Friday, November 24, 2006

Spare (Body) Parts and Other Turkey Treats

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. With FanBoyWonder’s recent aforementioned business trip to Phoenix and with the rush of the holiday, we didn’t get a chance to post a review of last week’s books so this week is a jam-packed posting covering the past two weeks from the shotgun formation..

JSA Classified #19

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 1 of the 2-part "Skin Game," written by Scott Beatty with Art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair. The stolen body-part market is booming in the metahuman world, as a series of mysterious "thefts" involving the enhanced working "parts" of various metahumans draws the interest of Dr. Mid-Nite himself!

This issue has a lot going for it, from a top shelf writer and art team to a cool but still underdeveloped character to a very interesting story premise. In a true ripped from today’s headlines fashion, Doc Mid-Nite finds himself in the middle of an illegal organ harvesting investigation—meta-human organs.

Among the “harvested” that we noticed were “New Blood” lamos Argus and Loose Cannon, as well as Icemaden and Godiva—good way to clear out some of the character deadwood.

What we really liked about this issue is that it gave the reader chance to see Dr. Mid-Nite in action. For years in the pages of JSA and throughout the DC Universe, Doc is the go-to guy for every hero who can fix everything from a bullet wound to Kryptonite poisoning. But here we get to see that he’s not only no pushover but a very formidable hero.

52 WEEK 28:

The Upshot from DC: "Maybe our time here is over. Red Tornado's gone walkabout." Plus, The Origin of Catman by Waid and Dale Eaglesham.

We yawned through this issue. Batwoman finally makes another appearance following her debut months ago but we still don’t know too much about her other than she’s gayer than springtime and apparently now marked for death by some ancient prophecy

52 WEEK 29

The Upshot from DC: "Th-th-they're going to kill me. S-S-Supergirl's going to kill me." "That's — the BLACK MARVEL FAMILY?" Plus, The Origin of The Joker by Waid and Brian Bolland.

Well the description from DC such that was had nothing to do with this issue and the promised origin of the Joker was M.I.A. but on the upside, the issue featured the J.S.A. as in Justice Society of America, which in our book is always a welcome development for us.

Our main gripe with 52’s various story lines has been that they have all been too insular, too contained chronologically. Although 52 is supposed to take place during the missing year preceding One Year Later, the reader really hasn’t gotten as sense of that.

The introduction of the JSA (in the form of Wildcat, the original Flash and the original Green Lantern) and their confrontation with Lex Luthor’s new “Infinity Inc” was welcome. Watching Green Lantern’s son Obsidian lash out at the girl who was calling herself the new Jade was fully in keeping with his character.

But we were pleasantly surprised at how “Nuklon” gave it right back to Green Lantern. Even as they play the part of Luthor’s pawns, the “everyman” storyline has raised some interesting questions at how new heroes view “legacy” heroes—it’s something we would like to see explored further.

We also like the exchange between Wildcat and Flash who rebuff the criticism that the Justice Society is obsolete. If you need to be convinced, check out Justice Society of America #1 on sale in two weeks.

Birds of Prey # 100

The Upshot from DC Comics: It’s time to bring in new blood! Who will be asked to join Oracle in her all-new Birds Of Prey? Who will refuse, and who will fly the coop for good? Plus, a backup story following Black Canary and her new role in the DCU!

We liked this issue because with its two stories, it was the perfect bridge from where the title was going and the new direction it has charted. It was the Black Canary story that we enjoyed the most. As Dinah Lance bonds with her newly adopted daughter Sin, she explains her relationship with her mother, the first Black Canary.

A quickie DC history lesson: In the pre-CRISIS days, Black Canary had been a member of the Justice Society of America, introduced in 1947. During a JSA/JLA team-up in the late 60s, Black Canary’s husband Larry Lance was killed, and which prompted the Canary to move from Earth-2 to join the JLA on Earth-1.

In the early 1980s just before the CRISIS (Justice League of America, issues 219-220, first series, 1983 to be exact) the writers re-conned Black Canary so she was two people—mother and daughter. They extended the re-con following the CRISIS to make Dinah Lance a legacy hero, taking up the fishnets from her mother, original Black Canary.

Yet in the years since then, there has been very little written about mother-daughter Black Canary. The rare exception was Secret Origins Issue 50 (circa 1991) which did a superb job recounting both origins as Black Canary the mother lie dying in a hospital room.

Gail Simone in issue 100 does an equally suburb job as we watch Dinah explain her relationship with her late mother to her newly adopted daughter—along the way reacquainting the reader with the highlights of her origin.

Our only complaint was with the art Paulo Sequiera and Robin Riggs—it was quite good in every respect except in the scenes with Black Canary mother and daughter, they each looked identical in a cookie cutter fashion—if not for the dialogue balloons, we really wouldn’t know who was who—nitpicking perhaps but in any event, it wasn’t a deal breaker.

Even as the Canary has been tapped as part of Brad Meltzer’s Justice League, Simone has wisely left the door wide open for Dinah to return.

Checkmate # 8

The Upshot from DC: Checkmate clashes with a rival agency on American soil!

If Checkmate were a television show, it would be dubbed a “procedural drama” like Law and Order. While we’ve been enjoying Checkmate from the beginning, we can see where it might turn off new readers and fear its failure to attract more than a niche audience may doom the book’s longevity.

Green Lantern Corps #6

The Upshot from DC Comics: Hunting kidnappers in a strange city, Green Lantern Guy Gardner finds his greatest enemy is the city itself. On the planet Korugar, a Lantern faces hatred and rejection and, across the cosmos, another Lantern's heart is broken.

By no means do we mean to make it appear that we are damning by faint praise so keep that in mind when we give GLC writer/artist Dave Gibbons kudos for simply getting his book out on time for six consecutive issues.

Gibbons’ pencils, with inks by Rodney Ramos, are the best we’ve seen in a while. He’s definitely getting back into the swing of drawing a monthly book. Gibbons writing is coming along as well. He is hitting the mark with his dialogue and plotting—he has become quite competent—again NOT damning by faint praise—but we want to see deeper character development.

Next issue begins a story arc by Keith Champagne while the art team of Rollins and Gleason returns but we hope it’s only a fill-in. Once Gibbons gets a chance to recharge his batteries, we really want him back to fulfill his potential and take it to the next level.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Hero

The Upshot from Sci-Fi Channel: Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) must confront the darkest moment of his military career when Lt. Daniel "Bulldog" Novacek (Carl Lumbly), a pilot believed killed years ago during a secret mission under Adama's command, escapes from Cylon custody and arrives on the Galactica.

Please forgive the extreme delay in posting our review of the latest BSG but FanBoyWonder’s day job has us traveling in Phoenix and we had to catch the Monday evening encore broadcast.

Hero wasn’t so much a sub-par episode so much as it simply seemed incomplete. In the past, the BSG staff have crafted episodes that were written too long for the time allotted, which had to be cut down for time so we hope that there is extra Hero footage on the editing room floor that might someday find its way onto the Season 3 DVD because THAT is the episode that would be worth seeing.

The episode opens with one Cylon raider headed for Galactica being chased by two others. When the pursing raiders are destroyed, the wounded raider sends out a radio calling himself “Bulldog.” Adama orders the craft escorted onto Galactica where the pilot that Bill Adama once knew emerges from the enemy fighter.

Lt. Novacek, formerly of the Battlestar Valkyrie—Adama’s previous command before Galactica—had been a Cylon prisoner-of-war for the past three years—taken prisoner and presumed dead a full year before the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies.

We learn via a flashback that Commander Adama of the Battlestar Valkyrie had been ordered by the Colonial Fleet Admiralty. Bulldog was the pilot Adama sent in a stealth ship on the wrong side of the armistice line to hunt for evidence of Cylon military preparations.

When Bulldog’s ship is attacked by an unknown but presumably Cylon ship, Adama orders a ship-to-ship missile launched to destroy the spy ship, the pilot and any evidence of a Colonial incursion—an act of war.

Adama confesses his heretofore deep-dark secret to his son Apollo (Jamie Bamber) while Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), who also served as Adama’s XO aboard the Valkyrie, spills the beans to Bulldog. With the spy mission a failure, Adama’s transfer to Galactica, a soon-to-be decommissioned museum ship, was seen as a graceful, if forced retirement.

It’s soon discovered, shortly after he beats Adama to within an inch of his life, that Bulldog was allowed to escape and Tigh talks him out his homicidal intent.

Adama, still guilt-ridden, in what he sees as his provocation of the Cylon attack, attempts to tender his resignation to President Roslin (Mary McDonnell). She refuses and offers a punishment of a different sort—he is to accept a medal of valor for his 45 years of military service, not for himself but for the fleet who need a hero.

As an honorable man, Roslin knows it will be painful for Adama to accept a citation he knows he doesn’t deserve but it is exactly the sort of cross he needs to bear in order to assuage his guilt.

This episode as has so much promise and the premise was sound but it was definitely not ready for prime-time. So many unanswered questions—Why was Bulldog kept alive for so long by the Cylons and exactly why was he released? How does the crew know he is no longer brainwashed?

What was truly squandered in this episode was a rare moment of fallibility and weakness by Adama. Edward James Olmos is a suburb actor but his confession of guilt to his son fell flat—both due to weak scripting and a poor directing choice to cut between Adama and Apollo and Tigh and Bulldog. Olmos could have made the scene work if he had been given full command of the camera instead of competing with dueling scenes.

Even worse is the under-utilization of a veteran character actor such as Carl Lumbly (best know to us fanboys as the voice of the Martian Manhunter on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited). The writers have left the door open for the more appearances of Bulldog.

We hope this will happen, both because Novacek would be one of the few characters that Adama considers a peer, but we also long to see what Lumbly, as a top-shelf actor, can bring to the table with better material.
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