Comics Ate My Brain

January 21, 2009

The "Hey, You Look Familiar" Meme

Filed under: james bond, meme, star trek, twin peaks, x files, x-men — Tom Bondurant @ 10:16 pm
Kalinara mentioned a couple of variations on a meme (ha!) and I thought I’d try ’em both.

Version One:

[C]reate a team of four heroes, a.la the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only the catch is that each hero must be a character portrayed by the same actor.

Thus, the League of Extraordinary Patrick Stewarts:

1. Ahab, monomaniacal commander of the whaling ship Pequod;
2. Ebenezer Scrooge, newly-reformed uber-capitalist (and the group’s financier);
3. Professor Charles Xavier, mutant telepath and educator; and of course
4. Jean-Luc Picard, starship captain.

One could also have the League of Extraordinary Sean Connerys:

1. Allan Quartermain;
2. Robin Hood (from the film Robin & Marian);
3. James Bond; and
4. Draco the dragon (from Dragonheart).

Finally, the League of Extraordinary Johnny Depps:

1. Jack Sparrow;
2. Ichabod Crane;
3. Willy Wonka; and
4. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

Then there’s Version Two:

[C]reate a team of four to eight members, which comprise of sets of doubles as played by the same actor.

Here goes…

1a. Dr. Sam Beckett, time-traveler (Scott Bakula),
1b. Jonathan Archer, starship captain (Scott Bakula),
2a. Dennis/Denise Bryson, DEA agent (David Duchovny),
2b. Fox Mulder, FBI agent (David Duchovny),
3a. Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson),
3b. Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson),
4a. Brisco County Jr. (Bruce Campbell), and
4b. Ash (Bruce Campbell).

How’s that?

June 1, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy

Filed under: sunday soliloquy, x-men — Tom Bondurant @ 11:17 pm
Today, an experiment.

“I know what you’re thinking: ‘did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.

“But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?

“Well, do ya, punk?”

Let’s take that little monologue, stretch it out, and reword it for someone who doesn’t have the most powerful handgun in the world:

Now, if you’re Marvel Comics at the start of the 1980s, try to estimate how much money you’ll make from a lot more scenes like that.

[From “Wolverine: Alone!” in The Uncanny X-Men #143, May 1980. Co-plotted by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, script by Claremont, pencils by Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski.]

September 7, 2005

New comics 8/31/05

Lots of concluding storylines this week, so I’ve been torn between doing entire-arc wrap-ups and single-issue impressions. Going with the latter for now, but expect the former later.

Flash #225 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Howard Porter & Livesay) closes off not only “Rogue War,” but also Johns’ 5-year writing tenure. As such, it works better as the end of an era than the end of this particular arc. “Rogue War” started with much fanfare as the final battle between old-school and new-school villains, but it has finished as the unofficial sequel to the first Zoom storyline from about 2 ½ years ago. It’s a decent action issue with fine artwork and a not-unexpected happy ending. I suppose I’ll reserve further comments until about 2015, when “Rogue War” comes up in the Johns recaps.

Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #4 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Simone Bianchi) feels like a bit of a cheat, if only because it leads directly into the Seven Soldiers special, out around the same time I’ll be recapping “Rogue War.” Other than that, it’s about the same as the previous three issues. Bianchi’s art is still very pretty. Morrison’s big twist makes sense in the context of the genre, but he doesn’t seem to do a lot with it. Again, I’ll probably do an omnibus recap of this one.

The cover of Batman: Gotham Knights #68 (written by A.J. Lieberman, drawn by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) features exciting images of a determined Batman, a menacing Hush, a demented Alfred, and some guy chained in a cell. The actual issue is very different, basically telling a disjointed-in-time story about Hush’s plan to defeat Batman through clones. There’s no Batman, except a cameo appearance by his silhouette. The art isn’t bad at all, but Lieberman’s writing is starting to remind me of the literary equivalent of an early-‘90s Image wannabee. It’s all attitude and flash, with few fundamentals; and it assumes that the reader can get by on inference and nuance.

Speaking of attitude, JLA Classified #11 (written by Warren Ellis, art by Jackson “Butch” Guice) improves greatly on Part 1 of “New Maps Of Hell.” This is the roundup issue, where each member of the Justice League responds to the crisis during his or her own snappy vignette. Also, a bit more of the mystery is revealed. That’s about it for the plot, but it’s all fun and entertaining – the kind of “To the Batcave, Robin!” issue that fanboys young and old dream about writing. Parts of it feel like Morrison, but he would have taken about six pages.

Green Lantern #4 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan van Sciver) starts a new arc with Hector Hammond and a couple other old GL villains. Johns’ treatment of the Flash’s Rogues irritated me after a while, but the GL villains seem more suited to his style. The story itself starts with a steal from a classic “X Files,” takes a trip to Oa for a new/old GL Corps reunion, and descends into prison for yet another Silence of the Lambs-style confab. However, it all comes together well, even the Hannibal Lecter stuff. Van Sciver’s Hector Hammond makes MODOK look like Teddy Ruxpin (how’s that for a geek-trifecta reference?), and Johns lets him live vicariously (and ickily) through Hal, even for a moment. As much as Johns gets ripped for his over-reliance on continuity and forced drama, I think he’s really enjoying himself with this series, and it shows.

Wonder Woman #220 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by David Lopez, inked by Bit) is the flip side of this month’s Adventures of Superman, also written by Rucka. It is more substantial than AoS, though, because it dovetails Rucka’s subplots and supporting cast with the “Sacrifice”/OMAC macro-plot. Specifically, WW confronts a couple of Max Lord’s foot soldiers, one of whom turns out to be a close friend. Thus, as with Sasha Bordeaux in Detective and OMAC, Rucka has treated negatively another of his own characters who once was very sympathetic. I don’t know whether this means Rucka doesn’t care about his characters, although that doesn’t seem likely. Rather, it seems to be more indicative of How Bad Things Are Now. In any event, this was a good issue, and while I don’t like the repetitiveness of the flashbacks, I appreciate Rucka doing that for the benefit of those happy few who only read this book.

Astro City: The Dark Age #3 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) is confident enough in its gritty evocation of ‘70s superheroics to slip in a Ron Burgundy cameo. Such confidence is justified. The two brothers’ story gets a bit more interesting this issue, even as the superheroes get more attention on the global political stage. One thing which confused me was the chronology of Tyranos Rex. Because he’s clearly a Thing-analogue, I thought he was a founding member of the First Family, but according to this issue maybe not. Still, the great thing about Astro City is Busiek’s ability to convey entire peripheral story arcs with just a few lines of narrative shorthand. Maybe it speaks only to the fanboy in me, but I would hope more casual readers could get sucked in too.

Hero Squared #2 (written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham, Mark Badger, and Shannon Denton) relates Captain Valor’s last battle on his own Earth, told first from his perspective and then from Caliginous’. (Badger and Denton do the flashbacks.) Except for a fairly obvious series of gay-Batman jokes, and the notion that Caliginous’ version is less truthful than Valor’s, it’s all about as clever as you’d expect. I almost don’t mind the $3.99 per issue, especially since I’ve been driving less these days.

It’s a tribute to the Solo series that I picked up issue #6 solely on the strength of its predecessors. I had almost no idea who Jordi Bernet was, outside of an 8-page Batman story from several years ago. His style reminds me a lot of Alex Toth and Joe Kubert – thick pencils, full figures, and very expressive faces. Reading this was like watching a Sergio Leone Western (not least because a couple of the stories have frontier themes): a European artist makes a classic American medium his own, and hey, there’s Eastwood/Batman too!

Star Wars: Empire #33 (written by Thomas Andrews, drawn by Adriana Melo) presents the Jabiim storyline’s penultimate chapter, and things are starting to pick up. However, I’m still confused about who did what to whom, both 20 years ago and today. Mitigating this are nice scenes involving Vader, whose presence helps bring together the present-day and Clone Wars elements. There are also familiar elements like Star Destroyers and Rogue Squadron. Still, I’m waiting for Luke, the ostensible hero, to get more involved. Maybe next issue.

Captain America #9 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Michael Lark) was a winner of an issue that could have stood effectively on its own. Cap, Fury, and Sharon go on a raid that fails, thanks to the intersection of business and politics. I read this wondering why Cap has to wear the gaudy flag-colored costume and use only an indestructible shield as a weapon, when the SHIELD agents get more practical black outfits with guns. Watching Cap rage with frustration at the men who have made his mission fail, it brought home Cap’s symbolic nature. He has to act a certain way because of what he represents, just like his country has to act a certain way because of what it represents, and practicality must sometimes take a back seat to the symbolism of acting rightly.

Astonishing X-Men #12 (written by Joss Whedon, drawn by John Cassaday) is the big “season finale” blowout between the X-Men and the sentient Danger Room/Sentinel. Most of it is well-choreographed action with snappy Whedon dialogue, but the emotional zinger is a revelation about Xavier’s use of the Danger Room over the years. That’s not quite as successful, because it feels both forced and tacked-on. Looks like the title is taking a brief hiatus, and I don’t know whether I’ll be back when it returns. I do like the villains reintroduced on the last page, so we’ll see.

July 29, 2005

Old Comics, July ’05

Well, I’m back, having spent the first few days of the week in Roanoke with about a thousand other people taking the Virginia bar. Thanks for all the good wishes, both on the blogoversary and for the bar. I hope I live up to them.

I did read some comics in the few moments I wasn’t studying, and no less than Steve Lieber was nice enough to send me a couple that he had drawn. First up was Family Reunion, written by Sean Stewart. It’s evidently been out for a while, and many of you have probably already seen it, but if not, I liked it. There’s a lot of information packed into eight pages, and both Stewart and Lieber economize their efforts to good effect. I got strong senses of the handful of characters through a good selection of scenes. It’s based on a novel by Stewart, but I don’t know if I’d rather read the novel or see more comics by this team. Probably a good choice either way.

More recently, Lieber drew Flytrap Episode One: Juggling Act, from a script by his wife, Sara Ryan. Here I was impressed by the different style Lieber used — thicker lines and perhaps more “cartoony” than in Family Reunion. Although Flytrap is more of a sitcom than Family Reunion, the change in style serves it well. FR grounded its fantastic element in very realistic artwork; and Flytrap is meant to be wackier. At 14 pages, it’s almost twice as long, but it has to set up the continuing adventures of Maddy and her clients. This it did admirably, focusing more on Maddy than on said clients, but making her sympathetic enough that the clients’ eccentricity doesn’t need to be much more of a hook. I’m now officially interested in what happens next, so good job, Steve and Sara. More information about both mini-comics at Steve’s website.

Now, quick hits on the stuff I got at the comics shop.

Superman #219, Action Comics #829, Adventures of Superman #642, Wonder Woman #219, OMAC Project #4: I would have liked “Sacrifice” better if the first couple of parts had been better-executed. I think the planning was good, and in hindsight it worked well, but although I have nothing against Mark Verheiden or Gail Simone I wish Rucka could have written the whole thing. The art in Superman #219 was also rather weak. I’ve posted my thoughts on Wonder Woman’s role over on The Great Curve.

Wonder Woman #218: Lots of closure as Rucka and Ron Randall wrap up various storylines from the past couple of years. I liked the storylines and was satisfied with their conclusions — and where’s Ron Randall been, anyway?

Defenders #1: Funny stuff, if not as wacky or familiar as the “Not The Justice League” stories — and while playing the Silver Surfer as a zonked-out beach bum is inspired, it’s also not close enough to the character’s mainstream portrayal to be really satirical.

Hero Squared #1: Glad to see this again, but $4.00? I thought gas was expensive.

GLA #4: More of the wacky, less of the grim, and I did like the ending a lot.

Astonishing X-Men #11: I guess I should be glad there were no obvious NOMAD/V’Ger “The creator is a carbon-unit!” moments.

Serenity #1: Satisfactorily evocative of the TV show, which is about all one can ask, right? For the first time in a while, the Best Wife Ever was excited to read a comic. Not that she’s read this one yet, but still….

Day Of Vengeance #4: Not bad, but I was hoping the teenaged girl would be related to Amethyst or (better yet) Crazy Jane.

Villains United #3: I liked Paul Pelletier’s art, and Val Semeiks isn’t bad either — but who knew the new Rag Doll was a dude?

Rann/Thanagar War #3: Lots of yelling, fighting, ray-blasts, and explosions, but that’s not all bad.

Batman: Gotham Knights #67: The best part of this issue was the artwork, by Rick Burchett. I’m sure he doesn’t get more Bat-work because he’s “too cartoony” for the discriminating Bat-fan; but his distinctive style is always welcome. As for the story itself, Bruce gets blackmailed by a failed videographer who discovers Batman’s secret identity. This is the first part of a continued story, but its cliffhanger hinges on an event that cannot be what it seems, and so fails to build much suspense.

Batman #642: This was a gap-filler issue, not badly executed but not really saying much important either. However, I thought Chris Marrinan and Andrew Pepoy made an interesting choice to draw Batman in a bulky, blocky way, more like Dick Sprang than Frank Miller. As long as he was around, Rick Burchett should have drawn this one too.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #193: The animated Batman series of the ’90s did Mr. Freeze a huge favor by filling his origin with pathos. This story can’t hope to improve on that one. Instead, its high point is a Batman who unironically gives out business cards (!) and who’s assembling a Shadow-like group of operatives. More with this Batman in the mainline books, please.

Detective Comics #808: Another solid installment of “City of Crime.” I do like Lapham’s use of Robin, and keep hoping for more Robin in the mainline Bat-books.

Gotham Central #33: Speaking of Robin, did I ever tell you about my idea for a Batman story where the Joker takes the Donald Trump role in his own version of “The Apprentice,” kidnapping high school athletes and killing them while ostensibly training them to be Robin? That would have been pretty lame. This was the opposite of lame.

Batman: Dark Detective #s 5-6: Um, did Englehart & Rogers just decide an abrupt ending would be cool, or are they setting us up for a sequel?

Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian #3: For me, this was more fun than the Subway Pirates; and Morrison and Stewart did a good job with the breakup scene too.

JLA #s 115-116: This is turning into a pretty decent storyline not just on a crossover level, but also as a Justice League adventure. I like Johns and Heinberg’s script, and Batista and Farmer’s art. I thought this would be a placeholding, gap-filling arc between “Syndicate Rules” and the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, but it’s exceeded my expectations.

JLA Classified #10: I thought Warren Ellis hated the Fantastic Four, but apparently that’s nothing compared to how he treats Perry White in this issue. Some fine Butch Guice artwork can’t make up for some weird dialogue.

Shanna The She-Devil #6: Yeah, yeah, dinosaurs, bikinis, “Kill Me!!!,” blah blah blah.

Star Wars Empire #32: Not bad as far as Luke/Leia Rebel Alliance stories go, but again, when did Leia get so tall and busty?

Firestorm #15: Still zippy and fun.

DC Special: The Return Of Donna Troy #2: I’m not sure anyone can be in quite the right frame of mind to read this book unless they have first read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the stories in the Who Is Donna Troy? paperback. The “Who Is Wonder Girl?” 5-parter from 1988 also celebrated the return of George Perez, and was infused with fanfic-levels of “You guys are my bestest friends ever in the whole universe and I love you very much!” moments. It’s as if Wolfman and Perez took Donna’s 1984 wedding issue from Tales of the Teen Titans #50, which was (seriously) a masterpiece of subtlety and careful emotional release, and decided to not take any chances and really wear their hearts on their sleeves. So far, Phil Jiminez has been dialing up the emotional manipulation in this miniseries, with this issue especially playing to the longime Titans fanboys and -girls in the audience. I understand his viewpoint — I hadn’t read Donna’s wedding issue in a good ten years before last week, and I still got misty-eyed — but this is getting to be too much. If the former New Teen Titans don’t end Donna’s destructive rampage with anything but a big teary group hug, I’ll be very surprised.

Fantastic Four #529: Lose the social worker and this would be a much better book, even with the “nanny search” subplot.

Astro City: The Dark Age #2, City Of Tomorrow #4: More of the same, and in neither case is it unwelcome.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8: Guest penciller Kevin Sharpe isn’t bad, but his figures are stiffer and more awkwardly posed than Kitson’s. Nice job by Waid on exploding all the subplots at once, though.

Incredible Hulk: Destruction #1: I bought this because it was Peter David and because “House of M” completists have robbed me of the regular Hulk issues. It’s not bad, but I have a feeling the HoM stuff is better.

Flash #224: It’s too bad that “Rogue War” has gotten good just as Johns is getting ready to leave. Coming soon to this site: a retrospective on the Johns Flash era, in which I will attempt to be fair and balanced despite his unfortunate focus on the Rogues.

Superman/Batman #21: I will gladly pay Jeph Loeb to never write Bizarro or Batzarro again.

All-Star Batman & Robin #1: Reply hazy; ask again later.

May 12, 2005

New comics 5/11/05

Late-arriving comics first:

Green Lantern Rebirth #6 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Ethan van Sciver) gives us lots of pyrotechnics and attitude. There are dueling ‘tudes, in fact, between the skeptical Batman and the so-full-of-himself-it-hurts Hal Jordan. Those sequences bookend a big Green Lantern Corps vs. Parallax fight which looks better than it is. It’s not very exciting, because it has neither choreography nor much in the way of danger. This issue may work better in the context of the overall story — which has been a surprisingly efficient and effective revival of Hal — but on its own it’s so far in the tank for Hal and the Green Lantern Corps it’s laughable.

Also late (and also a concluding issue) was Adam Strange #8 (written by Andy Diggle, with art by Pascal Ferry). While it sets up The Rann-Thanagar War, it also works on its own to wrap up the Omega Device plotline. In fact, if you didn’t know (or don’t care) about RTW, the ending is very much in the tradition of movie serials pointing the way to their own sequels. I have no doubt that DC will market this as the prelude to RTW, but it was a good miniseries on its own and a nice look at a classic DC character.

Actually, the “sequel” Adam Strange sets up isn’t The Rann-Thanagar War (#1) (written by Dave Gibbons, with art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos). The immediate aftermath of Adam Strange is told by Adam in flashback to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the opening pages of this miniseries. Reading the two back-to-back, I didn’t notice any missed beats, and the flashback was a good way to bridge the two miniseries. Most of the action takes place on Rann, and Reis and Campos do a fine job portraying global war, but there are a couple of problems. First, everyone in the Rann military wears a uniform similar to Adam Strange’s; and every Thanagarian wears hawk-gear, so it’s kind of hard to tell in the crowd scenes who’s who. Second, there’s the whole Hawkman continuity boondoggle, complicated here by Shayera Thal a/k/a Hawkwoman. Gibbons needs a paragraph or two listing all the players before we get too much further. Green Lanterns Kilowog and Kyle Rayner also show up to say that no way will the Guardians let them get involved in the conflict. Anyway, this was a nice continuation of the politics touched on in Adam Strange, and it may be the most enjoyable of the pre-Infinite Crisis minis.

Action Comics #827 wasn’t late, but judging by a footnote Superman #217 should have come out first. This issue introduces the new creative team of writer Gail Simone, penciller John Byrne, and inker Nelson. While Byrne’s cover makes Superman look rather stocky, inside is a different story. Nelson takes the scratchy edges off Byrne’s work, and combined with colorist Guy Major the book looks very good. Simone also gives us a happy, well-adjusted Lois and Clark, which is a very pleasant change from Chuck Austen’s simmering Lois/Lana catfights. There’s a bit at the beginning featuring Superman in an African village, which I suppose might be in Superman #217. Anyway, the main story is nice and suspenseful, featuring a villain who can really sock it to Superman. So far, so good.

Judging by last month’s cliffhanger I thought Gotham Central #31 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Stefano Gaudiano and Kano) would have picked up with a big Bat-fight, and while Batman is around for the first few pages, in the end it’s the GCPD detectives who wrap things up. Most of the issue involves Montoya dealing with Dr. Alchemy, her father, her colleagues, and her girlfriend. Rucka obviously likes Montoya and does well with her, so the issue flows together effectively. My one problem with the art is that Montoya’s father looks too much like ex-Commissioner Gordon, and I have to keep reminding myself otherwise.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #191 (written by J. Torres, with art by David Lopez and Fernando Blanco), the conclusion of a Mr. Freeze story, is hard to pin down. It has the trappings of a conventional Batman-vs.-Freeze fight, but it’s told in flashback by Bruce and it takes a different look at Freeze’s relationship with his wife. On the whole I liked it, although it doesn’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things. Still, importance to continuity isn’t everything.

Wonder Woman #216 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Rags Morales and Mark Propst) continues Diana’s journey through Hades. Along the way she, Wonder Girl, and Ferdinand encounter Ares, Medousa, a lamia (which I vaguely remembered from my old D&D days), and other assorted nightmares. It all intersects with Athena’s takeover of Olympus, in which Ares was not on Diana’s side. Rucka has done about as much with the gods as George Perez did, but Rucka has taken things a step further, almost giving the book a Sandman feel — and that ain’t bad.

Fantastic Four #526 (written by Karl Kesel, with art by Tom Grummett and Lary Stucker) concludes the Diablo two-parter. This was an entertaining little story which at the end turned out to have more to do with the team’s subconscious desires than it did with Diablo. A bit with Johnny and Sue at the end of the issue was especially good. Anyway, onward and upward, as J. Michael Straczynski and Mike McKone take over next issue.

Finally, Astonishing X-Men #10 (written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday) continues the “sentient Danger Room” scenario. Most of it revolves around the Danger Room’s dialogue with Professor X, but since I don’t know what happened to him and the book never really tells us, it left me flat. I will say that the Danger Room’s fight with the X-Men was fairly clever, and the story has gained a bit more stature in my mind than the fill-in “Buffy” episode it felt like originally.

April 7, 2005

New comics 3/30/05 and 4/6/05: better late than never

Two weeks’ worth of comics — which to read first?

25 years ago, The New Teen Titans #8 was lauded for featuring a “Day in the Life” and focusing on character moments to endear the cast to the readers. Some 10 years later, DC’s Annuals included 8-page “Private Lives” stories which sometimes filled gaps in continuity. In the late 1990s, DC began publishing thick, expensive “Secret Files” books whose gap-filling stories were separated by illustrated data sheets on the characters.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis is a high-profile gap-filler which does three things: sets up related miniseries through a survey of the DC Universe; introduces the coming epic’s mastermind; and shocks with the on-screen death of a superhero who (despite what the book has said about him) has been a consistently good member of DC’s community. The blogosphere spent the better part of the past several days ripping this book apart, and rightly so. Aside from questionable characterization (most obvious with the Martian Manhunter), CTIC also suffers from delayed lead-ins: Hal Jordan and Adam Strange appear despite their respective miniseries being an issue or two away from over. (Similarly, Wonder Woman’s eyes have apparently healed by this point.) I also suspect that much of the exposition supplied here will be regurgitated in the opening pages of the minis to follow. However, I did learn 1) the completely unnecessary explanation for why Blue Beetle wears goggles; and 2) Metropolis is in New York state, not Rhode Island (and somebody out there is mad at CTIC just for that!).

There’s no real good reason to read CTIC. Either you’re a longtime DC fan who doesn’t need the exposition; or you’re a newcomer and the shocking revelations won’t mean much. The ending leaves little doubt that the victim is dead, which is both distasteful and counterproductive — wouldn’t it be more suspenseful to leave some hope of rescue/recovery? I suppose the art, by Rags Morales, Ed Benes, Jesus Saiz, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jiminez, is decent, although Jiminez makes the villain beefier and the hero chunkier than the others do.

I hope that DC will use the 80 pages for $1.00 format for future “Secret Files,” though.

On to the regular series. Batman #638 (written by Judd Winick, with art by Doug Mahnke and Dustin Nguyen) reveals the Red Hood’s identity, but (disobeying the cover) not to Batman. Bats and Nightwing are busy dealing with the Red Hood, Black Mask, and Mr. Freeze trying to claim a significant amount of Kryptonite. Winick has given each of the villains a very loosey-goosey, self-aware speaking style which is entertaining in and of itself, but I’m not sure if it works for Mr. Freeze. Mahnke and Nguyen’s art is also a little looser this issue, with Batman especially looking more fluid and less blocky than they’ve drawn him to date. Again there’s a shocking revelation and a surprising death at the end, but I’m (like Steve) not sure why one would wear a mask under a mask. I’m also not convinced that the dead man is who he looks like. Regardless, this is still a better Bat-book than most others have been recently.

Of course, the Bat-book better than Batman is Detective Comics #805 (written by David Lapham, with art by Ramon Bachs and Nathan Massengill). It begins where the last issue ended, with Batman the happy warrior in the thick of a pack of goons. This issue sees “City of Crime” take a weirder turn, with the revelation that people in Gotham are being replaced with sinister duplicates. I’m not sure that the story really needed such an element, since Lapham was doing so well with the straight-up crime, but he makes it suitably creepy. There is also a backup story involving a baby Clayface and some manure that is either fun or juvenile, probably depending on your mood.

Flash #220 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay) highlights the two groups of Rogues and pretty much confirms for me that previous periodic interruptions (for example, to tell the sordid story of the Mirror Master) were unnecessary. Conventional wisdom held that the previous Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery never succeeded because they never quite had the killer instinct one needs for optimum villainy. Now, as Geoff Johns has taught us over what seems like the last 200 years, the Rogues mean business. However, this issue puts them in direct conflict with a group of reformed Rogues working for the FBI. That’s about it for the plot, really. (But why does Trickster I have his foot on the Stanley Cup on the last page?) I wonder what Johns will do once “Rogue War” is over, because it seems like the past couple of years have been building to this storyline. For that reason I have mixed feelings about this issue — on one hand, it packs all those other expository installments into 22 pages; but on the other at least he’s picking up the pace.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 (written by Mark Waid, breakdowns by Barry Kitson, pencils by Leonard Kirk, inks by Mick Gray, second story art by Dave Gibbons) establishes a little more concretely the schism between the 31st Century’s teenagers and adults. We get to see some repression and, of course, the violence inherent in the system. The spine of the story is the origin of Invisible Kid, but this issue feels more like a regular story than an origin tale. The backup is a day in the life of Phantom Girl as told by Karate Kid, and although it aspires to be a tender account of how P.G. spends her life perpetually between dimensions, it comes off as extremely strange. It’s the kind of thing Waid could work into stories as a running gag, so even an 8-page backup may be giving it too much attention. Anyway, overall another solid issue from Waid & Kitson, with Leonard Kirk either blending seamlessly with Kitson’s style, aping it effectively, or both.

While Waid’s final issue of Fantastic Four (#524) (art by Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel) didn’t really conclude his Galactus arc, it did give him an opportunity to bookend his run on the series with a heartfelt exploration of how the FF feel about their powers. I say “bookend” because the emotional issues surrounding their powers were explored by Waid in his first issue on the title. He and Ringo are a hard act to follow.

That brings me to Peter David’s second run on Incredible Hulk (#80) (art by Lee Weeks and Tom Palmer). The current “Tempest Fugit” arc is either a clever simulation run by a still-mysterious mastermind, or a backdoor rewind of the continuity clock to just before David left the title. I doubt seriously it’s the latter, and so does Bruce Banner, who thinks he’s gotten the hang of the clever simulations. His rebellion against them is the book’s high point, and their reaction is just as good. All in all, it’s still confusing, but in an entertaining way.

Superman/Batman #18 (written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Marino) finally concludes the “Absolute Power” storyline. Remember, 5 months ago, how I praised Loeb for curtailing the dueling narration? It’s back now; and if that’s supposed to mean everything is going to be OK, then quite frankly I don’t want to be right. Reset buttons are pushed, and there are more invocations of alternate DC futures, before our heroes get back to normal and try to reconcile their horrible alternate deeds with their former victims. This title is on my list of “maybe it reads better in one sitting,” but while I think DC needs a successor to World’s Finest Comics, Jeph Loeb probably shouldn’t write it.

Speaking of oft-delayed books, Green Lantern Rebirth #5 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Ethan van Sciver and Prentis Rollins) finally came out this week. This penultimate issue finds Hal back in ring-slinging action and taking on the revived Sinestro. Two things bothered me about this issue.

First, once again Hal is exulting in the fact that he doesn’t face any more soul-searching or have any doubts about his ability. Obviously Johns means this as an empowering, not-gonna-take-it-anymore statement of purpose, but does this mean Hal’s emotional development has been rolled back over 30 years, to the beginning of the Denny O’Neil era? If memory serves, Kevin Smith revived Ollie Queen at a point around that same time — so you have to wonder if DC sees that period as some kind of decline. Anyway, to me that can’t be good, because it means that at some point in the future, somebody’s going to decide Hal needs yet another crisis of conscience. (When that turns out to be the name of DC’s big 2011 crossover, you heard it here first.) Now he’s happily whipping up on Sinestro, but wait a few years and he’ll be as conflicted as ever. Otherwise, he’ll be insufferable.

Second, while the art was fine mostly, a few details bothered me. Hal’s redesigned costume still throws off his proportions; Parallax’s first appearance this issue reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne; and the big Hal-Kyle handshake on page (numbers would be nice, DC!) 17 seems to have been taken straight from the Kentucky flag. (“United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” indeed.)

We’ll see how this all shakes out next issue, whenever it decides to appear.

Somewhat like Phantom Girl, Zatanna has been a character either trapped between, or coexisting in both, DC’s Vertigo books and its mainstream superhero titles. She started in the latter and eventually joined the Justice League, but for a while she was entrenched in Vertigo’s stable of mystical heroes. Thus, it’s no surprise that Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1 (written by Grant Morrison, with art by Ryan Sook and Mick Gray) straddled that line between straightforward superheroics and knowing, ironic commentary on same. It covers some of the same territory as the original Seven Soldiers #0, including a dimension-hopping journey gone horribly awry. However, its tone is very matter-of-fact, with Zatanna at the end saying she’ll call the JLA if she really thinks things are too serious. The juxtaposition is entertaining, even if all the different dimensional dangers get confusing. Sook and Gray do a great job with the art, which is at times both droll and scary. This could be my favorite 7S miniseries, and not just because it features the most recognizable character or the one with the most cleavage.

Firestorm #12 (written by Dan Jolley, with art by Jamal Igle and Rob Stull) continues the assault on the new Firestorm by the old one’s greatest enemies. The dramatic tension comes from the literal struggle for control of Firestorm, with Jason having the power but Ronnie the strategic knowledge. While Ronnie’s tactics save the day, they also play into the hands of the villain pulling the strings, so “to be continued.” This arc has spotlighted both Jason’s power and inexperience, and while I’m not going to suggest “this is what a teenager fighting supervillains would look like,” Jolley has made it ring true. The art and color is as good as ever, so I’m glad I keep getting this book.

Based on my good experiences with Dan Slott’s She-Hulk and Spider-Man/Human Torch, I picked up G.L.A. #1 (art by Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar) expecting more fun in that vein. Well, it was funny, especially the Monkey Joe inserts, but in a very dark way. When your hero is Mr. Immortal, whose superpower is that he can’t be killed, that’s probably to be expected. Still, I only knew these characters from their picosecond cameos in JLA/Avengers, and this issue did a good job of introducing them and making them sympathetic.

Thanks to cable I had just seen the “Buffy” episode where she and Riley are trapped in the fraternity house, with their sexual energy powering these vines that trap others, so I wanted to compare that to the plot of Astonishing X-Men #8 (written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday), with the runaway Danger Room, but in the end that wasn’t happening. For one thing, Wolverine didn’t sing “Behind Blue Eyes.” I still get a very Willow Rosenberg vibe off Kitty Pryde, though. Having a rogue Danger Room (as opposed to Rogue’s Danger Room, I guess) was explained adequately enough, and the art was good as always, but these are the kinds of groundbreaking plots fans anticipated when Whedon was announced? This is the sort of thing folks can expect over at least the next 16 issues? If this were “Buffy,” it would be the season-ending show after the big finale to the season-long story arc, which cleanses the palate and gets everybody ready for the next big arc. So far I’m not seeing much innovation out of Whedon, and I’ve seen “Firefly,” so I know he can do better.

I also got Shanna The She-Devil #3 (written and drawn by Frank Cho) this week. Yeah, I know.

Finally I want to plug Batman Chronicles #1, reprinting in order every Batman story ever published. This volume covers the first year (Detective Comics #s 27-38 and Batman #1), and introduces Batman, Robin, the Joker, the Catwoman, Prof. Hugo Strange, the Monk, and Dr. Death. At $14.99, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the Archive books, plus you don’t have to go back and forth between books to read the Batman and Detective stories. I do hope DC is committed to this project, because it will provide a good look both at Batman’s early “gothic” period and how quickly that evolved into the happier adventurer who became Adam West.

February 18, 2005

(Late) New Comics Reviews, 2/9/05 and 2/16/05

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….

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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

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.

SUPERMAN

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.

MARVEL

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.

(Whew!)

Now, about this 100-thing list….

December 22, 2004

New comics 12/22/04

Filed under: green lantern, justice league, weekly roundups, wonder woman, x-men — Tom Bondurant @ 6:15 pm
I’d bought the first six issues, so I got Astonishing X-Men #7 today, but I wasn’t quite that excited about it. Conventional wisdom apparently holds that if you grew up on Claremont, Cockrum, Byrne & Austin, thrilled to “fastball specials” and purple prose, and cried when Phoenix died, you’re Joss Whedon’s target audience. I was never an X-Men guy, or much of a Marvel guy, so while I’m sure Whedon is hitting a lot of the right beats for the faithful, it goes right over my head. In fact, my favorite all-time Marvel title is Fantastic Four, so the biggest thrill I got from this book was having the FF show up in the middle of the X-Men’s battle with a giant monster. To put this story in TV-episode terms, said battle is the issue’s A-story. The B-story is a young mutant’s struggle with the loss of his powers, and the C-story is the Shadowy Government Operation designed to destroy all mutants.

Reading this book is like going to visit someone you don’t hate, and unexpectedly running into one of your good friends. While you don’t mind the main visit, you’d rather spend time with your friend. Finally, John Cassaday’s art is right purty, and darn near flawless, but you’d expect nothing less.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum in terms of personal fanboy button-pushing is Green Lantern Rebirth #3. In it, Geoff Johns lays out the metaphysical underpinnings of the green energy, the yellow impurity, and what happens when old-school Green Lanterns feel fear. I have to say, I figured out a lot of this stuff last month, but Johns does make it sound reasonable (at least in the context of GL mythology). In terms of making the preposterous plausible, Johns’ theory approaches Grant Morrison-like levels. This may be the best work of Johns’ career so far, which is all the more amazing considering the emotions on both sides of Hal Jordan’s return.

There are a couple of fights before the exposition starts, and Ethan van Sciver is able to handle both action and conversation pretty well. I will say that the Kilowog/Ganthet fight is a lot of “I’ll stand here and direct a tremendous energy beam at you, and you do the same,” so not so much choreography, but still.

Sean Phillips fills in for Drew Johnson on Wonder Woman #211, which picks up right where we left it last month. This month, regular writer Greg Rucka gives us the fallout from Diana’s battle with Medousa. Most of this deals with Diana’s blindness, which doesn’t seem to bother her much. Her one big question is about a young boy killed by Medousa, and she ultimately gets an answer from the goddess Athena. It’s a decent issue which serves more as an epilogue and transition into the next story (apparently involving the Flash) than anything self-contained. Phillips’ art is not too far removed from Johnson’s, but it uses both thinner lines and fewer details. Diana herself seems to have lost a little stature, which may be appropriate since she’s not meant to be as imposing as she was on the battlefield. Otherwise, no complaints.

Finally, JLA Classified #2, written by Grant Morrison with art by Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, continues the 3-part Gorilla Grodd/Neh-Buh-Loh story in fine fashion. Morrison and McGuinness amp up the plot this issue, showing us where the rest of the JLA was while Grodd trashed the Ultramarines; Grodd’s enslavement of the conquered heroes; and Batman’s assault on Grodd, using android duplicates of the JLA. It’s all very high-concept — Morrison has a lot of fun with an “unhealthy” Earth which has no superheroes — but sometimes it comes at you so quickly that you don’t get it all on the first reading. McGuinness experiments a lot with layouts, using a very conservative sixteen-panel grid for the unhealthy Earth and a much freer style for the “regular” one. Next issue should be a doozy.

August 27, 2004

New comics 8/25/04

Since I already talked about the grand implications for this week’s “War Games” installments, I’ll start with comments on how those books worked as individual issues.

Catwoman #34: Written by Ed Brubaker, pencilled by Paul Gulacy, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, edited by Matt Idelson. The book opens with a car chase, which is a little confusing, but I blame that on Gulacy. After that it’s dialogue-driven, as Selina has illuminating conversations with Leslie Thompkins (mad at Batman for being part of the cycle of violence; and mad at herself for not raising Bruce better) and Stephanie Brown. In between Catwoman fights Mr. Freeze, but even that is more dialogue than action. Gulacy is a fine artist whose figures can be a bit “sharp,” but Palmiotti softens his pencils. Faces and bosoms are still pointy enough to be distracting, though. At certain angles Selina looks like Shannen Doherty.

Batman #631: Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Kinsun, inked by Aaron Sowd, edited by Bob Schreck. Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Tim Drake free the hostages at Tim’s school. This issue succeeds at portraying Batman from almost a Marvels/Astro City-ish “normal person’s” perspective. Although we go behind the scenes to see the Bat-crew prepare for combat, they stay in the shadows long enough that when Batman finally bursts through a skylight to start kicking ass, it feels like an actual payoff and not just a glamour shot. Since the point of the issue is that yes, Virginia, there is a Batman, the creators did a good job in “finally” revealing him. However, I have to fault this issue for its Greek chorus of newspeople jumping to a questionable conclusion at the end. We’ll see if the crossover as a whole agrees with them.

DC Comics Presents Justice League Of America: Two good stories again in this final Julius Schwartz tribute issue. The first is plotted by Harlan Ellison, scripted by Peter David, and drawn by Joe Giella. It once again makes Julie a protagonist, but this time he gets to fight (and in some cases, humiliate) the Justice League, so how can you go wrong? At the end, Green Lantern, speaking for the League, says “We love you, Julie. You gave us life.” The second is written by Marv Wolfman with art by Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend, and concerns the present-day JLA traveling back in time to defeat their Silver Age ancestors. Although Julie isn’t a character in this one, Wolfman gives both Flashes complimentary dialogue that clearly is directed at Schwartz. I get sentimental easily, perhaps, but I did like this book, and the series as a whole.

JLA #104: Written by Chuck Austen with art by Ron Garney; edited by Mike Carlin. J’Onn J’Onzz gets the spotlight this issue, as he strikes out on his own to get away from the overwrought emoting of his teammates. He joins a private detective agency and gets involved in an uneasy romance with a colleague, but the League eventually tracks him down. I thought this was a well-written issue, and the art was good as always, but it goes against years of J’Onn’s characterization. As a shapeshifter, he has (or had at one time) multiple identities all over the world into which he can slip at a moment’s notice. Why not focus on one of those? And why would he think the League’s pain is any less sincere than his own? As an adult, J’Onn lost his family, so Grant Morrison had him bond with Batman and Superman, both orphaned in childhood. If I hadn’t read a Martian Manhunter story before this one, I’d think this was a lot better. As it stands, it is better than its predecessors in this arc.

Flash #213: Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Howard Porter and Livesay. Wally West’s first problem of his second secret identity phase surfaces, as he’s accused of attempted murder. (Always reminds me of that Sideshow Bob quote — “Do they give the Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?”) He still manages to defeat the Turtle without letting the cops know he’s the Flash. Also, plotlines involving the Rogues’ Gallery are advanced. The fight with the Turtle is handled deftly both by Johns and Porter, and the subplots don’t overwhelm the issue. All in all, an improvement over last month’s unpleasantness with Mirror Master, and that wasn’t so bad itself.

Green Lantern #180: So I hear Ron Marz has become associated with mistreatment of female characters. Therefore, this issue, featuring Kyle Rayner having a heart-to-heart with his sweet, saintly mother, provides an opportunity for Mr. Marz to introduce a female character and not have some horrible fate befall her. To underscore the point, Kyle visits the graves of two other girlfriends before confronting Major Force (who last issue swore to kill him). Other than the event which kicks off Kyle and Force’s fight, this is a pretty well-done issue. (By the way, art was by Luke Ross and Rodney Ramos.) I just don’t know what Marz was thinking with the one thing. Next issue is the series’ end, so something final will probably happen to Kyle one way or another.

Legion #38: Speaking of final issues, here’s the last before the Waid/Kitson reboot starts. It finishes the Gail Simone/Dan Jurgens/Andy Smith arc in slightly rushed fashion — who knew that’s all you needed to do to get Metropolis’ power back on? — but maybe that was an editorial dictate. It doesn’t seem like The End Of The Legion As We Know It. The book is neither extra-sized, nor does it feature appearances by the entire Legion. I don’t even know if it makes a nice lead-in for the upcoming Teen Titans/Legion special. Anyway, Dreamer comes off pretty well, so there’s that.

Wonder Woman #207: Written by Greg Rucka, with art by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder, and edited by Ivan Cohen. A good transitory issue, featuring two views of villainess Veronica Cale. We see Medousa and her henchwomen visit Veronica while Wonder Woman tries to stop the body-hopping Dr. Psycho from making people commit suicide. Psycho also tells WW about his involvement with Cale, which gives us the second perspective. I like the art a lot, and Rucka is good as a matter of course, so it’s quality all around.

Superman #208: Written by Brian Azzarello, with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams; edited by Eddie Berganza. In the aftermath of a second “Vanishing,” Superman confronts Mr. Orr, a shadowy assassin-type, and has to deal with criticism both global and from within the Justice League. Along the way, Supes realizes he’s losing his grip on his humanity, as the Kryptonian Fortress of Solitude starts to feel more like home. It leads up to a confrontation with a fellow Justice Leaguer which should give Jim Lee the opportunity for big fight scenes next issue. The arc is picking up steam after a few meh issues, and I am cautiously optimistic about it.

Star Wars Empire #23: Written by Jeremy Barlow with art by Brandon Badeaux; edited by Kilian Plunket (and assistant-edited by Jeremy Barlow). A smuggler who professes neutrality helps a beautiful paramilitary type escape from Rebel forces. The smuggler refuses to choose up sides in the Galactic Civil War, but since we know how black-and-white the Star Wars universe is, we’re pretty sure that 1) everybody has to choose and 2) if the Rebels don’t like you, maybe it’s because you’re not on their side. It’s a predictable story whose suspense comes from wondering how the hero is going to find himself on the “right side.” In other words, the reader is probably smarter than the hero. Not really a happy ending, and for that I have to give it credit, but it might have been nice to see what a happy ending would have looked like.

Astonishing X-Men #4: Written by Joss Whedon, with art by John Cassaday; edited by Mike Marts. The X-Men break into Benetech to get the secret of the mutant cure. Meanwhile, the new villain confronts two students at the X-mansion. It reads like an early Buffy episode, and that ain’t bad; but since I am more of a Whedon fan than an X-Men fan, perhaps the Big Surprise at the end doesn’t carry the emotional heft with me it might with others. Also, because I am a Whedon fan, I would not be surprised for the Big Bad of this arc to be unstoppable until the heroes figure out the one very simple way to render him totally powerless. I still say that Firefly is Whedon’s best work (outside of Toy Story, and that’s just because I don’t know how much credit to give him for that) because by and large it doesn’t rely on people using superpowers to get themselves out of world-threatening jams. I wish Astonishing felt more like Firefly and less like Buffy.

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