Comics Ate My Brain

August 11, 2004

New comics 8/11/04

Once again, all the DC team books seem to have come out this week.

Identity Crisis #3: Written by Brad Meltzer with art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair. First off, I have to say I was genuinely shocked and surprised by the cliffhanger which ends this issue. Most of the book concerns the fight between Deathstroke and the Justice League, which I think leaves the Leaguers a little more shaken than they’d have liked. The flashback du jour concerns another JLA story from my childhood, but Meltzer shows us how the League dealt with the consequences. There is a blatant mistake in Dr. Light’s memory which probably has consequences of its own, and Superman might have learned a critical piece of information. It’s all very well put together, and again, it leaves me curious about the outcome.

Challengers of the Unknown #3: As does this book, written and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This time we get more insight into the past lives of the Challengers as the various sides’ viewpoints become clearer. Chaykin’s narration and dialogue seem less arch, and his art is as sharp as ever. I probably could have waited for the paperback for this, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182: “War Games” Part 1.2, written by A.J. Lieberman with art by Brad Walker and Troy Nixey. More damage control with Batman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Orpheus, Oracle, and Onyx. It’s all a lot of running around, trying to keep gangsters safe from themselves. There is a subplot with a hijacked ship and the Penguin that will probably become more important next week. This issue may mean more later, but for now it feels like housekeeping. The art is good enough, although Batgirl looks like she’s made out of crude oil.

Nightwing #96: “War Games” Part 1.3, written by Devin Grayson with art by Mike Lilly and Andy Owens. Nightwing returns to Gotham apparently on the heels of an immense personal failing in Bludhaven. (I don’t read Nightwing regularly.) This gives the issue a distinctive voice and doesn’t just drive the plot forward. Dick doesn’t want to disappoint Batman, but at the same time he knows Batman will find out soon enough. Nightwing also brings the female vigilante Tarantula with him. I gather from the issue that she encouraged him to do the acts of which he is ashamed, and also that she is some sort of romantic threat to the Nightwing/Oracle relationship. Devin Grayson does a good job with Nightwing and Batman’s relationship. It really is the “home is where they have to take you in” situation, with both parties focused on getting the job done. There’s an interlude with Tim Drake and his dad and a reference to “Otisburg.” I was not aware that Gotham City neighborhoods were named after former Luthor associates, but I take it from this reference that Ms. Teschmacher also has a borough…? An all-around good crossover issue.

Legion #37: Written by Gail Simone, with art by Dan Jurgens and Andy Smith. The penultimate issue of the series gives us a look at the Legionnaires off in space, fighting an insectoid race which evolves on a daily basis. Back on Earth, Devil and her criminal cohorts continue their war against technology. The Legion Subs are used to good effect, especially Infectious Lass. Karate Kid also gets a spotlight. One overdramatic moment involves Trudy the reporter, but other than that it’s a solid issue. Hard to believe it all gets wrapped up in two weeks.

JLA #103: Written by Chuck Austen, with art by Ron Garney. Green Lantern decides to patrol constantly after failing to stop a slasher. (At least she didn’t die in a fire.) Of course, it does more harm than good, and Superman shows up to console him. Superman also revisits his own problems from two issues ago. I actually thought this issue was more suited to John Stewart, who’s been through tragedies both domestic (his wife was brutally murdered by Star Sapphire) and cosmic (he failed to stop the destruction of a planet). On one hand he could have been reliving them, but on the other you’d think he might have learned from them. Anyway, as with the other two issues, I’m still wondering about the point. I’m almost hoping there is some mystery villain tying it all together, as hokey as that sounds.

JSA #64: Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Jerry Ordway and Mark McKenna. The end of the Sandman storyline is pretty much by the numbers. The two JSA teams fight underground and in the Dream Stream to bring Sand back. Many references are made to the Gaiman/Sandman stories which included these characters, but there are no footnotes; I guess because DC doesn’t want to confuse the mainstream readers with Vertigo stories. Ordway’s art is always excellent, and here he infuses Sand/Sandman with appropriately Kirbyesque lines. It all goes about as you’d expect. It was nice to see Dr. Fate and Fury beat down Brute and Glob, though.

Teen Titans #14: Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Tom Grummett and Lary Stucker. The “Beast Boy virus” story continues, with most of the Titans corralling green animals while Cyborg and Beast Boy figure out how to reverse the infections. On the other coast, Superboy visits Tim Drake. The Superboy/Tim scenes sound like a conversation between two friends who are moving apart, and thus ring true. The rest of the book is a lot of flying (Raven can fly now?) and chasing and lifting and catching. It’s all nicely drawn. We’ll see how it ends up next issue.

DC Comics Presents The Flash: The cover is probably the best thing about the issue. It’s a photorealistic Alex Ross interpretation of the Flash urging the reader to read the issue — “my life depends on it!” The cover works (better than the original, perhaps) because it looks like the “real” Flash is trying to stop you. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness provide the first tale, about Flash trying to find a clue that will jail Barry Allen’s would-be assassin. It’s cute, and McGuinness draws a good Flash. The second story is by Dennis O’Neil and Doug Mahnke, and concerns a more literal interpretation of the cover. Like other tributes, it puts Julie Schwartz in the action, but in a convoluted, loopholeish way. What should come off as madcap and (naturally) fast-paced is flat in O’Neil and Mahnke’s hands. So far, that Mystery in Space issue is coming off as the best of these tributes.

Action Comics #818: (Written by Chuck Austen, with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos.) Speaking of covers, it looks like Weapons Master is making Superman fly through a hoop on this one. Not Art Adams’ best work. Inside, Weapons Master — the same jerk updated by Dan Jurgens 12 years ago in Justice League America — enjoys shooting at Superman while the Man of Steel’s invulnerability slowly returns. Supes just gets madder and madder (at one point calling WM a “whiny little baby”), until finally he threatens the assembled super-crooks with the full force of his powers. The end of the issue promises some character moments next time, and we’ll see how Austen handles that. (Of course, next issue also brings the husband-and-wife villainy of Sodom & Gomorrah, but still.) I’m not sure what to think about the “whiny little baby” line, although it was funny on first reading.

And finally:

Gotham Central #22: Written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudino. The conclusion of “Unresolved” is engaging and a little surprising, but like the series as a whole, it shows us what life might be like in caped-and-cowled Gotham City. It’s a little hard to believe, although it makes a decent amount of sense. Harvey Bullock reaches what may be his final fate in this issue, which was odd for me because I’ve been reading the Detectives and Batmans from 20-plus years ago which introduced him. Bullock’s been an irritant, a buffoon, and a hero at various points during that time, but GC presented him as a real person when it could have made him a relic. For that it deserves a lot of credit.

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