Weekly Comic Review for 12/12/07

Astounding Wolf-Man #4 (Robert Kirkman-writer, Jason Howard-artist) 

Again, Kirkman is a writer whose best work is done with his own creations.  Although I have not loved everything he’s done in Ultimate X-Men, I really dig this book.  It’s about a werewolf super-hero, what’s not to love?

Gary, our lycanthrope avenger, has had it rough.  He gets attacked by a wolf on a family camping trip, learns that he’s a werewolf, and then looses his business and stately manor.  This issue finds his family relocated to a secret lair underneath a strip mall.  It’s a pretty funny way to have a hero reveal his identity to his family: “Hey, we lost our fancy mansion, but I happen to have this top-secret super-hero hideout that we can all live in.  Oh, and I brought the butler along, too.” 

Issue #4 also brings Gary, a.k.a the Astounding Wolf-Man, snout to snout with a clan of werewolves.  These ‘wolves are out for the blood of Gary’s vampire mentor, Zechariah, who they say murdered and fed upon one of their pups.  Zechariah doesn’t deny this, but Gary still fakes his death for the benefit of the pack’s thirst for retribution.  It’s nice that Gary’s so faithful to his mentor, although one could argue that Zechariah doesn’t really deserve it.  See, Gary’s on someone’s shit-list for killing beloved hero Sergeant Superior.  Yes, there’s footage of a momentarily berserk Wolf-Man punching his claws right through the good Sergeant…but, what no one seems to realize is that Zechariah’s been keeping Superior prisoner and repeatedly feeding off of the dude. 

This series frequently leaves me wanting to know more.  Is Zechariah just an evil, two-faced bastard?  What’s the deal with the shadowy agency sending Sergeant Superior’s former teammates after Gary?  Will Gary ever have to answer for the trick he pulled on the other werewolves?  If Kirkman can answer these questions and throw more at me, this series might have legs.  If, however, he just piles on the mysteries without offering the slightest bit of pay-off…well, I stopped watching Lost for the exact same reason.

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Booster Gold #5 (Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz-writers, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund-artists)

In this issue of Booster Gold, our Quantum Leap-ing hero learns an important lesson that all time travellers must learn sooner or later: some things are just destined to be.  Rip Hunter sends Booster and Skeets back to the time of The Killing Joke to prevent the Joker from shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon.  What Rip doesn’t tell Booster is that Babs is destined to be shot, crippled, and to become Oracle.  Rip’s motives are pure (and important), although his methods are cruel and more than a little sadistic.  Booster fails his first attempt, watches Mr. J. shoot Babs and then gets the the ever-loving crap kicked out of him by the Clown Prince.  But, Booster isn’t going to give up just yet.  He tries again.  And again.  And again.  Each time, he watches Barbara Gordon get shot.  Each time, the Joker pounds him into hamburger.  But, each time, Booster elects to try again. 

Finally, Rip reveals his subterfuge.  He tells Booster that he needed to learn that certain things are supposed to happen, and that the death of Booster’s friend, Ted Kord, is one of those things.  Booster is understandably pissed.  Not only has he suffered severe physical trauma from repeated poundings by the Joker, but he had to watch over and over again as the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon.  And why?  Just because Rip wanted to “teach him a lesson.”  Like I said, Rip’s a bit of a sadist (he actually has a set of the Marquis de Sade’s torture tools in his headquarters, which he uses to interrogate rogue time traveller Rex Hunter.

Booster Gold #5 wasn’t a total exercise in sadism, there were a few standard comic moments.  We find out that three of the villains making up this series’ collective “Big Bad” are Ultra-Humanite, Despero, and Per Degaton (yeah…I had to look him up, too)–we meet them for the first time as they stand over Rex Hunter’s crib and kill him before he can grow to adulthood and fail in his mission.  We also learn that there’s something big on the horizon for the space-time continuum, and that it involves various incarnations of Blue Beetle.  Three Beetles (including original BB Dan Garrett and current BB Jaime Reyes) arrive in Rip’s time lab and tells Booster that they need his help saving Ted Kord and, therefore, all of existence.  Oh…and speaking of Rip’s time lab, it seems the crazy ol’ time traveller’s been busy scribbling on his chalkboard again: new questions involve someone (or something) called Gog, a traitor in “the League” whose identity is known to “the vigilante”, a pair of ghost detectives, a second lightning saga, and the number 3008.  It would be cool if Booster Gold stays around for a while and DC uses it to hint at upcoming storylines and plot points.

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B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #5 of 5 (Mike Mignola-writer, John Arcudi-artist)

If you all were hoping for a clean conclusion to this B.P.R.D. mini-series, then I’m sorry to disappoint you.  This final issue leaves a lot of things unresolved (and the next mini-series won’t hit until June of 2008), but it does answer a few questions about that delightfully cranky Ben Daimio.

Yes, Daimio did turn into a giant monster.  Yes, he did kill a bunch of guys, including Johann Kraus’ new body.  But, y’see, it really wasn’t his fault.  Daimio’s been possessed by a jaguar-demon since a failed mission to Bolivia about 6 years ago.  He’s tried to keep this beast in check with the help of that wrinkly little Chinese dude.  He might have continued to succeed if not for Torgo showing up.  Torgo is actually Manuel Antonio Chavez, a former Marine in Daimio’s unit.  He was there in Bolivia and survived, although he had become mute.  He also learned about the curse that had befallen many of his former comrades and had been given the means to release them from their curse.  That’s what brought him to B.P.R.D. HQ.

Daimio, unfortunately, has managed to escape from the complex and runs off into the night.  He’s last seen (in human form) face-to-face with the Wendigo.  What’s happening?  Is he going to join forces with the Wendigo?  Is he going to kill it?  Does he hope this creature might provide a means for him to keep his jaguar-demon in check?  I hope it’s the third one.  The B.P.R.D. doesn’t have a lycanthropic agent…Daimio could change that.

On the ectoplasmic side of things, Johann is understandably pissed that his new body was mangled and he’s forced to return to life in his containment suit.  Almost nothing is mentioned about the Lobster Johnson extravaganza from the last issue, other than Kate saying that Liz is a lot happier now than she’s been in a long time.  And, poor Johann is so despondent that, when he converses with the ghosts of Chavez and the Chinese dude, his ghost form first takes the form of his recently perished body and slowly returns to his normal appearance.  Using this gradual transformation to show how Johann may be slowly learning to accept the way things are now was a nice touch.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 20 (Paul Dini & Adam Beechen-writers, Howard Porter-artist)

It seems that every few weeks I start to feel as though this series isn’t really going anywhere, then there will be an issue or two with a handful of really cool, “Oh Shit” moments, and then the next few issues will fall flat again.  The issue where Superman(boy)-Prime tortured Mxyzptlk was pretty cool.  Seeing Batman Beyond in the last issue was kind of an awesome moment for me.  But, now I feel like the wheels are spinning again just to fill up 52 issues.

Case in point: why is Brother Eye all jazzed about Bludhaven?  Eye arrives and immediately begins constructing a nice little lair for itself out of the rubble and remains of the obliterated city.  I understand the connection between Brother Eye, the O.M.A.C.s, and the Command-D bunker under Bludhaven…but it feels like a chicken-and-egg situation here, where Dini and Company just send Brother Eye to Bludhaven for the sake of connecting the present-day DCU with the post-apocalyptic world of Kamandi.

Oh…and speaking of apocalyptic shit: on Apokolips, Jimmy Olsen emerges from a fire-pit as a weird green things with claws and golden circuitry all over his body.  He refers to himself as being like a turtle (hello Giant Turtle Boy!), although he doesn’t look anything like a turtle to me.  But, he does find and rescue Forager, who promptly attacks him and shouts “JIMMY OLSEN MUST DIE!!”, which seems to add a bit of weight to my theory that Jimmy’s powers stem from the souls of the dead New Gods residing within him (and, therefore, killing Jimmy would allow these souls to return to the Source Wall where they belong).

And what of poor, lost, confused Mary Marvel, you ask?  Well, despite realizing that Eclipso’s been using her just like everyone else, poor Mary isn’t powerful enough to defeat her former mentor.  Eclipso flies off, leaving our girl floating unconscious in deep space.  My question for Mr. Dini is this: has Mary finally suffered enough?  Has she learned her lesson, or will you continue to lead her down this dark path?  I think Mary knows she’s a bit messed-up and is ready to come in from the cold and take up the white-and-gold again.

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Gen13 #15 (Simon Oliver-writer, Carlo Barberi-artist)

The kids are still in NYC, and most of them seem to be having a ball.  Bobby and Sarah are mere steps away from gettin’ some.  Roxy’s about to become the new “it” girl in fashion.  And, as long as he doesn’t end up in jail, Eddie seems to be enjoying his time with a gang of street artists.  Of course, level-headed Caitlin isn’t sure everything is as rosy as it seems, especially when she realizes that she’s being followed. 

This issue expands a little bit on the “15 Minutes” initiative mentioned in the previous issue.  It seems that Tabula Rasa is going back to basics where the kids of Gen13 are concerned.  Remember, they were originally created as a form of internet snuff-film entertainment.  Well, now it seems as though Tabula Rasa is using them in some kind of weird super-powered Real World–and, what better way to make sure these kids stay in their wired Truman Show environment than giving them everything they could possibly want?

One of the reasons I first picked up the Gen13 reboot was that it was written by Gail Simone.  I was a bit nervous when I saw that her name was no longer on the cover, but Simon Oliver does an admirable job stepping up to the plate.

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Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #4 of 5 (Mike Mignola-writer, Jason Armstrong-artist)

If you had any doubts that this is a Mignola book, this issue should put them to rest.  Lobster Johnson #4 includes not one, but two monkeys…and, if there’s anything that says “Mignola” more than monkey, I don’t know what it is (okay, okay, “Hellboy” or “B.P.R.D.” probably does…so sue me).

Yes, this issue reveals that the “Yellow Menace” wants to form an army of 369 dragon warriors to help him conquer the entire planet.  Yes, this issue saw the resurrection of Jim as a Vril-powered Atomic Skull-like dynamo who burns the fuck out of the bad guys almost as well as the Ark of the Covenant.   And, yes, it ends with Lobster Johnson getting cold-cocked and kidnapped by Nazis.  But, what I’ve decided is more important than all of that (and, maybe, more important than the monkeys) is how awesome Lobster Johnson’s faithful team of operatives are. 

Mignola and Armstrong give Lobster a team of delightful 30s-era cliches.  There’s the big bruiser who could be a construction or dock worker in his spare time.  There’s the bespectacled intellectual who’s more comfortable with a HAM radio set than he is fighting mutant monkeys.  And, there’s the rail-thin, well-dressed chap who could have joined Eliot Ness and his Untouchables.  These archetypes are familiar to anyone who has read old pulp magazines or seen movies like The Shadowand Mignola keeps them fresh without trying to reinvent the wheel.

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Nightwing #139 (Fabian Nicieza-writer, Don Kramer & Carlos Rodriguez-artists)

This issue of Nightwing is the penultimate chapter of the 7-part “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover.  Although it ends with a bang–Dick, Tim, Alfred, and Talia arrive at Nanda Parbat just in time to see a triumphant Ra’s holding his grandson Damian by the throat–the meat of the issue (and its strength) deals with Nightwing and Robin facing off.

The cover of this issue states, in bold letters, that Nightwing #139 features “BROTHER VS. BROTHER.”  Yes, Tim and Dick do fight, but the key word here isn’t “VS” but “BROTHER.”  I’ve said this before, Tim and Dick are the perfect brotherly pair.  That’s why I love whenever the Bat-team gets to work together.  The chemistry between Bruce’s older son and his younger son is one of the most enjoyable in comics (that, of course, makes Jason Todd the middle child with all of the emotional problems that goes with it).  Dick’s trying to show Tim that using the Lazarus Pit to try and bring back the loved-ones he’s lost over the last year and a half is not a good idea.  He knows Tim’s hurting and he understands (hell, almost everyone who works for Bruce has lost someone at some point in their lives), but he also knows it’s a BAD idea.  Sure, they fight a bit–and I wonder if Dick was seriously pulling his punches (Tim might be smarter, but I think Dick’s the better fighter)–but Dick eventually lets Tim make his own decision because he knows his “little brother” will make the right choice.  That’s family, kids.

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Quote(s) of the Week:

“Me and fat ladies don’t mix.”

“Not unless alcohol is involved.”–Booster Gold and Skeets (respectively) in Booster Gold #5.

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