Saturday, November 28, 2009

Big Week Reviews

Lots of stuff to review! This week was a big week in books, so rather than do something stupid, like compare a comic book to a play, we're going to head right into the reviews.

I also apologize as this formatting isn't as good as Jason's - I think there might be some kind of weird techno-demon fooling with the formatting. . .

Gotham City Sirens #6
Story by Paul Dini
Art by Guillem March

Set your way back machine for November 1966 and pick up issue #186 of Batman. If you happen to read this wholly forgettable issue of Batman, you'll be introduced to one of the lamest and dumbest villain sidekicks the world has ever seen. This was the issue that introduced the world to the Joker's sidekick Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, a midget sidekick.

In the issue, Batman and Robin defeat the duo and send them to jail, the end. Gagsworthy was left to toil in obscurity as a one off villain. But thanks to Paul Dini, the world can once again "enjoy" Gagsworthy. (Please note that I put enjoy in air-quotes.)

Issue 6 of Gotham City Sirens picks up as Gagsworthy is about to kill Harley Quinn. Turns out Mr Gagsworthy has had an axe to grind for quite some time. In what could only be described as a bizzare love-triangle, Gagsworthy wants to kill Harley because she had become the favored side kick of Mr. J.

Told partially through flashbacks, we get to see (through Gagsworthy's eyes) the beginning of the modern, more psychotic Joker. After the Joker snapped in prison and killed 6 guys with a plastic lunch tray, he was transferred to Arkham. The Joker never came back to spring him out of jail. Gagsworth served his time and went back to one of Joker's lairs to try and contact his boss once again. It was there that he heard the Joker tell his new squeeze "Harley" about how lame Gagsworth was. This was the impetus for his revenge.

The girls are able to defeat Gagsworth's death traps with a little help from their over-charging, part time villain, contractor and send Gagsworth on a rocket out into Gotham Bay. And just when you think Harley's learned her lesson and stopped pining for Mr. J, she ends up not learning a thing and hopes that when she seems him again it's be for the better.

Justice Society America
Story by Bill Willingham & Matthew Stuges
Art by Jesus Merino

This very well may be the beginning of the end of the JSA. Not only are there division on the team, there seems to be a division between the writers of this book and their readers. Under Geoff Johns spectacular run, JSA was one of the most consistent books out there. The characters were relatable (as well as likaable), the stories were well paced and there seemed to be a general attempt to make the JSA the group you WANTED to be on.

It was once written that the JLA taught you how to fight, but the JSA taught you how to be a hero. This idea seems to have gone out the door with Geoff Johns. We now see why DC wanted to have lots and lots of heroes added to the JSA roll call - they wanted to make a spin off series! (Hey DC, not anyone I know is enjoying JLA:Cry for Justice - so you might want to hold off on the spin offs for a while - and yes this means the JSA All Stars.)

Without going into too much detail, we finally found out the All American Kid was the traitor in the group, responsible for killing Mr. Terrific. However, thanks to the actions of Doctor Fate, Green Lantern and Doctor Midnight, they were able to revive him. (Hint: Anybody who describes himself as All American should be immediately considered evil. The only exception: Stephen Colbert.)

The whole thrust of this issue to drive the team into two groups. The JSA All Stars are going to consist of Hourman, Stargirl, Power Girl, Magog, the younger Wildcat, Damage, Citizen Steel, Judomaster, Cyclone and King Chimera. The other members of the team will remain as the Justice Society of America. For my money, I'm going to side with Green Lantern, The Flash, Wildcat, Mr. Terrific, Doctor Midnight, Mr. America, Doctor Fate and sigh, Lightning.

Oh well, we can't always get what we want.

Green Lantern #48
Story by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke

This issue of Green Lantern is set up to perfectly dovetail with Blackest Night #5.

In this issue, we finally see the pieces moving into final alignment for the war of light. However, through "conversations" (read arguments and fights) we find out that all of the lanterns have no real reason to trust one another. In fact, Sinestro has a new axe to grind with Hal Jordan as he blames him for the black rings flooding the universe. However, it's revealed that Atrocitus claims responsibility for setting these events in motion.

Chaos and fighting ensue until Black Lantern's ominous voice claims "Power Levels at 100%" Almost immediately they teleport to Sector 666 - the center of the black hole of emotion. It was also here where Atrocitus lived until the Manhunters came and killed everyone on his planet (becoming the source of his rage). It supposed to be the location of the black lantern, but it's been moved. Which leads directly into Blackest Night #5 (despite what they tell you on page one of the book - not Blackest Night #6)

Blackest Night #5
Story by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis

You can read Jason's review of Blackest Night below and I agree with many of the points that he highlighted in his review. However, at this time, I would like to address a handful of issues that arise out of this whole event.

One: Is anyone at DC keeping track of continuity? In Batman and Robin, Dick has the body of Batman in a crypt. Final Crisis clearly showed that Bruce is alive and well in another segment of time as part of the Omega Sanction. So then who's skull is it that Black Hand is toting around like a goth handbag? JSA All Stars clearly shows that Damage is going to be on the team - but as we all know, he was killed in Blackest Night #4. Are we to assume JSA All Stars takes place before Blackest Night? Seriously, this is getting as confusing as time travel.

Two: As evidenced in this issue of Blackest Night, anyone who was killed and stayed dead can be brought back as a Black Lantern, however if you were killed and brought back, you're living on Nekron's dime and can become one of his minions.

Here's the problem - Green Arrow was brought back to life by Hal Jordan by using one of his cells that was still alive from the explosion - so technically he really wasn't dead. Also, Superman never died either. He went into a Kryptonian coma-like state after he expended all of his power after fighting Doomsday. Thirdly, Wonder Woman is immortal - this one seems really easy here, doesn't it? And finally, Barry Allen merged with the Speed Force, which he is - so again, he didn't really die as change into another form of energy.

Three: Where can this story go from here? I'm not doubting Geoff Johns at all with his mastery of this project, however, I get the sneaking suspicion that the post Blackest Night DC Universe isn't going to be as different as they claim. And with three issues left to go, are there any other high points left to hit with the story? I just hope this hasn't peaked too soon and leave us with a "meh" ending. (But I guess that's Geoff Johns' problem and not mine.)

However, I can state with absolute certainty that I have enjoyed this cross over event more than any I have in a LONG time. And just because it's such a kick ass picture, here it is again.

"Bruce Wayne of Earth. RISE."


Jason D. Manger said...

Great review Jeff. I had another issue with the Batman appearance that I'll bring up here and given your field of employment I'm sure you'll agree. The design of Black Lantern Batman was pretty weak. All of the other Black Lanterns had a crisp new Black and Silver costume but this one just had a BL logo superimposed over the Batman logo. Again, this says to me that something fishy is going on with "Bruce Wayne" that I hope will be explained later.

Kerry said...

Probably should have spoiler-tagged the JSA reveal. On a related note, I don't think the Johns stuff is as uniformly awesome as people remember it; both the previous volume and this run flagged near the end of his tenure (and that Kingdom Come stuff went on forever).

No one seems to like JL: Cry for Justice, but it sells like crazy. Is this an All-Star Batman-style case of people being too dazzled by the art to care about the story?