Monday, February 12, 2007

Magic Lightning Strikes Twice, 52 Fizzles but Nightwing Looks Great

Well FanBoyWonder got back from our business trip in warm and sunny and warm (did we mention warm?) San Diego just in time to get sick as a dog, thanks in part we’re sure to the sub-arctic temps in our neck of the woods.

But as we work to get back into the peak of health, here’s our take on what we picked up from our friends at Brainstorm Comics for the week of Feb. 7.

SHAZAM: The Monster Society of Evil #1

The Upshot from DC Comics: The much-anticipated 4-issue Prestige Format miniseries by Jeff Smith, the award-winning creator of BONE, brings the whimsical world of Earth's Mightiest Mortal to fully realized life! Young orphan Billy Batson finds himself wielding truly amazing magic powers — just in time to face an invasion of alien and earthly monsters!

We are really not sure what to make of this series. While FanBoyWonder loves all things Captain Marvel and while we can’t deny the skilled craftsman ship and labor of love that writer/artist Jeff Smith put into this book, the question we’re forced to keep asking is… “what is the point?”

Moreover, is this a relaunch, a re-telling of the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel origin? That would seem at odds with the great paradigm changing efforts going on in Judd Winick’s Trials of Shazam 12-issue maxi-series which has recast Billy/Captain Marvel in the job of the now deceased wizard Shazam with Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr. enduring his “trial” to win the Powers of Shazam a single trial/single power at a time.

So if Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil does NOT take place in current DC continuity (such as it is), is this an Elseworlds or perhaps even the prelude to an All Star Shazam book (we’re not fans of the All Star lines of books but All Star Shazam would not be a horrible idea)?

We don’t have much issue with the story itself. The reader can sense the obvious reverence that Smith holds for the World’s Mightiest Mortal. We’ve never been crazy about the school of Shazam that had Billy Batson and Captain Marvel as separate personalities switching places as the magic word is spoken but Smith has made it interesting.

This “much anticipated” mini-series has been “in development” for so long since it was first announced sometime around 2001 that we had not only forgotten about it but we were genuinely surprised when we saw it in store shelves.

We get the feeling that the powers at DC has forgotten about it too…or at least they had decided not to hold their breath waiting for Smith to complete his vision of the World’s Mightiest Mortal—hence the green light for Judd Winick’s Superman/Shazam First Thunder and later the Trials of Shazam.

This might have been better received if it had come out even a year earlier but now we have to distinctly separate visions of SHAZAM playing out and competing for the hearts and dollars of Captain Marvel fans like us.

52 Week 40

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!

For better part of a year we’ve been waiting to see this confrontation between Steel and Lex Luthor. The secret behind Luthor’s Everyman project was to devise a way to give himself super-powers and he has succeeded.

Luthor has Steel’s niece Natasha hostage and we await a showdown with his man-made Kryptonian-like powers. Of course Super-Luthor wipes the floor with Steel until Natasha the girl hostage figures out the “off switch” to Luthor’s meta-gene therapy and KOs the powerless Luthor.

Is this what we waited nearly a year for? A Luthor with super powers to match his incredible intellect is a fascinating concept that was introduced and disregarded in just two issues. There is so much potential here that was just wasted.

Moreover, we’re glad that Natasha and her uncle have kissed and made up but we’ve invested ourselves enough emotionally into this story line to feel cheated. It all started nearly a year ago with Natasha head-strongly betrayed her uncle and joined up with Luthor to gain powers that she hadn’t earned.

Then throughout the year she repeatedly and even violently spurned his attempts at reconciliation or even to get her to listen his pleas. She threw her lot in with Luthor and she allowed Luthor to use her as a wedge against Steel and she also indirectly and partly responsible for the deaths Luthor caused during this period.

All may be forgiven with Steel but not with us…especially if this storyline ends with “alls well that ends well.”

Nightwing #129

The Upshot from DC Comics: Introducing Bride and Groom — a marriage made in hell! Two new metas plague New York as an eerie competition begins: Who can achieve the most "kills" before their wedding day? But nothing is as it seems as Bride and Groom's citywide war affects those closest to Nightwing!

Let’s all give a nice FanBoyWonder welcome to Nightwing’s new art team Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne. While Dan Jergens brought much needed visual competence to this book—something badly needed—team Igle and Champagne bring artistic style.

FBW had occasion to meet Igle at Pittsburgh ComicCon last year back when he was still drawing Firestorm and we were most favorably impressed with his knowledge of DC history and his overall attitude.

In interviews, Igle has said that he and writer Marv Wolfman will be taking a more collaborative approach to Nightwing—something that will definitely benefit the book.

Five issues into Wolfman’s tenure, he continues a steady but slow ascension to undo the damage of Nightwing writers past. We’re not sure about this “Friendly Neighborhood Nightwing” that we’re seeing—we rather he be a more mysterious hero, we heartily approve of Marv’s efforts to give Dick Grayson a life beyond the Nightwing costume.

We really enjoyed the cameo appearance by Bruce Wayne (but NOT Batman) and Alfred. We got to see surrogate father and adopted son reunite and get along. In so many stories in different books we’ve seen Bruce and Dick at odds for so long, it was definitely a treat to enjoy a “family” moment without conflict or costumes.

We do request that Nightwing stop getting his ass kicked by every two-bit bouncer and d-list villain in the DCU but one step at a time.


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