonder Woman turns into a one-woman Al-Gahraib, with threats of death, threat of dismemberment, and actual physical scarring of Cheetah. Genocide’s origin is revealed, he comes from… dirt. While this might be interesting, considering Diana comes from clay herself, Zeus is over making another foe out of dirt too, so we are already taking a possibly interesting concept and beating it into the ground (man, what is UP with the puns tonight?).

Ah well, at least we get a massive naked female Amazon hug. The villains waste our time with their cowardice, as if they were going up against Batman. Foes like Faust and Phobia have gone up against any number of super heroes in the past with no hesitation. Heck, Faust has already been dead a time or two, what’s he afraid of?!? The only possible reason is they don’t want to be a repeat of Maxwell Lord, but this is not conveyed very well.

The comic borders on silliness when Morrow tells her she just totaled a tank meant to withstand a nuclear blast. Either Morrow likes to lie about stupid things, or it’s just not believeable. She threw one piece of small metal and destroyed the entire tank. Considering a nuclear blast would give even Superman pause, a tank built to still be ticking after that does not go into a million pieces after one hit. We already suspend our disbelief to enter this world of fiction, but once there, you do have to make an attempt within those structures to “keep it real.”

Long story short, for a woman whose mission was to bring peace to this world, she certainly spends a lot of time telling herself she’s at war, threatening to maim and kill people, and asking how to kill others. This is not what Wonder Woman should be. Period. Just my opinion.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Black Canary, John Stewart, Vixen, Doctor Light, Zatanna, and Firestorm would be a sweet role call!!! too bad they're "disbanded," huh?

-- Posted by: Nick Marino at March 26, 2009 10:49 AM

TP, you were too kind in your review of JLA, it is an embarassingly bad book. I have no idea what DC is thinking in allowing this rag to be shipped out every month.

-- Posted by: earl jones at March 27, 2009 12:21 AM