Saturday, October 21, 2006

A killer Suicide Squad reunion, Black Canary flies free while Flash runs nowhere fast

It was a good week for books this week but we had to write in a hurry as FanBoyWonder’s day job is taking us to Chicago next week. But before we go, here’s a rundown of our books this week, as well as a posting on last night’s Battlestar Galactica to follow.

Checkmate #7

The Upshot from DC Comics: An original member of SUICIDE SQUAD returns! But there's more to it than meets the eye as this founding father's outnumbered by his own prey!

We are on record as describing Checkmate as a book that can be too smart for its own good at times and issue #7 could count as one of those times. On first read, we weren’t crazy about this issue, but Checkmate is one of those books that one actually has to READ and not just scan.

There is a lot of nuance contained in the words that fill the dialogue balloons, as well as between the lines. Only a title as good as Checkmate could get away with being a guest in its own book. The Suicide Squad reunion took up most of the story.

When we last left them, The Squad—assembled covertly and illegally by Checkmate White Queen Amanda Waller—had been discovered sneaking into the Union of Myanmar intent on “rescuing”/kidnapping a local meta-human boy being used as a state energy source.

But in a modern twist, the Squad has been sold out by the Villains Society (the bad-guy union) who didn’t care for them taking on an “unauthorized” mission. As the Squad takes on the local army, the bodies start piling up. Punch of Punch and Jewelle was killed at the end of the last issue, followed by Javelin. The Squad figured out it was the Tattooed Man who was the rat and the killed him too.

Bringing up the rear was former Squad veterans Col Rick Flagg and the Bronze Tiger to clean up the mess. We forgot how much we really missed the Suicide Squad and reading Checkmate today makes us realize just how far ahead of its time the Squad title was when it debut in 1987.

More than a crossover, this may be DC’s way of gauging a new Suicide Squad book…not that lame imitator of a couple years back but if original Squad writer John Ostrander came back on board, count on us being the first in line.

Birds of Prey #99

The Upshot from DC Comics: It's time for a change in the Birds' outfit — and the writing is on the computer screen that at least one member of the team will be moving on. With issue #100 just around the corner, now seems the perfect time for a reality check.

We don’t know why we were surprised that Black Canary has left the team given that she is now a member of the brand new Brad Metzler Justice League of America (if he can ever get them past looking at photos at a table) but as much as we’re going to miss the Canary, perhaps it’s time to shake up the team and get some new blood.

Writer Gail Simone speaking through Canary summed it up perfectly: “You picked me up when I was at my lowest and you made me want to be something again.” When Chuck Dixon first started birds in the mid-90s, the Canary was on the bottom side of the “B” list of heroes—better known for being Green Arrow’s girlfriend than anything else.

With the right writing behind her, Canary has proved her potential to be the best, original (i.e. non-derivative heroine—e.g. such as “HAWKgirl or SUPERgirl) female hero.

The same goes for Oracle. As rotten a thing as it is to say, the best thing that ever happened to Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, was to be shot in the spine and paralyzed by the Joker.

Originally created/rescued by aforementioned John Ostrander in Suicide Squad, Barbara used her unparalleled computer skills to evolve into Oracle, a much bigger player in the hero world than Batgirl ever could have been.

With the Huntress, she may have been forced onto the book due to that short-lived and best left forgotten Birds of Prey WB-television series a couple of years back, but Simone made it work. Better than that, she made Huntress a fully-formed character.

For those too young to remember life before the original-CRISIS, the Huntress was one Helena Wayne, the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman. Following the CRISIS, the Huntress was remade as Helena Burtinelli, an orphaned mafia princess whose only real purpose it seemed was to get punked around by The Batman—talk about no respect.

We’re glad Huntress is staying as we look forward to her watching her continued growth.
Despite some recent missteps, like this issues anti-climatic “new” Batgirl, Simone has made Birds of Prey one of the best team books in play—that’s not one of the best FEMALE books…but one of the best books…period.

With issue 100 next month, it’s a good place to jump on. If you aren’t reading Birds of Prey, you should be.

52 Week 24

The Upshot from DC Comics: IN THIS ISSUE: "You don't really know me, but I'm a big fan and ...well...I wanted to invite you to join the new Justice League."

We’re half way through this weekly experiment and this issue was a mixed bag, much like this series to date. We liked that the story has finally gotten a little bigger to let the reader see the post-Infinite Crisis world and the aftermath.

The recent stories have been so compartmentalized that there was no real sense of time or that it was taking place during the “missing” year. We liked Martian Manhunter’s statue sculpting of falling Justice Leaguers and it’s nice to see SOMEONE acknowledging their guilt for their negligence which contributed to Blue Beatle’s murder.

What we didn’t like was the “new JLA” collection of clowns. This was the wrong issue to make that joke although we now see what a JLA version of Marvel’s Great Lakes Avengers would look like.

Emerging from their post IC (deserved) exile is the Infinite Crisis “primary” art team of Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning. The layouts were quite well done but the finishes were not so hot. This issue’s back up Booster Gold feature with Lanning inking Dan Jurgens’ pencils confirms what we’ve suspected for a while with Jimenez.

In his effort to be more than a George Perez art clone, Jimenez has hitched his artistic wagon to the wrong inker/finisher. If Phil wants to rehab his professional reputation, he should start by finding a new partner.

Amazing Spider-Girl #1

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: Ever wonder why Spider-Girl fans are the, most vocal, most active comic fans of all? Here’s your chance to finally find out! Join us for the start of our second 100 issues as May “Mayday” Parker learns that she can’t escape her great responsibilities! Featuring the original Hobgoblin, the Black Tarantula--and more!

We already talked about much we liked book during its Zero issue a couple weeks ago. Spider-Girl’s relaunch did exactly what Marvel intended, it turned a browser like me into a buyer.

Reading the story by Tom DeFalco with Ron Frenz’s pencils and Sal Buscema’s inks…it made us feel like a kid again…reading the Spidey we used to know and love. But more than a reminder of the past, we like May Parker—she has her father’s sense of responsibility and her mother’s sass.

This book is like saying hello again to an old friend…for the first time.

Flash The Fastest Man Alive #5

The upshot From DC: Past and present collide in a very public battle as the Flash's foe decides he wants the Speed Force for himself!

How can a book and a character run so fast yet go absolutely nowhere???? Just one more issue and we’re out of here. It’s not too late for DC to figure out a way to undo this mess.


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