DC March 2010: Great Ten 5, Batman Brave & Bold 15, Wonder Woman 41

The Great Ten #5

The Great Ten #5

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Andy Owens

I don’t know why I enjoy The Great Ten so much, but I do. I think I like its stand-alone nature, exotic in the DC universe in more than one way. Each issue gives an origin story for one of the ten Chinese superheroes who make up this team. Its structure suits the way I want to read serial comics; I look forward to each new installment but its appeal isn’t based solely on finding out what happens next, and I can pick it up and catch up as suits me.

I like that the stories are meant to be self-contained, although there’s some over-arching thing about fighting a group who’s resisting their all-wise government that I’m sure will come together in the last issue. I can read and enjoy each issue without worrying about how much I’ve forgotten since the last time I read superhero comics.

I also like that the perspective is so unusual. These heroes support a repressive state and have sacrificed a great deal for their country. That kind of patriotism, although wrong from a U.S. perspective, is also unusual these days. And the setting, across the world, makes it temporarily palatable, although I expect them to become more traditional vigilantes by the end of the miniseries, in issue #10. In the meantime, their abilities are interesting and their faux-elaborate names (this issue focuses on “August General in Iron”, a kind of Colossus type who’s grown a metal exoskeleton thanks to the Durlans) amusing. (The Great Ten were created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones.)

I don’t have any preconceptions when it comes to these characters, no ways in which the writer can get things “wrong” compared to the parts I like or remember. I’ve found Bedard’s work uneven in the past, with good ability when it comes to character bits but a somewhat staid delivery over time and no ability to develop conclusions. This series, with its limited length and even more constrained structure, seems to play to his strengths very well. And McDaniel’s art is well-developed in its detail. After the events of this issue, I’m looking forward to whenever Ghost Fox Killer gets her spotlight. (That issue, #6, is out now, but I’ll get it in another month.)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15

Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Robert Pope
Inker: Scott McRae

I’m tired of Batman, but I do admire some of the wacky things that happen in this title, especially when beloved special guests appear. In this issue, we get not just the Mad Mod facing off against Super-Hip, but Brother Power the Geek comes along to help. That’s the kind of creative use of DC history I can enjoy! And who better to free innocent victims from uncomfortable clothes, forced on them by the Mod, than the Geek, an animated dummy?

Unfortunately, that’s only three pages. (Good storytelling, to get it all told in that space. That’s a near-forgotten skill.) After that comes the main guest-star, Flash, The two decide to race, only it’s going to be who can solve a jewelry store robbery first. It’s a neat idea that allows the Flash to use his super-speed but emphasizes brain power over physical abilities. And ultimately, they have to work together. Good choice for a kids’ comic.

Wonder Woman #41

Wonder Woman #41

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Chris Batista and Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Doug Hazlewood and Raul Fernandez

This issue, from last month, needs to be read by anyone who wants to see more superhero women in comics, because it illustrates how to portray them right. Two strong DCU icons relate in a variety of ways, each true to their character and each becoming much more than The Token Super Woman.

I don’t know what’s going on in the five-page prologue, but after that, we get Power Girl fighting Wonder Woman. There’s this new supervillain who’s manipulating her — a group of five sons of Ares, schoolboys who build hate by whispering to people things that sound plausible (until examined) but cause great dissension. They hide behind a pretend morality, chastising heroes for being thoughtless or “unladylike” or whatever will get their aims accomplished. What a terrific symbol for one of the biggest threats we face today, people who believe whatever they’re told, no matter whether it makes sense or is right.

Generously, Wonder Woman (and her writer) let Power Girl save the day. While Diana can sometimes suffer under the huge weight of the expectations others have for her, being a princess and a representative of so many perfect values, Diana appreciates Karen for always being herself. Power Girl, on the other hand, admires Wonder Woman, and yet resents her for being so admirable.

I found a number of places in this issue where the material could be read as true to the characters within the fiction, as well as accurate depictions of how they’re perceived by the readers. While metafiction often risks being cutesy or serving as a shortcut for more substantial content, here, it was well-chosen and added to the story. Kudos to Simone for her skill in balancing it.

Plus, she writes her characters doing wonderfully down-to-earth things. The two women go for hot dogs. They think about more than just fighting. They’re aware of their heritage and emotions and what makes them unique and use their powers in new and interesting ways. It’s a great superhero comic. I wish there were lots more like it.

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