CAPSULE REVIEWS DC Week 21 2008

It’s a fun week for DC afficionados! One image to whet your appetites:

Cross-dressing JLA : Sexual Identity Crisis. Read on!

BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS v.2 #7

(Chuck Dixon / Carlos Rodriguez)

When your A-team gets thrashed, it’s time to assemble the contingency players!

While Batman re-assembles the Outsiders’ back-up, we get a close look at the captured heroes, and a too-cool-for-words sequence with Metamorpho evacuated in deep space and surviving by slowly eating away at himself by converting his own mass into breathable oxygen.

It’s a shame Dixon has announced he’s leaving DC, as this reboot has proven to be the pinnacle of what one can achieve with the Outsiders book.

8/10

THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #13

(Mark Waid / Jerry Ordway / Scott Koblish & Bob McLeod)

Batman & the original Jay Garrick Flash. My only thought at the sight of that cover was ‘yawn- why can’t they pick some interesting line-ups for a change?’

It’s an amazing feeling when all your negative expectations are overturned page by page.

In one of the best B&B issues to date, the eldest Flash and Batman hang out, exchange notes and discuss lineage and passing the torch. The magic lies in the character dynamics: Batman actually respects Garrick and his generation of heroes (we even get a ‘yes, sir’ moment in there). Meanwhile the Penguin (in two pages that trump any other appearance in the last year) has his sights set on Bruce Wayne, the only obstacle in his grand Middle East war profiteering scheme (laid out in a too-cute map of the region with little Penguin hats drawn over the countries).

Oh, did I even mention the American Samuroids invading Wayne Manor? Season 2 is off to a good start, I hope it doesn’t get too bogged down in a mega-plot like the last one.

8/10

CATWOMAN #79

(Will Pfeiffer / David Lopez / Alvaro Lopez)

‘The Long Road Home’ part 2. Selina is back in Gotham after months of crossover planet hell, and not a moment too soon, as old flame (and currently grandfather to her abandoned child -tsk tsk-) Slam Bradley is need of rescuing from DC’s Multiple Man knock-off. Nothing too exciting, with few highlights and a few glaring missed opportunities: if you can’t make a skin-tight leather clad cat-woman look sexy in a full-page spread of her purring and stretching happy to be home… well, you’re probably on the wrong book… The series is cancelled (thankfully) with next issue, so we’re sitting in anticipation of the next creative team to relaunch – hopefully with a return to the gritty noir/crime feel that made this v.2 so popular in the first place.

5/10

CYBORG #1

(Mark Sable / Ken Lashley / Jonathan Glapion)

Ow Ow it hurts – please make it stop!

Ahem…

That’s my initial reaction to both the art and the script of this new mini. Are they trying especially hard to match the worst possible artist with each project? Is it worth the extra effort?

Sable guides us down a heavy-handed retelling of Cyborg’s origins – not too detailed as to pass off as a story of its own, and not too concise to spare us the boring minutia… By the time the issue ends and Cyborg crashes the wedding of a girl we hardly know or care about, I breathed a sigh of relief the issue was over. Ken Lashley himself has fallen a long way since his glory days in Marvel and Malibu where his style actually stood out before deteriorating into this unclean mish-mash of random lines and shadows. It’s never too late to get back to basics and tighten up your style, sir 🙂

I’ll just wrap some police tape around this issue and warn you to avert your eyes. Moving along…

3/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #21

(Dwayne McDuffie / Carlos Pacheco / Jesus Merino)

‘Sightings’ tie-in. The JLA’s Big Three compare notes and diss on their colleagues in their flashy new secret meeting room (hey, it beats that old damp bat-cave, but where’s the cute mug shots they love throwing on tables?) while Hawkgirl and Red Arrow get thrown around by an out-of-shape Martian Manhunter villain and the enigmatic Libra! Essentially a thinly veiled catch-up/infodump issue (12 pages of debriefing in total?) before the big crossover, also setting up things for Final Crisis #1 – as Geoff Johns seems to be the only DC writer in synch with Morrison’s grand plan (or least, the only one who bothered to read the advance scripts – hello mr Dini, mr DiDio, we’re all looking at you…)


6.5/10

ROBIN #174

(Chuck Dixon / Chris Batista / Cam Smith & Rick Ketcham)

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler’s identity is finally revealed and to everyone’s relief, it really is Stephanie Brown after all, as Chuck Dixon mends the largest misstep in recent Bat-history by bringing back the girl (mercilessly sacrificed to give important to a shaky money-grabbing crossover), restating Dr Leslie’s good character and explaining away DC (or rather DiDio) stubborn edict not to include a Robin, Girl Wonder memorial in the Bat-Cave (although we did finally catch a glimpse of it recently in Morrison’s Batman). With the upcoming shake-ups promised in RIP and Final Crisis, I’m secretly (well, not anymore) hoping Tim will move on to a different role and Stephanie will reclaim her Girl Wonder identity as the newest Robin again!

7/10

SCALPED #17

(Jason Aaron / R.M. Guera)

‘Dead Mothers’ part 4. Gina Bad Horse’s memorial service, another young boy lost in the crossfires, Dash finally coming to terms with his loss (in a tear-jerking silent sequence) and the killer revealed – a huge shocker of a last page.

If you still haven’t checked this title out, you’re missing out on the best Vertigo title debut in years, a ‘Sopranos’ mafia/crime story set in an Indian reservation and Casino, featuring a prodigal son returning home to join the local racket, secretly working for the FBI to bust the whole operation. To Jason Aaron’s mettle, he doesn’t just stick to this surface hook, but interweaves the relationships between the characters in such a perverse way that’s it’s always difficult to distinguish the good from the bad from one page to the next, everyone a rich jigsaw of damning sins, past mistakes and redeeming secrets.

Two pages from the issue, of characters reacting to the death of Gina Bad Horse, the protagonist’s mother. The first is the Indian Mafia boss, the second the FBI senior agent.

9/10

SUPER-FRIENDS #3

(Scholly Fisch / Stewart McKenny / Phil Moy)

LOL

Now, this is more like it. The book finally achieves the amount of utter campness that is its birthright.

The JLA go up against Felix Faust (the girly magician in a gown who likes using finger-puppets to control the JLA) with the most absurd of plans to evade his mind-control: they show up dressed as each other to fool him! That of course means the obvious Batman-as-Superman, Green Lantern-as-Flash, etc, but also: Aquaman dressed as Wonder-Woman! The artist made sure to hide him behind everyone else, but LYSAD is here to uncover his shame! Talking to fish is one thing, but doing that in a strapless top and thong? Hoo-boy!

Other priceless moments include Faust unable to open a jar because of his JLA-fingers, and the centerfold with make-your-own cut-out JLA finger puppets (available here) so you too can be like your favourite super-villain. Way to turn kids onto crime, Johnny DC!

7.5/10

TANGENT: SUPERMAN’S REIGN #3

(Dan Jurgens & Ron Marz / Jamal Igle & Fernando Pasarin / Robin Riggs & Matt Banning)

Flash & John Stewart Green Lantern are trapped in the Tangent Universe where they’re engulfed in the Tangent heroes’ revolution against the tyrannic Superman. Stewart’s hesitance to believe either side was nicely contrasted with Wally’s eagerness to jump in the fray, and the first meeting with evil black Superman (hey, I’m not the one writing this) was delightfully one-sided setting up the upcoming great show-down as more New Earth heroes are getting ready to invade.

The back-up feature ‘History of the Tangent Universe’ wasn’t as enjoyable, focusing more on name-dropping than making this mess any clearer.

6/10

THE FLASH #240

(Tom Peyer / Freddie E. Williams III)

‘Fast Money’ part 3. ‘Dark Side Club’ tie-in.

Spin (his powers still a headache to make sense of) vs Gorilla Grodd (in most gratuitous guest spot ever) vs the Flashes vs the city of Keystone as everyone’s caught up in a reality-bending live newscast that makes their worst fears (mostly ugly percentages) come to life. I’ll admit it, as fast-paced as the action is, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough — to get it over with. The subplot linking the Flash’s kids to reborn Forever People and placing them in Boss Dark Side (DarkSeid)’s paws is bound to make next issue much more interesting.

And FEDIII still can’t draw a basic human anatomy and a consistent face- let alone a convincing kid. Sorry, had to put that in there. For shame, DC.

4/10

BIRDS OF PREY #118

(Tony Bedard / Nicola Scott / Doug Hazelwood)

‘Dark Side Club’ tie-in. Misfit and Black Alice are trapped in the super-hero/villain wrestling pit/gambling establishment ran by Granny Goodness for Boss Dark Side. This is Bedard’s first issue picking up from the high standard-setting short stint by Sean McKeever. I can’t help feel disappointed already. The entire plot and characterisation have an air of ‘almost there but not quite’ as the girls go through some traumatising phases, but ultimately get out through a convenient twist reveal that is hammered down on the reader so many times in one go that it manages to blunt its effect. Even Nicola Scott seems off her game after an excellent streak, as she can’t seem to pin down an obese female physique, making Granny Goodness stand out like a cartoon between the rest of the cast.

6/10

DC / WILDSTORM: DREAM WAR #2

(Keith Giffen / Lee Garbett / Trevor Scott)

The Teen Titans versus a naked Gen13, and the JLA ganging up on an unsuspecting Authority. The match-ups have their fun moments, but they’re rife with wasted opportunities – mostly kicks and punches instead of real thought-out power struggles. And opposed to the real memorable crossovers of the past, the interchange is sorely limited to physical fights without actual interaction and interplay of characters and superheroic philosophies.

The one good thing I take from the entire issue is that Giffen should be writing Gen13 post-haste!

5/10

Stay Tuned for more reviews bridging the gap between May-June throughout this week, posted bi-daily!

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