Saturday, May 19, 2007

FanBoyWonder Salutes Our Veterans While JLA's Brad Metzler Hits a Double

FanBoyWonder’s had a busy day this Saturday and it’s going to get even busier next week as we prepare to log a lot travel mileage.

First, it’s off to New York City for FBW’s day job. Then we’re back Wednesday just in time to unpack, repack and hit the road Thursday morning with Mrs. FanBoyWonder to drive 10 hours to see Brianna The Girl Wonder during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

But before we hit the Big Apple tomorrow, FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW got up first thing this a.m. to be at our local Mount Olivet Cemetery, to take part in an annual tradition—the placing of an American Flag at the grave of each of the cemetery’s armed service veterans in honor of Memorial Day.

We don’t take credit for doing all of this ourselves, far from it. Mt. Olivet’s Memorial Day veteran flagging is organized and supported by the good people at American Legion Post #11 in Frederick, MD, FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW are just honored to be allowed to participate with them.

It was bittersweet this year not having Brianna The Girl Wonder with us as a flag helper but we were proud to be a part this small token of gratitude to the men and women who served our country.

Unlike the good folks at Fredrick’s Legion Post #11, most towns and communities around the country flag their veterans’ graves on Memorial Day weekend itself—usually on Saturday.

If you are interested in volunteering, it may not be too late—call your local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post to see if they need a helping hand. It’s well worth getting up a little early. God Bless America!

Now on with FanBoyWonder’s review of books we picked up from the week of May 16.

Justice League of America #9

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 3 of the hottest crossover of the year featuring the new JLA and Justice Society of America! "The Lightning Saga" continues as members of both teams scour the DCU from Gorilla City to Thanagar in search of something…or someone.

Closer to the beginning of writer Brad Meltzer’s run on JLA, we compared the New York Times bestselling novelist’s latest 12-issue stint in comic books to National Basketball Association Legend Michael Jordan’s attempt at baseball following his (first) retirement from the NBA.

Try as he could, Michael Jordan the baseball player couldn’t make the transition from jump ball to fastball and he proved that greatness in one sport does not guarantee greatness in all sports.

Meltzer’s fame as a novelist has cut both ways for him. Without his being a “name” talent, it’s unlikely he would have been at the helm of DC’s flagship title after only his third comics writing job. Yet it’s also his name that has led to sky high, perhaps unreasonably high, expectations.

After 10 issues (including a Zero issue) of hitting weak ground balls, Meltzer finally seems to be finding his timing and hits a ground rule double in part three of the Lightning Saga.

The reveal at the end is worth the relative lack of action thus far but there is a definite promise of serious action to come during Part 4 in next weeks Justice Society of America #6.

A word on the art. Regular JLA artist Ed Benes is back this issue but the art still seems a bit off. It threw us for a bit as Benes this issue inks his own pencils but that sandpaper look remains. It’s not that the visuals look unfinished, but it doesn’t look entirely put together either. Again, not a deal breaker, but enough to be noticeable.

Countdown #50

The Upshot from DC Comics: The event of the year is here! This brand-new, year-long weekly series features a cast of hundreds where anything goes! With head writer Paul Dini and a rotating team of some of the industry's best writers and artists, COUNTDOWN will serve as the backbone of the DCU in 2007.When a character dies in COUNTDOWN 51, it sets off an unexpected ripple that will touch virtually every character in the DC Universe. The COUNTDOWN is on…so begins the end!

The plot and continuity and just plain common sense inconsistencies that we commented on last issue remain in spades this issue, so much so we’re not sure where to begin.

With the help of Superman, the Daily Planet’s Jimmy Olsen tracks down the Red Hood, Jason Todd—the kid who replaced Dick Grayson as Robin before he got murdered (but only for a while) by the Joker. .

Ok so Olsen, a reporter—who for whatever reason is doing a story on why Joker’s Daughter died (see last issue)—KNOWS Red Hood’s whole back story, including his identity, which would mean he knows Batman’s and Nightwing’s identities and since Olsen had Superman’s help, Kal-El condones this. WTF?????

Meanwhile, we again see Mary Batson seeking mystic information from Madame Xanadu. Again, is Mary still a kid or she an adult or somewhere in-between?

Madame Xanadu is unable to help Mary locate Captain Marvel Jr. but she does warn the powerless Marvel to avoid Gotham City because "it isn't safe for magic," so of course we know that Mary will be on the first bus to Gotham.

Speaking of Gotham, Jimmy Olsen goes to Arkham Asylum to visit the Joker to ask him about his murdered “daughter.” The DC Universe hasn’t seen a whole lot of the Joker since that god-awful Joker’s Last Laugh “event” from three or four years back and we can honestly say we haven’t missed him.

The Hannibal Lector-inspired conversation between Olsen and Joker doesn’t seem to do much except to allow writer Paul Dini to put Olsen in a post of mortal danger when Killer Croc—who is conveniently being transferred between cells—to take a run an unknowing Jimmy and providing a weak cliffhanger.

Dini this issue goes out of his way to show readers that Countdown is NOT 52, that this series exists in the DC Universe in hear and now—both by the cameo of Superman and by showing the Batman/Karate Kid fight that took place during start of the Lightning Saga JLA/JSA cross-over.

On a positive note, the art by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey is quite good and visually consistent throughout. If the art team keeps this up, they will go a long way to help carry this series, especially if the stories remain this week.

Bottom line: It is one thing to ask the reader to suspend our disbelief, but don’t insult our intelligence. Dini and his writing team apparently have a plan as to where this series is going but it would be nice if they clued in the reader and kept the head-scratching WTF moments to a bare minimum.

Checkmate #14

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 3 of "Checkout," continued from OUTSIDERS #47! The agency's locked in a shotgun wedding with the Outsiders. The honeymoon's on Oolong Island, a mission that nobody else in the DCU will touch, and the combined strike force is about to find out why.

As regular FBW readers know, we dropped Outsiders some time ago and we’ve been boycotting the Outsiders portion of the Checkmate/Outsiders cross over as since we have publicly called for the cancellation of Outsiders.

From a business point of view, we can see where the two struggling books would want to cross over in an effort to gain new potential readers but from the Checkmate parts of the story that we’ve read, this crossover can only help Outsiders and while diminishing Checkmate by association.

Unfortunately, Checkmate’s diminished luster from its Outsiders crossover is a hit the book can’t afford to take. We like this book’s concept and we see what writer Greg Rucka is trying to do in crafting a story of the gray world of intelligence within the black and white, good and evil comic book world,. But as we’ve noted a few times, Rucka is sometimes just too darn smart for his own good.

Rucka’s Checkmate is the perfect example of what Ryan at Film Fodder Comics has noted his comments about Countdown #51 and DC’s general trend of late of omitting or failing to clue the reader into the relevant back-story or even a simple recap within the story itself.

Example: In this issue, Nightwing and Checkmate’s Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux enjoy a nice moment swapping tales about their affection for Batman (although he is not mentioned by name)—Nightwing, his adopted son, Sasha, his brief partner and tragic one-time lover.

Unless you happen to have read Rucka’s run on Detective Comics during the Bruce Wayne Murderer storyline a few years back, Checkmate readers (or anyone else) would have no earthly idea who Sasha Bordeaux is or what her connection to Batman or how she came to join Checkmate.

Dan Didio in a recent interview called this type recapping “lazy storytelling” but if DC doesn’t throw readers a bone with some sort of background info or recap—especially if their books are going continue to be Deadline Challenged—good luck at retaining existing readers to say nothing of bringing new paying customers into the fold.

We’re sorry to say that unless Rucka gets his act together, this book will not be in the DC line up this time next year.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #12

The Upshot from DC Comics: Artist Tony Daniel (TEEN TITANS) brings "Full Throttle" into the endgame stage! The dark force behind the Rogues' full frontal assault is revealed —and this issue's shocker ending will change the Flash forever

This book isn’t as horrible as it was when Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo were at the helm but we’re not nearly as impressed with Marc Guggenheim’s tenure so far.

He DOES deserve full credit for stemming the bleeding following the incompetent run of Bilson and DeMeo for bringing simple competence to the book—but as we’ve said before, not sucking isn’t enough.

We steadfastly maintain that Bart Allen as the Flash—at this moment in time as a “grown up” Wally West clone—is a flawed premise.

However, we do have to admire Guggenheim’s cliffhanger last issue and the first couple pages this issue. LAPD cadet Allen is confronted by detectives and he doesn’t have time to make up a BS story…so he pops open the costume and says I’m The Flash and I don’t time for you deal with it.

Let us clarify that it’s not that we don’t think that Guggenheim is a bad writer or even bad on this title but we’re just not sure that he (or anyone else) is strong enough to carry all of this title’s baggage up and over the hill.

The visuals by former Teen Titan artist Tony Daniel wasn’t bad, but something was off. Perhaps it was having to different inkers—Art Thibert and Jonathan Glapion.

Another thing: If Daniel is going to be drawing a speedster, the character really needs to look like he’s MOVING at super speed…or at the very least like he’s running. Too many posing shots. But it’s only his second issue.

Ok, the cliffhanger and the solicit for next issue has us intrigued. Big changes are coming as Full Throttle winds up. Guggenheim will either be able to sell Bart Allen as the Flash next issue or he won’t (no pressure!).


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