Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part Two

Batman: Streets of Gotham 2

by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

Dini is trying to do well, but there are mistakes from page one. Hush puts himself on fire, and we are somehow supposed to believe that the great Batman, who thinks of everything, has a cell in the Batcave that doesn’t have any mechanism to deal with a fire?!? If this were any other cell in the world …half of them would still have automated fire-fighting equipment in them. You don’t have to be a genius for that. So the premise is faulty.

The confrontation between Black Mask and Firefly is also out of place, and why would the big bad villain come all the way to see Firefly to press the button and incinerate him? Once he had figured out Firefly was the rogue agent, he should have been pressing that kill button like crazy. Instead he breaks in, has half a dozen goons pointing automatic weapons at Firefly, and instead of opening fire… Black Mask presses the button he should have pressed a long time ago? One he should have been smart enough to realize wouldn’t work, because why would Firefly risk certain death for his actions? The events simply have not been thought through.

Dustin Nguyen’s pencils can’t save the issue, either. The confrontation has to be too close for comfort to get everything in the same panel, and it makes it all unbelievable. Firefly leaps, an explosion behind him catches everyone but him, kills all the goons, but Black Mask is conveniently still alive. Are we supposed to be watching a cliché movie from the ‘50s? We end with Hush surfacing, still looking a dead ringer for Bruce Wayne, and pledging to give away a billion dollars a month until Gotham’s crisis is over.

They need to improve a great deal from this.

Marc Andreyko and Geroge Jeanty provide the second feature with Manhunter, which has similar problems in a way. From the very start, she’s choking someone while she questions him. In case none of you have tried this in real life, here’s the issue with that: they really can’t answer any of your questions that way. Kate wades through case files with her intern for eight hours looking for someone who has already managed to find out who he is, which car is hers, and to lie in wait for Kate. Granted, Jane Doe is part of Arkham’s new little cabal, so he might have had a chance to tip her off, but it’s still another one of those oh-so-convenient elements.

The story is awkward enough that we never really get told in this segment why Kate is looking for Jane Doe in the first place. Jeanty’s art is a little awkward too, with proportions not being quite right, heads being too big in places, etc. The colorist murks up the backgrounds to disguise the fact that there isn’t much meat there in the way of actual art.

Blackest Night 1

by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Dramatic cover, dramatic expulsion of black rings right from the get-go on page 2, and nice bright two-page splash after that. All this and they manage to explore the history of various dead characters relating to each of the human Green Lanterns, and then the rest of the DC universe. The recent return of Barry Allen gives them a legitimate way to graphically remind us of about 50 dead characters, most of whom we will be seeing shortly, in a magnificent two-page emerald spread.

But wait, there’s more! Act now, and we’ll throw in a scarred Guardian who attacks her fellow member and bites into him like she was a Ginsu knife! That is a disturbing, well-drawn scene. Hey, remember all of those Yellow Lantern members that the Guardians just had executed? They’re baaa-aaack! Think Maybe Rayner and Gardner are gonna go say “I told you so” about the executions? Because that decision just bit the Guardians almost as badly as the scarred one did!

To keep things extra dramatic, wait until you see what happens to Hawkman and Hawkwoman, taking a well-known story device involving raising the dead, but conveying it with such well-drawn dread, and giving us an idea of exactly how this whole thing is going to go down. Forget Final Crisis, folks, this is the real deal. It grabbed me from the cover, and held my interest all the way to the end. I already like issue #1 better than the entirety of Secret Invasion. This is the must-read series of the year.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 1

by various

Three Corps tales, three creative teams. Remember when we had other titles called Tales of the Corps? There was only one color back then!

Geoff Johns writes the origin of Saint Walker, expertly drawn by Jerry Ordway. Walker’s planet is in danger, and his religious faith causes him to lose his entire family, leading to a crisis of faith solved by a well-known answer from movies like the Circle of Iron, and more recently in ode to that film, Kung-Fu Panda, where the answer is himself. The insight into his story drives home the highly admirable qualities that have to dwell within every member of the Blue Corps. With Larfleeze set upon them, though, will any survive? Oh, I hope so!

The second story comes from the Sinestro Corps, but deals with the current Mongul, and Peter Tomasi crafts a tale that shows us the fist Mongul, with Chris Samnee giving us a simple, clean art that fits with the childish perspective. We get to see the beginnings of the planning that guaranteed Mongul would turn into the person he is today. At the end of each of these, there is a “refresh” page from the recent special that tells us again who is in each Corps, what their names are, and details the powers and weaknesses of each color.

The third story is by Johns again, this time with beautiful art by Rags Morales. Most of the story is told by pictures, and the Indigo Tribe, the final color to be revealed, walks their own path. The hint of this story is that their path might just be in opposition to all the others. The mystery is interesting, and what is revealed here is chilling for the rest of the Corps.

This is a great companion piece to the Blackest Night event. If they are all near this quality, this is going to be the best event in recent memory.

JSA vs. Kobra 2

by Eric Trautmann and Don Kramer

Now that I know Gene Ha puts his name as “Ha!” on the covers, I want him to hide it better, so I can have more fun tracking it down. Kramer makes good use of Power Girl’s presence from page one, but for some reason it doesn’t have the normal teenage-male fantasy cheesecake feel to it. This isn’t like Uncanny X-Men, where they’ve been thrusting as many bodacious babes as they can to make Dodson and Land look good; Power Girl is the leader of the team and on a level with Superman almost for power. It does get a little questionable later, though, as she strikes a pose at a murder scene.

Ariadne is captive, but not really. Fellow followers are all around (say that three times fast!), and she gets broken out pretty quick, in a demonstration to the JSA that they are being outmaneuvered. There is an editorial mistake at the murder scene, because we have a big two-page spread of the JSA members surveying the carnage, and the next page has a narration box claiming it is six hours later. Well, no, it’s not six hours later that they come out of that helicopter. It’s six hours after Ariadne’s escape, and the narration box should have been put down two pages earlier for the correct time reference. The dimensions of the helicopter are all wrong for that scene with the narration box anyway, as it looks too small in comparison to the people coming out of it. I have high expectations for this book after the first issue, so little slip-ups like that are bad.

For the most part, though, Don Kramer may be getting better as he goes, and the rest of the art is great. The team is distracted again by a feint, and Trautmann’s narration of Jason Burr is awesome. He’s playing with the JSA, with modern terrorist tactics, but with the intelligent cunning of someone like the Joker or Lex Luthor. We’re lucky terrorists don’t read comic books, or they might get ideas. The real goal is the Everyman Project, from the days of the 52 series. Imagine Kobra getting a whole bunch of artificial superhumans all of a sudden. The big feint keeps the JSA busy, while the secondary attack causes chaos that masks the real target. The heroes are so used to fighting overconfident powerhouses that merely think they’re clever, or think they don’t have to bother with subtlety, but here they have a challenge with which they do not have much experience.

Good stuff, and the chess analogies still hold up well, even though Mr. Trautmann told us he doesn’t play the game at the end of my review of issue #1. Hey, we can’t tell it from this end! Just imagine how much cooler the story could be if he learned to throw in terms like en passant and zugzwang, and fit them into the story narrative. (Readers can feel free to Google those if you don’t know them, or just drop me a line and ask; I love to talk about chess.)

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