Sunday, September 30, 2007

JLA's Villains Unlimited Plus The Return of Green Lantern John Stewart

It was a light week for FanBoyWonder’s wallet this week. Lighter even still since we again opted not to purchase DC Comics’ alleged lynchpin weekly series Countdown for the second week in a row.

Given all of the chatter that’s ensued following the conclusion of the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding and a (dead again???) we feel vindicated in our decision early on NOT to go anywhere near (or more to the point send our money on) that editorial clusterf**k.

Speaking of editorial clusterf**ks, the bait and switch ending to the grand nuptials seems to have rallied the masses in calling for the head of writer Judd Winick. It seems that everyone all at once has discovered that Judd’s method of storytelling is all smoke and no mirrors.

As regular readers of FanBoyWonder know, we had been out in front for sometime that we held Winick’s work in low regard.

The moral of the story here for Mr. Winick would seem to be that if you hold your audience openly in contempt long enough, said audience will eventually wake up and not take a liking to it or to the writer holding them in contempt—yet he still continues to write books. Guess it pays to know people.

With that little digression out of our system, here’s our take on the books we picked for the week of September 26.

Justice League of America #13

The Upshot From DC Comics: Don't miss the debut of the new JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA creative team! The "Injustice League Unlimited" story continues from the JLA WEDDING SPECIAL as a hero is severely beaten by the new Injustice League, forcing the JLA to fight back!

While this was Dwayne McDuffie’s first issue as writer of this book, JLA #13 was actually part two of the “Unlimited” story arc.

Part 1 actually took part in the aforementioned JLA Wedding Special that we opted not to purchase. Why? Because as we noted we could just see that the Black Canary/Green Arrow wedding “event” was a train wreck and we wanted no part of it.

But also, we are just sick and tired of being compelled to purchase extra issues simply to be able to follow what should be a self contained story. “To Be Continued…” has become a familiar and tiresome phrase in and around the DCU.

That said, we’re glad that McDuffie has taken the reigns of this book from the 13 issue long disappointment that was Brad Metzler—over-hyped and under-delivered.

Following McDuffie’s run on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited, his debut in the pages of JLA definitely have a “together again for the first time” feeling to it.

McDuffie definitely gives the reader some action—something readers have been sorely missing in these pages, yet he still finds time for talk. He wastes no time on the left-over Metzler plot threat of Vixen’s malfunctioning powers as Superman gently confronts her about it, while urging her to come clean to her teammates.

We also liked the gentle ribbing between Green Lantern John Stewart and Black Lightning over Lightning’s new bald-headed look.

The art by Joe Benitez and Victor Llamas wasn’t bad but somewhat uneven. The layout was fine and visuals were clear to the reader but the characters in places were drawn as either too angular or way too bulky and sometimes both depending on the page.

Their saving grace was that there were mercifully spared the over-top-T&A shots that had become an Ed Benes staple in this book. If this is the new art team to accompany the new writer, there’s room for improvement to be sure, but lots of promise as well.

The Return of John Stewart

Dwayne McDuffie wastes no time in righting a serious wrong in the Justice League and in the DC Universe by immediately rescuing Green Lantern John Stewart from editorially-imposed exile.

It is by no means a coincidence that John Stewart dropped off the map in the DC Universe within a month of Justice League Unlimited (which featured John Stewart as THE TV Green Lantern) going off the air. Mind you, for years during Justice League’s Cartoon Network run, John Stewart had been the very public face of Green Lantern to the general public.

You’ll have to ask DC why after all their demographic hyping of a lesbian Batwoman, a Hispanic Blue Beetle and an Asian Atom that a character of color—an established character (who happens to be Black) who has been around for some 30 years and who had become recognizable to at least some folks OUTSIDE the comics world—just why did DC try so obviously hard to 86 such a proven character?

It’s also no coincidence, we think, that McDuffie immediately added John Stewart to HIS JLA roster and that John played a prominent role in this issue. For that reason alone, McDuffie’s Justice League of America has our vote.

Green Arrow Year One #5

The Upshot From DC Comics: After a year trapped on the savage island, Oliver Queen unexpectedly stumbles across a way to escape and return to his pampered life of luxury…but it would mean leaving behind someone who risked everything to save him. The new Oliver Queen is no longer a man who runs away from his responsibilities. This time he takes a stand to fight the power — or die trying!

This mini-series has turned out to be much more and much less than we had expected. The action has been carefully paced thanks to skilled scripting by writer Andy Diggle aided in no small by the art by Jock which has been a clever hybrid of by-the-book action panels and a unique stylistic look to it.

Yet this feels like and it very easily could be the story of Ollie Queen today rather than a re-telling of his origin and first adventures. We really wanted to see more of the pre-island playboy Oliver Queen which Diggle gave us only a tantalizing glimpse and moreover he skipped over the early days where Ollie struggled to survive on the island and honed his hunting and archery skills.

In the end this is going to be an adventure tale and a better than average one to be sure but unless Diggle pulls something out of his proverbial quiver for the sixth and final issue of this mini-series, we’re not going to be left with any new insights into this very familiar character.

What could have and should have been a bull’s-eye threatens to be a missed opportunity.

JSA Classified #30

The Upshot From DC Comics: "Mr. Horrific" Part 2 of 3, guest-starring the JSA! Mr. Terrific stumbles onto a conspiracy in the U.S. Senate with its roots in the earliest days of the Cold War. Forced into the shadows, Terrific must stalk his prey to a desolate, frigid island where the horrific truth is revealed!

No no no! Repeat after us, NO MORE NAZIS!!!! This is a dumb story featuring Mr. Terrific stumbles on your average “Fourth Reich” world domination plot where he’s framed for murder and forced to run from the authorities while the would-be Nazis proceed with their evil plan.

Mr. Terrific is a great character and he deserves better than this. This is a generic, cookie-cutter storyline that any JSAer or any other character could have served as the hero.

While JSA Classified is not nearly as bad as its counterpart JLA Classified which is nothing more than a dumping ground for paid-for but previously unpublished stories (perhaps there’s a reason they were unpublished), this book has been a mixed bag.

While JSA Classified has served to spotlight individual JSA Characters, the stories themselves have been of mixed quality. Highlights of the series were the Power Girl story arc, the Hourman vs. Bane and the recent Jakeem Thunder one-shot story, as well as the first Dr. Mid-Nite two-part story.

Yet instead of collaborating with the main JSA title and using Classified to flesh out and expand upon plot points brought up on the main title, we get forgettable stories by b-listers. DC can do better than this.


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