The first eight pages–just eight pages!–features a flashback to the war between the U.S. and Japan 50 years ago, and that war was fought primarily between the American superheroes (whose catchphrases their leader Commodore 64 steals without remorse) and the robot heroes of Japan, the climax a battle between the Gigantor analogue (I think) and the Americans' Godzilla-like kaiju, which a character calls out as such: "This is psychological warfare! They think they can walk all over us with their goofy 'Godzill?'").
After those eight pages, the storyline resumes, the pace of the craziness doesn't let-up at all.
The action climax involves a transforming truck robot that is only something of an allusion to the Transformers and the revelation of our heroine's real nature to her enemies in the robot terrorist cell.
Two random thoughts: 1) I need to set this issue aside for the next time my Japanese friend visits, so she can translate the sound effects and names that appear in some panels and 2) When Marvel next tries to relaunch the Fantastic Four, they should give Kyle Baker a crack at them–he does a great Thing, from what little we see of Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew in this issue.
Not that one needs to rate Charm and Henderson against one another or anything. I just point this out because I was a little worried about the change in artists, and it turned out that I liked this new guy who isn't Erica Henderson a whole lot.
Chip Zdarsky's plot for this new arc isn't as crazy as that of the previous arc (at least, not yet), but it includes lots of jokes, some of which are wonderfully surreal (like the Mantle family reunion). What I found most surprising, however, is the way in which there's some actual character conflict and drama in this issue, as Jughead loses his temper with Archie, who perpetually values girls over him.
It's a weird thing to realize, but guys, Archie Comics are really, really great right now, and I look forward to reading them in a 100% non-ironic way. In fact, this was the first comic I read this week (I don't know about you, but I generally stack up all my new comics in the order of which I am most excited to read them, with any trades going at the bottom. This week it was Jughead, Circuit-Breaker, Swamp Thing, Lumberjanes and SpongeBob).
Jen, Roanoke Cabin, Scouting Lad Barney and, um, that other 'jane from a different cabin and their magical, super-powered kittens are all reunited with Rosie and The Grand Lodge ladies...and they are now all stuck in the next of the giant, horned monster bird that turns out to be a Roc (rather than a Thunderbird, as I assumed; I guess that makes sense, since despite the North American setting the majority of the monsters the 'janes face are from classical myth).
Their our two opinions on how best to deal with the giant monster bird, one of which is to kill it, and the other of which is to escape without killing it. Barney finds the key through the power of bird-watching, and the new girl comes up with a plan, the realization of which makes for an actually rather dramatic cliffhanger, as she figures it out but doesn't spill, leaving a reader (or at least this reader) to puzzle over it in their (or my) head, but not getting any satisfaction. Next issue, I guess.
Seeing Adams' version of Mermaid Man, who has the too-big muscles, neck and chin of a superhero parody, sharing the panel with what look like pretty straight versions of typical Adams characters run through a SpongeBob filter, is pretty great fun.
The other stand-outs in this over-sized, 48-page comic are the Drymon-written, Robb Bihun-drawn "SongeBob BabysitterPants," drawn in a rather realistically rendered, ink-heavy style, and Scott Roberts "Speed O 'Lightning," an entire, 10-page story written to the tune of the Underdog theme song. You should probably read that one out loud for the full effect.
Guess which of those three options Wein goes with?
Of some surprise, if only because it is such a contrast to what we've seen before, a few classic Swamp Thing characters make appearances, and there are guest-stars galore. Not only do Steve Trevor Agent of ARGUS, The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre and Zatanna all reappear, but so too does Etrigan, The Demon.
It's great fun to see Jones' versions of all of these characters. I particularly liked his Zatanna, which is just so...different than the way everyone else draws her, and some of the expressions his Spectre makes. I wasn't very enamored of his Demon (I didn't care for his Etrigan when it appeared in his run on Batman either), but it's still interesting to see Jones' bizarre style applied to different characters just to see how he interprets them. Like, I'd be excited if Santa Claus showed up in a Kelley Jones comic, just to see how Jones would draw that jolly old elf (Hey, that's not a bad idea! Mr. Wein! Can your next miniseries with Kelley Jones involve Santa Claus? Maybe he can team up with Batman to fight Calendar Man and The Krampus or something...)
I suppose one could read something into the last panels in which Swamp Thing is overly emphatic about the fact that he knows exactly who he is, that he is Alec Holland and definitely not a sentient plant with Holland's memories, as some kind of meta-response to what Alan Moore did with Wein's character during the classic run which is the main reason anyone knows/cares about Swamp Thing at all (especially given DC's apparent decision to base their latest relaunch on calling out Watchmen as some kind of wound on the DC Universe), but I've become somewhat inured to DC comics writing criticism or conversation with Moore's work for the publisher a generation ago...to the point where I can sometimes spot it, but rarely care enough to think about it.
As with the previous issues, I cam for the Kelley Jones art, and everything else about the comic was just some sort of Kelley Jones delivery system.
Okay, that's it for tonight. I'll probably write at greater length about Dark Knight and Patsy Walker later, and do come back this weekend for reviews of this week's DC "Rebirth" books, of which there were many.