Comics Ate My Brain

November 5, 2015

‘Crisis’ at 30, Part 12

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 9:00 am
Dogpile

Dogpile

“Someday this war’s going to end,” laments Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore to conclude his memorable joyride through 1979’s Apocalypse Now. Similarly, as we come to the final issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths, I find myself longing (just a little) for more panels overstuffed with characters, more conversationally-expository dialogue, and even more stakes-raising plot twists.

Still, Crisis had to end sometime. Last issue introduced the singular timeline and its history. It was the first step into an era that continues to inform DC’s superhero comics. As such, issue #12 — which appeared in comics shops some thirty years ago, during the first week of November 1985 — is about cleaning up the miniseries’ last bits of clutter and getting the merged timeline ready for all its prospective readers. It’s 42 pages of wall-to-wall action, executed skillfully by the creative team.

Speaking of which, credits: Crisis On Infinite Earths issue 12 was co-plotted, scripted, and edited by Marv Wolfman, co-plotted and pencilled by George Pérez, inked by Jerry Ordway (who also pencilled one page), colored by Tom Ziuko, and lettered by John Costanza. Robert Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.

* * *

The issue follows a few basic tracks, including Earth invaded by shadow-demons and the final fight with the Anti-Monitor. However, it opens with the Forgotten Heroes, a group of (at the time) C- and D-listers: Animal Man, Adam Strange, Dolphin, Captain Comet, Rip Hunter, and the Atomic Knight. Last issue they came across Brainiac’s skull-ship, drifting listlessly through space; and this issue they see that Earth’s not where it should be. After Brainiac wakes up and is convinced that he needs to help save the universe (again), he realizes they need a more powerful ally — so naturally, he sets a course for Apokolips.

Meanwhile, the Earth and Moon are still in the Anti-Matter Universe, with Anti-M’s giant heavenly holo-head talking smack. He recounts his efforts to “enlarge” the AMU and “have it replace all other universes,” only to be stymied by the Earth’s superheroes. Now, though, it’s time for the Earth to die, just like Supergirl, the Flash, and “so many others” died. Various reaction shots show stoic heroes, except for Kid Flash, who’s all “the Flash [really] is dead?” Clearly this is the next step in Kid Flash’s own subplot, but since it comes at the end of Anti-M’s speech (and isn’t followed up for several pages) it’s a little jarring.

Anyway, as Harbinger summons various heroes and they start making plans, darkness covers the Earth. Super-senses allow the Earth-Two Superman to hear and see all of New York City descend into panic and chaos, and he gets a little rattled. As it turns out, the darkness is really the collective effect of millions of shadow demons, who (not two pages later) start swarming over the globe, picking off random civilians left and right.

It’s portrayed very effectively. Wolfman’s narration uses phrases like “this place of death,” but he dials back the melodrama just enough to emphasize the creepiness of it all. Pérez and Ordway’s storytelling, combined with Ziuko’s colors, create a somber, spooky mood. Even a scene involving the ultra-bright Doctor Light contrasts the darkness with harsh yellows; and when the darkness “shatters” into shadow-demons, they spread out against a sickly pink sky.

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October 8, 2015

‘Crisis’ at 30, Part 11

Filed under: crisis, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 11:00 am
This issue: tribute to tight grips!

This issue: tribute to tight grips!

The penultimate issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths offers an interlude critical to the series’ success. It demonstrates the real impact of DC’s housecleaning not with antimatter waves or shadow demons, but through the characters who helped build the publisher’s matchless history. Accordingly, Crisis #11 features emotional impacts just as devastating as any of its cosmic carnage.

* * *

For those who might have come in late, since last December I have been revisiting every issue of DC Comics’ landmark Crisis On Infinite Earths, approximately on the thirtieth anniversary of their arrivals in comics shops. (The newsstand versions each debuted a month later.) Links to earlier installments will appear at the bottom of this post.

I wanted to revisit COIE in this format because that’s how I (and countless other Reagan-era readers) first experienced it. Nowadays it’s easy to digest these big-event miniseries in one sitting, and to poke through their various twists, turns, and inconsistencies. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure by this point most of Crisis’ readers came to it as a collection.

However, Crisis wasn’t just a story. (Some might say Crisis was barely a story to begin with.) Instead, it was an argument for restructuring all of DC’s superhero books in a way that would forever alter how they were viewed. Crisis’ tagline promised that worlds would live and die, and nothing would ever be the same — and it delivered. Amongst all the process, plot machinery, and exposition — and the clunky, obvious, and awkward moments — it kept those ad-copy promises.

Now, imagine you’ve been getting Crisis not in collected form, but every month in single-issue form. At the end of issue #4 you saw the apparent destruction of Earths-One and -Two, representing the bulk of DC’s fifty-year output. Issues #7 and #8 brought the deaths of Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash. Issue #9 and the first half of #10 were the “Villain War,” a sprawling series of super-fights across three of the five remaining Earths.

Then, at the end of issue #10, all the good guys had gone back to the Dawn of Time to prevent the Anti-Monitor from reshaping history for his own evil purposes. It had come down to the Spectre, pumped full of super-energy from the assembled heroes, wrestling a similarly-supercharged Anti-M with the fate of all creation at stake. There was a flash of white, the page’s very panels shattered, and once again everything went blank….

… and you had to wait four weeks for this issue, Crisis On Infinite Earths #11, which appeared in the Direct Market thirty years ago, during the first week of October 1985.

Credits: COIE #11 was co-plotted, scripted, and edited by Marv Wolfman, co-plotted and pencilled by George Pérez, inked by Jerry Ordway, colored by Carl Gafford, and lettered by John Costanza. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor, and Len Wein was the consulting editor.

* * *

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August 24, 2009

New comics 8/19/09

As promised, here’s the podcast for last week’s comics. Specifically, they’re Batman: Streets Of Gotham #3, Blackest Night: Superman #1, The Brave and the Bold #26, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4, Justice League of America #36, Supergirl #44, Superman Annual #14, and Wednesday Comics #7. The embarrassing reference this time out is to Ally McBeal. Music, of course, is by R.E.M.

Download it directly here, stream it directly from the player on this here site, or go to the podcast homepage here.

December 14, 2008

Attempting a "cold dissection" of Final Crisis’ woes

Filed under: crisis, dissertations — Tom Bondurant @ 9:52 pm
Tom Spurgeon observes that discussions about Final Crisis‘ failure to perform have descended into

angry jeremiads about the utter stupidity and ineptness of the current DC brain trust vs. self-styled realists lecturing in acidic tones to why none of this matters in the long run unless you’re a big nerd that cares about stupid things. What’s missing is a cold dissection as to the why and how of this happening.

Someday, possibly decades in the future, someone is going to ask Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, and the rest of the DC brain-trust about what was really going on in the years 2004-2009. Until then, I will have to make do with my own perspective.

To me, Final Crisis’ problems began with the success of 52 and the failure of “One Year Later.” Together, they were presented as a victory lap for Infinite Crisis, which advertised them via that trusty old device of the two-page characters-rushing-towards-the-reader spread. However, after 52‘s relatively good reception, I think DC’s high sheriffs figured that the marketplace was still more friendly to an event than to the regular books’ attempts to reconnect.

Furthermore, DC probably knew at the time that it had two big Grant Morrison projects in the pipeline, namely Final Crisis and “Batman R.I.P.” The seeds of each had already been planted in “Seven Soldiers,” Batman, and 52. However, I don’t think that DC had any blockbuster events planned between the end of 52 in May 2007 and the beginning of Final Crisis in May ’08; and in light of 52‘s success, I think DC wanted to gin up something to keep the momentum going. FC and “R.I.P.” might still have been big sellers on their own, but why take that chance? Give the public more 52 … or, more accurately, give it a “better” 52: a weekly series that helped out the regular titles and built momentum for FC.

Thus, DC created Countdown, apparently without a lot of help from Morrison. (Remember all the plans for the last issue of Countdown? Morrison was going to write it, and then it was Morrison and Geoff Johns, and then it wasn’t the last issue of Countdown but a standalone issue which led into FC.) Whether Morrison’s involvement would have helped is probably moot by now, though. Countdown sold in decent numbers, despite receiving regular critical and fan drubbings.

And I think that dichotomy helps explain Final Crisis’ big problem: it is an esoteric, creator-driven project which must fit into the every-Wednesday model of big-event series. I have nothing to back up either of the following assertions, but I suspect that for a good bit of the people who followed Countdown, FC doesn’t mesh with orthodox continuity strongly enough; or otherwise doesn’t feel enough like a big-event crossover. (Conversely, for many non-regular DC readers, FC may feel too heavily connected to Dan DiDio’s “culture of continuity.”) FC’s shipping schedule, and lack of connection to the regular titles, has also made it easy for every-Wednesday readers like me to forget it’s there. At this point FC might even feel perfunctory.

Final Crisis might also have arrived “too late” in another way. In the wake of Countdown and “Sinestro Corps,” DC has settled on an array of mini-events emulating the latter, each focused on a different high-profile character. Indeed, six of the seven DC franchises I consider “foundational” — the Big Three, plus the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Legion — are either in the middle of an event or preparing for one; and Geoff Johns is involved in four of the six. (Justice League has just started relaunching the Milestone characters, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.) More importantly, though, none of these events ties directly into Final Crisis. That may be good in terms of continuity tangles, but it doesn’t help remind readers that FC is still out there, waiting to be resolved.

I say all of this not sure myself of my feelings about Final Crisis’ merits. Each issue so far has left me with a feeling of creeping dread, which is probably the minimal, baseline reaction for which Morrison et al. were hoping. However, using a collection of moments to illustrate the end of the world, instead of a more traditional approach, takes some getting used to. I loved Morrison’s JLA, and I still think his DC One Million (which admittedly, at its core, was an extension of JLA) is a model for line-wide crossovers. FC’s storytelling style is a couple of steps removed from both of those, and again that might explain a reader’s ambivalence towards it. I don’t dislike FC, but neither is it as thrilling as certain other Morrison works.

(It is sorely tempting to speculate that Final Crisis might be doing better if Geoff Johns were at the helm. Johns is involved more directly with the regular titles, and is in a better position to do “subliminal advertising” in the pages of Green Lantern or Action. We’ll see, I suppose, next summer with Blackest Night, which will have been hawked for some two years with little promoting it except the two Green Lantern titles and endless, almost self-parodic mentions on convention panels.)

To sum up, then, I don’t think DC had much choice but to hype FC. It was the next big event after 52, but its ostensible lead-in may well have created an environment (at least among DC fans) more suited to smaller-scale “nothing will be the same” storylines.

August 25, 2008

New comics 7/28/08 and 8/6/08

Here are some quick impressions of recent books, as I try to get rid of the accumulated baby-related backlog….

7/28/08

Batman: Death Mask #4: I stand by my original appraisal of this series, which is that it’s more of a read-right-to-left exercise than a demonstration of manga’s storytelling potential. It was a decent Batman story, but (as opposed to those Star Wars manga from ten years ago) nothing which really encouraged me to read more manga. If this were Batman/Punisher or some other outside-the-norm crossover, each “side” would get a chance to “win.” Here, though, Batman is still Batman, just read differently; so he wins decisively.

Green Lantern #33: This was the penultimate chapter of “Secret Origin,” wasn’t it? Good. I get the feeling that “SO” could have been more interesting, and more to the point (leading up to “Blackest Night”), if it had been a couple of oversized issues told from the point of view of someone other than Hal. Also, I really think Johns et al. are pushing it to give Black Hand’s mortuary the Black Lantern symbol.

Justice Society of America Annual #1: I talked about this one in a Grumpy Old Fan.

Teen Titans #61: Not a bad issue, although I am still not convinced that Kid/Red Devil is the breakout character everyone says he is — and I say that as someone who looked forward to his appearances in the old Blue Devil series.

8/6/08

Detective Comics #847: Part 2 of “Heart of Hush” would have been better if it didn’t have so much Hush.

Final Crisis #3: This is a scary, scary miniseries, and I admire its unwavering fatalism. I think I also like the way it paints its terrifying picture through individual snapshots, and not a “widescreen” overview.

House Of Mystery #4: Last month I think I said it’s taking a while for Fig to realize what the readers already know (because it’s the premise of the book). This month does nothing to change that. HOM isn’t badly made, it’s just slow; and I may have to give it another storyline to evaluate it properly.

Manhunter #33: I continue to like this series, and I want to learn more about it, but honestly I couldn’t tell you why I liked this particular issue.

Nightwing #147: Part 1 of a 3-part Two-Face storyline is fairly entertaining, although for various external reasons I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be with the book.

Supergirl #32: However, it looks like I’ll be with this book for a while to come, as long as it ties into the Superman titles.

Tor #s 3 and 4: Tor starts a family in these issues. I’ll probably finish out this miniseries, if only because I enjoy Joe Kubert’s storytelling.

Of course, I also bought Trinity #s 9 and 10, and enjoyed them beyond my self-imposed obligation to annotate.

Back before too long to catch up on the next two weeks!

July 13, 2008

New comics 6/25/08

You would not believe the week I have had. Actually, it’s been more like two weeks.

Actually, you probably would believe it; but since a lot of it involves finishing up the 3-part Grumpy Old Fan look at DCU miniseries, 2001-08, it’s kind of dull.

Regardless, it’s been pretty busy for me in the Real World, so I’m on the road to recovery as far as this here blog is concerned. What say we get cracking on that backlog?

Obviously this week’s big release was Final Crisis #2, which quite honestly scared me. When you have one of DC’s major characters locked into an Apokoliptian torture machine and screaming “CALL THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!” to an apparently random person who wouldn’t have any way of knowing how to do so, that’s a pretty dire circumstance. Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones have thrown our heroes into the deep end of the pool and are now pouring even more water on top of them. It’s not exactly a new thought to say this is the JLA arc “Rock Of Ages” from a slightly different perspective, but what makes it more immediate, and more scary, is the notion that it’s happening right now, without the comfort of a reset button that the original had.

Superman #677 was the start of James Robinson’s run as writer, and he chose to begin with heavy doses of Krypto and the Science Police troopers. I’m not looking for him to make this particular SP squad into a higher-tech O’Dare family, because clearly this isn’t Starman and Robinson’s not that repetitive anyway. Still, there are Starman-esque touches in the omniscient narration’s bullet points and the characters’ self-awareness; and they’re certainly not unwelcome. The “new guy wants to replace Superman” story is pretty well-worn, though, so I’ll be expecting some new twist from Robinson. On the art side, I have no complaints with Renato Guedes except that he (like Gary Frank) is using Christopher Reeve pretty clearly as Supes’ model. While I love Reeve’s Superman, actually seeing him in print pulls me out of the story.

What If This Was [sic] The Fantastic Four? (written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by various people) is a perfectly charming tribute to the late Mike Wieringo, postulating (for the second time) that the Spider-Man/Hulk/Ghost Rider/Wolverine team had stayed together. I encourage you to pick it up.

Back in the regular book, though, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch … well, I think you know how I stand on their tenure so far. Fantastic Four #558 brings in the “New Defenders,” a team with some similarities to the FF, who’ve captured Doctor Doom and apparently are less than charitable in dealing with them. There’s also a new nanny whose subplot was pretty obvious to me from the moment of her introduction. Therefore, I have a pretty good idea as to how this arc will play out, but I am in fact curious to see what Millar will do with the issue’s Big Revelation about one of the Richards clan. Otherwise, I wonder if the story would read any better with Alex Ross on art. That’s how static Hitch and inker Andrew Currie’s work seems to me now.

The newest Captain America meets the public in Captain America #39 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Rob De La Torre). The issue presents a familiar story about manipulating the public through imagery and superficialities, and it winds up similar to Superman #677. De La Torre is new to me, although he (augmented by regular colorist Frank D’Armata) preserves the book’s quasi-realistic style. However, his Bucky is a bit more buff than, say, Steve Epting’s, which was a little distracting.

Was I saying that Batman: Gotham After Midnight didn’t know how seriously to take itself? With issue #2 (written by Steve Niles, drawn by Kelley Jones), it seems to be saying “not very.” That’s hardly a bad thing, mind you. This particular approach to Batman casts him as the scariest dude in the room, except for the scarier dude who’s working behind the scenes. I’m still not completely on board with it, but I do give it credit for being true to a gonzo sensibility. Let’s put it this way: if you like scenes where Batman is lit apparently by a noir-ish light source independent of everything else, you’ll love this book.

About Green Lantern #32: “Secret Origin” continues, and I think we’re up to the point where Hal gets hired officially by Carol Ferris. Honestly, though, we’ve been down this road so many times I’m just picking out the “Blackest Night” clues and letting the rest go by. It’s not a bad story, but it’s like hearing another cover of “Yesterday.”

The same goes for Teen Titans #60, which concludes the Terror Titans arc. Our heroes triumph, but one of ’em leaves the team. While I didn’t dislike it, I found Clock King and his minions to be rather boring, and I’m not eager to see ’em again.

I also bought Trinity #4 and liked it fine.

Back before you know it with the first new comics of July!

June 9, 2008

New comics 5/29/08

Filed under: batman, countdown, crisis, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 9:04 pm
May 29, 2008 was Grant Morrison Day for DC superhero fans, heralding the arrivals of Final Crisis #1, All Star Superman #11, and Batman #677. Those three issues made up half of my haul, so let’s start with the other half.

Honestly, the most pleasant surprise was Action Comics #865, a Toyman spotlight written by Geoff Johns, with art by Jesus Merino. I never did like Johns’ all-villain issues of The Flash, but those largely aimed to “grittify” old, goofy Rogues. Here, Johns aims to clean up some continuity issues surrounding the Toyman, and along the way to re-establish him as slightly less dark. The result is quite good, and shows what can be done in the space of 22 pages. Perhaps better known as an inker, Merino is also a fine storyteller with (if this issue is any indication) a good sense of design. His regular style isn’t too far from DC’s baseline, but he and the Hi-Fi colorist drop into a watercolor-y “Tim Sale” mode for the flashbacks. The best part of the issue, though, is its misdirection regarding the means of Jimmy Olsen’s rescue. I wasn’t expecting it, and I’m glad a comic book can still catch me off-guard.

Countdown To Mystery #8 will be remembered for its salute to Steve Gerber, and that’s probably as it should be. Writers Adam Beechen, Gail Simone, Mark Evanier, and Mark Waid each offer short takes on how they would have ended “More Pain Comics,” Gerber-style. Beechen invokes Howard The Duck. Waid uses a Gerber-esque text box. Evanier gives Kent Nelson a there’ll-always-be-a-Fate speech that’s equal parts cynicism and hope. Simone grounds her conclusion in psychology, this Fate’s civilian calling. It’s not fair not to list the artists, because they each do fine work, but the art is of the same piece as the regular team of Justiniano and Walden Wong: a sort of softer, fuller Walt Simonson. This Doctor Fate series was supposed to be a new and exciting take on a character DC loves to use, and I’m sure that had Gerber lived, there would have been at least a stab at a regular series and probably some form of lasting legacy in the pages of Justice Society. Wisely, though, DC chose to honor Gerber’s work not by farming the conclusion out to another writer and continuing with those plans, but simply by assuring the readers that it all turned out well, and by the way be on the lookout….

The conclusion of the Spectre story (written by Matthew Sturges, pencilled by Chad Hardin, inked by Robert Campanella) was decent enough: for various reasons, the Spectre can’t really fight Battle-Armor Eclipso one-on-one, so he encourages Bruce Gordon to re-absorb the dark god. It’s nothing new, but it was presented well, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Eclipso in the months to come. I don’t feel any better for having read the whole thing, though.

I bought Batman: Gotham After Midnight #1 (written by Steve Niles) mostly for the Kelley Jones artwork, and I’m sticking by that. It’s not just his unique style, but his page layouts and his bits of marginal business, which really make the book enjoyable. Unfortunately, Niles can’t quite decide how seriously to take things; so the combination of Jones’ over-the-top storytelling and Niles’ ultra-straight Batman tend to steer the issue towards self-parody. I’ll be back next issue for the art, and I’ll hope the script works with it a little more.

Batman #677 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Sandu Florea) gets into the meat of “Batman, R.I.P.” by laying out the ultra-paranoid notions at the heart of the plot. I give Morrison a lot of credit for the audacity of these ideas. If true (which I doubt, and which the issue itself seems to question), they would be almost impeccable retcons which wouldn’t invalidate a whit of Batman stories but which would redefine “Batman’s” very existence. This issue thus accelerates the plot faster than just about every Bat-epic of the past twenty years, doing so largely through a conversation in the Batcave. There is, of course, the feeling that Jezebel Jet is behind the whole thing, but I think Morrison is better than that; and based on this issue, I have high hopes for “R.I.P.”

The penultimate issue of All Star Superman (#11 written by Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely) is pretty much wall-to-wall awesome, featuring a super-powered Lex Luthor, a dying Superman’s battle with Solaris the Tyrant Sun, the introduction of Luthor’s cheeky niece, and no sense that this will end with anything but the Man of Steel’s heroic sacrifice. Never has the impending death of Superman seemed so obvious and yet so right. Can’t wait for issue #12.

Finally (ha ha), here at last is Final Crisis #1 (written by Morrison, drawn by J.G. Jones), the start of DC’s big run-out-the-year crossover. (By the way, last time I got Sparx and Live Wire confused — that was Live Wire in Birds Of Prey, and it’s Sparx here.) On the whole I liked it. It didn’t try to be too loud or flashy, opting instead to start slow. Considering that Morrison’s talked broadly about what’s to come, I imagine things will get loud before too long. I liked the police-procedural approach, contrasting the Green Lanterns with the Justice League and the police themselves. I liked the use of “Terrible” Turpin as the point-of-view character. I don’t think that you-know-who is really dead, but neither do I think that Libra is really you-know-who-else. I liked Jones’ work, especially the “reveal” of Darkseid (it’s the eyes) in the Dark Side Club, but my concern is that he can’t do big-and-loud like, say, Howard Porter on Morrison’s JLA. The best description may simply be “ominous,” and that’s just fine with me.

May 31, 2008

New comics 5/21/08

Yes, these are comics from ten days ago. Memorial Day Weekend was just too jam-packed, and I came out of it apparently itching to write a 2200-word dissertation on Crisis On Infinite Earths, the original JLA/JSA team-ups, and the problems with line-wide events.

Therefore, might as well begin with the lead-in to the latest LWE, Justice League of America #21 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino). I really, really hope that this is the last crossover-affected issue of JLA for a while. It begins with a 9-page sequence of the “Trinity” sitting around a table talking about how they’re not really running the League from behind the scenes. I thought the dialogue was good (“I had a run-in with Mr. Polka-Dot.” “Is that a euphemism?”). However, although Pacheco kept the talking heads from getting too boring, he could have used a few flashback images. Overall, it assumes a little too much knowledge, even on the part of the longtime reader. I presume this will have repercussions in JLA itself, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it showed up later in Trinity.

The bulk of the issue concerns the Human Flame, his fight with Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, and his recruitment by Libra. HF is a schmoe, that’s for sure; but he’s not the stereotypical lovable-loser supervillain schlub. McDuffie gives him a mean streak that undercuts whatever sympathy we might be starting to feel. Likewise, Pacheco doesn’t play up any endearing parts of his dumpy appearance. Overall, this was a well-told story, but I still think it should have been in a Secret Files.

For those of you who know the dirty secret of cruise ships — namely, that they give the surviving passengers hush money to cover up all the deaths — the nautical nastiness depicted in The Spirit #17 (written by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, pencilled by Aluir Amancio, inked by Terry Austin) will come as no surprise. This was yet another light-hearted, compact caper using Will Eisner’s characters and designs; but one of the subplots seemed pretty obvious and the other only slightly less so. Also, from what little I’ve read of the original Spirit stories, I don’t remember Ellen Dolan being such a self-absorbed Barbie doll. Amancio and Austin’s work is more cartoony than Paul Smith or Mike Ploog, but it gets the job done.

According to the first page of Fantastic Four #557 (written by Mark Millar, pencilled by Bryan Hitch, inked by Paul Neary), I should have read Mighty Avengers #11 first. However, I don’t know why; and I’m not eager to track down a 3-month-old issue to find out. Anyway, I did like how Reed and Sue celebrate their anniversary, but the rest of it is a bunch of exposition wrapped around a one-joke fight scene. I can kind-of accept “the Anti-Galactus,” but things like Johnny’s nympho supervillain girlfriend and the faux-drama about Reed being tempted just seem artificial. The snow effects look better this time, though.

Captain America #38 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Steve Epting, inked by Epting and Mike Perkins) (re)introduces what I presume is the last player in this particular arc, and sets him up against Bucky/Cap. It’s hard to explain without giving everything away, but I’ll try. Using a raid on an AIM base as its main sequence, the issue examines the relationships of mentors and proteges, and inspirations and successors; and observes that, for the three principals involved, those roles have shifted, if not outright reversed. It’s a neat little chapter which probably sums up at least one of Brubaker’s overriding themes, and while it might appear to be a simple action issue, there’s a lot more going on.

For the second straight month, Tangent: Superman’s Reign (#3 written by Dan Jurgens, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Robin Riggs) focuses on the squad of Tangenteers trying to free the Tangent Atom. While that subplot achieves some closure, and the two worlds’ characters actually come into conflict (as opposed to comparing notes), it still feels a little redundant. I like Igle’s work fine, although Riggs’ inks are looser than what Igle usually gets. It feels more like a Justice League story than what’s been in JLA lately; and next issue I bet things will pick up.

The “Dark Side Club” banner started appearing on particular DC titles last week, and it looks like the kind of underground fight-club we’ve seen before. Specifically, Birds Of Prey #118 (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) opens with a fight involving Sparx, a D-list character whose abduction we see in the first issue of Final Crisis. So, you know, there’s that crossover element we like so much. The rest of the issue involves Black Alice and Misfit fighting, again. This issue introduces a new aspect of their relationship which leads to a result I wasn’t expecting. However, I wasn’t expecting it because their relationship feels artificially manipulated to begin with, and the latest twist just seems like another manipulation. Scott and Hazlewood are good as always, with (I hate to say it) a grisly, shadowy death being a particular highlight.

The new issue of The Flash (#240, written by Tom Peyer, drawn by Freddie Williams II) also sports a “Dark Side Club” banner, but it’s incidental to the main story of Wally and Jay vs. Grodd and Spin. I can’t complain any more about Williams’ chunky Flash, because he seems to have gotten through that phase. I also got a kick out of this issue’s mind-control victims talking in Local-Newscast-ese — it’s funny ’cause it’s true. The cliffhanger makes me wonder about the length of the current setup, though….

Finally, here’s Jay Garrick again, teaming up with Batman in The Brave and the Bold #13 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Scott Koblish and Bob McLeod). They make a good team, because the easygoing Jay not only provides a good counterpoint to Batman’s intensity, Batman respects him and so dials it back a few notches. The plot, involving an old Bat-villain, a mad scientist, killer robots, and Jay’s chemist colleagues, may be more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s probably necessary to get these two characters together. I daresay Ordway’s more understated style is better-suited to this story’s amiable nature than George Perez’s would have been; and Waid provides good conversation amongst all the robot-smashing.

Look for the comics from Thursday (Happy Grant Morrison Day!) in the next couple of days.

May 7, 2008

New comics 4/30/08

Filed under: crisis, green lantern, legion, new teen titans, star wars, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 12:55 am
For some reason DC Universe #0 (written by Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, drawn by committee) felt more Johnsian than Morrisonian. It struck me as a collection of preview pages from a half-dozen upcoming arcs, tied together by vague narration from a Certain Familiar Someone. I responded most favorably to the George Perez pages and the Final Crisis tease.

The blow-up-the-base story currently running in Star Wars: Rebellion (#13 written by Jeremy Barlow, drawn by Colin Wilson) is starting to feel padded by about an issue, and this is that issue. Most of it follows a Rebel soldier as she tries to escape a sadistic Imperial officer and the requisite stormtrooper squads. There’s some narration about her coming to grips with the meaning of being a Rebel, but that was lost on me somewhat because I’ve never gotten too invested in this character. A promising sequence at the end makes a good case for our heroine blowing up half the base with a single grenade (not unprecedented in Star Wars, I think you’ll agree). Overall, some good stuff, and my opinion may change after next issue, but for now it still seems a bit long.

Teen Titans Year One #4 (written by Amy Wolfram, pencilled by Karl Kerschl, inked by Serge LaPointe) is, as the cover indicates, a Kid Flash spotlight, but it continues the Batman/Robin storyline which has run through the book so far. The issue doesn’t quite put Flasher in the “I should be the leader” slot, but it does give him an ego to go with his considerable powers. Wolfram and Kerschl root for him regardless, so that he’s never really unsympathetic. Also, Aqualad gets more of a personality, although he still doesn’t do a whole lot. Wolfram and Kerschl’s simple storytelling comes across as very matter-of-fact, and it leaves room for Kerschl’s stylized, expressive designs to work. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and wishing it could go on longer.

Back in the current Teen Titans (#58 written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Carlos Rodriguez, and inked by various people), this month Miss Martian must fight not only the Terror Titans, but also her evil conscience. (I’ve been reading too many solicitations.) Not knowing much about the character, I thought this was a good way to highlight her inner turmoil. I was a little confused at first, thinking that her Evil Self was somehow connected to her Evil Future Self from a few issues back, but that was cleared up soon enough. The art was decent: not too far from the book’s normal style, not too flashy, but adequate for the job at hand.

I get the feeling I should like “Secret Origin,” part 2 of which appears in Green Lantern #30 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert), but it keeps falling flat for me. I shouldn’t fault it for changing Hal’s origin so that only he (and not the little training capsule) is yanked out of the hangar by Abin Sur’s ring. Working classic GL characters into the background is also acceptable, as is tying it into “The Blackest Night” and the Ysmault prophecies. Maybe I just have a problem with Ivan Reis drawing Hal to look 17 years old; or with Johns having Hal cause a rival to crash. Otherwise, “Secret Origin” is appropriately reverent, which is nice. I don’t dislike this storyline, but I like it less than Johns’ and Reis’ other GL work.

Johns does better with Action Comics #864 (pencilled by Joe Prado, inked by Jon Sibal), a bridge between Countdown and Legion of Three Worlds which plays like a standalone murder mystery. Basically, Batman and Lightning Lad (of the “Earth-1 Legion”) clash over the corpses of Karate Kid and Una. Batman also makes the point that he’s met three different versions of the Legion, so naturally he’s not inclined to trust any of them. The mystery isn’t solved — it’s a teaser for the aforementioned LO3W, after all — but the issue is tied together by a Mysterious Narrator revealed on the last page. Suspenseful! (Also, this week, redundant!) The art is okay — a little too chunky, but not to the point of Liefeldism. I can’t get used to a Grunge-like Lightning Lad, though.

September 17, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: batman, crisis, flash, sunday soliloquy — Tom Bondurant @ 12:28 am
Single-handedly and anonymously, the Flash saves the Multiverse’s five remaining Earths.


After this point Barry starts jumping around in time, interacting with Kid Flash, the Joker, and Batman, so it’s not really a soliloquy anymore. Also, I wasn’t in a mood to dwell on Barry’s death. It’s enough to say that I think this scene holds up as a fine sendoff to the character who introduced DC to its Multiverse. Barry’s monologue is one of the few instances in superhero comics where, “realistically,” a character would talk to himself as he literally ran out his life.

[From “A Flash Of The Lightning!” in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8, November 1985. Written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Jerry Ordway.]

Man, now I’m depressed. Let’s see if this helps:

That’s better!

[From “That’s Really Super, Superman!” in Bizarro Comics, 2001. Written by Ivan Brunetti, drawn by Evan Dorkin.]

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