Thursday, December 18, 2014
Comic Shop Comics: December 17
What does happen? Eh, Stormwatch vs. SHADE, the new Firestorm vs. the new Dr. Polaris, Batman Beyond and Plastique talk on a rooftop and boring business involving King Faraday, Sgt. Rock, Lana Lang and Grifter. Aaron Lopresti and Stephen Thompson pencil different parts of it, while Art Thibert and Thompson both ink. I like certain parts more than other parts, visually, and I'm assuming those were the Lopresti/Thibert parts, but I'm not 100% certain.
So it's Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart doing a Captain Marvel comic or, in other words, it's apparently a comic book created just to make me happy.
And it did. It's as close to perfect a Captain Marvel comic as I could imagine. Wait, scratch that, I couldn't have imagined this particular Captain Marvel comic book, which is a large part of why it was so delightful. While it had many of my favorite elements of Captain Marvel and his incredibly rich cast and milieu, they were all presented in interesting and fresh ways.
It's Captain Marvel and The Marvel Family (the extended Marvel Family), versus Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana (who uses his full name and everything), Sivana's children (Magnificus included) and The Monster Society of Evil, with the life of The Wizard Shazam, and the entire world, no the entire universe, no the entire Multiverse at stake! Sivana's plan, naturally, includes him naming shit after himself and, interestingly, refreshingly, Morrison downplays the "Shazam" (As The Wizard Shazam is the only character called "Shazam," and he even thinks up a title that doesn't include "Shazam" in it) and eschews using Black Adam, who has become the most ubiquitous character from the Fawcett family of characters, oddly enough (He appears in this week's Futures End for example; Captain Marvel, now called Shazam, does not).
There are additionally a few other nice digs at DC's continuous fucking up of these characters, some of which Morrison has contributed to, directly or indirectly. Sivana's plot comes so close to working because he's allied himself with his counterparts on various parallel worlds, one of which is a scary blood-soaked parody of a "dark" version of the character:
And then there's the newly empowered Georgina Sivana, part of The Sivana Family and highly reminiscent of the "dark" phase Mary Marvel went in and out of and back into during Countdown and Final Crisis, confronting Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.
Morrison and Captain Marvel are really a perfect match of creator and concept, given the former's affection for, and perhaps even obsession with, the intersection of magic and words and superheroes. Like Mr. Mxyzptlk and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt (who Morrison included in his old JLA arc "Crisis Times Five!"), Captain Marvel is the character Grant Morrison would have created if Grant Morrison were a Golden Age superhero writer. Since he wasn't, he's a character Morrison has been repeatedly drawn to, and generally finds great success with, even though this story is probably the longest one devoted to the character Morrison ever penned.
What I liked most about this book, both in the writing and in the design and rendering, is that Stewart and Morrison, free to do whatever the hell they wanted with these characters, didn't see a need to scrap them and rebuild them, as is so often the case with creators tackling them (See Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's recent Shazam trade paperback for a good example of that). The only changes they make are basically tweaks; giving the Sivana kids street clothes instead of labcoats, giving Billy a live-streaming radio show on the Internet, kaiju-sizing members of Cap's rogues gallery to give them a cameo, and, in maybe the nicest touch, giving Uncle Marvel and the Lieutenant Marvels (who go unnamed, thankfully, since Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel and Hill Marvel don't really, um, work as superhero codenames in 2014) jetpacks and laser guns to give them the approximation of superpowers...and, since they're empowering Uncle Dudley in such a fashion, why not give Tawky Tawny a Lieutenant Marvel Uniform and jet pack and ray gun too?
The story, which fills all 30 pages of this issue, is by Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; the former writing, and the latter writing and drawing, with Jordan Boyd handling the muted colors. They're muted for a reason: This story takes place on Apocolips.
It's a pretty great done-in-one issue, apparently set sometime pre-Flashpoint, as Wonder Woman has her previous costume on, and Darkseid and his followers all also look like their more recognizable, pre-New 52 selves.
In fact, in dialogue, plot and tone as well as visuals, this felt very much like the first time I've read a story about the "real" Wonder Woman (and the "real" Darkseid and Apokolips in a while).
Queen Hippolyta has sent two Amazonian spies to Apokolips, and they never returned, so she sends her daughter Diana to find and, hopefully, rescue them. She achieves her mission (sort of), but not before taking on Parademons and the Female Furies, getting tossed in a firepit, meeting the unfortunate subjects of Darkseid, and saving him and his entire world from destruction...while simultaneously sowing the seeds of rebellion against him.
There is a lot to like in this issue, from the fantastic Boom Tube entrance (something I don't think I've ever seen, despite all the Boom Tubes I've seen) to Wonder WOman using her magical lasso to actually get people to tell her the truth rather than just strangling them with it to a fantastic three-page action sequence that scans a little like a movie car chase, only one car is a flying lady carrying a couple of Amazon warriors, and the pursuing cars are Steppenwolf and some dudes on giant dogs (That scene kicks off with the line "Oh great...Now they've got giant dogs.").
Also, I love the way he draws omega beams.
I really can't recommend this issue highly enough to fans of Wonder Woman. While we've seen some pretty great stories in the previous issues, this one is great while being a perfectly straightforward superhero action adventure story; it's not so much a radical new take on the character or a wild depiction of a versin of her, it's just a really well-done comic book starring teh Wonder Woman you knew and loved from all the good Wonder Woman comics you've read.
Speaking of Darkseid and Wonder Woman, I haven't read Batman and Robin yet, which is currently telling a story about Batman invading Apokolips to retrieve the body of Damian (I read it in trade), but I did flip through it, and I loved Patrick Gleason's take on Darkseid, giving his craggy, rock-like skin so much detail that he had a complexion that looked like it was somewhere between a circuit board and a labyrinth.
And the biggest Wonder Woman-related news of the week comes not in Sensation, but in the pretty awful Wonder Woman #37...specifically a shocking last-page reveal that suggests that the thorniest aspect of all of Wonder Woman history (and one of the DC Universe's continuity as a whole) is going to be raised and explored by a writer who has confessed ignorance of Wonder Woman history.
I may post about Wonder Woman #37 next week or so, but, in the meantime, this was my initial reaction, as shared with Twitter: "So, how best to discuss the last page of this week's Wonder Woman, and to do so without spoiling it? How about a metaphor: DC is a person in a cartoon who just threw a stick of dynamite out the front doore and breathed a deep sigh of relief; the Finchs are a cartoon dog that runs back in holding the sill lit dynamite in its mouth, thinking they're playing fetch."
Um, that probably spoils it anyway, doesn't it?