Thursday, February 01, 2018

Comics Shop Comics: January 31st

Dark Nights: Metal #5 (DC Comics) It's not too terribly surprising to hear that Scott Snyder will be heavily involved in whatever is happening next with DC's Justice League franchise (details are still pretty scant; all that has been announced so far is a weekly miniseries and a few participating writers, with no mention of the artists involved or how many books and who will be doing what to follow*). After all, for all its promotion, and all of its (too) many tie-ins, Metal is basically just a Justice League story with a few big, interesting ideas thrown in there (and as someone who started reading Justice League comics when Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell launched JLA, I've always thought "a few big, interesting ideas" was the baseline for what all Justice League stories should involve). I haven't read all of those tie-ins yet (I plan to catch up in trade later), but the ones I have read seemed mostly unimportant, even trivial, and once you divorce those from Metal, what you're left with is a big story posing an existential threat to the DC Universe--hell, the DC Multiverse--that is addressed by the Justice League recruiting some allies, splitting up into different teams and then attacking elements of the problem. It's not hard to see this as a modern version of an old Silver Age or Satellite Era novel-length adventure, a "Crisis In The Dark Multiverse!" sort of story.

In fact, this issue doesn't do anything to change that. The various "teams" continue on their missions, meeting new characters along the way. Batman and Superman are at the cosmic Forge of Worlds with the corrupted Hawkman. Aquaman and Deathstroke are at the center of the Earth. Green Lantern Jordan, Mister Terriffic and Plastic Man-in-static-"egg"-form are on a Thanagar, where they get an assist from Martian Manhunter in fighting Starro and Onimar Sinn. Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders are at The Rock of Eternity, fighting with Black Adam. Everyone is on the ropes, as one would expect from the penultimate issue of the series, and the various nightmare Batmen appear to snatch victory from the hands of the League teams, as the Morrison-mapped Multiverse looks like it's about to be conquered by Morrison's bat-demon god. (Speaking of Morrison, Metal seems like a pretty good way to use the writer's past work to do something interesting and/or new. Snyder seems to be taking inspiration from past Morrison stories, and building on them, as opposed to what his fellow DC writer Steve Orlando, for example, has been doing, which is basically just taking Morrison creations that he likes and presenting them in his work, as if their presence alone gives value to a story).

As a Plastic Man fan, I was most interested in the bit where Mr. Terrific explains Plas' role in the story and, curiously, his origin. Dan Jurgens drew Plas into a Justice League International image in the early days of the New 52, implying that the character existed already in the New 52-iverse (He did the same with The Creeper). Then Geoff Johns presented a version of Plas' origin during Forever Evil, and...non one ever did anything with it.

Snyder seems to imply that Plas has been around for a while. Here's Mister Terrific explaining Plas to Hal:
One night, he fell into a vat of chemicals. My best guess, some attempt by the owls or S.T.A.R. Labs to approximate cosmic metals.

Now his molecutlar structure changes with his desires. His body is a super-conductor for cosmic energies, which is why they're after him.

Since dark energy started rising, the nightmares of every living thing run through his head, trying to pull him toward evil.

As I said, he's still in egg form, so apparently he's not going to do anything before the final issue, where one assumes he will play an integral role. While reading this issue, I couldn't help but think how Snyder had the makings of a pretty damn good Justice League line-up, give or take a character, running throughout the series: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and/or Hawkman, Plastic Man, Mister Terrific, Deathstroke, maybe Doctor Fate. I know that Plas and Mister Terrific won't end up on a League line-up, as they are one-half of DC's weird-looking Fantastic Four-esque series The Terrifics (which definitely would spin-out of Metal, unlike the first issues of Damage, The Silencer and Batman and The Signal, all of which had slugs on the cover suggesting they spun out of Metal despite any evidence of such in the first five issues of Metal or the first issues of those series).

DC Super Hero Girls: Date With Disaster (DC) I confess to finding this latest of Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat's Super Hero Girls original graphic novels somewhat disappointing, mainly because I was more interested in the dating than the disaster. I was promised Batgirl and friends trying to find a date for her dad, Commissioner Gordon, and while there is some of that in here, there is also a secret, STAR Labs program to create super-powered people, a villainous mayor and the introduction of Rampage and some Suicide Squad characters. I suppose it says more about my age that I am more interested in adult-dating than superhero fisticuffs at this point in my life but, on the other hand, even as a teenager I think I would have been more interested in the kids getting ready for the spring Winter Formal--Killer Frost is helping make it wintery--than the superhero business.

So there's a lot going on in this volume. Batgirl is upset that her dad went on a date with Silver St. Cloud--I'd say Bruce Wayne must be pissed, but I'm not sure there is a Bruce Wayne or a Clark Kent in the Super Hero Girls-iverse; I mean, Lois Lane goes to the dance with Barry Allen of all people!--so she sets up a dating profile for him in order to find him a better match (Spoiler alert: She finds him Plastique instead). Meanwhile, some of the girls are getting ready for the dance, which inspires a few of them to play matchmaker, trying to get Steve Trevor to ask Wonder Woman to the dance. Also meanwhile, Floyd Lawton is putting the moves on Principal Amanda Waller. And also also meanwhile, Dr. Kitty Faulkner of STAR Labs and the mayor are up to some suspicious stuff involving super-powers, and the secret-ish origin of this version of Poison Ivy. Also! Jimmy Olsen, Ron Troupe and Perry White are all in here, as Lois and the Planet-eers work angles of the STAR Labs story. Whew!

A few random thoughts:

--Commissioner Gordon apparently calls his daughter Barbara "Babsy Bear."

--Labat's version of Deadshot--I'm not sure if he's ever shown up in the animated incarnation of this IP or not--is pretty fantastic. As Floyd, his mustache makes look both cartoon dashing, like a caricature of Clark Gable, and silent movie villainous, which is pretty perfect for his role here. I also really dug this version of his costume, which is basically just de-cluttered and modernized version of the one he wore back in the 1980s, before there were different versions of Deadshot in differing media.

--The thought of him going on dates with Waller was pretty fun, considering the last time I've seen either of them were in the pages of John Ostrander and company's Suicide Squad Vol. 7: The Dragon's Hoard, and the two aren't exactly friendly in those comics, let alone romantic.

--"Giant Turtle Boy" has a two-page cameo. Also, Jimmy Olsen is a shitty journalist. Thank God Lois puts him in his place, re The Truth.

--Lois Lane is awesome, in almost any incarnation.

--I like how after Steve was all nervous about asking Wonder Woman to the dance, and how the matchmakers schemed and failed to get Steve to ask her, she just walks up and asks him herself. Oh, Wonder Woman.

--I was highly disappointed that no one wore dresses or suits to the dance, but just wore their normal clothes. Steve didn't even change out of his work clothes!

--It was pleasantly surprising to see same-sex couples in this. Bunker and Piper go to the dance together, apparently; they're not, like, slow-dancing and kissing or anything, but I suppose readers who are familiar with the characters from other comics who seem them standing side-by-side will put two and two together. Similarly, they do that thing where Harley and Ivy are probably dating without ever coming out and saying it. When characters mention that Harley, the head of the dance committee and one of the characters most invested in the match-making endeavors, didn't have time to find a date of her own, she throws an arm around her best friend and says, "I don't need a date! I got Ivy--"

--Gordon asks Waller to dance, and she shoots him down. Then he and Babs dance. Those things all make me uncomfortable.

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny--Rose & Paige (IDW Publishing) The fifth and final issue of IDW's weekly Forces of Destiny series features Rose Tico, the breakout star of The Last Jedi, played by the totally adorable and infectiously enthusiastic Kelly Marie Tran, and her sister Paige, who was briefly seen in the film's opening battle. In many respects, their story is similar to the one that was in the last issue of Star Wars Adventures I read, where Rose's smarts and the faith placed in her by her big sister and General Organa help her overcome the vocal doubting of a male superior and help her save the day.

Where it differs, and differs quite dramatically, is in its visuals. Derek Charm, an artist who I am an enormous fan of, drew the Adventures issue. This comics is drawn by Nicoletta Baldari, in an extremely lush, picture book-like style that, in the movement of the characters and the expressions on their faces, calls to mind a traditional 2D Disney animated movie. In fact, the art is really the best of both worlds, as it looks as thoroughly rendered as if it were created for a picture book, but is highly animated-looking, as if consisting of stills from a film.

Baldari is paired with prose and occasional comics writer Delilah S. Dawson, responsible for the recent pretty-dang-good Phasma prose novel and...the previously mentioned issue of Star Wars Adventures, which both explains and makes strange the similarities between these two stories.

The specifics of this one involve Leia conducting a Resistance meeting in which she asks her people for ideas on exploring a hard-to-explore planet in order, preferably one that doesn't involve their traditional vehicles. Rose comes up with what resemble a pair of fast-moving golf carts--they've got wheels! How primitive!--and she and Paige go exploring. When Paige's breaks down and she has an accident, Rose is forced into adventuring to save her sister. Along the way, she meets a particularly goofy-looking indigenous species that follows the obviously successful Porg formula of combining bird and mammal-like characteristics into a single animal.

I was much more interested in the art part of the equation in this book, but it's an all-around solid all-ages Star Wars comic, and, like the Leia one-shot, it's head-and-shoulders above the content Marvel has been publishing.

*Hopefully current Justice League writer Christopher Priest gets to keep doing what he's doing on one of the new League books, but given that that would be a great idea, I'm afraid it won't occur to those who make such decisions at DC.

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