Saturday, September 15, 2007

Suicide Notes, Kingdom Comes To The JSA & Sinestro’s Biggest Fan—Booster Gold

Quote of the Week: “I’m fat, black, cranky and menopausal. You do not want to mess with me!”—Amanda “The Wall” Waller as she stares down inmates during a would-be prison riot.
With that in mind, here is part 2 of our reviews of the books for the week of September 12.

Suicide Squad #1 (of 8)

The Upshot from DC Comics: When original Suicide Squad member Rick Flag Jr. returned from the dead in the pages of CHECKMATE, it blew open a brand-new espionage mystery for the DC Universe! In this eagerly awaited miniseries by legendary Squad writer John Ostrander, it's revealed how Flag survived a nuclear blast while battling terrorism in Qurac — as his hard path home takes him from Skartaris to Dubai and into the hands of dueling commanders Amanda Waller and General Wade Eiling. Their power struggle reveals surprising secrets from their pasts — even as a new Suicide Squad is created to play a key role in the DCU's ever-evolving future!

Ok…we’re only the first issue into this eight-issue mini-series but we can say without a doubt that Suicide Squad is hands down the best book that we will read this year. If it wasn’t on your pull list this week—run, do not walk, back to your comics store and hope there is an issue left on the shelves. You’ll thank us.

The issue opens up with one-time Squad leader Col. Rick Flag on his own personal suicide mission at the headquarters of The Jihad in Qurac—the time “two years ago.” You just have to love comic book time, lop off a zero and two decades becomes two years—we should all be able to compress time so well—but we digress.

Having set the timer which will ignite the nuke, Flag finds himself in pitched battle with Rustam, leader of the Jihad until the timer countdown to zero and mushroom cloud time. Pretty much like how we remember the first time around 20 years ago but yet we see at the end of the issue Flag alive but unconscious in a savage jungle.

Readers of Checkmate know that Rick Flag is alive and well and freed by the Squad from a Qurac prison. Flag’s “death” was so good 20 years ago that we were almost disappointed that he was “discovered” (i.e. re-coned) to be alive.

Yet we’re glad that Squad writer John Ostrander is revisiting this. Flag was “killed” during issue 26 or the second year of the Squad’s 66 issue, five-and-a-half year run yet from the first issue, the readers saw a character right on the edge until his explosive end. This way, we hope we get to see the redemption of Rick Flag.

Flash forward six months later to Belle Reve prison—the prison for meta-human prisoners—and we see Amanda Waller staring down a would-be prison riot. With a simple scene and a hilarious bit of deadpan dialogue (and we mean DEADpan), Ostrander shows how Amanda Waller is one of the all time best characters in the DC Universe (are you taking notes Greg Rucka? Perhaps you should.)

Normally, we are not so crazy about flashback stories featuring “lost” tales of a character or group, but Ostrander takes us back to the Suicide Squad’s salad days.

Thanks to the wonders of the flashback tale, we get to see again Captain Boomerang/“Boomerbutt” before he killed Robin/Tim Drake’s dad and he himself was killed in Identity Crisis, as well as Nightshade (is this the same Nightshade that’s currently in Shadowpact??) Deadshot and Bronze Tiger.

The blasts from the past continue with General Wade Eiling, Waller’s counterpart as head of the Captain Atom project and Waller’s inter-agency rival.

Before writer Grant Morrison hijacked and threw him away as the “new” Shaggy Man in JLA during—a one-note, paint-by numbers strongman villain—Wade Eiling was hands down one of the best antagonists in the DC Universe.

Constantly running circles around Captain Atom, neither Atom nor the reader ever knew exactly where Eiling stood. You KNEW that Lex Luthor was pure evil and the Joker was full blown crazy but with Eiling, he always kept everyone guessing—that’s a great villain.

Ostrander brings him back too. He was and for purposes of this story is the perfect counterweight for “The Wall.” The problem with Waller’s portrayal in Checkmate is that there is no Eiling—she effortlessly runs circles around everyone.

In the issue, Eiling gives Wall bogus Intel that Flag may be alive in a Russian prison—prompting Waller to send the Squad there to check it out. It’s a trap of course and they are greeted by the People’s Heroes, along with KGB spook Zastrow and Staloivolk. (Have we mentioned how much we miss the Cold War sometimes?)

Well the Squad fights their way out of the trap and escapes, leaving the Wall plotting her “payback” against Eiling.

A word about the art by Javier Pina and Robin Riggs. In a word, “flawless.” Visually, this is just how we remember the Squad from the old days, but better. It’s like watching an old episode of a long-ago favorite TV show, but on HD.

As for the story, we were a tad concerned that Ostrander may not have been up to 100 percent without his late wife Kim Yale who co-penned issues of the original Squad back in the day. But John, you not only haven’t lost your touch, but this is better than ever. Welcome back and keep ‘em coming.

Justice Society of America #9

The Upshot From DC Comics: Don't miss this important prologue to an event that will rock the world's first and best super-team! In this issue, a fight between Wildcat and Wildcat; a firehouse pancake breakfast; Power Girl's quest to unlock the secrets behind her cousin's death; Citizen Steel's new family and the fate of Starman! And that's just the beginning as we prepare the Justice Society for their newest and most surprising member to date...

We’ll refrain from commenting on the overdose of cuteness that had the JSA hosting a New York firehouse pancake breakfast but just to say that we were glad when there was action to get to.

But before this, the first few pages spotlighted Power Girl and her continued grieving for her cousin Kal-L, the original/“Earth-2” Superman.

One of the most positive, if under-developed results of Infinite Crisis was the revelation that Power Girl isn’t just the sole survivor of Krypton, her Krypton, but of her entire universe. As “Last Daughter of the Multiverse,” PG is literally a woman without a past on “New Earth.”

And frankly it’s about damn time that Kal-L got some kind of acknowledgement following his death at the end of Infinite Crisis. We’re on record that Kal-L was killed off for no good reason. He survived the original Crisis only to be bumped off so cheaply?

DC’s rationale that the DCU can’t exist with two Supermen doesn’t wash in the wake of news of Countdown Arena pitting different multiverse versions of the same character against each other.

Well we get our wish, sort of, with the appearance at the end of this issue by the Superman of Kingdom Come. Next to Kal-L, KC Superman is our favorite “alternate” Superman.

Speaking of Power Girl, we’re glad to see that the JSA’s Chairwoman is actually being allowed to lead her team. Someone else in another blog (we can’t remember who or else we would credit them) made the very good point that JLA chairman Black Canary seems to be leader in name only given that in every JLA appearance, Canary is pushed to the background in favor of “The Trinity.”

We are looking forward to some serious spotlight on Power Girl in the coming issues—as she interacts with her late cousin’s doppelganger and as she finds her place in “New Earth.”

All New Booster Gold #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: Booster Gold's bizarre timequest to prevent an evil force from unraveling the origins of the world's greatest heroes continues in Part 2 of "52 Pickup!" Journeying years back in the past, Booster is forced to team up with an egomaniac that rivals even himself — the world's greatest Green Lantern – Sinestro! Plus, what does Dan Garret have to do with any of this?

Gotta be honest, we’re not 100 percent in love with the whole “Quantum Leap” aspect of the book’s premise—putting right what could go wrong in the time stream throughout the multiverse, but it does give Booster Gold a much needed purpose—even as we DO enjoy the irony that in order to accomplish this vital task to keep all of the worlds safe, our reformed glory hound protagonist has to allow the world to think that he’s a total dolt.

Given that we’ve been given a high octane does of Sinestro in the pages of the Green Lantern books thanks to the Sinestro Corps mega storyline, we’re not sure how we needed to see Booster travel back to straighten out Sinestro “The Greatest Green Lantern.

Yet we did enjoy Booster’s interaction with a pre-GL Guy Gardner. Their bar room meeting allowed character development of both characters.

The jury is still out for us on Rip Hunter. Yeah we get he’s the “time master” guiding Booster to ripples and various and sundry glitches in the space-time continuum (Dean Stockwell to Booster’s Scott Bakula) but right now Rip is barely a one-dimensional character.

This wouldn’t be such a bother if we haven’t seen him more fully fleshed out in other prior incarnations of his character.

But the bit we like the most is Booster’s demand of Rip—for his help he wants Rip’s help to prevent the murder of Ted Kord/Blue Beetle. Makes perfect sense. Most anybody who was put in a spot time traveling would want to undo some tragic and unnecessary event from their lives.

We wouldn’t mind Geoff Johns finding a way to bring back Ted—he did such a brilliant job brining back Rex Tyler, the original Hourman following his Zero Hour death.

Black Adam: The Dark Age #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: As Teth-Adam's epic journey to resurrect the love of his life and find the magic word that will transform him back to Black Adam continues, the Justice Society of America, along with Batman and Superman, are hot on Adam's trail as the world's most wanted villain is pursued at all costs!

The jury is still out for us on this series. It’s not that writer Peter Tomasi’s hasn’t done a good job. He has. Ditto for the art team of Doug Mahnke and Christian Almay.

It’s just that this series and this character may have benefited from the passage of more time since 52 and the so-called World War III. This is supposed to fill in the gap between 52 and the events in Countdown where Black Adam gives away his powers to Mary Batson.

But how can we miss Black Adam when he just went away? Before it went off the rails into WWIII, the Black Adam/Isis story was one our favorite arcs of 52.

Tomasi could do a little better in reminding us who Isis was and less on the cannibalism. But now Teth Adam has his powers back so we can expect some ass-kicking.

This sounds like a negative review and we don’t mean it to be but we’re afraid that a good story may fall victim to bad timing.


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