First up this week is 52 #12 (written by Dino, Jerry, Frank, and Sammy; breakdowns by Joey Bishop; pencilled by Eddy Barrows, inked by Rob Stull). It’s mostly a Black Adam story about his budding relationship with Stor– I mean, Isis. She’s not the Filmation character, but really, who pays attention? Black Adam starts to look more Biblical, if not outright mythological, and we find out why Captain Marvel has gotten cabin fever over the past, say, twelve weeks. I have to say, I’m philosophically opposed to the perpetual remaking of Captain Marvel and his associates, but overall this isn’t bad. I’m still not getting the Trials of Shazam! miniseries, though.
P.S. Montoya and Ralph Dibny each get a few pages, and Waid and Adam Hughes present the two-page Wonder Woman primer.
I would have liked Action Comics #841 (written by Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Pete Woods) better if the villain hadn’t been so Manga Khan-esque. However, it was good on its own, showing Superman interacting both with ordinary folk and fellow super-types. It has the same kind of feel that I got from Busiek’s Avengers, where you don’t have to know who everyone is, but you know they’re all part of the same community and you get a sense of the pecking order. Superman, naturally, is at the top, but the story is about the public’s readiness to put him back up there. As plugged-in as the Superman books were to all the Infinite Crisis hoo-rah, under Busiek they’ seem more integrated with the larger DC-Earth, and that in turn feeds Superman’s status at the top of that ol’ pyramid.
The various threads of wackiness all seem to be coming together in Hawkgirl #54 (written by Walt Simonson, drawn by Howard Chaykin), which is nice. It doesn’t mean all is forgiven, and Kendra still spends too much time showing off her underwear, but on balance there was more good than bad.
Checkmate #4 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Jesus Saiz) wraps up its first story arc pretty well, setting up the character relationships and infusing what could have been a foregone conclusion with a bit of cliffhanging. Re-reading these first few issues would probably pay off, since between the Checkmaters and the Great Ten there are a fair amount of unfamiliar characters, not to mention the characters in similar uniforms drawn similarly. In other words, I are stupid and can’t tell some of the players apart on my first quick read.
Steve Englehart, Tom Derenick, and Mark Farmer wrote, pencilled, and inked both JLA Classified #25 and JSA Classified #14, which (respectively) closed out the Detroit League’s adventure with the Royal Flush Gang back in the day, and kicked off Stargirl’s adventure with Gypsy and Vixen set in the present. I had enjoyed the first few parts of the JLA arc, but this last one seemed a bit too breathless, and I don’t remember Gypsy being so powerful, then or now. As for the JSA arc, it also seemed a little too credulous, what with Stargirl copping an attitude towards the more experienced ex-Leaguers, and the thought that “villain mind-controls heroes to fight” is an innovative plot. I like Englehart generally, but this tries my patience.
Marc Singer has commented already on the religious symbolism of Astro City Special: Samaritan (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson), which I didn’t notice upon first reading. I was trying to decide whether Infidel was more of a Luthor- or Brainiac-analogue. Symbolism aside, it was a good story of Samaritan’s number-one foe, and I suppose its main mission was to emphasize how dangerous this dude would be if he ever decided to take over all of creation again.
Speaking of number-one foes, the Red Skull pops up quite creepily in Captain America #20 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting), the penultimate (?) chapter of “Twenty-First Century Blitz.” Cap and his British allies fight Nazi strongmen on a blimp, and it is awesome, even before the giant Nazi robot appears. The prospect of a Cap/Winter Soldier team-up is also teased to great effect.
Finally, as you might have guessed, I saved Batman #655 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Andy Kubert) for last, because it too was awesome. There’s more Bruce Wayne than Batman in this first issue, but Morrison presses all the major Bat-buttons. Short scenes with Gordon and Robin (and even the Joker) seem poised for later payoffs, the “Zur En Arrh” graffiti hints at a return to ’50s-style sci-fi (however brief), and Alfred almost steals the book from under his boss. There are a couple of clunky points, like the blocking of the initial action sequence, the thought that the one-year layoff didn’t rejuvenate Bruce, and the too-obviously-nervous Kirk Langstrom, but on the whole this is a refreshing change for a book that at times seemed more dedicated to maintaining its hard-boiled reputation. I don’t think Morrison is the only one who could have pulled Batman back from the brink of excessive grimness and grit, but he shore does a fine job here.