Saturday, April 15, 2006

Unusual politics, evil twins and retro lamos

Greetings our fine readers,
Here's FanBoyWonder's picks for the second of April.
Thanks to those who have taken the time to read and comment.
As we post this, we just finished viewing the lastest episode of Justice League Unlmited. Look for a post on it tomorrow.
Also, FanBoyWonder and his faithful Kemosabe are taking a road trip next weekend to Pittsburgh for the Pitttsburgh Comic Con. Look for dispatches upon our return.
Now on with the pics

Green Arrow #61

The upshot from DC Comics: Ollie Queen's first days in office as mayor of Star City aren't going to be easy. The uphill battle of saving the town from criminals and shady corporations is hard enough, and now Deathstroke's shown up...and he's got Green Arrow in his sights! It's the rematch you've been waiting for since Identity Crisis!

We REALLY wanted to dislike this issue…in fact we were looking forward to disliking it. We haven’t made a secret our dislike of writer Judd Winick, as we summed up in our critical pan of his work in Outsiders and we hadn’t cared for the direction Green Arrow pre-Infinite Crisis and pre-One Year Later but to we enjoyed this issue in spite of ourselves.

Mayor Queen’s press conference was pretty entertaining; as the dialogue was sharp and visuals as provided artists Scott McDaniel with Andy Owens were perfectly in sync with the spoken words. The action sequence was okay but we find out that Green Arrow has been out of the public eye for the past year and this was his grand reentrance.

As noted in our comments about last issue, apparently Green Arrow’s identity is secret again…something that happened pre-Infinite Crisis but we are guessing this has been cemented by the expected retro-continuity that will follow IC.

But Green Arrow The Longbow Hunters writer Mike Grell had it right when he outed Ollie’s secret ID…. “That was supposed to be a secret?” everyone kept asking. But in the DCU if a pair of glasses works as a disguise, then perhaps the world wouldn’t make the connect between the only two guys in Star City with blond hair, of the same build and both with a Van Dyke beard.

We’re looking forward to the rematch with Deathstroke and for now we’re taking our readership on this book one issue at a time.

Nightwing # 119

The upshot from DC Comics: The streets of New York have never seen anything like the war raging between twin super-powered crime lords and...twin Nightwings?

We have to admit we were a little disappointed by this issue after such a promising start last issue. We see what writer Bruce Jones is trying to do but this is only his second issue and he’s moving too quickly to slip Dick Grayson into a new supporting cast.

With Jason Todd having identity thefted Dick Grayson, there are two Nightwings running around New York City. But hasn’t the hero framed for murder thing been over done…especially among the Batman family….such a story is also currently playing out in Robin.

We, like Dick Grayson, wish that the other former Robin had stayed dead. Visually, we like how penciler Joe Dodd with inker Bit (no first or last name…just “Bit”) hadn’t made the two Nightwings carbon copies of each other and has made them similar but distinguishable. However, they fall short on choreographing the abbreviated action scenes—not so many tight shots fellas. Pull back a little.

Another thing, we’re going to give Jones the benefit of the doubt but we’re not crazy Dick Grayson’s male model/metro sexual thing going on or with the new boss/ red-headed love interest Cheyenne. I hope we get to find out what happened between Dick and Barbara Gordon/Oracle sooner rather than later.


The upshot: Distraught over his worsening condition, Captain Atom uses his draining power to look into the future...and what he sees will put him on a collision course with the Authority! And when Nikola loses control of the Void powers, will anything be able to contain this meltdown?

We’ve been picking up this series because we are fans of the old Cary Bates Captain Atom series and we are hopeful that this series will be the back to respectability to this underused character.

Writer Will Pfeifer has re-written somewhat how Captain Atom’s powers works but it seems to be a plausible extension so we’re not making a fuss. The art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Sandra Hope is serviceable but the cover by Dale Keown gave us an unfortunate early ‘90s Image-comics-like flashback.

What we’ve been surprised to enjoy most of all is given that we know nothing about the Wildstorm universe, we are really seeing the story and meeting the Wildstorm characters for the first time just like Captain Atom.

But just don’t visit too long Cap, we miss you in the DCU. Come home soon.


The upshot from DC Comics: The after-effects of INFINITE CRISIS begin to impact the DCU starting in CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE BATTLE FOR BLÜDHAVEN, a 6-issue miniseries written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (HAWKMAN) with art by Dan Jurgens (SUPERMAN ) and Palmiotti and covers by Daniel Acuña (JLA CLASSIFIED) shipping twice monthly beginning in April!

This book sucked ass so badly that we didn’t buy it…we didn’t need to. A quick lookie-lou in the store told us all we need.

This story is built around a fake city that didn’t exist before Nightwing #1 and whose primary guardians—Nightwing and later Robin—have gotten the heck out of town.

Who has come in their place? The Force of July???? FanBoyWonder has been reading comics for about 100 years and even we barely remember them—a bunch of lameo villains from the Batman and Outsiders days. Although Major Victory and the gang did die real good during John Ostrander’s run on Suicide Squad.

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with Art by Dan Jurgens and Palmiotti, the real battle will be to get any one to buy this crappy book. Do what you will but we’re saving our $2.99.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Teen Titans, Checkmate & JSA

FanBoyWonder is attempting to catch up on our reading since our time in San Diego. Here’s FBW’s pics for the first week of April.

Teen Titans #34

The upshot from DC Comics: One Year Later, it's Part 1 of "The New Teen Titans!" A new year of exciting adventures begins with the "new" Teen Titans, the bizarre Doom Patrol and the mysterious and secretive Titans East!

It's One Year Later and the Teen Titans roster has seen some dramatic changes, as have the Titans themselves. We find that Cyborg has been in a year-long cyber-coma so the reader sees the changes to the team from his point of view.

Who's out: Starfire (missing), Speedy (“off on some island with Connor Hawke”), Kid Flash ("sort of retired"), Raven (gone after she broke up with Beast Boy), Beast Boy (off with the Doom Patrol) and Superboy (killed in battle with Superboy Prime during Infinite Crisis—see our related post on Infinite Crisis #6…..)

Who's In: Robin (team leader, darker and older), Kid Devil, the former sidekick of SHADOWPACT's Blue Devil (no clue about this guy), and Ravager, the daughter of Deathstroke (When last we'd seen her during Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing, Dick Grayson had been trying to reform Rose Wilson and turn her away from Slade-it appears that's succeeded).

Who's out but not gone: Wonder Girl. One Year Later, still hurting from the death of her first love Superboy, she blames Robin for abandoning her during the year he spent away with Batman.

While Geoff Johns story is solid and by the numbers, we continue to feel that he just doesn't have a firm grasp on the Titans-that it's one of his weaker books (given his current roster of titles, not a surprise).

At first we thought it was a generational thing-we grew up with the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans and we really didn't know this incarnation of Titans as well. However, we enjoyed Johns recent collaboration with Wolfman so much that we'd like to see it a permanent arrangement.

Johns could use a collaborator, much as he used to have on JSA, and Wolfman, in addition to the history that he brings to the table would be a steadying influence. Wolfman's Titans on his own (after Perez left) was decent to mediocre to awful in the end; a collaboration would bring out both of their strengths and the reader would benefit in the end.

Although we didn't dislike him, we also never held a lot of fondness for the clone who would be Superman. Introduced some dozen years ago following the Death of Superman story arc, Superboy had already established a history in the DCU by the time Johns took the character and performed a major overhaul.

It was a mixed bag. Gone was the leather jacket, the earning and the early 1990s haircut. In was the simple style-jeans and black "S" T-shirt and a more modern bad haircut.

Johns couldn't help but tweak his origin. Now Superboy/Kon-El/Conner Kent was the clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor-Good and Evil-the total package. We weren't crazy about this-"too contrived" we thought-but we did like Conner's self-questioning-am I alive? Does a clone have a soul?

We were just getting a sense of the character before he died. But will he stay dead? Who knows? Members of his "family" have a tendency of coming back, especially if Robin's attempts at recloning take hold as we saw at the end of TT#34-Stay tuned.

The OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special

The upshot from DC: The end is just the beginning in this epic spy thriller by the team behind the red-hot OMAC PROJECT miniseries! From the pages of INFINITE CRISIS, the legacy of Brother Eye rains down on earth, threatening exposure of a hero's greatest secret and the dawning of a world war!

To paraphrase that old play on words about the Holy Roman Empire, The OMAC Project: Infinite Crisis Special is neither so much about the OMAC Project nor is it an Infinite Crisis book nor is it even special.

It is, however, quite readable. Even if you hadn't read the original OMAC Project six-issue mini-series from last summer (in fact it may actually help if you didn't), the story moves right along.

This may better be thought of as Issue Zero of the upcoming Checkmate series.
Writer Greg Rucka, who did a great job recently on Wonder Woman, doesn't quite redeem himself for the aforementioned, awful OMAC mini-series (the story without a beginning-middle or an end with mandatory crossovers to add insult to injury) but he doesn't' compound the damage either.

When the remains of the Brother Eye satellite-containing secret detailed information on every hero and villain- crashes into the Rub Al-Khali Desert in Saudi Arabia, the various international governments race to the scene to grab the goods.

The forces dispatched to the still active satellite include including Checkmate's Sasha Bordeaux and Fire (former Justice League bimbo and even more former Brazilian spy and killer as Rucka reminds us), as well as Israeli Commandos, a Chinese metahuman and Russia's Rocket Reds (Wow! We're having an '80s flashback)

Defying the orders of Amanda Waller (Checkmate's acting Black King), Sasha succeeded in destroying Brother Eye...and the ensuing blast killed her newly acquired nanobots, freeing Sasha of her body's armor-we don't know how or why she got the armor but it's gone now so no worries.

The art by Jesus Saiz is serviceable and flows nicely but we think he should get an honorable mention just for drawing and inking all 48 pages all by himself. How quaint.

However, it's Rucka's storytelling as he deftly conveys levels of subtlety required among political thrillers-not an easy feat given the format of comics-that carries the day.

We were reminded of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad from the late 1980s and early 1990s as we read on-especially in the scenes with Amanda "The Wall" Waller, an Ostrander creation.

Given FBW's limited comic dollar, we hadn't planned on picking up Checkmate but given the this issue plus news that Alan Scott, the Original Green Lantern, will be involved in Checkmate, we may have to check it out.

JSA #84

The upshot from DC: The new story by Paul Levitz, Rags Morales, Dave Meikis and Luke Ross continues! The JSA's darkest secrets are laid bare by one of their most mysterious enemies as the battle is brought to the team's front door!

We admit it's taken a couple reads to grasp the tenor of the story in part 2 of Levit's five part arc but that's because there's a lot of depth in this story. If one reads separate first the JSA portion then the Gentlemen Ghost flashbacks then read the story a third-time together, the story will make better sense.

We like Levitz's characterization, patricianly between old friends Flash and Green Lantern. This story is taking its time to pick up but we sense the action is about to throttle up next issue. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Infinite Crisis # 6 –Not A Terrible Issue

Hello faithful reader! We’re back our day job took us to sunny San Diego, California in time for a regional cold snap. We’re back in time to review the latest Infinite Crisis.

The upshot from DC Comics: Which events in this continuing epic will lead us to One Year Later? What worlds live? Which hero dies?

We suppose the best thing we could say about Infinite Crisis #6 is that it didn’t suck.

The thing is that “not sucking” is a benchmark that could pass in an Elseworlds book or an edition of Secret Files where standards and expectations are usually (and deservedly) lowered—but this is Infinite Crisis, the alleged DC Comics’ “event” of the decade and the would-be torchbearer to the original and classic CRISIS on Infinite Earths—we’ve been conditioned by the endless type to expect much better than what so far has been delivered.

To be fair, IC6 is indeed a much needed improvement from the jumbled mess of the previous two issues, if for no other reason than the plot is finally moving to the climax.

What we liked:

--The scene between the two Supermen where Kal-El joins Kal-L in mourning of Lois’ death was touching and finally an exchange of mutual respect. Artist Jerry Ordway did a good job conveying the visuals of this scene given the limited dialogue and space within the issue’s larger canvas.

--The interplay between Black Lightning and Mr. Terrific as they snuck aboard the Brother Eye satellite.

--The gross but creatively and efficiently brutal way that Black Adam killed Psycho Pirate. We’ve been waiting 20 years for that whack-job to bite the dust.

--One page later Black Adam getting (literally) knocked out of this world by Superboy Prime—he’s had that coming for a while.

--Alex Luthor losing a finger—finally Donna Troy’s little cosmic field trip contributed SOMETHING to the plot.

--The kinder gentler Batman. Ever since his “come to Jesus” moment following his confrontation with the Earth-2 Superman (and perhaps maybe a little bit because his invention, Brother Eye, has been used to kill and destroy on a multi-universal scale) he’s been down right cuddly.

What we didn’t like (we’ve pared down the list):

--Despite the touching seen between the two Supermen and Wonder Woman too, they’ve been TALKING about snapping into action for four issues ...just do it already!!!!

--Other than Star Sapphire biting the dust, what was the point of the magicians summoning the Spectre…or even wasting 3 pages on the magicians—this advances the plot how????

--Superboy Prime’s super-gay battle armor. The only thing this is designed to do is sell action figures.

--Superboy spoilers—Bad enough that we knew that Superboy Prime would survive imprisonment in the Speed Force at the end of IC 4 thanks to the SPB action figure solicited the same week as IC 4 came out, but as we picked up IC 6 at our comics store, we saw the spoiler variant cover of Teen Titans #34—the Superboy memorial statute.

Just as during IC #4, the last issue with a major battle, the battles in issue 6 were dull and uninspired and just plan hard to follow. Far too much going on in too small story panels.

When drawn and choreographed correctly, comic book battles should be visually compelling and should contribute to the story every bit as much as the spoken word—much as with motion pictures.

This is the problem with the art-by-committee approach to Infinite Crisis. Although the story was 40 pages long, the art chores were divided between four primary artists (pencilers) and TEN finishing artists (inkers).

Because of this division of artistic labor, primary artist Phil Jimenez (with Andy Lanning) had only 3 pages to convey the issue’s climax—all in “tight shots.” We literally had to read the issue and those pages four times to figure out exactly what happened.

Ironically, after this issue was the smoothest visually of the artist committee. The style transition between artists and pages was much less jarring for what it was worth.

We find we weren’t the only ones who were confused. During his “Crisis Counseling’ session at Mile High Comics ‘Newsarama forum, DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio fielded many “what happened” questions

Even the Newsarama guys who do “Crisis Recovery” the page-by-page play-by-play the IC issues were stumped as to what happened in a couple of places.

Any story that is not self-explanatory should rightly be considered a storytelling failure.

Following last month’s Infinite Crisis Secret Files and the compelling back story it provided, we had high hopes these last two issues of IC could pull together what so far has been a convoluted artistic and editorial mess.

However, with one issue to go, we have a tough time trying to figure out how this series will ever be more than “not terrible” rather than a victim of its own multi-universal hype.

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