Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reviews of some recent super-comics, more than half of which were written by Geoff Johns

Batman and Robin #9 (DC Comics) Hmm, what could possibly be cooler than an undead zombie copy of Batman mass-produced by the god of evil to use to use as a foot soldier in his subjugation of reality fighting Batman, Batwoman, Alfred and Damian al Ghul (wearing a neck brace), while The Knight and Squire take on King Coal? Maybe if the undead zombie copy of Batman mass-produced by the god of evil talked like one of the animals from We3?
Yeah, I think that might make it even cooler.

Blackest Night #7 (DC) Credit where credit is due—Geoff Johns and everyone at DC in charge of promoting comics without spoiling them have done a bang-up job with Blackest Night so far, as this issue contains yet another example of an extremely obvious thing most readers expected to happen at some point happening, but in such a radically different way (although perhaps predictable through 20/20 hindsight) that it still comes off as a huge surprise. As I said at Blog@ earlier today, it’s really exciting to be surprised by a comic like this these days, and the double-page splash that ends the book is just such a surprise, but I think the bigger revelation is what came before—the real reason Nekron attacked Earth.

It’s a big change in the DC Universe’s creation story, and for any of who are interested in mythology, theology and DC super-comics, it’s going to be a hell of a thing to think about and mull over in the months to come.

Wait, is this too positive a review? Then let me find something to complain about…

Oh yeah, this issue costs $4, a full dollar more than DC’s regular 22-page comics, despite the fact that it’s only 25 pages long. And factoring in all the splashes (two full-page splashes, two double-page splashes), that’s not very much in the way of extra comics for the price hike.

Also, why doesn’t John Stewart form a force field around the earth with his ring to keep all the Black Lanterns out? Why is he such a wuss? Kyle Rayner used his ring and will to hold an exploding sun in a giant cartoon safe before, but Stewart can’t form a planet-sized force field for a few minutes? Man up, Stewart!

Blackest Night: The Flash #3 (DC) Ha ha, the concluding issue of this Geoff Johns-written Flash miniseries was released on February 18, a full week before the concluding issue of Flash: Rebirth (see below), a story that is set before Blackest Night: The Flash. Oh modern super-comic scheduling, why are you so terrible?

It is, appropriately enough, very fast-paced, splitting its attention between Blue Lantern Barry Allen and Flash Wally West as they battle the Black Lanterns in Coast City and try to save Black Lanternized Kid Flash, and Captain Cold and his team of Rogues as they try to kill the Black Lanternized Rogues.

I confess to being completely bewildered as to what actually happens during a pivotal moment of the issue—the bit with the original Reverse Flash doing…something to the Black Lantern Rogues—but other than that it’s a pretty fun issue, moving along at a fast enough clip that I hardly had time to dwell on how many movies I’ve seen the grief-stricken-living-character-mistakenly-tries-to-keep-a-zombie-loved-one-alive plot in before, or whether or not the Barry Allen and his archenemy are two sides of the same coin ending could possibly have been any less subtle.

Once again Scott Kolins does a terrific job on art, my favorite panel of this issue being the second one on page 21, with the three heroic speedsters riding bolts of lightning and speed lines toward a giant Black Lantern Spectre in the background.

Flash: Rebirth #6 (DC) It’s so strange that the conclusion of what should be a fictional universe-shaking event—the return of second Flash Barry Allen after over 20 years of being dead—comes across as a whimper instead of a bang, but then, I suppose that’s only natural when the release schedule of the six-part monthly is so leisurely that it concludes during the climax of the same publisher’s even bigger event series (which, coincidentally, is written by the very same author).

So this is the last issue of Flash: Rebirth, and it’s surprisingly light on revelations. The big stuff—which speedsters come back to life, who’s going by what name now, who’s wearing what costume now—all happened in the last issue, so the only real cliffhanger leading into this was whether or not the villain was going to kill the hero’s love interest or not (Guess!).

Writer Geoff Johns does take some time foreshadowing conflicts that will likely be resolved in the upcoming Flash monthly, with a variety of villains speaking cryptically from off-panel, addressing themselves or one another, and a boy who is probably Wally West’s son is wearing a green shirt with a turtle pattern on it, and given a special attention during a series of panels showing all seven members of the “Speed Force” or Flash family. (Maybe he’s going to be The Turtle’s sidekick or The Turtle II or something…? I didn’t really like what Johns did with The Turtle during his first Flash run, but I find that character super-fascinating, if only because super-slowness is such a weird, weird super-power.)

If you’re reading this series just to see how Barry Allen returns or to keep abreast of the big events in the DCU, this issue is surprisingly, entirely skip-able. But if you’re reading it because you love The Flash half as much as Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver seem to, then chances are you’ll find this a pretty satisfying experience.

Green Lantern #51 (DC) Given what a big deal was made out of Jordan allowing the Parallax entity to possess him again earlier in the storyline, the actual battle between Parallax-ed Jordan and Black Lantern Spectre is sort of anti-climatic, with Parallax being defeated by the other characters quite quickly for a thing that once erased all of existence.

If you’ve been digging this series and/or Blackest Night though, there’s certainly a lot to like here, with over-the-top, grand guignol ultra-violent superheroics, Doug Mahnke’s fantastic artwork, The Spectre briefly joining another Corps and getting a brief redesign and thorough explanations of how the black rings were able to possess God’s wrath and why Nekron is an actual threat to The Spectre.

Best of all, Mahnke draws the Spectre without his stupid goatee—hooray!

Incredible Hercules #141 (Marvel Comics) Is there anything less suspenseful than the “death” of an immortal god?

Justice League of America #42 (DC) Jesus, Brad Meltzer’s stupid run on this series ended, let’s see, 30 issues, two-and-a-half years and two writers ago, and they’re still dealing with his loose ends? Yeesh.

This particular loose end is Dr. Impossible, the mysterious evil version of Mister Miracle who showed up for some reason in the early parts of Meltzer’s run before disappearing, and picking him up at this point is rather problematic, given the state of the New Gods in the DCU (Which is…what, exactly? I have no idea what the post-Final Crisis status quo of the New Gods is supposed to be, and this is the first time I’ve heard anyone mention them at all. These are the evil versions, probably from Earth-2 or Earth-3 or whatever the current number of the Crime Syndicate’s world is post-FC, but the Justice League at least remains familiar with the concept of New Genesis).

That little head-scratcher—as well as Plastic Man being alive and active during WWII as he was pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), way too-much first-person narration and some awfully weird word choices, aside—James Robinson’s still just-starting run is a lot more readable than the book has been since Meltzer launched this volume. (Hmm, that’s an awful lot to put aside, isn’t it?)

What I like best about the book is that Robinson is apparently endeavoring to use the whole of the DC Universe and it’s deep, deep character catalogue to give his storyline plenty of scope.

The official League roster in this issue is already about a dozen characters deep, but on top of that we get Shade, the blue Starperson, Congorilla, The Silver Age Challengers of the Unknown, Doc Magnus and The Metal Men, Blackhawk, Uncle Sam, Atlas, The Power Company, the aforementioned Plastic Man and the head of Red Tornado.

The plot is basically the same as every G.I. Joe cartoon miniseries, with the good guys and bad guys racing to get components to a device of some kind, but it’s occurring in multiple time periods and has a gigantic and varied cast (Something’s going on with Green Arrow too, but since this is set after Justice League: Cry For Justice, which I’m not reading and hasn’t ended yet anyway, I have no idea what it’s about yet).

Mark Bagley’s still handling the pencils, although this issue it takes three different inkers to finish his work. Perhaps that’s what’s to blame for the fact that Bagley’s art sometimes looks awfully rough around the edges—or right in the middle of the panel, with a couple of rather asymmetrical faces spread throughout the issue—but even still, compared to some of the artists who have drawn issues of this volume of JLoA, Bagley’s Michel-freaking-angelo.

Tiny Titans #25 (DC) Man, there’s just no getting away from Geoff Johns! To celebrate the 25th issue of Tiny Titans, DC’s most popular writer joins the regular creative team of Art Baltazar and Franco, both behind the scenes and on-panel. Favorite Johns characters Conner “Superboy” Kent, Stargirl, the Green Lantern Corps and Hal Jordan are all prominently featured (Well, Jordan, like most of the superheroic adults, is only shown from the neck down), and Johns himself appears, as the proprietor of “Mr. Johns’s Sidekick City Pawn Shop and Bubblegum Emporium.”
Not a bad likeness, either.

It’s through Mr. Johns’ shop that the Tiny Titans get their hands on green, indigo, sapphire, yellow, red, blue and orange rings, briefly forming their own version of the New Guardians until the GLC send Hal Jordan to recover the rings.

Now, I haven’t read every single Green Lantern story ever, so I can’t say this with 100% certitude or anything, but I’m pretty sure that Baltazar’s Corps, which includes “Tiny” versions of G’Nort, Kilowog, Tomar Re, the tree guy, the big head with arms and legs and the cycloptic cucumber shaped guy is the cutest version of the GLC ever published.

Here’s a terrible photo, in lieu of a scan:


mordicai said...

wear r u boy wonder? AWESOME.

Randal said...

The big Earth revelation didn't bother so much as it seems to bother other people. It explains (sorta) the importance of Earth in the 52, and even stretches back to Invasion, if you think about it, in which the aliens are trying to discover why Earth seems to be such a focal point.

Anonymous said...

Some of your questions answered:

1) The New Gods were reborn on Earth-51 at the end of Final Crisis. That is their current status.

2) Plastic Man has ALWAYS had his debut in the Golden Age and was a member of the All-Star Squadron even post-Crisis. I am not sure why you thought that changed.

Anyways, great to see the reviews back! I really missed seeing them on Wednesday. You should use an online delivery service for your comics like Discount Comic Book Service or something.

As for Robinson's JLA, yes it's packed to the brim with characters but for anyone who is in love with the DC Universe that is a great thing. He utilizes underused stuff in the DCU and knows how to take advantage of the fictional setting. Look at his Captain Atom back-up in Action Comics where Captain Atom meets up with everyone from the Justice League to shadowpact and is on his way to meet the Warlord. The DC Universe is a huge place with so much more to explore then Gotham and Metropolis.

SallyP said...

I have to admit that this was a rather spectacular week for good comics.

Caleb said...

1) The New Gods were reborn on Earth-51 at the end of Final Crisis. That is their current status.

Thanks. I don't recall this at all, but then, I haven't re-read the end since the first time through. I was never quite clear what was up with the New Gods in FC in general though, as it was implied at several points that it marked the DCU's first encounters with some of them, and there was some business about Darkseid's death warping continuity or something and...well, they lost me at some point.

2) Plastic Man has ALWAYS had his debut in the Golden Age and was a member of the All-Star Squadron even post-Crisis. I am not sure why you thought that changed.

Well, as I recall in the Silver Age there were two Plastic Men, the one who appeared in a couple of issues of Bob Haney's Brave and the Bod (jokingly referred to as occurring on Earth-B, as they were often continuity glitches) and the one in the Arnold Drake series, who was the son of the original.

In All Star-Squadron, that Plas was from Earth-2...and/or Earth-X, right? The first Post-Crisis Plas was Phil Foglio's miniseries which seemed to be introducing the character in the '80s, kinda like George Perez's Wonder Woman did with her.

Additionally, Plas hasn't been in any of the story's set during DC's Golden Age, with the exception of the Elseworlds story The Golden Age.

In general, DC's been coy about his origins, but from everything I've read, he seems to have debuted Post-Crisis...or at least around the same time as the Silver Age generation of characters.

Of course, DCU continuity was semi-rebooted about three times since Crisis, so really, anything goes, I guess...

Randal said...

I don't...I don't think Plas was Golden Age post-Crisis. Foglio's origin series mentions Reaganomics. New Earth, yeah, he's Golden Age again.