Rosario Dawson is going to save comics! Or something. I’m sure that Ms. Dawson is a wonderful person and everything, but the announcement of her new comic from Speakeasy sounds less like Speakeasy breaking new ground and more like the time that Marvel said that Freddie Prinze Jr. was going to write Spider-Man for them to me. Still, good luck to her, if only because I thought Josie And The Pussycats was a great movie. Because I’ve been away for the last month or so, I’m not reviewing this week’s books as much as various books from the last four weeks that I managed to get through this week, in between long stretches of work and more long stretches of work. It’s a fairly DC-centric list, but at least I’m avoiding the three DC trades that I got for Christmas, so as to not bore those who don’t understand the brilliance of ‘50s and ‘60s DC superhero books. Those who wish I was reading more indie things, recommend stuff to me for when I’m done catching up.
BIRDS OF PREY #89: Call me a sucker, but I was glad to see that the DC solicits for March didn’t follow through on Gail Simone’s hints that Birds of Prey would have an entirely new cast after the One Year Later jump. Never mind this issue’s fanboy thrill of Ex-Commissioner Gordon finding out that his daughter is Oracle and then telling her that he’d always known that she was Batgirl, there’s just something comfortably dependable about this book; Gail’s proven herself to be a writer (much like Dan Slott over at Marvel, for that matter) that brings characterisation, action and snappy dialogue far better than the B-list characters that she works with deserve. As with most DC books right now, this issue is pretty much closed off to new readers nonetheless, as it’s tying up loose ends before Infinite Crisis hits, but it’s done with heart and humor. Okay, if you can follow what’s going on.
THE FLASH #229: Talking of Infinite Crisis, this book’s still vamping for no immediately apparent reason before cancellation. Given that we’re one issue away from the end and the story still feels like the product of the fill-in team that it is, I’m still not sure why they didn’t just end the book with the last issue of Geoff Johns’ run. What’s that, you say? “Money”? Oh. Crap.
GOTHAM CENTRAL #39: Hello, heavy final page foreshadowing of depressing ending: “He believed in what you did, in what he did… And I do too, Renee… Right now, I have to… What choice do I have? Because if I don’t… Oh, Lord, if I don’t, Renee… Then my husband has died for nothing…” And with that, any hope I had that the book wouldn’t end with a “The law isn’t enough” conclusion flew right out the window (Not that I had that many hopes for that, considering the hints about Montoya’s downward spiral continuing in 52 that’re flying around the place these days). Nonetheless, this is the best that the series has been in years, with a plot and quality that mirrors the story that launched the book, maybe because it feels like there’s a direction again after so many issues of Plug In The Generic Batvillain. Kano and Stephano Gaudiano provide some nice art, too. All round Good, really.
GREEN LANTERN #6: I’m sure there was a coherent story somewhere in here, once upon a time. Geoff Johns probably just got really really distracted while he was writing it or something. Simone Bianchi’s art is a thing of strangely-European-comics-of-the-70s wonder, as Hibbs mentioned through Lester way back when it came out, but even it can’t save this from having the feeling of having been written by someone who’s not sure what to do with a favorite toy now that he owns it. Eh, eh and more eh.
INFINITE CRISIS #3: Is it wrong of me to be loving this as much as I am? The reveal of who the second Lex Luthor was made a strange kind of sense, and I’m wondering if the obvious Earth-2 Superman Represents Geoff Johns And He Hates Today’s Comics of the first couple of issues is all a set-up for Earth 2 Superman Is Old And Easily Fooled, If You Didn’t Like Identity Crisis Then You’re Old And Easily Fooled Too further down the line, which’d be fun. Batman having a breakdown! Superboy being a whiny bitch! A page of neon This is the new Blue Beetle signage! Yes, it’s preaching to the converted, but what superhero book coming from Marvel or DC that isn’t written by Grant Morrison isn’t these days? For what it is, it’s Very Good, but you can have the argument that what it is isn’t a good thing in the long term, if you want.
JLA #123: By contrast, Crap. So, Brad Meltzer’s going to relaunch this with Ed Benes, apparently, which means that, in a few months, we’ll have a decently-written if Gerry Conway-worshipping Justice League book that looks as if it was drawn in the ‘90s. I can’t wait.
Okay, I can.
SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #2 / SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #2: And the second wave of Seven Soldiers continues, as Grant seems to explaining everything after all. Bulleteer feels like Old Friends Week, as we get a direct follow-up to Seven Soldiers #0, as well as an indirect follow-up to Shining Knight #3. Both are welcome, but both also rob the book of its own feel or identity a bit; instead of a book in itself, it feels like it’s the exposition book where Grant had an idea for a character, but not a story. Frankenstein, on the other hand, brings back a character from Klarion and possibly explains what he was up to all along, but in a story that feels like it could only have happened in this book. It’s an entirely different feel from the horror movie of the first issue – this one is a big budget sci-fi movie – but it works; perhaps this is the series where Grant’s going to tackle mainstream movie genres each issue. Bulleteer: Okay, Frankenstein: Excellent.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN #23: I get a lot of shit for being a fan of this book, and it’s around this point where I start thinking that I may be deserving of it. We’re four months into Jeph Loeb’s phoning it in, with a plot that substitutes dramatic reveals for substance or logic and dialogue that’s entirely injoke or cliché. What makes it different from the times where this book has worked for me – Ed McGuinness’s first run on the title, or the Carlos Pacheco run – is the lack of big stupid idea fun. Yes, there’s a half-chuckle at seeing the Maximums poking fun at the Ultimates, but that joke’s old within a few pages, never mind a few issues, and there’s nothing behind it to make it last. Kryptonite Batman? Great, but make it something more that him hitting Superman for a few pages and then going away with no explanation. The return of Red Son Superman and Batman Beyond? If they were there for any reason, sure. I don’t know; there seemed to be some internal logic to things like the Giant Composite Superman Batman Robot, or the Zombie Justice League, in the past that’s lacking here. It’s as if whatever gonzo credibility the book had has been abandoned in the rush to the finish line. Ed McGuinness’s art is still the bouncy castle of the superhero world, though. Eh.
THE THING #2: It really is just Marvel Two-In-One, isn’t it? Not that that’s a bad thing, but there’s something incredibly old-school about this book in writing and art (I have no idea why Andrea Di Vito has the reputation that he does amongst some fans – His work is generic and workmanlike to me, as if he was a fill-in guy on Nova or something in the ‘70s. Which, bizarrely, makes sense on this series) that’s both comforting and disturbing at the same time: Yes, it’s nostalgic and everything, but shouldn’t it be more, somehow? It’s Good, but I feel as if you should get more for your money, for some reason.
WONDER WOMAN #224: I know that it’s extremely anal to care about things like continuity and things like that, but the editors of this and Infinite Crisis need to be reminded to care about such things anyway. For those who haven’t seen this issue, it theoretically expands upon the six-or-so page scene in Infinite Crisis #3 where the Amazons bring out the Purple Death Ray, use it, and then leave Earth forever. And, in theory, that’s okay, because it’s a massive change to Wonder Woman’s status quo and should be seen in her own book so that people who aren’t reading Infinite Crisis know what happened. The problem is in the execution, as the two different versions of what happened are miles apart. It’s not just the dialogue which is, of course, different. It’s that neither book could agree on the sequence of events - Wonder Woman’s version adds in a confrontation between Brother Eye and Diana that’s missing from Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis has an appearance of Diana’s Gods that’s missing in Wonder Woman - or what the Purple Death Ray is – In Infinite Crisis, it’s a giant cannon, in Wonder Woman, a handgun attached to a backpack (Also, nowhere in Wonder Woman do they explain what the Purple Death Ray is. They use “PDR”, and “death ray”, perhaps because Greg Rucka felt suitably embarrassed at having to type the words “Purple Death Ray”). Like I said, I know it’s anal to care about things like that, but there’s such a difference between the two different versions of what’s meant to be the same thing that it just seems as if no-one cares enough to pay attention to what anyone else was doing. And to make matters worse for Wonder Woman, Infinite Crisis’s version was better, purely because it was lacking the overwrought dialogue and narration by Rucka. The end, and subsequent relaunch, of this book can’t come fast enough. Awful.
Y THE LAST MAN #41: The secret origin of 355 that has something to do with biting people and cannibals, but still ends up being kind of dull. I don’t know if it means that I’ve read/seen the “trauma in childhood leads to self-destructive impulses in teenage years that get harnessed by secret organization” thing too many times, or if it’s just that I’m feeling burned out by the lack of of forward motion in the story over the last few issues, but this was the most Eh the book has been since it started.
YOUNG AVENGERS SPECIAL #1: It’s pretty, but pretty vacant, as Jonathan Rotten once wrote in an early issue of The Comics Journal about the work of Barry Windsor Smith. Allen Heinberg’s tendency to be earnest overwhelms his tendency to be funny as he writes his way around a non-plot full of flashbacks to each character’s origin, each one illustrated by a big name artist slumming it just a little, and a small part of my love for the regular Young Avengers title dies as a result. With two exceptions, the flashbacks are either pointless or things we already know, but the two exceptions are worth mentioning – Kate’s flashback has her being attacked and, it’s implied, raped, which hopefully will be followed up at some point in the main title if only to make the inclusion of it here less gratutious (Yes, I know, Marvel heroes are born of tragedy and bad things, but still), and Billy’s flashback has him meeting the Scarlet Witch, which seemed interesting considering her current status in the Marvel Universe. The third bit of foreshadowing has a young Kang watching the team while a character comments “I don’t think there’s anything they can’t handle,” which is about as subtle as Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central thing above, and depressingly suggests that no story will ever just end in Young Avengers, but instead lead into reappearing characters and angst. For a comic that has no reason to exist, it’s Okay, but you can skip it and not miss anything you probably won’t catch again in the regular YA title.
PICK OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS THAT I’VE FINALLY MANAGED TO CATCH UP ON is Frankenstein, while the PICK OF THE WEAK is Wonder Woman, because it is very, very bad indeed. Tradewise, all I’ve been reading this week are old DC comics: SHOWCASE PRESENTS JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS: THE TEAM-UPS and that one about the greatest imaginary stories ever. But if you’re looking for a TRADE OF THE WEEK, I won’t believe anyone who says that Essential Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe isn’t what the world has been waiting for.
Next week: I continue to catch up on things, and Glaswegian Denise Mina takes over Hellblazer, which makes me homesick and hopeful for cruel Scottish weirdness on a monthly basis.