Comics Ate My Brain

October 13, 2007

New comics 10/10/07

Let’s start this roundup with Green Arrow And Black Canary #1 (written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colored by Trish Mulvhill). I will admit freely that my purchase of this book comes from two major factors: DC’s marketing plan, and Cliff Chiang. I bought the various “wedding specials” because they looked pretty decent, and even with all its faults I was intrigued by the wedding-night cliffhanger. (Plus I really liked Amanda Conner’s work on that issue.) However, even with all of that, I probably would have resisted this issue were it not for the presence of Mr. Chiang. I liked his Detective and Spectre issues, but the “Dr. 13” story really won me over.

Chiang brings that same kind of spirit to this issue. His characters are incredibly expressive (sometimes to the point of exaggeration, as in the Dr. 13 story), but where, as with Black Canary here, the focus is on the shifting moods of a central character, that talent pays dividends. Chiang also has to deal with a good amount of guest-stars, including Batman, Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern, as well as a number of cameos. There are flashbacks too, and a fight scene, but it’s all organized quite well, and everyone gets their own bit of personality.

Of course, Chiang’s work is based on Winick’s script, which is dialogue-heavy but actually finds room for a third-person omniscient narrator. What’s more, it eschews first-person narrative caption boxes, so we’re not distracted trying to match up thoughts with characters. It still doesn’t explain why Dinah had to kill her attacker, but the arc isn’t over yet. Yes, the issue does have nods to DC’s latest round of Big Events (Amazons Attack, mainly), but the story doesn’t depend on the reader’s familiarity with them. Thanks to the flashbacks, it probably doesn’t depend that heavily on all the wedding-buildup specials either. Overall, a good first issue, and I’ll probably be with the book at least as long as Chiang is.

Next up is Booster Gold #3 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), wherein Booster goes to the Oooold West (Yee-haw!) to team up with Jonah Hex. Basically, the task here is to save the doctor who’ll deliver Jonathan Kent’s great-grandfather, and thus ensure that Superman’s timeline is secure. Before that, though, the issue advances a subplot involving Booster’s slacker ancestor and a nosy reporter, and there’s an incongruous one-page interlude flashing back to Booster and Blue Beetle III during Infinite Crisis. Also, there’s another cameo by Team 13, which is nice. (Buy Architecture And Mortality!!) The 52 chronology-captions are gone this issue, maybe because we’re in the 19th Century for half of it; but I kind of miss them. The pathos of Booster’s current setup is also absent this issue. Anyway, it’s not bad, and it’s about what you’d expect — a well-produced time-traveling superhero story.

I kinda liked Countdown #29 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) because it begins with the capture of the Challengers Of Beyond by Lord Havok and the Extremists. That’s the A-story this week. Over in the other plots, the Newsboy Legion has a welcome reunion with Jimmy Olsen, Harley and Holly survive their trip to Themyscira, Mary Marvel goes further into the dark side, and Trickster and Piper enjoy diner food with Double Down, a villain unfamiliar to me. Oh, and the cover-featured Karate Kid gets one page with Brother Eye. Anyway, I liked the issue because it felt cohesive, like a complete unit of storytelling. The Havok/Challs story had its start and (putative) finish in this issue, and the other vignettes did good jobs of advancing their respective storylines. (Good thing, too, because we’re just two weeks from the end of CD‘s first half.) Garcia and McKenna helped a lot, along with Rod Reis on colors, by giving their characters weight and presence.

Superman #668 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green) begins “The Third Kryptonian,” which as we all know comes with an asterisk because it doesn’t count Chris Kent, Power Girl, Krypto, or the Kingdom Come Superman (over in JSA). Anyhoodle, it changes out Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino for Leonardi and Green, and while the styles may be different (Leonardi is more “cartoony” than Pacheco), Busiek’s sure-footed scripting is a constant. Man, I hope he’s on this title for a long time to come. You’ve probably seen the previews with Chris Kent and Robin, and the whole issue’s like that. Busiek’s concerned with the logistics of making Superman a viable, believable character, but it’s all in the service of a well-told story. “T3K” itself looks pretty straightforward — an intergalactic bad guy wants revenge on Krypton’s legatees — but that’s not a knock. If Leonardi and Green are on the book for the long haul too, that’s all good. Their work is like a cross between Walt Simonson and Scott McDaniel, so I approve heartily.

Leonardi also pencils JLA Classified #44 (written by Justin Gray, inked by Sean Phillips), basically an extended trip through J’Onn J’Onzz’s head via his memories of the Justice League. I like Leonardi and Phillips separately, but here they don’t complement each other, with Phillips’ inks making Leonardi’s pencils look looser. I also got hung up on the continuity issues these kinds of flashbacks create. While that’s addressed somewhat in the context of the story, it’s still a pretty pedestrian “no one trusts the Martian” tale.

As it happens, no one trusts the Amazons after Amazons Attack, so here we are with a fill-in for Wonder Woman #13 (written by J. Torres, pencilled by Julian Lopez, inked by Bit). The main plot involves a protest outside the museum where Wonder Girl’s mom works, but there’s also a scene where Sarge Steel channels Jonah Jameson, and a more supportive encounter with the Justice Society. It’s all pretty familiar. The art is good for the most part, although Lopez seems to want Diana to pose suggestively, giving us a butt-shot to start off page 13 and then a couple of boob-thrusting panels further down the page. Anyway, Gail Simone starts next month.

Fantastic Four #550 (pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) may be writer Dwayne McDuffie’s last issue, which would be a shame. It certainly feels like a wrap-up, and there’s even a farewell dinner at the end. Everything gets tied in pretty well, although I have to say I had to remind myself that Reed and Sue were studying the aliens featured herein. There was also a lot of technobabble (and eventually mysto-babble) describing the exact threat to creation. Still, a lot of balls to juggle, and no real slips, so McDuffie, Pelletier, and Magyar go out on top — unless this wasn’t their last, in which case I’ll be happy for at least another month.

Finally, I talked a bit about Green Lantern #24 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert and Julio Ferreira) over on B@N this week, but I’ll go into more depth here. This is the big Sinestro Corps Vs. Earth issue that sort-of renders the Cyborg Superman Special redundant. By that I mean you don’t need it to tell you the Sinestros are cutting swaths of destruction through the East Coast. Reis brings the same kind of detailed carnage to this issue that he did in Rann-Thanagar War, and thanks to the colors of Moose Baumann, it’s made that much clearer. There are many crowd scenes, including double-page spreads for the Sinestros and the GLs, but none of them look crowded. There are rah-rah moments, which are appropriate given the series of little defeats the GLs have endured so far. It’s a very effective installment of “The Sinestro Corps War,” and it clears the decks for the big blowout which is sure to come next issue.

Not that there aren’t problems. John’s “stay black” line comes out of nowhere, and the way the issue reads, Kyle doesn’t need the painting to get out of Parallax. That also seems a little easier to do this time around, but I suppose it has to do with Parallax’s attention being divided. The notion that Alan Scott might be open to killing the Cyborg Superman is also a little disquieting, more so than the Green Lanterns having the lethal-force playing field leveled.

From what I know about Geoff Johns, though, I will say that it must be big of him, a loyal Michigan State alum, to put a U. of Michigan logo on Guy’s power battery. If the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry is as fierce as, say, Auburn/Alabama or Kentucky/Louisville, that takes guts.

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