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for Monday, January 12, 2009

During this month's reprints of my various CBG reviews of 2008, I've been skipping reviews of individual issues in favor of reviews of trade paperbacks. However, looking over today's trio of reviews, they included some pertinent comments on current trends in the DC Universe and, as such, were worth reprinting here. I hope you find some value in them.

Birds of Prey 118

Today, we look at three related issues: Birds of Prey #118, The Flash #240, and Teen Titans #59 [$2.99 each]. What ties these issues together is something called "The Dark Side Club," of which Wikipedia says:

The Dark Side Club is an underground club, coming to prominence during Final Crisis. Its connection to the New Gods is currently unknown. The story revolves around Boss Dark Side, who runs a club pitting metahumans against one another in an underground fighting ring. Dark Side has Bernadeth create a drug that causes these people to fight against their will, and has "Granny" force them into being loyal to him.

Breaking from my traditional style or reviews, I'll share with you the various notions that occurred to me as I read these three comic books and then wrap up with their scores.

The DCU has become increasingly brutal under the direction of Dan "Snuff Film" DiDio. It's a dreary place with very little light and, as such, it's the antithesis of the basic optimism that forms the core of the super-hero genre. Under DiDio, you may not believe that a man can fly, but you can believe he can die and usually as horribly as possible.

I thought the New Gods were dead. Silly me.

I had no idea in what order to read the comics. I decided to read them alphabetically because I suffer from CDO. It's like OCD, but with the letters in alphabetical order as they should be.

I stole that joke from Reader's Digest.

Birds of Prey #118 was the best-written of the three. The two teenage members of the team are abducted by the Dark Side Club and forced to battle. Writer Tony Bedard did an excellent job portraying the angst of Black Alice and Misfit, as well as their uneasy relationships with each other and with the adult BOPs. The brutality and gore in this issue were off-putting, but the art by Nicola Scott (pencils) and Doug Hazelwood (inks) was first-rate. One of the villains apparently dies in BOP #118, but is still alive in the other books. But I'm still not clear if the other two come before this one. What concerns me more is that I'm not sure if the editors at DC have any more of a grip on their legion of connected storylines than I do.

Flash 240

While The Flash battles Spin and Gorilla Grodd, the Dark Side Club tries to snatch his super-powered kids. Writer Tom Peyer did a decent job of bringing this new reader up to speed, but he never slowed down the action enough for me to care about the characters. The same frantic quality diminished my enjoyment of the Freddie E. Williams II art as well.

I thought Grodd was dead. Apparently, he got better. That's OK by me; he's a classic villain who has not overstayed his welcome as have the Joker, Luthor, and Darkseid.

Teen Titans 59

Teen Titans continues to be one of the weakest super-hero titles in the DC line as the Clock King "recruits" the junior Titans to fight in the Dark Side Club. The writing and art are journeyman at best and the characters - good and bad - are uninteresting. This title needs a major overhaul.

Who am I kidding? The DCU needs a major overhaul. Its titles need to pull away from every other super-hero title in the line-up and establish their own identities. The company still publishes some fine super-hero books - and I suspect those are the ones where good writers are given more of a free hand - but the overall level of quality is depressingly low.

I like to smile when I finish reading a super-hero comic book, said smile born of heroes acting heroically and serving their fellow man and triumphing over evil. These days, the predominant smile of the DCU is the sadistic grin of the Joker.

Birds of Prey #118 earns a respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

The Flash #240 earns one Tony.


Teen Titans #59 gets zip.

No Tonys

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
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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