Thursday, November 18, 2004

New comics 11/17/04

Apparently it was Evil Alternate Timeline week at DC, thanks to both Superman/Batman and Teen Titans. I know that alternate timelines are 90% of the time worse scenarios than the regular timeline -- otherwise, why would they be alternate? -- but why do the heroes more often than not turn out to be fascists? (This isn't a new meme, either. All of DC's 1991 Annuals were based around the tyrannical future of 2001; and in 1993, Dan Jurgens did it in his short stint on Justice League America. As it happens, Scott is also concerned about time-travel stories.)

Anyway, prepare to clutch your chest in horror as I give thumbs-up to this week's Superman/Batman #14! You'll figure out who the villains are soon enough, and it could turn out to be a steaming pile, but it's a suspenseful setup to what could well be an entertaining romp through DC history. The "heroes" of the piece are revealed on the last couple of pages, and I'm excited to see them work together. I don't know why he did it, but for some happy reason Jeph Loeb has dialed back the infamous dueling narrative captions; and Carlos Pacheco draws a very pretty book. This has a lot of promise, and if the rest of the story is as good, I will wonder why Loeb didn't put the same kind of effort into the first 13 issues.

Teen Titans #18 continues the "Titans Tomorrow" storyline as the Teen Titans uncover more of the Old Titans' history. The centerpiece of the issue, as indicated by the cover, is a fight between Old Tim and Teen Tim. There are more cryptic references to a "crisis" that somehow turned our heroes into amoral arbiters of totalitarian justice, and I was disappointed not to see any more nuance than "the world is an evil place and we have to be just as bad." I'm reserving judgment until next month's conclusion, but the fact that the last page appears to duplicate an upcoming episode of the "TT" cartoon gave me a little pause.

Batman: Gotham Knights #59 is a standalone story about Mr. Freeze and Batman trapped under ice while a collapsed building burns around them. It's by the guest team of Robbie Morrison and Charles Adlard, so it's well-crafted; but I don't know how consequential it is. Much of the dialogue is of the "we're just the same on the inside" variety, with each saying the other is too cold (in the impersonal sense). Batman does show a bit of humor, which as you know earns points with me.

JLA #108, by Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney, continues the Kryyme Syndicate (hey, that's how I wish they'd spell it) story by focusing entirely on the Syndicate. Busiek does play spot-the-allusion (referring to the "Loring Gang out of Ivy Town," for example), but the only time he gets too cute is when he makes the Mirror-Lucius Fox a ... what? Gangsta? It's dangerously close to stereotype, whatever it is. He does a better job re-establishing the interactions between these evil versions of the JLA, and adding (I think) the notion that they keep their Earth a little chaotic simply so they won't get bored. Garney draws a suitably creepy evil Earth, and he has a good grasp of the Syndicate. Since the villains end up attacking the Weaponers of Qward, the issue runs the gamut from "business as usual" to more cosmic battles. Hopefully next issue they'll actually meet the JLA again.

Fantastic Four #520 continues (or starts, depending on whether you believe the cover) the Galactus storyline, which sadly will be Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's last on this book. As the group deals with Johnny being Galactus' new herald (and having switched powers with Sue to boot), there are a couple of flashbacks to earlier episodes in their relationship. Reed yells more here than he has in a while, which is a little jarring but not out of character. Meanwhile, aboard Galactus' ship, Johnny gets a graphic demonstration of just how powerful he has become. I can't say I'm crazy about this storyline, but it's handled with what has become Waid and Wieringo's trademark flair, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Wonder Woman #210 finishes the "Stoned" arc with a one-on-one fight to the death between WW and Medousa at Yankee Stadium. That's pretty much the whole issue. The fight is broadcast on global TV, so there is the possibility that whoever watches could catch Medousa's gaze and be turned to stone. Of course, this means that Diana must fight Medousa without doing the same thing; and the measures she takes range from clever to "holy crap!" This incarnation of Wonder Woman has been a global icon since the beginning, but Greg Rucka has planted her firmly on the international stage more than possibly any writer she's had since George Perez. Drew Johnson does a whale of a job showing that both combatants give as well as they get. This title evokes for me the glory days of Simonson's Thor.

Rucka also wrote Adventures of Superman #634, his second Mr. Mxyzptlk story. As with the first one, I really hope these end up having some point. This time Mxy puts on a Superman costume and runs riot through the DC offices (represented in photos of editor Eddie Berganza and honcho Mike Carlin). His industry in-jokes aren't that funny, and his role in the actual story is basically to give Superman a breather from fighting the Parasite twins. Of course, this is because he's an omnipotent being and could provide a deus ex machina ending to the whole thing. Rucka clearly has a vision for Wonder Woman; too bad one hasn't coalesced so far for Superman.

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