Marvel's CIVIL WAR has captured my attention in a big way, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten their Distinguished Competition's efforts. I'll be reviewing DC's various ONE YEAR LATER comics here and also in my TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS at the Comics Buyer's Guide forums [www.cbgxtra.com]. Let's start with a look at the first 14 issues of the weekly series that bridges the gap between INFINITE CRISIS and OYL.
Was I imagining those press releases that spoke of a more fun DCU in the wake of INFINITE CRISIS? Because "fun" wasn't the first thing that came to mind as I read 52 WEEK ONE through WEEK FOURTEEN over the weekend. Ralph Dibny is borderline crazy and Wonder Girl is all the way there. Renee Montoya has crawled into a bottle and driven away her lover. Black Adam is rending criminals asunder to make a point. Loveable con artist Booster Gold has turned into a profit-obsessed monster. Lex Luthor has yet again gotten away with murder and other high crimes. Various DC heroes have returned from the Crisis with horrific injuries.
Give me a break, DC. There's only so much fun an old guy like me can take.
Let's go over the highs and lows of these first 14 issues and see what we see. There will be SPOILERS ahead, so consider yourself WARNED!
Good: The weekly format delivers a satisfying chunk of story, especially consider that story's large cast of characters.
Good: J.G. Jones is likewise delivering a terrific cover week after week.
Good: The absence of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman makes for an interesting hook.
Good: Props to Stephen Wacker and his creative/editorial team for getting this book out week after week.
Bad: The post-Crisis devastation leads off the first issue and virtually disappears thereafter. That kind of damage doesn't get cleaned up in a week.
Bad: Booster is an unsympathetic ass, taking advantage of the Crisis for his own personal gain. If he's "acting out" because of Ted Kord's death, that needed to be driven home better.
Bad: Ralph has become the whipping boy of the DCU. He didn't solve his wife Sue's murder, he's suicidal, and he's off his nut in other ways. What did he ever do to Dan DiDio?
So-So: The family drama being played out between Steel and his niece Natasha with nasty interference from Luthor. I'm not fond of it at the moment, but that could change if it eventually plays out in a more positive way.
Bad: DC seems to relish Black Adam's excessive brutality and murderous rigidity. Sovereign ruler or not, Adam has a great deal to answer for. The United States has launched preemptive wars with less provocation. A later issue reveals the political alliances that might be giving the US pause, but I still think the son of a bitch needs taking out.
Good: The friendship between Metal Men creator Will Magnus and incarcerated villain T.O. Morrow. I'm intrigued by the mystery of the missing evil scientists.
Good: The odd couple team of the Question and Montoya. They play off each other very well.
Bad: Wonder Girl and the cult of Superboy. I'm wondering why Superboy was singled out for adoration above the other heroes who died in IC. A good answer to that could elevate my low opinion of this plot development.
So-So: "The History of the DC Universe" makes my head throb, but kudos to writer/penciller Dan Jurgens for pulling it together as well as anyone could have.
So-So: Luthor gets another clean slate. It's cleverly done, but Lex has become tiresome. Maybe not *as* tiresome as the Joker and Deathstroke, but tiresome nonetheless.
Question: Who are those people with Halo in 52 WEEK FOUR, and would it have killed the writers to identify them?
Good: The return of the original Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and a few other previously missing heroes at the end of WEEK FOUR is a truly shocking moment, much more so than any of Black Adam's messy fits of pique.
Good: The quiet courage of Ellen Baker, wife of the still-MIA Animal Man and her refusal to abandon hope that her husband will be coming back to her.
Good: The hospital scenes in WEEK FIVE.
Good: The confrontation between the Green Lanterns and China's Great Ten. As much as I dislike Black Adam, this situation gives him more reason to remain an active force in the DCU than any of my other pet peeves: Deathstroke, Luthor, and the Joker.
Good: Rip Hunter's lab in WEEK SIX.
Undecided: Ralph confronts Booster over not warning him of Sue Dibny's murder. Despite his diminished circumstances, Gold claims to be Superman's replacement. I'm not enjoying these characters at the moment, but I recognize the resolutions to their stories could turn that around.
Undecided: Montoya reconnects with Kathy Kane, a former lover. A few issues down the line, Kane turns out to be the new Batwoman. At the moment, cynical guy that I am, this whole "lipstick lesbian super-hero" bit seems little more than a stunt to garner publicity and titillate straight male readers. I'm *really* hoping it turns out to be more than that. It would also be great to see a lesbian hero who wasn't cut from the "hot babe" mold.
So-So: Luthor launches a "metagene program" whereby he'll turn ordinary people into super-heroes which he will then control. I've seen this bit before and, so far, 52 hasn't given us any new spin on it.
Undecided: Super Nova makes his first "appearance" in 52 WEEK EIGHT. Online speculation is he's the reborn Connor Kent Superboy. That would be cheesy. I'm hoping the writers - Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid - have something more interesting in mind for the character.
Good: All these "undecided" notes aren't a bad thing. I like to be kept guessing...up to a point.
Good: Stranded on another world, Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire meet Devilance the Pursuer, one of those wild characters from Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" comics.
Great: 52 WEEK TEN is my favorite issue to date. It focuses on two characters: Black Adam and Clark Kent. In the former, Adam gets a verbal spanking from Adrianna Tomaz, the woman he freed from her Intergang captors a few weeks back. In the latter, Clark Kent is about to be fired by Daily Planet editor Perry White. Clark is having a tough time doing his award-winning journalism without his Superman powers. It's a terrific look at Kent, marred only by one really stupid moment.
Bad: Clark throws himself out a window to attract Super Nova's attention and get a scoop. One of the things I never liked about DC's Silver Age comics was how often Lois Lane and other characters would pull stupid life-threatening stunts like that. It's played for laughs in WEEK TEN, but it didn't get them from me. It irks me when smart characters do dumb things for no other purpose than to advance the plot.
Good: 52 is more satisfying when it concentrates on one or two of its storylines. WEEK ELEVEN gives a lot of "screen time" to the Question, Montoya, and Kathy Kane in both her civilian identity and making her debut as the new Batwoman. The heiress-turned-hero has yet to distinguish herself beyond being an old flame of Montoya's. That needs to change.
Bad: WEEK ELEVEN's secondary storyline has Ralph tracking down the Superboy cult, who stole his wedding ring and clothes belonging to his late wife Sue. They think they can resurrect Superboy, but want to test their ritual with Sue. This is a grotesque storyline which will further diminish Wonder Girl as a viable character and heap more needless horror on Ralph. I keep seeing DiDio as the kid holding a magnifying glass over an anthill.
Good: Outside of a few pages of the Question and Montoya, and Ralph and Wonder Girl, 52 WEEK TWELVE concentrates on Black Adam, a mentally-unsettled Captain Marvel, and Adrianna, who, at the end of this issue, assumes the mantle and powers of the goddess Isis. The lady is having a positive effect on Black Adam, though I think it's too little too late given the magnitude and viciousness of the guy's crimes. Still, it's an interesting storyline, one well worth pursuing.
Good: This issue begins a series of short "origin" recaps of DCU characters. Written by Mark Waid, WEEK TWELVE through FOURTEEN has Wonder Woman (drawn by Adam Hughes), the Elongated Man (Kevin Nowlan), and Metamorpho (Eric Powell). It's a pleasant use of two pages per issue.
Good: 52 WEEK FOURTEEN moved several storylines forward. The Question and Montoya are in Black Adam's Kahndaq. Steel has built new armor for his estranged niece, but despairs of ever healing the rift between them. Doc Magnus tries to bring his Metal Men back to life, but some untrustworthy government types are also interested in his work. T.O. Morrow is added to the roster of kidnapped evil scientists, but not without leaving something for Magnus. The ish ends with Montoya and the Question in dire jeopardy and the welcome "return" of a Silver Age favorite.
Good: It's a hoot-and-a-half spotting all the "52s" in these issues. Let's hope the payoff is also fun.
52 is such a massive undertaking that its mere existence earns it some props from me. As you can see from the above, it has some things I love and somethings I despise. Overall, it has more good things than bad things, enough for me to give the series-to-date a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.
Look for me to check on 52 once a month or so.
As mentioned above, I'm also reviewing ONE YEAR LATER titles in TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS, the weekly column I write exclusively for the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. I've reviewed BLUE BEETLE and TEEN TITANS last week and this week with more OYL reviews to follow in September. You can find them here:
It's been ages since I've had a "comic book dream," but, this week, I had two. The first one I'm keeping all to myself for now because I might be able to turn it into a manga-style series. The second one went like this:
Marv Wolfman and Len Wein are laying on the floor of my living room; I'm in the chair by the window. We're watching something on the television. This isn't any kind of a flashback to when we were younger and all working at Marvel; we all look as we did the last time I saw the guys in 2004.
Marv's cell phone rings. He takes the call. When he's done, he says "Buscema needs a Thor plot right away." Len sighs and says he'll come up with something.
I go to my upstairs office for some reason, but I come back down seconds later. In a burst of enthusiasm, I say something like "Thor pulls Excalibur from the rock and becomes the king of all England!"
Len gets excited and rushes up to my office to start working on the plot. I head for the office, as well, so he has someone to bounce ideas off and to suggest ideas of my own. Because the plot is needed by morning. Marv keeps watching TV.
Any dream interpreters in the audience want to take a stab at what this dream means?
COMICS IN THE COMICS
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman might have taken a year off from the DCU, but that doesn't mean we can't bring them to you in this special "Where Are They Now?" edition of COMICS IN THE COMICS. Let's start with Superman:
Whoops! I stand corrected. Though Superman's suit appears in the July 7 editorial cartoon by KIRK WALTERS of the Toledo Blade, the Man of Steel himself isn't there. Maybe we'll have better luck with Batman and Wonder Woman.
Here's THE FLYING MCCOY BROTHERS panel from July 24:
We're getting closer. "Superbman" appears in Steve Watkins' HOUSEBROKEN for July 9:
Thanks to TOT reader Tom Duffy for sending me the Housebroken strip posted above...and keep watching this column for more COMICS IN THE COMICS. My files are full of them!
SUPERMAN RETURNS was the focus of the TONY POLLS questions we asked you the first week of July.
Here's how you voted:
Have you seen SUPERMAN RETURNS?
I saw it with my son Eddie in late July, shortly after we got back from our family vacation in South Carolina.
If you have seen SUPERMAN RETURNS, how would you rate the movie?
Yet again, I find myself voting much differently than the TONY POLLS gang. My appreciation for the movie dropped steadily after I left the theater and the more I thought about it. If I'd voted on the question, I would have been hard-pressed to give it a higher score than a GOOD.
You can read my SUPERMAN RETURNS reviews (the movie and the DC comics) in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1623, which will go on sale around the middle of September.
If you haven't seen SUPERMAN RETURNS, do you plan on seeing it while it's still in the movie theaters?
Which of these actors (listed in order of billing) do you think gave the best performance in SUPERMAN RETURNS?
Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor).....37.66%
Brandon Routh (Clark Kent/Superman).....15.58%
Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent).....11.69%
James Marsden (Richard White).....10.39%
Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen).....10.39%
Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane).....5.19%
Frank Langella (Perry White).....5.19%
Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski).....2.60%
Marlon Brando (Jor-El; archive footage).....1.30%
Wow, could we disagree more on this question? I hated Kevin Spacey's performance. Had I seen the movie when these questions were active, I'd have voted a tie between FRANK LANGELLA and EVA MARIE SAINT. And, though she didn't have enough screen time to get on this ballot, in what time she had, NOEL NEILL held her own with both of them.
Which of these various live-action versions of Superman is your favorite?
This was a tough call. I really love the better episodes of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN show from the 1950s, but there were many weak episodes during its run. Ultimately, I voted for SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE-MEN, the 1951 pilot for the show. It has thrilling action and a message of tolerance.
Our new TONY POLLS questions concern Pluto (the dwarf planet, not the cartoon dog or Greek philosopher), DC's new BLUE BEETLE series, the One Year Later TEEN TITANS, and the wild-and-wonderful SNAKES ON A PLANE. The questions will remain active until sometime after midnight next Monday and you can vote on them at:
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.
Please send material you would like me to review to: