There’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll try to be brief for each of these.
THE WORLD OF GEOFF JOHNS
Green Lantern Rebirth #4 pretty much is what it is. If you see deep emotional resonances in the cover (Green Arrow wielding a GL ring, and standing over the unconscious Kyle Rayner), you’ll appreciate the book. Reading this issue, I realized that Johns had already done most of the heavy lifting to explain the whole Parallax thing, so this issue’s dose of plot was much easier to take. As for the art, it seems a little less disciplined than it has in the first few issues, and some of the characters look oddly proportioned, but nothing inexcusable. I like the Green Lantern mythology, so I continue to enjoy this series.
Speaking of Green Arrow, he’s in Teen Titans #21, captured by Dr. Light as part of Light’s revenge on the Titans for humiliating him in the past. It’s also the new Speedy’s first day with the Titans, which means there’s a lot of exposition both about her and about the team. (Oddly enough, there’s a one-panel shot of the Wolfman/Perez Titans which features both Terra and Jericho. Given the circumstances under which Terra “left” and Jericho joined, that image couldn’t have existed. I’d have expected more from a continuity cop….) Anyway, Light’s characterization is pretty decent, so he becomes the most interesting character in the book. The storyline has potential, so I’ll see where it’s going.
Finally, JSA #70 continues the trip to the ’50s, where apparently there was a lot of racism. Now, I don’t mean to be flip about the subject, but why do both of the black Justice Socialites have to be chased by angry white people? That’s just lazy plotting. Anyway, this felt a lot like a middle-issue plot-advancement installment, so much so that I couldn’t tell whether the JSA was winning or not. For suspense to be built, shouldn’t there be some sense that the good guys are losing?
I must mention Johns going meta on the reader when he has Degaton say “Even now, forces are at work. Retrofitting continuity. Forces like me.” Way to be self-aware, Geoff. As for my own future with JSA, I see paperbacks….
JLA #111 really picks up the pace of “Syndicate Rules.” It features a titanic battle between the two teams, and it connects the Qward subplot more firmly with the main plot. (The Qward subplot feels in hindsight a little like “Mageddon” from the last Morrison arc, but that’s probably just superficial.) Kurt Busiek has really brought the big-event scope back to the Justice League. This issue felt like the best of his Avengers work, and that’s saying a lot. However, Ron Garney’s art is almost up to the task, but occasionally falls short. His Superman and Ultraman are particularly hard to tell apart, and sometimes his approach is a little too sketchy and impressionistic (probably misusing that term) for a story with such cosmic elements. Still, this is the best JLA has been since Mark Waid left.
JLA Classified #4, Part 1 of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!”, is pretty much “All-Star Justice League.” It will mystify and possibly infuriate the continuity-minded, but it’s still good clean fun from the old Justice League International team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. The plot, such as it is, involves a supervillain opening a bar next door to the Super Buddies’ headquarters, but the issue is an extended series of character-based comedy bits and rapid-fire one-liners. It’s about as good as the first issue of its predecessor, Formerly Known As The Justice League, and if that’s any indication, this six-parter should be quite a hoot.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman: Gotham Knights are both books which have strayed from their original missions. For many years, LOTDK was “All-Star Batman,” an anthology book which told stories that didn’t have to follow continuity. (I kept waiting for the definitive “sci-fi ’50s Batman” story in its pages, but no such luck.) Similarly, Gotham Knights was the book where Batman teamed up with Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Oracle, and the other spun-off characters. No more. Now both tell garden-variety in-continuity solo Batman stories, which makes me wonder how they differ from the flagships Batman and Detective.
Anyway, LOTDK‘s current Riddler arc reaches its penultimate chapter in issue #188, with Batman racing through a security system to reach a MacGuffin before the Riddler can. There’s some more intriguing psychological issues explored with regard to the Riddler’s motivation, and the Batman stuff is decent too. Still, the arc so far has been up and down and I’m waiting until the end to see how it all plays out.
Gotham Knights‘ arc involves Poison Ivy’s “children,” who apparently are the subject of a big military-industrial conspiracy to make them super-soldiers, or some such. It’s not as bad as A.J. Lieberman’s other Batman work, but it all feels very familiar. The focus on Ivy’s origin also gives me flashbacks to the Batman & Robin movie, which is never a good association for a Batman title.
Now, in terms of origins, Batman: The Man Who Laughs, written by Ed Brubaker with art by Doug Mahnke, is a faan-tastic updating of the first Joker story from Batman #1. Mahnke draws one of the best — and creepiest — Jokers I’ve seen in a very long time, and Brubaker uses the restrictions of continuity to his advantage. (The conceit is that this is Batman’s first “supervillain,” and he has to adjust from facing gangsters and street thugs.) My one complaint is that this could have been a $3.50 Batman Annual, instead of a $6.95 Prestige Format special — but I guess nobody does Annuals anymore. Probably still worth the $6.95.
Retroactive continuity continues in Nightwing #103, with Part 3 of “Nightwing: Year One.” In this issue Dick Grayson goes back to Haly’s Circus and runs into the Brand brothers, one of whom is dead. Scott McDaniel draws a suitably eerie Deadman (and Deadman-inhabited people), and the issue as a whole is fun, but it basically just tells the origin of Nightwing’s costume. There’s also a brief scene with Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy that further reinforces her role as the Monica Geller of the New Teen Titans.
Finally, Gotham Central #28 kicks off “Keystone Kops,” an arc involving a member of the Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery. Written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Stefano Gaudiano, it goes more deeply into the superhero/villain elements than the book has been for a while. It almost feels like last week’s “Alias,” where you wondered if Sydney would actually have to fight a vampire, even though vampires weren’t “real” despite the show’s other fantastic conceits. Still a good read, and it will be fun to see how the GC crew handles the world of “real” superpowers.
Action Comics #825 is the penultimate installment of the Preus storyline. I shouldn’t have a problem with the general plot, because it sounds like an exciting setup — Superman is aged prematurely, and therefore weaker; Preus is at full strength; and Doomsday is once again causing all kinds of trouble in Metropolis. In fact, it’s executed fairly well, because the issue is one big fight between Supes and Preus. Still, the entirety of Austen’s run (and I presume this issue was written by Austen, under a pen name) seems to have been Superman fighting somebody and getting unexpectedly beaten down by them, only to come back stronger and madder. It’s like having 9 cleanup hitters in your lineup. Thank goodness for Ivan Reis and Marc Campos’ art.
Adventures of Superman #637 keeps the Ruin arc going, but brings in almost-forgotten supporting characters Jimmy Olsen and Pete Ross. (Professor Hamilton comes back for a cameo too.) There’s also a revelation about who shot Lois in “Iraq.” Greg Rucka’s script is on a par with his Wonder Woman work, but I think what’s distracting me is the art. Matthew Clark is a fine artist and does a good job with the material, but I’m not sure that his style — which is very clean, thin, and active — is a good fit for the subtleties that Rucka puts into the scripts. We’ll see if things change when Karl Kerschl comes aboard in the next couple of months.
Incredible Hulk #77 is Part 2 of the Peter David/Lee Weeks “Tempest Fugit” story. I really like Weeks’ art — very moody and almost expressionistic, but grounded in reality. It suits David’s script, which builds the mystery while maintaining his trademark sense of humor. As with part 1, the action bounces between Bruce’s childhood and the present-day island adventure. I’ve been out of the Hulk loop for the past 4 years or so, but I felt right at home with this story.
Captain America #3, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (with art help from Michael Lark) advances the latest Red Skull/Cosmic Cube storyline, although no one in the story has made fun of the villainous A.I.D. acronym. Cap and Sharon Carter go to London and Paris tracking the bad guys, and Cap (horrors!) sticks up for the French along the way. Very nice retro-’60s feel to the whole affair, with kudos to the colors of Frank D’Armata (who gets cover credit) for enhancing Epting and Lark’s linework. Epting in particular does a great job with an aerial fight sequence. I’m sticking around as long as these guys do.
Astonishing X-Men #8, by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, is basically another Sentinel fight with a subplot involving the X-Kids. I’m sure there are deeper meanings and subtexts to which I, not being a longtime X-fan, am blind, but there you go. Cassaday does draw a very spooky Sentinel, though.
Now, about this 100-thing list….