Monday, April 10, 2006

Teen Titans, Checkmate & JSA

FanBoyWonder is attempting to catch up on our reading since our time in San Diego. Here’s FBW’s pics for the first week of April.

Teen Titans #34

The upshot from DC Comics: One Year Later, it's Part 1 of "The New Teen Titans!" A new year of exciting adventures begins with the "new" Teen Titans, the bizarre Doom Patrol and the mysterious and secretive Titans East!

It's One Year Later and the Teen Titans roster has seen some dramatic changes, as have the Titans themselves. We find that Cyborg has been in a year-long cyber-coma so the reader sees the changes to the team from his point of view.

Who's out: Starfire (missing), Speedy (“off on some island with Connor Hawke”), Kid Flash ("sort of retired"), Raven (gone after she broke up with Beast Boy), Beast Boy (off with the Doom Patrol) and Superboy (killed in battle with Superboy Prime during Infinite Crisis—see our related post on Infinite Crisis #6…..)

Who's In: Robin (team leader, darker and older), Kid Devil, the former sidekick of SHADOWPACT's Blue Devil (no clue about this guy), and Ravager, the daughter of Deathstroke (When last we'd seen her during Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing, Dick Grayson had been trying to reform Rose Wilson and turn her away from Slade-it appears that's succeeded).

Who's out but not gone: Wonder Girl. One Year Later, still hurting from the death of her first love Superboy, she blames Robin for abandoning her during the year he spent away with Batman.

While Geoff Johns story is solid and by the numbers, we continue to feel that he just doesn't have a firm grasp on the Titans-that it's one of his weaker books (given his current roster of titles, not a surprise).

At first we thought it was a generational thing-we grew up with the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans and we really didn't know this incarnation of Titans as well. However, we enjoyed Johns recent collaboration with Wolfman so much that we'd like to see it a permanent arrangement.

Johns could use a collaborator, much as he used to have on JSA, and Wolfman, in addition to the history that he brings to the table would be a steadying influence. Wolfman's Titans on his own (after Perez left) was decent to mediocre to awful in the end; a collaboration would bring out both of their strengths and the reader would benefit in the end.

Although we didn't dislike him, we also never held a lot of fondness for the clone who would be Superman. Introduced some dozen years ago following the Death of Superman story arc, Superboy had already established a history in the DCU by the time Johns took the character and performed a major overhaul.

It was a mixed bag. Gone was the leather jacket, the earning and the early 1990s haircut. In was the simple style-jeans and black "S" T-shirt and a more modern bad haircut.

Johns couldn't help but tweak his origin. Now Superboy/Kon-El/Conner Kent was the clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor-Good and Evil-the total package. We weren't crazy about this-"too contrived" we thought-but we did like Conner's self-questioning-am I alive? Does a clone have a soul?

We were just getting a sense of the character before he died. But will he stay dead? Who knows? Members of his "family" have a tendency of coming back, especially if Robin's attempts at recloning take hold as we saw at the end of TT#34-Stay tuned.

The OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special

The upshot from DC: The end is just the beginning in this epic spy thriller by the team behind the red-hot OMAC PROJECT miniseries! From the pages of INFINITE CRISIS, the legacy of Brother Eye rains down on earth, threatening exposure of a hero's greatest secret and the dawning of a world war!

To paraphrase that old play on words about the Holy Roman Empire, The OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special is neither so much about the OMAC Project nor is it an Infinite Crisis book nor is it even special.

It is, however, quite readable. Even if you hadn't read the original OMAC Project six-issue mini-series from last summer (in fact it may actually help if you didn't), the story moves right along.

This may better be thought of as Issue Zero of the upcoming Checkmate series.
Writer Greg Rucka, who did a great job recently on Wonder Woman, doesn't quite redeem himself for the aforementioned, awful OMAC mini-series (the story without a beginning-middle or an end with mandatory crossovers to add insult to injury) but he doesn't' compound the damage either.

When the remains of the Brother Eye satellite-containing secret detailed information on every hero and villain- crashes into the Rub Al-Khali Desert in Saudi Arabia, the various international governments race to the scene to grab the goods.

The forces dispatched to the still active satellite include including Checkmate's Sasha Bordeaux and Fire (former Justice League bimbo and even more former Brazilian spy and killer as Rucka reminds us), as well as Israeli Commandos, a Chinese metahuman and Russia's Rocket Reds (Wow! We're having an '80s flashback)

Defying the orders of Amanda Waller (Checkmate's acting Black King), Sasha succeeded in destroying Brother Eye...and the ensuing blast killed her newly acquired nanobots, freeing Sasha of her body's armor-we don't know how or why she got the armor but it's gone now so no worries.

The art by Jesus Saiz is serviceable and flows nicely but we think he should get an honorable mention just for drawing and inking all 48 pages all by himself. How quaint.

However, it's Rucka's storytelling as he deftly conveys levels of subtlety required among political thrillers-not an easy feat given the format of comics-that carries the day.

We were reminded of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad from the late 1980s and early 1990s as we read on-especially in the scenes with Amanda "The Wall" Waller, an Ostrander creation.

Given FBW's limited comic dollar, we hadn't planned on picking up Checkmate but given the this issue plus news that Alan Scott, the Original Green Lantern, will be involved in Checkmate, we may have to check it out.

JSA #84

The upshot from DC: The new story by Paul Levitz, Rags Morales, Dave Meikis and Luke Ross continues! The JSA's darkest secrets are laid bare by one of their most mysterious enemies as the battle is brought to the team's front door!

We admit it's taken a couple reads to grasp the tenor of the story in part 2 of Levit's five part arc but that's because there's a lot of depth in this story. If one reads separate first the JSA portion then the Gentlemen Ghost flashbacks then read the story a third-time together, the story will make better sense.

We like Levitz's characterization, patricianly between old friends Flash and Green Lantern. This story is taking its time to pick up but we sense the action is about to throttle up next issue. Stay tuned.


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