Monday, December 11, 2006

The Justice Society Returns Again, Manhunter Fights On, Nightwing Digs Out

The first week of December was a good week for comics for FanBoyWonder—we saw the return to greatness, a second chance previously canceled book and a once-great hero starts to dig himself out of the dark back to the light. So without further ado:

Justice Society of America #1

The Upshot from DC Comics: Get in on the ground floor as the world's first and greatest super-team returns to usher in the DC Universe's next age of heroes and villains! Writer Geoff Johns (52, Infinite Crisis), artists Dale Eaglesham (Villains United, Green Lantern) and Art Thibert (Outsiders, Superman) and cover artist Alex Ross (Kingdom Come, Justice) band together for the debut of the greatest incarnation of the super-team that inspired all the others.

Determined to rebuild the Justice Society, founding members Green Lantern, Flash and Wildcat initiate an unprecedented recruitment program, tracking the bloodlines of heroes across the world and bringing in the new Starman, Damage, Liberty Belle and more! But just as the Society welcomes the rookies into their ranks, an evil force sets out to destroy them. Meet new legacies, solve a mystery stretching into the far future, witness the return of the world's greatest hero, and watch another one fall.

Words simply cannot describe how happy we are to have this series back in the DC line up. Earlier this year when we heard that the previous title, JSA, was slated for cancellation after issue 87, we were afraid—with good reason based on precedent—that DC Comics was again going to attempt to force the best group of heroes off the stage.

We have been critical of writer Geoff Johns of late in his other titles (not undeserved) but Justice Society of America #1 reminded us just how good Johns can be when he keeps his eye on the ball.

For those who think the Justice Society is just an inferior copy of the Justice League—the JSA was the first super team, which paved the way for all future teams—including the JLA, who for the record is the copycat.

Johns has made the JSA’s mission statement about legacy and it’s a role that befits the Society’s remaining founding members—Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat. In issue 1, Wildcat is the narrator—a savvy choice as Wildcat is as well known as GL and Flash but not as understood.

What we liked most about this first issue is that Johns plants a lot of plot seeds but doesn’t rush to cultivate them all at once. We’ll get to see the married couple of Hourman and Liberty Belle in the future and we’ve gotten to see just enough of a damaged Damage to want to see more.

We would be remiss if we failed to mention the artwork by Dale Eaglesham and Art Thibert. Dale plays to his strength here with his vivid use of facial expressions (although we would like him to get The Flash’s chest symbol right, but it’s a small item).

Also, we are heartened by the addition to the team of Alex Ross. A JSA fan, he had been doing covers for the last series and he is not only doing covers for this series but he is working with Johns as a “creative consultant,” which sounds like a co-plotter to us.

We’re glad for a couple of reasons. The first is political—with an artistic heavyweight like Ross putting his name and clout behind the title, it’s an incentive to DC to give the JSA its full support—something as we’ve noted DC has not always been inclined to do.

But on a more practical level, Ross can help feed Johns’ idea machine. With Johns writing so many books, quality has been an issue (i.e. Teen Titans, Green Lantern)—with a collaborator, there’s something of a creative safety net.

Manhunter #26

The Upshot from DC: Jump aboard for a new era of MANHUNTER with the start of the 5-part story "Unleashed," guest-starring Wonder Woman! Manhunter Kate Spencer takes on her biggest case yet with Wonder Woman as the client, but the stakes are higher than anyone knows! Is the Amazon princess guilty of murdering Max Lord? That's just the first in a series of "Warriors" mysteries that readers old and new will take an active role in answering — including what Kate Spencer's next blockbuster case will be!

We decided to follow our Kemosabe’s advice and pick up this book. We are so glad we did. Manhunter is a smartly written book with top shelf art to match. A small but devoted Manhunter fan base (like Kemosabe) managed to get DC to give this book a five-issue reprieve from cancellation.

We’re doing what we can to help but in all honesty, given the many self-inflicted wounds by DC following Infinite Crisis (itself an editorial train wreck), such as the fired creative team of Nightwing, of the Flash and of the perpetually late Wonder Woman, DC couldn’t afford NOT to have a quality book such as Manhunter on the shelves.

It’s ironic that Wonder Woman’s most compelling plot thread—her “murder”/justifiable homicide of Maxwell Lord—is continued not in her own book (when it manages to make it on the shelves every other month) but in the pages of Manhunter.

Diana has retained attorney Kate Spenser to defend her in court as the U.S. government presses its case against the Amazon Princess. Of course we get a “sparing session” between the two heroes but the “girl fight” is inter cut with scenes of Spencer and Diana in Kate’s law office discussing the relative morality of taking a life to save lives.

It’s the dialogue where the true action is and we are starting to see why this book has such a loyal following. If you are not reading this book, you should be. Go on take a chance.

Nightwing #127

The Upshot from DC: A new, vicious villain enters the picture! Raptor has been murdered, but Nightwing has been buried in his grave. Is this the Infinite Crisis claiming one of its lost victims, or can Dick Grayson find his way to freedom?

Despite our effusive praise during the last couple issues about new writer Marv Wolfman and the return to competence to this book, we were prepared NOT to like this issue.

While it’s true that Marv, like many old school pros, can and does adroitly craft a story, we haven’t always liked Wolfman’s take on Nightwing—despite or perhaps because of his long history with Dick Grayson dating back to the New Teen Titans. Wolfman is responsible for some of the very best Dick Grayson stories (first as Robin, later as Nightwing) ever told—but he has also written Grayson at his worst—particularly during the last years of his Titans run.

At his worst, Wolfman’s Dick Grayson was portrayed as a co-dependent cry-baby who was helpless without the then love of his life Starfire. Worse, Wolfman always found a way for Dick to lapse back into his Robin the boy hostage mode—by having him do blundering, dumb things or just plain getting his ass kicked by a Z-list villain.

Which brings us to issue 127, which opens with Nightwing having been soundly trashed and being buried alive in casket by an as yet unrevealed but unmistakably lame bad guy. Seeing Dick get his ass handed to him yet again was not what we had in mind when we heard Wolfman had been recruited to “save” the Nightwing title.

Yet this issue worked for us. As Nightwing struggles to keep his cool while thinking his way out of the trap—not just the bad guy burial that requires escape, but he realizes the traps he has been setting for himself in his personal life. As Dick digs his way out, it’s also a metaphor for clawing his way out of the mistakes he’s made with his life.

As he finally makes his way out of the hole, the reader can sense Dick Grayson has realized a sea change—we’ll see if Marv can capitalize on this breakthrough next issue.

52 WEEK 31

The Upshot from DC: "Superman being out of the picture was the key. One of two keys, if you want to be cute about it."

This issue brought Captain Comet into the story for the first time as a planet far, far away is being over run by a contagion that turns innocents into slave zombies. We see two alien Green Lanterns we’ve never met before who are also helpless to stop this threat—prompting the Guardians of the Universe to cut off power to their rings and deny them back up—not seeking to risk the contagion’s spread. We’re really not sure what’s going on here but yet we find ourselves interested in learning more.

Meanwhile on Earth, Ralph Dibny reconnects with Wonder Girl months after the wheels came off of her “Cult of Connor” and her attempt to bring her love Superboy and Ralph’s lost wife Sue back from the dead. Knowing the cult was a fraud, Cassie confides in Ralph but she “knows” that the new hero Supernova is Superboy back from the dead and in disguise.

He apparently has used his detective skills to figure out SuperNova’s identity and it is NOT Kon-El…yet Ralph doesn’t have the heart to break it to her. As Ralph confronts SuperNova, we are passed along tantalizing clues to his idenity—the most important being “Superman being out of the picture was the key. One of two keys, if you want to be cute about it."

We still haven’t figured it out but now they have our attention.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Capitol Ideas said...

O

1:05 PM, December 12, 2006  
Anonymous Capitol Ideas said...

On the JSA ... looks like someone new is taking up the Sandman mantle. Not going to spoil it for those who don't already know, or haven't figured it out already. The JSA needs a Sandman. Glad to see it's found one.
For my money, the funniest scenes in the book were the ones involving Maxine Hunkle. And, if you've ever been married, you know that Hourman and Liberty Belle are behaving like typical newlyweds with their terminal cutesiness. Johns was utterly on the mark with this one.
On a side note, glad to see you took me on my "Manhunter" suggestion. This is the best-written book in the D.C. Universe.
Save "Manhunter."
Read it.

1:08 PM, December 12, 2006  

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