Tuesday, July 01, 2008

DC Capsule Reviews Week 23 2008

This will be the last capsules reviews for a week, as I take a week's holidays to sunny Portugal!

DC has a solid entertaining week with the premiere of Trinity, the much-waited return of Manhunter, a tribute to G'Nort and a wild sick interrogation scene from Midnighter...


(Rick Remender / Pat Olliffe / John Stanisci)

'Inside Out' part 4. Penultimate issue. Just when things really pick up pace, DC pulls the plug on this title. This issue is chock full of promising clues and hints about Ryan Choi's origins as the Atom, Chronos' involvement in his origins and ominous peeks into the apocalyptic future. Plus: Booster Gold, the return of the original Atom Ray Palmer and Lady Chronos - someone we already know? The humour is gone for good, replaced with a gritty apocalyptic sci-fi guilt-trip into a rookie super-hero's worst nightmare.



(Paul Dini / Dustin Nguyen / Derek Fridolfs)

Easily the best issue in the Dini run so far, as Batman tracks down a new serial killer in Gotham, welcomes Selina back into his life, and kicks back on the Bat-computer surfing the message boards...

Dini has become better with each issue at these done-in-one detective mysteries. The favourite Riddler is back with this issue (having a personal stake in this investigation), along with Catwoman -fresh off the Salvation Run planet and full of spite about Bruce's recent romantic adventures on both his titles.

Highlights of the issue, other than Selina announcing her new residency on the title (with the upcoming cancellation of her own), are the chilling reveal of the killer's identity - tying into the themes of rehabilitation and accountability running through the story-, and the sequence of pages with Batman munching on sandwiches and chatting on a detectives brain-trust online message board with Detective Chimp (Shadowpact) and a clueless Riddler!



(Peter Tomasi / Rags Morales / Michael Bair)

'Freefall' part 6. The different plotlines running through this story finally converge upon Talia Al Ghul and her concurrently-running schemes around the world to create her private super-powered army as protection against her resurrected father. The final focus is on the intriguing Mother of Champions story; we get a close look at the inhumane birthing process - with MoC reduced to a simple clog in a machine, being exploited and intruded even as she gives birth to a new litter of champions; the sequence is gruesome and sadistic in the way it's presented, underplayed and unglossed. Is the genetic donor and Daddy of Champions who I think it's going to be?

DC has stacked up a tremendous amount of talent on this title: Tomasi, Morales, and even Andy Kubert on covers, while next issue will even feature the first returned appearance of Ra's Al Ghul after the recent crossover. With all that going in its favour, I was sure hoping DC would make a better any effort to promote this book through house ads or internet hype. Just a way to tell fans 'hey look, we know we drove you all way after OYL and the other crossovers, but this title is amazingly good now, big stuff is happening, you should really come take a look'!



(Geoff Johns & Alex Ross / Fernando Pasarin / Rebecca Buchman)

'One World Under Gog' part 1. In a small African village, the assembled JSA unearth a forgotten God of the Third World! Geoff Johns eloquently captures the sense of awe and power in the collossal Gog, and the mixed air of reassurance and threat that his presence causes to the heroes and people - announcing his intent to save everyone and making people's lifelong maladies and trouble disappear with a nonchalant wave of his hand and a benevolent smile.

Mr Terrific (the man of science) and Mr Amazing (the man of faith) take the spotlight during the course of the JSA's talk with, well, God - as well as Johns' favourite character since the relaunch, the emotionally and physically scarred Damage. For a book with a cast of about two dozen, Johns juggles everyone in and out of rotation with such finesse that the plot and feel of the book never once gets bogged down - the same time where other books with lesser casts crumble under their own weight.


(Jim Starlin / Ron Lim / Rob Hunter)


The 52 Space Team of Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire along with -hubba hubba- Hawkman fight an alien Tyrannosaurus Rex; the Weird returns; Bizarro eats junk food and watches Sesame Street.

comparing Space Epics, Marvel is clearly the winner as Annihillation and now Guardians of the Galaxy provide a more exciting plateau of adventures and serious threats of a real cosmic level, while DC's assembled space adventurers waste their time from issue to issue fighting one inconsequential threat after another...

On the plus side, Ron Lim really has gotten back into his groove after about 10 years of wasting about. I can only hope for an eventual X-Men 2099 reunion after this project, can't I? :)



(Marv Wolfman / Damion Scott / Robert Campanella)

Raven finally confronts the new Psycho-Pirate who has been experimenting with the emotions of the students in her high school - only to come face-to-mask with a surprise twist. This title has been a bother to read, even as a shift through it each month for my reviews; Raven is forced into an uncomfortable environment where she's forcibly written to get involved with and care for characters that I, as a reader, could really not give the time of day about...

As I've moaned about for 4 issues straight, the graffitti spray-paint art doesn't help matters in the slightest, making Raven feel like the wrong person to star in her own mini...



(Chuck Dixon / Rafael Albuquerque & Victor Ibanez)

Chuck Dixon may have been unceremoniously booted off the company for reasons yet unknown, but he least managed to set a lot of things right before going - foremost being the revival of Stephanie 'Spoiler' Brown and the restitution of Dr Leslie's good name after the character-defiling War Games crossover.

This oneshot is a celebration of Spoiler's return from the dead, featuring two stories by Dixon. In the first Robin and Spoiler go on their new first unofficial 'date' together (don't forget Tim has a gf now!), tracking down a team of kidnappers. The story is narrated by Stephanie, trying to come to terms with how Tim Wayne has changed since her 'death'. The second story reveals the untold story of Stephanie's time in hiding in Africa with Dr Leslie, the good work they did there, and the attack on the diseased village that led Stephanie to return to Gotham and take over the Spoiler mantle once more.

Both stories are admirable self-contained adventures that serve their purpose of reacquainting the reader with Stephanie and bringing out her vivrant personality. I hope she doesn't get tossed aside now that Dixon is again no longer around to protect her.



(Will Pfeiffer / Ron Randall)

UGH! Here I thought DC had learned their lesson on late books and interrupting storylines. Without any particular announcement, #30's conclusion of the (finally) exciting 'Supergirl wants to cure Cancer' storyline gets pushed back an issue for an inventory story, without much warning, or even an editorial box somewhere in the issue...

The story itself is quaint - Supergirl reminiscing about her home planet, remembering moments spent baby-sitting her cousin Kal-El and visiting the Fortress of Solitude for answers from her Uncle Jor-El's Crystal memory complex. It's an ok serviceable story but it goes on to ignore much of Jeph Loeb's confusing 'Supergirl is sent to Earth to kill Superman' mumbo-jumbo that actually gets resolved/addressed in the current story-arc conclusion. Grumble.



(Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza / Mark Bagley & Scott McDaniel / Art Thibert & Andy Owens)

If at first you don't succeed, try again (and FAIL), and again...

Well, third time is certainly the charm.

DC kicks off its third attempt at a weekly comic, and all the signs are pointing that they finally understand what they're doing.

The gist: two interconnecting stories each week: the first - the core ongoing story starring the big Three - by the regular team of Busiek, Bagley & Thibert (the founding team of the Thunderbolts, there's your guarantee right there), the second -featuring satellite characters and expanding on smaller moments during the main story - by Fabian Nicieza with three (ha!) rotating penciller/inker teams.

The first issue is full of promise for a long and healthy run. Busiek right out of the gate gives us his definitive look on the relationships and interactions between Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman - their similarities, their differences (making some very astute observations) and the way they relate to each other. It has to be said also, the quaint bistro on the outskirts of Keystone makes for a nicer meeting point than a cocky private hidden other-dimensional wormhole, or the Bat-cave. Did Diana pick the venue this time round? ;)

The main story deals with the three sharing their experiences from a shared ominous dream, whilwe the back-up features the gathering of the heroes' opposing Trinity, including the sexy Morgane LeFey, the snarky Enigma (Riddler was busy), and ... just read on!

The only dark spot in an otherwise spotless issue: the cover (wow, usually it's the exact opposite these days). Much discussion has been made of the Trinity logo and cover design by Chip Kidd... The bottom line? Although it's a novel effort... it sucks. Really, it's a cheap (nar) Photoshop collage of the three logos, using the blurring effect (really? what self-respecting graphic designer ever uses blur on a publisheable logo? it never looks right, that's common knowledge) to conenct the three. I hope they see the light soon and switch to something more alluring.



(Matt Wayne / Carlo Barberi / Bob Petreca)

Final Issue. A love song to the Greatest of the Green Lantern Corps:

...wait for it...

...it's coming...




A team of the Corps' best (plus G'Nort) take to deep space to battle the Qwardians and Sinestro. Fans of the 'Super-buddies' and JLI will have a field day with this issue as G'Nort flies off with his trademarks irrelevant irreverence, laments his family's downfall ('bad dog!) and eventually even saves the world - with a bite that's louder than his bark.



(Marc Andreyko / Michael Gaydos)

She's back yet again! Manhunter is the clearest DC analog to Marvel's Spider-Girl!

Although not related in subject matter or theme, both titles have been struggling to find a large audience for year, shouldering cancellation after cancellation, but always taking a small break and coming back stronger thanks to their dedicated fanbase.

Manhunter is a divorced public defender and mom, who is disappointed by the lack of actual justice in the DC justice system and decides to take (you guessed it) justice into her own hands. There you have it, family drama, super-powered law, growing rookie super-hero pains, rare DC continuity gems - and the most entertainingly original and flawed super-heroine in years!

Although Andreyko catches up the reader on the running storylines through the recap pages, it's still worth hunting down the ultra-affordable collections to catch up on the rich supporting cast that Andreyko has assemble on the book - featuring every loveable C-rate hero DC has cancelled in recent decades: Chase, the Mark Shaw Manhunter, and even the man-loving Obsidian who has been acting as the JSA's wallpaper for oh-so-long!

On the art front, replacing Javier Pina as regular series, is Michael Gaydos (ALIAS), finally pried off Bendis' greedy fingers, along with new series cover artist Liam Sharp! What more do I need to show you to get you to give this title a chance?




(Keith Giffen / Lee Garbett / Rich Burchett)

Final Issue. The Midnighter is a sadistic psycho-@$ f**k killer. Memorise this to heart. Giffen spends his last issue just driving that point home, and juxtaposing it with the unconditional love he feels for his daughter.

I haven't been following the latest issues, so I felt completely out of the loop as to who this guy is strapped on the floor of Midnighter's cabin, what he tried to do to his daughter, and what's up with the duplicate Jennies by the end of the issue. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that this guy ticked Midnighter off, and this is what the big M does to people who mess with his own when he wants information out of them.

The utter sickness and depravity of the interrogation scene - Midnighter gradually amputating each of his victim's extremities, and then proceeding to cook them on a spit in front of him- is almost lost in the superhero fare art; the words and descriptions alone thankfully carry enough resonance to pull through, ignoring the visuals. I can only dread to imagine the utter sick this scene would cause under Darrick Robertson or Steve Dillon - the masters of gross-out. Just when that scene's over and you think you're safe to take a breather again, Giffen one-ups himself, and M tracks down the mastermind fishing on a boat and ties a fishing line around his neck, waiting for the first fish to bite on the end of the line and slash his neck open. Seriously, this is genius stuff that would make Ennis green with envy.

Giffen has had his hand in many pies lately, I wish we could see him really focus on one or two adult readers titles and really let his creative juices loose like here. As for Midnighter, it's amazing his solo title lasted as long as it did with Wildstorm's current state, but it's been a average to good run overall.


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