Iain's Anti-Nexus Reviews

52 WEEK SEVEN:
“Going Down”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Art by Ashley & Draxhall
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by DC

DAY 42 – Adam Strange tries to fix his broken-down spaceship so that he, Starfire and Animal Man, stranded ever since the space shebongle during the Infinite Splat, can leave the planet they have come to not call home. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult for him to complete without any eyes and his companions are more interested in scoffing the delicious local fruit, which is having a rather adverse effect on their once-heroic personalities. Strange nearly snaps Starfire back to her senses, perhaps by making damn sure she notices his very impressive new beard, and she heads off into the jungle, alone, to both clear her hand and see if there is any sign of the “mysterious power output” they detected. Strange can fix an interstellar vessel but still thinks this is a good idea.

DAY 43 – In Gotham, Renee Montoya laments the lack of attention that The Question has given her ever since the shoot-out that left her with a broken arm. She still has a cast on her arm. She still has an open bottle of wine on her table. She reads through her scribbled notes and the newspapers and manages to make the astonishing leap of connected 520 Kane Street, the warehouse that stocked those illegal alien weapons, to the wealthy Kane family. Sheesh, it took her three weeks to make that connection? No wonder GOTHAM CENTRAL got cancelled…

DAY 44 – In Metropolis, Ralph Dibny, unwittingly competing with Adam Strange in the nifty beard stakes, visits Booster Gold and asks for help in his prolonged investigation into Wonder Girl and the Cult of Connor. Booster is more concerned with getting to an outbreak of mob violence at Lexcorp HQ noted in Skeets’ database – not to mention the mysterious phone call from somebody demanding money from him. Dibny finally gets pissed off and finally twigs that Booster didn’t warn him about Sue’s death and finally grows a pair and finally looks like he’s going to kick ass. Instead he settles for pointing out to Booster just how self-absorbed he has become, again, even by his own old standards, challenging him to prove that he simply wants to protect Metropolis in Superman’s absence.

Meanwhile, Montoya goes to visit Kate Kane at her family’s mansion and gets punched in the face by the Jessica Rabbit wannabe for her troubles. We get a rather lengthy conversation between the DCU’s most overlooked detective and the comic book industry’s most well-publicised lesbian and future Batwoman, covering both their former relationship and the mysterious warehouse in the Harbour District. Neither topic appears to be easily resolved but persistence is key, with small steps towards resolution made on both sides.

Back in Metropolis, Booster puts out a burning tanker beside the Lexcorp HQ. Lois Lane brings him up to speed on the situation – Luthor’s open call for volunteers for his metagene testing program has brought a huge crowd to this part of town, even in the late evening. Booster is rightly worried about the prospect of Luthor selling metagenes but quickly reverts to worrying about himself when Bob Castell, TAFKA Manthrax, appears and lets Lane, Dibny and the rest of the crowd know about how Booster paid him to stage a fake assault last week – then paid him with a cheque that bounced.

Finally, over on wherever-the-hell-they-are, Starfire finds a big pointy shiny thing sticking out of the ground. She is intrigued, as any sane person would be, by the bigness, pointiness and shininess, which means she doesn’t see the Super Big Alien Dude dressed in Super Gay Alien Duds looming behind her. Oo-er, et cetera.

Score: B

52 WEEK EIGHT:
“Thief”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Pencils by Eddy Barrows
Inks by Rob Stull
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by DC

DAY 49 – In Metropolis, Natasha Irons is still persevering with her new Steel costume, which her Uncle John Henry wants her to make on her own rather than simply acquiring one from him or metagene therapy from Lex Luthor. For his troubles, John goes into the kitchen and starts having a heart attack of sorts… which quickly subsides, leaving him with a patch of steel skin across his chest.

DAY 50 – In Star City, Ralph Dibny continues to plead for assistance with various other heroes that all have their own business to get on with. This time he is pestering Green Arrow, who is struggling to try and contain the city in the wake of Infinite Splat. It is rife with looting, anarchy, degradation, police corruption and the inability of one man with a quiver on his back to try and counter such overwhelming negatives. Dibny suggests, in a roundabout fashion, that he run for mayor. Oliver Queen is not so keen but does help Dibny find the Star City hide-out of the Cult of Conner, which has been abandoned. Dibny explains that the cult is using Conner Kent as their icon because they worship resurrection and believe that the dead can come back to life… and then remembers exactly what happened at the hands of Kevin Smith in GREEN ARROW #1…

DAY 51 – John Henry is examined by some female doctor called Kala at S.T.A.R. Labs, who confirms that his skin is steadily turning into stainless steel – which, when you look at it, is more often that not actually stained somehow. He blames Luthor – cos, y’know – suspecting that he infected him with something back when he brought the press to see Alexander Luthor’s body. Then there is an explosion and his samples are lost.

DAY 52 – Some woman of-a-certain-age rambles incoherently about her and her grandson being moved safely away from harm by an unidentified hero. Quite a lame way to mark this number of day, really.

DAY 53 – As before, but with a fire fighter that looks suspiciously like Guy Gardner with a better barber.

DAY 54 – As before, but with a Steve Guttenberg-in-Police Academy cop and a Mary Jane Parker Watson-in-Wonder Woman bathing costume chick.

Meanwhile, the press continue to hound an increasingly agitated Booster Gold about last week’s revelations – including Clark Kent, who guarantees to find out who this new hero is.

Meanwhile, Natasha take a phone message for her uncle about the effects of Luthor’s metagene therapy on his DNA, gets the wrong end of the stick and thinks that he is taking the treatment he forbade her from getting. Later that night she accidentally breaks her nearly-completed new costume, confirms that she is an irritating teenage girl, and goes into a big strop, running away after bitching out poor John Henry.

Back over in the random-weird-alien-planet-thing, Adam Strange and Animal Man go looking for Starfire – finally – and find her strung up in a net, hung from a branch. They very cleverly figure out that it might just be a trap but very stupidly fail to actually back this up with the appropriate action and get caught by the Super Big Gay Alien Dude too.

DAY 56 – In Metropolis, Luthor arrives at Lexcorp HQ, greeted by the unwashed masses that would clearly do anything to get chosen for the metagene therapy next. Ever benevolent, Luthor decides to bring one in for treatment – Natasha Irons.

Score: B

52 WEEK NINE:
“Dream Of America”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Pencils by Shawn Moll
Inks by Tom Nguyen
Colours by Dave Baron
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC

DAY 57 – In Metropolis, at Lexcorp HQ, after a fast-and-furious night of genetically altering Natasha Irons, Lex Luthor prepares to present his creations to the world – proudly boasting of how the spirit of the American Dream has evolved to the giddy heights of the everyman becoming the superman. John Henry Irons, now entirely covered in that which matches his name, Steel, burst onto the scene and grabs him by the throat. He might no longer be black in terms of pigments, but the fabled black rage remains. Then Natasha turns up, leading a bunch of fruity-looking weirdos in lame purple-and-green spandex that aims to protect their ‘boss’. She beats him up easily and effectively in a fight scene that drags on for at least three pages longer than it should have done. Still, at least it was clearly established that Steel has had far too much taken from him by Luthor and cannot bear the thought of adding his niece to the list – and that Natasha has grown tired of life dealing her a rotten hand, instead now preferring to snap up any available opportunity to advance herself.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Fruitloop, the Totally Gay Galactus Wannabe Giant Super Alien Dude has Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire strung up as he dismantles their spaceship. Doing himself no favours whatsoever, he calls himself Devilance the Pursuer. I don’t think even Julian Clary would be camp enough to pull that name and that costume off… though he might want to pull it off, but let’s not go down that road… He also claims to be the God of Pursuit, like a camp Punisher merrily tossing fruit to his prey as he buffs his purple helmet, and chastises them for seeing things that humans were not meant to during the Infinite Splat. The heroes escape, suitably spurting something hot on his face and get back to fixing their ship – now as a team, not simply leaving the blind guy to it.

Meanwhile, in Gotham, a buff trucker guy heads into a lesbian bar that I hope has a fire exit. He chats with Renee Montoya, still drinking, still with a cast, now complaining about Star City beating Gotham City at baseball. After a lot dialogue that goes round in circles, gets tired, has a little nap in between, then repeats itself, he lets slip that Gotham is being targeted by Intergang. On the rooftop above them, Batwoman listens. That would be a much better ending had it not been revealed long ago. Plus, making Batman’s female equivalent into a definite lesbian while he has to ignore all evidence to the contrary to continue hitting on the ladies speaks volumes about the mindset of the majority of readers.

Score: B

And now for the big fat stack belonging to the others…

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #533 – In which Peter Parker must deal with the repercussions of revealing his secret identity to the world, making him and most emphatically not Spider-Man into the most recognizable man on the planet. Old enemies begin plotting again, Aunt May and Mary Jane continue to offer support as best they can, Tony Stark continues manipulating the web-slinger’s traditionally vibrant emotional strings, J. Jonah Jameson reacts with both an unexpected fragility and characteristic ruthlessness, Flash Thompson refuses to believe a word of it, while the rest of the superhero community continues to take sides – and therein lies the problem. If this were a “What If?” mini-series then it would be wholly enjoyable. As part of a company-wide crossover (sorry, event) so flawed that only the most easily-duped could take easy enjoyment from it, this story struggles badly. Whilst well-drawn and, for the most part, well-written, this has been brought on by a blatant editorial desire for hype – one that is being furiously chased by the long shadow of the retcon monster. A solid tale, but a difficult one.
Score: C

DC: BRAVE NEW WORLD – In which we pay very little for six preview scenes of six new post-Splat titles that seek to re-introduce Captain Marvel, Martian Manhunter, O.M.A.C., The Creeper, The Atom and the Freedom Fighters. If you are at all interested in the DCU then there is no good reason not to pick up this 80-page book priced at US$1, but what about the six full-priced, full-length books it seeks to pimp? If you’re a fan of the Martian Manhunter then you may well be intrigued by the idea of doing something new with him other than having him scoff cookies and tut at the antics of the rest of the Justice League for once, but it seems a shame that this new direction involves making him thoroughly miserable and unlikable. The O.M.A.C. story involves unknowns without any powers and is rather more adult in content than the rest of these stories, complete with some marvelous art from Renato Guedes, but if you are after this type of story then you’d be much better off with 100 BULLETS. Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters bore the tits off of me and all of my non-American ilk, but have at it if you must. Jack Ryder and his “You’re Wrong” TV show is something I would be interested in watching, but reading about his subversive exploits as The Creeper feels like an unnecessary distraction and that cannot be what they were going for. The all-new Atom will, for the informed, depend entirely on your opinion of John Byrne, leaving the uninformed to wonder why this has to rely on “ideas and concepts devised by Grant Morrison” when clearly anybody seeking to imitate such a distinctive creator is doomed to failure. The preview for TRIALS OF SHAZAM looks so gorgeous that you will require prolonged periods of time alone with it, but sadly there is precious little in the way of story to hook the readers. Finally, we have the debut of not one, not two, not three, not four but five Monitors in an invisible satellite orbiting New Earth. The only sane response is to blink, turn the page and not say a word. This book has failed to sell me on any of the six series but is certainly a decent enough read to provide value for money.
Score: B

EX MACHINA #21 – How fitting that Brian K. Vaughan begins an arc dealing with the ins-and-outs of marijuana use just as Rob Van Dam loses his WWE and ECW championships after getting busted for possession. I’d mark out like a fat girl in a thong at a Westlife concert if a fallen stoner wrestler turns up later in this arc. Anyway, we get our customary flashback to the days of the Great Machine to show just how exaggerated public officials can make the marijuana ‘threat’ out to be just as, in the near-present, Mayor Hundred tries to calm his staff following an interview in which he admitted to toking in his college days. Hey, that’s a perfectly average question for a famous politician to answer. David Cameron gets things like “did you ever think of Margaret Thatcher while jerking off?” on a late-night chat show hosted by the BBC’s most expensive presenter. Meanwhile, the late Journal Moore’s sister, January, manages to take over January’s spot as an intern whilst secretly plotting with an as-yet-unseen enemy. Oh, and there’s a rather angry fireman beating up some stoned kids to steal something from the family vault. And let’s not forget the truly shocking last page, which of course can’t match the end of issue #1 but comes pretty damn close. Reading this book in the midst of Marvel’s Civil War titles only highlights just how clunky the idea of a politically-motivated superhero crossover (sorry, event) truly is. This is how it was meant to be and this is what you are meant to be reading. Embrace it.
Score: A

FANTASTIC FOUR #538 – In which Ben Grimm wanders around and tries to decide whether he should support or protest the Superhero Registration Act. Johnny Storm is still unconscious in a hospital bed, while Sue and Reed Richards are still bickering over their moral stances on the Act in a manner most unbecoming of Marvel’s First Family. Really, it is quite unsettling to see them heading down two separate paths. There are some lines that should not be crossed, so let’s hope that Marvel don’t have the two face one another in battle later on in this crossover (sorry, event). None of the developments in this issue, such as they are, actually matter. Luke Cage pops up for a bit and has a chat with The Thing about the possible repercussions of the Act but it is the exact same conversation that you can read in CIVIL WAR or CIVIL WAR: FRONTLINE or AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or several other titles. The need for the slow build is understandable, but not the need for quite so many tie-ins. What is important is that the mysterious man seen heading to Oklahoma at the end of the two-part Doom-tries-to-lift-Thor’s-hammer story has arrived there and has touched the hammer, sending a blinding burst of light high into the evening desert sky. Thor? Donald Blake? Both? Wait and see. As it stands his brief appearances are more intriguing than the Fantastic Four in their own title.
Score: D

THE FLASH: FASTEST MAN ALIVE #1 – In which we are introduced to the new Flash… I think. He is not so much a ‘new’ Flash as a former Kid Flash that was made to artificially mature mentally in TEEN TITANS #7 and then artificially mature physically in INFINITE CRISIS #5. Eventually left without any superpowers and without Barry Allen, again, or Wally West – for reasons too complicated to explain here but that inevitably involve the Infinite Splat – Bart Allen gets on with his life, getting a job and moving into an apartment with a work colleague. He is very knowledgeable but has not earned it. He is twenty years old but shouldn’t be. He is from another point in time and his reason for being in this point is now, seemingly, dead. He is a non-powered regular human but only because he chooses to be. He is a walking conflict, which should make him a truly engaging character. Sadly, this book is hindered by dead weight. Far too much time is spent on Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West and the cumbersome Speed Force that has come to dominate the Flash legacy. Really, in the landscape of the DCU, do readers actually feel that super-speed needs to be justified by something like the Speed Force? This was the perfect opportunity for a clean slate yet DC’s stubborn refusal to drop any aspect of its continuity leaves Bart Allen marginalized and overshadowed in what should be his own book. Avoid until they learn better.
Score: F

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #19 – In which Chameleon investigates the murder of a prisoner in a locked room that nobody entered or left. The outcome is obvious, with the culprit basically turning up and rubbing Chameleon’s face in till he finally twigs, but the journey certainly is fun. The premise of this title allows for Waid and Kitson to randomly chuck in a standalone issue featuring a guest genre, with the pair successfully proving that they can handle a detective noir – or as close to noir as a tale involving a shape-shifter and a telepath in the 31st century can possibly get. Furthermore, we get the introduction of an underground robotic rebellion that will inevitably cause the Legion further difficulties in the future, continued development of Brainiac 5’s quest to resurrect Dream Girl, and a Supergirl that behaves as Supergirl should – as an inspiring moral beacon, not an aspiring porn star. Waid should really be a lock to write SUPERGIRL in the near future. If you came in looking for further explanation of the new team member that turned up at the end of #18, or for any firm advancement of the Brainiac 5 plot, then you might be disappointed. However, as with the finest episodes of Lost, this is an engaging diversion from the main narrative that will ultimately strengthen the structures of the group and their setting.
Score: A

MARVEL TEAM-UP #22 – In which the evil Tony Stark escapes from S.H.I.E.L.D. captivity, kills the Diamondback robot that turned up in CAPTAIN AMERICA during Disassembled, forms some fairly lethal Iron Man armour and heads off to do something that most likely involves the Freedom Ring currently belonging to the wannabe-superhero left in critical condition after an encounter with the Abomination. Yes, this is indeed the lowest-selling Marvel title not to be cancelled yet and, yes, you would be doing yourself a service by starting to read it. This book is incapable of breaking the internet in half, or changing everything you thought you knew about a Marvel icon, or making one of those much-hyped startling revelations that is supposed to make for a definitive landmark moment. This is a good thing, since most of them are far more trouble than they are worth. Too many writers are too concerned about making sure they are remembered rather than the characters or the stories themselves. The pendulum has swung from the reign of the artists to the reign of the writers, with the stories going from empty and banal action plots to highly contrived sensationalism. Somewhere in between there is a happy medium and Robert Kirkman resides there. This book, and in particular this arc, is a pleasure to read.
Score: B

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #4 – In which Grant Morrison remembers those rumours about Justin Timberlake playing Jimmy Olsen in the new Superman movie and turns the character into somebody still just as irritating but with a keener hairstyle and celebrity girlfriend too. There’s even time to chuck in some black Kryptonite, a portal to the underverse, some fun at the Daily Planet and a little something called Doomsday to boot. All this series is missing is time to breathe, which somehow still works out as a breath of fresh air when compared to the vast majority of its peers. At some point in the future, possibly not until 2008, there will be an oversized hardback book that collects all twelve issues of this Morrison/Quitely run. Buy it. Start saving now. Treasure it, for it will be the single greatest Superman book of all time. If they would let me I would invent new and higher letters to grade it by, but for now…
Score: A

ASTONISHING X-MEN #15 – In which I realise that I had accidentally typed Astonishing C-Men and hurried back to correct a wildly inappropriate typo. Meanwhile, the less perversely titled core X-Men team has been infiltrated by the new Hellfire Club, which now includes Cassandra Nova and, temporarily I hope, Emma Frost. The X-Men franchise has been largely treading water for anywhere up to twenty years depending on who you talk to, with only Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN capable of reversing the rot outside of the Ultimate line. Somewhat expectedly, Marvel quickly back-pedaled with a vengeance but the one thing they seem to have stuck with was the Cyclops/Frost relationship. Whedon is a renowned X-Men classicist, which he reiterates again in this issue with Kitty Pryde, of whom he seems far fonder than any grown man should be of a fictional woman, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will allow this fairly new romance to continue or nip it in the bud just as it began to feel comfortable. Lord knows that Marvel won’t tell him no. He does seem to actually understand the Cassandra Nova character Morrison invented though, so there is a chance he won’t be quite as backward as the final page of this issue suggests he is. Regardless of your opinion of Whedon or the success of this title, you simply must pick this issue up and at the very least flick through it in the store for the Wolverine scenes. ‘Drastically altered personality exploited for comedic effect’ is another Whedon staple and here it works even better than it normally does.
Score: B