Sunday, March 25, 2007

Looking To The Stars: The Week In Reviews For 03/26/07

Birds of Prey #104
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood

I had high hopes for this one from the start simply because of the base concept of the next story arc. Birds of Prey - the team book that Gail Simone saved from cancellation and made into something all her own. Secret Six - a long forgotten team name that Simone took and turned into something very amusing. Pour into bowl. Add plot regarding the recovery of a stolen Rocket Red suit of armor. Measure. Mix. Bake. Watch hilarity ensue.

Yes, we were all expecting this issue to be funny. We were all expecting it to be good. But I do not think a single person was expecting what happened on the last page of this issue when the armor got opened up.

Now for those of you not up to speed, Ice is a heroine from the Justice League International days, back when it was more of a comedy book than an action/drama. Something of an anomaly among superheroines, she didn’t have a big defining tragedy, a checkered past or some big traumatic event that shaped her into a heroine. She was just a very modest (in every since of the word – she wore a tank-top over her spandex bodysuit!), very sweet and very compassionate woman who just happened to have powers. She was so sweet and innocent she made Guy Gardner mushy. Yes, THAT Guy Gardner!

Ice was killed off in a fashion that everyone – even the man who write the story – thinks was a mistake. Despite this and her continued popularity nearly two decades after her death, nobody has ever bothered to bring her back. Until now. The funny thing I distinctly remember Gail Simone saying she was dying to bring Ice back but was just waiting for the right moment. I hope that this is indeed that moment.

So please, please don’t let this be a fake-out. Do not kill her off again at the end of this arc. Do not let this be a clone or an illusion or something equally trite. Because the comic world needs a little more sweetness and innocence in it. And because I wanna see Guy Gardner’s reaction to the news that Ice is alive again. Preferably with Simone writing it.

Grade: A

Brave and the Bold #2
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: George Perez

I was concerned that my opinions upon the sheer awesomeness of this book – for how can anything with Waid’s writing and Perez’s artwork NOT be the sure epitome of raw awesomeness – might have been colored by the first issue starring my two favorite boyhood superheroes; Batman and Green Lantern Such worries have proven unfounded based on the second issue which, if anything is better than the first and an indicator of further good times to come.

What can I possibly say about a story that comes up with a good, logical and completely in-character reason for Supergirl to don a pink baby-doll dress before entering a life-and-death gladiatorial arena struggle? It is silly. It is jaw-dropping. And it is one of the funniest moments in any comic in recent memory simply because of how it parodies the host of equally ludicrous but no-less exploitive moments in other media. And it works because it is played totally straight.

I also appreciate the sly little asides that Waid puts into the book for long-time DC fans that add a little something without distracting from the story or scaring off newer fans. Case in point; last issue had Bruce Wayne’s dry comment on Hal Jordan’s blackjack winnings – “I wish Barry could have lived to see you with money” - referring to a running gag in Waid’s original Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold mini-series, where Hal was always bumming money off his more reliable best friend, Barry Allen.

This issue contains a similar ironic note, with a flirtatious Supergirl attempting to clumsily seduce Hal Jordan – as only a teenage girl with good looks but little experience can - and Hal’s repeated mental notes that Kara is only 17. This is funny in and of itself but is also a laugh riot for those of us who remember Hal’s exploits with fellow Green Lantern Arisa - an alien girl with a crush on Hal, who used her ring to age herself because she knew he saw her as a girl even though she was of legal age on her home world and older than Hal!

Now there’s an idea for a team-up story - Hal is forced to answer a paternity suit on another world because after years of beating off all the gorgeous blonde alien teenage girls, the odds will finally catch up with him. And he hires Kate Spencer (Manhunter) as his attorney. It’ll sell a mint, I tell ya! A Mint!

Grade: A

Conan #38
Company Name: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Timothy Truman
Artists: Cary Nord & Richard Isanove

A great improvement over last month’s issue – a well-meant but pointless attempt to put a Robert Howard boxing story into the world of Hyboria with a t-shirt clad sailor – this issue is slowly setting the seeds for an adaptation of one of Howard’s best Conan tales - Rogues In The House.

What is truly impressive about this issue is how Truman has built upon the scant details that were given at the start of Rogues and has been slowly expanding upon them in his own work, developing characters who are mentioned in passing and giving us a point of reference so that we know and care about them as much as Conan himself. And I like the nice touch that has allowed the temptress Jiara to have betrayed Conan without actively having betrayed him, thus earning the much-anticipated non-lethal revenge that is coming to her.

Confused? Well, at the risk of spoiling what I’m sure will be an amazing comic, I suggest you all read the tale for yourselves.

Grade: A

Supergirl #15
Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund

Stalkers and abusive boyfriends are not often used as villains in mainstream comics with female leads. On reflection, I believe there are two reasons for this.

First, your average comic book heroine is too tough to be dramatically threatened by an overly-aggressive male. Indeed, this subject is often played for laughs on the rare occasions when it is brought up. One good example of this is JSA #39, in which Power Girl has to fight off the advances of “Da Bomb” - a would-be suitor with explosive superpowers. For anyone else, a big burly biker who won’t take no for an answer would be a source of worry but for Power Girl, Da Bomb is only slightly more of an annoyance than a broken heel.

Secondly, these are very serious issues and not dealt with as lightly as other social issues might be in what is, for the most part, a form or popular entertainment. A comic that says “drugs are bad” or “child slavery is bad” can be easily polished off in one issue to make a Very Important Statement. But abusive relationships, by their very nature, require a longer set-up in a story and a greater commitment than many editors are willing to give and few writers are willing to tackle.

This is why, for the most part, serious discussion of these issues is limited to background characters and nameless victims who are rescued by the hero. This strikes me as a crying shame given that most recent studies show that a substantial number of women have an abusive relationship in their teens and twenties. And that is why I am very glad that Joe Kelly has told this story. And more, I am amazed that it is as good as it is.

By all reason, this story shouldn’t work. Supergirl is the last teenage girl in the world who should ever have to worry about a man hitting her. And yet, by making her boyfriend an Apokoliptian refuge, what should never be an issue suddenly is. And it makes perfect sense. Who else but a boy born of a world of pure evil and raised by Granny Goodness – the original proponent of tough love child-rearing – could possibly build up an obsession with Supergirl and be able to seriously hold a “I’ll hit you until you love me again” attitude AND seriously pose a threat to Kara Zor-El?

But the truly amazing part of this issue is not that Kelly created this device and made it work. It is that for all of the trappings it possesses as a “Very Special Issue”, it does not read nor feel like an after-school special. Even when Kara shouts in a splash-page that you don’t hit people you love, it does not feel the least bit cheesy or over the top. There is a message but it doesn’t feel like there is a message. Indeed, I believe this is the best such story Kelly has written since the now legendary “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way”?

Grade: A


  1. I love your review posts and all, dude, but could you please put this behind an LJ cut?

  2. There was one, but you mess up one bit of coding...
    It's fixed now. Thanks!