Tuesday, August 7, 2007

San Diego Comic Review

Here is a synopsis of the highlights for comics from 25 July and 1 August. There's a few more than usual, so I'm not going to be going into as much depth as I might normally do.

Spoilers ho!

Batman 666 - Of course, the iconic number requires some special story-telling, but this one is a bit confusing and perhaps not entirely within continuity. I hate to keep sounding off about this, except I feel that DC is pushing all of its titles with continuity and the readers are supposed to be extra aware of it, as Things Change. But this story involves the third Batman, namely, Bruce and Talia's son Damian, as he fights another twisted Batman. Moments of this were delightful, such as when the new rogues' gallery is introduced, filled with characters who sound like they have been Bat-villains for decades. And I just shiver at the stories that could be told to gt a still handicaped Barbara Gordon to become police commissioner. But the main conflict that drives this book, Damian versus the "son of Satan" just doesn't have enough story around it to make it any more interesting than a random fight between two characters we've never heard of. Damian's monologue about having sold his soul to the devil to become Batman was interesting, but oddly disjointed from the fight scene taking place. And if ever folks were concerned about a grim and gritty Batman, this issue would fulfill their worst nightmares. Some of the panels of Andy Kubert's art just gorgeous. But I'd really like to see how we got to this historic moment, though I doubt we ever will, and so the title really does read like picking up a random homage to Batman out of a quarter bin.

Detective 835 - Meanwhile, over in the other Bat-title, Scarecrow is reborn. It seems Jonathan Crane realizes that without his fear gas, he's just a gimmick. So he sets out to strike real fear into the citizens of Gotham. I like removing the gimmick some, making Scarecrow "grow up" and realize his potential. Fortunately the story is in two parts (unlike ost of the other stories in Dini's run on Detective), so there will be more time for Dini to separate Scarecrow from the Joker in his motives and modus operandi. There has to be something more to the new Scarecrow than random psychotic murders that leave the victims looking like scarecrows in their own right, and the pattern of leaving real scarecrows in other locations, thus blurring the line between game and real death, goes some way to do this. But Batman already has a psychotic killer for an arch-nemesis, and something more must be done to make the Scarecrow different from him. But Dini has earned all the trust I can give a writer: we'll see how this one plays out...and I expect it to play out well.

Teen Titans 49 - Two optimistic things to offer up from this issue. On the more granular level, the new line-up doesn't appear to be as disfunctional as I might have believed. Robin, Kid Devil, Ravager, and Miss Martian do a fine job of holding their own against a detachment of Amazons attacking a prisoner train. At a higher level, Adam Beechen does a nice job with his first issue as the sole writer of Titans. Conflict is both internal and external for the characters as they deal with some of the fall-out of this summer's stupidest crossover. Miss Martian especially turns out to be a delight, though Ravager also grows some personality along the way. And I sure didn't see the extra-special moment between Wonder Girl and Robin at the end, though the smarmy last panel could have been left out. Some of Barrionuevo's panels just stink, but there are others that are quite good. I'm not sure how it works out to be so uneven, but it needs levelling in the positive direction.

Nightwing 135 - Dick Grayson is never in costume for this issue, as he spends nearly the entirety of it being tortured by the new Vigilante. In a lot of ways this issue doesn't make any sense, something of a downer for what has been the best run on Nightwing for some time. Given the history we have learned up to this point and the flashbacks in this issue itself, Vigilante has no reason to believe that Dick Grayson is in any way tied up with the return of a villain. That Dick was abused by this villain in his teens, some time ago, should give Vigilante no reason to think Dick has thrown in with him now. If for some reason Vigilante suspected that Grayson is Nightwing, he sure wouldn't torture him as he does. So, while the issue gives the reader a chance to get more back-story from the flashbacks, I'm not sure it's information we really need to have, or if it is, if this is the best way to have delivered it. Still better than what we have seen in the past few years from Nightwing, but a let-down nonetheless.

All New Atom 14 - I'm throwing this one out for only two reasons. First of all, this is where Jason Todd, Nightwing, Atom, Bob the Monitor first get the name "Challengers of the Unknown." It really works for them, but this story violently disagrees with the continuity presented in Countdown. That really does drive me nuts, again, because Countdown is heavily reliant on continuity as it resets it, so much so that I would expect stories coming out of it would be held to it. Not so with this issue. The second cool thing was the visit to "heaven" and anotehr appearance of Ted Kord along with a lot of dead DC heroes and villains. Of course, they aren't really who they appear to be, but there is a lot of fun on the fight scenes and conversations, as Gail Simone really nails the voices. The continuing adventures of these characters as they search for Ray Palmer could be interesting, but I admit to expecting the exploration of the new multiverse would be taking plaec in Booster Gold. This issue is a lot of fun and remains one of the bright points to come out of One Year Later.

Hawkgirl 66 - Well, they did it. The Hawks have finally broken the curse put upon them by Hath-Set. Unfortunately, the millstone is removed only in the final issue of the title, so that the repercussions of their new relationship can't be explored. Hawkgirl and Hawkman are in two different titles, so I don't know where, if anywhere, the ramifications can be examined, which really is a shame. It's unfortunate how much this book suffered after One Year Later, and not just for the poor art decisions. Along those lines, Renato Arlem's art in this issue is quite fine, enough to make me wish the issues would continue with him as a regular artist.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-heroes 32 - A few weeks ago, I sang the praises of Dennis Calero and his art in a single issue of Hawkgirl. He is doing the art for this and the next four issues of Legion, and while it is not as stong as it was in that issue, I still like it. Faces are expressive and the play of shadows is quite nice. The story itself is the first in the search for Cosmic Boy and new writer Tony Bedard seems to be deft at the build-up issues. The real test will come along as he must pay off on the build-up, but thisis a promising start. (I should add here, as a sort of truth in advertising, I got to meet and talk to Dennis Calero in San Diego as he did a sketch of Hawkgirl for Mrs. Speculator. He is an incredibly nice and humble man. I wish him the best and hope he gets an ongoing title soon).

Welcome to Tranquility 9 - Zombies on the loose! Actually, this issue was something of a let-down aftre the fine issues up to this point, but only because Gail SImone writes pretty much a standard zombie story. IT has its moments, like when Roxy from Gen13 shows up unexpectedly and nearly steals all the scenesshe is in, but otherwise, this is pretty straightforward fare. I have to believe that this just set-up for the rest of the story to come. But what I really liked about this issue was the back-up story describing the origin of a new character, Coyote Kid. Simone does a Wildstorm take on Jonah Hex, except that the Kid is immortal, making him perhaps just that much meaner and more kick-ass than Jonah Hex. Between the subject matter and the art, this story is a departure from the standard fare of Tranquility and quite good. I can easily see the Kid carrying his own title, but only if it uses this artist, Carrie Strachan, or someone like her. This is serious and mature stuff, adn the playful caricatures of Neil Googe, the regular Tranquility artist just won't cut it. So, given I expect the Kid to help finish up the story begun in the main part of this issue, there seems to be more good times ahead for this title. (Just, please, consider more Coyote Kid elsewhere!)

Jonah Hex 22 - Speaking of the ultimate cowboy bounty hunter, I just wanted to point out the bizarre conversation in this issue between Hex and Thomas Edison. Yeah, the Thomas Edison. It's a little surreal, as Hex's Luddite nature comes out, and it really feels like the issue was written around the singular idea of the two of them talking, because otherwise not much at all happens. A little bit of a let-down after the most recent issues, and it really just makes me want to go see The Prestige again.

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