Monday, June 11, 2007

'Dark Mary's' Seduction Begins, Nightwing’s Femme Fatale & Simone’s Swan Song

Greetings our faithful readers near and far. If you missed us, we’re back after an out of town excursion to Rochester, New York to attend the wedding of our cousin Alice and her fine new husband Paul.

It was a lovely ceremony and a nice family reunion weekend where FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW got to see Mom and Dad FanBoyWonder, our brother Joe and Sister-In-Law Suzanne and to meet our 18-month-old nephew Jack for the first time.

We also saw our Aunt Jean and Uncle Bud, Cousin Howie and wife Pam and their new year-old baby girl Mary. We missed having Brianna the Girl Wonder there but she was there in spirit.

With all of our traveling done for a while, we can get back to our fanboy ways. Thankfully it was light week—only three books from our pull list at Brainstorm Comics.

Here’s our picks for the week of June 6:

Countdown #47

The Upshot from DC Comics: This year-long weekly series featuring a cast of hundreds kicks into high gear in its second month, under the watchful eye of head writer Paul Dini! See Mary Marvel undergo a surprising transformation! Learn why Donna Troy and Jason Todd are integral players in a cosmic chess game! And see Jimmy Olsen as you've never seen him before!

Despite our oft-stated misgivings about this series and its flawed execution so far, we love all things Marvel Family so the only thing we care about in this issue is Mary Marvel.

So Black Adam has affected a power transfer to Mary giving his power to her and the wardrobe change. We’re overlooking the fact DC within the last year seems to have been re-writing and/or making up as it goes along the rules of the Power of SHAZAM but we’re taking at face value that Black Adam, who recently got his powers back after World War III, is sick of his “curse” and has given Mary his “gift”.

Of course if that was REALLY Black Adam. But we’re not going to try to dig too deep into this plot.

What does disturb us is what we see as the potential “Supergirl-effect” of Mary Marvel with this whole “Seduction of the Innocent” storyline.

Following DC’s continually botched re-introduction of Kara Zor-El into the DC Universe—a version of Supergirl that makes Paris Hilton look down right virginal and upstanding—we are wary in the extreme as to what we see going on with Mary.

The tight-fitting black cocktail-dress/cheerleader uniform with a Thunderbolt looks creepy when drawn in even the most “innocent” visual interpretation—we shutter to think what Michael Turner and his like would make out of it.

Power of Shazam creator Jerry Ordway weighs on the current Mary Marvel situation at the request of Comic Book Resources

“I think that I, like most Captain Marvel fans, am very loyal to the original concepts. But I sure don’t mean to come across as someone who thinks it can only be done by CC Beck. During my run on the title, I honestly tried to do the character as a 1960’s Marvel comic, as my way of updating it, but not trashing the groundwork that Fawcett had. I know even at that time, certain comic fans wanted us to ditch the wholesomeness, and go for grim and gritty, but I think that would be a slap in the face to the original creators.

“I had issues with the time that Peter David “borrowed” Mary Marvel for a Supergirl crossover, and immediately wanted to have her sexually molested in his story. Then Keith Giffen wanted her to lose her virginity in Formerly Known as the Justice League! Now it looks like the movement to gritty Mary up are finally getting their way in Countdown.

“I know there are fans out there who are disdainful of any character who is wholesome and good, and dream of dragging that character through the mud just for spite. I go to comic stores, and have heard it all.

“As to the dark Mary Marvel– it’s just playing into a few fans’ hands. Whether it turns out well or not will play out in Countdown. I have 3 kids who like different stuff, and variety makes the world go round, but I do steer them clear of most of the mainstream comics.

“They can read what they want when they are older, but I have introduced them to appropriate material first. But having every comic book feature dark, moody and self-centered teens or adults is shortchanging the marketplace of positive, heroic, self sacrificing HEROES. With dark, you must have some light. The Marvel Family and Superman were heroes to look up to, because they did the right thing, even when that choice meant sacrifice from them.

“I’m no prude, but if you want to “violate” the intent of a character, create a new damn character, will you? Just my opinion.”

For our part we agree with you Jerry but we’re trying hard to reserve final judgment, both here and with Judd Winick’s Trials of SHAZAM mini-series but historically, the Marvel Family often gotten the short end of the stick form DC.

We’ll play along for now but we really wouldn’t mind seeing some actually character development as opposed to seeing characters used simply to advance Countdown’s alleged plot.

Nightwing #133

The Upshot from DC Comics: A new story arc exploring the lost year of Dick Grayson's life, after he dropped out of college and before the New Teen Titans formed! It's the year that changed his life, during which he made a fateful decision. Now a friend, a foe, and a love from the past have returned from the darkness to haunt him!

We are finally starting to see this book pick up some speed. Writer Marv Wolfman is starting to hit his stride after his previous two story arcs were either lackluster and/or drawn out far too long.

321 Days” purports to fill in some of the blanks of Dick Grayson’s development in between his transition from Robin to Nightwing.

We like Nightwing as he is taking on crime at the street level. Artist Jamal Igle is definitely in the zone here with his visuals as he shows Nightwing as the second-to-none acrobat that he is. It’s a 180-degree contrast to Dan Jurgens’ art that came across so stiff.

Wolfman’s take on the Nightwing/Dick Grayson character—particularly with the assistance of Igle’s art—reminds us of Wolfman’s long ago run on the Amazing Spider-Man way back during the Carter Administration.

We like the introduction of Liu, the previously unknown femme fatale from the missing year that Wolfman intends to explore. Dick has always had a thing for the ladies and despite all his smarts and training, we can see how she is shaping up to be his “favorite mistake” like from that Sheryl Crow song.

However, as Nightwing sets her free from the thugs he was fighting, it seems that she does not know that it’s Dick Grayson under the mask, yet she appears at Dick’s workplace at the very next page. Some ambiguous storytelling there Marv.

Another thing, we really don’t like Dick’s new “day job” at Bones Gym and the supporting characters. We wouldn’t mind seeing Dick being a cop again by day and masked vigilante by night.

Speaking of which, Wolfman there a new Vigilante in town. Wolfman along with George Perez during the New Teen Titans days in the early ‘80s created new character with a storied name in the persona of Adrian Chase, a district attorney whose family was murdered by the mob.

It spun off into a Vigilante series of its own that lasted 50 issues. However, the book really didn’t get good until about half-way through the run when writer Paul Kupperburg took over and took the book and the title character places Wolfman could never dream.

Vigilante was the epitome of 1980s grim and gritty hero which dealt with on onset of crack cocaine, child trafficking, and other hot button issues with a protagonist who was anything but a hero.

By issue 50, Kupperburg closed the book in a controversial but largely forgotten ending when Adrian Chase—unable to stop killing cop and robber alike--put a gun in his mouth and ended his life.

Wolfman tried to reinvent his version of Vigilante, this time a female—Patricia Trace, a rogue cop—in his Deathstroke the Terminator Series in the ‘90s but it went nowhere. We frankly don’t see the third time being a charm but we’ll give Marv a chance.

Birds of Prey #107

The Upshot from DC Comics: A final confrontation pits Spy Smasher's Birds of Prey against Catman's Secret Six in Russia for the soul of one of DC's most beloved heroines! Oh, and Oracle hasn't given up on getting her team back either!

We’ve liked this story arc pitting the Birds up against the Secret Six—both beloved creations of writer Gail Simone, but in this issue it’s obvious that Simone is wrapping up things on the double quick so she can make her move over to Wonder Woman.

But even on auto pilot, Simone is a fun read. We end this story arc knowing full well that the resurrection of former Justice Leaguer Ice was little more than an afterthought instead of the central point of the story but we enjoyed things nonetheless.

Watching Lady Blackhawk punch out Spy Smasher was long in coming but oddly not as satisfying as we had hoped. The Smasher that we had seen to date was arrogant but not dumb yet she pushes Zinda’s buttons in such an obvious way as to invite a knuckle-sandwich.

We think this is a product of Simone’s get out of the plot rush job. There are hints of vulnerability with Spy Smasher as she feels compelled to explain to Huntress why she “fired” Lady Blackhawk for “insubordination” and see her for a moment on the defensive.

The stage is set next issue for THE confrontation between Oracle and her one-time friend and rival Spy Smasher with the fate of the Birds of Prey in the balance. We hope Gail hits a home run out the door and doesn’t strike out with her eye already on her next job.

A quick word about the art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood. This is the best regular issue art team in comics today. How can we say that? Because this is the same art team that provided visuals for Birds of Prey 106 just TWO WEEKS earlier and they had also been providing art chores consistently since their introduction in issue 100.

Quality, consistency and ON TIME. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’re glad they are staying after Gail is gone.


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