JSA Reread Part 6: Injustice Be Done cont.

Sorry about the delay, the holiday’s got in the way.  I have one ready to go here, and another one by the end of the week. This entry finishes up the Injustice Be Done storyline, including the epilogue issue.

JSA 19: Into the Labyrinth

Johns, Goyer, Sadowski, Bair and Champagne. 

1

This issue starts with Wildcat and Black Adam at the Rock of Eternity.  Wildcat doesn’t believe that Black Adam has actually reformed, while Black Adam argues the he doesn’t need reformation.  According to him, all the villainous acts he did were under the control of Theo Adam, his descendant who gained his power.  They are at the Rock of Eternity to ask the wizard Shazam to help them find the Spectre.  Instead, they find the Spectre right there waiting for them.  This Spectre is not the same Spectre from last issue’s flashback.  Now the soul controlling the Spectre’s powers is former Green Lantern Hal Jordan, a character that Geoff Johns has quite a history with.  He wrote the series Day of Judgment where he made Hal Jordan the Spectre.  A few years after this story, Johns will finish Jordan’s redemption with Green Lantern Rebirth and make him a Green Lantern again.

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Now it moves to Johnny Sorrow and Sand at the center of the maelstrom.  The King of Tears is coming into the world and as he does so the world is changing to fit him.  Once he is completely manifested in reality, then the barrier between his dimension and ours will disappear and all sorts of unworldly horrors will come through.  Some already are.  According to Sorrow, the JSA has only hours.

3

Continuing the check up on each member of the team, Star Spangled Kid, Hawkgirl and Mr. Terrific burst into a hospital with the dying but stable Green Lantern.  Terrific has managed to save his life, but only for the time being.  He needs a real doctor.  Back in the horror dome, Black Canary is giving Dr. Mid-Nite CPR.  She manages to revive him.  It turns out he didn’t die when he looked as Sorrow’s face because he is technically blind.  Also, Canary is in tears.  Their abortive relationship is one of the great disappointments of the series. They had something interesting going, but then somewhere else Green Arrow got resurrected and she ran right back to him.  As they chat, Flash shows up, covered in electricity from absorbing Rival’s speed (and stealing his helmet).  The three of them can’t stop the reality altering themselves, so Flash runs to get help.

4

He comes back with JJ Thunder, a character introduced by Grant Morrison in JLA’s Crisis Times Five, who has Johnny Thunder’s genie.  So he summons the genie and uses it to fight off the bug looking monsters that are appearing. As the four of them fight, Black Canary wonders what happened to the team’s other heavy hitter, Dr. Fate. Segue to him looking for his missing wife.  He is visiting the comatose woman that gave birth the baby version of him in the first issues of this series.  He uses his Dr. Fate magic to reveal that the Jane Doe coma patient is actually his ensorcelled wife.  Which adds another layer of creepiness to his story, since remember she gave birth to him.  And that is the entire interlude with Dr. Fate.

5

Back with the team, the genie is being overwhelmed.  Just as he is about to give up, Mr. Terrific and the others arrive.  Terrific gives him a pep talk while the girls jump right into battle.  Star Spangled Kid goes to Black Canary with the growing problem of Hawkgirl’s weirdness. Finding his confidence thanks to Terrific, JJ uses the genie to take out all of the bug monsters.  However, that doesn’t do anything to stop the growing problem of reality changing. Luckily, just then Wildcat, Black Adam and the Spectre show up. The Spectre goes one on one with the King of Tears, who strips him down to just a skeleton.

JSA 20: Godspeed

Goyer, Johns, Sadowski and Bair.

1

As they team watches in disbelief at the defeated Spectre, the Spectre’s body fixes itself in front of them. Since the Hal Jordan version of the Spectre is about redemption instead of vengeance, he can do nothing against the King of Tears, because it has no soul to be redeemed.  So he apologizes and disappears, freaking everyone out even more.  Hawkgirl calls Black Adam by his ancient name, Teth-Adam.  She is still having memories of her previous lives.

2

Terrific the hatches another plan, to send Flash running at lightspeed and knock the King of Tears back where he came from.  However, the only Flash that can run at lightspeed is Wally West, the main Flash.  However, with the speed he stole from Rival and stealing speed from the superfast Black Adam, Jay might just be able to go fast enough. In order for this to work, someone will have to disorient Johnny Sorrow so he isn’t controlling the King of Tears anymore.  Dr. Mid-Nite thinks he has a plan to deal with that, though.

3

After a brief, possibly last, chat with his wife, Jay and Black Adam take off.  The rest of the team starts fighting the returned monsters.  The Spectre shows back up to take away all the citizens’ fear so they can fight as well.  And just to toss one more thing on, Hawgirl call Mid-Nite McNider, the name of the previous Dr. Mid-NIte. As Flash steals Black Adam’s speed, Mid-Nite fights his way to where Sorrow is.  He then reveals his plan: he used his goggles to record Sorrow’s face.  He plays it back a Sorrow, disabling him, giving Flash the opening he needed to punch the King of Tears back out of reality, which causes the city to revert to its natural state.

4

The team recovers Sorrow’s mask, all that is left of him.  Hawkgirl finally breaks down when Star Spangled Kid somewhat rudely asks her what is going on.  The only problem is that the Flash is still gone.  The last few pages show Jay almost lose himself into the speed force, but he uses Black Adam’s speed to pull him back to reality.  However, instead of coming back to the team, he ends up with Teth-Adam in ancient Egypt.  And it’s not just Teth-Adam, but also Nabu, the wizard that helps Dr. Fate, and Prince Khufu, the ancient precursor to Hawkman.

JSA 21: Guardian Angels

Goyer, Johns and Buzz

1

Here is the cool down issue that got interrupted to start the Injustice Be Done story, with Sand running about the being rebuilt JSA Brownstone headquarters putting out fires, metaphorical ones, of course.  First there is Black Adam, who is petitioning to be allowed onto the team.  He makes a strong case, if you believe that Black Adam and Theo Adam are different people.  The JSA team, currently short Green Lantern Alan Scott, is underpowered and Black Adam needs the credibility of the team name to rehabilitate his image.  Black Adam is not going to make this easy on Sand either, intimating that he knows the fate of Flash without telling.  Black Adam’s arrival, or at least more permanent arrival since he has been showing up since issue 6, is the big game changer for this series.  With many of Geoff John’s runs on superhero books, the most dynamic characters tend to be morally grey villains.  He built up the rogues on the Flash (especially Captain Cold), took Sinestro through a whole rise and fall redemption arc and is currently doing the same thing with Lex Luthor in Justice League.  Johns is great about getting in the heads of the bad guys and showing how they tick, as well as realizing that good villains do not see themselves as such.  His work with Black Adam, mostly on this title, is the ultimate expression of that.  It works best here because Black Adam is largely Johns’ creation, appearing only a handful of times before Johns got ahold of him here.  With this attempt to join the team, Black Adam manages to come off both sincere and menacing.

2

Sand them moves on to Hawkgirl, confronting her about her recent odd behavior and aobut how little the team actually knows about her, plot threads that have been running since the very start of the series.  He points out the scars on her arms, last seen in the all ladies annual, which seem to be from a suicide attempt.  Hawkgirl flies off, upset and unwilling to answer his questions.  As we’ll see later, the Black Adam story and the Hawkgirl story are related.  They really combine quite organically and make for a solid history, especially with what is coming for the Hawk characters.

There are a handful of asides that finish up the Wildcat’s son abortive subplot (Killer Wasp is not his son, but he did know him), Alan Scott recuperating and talking with and about his two kids, and a slight furthering of Atom Smasher’s walk down his dark path.  This is mostly making sure everyone is caught up on where the major players on this team are, with many of these stories stuck in a holding pattern for now.

3

After that it is back to Kendra, who is struggling with the changes she is facing.  She meets up with Zauriel, a fallen angel, hence the title of the issue, and Justice League member.  Actually, he is the character introduced to take the place of the off limits Hawkman in Grant Morrison’s JLA, which was supposed to use all the big heroes.  He tries to offer Kendra help, but she’s not having anything he’s offering, whether it is religion or love, which is what caused him to fall.  That love talk does segue into a two page aside with Black Canary and Dr. Mid-Nite on another date, which both seem to be enjoying.  Then is back to Kendra and Zauriel.  He finally gets her to open up about her attempts at suicide after her parents were murdered.  When she was unconscious after ODing, she sensed someone there with her. Someone named Khufu.

With that name, the scene jumps back to Ancient Egypt, with the Flash.  Khufu was an Egyptian Prince, one who would later be reincarnated as Carter Hall, better known as Hawkman.  Flash is not quite sure if he believes that, though he does believe in the Thanagarian warship Khufu has.  This is a key piece of Geoff John’s revival of Hawkman.  There were several distinctly separate versions of the character that were hard to reconcile.  The first was the reincarnated Egyptian Prince, later was the space cop from the planet Thanagar.  Then there was the avatar of the Hawkgod and the other Thanagarian space cop.  Those, plus a ton of retcons made the characters a giant mess and they were abandoned for half a decade or so.  But Johns and Goyer smartly found a way to work around all this, starting with Flash finding the space ship in ancient Egypt, creating a tie between the two major versions of the characters.

4

Next is the most heartwarming part of the issue, with Mr. Terrific, Star Spangled Kid and JJ *ahem* Jakeem Thunder signing autographs and playing basketball at a youth center.  This is one of the great things about the JSA; that they are shown to do things besides fight bad guys.  Like the X-Men’s occasional relaxing issue has the team playing baseball or basketball, the JSA members spend their downtime doing charity work.  Jakeem is a little put off by this, and also gets in a pretty sick burn on Mr. Terrific.

5

After a page of Jakeem railing at Mr. Terrific about how being a superhero is a bunch of nonsense (not necessarily untrue, but not on point when they are helping out at a youth center) and generally just being unpleasant, Mr. Terrific walks away, only for Star Spangled Kid to tear into him for being a disrespectful little jerk.  It shows the growth her character has been through, both in this title and her Johns penned own book.  She starting out as nothing more than a disrespectful little kid and has grown into a fine heroine.

6

It then goes back to Kendra and Zauriel for one more little conversation, with Kendra asking him about reincarnation.  After going back and forth for a little bit, Kendra supposes that her memories of past lives are from her near death experience after her suicide attempt.  Zauriel has a different guess, that her suicide attempt was successful and a new soul now inhabits Kendra’s body.

7

Now that there is a solid base to build from, this is when the title really starts to take off.  Most of the seeds for this run have been planted, with Black Adam, Atom Smasher, the Hawks, and Dr. Fate.  All of the characters are firmly established and the JSA really finds another gear.  There is certainly a lot to chew on with this somewhat downbeat issue.  There are no fights, just the characters coming to terms with how things stand now.  Still, it really sets the table for stories to come.

Next Time: The Return of Hawkman.

JSA Reread Part 3

This brings us to the end of the first year of this book, with another one off cool down issue, like issue 6, and the opening act of the title’s biggest story yet. Also thrown in there is a goofy crossover title, that while far from essential in the big scheme does have some worthwhile developments. These are necessary issues to the feel of the title, if not strictly important ones. The fate of the world can’t hang in the balance in every story, there has to be some dramatic highs and lows. This is a bit of a low, though it is only a low by superhero standards.

JSA 10: Wild Hunt

Written by Geoff Johns and David Goyer. Art by Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair

This issue, a bit of a breather between big arcs, is a solo issue for Wildcat, who had to sit out the last arc after Black Adam broke his arm in issue #6. It also introduces the Justice Society’s opposite counterpart, the Injustice Society. The Injustice Society is an evil version of the JSA. Like our heroic team, their focus is legacy. They are a combination of Golden Age villains and replacements for Golden Age villains. It is led by Johnny Sorrow, a Golden Age villain that can kill with a look. It has the 2nd Icicle, who inherited his powers from his father, and 2nd Tigress, who had two supervillain parents, one the first Tigress and the other the Sportsmaster. Count Vertigo and Geomancer are on the team, as is Blackbriar Thorn, an old GL villain. And lastly is Golden Wasp, who is another legacy villain who hides a secret.

The whole team breaks into the JSA Museum with Wildcat the only JSAer on the premises. In fact, he was taking a bath and maybe having phone sex with Catwoman. While Johnny Sorrow goes after a vial labeled The King of Tears in Flash’s lab, the rest try to take out Wildcat. Using his knowledge of the Museum and their overconfidence, Ted manages to separate and take them down. He runs down Geomancer and Count Vertigo with his catcycle, smashes Blackbriar Thorn in the elevator, traps Icicle on an operating table and knocks out Tigress and Killer Wasp. It also very heavily hints that Killer Wasp has some connection to Ted through Ted’s son who was kidnapped years ago. Of course, while Ted does this, Sorrow gets what he’s after and teleports everyone, other than the smashed Thorn, out. And Ted, knowing what’s really important, tries to get back in touch with Catwoman. The references to Catwoman are not just throwaways because they are both feline themed characters, there is a not terrible Wildcat/Catwoman miniseries (written by Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith and likely existing because they are both feline themed characters) where they team-up to stop/pull off a casino heist and flirt. It turns out that Wildcat trained Catwoman in his gym, though they only know each other as civilians.

Other than introducing the Injustice Society, there isn’t a lot to grasp in this issue. It is a relatively low stakes affair that gives Wildcat a chance to shine and to seed a couple of future storylines. It is a fun issue, but not a particularly important one.

Sins of Youth/Sins of Youth: Star-Woman and the JSA Jr.

Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Drew Johnson

This is a brief detour of a mini-event. Sins of Youth was primarily a Young Justice story, but every DC superhero team gets involved. Through machinations not worth going into, Klarion the Witch Boy manages to turn all of the child heroes into adults and all the adults into children. This affects every superhero and team in the DC Universe. It is gives the heroes and sidekicks a chance to see how things look from the other side of that relationship. The JSA, as the oldest heroes, get turned into the youngest children. Except for Star Spangled Kid, who becomes an adult.

In the JSA’s issue, they go with Doiby Dickles, a Brooklyn cabbie who was Green Lantern’s old sidekick and eventually left Earth to marry an alien princess, to the planet Myrg to get an age changing gun to try to fix everybody. Along for the ride is Merry Pembertonm Gimmick Girl, the sister of Sylvester Pemberton, the original Star Spangled Kid. She hasn’t taken too kindly the current bearer of that title, the JSA’s own Courtney Whitmore. As the lone adult on the team, StarWoman, as the adult Courtney calls herself, has trouble keeping all the toddler JSAers together long enough to help Doiby retrieve another ageing gun.

The only truly important part of this story is that Star Spangled Kid shows that she has the makings of a true hero, holding a team of super-powered children together through space. It is one of her first big steps in going from the bratty kid to a full team member. She also uses Jack Knight’s Star Rod, which he will give to her when he retires from superheroing in a year or two.

JSA 11: Split

Written by Geoff Johns and David Goyer. Art by Bair and Buzz

This issue starts a new two part arc. This is when the title really starts to dig deep into DC universe history. The title has always been about history and legacy, but it now it takes on a wider view than just the team. It brings in ties from Infinty Inc to Zero Hour to Blackhawks.

This one opens on a jet with an elderly woman, who identifies herself as Atom Smasher’s mother. As she chats with the woman seated next to her, the villain Kobra appears on a screen in the plane. He announces that he is taking over control of the plane and blows it up. Kobra is the last of the concepts Jack Kirby created in his time at DC. It was so late in his time there that it didn’t actually come out while he was still there and it was partially redrawn before it was published. Jeffrey Burr is Kobra, the leader of the Terrorist Cult called Kobra. He is a genius and also has a psychic link with his twin brother that makes them share experiences. He’s fought everybody from Wonder Woman to Batman.

Back in the JSA Museum. Mr. Bones, a former villain turned hero turned leader of the Department of Extranormal Operation (DEO) as well as inadvertent killer of the original Star Spangled Kid, is giving the team a rundown of the situation. He explains that Harold Jordan, a cousin of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who operates as the hero Airwave, has been captured by Kobra. Airwave is just the kind of hero that the JSA, and the old DC Universe in general, overflowed with. In the Golden Age, Larry Jordan was the original Airwave until he got married and retired before training his son to take up his mantle. Kobra is planning on using his powers to take control of all communication and create and Age of Chaos. Kobra has taken over Blackhawk Island, the base of the Golden Age fighter pilot team the Blackhawks, and Mr Bones wants the JSA to take them out. The simple set up for this story takes a turn when Sylvester Pemberton, the original Star Spangled Kid remember, who was killed years ago by Mr. Bones, appears in the building.

Hourman immediately deduces that his appearance is Extant’s doing. Extant is the time traveling villain from the event Zero Hour and formerly the hero Hawk from the pair of Hawk and Dove. In that story he killed a handful of JSAers, the original Atom, Dr. Midnight and Hourman. So they call in all the reserves and split into two teams. Robot Hourman, Sentinel, Hippolyta, Flash, and the Star Spangled Kids board Hourman’s time traveling Viking ship and trek through time to find Extant. They discuss the danger that Extant possess and the SSKs have a little heart to heart. He is glad to see someone carrying on his legacy and offers to help her with the belt. Then they are gone for the rest of the issue and the next one.

Starman, Dr. Midnight, Sand, Wildcat, Black Canary and an understandably upset Atom Smasher go after Kobra. They infiltrate the island and are soon joined by the new Mr. Terrific. Mr. Terrific immediately shows his worth by using his “T-Spheres” to display a 3D map of the island and outline an attack plan. You’d think an attack plan would be something they had before they showed up on the island.

They split up, with most of the team going to take out the island’s generators. Sand makes his way to where they are holding Airwave, but before he can rescue him he is attacked by Kobra, who uses comic book science to freeze is his sand based body. He then proceeds to use Airwave’s powers to broadcast him executing Sand on Times Square.

JSA 12: The Blood Dimmed Tide

Written by Johns & Goyer, Art by Buzz

The next issue starts with Kobra gloating over taking out the leader of the JSA, going full villain monologue with how he plans to use killer satellites to destroy every city on Earth. Kobra is not a villain with a strong historical or thematic connection to the JSA. He is just a run of the mill conquer the world supervillain, this time with satellites set up around the world to destroy all major cities with X-Rays. He is quickly disappointed when he finds out that he executed a hologram made by Mr. Terrific and Sand is fine.

While Dr. Midnite helps Sand, Mr. Terrific fights with Kobra. Though he has the upper hand, Kobra manages to slip away. They free Airwave, who takes out the satellites, but Kobra activates the base’s self-destruct and escapes in a plane. Airwave takes off the stop the satellites, leaving the others to make their escape.Except Atom Smasher grows to as big as he can and snatches the plane out of the air. He then debates killing Kobra to get revenge for his mother’s death, but Jack talks him down. This anger is a problem that Atom Smasher tries to deal with as the series goes on, and Kobra is a villain that will be back later.

The team escapes the exploding island on an old Blackhawk plane and discovers that Blackhawk Island is a DEO base, they were dealing with a DEO created problem to begin with.As they have it out with Mr. Bones, something crashes onto the roof. It is Hourman’s Timeship, piloted by Metron, one of the New Gods. He quickly claims that the other team is dead and that they have only seconds to save the universe.

There big occurrence in this issue is Atom Smasher struggling with reigning in his rage. It is all action, not necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t leave a lot to discuss. It is pure fun. That is where we stop for now. Next time the team will have to deal with this crisis, as well as the crisis of the swollen ranks.

 

JSA Reread Part 2

I originally expected to cover only issues 6 and 7 for this entry, but I realized that if I only covered 2 issues at a time it would take me more than a year to cover all that I want to cover in this re-read. So now, I am taking on issues 6-9, the first of which is an interlude issue with Black Adam and then the three issue Darkness Falls arc. My plan for the rest of this re-read is to try to cover one arc in each entry, though some of the longer arcs will require more. I have it planned out for 25 Parts total, unless I also decide to cover Johns issues on the re-launched Justice Society of America. So let’s get started on the first four issues of the Johns/Goyer collaboration on the JSA. After the first issue, drawn by Marcos Martin, the rest are drawn by Stephen Sadowski, with inking my Michael Bair and covers by Alan Davis.

JSA #6: Justice, like Lightning.

This is Geoff Johns’ first issue as co-writer and immediately we are introduced to the character his run centers on: Black Adam. I am assuming most of Black Adam’s arc is Johns’ doing because it is one the few that is not tidied up when Goyer leaves the book around issue 50. Also worth noting is that this issue is penciled by Marcos Martin, who is a tremendous artist. Just look at his work on recent issues of Daredevil or in Batgirl Year One.

The issue starts with the JSA holding a press conference to announce that they have reformed. The superhero press conference is one of the worst ideas in the world of superheroes. Not the idea that a team, like the JSA, would announce to everybody that they are back in business, but that anyone would show up to something like the ribbon cutting in this issue without realizing the obvious would happen. A villain will attack this get together. Every time this scene occurs, a villain will attack. And of course, it happens here.

Johns and Goyer aren’t subtle on this title. Just look at Sand’s speech. The earlier JSA “created a legacy. That legacy isn’t easy to live up to,” he says. That is the major focus on of the book. Sand just comes out and says it. Legacy and the struggle to live up to it or in some cases break free from it. There is another interesting line in that speech, “While others in our line of work are often in the shadows or adventuring beyond time and space, we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.” While on the surface those are clear references to Batman (shadows) and Superman (time and space), it also foreshadows where the book is going. The next issue starts an arc called Darkness Falls, wherein the entire world is covered in shadow. After that, the team must fight the time traveling villain Extant, a battle the roams over all of time and space. This is a new beginning for this team, and those are the adventures they will have.

Then we get a page of character positioning. Hawkgirl hates the spotlight, Dr. Fate misses his wife, and Star Spangled Kid is a bit self-centered. After Courtney (Star Spangled Kid, soon to be Stargirl) cuts the ribbon, it moves inside the JSA museum. In the middle of the page are three panels highlighting heroes who have passed on. First is Mr. Terrific, the predecessor to the man from issue 5 that Sand offered JSA membership to. Then it’s Dr Midnight, who will join in the next issue and finally Hawkman, whose return is a big arc itself in a few issues.

Then Black Adam attacks. Remember what I said about subtlety or the lack thereof? After the initial wave of JSAers is manhandled by the near Superman powerful Black Adam, Sand opines, “there’s nothing I can do if Black Adam’s feet aren’t on the ground.” An obvious call back to the line in his speech about the JSA being grounded. While most of the team tries to fend off the enraged strongman, Hourman, Dr. Fate and Hawkgirl travel back in time to ancient Egypt to the point when Black Adam received his powers. Using a combination of Hourman’s time powers and Dr Fate’s magic, they channel the magic lightning bolt to the present to drain their foe’s powers. Conveniently, this happens just after everyone on the team had the chance to show off their powers.

Everyone is confused about Black Adam’s attack because they thought he had reformed. For those unaware, Black Adam had been an ancient hero, but now his powers are used by his villainous descendant Theo Adam, though Black Adam had regained control. Sentinel (Green Lantern, really) discovers that he has a brain tumor that may have caused his outburst. Then Agent Chase (of her own short series) from the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations) shows up and takes custody of Adam, while her boss Mr. Bones thinks some cryptic thoughts about Hawkgirl.

While this issue is primarily a cool down issue between big stories, it does seed a ton of story points for future issues. The most important of which is the introduction of Black Adam, who will play a major role in the series from much of its run. It also marks the first, but far from last, trip the team will make to ancient Egypt.

JSA #7: Darkness Falls

Now we start the second big story of this series. The threat was seeded in a couple of scenes in the first few issues, with Alan “Sentinel” Scott’s son Todd talking with shadows. Now we see what he was going on about.

This issue starts in medias res with Black Canary falling from a window. She is chased by shadows of her teammates, which eventually catch up with her.

Then it jumps back to earlier that morning and the apartment of Jade, Alan Scott’s other child. Johns and Goyer make sure you don’t miss this connection. Jade cuts her hand on a photo of her, her brother and her father and reminisces about the connection her and her brother share and wonders about how odd he’s been lately. So she calls her dad.

On the opposite page, Dr. Fate tries to connect with Hawkgirl, who is both his cousin and possibly his mother reincarnated. Very creepy, and it won’t get better. Echoing Jade cutting her wrist on the previous page, Hawkgirl’s scarred wrists are exposed. Her troubled life before the series is slowly explored during the time she is on the team and this is one of the first hints of her situation.

Fate’s and Hawkgirl’s talk is interrupted by a call to see a news report saying that all the shadows in Milwaukee had disappeared. While the team heads for the city, Sentinel info dumps all the back-story and set up for this arc. He just throws it out there.

Once they arrive at their secret underground bunker, we meet Star Spangled Kid’s step dad, who is the team’s mechanic and appears in only 3 or 4 issues of the series. His inclusion here seems like a bit of cross-pollination with John’s Stars and STRIPE book, where he is the co-star. However, it may have already been cancelled by this point. He takes a little guff from old friends and sets the team up with a plane, the Steel Eagle, which aspires to but never achieves the status of the X-Men’s Blackbird. Off they go to Milwaukee.

Why Milwaukee? Because that is the home of Jim Rice, Todd’s stepfather, a drunk who used to beat him. In his apartment, the team finds a shadow man sitting an armchair. As far as they can tell, it is the only shadow in the city. When Sentinel approaches, the shadow sucks him inside of itself; then it expands to cover the whole the city. The heroes try to protect civilians around the city, but the shadows slowly possess the heroes. Inside the shadow, a realm called the Shadowlands, Sentinel sees Jim Rice and the other part of the villainous duo Ian Karkull. There is the only editor’s note in the issue to explain Karkull’s history, referencing a story from 1941.

Outside the only three JSAers left who aren’t possessed, Atom Smasher, Black Canary and Star Spangled Kid, are captured. Obsidian (Todd) begins a classic villain monologue while Atom Smasher argues with him. Kid manages to free Black Canary, bringing us back to where the story started. Just before Canary is overcome by the shadows, a flash of light disperses them, revealing the new Dr. Midnight.

JSA #8: Shadowland

The first seven pages of this issue are introduction to this new Dr Midnight. Quickly we learn that he is an actual doctor, that he has a few light and shadow based gadgets, he can see in the dark and he has one of the best sidekick/pets ever: and owl. The owl is peeking in on Obsidian with the rest of the JSA, and feeding it back to Dr. Midnight via a tiny camera around its neck. It also features the first pairing of Black Canary and Dr. Midnight, which is the only real, possibly sexual, relationship that suns through the first year or so of the book.

Back with Obsidian, Atom Smasher tries to appeal to his shadow possessed teammates, but Obsidian tells him that they can’t help because they are currently living out their worst nightmares in their minds. Flash sees his dead successors come back to haunt him, Hourman is faced with an existential crisis; Hawkgirl relives an apparent murder she committed, etc. Obsidian proceeds to taunt Atom Smasher until Karkull returns with Obsidian’s fathers.

Obsidian then rails against both of his dads with ideological rantings. Nothing is left as subtext. From the juxtaposition of Nature and Nurture, which this story comes down on the side of nurture, to Obsidian flat asking Sentinel what he thinks about the legacy he’s left, with a wife that has committed suicide and a son who has become a super villain.

As Obsidian moves in for the killing blow, Canary and Midnight arrive. They free their non-possessed teammates and manage to break Hawkgirl free from the shadows. Atom Smasher manages to corner Obsidian, but despite Obsidian’s taunting about him being weak, he is unable to kill him to save his friends. So the team beats a hasty retreat. Karkull then reveals that he has been playing Obsidian from the start and tries to take him down. Obsidian then turns the tables on him and absorbs his powers. He then uses it to cover the whole world in shadow.

This issue is mostly rising action. It is the team beaten, and held at their lowest point. Their enemies appear triumphant. There are some moments of thematic worth here, though. Like Sentinel realizing the failures in his legacy and Atom Smasher thinking he’s found some of his own with inability to kill Obsidian, his best friend. The middle issue is tough, since the first issue generally establishes the conflict and the last one ends it, but in the middle, it is only rising action.

JSA #9: Black Planet.

Now that the entire planet is covered in shadow, everyone on the planet is going crazy. Because not only is the world dark, but also people are forced to face their inner darkness as well. Sentinel tells the rest of the team that by staying together they can pool their willpower and overcome their dark thoughts. So he leaves them to deal with their possessed teammates and the other possessed inhabitants of Milwaukee while he deals with his son.

Star Spangled Kid and Hawkgirl manage to free Hourman, who slows down Flash enough for them to free him as well. Dr. Fate manages to shake free of the possession on his own. Atom Smasher, with Rice hanging around his neck, seals the rest of the shadow people, including Sand, behind a wall of cars. Rice wants to know why Sentinel doesn’t need to be in contact with anyone else to stave off the darkness and Atom Smasher tells him it is because he is already living his greatest nightmare.

The central conflict of this issue is the conflict of this whole arc. It is Sentinel facing his mistakes and the truth of the legacy that he has left behind him, all in the person of his opposite powered son. So they have one of Johns patented shouting philosophical debate/fights. Obsidian feels as though the world has cheated him, with some pieces of a good point. He was the son of the superhero, but he was raised by an abusive drunk. He did not inherit his father’s light-based powers, like his sister, but instead powers of darkness and well as his mother’s mental problems. Not an actual good point, but enough of one to see why he wants what he wants. Sentinel is facing his most immediate legacy, his son, turned from being a hero (just before this he had been a member of a particularly forgettable JLA team) to a villain. And not an ambiguous villain, he has turned evil for evil’s sake. For the reasons mentioned above, as well as for the obvious symbolism (light vs shadow) and because he is actually crazy. It is not the most spectacular fight in this series, but it is a warm up for later, larger stories.

One interesting note is that Alan is only effective against Obsidian after he recalls his time as Green Lantern. Due to supposed reader confusion, he was going by Sentinel at this time, instead of his original name, Green Lantern. In a series about a character’s legacy, being forced to use a different name is problematic.

In the end, Alan is unable to save Obsidian, though he does stop him. Obsidian flees back into the shadow dimension, taking Jim Rice with him while Alan goes off to break the news to his daughter. The team is kind of down here. They saved the world, but they didn’t save Obsidian On the flight home Flash utters a disgusting sentiment about people being born bad, but it does not seem to be one endorsed by the book. Idly some members of the team wonder what Wildcat got up to in their absence.

Which segues to the two-page coda of Wildcat sitting in the bathtub, possibly attempting to engage in phone-sex with Catwoman only to be disturbed by an attack by the all-new Injustice Society.

I don’t feel that this title is completely up to speed yet. Some characters very important to the run have yet to be introduced and Johns has not yet found his footing. However, this is still a solid arc that sets up plenty of future stories. Yes, there will be more intercalations with Obsidian and Atom Smasher’s willingness to do kill to save people will again be tested.

Next time: Wildcat stands alone, JSA v Kobra and Sins of Youth.

Comic Reviews for Late April

  • All Star Western 8: This continues to be a great comic. Palmiotti and Gray manage to make Jonah Hex a complete bastard and somehow still likable. In this issue he gets to play off a group of villains who can’t be faulted for expecting him to side with them, some legitimately good vigilantes as opposed to Hex’s amoral attitude and the still wholly unsuited for crime fighting or police work Dr. Arkham. Moritat’s art isn’t quite as polished here as it has been, though it is still excellent. And the back-up is just the greatest. A
  • Aquaman 8: Reis’s art is perfect superhero art and Johns is as on as he’s ever been. In this is vintage Johns, weaving a simple but satisfying superhero story with great skill. The amount of characterization for both the young Arthur and his team, the Others, is amazing considering the small space Johns has to tell it. John’s young Aquaman is angry and reckless, not quite as heroic as one would expect but young enough that he is understandable. Plus, there are some great moment between Aquaman and Mera. B+
  • Batman 8: Another great issue of Batman from Snyder and Capullo. I get the feeling that the Court of Owls hasn’t been discovered by Bruce because they haven’t been active for some time, given the wide range of targets they are attacking. Things look really grim for Gotham and for Batman and though I know Batman will win because he is Batman, I still like how this is shaping up. It is a great start for this sort-of crossover. B+
  • DCU Presents: Challengers of the Unknown 8: This is a bad comic. I had high hopes at the start of this, even with the reality show backdrop, but this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It doesn’t even have an ending. It just sort of stops with no resolution. It leaves a significant bad taste. D
  • Flash 8: This is good stuff. Flash explores the Speed Force and meets Turbine, a new version of his old rogue the Top. I liked the explanation for the accidents caused by the speed force and why exactly the Flash can use it. The main draw, as usual, is the art. Manapul is the best. A
  • Green Lantern Corps 8: The start of the trial of John Stewart leaves me cold, but Guy being commended by the Guardians is one of the best twists this title has had in years. Guy is such a jerk I can’t see this lasting long, but his bafflement was worth it for this issue. B
  • Justice League 8: I love John’s more comedic take in this comic. Green Arrow’s attempts to join the league play out like an episode of the old JLU cartoon, though I am less found of the Martain Manhunter part. Even though all of these characters are serious in their own titles, in JL they seem to be cutting loose and having fun. It is a good take. The Shazam back-up is nice so far, but no a lot has happened. B+
  • Kirby Genesis 7: This is still chaotic, but finally there are some answers. I love the chaos. As long as the last issue brings things home satisfactorily this has been one fine series. This is really good. I’ll have more to say when its finished. A-
  • New Mutants 41: I realized something with this issue: I don’t really care about this comic anymore. I liked it when I started reading it. This issue should have been a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. The team goes to Madripoor for a night out and just party. If I cared at all about the relationships of these characters I would have loved this. But I just don’t care. C
  • Supergirl 8: I think this is the best I’ve seen George Perez’s art look in a long time. It is really good. I also like that this issue starts to integrate Kara into Earth civilization. The reintroduction of Silver Banshee in a possible more heroic role is great. I really like Siobhan as a supporting cast member for Supergirl. Another good issue. B
  • Superman 8: There really isn’t anything here because there is never any doubt that Superman is going to reject Helspont’s offer. The alternate reality is a terrible possible future, but not a likely one. The best parts are the bits with the supporting cast. This book is still much better than the first 6 issues, but there is not a lot worthwhile in this issue. C-
  • Voodoo 8: If this was the route this title was going to take, then they should have done this 3 or 4 issues ago. Fallon was an interesting character, and killing her sucks. It makes most of the first 7 issues seem like a waste. I am still interested to see how this whole thing turns out, but I am mostly staying for the art. Sami Basri just gets better and better. I like him almost as much as Manapul or Chiang. C
  • Wonder Woman 8: Azzarello and Chiang’s trip through twisted myth gets back on track after an off issue. For a superhero title, WW feels surprisingly like anything might happen. This issue is back to the high quality of the first few. As always, Chiang’s art is phenomenal A-

Comic Reviews April ’12 Part 1

One might notice that I tend to rate comics rather highly. That is because I only buy stuff I like, so nearly every thing I review is from a series I like. If a series consistently is of a quality that I would rate a C or lower, the odds are good I will not be buying it for much longer. On with the reviews.

  • Action Comics 8:  Morrison and Morales first arc finally comes to an end. This has been a bumpy start to the new Superman, but it been mostly good. This issue is probably the best since the first. Superman stops Brainiac, of course, and there is plenty of great moments for nearly the entire supporting cast. Morales’s art is the best its been on this title in this issue too. All in all just a great comic. A-
  • Animal Man 8:Animal Man continues to be completely amazing. Jeff Lemire is amazing, and Pugh’s art is almost as good as Foreman’s was. Maxine shows more of her new powers and after an issue off the terror ratchets back up again. I still don’t quite understand how a family/horror comic works, but it definitely does. A
  • Batgirl 8: Gail Simone seems to be nearly done wallowing in the aftermath of Alan Moore’s thoroughly mediocre Killing Joke, finally done dealing with its ramifications on Babs and there are signs of moving on. For this series so far Simone has seemed determined to make Babs’ return from as painful for readers as it was for the character, but anytime the focus goes elsewhere Simone is at her usual high quality. There are some good scenes between Barbara and her mother, and the return of a great new villain. This issue is mostly good. B-
  • Batman and Robin 8:  This has been the secret best Batman book of the relaunch. Batman gets all the accolades, but B&R has been just as good. Here we get the aftermath of Damian killing Nobody at the end of last issue, and amazingly it is intelligent and reasoned rather than loud and melodramatic. This is a quiet, recovery issue where we see that the realtionship between Bruce and Damian may be strained, but it isn’t broken and neither is either of them. Plus, Pat Gleason continues to be awesome. B
  • Batwoman 8:  The second arc of this series has not been anywhere near as good as the previous one. Partially it is the loss of JH Williams III on art, part it the scattered nature of the story it is trying to tell. I applaud Williams and Blackman trying to push themselves, but so far I would classify this as a failure. Reeder recently left the book due to creative differences, and I can’t say I’m sad to see her go. Her art is normally great, but here it has been inconsistent and kind of bad at times. I’ve read some reviews that blame it on the inker, but whatever it is, the art just doesn’t look as good as it should. C
  • Frankenstein Agent of SHADE 8:  I really do not likes Wong’s inks over Ponticelli’s pencils. Instead of looking distinct and scratchy, it merely looks bad. The story here is much more personal than anything in this series so far. Frank and Lady Frank go on the hunt for their child, who they presumed dead but is actually missing. We get to see what drove the wedge between Frankenstein and his Bride, as well as see the manipulations of Father Time start to turn on him. Frankenstein is just a great character. This is a great book. A
  • Green Arrow 8:  Another issue that is interesting if not particularly good. The big problem here is the art, which occasionally looks really good but often fails to tell the story effectively. It took me several reads to parse some of the pages. There is a lot of weird going on here, with hive-mind triplicates and genetic experiment and a midget with a sniper rifle. I’m sticking around for at least a few more issue to see how this turns out, but I don’t think I could recommend this with any conviction. C
  • Green Lantern 8:  I enjoyed the first arc of the relaunched Green Lantern, but this issue feels like the first time Johns has been on track since before Blackest Night. We are finally getting some answers about the Indigo Tribe, plus Hal actually uses his ring to make some constructs. Mahnke’s is great as always. I thought Johns might be running out of steam on this title, but now I think he is back on track. B+
  • Justice League International 8:  I still really like Lopresti’s art. It has a simply a good, classic superhero look. Too bad the story here is just so painful. There are a few nice character moments here, like the little bit between Guy and Ice, but mostly it is stupidity on top of gruesome stupidity. It is lingering on the desperate, “look at how extreme we are” blowing up of the whole team while setting up a cliché new bad guy and adding in pointless new teammates. Other than the nice art, JLI is an insultingly bad book. D
  • Kirby Genesis 6:  The only flaw in this issue is that it has been too long since the previous one. This series gets better and better. At first the sheer number of heroes and monsters popping up can seem bewildering, but other than some clearly defined major players, the rest are just there to show that this is a world gone made with crazy awesome ideas. The tenous alliance of villains is showing cracks, but they may have already won. Which of course they haven’t, but those are the stakes we are playing at here. The fact that these are largely Kirby’s rejected ideas just shows how many awesome stories he had to tell. A
  • Mega Man 12:  I love this series so much. This issue manages to cover the entire Wily’s Castle section of Mega Man 2. It is non-stop action that can’t help but put a smile on the face of anyone who is familiar with the game. It manages to tell a story that anyone can understand while also tossing out some nods to old school Mega Man fans. I especially love Guts Man angrily taking down the Guts Tank and Mega Man learning how great Metal Blades are. This is pure fun. A
  • Men Of War 8:  If this is a preview of what Frankenstein is going to be like when Matt Kindt takes over for Lemire, then I think the book is in good hands. This issue is downright manic. For better or worse this feels like 2 or 3 issues worth of story crammed into one. Frankenstein and GI Robot have a fairly generic superhero team-up, they meet and fight then join forces to take down a larger threat, but it is set against the backdrop of WWII. The only problem is that it is jittery, trying to cram so much in that it just jumps from scene to scene. Still, it is a hoot. B
  • Saga 2:  I’m not quite as sold on this as the rest of the comics reading world seems to be. I like it, but I don’t love it. Some of it feels like it is trying too hard to be clever. Again, though, I do like it. There is good chemistry between the two lead characters and as goofy as the names for the bounty hunters are, they are interesting at first glance. Still, this issue feels far too brief. It is over almost as soon as it starts. I’m still on board, probably for the long haul if Saga gels into a consistent tone. B
  • The Shade 7 (of 12):  James Robinson has been at his best with this series and he continues to be. The Shade allows him to let is sometimes verbose writing go, as it fits with the character. This is probably the weakest issue of the series so far; it is a bit unclear as to how exactly things go down at the end. Or maybe its just been too long since I read the last issue and I do not quite remember what was going on. Either way, it is still enthralling, if a bit foggy. A-

Comic Reviews from late March

These comic reviews are about a week later than I wanted, but my comics came about a week late. Still, there was plenty of good stuff in this half of last months releases.

  • All-Star Western 7: Palmiotti and Gray get Hex out of Gotham for a while, and it mostly works. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are fun characters and the new villains, the August 7, have potential. The only problem is that the back-up story is nowhere near as good as the previous one. A-
  • Aquaman 7: This books is back on track after a somewhat too heavy handed previous issue. Reis’ art is some of the best superhero work around, and Johns is on his game with his Other League he is starting. Its too bad he has to fall back on having his villain kill one just to prove how dangerous he is. Still, a solid issue. B+
  • Batman 7: This is something of a comedown from the rest of rest of this series so far. Not that this is a bad issue, but it is certainly lower key than most that have come before it. There are finally some explanations, but at the expense of not having that much actually occur in this issue. B+
  • Captain Atom 7: This continues to be one of the most underrated books DC is putting out. This take on Cap. Atom has drawn comparisons to Dr Manhattan, which is accurate, but Nate Adam is neither as intelligent as he was nor as distant. Here we get his origin, as well as a little more inside Nate’s head. Another solid issue in what has been a solid series. B
  • Flash 7: This continues to be one of the best looking books out of DC, and is also one of the least dark. While Captain Cold’s powers have changed, his character really hasn’t. There is also an effective superhero love triangle, or maybe more of a pentagon, at work here. This is just a really good traditional superhero book. A
  • Flash Gordon Zeitgeist 4: Maybe it is just because I am still new to being a Flash Gordon fan, but this series has been really entertaining so far. While it is using all the same parts as the classic 1980 film, the only version I am familiar with, it still feels remarkable fresh. I would be outright gushing about it, except that near the end there is a page with the wrong speech bubbles on it. It really breaks the reading experience. C
  • Green Lantern Corps 7: While I have largely been a fan of Tomasi on this title, even since the relaunch, but this is an issue that didn’t need to happen. It is almost entirely John Stewart returning the body of the lantern he killed to save to corps home, and being really heavy handed laying on the guilt. Plus, the art is nowhere near as good as it usually is. C-
  • John Carter: The Gods of Mars 1: The previous Marvel Barsoom mini was very good, and this one starts out on the same level. This biggest change is in the art. Perez’s art is a big change from Andrade’s and while they are both excellent, I thing Perez is a better fit. This is just an all around great issue. B+
  • Justice League 7: I have to say that I like Gene Ha’s work much more than Jim Lee’s. Otherwise, this is more of a slice of life issue than the rushed adventure of the first six issues. Johns is building tensions between the League, the government and the populace, as well as doing more interesting with Steve Trevor than anyone in at least 25 years. The best issue yet. B
  • My Greatest Adventure 6 of 6: This anthology title sadly comes to its end. I think I am only of the only people reading this, but it is really good. The Robotman story is poignant, and Garbage Man is a not quite as good take on the same story. Tanga’s story is completely different, but not especially original. Still, there were some good weird stories with really good art. B
  • Supergirl 7: This is one of the best issues that is mostly a fight scene I’ve seen in a while. Kara is out numbered and trapped, but she fights smart. Asrar’s art is still really good. The world killers are some interesting new villains, they feel like a match for someone of Supergirl’s power and are connect to her, not Superman. B+
  • Superman 7: Giffen and Jurgens get Superman. There is plenty in this issue about boring Wildstorm villain Helspont, but the parts about Clark and Superman are really good. If The writing team can maintain that tone when they get to tell their stories, then this title should move up to be among DC’s best. B-
  • Wonder Woman 7: This has been one of my favorite titles since DC relaunch, but this issue is just a miss. It is a well written, well drawn miss, but a miss nonetheless. This issue answers a question that no one ever asked because it doesn’t make any sense to ask. Where do immortal warrior women get their children? It has been long established that they don’t have children, so there was no question to ask. I hope they quickly put this frankly stupid misstep behind them and get back to the great story they were telling. C-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Reviews for Late February

So I guess I’m doing comic reviews again. We’ll see if I can keep this consistent or if it is doomed to be a sporadic thing. Not too many titles this week.

Justice League #6: The new Justice League’s first story comes to its cacophonous conclusion. I’m not jumping on the rapidly filling up hate train for this title, but I would say that this story didn’t quite come together as well as it could have. In the end it is all empty noise and confusion. Lee’s art is as explosive as usual and John’s has a strong handle on the team’s various personalities, so its not all bad just a touch incoherent and soulless. C+

The Flash #6: The art in this titles remains as impressive as it has been since Manapul took over drawing it at the start of the previous Flash title. The story, while less exceptional than the art, is solid. The Flash is one of the few books on the shelves that actually lets the hero’s out of costume life actually play a part as of late. The love triangle among Barry, Iris and Patty is as entertaining as the quite good superheroics, even though I am fairly certain that Barry will end up with the woman who was until recently Mrs. Flash. A-

Aquaman #6: Prado does finishes over Reis breakdowns instead of just inking this issue, but it is not that significant a departure other than some wonky faces. Aquaman takes an issue off as we focus on his wife Mera. Johns really needs to turn the volume on this issue down. In big hero v villain fights his eschewing of subtlety is often a plus, but this issue could stand to be much less bombastic. Mera breaking the wrist of a handsy pervert would be more effective than her crushing all of the bones in his arm. For all its overloud warts, this is an effective if blunt bit of character work for Mera. B-

All-Star Western #6: This issue reinforces that Jonah Hex is an awful bastard. He is cowboy Punisher, a man the reader can only root for because his enemies are even worse than he is. The highlight of this issue is the extended gunfight between Hex and some child slavers, where Palmiotti and Gray step back and let Bernet tell the story with his art. Which he does beautifully and gruesomely. The back-up story is just as good as main one, bringing this story about the Barbary Ghost to a close, but leaving the door open for her to return in either another back-up or in the main story. This is an excellent comic. A

The Ray #3: This series has been a bright spot amongst a sea of darker titles. A ray of light, if you will. This issue turns a bit darker, but is still primarily fun, classic superheroics. The villain is a man who makes reality his own movie, a fitting villain for a book set in Southern California. I’m sad that this is only a four issue series. Good stuff here. B

The Shade #5: This is one of the best books on the stands. Robinson, teamed with a variety of excellent artists like this issue”s Javier Pulido, has recaptured the magic of his Starman run from a decade ago. His work since has been hit-or-miss, but he has yet to go wrong when writing the Shade. Here we meet La Sangre, the Shade’s adopted vampire daughter, and have an adventure in Barcelona searching for a vial of the Shade’s blood. The art is beautiful and the writing is intelligent and highly literate. A

New Mutants #38: Marvel’s double shipping policy means a change of artist, but it is not that big of a problem. This series is on the verge of being as fun as it should be, but for some reason I’m just not engaged. Maybe it’s the cast. I’m a fan of the classic New Mutants, I like Doug, Dani and Bobby and I’m okay with Amara, but I just don’t care for Warlock or Nate Grey. Warlock is supposed to be a joke character, but even with his goofy way of speaking he isn’t that funny and Nate is just aggressively boring. Plus, this issue tries to bring back Bird-Brain, one of the worst characters in X-Men history, which is saying something. C+

Voodoo #6: This title always seems to be just on the verge of taking off and being truly good. But it never quite gets there. Still, at the end of every issue I’m eager for the next one, ready for everything to fall into place so I can proclaim this series truly excellent. Basri is a terrific artist with a clear, fine style. With Williamson taking over for Marz the title has shifted from being a Sci-Fi tinged spy story to a spy tinged Sci-Fi story. Hopefully soon Voodoo will get it together and give readers some answers. B-

Next week look for the next VGA and for my reread of The Dragon Reborn, as well as some musings on my present video game playing and lack thereof.

Comic Reviews for late November.

The Flash 3. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Manapul’s and Buccellato’s Flash is one of the best titles to come out of DC’s New 52 initiative. The third issue further solidifies it among the very best books being published by ant company.

This issue picks up right where the last one left off, with Keystone and Central City in a mysterious blackout while the Flash ad his friend/partner Patty Spivot by to get to the bottom of a mystery involving Barry’s old friend Manual Lago.

The creators are telling their tale at a relaxed pace. Not that the Flash seems at all relaxed, he is in constant motion as the fastest man alive should be. However, they allow the central plot about Mob Rule and the blackout to move somewhat slowly as Flash deals with a multitude of smaller problems. Which allows the creators to experiment with how they show superspeed on the page.

That is where this book really shines. It is the perfect synthesis of art and writing. Better than any other comic out now, the Flash’s art and writing blend together to tell a story, which is what comics are supposed to do.

[****½]

Daredevil 6. Mark Waid and Marcos Martin.

Another great comic is Waid’s and Martin’s Daredevil. Like Flash, the art is superb. Marcos Martin is leaving after this issue (I believe) and he will be missed, even with the equally skilled Paolo Rivera is coming back on. It blends perfectly with Waid’s story. Daredevil again faces off with Bruiser. And again the way they show how Daredevil’s radar-like vision works is perfect comics. Bruiser’s powers are interesting, as is how Daredevil finally defeats him.

I do have some qualms about the story. It just seems too easy. I’m sure that this story will continue in a satisfactory manner, I have faith in Waid, but here the story seems to end just because the issue is ending. Also, there is little to no time for Matt Murdock in this issue. Still, it is a great read.

[****]

Quick Reviews:

  • Aquaman 3. Johns and Reis. Really good superhero stuff. [****]
  • Herc 10. Pak, Van Lente and Hahn. Marvel’s great Hercules saga ends with a dull thud. [**]
  • All-Star Western 3. Gray, Palmiotti, Moritat and Bernet. Not as good as previous issues, but still not bad. [***1/2]
  • Fury of Firestorm 3. Simone, Van Sciver and Cinar. The art is fine, the story should be better from this team. [**]
  • Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist 1. Trautman and Indro. Flash’s origin doesn’t really get to the good stuff. [***]
  • The Shade 2. Robinson and Hamner. Robinson’s return to Opal continues to shine. [****½]

 

 

 

Comic Reviews From Too Long Ago

These reviews are from the shipment of comics I got 2 weeks ago, but didn’t have time to review because I was busy with other things.  But here they are now.

Captain Victory 1.
Sterling Gates and Wagner Reis.

Sterling Gates crafts a fine introduction to Captain Victory with this first issue. The bulk of this issue is spent showing the reader exactly who Victory is and what he is fighting for, without sacrificing the immediate action. While it is primarily focused on the title character, Gates still manages to instill personality in several of this crewmen.

The primary action of the book is an assault on a planet by the forces of the evil Blackmass, under the command of one Batteron, with Captain Victory fighting against them. Weaved in with that are scenes from Victory’s youth, being raised by his grandfather’s, Blackmass, men. His lessons are juxtaposed against the current situation to show exactly what he has learned.

If there is a weakness to the issue it lies in Reis’ art. Not that it is particularly bad, but there are some rough spots. The armor worn by many characters never looks right. It seems too small, or their heads too big. Other than that there are some moments that look stiff, using signature Kirby poses that do not gel with the other panels.

All in all a fine first issue. Nothing mind blowing, but a set-up for what promises to be some satisfying superhero tinged space opera.

Mystic 4 of 4
G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez.

What an utter disappointment. Not the art, Lopez does just a phenomenal job as he has done all along on this title. But the story, what a disappointing ending to what began as a wonderful mini-series.

Instead of the climax to the brewing conflict between former friends, it deals with a much more generic and much less interesting calamity involving a magical eclipse. It brings the two friends together, sets the conflict up, then just brushes it aside, seemingly postponing it for a later story that does not seem likely to ever be written. This issue renders much of the previous ones completely useless. All that time spent of Harry Potter-esque hijinks seems completely wasted, as that came to nothing. There is nothing to this story, no central theme or conflict built to a satisfactory resolution. Just many small conflicts quickly forgotten rather than resolved. Please, don’t waste your time on this.

Bonnie Lass 3 of 4
Michael Mayne and Tyler Fluharty

This excellent series is showing no signs of letting up until the last issue ends. I don’t want to give much of it away, but Bonnie and her crew have found their treasure, now they must fight for it. The majority of the issue is taken up by a fight between Bonnie’s crew and a group of mysterious adversaries. The art is wonderful, cartoony and expressive and it is a perfect fit for the story being told. And while some bits of dialogue clank, the villain’s big monologue fell flat for me, the story is well told.

I gushed about the first issue of this series, but I missed reviewing the 2nd. I’ll just say that taking a chance on this was one of the best comic buying decisions I’ve made. It isn’t deep, but it sure is fun. Pure exhilaration until the last page. I can’t recommend this enough. I’ll probably have a review of the whole thing after I get the last issue.

Deathstroke 2 & 3
Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennett

I thought the first issue of this series was decent, but it didn’t really get me interested in continuing to read the title. But I heard good things about the next issue, so I went ahead and picked up both issue 2 and 3.

Both issues are delightful, full of ridiculous, over-the-top ultra-violence. Slade is a crazy anti-hero Clint Eastwood, who kills and maims with wild abandon. He is out to prove that he is not over the hill, as many people seem to believe him. And his method for achieving this is to make his contracted kills as violent and public as possible.

Joe Bennett’s art is crisp and chunky, far enough away from realism that every time Deathstroke chops off someone’s had with his giant sword it comes off as less gruesome gore and more cartoony absurdity. It works well with the very comicy stories that Higgins is writing, like in issue 2, the fight with Road Rage, a hired killer on motorized roller-skates. There is also some underlying mystery with a briefcase that I don’t really care if it is ever revealed. It doesn’t matter what is in the briefcase, only that it pissed Slade off.

As long as it keeps up the level of crazed ludicrous violence, more humorous than gruesome, this is a title worth reading.

 

Comics Reviews October, Part 1

Action Comics 2. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. [****]
I loved the first issue of Morrison’s revitalization of Superman. He deftly fused some of the best of the golden age Superman with choice pieces of Byrne’s reboot and later versions. It had an energy that most comics, let alone most Superman comics, lack. It was great, this brash young Superman fighting for the little people and against the studied hate of Lex Luthor. This second issue doesn’t lose the energy, but it does lose control of it some.
Captured at the end of the previous issue, Superman is subjected to torturous tests by Lex and a cadre of military scientists, defended only by Doctor Irons, who in previous continuity was the hero Steel. It is still a magnificent re-imagining of the Superman mythos, with as many warts as possible sanded off. However, the plot of this issue falls into the trap that people often erroneously claim Morrison’s stories fall into. Somewhere in the ideas and the big moments, it loses cohesion and any sense of actual narrative. While that is usually a bogus claim of those whose reading comprehension is poor, I believe this issue strays into incoherence. It feels like 30 pages of story crammed into 20 and that compression leads to a story that feels like some important parts are missing. Still, the ideas underlying the carry it well enough, as long as this is a one-issue blip and not a continued problem.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E 2. Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. [****½]
The first issue of this series promised much, but didn’t quite deliver it. This issue does. It cleans up the action from the first, throws a few more big science fiction concepts onto the page and manages some deft characterization of the monster fighting crew of monsters that populate this book.
Frankenstein is a no nonsense man of action. Griffith, the werewolf, is an eager young soldier. Mazursky, the sea monster, is a committed, possibly mad scientist with a combination of determination and damage. Velcoro, the vampire, has gotten the least characterization so far, but he seems to be a bit of a sociopath. Then there are the scientists of SHADE, who supply the team with support and crazy tools. It is like a monster sci-fi James Bond. Ponticelli’s scratchy art is a perfect complement to the black humor of the story. It all adds up to a terrific comic.

The Shade 1 of 12. James Robinson and Cully Hamner. [*****]
James Robinson returns the world where he really made his name. Back to Opal City and to the Shade, one of the biggest characters from Robinson’s seminal Starman run. The villain turned hero, sort of, Shade was easily the best character from that series, save for maybe its star.
Despite it being ten or so years since Starman ended, Shade manages to pick up right where it left off but not be alienating to new readers. All information needed is on the page. Shade is jovial and verbose, though he claims to be in the dumps. His girlfriend, police officer Hope O’Dare, suggests an adventure to perk him up. Interspersed in between Shade scenes in an encounter between one Von Hammer and a group of hit men. What he learns from them points him to Shade. There is an undeniable charm to the Victorian born Shade. He is acts like a man who has lived for more than a century might act. He is calm and never surprised but also not jaded. At least not anymore. This is just a great book. I look forward to the rest of it eagerly.

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