DC Comics released 18 DCU titles for the week of January 18. As per previous TOTs, I won't be reviewing SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #3 here; I'm reading and reviewing Grant Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS series in their trade collections. It will also be some time before I read and review SHOWCASE PRESENTS GREEN ARROW VOL. 1. I'm only 300 pages into the Superman volume, the first of the 500-page-plus SHOWCASE tomes.
That leaves me with 16 comics and collections for the week of January 18. Let's take a look at them.
INFINITE CRISIS #4 [$3.99] certainly delivers its fair share of bloodshed, dismemberment, and general mayhem. The Brotherhood of Evil drops Chemo on Bludhaven; Nightwing remarks that the heroes who can withstand the radiation aren't finding any survivors, but, in his own book, there are survivors. Of course, in his own book, he also can't believe Deathstroke had anything to do with this in denial of Slade's record of murder and child abuse. We can chalk these discrepancies up to either mega-event communication problems or brain damage caused by Nightwing getting too close to the Chemo-irradiated city.
Sidebar. If I had been eagerly following Nightwing's attempts to make Bludhaven a better place for the several years he has been attempting that, I think I'd be sort of upset it's turned out to be for nothing. I am sure this kind of thing is one of the reasons I am not, as a rule, fond of company-wide crossovers that "change the (fill in name of universe) forever!"
We also learn Alexi Luthor orchestrated pretty much all of the really bad stuff that's hit the DC Universe in recent years...and that the Earth-Prime Superboy is murderously insane. However, if you're like me, you'll have to go to NEWSARAMA [www.newsarama.com] and scroll down to their "Crisis Casualty Count" to learn the names of those who were killed or maimed.
Booster Gold breaks into the bedroom of a shirtless teenager whose spine has been fused with the original Blue Beetle's scarab. That just seems kind of creepy to me.
The Flashes - living and dead - use the speed force to remove the Earth-Prime Superboy from Earth-1. At least I *think* that's what happened. Wally West and his family disappear into the speed force together. An alarmed Jay Garrick proclaims the speed force is gone. So was the point of the Earth-Prime Superboy's going all psycho-killer to make sure this issue of IC could have the kind of up-close gory death and dismemberment you just can't get watching a long-distance Chemo-bomb go boom?
A bunch of Justice Society and Teen Titans members disappear. Then the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane pop up on what seems to be a restored Earth-2.
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
It's difficult for me to rate this issue. Some of what I see as excessive brutality may prove to have some meaning in subsequent issues. Given the issue's scope, writer Geoff Johns and the nine - Nine! - artists who worked on it did good work. That should count for something. Yet, without any clear rationale for blowing up Bludhaven and killing/maiming young heroes, I'm not going swayed by what I hope will turn out to be the case.
INFINITE CRISIS #4 gets but two Tonys.
ACTION COMICS #635 [$2.50] wraps up the Gail Simone/John Byrne run. Livewire, a shock jock turned super-villain created for the Superman cartoons, makes her first DCU appearance, but, sadly, she doesn't translate to the printed page well. Coincidentally, she's also the sister of the crazy young man who killed two hitman with a contract on Lois Lane and then kidnapped the reporter to be his fantasy prom date. Jeepers, Ms. Lane. Even a last possible second rescue by Superman falls flat, mostly because Big Blue did pretty much the same thing last month in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.
Where Simone shines is in the human/humane moments. A group of homeless people try to help a magic-weakened Superman. Another group of citizens buy Superman precious time when he's taking it on the chin in his battle with Livewire. Superman has Shabbos dinner with the Schumans. Those moments elevate an otherwise drab issue and earn ACTION COMICS #635 three out of five Tonys.
ALL STAR SUPERMAN #2 [$2.99] is a mix of modern sensibilities and Silver Age wonderment. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely weave the story of a hero facing his end with grace, dignity, and a love for his friends and his adopted world that gets me misty. In this ish, he brings Lois to his Fortress of Solitude for her birthday. I can't recall the last time a visit to the Fortress had me wide-eyed with delight. This is the good stuff, kids, and it earns the full five Tonys.
In BATGIRL #72 [$2.50], Cassandra Cain fights her half-brother Mad Dog to save the assassin trainees she rescued a couple issues back. The sibling rivalry appears to result in them killing each other, Cassandra with a knife to the heart, Mad Dog with a snapped neck. But, as there's still one issue left before this title gets canceled, maybe our young heroine is heading for a dip in Ra's al Ghul's special pool.
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
Points to writer Andersen Gabrych for the "fairy tale" style pages that reveal some of the secrets of Cassandra Cain's origins, for Batgirl's heroic actions in this issue, and for an ending that left me eager to see what happens next issue. That earns BATGIRL #72 three out of five Tonys.
BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #73 [$2.50] cover-blurbs round two of the Joker vs. Hush. You can imagine how much that thrills me. The issue loses one point for the Joker, the most overused villain in comicdom. It loses another point for Hush, a stupid character who is also overused, though, in his case, that means anything beyond his first story arc. It loses the rest of the points because the Joker is killing people with trained diseased birds. That wave of anti-matter is never around when you need it.
No Tonys here.
BIRDS OF PREY #90 [$2.50] defied some of my standing notions. Although Deathstroke's appearance should have cost the issue a Tony or two, writer Gail Simone actually used the guy to good effect. Although Batman was out of character from his other DC appearances - he was sane and not a complete dick - I was so thrilled to read a super-hero comic in which I liked and cared about the heroes that I didn't deduct a Tony there either. Call me old-fashioned, but I just purely love it when the good guys are really good and beat the bad guys really bad. With "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds" my mantra of the moment, I ecstatically award BIRDS OF PREY #90 the full five out of five Tonys.
FIRESTORM #21 [$2.50] builds directly from events in INFINITE CRISIS #4 and that means...
.....Jason Rusch is dealing with the death of his friend Mick and his own less permanent death in his Firestorm identity. Writer Stuart Moore makes this a pretty fair "jumping on" point for newer readers. He gives a good explanation of what Firestorm is and an even better look at what kind of man Jason has become. There is a sense of both the overwhelming peril of IC and the personal losses accompanying it. The only fault I can find is that Moore gives us no opportunity to truly mourn Mick, a heroic and selfless young man who should not be so quickly forgotten.
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
SPOILER WARNING DONE FOR NOW
This first chapter of "Building a Better Firestorm" succeeds on most levels. Moore's writing is solid, as is the art by Jamal Igle, Eddy Barrows, and Rob Stull. This transitional issue earns a respectable three Tonys.
FLASH #230 [$2.50] is the final issue of this series, though Wally West's adventures continue in IC #4. Writer Joey Cavalieri again opens the issue with a shock effect dream sequence and Vandal Savage continues to chew up the scenery. But the Flashes pull off some smart super-hero work, the back-and-forth between Jay Garrick and Bart Allen is fun, and we get a happy ending for Wally and his family. That's worth three Tonys any day.
Reading FLASH: ROGUE WAR [$17.99] leaves me thinking that what I missed by not reading this title regularly over the past several years - I mean, like since Mark Waid's first run - is the classic Flash villains becoming more brutal and murderous. Though writer Geoff Johns attempts to make these mutts a touch sympathetic - they have all suffered the loss of loved ones - I didn't buy into that. Worse, it appears the Rogues who have reformed only did so because one of their own messed with their minds. That's incredibly sad; I think "redemption" is a powerful theme for super-hero stories and stories in general.
This trade paperback reprints FLASH #1/2, 212, 218, and 220-225. The writing is good. I may not enjoy the darkening of these villains, but Johns remains one of DC's better writers. The art by Howard Porter (pencils) and Livesay (inks) is also good. Departed collected editions editor Bob Greenberger included concise "who are these people" pages at the start of the book and that made me feel less lost than I would have without them. This isn't a great book, but it delivers sufficient bang for your bucks. It picks up three Tonys.
I have mixed feelings about GREEN LANTERN #7 [$2.99]. It was cool to see Hal and Ollie hanging out again. It was a nice-if-sad bit of characterization to see Hal not appreciating his own family and the time he can have with them. I was less than thrilled that Mongul (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) was back with "weapons" from one of the most memorable Superman stories of all time. Must we recycle every past classic? I also saw the ending coming on the second page of this issue. I kept hoping there would be a twist, but, nope, the issue went with predictable. Solid writing (Geoff Johns) and art (Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino) made the issue's less-than-good stuff palatable, but not enough to earn it more than three Tonys.
JSA: CLASSIFIED #7 [$2.50] wraps up Jen Van Meter's "Injustice Society" three-parter on the same high note she's been singing from its start. Whereas I couldn't muster up much sympathy or respect for the villains of FLASH: ROGUE WAR, I was far more involved with Icicle, Tigress, and the rest of the Society. Without going into the nature of the ending, I found it very satisfying. With kudos to penciller Pat Oliffe and inker Drew Geraci, this comic earns the full five out of five Tonys.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13 [$2.99] concludes the Lemnos War in grand fashion. Writer Mark Waid catches the scope of the thing and still manages to include lots of character moments. The big finish does not lose sight of tragedy in the midst of triumph. The Barry Kitson/Mick Grey art is exciting and expressive.
Waid teams with artist Amanda Conner for a letters column in comics form. It's two hilarious pages!
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13 continues what was a very good week for DC. It earns the full five Tonys.
MANHUNTER #18 [$2.50] puts the title heroine on the trail of her son and ex-husband, who were kidnapped by her previously unseen and unknown meta-human pop. This third (of four) chapter of "Who's Your Daddy?" has some exciting and scary moments, not to mention a decent cliffhanger. On the downside, the story feels thin to me. It needs more depth, more realistic emotion, less villains chewing the scenery and spitting it out as dialogue. Just more in general. It's not a bad comic book, but it doesn't reach the heights of the best DC has to offer. It gets three Tonys.
The cover of NIGHTWING #116 [$2.50] doesn't seem to match up with what's inside the issue...the aftermath of the Brotherhood of Evil's assault on Bludhaven. With all his careful planning come to naught, Dick Grayson concentrates on helping the citizens caught in the destruction. It makes for a decent issue, a look at what makes Grayson such a good man, and a well-orchestrated crossover with IC. Mind you, I'm still not fond of mega-events unraveling long-running storylines, but I'll give writer Devin Grayson credit for trying to make it work. The art isn't outstanding, but it's good.
Digression. This issue has two pencillers and two inkers, an increasingly common situation at DC. Maybe it's time to call back some of the artists who haven't been able to get a DC gig in years. Some of them were pretty good.
NIGHTWING #116 gets three Tonys.
Maybe I was expecting too much from SGT. ROCK: THE PROPHECY #1 [$2.99] after Joe Kubert works like FAX FROM SARAJEVO and YOSSEL. This first of six issues didn't offer a satisfying chunk of story. The art was excellent, but the plotting and writing didn't measure up to it. Kubert's Rock doesn't have as much personality as when the character was written by Bob Kanigher, or, for that matter, by Kubert himself back in his editor/writer/artist days.
First of two digressions. Maybe years of watching otherwise decent people wearing Cleveland Indians clothing with the offensive Chief Yahoo caricature emblazoned upon them have made me sensitive, but Wild Man's comments to Little Sure Shot were insulting. When did the former schoolteacher become a racist?
Second of two digressions. The cover above is the one I got from the GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org]. The cover below is the one on the review copy I received. No disrespect to Arthur Adams, but why put a non-Kubert cover for a Sgt. Rock book drawn by Kubert? Can someone explain to me why this was done?
SGT. ROCK: THE PROPHECY needs to pick up the pace and quickly. At the end of this issue, we still don't know the nature of Rock's secret mission. I'm also hoping for a Rock with more personality, no more racial insults, and plot developments intriguing enough to keep me interested in this series. I'm only giving this issue two Tonys, so there's plenty of room for improvement.
I haven't been reading either TEEN TITANS or OUTSIDERS, though I do have "advisors" reading the latter for me. What they didn't tell me, though, what I learned from reading the stories reprinted in TEEN TITANS/OUTSIDERS: THE INSIDERS [$9.99] is that the premise of the Outsiders is Nightwing and Arsenal putting together a team of super-cannon fodder, members they have no personal involvement with beyond the job. That's too cold for words and it may well be the worst idea for a super-team in the history of comics...and, keep in mind, that assessment is coming from the guy who conceived and wrote THE CHAMPIONS for Marvel. Sheesh!
Astonishing coincidence is the true villain of this series of stories. Luthor turns Superboy - who is one part Superman DNA and one part Lex DNA - evil, which, apparently, has been his plan from the moment Connor Kent was born. Brainiac turns an Outsider named Indigo bad, which, apparently, was his plan since the moment she was built. Both heroes fight the evil within them and, to varying degrees, succeed, though they do inflict considerable anguish and pain on their teammates while dealing with their inner turmoil. I can relate. I'm struggling not to be too snarky with this review. I'm not succeeding.
Some other random comments:
The Outsiders have a lot of sex. If Black Lightning actually had a daughter, he would never let her hang around with this legion of smut-puppies.
Luthor is not just evil, he's banal. He gives this speech on how he could do so much good if Superman weren't around. Geez, how whiny can you get?
Superboy crushes the bones in Robin's arm and, a month later, the arm is nearly healed. Did Robin get a little purple ray action off stage? Does he have a healing factor? Do writers and editors need to think beyond "Hey, wouldn't it be a shocker if Connor broke Tim's arm real good?"
There were some okay moments in this collection, but the best of them didn't make up for the lackluster material that surrounded them. TEEN TITANS/OUTSIDERS: THE INSIDERS represents that part of the DCU that's been wearing exceedingly thin for a very long time. It gets an overly generous one Tony.
That's all for this week. Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Monday with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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