Monday, August 27, 2007

Comic musings for 22 August

Another busy week, so the reviews will have to be shorter. Hopefully things will lighten up after this there's the three-day weekend coming on.

Spoilers ho!

Superman 666 - It's a plot, I tell you. Superman and Batman both reaching this magical mysterious number at nearly the same time just couldn't be a coincidence. Fortunately, this story made a lot more sense than the recent Batman 666. It turns out that there were such things a Kryptonian demons, and one particular one, nearly dead because of the dearth of Kryptonians it can feed on, decides to ensnare Superman in his cluthces, using that power to become an overlord of Hell. Walt Simonson's art accentuates the surreal quality of this story, as Superman appears to enter a dream-world and give up any self-control he might have, assuming his rightful place as an overlord for the human race, and an uncaring one as well.

Perhaps things aren't as they appear however; between a bizarre appearance of the Pahntom Stranger at The Daily Planet and Zatanna's recurring appearance in Superman's dream, there's the distinct possibility that Superman isn't really dreaming. This tension is played out extraordinarly well by Kurt Busiek, and the frightful repercussions of Superman losing his humanity are played out in a way that is not a cliche as it might have been in others' hands. Twists abound in this nice one-and-done story, setting us up for the final few chapters of Superman's challenge to the future history of mankind.

Birds of Prey 109 - Tony Bedard takes over the Birds and he pretty much nails the characterizations and the voices of the principles in the series. Black Canary is back for a guest appearance (supposedly taking place before her recent mini-series), working out her potential response to Ollie's proposal for marriage. What follows is what feels, to a set of male eyes, a fairly accruate representation of a conversation between two women who care a great deal for each other and have very little trouble expressing it. There's no game-playing here, just honest emotion. And it ends in a particularly satisfying way.

But just as important are the background characters of the Birds. In a perfectly delightful secondary storyline, Big Barda and Sin learn more about each other's cultures, with Big Barda appearing that much more human in her response to Sin's games and, later, in her response to the emergency that pops up. Every voice in the main two storylines is pitch-perfect and bodes well for future stories.

Unfortunately, the last storyline pretty much ends the Secret Six, which is a real shame. I have hopes that there will be an ongoing Catman series at least, but the events in this issue of Birdsi makes it clear that one character won't appear alive in anything ever again. I'm pretty sure that Bedard had no choice in this; after all characters of this particular persuasion are being eliminated from all the DC titles. So I'm, not really upset at Bedard for facilitating it; I just wish it didn't have to happen.

And as always, Nicola Scott's art is just stellar.

Blue Beetle 18 - This really was the title of the week. While Blue Beetle may have started out slowly, it has been growing steadily better since about the sixth issue. This week, the Teen Titans come calling, since it appears that Batman believes Beetle's story about the Reach and their invasion plans. Of course there is the generic mix-up and the accidental fight, but then they come together and fight their common foe, Lobo. If I had one gripe, it would appear that Lobo doesn't remember his recent travels with Supergirl, but beyond that, John Rogers nails what I would expect is the appropriate reaction to superheroines in belly shirts. Even stronger is the characterization that Paco and Brenda are getting, growing from generic sidekicks of Beetle to complete personalities in their own right. Rogers has created a book with all the witty banter and camaraderie of old Buffy episodes, which is a decidedly good thing. My only regret is that the art is only so-so, not helped at all by multiple artists this week. But I'm also not sure if a differnt artist wouldn't just ruin the feel that this book has. It's a delightful all-ages read, and it appears a new story-arc begins next issue. It' s a good time get in on the title if you haven't already.

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