Monday, February 19, 2007

JSA Rallies, SHAZAM Soldiers On While Blue Beetle Lives?

Hello faithful readers and a happy President’s Day to you all. We picked up a hefty number of books and it took us some time to read and digest but all-in-all it was a good week of comic book reading.
Here’s FBW’s picks for the week of Feb. 14

Justice Society of America #3

The Upshot from DC Comics: Hawkman returns to the Justice Society of America as the team battles the super-assassins attempting to exterminate their legacies! But who is behind this insidious movement and what new hero will rise to challenge them? Plus, a stunning revelation about Damage, and Maxine Hunkel chooses a code-name: Cyclone!

Last month we expressed our displeasure at the introduction of the Fourth Reich and the continual (over) use of Nazis as JSA villains but now we see that they are only doing the bidding of Vandal Savage—the Justice Society’s long-time, immortal nemesis.

It makes perfect sense that the 50,000 year old nut job would want to wipe out the bloodlines of JSA members past and present.

This issue’s surprise twist indeed came as a surprise as Tommy—Ted Grant’s long-lost son—turns out to be a literal Wildcat in his own right. And here we thought he was just introduced only to be killed.

Trials of Shazam #5

The Upshot From DC Comics: The red-hot maxi series by Judd Winick and Howard Porter continues! Sabina, the Council of Merlin's representative in the Middle East steps in and sabotages Freddy's latest trial — succeeding in taking some power for the evil members who sponsor her!

Although we had favorably reviewed issue 4 last month, we were somewhat dismayed it displayed no real trace of Captain Marvel or anything Shazam-related. This issue makes up for that right off the bat as we see an appearance by the Wizard Marvel—the now white-haired and full-time fully grown Billy Batson.

As Wizard Marvel confers with Freddie Freeman on the Rock of Eternity following Freddie’s first successful trial, what had seemed like a throw-away line about Billy/Wizard watching Veronica Mars on one the Rock’s 12,000 TV screens struck us as quite clever.

Whether by accident or design, writer Judd Winick helped slyly convey that there is still a boy inside the aged before his time Marvel.

Meanwhile, we see Freddie prevail in his second trial by facing fear and earning the Courage of Achilles, his near-invulnerability and the red shirt with the yellow thunderbolt on the chest.

It was never clear (at least to us) where Captain Marvel’s invulnerability came from but Achilles makes as much sense as any.

As regular FBW readers know all too well, we haven’t exactly been fans of Judd Winick but with his efforts in Trials of Shazam—so far so good. It’s proven to be out of the box without going over the top. Keep going Judd.

Green Lantern Corps #9

The Upshot from DC Comics: Concluding the suspenseful three-part tale "The Dark Side of Green." The being known as The Dominator arrives on Earth with murderous intent! Halfway across the universe, only the rogue group of Green Lanterns known as The Corpse have the means to stop his destructive rampage...if only they weren't already dead. Can anything stop The Dominator from destroying the planet?

This was a quite satisfying conclusion to a pretty good story arc—fill-in or otherwise—by guest writer Keith Champagne.

Of course we knew going in that undercover Lantern Guy Gardner wasn’t dead and of course he was going to repel the invasion of Earth. It was the exchange at the end of the issue between Guy and Daggle that made the issue.

Daggle tells Guy he is a Corpse wash-out and Guy says he is none too sad about that. Guy’s not a black ops assassin, he’s a warrior.

The sexual tension between Guy and R’Amey was fun to watch—too bad she wiped his memory of her and of the Corpse but we hope to see both again someday.

A quick note about the art—While we had generally enjoyed the art collaboration of Patrick Gleason and Prentis Rollins, our main beef has been that at times visuals are too dark—literally as in opaque. Yet this issue was perfect—we don’t know if the addition of co-inker Ray Snyder had anything to do with it but whatever it was keep it up.

Meanwhile, GLC regular writer Dave Gibbons returns next issue and we are glad. But we have been calling for a co-writer/co-plotter/collaborator for Gibbons to smooth out some of his rougher edges as a writer—Keith Champagne would fit the bill quite nicely if you ask us. No one has so we’re suggesting it anyway.

Manhunter #28

The Upshot from DC Comics: "Unleashed" Part 3! Manhunter's dogged pursuit of justice for Wonder Woman brings her face-to-face with the hero she admires and fears the most— Batman.

Well it sure does APPEAR that Blue Beetle/Ted Kord is alive and well and back from the dead. Even he seems to think so and in a world where there’s literally a revolving door between life and death, it’s not too outlandish.

Having once died and come back to life herself, Wonder Woman discounts the possibility that the Ted Kord she sees is THE Ted Kord and not a clone or an imposter or such, despite the fact that his public reappearance comes at the worst possible moment for her during her murder trial of Max Lord.

So Wonder Woman calls in Batman to do some detecting. Kate Spencer’s reaction to the Dark Knight—mingled fear, respect and awe—and Batman’s reaction to her—of course he knows she’s Manhunter—make it almost worth the fact that Manhunter is a guest-star in her own book this month.

The Amazing Spider-Girl #5

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: It’s bad enough that the Hobgoblin, the Black Tarantula and Mad Dog are vying for the lethal legacy of Wilson Fisk, the former Kingpin of Crime, Mayday Parker has to face Simone DeSantos in a school debate and Jimmy Yama launches his comic book by introducing an all-new Spider-Girl to the public.

MayDay finally makes up her mind—knowing all along that she can’t be Spider-Girl and popular girl, she throws the school election. We’ve said it before but we love this new twist to the old Spidey dynamic—“Puny Parker” never had to worry about choosing between his high school social life and fighting crime—being Spidey was his escape as much as his curse.

MayDay wants to save lives and have a life but when push comes to shove, she’s her father’s daughter.

Speaking of classic Spidey moments, during her fight with an army of thugs, Spider-Girl’s webshooters both run out the worst possible time. We had forgotten how much we had missed that little chestnut—especially since Spider-Man in the “main” Marvel Universe had acquired the power to shoot webs without the mechanical shooters—just like the movies.

It’s been building since Issue 1 and now we’re looking forward to the confrontation between Spider-Girl and one her father’s greatest enemies—The Hobgoblin.

52 Week 41

The Upshot from DC Comics: The month begins with one of the main players in 52 having everything — and everyone — taken away from him, and ends with messages from beyond the grave that will have a lasting impact on several DC heroes. Also, Ralph Dibny's fate — or is that Fate? — is at last revealed as he solves the greatest mystery of all. Plus, more Origins of the DCU!

So the Question is actually dead now? Forgive our missing it but after a couple false starts, we only now realize that he died as Renee Montoya got him to the gates of Nanda Parbat a couple of weeks/issues back.

A cameo by Diana/Wonder Woman and some unwitting but sage advice helps Renee come to terms with Charlie’s death and her destiny as the new Question.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Helmet of Fate one-shots and DC’s marketing department, we now know that Ralph Dibny is NOT going to be the new Dr. Fate.

During all these months we’ve almost forgotten just why Ralph has been journeying all beyond Heaven, Hell and Earth with Fate’s helmet—to collect magic objects and knowledge so he can use the power to raise his murdered wife Sue back from the dead—which should come to a head next issue.


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