Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nightwing’s Latest & Greatest Status Quo and JSA’s Amazing History Of Will Everett

Sometimes reviewing comic books can be as much a curse as a blessing as there are some weeks when the words just don’t flow as easily as other weeks. This was one of those weeks as we had these reviews half written for days.

Yet for you our loyal reader, FanBoyWonder took a hit for the team and commenced to share our unsolicited opinion on the comic books we picked up for the week of Feb. 6. You’re welcome!

Nightwing #141

The Upshot From DC Comics: As the mystery of the disappearing bodies of heroes and villains continues, Superman pays Nightwing a visit. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson's personal life takes a few surprising turns, and a new base of operations for Dick gets under way with a little help from his super friends.

While other readers and reviewers were less than pleased with the bulk of this issue which set up Nightwing’s new status quo—the 3rd such set up in two years—we were quite pleased with this issue.

Although their gripe is not illegitimate, we think it helps to think of Nightwing #141—new writer Peter Tomasi’s second issue—as Nightwing #2.

That said, there were some aspects of this issue that worked for us better than others. The first few pages with Superman’s conference with Nightwing felt forced. What DID work for us on the other hand was the single page featuring Green Lantern John Stewart—architect to the DC Universe—along with the Justice Society of America lending a hand with construction and renovation of Nightwing’s new secret lair at the museum where Richard Grayson is the new curator.

Okay it was just one page but Nightwing and the JSA—YES!!!!!

We see what Tomasi is doing by using the admittedly plethora of cameos of different characters to re-establish Nightwing’s pre-eminent place within the DC Universe. As we see, Nightwing is the guy who is known by everyone and the guy for whom others will gladly go out of their way to do a favor.

Furthermore, Wally West/Flash’s appearance and the sight of he and Dick commiserating was a welcome but long overdue sight. These two former sidekicks are like two old World War II war buddies—they share a bond known by few others and fewer still could understand.

Perhaps DC should have rebooted the series with Tomasi making this Nightwing #2 in fact as well as in spirit but after the last few dozen issues of overmatched, under delivered or just plain incompetent storytelling, the Nightwing “brand” has been damaged to the point where a new Number One issue following the cancellation of the current series would NOT have been a given—especially given Dan DiDio’s recent editorial “hit” attempt during Infinite Crisis.

As always the art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair was top notch and it perfectly sets the mood.

Meanwhile this stolen corpse mystery really doesn’t float our boat as yet but given Tomasi’s efforts to renovate the house of Nightwing from down to the frame up, we’ll follow him on faith.

Justice Society of America #12

The Upshot From DC Comics: "Thy Kingdom Come" explodes as Jakeem Thunder returns! The Justice Society reaches out to the next wave of legacy heroes: the new Mr. America, Judomaster, Amazing Man and more! Plus, another face familiar to the Kingdom Come Superman makes his presence known.

What’s a writer to do when he has a book with more characters that one can possibly portray than in anything other than glorified cameo appearances? Go recruit even MORE characters. That’s the ticket!

There are enough JSA members standing around these pages to fill a second Justice Society book. But wait….there IS a second Justice Society book—JSA Classified. Too bad the second JSA title is being wasted telling instantly forgettable solo stories—usually of the same five characters—by junior varsity writers and artists.

While by no means bad, it just doesn’t feel like writer Geoff Johns, even co-plotting with Alex Ross, really has a firm grip on this book. Yet given he’s writing a few other DC books including Green Lantern which he has been hitting grand slams each issue of late, it’s not surprising that something’s gotta give.

Johns who usually is quite diligent to work within existing DC continuity (such as it is), this time he just pulls out of nowhere a second super-powered daughter of Black Lightning, as well as another grandson of Amazing Man.

Thanks to some helpful exposition from Power Girl to Kingdom Come Superman, we learn that Will Everett was more than simply the rare African American “Mystery Man” during World War II with the All Star Squadron but during the Civil Rights Movement on DC Earth, Amazing Man was second only to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in importance.

A side note here to give kudos to Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway—the writer and artists respectively of All Star Squadron during the early 1980s for the creation of Amazing Man.

Will Everett was a good, if undeveloped character but given that the term “Black Super Hero” was almost an oxymoron back during the “Golden Age” it took a book published in 1982 to do justice to a Black hero circa 1942.

As a further aside, FanBoyWonder was in middle school when we read All Star Squadron and we credit Roy Thomas’ stories for educating us to some of the very basics of World War II history.
It was in All Star Squadron #31 that we learned that FDR “reluctantly” signed his executive order to imprison tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were neither charged nor convicted of a crime.

Roy Thomas also wrote a couple daring if understated issues dealing with racial unrest in World War II Detroit—Amazing Man’s hometown.

Given this history, we’re glad that Geoff Johns is giving Will Everett his props. Yet we are uncomfortable in mingling comic book characters and historical figures so closely. To the best our knowledge, Johns committed no historical slight to Dr. King or Malcolm X by allying the fictional Amazing Man to their accomplishments.

We can see a s**tstorm arising if a less competent, less historically knowledgeable writer attempts the same thing in the future and blunders. And don’t even get us started on Johns’ introduction of the great-grandson of FDR.

So far, Thy Kingdom Come has felt more like bait and switch as we are barely seeing Kingdom Come Superman but getting “legacy” heroes stuffed down our proverbial throat.

We’re looking forward to next issue with a more prolonged meeting between the two Supermen but we’re also bracing for a let down. It’s time to pick up the pace Mr. Johns.

Teen Titans Year One #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: The origin story of the Teen Titans continues as the focus falls on Aqualad, who must overcome his many phobias and get help above the waves when Aquaman goes rogue! Things aren't any better on land, as both Kid Flash and Speedy must confront the madness of the Flash and Green Arrow.

We have to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this book—both the writing by Amy Wolfram and the art by Karl Kerschl and Serge Lapointe is quite well done.

But as much as we love these characters—the original Titans—seeing these children of the Silver Age shoehorned into a post-millennial world it just seems odd to old readers like us.

That said it really is quite cute and anyone not saddled with so much comic book institutional memory such as ourselves we think will enjoy it a lot. We would go so far to say that this is a book we would happily allow Brianna the Girl Wonder to read without fear.


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