Thursday, August 24, 2006

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Review

Quite a lot of news this week. And yet, I read more than a few comics this week. And it has been ever so long since Unca Stars has treated everyone with a batch full of reviews.

Lucky you. I’m Super-Sizing your column this week, free of charge!

Okay, it’s always free. But you’re getting more bang for the buck you aren’t giving me. Should anyone feel that I am worth a buck, please e-mail me for Paypal instructions. ;)

And now that I am done with my joking and likely pointless shilling, LET THE NEWS REVIEWING BEGIN!

Marvel reverses labeling policy for gay characters

I’d be more impressed with this most progressive news if…

a) Marvel had bothered to put out more than ONE title with a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual main character in all the time the MAX line has existed.
b) Marvel’s two main teen-books (Runaways and Young Avengers) didn’t have three openly gay members between them.
c) Joe weren’t quite so proud about declaring gay hero Freedom Ring the star of Marvel Team-Up… which is due for cancellation, so who cares if people complain about it before then?
d) Marvel weren’t desperate for any kind of good publicity in the wake of the massive delays on Civil War announced last week.


Retailers drop free copies in Quarter-Bins to save time, make money faster.


Matt Morrison enters state of bliss: Tony Harris Fanboy now giving Highlander a shot.


I’m going to have to start sending my paycheck to Dynamite Entertainment at this rate. Between this, Highlander and the Red Sonja and Xena comics my girlfriend collects, seems like half the books I actively collect are by DE.

Well, it may SEEM like it. But it’s not quite true, as this week’s batch of reviews will clearly show…

52 Week #16
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid
Art: Various

This issue wasn’t bad but it didn’t thrill me as much as past issues of 52. After the bang-up ending last time (sorry…sorry), this issue just felt a little flat. The Question/Montoya doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and Black Adam’s whirlwind romance is coming off as being a bit rushed. Still, who am I to question the wisdom of gods? The sight of Mary Marvel being alive and well was an uplifting note, at least.

Grade: C

Birds of Prey #97
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Paulo Siqueira and Robin Riggs

Glad as I am to see that at least one writer has not abandoned the idea of The Society (being played for chumps by Luthor aside, it DID work really well for the villains) this issue came off a little forced. Emo-brat Black Alice was always shown as being a little more canny that she comes off here. And I am looking forward to seeing this new Batgirl storyline resolved even though I know we are being massively played on what we are supposed to expect.

Grade: B

Daredevil #88
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists:Michael Lark and Lee Bermejo

A one-off issue centering upon the now-in-hiding and thought dead by the world (and Matt Murdock) Foggy Nelson this one is a Brubaker bread-and-butter special. We get some nice factual information on what life is like for someone in the witness protection program. And ninjas fighting the Mafia. Everything goes better with ninjas!

Grade: B

Jack of Fables #2
Writers: Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Artists: Tony Akins and Andrey Pepoy

Jack was my favorite character from the original Fables series, so no surprise me loving this one given that I’m also a sucker for any story with a trickster hero. Throw in the fact that the villain of this piece, who we meet in this issue, is a librarian dedicated to a most literal form of censorship (pretty much the epitome of evil for a librarian like myself, who believes that information is meant to be free) and you have one rollicking good read for a mythology librarian geek like myself. But I think that the rest of you will enjoy it too.

Grade: A

Justice League of America #1
Writers: Brad Meltzer
Art: Ed Benes and Sandra Hope

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Brad Meltzer since Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest. I love most of his characterization and dialogue but I hate his plots and 11th Hour plot twists. Still, I will say two things about this book.

1. He made me care about Red Tornado.

Not an easy feat given I’ve never liked the Pinocchio Syndrome cliché and I think the old Avengers comics with Vision pretty much handled the subject definitively. But damn me if the parts featuring him in this issue didn’t make me start to give a damn about “John Smith”.

2. This is, by far, the most ethnically diverse Justice League ever.

Indeed, it is a Justice League made up entirely of minorities.

I know this is a minor point but given all the talk of racism and religious-bias in comics I’ve seen on this site and others of late, I thought this worth noting. And I expect this to be highly debated but consider the following.

Superman – Granting that he was raised WASP, the man is still the poster-boy Alien Immigrant. And with two female Kryptonian cousins, he is now a minority in a minority.

Batman – Okay. He’s a rich White guy. But given that most of his writers agreed that Batman is Catholic, Anglican or Episcopalian – all relatively small denominations in the USA – he’s a rich, religiously repressed White guy.

Wonder Woman – Greek Mythology pagan.

Green Lantern (Harold ‘Hal’ Jordan) – Hal’s never been portrayed as a spiritual character with a stated religion, but there is a belief by some fans that Hal is Jewish. Indeed, his appearance in 1959 was based on Jewish actor Paul Newman and he once wished Barry Allen a Happy Hanukkah.

Black Canary – Never stated any religious belief as far as I know. But she’s a woman so she still counts as a repressed minority regardless.

Arsenal – Roy was raised Navajo and has been shown to subscribe to their beliefs and to be considered one of the tribe. I think that’s enough to qualify him as Native American for tax purposes. :)

Black Lightning – do I really have to explain this one?

Vixen – African. Not African-American. African Tribal.

Hawkgirl – Half-Latina who may worship ancient Egyptian gods.

Red Tornado – If sentient robots with souls aren’t a minority group in the DCU, then Dr. Morrow and Dr. Magnus have been putting in some overtime.

All arguing of semantics aside, this book was enjoyable enough. I’ll be anxious to see how the first arc ends (Meltzer is weak on endings, IMHO) but so far, so good.

Grade: A

Red Sonja #13
Writer: Michael Oeming
Art: Mel Rubi

The artwork is gorgeous as ever and I do like this clearer retelling of Sonja’s origin that makes it clear, once and for all, if she was honestly blessed by a goddess or just hallucinating in the pain and confusion of what happened to herself and her family. I’m still a bit confused as to what the “mystery villain” who was brought back from the classic Sonja Marvel Comics has to do with the action right now but I am content to sit and find out.

Grade: B

Supergirl #9
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund

Blind optimism has kept me glancing at this book in the store hoping that it would finally achieve the potential it had when Jeph Loeb first brought back the classic Supergirl. Blind optimism finally paid off. Freed from trying to finish off whatever Greg Rucka abandoned during his brief tenure on the title, Kelly is starting to turn this book into his own creature, by setting Kara up on her own and having her talk about her displacement issues with the new Captain Boomerang – who also has some issues with his parents and his place in a world he is just now learning to be a part of. It’s quirky but it works. And the set-up on the last two pages seems a natural progression for two characters who should honestly have been put together as natural friends by now.

Grade: B

Ultimate Spider-Man #99

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mark Bagley

Well, this is better than the original Clone Saga. But if that’s not damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is. Honestly, this issue is crammed full of so many shocking twists that it isn’t the least bit shocking. Nearly everyone who was dead isn’t dead anymore and the only thing that’s for sure is that Peter is somehow going to get blamed for all of this. 10 to 1 Norman Osborne shows up in Issue #100 as the mastermind behind all of this. At least Bagley’s art is still ‘a might pretty.

Grade: D

Wonder Woman #2
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Art: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

You know, I really would like to be able to care about this book. But I don’t. Much as I am glad to see Nemesis alive and well (and the in-joke about his Catwoman appearance where he ‘died” is priceless), I just can’t get all worked-up about this book. I can’t get excited about Wonder Woman as Lara Croft in her secret identity. I can’t get excited about Donna Troy’s appearance here given that we know Diana is alive and well and active. And I really can’t get excited about her doing the spin and change into costume thing at the end of the book. The Dodsons do their usual job where all the female characters looking buxom and all the male characters looking just plain weird. Seriously. Look at Robin. Weird.

Grade: D

Xena: Warrior Princess #2

Writer: John Layman
Art: Fabiano Neves

Dynamite seems intent on reviving a lot of forgotten movie and TV properties with comic-book tie-ins of late. The only thing saving them so far (apart from some cunning marketing) is the fact that as cheesy as some of the properties they’ve invested in are, they are fun. And whatever else may be said of Xena – it is a fun book that truly reads like one of the better episodes of the TV show.

The plot, such as it is, is that the Egyptian Gods and Greek Gods decide to settle their personal war by having two champions fight to the death. Through a bit of a fluke, Gabrielle winds up being chosen to be the representative for the Greeks. Thankfully, the rogue Autoylcus (played by the great Bruce Campbell) is able to convince the gods that having just one pair of mortals fight for their glory is a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately, they just open up the playfield drafting the incompetent Joxer and the psychotic Callisto for the Greek team along with Xena and the sneaky, but not a fighting-man Autoylcus.

The artwork captures the likenesses of all the characters from the show well and odds are that if you’re a fan of the show or comedic fantasy in general, you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Grade: A

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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  1. I know. I'm really upset about the Civil War thing. Not only is the main title delayed but it's throwing a bunch of other titles late. The corporate offices at Marvel are probably still having fits.

  2. I doubt it. It's their own damn fault for not giving the main artist enough lead time. And for good or ill, they've put the weight of the decision on their own heads with the decision to go ahead on wait on the artist rather than getting a fill-in "for the sake of artistic integrity."
    Worst part is them throwing up the argument that "Watchmen was delayed and look how great it turned out." Fine... except only the last issue of Watchmen was delayed for a month. Civil War #5 is being delayed THREE MONTHS with no indication of how long the LAST five issues will be delayed. And Watchmen was its own thing - it wasn't delaying the release of Amazing Spider-Man or Fantastic Four for who knows how long.