First up is 52 #14 (written by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Dale Eaglesham, inks by Art Thibert), which finds itself in a more familiar groove after last week’s near-exclusive focus on Ralph Dibny. This time the issue’s split between Montoya and the Question’s trip to Kahndaq, and Steel’s despair over his niece’s allegiance to Luthor. Will Magnus is visited by “men in black” (who don’t wear black, thus the quotes) and the capper is a two-page origin of Metamorpho. The Metamorpho origin makes him seem like an Indiana Jones-type adventurer before the accident that gave him his powers, and while I’m no Metamorpho scholar, I don’t seem to remember that kind of swashbuckling surviving to his superhero days. Maybe I just didn’t notice. Anyway, it’s a neat idea to emphasize, and by that I mean “hit me over the head with it so I don’t miss it again.” Back in the main book, the Kahndaq stuff is good, but the scene with Magnus got a little confusing during the prisoner takedown. The Steel scenes were effective, although that plot seems to be in a holding pattern.
I bought JSA Classified #15 (written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Mark Farmer) partly out of curiosity to see if Part 2 of … well, Part 2, counting the JLA Classified arc, would improve on a lackluster couple of installments. I suppose it depends on accepting a side of Gypsy’s powers I hadn’t seen before. Is this an astral form? Did she study with Doctor Strange? Anyway, the setup is pretty intriguing, as far as supervillain plots go — basically, the stronger Wildcat gets, the madder he gets, or the unluckier his foes get. It might not be plausible, but it’s effectively unbeatable, at least to my mind that hasn’t had time to consider it. Ultimately, not as bad as it could have been, and I’ll be back for Part 3.
Superman #655 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) was good from start to finish, including the pleasingly old-school cover. (Word balloons? How kicky!) Much of the issue is told in flashback as Clark brings us up to speed on two old double-L girlfriends, Callie Llewellyn and Lana Lang. The latter, in fact, is the new CEO of Lexcorp, which, considering all the trouble she’s been through ever since her ex-husband was elected VPOTUS, is a pleasantly surprising change in the status quo that I hope is long-lived. It sure is a good distance from her Chuck Austen “homewrecker” role, and Busiek gives her and Clark a more dignified airing of their old romance.
As for Callie, the big mystery centers around just what she knows of Clark and Superman, but her status as Clark’s post-Lana flame allows Clark a non-milquetoasty exchange with a fellow reporter interested in the nudge-nudge aspects. Indeed, Clark has apparently adopted the Jim Rockford blazer-no-tie style, and via Pacheco, makes it work. Also, Superman’s in this issue, fighting a Doomsday-type brute engineered by the USSR. Busiek uses Supes’ senses for exposition, putting in narrative captions information about the setting that Pacheco then doesn’t have to show. It works better than I can describe. Except for a few confusing pages with Arion in 17th-century France, that holds true for the entire book.
If it turns out I have correctly guessed the identity of the Mystery Villain glimpsed in Firestorm #28 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne), I will be very impressed with myself and may well be even more insufferable. (The guess is at the bottom of the page.) This was another solid issue, moving things along nicely and bringing back a few familiar faces. Speaking of which, it feels like Moore is playing the single-dad angle with Jason as a counterpoint to Ronnie Raymond’s (widower?) father, only where Ronnie had to deal with a stepmother, Jason’s real mom is now back in the picture. Anyway, Mikhail Arkadin (one of Ostrander’s Firestorms) returns officially in this issue, everybody fights foot soldiers in battlesuits, Firestorm unloads a massive amount of power on a big blob-beast, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all good.
Beyond! #2 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Scott Kolins) is mostly a big fight between Medusa and Venom, during which Medusa is shown to be quite hardcore. Also, the group winds up on a mysterious planet, Hank Pym apparently pulls an Avengers Quinjet out of his pocket, and surprisingly, I remember that the one guy with the hair is the new Kraven. All in all, not a bad second issue, with enough happening to be entertaining. For #2 out of 8, that’s about right.
She-Hulk #10 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Nelson) also has a lot going on, from Jen’s role as Registration Act enforcer to Pug’s attempts to break Starfox’s love spell (and, therefore, destroy Shulkie’s new marriage), the repercussions of said marriage on the new hubby, both personally and with an old Spider-Man villain, and the revelation of another villain from the previous She-Hulk series who, quite honestly, I had forgotten. Sure, it’s fun, but it feels like we’ve been dealing with these issues for a while now and it’s time for some resolutions.
And speaking of resolutions, Fantastic Four: First Family #6 (written by Joe Casey, pencilled by Chris Weston, inked by Gary Erskine) wraps up the miniseries in a decent way. I wasn’t crazy about this issue, but it might improve once the whole thing is read in one setting. Mostly I kept waiting for Reed to get the crew out of those clunky unstable-molecule suits and into some more comfortable unstable-molecule duds. Also, this issue Reed tends to look like Peter Lorre, which I might have mentioned before. The power of love saves the day, too, but again that fits with another subplot, so it’s not so egregious. The whole thing is redeemed, though, by closing with the classic FF mission statement, so all is forgiven:
*** I think it’s Tokamak, Lorraine Reilly’s father, who tried to become a nuclear-powered supervillain a few years into the Fury of Firestorm series.