Saturday, January 06, 2007

Toughest Guy in the Universe, Endless Winter & Meltzer Starts to Find His Mojo

Happy New Year Fanboys and girls. FanBoyWonder is doing some catching up after taking a break from the blog and getting some personal business in order.

As we get our writing mojo back, here’s a review of books from the last week of 2006 with a review of more recent books to follow soon as we only just got to the store today.
Now on with the show.

Guy Gardner Collateral Damage #2

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Prestige Format miniseries focusing on the edgy Green Lantern concludes! There may be peace in the galaxy, as the forces behind the Rann-Thanagar war unite with the Green Lantern Corps for one purpose: slaughtering Guy Gardner!

Both Howard Chaykin’s story in this book is much like the title character—good but not great, but Chaykin’s saving grace in Collateral Damage is that he absolutely nails the essence of this Guy—The true essence of “the one true Green Lantern.”

“I guess I owe you an apology for behaving like such a complete dick huh?” Guy says to fellow Green Lantern G'nort. Guy knows he's a dick. Not only does he know it, he accepts it and makes it work for him.

Guy doesn’t back down—not ever. Even as the Guardians of the Universe are poised to kick him out of the Green Lantern Corps, he doesn’t give an inch and in the end it’s the billion-year old immortals who relent. Guy is a bastard but he’s their bastard and they'll need him again someday.

As we alluded at the start, Chaykin’s story isn’t overly compelling and his art in the second issue of this two issue series, while good, isn’t as sharp as the first issue but it’s an enjoyable read. While you’re at it, you can also read the further adventurers of Green Lantern Guy Gardner in Green Lantern Corps, on sale at a fine comic shop near you.

JSA Classified #20

The Upshot from DC Comics: Endless Winter is upon Doctor Mid-Nite as the 2-part "Skin Trade" concludes! Using super-hero and super-villain body parts, she has made herself virtually immortal — and infinitely more powerful!

Part One of this story was good but Part Two is even better—so much so that you almost don’t need to have read it to get the skinny on what’s going on here (But we recommend picking up JSA Classified #19 if you hadn’t already).

We won’t give it away, but writer Scott Beatty cleverly crafts a tale where the villain (and we hope returning nemesis for the good Doctor) of this tale is in fact a victim at the hands of a classic Justice Society villain. Long believed to have been murdered by the aforementioned JSA bad guy, fate has transformed this once-innocent victim into the body part stealing villain Endless Winter.

She is an intriguing villain as she is on a quest simply to remain forever young and beautiful and she’s not above stealing an arm or a leg or even Icemaden’s flawless arctic skin to remain ever-so-hot.

It takes a good villain to bring out the best in the hero and Dr. Mid-Nite shines here. Once and for all, we see that the good doctor is much more than just Batman M.D.

Complementing Beatty’s story is the classic JSA art team of Rags Morales and Michael Bair. They took an already good story and elevated it to the next level with superior visuals. Stop by again any time guys.

Justice League of America #5

The Upshot from DC Comics: One of the hottest teams in comics — Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and Sandra Hope — continues to heat things up in Part 5 of "The Tornado's Path." Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman join Green Lantern, Black Canary and Arsenal against the unstoppable force of a villain reborn.

We were ready to slam this issue following our first couple cursory scans of the book. However, upon a much closer read of the book—the operative word being “read”—we were quite impressed.

In previous issue reviews, we have been taking writer Brad Meltzer to task for his novel-like approach in taking by comic book standards an eternity in setting things up. We’re not backing off that opinion as three issues of the Big Three—Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman—sitting at a table looking at pictures IS silly.

But in playing to his strengths as a novelist, Meltzer also brings to the table nuance. In the big reveal, classic DC monster/villain Solomon Grundy is seen like never before—as the puppet master.

Although created a good two decades before Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, Grundy nonetheless has been unfairly tagged as a Hulk-clone. In the reveal, Meltzer, through Grundy, partakes in the classic bad guy explaining to good guy his motivations but the beauty of the scene is not what Grundy says but what is left unsaid forcing the reader to draw our own conclusions instead of being spoon fed the answers.

Meltzer has come with a clever new take on what had been a tired-one trick pony of a bad guy. The art by Ed Benes and Sandra Hope went far to help the writer convey the aforementioned nuance. After some trial and error, Benes and Hope are finally finding a way to mesh their styles and look really good together.

A quick word about the apparent future addition of Geo-Force to the team. We are glad if this actually comes to pass. GF was always our favorite member of the original Batman and the Outsiders team back when Mike W. Barr and the late Jim Aparo created him.

He had lived under the shadow of his “sister” Terra, one time New Teen Titan and later Titan villain, who by coincidence had been created at the same time but independently by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.

We’re glad that Meltzer is poised to give this Earth-mover a chance to strut his stuff with the varsity.

52 WEEK 34

The Upshot by DC Comics: Art by Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose. It's a deadly Countdown to the end of the year and the end of a life in the most heart-stopping cliffhanger yet! The New Year changes everything!

We should have liked this issue but we didn’t.

The long-anticipated confrontation between Black Adam and Atom Smasher—one time enemies who grew to be as close as brothers fell flat. The Atom Smasher-led Suicide Squad’s attack on the Black Marvel Family was over before it started—part of Amanda Waller’s plan (there’s always an ulterior plan with her) but it was anti-climatic to us.

We’re really tired of Amanda Waller as the government covert puppet master. When John Ostrander first introduced the character 20 years ago in the original Suicide Squad, she was new and original—the greyest of characters where comics are traditionally black and white, good and evil.

But in two decades, no one has been able to replicate the nuance of this character—no one on paper anyway. After 20 years, there hasn’t been a lot of growth. Amanda Waller in Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited was much more believable.

Meanwhile, Steel finally gets some face time with his bratty niece to tell her Luthor’s a bad guy and she’s been snookered. We still think she needs an ass kicking but she’ll never get it, but maybe she’ll die in the end during the inevitable confrontation with Luthor. Even the Question’s final hours fell flat for us.

Two-thirds through this weekly experiment, we sense that this series is suffering from too many issues and not enough plot and what plot there is is being made up off the fly.

It’s indeed commendable that 52 has come out every week without exception, no small feat there but in the end, even if the series limps to a dramatic conclusion, we’ve past the point where it can live up to its initial potential.
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