Friday, June 17, 2005

New comics 6/8/05 and 6/15/05

You get two weeks in one thanks to bad timing on my part. (Lots of Bat-books -- wonder why?)

Off we go.

Gotham Central #32 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Steve Lieber) was the best of the past couple of weeks. It's a tidy little story about a couple of crooked Gotham cops' encounter with Poison Ivy. Too bad A.J. Lieberman just killed Ivy in the pages of Gotham Knights, because this tale represents not only Gotham Central's bread and butter, but also an indication of what the Bat-titles could be across the board. Gotham City offers perhaps the richest single environment in the DC universe, if not superhero comics as a whole, and there is tremendous value in peeking into its corners -- not just exploiting it with mega-crossovers.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #192 (written by J.H. Williams III and D. Curtis Johnson, with art by Seth Fisher) begins what looks like another Mr. Freeze-centered arc -- right after concluding a Freeze two-parter last issue, and while Freeze is appearing in both Batman and Detective Comics. Is Arnold Schwarzenegger exercising some eight-year-old option? Anyway, it's couched in the origin of Mr. Freeze, but it looks to explore the "sidekick question" as well. Were I not burned out on Freeze (so to speak) I might have been in a more receptive mood, but the story itself is fine, and the art is unusually bright and open -- not to mention overtly expressive -- for a modern Batman story. I am therefore giving "Snow" the chance to win me over.

Rann-Thanagar War #2 (written by Dave Gibbons, art by Ivan Reis and Marc Campos) started giving me bad flashbacks to the Official Revised Hawkman Origin from JSA a few years ago, what with its talk of Onimar Synn and weird Thanagarian cults. I hate having to make sense of Hawkman, who is ostensibly not that hard of a character to understand. Thankfully, there's more stuff with Kyle Rayner, L.E.G.I.O.N., and the Khunds to occupy this issue. Captain Comet also shows up, as does Starfire's sister Komand'r. The politics and action are balanced pretty evenly, the exposition isn't too heavy, and Reis and Campos make a good art team. I continue to enjoy this miniseries.

Before Action Comics #828 (written by Gail Simone, art by John Byrne and Nelson) turns into a Villains United tie-in, it's a pretty decent continuation of the Dr. Polaris story begun last issue. Polaris' evil alter ego, Repulse, poses some Hobbes-the-tiger-style questions about who can see "her" and how, and the issue as a whole is a little unfocused. It switches from Superman's fight to Jimmy Olsen's coverage of it and then throws in Lois exposing a charitable scam before wrapping everything up with a sweet Lois/Superman romantic excursion. Still, it's good to see Lois and Jimmy being reporters, and the individual stories are each engaging.

Batman: Dark Detective #3 (written by Steve Englehart, with art by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin) was perhaps my second favorite book of last week. It used a Two-Face setup I'd always wanted to see, and it also teamed him up with Dr. Double X, another forgotten Bat-villain from the '50s and '60s. Moreover, Englehart continues his exploration of Bruce's integrating the two sides of his life, again using Silver St. Cloud to do so. That's fascinating enough -- whoa, Silver, close up that robe! -- but the Two-Face subplot was almost as good.

So then this week I got Dark Detective #4 and was disappointed at how little it did. Basically it's an extended fear-gas fantasy going back (yet again) to the immediate aftermath of the Waynes' murders. I had a bit of a continuity issue with this, because I thought Leslie Thompkins had been established in this timeline fairly concretely, but Englehart is obviously tweaking things to suit his memory of the character, and that's fine too. Also, Silver breaks up with her fiance. Because that's about it, in a miniseries that has been fairly jam-packed so far, that's why I was disappointed. Not enough to drop the miniseries (with only two issues left, mind you), just to question this issue's pacing.

Speaking of issues which appear to go nowhere, here's Batman: Gotham Knights #66 (written by A.J. Lieberman, art by Al Barrionuevo and Bit), featuring Prometheus' abduction by Talia and Deathstroke. Being smart super-criminals, they recognize they don't need Hush, but since Prometheus gets critically injured, they bring him along to try and save Prometheus' life. This gives us a chance to recap Prometheus' origin (written by Grant Morrison for a 1997 JLA special) and reflect on how he could now be at such a low point. In the end nothing is settled, because it's all been setting up a JSA Classified story for later in the year. Thanks, DC! At least Cliff Chiang's cover portrait of Talia is cool.

After two issues of waiting, Day of Vengeance #3 (written by Bill Willingham, with art by Ron Wagner and Dexter Vines) finally lets me know (on page 9 or so) that the masked woman is Nightshade, formerly of the Suicide Squad. However, on page 1, it tells me who Captain Marvel is. Thanks, DC! Although the Captain Marvel/Spectre/Eclipso subplots appear to conclude this issue, it ends with Detective Chimp and Nightshade visiting a mysterious girl whose name I didn't recognize but probably should have. I liked the art better this issue because it seemed better-defined than Justiniano's. Also, while Willingham's plot has been decent so far, his script doesn't come off as clever as he thinks it must. This is my least favorite of the various Infinite Crisis precursors.

Adventures of Superman #641 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Karl Kerschl) finds Clark visiting Pete Ross in prison and being attacked by the sibling Parasites and OMAC (which, as the cover proclaims, no longer stands for One Man Army Corps). Kerschl tends to draw big, meaty figures who fill up the panels, so he's fairly well suited for a Superman title, and Rucka is clearly connecting Ruin with the Shadowy Figures behind OMAC. Therefore, I can't really judge this issue on its own, but it does advance the various plots Rucka has been maintaining during his tenure. Still not as good as Rucka's Wonder Woman, but getting there.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion #2 (written by Grant Morrison, art by Frazer Irving) likewise connects this book with its S7 cousin, Guardian, albeit obliquely. Klarion and Teekl find enemies and allies on their way up to the surface world, although telling one from the other gets a little sketchy. Morrison does establish that Klarion isn't as helpless as he might seem, and Irving's deadpan art (in the Charles Addams/Edward Gorey tradition) reinforces that.

It's too bad that JLA Classified #8 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein) is the penultimate chapter of "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League!," because the story hasn't missed a beat since these creators left the League titles in 1992. Here, the team has found its way out of Hell, but Beetle's got amnesia and they're stuck on a strange evil-counterpart Earth. The cover, with a dominatrix Mary Marvel pounding Guy Gardner's head into the pavement, says it all, but it's only a warmup for what's inside. I really hope that when DC's Infinite Gyrations are over, it looks into its cold corporate heart and lets these guys play with these characters on a more ongoing basis.

As it happens, I picked up GLA #3 (written by Dan Slott, with art by Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar), which on the surface appeared to be a similar story of hard-luck loser superheroes, and has since turned into an amazingly bitter black comedy about random superhero death. I'm almost glad I don't have much emotional attachment to these characters, but this miniseries paints them so sympathetically that it's almost as cruel to the reader as it is to the decedents. Makes me wonder about the tone of next issue's conclusion.


Avi Green said...

Re: Day of Vengeance. I'm glad I didn't buy it, and I have absolutely no intention of doing so. It was bad enough that they subjected Jean Loring and Ray Palmer to character assassination in Identity Crisis, but after I read a review of the first issue in Columbus Alive last April, I don't think I'll want to read the Day of Vengeance miniseries either. If memory serves, Bill Willingham subjected Stephanie Brown to torture at the hands of Black Mask in Batman's War Games x-over last year. After reading the review of DOV published in the weekly newspaper I linked to there, I think that the way he's written this book's dialogue (dialect?) ruins his credibility even more.

Hence, I'm glad I didn't buy it. I can look at myself in the mirror much more easily that way.

The misuse of Jean aside, this also made me realize that, while I may not have found the Spectre the most interesting character in the DCU in years gone by, that doesn't mean that I want to see him being depicted as a villain, and it doesn't make the book any good either.

Tom Bondurant said...

You might also remember the Spectre was "corrupted" by a fallen angel in 1999's Day of Judgment (written by Geoff Johns), and that led to Hal Jordan becoming his host.

Based on Willingham's Robin work, I wasn't going to get DoV either, but a few people told me the first issue wasn't so bad, apart from the Jean stuff. Oh well.

Lefty said...

First of all, it's weird I just noticed that as I'm reading your blog I'm listening to your mix (currently playing the excellent PJ Harvey).

Secondly, I'm surprised but I think Days of Vengeance is actually my favorite of the IC minis. I love the characters who are fun (c'mon it's a talking magical chimp!) and despite of feeling they have no chance in hell to pull things off, they give all that they have. For that the mini really shines for me.

Lefty said...

oops, im not listening to your mix. damn yours and Ian Brill's site looks alike. Sorry, but I stand by my other comment I made concerning Days of Vengeance.