Saturday, October 13, 2007

Emerald Foot-Dragging, Spider-Family Guilt & Don't Drink While Time Traveling

FanBoyWonder is just a couple hours away from having to catch a plane to our old stomping grounds in Boston for a business trip. But before we head to beantown, here’s our view of the books for the week of October 10 from the shotgun formation:

Green Lantern #24

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Sinestro Corps War" continues as Hal Jordan and the world's greatest heroes struggle against the combined terror of Sinestro, Parallax and the Corps of Fear. And when Hal finds himself face-to-face with one of the most bizarre members of the Sinestro Corps he has a simple choice to make — keep fighting and die or lay down and walk away. Plus, what is the prophecy of the Blackest Night and what does it mean to the future of Hal Jordan and the Corps?

This was by no means a bad issue and was actually quite good. Writer Geoff Johns has undergone a creative recharge with the Sinestro Corps storyline after phoning it in for most of last year (that is whenever they could make deadline).

The issue centers on Kyle Rayner’s rescue from his possession by the Parallax entity and his being brought back into the fold a as rank-and-file Green Lantern, leaving his days as Ion the Torchbearer of the Green Lantern Corps behind him.

Although this was done quite well, aided not a little by the art team of Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert, our issue with this issue was that we’ve known for weeks that this would be the end result thanks to the god-awful Countdown.

There was zero suspense and little reason to care about the battle for Kyle’s soul—we already knew it was going to be saved.

This chapter of the Sinestro Corps War could have and perhaps should have been told during the Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax one-shot from a couple of weeks ago, which would have left room to show what we REALLY wanted to see—the main event.

The focus on Kyle took away from the overall invasion of Earth by the Sinestro Corps, the Manhunters, Cyborg Superman, Superboy-Prime and the Anti-Monitor. What should have been Holy S**t moments were glossed over in favor of returning to the part of the story that we’ve known for weeks would turn out favorably.

After a slow but steady build up and a gangbusters start, the Sinestro Corps storyline is starting to lose momentum and we fear it’s headed for a stall.

Enough with the foot dragging! Get on with the big showdown! There are just two more chapters to go—in next month’s Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern,

Unless both chapters are each grand slam home runs (which is well within their story telling abilities) we fear the Sinestro Corps will have tragically undelivered—all wind up and no pitch.

Come on guys, we’re tired of DC’s disappointments. Knock our socks off, please!

Suicide Squad Raise the Flag #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: Stranded alongside his worst enemy in an otherworldly wilderness, Rick Flag Jr. is stunned by memories of a previously unknown life in Black Ops as the 8-issue miniseries heats up!

This was the character story that we’ve waited 20 years to read. This issue focused nearly exclusively on Rick Flag, who is NOT dead as we believed him to be all those years ago.

Way back during the first Suicide Squad series, Flag bombed Qurac but as it turned it WASN’T a suicide bombing as Flag and his Jihad counterpart Rustam were pulled into a dimensional rift created by Rustam’s mystical Scimitar to the savage land of the weapon’s origin—Skartaris.

Faced with being strangers in a strange land with a common threat, they do the old put aside their differences for mutual survival thing—pretty standard really.

What made the issue for us was the focus on Rick Flag. Back during the first series when John Ostrander first introduced Flag to us, the man was already damaged goods well on his way toward crumbling.

Now we look forward to meeting the real Rick Flag.

Amazing Spider-Girl #13

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: While Spider-Girl deals with the guilt over what happened to her baby brother; the Hobgoblin narrates this issue as he cements his plans for a gang war with the Black Tarantula.

In case we haven’t mentioned it, we REALLY love this book and this character. Frankly, we can’t believe it took us so long to get on board but since we have, it has YET to let us down.

At the start of the issue we see May Parker reeling from the guilt for her baby brother Ben’s hearing loss following his kidnapping by Carnage.

In her guilt, May believes that her father Peter is freezing her out, holding her responsible for using the sonic weapon that freed the baby from Carnage’s symboite but damaged the little boy’s hearing. In reality, Peter is blaming himself for not being able to fire the weapon, forcing his daughter as Spider-Girl to do the deed.

Guilt is indeed a Parker family tradition.

Meanwhile, May’s boyfriend Gene Thompson is at his wits end with his absentee girlfriend, not knowing that she is saving lives as Spider-Girl. Heartbroken and awash with guilt, Mayday can’t defend herself. This time, the truth can’t set her free.

The adventures of Mayday Parker and Spider-Girl are the total flip-side of the high school days of her dad “Puny” Parker and Spider-Man. It’s even harder to be popular and to be a hero than to be the class outcast.

Okay, writer Tom DeFalco’s dialogue in the high school scenes are laughable—it really does read like a middle-aged person trying (and failing) to imagine interaction between teenagers—but given the book’s many other strengths, we can over look this one.

While all this unfolds, The Hobgoblin is lurking in the background—moving the chess pieces and getting ready to take on the daughter of his greatest enemy.

At first we were annoyed that it was taking DeFalco so long to bring the Hobgoblin up but we now like how he is drawing it out…not rushing it. Better yet, DeFalco gives us some valuable insight inside Hobgoblin’s head.

He’s every bit afraid of Miss Spidey as she is of him. He can’t rest until he’s gotten her first.

The art for this issue by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema was as always is first rate. Their attention to detail continues to wow us. Mayday’s facial features and the way she is drawn she genuinely looks like the child of Peter and Mary Jane.

And not a gratuitous T&A shot anywhere in the book. Miss Spidey under team Spider-Girl successfully demonstrates that a female super-hero does NOT have to be a super-tramp.

All New Booster Gold #3

The Upshot from DC Comics: Booster Gold heads back to the Old West and runs into Jonah Hex. You know, that crazy looking gunfighter! But what does Jonah Hex have that Booster desperately needs? Plus: the Death of Jonah Hex!!
We like a book that’s serious in its storytelling but yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Okay, we know that sounds funny given the premise of the book calls for Booster Gold and his pal “Time Master” Rip Hunter to travel the multiverse putting right was has gone wrong with the space/time continuum—but it works.

This issue, the as yet unidentified villain who hijacked the SuperNova costume and bag of tricks has gone back to the old west to mess with Superman’s history. How? By killing an ancestor of Jonathan Kent and depriving the Last Son of Krypton of his adopted father, he would instead by raised by the Luthor family and be “brothers” with Lex.

Personally we liked seeing Booster in that Queer Eye-inspired cowboy outfit and getting drunk in the saloon with legendary gunslinger Jonah Hex.

Mission accomplished, Booster made his way back to the time machine and to Rip Hunter. Against his better judgment, Rip lets Booster take the helm but friends shouldn’t let friends operate the time machine drunk. Before they know it they get into a time-stream fender-bender with the Flash and Kid Flash (Barry Allen and a young Wally West) aboard their cosmic-treadmill.

This is a meeting we are looking forward to next issue.

Black Adam: The Dark Age #3

The Upshot from DC Comics: After Black Adam and Faust strike a deal within the bowels of Fate's Tower that will aid Adam in his search for the lost amulet of Isis, Adam finds himself face to face with his former JSA teammate, Hawkman, in an epic battle that will rock the streets and skies of St. Roch!

This is the anti-hero that we remembered from the pages of JSA and the promise that we started to see in 52 before the treatment of Black Adam went off the rails during the World War III “event.”

Black Adam is wanted all over the world because of his global rampage following the murder of his family (again).

Now he is single-mindedly determined to bring back his wife Isis from the dead. He very nearly succeeded during the first issue thanks to one of the Lazarus Pits—but Adam needs to re-assemble the pieces of Isis’ mystical amulet to complete the deal.

Meanwhile, Adam has mystically found a way to access his powers by bypassing the Power of Shazam and drawing mystical energy from the bones of his wife—but the longer he uses his powers, the more he drains her life force and diminishes the chances of returning Isis to life.

Adam encounters Hawkman while retrieving a piece of the amulet. The confrontation between the one-time friends and allies from literally many lives ago brought out the best in both characters and it’s a confrontation we totally enjoyed.

The art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy perfectly complemented the story and in fact the compelling visuals actually advanced writer Peter Tomasi’s complex tale to the next level.

Stung from disappointing 52 and World War III series and suffering from event fatigue, even our love of all things Marvel Family/Shazam wasn’t enough to make us want to get this book at first. Thankfully, our friends at Brainstorm Comics gave us a copy of issue #1 anyway—and we are grateful.

Understated as it may be, Black Adam The Dark Ages may end up being one of the best books of the year. Shazam baby!

Okay, nuff said. We have a plane to catch! So long for now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bionic Woman—Sisterhood

The Upshot from NBC: Jaime (Michelle Ryan) is tasked by the Berkut Group to watch the daughter of a Canadian defense contractor. At the same time, she must decide whether or not she is going to help Sarah Corvus (Katie Sackhoff), the first bionic woman, save herself.

This week’s episode was a noticeable improvement from last week but it’s clear that Bionic Woman is still struggling to find its way.

Unfortunately for Bionic Woman’s lead actress Michelle Ryan, much of what worked in Sisterhood centered around guest-star Katie Sackhoff’s Sarah Corvus.

It’s not that Ryan was particularly bad in this episode—indeed we saw her displaying a growing comfort with the demands of her character—it’s just that by contrast, Sarah Corvus is just so much more compelling.

This is especially true in the way that Sackhoff portrays Sarah in equal measure vulnerable, dangerous, sympathetic and contemptible. She’s the classic case of the proverbial bad girl who kills her family then seeks the mercy of the court because she’s an orphan.

It’s not that Ryan is incapable of carrying an episode or of the series but this week, guest-star Sackhoff picked up much more of the dramatic slack than she should have.

One of the best moments of this week’s episode also proved to be the most telling. The scene opens with agency director Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer) declaring his undying love. The shot opens up and we see he’s talking to the Berkut Group’s resident security consultant and shrink Ruth Truewell (Molly Price). The shot opens up even farther and we see Jonas is hooked up to a polygraph where Ruth declares a perfect reading.

How does he do it she asks? He replies that he’s been married. (Married fanboys dare not comment on this part of the show).

But looking deeper into the scene, FanBoyWonder readers will recall our comments last week noting Jonas’ personality about face in dealing with Jaime—first he threatens her life, then he wants to “help” her. This week he’s somewhere in-between.

But the viewer has seen him effortlessly beat a lie detector test. Jonas it would seem is a skilled liar and an emotional chameleon.

We’ve also learned this week that Jaime has both a GPS chip in her bionic implant and a live camera feed broadcasting from her ocular implant.

In an odd bit of team work, Sarah teaches Jaime how to turn off her lojack while railing at how “objectifying” the camera is to the dignity of Bionic Women—and perhaps they should form a union.

Meanwhile, Jaime’s babysitting job is little more than a plot devise meant to put Jaime in place to fend off a pack of Serbian thugs who come for the Canadian defense guy’s brat.

Sarah comes to Jaime because she is dying. Bionic inventor Dr. Anthony Anthros (Mark Sheppard), fresh from his escape from a maximum security prison, tells Sarah her bionics are old and he needs to examine Jaime to find a cure for her. Sure does suck to be a prototype bionic babe.

While not unsympathetic to Sarah’s plight, Jaime is not willing to put herself in the lion’s den for the woman who caused her “accident”, killed her unborn child and shot her lover (who isn’t dead, but will be back during sweeps month—mark our words).

Sarah forces the issue by standing ready to kill Becca (Lucy Hale) in Jaime’s apartment unless Jaime plays ball. Note we’re only three episodes in and the writers have already played the Becca the Girl Hostage card.

Clearly outmatched by the more powerful other bionic woman, Jaime talks Sarah out of killing Becca while activating her bionic homing beacon. Yet Jaime warns Sarah off before the ninjas show up. Talk about mixed messages. To be continued.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Emerald vs. Yellow Makes Blood Red While Wolfman’s Nightwing Flames Out

Under the better late than never file, a busy work schedule plus…..concentration problems have tripped us up despite our best intentions to bang out book reviews for the week of October 3.

We’re also minus our usual proof reader this time around so bear with us. Without further ado….

Green Lantern Corps #16

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Sinestro War continues as Mogo is attacked by the Sinestro Corps. Can the largest Green Lantern of all defend itself from a squadron of Sinestro Corps members?

It’s really a shame that writer Dave Gibbons is leaving (or has been told to leave???) this title as this renowned comic book artist has really come into his own as a writer and he’s just really hit his stride with this title. But at least Gibbons get to out hitting a home run.

Proof that GLC’s Gibbons has stepped up as an equal writing partner to his Green Lantern counterpart Geoff Johns can be seen in the GLC chapters of the Sinestro Corps War. Although reading GLC is not explicitly necessary to understand the main events unfolding in Green Lantern, the Gibbons’ side of the story is every bit as compelling and it adds an extra layer to the Sinestro Corps War story arc.

Better yet we see the Green Lanterns actually turn a corner against their yellow-bellied opponents during the Battle of Mogo. Even with the wall-to-wall action, the art team of pencilers Patrick Gleason & Angel Unueta with inkers Prentis Rollins & Vincete Cifuenyes are all on their A game as they not only present clear visuals, but they so successfully mesh artistically that we are hard pressed to tell who did which pages.

We’ve really enjoyed Gibbons take of the Green Lantern Corps and he has not been afraid to reach back into history to give the GLC a sense of coherence. While the living Green Lantern planet Mogo started out all those years ago a plot twist to a Tales of the Green Lantern Corps back up story, Gibbons has really developed Mogo’s personality and purpose in the Corps.

The revelation that Mogo serves as the universal navigator for masterless Green Lantern rings searching the galaxy for new Lanterns was brilliant. Also, although we saw the Guardian’s de-activation of the power rings’ failsafe now permitting Lanterns to use lethal force in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, Gibbons does a much better job of portraying the gravity of the event by the different reactions of various Lanterns—some who relish being able to kill those who have slain so many of their fellow Lanterns to Kilowog’s reaction when he realized that the Corps has cross a big line.

The Green Lanterns start to stack up the yellow corpses but the cost may turn out to be destroying the Corps in order to save it—this is a theme we hope to see played out in the aftermath of the Sinestro Corps War story line.

Better yet, we love the inclusion of Green Lantern Arista into this book. Geoff Johns may have brought her back to life but it’s here we see Gibbons giving her serious relevance like never before. Gone is the kid Lantern love struck with Hal Jordan but rather a confident veteran Green Lantern even as she continues to defend Hal’s honor to the upstart Lantern Sodom Yat.

But it’s the aforementioned Sodam Yat that really grabbed our attention. Yat has learned that he is prophesied to be a pivotal player to history at some future date so knowing he won’t die “yet”, we see him take wild and reckless chances—and succeed.

Yet it’s his origins that excite us. Yat is from the planet Daxam, sister planet to the now destroyed Krypton. A Green Lantern with (when near a yellow sun) the powers of Superman.

We had long forgotten about Sodam Yat until were reminded to refer to our copy of Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (1986) story by Alan Moore when in a single panel, the story refers to Sodam Yat, the Daxamite who will one day hailed as the “ultimate Green Lantern” as he has been foretold to perish battling the final catastrophe that will bury the Green Lantern Corps in the future.

Okay then….you have our attention. But we will say that Dave Gibbons leaves some pretty big shoes for new GLC writer Peter Tomasi to fill.

Nightwing # 137

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Nightwing/Vigilante/Metal Eddie story shifts into high gear as Eddie's full plan is finally revealed.

NO! NO! NO! In a single issue—his last issue—writer Marv Wolfman managed to go from hero to goat as he undermined all of his efforts to bring respect and stability to Nightwing—both the character and the book.

Wolfman was brought in last year after DC Comics (quite rightly) fired former Nightwing writer for gross incompetence. Wolfman’s run was initially supposed to be a four-issue fill-in but it was extended for another year following positive fan feedback.

Wolfman brought back badly needed stability to the character that he co-created with George Perez during the New Teen Titans days. More importance he brought competence—something that had been in short supply on this title for a while.

Yet competence is supposed to be the bare minimum not the bragging right. Even as we enjoyed Wolfman’s run, we didn’t put blinders on…he wasn’t exactly lighting the pages on fire with excitement…but he seemed to be moving the character along, positioning Nightwing to be taken to the next level.

We weren’t crazy about the introduction of Dick Grayson’s long lost love/fem fatale as there have been too many Nightwing “finding himself” stories looking into his past instead of facing forward. We were less crazy about the introduction of another “new” Vigilante.

“Metal Eddie” was lamest of antagonists. But Wolfman had Nightwing back to his worst “boy blunder” days. This Nightwing couldn’t find his ass with both hands…when he wasn’t getting it kicked by every Z-list bad guy.

Worst of all, Wolfman’s last issue didn’t even give us the identity of this new Vigilante (It’s JJ as why else would Wolfman introduce a 25 year old, previously dead, minor supporting character of the previous Vigilante Adrian Chase).

Wolfman is saving that for his new Vigilante series. So instead he gave us the three words that we have learned to loathe in the DC Universe… “to be continued.”

Good-bye Marv. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
Tales of the Sinestro Corps Presents: Cyborg Superman

The Upshot from DC Comics: Who is Hank Henshaw? What made him the Cyborg Superman, and what does he hope the Sinestro Corp can give him? Alan Burnett peels away the mysterious layers of the mechanical monster as the new JLA Watchtower's defenses are put to the test against him and the Sinestro Corps!

FanBoyWonder remembers the very first issue that introduced Hank Henshaw 17 years ago. It was in a throw away story in Adventures of Superman #466 in a spoof of the Fantastic Four’s origin—but if it went horribly wrong.

Long story short, it gave us the Cyborg Superman. This one-shot neither compelled us or bothered us.

Writer Alan Burnett gave us a pretty good wrap up of Henshaw’s origin while advancing the story moderately and giving us a more developed sense of Henshaw’s death wish. He can’t die—no matter how many times he does, his consciousness keeps finding its way back.

Cyborg Superman wasn’t the peace that comes from oblivion and he wants the rest of the universe to join him in his peaceful slumber. Talk about if I can’t have it, no one can.

All in all an amusing story tie in but we’re anxious to get to the main event.

Detective Comics: #837

The Upshot from DC Comics: This special issue of DETECTIVE COMICS features two of Gotham's recently reformed rogues: Harley Quinn and the Riddler! Readers who have enjoyed Harley's role in COUNTDOWN will take special pleasure in this story as they learn how she became involved in the Amazonian Women's Help Center.

We haven’t read a Batman book on a regular basis in years but our best pal Kemosabe urged us to give it a whirl as he swears by the work of writer Paul Dini on this book.

Despite the fact it was a Countdown tie-in—have we mentioned that we think Countdown sucks and we’ve dropped the title like a dead fish???—and despite it featured the Riddler P.I. with the Dark Knight only appearing the last page, it was an amusing waste of time.

We’ll keep this title in mind during a slow week when we have an extra $2.99 burning a hole in our wallet.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Razor Flashback Part 1—Day 4571

The Upshot from Sci-Fi Channel: Written by Michael Taylor and directed by Wayne Rose and Felix Alcala, these intense, roughly two-minute segments tell the story of young William "Husker" Adama's (Nico Cortez) rookie Viper mission during the first Cylon war. In addition to fighting for his very survival against relentless Cylon centurions, Adama makes a terrifying discovery that will come back 40 years later to threaten him, the crew of the Pegasus and the survival of the human race. This isn't footage you'll see in the premiere of Razor, so make sure to watch every Friday for a new flashback adventure, then see it again on SCIFI.COM!

After a more than half-year drought of BSG episodes, those clever fellows at Sci-Fi Channel have yet again come up with a neat way of providing thirsty fans with some drops that do just enough to momentarily slacken our thirst but then immediately makes us want another taste.
Just like last year’s “webisodes”—Battlestar Galactica: The Resistance—these 7-part, 2 minute “minisodes” are flashbacks designed to give viewers some back story about Admiral Adama’s (Edward James Olmos’) character as a young man and to show us a glimpse of the first Cylon war.

Part 1 was this past weekend. It first airs during Sci-Fi’s Gods awful Flash Gordon on Friday nights then released over the Internet on the next day.

Part 1 opens on board the Battlestar Galactica on Day 4,571 or some dozen years into the first Cylon War, where we see a young Billy Adama in the pilot’ “racks” making with the love to fellow pilot Lt. Jaycie McGavin (Allison Warniyca).

Beyond the not inconsiderable physical resemblance to Edward James Almos if you subtract some four decades, Nico Cortez’s portrayal of rookie pilot Husker is amazing. In the brief 2 minute scene, the viewer gets a glimpse of the experienced, hardened, world-weary man this young pup will eventually become.

This is most definitely NOT William’s/Husker’s son Lee/Apollo (Jamie Bamber) by another name, Cortez shows us a young, confident if untested pilot whose trepidation about his upcoming first time in combat is balanced out by a reserve of inner-iron.

Whereas Apollo from the moment we met him has been unsure and in the shadow of his father, Husker is his own man—even if he is green.

Other than introducing us to Husker, Part 1 does little more than set up the premise of these “minisodes” but it’s already been an interesting glimpse. While last year’s The Resistance seemed to be shot on a shoestring, this year’s Razor Flashbacks we can already tell has superior production values.

Speaking of physical resemblances, this may be us and it may or may not lead to anything but we just happen to notice that Husker’s “bunkmate” Jaycie bears a striking likeness to the Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) minus the platinum blond hair job. Could this mean something in upcoming Flashback chapters? Hmmmm.

Look for the remaining six Flashbacks to air Friday nights during Flash Gordon through November 16 (the on Sci-Fi Channel’s website) with FanBoyWonder commentary throughout before the premier of the new BSG movie Battlestar Galactica: Razor on Saturday, November 24. Stay tuned
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