Comics Ate My Brain

June 6, 2007

Cosmic Cataloguing

Filed under: crisis, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 7:50 pm
Let’s see if I understand the development of DC’s cosmology.

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A. THE UNIVERSE

1. In the Original Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe. Krona’s interference also reaches back to the Dawn of Time and retroactively creates a Multiverse of infinite worlds.

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B. THE MULTIVERSE

1. In the Multiversal Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Multiiverse into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. Each parallel universe occupies the same space, but vibrates at its own unique frequency. There’s also a single antimatter universe. The planet Oa is unique to the universe of Earth-1.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

3. Millions of years after that, the Earth-Omega scientist who will become Pariah conducts his own disastrous experiment. It wakes up the Anti-Monitor and results in the first universal casualty of the antimatter wave. Pariah survives, immortal and alone.

4. Eventually, the antimatter wave gets to the last dozen or so worlds that people have actually heard of. This causes the Monitor to get off his duff and start recruiting heroes from these worlds to fight the Anti-Monitor. Of course, these events are depicted in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

5. Harbinger kills the Monitor just before the universes of Earth-1 and Earth-2 are wiped clean. Psyche! The Monitor’s death has turned his energies into a backup disk for these two universes. Soon afterwards, the universes of Earth-4, Earth-S, and Earth-X are cut and pasted onto the backup disk. Problem is, it’s only a temporary solution. The whole thing must be restarted.

6. Two teams — one of heroes, one of villains — travel back in time to set events aright. The villains can’t stop Krona from completing his experiment. However, the Spectre and the assembled heroes confront the Anti-Monitor at the Dawn of Time. A big white explosion takes us to…

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C. THE POST-CRISIS UNIVERSE

1. In the Post-Crisis Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

Here’s where it starts to get tricky. If Pariah was originally from another Earth, where’s he from now? If an antimatter wave wasn’t destroying parallel universes, what was it destroying? In other words, how was the post-Crisis Crisis different?

There are a couple of answers, but they’re not entirely compatible with the “one universe, no exceptions” rule which post-Crisis DC sought to enforce. First, Pariah and the other Multiversal survivors might actually be from other dimensions, like the Avengers-analogues who show up in (the post-Crisis) Justice League #3. Second, Hypertime offers a catch-all solution for many of these problems. Third, Crisis #11 indicates that there’s still *something* where Earth-2 was, it’s just a yawning void. Basically, in the years following COIE, DC had at least a few in-continuity parallel-Earth stories which contradicted the spirit, if not the letter, of COIE; and for the most part, pros and fans shrugged and moved on. Thus:

3. The post-Crisis Crisis happens. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. After the Crisis, “waves of time” cause random changes in order to facilitate the rebooting of several superhero titles.

5. The events of Zero Hour, too complicated to summarize here, bring all these time-anomalies to a head. A small group of heroes tries to prevent the unbalanced Hal Jordan from restarting the universe in his own image. They succeed, but guess what?

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D. THE POST-ZERO HOUR* UNIVERSE

1. In the Post-Zero Hour Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

3. The post-Zero Hour Crisis happens, probably not too differently from how the post-Crisis Crisis did. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. Things go on fine for a while, until a) in DC One Million, the Justice League takes a trip into the 853rd Century to meet up with Superman, who’s still alive and (it turns out) immortal, and b) in The Kingdom, a villain from the future shows up in our present to kill Superman, having already killed boatloads of Supermen on his way back in time. This leads to the discovery of Hypertime, which basically says all the old stories still exist, just like they originally happened, in their own cubbyholes of space, time, and dimension. The thing is, they’re just really really hard to access. There’s a suggestion that the Earth-2 Superman, relegated to “not dead, but still gone” limbo at the end of COIE, is still alive and punching on some Hypertime dimensional wall.

5. Nobody much likes Hypertime.

6. Instead, ZOMG!!1!! the four COIE survivors — Superman (Kal-L) of Earth-2, his wife Lois Lane Kent, Alex Luthor of Earth-3, and Superboy (Kal-El) of Earth-Prime — have been biding their time in the years since COIE, waiting to spring into action and fix all the bad stuff which has befallen their beloved Universe. Alex Luthor hopes that by recreating the Multiverse, the infinite monkeys on their infinite typewriters will come up with the perfect Earth that won’t need changing or revision, ever.

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E. THE POST-INFINITE CRISIS MULTIVERSE

1. In the Post-Infinite Crisis Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe. Additionally, all the excess energy from the aftermath of Alex Luthor’s experiment creates 52 additional parallel universes, each occupying the same space as New Earth’s but inhabiting its own vibratory frequency. The histories of these 52 are altered radically by the intervention of Mr. Mind.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe the creation of (as far as he knows) the Universe, but ends up unleashing Evil.

3. The post-Infinite Crisis Crisis happens, probably not too different from the Post-Crisis Crisis. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. Hypertime is discovered, as before.

5. Nobody much likes Hypertime.

6. Apparently there are now 52 Monitors. They are dedicated to cleaning up all the anomalies.

* * *

And here we are. I know it doesn’t quite account for Animal Man. Still, does it all sound right?

[P.S. Yes, “Post-Zero-Hour” does sound like a ’50s variety show sponsored by a cereal company.]

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May 31, 2007

(It’s an old MST3K line.)

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 3:01 am


(Original via Newsarama.)

February 2, 2006

New comics 2/1/06

This week was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it featured new issues of Green Lantern and Legion of Super-Heroes after only two weeks, since both series are trying to get back to a regular monthly schedule. Second, I expected both Gotham Central and the Rann-Thanagar War Special to have endings, but instead both seemed beholden to larger corporate storytelling concerns. In the case of GC, take that as a spoiler.

Other than that, not a bad week. Batman and the Monster Men #4 (by Matt Wagner) and Detective Comics #816 (written by Shane McCarthy, art by Cliff Chiang) both featured good, straightforward, entertaining Batman stories. BMM relates Batman’s narrow escape from the lair of Hugo Strange’s monsters; and ‘Tec finishes up the Mr. Zsasz two-parter with the cops chasing both hero and villain. Both explore the balance between mundane crime and super-crime, and both feature healthy doses of Bat-mystique.

Green Lantern #8 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Carlos Pacheco) finishes its latest two-parter with Mongul (and Mongal, his unfortunately-named sister), and since half of it is Pacheco-illustrated dream sequences, I had much the same reaction as I did with Pacheco’s Superman/Batman arc: very pretty, and it gives him room to draw all kinds of outlandish situations, but ultimately it doesn’t add up to much. I’m still trying to work out how Hal’s fantasy would be so seductive to him. Either Johns doesn’t quite get the Black Mercy, or he’s just throwing in wild scenarios and teasing the explanations. Anyway, once GL and Green Arrow get back to reality, it’s all fun and games until somebody’s head comes off, and I’m wondering — between this and Infinite Crisis, can I bring the “Four Beheadings And A Funeral” joke out of storage?

Legion #14 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Ken Lashley and Adam DeKraker) continues with the political and personal fallout from the Legion’s victory over Terror Firma. Again, it’s probably a cop-out, but I need to read this book from the beginning. There was a point when it all seemed familiar but radically new, and now it seems to have assumed that the reader is familiar with the radically-new aspects. It’s not poorly done by any means, and I don’t dislike the characters, but I get the feeling I’ve spent too little time with them.

Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #3 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Yanick Paquette) was a fun issue mostly for the inclusion of Mind-Grabber Kid, a one-off Denny O’Neil character from the late �60s post-Gardner Fox era of Justice League of America. Now MGK is an adult trying to trade on his moment of fame at a superhero convention. Yes, it’s easy to mock comic conventions, but it’s also fun, and Morrison does it with a knowing wink. There was a lot of cheesecake in this book at first, but now I can see where Morrison has been going with it.

Fantastic Four #534 (written by J. Michael Straczynski, drawn by Mike McKone) continues Ben and Johnny’s fight with the Hulk, but throws into the mix the notion that the Hulk is acting out all of his most painful memories in a gamma-fueled haze. It feels a bit more like a Hulk story than an FF story, and it probably requires at least a passing knowledge of Hulk history to understand completely, but it works. Ben and Johnny are handled well too. A fun “Franklin Richards” story rounds out the issue.

Captain America #14 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting) concludes “The Winter Soldier” and, in fact, wraps up a dangling plotline from as far back as issue #1. Although it’s a Cap/WS fight, it builds both on Cap’s emotions for Bucky and WS’s confusion about his own origins, so there’s more dramatic heft to it.

It also provides an ending, which brings me to Gotham Central #40 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Kano and Stefano Gaudiano) and Rann-Thanagar War Special #1 (written by Dave Gibbons, drawn by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado). With RTWS I kind of understand, and arguably I have tacitly bought into the whole concept of this sort of “half-issue” (as in, this should have been Infinite Crisis #4.5) on the front end.

RTWS does three things: it allows everyone in space to point and gawk at the big hands coming out of the space-warp; it resolves the Rann-Thanagar war; and it sets up the new Ion series. Now, maybe when I see this in the larger Infinite Crisis context, I will understand the editorial meeting at which it was decided that these three things should happen in a special outside the main miniseries. Right now, though, this particular issue just feels very padded. It contains one extremely unfortunate (and I hope accidental) reference to the big “footprints” revelation in Identity Crisis, and the Ion setup also comes out of left field (and will probably be revisited even further in Ion #1). I was sorry to see the one person die, though, and that was handled decently.

In hindsight, though, this last arc of Gotham Central has been nothing but setup for future series — specifically, Detective Allen as the new Spectre, and Detective Montoya working out unresolved issues about Allen�s murder. As setup it’s okay, but I was expecting some closure and I don’t feel like this last issue of the series was a fitting end for the arc, let alone the series itself. I had thought Gotham Central was insulated somewhat by larger editorial dictates, and it’s disappointing to see so patently that in the end, it wasn’t.

January 19, 2006

Quick Thoughts On Infinite Crisis #4

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 2:32 pm
Call me an old softie, but Infinite Crisis #4 was one of the more emotionally affecting comics I have read in recent months. At the very least, Geoff Johns, Phil Jiminez, and George Pérez know which middle-aged fanboy buttons to push.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

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First off, dropping Chemo on Blüdhaven? Genius.

Next, the Nightwing/Batman scenes really captured both how I view the characters and how their fictional peers view them. Given what he’s been through during the Devin Grayson run, is it ironic that they still trust Nightwing?

The big fight with Superboy-Prime was chilling, with a bit of gratuitous violence (oh sure, rip apart the Titans nobody likes), but his reaction to it was almost heartbreaking. Remember, this was the kid from “our” Earth, where the only superheroes were fictional – but by the same token, this kid grew up with the perfect fictional ideal of Superman. Not just the Superman of Julius Schwartz, but of “Super Friends,” George Reeves, and Christopher Reeve (and before Superman IV, too!). Imagine a young “Clark Kent,” who grows up looking like his namesake, and upon discovering he can fly, almost literally runs into the real thing (or at least one of them). Talk about a reader-identification character!

Naturally, by the time of Infinite Crisis, he’s been isolated for who-knows-how-long and fed a constant diet of good ol’ days reminiscing mixed with growing frustration. Sure he’s come unhinged; but Johns, Jiminez, and Pérez made me feel for him. Never mind whether he represents some segment of the DC audience whose mind has been warped by the unrealistic expectations of the older fans – from the beginning he’s been in over his head, and in hindsight it’s a wonder he lasted this long. What’s more, he’s not done yet, if his new DC Direct action figure is any indication.

Still, the sequence that haunted me in this morning’s wee hours was the Pérez-drawn “deaths” of the Flash and Kid Flash, with special appearances by DC’s honored dead speedsters. Obviously I don’t believe there’s anything permanent about the fates of Wally or Bart, and I would be very surprised if there were. Nevertheless, when Jay Garrick said the Speed Force was gone, it told me that DC was serious about putting its speedsters out of action at least until the summer.

Oh, and Detective Allen becoming the Spectre? Who had this issue in the pool?

Time will tell whether Infinite Crisis #4 was the start of an epic struggle that truly rivaled its predecessor, or just a collection of emotionally manipulative scenes. If it’s the latter, for me the manipulation was skillfully done.

December 18, 2005

Infinite Christmas

Filed under: Christmas, crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 9:05 pm
Fans of a certain age — let’s not be coy, my age — remember the event twenty years ago that was supposed to set everything straight. In Christmas on Infinite Earths, the Anti-Santa sought to stop Christmas from coming, but was thwarted by a vast assemblage of heroes from across time and space. Who could forget the opening scenes of issue #1, as onetime toy deliverer Jack Skellington was obliterated by the Anti-Santa’s wave of all-consuming ennui?

We thrilled to revisit classic team-ups like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman (the “Season’s Finest”), and witness new alliances like Clarence the Angel and Charlie Brown, Emmett Otter and the Little Drummer Boy, and Clement C. Moore (or was it Henry Livingston?) and David Sedaris. The sight of Santa wielding both Ralphie Parker’s Red Ryder BB Gun and Linus van Pelt’s security blanket came off surprisingly well; and even though they were villains, it was still disturbing to see Scrooge, the Grinch, the Bumble, and a group of Martians lose their time-traveling battle to stop the 31st Century Santa-Bot from freeing the Anti-Santa. Finally, lest we forget, it was the Herdmans‘ and Misfit Toys’ emotional plea to the Angel Gabriel that convinced him to intervene, thereby giving Santa the fighting edge he needed over his evil opposite.

Seems like Christmas preparations start earlier every year, but this year March had Countdown to Infinite Christmas, a one-shot which killed Yukon Cornelius and introduced four summer-spanning miniseries. Aside from fueling speculation that Buddy the Elf would become the new Cornelius, it was all a big buildup to the current holiday apocalypse. Along the way, Santa’s army of helpers got turned into killer cyborgs and put everyone on the “naughty” list; a weird spatial anomaly opened up over the North Pole; a duplicate Scrooge was revealed; and Clarence was seduced by Eclipso, who in turn was defeated by the Nutcracker. Yeah, I didn’t understand that last one either.

So now Infinite Christmas is here, revealing the original Saint Nicholas’ plan to restore the holiday to its religious roots and have folks “keep Christmas all year ’round.” I have to say, Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez certainly treat Nick reverently, even if objectively he is the villain of the piece. Although the chaos he kicked off was entertaining, the Anti-Santa wasn’t much more than a scary plot device.

It’s also tempting, in the face of rampant Christmas commercialism, to applaud such a back-to-basics approach. Nostalgia is essentially a rebellion against the perpetual march of time, and the fact that Christmas comes at the end of every year just makes nostalgia for its traditions more powerful. Who wouldn’t want to have a few more child’s-eye holidays, when two weeks of vacation could start with a leisurely walk home from school under slate-grey clouds fat with snow — when the wind wasn’t cold but bracing, and your only responsibilities were to keep your nose clean and your questions to yourself until the morning of December 25?

And yet the most powerful aspects of Christmas, anticipation and hope, are always with us. Early Christian public-relations gurus knew what they were doing when they scheduled Christ’s birth celebrations around the winter solstice, because the darkest time of the year is perfect for ushering in the light.

A slightly twisted version of that approach is on display in Infinite Christmas. We know that Rudolph, Santa, and Frosty will become friends again. We know the reindeer will reunite (and in their absence, Earth-2 sleigh-pullers Dunder and Blixem can help pick up the slack). We know that as with every new year, change is inevitable, but perhaps only incremental; and nothing we can’t handle.

When I was a kid I got excited over a few weeks of vacation from school. As I grew up I learned to keep hope alive all year. Even if I don’t have a long vacation anymore, Christmas still gives me a bit of a break. Like the song says (watch out for the auto-play music past the link):

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Happy Holidays, blogosphere!

(P.S. The GLX-Mas special was brilliant.)

November 13, 2005

New comics 11/9/05

Filed under: batman, crisis, gotham central, justice league, lotdk, star wars, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 9:42 pm
I liked quite a few things about Infinite Crisis #2 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Phil Jiminez and George Perez, inked by Andy Lanning and Jerry Ordway), but I’d like to think the Perez cover (showing Power Girl from the rear) is a none-too-subtle dig at the fascination with PG’s chest. Perez and Ordway’s contribution to the interior consists of a few pages telling the history of the old Multiverse, and while some might say that’s proof that the whole magilla is too complicated, I think it’s a fine tip of the hat to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths artists and to COIE itself. As exposition goes, it’s fairly economical too.

The spotlight is on Power Girl in issue #2, and speaking of exposition, I’m now glad I didn’t spend the money on her JSA Classified origin issues. InfC #2 is the emotional payoff of the former arc’s false starts, but it doesn’t need those issues to work well. Power Girl might well have been better off consigned to Earth-2 oblivion, for all the mucking around with her backgrounds various writers have performed over the last twenty years, but Johns takes good advantage of her confusion.

The issue’s other plots all work as well. I especially enjoyed the interlude with Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet, culminating in a neat little “job for Superman!” moment. As much as I love Perez’s work, Jiminez has become a fine storyteller in his own right. I just wonder if there’s not an Earth-2 homage to COIE #7 in Power Girl’s future….

JLA #122 (written by Bob Harras, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Dan Green) is another “[MAIN CHARACTERS] vs. OMACs” story, just like half of DC’s books from the past few months. I hope the number of these decreases after the events of Infinite Crisis #2. There’s not much more to it than that, except the kind-of creative notion that the Key is attacking anything with the initials “JLA.” (The Best Wife Ever is in the Junior League, so word of warning to the Key: they are tough.) It’s nice to see some old familiar faces back in the fold, but I wish they had something more exciting to do.

Gotham Central #37 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Steve Lieber) is the big Infinite Crisis crossover issue, and I hate to say it, but it’s not as good as I’ve come to expect. Sure, I like Allen and Montoya; sure, they react believably to the mystic carnage going on around them; and sure, this was probably a decent introduction to the characters for the hypothetical first-time reader — but it just didn’t have the punch of, say, the Poison Ivy one-off issue of a few months ago. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as it has been. Good ending, though; and I do hope the Crisis completists pick up multiple copies, because the book deserves all the support it can get.

Action Comics #833 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Nelson and various others) begins what looks to be a fun little story pitting Supes against an old Justice League foe. It doesn’t appear to have much to do with Infinite Crisis, so instead it’s free to weave in scenes for Lois and Jimmy. I’m not saying who the villain is, because Simone takes her time in building up the revelation, and packs a lot into the first half of the issue. For that I was pleasantly surprised.

As the first part of “Blaze of Glory,” Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #197 (written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Chris Weston) also unloads a lot of plot. The story concerns a supervillain wannabe who blames Batman for his problems, which isn’t overly original, but Pfeifer makes his antagonist a fairly smart guy who just happens to have wound up on the C-list. The one strange thing about the issue is the art. Weston’s heads seem just a little too large (or the bodies a little too small), kind of like Mike Grell. Still, like Grell, once you get past that it’s pretty good.

Finally, Star Wars: Empire #37 (written by Welles Hartley, pencilled by Davide Fabbri, inked by Christian Dalla Vecchia) continues “The Wrong Side Of The War” in fine fashion. As the Rebels put their undercover plans in motion, Imperial Lt. Sunber becomes acclimated to his new assignment. While Sunber takes on the alpha male in his barracks, though, the Rebels discover they may have to rescue all the slaves from Jabiim. Hartley portrays the Imperials as evil bureaucrats — not so much mustache-twirling, but you can see they’re not particularly nice. The art is also good, with bright colors (thanks again to Fabbri) and big, expansive layouts. Nothing groundbreaking, but a good Star Wars story nonetheless.

October 13, 2005

New comics 10/12/05

Filed under: crisis, firestorm, justice league, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:23 pm
Beware of SPOILERS, although I’m trying to avoid discussing them.

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Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #196 was the last part of the “Snow” arc, so I’m adding it to my omnibus-review inbox.

Action Comics #852 (written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Nelson) was a strange little Halloween-themed Spectre story wherein Superman must decide whether to protect Lord Satanus from the Spectre. It doesn’t amount to much at the end, besides allowing Lois a last visit with the ghost of her father, so I thought the most interesting aspect of it was its relative normalcy. Except for the Spectre’s current predicament, it could have come out of Satanus’ last heyday in the Jurgens/Ordway/Stern ’90s. I take that as a good sign for the Superman books, at least for the moment — a brief respite in the midst of all the other strife.

Speaking of which…

Villains United #6 (written by Gail Simone, art by Dale Eaglesham and Wade von Grawbadger) provided the most satisfying conclusion of the four lead-ins, probably because this miniseries ties into Infinite Crisis the least. The revelation about Mockingbird’s identity got a nice twist, and while there were some unexpected deaths (in the “I thought _____ was more valuable to DC” sense), overall they made sense within the context of the story. VU was a story about unsavory people, regardless of Catman’s attempts at nobility, so the laws of crime fiction had to be followed.

Firestorm #18 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Pat Olliffe and Jamal Igle, inked by Simon Coleby and Rob Stull) bills itself as an OMAC tie-in, but it really follows up on ‘Stormy’s escape from last issue’s Villains United-related predicament. Anyway, he defeats an OMAC in such a way that one wonders whether it will be applied to the other 199,999. More important, though, is the fallout in Jason’s personal life, which will be familiar to anyone who’s read a few Lee/Ditko Amazing Spider-Mans. We’ll see how long the new status quo holds, since the next-issue blurb promises big changes. I am still confident that the book is in good hands.

For an issue which apparently starts a new Justice League era, JLA #120 (written by Bob Harras, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Dan Green) was decent enough. The threat of an escaped Arkham Asylum inmate bookends Aquaman’s memorial service at the old Secret Sanctuary cave. Of the Big Three, only Batman shows up — in daylight, even — and soon fingers are pointed at him as the mastermind behind destroying the Watchtower. This is nothing new, given the events of the past year, but I hope it’s among the last of these types of scenes. Derenick’s art is fine, although his figures start breaking down towards the end. I don’t know if that’s meant to convey the members’ tempers, but it ultimately came off sloppy. Anyway, it could be the start of a good story, now that all the preliminaries have been addressed.

And since all its preliminaries are out of the way, Infinite Crisis #1 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Phil Jiminez, inked by Andy Lanning) was pretty good. Pulling together all of the lead-in elements, Johns and Jiminez establish the theme as “everything is in the toilet and the Big Three have split up.” That may be enough for a new reader who’s picked InfC as her first DC comic in 20 years, but clearly this is meant for someone who’s done his homework. Besides its lead-ins and the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, InfC contains references to Kingdom Come, The Kingdom, and even the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons story “For The Man Who Has Everything”. That last carries with it a bit of irony, since it was (in a small way) a celebration of the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman relationship, and quite the opposite is happening here. As for the technical aspects, Johns’ dialogue is sometimes off, and Jiminez’ figures are sometimes a little distorted, but overall not a bad beginning. It may well have been worth the wait.

October 6, 2005

Idenfinite Crisis at about the 2/3 mark

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 3:22 am
Here’s a new-comics-day essay which doesn’t talk so much about the new comics. I did read the final issues of Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, and Donna Troy, not to mention the new Wonder Woman (which follows the conclusion of OMAC, although nothing warns you to read OMAC first), so it looks like Infinite Crisis is just about ready.

This whole strange digression into grim ‘n’ gritty started last June with Identity Crisis. Now the start of the payoff is right around the corner — but Infinite Crisis won’t be over until April 2006, and then the magic will continue until April 2007 with the 52 sequel/spinoff/tie-in. By next April or May, the new status quo will be revealed, and if Mark Waid is to be believed it will look less gloomy — so whatever of the grim ‘n’ gritty remains for the 52 flashbacks to tell, it should be tempered by the current books’ lighter mood. Still, all that time…!

On one hand I have to admire DC’s ambition. Tearing down and rebuilding its core characters ought not to be a simple affair, and DC may well feel like the process was botched when they did it the last time. On the other hand, though, reading all these books over all these months has been exhausting. Today I was glad for Gotham Central, a really great end to the “Dead Robin” storyline. It featured a classic Batman scene to boot. In a perfect world, GC would set the tone for the Bat-books, instead of being an exception or aberration. Of course, GC can afford to use Batman to maximum effect, because it doesn’t have to deal with him every issue.

Really, it’s the “every issue” part that gets to me. Since last June, the whole Identity/Infinite Crisis paradigm has been harder and harder to escape. Parts of it have been fun, and parts have been unpleasant (either in content or execution, or both). Moreover, DC must feel that what it has planned is so radical as to justify all the buildup — kind of like the continuity gymnastics Geoff Johns performed in Green Lantern: Rebirth.

One suggestion has been the return of the DC Multiverse. In light of DC’s strict no-takebacks policy in the late ’80s and early ’90s, having one of its characters even acknowledge the multiverse has been something of a radical act. Zero Hour couched its alternate timelines carefully, to avoid setting up circumstances where they could easily be accessed. Likewise, Hypertime was introduced as the continuity equivalent of the good china — you needed special permission to use it, and only for special occasions. If the multiverse is coming back, even without altering the main post-Crisis DC timeline, that would be yooge.

I like the multiverse, and not just because I’m a crusty old dope who apparently belongs to DC’s core demographic. The concept allows DC to exploit fully its 60-year publishing history — even more so than Elseworlds, because it doesn’t close off the alternate timelines or make them prohibitively difficult to access. However, DC also put a lot of effort into streamlining its stories 20 years ago, and I doubt it will reverse all of that with Infinite Crisis.

Whatever happens, at the end of the day, I just want the Earth(s) featured in DC’s books to be an attractive escape from our dreary old Earth-Prime. I hope it’s not a long wait until next April.

September 23, 2005

All Together Now: Rann-Thanagar War #s 1-5

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 4:40 pm
At long last, I’m down to Rann-Thanagar War (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Ivan Reis and others, inked by Marc Campos and others). The slog through these miniseries was more difficult than I expected, and I can only hope it pays off in Infinite Crisis, if not in the various issues #6. Thankfully, RTW seems to be the most straightforward of the lead-ins, overlaying interplanetary war with the resurrection of an evil Thanagarian cult leader whose followers instigated the fighting.

As with the other miniseries, the events of RTW were themselves set up elsewhere; namely, in the excellent Adam Strange miniseries by Andy Diggle and Pasqual Ferry. However, RTW stands on its own, thanks to Adam Strange’s opening scenes of exposition with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Basically, the planet Thanagar has fallen into a lower orbit around its sun, putting all its life-forms in danger of being burned up. Strange and his armies from Rann evacuated many of Thanagar’s people to Rann, but the two planets were never chummy to begin with and fighting began almost immediately. The presence of the Onimar Synn death-cult didn’t help any either. Thus, Strange teleports to Earth to fetch Hawkman and Hawkgirl, hoping they can help calm everyone down.

Unfortunately, though, the situation has only gotten worse, and Thanagarian hordes have spread to other planets. Soon, planetary leaders like Prince Gavyn (assisted by Tigorr of the Omega Men) and Queen Komand’r join up with the Rannians, and it becomes clear that the Synnites still want Zeta-beam devices so they can spread their evil across the galaxy. Meanwhile, as if all that weren’t enough, Green Lanterns Kyle Rayner and Kilowog run afoul of Synn’s followers while on an apparently unrelated mission. They meet up with Captain Comet, who eventually finds his way to Strange and the Hawks, but the GLs still haven’t interacted with anyone else.

Those are a lot of characters fighting on a lot of fronts, and for the most part Gibbons manages to keep everything orderly. It helps that the plot isn’t too complicated — just Rann and its allies fighting Thanagar and, eventually, the resurrected Onimar Synn himself. The problem is, Reis and Campos’ art is very busy. It tries hard to convey an epic scope, with thousands of soldiers exchanging laser fire in various sci-fi cityscapes, but it ends up being cluttered. The colors don’t help much either. The battlefields are lit by fire and explosions, and so take on an orange hue that overwhelms characters and backgrounds alike. Even the characters themselves blend into the armies at times, especially Adam Strange, whose outfit has only minor differences from every other Rannian soldier. At least the Hawks from Earth are distinct.

Still, on the whole I like RTW. I only know interstellar DC politics second-hand, but Gibbons has been good at using dialogue to convey backstory without it sounding like exposition. Characterization suffers a little, although there’s not much room for character moments when everyone is flying around, yelling, and shooting most of the time. Gibbons does have Kyle and Kilowog terraform the post-apocalyptic surface of Thanagar; and he also gives Hawkman and Hawkwoman a tender farewell. Even the hoary old “fake prisoner infiltration” scene gets a bit of a twist.

The resolution of this miniseries apparently depends on subduing the giant monster Onimar Synn has become, but I doubt the story will end there. For one thing, even without Synn, his followers must still be defeated. There is also the possibility that this miniseries will end on a cliffhanger, and Synn will be around to cause trouble in Infinite Crisis. I threw a hissyfit the other day over Day of Vengeance‘s ending, but this miniseries’ conclusion probably won’t provoke me as much. RTW never felt bloated or decompressed — if anything, it felt like it was trying to move too fast and cover too much ground.

One last thing which occurred to me this morning: what exactly is Hawkman’s pre-InfC timeline? He’s in JLA arguing for more mindwiping, he’s in RTW, and isn’t he supposed to be dead in his own book? Surely someone out there in Internet-land has the answer.

September 21, 2005

New comics 9/14/05 and 9/21/05

At the risk of sounding like the stereotypical frothing-at-the-mouth angry superhero fan, I have to get this off my chest:

Day of Vengeance #6 (written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Justiniano, inked by Walden Wong) is the worst comic I have read in a while, even including Willingham’s Leslie Thompkins kiss-off in Batman. As the last issue of a miniseries, it doesn’t conclude the story it started. Instead, it goes for what I can only assume is a series of shocks — cliffhangers, really, since the people and places affected are too important to “die” — designed to get the reader to buy Infinite Crisis. News flash, DC: we were going to do that already, and it would have been nice if DoV had been able to streamline InfC‘s storytelling. The last few pages could easily have been, and probably will be, incorporated into Infinite Crisis itself, arguably making the entire miniseries pointless. As for the Shadowpact, it defeats one of its foes early on, spends the rest of the issue patting itself on the back, and stands around like disinterested spectators for the aforementioned cliffhangers. The last panel of the issue has the Shadowpacters rallying themselves unironically, and the “next issue” blurb encourages us to watch out for their further adventures. Not if Bill Willingham is anywhere near, I won’t. (By the way, DC — how does the destruction of you-know-what over here affect the status of you-know-who in Villains United?)

Speaking of writers whose work frustrates me, Batman: Gotham Knights #69 (written by A.J. Lieberman, pencilled by Al Barrionuevo, inked by Bit) might actually start Lieberman back on the road to redemption, at least in my eyes. He seems to be retconning away one of the biggest mistakes of the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee crowd-pleaser “Hush,” namely the identity of the eponymous villain. The flashbacks and flash-forwards are better this issue, the dialogue isn’t as arch, and the art has been consistently good. I wonder if I have reached some kind of critical mass with Lieberman, where his stuff finally starts to make sense….

Captain America #10 (written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Lee Weeks) interrupts “The Winter Soldier” for a House of M crossover. So far this is the first and only House of M issue I’ve read, and only because Brubaker’s writing it. As alternate histories go, things start off pretty well for Cap, but he soon finds himself unwelcome at both ends of the political spectrum. Brubaker presents a series of compelling vignettes — the problem is, they never approach any real climax, and the book just runs out of pages after a while. It’s well-executed otherwise.

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1 (written by Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Christian Alamy and Prentiss Rollins) is a fine introduction to the new GL Corps, focusing on Guy Gardner and a would-be Lantern from Sinestro’s old space sector. Johns and Gibbons combine for some subtler dialogue than I usually associate with Johns. The Korugarian physician, clearly the main guest star, is fleshed out well, even if her story seems a bit predictable this early on. The art is decent too. Except for Guy’s head looking like a helium balloon in some panels, everybody looks heroic and the aliens look appropriately alien.

Finally (for this week, at least), Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Pasqual Ferry) almost read like a Mister Miracle Elseworlds. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the other 7S projects, but that’s not necessarily bad. Giving the New Gods the alternate-reality treatment is a good way to invest the longtime fan emotionally, and for a newcomer they are effective just as elements of another reality to which Mr. Miracle isn’t quite sure he belongs. The art was different than I remember seeing from previous Ferry projects — more painted and three-dimensional — but still very good. Too bad he’s not coming back next issue.

Now to last week, except I’m saving Rann-Thanagar War #5, Star Wars: Empire #34, and Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #195 for omnibus recaps.

Chris Eliopolous’ Franklin Richards: Son Of A Genius was a fun special, kind of a cross between Calvin & Hobbes and “Dexter’s Laboratory,” but good on its own terms, and no previous knowledge of the Fantastic Four was required.

Action Comics #831 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Nelson) featured both a Superman/Black Adam/Dr. Psycho fight and a Bizarro/Zoom race. Bizarro comes off a lot more fun here than he does in Superman/Batman (for example), and Simone uses him to good comic effect against the more businesslike villains of the Secret Society. The Superman/Black Adam stuff is entertaining too, but not as much. Jimmy Olsen is here too, drawn with a Beatle/Chekov mophead when he had more of a shaggy ’70s ‘do in the last Superman — but I quibble. At least the Super-books are paying attention to Jimmy again. Simone also writes a funny Perry White. I mention these things because it’s been easy for the Superman writers to get caught up in the whole “let’s make everything big, cosmic, and gut-wrenching” paradigm, and miss the interaction with Supes’ normal friends that was a hallmark for so long. Simone is the most evocative of those old tropes at the moment, and the books are better for it.

Black Adam (get ‘im while you can, folks!) is also in Firestorm #17 (written by Stuart Moore, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Prentiss Rollins and Rob Stull), trying to recapture ‘Stormy after the Secret Six broke him out of Secret Society captivity over in Villains United. However, the real guest-star is Gehenna, a young woman also being used as a power source by the Society. Their escape from the Society’s base is both exciting and romantic, and the issue does a good job of conveying Jason’s thrills at both defeating super-baddies and flirting with a teenaged hottie.

Another immensely enjoyable issue last week was JLA #118 (written by Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, pencilled by Chris Batista, inked by Mark Farmer), in which J’Onn J’Onzz and Aquaman square off against Despero, Zatanna seeks sanctuary on Themyscira, and the rest of the JLA votes on further mindwiping. This would be a good story even without the Identity Crisis theatrics, and it left me anticipating the next issue.

Finally (for sure), All-Star Batman & Robin #2 (written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) felt a little better than last issue. It seems looser and more freewheeling now that it doesn’t have to establish a certain mood or live up to first-issue expectations. The subtext of the issue deals with Batman’s emotional manipulation of Dick Grayson, and Dick’s realization he’s being manipulated. I have a theory that Robin exists to show readers it would be fun to live Batman’s life without actually being Bruce Wayne, so I wonder if Miller is headed someplace similar. Still, the true test will come once Dick gets into the short pants and elf shoes.

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