Saturday, April 19, 2008

Four Color Fiend: A batch of DC comics


Let’s go through the batch of DC titles I picked up this week after the usual…

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COUNTDOWN #3 & 2 bring us to the penultimate issue of this series. We see Mary Marvel being “Daddy’s little girl” to Darkseid, gleefully beating and even trying to kill some of her former friends and teammates. The final outcome of this battle isn’t here, so I have to assume that it will be revealed in the final issue. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that MM will either lose her powers once again or be banished to some place from which she will inevitably escape. I don’t see anybody, except perhaps Billy Batson, having much sympathy left for her at this point and I think he’ll most probably show up in #1 to bring an end to her rampage.

In #3 we have Darkseid trying to remove the energy, stolen from the New Gods, which he had implanted in Jimmy Olsen. With the aid of Ray Palmer, Jimmy is able to break away from Darkseid’s control long enough to become “Giant Turtle Boy” Olsen and start beating on the Lord of Apokolypse. That’s where that issue ends and picks up in #2. From there we see the two battling in the best kaiju fashion as they destroy a good part of Metropolis. When it appears that Jimmy has been beaten the timely arrival of Orion, son of Darkseid, shifts things into high gear for the rest of the book. Sworn to kill his father, Orion finally makes good on what had been prophesized long ago. Since I willingly skipped the “Death of the New Gods” series, I’m probably in the dark about a few things, but the online reviews of that series seem to make it clear I did the right thing. DC, it appears, has done away with Jack Kirby’s Fourth World finally after decades of badly treating it anyway. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next week in #1 to know how all this is wrapped up. However, with his father and fellow gods all apparently gone it remains to be seen what a badly injured Orion can or will do now that his ‘mission’ in life has been completed.

BRAVE & THE BOLD #12 brings to an end the Megistus/Book of Destiny story arc. Dozens of heroes take part in the final battle with this arch villain, but his last words indicate that this was merely a prelude to FINAL CRISIS (at least that’s how I read it). The original Challengers of the Unknown aid the heroes and it is their newest member June who sacrifices herself to end things. However, allowed to read Destiny’s book a final time the Challengers realize that June has been erased from it, indicating that like them she has cheated death, so they go off to find her. Mark Waid & Jerry Ordway did a wonderful job on this series, assisted by several other folks and I’m looking forward to seeing what else is ahead for this title. It has a nice, old-time feel to the book and I hope that sales are good enough to keep it around.

We have one more issue of SALVATION RUN to go, as #6 ends with the appearance of the Parademons from Apokolypse. Since we already know, from COUNTDOWN and other books that the Fourth World is all but gone, it almost seems anti-climatic to have this series running at the same time. Of course, as I’ve said before, it isn’t clear when all this took place as we see some of the characters appearing in this series showing up in others. It’s the Martian Manhunter who is getting the worse of things here, and I’m going to hazard a guess that Heat Wave will get his just deserts in the next & last issue. This entire series hasn’t been great but there have been moments of dialogue and character narration that have kept me interested enough to keep picking up each issue. It would be interesting to see writer Matthew Sturges return to some of the rogues and other DCU villains. Of course, it would have been interesting to see if original scripter Bill Willingham would have gone in the same direction with the characters.

The inevitable confrontation between The Joker and Luthor takes place, with the insane clown having the best lines naturally. Despite his overuse the character continues to be one of the most intriguing villains in any of the DC titles. In my opinion, Luthor has never risen beyond simple megalomania and certainly not been interesting, except in a few stories from the early John Byrne issues of the Superman reboot. He’s Donald Trump, if Trump sometimes used a gun!

I’m not expecting much in the final issue of this book. It will end with all the remaining villains returning to Earth, even angrier and bent on revenge. In other words, except for killing off a half dozen (so far) second and third string villains the series hasn’t done anything for continuity. I feel taken, but I guess I have only myself to blame.

In JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #14, Geoff Johns and Alex Ross continue the “Thy Kingdom Come” arc, with most of the team battling Magog. The Superman from the Kingdom Come Earth comes face to face with Magog and doesn’t do much better here than he did on his home world. The final panel reveals the appearance of Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern) and his son Obsidian, who warn Magog that he must face them. A blurb on that last page states “Somebody will get beat real bad” in the next issue, so we have to wait a month to find out who that might be. As with COUNTDOWN, and the fate of MM, I’m going to make a prediction. Here it will come down to the KC Superman being the one to sacrifice himself. While he may die in doing so, I think it is likely that he and Magog will be sent back off world to settle things. I’m in agreement with MadClan, from CriticizeThis.com and other reviewers, in believing that DC made a mistake in this series. KC was such a wonderful book that I think messing with it doesn’t help, in fact bringing both the Gog/Magog characters and KC Superman to the DCU only confuses things. As this appears to be taking place simultaneously with the events in COUNTDOWN it only makes matters worse. It is like there are too many things to keep track of and most may or may not be resolved in the upcoming company-wide event. The ending of Brave & the Bold does a bit of the same thing, as it leaves a few things unanswered.

Fortunately, BAT LASH #5 doesn’t tie into the current DCU at all, for which we can be very thankful. Co-creator Sergio Aragones and Peter Brandvold have written a classic tale of injustice and revenge, the added treat of having the book drawn by the great John Severin only makes things better. Truth be told I don’t know why DC editorial went with Walt Simonson as the cover artist on this series. Don’t get me wrong! I like Simonson’s work, but I think a series like this really needed a classic artist in the league of Severin to do the covers. Hell, I think Severin would have done a perfect job, but there are a number of contemporary and Silver Age creators, known for work on westerns that could have made the covers as good as the interiors. I’m just saying!

This issue ends with Bat kissing his beloved, Dominique goodbye as he goes off to follow ex-sheriff Brubaker. We see here that Dominique’s father meets his end at his daughter’s hands, but I don’t think that things will end well for the couple. There has been way too much Romeo & Juliet stuff going on already for this to have a happy ending. Unless I am misremembering the initial Bat Lash series, Bat had no one back home waiting for his return. With the rest of his family already killed, it doesn’t seem likely that he would simply ride away from the woman for whom he has sacrificed so much.

I have a half dozen other books and a TPB to get to this weekend. I’ll let you know what I thought about each next week!
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