Saturday, November 11, 2006

Emerald Delay: Green Lantern’s self-inflicted wounds and other reviews

Hello faithful readers.
The Mid-term elections have come and gone and yet somehow we’re all still there. As FanBoyWonder endures withdrawal pains now that we can’t enjoy those fun political attack ads, at least we have our latest batch of books to see us through

Here’s our pics for the week of Nov. 8

Green Lantern # 14

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 1 of the shocking new story arc "Wanted: Hal Jordan!" On the run from a legion of intergalactic bounty hunters and the new Global Guardians, Green Lantern is on the path to discovering who put a price on his head and the shocking reason why. Meanwhile, John Stewart's undercover role is compromised, and Alan Scott makes a decision on what to do about the renegade Green Lantern: Hal Jordan.

This issue should have worked for but it turned out to be a mixed bag due to a number of problems that were self-inflicted. Perhaps DC Management should just outright declare this Green Lantern title as a bi-monthly publication, as they did with Wonder Woman—it wouldn’t really fix things but at least they would be honest about it.

Geoff Johns’ story and the art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert were decent, but if GL #13 had indeed been a monthly comic, the story and art would have been quite good. Yet, given it has yet again taken two months to produce this monthly title, it stands to reason this issue should have been twice as good in quality—but it’s not.

Johns has finally gotten around to the events of how and what happened during U.S.A.F. Captain Hal Jordan’s months as a Prisoner of War in Chechnya (and NOT in some made up country in the DCU—we credit Johns with that). His arrogant and foolhardy habit of removing his power ring when he is flying on Air Force time has finally bit him in his Emerald arse big time.

As we have noted in the past, we were never that fond of the Hal Jordan character—due in no small measure to the fact that Denny O’Neal during the “Hard Traveling Heroes” saga with Green Arrow in the early ‘70s turned Hal Jordan into a whiny, self-actualized crybaby.

GL writers since then have from Marv Wolfman, to Steve Englehart to Gerard Jones have handeled Jordan as best they could—as a war-time genius, peace-time screw up. Hal Jordan was a much more compelling villain as Parallax than he ever was as Green Lantern.

Yet Geoff Johns did the impossible but not just finding a convincing way (ingenious is not too strong a word) to bring Jordan back from the dead WITHOUT re-writing DCU history, he reinvigorated Hal Jordan’s personality.

Before Johns, some of the best Green Lantern Hal Jordan that had been written came after Jordan had “died” in the form of flashback stories. But it was revisionist history.

Johns’ portrayal of an extremely competent and confident bordering on arrogant warrior (typical fighter jock) under most circumstances would make this character readable. Yet, the perpetual lateness of this book has made it made it really tough for the reader to keep pace with what should be some nail-biting stories.

Worse yet, despite DC’s issue description, we see not a trace of Green Lantern’s John Stewart or Alan Scott. Bait and switch or editorial deadline snafu? I guess we’ll find out in time for the next “monthly” issue in January.

52 WEEK 27:

The Upshot from DC Comics: "It's Jean Loring. Sue's murderer."

Finally, we got to see the much sought after confrontation between Ralph Dibny and the murderer of his wife Sue, and Jean Loring (the Atom’s ex-wife and currently the host body for Eclipso). We’ve been waiting for this since Sue’s murder and Jean’s arrest in the final pages of Identity Crisis.

Thanks to a bargain with the Spectre (currently without a human host and without human morality or sympathies), Ralph is granted the power to banish Eclipso and confront Jean by taking her back in time to watch the murder she committed over and over again an in endless time loop.

Yet when they get there, Ralph can’t watch forfeiting his bargain with Spectre. We, like Ralph, did not picture this as how the confrontation would go. Yet despite, the Spectre, Ralph claims he has gained more of the mystical knowledge he needs to bring his wife back from the dead.

Meanwhile, we learn that the Question is dying of lung cancer and it’s why he has tapped Renee Montoya—to be his successor. In training with Richard Dragon, the Question’s martial arts teacher, we see Renee starting to come closer to “acceptance.”

Meanwhile again, we see that Skeets that wacky future robot continues to muck with the space-time continuum, this time by confronting and quite ruthlessly dispatching Waverider—“the seer of Hypertime, keeper of divergent timelines.”

All in all this was a better than average weekly issue and not just because it featured the storylines that we care most about.

Teen Titans #40

The Upshot from DC Comics: In Part 3 of "Titans Around the World," the team meets the strange, mysterious and very cute Miss Martian. What's her secret? And how can she help the Titans?

We hate to be beating up on Geoff Johns but we’re on the verge of dropping this book. We never thought he had a strong grasp on the Titans to begin with—and that was when the roster was ranked with the “traditional” team—Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Cyborg and Raven.

Well Robin and Wonder Girl are strangers, Cyborg is little more than wall paper for all the good he does and Raven is on the run. While we like Geoff Johns’ take on Raven much better than how she was originally introduced by the character’s creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez 25 years ago, even Raven can’t keep our attention much longer.

Johns is clearly over-extended as in addition to his usual roster of books, he is a contributing writer to 52 plus the much hyped co-writing with Superman-movie director Richard Donner currently in Action Comics.

We have suggested in the past that Johns collaborate with a co-writer or a scripter but at this point, this book needs a new creative direction and a new creator. Since we are loathe to leave a book mid-story arc, we’re giving it one more issue and unless we see a reason to stay, we’re out of here Geoff.

Amazing Spider Girl #2

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: Mayday’s ambivalence about returning to the spider-life may prove fatal for one of her closest friends! Believing that Spider-Girl could be a volunteer at St. Andrews Shelter, a brand-new super-assassin targets all the teenage girls and sets his sights on Courtney Duran! Introducing an all-new super-villain and a guest appearance of the Hobgoblin!

Last issue, we went on at length at how we like this book because it reminds us of the Spidey and the Marvel Comics that we grew up with.

But we applaud Spider Girl’s creative team of Writers Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz for going way out of their way to make this book reader friendly and accessible to newbies—both with the page on quickie recap and for the plot summaries within the dialogue—can “No Prizes” be far behind?

During their run on Spider-man in the ‘80s, DeFalco and Frenz were second to none in portraying the Hobgoblin as a top-shelf Spider-Villain. Although he was created by writer Roger Stern, Hobgoblin really came into his own as more than just a Green Goblin wanna-be under DeFalco and Frenz.

The Hobgoblin was everything that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko appeared to have originally intended the Green Goblin to be in the very early days of Spidey. The Hobgoblin isn’t off his meds crazy, he’s just ruthless and mean and will step on anyone to get what he wants.

We also have to admit that we enjoy watching Peter Parker as a supporting character. Given all the times he tried to quit being Spider-Man, he must know that May will eventually put the webs back on, but we can empathize with his desire to keep his little girl out of the game.

A word to say about the art, DeFalco’s pencils with Buscema’s inks while not flawless on every page, they do come close. We especially like the side by side face panels of May and Mary Jane—the reader can SEE they are mother and daughter.

The art displays a real craftsmanship—the kind that only comes from old school pros like these guys. It’s something we’ll remember that next time one of the current “hot” artists pisses and/or moans about not being able to turn out “quality” art for a monthly comic in only a month’s time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More JLA Table Talk, Nightwing Rehabilitates and Naked Bad Guys & Gals?

FanBoyWonder plays ball this week with our reviews of books for the first week of November.

Justice League of America #3

The Upshot from DC Comics: The re-formation of the League continues, and one of the new members comes up against the latest — and deadliest — of the JLA villains: Dr. Impossible. And he's just one of the many sinister forces gathering to bring an end to the World's Greatest Super-Heroes!

When pondering New York Times best selling novelist (and fanboy) Brad Meltzer’s run so far on JLA, we can’t help but think of the time when NBA great Michael Jordan retired (the first time) to pursue his dream and the challenge of playing professional baseball.

We most recall from that period sports footage taken of MJ at the plate but struggling mightily to connect with the fastballs hurled his way from the pitcher’s mound. His baseball experiment a failure, Jordan returned to the MBA.

The lesson: Greatness in one field does not necessarily guarantee greatness (or even a place on the bench) in another.

While we are by no means calling Brad’s run on JLA so far a failure, we’ve seen that a novelist's greatest strengths don’t always fully translate into the graphic narrative medium known as the comic book.

Yet with JLA issue 3, we see Brad start to get his timing. While far from a home run, Meltzer stepped up to the plate this issue, connected with the ball and hit a respectable base hit.

No one should construe our comments as anything derogatory toward Mr. Meltzer. We very much admire him both for his obvious love for these characters from our shared generational standpoint and that his is living out the dream of just about every fanboy with every word he types.

The action with Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Arsenal and Black Canary helped a great deal to get things rolling while we’re fully hooked into Red Tornado’s Pinocchio dilemma after an initial reluctance to buy-in.

The interaction between Black Lighting and Hawkgirl was amusing but we are glad to see Jefferson Pierce treated with respect again.

Most of all we are grateful that for their intrusion into the Batcave. Something to finally get the Big Three—Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—away from the conference table. Blah, blah, blah…they’re all talk.

The longer and the prolonged roster selection stretches out, the more it reminds us of the “popular’ kids in school deciding who is cool and who is not. Keep swinging Brad, you’ll get there.

Nightwing #126

The Upshot from DC Comics: Nightwing finds himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to save the Raptor from the Police and the mysterious people who are trying to kill him. Plus, Dick Grayson is still having trouble finding a job!

Becoming Nightwing’s new writer following the train wreck radioactive disaster of Bruce Jones’s eight issues post-One Year Later is something of a mixed blessing for Marv Wolfman.

By virtue of just showing up, Wolfman and artist Dan Jurgens have already surpassed the previous creative team in quality. Yet, the bar has been raised pretty high for Wolfman not just to be competent but to return Nightwing to greatness.

Competence we got, but Nightwing #126 demonstrates we’ve got a long way to go toward greatness again.

But we enjoyed Dick’s phone chat with Alfred while on stakeout. It was Dick’s first interaction with “family” since One Year Later and we were wondering if there had been any kind of estrangement.

Jergens art is again competent and a step above anything of the last several months, but he doesn’t seem to have a natural feel for Nightwing. As much as we like Dan’s work, we heartened to hear that former Firestorm artist Jamal Engle has been taped as the book’s permanent artist. Another step in the right direction.

52 Week 26

The Upshot from DC Comics: "How altruistic can you be when you're funded by LexCorp?" Plus, The Origin of Hawkman.

Well we could care less about the Doc Magnus and the Mad Scientists storyline, the Question and Renee Montoya didn’t stick around long enough to make this particular issue interesting and even the Black Adam Family (we refuse to call them Black Marvels) failed to appeal.

We did get to see Steel and his estranged niece Starlight, leader of Lex Luthor’s new Infinity Inc., debate on television but we’re frankly getting tired of this bratty girl run circles around Steel.

It’s one thing to pull your punches, but everyone can see she needs a kick in the arse. The writers have been artificially prolonging this feud for weeks now. Steel is a smart, tough character but he’s being written like a dolt. Time for the gloves to come off now Dr. Irons.

Secret Six #6

The Upshot from DC: The penultimate issue! Sick and tired of being hunted, the Six decide to turn the tables on their mysterious pursuer. Will they succeed, or will this just be a suicide mission?

We missed getting this book last week but we felt compelled to give it a mention this time around. Up until now, we had been panning this mini-series as underperforming—particularly in the art department.

Issue 5 was a dramatic improvement from the past couple of issues. Brad Walker and Jimmy Palmiotti’s art is MUCH crisper and easier on the eye. Whatever they did, keep it up.

Ok so Scandal, the daughter of the immortal Vandal Savage, walks in on Knockout and Deadshot naked doing the beast with two backs and since she and Knockout are supposed to be lesbian lovers, Scandal is pissed. Only writer Gail Simone could write a knock down fight with a room full of naked people and make it seem neither silly nor sexy but deadly serious.

The ensuing lovers’ quarrel, prompts Scandal to return to her father in defeat and honor his wish to give him a grandson and thus withdrawing her protection from the remaining five of the Secret Six.

The best line comes from Thomas Blake/Catman: “You didn’t just screw the redhead Lawton. You screwed us ALL this time.”

As this mini-series comes to a conclusion next month, this issue may have gone a long way to saving what so far has been a disappointment. Stay tuned.
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