Saturday, December 16, 2006

First Name Justice League; Spider-Girl Swings On; Tough Guys and Black Ops

Hello faithful readers,

We here at FanBoyWonder hope you are enjoying the holiday season just as much as we are—if that's the case then chances are you are in need of a happy distraction so let us do our part to help by recommending some books for the second week of December.

Justice League of America #4

The Upshot from DC Comics: Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes continue their best-selling saga of the "Tornado's Path" as the true mastermind behind the latest threat to the League is finally revealed! And an old friend reappears.

At last, we’re five issues into this series (including preview issue 0) and story is finally starting to advance. The new League doesn’t have a complete and official roster, to say nothing of a new headquarters, but at least the Big Three—Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman—have been forced to cease and desist their endless viewing of member candidate photos thanks to the timely entrance of Black Lighting and Hawkgirl, with an unconscious Trident in tow.

Note: We realize we’re not the only one to complain (at length in some cases) about writer Brad Meltzer’s prolonged-in-the-extreme use of photos to decide new JLA membership, but we do note that a week earlier in Justice Society of America #1, the original Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat whipped through the same photo-identification process and came up with a roll call in no less than 3 pages.

Thanks to Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Black Canary and Arsenal/“Red Arrow” (more on that later) we get a fair amount of action but these “Hard Traveling Heroes” alone does not a Justice League make. Vixen’s only contribution to the issue was to full-bodied flying beauty shot that will no doubt become a poster sometime down the line.

Yet we do note that she is flying like a bird, tapping into the “morphogenetic field” that allows her to mimic animal powers without her mystic totem, which as you may recall was stolen from her during a fight.

Ed Benes art was pretty good. It’s been our opinion that Benes’ style does not flow naturally with the inks of Sandra Hope but we’re seeing improvement as they gain experience working together.

As an aside, the art in this particular issue strangely reminded us as a hybrid of the artistic styles of one-time JLA artists George Perez and the late Dick Dillin.

Meltzer does manage to craft a solid by the numbers issue and there is definite momentum building now but it’s taken him far too long to get to this point. This should be the second issue, not the fourth.

As a novelist, it’s only natural that Meltzer has played to his strength, the off panel narration, but use of this devise has very quickly become overuse to the detriment of story flow and the reader’s patience.

All and all we were pleased with issue 4 but we feel compelled to note a couple things that really bugged us:

--“Kendra & Clark”—When Hawkgirl and Superman greeted each other in the Batcave by evoking their respective first names, this immediately drove us to distraction. It’s one thing for the Big Three to be on first name basis—they’ve all been to hell and back. However, in DC Universe time, this version of Hawkgirl has been “a cape” for something like six months—just when (title and issue number anyone please?) did they become so tight?

Back in the days following John Byrne’s re-boot of the Man of Steel, only a select few even knew that Superman had a secret identity but much less his real name. Is there a Cape in the post-infinite crisis DCU that DOESN’T know “Clark”?

--“Red Arrow”—the homage to Kingdom Come aside, where did this come from? We don’t like it. Like his peers, the original Teen Titans, Roy Harper, the one-time Speedy, evolved beyond being Green Arrow’s side kick to grow up and take on his own code name and identity as Arsenal—an all purpose weapons master who evolved beyond being just a bow and arrow guy.

On the one hand, we really admire what Metzler has done—elevated a onetime sidekick to his own seat at the hero table. Even Wally West the former Kid Flash, had ended up filling Barry Allen’s Flash seat but Roy Harper has managed to pull up a chair all of his own. Yet with one step forward, “Red Arrow” takes Roy Harper two steps back.

Trials of Shazam #4

The Upshot from DC Comics: Magic hits the Middle East as the trials continue for young Freddy Freeman. Freddie's still striving to earn back the full power of Shazam, while the Counsel of Merlin's own candidate for the power, Sabina, sabotages Freddy at every turn!
We put this issue down feeling it was incomplete but in a mini-series, it’s to be expected that not every issue can stand alone. But with his encounter with Achilles, it does beg the question what happens if Freddie Freeman loses a trial…does he forfeit a power (in this case courage) or is this a “sudden death” trial where one loss and it’s game over?

Again, high complements to artist Howard Porter. So far his artistic experiment seems to be a success—quality art on a monthly schedule—fancy that.

We would be lying if we didn’t admit some leeriness as to where we see the story going or to the radical changes writer Judd Winick has put forth, but as an outspoken critic of just about everything Judd Winick has ever done, we feel it’s of vital importance to reserve judgment and keep an open mind to where he is going with the “Shazam” concept.

It was no secret that this was to be an out of the box take on the Shazam concept. But at the same time, the change is so jarring that we hope Winick leaves room for both new readers and traditional Captain Marvel fans.

Green Lantern Corps #7

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 1 of the 3-part "Dark Side of the Green," written by Keith Champagne with art by Patrick Gleason and Prentis Rollins! What begins as a routine mission quickly spirals out of control for Guy Gardner and new recruit R'amey Holl, leading the duo to discover a secret that could shake the Corps to the core. Meanwhile, a lone Dominator has found the key to great power and plans to unleash it against the Earth!

So Green Lantern Gardner thought HE was the baddest GUY in the GLC?—the one dispatched to handle the dirty jobs, yet low and behold we learn that the Guardians of the Universe have their very own Black Ops unit, bad enough to flip Gardner like a cheese omelet.

Writer Keith Champagne puts together a decent story here, although a story with Guy Gardner in it practically writes itself—but the dominator secondary plot failed to hold our attention.

The returning art team of Patrick Gleason and Prentis Rollins performed at their usual quality level and quite well suited for the mood of the story. But we hope this is just a fill-in story arc. We’ve been liking what Dave Gibbons has been doing and we want to see him back writing this book.

52 WEEK 32

The Upshot from DC Comics: "You wished to be with her again. Come closer, I will show you how."

With a weekly comic book, it’s not to hard to fall into the rut of repeating oneself when giving a review but it’s worth saying again that, with just a couple of exceptions, this weekly experiment has failed play up what is supposed to be the purpose of the series—to enlighten readers as to what happened during the missing year between Infinite Crisis and One Year Later.

While some (but definitely NOT all) of these story threads are interesting—Black Adam, Ralph Dibny, and the Question/Renee Montoya stories in particular—what has been missing as a “temporal anchor” or something to give the reader the sense that events in this series are happening during a specific period in (recent) history.

Instead of a story told in “real time” we are getting multiple stories presented in weekly bites—there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that but that’s not the series as advertised.

Mind you we’re not trying to crap on DC or Team 52—it’s a praiseworthy feat that they have managed to get a book out every week as promised and there was bound to be some trial and error but the with so many bland story lines in play, its' just as hard for the writing team as it is for the reader to keep their eye on the ball.

To salvage this experiment, Team 52 should consider tying up some storylines—Starfire, Lobo and friends in space and the Doc Magnus/captive mad scientists stories come to mind—and concentrate on the stories. Forget “real time” and just tell a good story—the rest will work itself out.

The Amazing Spider-Girl #3

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: As the Hobgoblin tries to claim the lethal legacy of Wilson Fisk, the former Kingpin of crime, Spider-Girl is chilled to the bone by the new menace called Bitter Frost.

This was a typical “transition issue” as it brings the reader back down to Earth from the high of our hero’s debut to introduce some normalcy in the life of May Parker while starting the build up to the confrontation between Spider-Girl and one of her father’s greatest enemies the Hobgoblin.

Even as May Parker moves closer toward resuming her web-slinging ways, writer Tom DeFalco wisely draws the process out, allowing the reader to see the “normal life” that May is destined to give up—even knowing it is inevitable, it’s hard not to feel for May.

Unlike “Puny Parker” who had no real school life and for which being Spider-Man was a release, "Mayday" has a circle of friends and social obligations and things that are important to her.

This book isn’t just Spidey with boobs—it shows that May is like her father but also very different. She isn’t driven by the guilt of failure like her father who failed to act and save Uncle Ben. Rather, she is driven by the guilt of knowing if she does act, she can save lives but action on her part requires sacrifice.

One thing we did note is as a police forensics lab tech, it would be hard to figure that Peter Parker would NOT catch some kind of word about a Spider-Girl sighting—which leads us to believe he is being willfully blind. We look forward to the father-daughter confrontation that is sure to come.


Blogger Mark "Puff" Anderson said...

During the Up, Up, and Away storyline running through the Superman books immediately OYL, Hawkgirl came with Green Lantern to help Hal with Intergang. So there was some bonding there.

Sorry, I'm out of pocket today and can't give you issue refs.


10:14 AM, January 06, 2007  

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