Comics Ate My Brain

August 5, 2004

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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