Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 4/04/07

52 WEEK #48 - Is it time for Countdown to start yet?

Seriously, this was the biggest yawnfest of the week. Then again, I seem to be alone in finding the "Rene Montoya Becomes The Next Question" arc to have been the weakest of the series, so keep that in mind when considering my opinions. No surprise then that - for me at least - the best part of the issue was the last page involving the mad scientists. Cause mad scientists always rock!

DETECTIVE COMICS #831 - Paul Dini writing Harley Quinn! What else do you need to know?

Seriously. That's all that needs to be said.

Look, it's the guy behind the best episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" writing Batman. That should be all the motivation you need to pick up this book.

Fine. You want more? This issue pairs Dini's most famous comic character creation with the most inspired new character of his brief, but always exciting, run on Detective Comics so far.

Buy this book. Seriously. That's it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #544 - I somehow missed out on this issue and am kicking myself for doing so. McDuffie has made this title his own in a few small issues. But what truly amazed me is how McDuffie easily anticipated all the complaints that his critics had about the idea of Black Panther and Storm move into the Baxter Building while Sue and Reed go on vacation to work on their marriage and answers those questions here.

Why are they staying there? The Wakandan embassy was destroyed during Civil War and Reed generously agreed to let them use The Baxter Building as a temporary embassy.

Shouldn't he be running his country instead of staying in New York? The Superpower Registration Act is of great concern to his country and he is working with other concerned nations through the United Nations. As such, it's best that he stay in New York for the present.

Why are they joining the Fantastic Four? They aren't joining the Fantastic Four - the Fantastic Four is a family, at its' heart. However, since they are guests in the Fantastic Four's home, it is only fitting that they do what they can to help around the house... even if the help does involve traveling to other dimensions and stopping alien invasions.

Throw in a healthy helping of dry humor from all the characters (My favorite line: Johnny's note, when asked on a way of getting The Watcher's attention - "We could set something on fire. I'm good at that!") and you have one more sign that not all is hopeless at Marvel Comics.

JACK OF FABLES #9 - One of the funniest books on the market, but also culturally important. For too long, the menance of the Belgium Mafia controlling Vegas has been covered up by corrupt cops and politicians who are too busy raking in cash on the illegal waffle-smuggling operations that filter in and out of Nevada diners. I may not ever write another column again for daring to speak the truth and I may wind up in a landfill somewhere for saying this - but good on Bill Willingham for finally standing up to them!

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7 - I have a love/hate relationship with this book and indeed most of Brad Meltzer's writing. On the one hand, there are certain characters that he can just NAIL and he can deliver some very genuine pathos. On the other hand, he can - on occasion - do things that just flow so completely against the grain of what the character is about that you have to wonder if he's ever read a comic and is being coached on the fine points of character history.

It happened in Archer's Quest, which was a great insight into Oliver Queen's personality - until the final chapter revelation where Black Canary was written horribly out of character and we find out that Ollie Queen - in defiance of years of continuity and characterization of having always wanted kids - was a dead-beat dad.

It happened in Identity Crisis, which was a great insight into the relationships between the various JLA members that explained so much (Why was Batman so paranoid about other superheroes, How did the Ollie/Carter feud REALLY come to a head, The differing portrayals of Doctor Light, etc) and yet was built upon destroying the happiest, longest-lasting marriage in comics history and many head scratching moments such as Green Arrow bossing around Wonder Woman and the "who done it" itself, which was the worst kind of hack mystery cheat.

And with this issue, it has happened with JLA.

There's a lot of things I do like. I like their being an actual Hall of Justice in Washington DC as well as The Watchtower. I like the fakeout scene where Dinah becomes League Chairperson (She's got the power, she's experienced and she won't back down to Bruce... yeah, I vote for Canary too). I like the incongruity in Batman putting together the Trophy Room. And I loved the scene with Roy "graduating" and his favorite Uncle and Aunt (Dinah would kick his ass if he ever called her Mom) tearing up at the sight of him in his new costume.

But there's a lot more I don't like. I don't like how the "Red Tornado Becomes Human" story ended in the most cliched way possible - the tragic android romance was done before and done better with Vision and Scarlet Witch.

I don't like seeing Oliver Queen - who was put into a young man's body not too long ago in the comics - is still grousing about getting old and Hal Jordan talking about how Roy will be surpassing him soon.

I don't like how Roy credits Dinah solely with being the one who saved his life when he turned to drugs. IIRC, Hal AND Dinah were the ones who got Roy to the hospital and into rehab.

But what I REALLY don't like is how - despite the team being nearly half-women for the first time in its' history - most of the female characters are limited to supporting "approved" roles.

Despite being elected chairwoman, Dinah is just there to cry over how Roy looks in his Red Arrow costume. Diana just shows up for the team photo and in a few panels here and there talking with Superman and Batman. Hawkgirl is just there to comment on how stupid Roy looks. And Vixen gets one page of "talking on the phone" time before showing up for the group picture. Most of the comic is devoted to Black Lighting talking with Superman, Black Lighting talking with Batman, Black Lighting talking with Geo Force, Green Lantern talking with Green Arrow. Nary a girl talk moment to be seen.

We'll see if it gets better...

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #125 - Two things I loved about this issue.

1. The Bob/Earl Scene - had a lot of talks like that during my time working at the game store.

2. Squirrley Runs With The Loot - When Bob, through his own stupidity, gets jumped by three trolls, Squirrley just runs with the loot. This is funny in itself but it made me laugh because I did the same thing in one of my early D&D games. I was the only one with any previous gaming experience, playing a thief in a group full of macho teenagers who were all playing fighters. They gave me hard time about looking for traps and being so afraid... until they wandered into a Beholder's lair, got vaporized and I ran off with all of the valuable loot. Ah, memories.

SAVAGE TALES #1 - Book of the Week, this one. The first issue of a monthly anthology series doing stories in the same vein as Robert Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. And what does this first issue offer?

* A Ron Marz-penned Red Sonja story about Sonja's encounter with a kindred spirit witch
* A tale of Howard's Atlantis - before the days of Kull the Conqueror!
* A story centering upon The Hunter - the villianous dark cultist from the current Red Sonja title.
* A Lovercraftian/Howardian hyrbid tale of how The Elder Gods and Great Old Ones came to Earth in a land before time, when man was young...

Something for everyone and well worth the $5.

SUPERGIRL #16 - Give Joe Kelly credit again. He has managed to take all of the disjointed, broken "hints" about Kara Zor-El's past that had been hinted at in the writings of Loeb and Rucka and has made sense of them. Granted, he had to fudge a few details (i.e. Kara's dad not being a truly bad guy) but the story he crafts here easily stands alongside Busiek, Donner and Johns recent reimagings of Kryptonian Culture before the disaster as well as explaining away much of Kara's confused behavior in a way that doesn't have to be written off as "three writers without a direction".

Highlight for the spoilers:

In short, Zor-El - Jor-El's brother and Kara's father - theorized that The Phantom Zone his brother discovered wasn't truly empty and that there might be beings there that they could not percieve. He became convinced of his theories as, the more and more criminals were put into the Phantom Zone, the more crime increased as his fellow Kryptonians became possessed by spirits - spirits who were becoming more and more corrupt based on the presence of other people in their home dimension.

He discovered that Sunstones - the same crystal Jor-El used in most of his inventions- could drive the spirits out of a body, but that this often required mortally wounding the possessed subject. Still, he judged this a lesser evil than allow a person to die with their own spirit tainted. He did experiments on his daughter using the crystals that allowed her to carry their power within her. He then used Kara as a plan to "cleanse" Kara's school, after Kara realized that most of her fellow students were possessed. Zor-El himself was sentenced to the Phantom Zone for his actions but before he could be transported, SOMETHING came out of the projector coinciding with the last big quake before Krypton exploded.

Jor-El, putting aside his differences with his brother, told him that he had designed a rocket that might save his child. Zor-El adapted the same design to save his daughter, fearing that the ghosts that haunted his family would go after Kal-El. It was then that he left her instructions - confused by Kara's swiss-cheesed brain following hibernation - that she must be ready to kill Kal-El if neccesary.

So there we have it. Kara isn't crazy. Her dad wasn't a bad guy. And Jor-El wasn't nearly as perfect a scientist or a man as we previously thought. Honestly, this read like vintage Alan Moore in terms of execution and like Doctor Who in concept. Good stuff.


  1. Dwayne McDuffie is a great reminder that clever stories CAN be told using Civil War and its fall-out. I mean so do Brubaker and some others, but McDuffie really manages to make SOME kind of sense out of the crap the Quimby are foisting on 616...
    McDuffie for EIC!

  2. I didn't like the Hall of Justice thing until I realized that it was a fake-out. Didn't realize that in the first reading and it still is not easily explained. That and we get more of a tour of the fake HQ than we do of the real one.
    I also hated the gimmicky fold out part of the book. Not only was it unnecessary, but the page placement was out of sequence. It ruined any enjoyment of my reading.
    One thing that really bugs me is that Red Tornado isn't human. I LIKED that aspect more than the overdone robot trying to find his humanity. It had more potential for him to rediscover being human.
    Truth be told, I plan on dropping this book once the JSA crossover is done. Ditto for JSA, honestly.

  3. See, I'm liking JSA.
    But I agree on the fold out. I just thought maybe MY issue was misprinted...

  4. Man... suddenly I have an image of Dwayne McDuffie wearing a beret with the Milestone M on a t-shirt ala Che Guerra...

  5. I was liking JSA until the most recent issue. Everything just tied up a little too quickly and it all felt particularly anti-climactic.