Comics Ate My Brain

January 14, 2005

New comics 1/12/05

Action Comics #823 (written by Chuck Austen, with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos): Continued from last issue, Superman, Superboy, and Krypto defeat a hulked-out redneck with an inferiority complex. There’s really nothing else to the plot, except for a gratuitous shot at Lois (and at Lana too, but Lois comes off worse) and a setup for next issue’s showdown with Preus.

(You may remember that Superman fought a villainess named Maxima, designed by no less than George Perez. Now there’s Preus.* Who’s next, Corolla?)

Reis and Campos turn in their usual clean, dynamic performance. Ma and Pa Kent look younger every day, although in a bizarre nod to the Reeve movies, Lana looks more like Annette O’Toole than Ma Kent does. (Ma resembles K Callan, her “Lois & Clark” TV counterpart.) As for the script, how long until Gail Simone comes on board?

Gotham Central #27 (written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Jason Alexander): The Catwoman/Josie Mac story is concluded satisfactorily, although there are some unsurprising revelations about the victim’s sexual fantasy life. I suppose the point is more for Josie to deal with hiding her psychic abilities, and Catwoman gives some knowing advice about keeping secrets from those close to you. Still, having read Brubaker’s first two Sleeper paperbacks this weekend, Gotham Central almost feels like he’s slumming. It’s not bad by any means, but Sleeper was much better. As for Alexander, his art reminds me of Randy DuBurke — sort of scratchy and shiny, with lots of thin lines and blacks. It’s easier to follow than last issue, and hopefully it will keep improving.

Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #187 (written by Shane McCarthy, with art by Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos): It’s Hump Issue for the 5-part Riddler story, and this part goes a long way to having the thing make sense. The first page finds a flaming Batman falling off a bridge, which is a good start to any Batman book. Anyway, the storytelling is sorted out between the present (with the Riddler hologram) and the past (in which we discover E. Nigma’s dark childhood secret — very close to being a cliche, but thankfully not quite). Still not quite sold on this story, but perhaps it will grow on me. Also, Riddler’s hologram looks less like Freddie Mercury.

JSA #69 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Don Kramer & Keith Champagne): Time-traveling Socialites Stargirl, Mr. Terrific, Hourman, Atom-Smasher, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand, and J.J. Thunder meet their inspirations and try to convince them to re-form the Justice Society after Congress forced it to disband. There are complications and mysterious circumstances, and honestly it doesn’t add up to much. Starman’s situation was established by writer James Robinson, who used it in The Golden Age and Starman (1994) before helping kick off this title. However, Robinson made it an organic part of the character, and here Johns uses it more as a gimmick. Stargirl and Starman get the bulk of the issue, and the rest feels like a continuity checklist. This will probably play better in the paperback, which is how I’m thinking about buying JSA in the future.

JLA #110 (written by Kurt Busiek, with art by Ron Garney and Dan Green): Hilarity ensues when the Kryyme Syndicate impersonates the Justice League. Somehow the League doesn’t catch on right away, even though the Syndicate does some high-profile things. Because the Syndicate and the Qwardian subplot have crowded the JLA out of the book the past couple of months, honestly I didn’t notice that the League was missing. Anyway, the Syndicate’s impersonations are both darkly funny (especially Johnny Quick’s stilted “Flash” dialogue) and infused with a ticking-time-bomb suspense. There’s also a bedroom scene with Owlman and Superwoman which cleverly inverts and subverts the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman “trinity” DC’s been pushing for the past few years. It’s three issues into the storyline without a JLA/CSA fight, and I feel neither shortchanged nor decompressed.

Spider-Man/Human Torch #1 (written by Dan Slott, with art by Ty Templeton and Nelson): This 5-issue miniseries takes a look at the Spidey/Torch relationship through the years, which means it’s a healthy dose of Mighty Marvel nostalgia, and that ain’t all bad. Slott and Templeton do a perfect-pitch impression of a ’60s Marvel book, hitting all the right beats while emphasizing Spidey’s troubles and the Torch’s comparatively easy life. (It doesn’t hurt that Slott’s Torch isn’t too far removed from Mark Waid’s.) Ty Templeton’s pencils are clean and efficient, and while his normal “cartoony” style might have worked better, Nelson’s inks make the pencils look more like Paul Smith’s (who, coincidentally, does the cover). It doesn’t matter — this was a joy to read.

Finally, I read Nightwing #101 (written by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon, with art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens). It’s Part 1 of the 6-part biweekly “Nightwing Year One,” telling the story of Dick’s metamorphosis from independent sidekick to independent leader of his own teen group. Never mind that the story was already told in the 1983-84 issues of New Teen Titans, Batman, and Detective Comics — this is the Post-Crisis! version and the What Titans Didn’t Tell You! version to boot. Unfortunately, it’s also the Batman Is A Jackass version, which makes it pretty much predictable from page one. McDaniel and Owens do a fine job with the art, however, making it much less cluttered than I’m used to from McDaniel. Most of the issue is a fight between the Dynamic Duo and Clayface, and while Clayface’s “personae” are confusing at first, the artists make everything clear.

I’m interested to see whether Beatty and Dixon really bring anything new to the story, since it’s already been covered pretty well. I’m not saying they can’t do it, but if their characterization continues to be of the “Bruce yells at Dick” variety, it’ll be a long three months.

*Yes, I know the car is “Prius.” Let an old man have his fun, eh?

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