Iain's Anti-Nexus Reviews

52 WEEK SIX:
“China Syndrome”
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 Nick J. Napolitano
Published by DC

DAY 36 – In Metropolis, Booster Gold has arranged for a jobbing actor to dress up as a supervillain called Manthrax (yup, Morrison’s definitely doing the Booster parts of the story) and attack a train station so that he can make the big save and keep his media spotlight. Now that he can’t rely on Skeets to inform him of recorded events as they unfold, Booster has to take matters into his own hands. This is obviously causing him a great deal of stress, since he is exceptionally rude to the would-be Manthrax. His sudden reversion to the attention-seeking arse characterization that he had seemingly left behind after Ted Kord’s death is still rather jarring, but at least they are really making it work well. Plus, they may well explain it whenever they get around to wrapping up the Skeets plot, which is hopefully going to be soon, since it is taking up too much room at the expense of the other plots (particularly the Luthor one).

Special mention must also go to the finer details of the artwork. We see a woman washing the dishes and watching the latest Booster Gold newsbyte on TV and she is wearing a Lit Beer T-shirt. On the next page, we see Booster flying off with a Lit Beer logo front and centre on his sponsor-laden costume. Similarly, there is a panel with a boy watching the same newsbyte and holding a Booster Gold action figure, with a Martian Manhunter figure lying on the floor beside a Booster Gold comic book. Kudos to Giffen for keeping an eye on the little things and to Bennett for pulling them off.

I’d actually quite like to see a story exploring the legal ramifications of a company using the likeness of someone like the Martian Manhunter in order to make a profit. We all know that Booster Gold has umpteen contracts and exclusive deals, but where would the law stand on an extra-terrestrial without a secret identity? Anyway, back to the story…

Above the Great Wall of China, Hal Jordan and John Stewart are getting a thorough pasting from a group called the Great Ten. It seems that China has established their own steam of superheroes to preserve their nation’s interests, which is surely a long-overdue establishment for the DCU. Bit of a shame they all have rather lame names that I can’t possibly begin to remember or re-read but generally go like Walks-in-Park and Feels-up-Boobs and so on. The Green Lanterns are there to nab a bad guy called Evil Star, who has been dealing extraterrestrial weapons, which probably ties into the Renee Montoya plot, but since Evil Star went into Chinese airspace the Great Ten are to contain the situation themselves. Hal, mainly because he is a total dickhead, doesn’t respect this very simple and logical idea and keeps on fighting. I’m sure this is hardly in line with the ethos of the Green Lantern Corps, but then they are so poorly organized they still haven’t realized they have both Jordan and Stewart on Earth. Bureaucracy corrupts, but only after several meetings.

Elsewhere, on what must be a very busy day, Dr Magnus talks to Professor Morrow in his cell about the fifteen scientists that have gone missing since the crisis. Meanwhile, someone installs surveillance equipment into Morrow’s cell on behalf of an unseen party…

Back in (or above) China, the Stewart conjures up a BFG (as in Doom, not Roald Dahl… and as in the video game Doom, not the good Doctor from Marvel… sheesh, these geek-speaks are confusing) and blows up Evil Star’s ship. He nabs him as Jordan keeps beating up the Chinese. Then Black Adam continues to gain several new places in my heart by swooping in out of nowhere and lamping the arrogant shite on the back of the head. He even finds time to give us some very interesting exposition. Seems that Khandaq, North Korea, Myanmar and now China have formed a coalition under the Freedom of Power Treaty, so basically if Jordan wants to f*ck with anybody he should f*ck with Adam and see how he gets on. It’s about this point I want to start an “Adam’s gonna kill you” chant, a la Samoa Joe. Some Russians turn up to offer the Lanterns safe passage into their country, but Adam says he is already in talks with Russia’s government about joining the coalition… and Iran… and Pakistan… and Uzbekistan… and, basically, the USA can go f*ck itself rather than jerking off all over the rest of the world and expecting gratification for it.

All of this plus extraterrestrial weaponry and metahuman genes for sale… things are going to get very interesting…

DAY 37 – Booster and Skeets finally track down Rip Hunter in an underground bunker in the Arizonan desert. After a bit of fan-dangling, Booster does a swift break-and-enter but Hunter isn’t around. Instead we get a nice double-page spread of his trashed lab, which is packed full of delicious teases and intriguing suggestions for the fanboys to speculate on.

These include a blackboard with various scrawled sentences on it. Here are the main ones, make of them what you will…

“Time is broken”

“Dead by lead

“Further time is different”

“The four horsemen will end her rain?”

“He won’t smell it.”

“Find the last El”

“Sonic disruption -> Time Masters -> Time Servants”

“It hurts to breathe”

“I’m not Kryptonite”

“Where is the Curry Heir?”

“Who is Super Nova?”

“The Tornado is in pieces.”

“The reach / The reach / The reach”

“What happened to the son of Superman?”

“Where is the Batman?”

“Who is the Batwoman?”

“Te versus (Au + Pb)”

“Who is Diana Prince?”

“Secret FIVE!

“Don’t ask the Question. It lies.”

“The old Gods are DEAD. The new Gods want what’s left.”

“World War III? Why? How?”

“The Lazarus Pit rises

“I’m supposed to be dead?”

Immortal Savage

All surrounded by the number 52, encircled and arranged to point towards a larger circle representing Earth.

And a picture of Booster Gold surrounded by “It’s all his fault!” written all over the walls.

And if you aren’t curious about what happens next then you are about as easy to understand as Donna Troy.

Score: B

DAREDEVIL VOL. 5 HC
Collecting issues #66-75
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Drawn by Alex Maleev
Published by Marvel

This is the latest oversized hardcover collection of the series, which covers the eleventh and twelfth paperback collections. The first is “Golden Age”, issues #66-70, in which Alexander Bont, who ran Hell’s Kitchen before Wilson Fisk came to power and was arrested thanks to Matt Murdock, is finally released from prison, aged ninety-three, and comes looking for revenge. The second is “Decalogue”, issues #71-75, which takes a look at the lives that Daredevil touched, altered, saved and ruined in the year that passed since he brought down Fisk and announced that he was the new Kingpin of the Kitchen. Yes, it was a pre-emptive One Year Later jump of sorts. In many ways, such a move was not very surprising at all. DAREDEVIL may not be the biggest-seller in Marvel’s catalogue (it currently does marginally better than CAPTAIN AMERICA and marginally worse than IRON MAN) but ever since the title was relaunched to kick off the Marvel Knights imprint it has set the tone for the rest of the Marvel Universe. This is mostly down to Bendis rising to prominence on the strength of being a very good writer, helped ably by the wave of hype initially brought by Kevin Smith, who was then able to convince all the right people that the concepts he was doing were all the right things for Marvel Comics. Gwen Stacey was retroactively bastardized in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but Karen Page got there first in this title. The idea of a modern-day superhero marriage is being explored, somewhat laughably, in BLACK PANTHER, but Milla Donovan and Matt Murdock are far more believable. Kevin Smith’s involvement was the first major ‘outside’ name to join Marvel, leading to guys like Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski joining in the fun. The overall tone and feel of Marvel Knights, with DAREDEVIL as the flagship title, has more or less become the overall tone and feel of the Marvel Universe as a whole, shown in the necessary re-branding Joe Quesada recently initiated. In the comics themselves this is probably seen most clearly in the difference between AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS, again something spurred by Bendis and the skills he honed on DAREDEVIL. And, most obviously, there is the secret identity issue. Daredevil was the first superhero to suffer the ramifications of losing it, and probably the only one to have ever done so in a realistic manner (in as much as any superhero comic book can indulge in realism). In fact, if you squint and tilt your head to the side and rub your eyes and try real hard, you can almost see a smooth transition from DAREDEVIL to CIVIL WAR.

The party is over now, of course, with Bendis and Maleev paving way for Brubaker and Lark, which still leaves their final arc, “The Murdock Papers”, uncollected in the oversized HC format. Given the similarity between the two creative teams, and Brubaker & Lark’s experience on GOTHAM CENTRAL, I expect the transition to be smooth and the title to continue to produce the goods in the future, if not ever again to prove to be quite so groundbreaking. It would require another major retooling to do that, yet such a move would be unnecessary and almost certainly doomed to failure. It was clear to see that Bendis was running out of steam in this latest collection. Although the stories are good, they never quite arrest your attention in the way that Murdock’s outing, marriage or near-breakdown did – and for good reason. Those sorts of stories cannot be told constantly without diminishing the emotional return, so the aftermath, whilst perhaps a bit too indulgent for some readers, is actually of equal importance. Although I tend to avoid reading reviews or spoilers of titles that I trade-wait on, it does prove quite difficult to do that whilst waiting even longer for the oversized HC and writing for a comic book website, so the generally negative response to “Golden Age” and “Decalogue” became quite evident. These are certainly the sort of stories that you should be reading in one sitting rather than in monthly installments. However, if you haven’t figured that out about Bendis stories by now then there is no hope for you.

I am happy to report that, read in this format and with an appreciation for Bendis/Maleev body of work as a whole, these stories are worth your time. They aren’t perfect. The pay-off to “Decalogue” is rather pathetic, especially since Murdock actually states in the story that closure is important for Daredevil’s clients (for lack of a better term). The same can be said of “Golden Age”, though the unique framing device and varied art styles help to make that a stronger piece than it otherwise would have been. The trademark Bendis dialogue is a winner though, and far more at home here than it is in something like HOUSE OF M, and succeeds in making characters like Bont, the new White Tiger and the individuals in the church support group shine in the limited space afforded to them. Maleev also has a very distinctive style, one that is consistently appropriate to these pages. The page of Bont visiting his wife’s grave in issue #66 has no words but speaks volumes due to Maleev’s skill, and is actually the most emotional part of the entire book.

Perhaps it is better to look at DAREDEVIL in terms of seasons rather than issues, or even arcs. Issues #1-25 were season one, with Smith and Quesada setting the scene for the new-look title and David Mack filling in the gap. Then came season two, #26-81, with Bendis and Maleev breaking ground and building up in their own distinguishing manner. Now we’re into season three, run by Brubaker and Lark, and I’ll have a long time to go before I get there. As long as Marvel continue to produce these oversized HCs, the comic equivalent of a DVD season boxset, I’ll be there and it’ll surely be worth the wait.

Score: B

SHE-HULK VOL. 3 TPB – TIME TRIALS
Collects issues #1-5
Written by Dan Slott
Drawn by Juan Bobillo
Published by Marvel

Finally, this week sees the release of the latest SHE-HULK trade paperback. The insignia says volume three, but it is actually the first volume of the second volume of the title, which is really the third volume of the character’s own ongoing title, and it collects the first five issues of whatever you’d like to call the current run, but that somehow includes issue #100, and I’m giving myself a headache now.

Thankfully, I could relieve said headache at any given moment by picking up any given SHE-HULK story and letting its curious madness ease my woes. Honestly, they should distribute copies of this book in cancer wards and reap the benefits. If laughter is the best medicine then Dan Slott is the comic world’s Alexander Fleming. He can raise smiles and tug heartstrings in equal measure. It should be only a matter of time before Marvel move him onto their major titles but, selfishly, I want to keep him with Jen and Pug and Andy and all the rest of the gang for as long as possible. He even finds a way to write in Howard the Duck and John Byrne as guest stars and not make it seem completely insane. Now that’s talent.

I could go into more detail about the story but it is neither here nor there by this point, since you are surely reading this series in some form and if not then I’m barring you from reading this site any longer, so please be going away now please. On your way, go to the store and pick up some SHE-HULK. Then you can come back and apologise for being in the wrong. Then we can all dance the merry dance of the happy that originates in reading this book.

SHE-HULK. Good for what ails ya.

Score: A