DC Reads & Reviews: 4/18/07 Edition

Opinions on the Work of People Far More Talented Than I

52 Week 50
World War III #1-4

The best way I can summarize these companion books is thusly: 52 Week 50 does the War better in a quarter of the time.

While World War III was an overblown blood soaked exercise in, “oh crap, we didn’t really answer all those questions we said we would!”, 52 was a succinct story of a man pushed to the breaking point who pushes back far too hard.

World War III fails even as an attempt to catalog and explain away many of the OYL changes not yet touched on. It feels like a checklist jury rigged as plot. There are peeks at the OYL situations, sure, but many don’t rise to the status of explanations and those that do are unsatisfying.

52, on the other hand, nicely brings Adam’s rise and fall from grace to a close on a bittersweet note that seems both hopeful and foreboding all at once.

It is a case of less is more and 52 has it all over its companion mini

52 Week 50: B+
World War III #1-4: D-

Birds of Prey #105

There’s not much plot progress here, but the action is quite nice. The Secret Six’s newest member is an interesting choice, especially in light of her most recent appearance.

Umm…I find myself a bit short on things to stay about this issue. It is a quick, well written read that keeps BoP consistent streak of goodness going.

B

Justice League of America #8

Despite my well noted aversion to most things Legion related, I kind of enjoyed the Karate Kid as Trident revelation here. Granted, it does not make a lick of sense to me, but I’m just assuming that’s because I’m not a huge Legion fan. That is also why I can’t read Interlac while, apparently, so many others can. Those others, by the way, tell me that Starman says “Lightning Lad” to Karate Kid.

This is probably Meltzer’s best Justice League issue since #0, although it is hardly flawless. Again, small moments are what are making the book so fun. Terrific talking trash, while blindfolded and playing chess. Batman unraveling Terrific’s technique after a beat (and seemingly unable to help himself from solving that mystery). Power Girl bragging about a new piece she just bought. Red Tornado being more robotic than ever. Terrific being quite impressed by Red Tornado. And so on. It is good stuff.

On the other hand, a lot of Meltzerisms (I’ve copyrighted and trademarked that expression by the way) work against the story. The first name stuff is out of control. At first, it was fine, but now it is so distracting. It is especially hard to swallow given the “protect your identity” lessons of Identity Crisis which Meltzer himself wrote. The way he slows the action to get in the character moments, sense of pending doom be damned (I mean, they are sipping espresso for god’s sake!), is also problematic, no matter how good those moments may be.

However, the bulk of the problems I have with this issue lie with the art. Don’t get me wrong, I like Shane Davis. I thought his work on Mystery in Space was quite good (by the way, it occurs to me that he might’ve slacked off on that to do this…bad Davis, bad!). But it bothers me a little that the book’s artist checks out at the start of this huge crossover story…I just don’t get that. Either Benes is just gone for an issue, which means this is a fill-in or he’s gone for the entire arc and either way, it just seems a bad move. However, that’s not really the point.

What is the point is that Davis makes some poor choices on the art side. Take Karate Kid being fried by Black Lightning at the top of page 8. Clearly that is what happened, given what we see in the panels following, but from that one panel? It looks like the poor guy got stabbed by BL.

Then, on page 18, when Starman and Karate Kid meet for the first time and Starman uses Interlac, what happened to Kid? And why? Cuz the art doesn’t make it clear.

Or, consider the two page splash on 20-21. While it is filled with neat little moments (except for Canary’s smackdown of Doc Mid-Nite…why does she always gotta be so cruel to him?), the way everyone is standing is stiff, illogical, and just plain bad.

Overall, Davis does a solid job, but when he drops the ball, they are pretty glaring.

Overall though, a good, solid issue of Justice League

B

Manhunter #30

It is clear from the way the story is structured that this was clearly intended to be the farewell issue it almost was. However, it also nicely works as a sort of rebirth for the series as you are left with the distinct impression that Kate has turned a corner professionally, personally, and superhero-y in time for issue #31.

Andreyko nicely wraps up his various subplots, including Mark Shaw’s difficulties with the Saint Dumas cult, Chase and (Uncle?) Dylan facing off against Trapp (or is it?), and Wonder Woman’s grand jury trial coming to a close. They are quicker resolutions, I expect, than Andreyko originally intended but none of them feel rushed.

The real treat for me though were selected one-liners. I loved Kate’s assessment of Wonder Woman involving Ellen, the aforementioned crowning of Dylan as “Uncle”, and Obsidian referencing his time as the Justice Society’s security system. Very funny stuff.

On the art side, I never seem to give Pina enough credit, so here you go. Pina is very, very good and I hope he knows how excellent he is.

A-

Nightwing Annual #2

So what’s the difference between this book and World War III, DC’s other exercise in filling in the OYG blanks this week? Well, the simple answer is that this is good and WWIII was not.

But I’m not paid to be snide, so let me get a bit more in-depth with it.

The simple, non-jerky way to answer the question is this: Nightwing invests itself in the story, it takes time to give us context and deepen our understanding of what has happened. WWIII, on the other hand, was satisfied with just saying, “One year ago, this is what happened and that’s why things are the way they are.” It is the difference between explaining to someone why the rules are what they are or just saying, “Because we said so.” And that’s why this is DC’s best book of the week and WWIII is its worst.

Andreyko makes a great case for being NW’s ongoing writer by slyly “getting” Dick to the point that we get a joke about the “Grayson whine” a complaint of many NW fans over the past several years. He’s also not afraid to portray the Babara/Dick relationship warts and all. He makes no attempt to romanticize, revealing Dick for the horny teenager he was and the cad he often becomes. Similarly, the almost saintly Barbara is dirtied up a bit as we see her feign sleep, blow her first big chance with NW, and lash out.

And yet, everyone comes across as wholly sympathetic and realistic. You understand why they feel the way they do about each other and how, despite that, they still haven’t quite found a way to make it work.

Is it continuity porn? You bet. But it’s so good, I doubt you’ll notice.

A

Robin #161

Man, some days Robin just cannot catch a break. This time out, he goes himself beat up pretty good by the Lords of the Avenue, the guy he was hoping to interrogate slips into a coma, he has to use his almost girlfriend’s (who more or less dumps him this issue) dad to get access to a pharmaceutical firm, and, just when he thinks he’s on a roll, here comes a private SWAT team.

And all that bad stuff is just what he’s aware of. That doesn’t even include whatever Dodge and Batgirl are up to.

Beechen again proves to be a great choice for Robin as he seamlessly catalogues Tim’s life in and out of costume and the weird, uncomfortable ways they run into each other. Williams is no slouch on art either.

Another DC book that has consistently delivered since the flip.

B+

Ex Machina #27

I hate reviewing this book because it is always good and I find myself forever repeating myself (as I am doing here, no doubt). So I’ll spare us all some time and say, “it’s very good, just like you remember it.”

B+

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