Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Wall Checkmated, The Flash of Two Titles and Dr. Fate’s Self-Diagnostic

As we noted we’re working on catching up on our regular programming following so without further ado, here’s our take on books we picked up from our friends at Brainstorm Comics for the week of November 21.

Checkmate #20

The Upshot From DC Comics: The Fall of the Wall concludes with a bang! Taskforce X marks the spot as the Royals force a showdown with Amanda Waller!

Although we do like this book, in the past we are on record as saying that Checkmate writer Greg Rucka can be too smart for his own good. Following our read of Issue 20, we are forced to repeat that assertion.

Okay, if a Wall falls in a storytelling forest but no one understand how, does the climactic ending really matter?

We’ve been waiting for Checkmate’s White Queen Amanda Waller to get her comeuppance since just about the beginning of this book and now that it has finally arrived we find it a bit perplexing and completely unsatisfying.

Rucka is a gifted writer with a particular talent for telling espionage tales and political intrigue. Furthermore, his work on books such as Wonder Woman has proven that he is also adept at character development.

Yet in Checkmate, Rucka has consistently failed to provide any but the most cursory character development. The result is that even as he excels at crafting a procedural drama, the reader knows very little about these characters that we are required to care about.

The worst example of this is Amanda Waller. “The Wall” has been a favorite of ours she was created by Suicide Squad writer John Ostrander with his late wife Kim Yale. Yet Waller as Checkmate’s White Queen is little more than a Simon Bar-Sinister-like antagonist who happens to be named “Amanda Waller.”

Rucka had been getting away with his interpretation of Waller until the recent Suicide Squad reunion mini-series where Waller’s creator John Ostrander reminded readers that The Wall is a fully three-dimensional character. By comparison, Rucka’s White Queen is an empty suit.

The last straw comes in Issue 20 Rucka’s from out of left field excuse for forcing out the White Queen from Checkmate. She has been infected by nanites, which technically makes her a meta-human, something that’s against Checkmate’s charter.

The good news from this we hope is that we’ll get to read the “real” Amanda Waller in the pages of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad mini-series.

Flash #234

The Upshot From DC Comics: The unstable powers of Wally West's growing children reach a terrifying new level! And in the backup feature, "The Fast Life," by Mark Waid, John Rogers and Doug Braithwaite, the compelling tale of Wally's family's life on a Flash-friendly alien world continues.

We’ve been enjoying Wally West as a family man following his return. The plot thread that his kids’ powers being unstable and potentially life-threatening makes sense—but we’re not too hot about the alien technology aspect Wally’s wife and the kids’ mom Linda—a former medical student—is the only one who can care for the twins condition.

This is a stretch for us but we see how writer Mark Waid is trying to give the non-powered Mom a useful purpose.

That said, we really have been enjoying getting to know The Flash’s “tornado twins” Iris and Jai. These are kids with real personalities—Iris who gets annoyed with her dad for interrupting her while she watches Kim Possible while Jai, who is scared of losing his sister or even his own life after he overhears his dad tell the JLA about how the kids’ powers could continue to hyper-accelerate their age until death.

Yet we hope Waid doesn’t drag out this story thread too long.

Brave and Bold #8

The Upshot From DC Comics: A virtually unstoppable force has driven the Doom Patrol to the brink of destruction and despair! And why is The Flash the only hero who can possibly stand between them and utter chaos?

We get a Fastest Man Alive two-fer this week with a most off-beat pairing, The Flash and the Doom Patrol. The Patrol’s Chief offers to analyze the Flash’s kids Iris and Jai with an eye toward curing them of their pre-mature aging and the Flash reluctantly accepts the offer.

At the Patrol’s castle headquarters, writer Mark Waid again gives us a great demonstration of the kids’ personalities. As they excitedly explore the castle with Elasti Girl, it’s quite funny to watch them freak out as they realize her arms have been stretching across the castle with them.

Even funnier is their reaction to Robotman as he pops open his armored skull and pulls out his human brain for them to see.

Of course it would be a comic book team up if the Chief’s experiment didn’t go wrong, placing the kids in danger. The Chief dramatically tells Flash that he can only save on of the twins…and he must choose. Luckily Flash figures out how to save them both with an assist by Robotman and Negative Man.

AT the end of the issue, we see Wally tearfully confessing to his wife Linda that at super speed, the split second that he had to decide was actually a month to him and that he had indeed made the unthinkable Sophie’s Choice as to which child to save and which child to doom.

This was really out of place in what had been a light-hearted, if weird, team up. But as always master illustrator George Perez makes it all flow smoothly and yet again Brave and Bold accomplishes its purpose by introducing us a corner of the DC Universe we don’t normally follow—in this case The Doom Patrol.

Countdown to Mystery #3

The Upshot From DC Comics: Eclipso continues her maniacal mission to corrupt the heroes of the DCU! Find out who's next in her path! Plus, Doctor Fate enters a simple storefront that introduces him to a woman who will change his life!

We don’t care about the Eclipso story line and we resent that we have to pay an extra dollar for a crappy Countdown title just so we can read the adventures of Dr. Fate. Yet it’s money well spent.

Kudos to writer Steve Gerber for selling us on a new Dr. Fate that we didn’t want but one that we know consistently enjoy reading.

This issue, Kent V. Nelson investigates his new magic helmet with the help of an occult book store owner and it leads him on a vision quest of his own dark and broken spirit.

Gerber has really struck the right tone here of a psychologist who is grounded in rationality and science having to adapt to irrational and decadently un-scientific world of magic.

But again we must lament that this is such a good book that it should have been it’s on title instead being saddled with the crappy Countdown kiss of death designation. We hope that after the initial eight issues, DC green lights Steve Gerber to write more Dr. Fate.

Birds of Prey #112

The Upshot From DC Comics: A colleague has been murdered, and Lady Blackhawk goes missing…but only to honor the memory of her fallen teammate!

We’ve been wanting a solo story of Lady Blackhawk for a long time and frankly we’re disappointed that Gail Simone didn’t get around to it before she left Birds of Prey.

Guest-writer Tony Bedard’s tale wasn’t bad but it’s not anything that’s especially memorable. Yet given that he really did hit a home run last issue with his Oracle vs. Calculator story, we’ll give him a pass.

For now, we’re looking ahead to BoP’s new writer. They’ve got some big shoes to fill following Gail Simone.


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