Iain's Anti-Nexus Reviews

52 WEEK THREE:
“New World Order”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Pencils by Joe Bennett
Inks by Ruy Jose
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC

DAY 15 – In Gotham City, at night, some confused cops call in Maggie Sawyer to check out a body that’s been found in an alley. It looks like Lex Luthor, disgraced former President of the United States of America. The corpse looks rather good considering that Joker blew his face off at the end of Infinite Crisis… Elsewhere, Power Girl battles Terra-Man, who robbed a plane over the Mediterranean, but since they are actually in Khandaq air-space Black Adam turns up and bitches her out. Seems he’s more than a little miffed about the heroes stumbling along, fighting the same old fights, apparently learning very little from the crisis that killed 5,079,432 people across the world. Can’t say I blame him, really…

DAY 16 – Down at the Steelworks in Metropolis, John Henry Irons very calmly handles the impetuous manner of his seventeen year-old niece and informs her that she needs to go to summer school after flunking English, despite acing her science subjects. I kinda wish I had a niece to mess around with… wait, no, that didn’t come out right… Moving swiftly on, Dr Avasti from S.T.A.R. Labs calls him about the Luthor corpse…

DAY 17 – Back in Khandaq, Black Adam continues his casual stroll through the valley of unflappable cool. This time around he squishes the face of Noose, a scrub from Intergang, which wanted to use Khandaq to safely smuggle weapons to Africa and the Middle East. That’s probably the best death scene since they put the Gremlin in the microwave in that movie about the Gremlins (I believe it was called “Death of a Salesman” or something). Terra-Man is still hanging out there and likes what he sees…

DAY 18 – In Metropolis, Booster Gold battles Shockwave, who was attempting to steal from the gold reserve. Metropolis seemingly has a gold reserve… with sewer access… dumb bastards… Later, he goes to one of those pesky business gala evenings that people like to attend to feel good about themselves. He signs a contract to endorse Akteon-Holt, a pharmaceutical company run by a guy named, uh, Mr Aketon, but the secret service turn up and close the whole thing down due to fraud. Yeah, secret service accountants, nice. Since Skeets didn’t see any of this coming, Booster gets concerned and tells him to track down Rip Hunter for repairs.

DAY 19 – John Henry finally gets around to examining the Luthor corpse and finally removes the coloured contact lenses from it. Yes, it took them two days to get that far in the autopsy. It just goes to show how very easy it is to lose sight of such matters while creating a book like this. Anyway, the real Lex Luthor turns up with the media and uses Alexander Luthor’s presence as a means to explain his rather irrational behaviour during his presidency. I’ve forgotten whether or not he was driven mad by Alexander’s presence, or just simply replaced by him, or why he injected himself with some nutty Kryptonite-based serum before making out with Amanda Waller back in SUPERMAN/BATMAN. It is all very confusing and makes me long for the days of Gene Hack-Man.

DAY 20 – Black Adam attends the opening of the Khandaq Embassy in New York City and impressively tops his previous cool-killing effort by literally ripping Terra-Man apart. With his bare hands. In one swift movement. Nice. As chunks of Terra-Man’s innards rain down on the assembled reporters, including Lois Lane, he lets everyone know that his tough-love style of government is going to be expanded from Khandaq to the entire world, since all the superheroes are too damn soft on the villains. If he puts someone in a microwave then he has my support…

Score: B

52 WEEK FOUR:
“Dances With Monsters”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Pencils by Joe Bennett
Inks by Jack Jadson
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC

DAY 21 – Montoya sits in a car down one of Gotham City’s traditional dark alleys, staking out some seemingly random building, downing coffee and popping pills. She’s doing all this because The Question hired her and is paying her $200 a day, plus expenses. He also paid three weeks in advance. The real questions to wonder are how the hell that guy can afford to hire somebody and why he couldn’t stake the place out himself? Meanwhile, in space, some crazy blonde chick called Halo keeps singing “lightning that can’t strike”, which somehow means she has detected a zeta beam opening up. Um, right.

DAY 22 – I’m assuming that this is a new day, since it doesn’t actually say anywhere in the issue that there were any events happening on the second day of this week. We catch up with Booster in Metropolis, still trying to find Rip Hunter but taking an important time-out to tell Fire to sod off and leave him alone. Booster doesn’t want to save the heroes that went out into space during the Crisis. His reasons are… well, no, they still haven’t been adequately explained at all. He says he helped save a future that spat in his face, which is why his personality has reverted so drastically from the initial post-Ted Kord days. I don’t see how. I’d be more inclined to believe him if he had just said “Fuck ’em, they went out into space and pretended to understand Donna Troy, I had to put up with the goddamn Batman. Retard.”

DAY 23 – Montoya continues her stake-out and The Question actually makes a brief appearance. He doesn’t say anything of note; just tells her off for smoking and tells her to keep up the work. I understand the need to keep this guy something of a mystery but so much time is being spent reiterating the basics with Montoya (and Booster) that the other storylines are being marginalized. Anyway, kudos to Bennett for Montoya’s little notepad and the cute doodle of The Question therein. Also, over in the Metropolis Steelworks, John Henry has himself a really bad acid trip. After having an insightful conversation with a better version of himself he realises he’s been poisoned, only for metal to start melting over his skin and cause an explosion…

DAY 24 – Somewhere, Ralph Dibny finally catches up with Wonder Girl at the HQ of her peculiar Superboy cult. He sure has been dragging his heels for somebody so desperate to get closure about his wife. Cassie babbles on about some Kryptonian ritual where people can be immersed in “the striped waters of the river Memon” and gain visions of the afterlife. And so Ralph tries it. And sees nothing. And the kids all run out on him. And they’ve nicked his wedding ring. And boy does it ever suck to be Ralph Dibny these days. And what the hell happened to Wonder Girl? Wasn’t she meant to be the vaguely sensible teenage female superhero?

DAY 25 – Montoya almost sleeps through somebody entering the building she’s watching but wakes up in time to follow him in. Of course, The Question is already there investigating anyway, so she’s rather redundant. Maybe she’s some sort of tax write-off. A lesbian tax write-off? Interesting. I knew someone who ran a club along those lines once. Think he wound up moving to the Mediterranean after closer investigations. Anyway, the person that entered the building turns out to be some fugly stock monster type that beats the crap out of both of them exceptionally easily. Really, it’s like Kurt Angle taking on Hansel and Gretel. Then Montoya finds a super-sharp alien death-ray bang-bang gun and blows the damn thing to kingdom come. Yes, the building was apparently a pseudo-warehouse for alien weaponry. Someone call Black Adam, there’s limbs to be a-rippin’…

DAY 26 – Nothing? Again?

DAY 27 – The zeta beam arrives in Western Australia. That’s a considerable delay for an instantaneous transportation device. Anyway, the remnants of the space ‘heroes’ turn up and, rather anticlimactically, I don’t recognise very many of them. There’s Alan Scott, missing an eye, and Hawkgirl, inexplicably large, some black dude in a blue hood with a stick through his chest, some small wasp-woman looking very much the worse for wear, and a strange orange glowy thing that may well be two people. I am sure I don’t know.

Score: C

52 WEEK FIVE:
“Stars in their Courses”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Pencils by Chris Batista
Inks by Jimmy Palmiotti
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Phil Balsman
Published by DC

DAY 28 – Alan Scott wastes no time in going to Animal Man’s wife, Ellen Baker, and letting her know about her husband’s passing during the Crisis. Well, about how he went “missing in action” to be specific. Considering that Alan only just got back himself, has been through a tragic experience and even lost an eye, the guy is either being highly chivalric in doing the rounds like this or he is just a cruel bastard getting off on the pain of others to relieve his own. Your call. Ellen, quite rightly, doesn’t believe that Buddy is dead.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor announces that he has isolated the ‘metagene’ that gives people superpowers. This means that he can give powers to any man or woman that wants them. An intriguing development to say the least, particularly for Booster Gold, who is, again, concerned that Skeets didn’t know of this. John Henry watches the Luthor announcement while getting back into his Steel outfit, apparently unharmed from the rather bizarre events of last week, and heads to the St Camillus Hospital to meet Alan Scott and Dr Mid-Nite. The strange orange glowy-twisty thing is actually Cyborg and Firestorm combined, while the black dude, Mal Duncan, has a bit of the Red Tornado lodged in his chest and is in critical condition. Alan Scott, not to be outdone, claims that his remaining eye isn’t even his own. We then get a rather sensational two-page spread of the aftermath of healing Alexander Luthor’s space-time rift. It seems that Adam Strange tried to get a zeta beam to take them away from the “reality-warping wave” that was spreading from the source, only the beam was splintered and lashed out rather randomly. One of them hit Supergirl and sent her… somewhere… the 31st century or Kandor? You decide! Alan finishes the exposition and heroically claims to feel like he has to set an example for the younger heroes. Unfortunately he’s saying that just as Mal Duncan is convulsing behind him, rather undermining the point since he’s not paying attention.

Over in Gotham, Maggie Sawyer drops by Renee Montoya’s department to see what really happened in the warehouse the other night. Renee blows her off but we see she has kept the super-duper proton-pack Egon-Spengler-special gun to play with.

Back at the hospital, the 25 feet tall Hawkgirl is starting to wake up, sending bodies scattering everywhere, while Mid-Nite and Alan try to save Mal Duncan. Steel sends some funky electric shockwaves into him via the Red Tornado’s part, which seems to do the trick but does make Duncan yell “It’s coming! 52! 52!” for some reason. Hey, it’s already here and we’re already buying it, calm down already…

DAY 34 – Yup, we’re skipping way ahead now. We’re also way over in outer space on an unknown planet, which is where Animal Man has wound up. He isn’t alone, Starfire and Adam Strange are there too. However, things are not as they seem. Adam has no eyes, Buddy is remarkably nonplussed in Starfire wandering around him in the nip, and there is some as-yet-unidentified Big Bad on the planet with them. Yes, they have crashed onto a paradise land where they do not belong and must contend with an unknown evil. Truly, they are Lost in space.

And throughout the past three issues, Donna Troy’s DCU history lesson has finally got as far as the end of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Hopefully things will get a little bit more interesting from now on, since she should start to explain how things like MAN OF STEEL and ZERO HOUR come into play…

Score: B

WONDER WOMAN #1:
“Who is Wonder Woman?”
Written by Allen Heinberg
Pencils by Terry Dodson
Inks by Rachel Dodson
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC

Another week, another big post-Crisis DC title hitting the shelves… This time around it is actually a fairly major one rather than, say, a bunch of nobodies fighting it out in Bludhaven. Wonder Woman has somehow become a major DC icon, right up there with Superman and Batman despite never drawing anywhere near as much interest as they do. There’s a good reason why the others share a title with one another rather than SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN or BATMAN/WONDER WOMAN and it isn’t just so the more sarcastic of us can make gay jokes. At least, that’s what we’re told. Really though, the upcoming relaunches of FLASH, JUSTICE LEAGUE and JUSTICE SOCIETY all sound far more tempting than this relaunch of WONDER WOMAN – particularly since Wonder Woman doesn’t even appear in the first issue.

Or does she?

Yes, it’s one of those stories. One of those insipid, self-harming stories where layers of identity issues and continuity concerns are bundled together and hurled at the audience, who is expected to react with patience and ever-stable gratitude simply because it is a post-post-Crisis comic book and that’s how they roll these days. Well, excuse me for not caring. If I wanted to read about Donna Troy conjuring up yet another back-story for herself then I’d stick a finger down my throat and keep pushing until I had vomited out whatever crazed parasite had infected me with such insanity. If I could possibly tolerate a title where the murder of Maxwell Lord continues to haunt the fabric of Wonder Woman’s characterization then I would be a far more palatable reader to the tastes of Dan DiDio, yet I would also be a far dumber person in most other walks of life. If I were to see the last page of this issue with the introduction of Agent Diana Prince and not think to myself “ye gods, those Tomb Raider movies made me self-harm and such blatant rip-offs do me no favours either” then perhaps I would be bothered to get the second issue and see how this plays out.

By the way, on that same page, look at the cops on the right in the background and tell me what the hell they are meant to be doing, since it seems like one of them is simply poking the other in the armpit and that they’re getting off on it somehow.

Still, there are some good points here. The major villains are introduced in quick succession, succinctly and effectively. We’ve got Cheetah, Dr Psycho and Giganta. None of them are exactly heavyweights like Lex Luthor or The Joker, which has always been a major failing of any Wonder Woman book, but at least the chance to make them look good in the relaunch appears to have been grasped with both hands by Heinberg. It’s just a pity that the rest of the story seems to be so clichéd and unnecessary. Really, did we need another Nick Fury clone to represent yet one more trite government agency?

Other than that, it falls to the Dodsons to carry the weight of the book. You know exactly what you’re going to get from their work in a book packed full of female superheroes, and they do not disappoint. Be grateful for small mercies – and try not to think about why Donna Troy left New Cronus to play dress-up.

Score: C

Now, I am rapidly running out of time and consciousness (damn you, overtime!) but still want to try and catch up with the books I’ve missed over the past fortnight. This means quick hits and plenty of them…

FANTASTIC FOUR: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY – In which, as promised, a member of the Fantastic Four dies. What Joey Q didn’t mention, but that most people worked out, was that the member would get better before the issue’s end. Marvel were rather vague about how essential this book was to readers of the regular title, most of whom thought, quite correctly, that the hype given to a ‘special’ issue with a title and plot involving one of the main characters dying, meant that it was more or less required reading. Not so. It is in fact a rather enjoyable tale, which makes it the second time in the past six months that an FF one-shot has been released that is far more engaging than any of their ongoings (the other being the underhyped and overlooked FANTASTIC FOUR SPECIAL by Dwayne McDuffie and Casey Jones). I guess that’s what happens when publishers overdose on crossovers.
Score: B

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #18 – Supergirl is still there and her presence is still a mystery. Dream Girl is still dead and Brainiac-5 is still trying to rectify that. The only real development here is the arrival of Rol Purtha, a replacement for Dream Girl from her home planet of Naltor, sent to join the Legion by the United Planets – an unpredicted side-effect of the Legion’s recent alliance with the UP. Treading water then, but in such a compelling and ever readable manner that I can’t possibly bring myself to treat it harshly as I would most other books in this situation. A little more progress next time around please, Mr Waid.
Score: B

MARVEL TEAM-UP #21 – This is now officially the lowest-selling ongoing Marvel book that has not yet been cancelled, so please do enjoy it while you can. Robert Kirkman’s Marvel tenure has been up-and-down, but the current arc of this title, “Freedom Ring”, is an absolute blast to read. Curtis Doyle happens upon a ring forged from a fragment of the Cosmic Cube, lost after various fracases between superheroes and baddies, and discovers he can use it to alter reality – but only in a thirty-foot radius. He decides to become the titular hero yet winds up near to death after his first battle, against The Abomination, goes horribly wrong. Can Spider-Man, dressed in his finest yellow-and-red threads, save him? Has Kirkman really managed to once again deliver some of the best exposition in the business, complete with charming dialogue? Will Curtis be able to explain things to his would-be boyfriend? Have Marvel finally got a down-to-earth gay superhero? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
Score: B

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #26 – You surely all know about this one by now. In terms of both the story and the storyteller it is a bittersweet farewell to a beloved innocent boy that was taken from the world far too soon. It also raises money for charity, which is more than enough to make it a must-buy. Thankfully, the story also happens to be tremendous fun, with the format allowing each of the guest scripters to embellish the haphazard excitement of the tale with unrestricted glee. I’m sure there’s something to be learnt here about what younger readers want from their superhero comics and whether or not they are getting it from the Big Two, but this isn’t really the place to go into that. If you only buy one comic this year, buy this one. If you buy two, buy another copy and give it to a kid.
Score: A

TRANSFORMERS: INFILTRATION #5 – The first story of IDW’s reign on the ever-profitable TF franchise seems to be nothing but a missed opportunity. Dreamwave’s stories were not to everybody’s liking but at least they always gave the impression that they were building up to something, even if Pat Lee’s inability to understand the importance of profit margins meant that we never got to find out exactly what they were going to build. This story has been 5 meandering stories about Starscream cleaning up his tracks on Earth after doing… something… while some of the Autobots are also there for… some reason… and try to stop it because, hey, they’re Decepticons, it must be bad. There is also plenty of time given to establishing three new human characters and various aspects of the Transformers infiltration tactics for living on Earth, yet since the next mini-series, Stormbringer, is set entirely on Cybertron and features an altogether different cast, this one seems to be completely redundant and oh-so-dreadfully dull. Reckon we’ll find out what it’s all about in the sixth and final part? Reckon not. Look forward to Deus Ex Prime and flippant remarks from the ‘rebel’ chick. Sigh.
Score: D