Friday, May 29, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: May 27

Batman ’66 #23 (DC Comics) This issue features two 10-page stories, both written by Convergence MVP Jeff Parker and both introducing comic book villains into the world of the Batman TV show.

Interestingly, Parker gives both Solomon Grundy and Clayface connections to TV show villains. The former is a former husband of Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, reanimated and renamed by Marsha’s aunt, a witch. The latter is False Face, whose true identity is revealed to be Basil Karlo (the first Clayface of the comics), and who then goes through the origin story of Matt Hagen (the second Clayface of the comics, although his look, powers and origin is now the default one for all Clayfaces in all media).

The first story is drawn by Brent Schoonover, and he does a pretty incredible job of drawing a dynamic, action-packed story in which Batman and Robin just happen to be wearing costumes that resemble those of the TV show (although these certainly fit better; I don’t think Adam West was ever as cut as Schoonover’s Batman). The second is drawn by Giancarlo Caracuzzo, and this story’s visuals suffer a bit in comparison. This may be due to simple familiarity, as Caracuzzo is a familiar presence in these pages, or it may be the more subdued, muddy, brown-drenched coloring as compared to the brighter, poppier coloring on the Schoonover’s story.

Convergence #8 (DC) Well, the climax and resolution of this is going to take a little time to process. And, I imagine, we'll need to see the stories that result in the future to entirely make sense of it, and exactly what changed, and how, in the ever-changing cosmology of the DC Universe.

I thought that Multiversity was a fine, final word on the nature of the DC Universe, one that took into account every single story ever told and all of the changes rendered to them, but then newcomer Jeff King and his co-writer Scott Lobdell of all people have come in to try and tinker once again with the nature of DC continuity/cosmological history, the scab the publisher refuses to stop picking at.

Where we left off last year, Zero Hour's practically omnipotent Parallax/Hal Jordan had evaporated evil wizard Deimos, releasing all of the time-traveller energy somehow being stored in Deimos, which somehow seemed to threaten  DC's Earth-0/New-52 Universe. So now all of the characters from the Converge-ed world of Telos are standing around, fretting.

Then Waverider (well, a Waverider; see Convergence: Booster Gold #2 for more), a Booster Gold (I think the one from Earth-0/The New 52), and a version of his sister arrive. Waverider releases Brainiac, who then puts everything back together as it was supposed to be, undoing somehow undoing all of the other previous reboots, including Crisis On Infinite Earths, with Flashpoint being the only cosmological rejiggering that still holds. I think.

There's a four-page spread showing The Multiverse "resetting, stabilizing," and while only 15 of the 52 worlds are revealed, the implication through the art seems to be that these are the worlds of the "old" Multiverse, but now in their Grant Morrison-conceived, Multiversity forms ("Each world has evolved, but they all still exist"). I'm...not entirely sure what this means for some of the worlds.

For example, Earth-4 shows ghostly images of the pre-Crisis Earth-4 characters posed behind a photo of the Earth, while the Multiversity: Pax Americana versions of the characters are colored more solidly, and are leaping from the front of the globe in action poses.

I'm most confused by what becomes of pre-Crisis Earths-1 and -2; based on the art, the former seems to have become the New 52-iverse/Earth-0, and the later the new Earth-2 (from the pages of Earth-2), although I suppose it's also worth mentioning that, as predicted, Telos itself is referred to as "New Earth-2," and is moved back into the same universe at the old new Earth-2...a planet which was gobbled up by Apokolips in Earth-2: World's End.

While this then seems to be a reconciliation of the old, pre-Crisis and/or post-Infinite Crisis/52 Multiverse with the new, post-Multiversity Multiverse, there are some lingering questions.

Which is why, DC, everyone hates you.

More curious still is that pre-Crisis Supergirl and The Flash Barry Allen, whose being granted foreknowledge of their need to sacrifice their lives in Crisis played major parts of their stories in Convergence: Adventures of Superman and Convergence: The Flash, go back to die in the Crisis, with a few other characters coming along to see if they can help. Parallax Hal Jordan, who says he's seeking redemption (not sure how that will work, as Jordan, Parallax and Jordan as Parallax play fairly big roles in the future of the DC Universe, from "Emerald Twilight" on).

Joining Jordan is Superman, the pre-Flashpoint version (meaning the one from roughly 1986 to 2001), and his wife Lois insists that she and their new baby (conceived and born during the time they were under one of Brainiac’s domes) go with him.

I don’t know how that all played out, obviously. Brainiac says they must prevent the collapse of the Multiverse and, later, that they did it…somehow. But given the fact that the post-Crisis Earth, the amalgated one that was the only DC Earth between 1986 and 2006 or so, doesn’t really exist any more, I suppose undoing COIE’s continuity smooshing doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. (Completely lost in the shuffle, however, are the original characters from Earth-2, the JSA characters, who…well, I’m not sure what happens to them now. It sure seems weird that pains were taken to assure us that Captain Carrot and Super-Chief still exist in the Multiverse, but the original Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat and company are MIA).

I suspect the thought was to give Superman a happy ending, in the same way that the “original” Superman, retroactively placed on Earth-2, was given a happy ending with his Lois by surviving the original Crisis. As for Parallax’s inclusion, perhaps they just needed a plausibly powerful character involved, and/or prehaps Final Night was undone, and he needed another form of redemption...?

Co-writers Jeff King and Scott Lobdell have seven artists working on their script: Pencil artists Carlo Pagulayan and Eduardo Pansica, inkers Jason Paz, Scott Hanna and Trevor Scott, and penciler/inkers Stephen Segovia and Ethan Van Sciver.

The art looks like the result of seven artists collaborating on about 30 pages or so. While the whole thing is inconsistent, on a page-by-page basis, most of it is fine, provided you don’t look too closely at it, particularly a two-page sequence in which Brainiac recounts the history of the changes to DC’s Multiverse and Van Sciver’s four-page sequence revealing this version of The Multiverse.

Soooo, is anyone ever going to explain the end of Flashpoint or not…?

Convergence: Plastic Man and The Freedom Fighters #2 (DC) Writer Simon Oliver and artist John McCrea continue and conclude their tale of the heroes of Earth-X, who have had their struggle against the Nazis who won World War II interrupted by Brainiac’s dome and then Telos’ insistence that they fight “champions” from other cities.

The champions here are the super-murderborgs of Futures End, which present such a threat that the Freedom Fighters have to team up with their mortal enemies to repel them.

Oliver narrows the focus so tightly on Plastic Man that the Freedom Fighters are barely a presence, save for appearances in splash pages (The Ray gets three words of dialogue, Black Condor gets two, and Uncle Sam doesn’t appear or get mentioned at all, despite having been present last issue…I guess I’ll have to check to make sure he didn’t actually die; he was shown to have hyper-aged, but the restoration of everyone’s powers should have rejuvenated him).

Through Plastic’s narration, Oliver has the character tell his origin story, of their uneasy alliance with The Silver Ghost against the forces of Futures End, and of Plastic Man and The Ghost’s mission into the heart of Futures End-ville, while Phantom Lady leads the FF and the Nazi soldiers in a holding action against the murder-bots outside their New York City.

It’s a fine script by Oliver with a few funny bits, but there are lots of little continuity glitches, some regarding the title characters (I guess Phantom Lady’s super-power is to fire destructive energy beams from her hands now?), others regarding their opponents (no mention of Brother Eye, the identity of the hive-mind animating the cyborgs?) and others regarding the fluid, flexible “rules” of the Convergence city-vs.-city battles, which vary from book to book (Here the losing city is apparently hurled off the surface of the planet?).

The chief pleasure is probably John McCrea’s art, and I say that not simply because he's one of my favorite artists, but because this is a perfect venue for his particular talents. Plastic Man is an ideal superhero for McCrea to draw, given the way he excels at both representational art and the comically exaggerated, and he does a great job drawing a sexy Phantom Lady, the shredded costumes of the hard-fighting male heroes and the jagged, pointed, piles of knives and gears that are the killer robots.

I don’t know if a new volume of Plastic Man is one of the books DC is considering launching in the near-ish future, but, if they do, they’ve already found a great creative team (Same goes for a Hawkman or Shazam series, based on how strong those Convergence tie-ins were. Speaking of which…)

Convergence: Shazam #2 (DC) The two cities doing battle in this particular Convergence tie-in are the Fawcett City of Pre-Crisis Earth-S and the Gotham City of Gotham By Gaslight, here reimagined as a steampunk Gotham City.

Despite that, it’s still essentially a Captain Marvel solo story, with Victorian Batman simply providing a smart, somewhat formidable foe for Captain Marvel to encounter, briefly engage and then turn so they can join forces against the brand new Monster Society of Evil, here lead by Steam Punk Mister Atom (or is it?) and boasting a membership full of Victorian versions of Batman’s rogues gallery (dig Two-Face’s half-dandy, half-hobo look, and the hats on Killer Croc and Clayface!).

Writer Jeff Parker once again does a fantastic job of writing Captain Marvel and much of his extended family and impressive rogues gallery, here adding a Batman and some of his villains to the mix, even if they mainly function as providing local color.

Evan “Doc” Shaner designs and draws the living hell out of every character and every panel of this comic. Like the Tim Truman and Enrique Alcatena–drawn Hawkman, also written by Parker, this is one of those comics where you can occasionally stop reading to just stare at panels and admire the intricate line-work.

I’m not entirely sure about the ending, as it’s rather ambiguous if Gotham City and all its inhabitants are destroyed or not, just as it wasn’t entirely clear who was meant to be fighting who, or if this was a full-on city vs. city conflict.

But then, Mr. Tawky Tawny flies a fighter plane, so who cares?

Providence #1 (Avatar Press) Despite my aversion to $3.99 comics and the variant-mad books of Avatar's line, this is Alan Moore writing a long-form, 12-issue comic book series that the publisher is calling “the Watchmen of horror,” and even if it falls far short of that (as it will have to), if it’s just the From Hell of H.P. Lovecraft-brand horror or even the Ballad of Halo Jones or D.R. and Quinch of Lovecraftian horror, well, that’s still gonna prove well worth a read.

Working with artist Jacen Burrows, Moore starts us off in 1910 New York, introducing us to an ambitious young newspaperman with a secret…a secret that apparently kills his one-time lover. At this early point in the narrative, it’s a pretty straightforward period piece, with the only hints of anything Lovecraftian having to do with references to some macabre literature, some more to an occult text written by an Arab (not that text or that Arab, though) and a doctor who lives like Herbert West, re-animator.

If you happen to be as adverse to $4 comics as I am, it’s well worth noting that there’s definitely $4 worht of comics in this book: 26 pages of comics, 4-pages of a supplementary prose piece (the journal of the protagonist) and no ads.


Jer said...

(I appreciate your summaries, Caleb - it's going to be months before I read Convergence myself...)

I'm most confused by what becomes of pre-Crisis Earths-1 and -2;

I haven't read it yet, but I've seen the pages you're talking about and I'M most confused about how Earth-1 is now Earth-0 while apparently post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint-Earth is now Earth-16 (from Multiversity:The Just). That's ... just weird. Is it suggesting that the "new history" is that the new ending of Crisis transformed Earth-1 into Earth-0 and Earth-16 was the world we were following from 1986 until 2011? Just weird.

(I much prefer how Morrison handles these things - by making the metatext into text. His "History of the Multiverse" in the Multiversity Guidebook is the publication history of DC Comics transformed into myth as understood by the people living in the comic book universes. It has the benefit of making the continuity match the actual history, which generally makes things easier to keep consistent.)

Soooo, is anyone ever going to explain the end of Flashpoint or not…?

If you ignore the fact that post-Flashpoint Pandora doesn't have near the power to do what she supposedly did, the end makes sense even though it comes out of nowhere and has no relationship to anything happening in Flashpoint itself. Flash broke Earth-0's timeline and then fixed it, but Pandora snuck in and used the opportunity to smash together Earth-0 with old-Earth-50 (Wildstorm Universe) and old-Earth-13 (Vertigo Universe) to create new 52 Earth-0.

Pandora would make so much more sense if Johns and Didio had remembered that the Monitors existed and made Pandora a rogue Monitor smashing universes together. As it stands I STILL don't know how pre-Flashpoint Pandora had the power to smash together universes. And likely never will, given that that whole storyline seems to be over and done with.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Its not just about how powerful she was or was not, I still want to know what BIG LOOMING THREAT caused her to combine three universes. Having her be a rogue Monitor would be a cool idea, but the threat wasn't Darkseid, or the Earth-3 villains. My best guess is that the Wildstorm characters tanked so badly that DC can't try something where the JL teams up with Stormwatch.

Earth-1, as of now, are those terrible hardcover books. One of the only things that made sense, and now Earth-0 was the New Earth we've seen since INFINITE CRISIS. How does Parallax save things? He has to get separated from Hal Jordan at some point. Unless it is just a different Hal Jordan and comics, everybody!

What I've been telling people more as my own commentary is that the characters that went back to COIE (minus Parallax) are analogues for the Golden Age Superman and Lois and the little kid will grow up to become Superboy-Prime. Which would explain Earth-15 referencing him on the map. Jeff King isn't that smart, but I could see it how Brainiac tries to fix things but instead simply causes INFINITE CRISIS to happen. And then FLASHPOINT. And then CONVERGENCE. And back to COIE.

I agree that the best tie-ins were written by Jeff Parker.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out Providence, Caleb. I didn't know Moore had a new one out. Just finished it. Looking forward to more, definitely. The only thing I'm iffy on is the coloring b/c Avatar's aesthetic is pretty murky, but even there the coloring didn't detract. *Damned* fine character work from Jacen. He's evolved heaps since the last I read one he worked on. Probably Ellis' Apparat stuff...

Jer said...

Its not just about how powerful she was or was not, I still want to know what BIG LOOMING THREAT caused her to combine three universes. Having her be a rogue Monitor would be a cool idea, but the threat wasn't Darkseid, or the Earth-3 villains.

I may be giving DC too much credit, but I'd assume that it's the upcoming Darkseid War where the threat is the Anti-Monitor and Darkseid together. I'll just go ahead and lay down a marker suggesting that it'll end with one or more heroes from each universe teaming up to end the threat. (The Constantine/Green Lantern/Mr. Majestic team-up that everyone has been clamoring for!) I also assume that in the end it will be kind of dumb.

(We all know the real reason for it was because of brand management issues in the DC main offices - a desire to stick Swamp Thing and Constantine back into the mainline DCU and a hope that if the Wildstorm characters were in the DCU people might actually buy their books. The first part might be going okay but boy did they misread their audience for that second part...)