Saturday, May 06, 2006

Justice League Unlimited--Alive

The upshot: In a knock-down, drag-out battle on Earth and in space, the power moving behind the scenes of the villains is revealed leading to the most unexpected team-up in Justice League history.

It’s finally here. The beginning of the end of Justice League Unlimited. Alive was the first of the two part series finale.

This episode spotlighted the bad guys. Following is coup of the Legion of Doom’s former leader Gorilla Grodd, Lex Luthor remains obsessed with brining Brainiac back to life. Luthor, egged on by Brainiac’s voice in his head, has the Legion’s swamp headquarters transformed into a space vessel in order to go searching for the means to revive Brainiac.

Meanwhile an imprisoned Grodd takes advantage of the misgivings of some of the Legion members by spurring them to attempt a counter-coup. A bad guy vs. bad guy battle ensues. Grodd’s forces are repelled and Luthor dispatches the bad monkey by throwing him out of the airlock.

Despite a warning from Metron, Luthor proceeds with the attempt to bring Brainiac back to life….but brings back Darkseid from the dead instead….oops…talk about unintended consequences.

Darkseid promptly goes home to Apokolips, quells a civil war and declares his intent to take revenge on Superman for killing him in the first place by invading Earth. Talk about holding a grudge.

The episode closes with the Legion showing up at the Justice League’s doorstep…. “We have a little problem” Luthor tells the League. Ya think???? To be continued for sure.

Having seen an advance copy of next week’s series finale Destroyer, we can report that it’s a kick ass way to go. We are going to miss this series but JLU goes out with class.

FBW is off to Chicago now. We’ll be back at the end of next week. Until then.

Ghost stories, more Teen (Titan) angst and Power Girls

FanBoyWonder is in the midst of packing for a trip to Chicago for our day job so we just have time for a quick and dirty review of our books for the week of May 5.

JSA # 85

The upshot from DC Comics: The thrilling new story by legendary Justice Society writer Paul Levitz and superstar penciller Rags Morales continues as the spirits of the JSA's past rise to fight the team today! Plus, more insight into the secrets of the Gentleman Ghost!

The plot of this story arc is progressing a little slower than we would like but we’ve still been pleased with the story—at least the JSA’s side of it. The segments featuring the Gentlemen Ghost’s origin, while visually appealing, have yet to really grab us. We can sense writer Paul Levitz is building to something here but we just wish he’d get to it quicker.

Meanwhile, an ill-phrased wish by Jakeem Thunder has him and the Thunderbolt facing off against ghosts and other poltergeists who were crooks and thieves and other bad sorts when they were alive.

But to fight fire-with-fire, the Thunderbolt summons to the rescue the spirits of JSA past including the deader than disco, The Sandman, The Atom, the original Mr. Terrific, Green Lantern’s newly dead daughter Jade (Boo! We still think that was a bad move DC) and the Earth-2 Batman.

It was nice to see them in action again, even in the after life. However, the scene-stealer of the book was the ghost of Jade seeing her father clinging to life in the JSA infirmary and pleading with him to hold on.

Given the crappy way her character was dispatched in the ultra-crappy Rann-Thanagar War, Paul Levitz gave father and daughter a scene of closure…even if it means that Jade is actually dead.

Teen Titans # 35

The upshot from DC Comics: Part 2 of "The New Teen Titans!" In an attempt to expose the insidious plans of the Brotherhood of Evil, a new member may sacrifice his or her life! Meanwhile, a strange romance begins to blossom and the secret below Titans Tower deepens. Plus, wait until you see which former Titans are involved with the new Doom Patrol — and why!

It’s not that we disliked this issue but on the other hand there wasn’t that much to like about it either. It’s One Year (and one issue) Later and we, like Cyborg, is still waiting for the “real” Teen Titans to show up.

Robin and Wonder Girl are both clearly hurting over the death of Superboy but it’s what unsaid between them that’s driving the tension in this book. Beast Boy is back with the Doom Patrol but we hope that’s only temporary.

Following the announcement by DC of a spin-off comic Titans East by Geoff Johns featuring an East Coast team of Teen Titans, we remain a bit wary. We’ve never believed that Johns has had a firm enough grasp on the current book.

We continue our call to bring classic New Teen Titans scribe Marv Wolfman on board as a co-plotter/co-scripter. Given the announcement that Wolfman will be penning a just announced Raven mini-series, the Teen Titan he created with George Perez back in the day, a renewed Wolfman/Johns (or Johns/Wolfman) collaboration may not be so far fetched.

Supergirl # 6

The upshot from DC Comics: It's One Year Later…and Kara and Power Girl have become the dynamic duo of the bottle city of Kandor as the new Flamebird and Nightwing! Don't miss the debut of new series writer Greg Rucka (WONDER WOMAN, THE OMAC PROJECT) and artist Ian Churchill!

The best thing we could say about this issue is that it was only ONE week late.

We had high hopes for this book after previous writer Jeph Loeb left the book. Loeb, who reintroduced Kara Zor-El into the DC Universe, gave us a character who was an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. What we did know about this Supergirl, we didn’t like.

Given his recent character defining run on Wonder Woman, we believed that if anyone could breathe life into this soulless character, it would be Greg Rucka. But guess what, Rucka’s first issue on Supergirl is also his last—DC Comics cited Rucka’s heavy workload but given what we read in Supergirl # 6, we think it was a case of getting out while the getting was good.

In his one time up at bat, Rucka has somehow made Kara even LESS likable. We should have enjoyed the “new” Nightwing and Flamebird team but it took us no less that four reads to figure out what the heck was supposed to be going on.

(A quick history lesson from FBW: Before Dick Grayson adopted the name after quitting Robin, Nightwing and his sidekick Flamebird in the pre-CRISIS days were the Batman and Robin of the bottle city of Kandor. Superman—who was powerless in the mini-Kryptonian city—and Jimmy Olsen adopted the secret costumed identities as the Dynamic Duo of the big little city. Now you know)

The art team of Ed Bendes on pencils and Norm Rapmund on inks (not Ian Churchill as DC had advertised) provide pleasing visuals but they are also one-shot wonders. Switching creative teams mid story arc—yea that’s the sign of a winning book all right.

Frankly the only thing good about this issue and the only thing that hasn’t made us drop this title already is Power Girl.

Power Girl has always been an interesting character from the time she was introduced in All Star Comics/Justice Society in the 1970s (and believe us nothing was interesting in the 70s, it would have been a violation of federal law).

More than just the Earth-2 Supergirl, Power Girl had her own name and her own distinct personality—she was a ball buster and she wasn’t afraid to let you know it.

So one of the bright spots of Supergirl # 6 was to watch Power Girl being the “mommy” character—the one that cooled off the hothead instead of throwing flames herself.

“Power Girl” has always been a mixed blessing for the last daughter of Krypton-2. By adopting her own name, she set out to be more than just Superman’s cousin but by rejecting the “S” shield, she has perpetually relegated herself to the back, or at least the middle of, the super-hero bus.

But our vow to DC Comics, if they change the name of this book to “Power Girl” and send the Super Brat packing, we’ll be a subscriber for life.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Infinite Crisis #7—Finale, Finally!!!

The upshot from DC Comics: The awe-inspiring conclusion to the miniseries event of the year!

That’s one way of putting it. We suppose the best thing that could be said about Infinite Crisis is that it’s over!—this “event” has finally, mercifully come to an end.

Issue 7 of Infinite Crisis turned out to be better and worse than we had expected.

Mile High Comics’ Newsarama as usual provided a page-by-page breakdown of Infinite Crisis #7—check it out here

We were initially excited at first reading because the heroes FINALLY stopped talking and got down to action. But upon closer inspection, the “action” is little more than a pig-pile of costumes. Why is everyone fighting? Because it’s the climax and writer Geoff Johns told them to.

Worse: Readers who failed to pick up last week’s Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special were no doubt even more confused as to the origin of the mayhem—a global metahuman prison break apparently engineered by Alex Luthor for….world domination????

Egad…how much more can it suck when the story’s co-main antagonist resorts to stealing moves from Dr. Evil’s playbook?????

Ironically, the visuals by the committee of artists—Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Ivan Reis and Joe Bennett credited with pencils & layouts and Andy Lanning, George Perez, Ivan Reis, Jerry Ordway, Sean Parsons & Art Thibert on inks/finishes—was the best since the emergency art collaboration began in issue 4—when primary Jimenez, with Lanning on finishes, couldn’t handle the load solo.

However, even with the assistance—the limited number of pages that Jimenez DID end up handing looked for the most part second rate.

Jimenez’s worst sin is the splash page on pages 2-3—it’s unfinished!!!! He attempts to replicate the thorough detail of original CRISIS on Infinite Earths artist George Perez—but he fails…miserably.

The colorists (plural—even the colorists have to work in committee on this train wreck book) make an admirable attempt to artistically camouflage the unfinished background combatants and skyline with a red color curtain but upon close inspection one can see the unfinished pencils.

For crying out loud….this is the opening action shot and he f**ks it up! That single splash page and the half-finished result is the perfect symbolic illustration (ok…sort of pun intended) of Jimenez’s poor artistic performance through the entire series.

By coming to the rescue, original CRISIS veterans Perez and Jerry Ordway provide best art of the issue—bar none. Ordway’s splash page on pages 8-9 with the two Supermen vs. Doomsday, while busy, was still breathtaking.

One thing that Infinite Crisis has been good for has been to clear out a lot of deadwood characters—either by retro-conning them out of existence or more directly killing them off in the most brutal manner possible that one of the committee of artists can fit into a single panel (with only a handful of exceptions did “D” list character’s death rate more than a single panel).

Oh yeah, the Flash returned—turns out it was an older Bart Allen wearing “Grandpa’s” Flash uniform. After years spent in the Speed Force, Bart says Barry’s costume was the “only thing that could survive the trip back” and Bart was the only one who could still run. So Wally West, his wife Linda and their twins are still somewhere…out there.

Hey wait-a-minute, Grandpa FanBoyWonder may be showing our age here but as we recall during the original CRISIS on Infinite Earths, issue 8, when Barry died while destroying the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon, his body literally disintegrated (later we found out his spirit/energy/chi or whatever went into the Speed Force) and all that remained was his Flash ring and his uniform which Wally West later found.

And another thing—Superboy Prime also spent “years” trapped inside the Speed Force, but he didn’t appear to age the way Bart has. But after giving SBP a few hits, it turns out Bart is tapped out of speed, leaving Jay Garrick the first and only Flash (until the new book in June).

Thanks to Jay’s metagene, he still has moderate-super speed…about the speed of sound…wow…Déjà vu all over again. We’re just glad they didn’t try to kill off Jay (again)…but we remain ever alert for the Silver Age-loving, Baby Boomer DC Comics editor who thinks any character that arrived before they began reading comics (i.e. the Golden Age) is no good.

On to the madness—after his minor whooping from Bart Flash, SBP decides he’ll just fly at light speed to Oa, center of the universe, crash into it and create another universe-altering big bang—Huh???????

This leads into SBP vs. the Green Lantern Corps. Ok we’ll suspend our disbelief and assume that Superboy Prime is able to speak in airless space because the Green Lanterns are using their rings to communicate with him but he uses his super-breath to death freeze two alien GLs—amazing that he could draw a breath in the airless vacuum of space but more so that he could make his super-breath colder than Absolute Zero (minus 273 degrees Celsius).

But we forget, SBP comes from the pre-CRISIS universe where things like moving planets around (without the ground crumbling in his hands) by pushing was old hat for any and all Kryptonians.

The pre-Crisis rules continue as the Supermen, thanks to a GLC space warp, fly-tackle SBP to the remains of Krypton (surrounded by Kryptonite that’s harmful only to the native of this universe, Kal-El), they fly SBP through the red sun, burning off his super-gay battle armor and all three land on Mogo, the living planet and universe’s largest (known) Green Lantern.

R.I.P Clark Kent/Kal-L 1938-2006.

Under the red sun, all three Kryptonians burn away their yellow sun charged powers in battle. Earth-2 Superman/Kal-L lands a telling blow against SPB but before he’s beaten senseless by a berserk SBP while Kal-El, surrounded by Kryptonite that can only affect him, appears to be (relatively) unfazed and is the one who knocks out the little punk.

Only a master like George Perez could make this look thrilling and believable as he does an incredible job with what he is given to work.

Even better was the next scene as Kal-L lies dying in the arms of his cousin Power Girl, the former Kara Zor-L. The anguish in her face is heart-wrenching, faced with the prospect of being all alone in the universe again after having just found her true origin and her family—she begs him not to die. We shared her anguish. We didn’t want him to die either.

The panel from a dying Kal-L’s point of view as he sees the far away star and calls out “Lois” was somehow more powerful than Perez’s death of Supergirl in the original CRISIS. Together again and forever with his Lois.

But of course Kal-L had to die. We knew he would die by the end of this series as soon as we saw him bust out of Limbo at the end of IC1. It would have been too much to expect that DC be daring and unpredictable by allowing two Supermen to exist in the DCU.

Yet it remains an enchanting possibility. Kal-L, in semi-retirment, could have been an elder statesman, a peer and friend to the JSA, continued to be a surrogate father to his cousin Power Girl and a mentor to Kal-El. Alas Not.

One last absurdity we must mention—we were surprised (but NOT displeased) to see Dick Grayson hale and hearty at the end of the issue. During the battle, Alex Luthor nailed Nightwing with an anti-matter blast full in the chest (before Alex’s powers crap out without explanation) and we saw Nightwing lying dead/dying or bleeding.

Yet without comment, but we see him at the end of the book about to sail away with Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake without a scratch????? Is there an editor in the house???

The bottom line: While it provided some amusing moments and there was a lot of (unfulfilled) promise to this story, this Crisis Infinitely Sucked!!!

Yet it will be seen as a success. It was definitely a success commercially, as we kept on reading and we will continue to read the Crisis aftermath in the form of –Brave New World, One Year Later, 52 …etc. So far, we like where we’ve ended up but it was torture to get here.

But Infinite Crisis is NOT a story that will stand up over time after the hype dissipates. No one will still be talking about this story in 20 years (at least complementarily) the way we still do about the original CRISIS.

Heck in a year, none of the major players will have “Infinite Crisis” on their resumes—more’s the pity as we KNOW both Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez are capable of much better than this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Justice Society of America Re-launch

We are elated to spread the word that DC Comics will indeed be re-launching the Justice Society’s book following the demise of the current JSA title this summer with issue 87.

The re-launched Justice Society of America will have writer Geoff Johns back in the saddle again.

We didn’t think the book required a re-launch and it was actually nice seeing a book, especially a JSA book, pushing 100 issues.

We were absolutely convinced the powers that be at DC Comics was poised to yet again screw the first and best ever super team (such as after the first CRISIS and as part the Zero Hour mess), but it appears the marketplace has spoken. If we keep buying, they can’t kill them. YES!

What we’d like to see with the new Justice Society of America:

The roster MUST include the remaining original members—Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat (and Hawkman if he’s still around). These guys are the heart of the team and teachers for not just the younger members of the team for most of the rest of the DCU. Who else could command the respect and inspiration of the big three—Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Power Girl and Stargirl should represent the younger generation. We don’t think Stargirl would be a hard sell for Geoff Johns since he created the character but Power Girl also needs to be with the JSA—it’s the only family she has left and PG deserves the respect that Johns can give her.

The final Fate of Hector and Lyta Hall—the most recent incarnation of Dr. Fate and his wife were seemingly killed off in a hurry just before Infinite Crisis warmed up—left to die in the snowy mountains. We were pleased to see Lyta return after we all believed that she was dead…but we feel cheated that we hardly got to know her again before they were both broomed.
Perhaps the fix is in and maybe Hector is out as Dr. Fate but at the very least, the Halls deserve some closure—a memorial service or such.

The redemption of Atom Smasher—We last saw Albert Rothstein pleading guilty and going to jail for his crimes with Black Adam. No sooner had the door locked in his cell than Amanda Waller showed up wanting him for a job. Allow Atom Smasher to redeem himself in his eyes and the eyes of Society (pun intended) and let him move on.

A Teen Titans team up—it seems only natural that the first generation and the latest generation of heroes should team up and learn from one another. Plus, since Geoff Johns is writing both books, one would think it wouldn’t be too tough to make happen.

We would also love the return of Captain Marvel but given the upcoming Trials of SHAZAM and all that entails, we’re not optimistic that the JSA is in the future of the World’s Mightiest Mortal. Alas, it was nice while it lasted.

FBW is still digesting the events of Infinite Crisis (and sharpening our poison pen) but look for our review of IC, as well as the other books of the week soon.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Chess games, bad guys and Ion

FanBoyWonder has been busy this weekend and we didn’t get to the comic store until yesterday so here are our drive-by pics and pans for the last week of April.

Checkmate #1

The upshot from DC Comics: Checkmate holds the line. Cross it — and they'll take you off the board. Permanently.In this thrilling new ongoing series, the team behind the blockbuster OMAC PROJECT — writer Greg Rucka and artist Jesus Saiz — returns with a different spy agency for a different world. Infinite Crisis has changed the DCU, and Checkmate has shaped its hard-learned lessons into a new game plan.In Checkmate, it's all about the balance of power.

Between Black and White; between human and metahuman; and between the familiar faces who have become its new Kings and Queens. It's also about the propaganda wars, black ops combat, and political maneuvering that fuel Checkmate's critical missions — missions that take a grueling toll on the agents' day-to-day lives.First, however, they must prove their right to exist — to the U.N. And they only have hours to do it in this breathtaking first issue!

FBW was initially going to give this series a pass given the way writer Greg Rucka blew the OMAC mini-series so badly but all is forgiven Greg. It was the original Green Lantern Alan Scott as Checkmate’s White King that drew me the book but it’s Rucka’s top shelf political story that will keep me.

White King Scott is paired up with White Queen Amanda Waller, the former head of the Suicide Squad…talk about your unconventional marriages. It’s only the first issue but I do hope they’ll explain why Alan is sporting an eye-patch. Joining Alan as his White Bishop is fellow JSA-member Mr. Terrific, Michael Holt. Former Justice Leaguer Fire is also part of the organization the Black Knight—black as in “Black Ops”—this is NOT the bimbo we remember from the Justice League---thank goodness.

As in the Omac Infinite Crisis special, Jesus Saiz provides solid visuals. Not only is there good comic book action but the plot and political intrigue equals anything Tom Clancy put out before the (Berlin) Wall fell down and he jumped the shark.

Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special

The upshot from DC Comics: Ripped from the pages of Infinite Crisis! The Society has orchestrated one of the biggest acts of terror the world has ever seen — a global prison break. But when all of Earth's mightiest heroes are missing in action, who will be there to stop the tide of evil that threatens to engulf the entire planet?

Writer Gail Simone packed a LOT into this book and we admit we haven’t fully processed it yet but it’s a lot of good action going on. Lesser artists than Dale Eaglesham could have allowed this complex story to slip away and become white noise but his consistent pencils—with inks by Art Thibert with Guy Major-hold to the story together.

This has definitely wetted our appetite for the upcoming Secret Six series. Who knew that bad guys could be so good to read?

Hawkgirl #51

The upshot from DC Comics: Life isn't the same for Hawkgirl now that Hawkman isn't around. Strange things keep happening in her civilian life — is it all just part of a dream, or has she awakened an ancient horror deep beneath the walls of the St. Roch museum?

The storytelling in the form of Walter Simonson’s story with Howard Chaykin’s art continues to leave us very satisfied. Simonson’s words and pictures both demonstrate a definite sense of who Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders is—a most welcome change of pace following how lost her character seemed to be pre-issue 50.

The name of this book should be HawkWOMAN but whether by accident or by design (we vote for design) Kendra Saunders is well on her way to becoming a character/hero in her own right and not just the girl wonder eye candy—although as we noted in our chat with Chaykin at Pittsburgh Comicon, he’s having a fun time drawing Kendra as “a buxom Keira Knightly”…so far so good Howard.

Ion #1 (of 12)

The upshot from DC Comics: Following the events of INFINITE CRISIS and the RANN/THANAGAR WAR SPECIAL, writer Ron Marz (GREEN LANTERN) returns to the character he created, giving Kyle Rayner an entirely new lease on life in a new ongoing series with art by rising star Greg Tocchini (1602: New World, Thor: Son of Asgard)!

A distraught Kyle Rayner has emerged one year later, transformed with abilities that may surpass those of any Green Lantern ever. So beware his power...because his might may not be on the side of right.

We had high hopes for this title when we heard that Kyle Rayner was going to be getting his own spotlight after being pushed out of the way as THE Green Lantern by the return of Hal Jordan. We were further pleased that Ron Marz, the man who created Kyle, was reunited back to his character.

Unfortunately Marz’s character has changed dramatically following the events of Infinite Crisis so perhaps the old Kyle-the Everyman playbook may not work. His story isn’t bad but it’s definitely not his better outings.

However, even if Marz hit it out of the park on the story, the art by Greg Tocchini is a mismatch. For his style, it’s competent enough, although we hate the style, but for a Green Lantern story in space should be crystal clear….but it feels like we are trying to read it through a fish bowl.

And another thing, what is it about Kyle Rayner and his super-gay costumes. His last GL costume at least resembled a Corps uniform but egad!!! We’ll stick around but this series has nowhere to go but up.
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