Saturday, February 25, 2006

SUPERficial-girl, Dark Emerald Grudge Match and Diana’s Swan Song

FanBoyWonder’s day job has been keeping us busy this week so we are catching up with our posts, including part 2 of our R.I.P. Flash analysis, and upcoming review of Sci-Fi Friday’s offerings of Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1.

Meanwhile, here are FBW’s drive-by pics and pans for the week of Feb. 22

Green Lantern # 9

The Upshot: It’s rematch you've been waiting for since the end of GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH! Strange deaths in Gotham City point to an all-new Tattooed Man. But can Green Lantern and Batman work together long enough to stop this artistic string of murders? Plus, Batman gets a power ring…sort of.

Yes they can work together, after, of course, a little bit of fisticuffs. The mad on/grudge that has been brewing between Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Dark Knight finally comes to a head.

Batman hasn’t trusted Hal Jordan since he became the renegade Parallax, where he murdered many fellow Green Lanterns then attempted to accumulate the power needed to destroy and remake the universe via time travel during the 1994’s Zero Hour. The fact that we all now know that Jordan was influenced/possessed by an alien entity didn’t assuage the Dark Knight’s paranoia.

When Hal Jordan died as Parallax saving the world during the 1995 Final Night event, Batman’s grudge didn’t die with him. When Jordan became the Spectre (a cosmic mismatch if there ever was one), Batman remained distrusting…but during 2003’s JLA/Spectre: Soul War limited series, Batman and Jordan appeared to make peace.

But yet again, the antagonism was reborn after Hal Jordan returned from the dead to reclaim his Green Lantern ring.

It is a tad funny that Batman didn’t think Hal Jordan was to be trusted, given his track record of keeping secret files on his friends, his iron grip on Gotham, his negligent complicity in the murder of Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle and oh yeah….his artificially intelligent spy satellite that was stolen from his control and used to maim, kill and destroy thousands across the globe….but we digress.

Suffice to say, the buried hatchet between GL and Batman felt just as forced and artificial as their prolonged feud. And the Batman with the power ring gimmick at the end was a disappointment to be sure.

One intriguing foreshadowing early in the issue was tool place Oa when fellow Green Lantern Salaak warned Jordan that although he has been officially absolved of his crimes committed while influenced by Parallax, apparently all is not forgotten or forgiven with his fellow Green Lanterns. Stay tuned.

Supergirl #6

The upshot: Supergirl is on a rampage, there's no one left to stop her except…Supergirl?! The story that will have all of fandom talking explodes as The Girl of Steel takes on the Mistress of Might! –That was DC’s description and we’re talking all right.

The best thing that can be said about this story arc and about the re-introduction of Kara Zor-El into the DC Universe is that it’s over. This was really, really awful!!

Even when factoring in the understandable delay (due to the recent death of writer Jeph Loeb’s teenage son) the truncated conclusion, we spent 5 issues of her own comic plus a six-issue introduction of Kara Zor-El in Superman/Batman and we still have no idea who this character is or what she’s about!!!!!

Thanks to the effects of Black Kryptonite (?????Black Kryptonite????), Supergirl was split into two a la Superman III and of course they fight. But these two Supergirls together couldn’t add up to one dimension of personality. Oh how we miss Peter David and his Matrix/Linda Danvers version of Supergirl.

Don’t even get us started on the art. Penciler Ian Churchill’s and inker Norm Rapmund’s provide little more than a series of animated Maxim pin-up shots with lots of superhero posing with little apparent knowledge or inclination to draw action.

The visuals not only do nothing to help advance the weak script, it’s a downright distraction. “When in doubt, draw a naked chick” isn’t clever, it’s a Hail Mary attempt, hoping that the reader won’t notice a go-nowhere plot and uninspired art. It’s SUPERficial.

If it were not for One Year Later and the resulting change in creative team, we would have already dropped this book but we respect oncoming writer Greg Rucka enough to give him a chance.

Wonder Woman # 226

The Upshot from DC: Astonishing final issue! With the universe in turmoil, Diana prepares to face her ultimate challenge. Looking back on her relationship with Superman from the way it began to its recent turmoil, will she find a way to rebuild what she's lost?

Although writer Greg Rucka wrapped up his major plots threads last issue, he didn’t disappoint loyal fans who stuck with the book until the end. This last story is a though-the-ages look at Wonder Woman/Diana from her arrival in “man’s world” to today in a series of flashbacks.

The focus is on the relationship between Diana and Superman through the years—their friendship is strong based on mutual respect and perhaps a little bit of (unacted upon) attraction.

The reader is reminded just how strong their friendship was…all the more tragic now that their friendship has been shattered by Diana’s decision to kill Max Lord in order to free Superman from his telepathic mind control.

The cancellation of this Wonder Woman title paves the way for a re-launch later this year with a new creative team but during the twenty year run of this title, we’ve tagged the best Wonder Woman writers as George Perez, Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka.

Perez gave Diana life, Jimenez gave her soul and Rucka brought freshness and depth to a character that’s been around for some 60 years but whom we hardly knew.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

R.I.P. The Flash – 1987-2006

Last month, FanBoyWonder said good-bye to an old friend with the cancellation of The Flash with issue 230. We realize that we are a little late in offering comment—but these days, any title that runs (no pun intended) for two decades deserves a decent wake.

The demise of Wally West’s comic had been telegraphed for many months, so even as the character’s final fate remains uncertain (at this point), it was still tough when we realized that it was the end of a title that we’ve collected continuously since we picked up Flash #1 in February 1987.

There will of course be a new Flash title, and perhaps a new Flash, but let’s take moment to take note of the title’s two decade run over 232 issues (including a “0” issue during the 1994 Zero Hour event and a Millionth issue during the entirely forgettable One Million event of 1997), seven annuals and numerous Specials and Secret Files.

Not counting fill-in writers, the Wally West Flash title consisted of four writer eras —Mike Baron, William Messner-Lobes, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns.

There are many younger readers for whom the only Flash they have ever known is Wally West. However, the former-Kid Flash is the third hero to call himself Flash, preceded by Barry Allen and Jay Garrick.

Wally debut as the Flash at the end of CRISIS on Infinite Earths #12, following Barry Allen’s noble sacrifice to save the universe (until Infinite Crisis that is). After a year of being underused by Marv Wolfman in the New Teen Titans, Flash #1 debut in Feb. 1987—written by Mike Baron with art by Jackson Guice.

We should emphasize just what a big deal Wally West’s elevation as the Flash was at the time. The sidekick replacing the hero was and remains fairly unprecedented—not even Dick Grayson accomplished that when he became the first sidekick to grow up and move on—turning in his Robin uniform to become Nightwing three years earlier in Tales of the Teen Titans #44.

Little did anyone know when Flash #1 hit the stands that it would mark a very long road ahead for the Wally West character back to respectability. With Barry’s death in the CRISIS and Jay’s (temporary) banishment to limbo with the rest of the Justice Society, Wally was the only Flash remaining but he was far from the Fastest Man Alive anymore.

Wally had been de-powered to just below the speed of sound, was given a bunsen-burner metabolism which required him to eat 3 times his body weight and to sleep 12-18 hours after using his speed. However, Flash’s physical limitations paled compared to his newly built in character flaws as a self-centered, womanizing jerk whose secret identity was now public.

Despite an impressive debut issue featuring a cross-country run by Flash for an organ donation in issue 1, Wally West would spend years as a “B-list” hero trying to step out of Barry Allen’s shadow. Baron lasted 13 issues, Guice was gone in less than ten. William Messner-Loebs took over mid story arc from Baron in 1988 and he enjoyed a competent but largely forgettable four year run.

WML is known for bringing heroes down to earth, but Wally had already been brought down quite a bit. With all of the supporting characters WML brought during his tenure, Wally at times became a guest in his own book.

For the most part, WML’s stories don’t individually stand out but taken as a whole, his contributions were a steady, if maddeningly slow course correction in returning Wally West to greatness. Linda Park, Wally’s future wife, was introduced during WML’s tenure, as well as the concept of Wally’s psychological block that kept him from attaining full speed—something Mark Waid would exploit during his run on the book.

In his last year on the book, WML appeared to find his stride and he helped restore Flash/Wally to a modicum of respectability--The Vandal Savage story arc, issue 48-50, remain WML’s best Flash with a killer cliffhanger in issue 49, literally, as Wally is shot and left for dead.

Following his near death, Wally rebounded faster than ever, with a slightly new costume. What could have and should have been an opportunity for Wally to wear his own distinct costume was lost as the short-lived The Flash life-action TV series (1990-91 season) was still on the air and DC didn’t want to make a radical change. The fact that Wally never had his own costume, as he had as Kid Flash (the best of all the Flash costumes in our opinion), has always been a mistake in our opinion.

All in all, given the editorial climate at DC during the early 1990s—manifest in the frequent and numerous retro-cons years after the CRISIS was supposed to have streamlined the DCU continuity—few other writers could have done as able a job with the Flash as WML and his work provided the spring board for Mark Waid to take Wally West to light speed and beyond.

Next, Part 2 of R.I.P. Flash will deal with the Mark Waid and Geoff Johns eras of The Flash.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Justice League Unlimited –Dead Reckoning

The Upshot: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman come to the aid of Deadman, the ghost of deceased circus acrobat Boston Brand, who needs their help in recovering the souls of members of a monastic order.

FanBoyWonder rates this is an “Okay” episode, but that may be just because we were never crazy about Deadman in the comics.

The episode opens at a Buddhismonasteryry as a Legion of Doom strike team, including Black Manta, Atomic Skull, Bizarro, Lex Luthor and Rampage attacks, seemingly kills all of the monks, including the Master, stealing a magic artifact.

Deadman goes to the Justice League for help and soon discover the Legion is attacking Gorilla City as part of Gorilla Grodd's strategy. Long story short, Grodd uses the amulet to turn all of the humans into apes. The plan is thwarted of course in less time that it took us to type this sentence.

The episode closes with Luthor shooting Grodd for coming up with such a stupid master plan and he now leads the Legion of Doom.

The episode did have a plethora of villain cameo appearances including Goldface, Blockbuster, Dr. Polaris, Sonar, the Shark, the Gentleman Ghost, the Dummy, Sportsmaster, the Monocle, the Angle Man, Livewire, Crowbar, Black Mass, Tsukuri, Fastball, Puppeteer, Evil Star, the Weather Wizard, the Psycho Pirate, Dr. Spectro, KGBeast, and the Key.

Just to keep count, Dead Reckoning marked the 6th of JLU's remaining 13 episodes before the series comes to an end.

Next Week: Patriot Act--When a powerful menace threatens Metropolis, Green Arrow must lead a group of non-powered superheroes such as Vigilante and Shining Knight to save the city.
Free Hit Counters
Online Universities