Saturday, June 02, 2007

Emerald Stud, Lightning Slow and Wildcat Tough

There’s been no rest for the weary this week as FanBoyWonder had to jump back into the work week following our two separate trips to New York City for business and that same week down to South Carolina to see Brianna The Girl Wonder.

Yet we did find time to pick up books so for you are faithful readers, here’s our review of the comics we picked up for the week of May 30.
Green Lantern #20
The Upshot from DC Comics: The conclusion to "Mystery of the Star Sapphire!" What is the secret nature of the sapphire and how will it affect Hal Jordan's future? Plus the backup feature "Tales of the Sinestro Corps" by Dave Gibbons!

Oh that Hal Jordan. He’s just so cute. Five, count em five females are chasing after our emerald warrior—well at least two of them are hot (and human)—ex-flame and one-time Star Sapphire Carol Ferris and Jillian “Cowgirl” Pearlman, Hal’s USAF wingman.

The other three wanting Hal’s body are Zamerons, alien amazons who dated the Guardians of the Universe before they had other fish to fry. Getting dumped by little blue men we suppose would turn them against men in general and want to use “love” as a weapon to conquer the universe.

We have to admit we like writer Geoff Johns' concept of the Zamerons seeking out the lovers of Green Lanterns as host bodies/vessels for members of their “Star Sapphire Corps.” We noted last issue we weren’t so impressed with Johns’ take on the Guardians/Zameron connection but we now see where he’s going.

With the upcoming Sinestro Corps storyline, instead of creating just one-anti Green Lantern Corps, Johns is setting up a triple threat with wearers of emerald, purple and yellow power rings having at it. There are signs that writer Johns is starting to come out of his creative coma.

Yet this issue—the conclusion of the three issue Sapphire story arc felt rushed and not just because of the “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” back up feature.

The story pacing has been off for the last several issues and we suspect it’s due to last year’s de-facto bi-monthly schedule due to deadline challenged artists.

Speaking of art, guest artist Daniel Acuna is definitely an acquired taste but his visuals got better with each issue of the three part story. We don’t think his style works as a full-time GL illustrator but we’re glad for the sake of visual consistency that he drew all three issues of the story.

The latest chapter of the Tales of the SC back up story, while visually appealing thanks to the art of Dave Gibbons, fell flat with us. Yet the back up feature served its purpose both to slowly wet readers’ appetite for this month’s Sinestro Corps special and to demonstrate just how much of a dark mirror the SC is to the Green Lantern Corps.

This book under an overextended and distracted Johns has suffered a serious drain in creative energy and reader (at least this reader’s) patience—we’re hoping for a full recharge will come with this next story arc.

Justice Society of America #6

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 4 of the 5-part JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA/JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA crossover "The Lightning Saga!" Wonder Woman leads Damage and a squad of League and Society members deep into the recesses of the mysterious Suicide Swamp! What horrible evil will rise that will plague the world for a thousand years, and how will the combined might of the Justice League and the Justice Society stop it?

Our first pass at this issue did not leave a very favorable impression. Too busy, too many characters, way too much story and a feeling that we’re 4/5 of the way through this cross-over and left feeling somewhere between confusion and boredom.

Fortunately, this issue was much better a day later on the second read but it is quite dense and it requires the reader’s full attention.

But it’s not in any way friendly to the casual reader who may have just picked up this issue of JSA to check it out. It’s totally devoid of even the briefest of recaps to let the reader know what’s transpired up to this point…or even an editor’s note pointing readers to read Justice League for the previous chapters of the Lightning Saga.

When the trade paperback comes out 4 to 6 months from now, there will be no confusion as readers will have all 5 chapters in front them in sequence all at once. We can’t help but feel annoyed that this cross-over is being written for the TPB reader even though the health and life of a comic book is determined by the monthly sales figures.

The day is coming and soon we think that this industry is going to have to decide whether the primary audience is the monthly book or the TPB buyer (think single broadcast episode vs. full season DVD set)—but that’s a discussion for another time.

Back to the story, there remains a LOT of talking here but writer Geoff Johns does give us some action with as the League and Society reunites to fight what turns out to be an illusion while the time-tossed Legion proceeds with its mission to save one of their own.

Our knowledge of the Legion of Super Heroes is spotty at best but Johns and JLA writer Brad Metzler seem to be working with the pre-CRISIS Legion here.

We’re still annoyed to no end that Superman’s history has been changed (again) so he was a member of the Legion and apparently has strong feelings for them—so much so that they’ve pulled the wool over his eyes so completely as to their real mission here in the 21st Century.

The regular art team of Dale Eaglesham and Ruy Jose do a bang up job here and help shore up the weak points of Johns storytelling with their trademark close-up facial expressions.
Furthermore, they do a remarkable job of keeping the scenes visually coherent given that between the JLA, JSA and the Legion there are no less than 25 heroes sharing space (and that’s NOT counting Triplicate Girl three times, although we did count both Wildcats—father and son.)

The Lightning Saga hasn’t been a bad story by any means but Metzler and Johns have bitten off WAY more than they can chew here. Given that Johns’ JSA chapters have been the stronger ones of the series, we suspect that Metzler’s conclusion of the Lightning Saga in JLA #10 will be satisfactory but not-at-all completely satisfying.

Countdown #48

The Upshot from DC Comics: The event of the year is here! This brand-new, year-long weekly series features a cast of hundreds where anything goes! With head writer Paul Dini and a rotating team of some of the industry's best writers and artists, COUNTDOWN will serve as the backbone of the DCU in 2007. When a character dies in COUNTDOWN 51, it sets off an unexpected ripple that will touch virtually every character in the DC Universe. The COUNTDOWN is on…so begins the end!

We’re not going to beat a dead horse here and recount our various problems with Countdown’s story as it’s been laid out to date. Suffice to say, said problems remain.

We did, however, enjoy the exchange between previously dead characters Donna Troy and Jason Todd regarding their “borrowed time.”

With the exception of perhaps Power Girl, no single DCU character has been used, abused and otherwise victimized by the consequences of the original CRISIS on Infinite Earths than the one-time Wonder Girl Donna Troy.

We hope that if ANYTHING comes from Countdown that Donna Troy is returned to a place of honor and respectability in the DC Universe.

The sad part is that was already starting to happen during the lead up to Infinite Crisis with the Return of Donna Troy mini-series just prior to IC as it was established that Donna was meant to be the Anti-Monitor’s Harbinger—meaning she was to be a serious player.

Yet that clusterfrak called Infinite Crisis happened and Donna led a team of heroes into space to….do nothing really….then Donna was hijacked into being the replacement Wonder Woman by that Deadline Challenged Hollywood knuckhead.

Meanwhile, a powerless Mary Marvel has found (or been found) by Black Adam who somehow already has his powers back following the events of World War III. Given the black outfit we’ve seen Mary sport in upcoming Countdown solicitations, it seems that Mary is poised to get her powers back….and take a walk on the dark side. Why does this make us feel so uneasy?

Oh yeah, and the New God Lightray dies. (yawn). Argus and Gunfire and the rest of DC’s Legion of Obscure Heroes better watch out.

Teen Titans #47
The Upshot from DC Comics: A Titan dies! Are Nightwing and Donna Troy the next targets?

This is a cross-over with Countdown as The Titans, past and present, take the murdered body of Joker’s Daughter and bury “one of their own.” But isn’t she from that “other Earth” At this point we’re ignoring the Countdown “plot” elements and not try to think it through too much.

The only thing we found compelling about the issue was Wonder Girl and her continued grieving for her lost love Superboy.
We’ve said before that we never realized just how much Kon-El was the heart of this current team of Titans until Infinite Crisis (and current protracted copyright litigation) took Superboy off the board.

Although in the DCU timeline, it’s been more than a year since Superboy’s death, Deathstroke’s use of Match, the bizzaro clone of Superboy, who himself was a clone, opened all of Wonder Girl’s fresh emotional wounds.

We were always hot and cold with Superboy but given the clumsy way he was killed off, we’re glad that SOMEONE remembers, much less mourns him.

From here, look for Teen Titans to be cross-over central until the new line up (and a new writer) takes shape in issue 50. We may or may not drop the book until then but we’re willing to give the new writer a chance—but just one chance.

JSA Classified #26

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 1 of a 2-part story written by Frank Tieri with art by Matt Haley and Jerome Moore! Wildcat undergoes a journey of self-discovery as he uncovers an underground superhuman gambling ring!

We liked this issue for no other reason because it was a rare spotlight on a vastly underdeveloped character. Writer Frank Tieri shows Wildcat as one of the toughest characters in the DC Universe. Others may be stronger but few are as tough.

While the story itself about gambling on metahuman fights is far from virgin territory—especially given JSA’s many fine go-rounds with Roulette, it’s only a reason to see what makes Ted Grant tick.

Unlike so many of the other original Justice Society members, Wildcat is the odd man out. While most of the other JSAers were decidedly middle-to-upper class, Ted Grant is a boxer, and by definition a tough guy. He sees the world in terms of punches and jabs and gambling offends his personal honor and the boxer’s code.

The art by Matt Haley and Jerome Moore is top shelf. Wildcat has never looked this good and we look forward to part 2 next month.

Monday, May 28, 2007

“Spending Time” With Brianna The Girl Wonder

(Pictured above: Brianna the Girl Wonder and “The Silver Surfer” from the upcoming Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer , in theatres June 15.)

As we noted in our last post, FanBoyWonder stopped long enough at home following our New York City business trip on Wednesday to unpack, repack and get Mrs. FBW then before dawn on Thursday we drove 10 hours to South Carolina to see our granddaughter and all-around pride and joy Brianna The Girl Wonder…..and also to attend the wedding of our step-daughter Laurinda during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

While we had just seen her a few weeks before during Easter weekend, we always feel a pull at our heart when we see our little girl as it feels like it’s been too long. We swear that she has grown some more during the few weeks that we saw her last.

We packed a LOT into our short visit with Brianna, including a blessed overnight stay with us at our hotel. For those readers with children, you all know what a joy it can be just to sit and watch a child sleep—for us it was a genuine treat to behold again.

Lest we forget, special and distinct thanks go to our good friend Dr. William Marcus for his special assistance that allowed Mr. and Mrs. FanBoyWonder to travel down South to see our baby girl. Bill has become like family to us and there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for him—Thanks again Bill!

Meanwhile, A quick shout out and a word of thanks goes to Scott at Planet Comics, the local comic book store where we took Brianna—just as we used to do when Brianna lived with us.

First and foremost, Scott was very nice to Brianna (who turns 6 next week)—always a good thing for an overprotective grandpa. Plus he helped us find a nice age appropriate comic to get—DC Comics’ Cartoon Network Action Pack, while Brianna insisted we get a Simpsons Comic for her Gucky (grandmother) or Mrs. FBW as you the reader know her. She’s a good girl who always thinks of others.

Brianna also got a mini Venom figure from the store’s gumball figure machine, just like we used to do when FBW would take her to Brainstorm Comics.

As for FBW, there was so much to choose from at Planet Comics but we settled on a nice trade paperback, CRISIS on Multiple Earths: The Team Ups, Volume 2. It includes rare early team-ups between the Golden Age and Silver Age Green Lanterns and even rarer pairings of the Golden Age and Silver Age Atoms. A good buy for just $14.99.

We also spotted and purchased a Jack Knight Starman figure. Knowing how much our best pal Kemosabe loves that run of Starman and seeing how the price was right, we snapped it up for Kemosabe. (“Who loves ya baby?”)

After our trip to Planet Comics, Brianna and FBW picked up Gucky at the hotel and we went to the movies to see Shrek The Third. We were only marginally aware of Shrek One and Two but it was an amusing 90 minutes or so.

We enjoyed just watching Brianna laugh. She put our head on our shoulder and leaned over and said to us “Dziadziu [pronounced ja-JEW, which is Polish for grandfather], I like spending time” and hugged our arm. We had trouble seeing the screen for a couple minutes after that.

The following morning, we picked up Brianna early so we could get some time with her before the wedding later that day at 3 p.m.

As FBW noted last week, for the first time since Brianna was a baby, she was not with us as a “helper” when FanBoyWonder and Mrs. FBW went to flag veterans’ graves in honor of Memorial Day. It had become a tradition with us and it was something we wanted to continue with Brianna—at least for one more year.

With a batch of 20 flags we brought with us, we found a local cemetery and once again, FanBoyWonder, Gucky and Brianna the Girl Wonder planted flags at veterans’ graves and sought to honor them in a small way.

During this, we talked with Brianna about the meaning of tradition and respect and how important it can be. She promised she wouldn’t forget. We also told her how much we miss her and even though we are far far away, we always think of her and she can always count on us.

When we planted our last flag, Brianna and FBW put our hands over our hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. Tradition, honor and respect. It was a moment that neither of us will soon forget.

When FBW and the Mrs. arrived at Grandma Sandy’s house for the wedding, we helped to get things ready as best we could. FBW helped Kenny the Groom and our new son-in-law with his suit. We also had a quiet word about what it means to be a man with a family, just how much Brianna means to us and a subtle warning to treat our little girl right. We’ll see how that works out.

The preacher arrived and the groom and bride were running late but it got started. Laurinda the Bride wore black, as did the groom, as did beautiful flower girl Brianna.

Mrs. FBW gave away the bride while Grandpa FanBoyWonder was drafted into being the audio/visual guy—working both the camcorder and the MP3 player for music (like giving a caveman an IBM ThinkPad).

The words were said, the bride was kissed and Mrs. and Mrs. Kenny Watson met the world. Kenny’s grandmother Sandy deservers much credit for hosting, organizing and planning the event.

The only sour note came later. A panicked groom came into the room with a “huge problem” as he told the bride he needed $25 cash for “an emergency.”

We thought he had to pay the preacher or some other unforeseen wedding expense so fatherly FanBoyWonder took him aside, took out our wallet and gave him $25 cash. To his credit, he tried to give us a $25 check…we told him to keep it.

However, after the groom disappeared for an hour with his two little friends, he reappeared in an…..altered state. Given his admitted and public history with controlled substance abuse, and that he is currently not working and that he just got married and that our little girl now calls him “daddy,” we’re NOT exactly pleased.

Being a man of the house means taking care of your family and taking of your family starts with NOT acting the part of the stoned slacker. Strike one Son!!!

Brianna was the life of the party of course. Everybody told her how beautiful she looked. As an aside, she is used to being told she is “pretty” and “beautiful” but during one of our chats, we told her how much more important is to be “nice” to people—that she should use her powers only for good.

At this point in her life, Brianna is beautiful both on the inside as well as out. She as a good heart and she shares—whether it be an M&M or a hug. But we worry for her future as we can only watch from arms length as she may have to become tougher and harden her heart to deal with the world around her.

As we prepared to leave after the wedding had long since broken up. We said our goodbyes to the Bride and Groom and well as Grandma Sandy the host. We all got through it.

Toughest was to come as Brianna hugged us and asked us again (she had asked several times during our visit) if she could “go home to Frederick, Maryland” with us. She started to cry but Gucky deftly defused what would have been a crying bit for all three of us with some humor and we laughed and cried only on the inside.

Brianna is in a nice place—in a nice house in a nice community—and Sandy provides a loving home for which we are so grateful but it’s not “home”—not for us and bless her heart not for Brianna as she said has said early and often that “I want to go ‘home’ with Gucky and Dziadziu.”
It broke our hearts to tell her we couldn’t bring her home with us when I would give all that I have and more to have her with us.

We promised Brianna that we WILL see her again and that we love her and she can ALWAYS call us. It’s not the same but it will have to be enough for now.

I miss my little girl.

Birds of Prey vs. The Secret Six and FBW's Friend Jenn The Drama Goddess

It was thankfully a light week for comics during the week of May 23 going into the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

It’s been a LONG week which started in New York City for work and ended with a visit down South to see Brianna The Girl Wonder.

(Apologies for so long between postings. While we had our trusty laptop while traveling down South, Professor FanBoyWonder forgot our power cord so we had to pen our blog longhand and wait till we got home to post—technology is only as good as the dumbass using it.)

It had been nearly 15 years since we had last been in New York City. Our stay at the New York Marriott Marquis ( was pleasant enough, especially with our room on the 42nd Floor and the lovely overlook of Times Square.

Even cooler was looking across and down at the clock tower building where Spidey and Doc Ock fought and threw parts of the building at each other in Spider-Man 2.

A special shout out to our old friend and fellow Rockville High School alumni Jenn, The Drama Goddess. As former Golden Goose Players, we met up in NYC during our visit and enjoyed a lovely dinner together at El Azteca Mexican restaurant

Once we had finished going down memory lane about high school, Jenn and FBW realized that we shared common ground with shows on the Sci-Fi Channel and specifically Battlestar Galactica, as well as NBC’s Heroes, which we’ve recently come to enjoy.

It’s for Jenn that we pledge that we’ll get off the stick and (finally) bang out our BSG Season 3 overview. Great to see you again Jenn. Take care of yourself.

Now on to our reviews for books from the week of May 23.

Birds of Prey #106

Quote of the week: “Ah. Better than sex. And almost as brutal.” –from the Secret Six’s Knockout as she braces for a punch from the Birds of Prey’s Barda.

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Secret Six make their move on the Birds as Oracle struggles to regain control of the team she's spent years building.

We’re almost sorry that we liked this issue so much. Right here, right now Birds of Prey is one of the best team books in the DC Universe—not one of the best female books but one of the best books period.

Unfortunately, BoP writer Gail Simone is leaving the book—dispatched by the powers that be at DC to rescue the Wonder Woman book following the disastrous re-launch—just as she was finding her second creative mojo.

Last issue was taken over by guest stars the Secret Six and the issue fell just a little flat at the end with only the promise of action to come. This issue, Simone kept that promise in spades as the Birds and the Six have it out in a full blown metabrawl.

The battle between the two former Female Furies of Apokolips Barda and Knockout takes center stage but everybody gets a piece of everybody else in this issue.

The second biggest pairing was between the newest member of the Six Harley Quinn and the “world’s most powerful teleporter” Misfit—who transported her annoying adolescent self from Oracle’s HQ all the way around the world to Russia in the blink of an eye. We found Misfit annoying in the extreme when Simone introduced her but she is growing on us.

We continue to find Spy Smasher interesting as her arrogance is matched only by her ability to back up her attitude in a fight. She’s tough enough to keep Deadshot on the defensive and smart enough to cow Oracle into surrendering. We do hope that Simone resolves the Oracle/Smasher feud before she moves on to Damage Control duties with Wonder Woman.

The funniest scene of the issue comes as Huntress is required to make a quick change from ball gown to costume before the fight commences. Modestly clutching her ball gown across her naked bosom, Huntress orders Creote, the Birds’ trusty male companion and all around muscleman, to watch over the rescued and unconscious Ice—“and for God sakes turn around.”

His mute facial expression says it all “Hello! I’m Gay remember?” to wit Huntress replies “I know, I know smart guy. Turn around anyway.”

It’s a funny and clever scene of many levels. Huntress is a former mafia princess and cold blooded killer but her modesty reveals a rare bit if humanity and vulnerability in three panels that would have taken a scribe lesser than Simone an entire issue to express—maybe. (Have we mentioned how much we are going to miss you Gail???)

Kudos to the art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood. They handle both the tight character panels and the open fight scenes with equal skill. We are very glad they are staying on the book.

We’ve hardly talked about the return of Justice Leaguer Ice from the dead. She is oddly an afterthought in this story but we expect her to get her due as the story arc concludes next issue. Stay tuned.

Countdown #49

The Upshot from DC Comics: The event of the year is here! This brand-new, year-long weekly series features a cast of hundreds where anything goes! With head writer Paul Dini and a rotating team of some of the industry's best writers and artists, COUNTDOWN will serve as the backbone of the DCU in 2007.When a character dies in COUNTDOWN 51, it sets off an unexpected ripple that will touch virtually every character in the DC Universe. The COUNTDOWN is on…so begins the end!

We are three weeks into the Countdown year-long “event” and we’re already having issues (no pun intended) with DC’s newest weekly series.

Specifically, we’re split by what we see as the promise or potential of the premise that Team Countdown seems to have laid out. Better yet, unlike 52, Countdown actually appears to have a thought out plot and a deliberate direction to follow.

The bad news is that the execution of said premise has been at best clumsy and to be most unkind, it’s been a near-total clusterfrak. Even worse, it’s a the continuation of a clusterfrak that started with the Gods-awful Infinite Crisis, continued with One Year Later and 52 and has infected nearly ever book in the DC line up.

The post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe—under Dan Didio's “leadership” has emerged as a Deliberately Confused mess. DC’s best strength—it’s individual character storytelling—has become its worst weakness and Team Countdown is only the latest of “the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

It’s bad enough that this “mystery” involving Joker’s Daughter is implausible but the reader’s simply aren’t being clued into the basic storytelling necessities. Simply put—DC has shaken up the continuity snow globe so many times, it’s impossible to know what past stories “count” and what is no longer acknowledged as canon. And we pity the incoming new readers.

DC has at the same time managed to totally confuse both sets of readers—old timers like FBW with long-term historical memory and newcomers just looking for an understandable access point.

Example: Jimmy Olsen dodges an attack by Killer Croc by somehow tapping into his old Silver-Age Elastic Lad powers.

Furthermore, this issue’s reveal of the Monitors (plural) loses its impact because it was given away during the Brave New World one-shot.

We’re not sure how we feel about this new “Monitor Corps,” an obvious homage to Marvel Comics’ Watchers. One Monitor—introduced during the CRISIS on Infinite Earths—was special and unique. 52 Monitors are decidedly less special but we’ll let it ride and see where Team Countdown takes it.

As for the art—well we figured it couldn’t last but after two issues of quite good art, the weekly “52 effect” takes hold. The art—with Carlos Magno on pencils and Jay Leisten on inks—wasn’t bad but it wasn’t our cup of tea. But at least its one art team through the entire book lending a visual consistency as opposed to different artists taking different pages as what happened during some weeks of 52.

As it stands, Team Countdown has 48 more weeks to get its act together but it would be better if they did that sooner rather than later.
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