Friday, September 14, 2007

Emerald Action/Yellow Banter, Cashing Out of Countdown & Atlas Shrugs SHAZAM

Ok you can relax we’re back now. We’ve sharpened our poison pen and we’re ready to get back on the saddle and re-commence with our weekly comic book reviews. Of course, we start during a very busy week—all-in-all we picked up eight (8) titles from our friends at Brainstorm Comics.

In order to best achieve maximum bloviation, we’ll break up our reviews into two parts.

And away we go with Part 1.

Green Lantern #23

The Upshot from DC Comics: Fear spreads across the universe as "The Sinestro Corps War" continues! Hal Jordan! John Stewart! Guy Gardner! Kyle Rayner! Trapped in the depths of the Sinestro Corps' Citadel and face-to-face with the Guardian of Sinestro's army of fear! What it means will change the entire tide of the war. And as Oa prepares for the ultimate attack, the Guardians come to a terrifying conclusion.

The Sinestro Corps storyline has been a much needed shot in the arm, both to the Green Lantern titles and to DC Comics as a whole. Given DC’s various and sundry screw-ups of late, we were beginning to wonder if they were simply no longer capable of putting out a decent comic book event.

We have to admit we liked this month’s cover and the homage to the original mad Hal Jordan Emerald Twilight cover (GL, 2nd series #49). The last seduction of Hal Jordan through fear by Parallax has come full circle.

Writer Geoff Johns is walking a fine line during his half of the Sinestro Corps story line—he doesn’t want to rush the confrontation with the biggie bad guys—Sinestro, the Anti-Monitor, Superboy-Prime and the Cyborg-Superman but he doesn’t want to reader to get bored from lack of action either (Lightning Saga anyone?).

It’s good to finally see GLs Guy Gardner and John Stewart back in action and coming to Hal Jordan’s rescue. We enjoyed the banter between the three.

In his other books, such as Justice Society of America, Johns has been letting a little too much “ah shucks” sentimentally seep in to his characters but his banter here actually serves to further plot and character development.

First, Johns has been working since Hal Jordan’s return from the dead to infuse Hal with a maverick, fighter-jock persona and overwrite the woe-is-me, “find myself” loser crybaby that Jordan had become dating back his Hard Traveling Heroes days.

Second, Johns deftly provides an explanation as to how Hal Jordan (with effort) can use the yellow rings, as well as to explain how Guy Gardner used Sinestro’s ring back in the day and how doing so made Guy “more aggressive”—like any hero in his right mind would wear cowboy boots and a leather jacket with a “G” on the front…ha ha.

The retro-explanation doesn’t totally hold water, but we give Johns credit for attempting to work within continuity.

We also see that Parallax Kyle is ready to lead the charge against Earth, but given events in this week’s Countdown, the impact of this part of the story is blunted. (See our review of Countdown).

We are intrigued by the dissent among the Guardians of the Universe and their removal of the power ring fail-safes to allow GLs to use lethal force. This promises to have significant story-telling consequences down the road.

So far so good but enough with the warm up, we’re ready for the main event now. Will the primary villains of this story-arc please step forward?

Countdown #33

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Countdown to the end is on! Karate Kid battles Equus! Jimmy Olsen visits Infinity Inc. for answers! Mary Marvel falls under the spell of Eclipso! Kyle Rayner joins the Challengers in the Multiverse! Piper and Trickster encounter the villainy of Poison Ivy and Deathstroke! Plus, Black Canary's bachelorette party! Guest-starring Steel, Starlight, the Flash, Zatanna, the Atom, Buddy Blank and more!

Okay check please. We’re so out of here. We are by no means alone in our dissatisfaction with this money-sucking ploy disguises as a comic book series but this non-story combined with marginal at best and s**ty art such as this week is the last straw.

We’ve been hanging in for this long because of Mary Marvel but we don’t know what’s worse—Bad Mary or Stupid Mary. Both seem to be on display here.

But the kicker is this week’s appearance of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner into the “Palmerverse” to join Jason Todd, Donna Troy and Monitor “Bob.” Not Parallax Kyle or even Ion Kyle but just a regular emerald ring slinger.

Well we knew something was up weeks ago when DC was soliciting Kyle with Donna and Jason in the spin-off Countdown series but DC has spoiled part of the best story even they’ve got going right now—Sinestro Corps.

At first we thought that at least they didn’t kill off Kyle but we realize that they’ve done far worse by banishing him into this clusterf**k of a story.

Given that DC management has announced yet another year-long weekly series after Final Crisis next year, we’ve reasoned that this beast must be stopped.

So we’re done. If others want to join us in no longer purchasing Countdown, perhaps we can render a third series stillborn. Maybe or maybe not but at least we’ll no longer be swindled out of $2.99. Buh-Bye.

The Trials of SHAZAM #8

The Upshot From DC Comics: The trials continue as Freddy finds Atlas, his next godly benefactor. But the Council of Merlin has other plans for the two!

First of all, let us welcome back writer Judd Winick and Artist Howard Porter following their previous issue WAY back in June. Hello fellas. Did you enjoy your summer off?

Normally a three month hiatus on a 12-issue “monthly” limited series would be a major, perhaps even fatal momentum killer—but lucky for said creators and for the reader that this issue did not suck. Actually we liked it quite a lot.

We’ve made no secret about our lack of respect for most of Judd Winick’s body of work but to give the devil his due, his take on Captain Marvel/Shazam is truly out of the box.

Here we see Freddy Freeman’s trial take an unexpected turn south as the God Atlas is killed. We liked Winick’s modern concept of Atlas as not physically holding up the world but being plugged into everything preventing potential disasters during every second of everyday by sheer willpower.

Better yet was Freddy’s reaction to having to assume the dead Atlas’ burden. He’s exhausted after little more than three minutes before Wizard Marvel/Billy comes in to take over—but he can only leave the Rock of Eternity for 24 hours.

Freddy and his magic guide seek out Apollo—now a mortal ER doctor having renounced his godhood. Atlas is gone and it falls to Apollo to become one of the powers of SHAZAM and to take the place of Atlas holding up the world.

Sure he’ll do it, if Freddy defeats Apollo in combat. Hence Freddie’s trial next issue.

With Apollo instead of Atlas, it appears that Freddy Freeman will inherit somewhat different SHAZAM powers. And then we see it. A way for DC to have its cake and eat it too.

Freddie can have his trial and inherit different SHAZAM powers and become more than just Captain Marvel Jr. but a unique hero in his own right, while Billy somehow reverts back from Wizard Marvel to his traditional Captain Marvel roll.

We’d like to think that this is why the trials team took a three month powder—to reconfigure this series’ end result. But perhaps we’re overestimating the creators’ and/or management’s intelligence and/or boldness.

Nonetheless, Winick has so far managed not to screw up this story. So far so good. Helping the story not a little bit is the art by Howard Porter. So far, this looks to be the best art of his career.

The Amazing Spider-Girl #12

The Upshot From Marvel Comics: It's crisis time as Spider-Girl realizes that Carnage will only be stopped if she destroys someone she truly loves!

Poor May Parker. She finally knows what it’s like to be her father’s daughter. Typical as per “the old Parker luck,” Spider-Girl was put in an impossible situation. She is called upon to save the day, her friends and her loved ones and she does but there’s collateral damage, hard feelings and Miss Spidey on the receiving end of a whole lot of guilt.

We were never a big fan of Carnage back in the day so we were just sleepwalking through this story arc but writer Tom DeFalco made it interesting when Carnage infects Baby Ben Parker with a symbiote, turning the Puny Parker into a terrorizing toddler.

We have to admit we did enjoy Peter Parker’s bemusement at realizing that he, the retired Spider-Man and one-time hero of the story has been relegated to side-kick/go-to guy status by his own daughter as he delivers a sound-wave weapon, the only thing capable of destroying the Carnage symbiote without harming the host.

We fully understand Peter’s hesitation to fire when he sees his own son infected. Thus Spider-Girl is left to do the deed but the cost of freeing her baby brother from the monster may have been permanent hearing loss.

Peter of all people should understand the untenable position his daughter was placed in as well as the guilt she is feeling for not being able to accomplish the impossible but we shall see how this pays out in coming issues.

As always, the art of Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema is solid as a rock and regular as clockwork. You gotta love “Old School” comics pros.


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