Sunday, October 29, 2006

Alex Ross’ “Earth One” JLA, Men of the Hour and Junior Marvel wins Round One

Hello one and all. Here are FanBoyWonder’s picks for the last full week of October. Our review of Friday’s Battlestar Galactica is coming. Stay tuned.—FBW.

Justice #8

The upshot from DC Comics: The worst fears of the Justice League are realized, as the villains strike through those closest to the heroes!

Issue 8 has the reader at the part of the story where the heroes have taken temporary refuge in a safe harbor (in this case Superman’s Fortress of Solitude) while they lick their wounds and plan their counterstrike.

This was by far the best issue of the 12 issue maxi series so far—both in the story and especially in the art. On the art, Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross have definitely hit their stride. On the story, even with minimal action, it was the little things that made this issue—the Elongated Man/Plastic Man confrontation, Batman’s interrogation of Captain Cold and the tender moment between Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman as she contemplates the demise of her immortal life.

Given the current events in the DCU, particularly in the Trials of Shazam (see our latest review below) we won’t be seeing many such moments like this anytime soon. Justice isn’t just an Elseworlds book and thus outside of current continuity—this series represents something of wish fulfillment for Alex Ross.

Ross and FanBoyWonder are about the same age so we recognize what he is attempting to do—to revive the DC Universe of our youths—yet cooler.

The JLA featured in Justice is the Silver Age, pre-CRISIS “Earth-1” circa 1978. Barry Allen is the Flash, the Teen Titans were still teens and sidekicks and the Hawks—Hawkman and HawkWOMAN were two married extra-terrestrial policemen from Thanagar (but not so advanced that Hawkman’s wing-harness came with a shirt).

The notable exception to Ross’ “Earth-1” paradigm is the addition of Captain Marvel to “his” League but Ross and I also share a fondness for the World’s Mightiest Mortal, especially when the character is treated with respect as Ross is taking great pains to do.

Keep it up Alex but please just don’t go too far down memory lane—Snapper Carr, for example, we can all do without.

JSA Classified #18

The Upshot from DC Comics: Reluctantly partnered with the lunatic Bane, Hourman must confront his own addictions if he's to conquer the enemy at his side!

This issue was not one for the ages but we really liked it and it worked for us—even if we are hard pressed to figure out how. As we noted last issue in part 1 of this 2 part story, we liked the natural feel of a “team up” between Hourman and Bane, given the similarities in how they both use a drug to give them enhanced powers.

Writer Tony Bedard’s script was weak in a few places, but carried by the art of Scott McDaniel (an improvement from last issue). Yet Bedard makes this story work because Hourman prevails without Bane—a first class bad guy and the man who broke The Batman—being degraded as a character. He’s still a bad ass, he just got out foxed.

We liked this story not only because it allowed current Hourman Rick Tyler to shine but Rick’s dad Rex, the original Hourman, wasn’t just relegated to the role of hostage as he got a few Miraclo-enhanced hits in on Bane.

Next month begins a story-arc featuring Dr. Mid-Nite and we can’t wait.

Trials of Shazam #3

The Upshot from DC: Freddy Freeman barely makes it through his first task — because he still has no powers! And the mysterious Council of Merlin has its own plans to make sure things stay that way for the young Marvel!

So Freddy Freeman has survived his first trial and (re)gained the Wisdom of Solomon. We liked this issue for being what it was—issue 3. It advanced the plot competently without being too flashy. We admit we were surprised at Freddy’s confession that he blamed and resented Billy/Captain Marvel as the indirect cause of the death of his grandfather, as well as his crippling—even as Freddy was grateful to Cap for sharing his power and making him Captain Marvel Jr.

Some honest-to-goodness character development on the part of Writer Judd Winick, with the aid of the consistently good art of Howard Porter. So far, Judd has been able to resist the urge to overtly inject his own pinko-commie political agenda into this story, which is to his credit.

It is for that and the fact that we really want to see Captain Marvel succeed, we are hanging with Winick—but at the first sign of “Gay Marvel” or a very special HIV-positive story or sexual abuse back story (all overused Winick chestnuts), we’re out of here faster than the speed of Mercury.

52 # 25

The Upshot from DC: IN THIS ISSUE: "That's — the Black Marvel Family?" Plus, the Origin of Nightwing by Mark Waid and George Pérez!

This issue was actually a better read the second time around but we’re still only really paying attention to the plot threads we like. The “Black Marvel Family” upstaging Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel was something to see—but it’s always the little things that nag us.

What happened to Black Adam’s cape? Also, Mary Marvel’s costume is white again when last we saw her at the wedding of Isis and Adam it was its original red with no explanation.

Also, watching Ralph Dibny and Dr. Fate’s helmet tour the underworld was interesting, as was seeing the “final” fate of Felix Faust’s soul, but we’re feeling the same as Ralph…how much time HAS passed. We’re losing track too and losing interest. We need an issue where Ralph is the main focus and soon.

Alan Scott’s meting with Michael Holt (Green Lantern and Mr. Terrific respectively) helped fill in some of the blanks of how they ended up working for Checkmate and the United Nation’s helping to police international metahuman activity One Year Later.

Yet, what remains unanswered is exactly HOW and WHY the UN came to Alan Scott of all people. Unless is Secret ID wasn’t so secret, it’s always seemed an unnatural connection that Scott has all of these international diplomatic connections.

It seems to us that Checkmate Greg Rucka is trying to retroactively shoehorn an explanation in the pages of 52 but he didn’t entirely pull it off. Yet it doesn’t matter because Alan Scott is back where he belongs in the pages of the upcoming Justice Society of America.

One last thing: We really liked the backup origin of Nightwing by Mark Waid and George Perez. We have had much use for these two-page quickie origins until now but at a time where Nightwing has been getting so little respect, Waid’s synopsis acknowledges Nightwing to be “the world’s greatest acrobat” and a “team leader without equal, a trait not even his famed mentor [The Batman] shares.” Yes!


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