Comics Ate My Brain

March 16, 2005

New comics 3/16/05

I almost didn’t buy JLA #112 (written by Kurt Busiek, with art by Ron Garney and Dan Green) because the cover made me think it was Justice League Elite, and I’m waiting for the JLE trade. Silly me. The issue is mostly action on three fronts, as the JLA and friends confront the Qwardian weapon in space and the Crime Syndicate on Earth, and travel to the anti-Earth to try and defeat the Syndicate there. Accordingly, the dialogue and narration are more expository, but in a few instances Busiek keeps things suspenseful by cutting away a beat before you’d expect him to. I had to check a couple of times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Garney and Green do a good job of keeping everything straight, and turn in a few spectacular panels, including the opening two-page spread. This was the first issue that really seemed to suit their style, because everything starts to unravel. A “cleaner” style of art (even, dare I say it, George Perez’s) might not have conveyed that as well. There are two more parts to this story, but it already feels full-to-bursting. If Busiek and Garney can sustain this momentum through the end, it may be one for the ages.

Wonder Woman #214 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder) concludes the Zoom/Cheetah team-up begun in the last issue of Flash. This one too is a lot of action, although it advances Rucka’s Olympian political subplots for a couple of pages. Rucka also weaves in a few comments about Zoom’s mission to “improve” Flash and Wonder Woman through tragedy. One gets the strong feeling that Zoom represents for Rucka a certain element of superhero fans who (for example) prefer Batman because he’s suffered. Therefore, when Wonder Woman shouts about “men believing [that] pain is the necessary component of strength,” it rings true for her character, but it also sends a message — both to those fans and to the people who have criticized his blinding of Wonder Woman.

What’s interesting is that Rucka currently writes Superman (not known for his suffering), and made a name for himself at DC writing Batman. The fallout from DC’s Identity Crisis — which explored the whole “strength through suffering” notion — also cannot be ignored. Zoom’s attitude, and Diana’s reaction to it, seem to be Rucka’s commentary on DC readers’ reactions to DC’s recent handling of its core characters. Still, Rucka doesn’t take it any further, beyond suggesting that Zoom is wrong because Diana disagrees.

Anyway, the issue itself doesn’t do much for the more substantial plots Rucka has been cultivating during his run on the title, and at the end I got the feeling this too was setup for one of DC’s upcoming projects.

Speaking of Rucka’s Superman book, Adventures of Superman #638 (drawn by Matthew Clark), it’s another Mr. Mxyzptlk quasi-farce, as Mxy gives Clark and Lois a newborn. This draws out the Kents’ feelings about when, whether, or even how they can have children. More Identity Crisis-related issues surface here too, as Clark wonders about protecting a super-daughter from equally super dangers. Matthew Clark gets playful with the art, doing both a Calvin & Hobbes parody and an animated-style sequence. Overall it’s a good standalone issue which still relates back to Rucka’s macro plot.

Yet more Identity Crisis repercussions in Teen Titans #22 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Mike McKone). Dr. Light, in what is either a callback to his ’70s and early ’80s schtick or a way to connect the Titans to the Justice League, or both, shows off his vastly improved powers as he takes out the Titans. Most of the dialogue is Light musing about what the JLA did to him and whether they stopped with him, or even with villains in general. In the end, it’s still “to be continued,” but there are a couple of nice moments for old-school fans like myself.

Captain America #4 (written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Steve Epting and a little by Michael Lark) has a lot to offer its own old-school fans, which unfortunately I am not. I never knew Cap had the legacy outlined here, but it is kind of fascinating (especially after the ancillary information in Marvel: The Lost Generation). Cap’s “relatives” figure into the story, as he and Agent 13 are sent on separate missions involving them. Cap’s unfamiliar memories also come more fully into the main story. It’s more exposition than action, but Brubaker handles everything pretty well without either slowing down the story or confusing the reader. I’m glad I’m not waiting for the trade on this one.

Incredible Hulk #79(written by Peter David, with art by Lee Weeks) explains a little more about the mysterious island, but the explanation for now seems more confusing as to what’s real and what’s not. More compelling is the flashback to Bruce’s college days and his relationship to a “girlfriend.” Not everything is tied together here, and like I said it’s even a little more confusing, but overall it doesn’t seem like a very deep storyline — more a psychological exploration of Bruce’s relationship to the Hulk. The letters page even states that it was originally pitched as an Ultimate Hulk miniseries, so it’s not even necessarily tied into specific Hulk lore. It’s still fun and interesting.

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