After the dreaded lurgy last week – nowhere near as bad as Hibbs’s lurgy, because I was only off my feet for a couple of days – I’m back, fighting fit (albeit with a runny nose), and mad that me missing the reviews last week meant that Brian got to the “Battlestar Galactica did that One Year Later thing better than DC” bit before me. Damn you, sickness! A LATE FREEZE: This is a mini that a mutual friend of the artist and m’good self sent me earlier on in the week, and it’s probably the best thing I read all week. Danica Novgorodoff is the artist in question behind this almost-silent story of a bear that falls in love with a robot, and everything that happens in the winter that follows, and it’s something that’s unexpectedly beautiful, despite the comedic broadness that you think of from the “it’s a bear in love with a robot” premise. With an art-style somewhere between Chris Ware and Lauren McCubbin – and something that has an amusing eye for detail, as the floating Hanes briefs underwater show – and writing that reminds me of Hope Larson and the Perry Bible Fellowship, this is something that’s well worth looking out for. Excellent.
AMERICAN VIRGIN #1: Am I the only one who thought that this was Y: The Last Man for Christians? I’m not even sure why I got that feeling all through the issue – Steven Seagle isn’t Brian K. Vaughan when it comes to the fast-moving pop-culture-filled writing, but there seemed something Yorick-esque about the main character’s well-meaning-but-confused-slave-to-plot role, as well as his devotion to his girlfriend being the prime mover in getting the larger plot running. I’m sure that the book will get more of its own identity as it goes on, but right now, there’s something very generic Vertigo about the proceedings. Becky Cloonan’s art is the best thing about this OK book.
ANNIHILATION PROLOGUE: It does what it says on the tin: it’s a prologue, pure and simple. Forget any beginning, middle and end stuff here, it’s all… well, it’s actually all kind of middle, really. Boom! Disaster! Things blowing up! People dying! And that’s about all I really got from this book, because it’s full of places and things that don’t really get introduced that well. Space prisons and space police get exploded, and the stars of all the spin-off miniseries get to comment on it in one- or two- page cameos (well, except for Nova, who gets the majority of the book to go through his own version of Emerald Twilight). There are fact files at the back of the book to underscore how little introduction most of the characters and concepts got in the actual story, but not even the greatest Mark Gruenwald fact file could fix how flat and generic this whole thing seems. Eh.
BIRDS OF PREY #92: It’s One Year Later, and you could hardly tell. Which is, actually, a good thing, because I know that my life hasn’t changed that much in the last twelve months, and all of the changes that Aquaman, Batman and the Outsiders have gone through were making me feel pretty inadequate. Sure, there are some things that are different – Gypsy! - but this is more or less the same book as before, with Gail Simone and Paulo Siqueira providing both fine superheroic action and a bit of a sequel to Villains United from last year. It’s Good, and an odd relief from all of the other OYL books.
GREEN ARROW #60: It’s the West Wing but with superheroes. As in, it’s literally the structure of the first episode of the West Wing, but with superheroes – Lots of people talk about things, introducing the status quo and supporting characters – before the main character appears at the very end of the story. Sadly, it just doesn’t work here, because we already know the main character, so keeping him out of the picture just feels forced, especially when the big reveal has not only been revealed by all of the pre-release hype but also the cover to this very book. Instead of paying attention to what everyone is talking about, you spend the issue thinking, “Show us Green Arrow, already.” Not that what everyone is talking about is that interesting, as the whole Star City has been abandoned by the government set-up (a) is an obvious New Orleans analog (Has Star City always been New Orleans, or are the “We used to have Jazz festivals” comments new?), and (b) has been done already with Gotham City a few years ago. It’s not bad, exactly (It’s Okay), but I can’t see many new readers reading this and suddenly thinking, “I must rush out and order the next issue!”
INFINITE CRISIS SECRET FILES AND ORIGINS 2006: Now, there’s a title that makes you worry that there’s going to be an Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins 2007. Is the Crisis that Infinite? Surprisingly, though, this isn’t the entirely pointless cash-in that I’d been expecting, with Marv Wolfman explaining what happened to the survivors of the original Crisis and just why they all ended up kind of crazy (You know, the part that Geoff Johns accidentally left out of Infinite Crisis proper). For the continuity anal, it also explains Superman-2’s cameo in The Kingdom, years ago, so finally we can sleep well at night again. Sure, the plot logic will make your head spin, what with Superboy magically changing continuity by punching things and all, but if you’ve bought into it so far you’re kind of stuck… It’s Okay, which is probably about as good as you can get with this type of thing.
NIGHTWING #118: It’s not often that I’m thankful for the next issue solicits at the end of books, but this time, it’s very helpful. “While Dick Grayson and Jason Todd battle over the identity of Nightwing,” starts the solicit, which is handy, considering that Jason Todd’s name doesn’t appear anywhere else in the book. Sure, there are two Nightwings – you can tell, because their narration boxes are different colors, and they have different lengths of hair – but at no point does the one that isn’t Dick Grayson get identified in the story itself. Mind you, Dick Grayson isn’t really seeming like himself, either, so maybe it’s some kind of double-bluff. Or maybe just crappy writing, as the rest of the dialogue would tend to suggest (The bedroom scene is bad enough to make me wonder if Bruce Jones has never met any real human being, and instead gets his dialogue ideas from daytime soap operas). It’s a really weak issue, with an unclear plot, unlikable characters, generic villains and an overall Ass quality. Sorry, former Boy Wonders.
SUPERMAN #650: I don’t know what it says about DC’s overall strategy that the most successful One Year Later books so far have been the Batman and Superman books. Just like the Batbooks, the Superman line gets back to basics in most ways: Everyone is back at the Daily Planet fulfilling their classic roles, Lex Luthor is once again an evil genius who’s hated by the general public, and there’s a hint of Titano to come (They’re experimenting with kryptonite and monkeys – That can only mean one thing, surely). That said, it was the other things that really worked for me: The sense of place that the creators have managed to give Metropolis (that place being New York, for me, finally), the way that it was revealed that Clark no longer had his powers (and the signal watch), and Pete Woods’ art, which is scratchy enough to seem unusual on a Superman book, but strong enough to carry the traditional superhero story. Very Good.
TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1: Finally, those of you who’ve wanted to see Superboy and Wonder Girl have sex have your dreams come true! Well, almost; there are levels of decency to be met, after all. Sadly, the same doesn’t appear to be true for levels of quality, as this is 48 pages of Crap, as only two writers, four pencillers, five inkers and not enough editing can bring you. There’s nothing here beyond Infinite Crisis-related filler, and Superboy and Wonder Girl talking about their relationship in exceptionally bland terms, which means that no-one except for Teen Titans-obsessives will get that much out of it.
PICK OF THE WEEK is a bit of a cheat, as it wasn’t on Diamond’s list, but A Late Freeze really was great. PICK OF THE WEAK was Nightwing, because apparently two ex-Robins really aren’t better than one, and Trade of The Week goes to Essential Godzilla, purely on principle: What could be more worth your less than twenty dollars than C-level Marvel characters going up against a giant mutant lizard?