Sunday, July 09, 2006

Catching up with Comics

Land's sake, Leaguers... It has been a while since I went all straight up comic review on you.

Here's some stuff I've been reading.

The All-New Atom #1: Here's an idea. How about a superhero who doesn't start his career as a dorky teenager? Well, our hero in question IS a bookworm, but in this case, it's all too appropriate for the hero to be of the pocket protector set. After all, you can't be The Atom without being one of the world's top physicists.

Dr. Ryan Choi takes on Ray (The Atom) Palmer's job in Ivy Town following his disappearance at the end of Identity Crisis. A world class genius among world class geniuses, Ryan is quick to discover the source of The Atom's power as well as some of the perils of shrinking at will.

Gail Simone is on writing chores, following an outline by Grant Morrison, working her usual magic with popping dialogue and natural characterization. She sets up a supporting cast in an organic fashion, introducing the characters as Ryan arrives on campus.

The Atom is now officially a legacy character, from Al Pratt, to Ray Palmer and now to Ryan Choi (you can fit Atom Smasher/ Nuklon in there however you please), and Gail creates an interesting dynamic between Ray Palmer and Ryan. Ray is played up as the distant mentor (Ryan is from Hong Kong and corresponded via letter and e-mail), and, at some point, I'm sure Ray's fate will play out in the title.

John Byrne has managed to utilize the internet to create a not-too-popular image of himself as a cranky curmudgeon. It would be unfortunate to skip this title simply because of Byrne's personal views and inability to step away from the keyboard. His pencils are in great form, and the inking on the book (Trevor Scott) is better than what I recall seeing in either JLA or Action Comics.

I've never really understood why The Atom's costume just appears whenever he shrinks.

The threat established in this comic is especially suited for The Atom, and I'd be fibbing if I wasn't a little concerned how The Atom can continue to find a list of villains which meet his unique talents. I always liked Ray as a utility player in the JLA comics, as both the scientific genius and sub-atomic hero. DC has done it's usual magic of coming up with some crazy ways Ray could utilize his powers, which, no doubt, will also appear in the new comics.

Anyhoo, of the new DC titles, this was probably the strongest first issue.

Blue Beetle #4: This one came out last week, but I'm playing catch-up.

A lot of ball's are in motion already with issue #4. I'm not necessarily on the fence with this book. I'm enjoying it and plan to continue to pick it up. BUT... the book constantly rides the line between yet another book about a teenager figuring out how to be a hero with powers thrust upon him (ie Spider-Man) and something truly unique.

Giffen seems to take one step back into familiar territory with every two steps forward in crafting a title which should be a "must read". Giffen's take on the Blue Beetle's powers, the environment of OYL, Jaime's family all are a new thing, and those moments are when the book shines. However, the villains are too mysterious for their own good, falling right down the slippery slope thanks to their ill-defined "magical" ties. To keep Jaime from sitting around talking to himself, Giffen has given him two best-pals, the over achiever and the goof, creating holy trinity of comics since the 80's. Unfortunately, there's nothing there other than the place-holder status we've seen in dozens of comics prior to Blue Beetle.

I guess my frustration comes from having followed Firestorm for the past two years as writer after writer has tried to make the premise work, the doofus best friend, the straight-from-central-casting "angry father", etc... all work. But it feels like for two years, I've been holding my breath, waiting to see the title cut loose. Instead, we've seen iteration after iteration not really work.

There's a lot to like in Blue Beetle, but Giffen needs to take a sharp left turn when he starts heading into the territory of the familiar and see what it takes to define the new Blue Beetle as the true next generation of superheroes.

Action Comics #840: Wow. Johns and Busiek wrap up the OYL run with a bang.

Very much looking forward to Superman titles as Busiek and Johns continue on with the Superman series.

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #2: I'd read a review in which this issue was described as "more whining" before I had a chance to read the issue. That reviewer is looking for ass-kicking action, I guess, and missed the point of this mini-series.

For almost as long as Superman has been zipping around in 4-color comics, Jerry Siegel has has another creation, The Spectre, dispensing horrific justice upon the wicked. This series is asking good questions, attempting to tackle the inherent illogic of The Spectre's mission.

I'm not sure how long the Cris Allen version of The Spectre will continue, and I can't say I'm nuts about the "goatee'd" Spectre, but occasionally DC needs to take a few steps back and examine some of their time-honored ideas just to make sure they still work. In two issues this series has done more in a far more satisfying manner than the Hal Jordan-Spectre series for the 8 issues or so I followed it.

Detective Comics #821: Paul Dini and JH Williams take over the title in the post-OYL era. Paul Dini's name may ring a few bells as a writer/ producer on "Batman: The Animated Series" and as a writer on ABC's "Lost". JH Williams was responsible for the genre-defying art work on Alan Moore's "Promethea".

Dini is doing what he did best on the animated series. He's telling single story issues using a timeless version of Bruce Wayne/ Batman, including Robin where necessary. This first issue is good, solid work, and a great point for new readers to start picking up Batman comics again.

Supergirl #7: My GOD, this title would be a nightmare for anyone without a bachelor's degree in DC History. You know, I'm giving this comic about three more months, and then... well, they've got three more months to get this title in line. I have no idea where they're going, which is part of why I'm sticking with the comic. If it were not for the solicits for September, I'd have given up already.

So far, DC has managed to turn out one serious mess of a character launch. My advice to DC: scrap this Kara Zor-El. I don't care how you do it. The original pollyanna in a mini-skirt worked. Somehow in 7 issues you've managed to give us a character ten times as messy as the old Mae/ Matrix/ Linda Danvers/ Earth Angel car-wreck.

While Ian Churchill's art on this title is gorgeous, that's about all I can say that's positive about the comic to this point.

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