Comics Ate My Brain

July 26, 2006

New comics 7/12/06 and 7/19/06

Yeah, I know, another two-weeks-at-a-time thing. Last week was a killer, though — the Best Wife Ever went to a (practically) week-long conference in Dallas and I had to make sure the house was in as good or better condition than when she left it. So far, so good. Also, we’ve got another couple of hectic weekends ahead, so between keeping an eye on San Diego over the weekend, I’ve been working on making sure the next couple of Grumpy Old Fans get done.

Since you’ve probably read most of these already, I’ll try to be brief.

THE VERY GOOD

52 #10, for Clark’s shenanigans and Lois’ reaction.

She-Hulk #9, for the priceless dinner with Jen’s future in-laws.

Hero Squared #2. This really needs to be a sitcom. If “My Name Is Earl” can be a comic, this can be a sitcom. And a comic too, of course.

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #27. I wish I knew more creative ways to say “good, solid superhero stories” every month, because that’s the only bad thing about reading this book.

Superman #654. The only bad thing about this book is Lois’ hair, and that’s because it makes her look like Luthor’s ex The Contessa. If this is what the Busiek run is going to deliver every month, for goodness’ sake, DC, don’t let him go!

Green Lantern #12. It might be the one book I think Geoff Johns gets consistently right, but just like with Busiek, whatever he’s on when he writes it does the trick. I’m also a lot fonder of Ivan Reis than I was of Ethan van Sciver, and that’s not really a slight on the latter.

And finally, Justice League of America #0, about which I have already gushed.

THE PRETTY GOOD

52 #11. Would have been better if the DC hype factory hadn’t spoiled Batwoman’s secret identity a couple of months ago.

The (All-New) Atom #1. A fine introduction to the new guy, and more fun than his Brave New World teaser.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #43. Pieces are put together and old Aqua-characters come back as the other new guy finally decides to be Aquaman. It took Busiek a little longer to find his groove with this title, but I think it’s all starting to click.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #20. Come for the rampaging giants, stay for Brainy’s creepy Dream Girl fixation. I want to like this book more, but every month I feel like there’s more going on than I can keep up with. Paperbacks, I know; or maybe I could just find time to actually read the floppies some weekend.

THE ONE THING WAS COOL…

Green Lantern Corps #2. Less murky art would help this book. That sounds like I should get the Dave Gibbons-drawn issue in a couple months, doesn’t it? Anyway, I can’t tell which Alien Of The Week is which, but I did like the Giant Guy Construct.

Star Wars: Rebellion #4. The cliffhanger ending was cool. I can’t say much more.

JLA Classified #24. Nice spotlight on old-school Aquaman, and it is kind of fun to see Amos Fortune comfortable enough with his tub-of-goo body to squeeze it into white spandex.

THE REST

Superman/Batman #28. The new team of Mark Verheiden and Ethan van Sciver start their run with a story about J’Onn J’Onzz going nuts on Batman. Good concept, decent mystery, and no dueling narration, but somehow it just feels kind of stiff.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #2. I know, every dork with an Internet connection thinks he can write comics, but this Flash storyline is so predictable it’s sad. We know Griff the Annoying Roommate will be Bart’s newest supervillain. We know Bart will overcome his Speed Force trauma and his reluctant-hero stance. We know he’ll get together with the cute STAR Labs techie.

Why didn’t this book play around a little more with the mystery of who could be in the Flash suit? Why spend two issues convincing Bart to get back in harness when the two issues have been screaming he’s going to? This book could have started out with a mysterious Flash speeding through town saving people, solving crimes, etc., while leaving clues that it could be Bart, Wally, Walter West, one of Wally’s kids, Griff, or even Valerie. It would be a real mystery, because a Flash could effectively be in two places at once. We’d have gotten more Flash-action and less angst to boot, and the book could even have kept the shifting-narrator flashbacks. In fact, that could have been the “reveal” — when the narration started syncing up with the Flash’s exploits. I almost think this book is being deliberately obtuse, and still has a few surprises in it. I’m fairly sure that gives all involved too much credit, but you never know.

July 18, 2006

"Just My Job, Five Days A Week": Diffusing Star Trek’s Allegorical Shorthand For The 24th Century

Filed under: star trek — Tom Bondurant @ 2:38 am
(Wow, now I have to live up to that title….)

First off, Rick Berman is the Roy Thomas of Star Trek.

As plok so thoroughly discusses, Roy the Boy was the first writer to take Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s immortal Fantastic Four (along with a few other Marvel titles) and “consolidate” it, by refining, rationalizing, harmonizing, etc., the stories into a coherent whole upon which he and future writers could build. Plok observes that Roy had to figure out how to do FF right, because with both Stan and Jack gone it became possible to do FF wrong.

Somewhat similarly, Rick Berman worked with Original Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”’s all-new cast. As Roddenberry’s influence over TNG waned, Berman’s grew; and Berman eventually guided TNG’s movies and successor series.

Berman took Star Trek “from idiosyncratic vision to corporate property,” to borrow plok’s words, which to me makes him a more pivotal figure than later Original Trek producers Fred Freiberger and John Meredyth Lucas. TNG under Berman codified and (at the risk of misusing the term) objectified Star Trek, making systems and rules out of dramatic conceits.

Well, what about the “Phase II” producers, or Harve Bennett, smart guy? Yes, I know … but “Phase II” never got off the ground, otherwise we might be discussing Jon Povill and/or Harold Livingston. As for Bennett, his Star Trek movies (and The Motion Picture too, although he had no part in it) were opportunities to capitalize upon the original cast’s continued appeal. TMP was very much in the mold of the TV show’s Guest-Star-of-the-Week format, so much so that it might well be considered the 80th episode; and Bennett’s movies (as he’s said) are their own animal, looking at the characters themselves. If they don’t have much to do with Gorns or guys with half-black faces, it’s by design. The Bennett movies are Trek deconstructed, not Trek rehabilitated; and rehabilitation works better over the long run than deconstruction does.

There is a providential symmetry to all of these developments, because a lot of Star Trek is (or has become) about the framework. Trek trivia not only makes some story point about how far humanity has come, it adds another item to How Things Work In The Future. Star Trek’s producers wanted everything to be believable not just for believability’s sake, but also because an idyllic future was part of the point of the series. An excerpt from the original Star Trek proposal (reprinted in Stephen Whitfield’s The Making Of Star Trek) states that the show would have all the advantages of an anthology series, and none of the limitations. That means having a consistent background. Perhaps the closest comparison we have today is “Law & Order,” which by the way didn’t have to first invent the American judicial system and thereafter maintain its believability.

From this perspective, the more fleshed-out the future was, the easier it would be to craft new characters to take over for the old ones. (Again, think “L&O’s” revolving-door casting, which starts from the premise that you need two Detectives and two Lawyers, details to follow.) As we’ve seen, Star Trek had already replaced virtually its entire cast in the housecleaning between pilot episodes. However, when the crew turned out to be popular, gradually the show learned to focus on them more.

This focus developed into the allegorical personifications of Kirk the Mediator (or the Decider, as I originally adapted the Bushism), Spock the Brains, and McCoy the Heart. By allowing the three leads to comment on the story of the week, even in somewhat predictable fashion, the show developed their characters while staying true to its anthological aspirations.

Now, this might have been character development only in the sense of maintaining or reinforcing existing tendencies, but that kind of thing can accrete over time into something that can at least be deconstructed later. In his seminal criticism The World of Star Trek, David Gerrold called the negative aspects of this “hardening of the arteries.” Gerrold argued that Star Trek’s main dramatic focus shouldn’t be Kirk In Danger, but Kirk Makes A Decision. In this light, the movies are about the choices the aging crew makes, with the aggregate effect thereof being everyone back aboard a new Enterprise.

Along the way, whether coincidentally or by design, the movies kill and revive Original Trek’s two constants, Spock and the Enterprise. The series always had contingency plans for the loss of Spock, namely Xon and Saavik; and but for Leonard Nimoy’s continued enthusiasm, would have used them. Spock’s death ended Original Trek’s continuity of character, or at least put it in serious question.

Likewise, the destruction of the Enterprise ended (or at least, etc.) Original Trek’s continuity of setting. From Star Trek IV forward, the setting would be “an” Enterprise, not “the” Enterprise, and I think that makes an important tradeoff. If all you need is the name, the ship itself becomes less important. Although Kirk in Star Trek IV declares (with some irony) that “a ship is a ship,” taken together, the “replacement Spocks” and the replacement Enterprise suggest that particular individuals indeed don’t matter as long as core storytelling functions are covered.

While this all suggests that Spock (the original Friendly Alien Outsider) and the Enterprise (as the vehicle for exploring space) are core storytelling elements critical to any series incarnation, it also suggests that all one needs are those functions, because (as “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” make clear) even the ship’s name is unnecessary.

Back to “Phase II.” It not only took into account the lack of Spock, it also had a contingency plan for William Shatner bailing out. As First Officer, Cmdr. Will Decker would take part of Spock’s duties, and was also imagined as being the Young, Swashbuckling Kirk Figure. (Kirk was apparently going to be older, wiser, and perhaps more distinguished. These are not traits one might associate with Shatner in the ’70s, but let’s cruise on.)

The bulk of Spock’s Friendly Alien Outsider role would be played in “Phase II” by Lieutenant Xon, another Vulcan science officer. Additionally, Decker’s old girlfriend Ilia would have been a kind of Bizarro-Spock (or Spock for the Sexual Revolution), an empath for whom sexuality was the new logic. In a weird ‘70s way, then, Decker/Xon/Ilia could have been mapped to the old Decider/Brains/Heart model, with Ilia’s hyper-femininity taking the place of Bones’ humanism in the “Heart” category.

Much of this translated to TNG. Distinguished Kirk became Picard, Decker/Young Kirk became Riker, Xon became Data (although Data also owed a bit to Roddenberry’s “Questor Tapes” android), and Ilia became Troi. However, somewhere along the way Ilia’s overt sexuality was toned way down into Troi’s first-season frumpiness. If Ilia were truly going to represent the Heart (or perhaps the Id), there was little hint of that in the way Troi was utilized.

The rest of the TNGers seem to have come from outside the “Phase II” playbook. Tasha Yar was inspired by Aliens’ Lt. Vasquez, and was originally called “Macha Hernandez,” apparently because “Manlia McStudly” wasn’t ethnic enough. Wesley represented Roddenberry’s vision of a family-friendly Enterprise-D, as opposed to the “militaristic” starship of Bennett’s films. Geordi was a tribute to a paraplegic Trek fan, George LaForge. Worf was the Chekov of the new crew, and the last added, intended to show the progress in intergalactic superpower relations.

That leaves Dr. Crusher, chief medical officer. Although “Phase II” would have featured a female doctor in the person of Christine Chapel, she would still have been second to McCoy. Apart from specialities in psychotherapy and holistic medicine, and even as a potential McCoy contingency plan, Chapel wouldn’t have brought much more to the dramatic table than she did in the Original Series. Indeed, her most notable subplots there centered around a mad scientist fiance in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and her unrequited lurve for Spock in “The Naked Time” and other episodes. The latter was hardly even superficially similar to the relatively complex Crusher/Picard relationship. However, Beverly’s role in the ensemble cast was defined mostly by males — Picard and Wesley, who were connected to her through her late husband.

I find this curious because it suggests that McCoy was a truly irreplaceable character. TNG admits as much through two examples: having the doctor himself give the Enterprise-D a proper sendoff in “Encounter at Farpoint,” and making Dr. Pulaski a (wait for it) Bones clone in the second season. Still, in something of an homage to Kirk, McCoy, and Spock, TNG’s Captain, Doctor, and Brains were featured on the cover of The Continuing Mission, its tenth-anniversary coffee-table book.

Not having McCoy-like skepticism meant that TNG would have to play the Captain off the Friendly Alien Outsiders, or off the other “regular humans” in the cast. I suppose one could see this as a further diffusion or fragmentation of McCoy among said regular humans, but in the longer view it looks more like McCoy just had a more distinct personality than a lot of other Trek crewmembers.

And therein lies the end of Kirk/Spock/Bones particularly, and maybe the Decider/Brains/Heart triangle generally, in favor of the Captain and (more often than not) the FAO.

For the most part I think this holds up. Picard played off Data, Worf, and (when she was around) Guinan; Sisko likewise got paired with Dax, Odo, Quark, and Worf; and Janeway started out already chummy with Tuvok and ended up BFF with Seven of Nine.

However, the Captain/First Officer relationship also gets a lot of attention. In every Modern Trek case I think it has to do with built-in conflict. Sisko/Kira and Janeway/Chakotay are obvious in this respect. Likewise, Picard/Riker initially seemed poised for a turf war, but the two ended up getting along.

Again, I’m probably forgetting more than a few, but you see my point. Most of the big relationships involve the Captain-figures. This makes sense, because the Captain needs information from just about everybody, and the episodes don’t usually leave room for a lot of other relationships. The TNG movies even tended to split the crew between a Picard team and a Riker team, with the focus being on Picard and Data. (The exception was the scattershot Generations, which still paired Captains Picard and Kirk.)

Other recurring relationships tend to be familial (the Siskos, the Crushers), romantic (too many to list), or just “buddies” (Data/La Forge, Bashir/O’Brien, Paris/Kim). This, I believe, is the source of the workaday attitude fostered by TNG. These relationships are valuable in an ordinary dramatic way, but they’re not charged with the same dramatic responsibility as Kirk/Spock/Bones or (for example) Sisko/Kira. They do lend themselves to the ubiquitous pedeconference, and they make the characters more accessible.

However, that workaday attitude tends to demystify the original Star Trek atmosphere of boldly going, etc. By and large I still believe all five Trek shows expressed the “Risk is our business!” attitude described in the previous post, but if nothing else, the sheer volume of Modern Trek allowed more opportunities to highlight the mundanities of Starfleet life. (Who knows, at this point, whether “Enterprise” would have fallen into this pattern? I tend to think it would not have, mainly because it wasn’t anywhere close to developing the large supporting casts the other shows did. Also, “Enterprise” pretty plainly aimed to recreate Kirk/Spock/Bones with Archer/T’Pol/Trip.)

Thus, the lyrical choice for this post’s title. “All the science I don’t understand,” indeed! Ah, if only I were in charge of Paramount’s promos for its Trek syndication packages….

One of the best examples of the NextGen-era diffusion comes in the big finale of “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 2.” Riker’s on the Bridge, ready to ram the Enterprise into the Borg Cube in a last, desperate attempt to save Earth. Meanwhile, Picard/Locutus is in Sickbay, with Data, Dr. Crusher, Troi, and O’Brien trying to hack the Borg communications grid through him. Data handles the actual communication, with Troi around to sense whether the real Picard can take control.

Watching the episode today made me wonder how the Original Series would have played the situation. Would Spock’s place have been as Captain, on the bridge, or mind-melding with Lo(Kirk)us in Sickbay? If the latter, I guess Scotty would have been in the center seat — but wouldn’t he have wanted to be in Sickbay too, monitoring the Borg comm grid? That would leave Sulu with the conn, and wouldn’t that have been a sight — the Enterprise‘s finest helmsman, juking and swerving the great starship, narrowly evading Borg fire…. Well, anyway, it probably would have been Scotty at the conn, Sulu at the helm, and Chekov monitoring Borg chatter.

Still, what a corker it would have been! Because Lokirkus knows full well that Spock will try logic first, he has every advantage — until Spock gets a visit from McCoy, who tells him he has to let go of Kirk. (It’s almost a reprise of “The Tholian Web,” except Spock and Bones wouldn’t necessarily be fighting, and there would be no taped farewell from Kirk giving both men the critical advice.) Of course, Guinan does this for Riker in “BOBW2,” which I think is as close to a Kirk/Bones moment as TNG may ever have come. However, imagine the emotions accompanying that Spock/Lokirkus mind-meld! “BOBW2” does have the hint of a comparable scene between Locutus and Beverly, but it never materializes; and likewise there’s not much subtext to Troi’s witnessing of Picard’s final emergence. Again, the most powerful part of the sequence, in this respect, is when Picard grips Data’s arm; and not just because it reminds me of Spock and Kirk’s handclasp after the V’Ger mind-meld.

To sum up, then, across the five series, the pattern to me has always been the Captain and the FAO. The difference with the Original Series was the elevation of McCoy to an equal partner in the relationship. With his distinct personality unavailable for subsequent series, his similarly unique contribution was abandoned (or at least diminished) in favor of the viewpoints of the non-FAO crew, making their roles more mundane in the process.

Does that sound right? Because he couldn’t replace Dr. McCoy, Rick Berman ended up reviving the original Star Trek dramatic dynamic. Well, that might not exactly have been his intent, but that seems to have been the effect. Every new series must necessarily be at least a little different from the old, for obvious reasons; but at the same time, the spinoffs must be familiar enough to keep from alienating the lifers. I don’t mean to characterize the process as one from Column A, two from Column C, etc., because I have enjoyed all of the series, and the characters are naturally big parts of that. However, I do think that “dilution” might be the best way to describe the transformation of Star Trek‘s dramatic structure. Roy Thomas didn’t dilute Fantastic Four, certainly, so the comparison might not hold up absolutely; but both works came out of their “consolidations” ready to be perpetuated for decades to come.

July 14, 2006

And Happy Bastille Day, Too

Filed under: meta — Tom Bondurant @ 12:30 pm
Good grief, I can hardly believe it’s this humble site’s 2-Year Blogoversary!! What’s more, I am just now finding out I share it with the always-excellent Jog; and both blogs are just a few days younger than also-always-excellent Josh. Happy 2-year blogoversaries to you both!

If you need other reasons to celebrate, it’s the birthdays of (among many others) Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991), William Hanna (1910-2001), and my fellow native Kentuckians A.B. “Happy” Chandler (1898-1991; former Governor and baseball commissioner) and Harry Dean Stanton (1926-). (Where’s the cake?)

Thanks to all of you for reading, both here and at the (former) Great Curve. Year Two was lots of fun — now on to Year Three!

Bloggers gotta eat

Filed under: meta — Tom Bondurant @ 12:15 am

You may have noticed the new Google ads….

July 7, 2006

New comics 7/6/06

Filed under: 52, batman, beyond, fantastic four, secret six, spider-man, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:00 am
Sweet fancy Moses, I read some good comics today! Just when I thought I had things figured out, quite a few of these books surprised me. Hardly a clunker in the bunch!

We begin with Detective Comics #821 (drawn by J.H. Williams III), the first of what I hope are many consecutive issues written by Paul Dini. If JHW3 were sticking around longer, I might be calling this the next great Batman team … but then again, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert are on deck, so we’ll just have to see. Crikey, I’m negative, and for no good reason except being burned by so many Batman comics in the past several years. Anyway, buy this issue. Savor its done-in-oneness, and remember the years of line-wide crossovers. Notice the painted scene transitions, the deco-font captions, the fact that Robin (!) gets a dramatic reveal. Ponder whether the opening two-page spread, with its judicious use of white impact marks and sound effect, is an homage to the Adam West show. Everything about this comic feels right.

Secret Six #2 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti) sports a cover that would send Sir Mix-A-Lot into orbit, but it’s actually kind of a fakeout. The Six spend much of the issue getting back on those that done them wrong, including a torture scene that ends unexpectedly. Art is still rather murky, and the colors this issue don’t help much. A flashback scene involving Scandal swimming uses much the same shade of orange for the water and land elements, making me wonder how long she could hold her breath. Also, one of the Six is the subject of a cliffhanger, but because it wasn’t telegraphed earlier in the book, it’s somehow not as suspenseful. I know that sounds fallacious, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Still, I thnk Deadshot makes a Batman Begins joke, and everything else seems to hold together, so I’m on board for another month.

52 #9 (written by Ace, Rocky, Prof, and Red, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Shawn Moll, inks by Tom Nguyen) tracks two main stories: Steel confronts Luthor over Natasha’s powering-up; and Buddy, Adam, and Starfire escape Devilance the Pursuer. Also, Montoya meets an unmasked Question, and her old girlfriend gets a costumed cameo. (“History of the DCU” covers Identity Crisis, so you can imagine how that goes.) It’s rather predictable to have Natasha and Steel fight, but I like Natasha so far, so I’m rooting for her to have a happy ending. However, the question for the other main story is, how blind is Adam Strange? At one point he can tell that Devilance is looking into the unfriendly end of Adam’s jetpack. Did I miss the part where Adam now has radar sense from the truck full of chemicals passing by the spatial anomaly? Maybe I did; but please, 52, have mercy on us slow folk.

Neck-and-neck with Detective #821 in for this week’s Why Aren’t All Comics Like This? award is The Thing #8 (written by Dan Slott, drawn by Kieron Dwyer), featuring Ben Grimm’s spectacular Marvel Universe-wide poker party, in celebration of a true milestone in his life. Yes, Alicia is involved, but it’s not what you might think. I thought it was a terrifically charming issue built around nothing more than colleagues gathering for a good time, and if I start to think about how much of Marvel and DC’s recent sales are based around blood, death, and artificial bids for relevance, while this title never found its audience, it will just make me madder. If you are enjoying “Civil War,” I can understand why; but if you have a spare $2.99 for this issue, or you want to splurge on the upcoming paperback, you could do worse. Dan Slott loves Marvel’s characters like family, and this series has been a great showcase for him and them.

I wanted Fantastic Four: First Family #5 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Chris Weston, inked by Gary Erskine) to step up the pace, and it did. As Sue struggles with her feelings for Reed and Johnny tries to save his mechanic buddies from burglars, Reed is called in to stop Evil Peter Lorre from irradiating upstate New York with cosmic rays. It’s all good setup for what could be a very satisfying conclusion.

Ever since seeing that Peter David was writing Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man (#17 pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Norman Lee), I had been meaning to get it. This issue features Spidey (still in high school) trying to cure Flash Thompson’s lycanthropy, with the help of special guest star Doctor Strange. I didn’t think David would dumb down an all-ages story, and I wasn’t disappointed. Predictable elements of the story are given good twists, and while David’s trademark sense of humor isn’t front and center, the story is very good-natured. Art is also simple and straightforward, but professional, in the mold of Paul Smith, Ty Templeton, or cover artist Cameron Stewart. If I were feeling more cynical, I’d say sure, Marvel, get the kids hooked on this, and in a few years they’ll be ready for civil liberties and ugly art. Next issue: Man-Thing!

Finally, an impulse buy: Beyond! #1 (drawn by Scott Kolins), bought on the strength of writer Dwayne McDuffie. It’s a sequel to Secret Wars, featuring Spider-Man, Venom, the Wasp, Gravity, Firebird, Hank Pym, a new Kraven, Medusa, and (unfamiliar to me) The Hood. The story is told from Gravity’s perspective, which is nice for someone like me who needs to be introduced to him and some of these others. Now, you might think that some of the big names involved here would be safe from death and carnage, but let me tell you, you would be wrong. While there might be a reset button at the end of issue #6, it looks like an entertaining ride nonetheless.

July 4, 2006

New comics 6/28/06

So … last Wednesday I got home from work with just enough time to change clothes and head out the door with the Best Wife Ever to meet our neighbors for a quick dose of fast food, and then we were off to the 7:15 Superman Returns. I liked it, and I want to see it again, but the best feeling was afterwards, coming out of that movie to a big stack of superhero comics. I have never seen a comic-book movie that made me gladder to be a comic-book fan, and I mean that in the best way possible for both media.

Of course, getting home at 10:30 meant I was up for a couple of hours reading comics, and while that was fun at the time, it put me in a foul mood the next day. It also didn’t help that one of the smoke alarms started its low-battery chirp while I was trying to sleep.

Naturally, first off the stack was Action Comics #840 (written by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek, drawn by Pete Woods), the conclusion of “Up, Up and Away!” I really liked this issue, and not just from the residual movie high. It was a conclusion that actually felt like a conclusion, wrapping up loose ends like the reconstruction of Metropolis and the “reintegration” of Clark’s life with Superman’s. With this issue, the new/retro status quo is established concretely, while still managing to be self-contained. Take a bow, guys; you did “One Year Later” right.

In a nice bit of timing, Batman #654 (written by James Robinson, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) also wrapped up its “OYL” storyline, “Face The Face.” This was a bit more scattered, with the misdirection involving Two-Face going off in (yes) two different directions. That’s appropriate enough, I suppose, and I believe this was a play-fair mystery, unlike “Hush,” but there’s a fine line between clever use of obscure villains and pulling something out of one’s hinder. Still, the closing scenes with Bruce, Tim, and Alfred were worth it. Next up, Morrison and Dini!

52 #8 (written by Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Rob Stull) was a pretty solid issue. With most of the focus on Steel’s metallification, there was still room for a good Ralph Dibny/Ollie Queen scene, teasing Supernova, and checking in with Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. Oh, yeah, and “History of the DCU” covered about 1996-2004, for those who came in late. Overall I still like this series, but I don’t know if that has more to do with its immediacy or its underlying quality. Ironically, it’s hard for me to read it in real time, and when a character refers to “weeks ago,” it almost throws me out of the story.

Brave New World #1 (written and drawn by a whole lot of people) didn’t really have much of an effect on me. I still have little interest in any of these series beyond the Atom, and if I didn’t already like Gail Simone, I wouldn’t be too excited about that one.

I liked Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by Barry Kitson) pretty well, although the reveal of the murderer wasn’t entirely unexpected. It did showcase Chameleon’s detective skills effectively, and the image of a murderous Robotman was a surreal homage to “our era.”

Then there’s Hawkgirl #53 (written by Walter Simonson, drawn by Howard Chaykin). Yes, I’m going to talk about the bra, so Mom, if you’re reading, maybe you should skip this one. Seriously, though, I know it’s just Chaykin’s fondness (and talent) for drawing well-built women, but come on! Why not a sports bra, as opposed to the lacy number revealed in the course of this fight? And since she is wearing a bra under the costume, in Louisiana, howcome she’s still all nipply on the outside? (Actually, Mom is fond of criticizing any movie where the heroine finds herself in trouble while in eveningwear, so this would be another strike against Hawkgirl for her.) As for the merits of the issue otherwise, at least I was able to follow it for a few more pages than usual. I really hate to say this, and it doesn’t reflect on my love for Chaykin otherwise, but I’m giving this book a reprieve to see how the new artist works out.

Meanwhile, over with the other company, I bought New Avengers #21 (written by Brian Michael Bendis) solely for Howard Chaykin drawing Captain America. For that, it was good. It didn’t give me any more insight into “Civil War,” but I wasn’t looking. One question, though: on the page with Spider-Man, what’s the big tower with the spider-thing on top? It looks like Aku from “Samurai Jack” has taken over NYC.

Sticking with “Civil War,” Fantastic Four #538 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone) spends a few pages on Reed and Sue fighting beside Johnny’s hospital bed, a few more with Ben establishing solidarity on Yancey Street, and a few more on getting “DB” to make Thor’s hammer go nuts. So there you go. Six more months of this, at least.

JLA Classified #23 (written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Mark Farmer) presents part 2 of the Detroit League vs. the Royal Flush Gang. I can’t remember my RFG timeline that well, but I think this storyline might be explaining the different Gangs which attacked the League during the ’80s. The one introduced this issue went on to fight Max Lord’s League early in its history, if my memory’s correct. Anyway, it’s a nice take on the characters, and since this issue spotlights Vibe, it’s good that Englehart’s made his accent a little less stereotypical. I daresay those who have a soft spot for the Detroit League will like this, and those who don’t, won’t.

Picked up Eternals #1 (written by Neil Gaiman, drawn by John Romita, Jr.) based on good word of mouth from last week, and it was a decent introduction, but I’m still on the fence about whether to get #2. However, I am a little more motivated to save up for that big hardcover, so curse you, Marvel! for making me want more expensive Kirby reprints.

Nextwave #6 (written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Stuart Immonen) was another romp through fights with samurai robots and ptero-men. Underlying it, though, was the message that the Nextwavers really are pretty dangerous people, and it’s all fun until they decide it’s gone too far. I’m sure there’s some metacommentary hidden in that sentiment, but it’s probably unintentional. This is a comic for folks who like a little wacky with their carnage, and so far it’s all good.

Finally, the penultimate issue of Solo, #11, spotlights Sergio Aragones, and it’s maybe the most fun issue of this gone-too-soon series since Mike Allred’s. Sergio’s style is warm and inviting, and reading it felt like a visit from a friend who loves to tell stories. The only thing that could justify cancelling this series would be knowing for sure it would only get worse from here on out.

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