Comics Ate My Brain

December 30, 2004

New Comics 12/29/04

Filed under: adam strange, batman, Christmas, crisis, legion, star wars, superman, teen titans, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 8:16 pm
Had a good Christmas; thanks for asking. In terms of comics-related items, I got the first Kitchen Sink collection of Superman Dailies (1939-40), the Spider-Man 2 DVD, the DC Encyclopedia, and Looney Tunes Vol. 2 on DVD. The Best Wife Ever and I spent Christmas Eve here in town with my parents. We escaped a lot of the nasty weather which plagued the Midwest last week, and had a beautiful drive to Chattanooga to see the in-laws on Christmas morning. My sister now lives in the Chattanooga area, and she gave birth to her second child on Monday morning. Also, my cousin got engaged on Christmas Eve, so there was good news from every corner.

Got back into town Tuesday night and got up Wednesday morning to take care of some household errands. All the traveling produced that kind of weird disconnect from the normal timeline, so I had to remind myself that it was Wednesday and the comics shop was open. Without further ado….

Teen Titans #19 (written by Geoff Johns, art by Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza) offers a rather predictable end to the “Titans Tomorrow” arc, because it involves the main problem with alternate-timeline stories — the reset button. In these types of stories, there is always some procedure the heroes must accomplish which will Set Things Right and prevent the Bad Timeline from coming into existence. Now imagine that this was a parallel-universe story, in which the Titans somehow landed on another Earth, ten years in the future. The challenge wouldn’t be to perform the proper procedure, and thus press the reset button — instead, the challenge would simply be to survive. What’s more, the Bad Earth would still exist, and thereby contain the seeds of a story where the Bad Titans would come to our Earth. At the end of this story, Bad Superboy actually says he doesn’t know how long it will be before the timeline ceases to exist. There is so much wrong with that sentence….

Circular logic is also involved in the very premise of the story. The Bad Titans’ future seems to depend on their being thrown 10 years into the future, and splitting up when they returned to the present. I feel like I need a dry-erase board to make some sense of the story, and it’s why this should have been a parallel universe … GAAH!

Anyway, for those paying attention to DC’s 2005 projects, I’m sure this will have ramifications further down the road. The issue itself is about par for the series, logic notwithstanding — the art is typically good, and the dialogue is expositional without being a drag.

The reset button gets a workout in Superman/Batman #16 (written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Marino). Seems that whenever one of the Big Two dies, the two get shifted to another alternate timeline where they are both alive, but still in dire peril. Arguably, this exploits death a lot more cheaply than in, say, Identity Crisis. Ultimately, the two figure out what they need to do to Set Things Right, but because the story isn’t over yet, Things Aren’t Quite Right. I will say that the cliffhanger is an intriguing twist, but I’m not sure how much it’s in character.

The art is beautiful, and the coloring (by Laura Martin) really complements it. Especially following the stretched-out, stylized Michael Turner art of the Supergirl storyline (which itself followed the lumpy, stylized Ed McGuinness opener), this is a fantastic-looking comic. Too bad it’s in service of such a lightweight, inconsequential plot.

Superman #212 (written by Brian Azzarello, with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams) finds our hero in “The Vanishing,” the pocket dimension into which Lois has vanished (along with presumably millions of other people). There the couple is reunited, although Clark Kent is left out in the cold. (Let’s just say he clearly doesn’t enjoy himself as much as Supes and Lois do.) I will say that this issue’s use of Clark has left me curious about the nature of the Vanishing. I always enjoy the exploration of Clark and Superman as separate people. Although the issue has a real dream-sequence feel, the plot is still advanced, and there is even some indication of the villain pulling the strings. This was one of the few Azzarello/Lee issues that didn’t feel off somehow, so yet again I hold out hope for the arc’s resolution.

Batman #635 begins the tenure of writer Judd Winick and artists Doug Mahnke and Dustin Nguyen with a story picking up from “War Games'” underworld shakeup. So far it’s a good start. The central mystery looks to be the identity of the Red Hood, and the inevitable possibility that it is someone close to Batman. Although the Shocking Mystery Mastermind is a tired device, some nonlinear storytelling helps keep the suspense from getting overinflated. Winick also includes both hot business-on-business action and an “Eight Heads In A Duffel Bag” joke. The issue’s opening slice-of-life moment did make me compare Winick unfavorably to David Lapham’s Detective Comics #801, but Winick doesn’t dwell on that sort of thing. Mahnke and Nguyen, who previously drew Batman in JLA, also acquit themselves well here, with moody, expressive art that is also expansive and easy to follow.

I continue to enjoy Adam Strange (#4), written by Andy Diggle with art by Pascal Ferry. This issue reintroduces the Omega Men, who had their own title in the ’80s which I never read. I was aware of them through their guest-spots in New Teen Titans and Green Lantern, so I can say that Diggle writes them pretty much as I remember, and more entertaining to boot. Ferry’s art is good as always, although it was hard to figure out at times the position of that Thanagarian woman’s body. (I take it she was supposed to be sexy, but I’m not quite sure what she was doing.)

Star Wars: Empire #28, written by Ron Marz with art by Adriana Melo, focuses on Boba Fett as he searches a derelict Star Destroyer for a particular keepsake. If you like Boba Fett outwitting traps and blowing things up, this is the issue for you. I am not so much a Boba fan, so this was a little dull. The art was fine for the most part, done in a sort of rough-pencil style which suited the hazy ghost-ship proceedings. My one problem was at the end, when we meet Boba’s employer. He has the widow’s peak and distinctive profile of Grand Moff Tarkin, but he’s clearly not meant to be Tarkin. Nobody does such a good likeness without a reason, but this likeness seemed unnecessary.

Finally, I bought Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Legion of Super-Heroes #1. For many fans of the Legion, this was the elephant in the corner of the comics shop. How one receives it probably depends on one’s own history with the Legion. Again, I was never much of a fan growing up, and certainly didn’t follow the soap-operatics of the ’70s and ’80s. I first started reading the book regularly in 1989, with the “Five Years Later” restart. Although I enjoyed this issue, and think it portends good things for the series, I do wonder about its general premise. Waid has set up this version of the Legion as somewhere between a group of freedom fighters and Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. They are a youth movement with super-powers, who have taken up adventuring as a reaction to the extreme boredom that centuries of peace, progress and tranquility inevitably bring. It might therefore follow that the society against which they rebel would be oppressive, but so far Waid hasn’t shown us too much of that — at least not on Earth.

To his credit, both Waid and Kitson have taken great pains to make the Legion look and sound like teenagers. Kitson in particular made me think I was looking at the cast of “Hair” with superpowers and costumes. This Legion is very much in a hippie frame of mind, although Waid has said they are more like the historical re-enacters of their time. Anyway, starting to ramble now, so I will just say it was a good first issue, and I will be back for #2.

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2 Comments »

  1. I kind of think the Teen Titans future *is* an alternate timeline, based on all the Crisis-speak.

    Comment by Anonymous — December 31, 2004 @ 8:14 am

  2. Yeah, I can picture Johns using the Bad Titans in Crisis 2, or whatever reality-warping event comes up in ’05, but I think he could have made it a lot easier on himself by avoiding the whole “we have to keep this from happening” device.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — December 31, 2004 @ 4:32 pm


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