Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Weekly Haul: January 23rd

Blue Bettle #23 (DC Comics) The ongoing conflict between Jaime “Blue Beetle III” Reyes and the alien race known as The Reach that’s been at the heart of this series has been the part of it which interested me the least. Jaime’s relationship with his friends and family, his interaction with the rest of the DCU, and writer John Rogers sharp characterization and sharper dialogue has been the book’s real selling point for me personally.

This issue involves Jaime deciding to finally confront (and hopefully defeat) The Reach once and for all, and I found myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would. It seems our hero doing something he does only really quite rarely—confronting an enemy or problem all on his own. In fact, the first half of the issue deal with him explaining to his friends and family that he has to go this alone, and why he can’t have them or anybody else really helping them. It’s surprisingly touching (Confession: I totally choked up on page 7, panel 5).

While the second half veers into more standard superhero comics territory—the hero, using his amazing powers, combats the evil alien invaders—Rogers’ fairly unique conception of these particular evil alien invaders, and the clever ways in which Jaime uses those powers against them if both fun and fresh.

Teen Titans Go! #51 (DC) I was a big fan of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans cartoon. Like their Justice League, it started off a little weak, but rapidly got really great. In addition to reinventing the Wolfman/Perez era Titans into cooler, more relevant and sharply realized characters, the show’s writers and artists improved on the most hoary DC character properties, from Speedy and Aqualad to the Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood of Evil, from the Mad Mod and Ding Dong Daddy to Bumblebee and Argent.

I tried to read the comic book adaptation for the first dozen or issues or so, but just couldn’t get into it. It suffered a bit from the adaptation of an adaptation syndrome, and unlike the cartoon itself, seemed to be addressing kids by talking down to them.

This week seemed like a good time to give it another shot though, since it was such a light week for promising looking releases and, what the hell, it’s got the introduction of the TTG! version of Geo-Force.

Now it’s easy to hate on Geo-Force, and Brad Meltzer made it several thousand times easier by kind of sort of including him in his JLoA revamp, having him just kind of appearing in random scenes that never connected with the rest of the story, and seeming like a hanger-on to the team. There’s that stupid green and yellow costume, a color combo that only really works on athletic teams, and the “GF” logo on the chest. Stupid Geo-Force.

Having recently devoured the Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders by Mike Barr, Jim Aparo and others, I’ve come to appreciate G.F. a bit more. Maybe it was the fact that the black and white format meant I didn’t have to look at that green and gold costume (Fun fact: Batman designed that for Geo-Force!), or that Barr and company wrote the guy as something other than an empty costume taking up space in an already decompressed narrative, but it certainly made Brion a little harder to hate. (Or maybe it was just the number of times he said “By my crown!”; characters with catch-phrases are always preferable to those without ‘em).

The old much-missed Young Justice art team of Todd Nauck and Larry Stucker are still on TTG! art duty, and they give Geo-Force a pretty awesome new costume design, by far the best he’s ever worn.

You can see it on the cover there. It has the color scheme of his original one (Which he quit wearing because it reminded him of Terra, I also learned from that Showcase; not sure why he started wearing it in the DCU again, other than the fact that it sucks less than his green and gold one), with the belt, wristbands and “GF” symbol of his second one. However, the “GF” logo is much more stylized, with sharper lines and bigger letters. This one looks more like Superman or Blue Falcon’s symbols than, say something that might appear on the side of a football helmet.

It does feature cargo pants, however. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about them. I kinda like the fact that he’s wearing pants—it gives the costume a sort of military look, and it also covers his modesty.

The DCU version of Geo-Force should totally steal this costume design.




As for the issue, it’s one of the stronger ones I’ve read of the series (although I haven’t been following writer J. Torres’ run on the series, so maybe it’s actually pretty typical). A strange super-powered teenager shows up at the Titans’ tower and starts causing trouble with his powers over rocks and the earth.

When they’re finally able to calm him down, they learn that he’s actually Terra’s older brother and he’s come looking for her, and he blames the Titans for what happened to her. You know, the whole being tricked into working for Slade, going all evil and ultimately turning herself to stone. It was in the cartoons.

It’s a nice done-in-one telling the origins of Geo-Force and Terra, one which convinced me that, as unlikely as it seems, the Markov royal family would actually make for a pretty good shoujo-style manga comic, if DC ever actually starts taking advantage of their characters’ ability to court the legions of manga reading kids out there.

Therefore Repent! (IDW) Writer Jim Munroe and artist Salgood Sam’s “post-Rapture graphic novel” has an appealing hook—a disintegrating romance in a world not unlike that in Left Behind, only with more talking dogs and magic—and a nice, inky black and white look. It took a while to get there, but the conclusion is quite interesting, ultimately redeeming the sometimes too slow journey to get there. It’s a pretty busy book with a lot actually happening, and I’m still processing it. Expect a fuller review next week.

Wonder Woman #16 (DC) Because asking a single art team to draw 22 pages a month is unthinkable, artist Ron Randall comes in to draw the middle of Terry and Rachel Dodson’s story here, which continues to pit Wonder Woman and her mom vs. Nazis on the abandoned Themyscira, and the back story involving a new look at Wonder Woman’s origin story.

I feel like Gail Simone’s take on the character and direction for the title is still coming together—this is only part-three of a four issue arc, after all, and she certainly had her work cut out for her in terms of making sense of the shambles the franchise was left in—and this issue is a third case of a decent Wonder Woman issue, with a trio of pretty good individual threads that don’t really seem to have much of anything to do with one another yet.

I do like the extreme melodrama of the dialogue, and the fact that the super-gorillas have Wondy’s back in her battle—I’ve been spending some more time with the Wonder Woman Archives (still by far the best take on the character), and her ability to turn enemies into friends was an important part of her old mythos, although they were usually evil women becoming heroines, rather than gorilla terrorists becoming Wonder Woman’s gorilla knights, but close enough.

The biggest problem with the book, however, continues to be the damage done to it before Simone got there, and the damage done to the character and the elements of her franchise done around the rest of the DCU.

I believe I mentioned with the last few issues, that there seemed to be two-to-three different versions of Themyscira and Hippolyta in the DCU at the time (I haven’t been reading Green Arrow/Black Canary and Countdown, but they’ve both featured populated Themyscira’s, and this Hippolyta looks nothing like the one in GA/BC).

And the cliffhanger ending is more laughable than dramatic, as Hippolyta is seemingly shot to death. I mean, she was just magically brought to life a couple issues ago; if she does die now, why can’t be magically brought back to life again the following month?

Good, but still not good enough.

World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control #1 (Marvel Comics) This World War Hulk follow-up seems like it took a little too long to arrive—in the Marvel hype cycle, WWH already seems like two event ago—but that may have more to do with the shrinking time frame between tent pole events than anything else.

All but destroyed by the Hulk’s invasion in Grek Pak and John Romita Jr.’s miniseries, New York City is in need of some serious repair, and Dwayne McDuffie and Ernie Colon creation Damage Control has just won the $164 billion contract.

Writer McDuffie’s history with the characters is readily apparent—several characters are introduced who seem to have had prior story arcs, but they’re introduced so thoroughly, one need not have any prior experience with them to know what’s going on (This is the first time I’ve read a McDuffie D.C. story, and I wasn’t the least bit lost).

Most of the issue is devoted to introducing these characters, and McDuffie gets plenty of opportunity to flex his skill at sharp dialogue and verbal witticisms. It reads a bit like a clever TV dramedy plays—and I mean that in a good way. It’s not like trying to turn The Avengers into The Sopranos or JLA into Law and Order: SVU; these civilian characters and their somewhat mundane job in a more fantastic world fit the pilot episode feel of the issues perfectly.

Artist Salva Espin’s art—colored to closely resemble Civil War by Guru EFX—is great. The characters are sharply drawn and act well, and the details are well realized. There are a few panels I was tempted to reach into and grab some fruit from a bowl in the middle of the scene.

As for super-business, there’s the introduction of a new Goliath, who calls himself “Black Goliath” the first time he grows, and a boatload of cameos in one panel, who are confronted in a cliffhanger by the Thunderbolts.

I kinda hope a fight breaks out. It seems like the SHRA conflict between heroes which Marvel EIC said was instituted to bring a level of danger to the Marvel Universe—the second of his three genies—is constantly being swept under the rug. Almost every time the registered and unregistered are in the same panel, the former forgives the latter. Here, for example, black suit Spider-Man, Dr. Srange, Iron Fist and Luke Cage are all milling around with Mr. Fantastic and Yellowjacket.


SallyP said...

Gosh, but Blue Beetle just keeps getting better. I keep saying that, but it's true. It's also a heck of a cliffhanger.

I'm actually looking forward to reading Wonder Woman nowadays, and I put that squarely at Gail Simone's door. Yes, things are still in a bit of a mess, and it is hard to reconcile just what the heck is going on with all the other books that are currently featuring Themyscira, but I have faith, that somehow, it will all work out in the end.

I am just so happy that there is another Damage Control mini-series out, that I literally squealed with joy. I have ALL the previous ones, by McDuffie, and if you haven't read them, then do yourself a HUGE favor and try to find them...they are a hoot.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Man, you got "Therefore Repent"? Lucky! I ordered it from my shop; I've been looking forward to that one.

Caleb said...

I have ALL the previous ones, by McDuffie, and if you haven't read them, then do yourself a HUGE favor and try to find them...they are a hoot.

Maybe if this sells like gangbusters,t hey'll release a Damage Control trade? I did like what I saw of them in the recent Ant-Man and the She-Hulk story with Hercules.

Man, you got "Therefore Repent"? Lucky! I ordered it from my shop; I've been looking forward to that one.

When you do get your hands (and eyes) on it, I hope you write it up (or at least let me know what you thought). It's a kinda odd book, of the sort of which I'm curious to hear more reactions to. I'll have a reveiw-review of it in next week's LVW.