Comics Ate My Brain

August 5, 2004

What’s This? Current Comics Reviews?

Filed under: batman, birds of prey, firestorm, justice league, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 8:27 pm
It was a light week, thank goodness.

Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure: Got to the comics shop this week in time to hear the following commentary on this one-shot:

“’12-Cent Adventure?’ Didn’t they just do a ’10-Cent Adventure?'”

“This is 2 cents better.”

Yeah, guess you had to be there — but it does drive home the point that the last retro-priced Batman one-shot introduced the marathon “Bruce Wayne: Murderer” arc, which many fans hated. (Come to think of it, Superman: The 10-Cent Adventure introduced the ill-received creative team of Steven T. Seagle and Scott McDaniel. Not the best track record for DC.) This one-shot introduces the 3-month “War Games” arc.

How was the issue itself? Not bad, actually. It’s told from the perspective of Spoiler, the recently fired Robin. Gotham erupts in gang riots when the underworld equivalent of the G-8 Summit ends in a bloodbath. There are quite a lot of gangsters, and it’s hard to keep track of them all. Hopefully “War Games” will help us keep ’em all straight. Spoiler also gives a brief history of the three Robins which preceded her, which gives me hope that the “Robin issue” will be resolved with this arc. By the way, it’s written by Devin Grayson and pencilled by Ramon Bachs. Heck, it’s only 12 cents. Make up your own mind.

Detective Comics #797: Written by Anderson Gabrych; pencilled by Pete Woods. Part 1 of “War Games” finds the Bat-people picking up the pieces of the ganglord bloodbath. A newsman — who may be a new character, but I won’t say I haven’t seen him before — breaks the story that yes, Virginia, Batman is real. (I’d like to think this puts the last nail in that stoopid “urban legend” trope.) Some mobsters think that Batman’s behind the killings, but Batman corrects them. Batgirl and fellow Bat-affiliate Orpheus save another couple of sets of mobsters. It’s all very chaotic with dark portents ahead. I’d still like a scorecard for the gangsters.

Birds of Prey #71: Written by Gail Simone, with art by Ron Adrian and Rob Lea that looks almost exactly like Ed Benes. Oracle recovers from her seizure, Savant tries to rehabilitate a crackhouse, Huntress brings Vixen back from the dark side, and Black Canary gets takeout. (Seriously, other than intimidating a pervert out of his laptop, she doesn’t do much else.) Superman makes a cameo. We get a look at the mysterious “god” the cult leader worships, and also at Oracle’s mysterious attacker. Last issue’s cliffhanger is resolved to my satisfaction. I’m still a little confused, but it’s a good kind of confused that makes me want to come back.

Justice League Elite #2: And then there’s this book…. “Not your daddy’s Justice League!” the cover proudly proclaims, but it would have had more punch if it felt like more of a connection to the mainstream League. As it is, there are only two recognizable JLAers in the group — I don’t count Manitou Raven or Major Disaster, since they aren’t old-school Leaguers — and the rest are all still ciphers to me. I read Action Comics #775 which introduced the Elite, and I read JLA #100 which had the Elite associated with the League. I still don’t know about this title. Probably my most petty peeve is the reference to the group as “JLE,” which for me will always be Justice League Europe (1989-96). So yes, clearly not my dad’s Justice League (which, incidentally, would have been the Justice Society), but for now Justice League in name only.

What happened in the issue? Well, basically Vera and company have to infiltrate something or other, something goes wrong, continued next issue. I’m still trying to figure out who’s who. Written by Joe Kelly, pencilled by Doug Mahnke.

DC Comics Presents Superman: The cover mandates that both stories must concern a Phantom Quarterback. The first story is written by Stan “the Man” Lee and drawn by Darwyn Cooke and “J. Bone” (which itself must be some kind of nickname). It’s a fluffy, silly affair involving a scientist who creates a quarterback robot to impress a girl. Superman referees the climactic game. Best bit of dialogue belongs to Superman: “Why would an invisible quarterback go into a college science lab? I wonder if there’s a mad scientist involved in this? Or maybe a sane one. Who knows?” The second story is more typical of the era from which the cover comes — a washed-up athlete enhances his performance with forbidden science, and Superman ends up having to stop him. It’s produced by Paul Levitz (story) and Keith Giffen (art), with inks by Al Milgrom. Not bad, but not groundbreaking either.

Firestorm #4: Written by Dan Jolley, with art by ChrisCross and Rob Stull. The new Firestorm becomes the target of a fatal-attractive woman with weird absorptive powers. Before that, however, he wears a chicken suit and meets Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. Apparently one aspect of his new powers is the need to “fuse” with someone — anyone — to become Firestorm. This time it’s a homeless person who gives Jason/’Stormy some sage advice. I wonder if the “random-person” angle will become a regular feature of this book, or if Jason will assemble a “stable” of partners. Either way, it’s a new way of looking at the old Firestorm setup, and one that made the book a lot more intriguing to me. ChrisCross’s art is pleasantly reminiscent of his creepy-cute people in the old Captain Marvel series, so I’ll be sorry to see him go in a few issues.

And that’s the end! Hooray!

Last week’s comics (7/28/04)

Hoping to catch up soon, but for now, still a week behind.

Batman #630: Written by Judd Winick; art by Dustin Nguyen. The conclusion to the Penguin/Scarecrow story is satisfying enough. That may not sound like high praise, but there is a knack to writing Batman which not even the most high-profile creators always have. Of late writers have taken their Batman assignments as opportunities to tour the Bat-universe, stitching together episodes without worrying about whether they make sense. Winick wisely chose to focus on story over spectacle. That said, it’s still a story about the Penguin, the Scarecrow, and a boogeyman which rips people apart, so it’s not like something new was revealed about the human condition. Winick will be the regular Batman writer once “War Games” is over in 3 months, and this storyline doesn’t make me dread his arrival.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 3 paperback: This collects the Justice League/Justice Society team-ups from the early 1970s. The first story is an odd one about an alien child and his pet getting separated across dimensional planes, and causing havoc. The second is a three-issue epic reintroducing the Seven Soldiers of Victory. The third features Earth-X, a world where World War II lasted 30 years and the Nazis won; and the fourth tells us what happened to the Golden Age Sandman’s sidekick, Sandy. I bought this because, by and large, I didn’t have these issues, and I always enjoyed JLA/JSA team-ups. It’s pretty much critic-proof for me.

DC Comics Presents Hawkman: The two stories here are similar in theme to the Mystery in Space issue. The first takes its cue from the notion that ‘60s comics writers were literally channeling events on the parallel Earth where their characters lived, and turns it around so that Julie Schwartz is controlling what “really” happens to Hawkman. The second is a Valentine- themed tale revealing how Hawkman met his wife and partner, Hawkgirl. Both are enjoyable and light-hearted, and both skillfully include the winged monkey featured on the cover.

DC: The New Frontier #5 (of 6): Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. I read all 5 issues in one sitting last night, and it made me love this series even more. The future Justice Leaguers are finally all introduced as the “mystery villain” emerges. So much happens in this issue that it’s hard to believe there are still 64 pages to go until the end. My expectations are accordingly high for the concluding issue, due out in two months. Working on a NF essay, so more details there.

Green Lantern #179: Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Luke Ross. Kyle Rayner figures out who’s been messing with his life and sets out to destroy him. Since he’s involved with the government, fellow Lantern John Stewart shows up to stop Kyle. They fight for a while. Kyle then realizes the error of his ways, and decides to pick up the pieces of his crappy life without further violence. This doesn’t sit well with our villain, who decides to go after Kyle himself. All I know is, there are two more months left in this series and it just seems to be marking time until the Big Changes in Green Lantern: Rebirth. Since Ron Marz created Kyle Rayner, I presume he’ll want to give him a happy ending, so at least I can look forward to that.

JLA #102: Written by Chuck Austen, drawn by Ron Garney. This time it’s the Flash in the Seat of Woe, not being fast enough to save a couple of children from a fire. Apparently this is the first time the Flash has seen children die. Not to be cruel, but I find that hard to believe. The character has supposedly been fighting crime since he was a teenager, so you’d think he would have seen worse. Also, considering that last issue Superman couldn’t save a guy from a fire, you’d think Austen could have come up with something more original.

Justice League of America – Another Nail #3 (of 3): Written and drawn by Alan Davis. I like Alan Davis fine, and he draws gorgeous comics, but honestly I don’t know why this series should exist. The original Nail miniseries answered the justifiable question “what would the JLA have been like without Superman?” in shocking, often horrifying fashion. In this sequel, we have the JLA, complete with Superman, fighting some interdimensional menace. I think it’s supposed to be the Alan Davis answer to Crisis on Infinite Earths. It comes off more like “Alan Davis draws every DC character he can imagine.” If it didn’t look so fantastic, I’d be more upset. I feel very shallow for admitting that.

Legion #36: Written by Gail Simone, drawn by Dan Jurgens & Andy Smith. The Legion regroups in the wake of Earth’s total technological failure. That’s about all there is to it. Simone and Jurgens do a nice job of advancing the various plot threads from last issue, especially those involving the floating prison. They also show the calvary – i.e., the rest of the Legion – preparing to come to the rescue, but they make it clear that the situation is still dangerous. Probably the coolest and creepiest part of the issue is the sight of Brainiac 5 without his “neural inhibitors.” At first we think he’s going off the deep end into criminal insanity, but then he pulls himself together and starts firing on all cylinders. Jurgens and Smith are at their best portraying this process, first as mania, then focus.

Planetary #20: Written by Warren Ellis; drawn by John Cassaday. I can’t really explain the significance of this issue without laying out the premise of the entire series, so here goes – the Planetary team encounters very familiar archetypal characters on its way to defeating their arch-enemies, who are pretty much evil versions of the Fantastic Four. (That really doesn’t do it justice.) In this issue we finally meet the evil “Thing.” It was worth the wait.

Superman #207: Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Jim Lee & Scott Williams. Part 4 of “For Tomorrow,” as Superman fights Equus, the cybernetic enforcer who’s connected to the mysterious Vanishing, and learns that Equus and his master might not be as evil as we think. I really have no opinion on this issue. I want to like it, but it just kind of sits there. Lee’s art is very pretty, but not enough to win me over like Alan Davis’.

Superman: Birthright #12 (of 12): Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Leinil F. Yu. The end of the year-long revision to Superman’s origins and first adventure is touching, but it too left me a little flat. Look for a more comprehensive Birthright essay in the near future.

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