Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Weekly Haul: February 6th

Detective Comics #841 (DC Comics) Paul Dini’s Bat-title seems to have finally fully recovered from the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” damage, turning back to done-in-ones with a focus on the Dark Knight solving mysteries. And artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs knock the issue out of the park; particularly the former on the cover. Take a moment to drink that in; the one you’ll have bought form your local comic shop will have covered up some of the good bits with the logo and UPC symbol.

This story focuses on an alliance between some of Batman’s oldest foes who share an affection for Lewis Carrol—Jervis “The Mad Hatter” Tetch and the Tweedles. They’ve built up a small army called The Wonderland Gang, including March Harriette, The Carpenter, The Walrus, The Lion and the Unicorn.

Some of the designs for these villains are less-than-inspired—the March Hare-inspired villain is just a Playboy bunny for example, and there’s something just wrong with the Tweedles wearing hoodies, track pants and tennis shoes—but some of that lame-ness is intentional (the final confrontation between The Carpenter and the Batman is played for laughs, for example).

With a strong story and probably the best artist he’s worked with since taking over the book, this may be the strongest issue of Dini’s since his first, drawn by J. H. Williams. Finally, TEC is turning into the superior Bat-comic it should have been. So naturally the next issue is a fill-in story by Peter Milligan dealing with more “Resurrection” baggage.


Justice Society of America (DC) Wow. Just…wow. Does Geoff Johns do his best writing when he’s working with a co-writer (like Jeff Katz on Booster Gold or Alex Ross here), or is his game more noticeably stepped up when he’s working on a book he’s clearly all fired up about? Because the first three to six pages of this story are among the funniest and most fun of the billions of pages Johns has written in his career. These focus on the return of Jakeem and his Thunderbolt to the fold, and their meeting the many new recruits to the team.

As with the pancake breakfast issue, it’s a disappointment when Johns and Ross actually start focusing on the plot of the book. As for that, Gog is continuing to bump off obscure bad guys (see Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1 to see the first appearance of these victims) and the JSA is continuing to recruit.

I really disliked Amazing Man III, in large part because he seemed so unnecessary; Amazing Man II might have died, but his death was so equivocal, he seemed super-easy to resurrect. While the original Amazing Men has a rather uncool costume—as I’ve said before, green and gold are just a hard color combo to work with—it’s a hell of a lot better than III’s African-inspired outfit. I kinda dig the alternate history retcon regarding his grandfather, which seems logical for the DCU, but this Amazing Man, which is actually spelled “Amazing-Man” for some reason, like that other guy’s name (Actually, the hyphen seems to come and go throughout DCU history; I say lose it…it’s more Spider-Man than Superman, though, you know?). But his attitude seems like it could get pretty annoying pretty quickly. Like, I just met him, and he’s already by least favorite A.M. ever.

His creation also seems to follow a somewhat unfortunate pattern of Johns’ character creation—the relative that no reader’s ever heard of suddenly appearing.

Speaking of which, remember in Judd Winick’s Outsiders, when Black Lightning Jefferson Pierce suddenly had an adult daughter you never knew existed before? Well, he’s got a wife too, I guess? And another daughter, who looks like Kingdom Come cameo-er Lightning. (I dropped Outsiders a long time ago, so maybe the blanks of Pierce’s personal life have since been filled-in? I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it though, as he would have had to have both of his daughters almost a decade before he even became a superhero).

The final new character introduced is, as far as I know, a brand-new character with a really unusual legacy, a soldier who got his powers from an artifact he came into contact while protecting Baghdad museums from looters at the start of the Iraq War. Huh. Whoever replaced Major Samuel Lane as President Luthor’s Secretary of Defense apparently planned a much better Iraq War then our Pentagon did…

Metal Men #6 (DC) Wow, Chemo is a lot more eloquent when he’s writing memos then he is when he’s speaking in person, huh? Still, no one says “Glah!” with more authority.

Nightwing #141 (DC) It’s guest-stars galore as Dick Grayson continues to settle into a new status quo—comparing notes with Superman, doing some home improvements with the JSA and Green Lantern John Stewart, a couple of neat interactions with Bruce Wayne and Alfred, and a very welcome scene of Dick and his best friend Wally “The Flash” West catching up. Writer Peter J. Tomasi and artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair juggle them all well and, most admirably, keep them from overwhelming the story; it never loses focus on its star, Nightwing. Plus, Dick goes on a date and has his first day on his new job. That makes two great issues of Nightwing in a row…when was the last time that happened?

Teen Titans: Year One #2 (DC) Aqualad is by far the most dramatic deviation from the DCU history you thought you knew, both in his more fish-like, buck-toothed appearance and his frightened, anxious personality. Personally, I don’t mind a bit—the original Teen Titans didn’t really have any personalities anyway (I think Wonder Girl’s desire to frug was the only thing distinguishing any of the original five from one another, for example), so grafting one onto Garth seems a-ok to me, especially since it’s both logical and a lot of fun to read about.

The sidekicks’ mentors continue to go rogue—Aquaman attacks a sub, Flash ruins vacations and Green Arrow pulls an armored truck robbery—prompting Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy join forces. Karl Kerschl, Serge LaPointe and Steph Peru do fantastic work on the drop-dead gorgeous art, turning out simply fantastic designs for not just the teens, but also Aquaman and red-glove, clean-shaven Green Arrow. Amy Wolfram’s ability to write for the artists is quite admirable considering her TV background, as the creators do an awful lot of characterization in the images. The boys’ reaction to the appearance of Wonder Girl for example? Perfect.

Now comes her greatest challenge though—making sense out of Wonder Girl and her relationship to Wonder Woman, one of the greatest challenges of DCU’s ever-changing fictional history.

The Twelve #2 (Marvel Comics) The art’s still great, the characters are still appealing weird and the little moments featuring them all are all competently handled, but things still seem off, as if this would be a more compelling story if we knew who the hell the characters were at this point (J. Michael Straczynski’s clumsy intro of them all with a sentence or two narration last issue doesn’t count). It’s still not a badly done comic, but it’s not exactly a well done one either—I have a feeling that the odd structural choice, jumping all around the Blue Blade’s murder, will read a lot better in trade than it does in single issues.


Anonymous said...

My problem with Dini's Detective run, quality of individual issues aside, is that it feels like Zatanna is showing up every other issue, and going by the previews, that trend will continue. Either he needs to get over the character, or just formally change the title to Batman and Zatanna.

SallyP said...

Nightwing has never been my favorite character NOR book, but since Tomasi took over, I've been enthralled. Good stuff.

And Teen Titans, Year One, is simply fabulous.

psikotyk said...

On the Lightning front, the question of Black Lightning's full family is supposed to be addressed in Black Lightning Year One, which I believe was to have begun sooner.

But yeah. Ret-con.

John Foley said...

What does it say about Aquaman that I didn't realize at first that he was supposed to be "going rogue?" I thought he was just being the usual entitled/hostile-towards-surface-world jerk. But I guess that's more Namor. It's hard to tell with so many retcons.

I hate to be the one to say it, but I'm not digging Kerschl's work on Teen Titans. I realize that this is a deliberate stylistic change on his part. It's not like he forgot how to draw anatomy. I get all that. It's just not grabbing me. He's such a brilliant draftsman, I prefer his other style. But it's completely a matter of taste. I will say that the fight between Speedy and Green Arrow was very hard to follow.

I agree that the new Amazing-Man is already tedious. I was crushed when the previous one was killed by the Mist, especially since Robinson had made him so interesting (and in the span of just a few pages). It was such an easy "death" to come back from too, since Absorbing Man (who has the same powers) comes back from worse defeats all the time. But then I realized that the previous Amazing Man has already been dead for like ten years, so if DC was going to bring him back they would have done it already.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Lutor Sec. defense Sgt. Rock?

In which case, no wonder the war went well.

Patrick C said...

At first I was wondering why the JSA was helping Nightwing out, but then I remembered the JSA is based out of Battery Park. This raises a few questions. Why did Nightwing choose NY as a base, when they already have the JSA watching over it? How many heroes are currently located in NY? The JSA, Manhattan Guardian, Nightwing... is that it? I hope we see some of the NYC super-hero community. Gotham has a pretty small, tight-knit group of vigilantes thanks to Batman, but the JSA has been in NYC a lot longer than Dick has. (I actually don't know if that's true, but I think that's right).

Caleb said...

It was such an easy "death" to come back from too, since Absorbing Man (who has the same powers) comes back from worse defeats all the time.

Yeah, I assumed it was just kind of a Humpty Dumpth situation, and that he was in Dr. Midnite's lab somwhere, waiting to get put back together and then resume his human shape.

Wasn't Lutor Sec. defense Sgt. Rock?

In which case, no wonder the war went well.

At first I thought it might have been Waller. Looking it up, Lane was Sec Def. and Rock was head of the joint cheif of staffs or something like that.

How many heroes are currently located in NY? The JSA, Manhattan Guardian, Nightwing... is that it?

Hey, I didn't even think of that. Is John Stewart still based there, too? Because he was there as well. That may be all that's in the DCU's NYC now. Kyle and Guy are both gone now, and with Warrior's destroyed, all the super-hangers-on that hung out there are no longer there. Oh, Ice maybe, according to GLC? Hmm...

Patrick C said...

I'm not sure about John Stewart. I wouldn't want Nightwing having a guest star every issue, but it would be cool to see him interact with the NYC community.

I wonder if the new Titans series will be in NY also?

Matthew J. Brady said...

"(the final confrontation between The Carpenter and the Batman is plaid for laughs, for example)"

I always feel kind of bad when I comment on/make fun of your typos, but I think "plaid for laughs" is my new favorite phrase. I'll have to try to work it into conversation somehow.

Caleb said...

I always feel kind of bad when I comment on/make fun of your typos, but I think "plaid for laughs" is my new favorite phrase. I'll have to try to work it into conversation somehow.

Likewise, my spelling errors are played for laughs. And don't feel bad, I actually appreciate it.