Comics Ate My Brain

August 17, 2005

New comics 8/10/05 and 8/17/05

A little shameless self-promotion first: in today’s Permanent Damage, comics writer/columnist Steven Grant has some blog recommendations. No, this humble effort isn’t one of them, but Mr. Grant did choose to quote yours truly’s latest essay in recommending The Great Curve.

Onward and upward.

Action Comics #830 (Gail Simone, writer; John Byrne and Nelson, artists), featuring Dr. Psycho vs. Superman, was clever and suspenseful. Using Superman’s universal appeal against him also played nicely with the current subplot of those same citizens starting to really distrust him. I liked this one a lot.

I also continue to like “Crisis of Conscience,” which continued in JLA #117 (Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, writers; Chris Batista, artist). It is clearly a big part of Crossover Madness, but it also feels like a standalone JLA adventure. Good to see Despero back, and his motivation for being involved makes sense. Nice art, too.

Rann-Thanagar War #4 (Dave Gibbons, writer; Ivan Reis & Marc Campos, artists) offers more wall-to-wall mayhem on several fronts. However, I am starting to notice that Gibbons is making Kyle Rayner talk like a more uptight version of Hal Jordan — giving him the “Great Guardians!” epithet, for example. As for the mayhem, it’s all rendered well, and I’m sure it’s building to some pulse-pounding conclusion.

Our “heroes” attack a Secret Society base in Villains United #4 (Gail Simone, writer; Dale Eaglesham & Rodney Ramos, artists), dressed in stealthy charcoal-colored costumes that make Cat-Man look even more like Batman. There’s fightin,’ killin,’ lovin,’ and an obvious crossover with another regular series. It’s pretty fun, but I’m still trying to work out the Parademon/Rag Doll relationship.

Speaking of crossovers, Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #3 (Grant Morrison, writer; Ryan Sook, artist) suddenly finds itself in the middle of another 7S series’ subplots — at which point I resolved reluctantly to take a comprehensive look at each of these miniseries (and probably the JLA Classified arc), to see if they made more sense collectively. Not that this was bad, but as irregularly as these books come out, it’s hard to remember the relative importance of various cross-title allusions. Zatanna is still very enjoyable by itself, and despite the crossover it may be the most accessible to a superhero-reading mouth-breather like me.

Conversely, Seven Soldiers: Klarion #3 (Grant Morrison, writer; Frazer Irving, artist) was almost a self-contained story with another good Morrison idea — a teen gang with superhero-esque codenames and a Menudo rule mandating graduation to an older version of the teen gang at age 16. The superhero-reading mouth-breader in me also appreciated this issue’s many allusions to venerable DC heroes, although the artifact the teen gang steals is probably one too and I just don’t recognize it. About the only thing wrong with this issue was on the first page: Roanoke’s not in West Virginia.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #194 (D. Curtis Johnson & J.H. Williams III, writers; Seth Fisher, artist) starts our intrepid Bat-band on its road to tragedy, and as far as that goes it’s a good read. Wait — that came out wrong. I do like Batman’s operatives, but because this is a flashback, we know they won’t be his agents for long. Likewise, the old “I can’t trust you anymore! (sniff)” from Gordon is also somewhat hollow, because we know where their relationship is going too. Still, this is one of LOTDK‘s better arcs in a while, especially with its less intense Batman.

Batman #643 (Bill Willingham, writer; Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sandra Hope, artists) presents Part 2 of “War Crimes,” in which we discover there’s another Batman causing trouble — and wearing a costume with the unfashionable yellow oval, no less! The Joker’s around too, despite having been bludgeoned (apparently) to death in this very title a few months back. Art’s not bad, but it’s hard to distinguish from other Bat-books in last summer’s “War Games” storyline. Maybe that’s the point. Also, this issue has one of the weaker cliffhangers I can remember: Batman on the phone to Alfred, waiting for a minor computer analysis.

Good thing “War Crimes” continues in Detective Comics #810 (Andersen Gabrych, writer; Pete Woods & Bit, artists), which advances the plot nicely. Too bad the cover contains a pretty sizable spoiler. Batman gets to be more of a human in this issue, laying a bouquet at a Stephanie Brown memorial and having a heart-to-heart with Stephanie’s mom. The Joker, Black Mask, and the media types are all used well too. Yellow journalism is a fairly easy target, but still. I do hope this storyline is actually wrapped up next issue, because I’m getting pretty weary of all these crossovers and mega-plots.

There are no such intrusions on the plot of Green Lantern #3 (Geoff Johns, writer; Carlos Pacheco, artist), in which Hal battles two Manhunters, with the newer model being able to siphon off his ring power. The big set piece is a nearly-drained GL having to use an Air Force jet to kill a Manhunter before it destroys the jet and him. The solution seems a little forced, but it’s still a nice hokey moment.

Captain America #8 (Ed Brubaker, writer; Steve Epting, artist) featured Cap’s denial of Bucky’s return, along with pretty convincing evidence about what happened to Mr. Barnes after his last adventure with Cap. The whole issue is that kind of setup, which I suppose now means Cap has to track down the Winter Soldier along with the rogue Soviet general and stolen Cosmic Cube. It’s good setup regardless, and I guess I’m on board for the rest of “The Winter Soldier.”

I don’t quite know what to say about Shanna The She-Devil #7 (Frank Cho, writer/artist), except that I expected a lot more from this miniseries than seven issues’ worth of bikinis and killing dinosaurs. Frank Cho is a skilled artist, to be sure, and I’d probably buy his work in the future, provided he was drawing someone else’s script. I’ve been reading Liberty Meadows via an e-mail service for the past couple of months too, and it hasn’t convinced me that he’s just slumming with Shanna. I don’t even think you could call this an “art book,” unless you like looking at hot blondes and lots of gore. Maybe there is a market for that; I don’t know. Still, I can’t believe I didn’t stop buying this book when I had the chance.

Finally, Defenders #2 (Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, writers; Kevin Maguire, artist) is proving not to be in quite the same vein as the creators’ Justice League work. It’s played for laughs, but its events are more objectively serious. Most of this issue focuses on Dormammu and Umar, siblings so close I’m surprised there hasn’t been a Donny & Marie joke. The villains capture our heroes and then spend much of the issue trying to decide what to do with them. That doesn’t sound too funny, and it’s not laugh-out-loud funny like the JLI stuff was, but it’s definitely not all grim and angsty.

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