Only one thing would have made Birds Of Prey #107 (written by Simone, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) dead solid perfect, and that would have been a more explicit reference to the Huntress nursing Ice back to health in 1989’s Justice League America #35. Not that I’m complaining — there’s enough in the issue to satisfy this old JLI fan, especially the words Huntress speaks to bring Ice back to reality. The rest of the issue wraps up the BoP/Secret Six fight in fine fashion.
Welcome to Tranquility #7 (written by Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) is a bridge between arcs, largely wrapping up subplots from the first six issues, and otherwise focusing on the Emoticon, a minor character from the first arc. My problem with this issue is that it expects me to have kept up with all of these characters, most of whom are easy for me to confuse, simply by sight and subtle reminders of their character arcs. An omniscient narrator would have helped. It’s very much written-for-the-trade, which on one level is a valid choice, but I’m not reading the trade. I put a little more blame for this on Googe for not making the senior-citizen designs distinct enough. I dunno; maybe it’s just me. The Emoticon stuff is done well, and even shocking. There’s also an obviously satirical backup story about Bunny (also pretty much unnamed throughout), and it’s fine, but I’m not sure what the point is.
The trifecta is completed by (All-New) Atom #12 (written by Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Dan Green), a prologue to the “Search For Ray Palmer” arc which finds Ryan encountering random wackiness on his way home through Ivy Town. The whimsical travelogue elements from the first few Tranquility issues show up here, but as over-the-top as this book is, they go just a smidge too far. At the end, the Atom fights some old Atom villains, all goofy, and (like Tranquility) none named. Here, though, I didn’t miss them being identified (the only one I knew by name was Bug-Eyed Bandit), because the joke about them being lame didn’t need it. I like Norton and Green on this book — their style is cartoony enough to fit the overall tone, and I can’t see Eddy Barrows or John Byrne doing the wacky travelogue stuff. By the way, it’s been twelve issues and a short story — can’t we drop the “All-New?”
I went through most of Detective Comics #833 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) thinking it was a subtle nod to The Prestige, the steampunk magician movie starring Christian “Batman” Bale, Michael “Alfred” Caine, and Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman. I appreciated Dini’s use of Zatanna and the evil guest magician, both of whom had appeared earlier in his run. I even thought there was some social commentary on the “audience likes girls tied up” element of the crime. Maybe all of this was distracting, but I did not expect the twist at the end. Good show, gentlemen.
The Black Adam/Mary Marvel parts of Countdown #47 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Andrew Pepoy, Jack Purcell, and John Stanisci) were actually kind of interesting this week. Adam is still a tiresome character as far as I’m concerned, and I know he’s a bad guy, but throwing Mary around was rather uncomfortable to see. The interesting part to me was the way Mary got her powers back. The issue also checks in with Jimmy Olsen, the Monitors, and the Rogues, all in the name of hitting character and plot points. Holly Robinson (not the actress, the onetime Catwoman) is also brought into the story. Art is decent — Derenick’s a competent penciller, but again, the scenes with Mary getting slammed into walls were the weak points.
Superman #663 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino) may represent the first weak link in the Countdown scheduling chain. Ideally, it should have come out last week at the latest, because it stars a character who “died” in last week’s Countdown. Other than that, though, it’s a very good issue, exquisitely drawn and colored (the latter by Alex Sinclair). Merino looks to be using a more intricate inking style, but it really works out well with Pacheco’s pencils. My only question is, when did Lana Lang start stealing from Jean Grey’s old Hellfire Club closet? I don’t watch “Project Runway,” but is the corseted look making a comeback? As for plot, basically the Young Gods of Supertown are in Metropolis on a road trip, with their good-natured hijinx giving Superman problems. The “Camelot Falls” subplot of Superman’s necessity also runs through the book, giving continuity-mechanic Busiek a chance to clear up Arion’s recent history. It ends on a cliffhanger which should advance the “CF” storyline, although I’d have thought we’d have seen more of the apocalyptic future by now.
Finally, Nightwing #133 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne) is the best issue I’ve read so far. It opens with a well-choreographed fight scene, gives Dick some good “civilian time” (including a good bit of detective work), and brings in a mystery woman from Robin’s past. Thus, it’s not afraid to use Dick’s history productively, beyond name-checking Batman, Robin, or their assorted trappings. The plot is nice and compressed, with Dick spending much of the issue trailing kidnappers, and actually having a couple of good action scenes with them. Wolfman’s dialogue is improving too. The worst part involves the implausible mechanics of a mob hit, and even that feels retro enough that it’s probably a criminal’s “theme.” Wolfman’s first two arcs were so-so, but this is leaps and bounds better.