Comics Ate My Brain

August 29, 2005

New comics 8/24/05

Filed under: batman, crisis, fantastic four, howard chaykin, legion, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 12:41 am
Let’s start positively, and enjoy that while it lasts. I do try to be a happy person, after all.

Probably the book I enjoyed the most this week was The OMAC Project #5 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Jesus Saiz, and Cliff Richards and Bob Wiacek). It may be the flagship title for “superheroes aren’t meaningful unless bad things happen to them,” but every month Rucka has amped up the “uh-oh” level. In the immortal words of William Dozier, “the worst is yet to come!” Of course, this is also a nice way of saying that new stuff happens every month in OMAC, as opposed to the other I-Crisis miniseries, which as they come down the stretch seem to be about less than they originally seemed.

Take Day of Vengeance. It started as a big fight between Captain Marvel and the Spectre, mixed with some postmodern interaction among some of DC’s lesser-known magic-users. Four issues later, it’s still about defeating the Spectre, who’s happened to hook up with the wrong woman. (We’ve all been there at some point — am I right, fellas?) Likewise, Rann-Thanagar War will apparently be six issues’ worth of explosions, big troop movements, and DC sci-fi characters; and Villains United looks to be six issues of Secret Sixers evading Secret Socialites. I’ll probably do 5-out-of-6-issue recaps of each of these before too long, so those might change my opinions, but right now, only OMAC looks to have moved its characters past where they started.

For example, there’s the evolution of Sasha Bordeaux, even though that may be slightly silly. There’s also the reunion of Justice League International, despite the tragic death of another JLIer. The cliffhanger is good too, and I hope there’s some kind of resolution even though the OMACs look to be involved in Infinite Crisis.

As for the week’s other I-Crisis miniseries, Day of Vengeance #5 (written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Justiniano and Walden Wong) gets off on the wrong foot, putting superfluous word balloons on a perfectly good Walt Simonson cover. Inside, the first half of the issue is celebration and exposition, and the second half is the plan to (once again) kill the Spectre. Maybe I’m biased, but shouldn’t the whole agent-of-God thing make the Spectre pretty hard to kill? (Unless that’s part of God’s plan, of course — or have I just anticipated the plot of #6?) Anyway, my other complaint about this series is the dialogue. Everyone except Shazam and Captain Marvel has the same kind of detached-ironic tone, and while a constant stream of faux-Elizabethan syntax would get old too, throwing some of that into the mix wouldn’t have hurt. Art’s good, though.

Adventures of Superman #643 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by various people) spends 8 pages recapping “Sacrifice,” perhaps for the benefit of those who didn’t pick up any of the July Superman books, Wonder Woman, or OMAC. Thankfully, the rest is new, showing the OMACs overextending Superman, and Supes’ visits with Batman and Lois. The art is fine (Carlos D’Anda does the “Sacrifice” dream-sequences, Rags Morales and Michael Bair handle a few pages of Supes/Wonder Woman/Max Lord stuff, and Karl Kerschl gets the rest). Rucka also does right by the Superman/Batman conversation, and the last page with Lois. However, it would have gone down a little better if there hadn’t been two other Superman books showing him losing his mind over current events; or if I thought this was the last issue to show him dealing with these things.

Conflict abounds also in Legion of Super-Heroes #9 (written by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, drawn by Georges Jeanty and Art Thibert, and Kitson), as Terror Firma — was that really the best name for an alternative political movement? — seeks to establish a beachhead on a U.P. planet. I could just be a sap, but I was pleasantly surprised that the Cosmic Boy subplot did not take up at least another issue. Waid & Kitson also did a good job thumbnailing the intra-team squabbles. Of course, while I don’t expect this macro-plot to continue much longer, Waid & Kitson are laying a good foundation for future drama. Artwork was good as well — with Thibert as inker you tend to get Thibert-looking people, but that’s not bad; and Jeanty’s a decent penciller. Kitson draws the welcome return of the letter column.

I must be reading City of Tomorrow (#5, by Howard Chaykin) too quickly, because I’m just not getting anything out of it. Once it concludes I’ll probably do an omnibus essay.

Fantastic Four (#530, written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone and Andy Lanning) takes a turn for the cliched. It seems to have ripped off Grant Morrison’s Neh-Buh-Loh for this issue’s alien visitor, and then it puts him through the old Day The Earth Stood Still “trigger-happy soldier gets nervous and shoots” routine. However, it all ends promisingly (not that it ends, but the cliffhanger looks promising), so there’s hope next issue will be better. JMS does seem to be building up to a Spider-Totem situation, though.

I also picked up What Were They Thinking? #1, a Keith Giffen/Mike Lieb remix of a few old Wally Wood war comics. Essentially, Giffen and Lieb put funny words in the old balloons of four stories, with mixed results. I thought the third one was the most consistently funny, and the rest more dependent on frat-boy humor; but I’m not opposed to the concept. Giffen has certainly been funnier, so maybe this was an off issue.

And finally, there’s Batman #644, the conclusion of “War Crimes” (written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Sandra Hope). SPOILER SPACE for anyone who hasn’t already read angry Internet rants, or anyone who doesn’t want to read another:

5

4

3

2

1

Most of this book is consumed with mas macho posturing, dialogue that’s not as smart as it thinks, and a plot that is often just ridiculous. There are a couple of good moments, which collectively take up about 3 pages — Batman gives a reasonable reason for not being a “government agent” relative to the evidence laws’ exclusionary rules; and he then makes a local TV reporter’s day by arranging an interview with Superman. However, that’s followed by a conclusion which almost completely assassinates the character of Leslie Thompkins, who started off as a unique figure in Batman’s life and is now a pariah. When he revamped Leslie for the post-Crisis era, Mike W. Barr even made her Bruce’s foster mother!

That may have been swallowed by the avalanche of Bat-events since 1987 — “wouldn’t Bruce having a foster mother blunt the effect of his parents’ deaths?” I can hear various DC creative types asking — but what remains is a character who served as “loyal opposition” to Bruce’s crusade and became a betrayer of the cause. You’re either with Batman or against him, apparently. I’m sorry I don’t remember which fellow blogger suggested that Stephanie Brown was still alive, and this was all a ruse by Leslie, who at her heart could never betray her Hippocratic oath, but I’m with you. This was going to be a short, smart-aleck review that simply referred to “Parallax,” but seriously, if Leslie can be rehabilitated, she should be. Batman #644 served only as a bitter epilogue to the reservoir of wasted potential that was Stephanie’s Robin career.

5 Comments »

  1. Don’t worry! It’s all Wanda’s fault. Once she’s dead. Blue Beetle and the rest will be alive again, and Leslie and Max will be good again. Yes! That has to be it! It has too!

    Comment by Captain Qwert Jr — August 29, 2005 @ 3:28 am

  2. Thanks for the words of comfort, Qwert. 😉

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — August 29, 2005 @ 1:54 pm

  3. The sad thing about the Sacrifice aftermath story in Adventures of Superman wasthat it told the story better as a short recap, than the whole Sacrifice arc did in the long form. This was a prime example of why everything doesn’t need to be told in the decompressed(use up as many pages as you can to up the issue count of the arc and get us into TPB territory) story telling style.It was more powerful as told in that one issue than it was over the course of the multiple issues of the Sacrifice story arc.puff

    Comment by Mark "Puff" Anderson — August 30, 2005 @ 4:21 am

  4. What I got out of Batman #644: Bill Willingham stating he’s not responsible for Steph’s death in War Games. Because, darnit, he had Batman get her to the hospital on time! Accurate? I don’t know, but that was the feeling I walked away with at the end of War Crimes. It wasn’t about Batman or Steph or even Leslie, but Willingham himself.As for Leslie, somehow I think this is one character who’ll end up retconned through Infinite Crisis. Or, at least, I hope she will. Because at the end of the day, her letting Steph die is just so very, very out of character. I mean, Leslie’s big issue with Bruce using kids as Robins is that they may end up dead. So how is her letting Steph die any better?

    Comment by iamza — August 30, 2005 @ 11:53 am

  5. Apparently, on the Fables message boards, Willingham is justifying his script in terms of “getting a reaction out of the audience.” This has since been dissected. (I’m learning this second-hand, of course, and haven’t had the opportunity to check it out in detail. I think Cognitive Dissonance recapped it over the weekend.)Ironically, “War Crimes” also contained a couple of humanizing-Batman scenes — visiting the Stephanie memorial, and giving the TV reporter the Supes interview, for example. So I guess the Leslie scene was supposed to show that Batman did care about Stephanie, and was able to look after her — but didn’t we know that already?And Mark, I’m starting to think “Sacrifice” and the other I-Crisis tie-in stories would have made excellent Annuals. Do parts 1-3 in a Superman Annual and part 4 in a Wonder Woman Annual. When was the last round of DC Annuals — 1999?

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — August 30, 2005 @ 1:56 pm


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