Comics Ate My Brain

April 21, 2005

New comics 4/20/05

We begin with Superman #215, the conclusion of Brian Azzarello’s and Jim Lee’s “For Tomorrow” storyline. There’s nothing in this conclusion which necessarily negates the good things I talked about in my “FT” essay, but it doesn’t quite live up to what’s gone before. Azzarello has Superman narrate the issue, so at the end it seems like he’s talking directly to the reader. The ending suggests strongly that Superman will always be alone; and drives home the point by having Supes build a new Fortress of Solitude in the middle of a rainforest. (About which the various rainforest native species probably thought, “Oh, great.”) As much as the plot was driven by Superman’s quest to return the Vanished people, and specifically Lois, to their normal lives, Azzarello denies the reader the opportunity to see Clark Kent’s reunion with Lois. It’s an uncharacteristically downbeat epilogue for a Superman story, and while that might be innovative, it’s not very satisfying.

There are other aspects of this ending involving the fate of Fr. Leone which I won’t get into, except to say they feel tacked on at best, and at worst fail adequately to conclude his character’s arc. Also, this issue Lee is inked by a platoon (as opposed to his regular inker Scott Williams) but this doesn’t produce any noticeable changes in style. Overall, while “FT” definitely wasn’t a waste of twelve issues, it didn’t live up to its potential either.

JLA #113 (written by Kurt Busiek, with art by Ron Garney and Dan Green) presents the penultimate chapter of “Syndicate Rules.” I liked it well enough, although in this age of various Crises and advertisements for the Justice League falling apart I have to wonder whether every intramural argument — for example, the exchange between Batman and Wonder Woman towards the end of the issue — is merely dramatic or part of some much larger purpose. On its own, this has been an exciting and fun adventure, and this issue leavens the action with a couple bits of dark humor. I re-read this story’s setup in JLA/Avengers on Saturday, and while Busiek’s adulatory voice isn’t as prominent here, it’s still evident. He’s not trying to do anything more with JLA than produce good, solid superheroics, and so far he’s succeeding.

As for that aforementioned macro-arc, The OMAC Project #1 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Jesus Saiz) is itself a decent setup for what could be a compelling spy thrilla. I am having a hard time getting over the story’s central conceit — namely, that in addition to

  • appearing in four regular books,
  • supervising various proteges, and
  • taking leadership roles in various incarnations of the Justice League and the Outsiders, all while
  • presenting a convincing facade as the figurehead of a multinational corporation and
  • most likely doing his own taxes,

Bats still managed to cobble together a spy satellite capable of looking at anyone anywhere doing anything. Last I heard, that level of intel was reserved for Santa Claus and God.

But I digress. Rucka and Saiz paint a convincingly paranoid picture. Saiz’ art aims for realism in the Brent Anderson/Rags Morales tradition, meaning that the people don’t look too special but the costumes don’t look too stupid. Rucka is obviously comfortable with this genre and these characters, and he works in Beetle’s former colleagues in a much less condescending way than the Countdown special did. I do wish the cover had taken the original OMAC‘s tagline about “the world that’s coming,” though. It seems more appropriate.

Speaking of covers, Teen Titans #23 (written by Geoff Johns, art by Mike McKone and Mario Alquiza) looks like it’s topped by the rejected logo of a crossover yet unknown. “Twilight of the Teen Titans,” eh? Might just be a pun, but in The World That’s Coming you never know. The story wraps up the Dr. Light fight as every living Titan, past and present, dogpiles on the villain. All the while he’s hooting about how “he won” no matter what, and yadda yadda yadda, he’s been saying that the past couple of issues.

The conclusion sets up a conflict between the Titans and JLA, and leads into the Villains United miniseries, and thematically it follows/prefigures the “Titans Tomorrow” arc from a few months ago. When the entire issue is devoted to a couple dozen super-types pounding the crap out of a villain, powerful as he may have become, you have to think Light has a point. Although in that respect this was a solid issue, I’m still burned out on Geoff Johns’ passive/aggressive tendencies and am sticking to my decision to drop the book.

Happier times abound in JLA Classified #6, Part 3 of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!” (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein). Half the team goes to Hell to work in fast food, while the other half goes looking for them. Guy Gardner and Power Girl provide some “serious” superheroics, and the mystery surrounding Guy gets a little deeper. What does it say about me that I was able to read both this and OMAC Project in the same sitting without my head exploding from the different takes on Max Lord? On purely sentimental grounds, I did like this better.

Batman: Gotham Knights #64 (written by A.J. Lieberman, art by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) continues the Poison Ivy storyline, as P.I. hooks up with Bruce Wayne in hopes of curing her condition. Bruce obliges, helping Ivy personally because, you know, he’s not busy otherwise. Maybe he e-filed. Heaven forbid the cautious, calculating part of Bruce would emerge and subject Ivy to the indignity (and security) of more qualified professionals at Waynetech or STAR Labs, right? Bruce also puts some tentative moves on Ivy while trying not to mention that he’s Batman. Rest assured, there are other secret-identity hijinx elsewhere in the issue which make me wonder why you’d need anything more than a pair of binoculars, let alone a Brother Eye satellite, to figure out Bruce’s secret. Barrionuevo’s work is getting better, though.

I had to run back to the comics shop to pick up Seven Soldiers: Klarion #1 (written by Grant Morrison, with art by Frazer Irving). It’s an unsettling story about a lost colony of witches where (at least for me) the art overshadowed the script. Imagine Charles Addams crossed with The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and you’ll have a good idea. This was the least “superheroic” of the 7S miniseries so far, but that’s hardly a knock against it. I’m waiting to see how Morrison ties it all in with the others, and in the meantime I can enjoy it on its own merits.

Finally, Fantastic Four #525 presents the diverting first part of a two-parter by the interim team of Karl Kesel (writer) and Tom Grummett and Lary Stucker (artists). Everybody’s having bad dreams and Diablo’s involved somehow — or is he? Grummett and Stucker’s style is actually a happy medium between outgoing artists Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel and the incoming Mike McKone, and Kesel always seems to come up with decent, entertaining FF stories. While this doesn’t approach the heights of Waid & Wieringo’s excellent tenure, it’s good on its own terms.

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