Comics Ate My Brain

June 10, 2009

Kids — they’ll age you!

Filed under: batman, nightwing, robin — Tom Bondurant @ 6:06 pm
[I should really preface this post with a disclaimer: anyone looking for an extremely well-thought-out DC timeline owes Chris Miller’s site a look. The following won’t necessarily match up with Chris’s work, but that’s probably because I’m making more assumptions than he is.]

It’s been a while since I’ve tried to work out a rough Batman timeline. However, Grant Morrison says that Damian Wayne is ten years old, and that’s got me thinking. A ten-year-old Damian tends to explode the notion that DC’s current timeline is perpetually only 12-13 years old (that is, DC’s “Year One” was somewhere around 1996-97). Batman/Bruce didn’t even meet Talia until Dick was off at college — well into Dick’s Robin career, at least a year or two before he became Nightwing. Assuming that Bruce and Talia didn’t make the sign of the double-humped camel until 1987’s Son of the Demon graphic novel — which appeared a few real-time years after Dick gave up the short pants in early 1984 — that means Dick has been Nightwing for at least ten years. Accordingly, that gives Tim Drake a pretty substantial Robin career, and it probably has implications for Jason Todd’s tenure as well.

Memorable milestones make the Batman timeline is relatively easy to figure. Bruce Wayne was 25 during “Batman: Year One,” Dick Grayson became Robin somewhere in Year Three and turned 20 not long after becoming Nightwing, and Tim Drake was 13 when he became Robin. (By the way, has “Batman: Year Three” been lost in a continuity fog? For some reason I think it has, even though it pretty much sets up Tim’s origin in “A Lonely Place Of Dying.”) Furthermore, back in late 1986/early 1987, when “Year One” was originally serialized, Bat-editor Denny O’Neil theorized that the then-current Batman stories were taking place in Year Seven.

I don’t agree with Denny’s thinking there, primarily because it gives Dick Grayson too short a Robin career. If he turned 20 as Nightwing, but he spent a year in college as Robin (say, age 18), then the transition probably happened while he was 19. Even if that changeover occurred in Year Seven (and it probably didn’t), then Dick was only Robin for around four years, and was in his mid-to-late teens when he started.

Besides, Damian’s age lets us work backwards. If he’s ten now, he was conceived some eleven years ago (1998) — probably as chronicled in Son of the Demon.

(Brief digression: Batman #666 has a one-panel flashback to the night Damian was conceived, showing the original/”Year One”-style Bat-suit, as opposed to the “New Look”/yellow-oval model still in use in SotD. No doubt this gives DC some wiggle room to claim that Damian was conceived many years earlier than SotD, and thus that Talia and Bruce “knew” each other before they were properly introduced, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Well, I say phooey on that. It would mean that either Ra’s al Ghul or Talia knew pretty early on that Batman needed to join the family; and as impressive as Batman’s early career might have been, it surely wasn’t that impressive.)

Therefore, with Son of the Demon as our eleven-years-ago milepost, we can start estimating other events. Dick (age 20-21) was Nightwing, and Jason was a teenaged Robin. Dick turned 20 pretty soon after Crisis On Infinite Earths ended, so by the time of SotD he was probably around 21. Thus, Crisis took place twelve years ago. Moreover, if Dick became Nightwing at age 19, that takes us back thirteen years; with Dick’s year at Hudson University being fourteen years ago. In other words, Dick was 18 in 1995, making him 32 today.

However, there is some disagreement over Dick’s age in Year Three. Marv Wolfman, who wrote “Year Three” (and, of course, all those New Teen Titans issues; and who was writing Batman when NTT launched), stated often in dialogue that Dick had been Robin since age eight. This would give Dick a pretty substantial Robin career of at least eleven years (ages 8-19) — but how old would that make Bruce? If Dick was eight in Year Three, that would make 2009 Year Twenty-Seven, and Bruce would be 53 — which, by the way, is Dark Knight “retired for ten years” territory.

We can try to figure Dick’s age by using Tim’s; and we can figure Tim’s in relation to Jason Todd’s career. Jason was killed (in real time) in 1988, about a year after Son of the Demon was published. 13-year-old Tim met Batman and Nightwing some months after that, which probably places the event in the DC-year following SotD. It would make Tim 13 when Damian was 1.

Here, though, we run into another problem: as far as I know, DC refuses to let Tim turn 20; and it surely won’t cop to Tim being 22. This ceiling makes Tim at most 9 years older than Damian and 13 years younger than Dick. It also affects Bruce’s age, since Tim was old enough to remember the Flying Graysons’ routines on the night Dick’s parents were killed. For some reason I want to say Tim was 2 years old when this happened in Year Three. That would make Bruce 25 years older than Tim, and 44 today — which would make this Year 20.

In summary, then, Bruce is 44, Dick 32, and Tim 19. Dick’s Robin career lasted from ages 15-19, Jason Todd’s spanned (all or parts of) Years 7-14, and Tim’s is in its seventh year (his brief “retirement” notwithstanding). The lingering problem with this timeline is that it may give Jason a longer Robin career than he had in real time (around 4 years, 1984-88), so I may have to revisit my assumptions to correct that.

Still, the point remains that Damian’s age necessarily extends everyone else’s timeline, and I hope DC acknowledges that.

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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 7/2/08

I’ve been saying for a while that DC should (once again) just let the Marvel Family have its own little corner of the Multiverse where Billy and co. don’t have to age too quickly and whimsy can be the order of the day. Well, here’s Mike Kunkel’s Billy Batson And The Magic Of Shazam! #1, taking me up on it. Except not quite, because this is a Johnny DC title and therefore has no influence on the main-line Marvels. Instead, it’s a sequel to Jeff Smith’s Monster Society miniseries, picking up with Billy and Mary in their familiar roles.

Kunkel has redesigned Cap slightly, giving him a ridiculously broad chest and a how-you-doin’? look. This goes with Kunkel’s take on Billy, who always tries to do the right thing but who realizes without much prompting just how good he has it. For example, Captain Marvel poses as Billy and Mary’s father, but naturally favors Billy in parent/teacher conferences. Of course, hilarity ensues, especially since Kunkel shows that Mary is the smarter of the pair.

Kunkel also introduces Black Adam, but leaves the resolution of his subplot for a future issue. I haven’t read hardly any of the Johnny DC books, but I suspect BBMOS is one of the few to employ multi-issue storytelling; and it makes me wonder who the real target audience is. This is a dense book which aims for rapid-fire delivery through small panels and packed word balloons. Not being 10 years old, I can’t say whether this would appeal to kids, but it does seem like an older reader’s idea of what a kid’s comic book should be. Yes, that extends to the secret-code messages, which I thought were prohibitively long and which I still haven’t tried to unscramble. Even so, I appreciated Kunkel’s efforts, and I’ll be back at least for the next issue.

Part 3 of “Batman R.I.P.” hits in Batman #678 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Sandu Florea), in which our hero is reduced to his lowest point before meeting his spirit guide (did it have to be a Magical Negro?) and starting to rebuild. Also, other bad things happen to Robin and Nightwing (poor Nightwing…). Morrison’s standard take on Batman in JLA was that “Batman always has a plan”. Well, here, he’s been completely cut off from his plans, thrown into a roiling sea of anarchy by the Black Glove, and made to put the pieces back together using stone knives and bearskins. As with Final Crisis, it’s pretty nerve-wracking stuff, but at least we’re at the halfway point.

I’m getting frustrated with House Of Mystery (#3 written by Matthew Sturges and drawn mostly by Luca Rossi). Its first arc seems determined to establish that Fig can’t leave the House. However, we know this to be true, because that’s the point of the book. Thankfully, that also seems to be the point of the issue, so I hope that settles it for Fig for a while. The issue does introduce a new antagonist, with a callback to the mysterious couple seen earlier, so maybe there’ll be a more entertaining twist next time out. Still, if this arc ends only with Fig accepting her new status, I’ll be pretty disappointed. I’m getting tired of books which take five issues to lay out what could have been one issue’s worth of setup. I do like the art, though.

I’m also getting a little tired of Nightwing (#146 written by Peter J. Tomasi, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Sandu Florea), likewise because “Freefall” seems to have gone on for a couple issues too many. Yes, Dr. Kendall was a bad man; yes, it’s good that Dick stopped him. However, the story seemed rather lifeless (no pun intended), and I don’t know if that’s due to Don Kramer’s art not being quite as expressive as Rags Morales’; or Tomasi’s talky scripts sapping the energy out of the action. Next up is a “Batman R.I.P.” tie-in, so maybe things will pick up.

I did like Supergirl #31 (written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Jon Sibal and Jesse Delperdang), despite the jarring change in art style from the soft lines of Drew Johnson and Ron Randall to the quirkier combination of Walker et al. Basically, Supergirl convinces the dying boy’s mother to accept the Resurrection Man’s treatment by a) flying her to a distant mountaintop and b) telling her how her parents shot her into space. It’s the kind of thing which has to be handled very carefully, because once superhero comics get into real-world ramifications of godlike behavior, they’re already pretty far down a mighty slippery slope. This time I bought Supergirl’s argument and the mom’s response, but next time might be different. As it is, this time the argument had to get past Supergirl’s bare midriff.

I continue to like Manhunter (#32 written by Mark Andreyko and drawn by Michael Gaydos). The current issue tracks Kate’s continuing investigations into the women’s disappearances, and features a couple of good scenes with Blue Beetle (super-suits hissing at each other like unfriendly dogs!) and Mr. Bones. Gaydos’ art is “realistic” without sacrificing expression, and Andreyko has a good feel for the dialogue of a superheroic world.

Finally, I bought Star Trek: New Frontier #4 (written by Peter David, drawn by Stephen Thompson), the penultimate issue of the miniseries. Thankfully, things start to happen at a little more rapid pace this issue. However, the plot deals with duplicates of people; and the scenes shift so abruptly you’re never sure whether, say, the Lefler who was on that planet is the same Lefler who’s on this ship. I guess I have to get issue #5 to see whether the whole thing makes sense.

June 10, 2008

New comics 6/4/08

Filed under: batman, house of mystery, manhunter, nightwing, star trek, supergirl, tor, trinity, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 1:51 am
Hey, it’s June! Who knew?

Lots of books this time, so no time for chit-chat.

Obviously I spent a lot of time with Trinity #1 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert), so it wasn’t too bad, but OH DEAR LORD another scene of table talk! First Meltzer, then Dwayne McDuffie a couple of weeks ago, and now Busiek. I’m hoping this is the only such scene for, say, fifty issues. It’s not like the Four Horsemen miniseries felt the need to sit the Trinitarians down for a Continental breakfast.

Other than that, I will say that I won’t mind spending the next year with Busiek and Bagley. For his first big DC outing, Bagley shows he has the chops to do the company’s most familiar characters. His Wonder Woman and Flash look especially good. I’m predisposed to like Busiek, so there you go.

Once again I get the feeling that Star Trek: New Frontier #3 (written by Peter David, drawn by Stephen Thompson) would mean a lot more to me had I been reading the NF books. This issue’s plot features shocking! revelations about who’s being impersonated, or who might be impersonated. The last page had me particularly confused. Two issues to go, so I might as well stick with it.

House Of Mystery #2 (written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Luca Rossi) doesn’t spend a lot of time on the “nested” story (written by Bill Willingham), which is good. The nested story isn’t that compelling, despite some pretty Jill Thompson art. However, nothing much happens in the main story either. Its big emotional moment involves Fig, our heroine, discovering that she can’t leave the HoM, but we kinda already knew that. The secondary emotional moment, where she starts to spill her guts to one of the housemates and ends up berating him, also doesn’t ring quite true. The rest of the issue finds the housemates acting quirky without much to show for it. While I’d otherwise probably fault the book for being too broad, the characters haven’t distinguished themselves from one another yet. Mostly issue #2 was just Fig acting out against a bland backdrop.

Much of Tor #2 (by Joe Kubert) is a flashback detailing Tor’s pre-issue-#1 journey, which is fine; but it gets a little loopy towards the end and eventually acknowledges that maybe those psychotropic leaves might be affecting it. As with issue #1, Tor fights a prehistoric monster in order to protect his new little friend. Accordingly, as with issue #1, I appreciated #2 for its craft, because who am I to criticize Joe Kubert? Besides, I have to get #3 to figure out what’s going on.

I don’t have any strong feelings about issue #3 of Batman: Death Mask (by Yoshinori Natsume), so I’ll just say it’s nice for what it is — an above-average Legends of the Dark Knight-style story — and it is getting me used to reading manga. Learning can be fun!

With her own title cancelled, Catwoman is more free to roam around the main line Bat-books, so the cover of Detective Comics #845 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs) plays up her appearance. However, the story itself is a nice little whodunit which manages to withstand its conclusory leaps of logic. As such, it focuses on the Riddler, who’s been trying to upstage Batman at the whole consulting-detective thing. It also introduces a group who I can’t help but think is the Internet version of the old Mystery Analysts of Gotham City. The idea that Batman has a group of online buddies who only know him through a generic username is still a terribly appealing one, so if you like that, you’ll like this story.

Rounding out this week’s Bat-books is Nightwing #145 (written by Peter J. Tomasi, pencilled by Rags Morales, inked by Michael Bair), an issue which starts to stretch the “Freefall” storyline past its point of usefulness. It wasn’t too long ago that Nightwing and Robin brought this particular storyline to a stop, but we’re apparently not done with it yet. The issue even appears to bring things back to that same point. Now, to be fair, this time around deals more with Talia al Ghul and Mother of Champions, incorporates Batman, and features the surprising return of another Bat-foe, but still. The concept of a mad scientist creating super-powered soldiers isn’t specific enough to Nightwing to warrant this much focus. At least Rags and Bair are back for the whole issue.

Speaking of which, Supergirl #30 finds relief artist Ron Randall drawing the whole issue, with Will Pfeifer taking the place of regular writer Kelley Puckett. Looks like a fill-in issue to me, but it’s not a bad one. It helps define the character in relation to Superman in a way which puts Puckett’s storyline in a much different perspective, and it even incorporates the Box O’ Universe from Puckett’s first issue. Randall’s art is clean and simple, although it flirts with being stiff and bland at times.

Overall, though, the issue I enjoyed the most was Manhunter #31 (written by Marc Andreyko, drawn by Michael Gaydos). It’s the triumphant return of a title which has seen two long hiatuses (hiatii?), so it opens with an efficient two-page recap of the character’s history. I’m not that familiar with Gaydos, but his work reminds me of early J.H. Williams, John Paul Leon, or maybe Tommy Lee Edwards — thick lines and lots of blacks. The main story does proportionately as well with its 20 pages. After opening with the requisite superhero battle, it reintroduces our heroine’s family and supporting cast, and through them sets up the current immigration-related arc. Last time I praised the new Action Comics for using its 22 pages well. This time, however, Manhunter really does a great job showing what a single issue can mean to a long-running superhero serial. High marks all around!

May 9, 2008

New comics 5/7/08

Filed under: batman, countdown, house of mystery, nightwing, supergirl, superman, tor, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 3:51 pm
Just for fun, let’s start with Supergirl #29 (written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson and Ron Randall, inked by Ray Snyder and Randall). In this issue Supergirl works with Resurrection Man and a mad scientist to make good on her promise to cure a dying boy of cancer. There always seems to be a lot of talk about what a Supergirl book “should” be like, and goodness knows I’ve done quite a bit of it myself. That said, I think this sort of approach is perfectly valid. Supergirl in this situation is what we lawyers call the Reasonable Person — specifically, one with Superman’s powers — who can explore the kinds of issues Superman can’t. It allows her to maintain the requisite connection to Superman (why would she be “Supergirl” otherwise?) without being redundant.

Anyway, this issue finds the Girl of Steel’s plan put into action, and reveals its outcome. A lot of it involves Supergirl getting to know Rez. Man (who I know only from DC One Million, unfortunately) and, to a lesser degree, the mad scientist. The rest is a fight scene. It’s all very dry and moody, thanks to a lot of black ink from Randall and Snyder. Randall and Johnson’s pencils mesh pretty well — you can tell the difference because Randall’s work is a little more flat and tends not to go as well with the subtleties of Kahila Tripp’s colors. It kind of takes your mind off the fact that a super-powered girl in a skimpy outfit (who still doesn’t look skanky, by the way) is on a nigh-impossible mission. Nothing which happens in this book is completely unexpected, but I will say that it made me wonder about the consequences of Supergirl’s plan, and I suspect that was at least part of the point. I’m eager to see what happens next, which is a pretty nice sentiment for a monthly comic book.

Nightwing #144 (written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Don Kramer and Rags Morales, inked by various people) also finds itself with two pencillers. This is officially another part of “Freefall,” but it feels more transitory: the Great Ten’s Mother of Champions is brought into the grave-robbing storyline; Talia shows up in New York to threaten Dick; Nightwing does some run-of-the-mill crimefighting; and Dick’s new girlfriend (didn’t cornrows go out 25 years ago?) helps him skydive. Morales contributes some good “acting” between Dick and Talia, but there’s a lot packed into this issue (as usual) and it’s hard to process out of the larger story’s context.

Speaking of “the larger story,” the new House Of Mystery (#1 written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Luca Rossi) features a short story nestled within the main one. Seems that someone’s stolen the HOM from the Dreaming and turned it into the Hotel California — you leave when it says you can leave, and no sooner. Blondes are the protagonists here: Miss Keele, the architect who’s been drawing the House, Close Encounters-style, runs to it in order to escape her macabre pursuers. Cress, the typical House resident, protests her captivity. Sally, a more mellow resident, tells her own gruesome story as “payment” for her tenancy. (It’s written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Ross Campbell.) I thought the threads worked well together, although I had to work harder than usual to keep everyone straight. (That’s what I get with Vertigo, I know.) Rossi was unfamiliar to me, but his work reminds me of a looser Michael Lark or a tighter Jesus Saiz — thick lines and a little sardonic. Likewise with Campbell, whose work was much tighter and more “realistic,” which made his story that much more effective. So, good job, Vertigo: you’ve gotten me reading one of your books for the first time since Army@Love #1.

I picked up Joe Kubert’s Tor #1 (by guess who) based on the strength of Kubert’s body of work. I’d barely heard of Tor, but Kubert + caveman seemed to be a good fit. It’s a story told without dialogue, or balloons of any kind: an omniscient narrator describes Tor’s thoughts. Tromping away from his dark past, Tor stops to treat his wounds and get some food, inadvertently eating some psychedelic fruit. Later, as indicated by the cover, he saves a hairy humanoid from a croc-o-saurus before running into the people who put the victim there. It’s not an unfamiliar story, but it’s told well (of course) and it is enticing enough to get me to stick around.

Evil demigods plague both stories in Countdown To Mystery #7. In the Eclipso story (written by Matthew Sturges, pencilled by Chad Hardin, inked by various people), Bruce Gordon and the accumulated superheroes (Hawk, Dove, Creeper, Plastic Man) take on an Eclipso cult and the badder-than-ever dark god himself. I get the feeling that this story depends on various ways to keep the Spectre in check, but since this is the penultimate issue, that’s not quite as big a problem anymore. Hardin’s pencils are fine; nothing flashy, more like cleaner Tom Grindberg back when Grindberg was trying to be Neal Adams. This story has jumped around so much I’m not sure who it’s about anymore, and that makes it harder to tell if it’s going anywhere.

The Doctor Fate story (plot by the late Steve Gerber, script by Adam Beechen, pencilled by Justiniano, inked by Walden Wong) finds the helmet in the hands of a young woman who’s not ready for its power, and who gets taken on a trip through Hell as a result. You know the drill: the world is a cesspool of sweat and saliva, we’re all just ants compared to the demons who really control things, yadda yadda yadda. Next issue is the multiple-choice ending necessitated by Gerber’s death, so this could end up a few different ways.

The second issue of Batman: Death Mask (#2 by Yoshinori Natsume) was an improvement. Most of it is a flashback to Bruce’s martial-arts training, with the requisite Batman foreshadowing. In the context of this story, though, the foreshadowing takes on a more mystical aspect which comes back to haunt Batman in the present. This issue has more action than the last one, which made it feel “more manga” to my untrained eyes.

Back in the land of left-to-right Batman, Detective Comics #844 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs) concludes the Zatanna/Ventriloquist two-parter with the origin of the current Ventriloquist. Once the mousy daughter of a mob boss, she got glammed up after being left for dead and finding Scarface. Pretty good for a Bat-villain origin, and Dini ties it into “Face The Face,” the One Year Later reintroduction to Batman. As for Zatanna, I have to say I liked the way Dini handled her mindwiping of Batman ‘way back when, but I’m not buying her throwing herself at Bruce. Nice try, though.

Because I didn’t have 1974’s Justice League #111, I bought the DC Universe Special: JLA which reprinted it (the first appearance of Libra) and the 3-part Secret Society story which helped give Identity Crisis its foundation. I won’t go into details, because these are pretty much research material, but the printing seemed off on the Secret Society story and Dick Giordano’s inks seemed a bit too blotchy on the Libra story. Weird.

Finally, at long last here’s Action Comics Annual #11 (written by Richard Donner and Geoff Johns, drawn by Adam Kubert), the conclusion of “Last Son.” It’s wall-to-wall combat, with the United States military, Superman, Luthor, Bizarro, Metallo, the Parasite, and (eventually) the Justice League and Justice Society versus a decent amount of Phantom Zone escapees. Luthor is the key to the issue, both in his motivation for helping Superman and the perverse glee he finds in killing Kryptonians. The ending is a little problematic given the current state of Superman comics, but maybe there will be an addendum which bridges the gap. Or maybe this takes place “now” (given one of Chris’s comments) and it’ll be a plot thread for Trinity. Anyway, it was a good issue, well-told by Kubert, which should make more sense once it’s put in proper context.

April 4, 2008

New comics 4/2/08

Filed under: batman, countdown, legion, nightwing, supergirl, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 1:29 am
First up this week is Detective Comics #843 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs), an issue which mixes the Penguin, Zatanna, the Ventriloquist, and a couple of characters from earlier in Dini’s tenure. With all of those players, you’d think there’s not much room for Batman, and indeed, Bruce Wayne is in it more than Batman is. It’s a tightly-plotted issue revolving around a Gotham rich-kid opening a nightclub to compete with the Penguin’s, and hiring Zatanna for a little extra sizzle. The Ventriloquist’s new “voice” reveals a surprising secret, and the cliffhanger’s pretty good too. As for the art, I don’t dislike Nguyen and Fridoffs, but I’m still getting used to their style. Nguyen uses very thin lines and Fridoffs is heavy on the blacks, and it reminds me of early Mike Mignola.

Keeping with the Bat-theme, here’s Nightwing #143 (written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Christian Alamy and Mark McKenna), a stopping point in the current grave-robbing-villain storyline. If you like Nightwing and Robin vs. an island base full of zombie super-soldiers, scenes punctuated by witty banter, and references to classic rock and Jaws, this is the issue for you. I found it to be a little too pleased with itself, but still an improvement for the title overall. Don Kramer fills in for Rags Morales this issue, but except for a little more stiffness I didn’t really notice. Together with Alamy and McKenna, the art isn’t too far from normal.

The fill-in work of Ron Randall is less noticeable on Supergirl #28 (written by Kelley Puckett, with the balance pencilled by Drew Johnson and inked by Ray Snyder), an issue that was actually pretty decent. After more than a few issues so inscrutable they’d make the average episode of “Aeon Flux” look like a flowchart, here’s one which starts to pull everything together. Supergirl has promised an adorable moppet she’ll find a cure for his cancer. Naturally, everyone (personified here initially by Wonder Woman) thinks she’s nuts. Supergirl then finds a cult-favorite DC character from the ’90s (I won’t spoil the cover’s tease!) to try and convert to her side. Most of the issue involves Supergirl talking to Wonder Woman and then to Mystery Character, and she does continue to act a bit weird, but with this issue I felt like there was a purpose.

Sadly, that provides an apt segue into Countdown #4 (written by Paul Dini and Sean McKeever, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Keith Champagne), which once again seems to have lost sight of its purpose. After the last few weeks’ detour with the Great Disaster, our heroes are back on the real Earth … but, as the cover indicates, Mary Marvel has decided to go back to the black-cheerleader outfit which got her in so much trouble 30 years ago when this series was still young. So she fights the Atom and Green Lantern and Troia on the steps of the Hall of Justice (the JLA’s not home, of course) in order to kidnap Jimmy Olsen for Darkseid. I like Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne’s work a lot, although their Darkseid seemed a little off, so I didn’t have many complaints with the art. I guess the overall story is starting to come together too. However, the Mary Marvel “reversion” still feels like a sharp yank after all that buildup to “redeem” her.

Finally — and I do mean finally!Action Comics #863 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Gary Frank, inked by Jon Sibal) provides the big blowout conclusion to “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.” The payoff is Superman (and, eventually, the Legion)’s fight with Earth-Man in the streets of Metropolis. The secondary payoffs are a couple of rah-rah spreads of the Legion. Sun Boy’s role in the story seemed a little too convenient, but considering that this arc could easily have lost an issue without much trouble, I appreciated this installment’s pacing. Also, remember last time how I didn’t like the way Butch Guice “directed” Cap’s fall onto the hovercar? This issue features Superman falling pretty much from orbit, to entirely predictable results, but I liked the way Frank laid out the sequence. Frank’s faces are still a bit creepy (those eyes!) and everyone looks kinda pale (thanks to Dave McCaig), but on the whole I can’t complain.

March 17, 2008

New comics 3/5/08 and 3/12/08

I’ve got a lot of these to go through, so I’ll try to keep it short.

3/5/08

Justice League: The New Frontier Special #1: Very nice all around. I probably didn’t need to see how another Batman/Superman fight would play out, but it’s justified as a “lost chapter” of NF. The Robin/Kid Flash and Wonder Woman/Black Canary stories are cute, the period ephemera is well-done, and the behind-the-scenes look at the DVD adaptation is pure eye candy.

Teen Titans Year One #3: Was a little surprised at the pacing of the overall miniseries, as depicted in this issue; but better earlier than later, I guess. Besides, the story’s new direction looks intriguing. It’s been good so far, so I’m in for the rest.

Supergirl #27: It’s an understatement to say that this book hasn’t been what I expected. If you remember the Steven T. Seagle/Scott McDaniel run on Superman a few years back, it’s kinda like that, except on downers. I’m pretty much buying this book to see if it all makes sense. Plus, I like Drew Johnson and this issue’s guest (fill-in?) artist, Rick Leonardi. S’girl isn’t frustratingly bad like, say, early Hawkgirl or late Gotham Knights. It’s just frustrating.

Countdown To Adventure #7: I read this book for the Adam Strange/Animal Man/Starfire story. I have no idea what’s going on with the Forerunner story.

Nightwing #143: I like the fact that writer Peter Tomasi isn’t afraid to plug Nightwing firmly into the center of DC’s superhero culture. It can get a little precious, and sometimes — not so much in this issue, but certainly in the last one — it distracts from the main plot. This issue was fine, but I bet if it were your first DC comic in a while, you’d be mystified.

Detective Comics #842: Batman must deal with an EVIL! suit of armor that he ended up wearing in the Ra’s Al Ghul storyline from a couple months back. You know Spider-Man’s black costume? Like that, except Batman doesn’t destroy it, it doesn’t make him dance like a poser, and (so far) it hasn’t come to life. I’m not sure why the world needed this story.

Green Lantern #28: The “Lost Lantern’s” trial results in the creation of a Red Lantern. Hal has a Clarice Starling moment with Sinestro. We check in with the demons on Ysmault. The Guardians issue a radical new law. I can see how it all fits together, but I know the dots won’t be connected for about another year.

Countdown #8: Yay, Ray Palmer’s back as the Atom! Yay, Firestorm is back (although whither Martin Stein?)! Yay, Habitat, the Hairies, and the rest of Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen creations! Boo, all the bickering and running around pointlessly.

3/12/08

JLA Classified #54: Will probably read better in the trade. Since this is the last installment of the Titus storyline, the “past” narrative takes up the top half of each page, and the “present” gets the bottom half. Sometimes that trick works, sometimes not. Here, it might’ve been better to split the pages vertically. As for the story, Titus beats the tar out of the League for as long as is dramatically appropriate. The ends on an ecumenical note, which is always nice, but a bit treacly for the Justice League. Overall, though, pretty good.

Batman Confidential #14: Part 2 of a new look at a one-off villain from the ’80s, The Wrath. As a modern-style story with an out-of-date setting, it’s not exactly a nostalgia-fest. However, I give it points for picking a time period other than “Year One.” Otherwise, I’m not sure what the general appeal would be.

The Last Defenders #1: The Defenders are famous as Marvel’s “non-team.” This book goes a step further, taking pains to point out how its characters are nowhere near as cool as the original Defenders. It’s a weird little exercise in obstinance wrapped in a story about white supremacists and big snake-monsters. I’ll probably stick with it.

Fantastic Four #555: Boring. Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary are fine craftsmen, but there’s still no life in an issue which features an illicit tryst, a duplicate Earth, and a giant killer robot. It’s all hat and no cattle.

Superman Confidential #13: Part two of the Toyman/Jimmy Olsen story is okay, and I like Phil Hester and Ande Parks’ art, but it feels a bit padded and lethargic. Probably could have used some pruning.

Star Wars: Rebellion #12: Part two of yet another “infiltrate an Imperial base” story that just kinda sits there. Colin Wilson’s art reminds me of early Howard Chaykin, and his Luke doesn’t look much like Mark Hamill either.

Bat Lash #4: The big apocalyptic issue which sets up the climax. This miniseries has been decent, but it’s hard to reconcile all the blood and death with the happy-go-lucky tone which got me interested in the character. (Lots of cattle, but I thought the hat would be different, in other words.) Maybe Sergio Aragones can do it. We’ll see.

Countdown To Mystery #4: I continue to like the Doctor Fate story as it plays with the (pretty much inevitable) conclusion that has Kent Nelson become the latest Doctor F. This installment includes the most traditional superhero action we’ve seen since early on, but the pieces still haven’t fallen into place. Most origin stories seem to place the origin alongside another threat, in order to give the new hero something to do in the third act. This one is all about the origin process itself, with Inza’s comic-book ventures serving as metacommentary. Makes me miss Steve Gerber that much more. P.S. This book also contains an Eclipso story which is once again threatening to meander.

Booster Gold #7: It’s The OMAC Project, Take Two, as we see how Max Lord took over the world once Booster saved Beetle from an (untimely?) death. (By the way, I’ve just started the second season of “Star Trek Voyager,” and Tom and Harry are reminding me a lot of Beetle and Booster.) More subplots converge alongside more trips into DC’s nostalgia mine, so for me, pretty good.

Superman #674: New artist Renato Guedes brings a nice “bigness” to the proceedings. Outgoing writer Kurt Busiek brings back an old JLA villain (from just before the Detroit days) to threaten Superman. Meanwhile, Supes has problems with Mon-El and the Kents have a new apartment. It’s a full issue which doesn’t feel overstuffed.

Wonder Woman #18: Guest artist Bernard Chang helps Gail Simone send WW into space, in what looks like an oblique sequel to the “Space Pirate” storyline from the early ’90s. Basically, she’s challenged by the Khunds (who act like Klingons) to stop an unstoppable race which threatens Khundia. Also, she gets pre-engaged to Tom Tresser, and Etta Candy shows up too. Chang makes WW look like someone familiar, but I can’t think of who. His art is a lot less porntastic than I feared it would be.

Countdown #7: Yet another parallel world, 90% close to the familiar DC-Earth. Another Tom Derenick-pencilled issue too. I swear, this series would be twice as good if it were half as long.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #6: This issue seemed so indebted to “Alias” (the TV show, not the comic book) that I’m starting to think Connor Hawke is the Michael Vaughn designated-victim figure. Remember when Vaughn drowned at the end of Season One, or when he got shot like Bonnie & Clyde at the beginning of Season Five? My money is therefore on Connor to pull through.

Green Lantern Corps #22: Part two of the Boodikka/Alpha Lantern storyline seems pretty forgettable, although it’ll probably look a lot more important in 2009. Today, though, I’m tempted to think that all the procedural GLC stuff would fit better in this book than in Green Lantern, with the Boodikka story as a backup.

January 13, 2008

New comics 1/4/08 and 1/9/08

I was out of town last weekend and didn’t get back until late Sunday night. That meant I didn’t get to the comics shop until Monday night for the previous Friday’s books. Naturally I was back there on Wednesday for this week’s books. So it’s all a big blur of spandex … which, as I type that, seems sure to bring in the random Google hits….

JANUARY 9, 2008

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 (Oh, like there’s going to be a “Lost Annual #2.”): I can see why DC didn’t want to publish this back when it was completed a few years ago. It belongs to a different time — a time when, for example, Robin could stay in the White House as a guest of the President and feel comfortable kicking back in his costume, sans mask but plus white gym socks. It’s not a period piece in the manner of New Frontier, it’s an unsubtle commentary on the way superhero comics used to work. I liked it pretty well. The story is pretty wild, by any objective standard, but it’s still charming; and the art is accessible and makes the Titans look appropriately young and heroic.

Bat Lash #2: Because I am not reading the current Jonah Hex book, which apparently threatens rape pretty frequently, I’m not so burned out on said threats when they crop up here. Just need to get that out of the way. Otherwise, this miniseries seems to be an origin of sorts for Bat — at least, I think it’s the origin of the flower in his hat — and it involving a number of standard Western plotlines. I’m still intrigued by the book, because I can see Bat developing into an interesting character, but I don’t quite think he’s there yet.

The Spirit #12: Darwyn Cooke gets a number of tools out of his kit for this issue, especially on the Eisneresque flashback scenes (and an equally Eisneresque rained-out final page). It’s an I Can’t Love You, I’ve Been Too Bad Too Long kind of plot, but it’s still very effective. I don’t mean this to sound dismissive — rather, Cooke is such a fine storyteller that I don’t have the space to gush about his work.

JLA Classified #50: A rampaging monster from the League’s early days returns to wreak havoc on the current team. Thus, most of this issue is fight scenes. It’s a lot like what you’d expect a Justice League comic to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. Problems will be solved, and adversities overcome, by the time this arc is over.

Superman #672: Same thing goes for Part 2 of “The Insect Queen,” which uses young Chris Kent as its cliffhanger. This makes a lot of sense, considering that the other major Super-players (Superman, Lois, and Lana) are pretty much safe from harm — but we don’t quite know what to make of Chris, so he gets “volunteered.” As for the main plot, Superman fights insectoid aliens, and Lana learns more about how her insectoid doppelganger has taken over the Moon. If you think that sounds like an entertaining Superman comic, you’re right. Art is fine, but Lana’s choreography is a little funky for some reason. She tumbles around a fair amount, and it never comes out quite right.

Nightwing #140: A decent start for new writer Peter Tomasi and new artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair. Morales and Bair are reliably good, but I found Tomasi’s characters to be somewhat long-winded. The new woman in Dick’s life speaks especially expositionally, and Dick isn’t exempt either. The plot is much more DCU-centered, involving the robbing of super-folks’ graves, and there are many of the guests you might expect in a Bat-title. Overall I liked it, but cut down on the balloon juice, okay?

Green Arrow And Black Canary #4: Beautiful art, but that should go without saying. As for the story, I was thinking the other day about how much I liked Green Arrow as a Justice Leaguer. He usually gets to spit sarcastic remarks at the rest of the team, and that’s always fun. However, more often than not he gets to back that up with fearless derring-do, mostly involving some explosive arrows and a giant robot. However, you can’t build an ongoing series around that kind of character unless you give him some depth, and I think that’s where writer Judd Winick has been going with GA/BC. Unfortunately, Winick is building character through tragedy again, and while this issue gets a lot of things right (Ollie’s friends coming through, good moments with Batman and Wonder Woman), at the heart of it is still the tragedy of Connor Hawke. Here’s hoping it gets reversed soon somehow, so that Ollie can learn and the book can really enjoy the fantastic work of Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20: Peter Tomasi has already written part of “Sinestro Corps” for this title, but he starts his tenure as new writer in earnest here, with a picking-up-the-pieces story putting Kyle and Guy in Chandler-and-Joey roles on Oa. It is a very sitcommy setup, and while I don’t have high hopes, it does have potential. Also, Mongul gets a Sinestro ring and gloats about it. Tomasi’s talky here too, and the differing art styles of Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno are fine on their own merits, but don’t blend together well.

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6: Kind of a blah conclusion to what I’d hoped would be a more exciting miniseries. The Horsemen end up taking over our heroes, except they’re surprisingly easy to get along with, and their eventual host doesn’t seem to mind them too much. I did like seeing the Doom Patrol and Snapper Carr, though.

Countdown #s 17 and 16: I’ll talk about these together because they’re really pretty decent, at least as far as this series goes. Monarch’s army comes to the idyllic Earth-51 and totally trashes it, killing its Justice League and assorted other heroes without much trouble. Meanwhile, Jean Loring loses the power of Eclipso in a fight with Mary Marvel, and Mary likewise loses her Shazam powers. One Earth’s Jean dies, but another one lives, making me suspect that our Ray Palmer will have a tearful reunion with that Jean at some point. Finally, Jason Todd meets the Batman of Earth-51 and (judging by the previews for this week) learns that Earth’s dark secret. Again, a lot of fight scenes, but as depicted by Pete Woods and Tom Derenick, pretty well laid out. Dialogue is okay, but not horrible. I have to say, this is the most interest I’ve had in Countdown since it’s started. I may have a problem with the “message” of Earth-51, but that’ll probably be a topic for next week.

JANUARY 4, 2008

Teen Titans Year One #1: Talked about this one in Thursday’s Grumpy Old Fan, but not in much depth. I liked it a lot, even though Wally West acted more like Bart Allen than I would have expected, and I’m still not used to Aqualad being so “fishy”-looking. However, those are dramatic and stylistic choices which work within the context of the miniseries. As I said in GOF, despite the title, I don’t think this is a continuity-oriented gap-filler like JLA Year One, and that’s fine. It’s enough for me that it evokes the spirit of a different time — maybe not precisely the Silver Age, but something that still feels like a growing and developing DC-Earth. Oh, and I really like Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe and Steph Peru’s art — it reminds me of Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave work, which is great.

Howard The Duck #4: Fine conclusion to a story that had to be reined in somehow before it collapsed under the weight of all the satire. Ty Templeton writes a funny George W. Bush. On the whole it’s probably too broad, but I enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind more Howard from these folks (assuming Steve Gerber’s not coming back, of course).

Supergirl #25: The Girl of Steel has flashbacks to Argo City’s destruction and then fights Reactron. The latter’s design has been updated since his days as an obscure Who’s Who entry, but it still took me a while to recognize him. That’s about it for the plot. The fight scenes are portrayed very matter-of-factly, with a certain amount of distance, and that gives everything a decompressed feel. Accordingly, this was kind of a dull issue. I like Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder’s art, but it’s still kinda dull.

(All-New) Atom #19: I love Jerry Ordway, but here his guest-artist talents are in the service of a rather blah Lost Underground Amish Tribe story. Our hero basically gets saved because he’s cute, not because he does anything heroic. Keith Champagne is no Gail Simone, that’s for sure.

Detective Comics #840: Really good Batman-vs.-Ra’s story. Batman basically renders the entire Ra’s-is-back crossover moot by putting Ra’s out of commission for as long as DC wants. Up to that point, though, it’s a fairly suspenseful tale which centers around the fact that Ra’s knows all of Batman’s secrets and, being filled with revenge, is itching to exploit them. Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs are the new art team, and they’re very good. Lots of blacks, and a dull color palette from John Kalisz. Nguyen has a very fluid approach, his figures are consistent and weighty, and he’s a good choreographer. Hope this team sticks together for a while.

Finally, Countdown To Mystery #4 gets the Eclipso out of Jean (duplicating that part of Countdown) and back into Bruce Gordon; and introduces the new Doctor Fate to his “new” Inza. I continue to like the Fate series even if it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Ironically, I’m also starting to like the Eclipso story more because it seems to be developing a plot. The art in “Eclipso” is a bit T&A oriented, and the dialogue isn’t anywhere near Gerber’s “Fate” work, but it’s not as bad as it has been.

CREDITS

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6. Written by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, inked by John Stanisci.

The All-New Atom #19. Written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Trevor Scott.

Bat Lash #2. Written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin.

Countdown To Final Crisis #17. Written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Ron Lim, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti.

Countdown To Final Crisis #16. Written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pete Woods & Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher.

Countdown To Mystery # 4. “Eclipso” written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Stephen Jorge Segouia; “Doctor Fate” written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Justiniano, and inked by Walden Wong.

Detective Comics #840. Written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #4. Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno, inked by PRentis Rollins, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Rodney Ramos, & Rebecca Buchman.

Howard the DuckJLA Classified #50. Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer.

Nightwing #140. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Rags Morales, inked by Michael Bair.

The Spirit #12. Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.

Supergirl #25. Written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson & Lee Ferguson, inked by Ray Snyder.

Superman #672. Written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Peter Vale, inked by Wellington Diaz.

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1. Written by Bob Haney, pencilled by Jay Stephens, inked by Mike Allred.

Teen Titans Year One #1. Written by Amy Wolfram, art by Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, and Steph Peru.

October 25, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Filed under: batman, nightwing, robin, thursday night thinking — Tom Bondurant @ 2:38 pm
Halloween in Rutland, Vermont, means superheroes, murder … and THINKING!

But what could startle this seasoned crimefighter…?

Yep, I imagine that’d do it.

Trick or treat, Diamondrock!

[From the classic “Night of the Reaper!” in Batman #237, December 1971. Written by Denny O’Neil (from an idea by Berni Wrightson with an assist by Harlan Ellison), pencilled by Neal Adams, inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Costanza; and touched-up for its reprinting in Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume 3.]

October 7, 2007

New comics 10/3/07

This was really a pretty good week for new comics. I’ve got at least one positive thing to say about each book.

Let’s begin with Howard the Duck #1 (written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa). As you might have gathered from the Friday Night Fights excerpt, its humor is pretty broad, and not as incisive as Steve Gerber’s original stories. Bobillo’s take on Howard is also just different enough from Frank Brunner’s and Gene Colan’s Disney-duck riffs to take some getting used to. There’s a little more Harvey Pekar in Bobillo’s Howard these days. Outside of the Cleveland setting, the American Splendor comparisons probably stop there as well. Still, it was a diverting enough story, hardly decompressed, and tied into the wacky side of Marvel a la Dan Slott. It won’t make you forget about Gerber, but I don’t think it’s a traveshamockery.

The highest praise I can give to another blast from the past, the JLA/Hitman miniseries (#2 came out this week, #1 two weeks ago, both written by Garth Ennis and drawn by John McCrea), was that it made me want to read all sixty issues of the original Hitman series. I knew nothing about Tommy Monaghan before reading these issues, but by the end I was sorry to see him go.

When word came out that Roger (Power of the Atom) Stern would be writing an issue of All-New Atom (#16, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott), I spouted off that it would be good, but not Gail-Simone good. Well, I was wrong, and happily so. This issue was great fun, perfectly in sync with Simone’s status quo. An alien turns Ivy Town into dirty hippies, with Ryan Choi having to use his iPod to save the day. The best part was the punk band’s (unintentional?) reference to the “Tear It Down, Wipe It Out” song from Action Comics #398‘s “The Pied Piper Of Steel.” Thankfully, Atom‘s music festival feels much more authentic than Action‘s attempt at a Woodstock pastiche.

And speaking of Action Comics (#856 written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, drawn by Eric Powell), this week brought the creepy, effective continuation of its “Bizarro World” story. Powell’s art really does the heavy lifting here, and it sets an appropriately spooky tone. It helps excuse the more violent aspects of Johns/Donner’s Bizarro, glimpsed briefly in the previous storyline. If this Bizarro is misguided, it’s to the extreme. Therefore, Powell fills these pages with blocky, clumsy figures, keeping Superman and the other Earth-people smooth and fluid. The combination makes the story more worthwhile, because a more “realistic” artist wouldn’t have made the grotesque figures the norm. Still, There’s probably a bit too much evisceration, though, and I’m not going to excuse it “just because they’re Bizarros.” It’s not like they’re robots — those are actual, if imperfectly-duplicated, guts.

More viscera is on display in Tales Of The Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1 (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Patrick Blaine, inked by Jay Leisten), specifically when the Cyborg defiles his late wife’s grave. Most of the issue re-tells the few Adventures Of Superman issues which transformed a Reed Richards parody into a … well, for a while, an overused, somewhat lame villain, but unlike the Parallax special from a few weeks back, the larger plot is actually advanced, and that’s nice. The art is serviceable — thick, somewhat stiff, and chunky, not unlike the original Dan Jurgens work on the character.

This week also saw another “Sinestro Corps” installment in Green Lantern Corps #16 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Prentis Rollins), specifically the big battle involving Mogo and Ranx. For those of you who remember the Alan Moore story which informs much of “Sinestro Corps,” this issue relies upon its prophecy most heavily, with Mogo having to repel bombardiers and the Daxamite Sodam Yat coming into his own. It was a good, suspenseful issue, although I pretty much knew how it would have to turn out. I thought Gleason and Rollins kept things moving well, and made characters distinct, but in crowd scenes I still had trouble telling Yat from the other male-human-looking GLs.

Jumping back into the creepy-zombie realm for a moment, here’s Welcome To Tranquility #11 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe), the continuation of its Devil-raises-the-dead-to-destroy-the-living story. I really liked this issue, both as an action story and as a quirky evocation of a superhero-centered community. The Kyle Kite vignette was a good example of the latter, bringing together the innocence of children’s comics, the twisted take Simone and Googe have on them, and the juxtaposition of all that with a carnage-filled zombie tale. I do feel like I’ve spent enough time with these characters to get comfortable with them, so naturally I’m worried that the book will be cancelled. There’s also a sweet backup story (drawn by Irene Flores) about a teenager who finds she’s more in tune with manga than with Western comics, and it’s fine; but I kept expecting it to switch to right-to-left and I don’t think it ever did.

I guess Jamal Igle is off Nightwing (#137 written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva), which is too bad, because Bosco and Silva don’t have the same fluidity to their work as Igle and (I think) Keith Champagne brought. Anyway, this issue was the end of the big woman-from-Dick’s-past story. While the plot still seems a bit arbitrary — apparently super-soldiers are involved, not unlike the battlesuit of Wolfman’s first Nightwing arc — I did appreciate the relation back to New Teen Titans. I have beaten the drum of strengthening Dick’s ties to his past for a while now, probably to death, so it’s always nice to see writers doing just that. This is Wolfman’s last issue too, if I remember right, and the ending is soured somewhat by having it tie into his new Vigilante series. NTT did that too, of course, albeit a littel more gracefully.

Igle pencils this week’s Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society (written by Sean McKeever, inked by Rob Hunter), which is actually the origin of Earth-3’s Jokester. McKeever’s clever script successfully re-casts the tragedies which formed the Joker into a story of a hard-luck anti-hero. The timeline’s a little screwy, but this is an alternate Earth after all. Igle’s pencils are pretty tightly inked by Hunter, giving them an appreciably different look than I’m used to, but it all works. The issue is much better than I expected a Countdown one-off to be.

Detective Comics #837 (written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher) is a Countdown tie-in which focuses mostly on the Riddler and the former Harley Quinn, filling in Harl’s backstory leading up to Countdown. To me it demonstrated how much better Dini is at writing Harley than the Countdown writers have been so far — there she’s generally wacky; here you can tell she has a brain. Of course, there she only gets a few pages to herself, and here she’s much more in the spotlight. Anyway, Harley and Holly get embroiled in the theft of a Wayne Industries MacGuffin, which leads the Riddler to their women’s shelter. Batman and Robin are in it too, briefly, but the book is Detective Comics, not Batman, after all….

Finally, Countdown #30 (written by Dini, Justin Gray, and Jimmy Palmiotti, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by Jesus Saiz, inks by Palmiotti) is all over the place, checking in on Karate Kid and Brother Eye, Trickster and Piper behind the scenes at the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding fight, and Jimmy Olsen escaping from scientific study, before settling on the Challengers of the Beyond on Earth-15. (You can tell it’s Earth-15 not just from the captions, but also from the little Earth-symbol on the cover. Thanks, DC!) On this Earth, everyone’s taken over for their mentors — Donna is Wonder Woman, Jason is Batman, and Kyle is GL #1. There’s not much to this part of the story beyond catching one’s breath with some character insights. Jason and Bat-Jason fight, and a few more alternate-version heroes show up. The cliffhanger switches scenes again, to Harley and Holly on their way to Themyscira (misspelled “Themyscria” — or is it?) Giffen’s breakdowns and Saiz’s pencils keep everything moving, at least. On the whole I was entertained, but it’s still pretty hard to embrace Countdown unreservedly.

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