Saturday, March 24, 2007

Comic musings for 21 March

I don't have something really pithy to stay as I start out, so let's just dig in.

Spoilers ho!

Birds of Prey 104 -- That Gail Simone, she rocks.

Villains United and Secrret Six were two of my favorite mini-series of the past couple of years, and she has just been kicking major butt after tiaking over Birds of Prey. So it's only natural that Secret Six would come together with Birds of Prey. The cover does a very cool sort of flip-book thing to make sure you know it is coming, and then the action doesn't stop.

Nicola Scott does a fine job of nailing the action as well as the quiet scenes, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite current artists. Each character has its own look and personality which dramatically complements Simone's writing. Simone excels at giving each character its own voice, and the part of the joy that comes from this book comes from seeing how the individuals interact to become a team (or in this case, teams). Of course, all team books strive for this sort of interaction, but I don't know if anyone is nailing it so perfectly at each chance as Simone is now.

The Birds are sent on a mission by their new "leader," Spysmasher, ordered to recover some sort of technology from an Azerbaijani general. Unfortunately, it turns out that the artifact is guarded by the Secret Six (of whom we only see five...), and soon the teams are at loggerheads. Before the fists start flying however, Catman and Huntress flirt with one another, a scene which involves licking and meatballs in some hilarious dialogue and interaction. When the artifact is revealed, it turns out to be one of the old Rocket Red suits. And when the Birds seem to get away from their Secret pursuers, they realize it seems to be a bit heavier than they would have expected. They open it to discover Ice Maiden inside, and in a bit of news to the old JLI fans...she's still alive. This is all good fanboyish stuff, all held together well by Simone's and Scott's skill.

But my favorite scene in the entire book is when Oracle considers the make-up of the team, wondering why Black Canary had to leave to take care of her new foster daughter but immediately joins the Justice League when asked. Usually when a team change is made like that, it is just handled as a fait accompli in the donating and recipient books, but Simone points out that these people have feelings and Babs feels betrayed by Dinah's actions. I hope that this little plot point gets more fully explored.

Supergirl 15 -- At last, an issue that works more than not. And so, I'm probably more excited by this issue than I have by the last 14. We finally discover the source of Powerboy's ...power..., he feeds off the emotions of the people around him. The stronger the emotion, the more powerful he is. And it turns out that the old axiom is true, you can take the boy out of Apokolips, but you can't take Apokolips out of the Boy. So when Supergirl adn Powerboy begin having one of those spats that teenagers who care about each other sometimes have, things get out of hand very quickly.

Honestly, I like the concept and the power is not one I remember anywhere else. But it took so darned long to get to this point, that I was on the verge of not giving a rat's patootie what it was about. This issue saved me keeping the book on my pull-list, and that's also in no small part because Ian Churchill seems to have matured beyond his Image drawing roots.The work remains stylish, but controlled, and proportions seem better than they gave been in previous issues. Honestly, though, I've read the last few issues of this quickly, trying to get by the poor writing in them, that Churchill may have been this good all along and I just didn't have the time to notice it.

However, I am totally befuddled by the appearance of Felix Faust, given the recent events of 52. We'll have to see how this plays out.

Aquaman 50 -- I know, I know. I wrote about this title when its last issue came out, but this issue is a little anomalous. The writing and art team have completely turned over, so writer Tad Williams and artist Shawn McManus are given an over-sized issue 50 to kick off their work. But they also have to build on the strange story that the former team had been telling--strange in that the Aquaman we have known and loved is now the Cthulhu-ish Dweller, there is a new Arthur Curry who has a lot of the same look and feel as the old Arthur Curry, and Atlantis got stomped and its former inhabitants are scattered. The last few issues under Busiek have fel like fill-in stories, perhaps in order for Willaims to be able to start telling his own story rather than picking up the middle of an arc begun by someone else. And yet Williams takes this opportunity to tie the stories of the old team to his own in a fashion not often seen in comics, where such hand-offs happen often. Williams deftly unites the two different threads, introducing his focal characters and escorting Busiek's off the stage.

But it's one of those "key issues": something big always happens at issue 50, yes? A new villain is introduced, Narwhal, and he is astonishingly powerful, with hints we should recognize him from elsewhere (my money is on Koryak). And of course, someone has to die. Unfortunately, that someone appeasrs to be Dweller, our former Aquaman for deacdes now. We'll have to see how this one plays out, but I throughly enjoyed the introduction of another old/new character, the re-imagined Topo. No longer an octopus, Topo is another Cthulhid, or as he calls himself coleoidiform (he's human but with a squid for a head). I suppose you can only have so many squids as recurring characters in a comic.

McManus's art is all that I hoped it would be and I further hope he has a long run on the title. And Williams has made a good if controversial start. He has laid out the threads he will be pulling on later and I'll be hanging out for this ride for a while.

And now some notes:
DC has announced that Booster Gold and Infinity, Inc., starring John Henry Irons are going to be ongoing series. Strangely, Geoff Johns was too busy to stayon Teen Titans but he is going t o be on Booster Gold. Now I know how Babs felt when Black Canary joined the Justice League. We'll have to see where Booster ends up at the end of 52 to get an idea of how this is going to play out, but I'm not altogether sure he can support his own title without being a humor-based book. Unfortunately, Infinity, Inc. doesn't even have humor to fall back on, and given the angst lobbed at the new Infinitors in the pages of 52, I don't know how this one is going to last more than ten issues. And bear in mind, I loved the original Infonty Inc. I bet this one wion't create any characters that are as long-lasting as Mr. Bones....

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