Saturday, January 19, 2008

Comics for 16 January

The pull-list was short this week, so the selection is a little smaller....

Spoilers ho!

Checkmate 22 - This issue completes the origin of Mademoiselle Marie, with a nice movement back and forth from past to present. The writign is excellent, and Marie is a much more interesting character now that her backstory has been filled in. The idea of a national French heroine who is a member of a secret organization made of only two people at a time is ingenious, adn this issue nicely fills out the 20th-century portion of her origin. At the same time, the current Mademoiselle Marie works to end a hostage crisis in the Mideast, and we get to see what the character is capable of. There are personal touches throughout, adn the portrayal of the "swearing in" ceremony is very nicely paced and drawn.

As a side story, we see who may become the newest White Queen's Knight. We haven't seen enough of Rocket Red in the last few years, and if I had put some thought into it, his inclusion in the international family of Checkmate would have been obvious.

Birds of Prey 114 - I have to admit I was nervous about anyone but Gail Simone writing this title, and I knew very little about Sean McKeever. But so far, his run has been good, not yet living up to the standards Simone set. This issue concentrates on an old villain coming back to harrass Lady Blackhawk, and she appears to be rapidly taking over the focus of the series. Oracle is reeling from the lecture she received from Superman between issues, taking it out both on her operatives and Misfit, who she begins to train.

The segments written from Misfit's point-of-view are the best, accurately catching the emotional turmoil of a teen, especially a teen superhero being trained by an unhappy taskmaster. And while the reader has some idea of why Oracle is acting the way she is, watching the distress it puts Misfit through from Misfit's eyes is some nice characterization. The last page promises the return of a recurring character thatprobably should have been a member a long time ago, but this issue points out that there may not be a female hero in the DC Universe who has not been recruited by Oracle. Even some female not-quite-heroes.

The one constant is Nicola Scott's continuing strong pencils. At this point, I think I can safely say the comic's appearance and voice rely a great deal on her solid talents. If she ever gets away, the continuity will be lost and what small changes McKeever makes in the characters will become magnified. Right now, it feels like a fairly smooth changing of the guard with a minor change in emphasis. Birds of Prey remains one of the best reads in the DC Universe.

Booster Gold 6 - Speaking of which. After the last issue, Rip Hunter thinks he has taught Booster that most of the past is immutable, except where it is broken. That is, until three Blue Beetles show up at his doorstep ahd demand Booster's help in rescuing Ted Kord. Of course, this is what Booster has claimed he wanted all along if he had time travel powers.

The writers, Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, create a nice synergy between Blue Beetles past, present, and future, and of course, since we know so very little about future Blue Beetle, something about him seems more than a little sinister. But by the end of the issue, Ted Kord is safely alive and teamed up with Booster; together they will fight to correct the timestream and no one will know of their heroism. The pay-off is a little blah given its build-up; they don't tell Ted Kord that he actually died in another timestream. And Booster seems very calm in the face of achieving his personal goal. Of course, Rip is put out and summons Booster's ancestor to try to help fix things, so even though this is the last issue in the story arc, it is not at all clear that the story of Beetle and Booster is over.

Also of note is the solicitation for the next issue, as the team goes back to Zero Hour, and the issue will actually be #0. As good as this comic generally is, I don't think that they can fix the horror associated with Zero Hour (that is, horror from the readers...). But I look forward to the attempt.

Robin 170 - He's baaaaack. Chuck Dixon returns as writer to the series he wrote for so very long. And you know what? It feels right. I didn't notice how strained the storytelling was in past issues until Dixon took over and it's not so strained any more. With him, Dixon brings back recurring background character Ives, so that there is more tying TIm's old life to his new life. Somewhere along the way Tim and Zo got things worked out and there seems to be a relationship forming there. Zo is forgiving, much in the way Lois Lane was before she found out Clark Kent's secret--her boyfriend is a bit of a space cadet, but the times that he is attentive are very good times indeed.

Dixon also brings a new character with him, a woman con artist, robbing from villains before the money can be dispersed. She dresses in purple, which of course puts Tim in mind of Spoiler/Stephanie Brown. So when he fights her, as he must even if they become some sort of partners eventually, he is often a little behind. It is no help that she appears to be a formidable opponent in her own right. This looks promising, and welcome back Chuck Dixon--thanks for levelling out the keel. Just please please don't make this character a Stephanie Brown from an alternate timestream or another Earth....

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