Sunday, April 29, 2007

Justice Times Three Plus 52 Limps To The End

It was a much lighter week for FanBoyWonder and our wallet when we went to pick up books this week. But lesser quantity didn’t, for the most part, translate into lesser quality. Let’s take a look at our picks for the last week of April.

JSA Classified #25

The Upshot from DC Comics: A stand-alone tale written by Tony Bedard (SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES) with art by Dennis Calero (X-Factor)! In order to save lives, the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, is forced to renege on a deal he made years ago with one of his Golden Age enemies. But will this betrayal mean this reformed villain is permanently out of retirement?

To FanBoyWonder, the title on the cover says it all—“The original is still the best.”

The Justice Society of America has always been our favorite super group—perhaps because they were the very first super group and because we think that the JSA and Golden Age characters at large have been unfairly overshadowed by the Justice League following the “re-imagining” of many of the Golden Age greats—including Green Lantern—during the Silver Age.

Of all of the original JSA members, Green Lantern/Alan Scott has remained a constant favorite of ours.

This one-shot story by Tony Bedard was one of the best Alan Scott stories we’ve read for sometime. Bedard explores the fertile but underdeveloped concept of Alan Scott’s involvement with the shadowy world that is the intelligence community.

We see how the most powerful heroes in the DC universe and one of the straightest of straight arrows is forced to break his word to a one-time, small-time bad guy because a secret government agency wants what it wants and here they want Johnny Mimick.

Johnny Mimick turns out to be the white hat in this story as he pleads with GL to listen to reason, to remember how before Superman came along, it was the original Green Lantern who was THE hero—the one everyone looked up to and respected and trusted.

It was that trust and respect that made Johnny keep his word decades ago when GL told him to go straight or GL would take him in.

Father Time, the ruthless head of the aforementioned secret government agency, is intriguing. We don’t know if this character is new or simply new to us but he looks like a formidable nemesis for GL on all levels—we hope to see them clash again.

On the art by Dennis Calero, it’s perfect for the shadows and shades of grey of Bedard’s story.

One minor complaint however—not to do with the story but with the JSA Classified title. This is the second time in 25 issues to feature a Green Lantern story, including a four-issue Alan Scott story arc last year. Just a few months ago, the title featured two separate Doctor Mid-Nite two-parters just two months apart.

There are a lot of other worthy JSA members deserving of the story spotlight, like the two-part Wildcat story starting next month. Our vote is for a Jesse Chambers/Liberty Belle story arc.

Justice Society of America #5

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 2 of the 5-part JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA/JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA crossover with "The Lightning Saga!" Batman and Starman break into the depths of Arkham Asylum in search of the one person who may be able to reconcile Starman's past. But with nightmares literally around every corner, that person may be dead before they reach him. Plus, a battle within the Fortress of Solitude reveals the key to it all, especially the members of the team!

This issue continued the slow wind up that started in Part 1 of the Lightning Saga in Justice League of America #8, but it does manage to advance the plot along and we see the promise of a payout on the near-horizon.

Like every good JLA/JSA cross-over, they split into mixed, smaller groups to investigate different threat points of the overall crisis.

The first half of the issue has Batman, Geo-Force, Sandman and Starman at Arkham Asylum to deal with the dream-manipulating Doctor Destiny and rescue the Legion’s Dream Girl.

We loved the small scene where the ever-regal Geo-Force notes—part in jest, part marking his territory—that he possesses the combined powers of Sandman (earthmoving) and Starman (gravity manipulation).

The second half of the issue is at the Fortress of Solitude with Superman, Stargirl, Red Tornado and Cyclone as they seek an extra Legion flight ring. We say extra as in a flight ring in addition to Superman’s own because we’re now told that Superman as a young man (or a Superboy???) was a member of the Legion in the 31st Century.

This reveal by Superman about his (post Infinite Crisis) history with the team of future-based heroes was a true WTF moment for us. We haven’t regularly read any of the Superman titles for some time (for the record we left during the god-awful electric blue Superman disaster of the late-90s).

We particularly have not read the recent Superman stories by Geoff Johns and his mentor and Superman film director Richard Donner—but does this mean that DC has gone and (again) retro-conned Supes again? So the John Byrne Man of Steel re-boot and the 20 years of stories thereafter don’t count anymore or didn’t happen???

DC really does need to clarify its post-Infinite Crisis continuity but we digress.

Regarding the art by Fernando Pasarin, it was quite good but there was something amiss in that we had been expecting regular artist Dale Eaglesham. Having fill-in artists, no matter how good, during a premiere event such as a JLA/JSA cross over is a disappointment but I suppose it’s a trade off to ensure the issues come out in a timely manner.

Pasarin more than holds his own with his visuals. Of particular note, we enjoyed his rendition of Superman. While maintaining his own style, his Superman reminded us very much of classic Superman artist, the legendary Curt Swan.

Justice #11

The Upshot from DC Comics: Witness the triumphant return of Green Lantern and his showdown with Sinestro in the penultimate issue of JUSTICE! Captain Marvel's incredible victory! The challenge of Aquaman! But will the super-villains still maintain the upper hand if they have Aquaman's son and a world in their grasp?

We enjoyed this issue, like the series as a whole, if not entirely for the story—which comes across a bit thin at times—then for the nostalgia trip that it’s taken us on.

Alex Ross has an unabashed love for the pre-CRISIS, Silver Age DC Universe and of the old Super Friends cartoon.

To us, Justice represents the DCU of Earth-1, circa 1978 as seen by Ross with some modern age tweakage—such as the inclusion of the Marvel Family. Since FanBoyWonder shares Ross’ love of Captain Marvel, we wholeheartedly approve.

All in all, issue 11 was a mixed bag. We enjoyed the center stage battle between Green Lantern Hal Jordan and former renegade GL Sinestro. We also enjoyed seeing the “back up” GL John Stewart in a pivotal but all too brief appearance.

However, for the purpose of simply following the story, this issue was awfully busy. Just the sheer volume of bodies in each panel makes it difficult to follow along in some places, even as it looks artistically superior—talk about getting bang for the buck.

Our favorite throw away moment came as the Doom Patrol’s Elastic Girl punches out Giganta—attack of the 50 foot women—Meow!

This two-year ride comes to a close in two months with issue 12 but as we’ve noted, we wouldn’t mind visiting Ross’ world and his Super Friends again.

52 Week 51

The Upshot from DC Comics: The end is near! As the year races towards its close, we follow our heroes through their final steps in space — and time! From the mean streets of Gotham to the far reaches of deep space, the last weeks tick down to their shattering conclusion. World War III is just the beginning!

God is this “event” over with yet?? World War III (what a great name for such an awful and lame occurrence) is over so we have another gathering of heroes in front of the Superman statue.

We never cared for the Animal Man, Adam Strange and Starfire in space saga but we’re glad to see everyone home. Despite ourselves, we laughed at the scene where an exhausted Starfire visits Ellen Baker to deliver her husband’s jacket to see that Animal Man is both not dead and home ahead of her.

But now as an afterthought, 52 finally returns to the Booster Gold, Rip Hunter, Skeets time-bending story. So Mister Mind—the worm nemesis of Captain Marvel had hijacked Skeets’ “body” and started screwing around with the time/space continuum. Yawn!

We stopped caring for this once-promising storyline weeks, maybe even months ago.

The 52 “creative” team can’t possibly wrap-up the story with next week’s final issue with any degree of satisfaction. So unless the story continues in another series (and further violating 52’s stated mandate) this great “experiment” will flame out next week.


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