Looking To The Stars: A Fortnight's Worth of Comic Reviews




AMAZONS ATTACK #3 (OF 6)
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist: Pete Woods

TEEN TITANS #48
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artist: Al Barrionuevo and Bit

WONDER WOMAN #10
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Jodi Picoult
Artist: Paco Diaz

I’m including all these issues together since they do, at some point, tell the same basic story from different angles and it is really more fair to judge all of them together.

So what happens? Well, in Wonder Woman, Diana kvetches about how yummy Nemesis is in the middle of a war zone while fighting her own mother while the JLA stand around and do sod all. In Amazons Attack, the unnamed American President declares war on the Amazons – by sending the National Guard out to arrest the inhabitants of every Amazon-inspired women’s shelters and putting said in habitants in concentration camps. And in Teen Titans, Supergirl and Wonder Girl – who rather take exception to innocent women being locked up (including Wonder Girl’s mother) – attack one of said concentration camps while the rest of the Titans try to stop them, only to get arrested by the Army for assocating with known Amazons.

Now, there’s been a lot of bad characterization marring this crossover from Day One. But it wasn’t until these issues that things got downright stupid.


* With Amazons attacking both Washington DC and Los Angeles as well as proving they have the ability to hit Kansas (they set a part of the wheat belt, including Smallville, on fire) shouldn’t the first order of business be to mobilize and fully organize the military?
* Is it really productive, in a losing war, which is basically being fought because a nation that thinks your nation doesn’t respect women, to start imprisoning without trial a group of women whose only crime is running a shelter for abused women based on the ideas of female empowerment?
* Is even the most pig-headed of military police officers going to arrest a group of superheroes for “associting with Amazons” when said heroes were, two minutes earlier, engaged in trying to stop said Amazons from attacking said military police and destroying a concentration camp?

This is not to say that the series has not been entirely without merit. There are some good character moments as well in Teen Titans and Amazons Attack.

* I like how Kara and Cassie are not, as the covers suggest, mindlessly following along with their Amazon friends but how they have a more personal stake in what they are doing. Cassie is trying to save her mother and Kara is helping her best friend.
* I like the irony in the two most inheritly war-like teenage female heroes in the DCU being the ones pleading to give peace a chance.
* I also like the irony of Supergirl trying to down Air Force One.
* I like how Green Arrow is already on the case when Batman calls him to warn him there’s a bomb at a nuclear power plant near his city.
* I really like Ollie being presented as knowing enough about weapons to confirm, upon finding the bomb that “this is too high tech for Amazons.” Seeing Ollie portayed as being competent is such a rare treat these days…
* On the above note re: Amazon Tech – granting that the Amazons are being presented as being stuck in the Bronze Age, this had always been depicted (especially during the lead-up to Infinite Crisis) as being more by choice than anything and that they were more than capable of making big modern weapons. I mean, didn’t this whole war start because Diana was locked up for refusing to tell the Pentagon how to make a Purple Death Ray?

But one thing I don’t like at all – and judging by the other blogs and boards I’ve read I’m far from alone in this – is how Jodi Picoult has totally mischaracterized Wonder Woman.

In my estimation, there is one very simple thing to remember in writing Diana. She does not doubt herself.

She may question her actions after the fact – appraise her tactics and try to improve – but she does not angst. She does not mope. She does not, in fact, go emo and get introspective. At least, not in the middle of a war zone where her people are running amok and killing everything with a third leg.

Under Picoult’s pen, Diana went from Amazon Princess to Jewish American Princess. She spent less time being a wonder and more time wondering. She spent less time on the frontlines and more time in the coffee line.

And one final comment for Ms. Picoult, who had this to say about fan criticism of her Wonder Woman run in SFX Magazine.

“You have to keep it in continuity or you will be attacked by the messageboards, which are made up of really scary people who live in their parents’ basement. If you mess with any details at all, they’re all over you.”

Actually, Ms. Picoult, I believe most of the complaints we basement-dwellers had were less about continuity and more about the fact that you depicted Diana, in her secret identity, being unfamilar with how a gas-pump functions, how a credit card works or how to order coffee, despite having lived in Man’s World for the better part of a decade.

Now, of course they don’t have such things on Paradise Island. And it makes sense that coming into the culture of America Diana would be unfamilar with how these things work.

BUT – and this is a big BUT – even if you ignore the old comics other writers wrote which said that once Diana came to Man’s World, she made contact with a female scholar of Ancient Greek Culture who helped Diana get accustomed to Man’s World – you still might credit the Amazons with enough intelligence to realize that things may have changed in the 2000+ years.

You might think that, having decided to send an Ambassador to Man’s World in order to teach them of the greatness of the Amazon lifestyle, that they might use some of that magic they’re sitting on the let Hippolyta view Man’s World and declare “Yeah… they’re screwing the planet up and we need to help.” to further scout out just how much the world had changed so that their ambassador might be fully informed upon the way of life of the people she is going to educate.

And while this would probably not include lessons upon how to order a latee or the wonders of Visa, there would almost certainly be SOME mention of how they have horseless chariots and how it might be a good idea to learn how these things work so as to better relate to those she is trying to teach.

And you might think that after nearly ten years in Man’s World, there are some things Diana might have tried to pick up on!

The funny thing is I have a friend – not a comics reader but a fan of Picoult’s novels – who asked me about the first issue. I mentioned the gas pump thing and she was confused.

“Wait… if she doesn’t know how a gas pump works, how does she refuel the Invisible Jet?”

Now, I know that Diana doesn’t really have the Invisible Jet anymore and that it probably ran on magic instead of jet fuel. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone who is NOT a comics fan thought of a good, logical reason in the context of what she knew about the character as to why Diana WOULD know how to refuel a mechanical vehicle.

That’s not a continuity argument – that’s just common sense.

Gail Simone can’t take over this book fast enough. And as much as I loathe the idea of Judd Winick returning to write Green Arrow AND Black Canary every month… I think Diana and the Amazons need Gail more right now.

Grade: D for the whole series. D for Amazons Attack. C for Teen Titans. F for Wonder Woman.


BLACK CANARY #1 (OF 4)
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Paulo Sequeira and Amilton Santos

I didn’t have high hopes for this one based on the preview and Bedard’s early interviews, in which he said that – having been optioned to write a Black Canary: Year One story – he chose instead to write a solo-adventure for her, saying that she didn’t need a Year One story.

And then this issue went on to prove, very much, exactly why Dinah DOES need a Year One story.

I wrote last week about how scattered Dinah’s treatment has been by various writers in various books recently. One minor part of this I didn’t discuss is that nobody can seem to agree on whether or not Dinah was a JLA founder in the reality of New Earth. This story says no. Another book says no. And yet Dinah was seen fighting the aliens whose attacks led to the foundation of the JLA alongside Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman…

Bedard brings up another confusing point here by reintroducing Craig Windrow – an ex-husband who, Canary fan that I am, I had never even heard of until this issue. Indeed, Craig is so obscure of a character that even Dinah’s biography on the best damn Black Canary page there is, Canary Noir, doesn’t even mention the guy past a name. Anybody know what issue it was revealed Dinah was married for 9 months to this guy at the age of 18?

But it’s really not fair for me to grouse about what I wish this issue had been when what it is isn’t bad at all. While the opening Flashback that was previewed months ago had me worried, it turned around with the first page where Bedard does something a lot of writers can’t – he actually showed, for a second, the good man that Ollie is underneath all the bluster, shouting and showmanship and why Dinah loves the brute. And the scene with Sin decimating a playground is cute.

Still, I can’t help but wonder about Dinah being put into the token girlfriend post, albeit indirectly here. The baddie of the piece, Merlyn, is only interested in Dinah because of her connection to Green Arrow and not because Dinah is now guarding the girl who was meant to become the next Lady Shiva – which is something you’d expect the League of Assassins (of which Merlyn is part) to be interested in.

The long and the short of it is: Dinah – and by extension her adopted sister – are only of interest in relation to Green Arrow. Which is a REAL bad way to start off a series that is already beset by worries of Dinah being reduced to sidekick status. Granting that Dinah doesn’t exactly have a big, personal Rogues Gallery… there had to be a better way.

Still, the characterization isn’t too bad. Let’s wait and see where this takes us.

Grade: C


BRAVE AND THE BOLD #4
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: George Perez and Bob Wiacek

It’s running a month late but oh ye gods was it worth it!

This book is pure undiluted awesome. The perfect balance between form and function, art and writing, stuffing and potatoes. It is all that, the bag of chips and the toy prize.

But I do go on.

Seriously, though – if you want to introduce someone to the pure coolness that can be the DC Comics Universe, this is a good book to start with. They may not know thing one about Supergirl or Lobo but this issue will tell them everything they need to know by issue’s end.

Of course while this issue is part of a larger story, it’s no less accessible because of it. I imagine this will read quite well in the upcoming Hardcover collection which I have already ordered for my library.

If you aren’t reading this book already, you need to be.

Grade: A


COUNTDOWN 44 & 43
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Adam Beechen, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Artists: Carlos Magno and David Lopez

I remain one issue away from dropping this book.

The Rogues story is the only thing that keeps me here and even now that’s a pretty thin handhold. About the only thing keeping me here is the fact that Piper and Trickster had nothing to do with Bart Allen’s death directly and that it looks like the criminal faternity is about to bust them both in a big way.

It’s not that the book is badly written. For the most part it is high quality writing. I just have little interest in watching Mary Marvel go evil, Jimmy Olsen trying to understand why he is going through an erratic series of superpowers or watching Holly “Catwoman Junior” Robinson camp out in an Amazon Women’s Shelter/Day Spa.

Still, the funeral moments in the most recent issue are true to form. And the tape of Bart filming himself to talk about death rings truer than any characterization Bart has had since before Infinite Crisis. Still, a part of me wonders why nobody seems to act when two costumed villains show up in front of a superhero funeral chasing after two men…

Grade: C


DAREDEVIL #98
Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano

A bit of a step-down from last month, but that’s a bit like moving down from the peak of the Empire State Building and going down one step on the last staircase. Still, it is nice to have it confirmed that there’s something going on with Melvin Potter apart from a total nervous breakdown and that Melvin isn’t so far gone that he won’t allow a lady in her underwear to cover-up in a bathrobe before tossing her off a rooftop.

In all seriousness, Brubaker and Lark are the perfect team for this book. This is the best monthly book Marvel puts out. At least, for this moment. Fantastic Four and Thor may overtake it given time… but for now, it is bar none the best book Marvel is putting out right now and one of the best put out by any company.

I hope the Eisners this year will reflect this.

Grade: B


DETECTIVE COMICS #833 & 834
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher

The definition of a true artist.

Someone who writes something that is basically fan-wank fan-fiction and you know it is fan-wank fan-fiction and yet it is good in spite of and because of this fact.

It’s no secret that Paul Dini has a major crush on Zatanna. Big enough that he’s actually married a stage magician who bears an uncanny resemblence to the Big Zee herself and big enough that he sneaks her into any story he can. So here we have a story involving evil stage magicians, Batman having to turn to Zatana for help and bad things happening as The Joker becomes involved.

Sounds like a recipe for bad Mary-Sue fan-fic, doesn’t it?

And yet, it isn’t. But it is. This is very much Paul Dini showcasing why Zatanna is a cool character. And it doesn’t come off as being the writing of a pitiful fanboy writing fantasy stories about his crush.

And why is that? Because while he is indulging himself, Dini sticks strictly to the framework of the DC Universe. So while we do get his fun-loving, wide-smiling take on Zatanna from the Animated Series episodes he penned, we also get the subtext of how Bruce no longer trusts Zatanna due to her part in wiping his mind during Identity Crisis. That is why this book works so well and why Dini continues to be one of the driving forces in modern comics.

Grade: A


FANTASTIC FOUR #547
Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar

Ah, there is so much to like about this issue.

Johnny Storm flirting with Black Panther’s amazon bodyguards.

Black Panther’s desire not to be disturbed during his “kingly duties”, i.e. using the men’s room.

Storm’s insistance that Ben Grimm prove that her hair is real and not a wig or a weave.

Reed Richards giving Hank Pym the most backhanded complement in history. (I’m paraphrasing but it was basically “I couldn’t gain your expertise in biochemistry without several weeks of intensive study.”)

And that’s before the actual plot involving the Frightful Four trying to kidnap Susan Richards kicks in!

And before anyone panics about this being a throwback to “Suzie the Girl Hostage”, worry not. Sue manages to outwit, overpower and hold her own against all of the Frightful Four until the team leader pulls a gadget to take her down.

Take that, Jessica Alba!

This is a good comic for all fans of all inclinations. It’s accessible to new readers while leaving plenty for the old fans to feel good about. But most importantly – it’s just plain fun, which is something we have all too little of in comics these days.

Grade: B


GREEN LANTERN SINESTRO CORPS SPECIAL #1
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer:
Artist:

This is book of the week.

This is book of the month.

This is book of the year.

This may be the book of the decade.

Why? Simply because of this page.



A quick bit of explanation is in order as to why this above image is so important and so awesome.

The guy in the bottom-left corner is Sinestro. Once the most respected of Green Lanterns, he was the first to be kicked out of the organization after being found guilty of protecting his sector of space by instilling order through fear and repression. Sinestro was banished to the Anti-Matter universe and met up with a group of aliens, The Qwardians, who gave him a yellow ring that allowed him to hurt the relatively invulnerable Green Lanterns.

Most of this issue details how Sinestro has formed a Corps of his the most ruthless, sadistic and fear-inspiring bastiches in the universe in order to take on The Green Lanterns using yellow rings like his own, powered by pure fear.

The man in the lower-right corner is Kyle Rayner. Chosen by the last of the Guardians to safeguard the last Green Lantern ring, Kyle eventually brought about the resurrection of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians. They rewarded him by giving him the title of “Torchbearer” and decided to make Kyle the first in a new line of Green Lanterns – one who would have the power of willpower made manifest infused into his very self instead of through a ring and lantern.

By the end of the issue, it is revealed that Kyle was actually chosen to be a host to Ion – a being made up of pure willpower who does indeed grant great power to it’s host… but only so long as it has a host. Kyle is then tossed to Parallax, a similar being who is the very essence of Fear Itself. Now possessed by Parallax, Kyle has allied himself with The Sinestro Corps.

The bloke in the upper-left is Hank Henshaw aka The Cyborg Superman. Posessing the power to control machinery and robotics, he was responsible for – during The Death of Superman destroying Coast City, hometown of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Since that time, he has gone on to use his powers to take control of The Manhunters – a group of robots created by the same Guardians who created The Green Lanterns to police the universe before it was decided that killer robots were unreliable.

That red guy on the left under Henshaw? That’s a Manhunter. They’re pretty bad ass on their own but they’ve become even worse since Henshaw gave them the ability to siphon the energy right out of a Green Lantern ring. (This occured in the Green Lantern monthly comic, BTW)

The kid in the middle? That’s Superboy Prime. The only survivor of another universe that was destroyed, he went a wee bit crazy and wound up nearly destroying our universe during Infinite Crisis. The Green Lanterns were put in charge of imprisoning him and the Sinestro Corps busted him out. He has all the powers of Superman but Kryponite from our universe doesn’t hurt him. Both he and Henshaw were being held prisoner by The Guardians before the Sinestro Corps busted them out. Naturally they both have a grudge.

So here you have a man who was once the greatest of Green Lanterns and one of the most intelligent generals in the Universe, a man who had the mental fortitude to wield the power of a god and not loose himself to it, a master of robotics who dominated an entire species of evil robots and a teenage boy who can punch holes in reality.

And they all now either have rings that allow them to do whatever they can think of or are posessed by a being who gives them that same power.

Now THAT is a group of super-villains!

You all remember super-villains, right? They’re the guys superheroes used to fight in big crossovers before they fought each other over laws regarding power registration or whether or not you should commit suicide to save a friend’s life.

But it’s not over yet. Not only do we have a formidable group of baddies leading an army of darkness the likes of which the universe has never seen… do you see that big guy in the back? The giant who says “As am I.”?

That’s The Anti-Monitor. AKA The Ruler of the Anti-Matter Universe. AKA Guardian of the Sinestro Corps. AKA The big baddie from Crisis of Infinite Earths who is supposed to be dead.

He’s back.

And commanding the army of darkness being lead by the aforementioned four heralds, any one of whom would be an Omega Level threat for the Green Lantern Corps any day of the week.

Oh, this is going to be GOOD! 🙂

Grade: A


RED SONJA #23
Company Name: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Homs

You know, I KNOW I’m supposed to be sad that Sonja’s companion sacrifices himself and uses his last bit of magic to save her life.

I know I’m supposed to feel bad that all of Sonja’s companions are dead and she alone is left to face the evil that is even now corrupting her world.

But really? I’m glad that we’re getting back to what I always felt Red Sonja was about – one woman against the world, who doesn’t need anyone guarding her back. She make take companions on for a time or join a party – but for the most part, Sonja is a lone wolf apart from society.

That being said, while I like this issue… I still have no idea what the pirate story has to do with anything. Still, the art is good and Omeing is weaving a strong tale of fantasy here. I look forward to the payoff.

Grade: B


SHEENA #1 (OF 5)
Company Name: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Robert Rodi
Artist: Matt Merhoff

The first comic-book heroine to hold her own monthly title has returned home.

Yes, Sheena was the first monthly comic title-bearing action-heroine, beating Wonder Woman out by a matter of months. Learn something new every day, eh?

And while we are learning, let us first forget. Forget everything you think you may know about Sheena. Forget everything you think you know about jungle girl comics being nothing but cheesecake. Forget the stupid Gena Lee Nolin series and the even stupider Tanya Roberts movie. And above all, forget the host of imitators that have come before and after this book.

Rodi has neatly updated Sheena for the 21st century, moving the world’s most famous jungle heroine from The Congo to The Amazon. Instead of fighting smuggelers and poachers, this Sheena fights loggers and banana republic dictators. And while this issue is a little exposition heavy and a bit slow in giving us the jungle goddess herself, I think this slow build will only serve to make the action to come all the deeper.

I’ve read several complaints from other readers and reviewers about this book and how it has too much plot and not enough Sheena. Sadly, by not enough Sheena most of them seem to mean ‘not enough forced cheesecake artwork’. Or, in one case, “2 many words! Where are the b00bz?!?!” This wanking rabble will no doubt be pleased by Frank Cho’s upcoming sorta-sequel to Shanna, The She Devil.

The rest of us, more sensibly, will be reading Sheena. Accept no substitues!

Grade: A


SUPERGIRL #19
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Alé Garze and Marlo Alquiza

It’s always painful when a writer has a book taken away from them and they are given an all too brief ammount of time to try and sweep up the mess before closing-up shop. Case in point: the scene on this month’s cover does not take place in this book. In fact, Superman doesn’t show up until the last two pages.

So what does happen?

Basically, Joe Kelly is given the thankless task, in one issue, of tying up all the loose plot-threads from the last 18 months of Supergirl. Needless to say, he doesn’t quite manage it. Because while we do get a lot of nice character moments here with Kara trying to make ammends to everyone she treated badly, there’s still a lot of unresolved questions… such as how did Kara hurt Batgirl with a crystal her body generated if the whole “phantoms from the Phantom zone” story arc and everything that followed was just an illusion created by Dark Angel… which is what I THINK happened.

So long, Joe. Know that at least one of us critics will miss you.

Grade: C


THOR #1
Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Oliver Coipel

I freely admit – I bought this one purely because I figured it was a sure bet to be worth a few bucks on ebay by the end of the week. I hadn’t actually planned to read the thing until I noticed that it was written by JMS.

Now, I seem to be one of the few who actually enjoyed his mythological take on Spider-Man. And while the idea he presented was just an idea and not meant to be taken as gospel, it did show that JMS had a deep knowledge of mythology as well as an ability to reimagine old archtypes in a new setting.

With that in mind, it seems to make perfect sense that he be charged with bringing Thor – long asleep since he averted the cycle that made the gods of Asgard endlessly repeat Ragnarok – back to life in a new series.

I suspect I may be picking up issue #2. Honestly, this book is a bit of a slow start and serves mostly to catch-up those who did not read the last Thor series and wonder just why Thor has been absent for so long, why he would feel a need to return to Earth after basically dying and where he is now. But ignoring the slow pacing – which, in a JMS story is usually a sign that something big is building – this is not a bad first issue at all.

I dare say that there is a storm on the horizon and I’ll defintely be picking up issue #2.

Grade: B

Tune in next week! Same Matt Time! Same Matt Website!

Visit our blog at: http://www.livejournal.com/users/looking2dastars/

Tags: , ,