Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern One Year Later—Emerald Yawn?

A recent review by Ryan at Film Fodder Comics of Green Lantern #19 got us thinking as to just how dissatisfied or at least how under-whelmed we’ve been at Geoff Johns’ performance on Green Lantern since One Year Later.

Never one to let a blog item to go to waste, you can read our original post (which is pretty much what you’ll read below), as well as Ryan’s reply at

Meanwhile, our issues with the current creative direction of Green Lantern we think can be attributed to Geoff Johns overbooking himself (pun intended) as writer on too many titles. The book’s de-facto bi-monthly status for much of last year due to the deadline challenged (DC) art team resulted in a serious loss of storytelling momentum.

At the top of our list of gripes is the practical banishment of Green Lantern John Stewart. This is a topic for a whole separate posting but suffice to say that it’s hardly a coincidence by my reckoning that John Stewart—the most publicly recognized Green Lantern thanks to Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited—disappeared “undercover” at virtually the same moment JLU left the airwaves.

But beyond the royal screwing (again) of John Stewart, Geoff Johns’ two One Year Later story arcs—Revenge of the Green Lanterns and Wanted Hal Jordan—both involved dramatic set ups rife with great potential only to be resolved hastily and/or clumsily by the writer pressing the “easy button.”

During the “Wanted” arc, Johns was one of the few writers to successfully utilize the “missing year” by having Captain Hal Jordan U.S.A.F. as a P.O.W. in Chechnya as a result of his arrogant and foolhardy flyboy habit of removing his power ring while flying on Air Force time—it bit him in the Emerald arse big time.

Furthermore, Johns spent many issues (both in GL and in early months of 52) building an interesting concept—Green Lantern 2814.1 is assigned to protect the planet Earth but many of the planet’s nation-states don’t want his help or presence within their borders. Regardless, GL goes where he feels he must to “serve and protect” borders be damned. So the aforementioned nation-states declare him an outlaw.

This was resolved with the Golden Age GL Alan Scott and the Justice League of America being dispatched to bring him in. But faster than you can say easy button, Johns has Alan Scott and the JLA fall all over themselves to “help” him clear his name and drop the charges and Johns moves on to the ultra-inferior Amon Sur storyline.

Worse, a couple issues earlier during the “Revenge” story arc, Johns revealed that all of the Green Lanterns that Hal “killed” during his mind-controlled Parallax days were actually secretly alive all this time. Thrown in a not really dead Arisia and a pre-Johns resurrected from the dead Kilowog and the end result is that Hal Jordan is let completely off the hook for his crimes committed as Parallax.

How much better of a hero and a character would Hal Jordan be if he had to live with the sins committed by his hand because his fear permitted Parallax to corrupt his spirit?
We’ll even go out on a limb to say that we liked Hal Jordan as a villain a heck of a lot better than we ever did as Green Lantern.

This is due, in no small measure, to the fact that the unfortunate consequence of the Denny O’Neill/Neal Adams “Hard Traveling Heroes” era that turned Hal Jordan into a whiny self-actualized crybaby.

GL writers since then—from Marv Wolfman to Steve Englehart to Keith Giffen and Gerard Jones—have handled Jordan as best they could—usually as a battlefield mastermind, but a peace-time screw up.

Yet Geoff Johns deserves high praise for doing the impossible by not just finding an ingenious way to bring Jordan back from the dead WITHOUT re-writing DCU history, but for reconstructing Hal Jordan’s personality.

Before Johns, some of the best Hal Jordan that had been written had come after Jordan had “died” in the form of flashback revisionist history. Johns portrayal of an extremely competent and confident bordering on arrogant (typical fighter jock) for us made Hal Jordan, if not likable, at least readable—until recently that is.

With the upcoming Sinestro Corps’ slow and deliberate build up, hopefully Johns will find his mojo again and start fulfilling this book’s unrealized potential (bringing back John Stewart would be a good place to start).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

52 Finally Ends, Checkmate Checksout and SHAZAM Makes A “Statement”

This week was a mixed bag for FanBoyWonder as far as comics. Saturday was Free Comic Book Day at the retailers, always a good thing for the industry to try to win over the new generation. We ourselves picked a few free kids comics for Brianna The Girl Wonder.

Even better, FBW journeyed to the Keystone State to see our best pal Kemosabe—our Friend in Pennsylvania if you will—where we saw Spider-Man 3. An amusing, if long (2 hrs. 20 min.) diversion. We’ll be posting a review as FBW and Kemosabe chatted our first impressions upon driving home from the movies just as soon as we can transcribe the audio tape.

As for this weeks batch of books, absolutely nothing we picked up this week lit our fire—some weeks are better than others but we hate the weeks, like this one, where we picked up books just to keep the collection intact.

Best to get it over with quick. Here are our thoughts on what we picked up from our friends at Brainstorm Comics this week.

52—The Final Week

The Upshot From DC Comics: The end is near! As the year races towards its close, we follow our heroes through their final steps in space — and time! From the mean streets of Gotham to the far reaches of deep space, the last weeks tick down to their shattering conclusion. World War III is just the beginning!

The best thing we can say about this issue and this “experiment” is that it’s finally over.

Ok, so we have a multiverse again. A NEW multiverse. 52 parallel earths and related universes. The first few pages of this issue gave us hope. We had “Time Master” Rip Hunter and Booster Gold—with Red Tornado’s disembodied robot head on the dashboard of Rip’s “time bubble”—at the moment of creation of the new multiverse one year ago.

And hey look, it’s SuperNova but wasn’t SuperNova just Booster Gold in disguise when the world thought he was dead. Well yeah, but no more. Look it’s Daniel Carter, Booster’s 21st century ancestor (remember Booster is from the 25th Century).

Although we had forgotten completely about Daniel Carter, we weren’t surprised at this development. When the Mr. Mind-controlled Skeets banished Daniel into a time vortex, we knew we would see him again…it’s just commonly known that if you try to use time travel to kill or banish anyone; they have ALL the TIME in the universe to find a way to come back. DUH!

Yet our hopes were dashed when it became clear that the menace Booster, Rip and Daniel had to save the Multiverse from was a Mr. Mind as a mutant cosmic “Hyperfly”—not X-Men mutant or even Heroes mutant but more like Gremlins mutant (from that early 1980s movie of the same name featuring the lovely Phoebe Cates and that guy no one ever cared about –that one’s for you Kemosabe).

So our heroes are chased around the multiverse trying to stop a reality eating and barfing bug. Check please!

DC having caught the weekly comic book bug (pardon the pun) is launching yet another year-long, weekly comic book series next week called Countdown. Unlike 52, which one of its redeeming qualities was that it was only $2.50 cover price, Countdown will be a regular $2.99, but that’s only to ensure quality—right?

Checkmate #13

The Upshot from DC Comics: They've just been waiting for the right opening gambit and now's the time to make the first move as Checkmate hunts the Outsiders! Jump aboard for a 3-month crossover called "Checkout," continuing in May's OUTSIDERS #47, as the DCU's top spies throw down with the DCU's most troublemaking hero team!

We have been dreading this crossover. Since we have publicly called for the cancellation of Judd Winick’s Outsiders, there is no way we can support this crossover by purchasing the chapters that occur in issues of Outsiders.

Yet even reading this first chapter of the story on its merits, it’s a competently crafted Rucka issue but as much as Outsiders seeks to enhance its image by its association with Checkmate, the reverse unfortunately is true—Checkmate legitimizes Outsiders and diminishes itself by this collaboration.

Since both books are hurting in the sales department, it makes sense to crossover hoping to bring new readers and hopefully entice Outsiders readers who didn’t’ reach Checkmate to now read Checkmate—and vice versa.

Rucka would be better served, both during this crossover and in general by making the book more new reader friendly with updates and recounts of who the players are and what’s occurred to date—“Previously in Checkmate.”

On the plus side, the new art team of Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson will definitely serious visual muscle to the book. At least top shelf visuals will give this book a chance to save itself.

Green Lantern #19

The Upshot from DC Comics: "The Mystery of Star Sapphire" continues as Green Lantern Hal Jordan learns the truth behind the obsessive alien parasite known as the Star Sapphire. But if her thirst for him is quenched, what does that mean for the fate of Earth? Plus, the backup feature "Tales of the Sinestro Corps."

We didn’t dislike this issue (or the last one) featuring the return of Star Sapphire but we remain underwhelmed. We’ve even gotten used to the dramatically different visual style of guest artist Daniel Acuna but our first impression last issue when Star Sapphire “re-claimed” Carol Ferris was… “why can’t they just leave poor Carol alone”…we mean she had been successfully written out of the GL story when Hal was “dead” as she had married someone else and moved on.

Not every hero needs a “Lois Lane” and all poor Carol did was suffer from her involvement with Hal Jordan—but on the other hand, the natural question would have been if Carol had been absent during the return of Sapphire and the Zamarons …”where’s Carol.”

While writer Geoff Johns is using Sapphire and the Zamarons as part of his build up for the upcoming Sinestro Corps, we’re just not buying Johns’ take on the Zamarons—the one time female Oans, who left the Guardians of the Universe to evolve “police” the universe in their own way.

Former GL writer Steve Englehart has already been down this road and for all his “tweaking,” there is nothing in Johns’ version that improves upon what Englehart did.

Speaking of the Sinestro Corps, we are enjoying the “Tales of the Sinestro Corps back up feature. It’s a nice slow but steady built up to a promising story line. With art by Dave Gibbons—who did the original Tales of the GL Corps back up features in the first GL series, it’s a subtle but clever showcase of the SC as the dark mirrored reflection of the GLC.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil #3

The Upshot from DC Comics: Jeff Smith's amazing Shazam miniseries continues! Billy and Mary have been captured by Sivana... so Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel may not be able to stop Mr. Mind's Monster Society from taking over the world.

Holy Moley! What a bitter disappointment this issue turned out to be. Jeff Smith has been building a lovely, all-ages tale of the World’s Mightiest Mortal reminiscent of the tale of original Captain Marvel creator C.C. Beck, with a modern, if innocent, twist to it.

And then Smith goes and has to share his “political statement” with everyone and ruin it all and it’s not even a particularly clever or sharp or original statement.

So Sivana is the Attorney General of the United States, the head of the “Department of Heartland Security”; master of the Black Helicopters (that’s right BLACK Helicopters), who shoot first and demand your surrender later—The bad guy of the Captain Marvel stories is Sivana, Sivana is THE MAN, the MAN runs the government ergo the government is the Bad Guy.

Of the two SHAZAM writers in currently in the DC bullpen, never in our wildest dreams did we think that Trials of Shazam writer Judd Winick would do a better job of demonstrating restraint regarding social and political commentary than Jeff Smith or anyone else for that matter.

Teen Titans #46

The Upshot from DC Comics: Deathstroke's true motives are revealed as the shocking conclusion of "Titans East" explodes! Who has come to aid in the fight against Slade's boys and girls? And what new team of Titans — East and West — will rise out of the ashes of this epic battle?!

Geoff Johns and Adam Beechen share the story credit here but this is really Beechen trying to write his way out of a story arc that Johns started and it’s a mess. We don’t blame Beechen but it’s still a mess.

The result is Deathstroke the Terminator, one of the most compelling villains in the DCU universe, the guy who has been on both sides and has fought both the Titans and the JLA single-handed, is portrayed here as little more than Snidely Whiplash.

Slade from the Teen Titans cartoon had more personality and menace than the joker in this issue. Somewhere down the line, some writer is going to have to come up with some kind of retro-active explanation as to why Slade acted like such a dumbass here….maybe mind control or drugged or it was a flawed clone or something or else he is on his way to the Dr. Light (post-JLA mindwipe) hall of shame as most lamest bad guy.

As for Beechen, we’re going to give him a mulligan on this one. But if he doesn’t get his act together by the end if his first solo story arc, we’re dropping this book (again).
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