So, it’s a new year. Did I get the same things I like? Just call me Grandpa….
First up is The Flash#217 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay). The issue picks up on the events of Identity Crisis in several ways. Flash’s wife Linda comes back and the Rogues’ Gallery holds a funeral for Captain Boomerang. It’s equal parts epilogue and setup, in other words, even containing a scene with Zoom that follows up on the similar scene in the last Wonder Woman. (Nice bit of dovetailing there; presumably the two scenes will flow together in the paperback.) Flash also gets to give advice to Batman, who comes very close to having an actual emotional moment. Anyway, this was a good momentum-building issue, but next month is yet another villain biography, so what’s the use?! Seriously, what has been the macro-plot of Flash for the past 17 months? Wally gets his secret identity back, and then all this Rogue stuff gets BLEARGH-vomited forth, with a little Grodd and Identity Crisis mixed in. Ye gods.
The second issue of writer David Lapham and artists Ramon Bachs and Nathan Massengill on Detective Comics (#802) wasn’t as tight a story as the first, but it was still very good. Picking up from last issue’s tenement fire, the victims’ identities spur Batman to avoid a similar tragedy. There’s not much more to say about the plot without spoiling it, but as with last issue, Lapham has Batman interact with a “civilian” in order to show how ordinary Gothamites feel about him, and he about them. It ends on an unusual, almost absurd, image, but that image seems to summarize Lapham’s intentions with the storyline. The art and colors continue to be excellent, handling this more personal story just as well as last issue’s more panoramic moments. Finally, Lapham uses Robin to good effect, giving him a bravado which is entirely appropriate for the character.
I hear that Jamal Igle is the new regular penciller on Firestorm (#9). That’s good, because he and writer Dan Jolley have turned in a suspenseful, action-packed issue. However, one of the book’s unsung heroes has to be colorist Chris Sotomayor. Igle paces the art well, and his inkers (Rob Stull & Lary Stucker) give his pencils their proper weight, but Sotomayor really brings the art to life. The figures have three dimensions; the characters’ powers are given special effects; and because the action all takes place at night, the use of light is excellent. There’s a last-page surprise that anyone who reads Previews should be able to predict, but Jolley has set up the surprise in a very fun way. I’m really looking forward to #10.
The flashback pages of Captain America #2 reminded me — why didn’t Bucky, Cap’s World War II sidekick, ever have some kind of bulletproof doohickey? Cap was the Super-Soldier, with muscles and abilities enhanced by science, and an unbreakable shield made of a unique alloy which would probably outlive cockroaches. Bucky? Bucky wore a blue-and-red suit and occasionally got to carry a rifle.*
Come to think of it, sidekick du jour Sharon Carter gets pretty much the same deal in this issue, except she can call for backup and she’s always armed. Agent Carter starts the plot rolling by alerting Cap that his old foe the Red Skull is dead. The two investigate, foiling what looked like the Skull’s last evil plan until a new wrinkle is thrown in at the end.
Steve Epting’s pencils move things along effectively, especially in the fight scenes where Cap uses his shield imaginatively in close quarters. Nice use of computer graphics on the SHIELD helicarrier too. Still, the issue is dark — lots of scenes underground, and lots at night, so kind of hard to tell who’s who at first. (The villain’s mask reminds me of an old Spider-Woman baddie from the ’70s, or maybe the Taskmaster, but those are probably coincidental.) I also have to say that writer Ed Brubaker has come up with a dumb acronym for a criminal organization. (I won’t spoil it, but do they have a Mechanical Organism Designed Only for Wuv?)
Finally, I picked up writer Peter David’s return to The Incredible Hulk (#77), joined by artists Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer. I haven’t read a Hulk comic since David left the title about six years ago, but this story doesn’t need much setup. It’s a moody, atmospheric affair which mostly takes place underwater, as the Hulk walks along the bottom of the ocean to a mysterious island. Along the way he deals with various predators and flashes back to Bruce Banner’s repressed-rage high school days. Because the arc is titled “Tempest Fugit,” I’m guessing there will be more surprises on the island, even beyond the surprise on the last page. All told, a good beginning — but I hope the later chapters are less decompressed.
Wow, two more Marvel titles added to the list! Looks like Grandpa is branching out.
* Reminds me of the old Batman joke. He’s asked, “So you wear this dark-colored costume — why the bright yellow oval on your chest?”
He replies, “The oval covers a bulletproof plate. It’s a target, so crooks shoot at the plate and not my head. I don’t like to get shot.”
Interviewer: “Then what’s up with Robin’s costume? It’s all bright colors!”
Batman: “I don’t like to get shot.”