Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comics this Week

My first official post as an actual comics blogger now begins. Hopefully I'll be able to inject some funny into this in order to justify people actually giving two craps about what I'm talking about. That said, behind the cut will feature spoilers for the following titles this week:

Justice Society of America Annual #1
Teen Titans #61
Blue Beetle #29
Cyborg #3
Trinity #9

Some may also notice a distinct lack of Marvel titles. Truth be told, Marvel just doesn't really interest me as much as DC. It's not helped that while DC seems to have a "Two steps forward, three steps back" approach to making what I believe in my opinion to be good decisions, Marvel seems to have a two-fold policy of "Deals with the devil are a-okay" and "superheroes in the real world should be controlled and tagged like those mutant fellas that we eradicated a couple years ago." Still, I do buy the occasional book. American Dream was fun and I keep hanging on the edge when it comes to Thor.

Still, let's talk about what DID come out this week below the cut.

Justice Society Annual #1
It's good to know that Earth-2 preserved the idea of a really stupid-looking Robin costume for the adult Dick Grayson, even if it's better than that silly one that combined the Batman and Robin outfits.

I've been excited about this issue since it was first announced. I'm a big fan of Power Girl and the JSA, but the issue itself... Well, it's a little flat (Ha! Because Power Girl's not- ah, forget it. Boob jokes about Power Girl are as funny these days as calling All-Star Batman and Robin Frank Miller's Spirit movie take one).

While there are both sides of the DC reading fence that seem to give two craps about whether or not there's a multiverse or not, I just want a good story. The problem is that this feels like part one of a story instead a complete story. While I think Geoff Johns is an excellent creator, I fear he's having more and more difficulty in just telling a done-in-one. Sure, his Booster Gold series has been able to accomplish that with stunning success (at least in its first six issues it did), but lately he's been focusing a lot on just telling longer stories ("Thy Kingdom Come" didn't really end so much as extend into the new Gog storyline).

The issue itself just has Power Girl meeting up with the Justice Society Inifity of Earth-2, made up of a few old JSAers and most of its members being part of the old Infinity, Inc. group. It's a nice enough start to the story, and the areas where Power Girl and Huntress are hunting an old, wheelchair-bound Joker are particularly well-done. But after 36 pages, the true Earth-2 Power Girl shows up and thus we start another subplot to go a running in the main JSA title. The internal logic is sketchy, too - the Earth-2 Power Girl wants the JSI to hunt down our universe's PeeGee, yet they just accept her despite the fact that they KNOW there are other universe out there again. All in all it just left me a bit empty.

Teen Titans #31
Wait a second, there wasn't any emo in this issue! FOUL!
Of late, I've been unimpressed with Sean McKeever's work on Teen Titans. It's not at all helped by the artwork, which of late has been kind of a weird combination of 1990s Image grimaces and heavy on the blood and weird faces. McKeever's Titans have been a group of whining emo kids who get depressed a lot, usually about their chances for the future, and argued and squabbled a whole lot. According to the Titans Companion volume 2, Geoff Johns wanted to build the team up, show that they could work together when given the chance and that they truly were a great team. He did include, however, a scene where Red Star comments to them that they can't even walk down a hallway without getting into an argument. That's how it's felt lately - the kids have no particular reason to hang out together. They're just not friends.

However, this issue turns it around. Kid Devil, intent on hunting down the villain Shockwave. In an earlier issue, Kid Devil had been partly responsible for allowing Shockwave to escape, so he wished to prove himself. However, McKeever includes some great character moments in the story, including where Robin says he won't give him a chewing down for all the ways he's screwed up lately and Kid Devil asks for advice on how to track a villain down. Later, the animosity between Kid Devil and Blue Beetle is finally laid to rest, as well, and they just become friends.

I hate to say it, but I think it's helped by the fact that Ravager isn't on the team right now. Oh, believe you me, I'm a fan of Rose Wilson... but not Ravager. I joined comics when Rose Wilson was this badass woman who was Lian Harper's nanny and who you didn't want to screw around with, but she was generally an okay person. However, of late she has become the stereotypical "bad girl" who just insults and growls and sneers and is the kind of person you really don't want to have around you because they're just unpleasant.

Will McKeever be able to keep up this friendlier atmosphere? Well, should he fail, Miss Martian can always sic the imaginary puppies on him (yes, they get another reference in this issue).

Blue Beetle #29
This issue features two characters vying for the title of the deceased character Hellhound.

I'm serious.

Despite the misprint on the cover saying that John Rogers wrote this issue, this is in fact the first issue of the new Blue Beetle ongoing writer Matthew Sturges. Many Blue Beetle fans have been aprehensive about this change, since John Rogers has done such an excellent job setting up Jaime Reyes, his supporting cast, and the general mood of the book. However, I'm pleased to report that he's off to a good start. It looks like he's heading towards more full-on arc storytelling rather than the single-issues that have contributed a few pieces of the puzzle like Rogers did in his final arc, but it doesn't look like that'll be a serious problem.

Admittedly, there are some political issues that are being kind of shoehorned in on the subject of immigration, but there doesn't seem to be any actual preaching one way or the other, which is good. Otherwise, nothing else to report other than the fact that Jaime Reyes likes to make his own sound effects, which is AWESOME. Seriously, why aren't people buying this book?

Cyborg #3
One really has to wonder about the warranties on Cyborg's tech considering how often it gets trashed...
For a six-part miniseries, this story is kind of moving rather slowly. In the first issue, it introduced a whole lot of exposition about Cyborg's past as well as introducing some new elements into it that fit in perfectly with the rest of established DC history. In the second, Cyborg himself is only seen for the last few pages of the issue, since the rest of it is just a fight with someone who apparently looks like Cyborg, but he's capable of defeating a whole bunch of Teen Titans at once. In this, we get some more exposition and a whole lot of fighting.

Overall, the story so far hasn't been exactly the most thrilling thing in the universe, but it certainly has been more entertaining than a lot of books. Cyborg by now should be an A-lister or a heavy hitter in the DCU, worthy of the Justice League at the very least, despite his somewhat sketchy history what with his attempt to steal the moon and all (but come on, who hasn't done that?). I really am getting kind of tired of seeing Cyborg getting smashed apart, though. Maybe he just put all his various limbs on strings or something so he can just retract them back after they've been pulled back?

In any case, the pace could really be picked up.

Trinity #9
Wherein it's revealed that Alfred is Bruce's public relations manager.
I admit I was a little skeptical about another weekly series. While 52 was a kick-ass ride that left me wanting more, Countdown had turned out to be an abysmal flop where even the characters by the end of the story were asking when things were going to a halt. It made various continuity mistakes, couldn't be followed unless you were following half a dozen other books, didn't advance the characters in any way, and felt slapped together from a bunch of moronic concepts. Even when something happened in Countdown, nothing happened.

However, Trinity has so far been a phenomenal success. Despite a rocky start because of a slow fight scene that seemed to take forever, Kurt Busiek has been following the 52 model, making some revelations while keeping the overall picture unclear. Even the backup story, "Making the Pieces Fit," does not actually do what the title intends it to do, and yet I as a reader don't feel cheated, since I know this is building to something.

To my partial dismay, the new villain called Swashbuckler (at least, I presume he's new) debuts in this issue. Sporting a costume rather reminiscent of Bart Allen's Impulse costume, Swashbucker has goggles, a red and black costume, and some kind of laser swords that resemble fencing swords when used. He's quite a competent thief, as well, managing to lift Etta Candy's identification badge without her noticing as well as Nightwing's mask right off his face. While I can understand wanting to steal Etta's badge (apparently without it you trip the DEO's security system) but Nightwing's mask baffles me. Of course, I'm sure there's a reason for it as we'll see, since I trust Busiek to make good on the plot he's been telling.

So, this new format is a little dodgy, not as many jokes (it's hard to make fun of things that don't suck), but I'm sure an issue of Judd Winick's Titans will be out soon, so I'll be able to mock it and deride it soon. Stay tuned!

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