Comics Ate My Brain

May 27, 2005

New comics 5/25/05

Big week this week, so I’ll try to be brief.

(By the way, if you haven’t taken a gander at my trivia question, please do so now. Thanks!)

JLA #114 (written by Kurt Busiek, art by Ron Garney and Dan Green) finishes the Kryyme Syndicate story pretty neatly. My only problem was a quibble with logistics over a bit of deception the JLA pulls. Otherwise, it feels like the last 30 minutes of a well-constructed action movie — few surprises, but that’s because the foundation has already been laid. Next month begins the inevitable Identity Crisis fallout storyline, but I remember last summer when Busiek was announced as the book’s regular writer, and I’d really like that to still happen.

Batman #640 (written by Judd Winick, with art by Paul Lee and Cam Smith) is basically an interlude issue, but not a bad one. The Red Hood banters with Onyx while Batman goes to Metropolis seeking advice from Superman. Winick continues his good work with Batman, and Lee and Smith (not announced as guest artists — hmmm…) provide art which is softer and more flowing than the regular Mahnke/Nguyen team. Lee and Smith do an especially good Superman. I’m still not sure exactly how Batman found out the Hood’s identity, because that flash-forward from 5 months ago still hasn’t been placed in context, but perhaps that will be answered next issue.

DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #1 (written by Phil Jiminez, with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and George Perez) was a pretty good read. It was eminently predictable, even if you didn’t appreciate the echoes of the original pre-Crisis story (or notice the book’s title, f’r goshsakes), but I thought it stood well on its own. That’s no small achievement, given the continuity wrangles through which Donna has been put. This may all change next issue, once the superheroes get involved, but for now I say well done. Of course, the art was spectacular, as you might expect from these veterans, but that goes without saying.

The OMAC Project #2 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Jesus Saiz) shows OMAC in action, as both the Black King and Batman start to figure out what’s going on from their respective perspectives. Saiz’ art looks a little muddier this issue, and there are too many dark-haired women going around betraying each other. On Rucka’s end, I wasn’t sure about what Batman did in the last few pages of this issue, and we’ll see next month how it affects the plot. I’m also not sure how effective this month’s cliffhanger is. If the bad guy had to face anyone else, I get the feeling it’d be a fairer fight.

I bought Day of Vengeance #2 (written by Bill Willingham, with art by Justiniano, Walden Wong, and Livesay) still not having read #1, and was only a little confused. Basically the Spectre is going around visiting horrific ironic punishments on the smallest transgressors as well as some big-time super-folk, and being seduced by Eclipso to boot — but it looks like Eclipso is being controlled by the Enchantress, who’s a good guy. Maybe the Enchantress is just secretly monitoring Eclipso’s thoughts. I don’t know. There’s also another magic-using woman with a mask with whom I am unfamiliar, and much as I hate unnecessary exposition, it would have been nice for somebody to call her by name at least once. At least I recognized the guy in blue chain mail from an old Who’s Who, although nobody calls him by a codename either. Anyway, the art is fairly decent, despite some weird anatomical things here and there, and the script is entertaining. Just remind us folks who came in late what’s going on, and we’ll be happy.

Flash #222 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay) continues the big fight involving the two Rogue groups and the Flash. It’s actually a lot like last issue — fight fight fight, then a last-page surprise appearance by a forgotten Rogue. Last issue the Top arrived in the middle of the action, and this issue he’s undoing the mental blocks that turned the old-time Rogues good. Not much to say about the script, except it’s the same kind of terse tough-guy dialogue which has characterized Johns’ Rogue work. There are a couple of good moments between Flash and his former friend Pied Piper, although Flash does something questionable with Piper that may come back to hurt him later. The highlight of this issue was Porter’s art. It reminded me of his JLA work, having to handle a dozen characters all running around beating each other up. However, he goes with more conventional panel layouts, occasionally having characters break the panel boundaries; and he choreographs the fights well. Porter is staying for a bit after Johns leaves, and I’m happy about that.

Green Lantern #1 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino and a bit by Ethan van Sciver) was not what I expected. I had neutral expectations for the title after Rebirth, and this issue was neither as bombastic as the worst of Rebirth nor as clever as its best. Instead, it centered around Hal Jordan returning to familiar environs and trying to re-establish himself, and for that I’ll give Johns a lot of credit. Although a lot is familiar, none of it seems pat or settled. Pacheco and Merino’s art is fantastic — Hal looks appropriately old, and even has his original Gil Kane receding hairline from 1959. I still get an unsettling “this guy’s supposed to be dead” vibe from Hal, even though I always wanted him to come back. I hope Johns deals with the used-to-be-dead issues soon, but for now the new GL is pretty good.

I guessed the mystery villain of Adventures of Superman #640 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Karl Kerschl) a couple of pages before Superman did, but I’m not sure if Rucka wanted me to be ahead of the hero. This was still a good issue, and it makes me want to re-read the rest of Rucka’s run. Kerschl’s art may have made the difference here, since it’s very similar to Drew Johnson’s over on Rucka’s Wonder Woman. Having Lois narrate the issue, and featuring Superman on TV as a “newsmaker,” were also good touches which drew me more into the story (and reminded me further of WW).

Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (written by Mark Waid, with art by Barry Kitson and Art Thibert and a backup story drawn by Scott Iwahashi) follows up on the group of supervillains encountered last issue, and otherwise features day-in-the-life vignettes with small groups of Legionnaires. That doesn’t stop it from having a devastating ending — in fact, the vignettes probably lulled me into a false sense of security. There’s also an honest-to-goodness letters page, done Doonesbury style with Cosmic Boy and Chameleon reading fan mail, which was very funny and much appreciated.

Captain America #6 (written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Steve Epting) concludes “Out of Time,” the first story arc; but it sets up “The Winter Soldier,” beginning next month. Basically, Cap races to save Philadelphia while trying to exorcise his fake (?) memories of the day Bucky was killed. There were a couple of surprises along the way, and speaking of letters pages Marvel needs to watch where it puts theirs, because this one’s came in the middle of the big finish and I thought the book was over. In any event, this team has certainly done well with Cap, and I’m glad I’m getting this title again.

Incredible Hulk #81 (written by Peter David, with art by Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer Jr.) also concludes “Tempest Fugit” in an unexpected way, but I’m not sure what to make of it. Basically, the ending allows for any number of crazy scenarios, such that we’re not sure what to believe; and for this type of story that’s a dangerous line to walk. Not that it wasn’t entertaining and even scary in parts, mind you; and David and Weeks did a good job creating and sustaining the appropriate mood. I’m interested to see what they do with a more conventional adventure.

Having gotten severely tired of Supreme Power, I approached Fantastic Four #527 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, with art by Mike McKone) with much trepidation, and was pleasantly surprised. This was quite good, with JMS continuing Mark Waid’s strong characterizations and enthusiastic (sometimes wacky) humor. The plot and subplots were simple but effective, and the art was McKone’s usual fine work. I still think Supreme Power was boring and pretentious, but this was everything that was not.

Finally, City of Tomorrow #2 (by Howard Chaykin) improved on its first issue, mainly by focusing clearly on our hero, the son of the man who built the eponymous city. More than anything this reminded me of Chaykin’s TimeSquared (I know that’s not how it’s spelled, but I can’t do superscripts), which also featured a futuristic city with a robotic underclass. The hero’s interactions with the robotic cops also reminded me of Reuben and Luther from American Flagg!, and the government strike team seemed lifted from last year’s Challengers of the Unknown. None of these are bad things, but it does seem like Chaykin’s been playing with different elements, trying to find a good mix. With this title he may have succeeded.


  1. I’d certainly like to read the Return of Donna Troy. However, I’m going to have to say that I think that Geoff Johns really dropped the ball on the Flash, as the part involving the Top makes no sense to me, since he was already bad enough when he first began, and by the time the Bronze Age came around, he had gotten worse: first, he tried to help Mirror Master plan “The Million Dollar Deathtrap!” in 1972, then, when he found out he was dying, he tried to go out with a bomb by placing explosives all over Central City in 1976, in “If I can’t rob Central City, NOBODY can!” And when he came back in 1981 and possessed Dr. Henry Allen, he was willing to kill him as well, when trying to extort Barry to let him take possession of his own body. To say the least, any supercrook who could stoop to that doesn’t sound like someone who’d been brainwashed into being less rabid. It’s practically a retcon that doesn’t even exist! And it certainly shows that DC is starting to develop some of its own problems with past continuity and history.

    Comment by Avi Green — May 30, 2005 @ 2:54 pm

  2. What’s worse is the hit-or-miss fidelity to the old stories. I give Brad Meltzer credit for pinpointing almost to the month the whole Dr. Light/JLA backstory, and connecting it to Light’s later appearances in New Teen Titans. However, with Flash, Johns seems content only to allude to the Rogues’ past exploits, without trying to draw some larger narrative from them.Still, maybe this is one of the things Infinite Crisis will end up fixing, even if it’s only inadvertent.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — May 30, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

  3. Yeah, that Hulk ending–yeesh. I just couldn’t believe the story went *on* so long to get us to that point. Good stories with that particular villain should be one or two-parters, tops–and while I’m glad David leaves us with a mechanism to explain away some of the crap that built up in the Hulk mythos over the last few years, it still feels cheap. I’m hoping Return of Donna Troy starts making a little more sense once the Titans show up.

    Comment by Prof. Fury — May 31, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  4. First, a belated “Happy Anniversery”, and may you have many more.Second: It appears that Day Of Vengence is taking the opposite approach that Identity Crises took: The story is not self-contained, and not even a sentence of exposition is given. I guess the Cap. Marvel/Specter fight started in a different book. Which one I don’t know. This is greatly disapointing, since I was looking for to this mini-series more than the others.

    Comment by Captain Qwert Jr — June 1, 2005 @ 12:12 am

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