Weekly Comic Review for 12/5/07

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9 (Brian K. Vaughan-writer, Georges Jeanty-artist)

This issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer starts off with a double bang.  First, Jo Chen’s awesome cover, which is a brilliant recreation of the Mod TV classic The Avenger’s dynamic duo, with Giles standing in for John Steed and a cat-suited Faith as Mrs. Emma Peel.  Turning the page, we’re greeted with a flashback to Faith’s days as Mayor Wilkins’ hench-girl.  In just a few panels, Vaughan shows the readers why Faith joined the Mayor’s side.  Sure, he was a demented mass-murdering psycho, but he was probably the first man in Faith’s life who loved her in the purest, non-lecherous way.  The Mayor was, warts and all, a father figure for the lost slayer.

Flash-forward to the present, Faith’s at the mercy of rogue slayer Genevieve, who’s understandably pissed to find out that Faith’s a mole.  BKV draws a clear parallel between the Faith-Mayor relationship and the Genevieve-Roden relationship, without hitting us over the head with it (which I appreciate).  But, he also lets us know how different the two relationships are.  The Mayor truly cared for Faith.  It was his love for Faith that was his undoing–remember, it was Buffy showing Mayor McSnake Faith’s dagger that allowed her to lure him into the library loaded with TNT.  She was, for all intents and purposes, his daughter.  Roden, on the other hand, sees Lady Genevieve as nothing more than a pawn.  In fact, after Faith beats the crap out of (and eventually kills) Genevieve, Roden doesn’t bat an eye.  He mourns not the loss of a loved-one, but rather berates himself for backing the wrong horse.  He offers Faith the opportunity to rid herself of Buffy if she would only join him.  Thankfully, our girl says “no.”  (In a funny character moment, Faith seems to be going easy on Genevieve until the British snot asks if Faith’s speaking with a New York accent…an insult no Boston-girl would let slide.)  Roden might have wiped the floor with Faith at this point, if not for the timely arrival of Giles.  Our man Rupert uses Roden’s own spells to make the Irish maniac’s head (adorned with Dark Willow’s familiar blue veins of evil) explode.

This issue ends with two scenes that will, most likely, have wider implications for the overall arc of Season 8.  First, more or less burning his bridges with Buffy and her team, Giles offers Faith the opportunity to team-up with him to work behind the scenes while Buffy and her group fight on the front-lines.  Maybe Giles has been reading Batman and the Outsiders, why else would he suggest a small, two-person black ops unit?  The second scene is the reveal of Twilight, a floaty dude in a mask who wants to “bring the age of magic to an end.”  I’m sure he’s the season’s Big Bad, just as I’m sure he was the dude floating over Buffy’s castle headquarters a few issues back.  Although his identity remains a secret–and with Joss, you never know who’s gonna pop up (I’m lookin’ at you, Warren)–Twilight appears to have connections with the military, as evidenced by his clandestiney, mesa-top rendezvous with Lt. Molter.

Finally, although Jeanty’s art in this book has been pretty spot-on so far, there were a few places–particularly towards the end–where it seemed a bit rushed.  Not only did Faith actually seem scrawny in these later scenes, but her trademark tattoo was completely M.I.A.  I’m not sure if Giles made her conceal her tat for the fancy party, but even if he did, Faith had been thrown in a pool and (presumably) showered by the end of the night.  I know I’m probably just being nit-picky…and, since it didn’t really affect the over-all awesomeness of the issue, I’ll let it go.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 21 (Paul Dini & Sean McKeever-writers, Jamal Igle-artist)

Either everything in Countdown is coming to a head, or it’s all been a huge waste of time.  Honestly, I think it might go either way.  One minute, you’re lead to believe that Darkseid is behind everything.  Then, they throw that whole Superman(boy)-Prime-at-the-Source-Wall thing at you.  Now, it seems that Darkseid might (at least partially) be involved, after all.  Sure, I guess they could be working together, although Darkseid doesn’t really play well with others–but, I think he’d be tickled to have a Superman playing for his team.  All of this comes from an opening scene on Apokolips where Granny Goodness and Desaad having a pissing contest over who’s more loyal to the Big D.  Desaad claims that Darkseid’s machinations are the catalyst for this “Great Disaster” everyone’s all hopped-up about.  Amidst all of this head-spinning sycophantism, it is revealed that Granny Goodness has been masquerading as Athena, using the Athenian Women’s Shelter to train new Female Furies.  At least we’ve gotten to the bottom of that.

Elsewhere, Bob and the Challengers arrive on Earth-12, an Earth that exists in the future.  An Earth where Gotham City is protected by…wait for it…BATMAN BEYOND!  Since the end of 52, when it was hinted that such an Earth existed, I’ve been itching to get a look at it.  Call me a geek.  Anyway, while chilling out on Earth-12, the Challengers are ambushed by another Monitor who, while going on and on and on about how much damage these aberrations are doing to the integrity of the Multiverse, reveals that the Monitors have become so individualized that they’ve chosen names for themselves. 

Meanwhile, back on Earth….er, New Earth…Trickster dies in Piper’s arms.  Again, death is not as permanent a situation as it is here in the real world, so I hope to see Trickster again at some point in the future (and I mean the real Trickster…not that obnoxious little tool who was using the name a few years back).  To make matters worse, Trickster’s death activates the fail-safe mechanism on the cuffs that he and Piper are wearing, leading to explosive (ahem) results.  And, speaking of explosive (okay, so segues aren’t really my strength), things in Bludhaven are about to get real.  Karate Kid finds a weird hatch buried in the depths of the Command D bunker and does the one thing you should never do when you find a weird hatch buried in the depths of anything: he opens the fucker.  That leads to Brother Eye busting its way out of NORAD with a whole army of freshly O.M.A.C.ed soldiers in tow.  Where’s Brother Eye headed, you ask?  Why, Bludhaven, of course.

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Justice League of America #15 (Dwayne McDuffie-writer, Ed Benes-artist)

Yeah…so big surprise…the JLA gets free in this issue and beats the seven shades of shite out of Luthor’s Legion of Doomed Injustice Gang.  Despite a few fun character moments–Roy and Hawkgirl discussing Hawkgirl’s metaphoric nakedness with the possibility of it being actual nakedness at some point in the near future; Superman telling Vixen that they’ll need to discuss why she felt the need to french-kiss him when she was returning his powers to him; Batman essentially telling Black Canary to sue him for disobeying her orders not to chase down the fleeing villains–this current incarnation of JLA repeatedly falls flat.   

Why?  What’s happening here?  It’s not the line-up.  I dig everyone on the team (well, except maybe Vixen…and I signed up for Hal as Green Lantern and not John Stewart), so that’s not the problem.  It’s not the day-to-day mechanics of writing, either.  McDuffie knows how to write these characters…look at the Justice League cartoon: it kicked ass.  I think DC editorial needs to step in and put a moratorium on “epic story arcs” in JLA, they aren’t working, kids.  You have McDuffie writing this book, let him do what he did on the Justice League cartoon.  Start publishing self-contained one- or two-part stories.  Don’t even pretend that the League will be unable to stop the bad guy or solve the mystery…we all know they will.  This issue has already introduced Amanda Waller and Task Force X (an ominous presence from the cartoon) to the new League.  Keep them in the background.  Do not roll them out as the Big Bad in the next arc.  Wait a while…I’d say a year.  Yes, I said a year.  Give us ten or eleven good stand-alone issues, with Waller pulling the strings from behind the scenes, slowly building-up to an actual climax.

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Justice Society of America #11 (Geoff Johns-writer, Dale Eaglesham-artist)

Now this is how you write a super-team book.  The JSA and the JLA come together to address the appearance of the Superman of Earth-22.  Wonder Woman uses the Golden Lasso of Truth on the old guy.  Hal and John use their rings to check his DNA, discovering he is, in fact, 100% Kryptonian.  More importantly, Clark trusts him.  That’s all you need.  If Clark says someone’s a good guy, he’s a good guy.  End of story.  Nothing to see here.  Sure, Bruce isn’t ready to invite Superman-22 over for a cold one in the Cave, so it’s no shock that he’s all for finding a way to send Kingdom Come Superman back to his Earth.  But, for the time being it seems that this elder Clark is here to stay.  That raises an interesting question: what’s he going to call himself?  You can’t have two Supermen on one Earth…it’ll confuse the general public.  I vote for Power Man.  Why?  Simple: there’s a touching scene between Superman-22 and Power Girl where they collectively mourn being the sole survivors of their respective Earths.  Kara reminds Superman-22 of his cousin and vice versa.  S-22 says that even though they aren’t family, perhaps in time, they can be.  What better way to cement their connection than to have Superman-22 take her name?

Meanwhile, Jay Garrick and Wally West are on Barry’s Cosmic Treadmill.  Jay’s convinced that they can use the Treadmill to vibrate themselves into a parallel Earth.  In Pre-Crisis continuity, that would have worked.  However, when Jay and Wally try it now, they catch a fleeting glimpse of another Earth before finding themselves in a black void–my guess is this is the work of the Bleed, the protective energy barrier that keeps the Earths of the Multiverse separated. 

This issue also indicates that there’s going to be an increase in the JSA’s roster.  Not only is Superman-22 sticking around, but the JSA swings by Japan to save a new Judomaster ( a young woman who’s protected by a force-field that makes it impossible to directly harm her) from a gang of super-powered Yakuza thugs.  The Society learns about her through their “Legacy File”–something, I assume, that tracks new people using previously established costumed identities.  The last page of this issue also reveals that a new Mr. America’s running around.  He’s been called in to help the F.B.I. investigate a meta-human killing, which may or may not be the work of someone tied to the Magog of Kingdom Come.

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Metamorpho: Year One #5 (Dan Jurgens-writer, Mike Norton-artist)

Call me a fool, but I expected this Year One series to have a concise storyline, like the ones in Green Arrow and Batman.  What we have here is a somewhat scatter-shot collection of stories that are tied together, seemingly, only by the fact that Rex Mason has yet to fully embrace his new identity as Metamorpho.  He’s still playing the “You Said You Had a Cure” game with Stagg, who’s still taking every opportunity to royally screw Rex over.

This issue presents Rex with an impending alien invasion.  A robot arrives to prepare the way for his master, The Thunderer.  It turns out that The Thunderer is an obnoxious little green alien who, despite being able to cause more than his fair share of property damage, is pretty lame.  The Thunderer and his robotic “herald” are clearly meant to be a spoof of Galactus and his herald, Silver Surfer.  I’m a fan of spoofs…but this one isn’t executed that well.  (A good Galactus spoof is Omnipotus from The Tick.)

In the end, another group of aliens come to collect The Thunderer.  Given their reaction to Rex’s desire to be cured–they can’t understand why he doesn’t want to be the most powerful being on the planet–maybe this issue serves as a turning point for Rex.  This could be the moment when Rex Mason, former TV star, becomes Metamorpho, super-hero.  That is, of course, provided that the Justice League doesn’t kick his ass when they guest star in the final issue.

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Robin #169 (Peter Milligan-writer, David Baldeon-artist)

In this issue, the fifth part of “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” event, readers are finally rewarded for reading the ancillary Bat-titles.  Previously, I complained that I felt that the stories in Robin and Nightwing were simply rehashing the events that occurred in Batman and Detective Comics.  Well, no more.  While Bruce and Ra’s are off in Nanda Parbat, Tim and Damian are still being held in Ra’s’ hollowed-out mountain lair.

Even though Ra’s has agreed to let both Tim and Damian go in exchange for Bruce’s assistance, his trusty Smithers (White Ghost) decides that the two lads must still be sacrificed.  Damian bolts the first chance he gets, telling Talia that he’s going to find his father because he is “cooler” than she is.  Tim, on the other hand, is starting to seriously reconsider the offer that Ra’s made him–join the League of Assassins and Ra’s will bring Tim’s parents back from the dead.  This is what happens when you let your over-developed sense of guilt get the better of you.  Tim–still hurting over the death of his parents, his girlfriend, his best friend–is willing to get in bed with an insane megalomaniac.  When the White Ghost tells him that the only way Ra’s will accept his decision to join is for Tim to be baptized in the Lazarus Pit, Tim’s ready to do it.  He’s willing to put his sanity, and possibly his life, on the line if it means that his loved-ones can live again. 

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Ultimates 3 #1 (Jeph Loeb-writer, Joe Madureira-artist)

Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this. 

Although the first two volumes of Ultimateswere far from perfect–I admit that Millar’s view of the Ultimate Universe was a bit too dark for my taste–they shine in comparison to what I’ve seen in the first issue of the third volume.  It seems as though Marvel told Jeph Loeb to make his series as edgy as Millar’s run was and Loeb thought “edgy” meant “Nineties.”  That’s the only way I can explain why this reads like a ten-year-old issue of WildC.A.T.s.  Honestly, look at the way Madureira redesigned Hawkeye and tell me he doesn’t look like Grifter.  And, is there anything more Nineties than an unnecessary Venom cameo?  Nope.

Jeph Loeb has done some good work in his day, but this isn’t it.  Is there potential?  Sure.  Turning Hawkeye into someone who’s become a suicidal thrill-seeker because he has nothing left to live for has promise.   Playing up the incestuous relationship between Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch that was only hinted at in Millar’s run could be fun–until, of course, someone shoots Wanda dead on the last page.

As for Madureira’s art…well, to be honest, it was hard to tell.  There appears to be some good work there, but the colors were so dark and muddied that almost all detail was washed away–seriously, someone needs to talk to the colorist, pronto.  I will say this, though, about Madureira’s art: he does draw one cute Wasp (even if I’m not sure whether or not she’s Asian, as Ultimate Wasp should be).

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Ultimate X-Men #88 (Robert Kirkman-writer, Yanick Paquette-artist)

I have decided to momentarily forgive Kirkman for introducing time-travel to Ultimate X-Men.  I still firmly believe that all of that Cable-Bishop-Back-to-the-Future bullshit destroyed the mainstream X-books back in the day.  I also think it was a mistake to Ultimatize Cable and Bishop.  So, you’re probably asking yourself, why the forgiveness?

First of all, and I’ve said this before, he brought Beast back.  Sure, he’s no longer blue and furry, but at least he’s breathing.  Not only is he alive, but he’s been working on a cure for the “legacy virus”–a mutant-killing virus that was accidentally created when Nick Fury tried to recreate Captain America’s super-soldier serum using mutant genes (the new serum would be Fury’s legacy…get it?).  On top of that, Beast’s return to Bishop’s team means that Storm and Logan are probably gonna have to stop bonin’.

The second reason for my offering clemency: The Hellfire Club.  The first real X-Men story I ever read was Claremont’s Dark Phoenix Saga, so me and the Hellfire Club go waaaay back.  The first Ultimate Hellfire Club was kind of lame…barely a threat, really.  This new Club–including Ultimate Emma Frost as the White Queen (complete with sexy librarian glasses) and Sebastian Shaw’s son, Shinobi–might actually be something to look out for.  They’re hell-bent (okay, pun intended) on releasing the Phoenix Force that’s residing in Jean Grey…and that’s never good news.  Of course, if Emma’s working with the Hellfire Club, does that mean that the kids at her Academy of Tomorrow are on their way to becoming Hellions?  Speaking of Emma’s students: in the Ultimate Universe, it’s been established that Alex Summers is the older brother, but when the Xavier Institute and the Academy of Tomorrow have a BBQ (yeah, you heard me), Alex is suddenly referred to as being younger than Scott.  A little help, Marvel?

Finally, and this is where my good nature will probably turn around and bite me in the ass, this issue ends with a reference to Apocalypse.  Y’see, that’s why Cable (who’s actually future Wolverine, I guess) kidnapped Xavier.  He wanted to bring him to the future and teach him how to fight, so Charles will be able to defeat Apocalypse in the past…er, present…umm, whatever.  I like the idea of Apocalypse.  I think he can be an interesting character if he’s handled correctly (check out the final season of X-Men: Evolutionand you’ll see what I mean).  Unfortunately, I’m not 100% convinced that Kirkman is the man to properly handle Apocalypse.

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Quote of the Week:

“You don’t want me pawing through your bag of tricks, do ya?!”–Pied Piper to a dying Trickster, hoping that Trickster’s raging homophobia is more powerful than Deadshot’s bullet, in Countdown to Final Crisis 21.

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