CAPSULE REVIEWS DC Week 25 2008

The last of the daily reviews for now, moving back to a more comfortable bi-daily schedule for the rest of the week to catch our breath.

Today, from DC: a double Vertigo shot of Jason Aaron, one last taste of Chuck Dixon on the outside, romantic entanglements in the Teen Titans and an otherwise average presence from everyone else in the room

BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #8

(Chuck Dixon / Julian Lopez / Bit)

An uneventful closing to the action-packed storyline as Dixon crosses his t’s and dots his i’s, the separated Outsiders teams come together and new member ReMac finally makes his debut – in an amusing fashion.

Dixon salvaged the Outsiders brand name from the limbo it had sunk to, but this could actually have been his last issue on the title – pending to DC’s mysterious whims. It’s been an amazing 8-issue ride, thank you for the thrills!

7/10

HELLBLAZER #245

(Jason Aaron / Sean Murphy)

‘Newcastle Calling’ part 1. I’ve only ever read one Hellblazer run, and that’s because of Mike Carey, my then favourite Vertigo writer. It makes sense that I would pick up the habit again with the arrival of my new number one sinful pleasure – SCALPED’s Jason Aaron – on board the title for 2-issue stint.

Aaron picks up on the aftermath of a classic (thank you Wikipedia) Hellblazer storyline – involving his punk band Mucous Membrane, the ghost of a young girl Astra and a string of violent murders, as a film crew visits the scene of the event to shoot a documentary on the mysterious band and its history. Impeccably paced and plotted like a Hollywood horror movie without the hindrance of the pesky MPAA censors – everything starts going horribly wrong as the filming crew one by one falls victim to the curse still haunting the old club. The story runs the full gamut from self-mutilation, hallucinogenics, to necrophilia, sodomy and bestiality (actually the last three are all combined in one scene – yum).

It’s somewhat of a shame that Aaron’s been lured away to Marvel with an exclusive contract, while Vertigo stood helpless waving goodbye. Stupid DC…

8/10

SCALPED #18

(Jason Aaron / Davide Furno)

Another self-contained gem focusing on one of the many intriguing satellite characters populating the reservation of Prairie Rose and the book: Officer Falls Down.

It’s the classic story of the small-town sherriff who has lost his edge and is searching for meaning in his life post-prime. Reeling from the nightmares of his wife’s death, and dreading getting involved in the mystery of Gina Bad Horse’s murder, it takes a unique Indian spiritual ceremony to make him identify his true self and get back on the horse – so to speak.

Just like real life, you really read so many stories with these characters lurking about in the background- never giving them more than a moment’s notice; it takes this special kind of vignette to really take a closer look in their lives and mindsets, and become more involved. Jason Aaron has managed to make each and every last of his characters here worthy of attention.

8/10

BIRDS OF PREY #119

(Tony Bedard / Nicola Scott / Doug Hazlewood)

The Birds move from Metropolis to their new digs in Platinum Flats, acquainting themselves with the local law enforcement, the riff raff (seriously: the villainous Carface? I’m disappointed this wasn’t milked more for all it’s worth), their new headquarters and some very familiar neighbours!

Black Canary is back for a guest stint (and the traditional punch-and-kick dance Manhunter always seems to go through with every superhero she meets), and her absence on the book and its dynamics rings more important now with McKeever’s departure. Bedard has some interesting ideas on Lady Blackhawk (whom Simone had neglected more, but McKeever had helped bring to the forefront) and maybe Babs (although she’s all too cold), but the rest of the cast simply lingers about between odd dialogue (poor Calculator), unfortunate plotlines (Manhunter’s mindprobe mystery, the lost sisters, etc) and simply unexplainable behaviour (Manhunter’s confrontational, ok, but never to this annoying unreasonable degree)…

Next issue will be the end of his grace period, I’m waiting to be wowed or this book goes to the Scans’ section, breaking a nice happy collection of over 60 issues…

6.5/10

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #14

(Mark Waid / Scott Kolins)

Oh, ouch.

Deadman enlists the help (well, more like the body) of Green Arrow to chase the ‘Ghost Killers of Nanda Parbat’. As far as eam-ups go, this isn’t the most efficient, and everything goes sour – REAL sour by the issue’s startling cold-blooded finish. mr Waid, here I thought I had you all figured out!

Scott Kollins on art fires on all cylinders as usual, such a huge mystery why he’s not been anchored on a regular gig in the past 4 years since his Flash run ended…

7/10

CATWOMAN #80

(Will Pfeiffer / David Lopez / Alvaro Lopez)

‘Final Jeopardy’ part 1. One short breath before the title’s cancellation – and boy is this the title most deserving of the fate…

Pfeiffer and the editors have lost their handle on the character ages ago, so it’s better to finish things off while everyone has their dignity intact. Catwoman goes after the multiplying crook Repro (?), the Calculator and some cat burglar guy whose name I didn’t quite catch.

Frankly, the entire past two years of stories on the title, from the villains to the supporting characters and the situations are so far below Catwoman’s worth. Foiling and trapping an art thief? This is what she’s sunk to? After giving her a baby, and a cardboard father, getting rid of both, shippnig her to space, tiling around in alternate realities, facing off against film fanatics and Madrox rip-offs…

Poor Selina, you’ve had a crappy couple of years, time to rest and re-group.

4/10

DC/WILDSTORM: DREAMWAR #3 (OF 6)

(Keith Giffen / Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott)

Action Action Action!

Legion vs Stormwatch (bore)

JSA vs Tranquility (I hate the smell of old people)

JLA vs Wildcats & the Authority: hmmm let’s stay here! Batman vs Zealot – to the death (no, really), Superman vs Hawksmoor and the utterly amazing visual of the week: Green Lantern shooting Batman inside their HQ like a bullet through a handgun!

The crossover has had its ups and downs, although at this point everything is too muddied up and the whole thing reads like a last-minute effort to push in a script and art.

6/10

THE FLASH #241

(Tom Peyer / Freddie E. Williams III)

‘Fast Money’ part 4. So the spin storyline wraps up (I think?), still not making much sense, as the mysteriously-appeared Grodd brings mayhem to the Flashes’ city.

I’ll just say it, I don’t care for this villain, for this battle, and especially not for this horrendous art.

It doesn’t matter. Peyer hits the reader with such a whallop of an emotional impact this issue, that it makes all the rest seem insignificant. Wally faces his inability to support his kids and find a solution to their ever-rapid aging, and muses back to the string of bad decisions made this past year – his live TV statements, his cruel revenge against Bart’s murderer Inertia, everything that’s out of his control and making him feel like a failure. In the face of this turmoil, he still swallows everything deep inside him, puts on a brave face for his children and is a hero and a father to them. Peyer has a chillingly clear and perfect take on Wally at this moment in his life, and I can’t wait to see where he takes the character and his family next.

7/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #22

(Dwayne McDuffie / Ed Benes)

This is tiresome.

It’s 2 years (3, considering the delays) into the new title’s life, and since Brad Metzler has left ship, we’ve been stuck retreading the same old ground, rehashing the same stories – only adding and retracting random members – like a bad (ok, worse) version of Young & the Restless…


It’s the same three plotlines since year one: Red Tornado’s missing sense of humanity (along with his marital problems, body trouble, and constant tendency to get hijacked and go evil), Red Arrow and Hawkgirl’s sexual tension (this time awkwardly addressed by Superman having a birds-n-bees moment), and of course – everyone’s favourite-: Vixen’s new secret siphoning powers. I’m really hoping all these left-overs get dealt with by #25 so McDuffie can really shine on his lonesome with a finalised tight roster.

6/10

SUPER FRIENDS #4

(Sholly Fisch / Dario Brizuela)

The Super-Friends are being picked out one-by-one — by giant explodig cakes, banana peels, squirting flowers, pepper-bombs, novelty cans and trap-door buckets of slime!

Can it be?

Introducing the allied Jesters’ League of America: Joker, Harley Quinn, Trickster, Trapster, Jewelee and Punch!

Gotta love a good gag!

5.5/10

TANGENT: SUPERMAN’S REIGN #4 (OF 12)

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

Green Lantern Jon Stewart has a talk with the evil (?) black Tangent Superman, while the New Earth Heroes finally make a jump through to Tangent Earth, and a traitor is revealed in their midst.

Things are moving, but in quite the snail’s pace, as the back-up History stories eat up way too much of the main plot’s momentum. This issue: a brief summary of the Tangent Superman’s origins (even though I’m much more interested in the identity of this new Power Girl myself. Can’t they coordinate the two stories a la Trinity?)

5.5/10

TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE #5 (OF 6)

(Amy Wolfram / Karl Keschl / Serge LaPointe)

Ah, young love…

Wonder Girl goes on her first date with Speedy, while Kid Flash and Aqualad stay behind the Titans cave for some teenage male -burp- bonding and Batman drops by for a surprise parental inspection.

Wolfram really has a unique handle on each of these kids, in all their awkward, anxious, dream-filled glory. She looks at them less like empowered teen role-models, and more like real kids who have been thrust into lives and situations out of their comfort zones, doing everything they can to be, well, normal and accepted – like most kids their age would. DiDio recently announced there are no plans for Wolfram and Keschl to get a regular outlet for their version of the Titans – sad news, especially considering the sheer multitude of Titans projects out there right now (Teen Titans, Titans, Teen Titans Go, Raven, Cyborg, Tiny Titans, Terror Titans, Robin, Blue Beetle, etc) most of which don’t hold a candle to this unique and spiritful series.

8.5/10

TRINITY #3

(Mark Bagley & Fabian Nicieza / Mark Bagley & Mike Norton / Art Thibert & Jerry Ordway)

Enter Konvikt: an unfortunately named DC idea of a Purple Hairy Hulk, only carrying on his back his own tiny press representative to provide enormous threats and battle banter.

The main story deals with the JLA (sans the 3) fighting and losing to the enormous brute – until our titular heroes arrive on the scene to everyone’s delight. The rest of the JLA does come across as – well- ineffective and lazy, but Busiek expertly comments on that on his own before any mean-spirited bloggers (represent!) get their nasty commenting claws typing. As corny as the scene carries out, it is typical of the way the three are treated in comparison to the other heroes, probably what Busiek wanted to examine by pitting them against this utterly forgettable menace.

I only have one real problem with the writing here: Busiek has taken the time to really delve into the dynamics of the trinity, the way they operate together, the way they view each other, how the rest of the DC universe looks at them, etc etc I’ve mentioned all that. He’s done a stellar work, and each of his scenes is subtly infused with so much rich subtext, it’s a joy to pore into and explore.

Well, it would be, if each scene wasn’t intercut by the two villains reading the story with us, and providing an intrusive director’s commentary, pointing every smart bit of subtext to each other (=the reader), essentially spoon-feeding us the information I would much rather discover on my own.

The back-up by Nicieza & Norton features a new (?) hero, Tarot, as her everyday life of Tarot-reading and coffee-sipping is interrupted by an attacking gang and a feral protector. Average enough to flip through and move on.

5/10

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