Reviews by KC Carlson
Lots of “entry-level” DC books this week. Let’s go!…
BOOSTER GOLD #1-4 (DC Comics) — Booster Gold is an idiot! A bold statement to be sure, but one that anyone who has read DC Comics in the last decade or so — including Keith Giffen’s masterful deconstruction of the Justice League of America — probably wouldn’t argue with. Booster’s had a pretty checkered career at DC, being a part of many failed books and story arcs over the years, so it was quite surprising when DC announced a new Booster Gold title earlier this year.
I was totally prepared to hate this book. I like Booster, but only as a character with someone else to bounce off of. He’s a great team player, as he was in the Justice League, or as a partner-in-dumbness with Blue Beetle. But as a solo guy, he’s about as exciting as flat soda — and leaves the same bad taste in your mouth. I felt bad for the guy when Blue Beetle was viciously murdered to start the events of the Infinite Crisis/52/Countdown cycle of numbness that has overcome most of the DCU these days. And I was somewhat appalled at the attempt to actually make Booster competent, and even downright clever in his storyline in 52.
Fortunately, the gang at Booster Gold Central (i.e. his new book) dusted him off and put him back in his rightful place of being annoyingly clothheaded by pairing him up with Rip Hunter (not his real name), the annoyingly cryptic chronal adventurer, and probably one of the smartest men in the DCU. As well as most probably insane. (He would have to be to team with Booster.)
Together they have come up with the most brilliant/dumbest plan ever: Booster will continue to look and act like the “egotistical, self-centered moron” that the world knows him to be “in order to avoid any fellow time travelers mucking with (his) own history,” while secretly aiding Rip in fixing all of the temporal anomalies (“wormholes,” according to Rip) in the time stream caused by the machinatiations of Mr. Mind in 52 and Superboy (er, Superman — don’t sue me) Prime at the end of Infinite Crisis. (“Punching history. Please.” says Rip in issue #1.)
Booster is, however, not totally stupid, and he wants something in return for being Rip’s “Time Monkey” — he wants to go back in time to save the best friend he ever had, Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle. Rip reluctantly agrees at the start of issue #2, and by the end of issue #4, the duo are moving toward this goal, only to first take a detour (in issue #5) through a dangling romantic thread left over from Chuck Dixon’s Birds of Prey run, as well as messing with one of DC’s all-time most notorious stories.
Thus begins the carnival ride through the DCU timestream. The team deals with Guy Gardner (pre-brain damage) and Sinestro in #2, Booster gets hammered with Jonah Hex in the Old West in #3 (a very funny comic in a DCU of not very many funny things happening lately), and trashes the Cosmic Treadmill of Flashes Barry Allen and Wally West in #4 after drunk-driving Rip’s Time Sphere into it. (Good ‘ol “square” Barry sez: “Take a good long look, Wally. That’s why you don’t drink alcohol to excess.”)
Each issue also has little intriguing glimpses of the timeline-in-passing. I especially liked the nod to Dr. 13’s odd little grouping of past and present DC folks from the back-ups in Tales of the Unexpected (and recently collected in the recommended Dr. 13: Architecture & Mortality TPB). There’s also burbling subplots dealing with the other Blue Beetles (Dan Garrett & Jaime Reyes), as well as a screwball comedy scenario of Booster getting his even dumber ancestor, Daniel Carter, together with would-be reporter Rose Levin so that Booster himself will be born in the future.
Writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz imbue this title with a much lighter tone than Johns’ other series, possibly attributable to the addition of Katz. Wisely, they keep the action moving, with different time scenarios in each issue to date (no decompressed 6-part stories here!), and many more hinted at to come. Art breakdowns are by Booster Gold creator Dan Jurgens and are dynamic and fun all at the same time. I admire Dan for becoming a part of the team that has taken his creation so far from his original conception. Art finishes by Norm Rapmund bring the art to a hi-gloss shine, perfect for Skeets and Booster’s shiny costume. Rapmund brings out the best in Jurgens’ art and makes it look effortless.
This is a great book, smartly told and visually pure, and –so far — easy to follow, which is a HUGE consideration in telling time travel stories. You don’t need to know all the ins-and-outs of the DC Universe to understand what’s going on (although you’ll get more of the jokes if you do).
All hail Booster Gold! Cheeseball doofus king of the DC Universe! May his tales be told, forever throughout time!
WONDER WOMAN #14 (DC Comics) — The eagerly anticipated debut of writer Gail Simone on the Amazing Amazon bodes well for an extended run — there are subplots galore! — but also leaves some unsettling questions.
First off, Hippolyta. Or whoever she is. I’m still not convinced that it’s really her, especially after getting jerked around about it all during Amazons Attack — and then no payoff there! What a cheat! Perhaps Gail feels the same way, as her subplot leads off the book, with “Hippolyta” acting pretty darn strange…
Then we get a wonderful action sequence of Diana battling gorilla minions of Grodd, but rather than the “battle-to-the-death” type of fight that we would have expected in a Wonder Woman comic not that long ago, we see Diana battling strategically and empathetically, bringing the fight to a finish with a minimum of struggle. In the end, Diana offers forgiveness… as well as a place to live, as next we see Diana’s gorilla housemates. But poo jokes… really?
Next up is Diana at work, still at her job at… um, I’ve forgotten its name (and Gail forgets to i.d. it. Oops.) but it’s one of those DC super-hero-watcher faux espionage groups. It’s Diana’s birthday and she gets to have cake (but no hugs). Then we’re re-intoduced to her boss Sarge Steel, with what seems like his third personality in three writers, but at least it seems that Gail put some thought into this one, and hopefully it will stick. What’s slightly more disturbing is the return of Etta Candy — also with a new personality — who seems to have a problem with Wonder Woman, even though she’s always been depicted as being good friends with the Amazon. Hopefully there’s some good reason for that other than “because I said so.”
Finally, we’re introed to the villain of the piece, the underwhelming Captain Nazi. Personally, I’m really tired of re-tooled Nazi villains, and especially in this series, due to their overuse in the 80s and on the TV show. But Nazis are a big part of the history of the character, so there may be method to Gail’s choice in using him as the first in a series of battles with the Society — implying that there are better foes to be had in the near-future. And to be fair, most of WW’s classic foes have been overused by the previous two writers and in Amazons Attack, so I welcome the change of pace, but I hope for better in the future.
The artwork is by the always capable Dodsons, who keep the cheesecake to a minimum here. I’m glad they are staying with the book, especially after what must have been a frustrating situation waiting for scripts for the first WW arc and then not being able to do much of the second, due to the weird scheduling that was used to keep the book on track. Here’s hoping that the Simone, Dodson and Dodson team can put together a long and distinguished run on this series. It certainly deserves one. And, with qualifications, this looks like a good start.
SALVATION RUN #1 (DC Comics) — I SO wanted to enjoy this book. I love books starring villains and I especially love books FULL of villains, so naturally I wanted to love this book, Alas, it was not to be. Bill Willingham’s dialogue is bland and boring and everybody sounds the same (i.e. speaks with the same “voice”). Even characters with obvious, well-established dialects (Mirror Master) speak with the same perfunctory pacing. It’s almost if the letterer was instructed to take Willingham’s plot outline and break it up into interchangeable balloons. Sean Chen’s artwork shows that he’s a good storyteller, but he hasn’t got enough different facial expressions in his artistic arsenal yet, and his figures are often stiff and appear to look like toys. In fact, the entire book seems like the result of kids role-playing with their action figures. Shades of the original Secret War…
BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1 (DC Comics) — This, on the other hand, I expected to be a real disaster, given the the behind-the-scenes turmoil (the book originally was to have had an entirely different creative team). And I am happy to report that it’s a solid first issue. Nothing spectacular, but it did its job of making me want to come back for #2.
It’s great to see Chuck Dixon back at DC with a new, ongoing assignment, after some long and distinguished runs on some of the Bat-books (my faves: Robin, Birds of Prey and the various Year One minis). Dixon is an old pro and drops us right into the action on page 1, with a plot that effortlessly introduces us to the cast of characters. Furthermore, he writes a smart — but not obnoxious or rude — Batman. Plus, he effectively answers dangling questions regarding Thunder, left over from the previous incarnation.
Artists Julian Lopez and Bit are equally adept at action scenes and quieter moments, but I think their best trick in this issue was the various methods they used to keep the usual boring blockhouse/warehouse/HQ looking very interesting, without getting in the way of the action. Lopez has some great “camera” angels and Bit (and colorist Marta Martinez) do not back away from SFX backgrounds and know how to use them effectively.
I very much like how the team is coming together, with its mix of older members (Metamorpho, Katana) and more recent (Grace, Thunder) along with some wild cards (Catwoman). I’m not a big fan of J’onn J’onzz’s new “angry guy” personality, but I’m curious to see what Dixon will do with him, as well as some other characters used in the promotion for the book, but not in this first issue, like Geo-Force, Green Arrow and Batgirl. See you in #2!
GREEN ARROW AND BLACK CANARY #2 (DC Comics) — It’s not often that your starring character is stark naked for most of a comic book. And it’s probably even odder that that said character has to eventually borrow some underwear from another hero. Oh, and it’s not Black Canary. Perverts.
Frankly, it’s quite odd that this issue is as wacky as it is, considering how grim things looked a couple of months ago. Y’know, when Green Arrow went all glassy-eyed and attacked Black Canary on their wedding night and she had to kill him in self-defense. Ug. There’s still some explaining to do, but the bottom line is that this book is off and running and the ride is obviously gonna be strange.
The best thing this book has going for it is Cliff Chiang’s charming and deceptively simple artwork. And by that, I mean that he’s not one of those artists that uses a million lines when one will do. Check out the trees in the opening sequence. Note how many lines aren’t there. He’s drawing shapes, and in so doing is putting tremendous trust in his colorist, the always wonderful Trish Mulvihill. Trish, like Cliff, isn’t out to be flashy, she’s using simple — but deliberate — color choices to make the work shine. Take note of how her backgrounds are all naturalistic and subdued, until something exciting happens and suddenly the panel is filled with oranges and reds. This is how it’s supposed to work — with all the artistic elements complimenting each other.
And Judd Winick’s dialogue is smart, funny and sassy, making for a complete, if slightly off-kilter, package. If everyone can keep up this level of entertainment — and there’s no evidence that they can’t — this is going to be a good, solid, looking-forward-to-the-next-issue series.
TITANS EAST SPECIAL (DC Comics) — This reminded me of an “old school” Image book as done by Rob Liefeld. This is not a good thing. DC, we expect more of you than this tasteless snuff book. And Judd Winick and Ian Churchill have done better work. And should have known better. Worst pacing of any book this year. And all that extra space wasted…
Not to belabor the point, but this book begs the question: Does anyone at DC put any long-term thinking into their titles anymore? With this lead-in, the upcoming Titans relaunch is saddled with this tragic “origin,” meaning that they are destined to wallow in sadness for months or be callous by forgetting their “heroic” sacrifice. It’s a loser scenario either way. And aren’t we all looking forward to more statues of the fallen in the Titans’ garden?
DC Comics: Going down with the ship AND killing the women and children first.
WORLD WAR HULK #5 (Marvel Comics) — Chukk! Skracrack! Kwaglooooom! Spakooom! Vjjjwommmwwwwb! Bwoom! Jrjrkjcsssss! What?
Beautiful artwork and coloring, but can someone please explain to me what happened at the end?!
(All sound effects provided by WWH#5 and recorded in front of a live
PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #13 (Marvel Comics) — I’ve talked a lot about DC here today, but my favorite moment this week occurred in a Marvel book, starring the character I hate the most in comics — The Punisher.
The moment: Page 3, panel 2. The Rhino comes crashing through a wall, inanely shouting “Oh, Yeah!” — just like Kool-Aid Man!
Thank you, Matt Fraction and Cory Walker. I really needed that!
This book is so cool. And I bet real Marvel fans just hate it…
QUICK TAKES — For more Marvel goodness, check out Captain Marvel #1 and Nova #8. I’m a little too behind in my continuity reading to get all of what was going on within these issues, but there’s good stuff in both!… The Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Panel to Panel TPB turned out to be much cooler than we imagined from the sales copy. From the shiny foiled cover to its oversized format, to its amazing selection of artwork, this book demands your attention. Check it out for yourself at the store! And if you don’t see it –ASK! We’ll get more!… No review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier Hardcover here. Sorry, it’s much too elaborate a project for my meager reviewing skills (as well having too tight a deadline to take it all in!). But check out the Table of Contents — designed like a map of the London Underground — for some great in-jokes… Don’t be fooled by the kinda washed-out looking covers of World of Warcraft #1. There’s some way-cool, dynamic artwork — by Ludo Lullabi and Sandra Hope — lurking inside. Check it out… Are you wearing the new Kryptonian overpants and belt combo? It’s all the rage!