Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Weekly Haul: October 24th

Action Comics #857 (DC Comics) After sagging quite a bit in that violent, meandering, kinda pointless middle chapter, “Escape From Bizarro World” finishes quite strong, with a brief appearance from the Bizarro Justice League (I do hope Yellow Lantern shows up in Green Lantern sometime), and more backwards foolishness. Plus, there’s a whole lot of more memorable stuff, like Pa Kent sitting his boy Clark down for a talk, and sitting his boy Superman down for a talk, and sitting his boy Bizarro down for a talk. I know that sounds like a lot of sitting down and talking for a single issue, but they’re brief, pointed scenes, and there’s plenty of other fun stuff, like Superman’s new power, Pa’s new powers, the Bizarro Guy From The Cover of Action Comics #1 and the absolute horror with which the Bizarro’s react to a sphere.

Writers Geoff Johns and Richard Donner’s work on Superman comics thus far has been kind of spotty, in terms of how well they get the character and how well they exploit him and his world for good comic book stories. (Keeping in mind, of course, they’ve only told one and a half stories together so far). There’s certainly a lot to like, but they’ve never really been able to distill the good parts of all previous eras of Superman into something that’s fresh and fun the way Superman writer Kurt Busiek or All-Star Superman writer Grant Morrison have been doing consistently. But with this issue, it seemed to me like they’ve finally gotten the hang of it. This was just cover-to-cover fun.

As much as I love that little “DING” as Superman fixes the Daily Planet, my favorite part was Yellow Lantern’s refusal to try and frighten Bizarro Lex Luthor: “Lex Luthor? Pfft! Him am bald so him am scared of nothing!

Oh if only it were true that the bald feared nothing, Yellow Lantern. If only it were true.

Blue Beetle #20 (DC) I’m a little conflicted about this issue, the first I’ve found less than entertaining since I started reading it regularly a few months back. I’m sure from a business standpoint, tying into the enormously successful “Sinestro Corps War” storyline running through the Green Lantern titles seems like a smart move for a struggling book like Blue Beetle, which seems always in danger of cancellation. And it’s not as if the tie-in is an incredibly forced one, as there appears to be some history between the title character’s magic scarab, his background bad guys The Reach (lame name, that), and the Green Lantern Corps. (What that history is exactly, though, I don’t know…I sat out those issues of the series). What it does though is beg a little bit of understanding of what’s going on elsewhere in the DCU, as well as what’s been going on in this series, like what’s up with this tattooed Peacemaker exactly.

Personally, I felt pretty damn lost, which was a bit unusual in that the major strength of the last half-dozen or so issues seems to have been how easily accessible they were. Regular writer John Rogers and regular artist Rafael Albuquerque both do solid jobs here, but Rogers’ usual wit is much less sharp in this ish, as it’s a rather serious story, and there aren’t really any great lines in this issue, but there is a rather tired cliché (the old travel into one of the characters’ minds bits). That this is merely an okay issue is really too bad precisely because this is a tie-in to DC’s biggest, most well liked storyline at the moment. I imagine a lot of GL or DC fans who have yet to try out the new Blue Beetle but have been hearing the Internet ranting and raving about how great it is might look at this as a good point to finally give it a shot and, well, it’s not.

Superman #669 (DC) Kurt Busiek and Rick Leonardi reveal the identity of the Third Kryptonian! (And that’s the third one if you don’t count Kryptonians from other dimensions…or dogs…or microscopic ones stuck in a bottled city). I was pretty surprised by the reveal, simply because based on that outline, I was expecting either another young woman or a young man. But this? This I did not expect. The issue is actually a little dry, as the newcomer tells her life story to visitor Superman, and we get a little history lesson about the rise and fall of the Kryptonian Empire, which is probably cool if you like space opera, but all those hyphenated names and different planets are like white noise to me. I do appreciate the fact that Busiek has put so much time and thought into this, though—he’s been teasing elements of this storyline since as far back as “Up, Up and Away!”—and that he’s consciously adding to and building up the DCU, instead of just moving the same old pieces around or breaking them, like far too many of his peers. If I had any complaints about the story, it was that I found myself furrowing my brow about where the newcomer was during certain past events, particularly the Phantom Zone Invasion from Superman’s sister title, although I wonder if that couldn’t be mentioned because DC hasn’t got around to finishing it yet. Now, if this person gets a new name that starts with Super-, as all Kryptonians should, what will hers be? I’m personally hoping for “Superlady.”

Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1 (DC) Technically part of the “Sinestro Corps War” storyline, this reads more like a sequel to writer Geoff Johns’ own Infinite Crisis, particularly the parts where that annoying Superboy-Prime kid, the one that was totally repressing his crush on Alexander Luthor so hard that it drove him murderously insane, beat up the whole DCU.

Round Two? Not quite. Apparently our boy Prime is low on solar energy, and it’s nighttime on Earth (yeah, I don’t know why he didn’t land on the other hemisphere either), so the heroes have a whole night to dogpile and beat on him before he’s able to start punching heads off again.

I enjoyed the Everyone vs. Prime battle scenes, illustrated by Pete Woods, as it allowed Woods to draw all of the DCU (and it allowed me to read it, without having to worry about how bad the story it was illustrating was, as in the last time Woods drew a lot of DC heroes), and, let’s face it, it is pretty cathartic to see Red Star and Krypto come back for revenge (Ditto Risk, although what happens to him seems funny for a split second, and then just really dumb. I wish Prime would have ripped off his moustache this time around).

I was a lot less interested in Prime’s life story, in which we flashback to his life on Earth-Prime and then through Crisis on Infinite Earths and IC (with Jerry Ordway handling the art here) simply because I’d already read those stories, some fairly recently, and the narration doesn’t fill in any holes for us (Like what the Flashes did with him, for example). The back-up is written by Sterling Gates and drawn by Ordway, and it’s another “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” short, this one explaining the Corps member who most boggled my mind when I first saw him…well, apparently her. You know, that one that was full of babies.

Teen Titans #52 (DC) Something seems really, really wrong with a lot of DC’s super-comics of late (note the dwindling size of my Weekly Haul features), and I think I’m at the point where I’m beginning to wonder if maybe it’s not them, it’s me. Have I just been reading them too long now, and am just personally tired of seeing the same stories told over and over (and over…and over) again with negligible differences?

This is the second full-issue of new writer Sean McKeever’s storyline pitting the Teen Titans against the future Titans Geoff Johns introduced in #17-#19. For two issues now, the Teen Titans have been split up and been fighting against a random cadre of villains with old-school, pre-JLA Starro face suckers on them, while their older counterparts squabble with them (In the past few years, Starro’s also recently appeared in different forms in JLA: Classified and JLoA). Then there’s a last page right out of the old Geoff Johns playbook, in which a surprise guest or group of surprise guests appear in a dramatic splash page reveal on a two-panel entrance line. It’s…more future counterparts of more teen heroes, being lead by Lex Luthor in his goddam green and purple Superman/Batman battle suit, with the rainbow Kryptonite knuckles. If Luthor in that outfit leading an army of villains looks familiar, that may be because you just saw it last week. (I know, I know, this is a future Lex Luthor, but that’s a hell of a small difference, and does nothing to eliminate the fact that a lot of DC’s super-books just seem to be blending into one book).

Despite the lack of imagination in the plot and the glossing over of the dramatic bits (Tim’s talk with himself, Flash encountering a future version of his dead friend Bart Allen, etc.), McKeever’s scripting and dialogue are fine (Is this the first time the word “douche” has appeared in a DCU comic? Just curious). The pencil art is by Jamal Igle, and it’s strong, but it’s also not the work of Ale Garza, the solicited artist, making this at least four issues in a row (three in just this storyline) that have had different pencilers. (That’s another respect in which Teen Titans is currently mirroring JLoA; can’t DC find new, regular pencilers to go along with their new, regular writers on their big team titles like this?).

Coupla nitpicks: Unless Prometheus downgraded after his post-Morrison pussification period, the souped-up club he wields should have pulped Tim on page three. And what’s this “Watchtower” Batman is talking about? They hang out in a “Hall” now.

And a coupla questions: Anyone know who that big giant robot on the last page is? Or the big rocky guy? How about the girl with glasses and the fire powers? And is that Stephanie Brown as Huntress II?

Ultimate Spider-Man #115 (Marvel Comics) This is an incredibly dense issue, one that felt like quite a bit happened. Well, quite a bit did happen, it just felt like it was a lot more than is usually crammed into 22 pages. That’s a good thing, by the way. I’m quite used to Stuart Immonen’s art already, and Brian Michael Bendis has several really nice scenes in this issue (I liked Danvers playing with the wrist shooters, and Spidey’s fight chatter, and the kids getting deputized). Man, it’s issues like this that make me think maybe switching to trades on USM will be a lot harder than I thought…


Patrick C said...

I agree about Teen Titans, it was more deja vu all over again. And the entire JLA running off after they were taken down like chumps seems a little convenient. I was ready to cancel this title with issue 50, but I decided to give McKeever's first run a shot. I'm on the fence, but it seems like it'll be the next on the chopping block for me.

This was the first issue of Blue Beetle I've read, and I agree I was totally lost. I'm up on the Sinestro War, and I've read online reviews of Blue Beetle so I had some idea of what Peacemaker's deal is, but I wasn't blown away with it.

That being said, you need to start reading Green Lantern Corps!! If you're cutting down on some of the other DC titles, that should free up a spot in your pull list to at least give it a shot.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Now, if this person gets a new name that starts with Super-, as all Kryptonians should, what will hers be? I’m personally hoping for “Superlady.”

I can't tell whether you know this and are just playing. If not: Kirsten Wells was the secret ID of Elliott S! Maggin's pre-Crisis Superwoman-- the only super-hero of the 20th century whose ID was never known to history, making her an appropriate character for an in-the-shadows long-lived and never-known type. The original was young and spunky not old and jaded-- but Busiek being Busiek, I'll bet we'll get at least one character calling her Superwoman.

Seems to me like we've seen the "watchtower" screw-up in a couple of places already. Turns out Morrison's revamp sticks in the memory more than Meltzer's!

and, agreed, it seemed totally randomly arbitrary for Prime to spend a whole night on nightside earth, instead of soaking up a few more minutes of yellow sunlight in space or landing in Manila. Also seemed pretty stupid of the three Kryptonians to stand five feet away from him posturing and talking after they'd knocked him down. And, fun as it might have been to see scores of heroes piling on, doncha think one might have left some of the Rolling Head Bait home and away from this fight? Since they didn't, shouldn't the casualty count be a lot higher?

Matthew said...

If you sat out the Reach issues of Blue Beetle so far, you missed one of my favourite scenes of recent times: the Reach commanders surveying the Earth and freaking out when they see its defences.

"Oh, it gets better. *Lanterns*. PLURAL."

David page said...

Blue beetle is something I need to get to in dead'll do its worth explaining maybe after I do Grant Morrisons Zenith (starting this saturday sorry for the cheap plug)

sudoku said...

Is the new JLA satellite not called the Watchtower? I mean, it is identical to the satellite from the animated series, which was also called the Watchtower.

Regault said...

Given that Johns' run on Teen Titans started with Bart angsting over Wally's opinion of him (again), Superboy finding out half his DNA was from a villain (again), and an inexplicably evil Jericho attacking the team (again), deja vu is par for course with the title. It's like their only concept for character development is to reset the clock about five years and then run them through the same plays.

Regault said...

Alright, I dl'd that issue of Teen Titans so I could flip to the back, expecting to find a generic robot so I could post "Oh that's probably Mike Dugan" but I was pretty shocked.

That's Grendizer. I mean, I thought the Marvel Manga with Iron Man Dendrobium was pretty unsubtle, but that robot is pretty definitely Grendizer with the forehead spikes replaced with Getter Robo's gem.

So next issue of Teen Titans expect some drill punches. For those curious what Grendizer looks like.