Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Year/New Hope, Recharging Mojo & Shotgun Reviews

Happy New Year everyone! FanBoyWonder is having a hard time believing that it is 2008 already but we’re MORE than ready to kiss 2007 good-bye and not look back.

As you can tell by our haphazard blog postings, we have not exactly had our head in the ballgame but with a New Year comes new hope and the promise of renewal to face the many challenges in front of us—both old and new.

Meanwhile, FanBoyWonder endeavors to catch up on our issue comic reviews as our writing mojo is recharging and we hope to get back to some television reviews as well. We make a giant step toward catching up with our comics reviews from the shotgun formation. Game on.

Birds of Prey #113

The Upshot From DC Comics: New series writer Sean McKeever debuts with an issue guest-starring Superman! A high-tech hazard threatens the streets of Metropolis, and a mob boss recently "promoted" is to blame. As the Birds lose control of the situation, Metropolis's other hero warns Oracle about her future in the City of Tomorrow.

Following two able fill-in issues by Tony Bedard, new Birds of Prey writer Sean McKeever takes over from the incomparable Gail Simone.

At first glance there really isn’t anything special about this issue until we realized that it wasn’t a regular Gail Simone story but the first issue of the new guy. McKeever does quite an impressive job handling the transition by picking up on one of Gail’s dangling plot threads in Tabby—the mafia princess the Birds rescued from a Mexican prison last year.

It seems Tabby has hijacked a killer transformer like robot in a harebrained scheme to kill the mafia dons who simply laughed at her attempt to take her murdered father’s seat at the mob table.

The attempt to take down Tabby by Oracle and her team goes horribly wrong impossibly fast resulting in a big bang and a bigger crater in downtown Metropolis.

As the team licks their wounds following their failure the next morning, Superman pays a visit to extend a very Batman-like lecture about how the team screwed the pooch in his town—leaving Oracle feeling very much like the gal who can do no right.

We see some promise where McKeever seems to be going. For all of Simone’s great stories, neither she nor with previous BofP writer Chuck Dixon have portrayed Oracle as anything other than in total control and in the zone. It would be very interesting indeed to see Oracle’s character tested by watching her do everything right but still lose—such as happens in life.

The continued top-shelf art by Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood helps the transition in the form of maintaining visual continuity. So far we like what we see.

Checkmate #21

The Upshot From DC Comics: The sensational 2-part story "Mademoiselle Marie" begins! Long before World War II, a legendary French spy network was born - and now a kidnapping in Africa has turned the Mademoiselle Marie legacy against its latest standard-bearer, the Black Queen's Knight!

As much as it seems that we’ve been down on Checkmate writer Greg Rucka, we’ve always been impressed with his ability to tell a compelling story—it’s just people that we think is Rucka’s weak link.

Following the big “Fall of the Wall” story-arc, Checkmate downshifts into a two-part character story by focusing on the Black Queen’s Knight and France’s Mademoiselle Marie Josephine Tautin.

However, yet again Rucka brings in a co-writer in Eric Trautmann so we really can't judge Rucka’s ability to develop a character away from a giant story arc.

Part 1 of the story doesn’t seem to offer much that we haven’t seen before—a child-hostage situation with the implication that the child endangered is important, perhaps even related to Marie.

Meanwhile, the new White Queen is introduced in the form of Valentina Vostok—former Russian Colonel, also once known as Negative Woman of the formerly “new” Doom Patrol. We look forward to both sides of the chess board working together against the bad guys instead of plotting against each other so much.

However, we are forced to wonder about the long-term future of this book given Rucka’s recently reported decision not to re-up his exclusive contract with DC Comics. Time will tell.

Justice League of America #16

The Upshot From DC Comics: Lightning strikes again as a Flash returns! Where's this Flash from...and what is she doing on our Earth?

The title on the cover of this issue was “A Brief Tangent”—they have no idea just how accurate those words were.

For those of you who don’t remember, the Tangent line of heroes came a decade ago and it was a brief “What If” like flirtation at “re-imagining” of some of DC’s key characters as part of a “fifth-week” event.

Back in the day, there were a couple of weeks in the publication year when DC shipped no titles so to fill the void, DC would come up with various specials—other examples include the Green Lantern Circle of Fire specials from a few years back or the GirlFrenzy books.

When the Tangent books came out, we opted to pass and just enjoyed a rare week of not buying comics.

To the best of our knowledge, there has not been a great clamor over these past 10 years to bring back the Tangent characters—yet DC has seen fit to rob us of $2.99 to waste our time with an awful story that doesn’t even have an ending but the four words that we have come to detest within the DC universe—“To Be Continued In….”.

We had high hopes for new JLA scripter Dwayne McDuffie following the overrated tenure of novelist Brad Meltzer based on McDuffie’s work on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited.

But what is the use of bringing in a top-tier chef like McDuffie if all he is allowed to serve up is a turd sandwich like Tangential stories.

This book has six more issues to get its act together or we’re dropping it.

The Brave and The Bold #9

The Upshot From DC Comics: The Book of Destiny's been opened, but look who's come spilling out...the Metal Men! The Blackhawks! The Newsboy Legion! And the new Atom and Hawkman team!

This was an issue where art by the master George Perez totally carried the day as we found ourselves totally dis-interested in the three stories offered.

Don’t get us wrong—we admire writer Mark Waid’s ambitions effort at incorporating three separate and totally unrelated groups into the same tale. Furthermore, Waid is doing exactly what this book should by acquainting readers to different characters and less traveled story paths within the DC Universe.

For us, blame it on the holidaze or our recent distracting circumstances even the inclusion of the Hawkman and all-new Atom—together again for the first time—team-up didn’t exactly light us on fire with interest.

All in all, we don’t blame Waid. He did everything right and it just didn’t work out. Better luck next month.

The Flash #235

The Upshot From DC Comics: Even getting a WMD built in five minutes won't stop an alien invasion, so what's the Flash's next trick? Plus, the backup feature "Fast Life" reveals Wally West's first visit to the world known as Planet Flash!

Not to seem like we’re picking on writer Mark Waid but we were not exactly crestfallen at recent news that Tom Peyer would be replacing Waid as writer of the Flash.

Let’s be clear, Waid on his worst day is still a damn sight better than the misadventures of Bart Flash as a Wally West clone as written by those Hollywood bozos.

Waid deserves much credit for restoring balance to Wally West upon his return from limbo during the ill-conceived run of Bart Flash but the Mark Waid of 2007 was not nearly as engaged as the self-same Flash scribe of a decade earlier and it showed.

Worse yet, Waid could never seem to reconcile the changes and growth the Wally West character underwent during the years Geoff Johns wrote the book.

While we have no doubt that Waid could have written his way out of this current slump with enough time and proper attention but so far this story arc has been quite forgettable.

JSA Classified #33

The Upshot From DC Comics: It's Christmas in the DCU, and The Original Green Lantern Alan Scott will be learning all about the Ho-Ho-Horror of the holidays from the immortal Vandal Savage! But in order to save the life of a child, Alan will to sacrifice his own happiness - as well as his daughter!

Last month, FanBoyWonder spent a considerable amount of “ink” detailing our many perceived shortcomings with this adjunct title of the Justice Society of America book, as well as our suggestions for some easy to implement fixes to make this book more relevant and to give JSA fans meaningful story content.

That said, this issue and this two-part story was decidedly second rate.

While we laud the story concept of GL Alan Scott dealing with the (totally unnecessary) death of his daughter Jade, writer Junior Thomas’ scripting was woefully inadequate to the task.

The fact that this was a Christmas story that arrived AFTER Christmas says it all about the effort that DC management invests into this title—day late and a dollar short.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Amanda Waller Returns Home; The Killing Joke’s On Booster Gold & Emerald Epilogue

FanBoyWonder continues to endeavor to catch up on our comic book reviews and start the New Year out fresh. So without further ado, here’s our take on the second half of the books we picked up during the week of Dec. 12.

Suicide Squad #4
The Upshot From DC Comics: The new Suicide Squad is fully revealed! And the hits just keep on coming as Amanda Waller unveils her latest strategy for controlling the troops: a big dose of Chemo with a dash of Firestorm!

We are oh so glad that The Wall has checked out of Checkmate—for all of his many strengths, Checkmate writer Greg Rucka never in our estimation had a firm grasp on the character of Amanda Waller.

Squad writer John Ostrander uses Sasha Bordeaux and Mr. Terrific—Checkmate’s Black Queen and King—to point out the delicious irony regarding Waller.

As White Queen, The Wall was legally prohibited from running covert operations and when she was caught red handed doing just that, she was fired. Her punishment? Returning to Belle Reve Prison to run another secret covert ops group—the Suicide Squad. Talk about landing on one’s feet.

The previous three issues of this mini-series that featured a flashbacks on the Squad’s attempt to rescue former leader Col. Rick Flag, as well as the explanation as to how he survived his own personal suicide mission was just the warm up, while events in Checkmate played itself out to allow Amanda Waller to get back where she belongs—with the Suicide Squad under the pen of John Ostrander.

When written properly, Amanda Waller isn’t just the best female character in the DC Universe or the best non-super-powered character but hands down, The Wall is the one of the most formidable personas around…Period!

In the current story, Ostrander seeks to make lemonade out of that decade-old lemon that is the ‘new” Shaggy Man former U.S. Air Force General Wade Eiling.

In the mid-90s in the pages of Grant Morrison’s JLA, Morrison threw away one of the most compelling supporting characters and antagonists to turn him into a one-dimensional anti-military stereotype—and that was BEFORE Eiling became the Shaggy Man.

Ostrander’s greatness as a writer shines through here as he takes Morrison’s silly idea and makes it work by making the now super strong, barely controlled more animal than man a member of the Suicide Squad answering to The Wall. Being one to never forget a grudge, she blows his arm off—both to keep him in line and because payback is a bitch.

Meanwhile, we loved the interaction between Deadshot and Captain Boomerang 2.0—his dad the original “Boomerbutt” may be dead but the Deadshot/Boomerbutt rivalry lives on. This should be fun.

Also, we enjoyed the scene where Bronze Tiger and Rick Flag go to visit Flag’s long lost son, who Flag didn’t even know existed until he returned from the “dead.” Flag never actually says anything to the boy and opts to leave—but not before he and the Tiger are chased out of the neighborhood as suspected perverts by a suburban mom (gotta love Ostrander’s command of humor here).

After a long monolog explaining to Tiger of how the boy is free from the Flag curse of fighting and dying young and he is better off believing his biological father is dead, the real reason comes out after a deadpan silence. He hates kids.

Ostrander’s original Suicide Squad book from 20 years ago was a book that was ahead of its time in terms of storytelling and quality. It could easily match anything put out today (given that half of DC’s line up has a “Countdown” in the title, that’s not really saying much…but still).

Ostrander’s Suicide Squad of today—20 years wiser with a top notch art team in Javier Pina and Robin Riggs—hands down surpasses most anything on the “new releases” shelf today.

Booster Gold #5

The Upshot From DC Comics: "52 Pick-Up" continues! Booster Gold has been tasked with preventing the origins of the world's greatest heroes from unraveling. Next up is his greatest challenge yet: preventing one of the most horrific wrongs that have ever befallen a hero in the DC Universe. Leaping into the pages of BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, Booster attempts to stop a tragedy that he discovers never should've happened — the Joker shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon, Batgirl. Plus, what dark secret is Rip Hunter keeping from Booster?

We had serious misgivings about the premise of this issue and writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz’s decision to revisit one of the darkest chapters in the history of the DC Universe—The Killing Joke.

When the ball drops in Times Square tomorrow night it will mark 20 years since the publication of Alan Moore’s controversial one-shot story that had seismic consequences for the Batman books and eventually for the DC Universe as a whole.

At the time, we were more than a little weirded out by Moore’s take on the Joker overall, we were truly shocked at how Barbara Gordon—a principle bat-character—was shot and crippled and we were appalled and VERY creaped out by Barbara’s sexual assault by the Joker (yes… “sexual assault”—even if Joker “only” stripped naked a bleeding gunshot victim and “only” took pictures of said bleeding, naked, wounded victim, it’s still sexual assault) “just to prove a point.”

As a teenager reading this we found it disturbing enough. In the ensuing years, including time we spent as a police reporter, we’ve seen enough evil that men and women do to one another to conclude that Moore really has to be one sick f**ker to dream up a scene like that.

Over the years we’ve come to the conclusion what was done to Barbara or at the very least the WAY it was done to her was gratuitous an unnecessary. The worse crime than the assault itself at the hands of Moore via the Joker, was the decidedly indifferent reaction by the DCU to Barbara’s victimization.

You simply cant raise the ante like that if you are not prepared to follow through—for all the bitching about Editorial-driven story content these days, Killing Joke is a case where the Bat-editor was M.I.A.—either during the story pitch or in the decision NOT to have any meaningful character fallout post-Killing Joke.

So Barbara was crippled/thus killing Batgirl, Batman and Joker enjoy a good laugh together at the end of the story then Joker goes back to Arkham—status quo.

Fortunately for DC readers and with no help from the Bat-creative team who essentially threw the character away, John Ostrander and his late wife Kim Yale rescued Barbara Gordon and re-invented her as the cyber-information broker Oracle in the pages of Suicide Squad.

Getting back to the Booster Gold story at hand—as Booster attempts to do another “Quantum Leap” and prevent Barbara’s shooting by the Joker, thus changing history, Team Booster tastefully avoids a replay of the aforementioned creepy sexual assault while at the same time reminding us that despite his appearance, the Joker is quite formidable and deadly—every bit the Batman’s match.

Defeated again and again, Booster keeps trying to go back to that moment; each time becoming further wounded and wore down by the attempt. Rip Hunter is attempting to teach Booster a valuable lesson—some things, most things in the timeline are bedrock history that can’t be changed—the same way that Booster’s best friend, Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle was murdered, it was meant to be.

But tell that to the three Blue Beetles—past, present and future, who show up at the end of the issue to tell Booster that he must help them prevent Ted’s murder or else the future of space-time is screwed.

Oh you bet your arse we’ll be back next issue.

Green Lantern Corps #19

The Upshot From DC Comics: The pieces of the Sinestro Corps War are still falling as Guy Gardner is finally reunited with his lost love, Ice! And as Kyle Rayner tries to start his new life as a Green Lantern, Sinestro rings continue to empower new and deadlier forces in space.

Despite new the fact that new GLC writer Peter Tomasi penned issue #18—the battle between Ion and Superboy/Man-Prime and it was one of the final chapters of the Sinestro Corps War—this month’s offering should really be considered Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps debut.

After the near non-stop action and carnage of the last few months, the featured GLC players get a much needed respite with the war’s conclusion.

Tomasi has wisely decided not to break what wasn’t broken and instead is building upon what previous GLC writer Dave Gibbons has created—specifically by focusing not just on Earth Green Lanterns Guy Gardner and now newly restored corpsman Kyle Rainer but the many alien GLs.

Kyle and Guy are now partners again and we are glad as we enjoyed their chemistry during the initial six-issue GLC mini-series. Team GL has deftly walked the line regarding the fate of Kyle Rayner—the one time “last and only” Green Lantern.

No longer Ion, he is a member of the Corps Honor Guard with Guy—meaning he’s a troubleshooter to go where he is needed. He and Guy it seems will be the primary Earth GLs featured in this book while Hal Jordan and John Stewart (in that order) are the “stars” of the main Green Lantern book.

Guy’s reunion with the back from the dead Ice was touching. Under Tomasi’s pen, Guy was his usual bravado self while at the same time pouring his heart out to the love he believed he had lost for ever and pitching for a “new start.”

Meanwhile, we see small interludes among the various other GLs but our favorite continues to be Natu. We hope that Tomasi continues the big character development as someone who hails from Sinestro’s home planet and as someone who became an outcast the moment she accepted a Green Lantern ring.

But as we see at issues end—to paraphrase the new Battlestar Galactica—the Sinestro Corps war is over, but the fight has just begun.
Meet the newest member of the Sinestro Corps—Mongul. Yep one of Superman’s strongest, meanest and most formable foes now has a power ring. This should be good.

Tales of The Sinestro Corps: Ion

The Upshot From DC Comics: Ion is the chosen one of the Green Lantern Corps, whose coming was foretold as a prophecy in the Book of Oa. But now that Kyle Rayner has been possessed by Parallax, can he ever bear the mantle of Ion again? Or will it pass to a completely new bearer? This all-important Sinestro Corps War tie-in reveals the answers, and sets the stage for Green Lantern — and Kyle Rayner — for years to come!

This is an issue with an immediately forgettable story but what we like about it is the outcome. As we noted in our GLC review, Kyle Rayner is no longer Ion but “just” a Green Lantern—but member of the Corps Honor Guard partnered with Guy Gardner.

Sodam Yat of Daxam remains the new Ion. Despite possessing the most emerald power that any GL has ever held, not to mention his Superman-like powers that come from the light of a yellow sun, Ion remains shaken from his losing battle with Superman-Prime during the Sinestro Corps war.

During his battle with Prime on Earth, Yat was exposed to lead—which is as deadly to Daxmities as Kryptonite is to Kryptonians but with those from Daxam, lead exposure is cumulative.

Yat possesses the power of Ion but he still requires his power ring to hold back the lethal poison inside him. It’s the perfect foil…with someone of such immense power so vulnerable—like living with an anvil on a thin thread poised over ones head.

As for the requisite action, Marz dusts off Alex Nero—Kyle Rayner’s one-time opposite number with a yellow power ring but he’s not of the Sinestro Corps but he got his ring from the Quardians. Well if Alan Scott can have an emerald ring but not be of the GLC, then there should be room for a free-agent like Nero.

Except that we never found Nero all that compelling so we hope after this last hurrah, Nero is drop kicked into a sciencell and never heard from again.

Marz acknowledges in Kyle’s meeting with the Guardians that the death of Jade was a waste—her sacrifice allowed him to be a “temporary vessel” for the Ion entity. For our part, a perfectly good character was liquidated for no good reason.
Given all the characters who coming back from the dead—such as Ice (did anyone besides Guy Gardner REALLY clamor for her back????) we think a way should be found to bring Jade back.
Free Hit Counters
Online Universities