Comics Ate My Brain

September 21, 2005

New comics 9/14/05 and 9/21/05

At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical frothing-at-the-mouth angry superhero fan, I have to get this off my chest:

Day of Vengeance #6 (written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Justiniano, inked by Walden Wong) is the worst comic I have read in a while, even including Willingham’s Leslie Thompkins kiss-off in Batman. As the last issue of a miniseries, it doesn’t conclude the story it started. Instead, it goes for what I can only assume is a series of shocks — cliffhangers, really, since the people and places affected are too important to “die” — designed to get the reader to buy Infinite Crisis. News flash, DC: we were going to do that already, and it would have been nice if DoV had been able to streamline InfC‘s storytelling. The last few pages could easily have been, and probably will be, incorporated into Infinite Crisis itself, arguably making the entire miniseries pointless. As for the Shadowpact, it defeats one of its foes early on, spends the rest of the issue patting itself on the back, and stands around like disinterested spectators for the aforementioned cliffhangers. The last panel of the issue has the Shadowpacters rallying themselves unironically, and the “next issue” blurb encourages us to watch out for their further adventures. Not if Bill Willingham is anywhere near, I won’t. (By the way, DC — how does the destruction of you-know-what over here affect the status of you-know-who in Villains United?)

Speaking of writers whose work frustrates me, Batman: Gotham Knights #69 (written by A.J. Lieberman, pencilled by Al Barrionuevo, inked by Bit) might actually start Lieberman back on the road to redemption, at least in my eyes. He seems to be retconning away one of the biggest mistakes of the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee crowd-pleaser “Hush,” namely the identity of the eponymous villain. The flashbacks and flash-forwards are better this issue, the dialogue isn’t as arch, and the art has been consistently good. I wonder if I have reached some kind of critical mass with Lieberman, where his stuff finally starts to make sense….

Captain America #10 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Lee Weeks) interrupts “The Winter Soldier” for a House of M crossover. So far this is the first and only House of M issue I’ve read, and only because Brubaker’s writing it. As alternate histories go, things start off pretty well for Cap, but he soon finds himself unwelcome at both ends of the political spectrum. Brubaker presents a series of compelling vignettes — the problem is, they never approach any real climax, and the book just runs out of pages after a while. It’s well-executed otherwise.

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1 (written by Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Christian Alamy and Prentiss Rollins) is a fine introduction to the new GL Corps, focusing on Guy Gardner and a would-be Lantern from Sinestro’s old space sector. Johns and Gibbons combine for some subtler dialogue than I usually associate with Johns. The Korugarian physician, clearly the main guest star, is fleshed out well, even if her story seems a bit predictable this early on. The art is decent too. Except for Guy’s head looking like a helium balloon in some panels, everybody looks heroic and the aliens look appropriately alien.

Finally (for this week, at least), Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Pasqual Ferry) almost read like a Mister Miracle Elseworlds. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the other 7S projects, but that’s not necessarily bad. Giving the New Gods the alternate-reality treatment is a good way to invest the longtime fan emotionally, and for a newcomer they are effective just as elements of another reality to which Mr. Miracle isn’t quite sure he belongs. The art was different than I remember seeing from previous Ferry projects — more painted and three-dimensional — but still very good. Too bad he’s not coming back next issue.

Now to last week, except I’m saving Rann-Thanagar War #5, Star Wars: Empire #34, and Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #195 for omnibus recaps.

Chris Eliopolous’ Franklin Richards: Son Of A Genius was a fun special, kind of a cross between Calvin & Hobbes and “Dexter’s Laboratory,” but good on its own terms, and no previous knowledge of the Fantastic Four was required.

Action Comics #831 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Nelson) featured both a Superman/Black Adam/Dr. Psycho fight and a Bizarro/Zoom race. Bizarro comes off a lot more fun here than he does in Superman/Batman (for example), and Simone uses him to good comic effect against the more businesslike villains of the Secret Society. The Superman/Black Adam stuff is entertaining too, but not as much. Jimmy Olsen is here too, drawn with a Beatle/Chekov mophead when he had more of a shaggy ’70s ‘do in the last Superman — but I quibble. At least the Super-books are paying attention to Jimmy again. Simone also writes a funny Perry White. I mention these things because it’s been easy for the Superman writers to get caught up in the whole “let’s make everything big, cosmic, and gut-wrenching” paradigm, and miss the interaction with Supes’ normal friends that was a hallmark for so long. Simone is the most evocative of those old tropes at the moment, and the books are better for it.

Black Adam (get ‘im while you can, folks!) is also in Firestorm #17 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Prentiss Rollins and Rob Stull), trying to recapture ‘Stormy after the Secret Six broke him out of Secret Society captivity over in Villains United. However, the real guest-star is Gehenna, a young woman also being used as a power source by the Society. Their escape from the Society’s base is both exciting and romantic, and the issue does a good job of conveying Jason’s thrills at both defeating super-baddies and flirting with a teenaged hottie.

Another immensely enjoyable issue last week was JLA #118 (written by Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, pencilled by Chris Batista, inked by Mark Farmer), in which J’Onn J’Onzz and Aquaman square off against Despero, Zatanna seeks sanctuary on Themyscira, and the rest of the JLA votes on further mindwiping. This would be a good story even without the Identity Crisis theatrics, and it left me anticipating the next issue.

Finally (for sure), All-Star Batman & Robin #2 (written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) felt a little better than last issue. It seems looser and more freewheeling now that it doesn’t have to establish a certain mood or live up to first-issue expectations. The subtext of the issue deals with Batman’s emotional manipulation of Dick Grayson, and Dick’s realization he’s being manipulated. I have a theory that Robin exists to show readers it would be fun to live Batman’s life without actually being Bruce Wayne, so I wonder if Miller is headed someplace similar. Still, the true test will come once Dick gets into the short pants and elf shoes.

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