Saturday, August 02, 2008

Justice Society Infinity—The Best of Both Worlds??

Sometimes you know you are going to love a comic book from the moment you see it solicited—that was us back in April when FanBoyWonder first spied the beautiful Alex Ross cover for Justice Society of America Annual #1. We were NOT disappointed.

The Upshot from DC Comics: Welcome to Earth-2! Power Girl has made a life for herself on our world, as a member and chairwoman of the Justice Society of America and as a hero in her own right. But she's never stopped dreaming of one day returning to her Earth — the parallel world where the members of the Justice Society were the only heroes. Where her best friend was Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman. And where evil was a little easier to fight…wasn't it? As her greatest wish comes true, Power Girl's about to find herself back on Earth-2, surrounded by friends she thought she'd lost forever.

FanBoyWonder’s Takeaway: This issue was really quite good. Better than our high expectations with a plot twist that was a shocker yet seems so obvious in retrospect. After months of nearly boring us to tears with his agonizingly slow Gog storyline, JSA Annual #1 is Geoff Johns at his best and the art by Jerry ‘Mr. Earth-2” Ordway was some of the best of his career.

Quick History Recap: Prior to 1985’s DC Universe shattering maxi-series CRISIS on Infinite Earths, Earth-2 was an alternate reality, a parallel universe home to the Justice Society of America and the “Golden Age” versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Women who made their debut prior to World War II and who aged with the passing years.

Earth-1 by contrast was home to the younger counterparts of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and of the Justice LEAGUE of America and was the hub of the DC Universe.

On Earth-2, Power Girl was introduced as Superman’s cousin. PG’s Earth-1 counterpart was Supergirl but PG was much cooler because she picked her own distinct hero name rather than follow a “super” shadow (the costume didn’t hurt her standing with fanboys either).

Also on Earth-2, Batman and Catwoman got married and had a daughter named Helena while Robin grew up. Helena became The Huntress after her parents died and Huntress and Power Girl became fast friends, as well as the vanguard of the next generation of Earth-2 heroes, followed a few years later by Infinity Inc.

The smaller, more finite multiverse and what appears to be Earth-2 was restored following the events of 52. In the last issue of Justice Society of America, Gog sent Power Girl “home” and here we all are.

We had been hungering for a spotlight on Power Girl since the events of [the god-awful] Infinite Crisis restored Power Girl’s pre-CRISIS on Infinite Earths origin and making Kara Zor-L the last daughter of the Multiverse.

Remembering her true origin has been a truly mixed blessing for PG as she knows who is she is and where she came but truth comes with a terrible price. She can never go home again to Earth-2 because following the CRISIS, Earth-2 never existed.

So it seems a dream come true for both PG and FBW to see her crash land on Earth-2, found by her best friend The Huntress—Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman.

From the aforementioned Alex Ross cover—appropriately hazy like a window back in time— we thought we were going to see the pre-CRISIS Justice Society and Infinity Inc. as we remembered them—circa 1983 with Jade who is alive and well, as is the Silver Scarab, Fury, and The Atom/Al Pratt.

This wasn’t the JSA frozen in place from the early 80s (despite Nuklon’s unfortunate Mohawk straight out of “Flock of Seagulls”). Rather this was Earth-2 for the new millennium—Justice Society Infinity.

Featuring Star Spangled Kid/Sylvester Pemberton as Chairman, JSI is the logical progression of the Earth-2 that we once knew had the CRISIS never occurred. On this Earth-2, the members of Infinity Inc., the team made up of the sons and daughters and next generation of Earth-2 heroes, succeeded their parents to carry on their tradition of Justice while at the same time making their own mark on “Society”—hence Justice Society Infinity.

One can tell that Ordway missed these characters just as much as we did. His layouts are rock solid—including a clever couple of pages featuring JSI that that were reminiscent of Todd McFarlane’s style when he was Infinity Inc.’s “penciler in residence” for writer Roy Thomas.

Thanks to his run on Thomas’ Infinity Inc. and before that World War II-based All Star Squadron, Ordway became the artist most associated with heroes of Earth-2. There’s no doubt that Geoff Johns crafted a first-rate story here but it wouldn’t have had nearly the emotional punch that it did if it were not for Ordway’s retro-visuals—he really did bring us back to Earth-2.

Unfortunately for Power Girl (and FanBoyWonder), you really can’t go home again. This isn’t the Earth-2 of the pre-CRISIS but an incredible simulation.

The way that we and Power Girl finds out is nothing less than Johns at the top of his game. Two-thirds of the way through the issue, when Kara has finally accepted that she is “home” and has re-bonded with her best friend The Huntress, who shows up but …..Power Girl.

Irony alert: Power Girl has a parallel Earth doppelganger. As Kara tries to explain to her angry double (who punches first and asks questions later—again with the irony) and an enraged Huntress who just opened her heart to this “imposter”—the wackiness ensues.

Power Girl-2 mobilizes the JSI and now the hunt is on. Great Krypton indeed!

What we really didn’t like: Huntress admits to PG that the secret (and unrequited) love for her life is Robin. Her father’s adopted son and her older brother in all but blood. Yuck! Come on Geoff Johns. That’s just wrong!!!!! We’re willing to over look this if you never so much as mention this again.

What we really liked: We thought this Annual would be a one-off story in which Power Girl sees her old friends of the “original” Justice Society, realizes that she can’t go home again, resolves her feelings of loss and comes back to the JSA of “New Earth” changed for the better and her burden lifted.

Instead, Johns drop kicks PG and the reader right into the next big story arc even as the Gog story-line plays itself out. We are excited beyond at the prospect of the Justice Society of America and Justice Society Infinity meeting.

To Infinity and beyond!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FanBoyWonder’s Comic Book Consolidation Challenge—Part 1

FanBoyWonder has not exactly made secret lately our disappointment and in some cases outright distain for a lot what is being offered in the way of comic book reading of late.

So given that the state of the economy and given that our disposable income has taken a hit in the midst of this non-recession, recession that we’re in—as well as the fact that we’ve recently taken in some extra mouths to feed—we’ve opted to conduct a top-to-bottom review of our regular comic book reading to see what books have been under-performing with an eye toward trimming the fat and curtailing expenses.

To that end, we have sought to look at the upcoming titles for the month of August with three basic outcomes—“KEEP,” “DROP” or “ON THE BUBBLE.” With only a few exceptions, we’re looking at only regular ongoing series that are currently on our “pull list” at Brainstorm Comics and not mini-series or one-shot specials.

So without further ado, let’s cut to the quick:

Comics On Sale August 6

Final Crisis #3 (of7)

The Upshot from DC Comics: Batman missing in action! Superman immobilized! Green Lantern on trial for his life! A shadow is falling across Earth's super heroes — and now it's Wonder Woman's turn to face the Evil Gods!

What bizarre warning from beyond awaits Frankenstein, The Question and the agents of S.H.A.D.E. in the shadows of the Dark Side Club? What grim fate lies in store for The Human Flame? What happens when the Anti-Life Equation hits the internet? Can the Fastest Men Alive outrun The Black Racer — Death himself? And who are the Justifiers? The answers are all here as the unstoppable rise of evil continues in FINAL CRISIS #3. by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones. 40 pages, $3.99.

FanBoyWonder’s Verdict: A reluctant KEEP.

The Why: Like it or not, we feel compelled to see this “event” through to the bitter end in the hope that we might be surprised and like it. That said, we refuse to purchase any of the Final Crisis crossover and spin-off titles. If Mr. Morrison can’t tell his story in the seven-issue main title, it’s not worth reading.

Manhunter #33

The Upshot: Manhunter finds a shocking link between the disappearances of immigrant workers and big business – and that means attorney Kate Spencer's going to court, if she doesn't become a target first! 32 pages, $2.99. Written by Marc Andreyko; Art by Michael Gaydos; Cover by Liam Sharp.

FBW’s Verdict: KEEP

The Why: Our best pal and all around Kemosabe turned us on to this book and we are glad that DC Comics finally got around starting it up again after its reprieve from cancellation. As a reader who only came on board during Manhunter’s post-cancellation 5-issue trial last year, writer Marc Andreyko could do a better job of attracting new readers by throwing an exposition bone or two but it’s quality writing.

Kate Spencer is not an especially attractive (i.e. likable) character—especially for a “hero” but Andreyko keeps us rooting for her anyway. The art by Michel Gaydos has been a little tougher to swallow. The art isn’t bad as evidenced by his breakdowns but instead of inking his own pencils, the book requires an inker to bring out the best of Gaydos’ visuals.

Nightwing #147

The Upshot: A "Batman: R.I.P." tie-in! Two-Face hits New York City–but when he takes a bite out of the Big Apple, he finds it rotten to the core. He'll make Nightwing and all of New York pay for their crimes…unless Nightwing can save one of Harvey Dent's old flames from an assassin's bullet! 32pg., $2.99 Written by Peter J. Tomasi; Art by Don Kramer and Sandu Florea; Cover by Rags Morales


The Why: As regular FanBoyWonder readers know, Nightwing has been a sentimental favorite of ours since that day in 1984 in the pages of Tales of the Teen Titans #44 when the former Robin the Boy Wonder grew up and became his own man as Nightwing.

Since then the character has floundered—at best never quite meeting his full potential or at worst…being written by Bruce Jones. While former long-time writer Chuck Dixon made Nightwing cool and competent when this series debut—he never managed much in the way of character growth.

Enter Peter Tomasi and finally at long last we see a writer who can perhaps bring Nightwing to his full potential—assuming stupid crossovers like Batman R.I.P. don’t get in the way. Whatever else we cut, you’ll have to pry Nightwing from our cold, dead hands.

Trinity #10

The Upshot: This month in TRINITY: The Justice League joins Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to stand against the threat that the Crime Syndicate brings to Earth. And, in this month's co-features, members of Batman's "family" search for clues to what ties several thefts together – and what links them to the cosmic conflict that has resulted! 32pg. $2.99.

Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza; Art by Mark Bagley and Art Thibert and Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens and Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher; Covers by Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang

FBW Verdict: DROP (like a stone).

The Why: For the record, FanBoyWonder has nothing against the concept of the weekly comic book. However, we do prefer a good weekly comic book. 52 was marginal at best and Countdown was a disaster but despite this we gave Trinity a chance.

In large part this was due to respect for the past work of Kurt Busiek and especially Mark Bagley, fresh from his run on Spider-Man for Marvel, we wanted to see him draw DC. But once again, this weekly series is glacial in its pace and it seems designed to do little more than bleed $2.99 per week from our wallet.

We were just starting to see where Trinity was going (maybe) with Issue 8 but that’s some $23 later. If this were the first weekly series out of the gate rather than the third we might hang in there but a year of this???? Don’t think so.

Our advice to DC—have team Trinity wrap up the story as soon as possible in the publishing cycle—we’re talking weeks, not months—then we’ll all just forget this weekly “experiment” idea for another 20 years.

Comics On Sale August 13

Amazing Spider-Girl #23

The Upshot from Marvel Comics: “Did someone say CLONES?!?” As Peter demands answers from Kaine about the brand new May, Spider-Girl learns that Humanity First has targeted both Davida and Sara for death and she can only save one. Part 4 of 5. $2.99


The Why: We LOVE this book. This is Old School Spidey in a cute new package. Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz have continue to show the came comic book can appeal to kids of all ages. May Parker is her father’s daughter but she’s also her own person and this is a book we can’t wait to allow Brianna the Girl Wonder read when it’s time. Go Old School!
Booster Gold #11

The Upshot from DC Comics: Guest writer Chuck Dixon jumps into the Timestream to tell a tale of Booster Gold and Batman! When Booster is charged with stopping a time-traveling villain from Batman's past, he must travel back in time and go undercover as Killer Moth to stop this mystery man from destroying Gotham City! Guest-starring Batgirl! 32pg. $2.99. Written by Chuck Dixon; Art and Cover by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund .


The Why: We were excited about this book when it first came out. We had read Booster Gold’s original series—written and drawn by Dan Jurgens—back in the 80s and when we heard that DC’s Boy Wonder Geoff Johns would be co-writing this with the collaboration of artist Jurgens, we were pleased.

Jurgens himself has admitted that he didn’t yet possess the proper storytelling tools when he first wrote and drew Booster’s original 25-issue series. Yet two decades later with Johns’ help, Booster Gold became a top shelf character ironically enough by fooling the DC Universe into thinking he was a useless dolt and by giving Booster—a refugee from the 25th Century—a grand purpose as guardian of the time stream.

Yet Johns slowly began to lose us with an overly complicated storyline in Booster’s attempt to undo Blue Beetle Ted Kord’s murder by taking the reader through a grand tour of all of the DC “events” best left forgotten such as Zero Hour and 1 Million.

Now Johns has left the book after Issue 10 and we’re not sure how long Jurgens will stick around as artist or even stepping back up as Booster’s writer.

We’ll hang in there for a bit but if further cost cutting is required, Booster Gold as it stands at this moment on the chopping block.

Checkmate #29

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Royals send an increasingly erratic Chimera up against an imminent apocalypse! Good thing the Global Guardians are there to back him up! 32pg. $2.99. Written by Bruce Jones; Art and Cover by Manuel Garcia.


The Why: We have to admit we wanted to like this book as we like Greg Rucka’s work but we never fully engaged with Checkmate despite seeing the great potential of the book and the premise. We often said when reviewing the book that Rucka was too smart for his own good.

Perhaps he gave readers such as FanBoyWonder too much credit but we had trouble keeping up with the political twists and turns helped not at all by Rucka’s unwillingness to throw the reader even the occasional bone to catch us up.

Furthermore, Rucka never really had a feel for Amanda “The Wall” Waller as he was determined to paint her as totally ruthless with none of her irony or mirth that Waller’s creator John Ostrander exhibited during the days of Suicide Squad.

This became especially evident during this year’s eight-issue Suicide Squad reunion mini-series and the reader could compare side by side Rucka’s Waller to Ostrander’s Waller. But more than that, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad was a much more compelling read than Checkmate.

We admit that we likely wouldn’t have bought this book at all when it started a couple of years back if not for the inclusion of Green Lantern Alan Scott as the White King. Yet we stayed even after they dispatched GL after 4 issues.

We were more than ready to leave this book behind with Rucka when he left at Issue 25 and the announcement of Bruce Jones fresh from his god-awful run on Nightwing made it more than easy to drop this book and never look back.

Apparently, the marketplace agreed with us as we just heard that the book is canceled after Issue 31. Next stop, 5 for $1 bin.
Green Lantern Corps # 27

The Upshot: Witness the grand opening of the new Warriors bar! Then, meet a mysterious new Lantern by the name of Saarek, who can hear the dead. What brings him to Oa – and why are the dead growing restless? 32pg. $2.99 Written by Peter J. Tomasi; Art by Luke Ross and Fabio Laguna; Cover by Rodolfo Migliari

FBW’s Verdict: KEEP

The Why: From the start this book has been unfairly caught in the shadow of the main Green Lantern book given that Geoff Johns’ GL has been a hit or miss prospect while GLC has consistently cranked out quality stories and almost always on-time.

We really liked original GLC writer Dave Gibbons and we were disappointed when he moved on after the Sinestro Corps War (jump or pushed?). But Peter Tomasi has stepped in to continue the quality storytelling.

GLC is a much harder book to write as it staring Guy Gardner with Kyle Rayner and 7,200 other Green Lanterns as opposed to the Hal Jordan Show in Green Lantern with only the occasional cameo by John Stewart.

Lately Tomasi should be commended for single-handedly attempting to maintain the momentum following the Sinestro Corps War and Alpha Lantern story arcs. While Geoff Johns has opted for the momentum-killing, place holding six-issue Secret Origin of Hal Jordan, life for the 6,999 other Lanterns has gone on in the pages of GLC.

FanBoyWonder is a long time GL fan so we’re apt to collect both titles but if push came to shove between GL and GLC, we’d be hard pressed to drop Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps over Johns’ Green Lantern. You’re officially on notice Geoff Johns.

That’s it for now. We’ll tackle the last two weeks of August in Part 2 our Comics Consolidation Challenge—that’s when the knives really come out!
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