Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Comic musings for 31 May

The ship week was delayed a day by the Memorial Day holiday, and it was a big week besides. Given my schedule nowadays, I'm doing good to get a weekly column blog out, and I've got so very little time to read books at the moment. But all is good--the flight reservations for San Diego are done and Mrs. Speculator and I are already making plans.

On to this week's books:

Spoilers ho!

Fallen Angel 16 - The first of two original DC properties to move to another company, unlike its counterpart (The Boys), Fallen Angel was dropped by DC because of low sales rather than politics. The title was solicited as mainstream DC, but its problem was that it was more of a Vertigo title than the average super-hero comic. Perhaps writer Peter David intended to eventually connect it to the DC Universe, but as a result of its low sales, the title never reached that point. But the title was well enough thought of that IDW picked it up and DC was good enough to let it go.

At IDW, the title has been rather hit or miss on the art, but the strong story of the savior of the city that shapes the world has been a continuing strength. The most recent storyline concerns Fallen Angel's predecessor returning to Bete Noire without her memories and having her story repeated to her, a nice plot device by which the reader is caught up with that same story. Unfortunately, Lin's story is not one she probably wanted to remember and her now-human body (as opposed to whatever a person is when they are the angel of the city, complete with super-strength and fire powers) can't contain the remorse and guilt for her actions while she was under the control of the city. The current angel, Lee, doesn't have much sympathy, perhaps because of her history as a real angel fallen from the grace of heaven or perhaps because she is under the vile influence of Bete Noire now. But she does have enough compassion to help Lin get out of Bete Noire.

This issue actually makes a good jumping off point for new readers, as David compacts the history and nuances regular readers have spent 15 issues picking up into a single story. Avid readers get to add to their ongoing knowledge of the city as well. However, the happier surprise of this issue is the solid art from Kristian Donaldson and colorist Ronda Pattison. After going through a series of guest artists in the most recent issues, this one really stands out. There is still a fairly classic Vertigo feel to it, but it doesn't go to the extreme of having the lines of the figures obscured by swathes of color across the panel. The characters are easily distinguishable and there are some abstract touches, but those touches don't hamper the power of the story from being expressed but instead amplify it.

I'm still not sure if David has an ultimate destination planned for this series, but I hav thoroughly enjoyed the ride thus far, and here's hoping that Donaldson stays on to do the art chores.

Action 850 - Apparently, it was Big Blue Week at DC. Superman makes guest appearances in Hawkgirl and Blue Beetle, ahows up as part of the Justice League in Amazons Attack, defends Metropolis in Countdown, and has a milepost issue of Action. Taking the opportunity the milestone offers, Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns, and Fabian Nicieza tell a flashback story that also sheds some light on what is going on behind the scnes in Countdown. The story revolves around Brainiac 5's attempts to get Supergirl back to her own time; he is momentarily unable to transport her but he can show her some of the past as he manipulates chronal particles.

Supergirl chooses to concentrate his viewer, the Chronexus, on Superman for reasons that are unclear. But her unsteady relationship with him is succinctly described by her as "I know he's the inspiration for the Legion...but what I remember, mostly, is him being stuffy and overbearing and, well, kind of a jerk." First of all, Brainiac must tune in on the right Superman, since he has trouble selecting the right universe; in rapid succession we see the Golden Age Superman in the 30s, then a Swan Superman facing Mr. Mxyzptlk, then Supes fighting a giant ape, the Byrne Superman, the Superman with long hair, and what I swear is a Bogdanove Superman before we finally center on the right one. And then we go all the way back to his escape from Krypton and follow his life in the short moments the Chronexus can show which make appropriate little vignettes.

The recurring theme of each of this vignettes is Superman's loneliness and how it drives him. No matter how he tries to fit in, as Clark Kent or as Superman, he is alone, even in a group of people. Brainiac says it best: "He's like no one he knows. No one he ever expects to know. It's only natural, for a being like that to reflect from time to time on his isolation, on the gulf between him and those around him." Unfotunately, this gulf begins to act somewhat as a bludgeon when Supergirl finally arrives on Earth, but suddenly she can see why he acted the way he did. Not only was he no longer alone, he wanted Supergirl to have an easier transition into life on Earth than he had.

Then we are allowed a few glimpses of the future...our future, which takes place before the Legion's point-of-view, if you can follow that chronological traipsing. Superman fighting an army of the different versions of Brainiac, Supergirl happily reunited with her parents, and what appears to be a new Kryptonian city. It all promises interesting things in the future for the Superman family, if we can ever get past the increasing cross-over madness that is DC now.

All in all, this is what a milepost issue should be if it is not just going to be part of the ongoing story up to that point. Unfortunately, the Superman titles are a mess right now, as I have charted earlier. So while the result of this story is fairly predictable, it makes a nice change from the scattered wanderings of the past year.

Hawkgirl 64 - Walt Simonson's current storyline in this title deals with what seems to be an obvious plan, given the reincarnation history of the Hawks; Hawkgirl is out to destroy the cycle by getting rid of Hath-Set. This particular issue is a typical entry in the trope of the hero wandering through the DC Universe looking for clues. Somehow, they always end up in Metropolis and they always meet Superman.

What's more interesting to me about this issue is the art of Dennis Calero. A quick run-through of his entry at Wikipedia shows that he has worked on a number of titles, Sliders, Magic: The Gathering, Masters of Horror, Kolchak, and early issues of the current volume of X-Factor. Sadly, I've not seen any of this work before. But let me tell you, this guy is good. His characters are realistic and his shadow-work is wonderful. There are a few panels that I could quibble with, but I really like what I saw in this issue. According to Wikipedia, he's going to be doing some work on Legion of Super-heroes later this year. I am really looking forward to seeing that.

If you don't know of this artist already, keep an eye out for him.


Just a short note. The Boys returned to print this week, with issue 7 coming out from Dynamite. I mentioned this above, but I just wanted to emphasize that they're back. Good stuff, though as outrageous as only Garth Ennis can be.


  1. I agree with you on the Hawkgirl issue - fantastic artist. He finally "gets" what Hawkgirl is supposed to look like generally then skillfully draws her. Chaykin's frenetic style with her ever-melting mascara on her crossed-eyes, over-puffy lips, and ever-present nipples (even at angles where they should't be showing) was down right ugly. I can go for avant-garde and abstract art - but Chaykin seemed to be drawing her from the eyes of a 13 year old boy who's testosterone was surging out of control. Finally, an artist is drawing her so that I can get past her appearance and actually enjoy the story - even if it's a bit trite and supports itself on a hackneyed trope. I hope this artist gets to continue with the title awhile longer.

  2. Unfortunately, the title is coming to an end. It would appear they hit the new combination too late to keep the audiene interested. I'm sure the audience was barely enough to keep the title going before Chaykin arrived anyway.