Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Comic Shop Comics: April 15
That corner of a large two-page spread was but one of several unexpected references to the original 1987 Predator film contained in the first, 23-page issue of this four-part series. It's a little pricey, and based on the relative high-quality of the variant covers, one might be better off awaiting the trade (as it's likely to contain all the variants0, but I liked it and thought writer Alex de Campi and company all did a very good job of having Predator invade Archie Comics, rather than doing a more straightforward crossover. As mentioned last week, I wrote about it at some length for Robot 6, so if you'd like more assessment than "It was pretty good" and "I rather liked it," click here.
This issue opens with Dick Grayson from Earth-2—not the original Earth-2 that will show up in th tie-ins in a few more weeks, but the New 52 Earth-2 from the pages of Earth 2 and Earth 2: World's End—narrating and reliving the events of the climax of World's End. He gets his son onto a refugee ship leaving their doomed world, only to see it destroyed immediately. Stricken with grief over having just sent his little boy off to die, he then tries to help the other heroes fight Darkseid, and then a bunch of them end up on Telos, as seen last issue.
The solicitation for this issue included this sentence: "And the cyborgs of Futures End engage in a battle to the death against the reimagined heroes of the Just Imagine Universe, while the city of Superman Red and Blue takes on the opposing forces from GENERATIONS!" While that's technically true, it kind of oversells it. The "Just Imagine Stan Lee..." universe is referred to in an odd way by Telos: "[T]his world, born of a great creator whose time was short-lived but who moved on to serve his purpose on another planet!" Is "short-lived" really any way to refer to Stan Lee? Certainly his time at DC was short-lived, but that was the whole premise of that particular project; and what exactly was his "higher purpose on another planet!"...? Made me wonder what Lee's next writing project was immediately after re-creating iconic DC superheroes in his own, startlingly different forms with the help of some great, high-profile artists...
Anyway, the "Just Imagine Stan Lee" heroes appear in all of three panels; during which thy are apparently all slaughterd by the murder-bots of Futures End's future. They're never introduced or identified—so I hope you remember that series of 2001-2002 one-shots they are from—and they get all of three lines of dialogue total.
As for Superman Red and Blue—the original, Silver Age versions, not the later, millennial versions—taking on the opposing forces from Generations, they all get two panels and no dialogue.
The most significant amount of time not spent reviewing the events of World's End or re-fighting Telos involve Earth-2's Batman II and Grayson visiting pre-Flashpoint Gotham City (currently home to Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl, Black Bat, Red Robin, Red Hood, two Atoms, Superman, Supergirl, Zatanna, Mera, Vixen, Jade, Zatanna, The Flash Wally West, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, The Huntress, The Question, Batwoman, Arsenal, Donna Toy and Starfire) to recruit some help. All they get, however, are a Batmobile and a kevlar suit for Grayson.
I suppose the big emotional moment in this issue is meant to come when Batman Thomas Wayne meets Batman Bruce Wayne, and Earth-2 Dick Grayson meets pre-Flashpoint Alfred but, as Tom Bondurant pointed out, some of it felt off in terms of who recognizes who, and I found it particularly weird that Oracle and Alfred were using everyone's real first names in front of Grayson, who neither of them recognized as anything other than a mysterious invader of the Batcave.
The last page, in which they meet a minor character from an intriguing setting, promises that perhaps the third issue will be better, but if one didn't like Earth 2 or Earth 2: World's End, the fact that this book is little more than another Earth 2 by another name—so far, anyway—isn't exactly endearing.
Jeff King continues to write, so I suppose we can blame him for most of the disappointing plot elements and strange choices for what to focus on; Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz continue to draw, and they do a pretty great job of it. While this may feel an awful lot like Earth 2 continued, it looks better than any Earth 2 comics have in a while.
For the purposes of this story, written by Tony Bedard and drawn/sampled by Cliff Richards, Aquaman swam to Metropolis immediately after losing his hand (apparently leaving Dolphin and Aqualad behind somewhere) for some reason, and then immediately got caught up in the dome when Brainiac stole the city.
Bedard does a heck of a lot of telling rather than showing in this, using the old, tired info dump-via-newscaster technique, but it allows him to get through a lot of stuff pretty quickly, while also giving a reader of this book a good idea of some of the other heroes stuck in this Metropolis—Steel, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Superboy, Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Fire, Superboy and an extremely mis-colored Ice. I liked the part of the story where half-crazy, just-lost-his-limb Aquaman, completely cut-off from the ocean, storms into an aquarium and claims it as his own. That might have had the makings of a good story in and of itself, but, as is, it's just a flashback as
Bedard rushes through Aquaman's story to get to the fight against Deathblow, of all people. Here Aquaman is talked out of the aquarium by Dane Dorrance of the Sea Devils, and he follows Dorrance back to STAR Labs, where they hook Aquaman up with the same cybernetic harpoon he got in his own title and salt water showers.
The continuity is a little messed up, as Bedard intimates that Aquaman is pining for Mera, who the dome separated him from—in actuality, they had been apart for a while at the time Aquaman would have gotten domed, and she wouldn't reappear in Aquaman until #12...I don't think they actually got back together until Peter David stopped writing the Aquaman book.
Worse, there was some continuity wonkiness between the various tie-in books published this week. In Man of Steel, John Henry Irons narrates that "any hero or villain with biologically based super-powers lost those abilitis." Here Aquaman keeps his "biologically based" ability to breathe underwater, but loses his telepathy...which was either a genetic mutation (biological t hen, right?) or a magical-based power inherited from his sorcerer father. A lot of Aquaman's powers and origins were in flux at this moment in his history, really; Bedard seems to be working with the retconned version of the character, which de-retconned David's retcons to return him to his Silver Age origins. It's really quite distracting, having to second-guess so much of what you're reading (At least one other tie-in I read this week was worse still, as you'll see below).
An awful lot of time is spent introducing Aquaman's WildStorm universe opponent, although the five pages featuring Deathblow simply show him killing everyone in a Department of Extranormal Operations field office in order to look at their files on Aquaman.
I've really enjoyed artist Richards' work in the past, but this book is really nothing to write home about, as he uses a hyper-realistic approach, one in which almost every background or surface is a photo or photo effect. It's a really sickly, hard-to-look-at book. I kind of love cover artists Becky Cloonan's off-model '90s Aquaman though, and wonder what the book might have looked like had she got to draw all 22 of its interior pages instead of just the cover.
DC superhero comic book, where credibility is hardly very often a concern.
In the first issue of the Green Arrow mini-series, both California-based Connor Hawke and Seattle-based Oliver Queen (I think he would still have been in Seatlle pre-Zero Hour) find themselves trapped in Metropolis. Writer Christy Marx—who does a fine job here, even if Chuck Dixon seems a better choice for a '90s-era Green Arrow nostalgia project—at least attempts to explain their presence in Metropolis. Connor was there to check out a huge building someone gifted to his ashram, while Oliver was there "looking for someone."
The majority of the issue is character-focused, showing what the two characters were up to individually over the past year, and then staging a rather intense meeting between the two, as Connor knows Oliver is his father, but Oliver doesn't realize Connor is the son he left behind as an infant.
Thankfully, the Telos speech doesn't start until page 19, and they don't meet their opponents until the very last panel on page 22: Kingdom Come's Dinah Queen and her daughter by Oliver Queen, Olivia Queen, Black Canary II.
Penciled by Rags Morales and inked by Claude St. Aubin, this was by far the best-looking of this week's tie-in minis, and maybe one of the better overall so far. Morales is excellent at drawing people, both their figures and their faces, and thus was pretty perfect for this more dramatic than usual Convergence book, as there was an awful lot of content that had little to do with the goofy premise of the event.
In other words, the emphasis here was definitely more on the Green Arrow than on the Convergence. I wonder how or if Marx can keep that up in the second half of the series. The fact that the opponents are so closely related, and that Olivia stands in sharp contrast to Connor as a child that Oliver Queen—well, a Oliver Queen—stayed with, raised and trained at least shows potential. In far too many of these tie-ins, the opponents seem chosen completely at random.
The cover, by Walter Simonson, is pretty great though, and captures the look and spirit of Bogdanove's art from the era quite well.
Steel was visiting Metropolis with his niece Natasha and nephew Jemahl when the dome went up, and now Steel is filling in for Superman—the fact that his powers come from his suit rather than his body mean he's in the same fighting shape as always, while most of the heroes stuck in Metropolis are de-powered. Meanwhile he an his family work with Professor Hamilton to solve the dome problem.
It becomes a moot point when Telos drops the dome and Gen 13 is teleported in to fight. As with Aquaman and Deathblow, this particular match-up seems to have been chosen completely at random. The Gen 13 kids seem awfully ready to murder Steel instantly, too; it's been weird how ready to fight so many of the "heroes" participating in these fights have been (The most logical match-ups have been the ones that include villains or evil versions of heroes, like those from the Flashpoint timeline or The Extremists, as there's no leap in logic required to imagine them being willing participants in fights to the death).
This particular fight gets more complicated when The Parasite, whose powers got turned on when the dome fell, and Natasha and Jemahl, each wearing their own home-made suits of armor, join the fray, and Steel gets pretty much killed, ending the issue on his deathbed.
Despite the weirdness that's pretty much inherent in the premise of Convergence, this issue actually accomplished at least one major aspect of the event—it adeptly revisited a particular character and setting.
Superboy's powers in this comic include X-Ray vision and arctic breath, two of Superman's powers that Superboy has never had (in fact, in Superboy #0, the first issue of the series after the events of Zero Hour, he got a special pair of glasses that gave him Superman-like vision powers, including X-Ray vision and heat vision). He's referred to as "Kon-El," the Kryptonian name that Superman would eventually give him...but not until about five years (our time) later. And Superman is not even in this domed city, so it's not like he could have given Superboy the name at some earlier point during this differentiated timeline. Also, Dubbilex and Dr. Serling Roquette (the latter of whom Superboy would have yet to have met, although it's possible he met her earlier here) try to fix Superboy's powers by bombarding him by solar energy; that's how Superman's powers work, not Superboy's. It wasn't until a 2003 retcon that Geoff Johns made Superboy an actual genetic clone of Superman; at this point he was an attempt to replicate Superman, and his powers were derived from his tactile telekinesis.
At one point, Superboy falls prey to kryptonite gas; Superboy would have been vulnerable to kryptonite at this point, but he wouldn't have known it. It wasn't until Robin first decked him with Batman's kryptonite ring that Superboy learned he was vulnerable to it.
But other than those five or seven continuity errors in a 22-page comic book specifically designed to fondly recall a particular comic from a particular time period, then, you know, this wasn't that bad. That all might sound like nitpicking to many of you, but I think it well worth pointing out that in the particular case of Convergence, revisiting very particular versions of the characters is th entire premise of the series. Readers can, as always, try to no-prize the comic out of the mistakes its creators may have made, but if there was ever a project where DC shouldn't want their readers to have to do so, this would be it.
Writer Fabian Nicieza seems to be the one to blame, but he can share that blame with his editor and a pair of assistant editors. In the more broadstrokes, Nicieza does okay with the comic. Dubbilex and Serling are trying to restore Superboy's powers to him in a Metropolis lab, as Superboy lost them during the dome-ing. More than ever he feels the pressure to be able to stand in for Superman, who is not in this Metropolis, but he's never been less prepared to do so.
And then Telos drops the dome, restores everyone's powers and gives his speech. Superboy soon finds a trio of opponents. He dispatches the first two ridiculously easily—Red Robin Dick Grayson and The Flash Wally West from Kingdom Come—and then meets the third on the cliff-hanging splash: Kingdom Come's Superman.
Karl Moline provides the pencil art and Jose Marzan Jr. provides the inks. Their art is just fine, but neither seems particularly right for a story starring the early '90s version of Superboy (the artist most associated with the character from that point, Tom Grummett, drew last week's Convergence: Speed Force), nor for a story involving Alex Ross' Kingdom Come characters.
No complaints about Babs Tarr's excellent cover, though, which borrows a pose from Grummett while capturing the spirit of the artist and the subject matter. It would have been great fun to see the woman currently defining the 21st century Batgirl tackle an iconic teenage DC hero from a previous decade.
Lumberjanes #13 (Boom Studios) You know who they are, now find out how they came to be! This is a kinda sorta origin story for Roanoke Cabin, set on first day of camp, as we meet the various 'janes each getting dropped off by their families...and thus we meet their families as well (Well, with the exception of two of them, as one arrives in a cab and the other is already there). Slightly more interesting is the story of how Ripley got her hair 'do, and more interesting than all of that is the story of how molly got her hat. Original Lumberjanes artist Brooke Allen returns after a too-many issue absence to draw this one.
The first story is written by Lauren Beukes and features great art by Mike Maihack (whose work I last saw in Scholastic graphic novel Cleopatra In Space). Entitled "The Problem With Cats," it's a little on the trite side. It begins with a cool Wonder Woman adventure, in which she must try to save Batman and Superman from her villains Cheetah, Circe and Medusa, but we soon find out that adventure is taking place in the imagination of a little girl. She has a fight with her sister, imagines another adventure, and they make up and play Wonder Woman together. It's cute, Maihick's designs and art are great (and it's cool how he varies his art when depicting the imaginary scenes versus the "real" scenes in the story) and it's an all-around quite decent all-ages story. It's just that this is one more story about Wonder Woman in the sense of Wonder Woman as a symbol or idea, rather than a story about Wonder Woman in the sense of a fictional character who has adventures.
There are shockingly few really excellent stories of the latter kind, so it can be a frustrating to see such obviously talented folks take the slightly easier tack. At least for me as a fan; as a critic, I can't say there's anything wrong with the story per se, aside from maybe being a little on the over-obvious side.
The second story is by prose writer Cecil Castellucci (probably best known to comics readers for writing The Plain Janes from DC's short-lived Minx imprint for YA OGNs) and artists Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. Entitled "Girls' Day Out," it's a story in which Lois Lane interviews Wonder Woman which...well, it's been done before, at greater length and with more depth, by Phil Jimenez during his too-short run on the Wonder Woman title (the gag with the lasso of truth has been done before as well, maybe two times too often). Which isn't to say it doesn't have its moments—I loved the part where Lois Lane attacked the robot threat, saying she's getting the story which isn't really how journalism works outside of the Silver Age Daily Planet.
So it's not the best issue of the series, but it's far from the worse one either. It's got two good stories, even if it doesn't have any great ones. I'm pretty sure—without double-checking—that it has the best cover so far. It features Wonder Woman capturing her enemies from the first story, and is the work of Ben Caldwell, the cartoonist responsible for the winning Wonder Woman strip in Wednesday Comics.