Birds of Prey #116 (DC Comics) Now this is the Barbara Gordon I know and love. One issue, she’s screwing up missions and failing to save cities from transforming suicide bomber robots, the next she’s breaking the ankle of a teenage sparring partner out of frustration, and then she’s shooting sonic weapons at two teenage girls she’s supposed to be training.
Wait, did I say “know and love?” I meant, “am confused and repelled by.” Writer Sean McKeever, credited as Gail Simone on the cover, continues the weird Oracle B-plot in nonsensical fashion—first she asks Alice to help out, then she shoots her and kicks her out?—while the A-plot involving Lady Blackhawk, Huntress and Killer Shark concludes. The icky mind-controlled-love-slave thing is continued here too, and it’s revealed that this Killer Shark is just one more legacy character.
McKeever wraps up his five-issue run next issue, and then its back to Tony “The Bridge” Bedard. The Nicola Scott/Doug Hazlewood art team continues to impress, at least.
The Brave and the Bold #11 (DC) And so begins DC’s best monthly titles descent in quality. This is the first George Perez-less issue (what, they couldn’t have kept him on two more issues to finish the story arc?), and the first of three pencilled by Jerry Ordaway, before Scot Kolins comes on for at least one issue in June.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Ordaway well enough; I think he’s a strong artist, and he excels at the little things that the artists on some of DC’s flagship titles like Batman and JLoA fail at (like distinguishing characters’ faces from one another, easy-to-read mis en scene, drawing backgrounds, drawing feet when he has too). But he’s not Perez, and this book’s whole hook has been that it’s Mark Waid and George Perez going nuts with the DCU.
Waid continues having fun drawing connections between obscure bits of DC trivia along the theme of transformation, focusing mostly on Red Kryptonite this issue. The main characters are Superman and Ultraman, with the latter causing trouble for the former by walking around The Daily Planet as The Evil Clark Kent.
I could quibble with Waid’s usage of a good Mr. Mxyzptlk from Ultraman’s universe (both Earths would be embedded in the same fifth dimension, wouldn’t they? And yet this Mxy repeatedly refers to his own universe), but otherwise it’s another fun issue of Brave and the Bold, complete with a cliffhanger that feels unique and genuinely suspenseful, despite the fact that I know Superman’s not going to die.
The Flash #238 (DC) Writer Tom Peyer and artist Freddie E. William II comprise the latest creative team to take a turn trying to fix The Flash, a title that’s been pretty much screwed since Geoff Johns and Howard Porter left it in the midst of Infinite Crisis, and a top-down bad idea meant to fix a book that wasn’t broken ended up breaking it instead.
I’m a big fan of Peyer’s past work—his Hourman was one of the best super-comics from DC during one of the company’s best times for super-comics—and was therefore looking forward to seeing if he could be the writer to pull The Flash out its “One Year Later” quality black hole.
I can’t tell from just this first chapter of the first story arc, but it sure seems to me like he’s off to a good start. He turns a “My name is Wally West” riff into a one-page recap that gets lapsed readers like me “up to speed” (ha ha!) with the new, kinda stupid status quo (not only did Wally and Linda have magic twin babies reappear in her womb, now they’re magicially grade-school aged kids…with powers!). I’m still not quite clear on everything—like why Linda can’t get a job reporting—but catching up in all the changes of the last year or two was easier than I thought.
Wally’s having money troubles (it’s all Hal Jordan and Geoff Johns’ fault, for giving him his secret identity back!), the West family and City of Keystone is having trouble with a cable news network that’s much more Fox than C-Span and we meet a new villain named Spin with a connection to the network.
It’s a pretty straightforward superhero story, with a mixture of personal problems and supervillain troubles, but it’s solidly constructed and has a few fun moments.
I had a bit more difficulty adjusting to the art (the only other time I’ve seen Wally, Linda and the super-kids post-“Lightning Saga” has been in Brave and the Bold). Williams’ character design is pretty good, although his big-headed figures and extra musclebound Wally seem like a pretty large departure from some of the previous Flash artists. Something strange was up with the coloring though, with character outlines sometimes being rendered in black, but often not, and changing back and forth without a pattern I could discern. It was pretty distracting, and gave off an overly-computerized, less-drawn look to some of the panels and pages.
Gumby: The Collected Edition #1 (Wildcard Ink) This trade collecting the first three issues of Bob Burden and Rick Geary’s new Gumby series, is easily one of the most insane comics I’ve ever read, and it’s somehow made all the more insane by the fact that its anchored by the vaguely familiar pop culture figure of Gumby.
There’s the clay boy, his pony best friend and the meddlesome Blockheads just as you would expect, but there’s also bad clowns, cannibal salesmen, Geronimo, a house where everyone is named Jeffrey, and narration boxes containing lines like “The astral image of Johnny Cash!”, “Unknown to the rest of the world, Oppenheimer, along with many other top financial advisors, has laser teeth!” and, of course, “Suddenly, a giant pork chop appears over the wooded hills.”
It’s really got to be read to be believed.
The Incredible Hercules #115 (Marvel Comics) If you liked the big fights and awesome sound effects of of Greg Pak’s World War Hulk, then, chances are, you’ll love Pak and Fred Van Lente’s big fight between Ares and Hercules atop a helicarrier being bombarded by missiles, complete with missiles being used like clubs, combatants thrown into propellers, panels with eleven “WHAM”s with them and penciler Khoi Pham’s name being used as one sound effect (“KHOIPHOOM”).
This is the climax of the first story arc, and it’s great stuff. I don’t think I can say anything about how cool it is that I haven’t already said about the last three parts of “The Incredible Herc.” Another nice mixture of Greek myth and Marvel myth, a nice, new take on why Hercules goes by “Hercules,” and a conclusion to the conflict between Herc and Amadeus Cho to decide whether the kid will be a great supervillain or a great hero. Plus, Cho pulls a Bugs Bunny on Herc.
There’s a house ad for the next issue featuring a John Romita Jr image of Herc fighting an Eternal, and a quote from Comixreme.com about the book reading, “On its way to becoming one of the best comics Marvel is pubishing.”
I disagree. With this issue, I think it’s there.
Princess at Midnight (Image Comics) The prolific Andi Watson expands his entry in Tokyopop’s Mammoth Book of Best New Manga into a delightful all-ages fairytale published in the same format as his recent Glister books for Image.
The story involves Holly Crescent, who is homeschooled by her father by day, and is the princess of Castle Waxing by night. There she and her two advisors—a mustachioed man named Tranquility whose chief concern is fashion, and an Eastern-style dragon named Peepo who handles the finances—become embroiled in a war for territory against the Horrible Horde.
There’s a humorous and occasionally touching moral about war in here, but Watson’s minimalist, perfectly designed art work makes the surface engaging all on its own.
While the format looks much like the Glister books, the art work is more starkly black and white, with fewer gray tones and more white space, and the story is all around more comic book-y, with everything in panels and every word in a bubble or box, whereas Glister can occasionally lean hard toward storybook territory.
Robin #172 (DC) Didn’t Maxie Zeus die? I could have sworn he died in one of the recent DC character purges—Infinite Crisis? “War Games”? “Face the Face?”—but now that I stop and think about it, I don’t actually remember a death scene. Anyway, another issue of Chuck Dixon’s Robin. There have been scores of these things, so you ought to know exactly what to expect here. The only really noteworthy bits are that new or guest penciller David Baldeon draws a pretty thick, bulky Robin, and that the person in the Spoiler costume totally has long blonde hair.
Superman/Batman Annual #2 (DC) Joe Kelly’s second Superman/Batman annual isn’t quite as much fun as his first one, in large part because it doesn’t feature a bickering Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, unaware of one another’s secret identities, reluctantly sharing a double-booked cabin on a cruise ship, nor does it feature an uncredited Deadpool guest appearance, or art by the likes of Ed McGuinness and some guys whose styles were not dissimilar to McGuinness’.
Like the last annual, this one is set early in the relationship of the World’s Finest team (complete with Dick “Robin” Grayson), and is a kinda sorta retelling of the old story in which Superman becomes Supernova. The central story revolves around the stars facing off against Socrates, a bearded corpse in a cape that talks only in questions (neat touch) and who grants victims’ wishes to help test them to find out who they really are.
It’s an okay, if somewhat cheesy, story, but the real pleasure is in Kelly’s take on the characters. His Dark Knight and Man of Steel are polar opposites, and argue like an old married couple—I never tire of this World’s Finest as Odd Couple take. With some strong scenes for both Robin and Alfred, it’s a ton of fun (Once you get past the confusing, Loeb-style opening pages, anyway).
The art is provided by Scott Kolins, and it’s…well, I’m not entirely sure how it is, actually. I think it’s pretty good—I like his costuming of Bruce Wayne, for example—but I had a hard time reading it, thanks to Jorge Molina’s murky coloring, which relied on some filmic computer tricks and too much shading and shadows, particularly in the Gotham scenes.