Sunday, June 01, 2008

Final Crisis Fumbles Out Of The Gate; Emerald Déjà vu and The Huntress Rocks

It’s been a while since FanBoyWonder has reviews of the weekly offering of comics—partly due to hectic circumstances on the home front but also significantly due to our very real apathy to the CRAP that’s been put forth recently by DC Comics.

We just haven’t felt motivated to write and comment—until this past week with the release of the first issue of Final Crisis. We can’t guarantee we will resume our reviews on a weekly basis but we find that our poison pen is ready, willing and able to take on DC Comics’ most recent “event.”

Final Crisis #1

The Upshot from DC Comics: Witness the historic start of the final chapter in the Crisis trilogy that could only spring from the mind of Grant Morrison — Final Crisis, featuring stunning art by J.G. Jones! Worlds will live and heroes will die in this epic tale spanning the beginning and end of the DC Universe! The entire Multiverse is threatened as the mysterious Libra assembles an army of the DCU's most terrifying super villains. But what is the ultimate plan, and who will live to find out?

If the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results—then our first impression from the first issue is that Grant Morrision’s Final Crisis is INSANE.

Okay, we fully admit coming into this “event” with both a chip on our shoulder and a bias. This “event” is seems totally artificial and unnecessary but for the total disaster of DC’s previous universe shattering event of two years ago Infinite Crisis.

Since IC, the only things that DC has seemingly done right have either been by accident or by those outside of the DC Management’s inner circle.

So yes, we’re not just judging Final Crisis on its own merits but as far as we’re concerned, it’s stepped up to the plate already with NO BALLS…and two strikes against it.

With that up front, the nicest thing we can say about the first issue is the art. For one thing, from beginning to end of the issue it’s drawn by the same art team—here the “team” being J. G. Jones—already it’s a giant step up from the Clowns in a Volkswagen art-by-committee approach of Infinite Crisis.

Yet even here, the beautifully illustrated first few pages lovely, flawless in fact, but Jones fails to keep up that same pace throughout the rest of the book. Downshifting from flawless to decent than back to very good by the end of the book was far from a deal-breaker (especially when compared to the different page, different artist approach of Infinite Crisis) but it was an unneeded distraction for a series that (at least initially) will have to be carried on the strength of visuals and not the story.

Speaking of the story….WTF???? Okay…just like Infinite Crisis, we are asking ourselves anyone else out there….can anyone provide a two-sentence definition (in newspapers we used to call it the “nut graph”) as to just what the hell this story is about?

Far from being reader-friendly and a self-contained story, writer Grant Morrison is demanding an awful lot from the reader from the get-go. FanBoyWonder has got about 30 years worth of DC Comics reading under our belt but even we are having trouble keeping up with all of the veiled historical references.

At least we got to see Green Lantern John Stewart. It’s nice that he’s getting some exposure somewhere.

Meanwhile, more of the same—Lex Luthor and the bad guys sitting around the table talking. The Justice League of America sitting around another table…talking. The most dramatic JLA action—Superman declares “Justice League Condition AmberGreat Krypton…not “Condition Amber.”

Oh yeah, Luthor’s Legion of Doom appears to murder the Martian Manhunter. One of the vanguards of the Silver Age and a great, respected character and he gets a third-of-a-panel “death” scene. Color us not impressed.

We can’t help but be reminded of the old Super Friends cartoon where hero and villain alike would stand around stiffly then announce what they were going to do before they did it—“I’ll use my super breath to freeze this tidal wave in place.”

Oh yeah, we’d like to say something about the Monitors but we just flipped right past those pages.

Bottom line: We would like to be wrong and surprised and would like to like this “event.” But Dan DiDio’s DC has lead us down the primrose path one too many times with “more of the same.”

We’re going to purchase the Final Crisis seven-issue mini-series and that’s it, no Final Crisis crossovers or off-shoots. We’re done. Grant and Dan, you want to win us over, you’re going to have to work for it with something other than more of the same.

Green Lantern #31

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 3 of "Secret Origin" explores the beginnings of Earth's Green Lantern — Hal Jordan! Hal meets the Green Lantern who will teach him everything he knows: Sinestro! But Sinestro has another mission on this primitive mudball called planet Earth…a mission not even the Guardians of the Universe are aware of.

This should really be called Emerald Dawn Redux—with better art granted but we really don’t feel like we’re reading anything new. Okay it’s been some 18 years since Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn II—Hollywood has remade movies that were younger than this but that’s really all that Geoff Johns is doing in Secret Origins—a remake.

Okay it’s the nature of comic books to have their character’s origin stories re-told periodically. That’s not what’s bothering us but it’s the timing that we find suspect.

Geoff Johns FINALLY hit his stride with this title during the Sinestro Corps War and the aftermath story arc Alpha Lanterns and just as the book was hitting a fever pitch Johns hits the way-back machine to do a mult-part origin story.

But what really bothers us is Johns incorporation his upcoming Blackest Night story line into key elements of Hal Jordan’s origin. That smacks of arrogance and it’s short sighted.

John Byrne attempted this in his World of Smallville mini-series by tying in the Manhunters from the then latest DC “event” Millennium in Superman’s origin by detailing the Manhunter infiltration of Clark Kent’s hometown into his origin story. It was already dated from the moment the series hit the stands and forgotten a year after that.

We do continue to give Geoff Johns credit for revamping and improving upon the personality and character of Hal Jordan.
Keith Giffen in Emerald Dawn continued the tradition started by Denny O’Neill in making Hal Jordan a sad-sack loser.

Giffen’s own touch was to manufacture a drunk driving problem to give Jordan a Peter Parker-like guilt complex.

Johns’ Jordan is a hothead fighter pilot who pushes the envelope in the cockpit or out…sometimes and perhaps often to a fault. So in that respect, Emerald Dawn 2.0 was tolerable…if frivolous.

Bottom Line: Secret Origins gives all the signs of a place holder as the events of Final Crisis play out. We’d rather face Green Lantern’s future than look back (again) at his past. Wake us when we get back to the here and now.

Huntress Year One #2

The Upshot From DC Comics: Helena Bertinelli's vow never to return to Gotham is tested by her vigilante fight to reclaim her inheritance from the Sicilian underworld — and by her unexpected feelings for the son of a Gotham kingpin!

Helena Wayne of Earth-2 will always be THE Huntress to us—a sentimental favorite of a bygone era—but Ivory Madison has done what even the great Gail Simone hasn’t quite manage to pull off. She’s gotten us to really feel for the character of Helena Bertinelli.

Since her clumsy post-CRISIS introduction some 20 years ago, we’ve seen Huntress Bertinelli's as a pretender. We were never impressed with her origin as an orphaned mafia princess as it seemed to too much like Bruce Wayne’s.

It didn’t help that over the years the character didn’t get a lot of respect—in part because Huntress Bertinelli was always written as a brute with a pretty face but blinded by rage into doing dumb things.

It was a little rough out of the gate for rookie writer Madison in the first issue but she has really hit her stride here in issue 2. Madison paints a picture not just of young Helena making her way in the world but of the world from which she comes.

It’s world of violence and power and where women are either Madonnas or Whores but either one is less than the equal of a man—naked sexism.

Whereas Bruce Wayne’s defining moment came at the murder of his parents, the murder of Helena Bertinelli's family was only just the beginning and she had to endure constant assaults on her character if she ever strayed out of her “place.”
It’s no wonder that The Huntress was so ruthless—she had to be just to survive.

It also explains why she butts heads with Dark Knight so often. She doesn’t take Bleep from any man…not even a Batman.

We don’t think it’s too early to start thinking about a Huntress ongoing series with Madison as the writer.


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