Friday, March 28, 2008

Four Color Fiend: Lots of Super-heroes & villains


While it is usually the superhero that gets her or his name in the title of the book, it really is the villain that tends to drive the action. Generally the ‘bad guy/gal’ are also more interesting, at least on the surface. A couple of titles feature some interesting super types of the later group.

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SALVATION RUN #5 begins with an attempt by the group led by The Joker to break into Luthor’s settlement and capture supplies. Luthor isn’t very happy, but is more concerned with the device he hopes will return the villains to Earth. Meanwhile, Vandal Savage reveals his plans for a ‘paradise’ on the planet while he waits for a chance to leave. When he tells Lady Flash about his plan she doesn’t seem especially happy, and the scene ends with what may be an off-camera rape. We will have to wait and see where this picks up next issue. The scene goes back to the seeming standoff at the settlement, where we find a not very selfless Cat Woman (who was found lurking by some villainous I don’t know) revealing the disguised Martian Manhunter. The issue ends with Desade (wasn’t he just killed over in another title?) about to release a hoard of Darkseid’s para-demons onto the planet, which appears to have been his intent from the beginning.

Writer by Matthew Sturges does his best with a huge cast, but I had to go to Wikipedia still to figure out who some of the background characters were. It would be interesting to know what original writer Bill Willingham had in store for the book. Artists Sean Chen and Walden Wong do a nice job making all the villains instantly recognizable, even if I don’t know exactly whom they are. I especially appreciate their not doing a lot of T&A posing with many of the female villains, something I have had a problem with in some of the COUNTDOWN issues.

As I’ve mentioned before unlike the Lord Havok mini that reminds us each issue that the story took place at the midway point of COUNTDOWN, it is unclear when exactly SR takes place. I’m going to guess that SR also happens prior to events in the regular DCU books as Luthor and others appear to be taking part in several titles, even as they battle each other here. My biggest disappointment with the series, as I’ve mentioned before, is that both Lex and The Joker will apparently survive.

PROJECT SUPERPOWERS #1 from Dynamite Entertainment (DE) is actually the second issue of a new series, created by Alex Ross. As with most other titles with which the award winning artist/writer has been involved with you can count on the art (even when not done by Ross himself) to be fantastic. We get covers in this series by Alex Ross, with interior art by Doug Klauba and Stephen Sadowski. As art director, Ross picked artists who do their very best to live up to his expectations.

Dynamite has acquired the copyright for dozens of Golden Age heroes that have all but disappeared. In some cases (such as the Black Terror, The Owl and a couple others), they have been used since by various publishers during the Silver Age and later, but never achieved enough success to stick around. The Black Terror (called simply The Terror in some cases) has shown up in such places as Eclipse, AC Comics and Alan Moore’s ABC Comics among others. On the other hand, The Owl was last seen in two campy issues from Gold Key (drawn by longtime LONE RANGER and western title artist, Tom Gill) along with his side-kick Owl Girl in 1966, obviously inspired by the then current BATMAN television show.

In PS, an aging hero, Bruce Carter III (aka The Fighting Yank) is urged by the ghost of one of his ancestors and the flag-draped American Spirit to seek an urn containing the spirits of some of his old comrades. Apparently, having betrayed his one time friends FY must seek to bring them back to battle a menace, and to finally meet his own lethal fate. Along the way he must find another former teammate the Green Lama, who now resides in a hidden city in the mountains of Asia. Despite a short ‘what has gone before’ note on the inside cover, I really think I need to pick up the ‘zero’ issue of the series to understand some of the back-story. I think in this case it might have been a good idea to actually start over with the first issue, since that is where many fans will be picking up book.

While we see most of the action from the viewpoint of Carter & Co. it is the apparently former hero Dynamic Man and his ‘family’ who have a number of secrets (one seemingly revealed in this issue) causing Carter to release those he betrayed. DM appears to see him/itself in a messianic manner that could explain events. I’ll obviously have to wait and see.

Sketches in the issue show about a dozen different Golden Age characters, only a few of which have made their appearance in this issue. Another reason to look for #0 to see who may have shown up there. It will be fun to see what Ross & Company have in store in this first seven-issue arc and where the characters may go once they have been revived. That is if they survive their first mission.
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