Comics Ate My Brain

April 27, 2008

New comics 4/23/08

Filed under: batman, birds of prey, checkmate, justice league, spirit, star trek, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:42 pm
Well, Countdown ended on Wednesday, so I talked about it on Thursday. I thought it suffered from a lack of focus which, while understandable, was also avoidable.

Still, I did buy other comics, and here they are.

Star Trek: New Frontier #2 (written by Peter David, drawn by Stephen Thompson) brings in a couple more NF characters, just when I was starting to get used to the ones already in play. Essentially, everything’s moving towards a confrontation with Jellico and the stolen timeship at New Thallon, but the waiting gives us time for some character interaction. Overall the issue was fine. Exposition was integrated pretty well into dialogue. (There are no narrative captions — not even a Captain’s Log — in the entire issue, which is a little odd for a Trek comic.) A new Galaxy-class starship comes into the picture too, which is confusing for those of us expecting the only such ship to be the Excalibur. Anyway, the art is about the same as last issue — rougher than I’m used to for a Trek comic, but true to the aesthetic. Three issues to go, and I have a feeling everything will happen in the last one.

It looks like Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier put all their social commentary into the latest Groo miniseries and let themselves go wacky with The Spirit (#16 written by them and drawn by Paul Smith). Denny Colt is hardly as dense as Groo, but in this issue he errs — in a well-meaning way, of course. The Spirit goes Hollywood to solve an on-set murder. While it looks play-fair at first, about halfway through it starts getting deliberately convoluted, so the reader is left to relax and let everything play out. Since that includes, among other things, a Carson Kressly parody and a stuntman gig (reminiscent of “bring in the double!” from that one Daffy Duck cartoon), the murder seems almost beside the point. With Paul Smith showing off his cartooning chops, the issue looks really good, but again, it’s only Eisneresque on the surface.

Dwayne McDuffie devotes most of Justice League of America #20 (drawn by Ethan Van Sciver) to Wally West’s struggle with rejoining the JLA. In its way, it’s reminiscent of the “should I be a superhero?” angst which Wally went through 25 years ago, back in the New Teen Titans days — only now, Wally has his own family, instead of worrying about his parents and girlfriend back home. Thus, Wally and Wonder Woman fight the Queen Bee while WW prods him to live up to his League responsibilities. I thought this issue was executed pretty well. McDuffie writes Wally and Diana well, and while Van Sciver’s art is a little stiff, it’s miles ahead of Ed Benes’ sketchy, pose-heavy work. (The storytelling involving WW at the end is a little unclear, though.) I’d have liked more than two JLAers and a Black Lightning cameo in McDuffie’s first crossover-free issue, but it sounds like he’ll have time to do his own thing soon enough.

I don’t know what happened to regular artists Tony Daniel and Jonathan Glapion, but fill-in penciller Ryan Benjamin and fill-in inker Saleem Crawford bring a bit too much ’90s Image overthinking to Batman #675 (written, of course, by Grant Morrison). This issue is the bridge between the alternate-Batmen arc and next issue’s “Batman R.I.P.,” and it exists apparently to elevate Bruce’s girlfriend Jezebel Jade to Silver St. Cloud status. It’s the secret-identity dilemma of a familiar “Bruce is trapped in public” situation, only this time Bruce is somehow unable to find a good spot to change. Maybe it’s the presence of a Ten-Eyed Assassin, the cult which was part of Bruce’s epiphany during the Year of 52. Anyway, I don’t have much of a problem with Morrison’s script (which also includes scenes for Robin, Nightwing, and Talia), but the art is pretty distracting.

Sean McKeever’s last issue of Birds Of Prey (#117, pencilled by Nicola Scott and inked by Doug Hazlewood) turns out to be his best. Misfit gets to show off without being annoying. The Platinum Flats supervillains are both believably low-rent and scary. Oracle makes good decisions. It’s a good issue which tests our heroes but doesn’t dwell on their troubles, and as always it’s told well sequentially by Ms. Scott and Mr. Hazlewood. The bar has been set high for Tony Bedard.

Finally, I say goodbye to Checkmate, as writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann turn in their last issue (#25, drawn by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson). I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling it, except that the Rooks take advantage of a truly scary and dangerous mind-link to do their thing as well as they do. Sasha gets a scene with Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman compliment Checkmate, and the final twist took me completely by surprise. Rucka and his co-writer(s) went out on top, and I think it’s best to go out with ’em.

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