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.


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