Weekly Comic Review for 12/19/07

Angel: After the Fall #2 (Brian Lynch-writer, Franco Urru-artist)

Okay, I think the first thing that needs to be gotten out of the way is explaining what Gunn’s deal is.  Yes, he’s a vampire.  It seems that during the big battle at the end of the series finale, Gunn was jumped by a bunch of vamps and turned.  But, he fancies himself to be a “good” vampire.  In reality, unlike Angel and Spike (who have souls), Gunn probably isn’t good…just insane.  He’s taken it upon himself to destroy Angel as being a “pretender”, and to do that he’s rounding up and torturing as many demons as possible, including a rather wry giant-fish demon.

Elsewhere in L.A., Angel and Connor have a father-son reunion that isn’t nearly as awkward as Angel was expecting.  I was never a fan of Connor when he was on the show, at least not until he was erased from everyone’s memories and raised by a normal family.  But, Lynch actually makes the scrawny little bastard likable.  He’s completely non-plussed by the fact that Angel’s let L.A. fall into Hell.  Instead, Connor rolls with the punches and decides to help as many people as he can. 

Of course, the biggest scene in this month’s issue is the reveal of Spike.  Honestly, who doesn’t like Spike?  And Spike and Angel together is pure comedy gold.  They might be one of the greatest television pairings ever.  So, in After the Fall Spike’s managed to find himself in Beverly Hills (of all places), surrounded by a harem of scantily-clad human and demon women.  Spike entertains his bevy of beauties with tales from the “End of Days”, when he was the bravest of the brave and Angel was a blubbering ninny.  Pure Spike. 

Now, while all of this is going on, Angel finds himself drawn into investigating the murder of the demon lord that Gunn and his crew iced in the last issue.  It seems that this demon–one Kr’ph, by name–had in his possession some kind of mystical dingus called the Eye of Ramras.  Whoever killed Kr’ph (Gunn!) probably did it to get their hands on the Eye.  Furthermore, the crime scene is covered in a Primordial Sanskrit inscription written in blood, which only points to one being: Illyria.

Are Gunn and Illyria working together?  That would make an interesting kind of sense.  Gunn and Fred used to be an item.  It would make sense that the demon now controlling Gunn’s body would hook up with the demon now controlling Fred’s body.  If only the real world was so logical.

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Batman and the Outsiders #3 (Chuck Dixon-writer, Julian Lopez-artist)

I like Chuck Dixon.  I think, for the most part, he does amazing work, especially in Bat-books.  What he obviously can’t do is handle homosexual relationships.  Sure, Dixon’s gone on the record speaking out against “gay themes” in comic books.  Why, oh why, then did Chuck agree to write a book with two lesbian main characters?  The “relationship” scene between Thunder and Grace is the most awkward, uncomfortable thing I’ve ever read–although Dixon does get credit for injecting a jolt of heterosexuality into the scene in the guise of a naked, fresh-from-the-shower Cassie Cain.  Dixon also loses a few points for pulling a McDuffie (ie: making an intelligent, college-educated Black Lightning spout pseudo-Ebonics jive-talk during a battle.  Boo, Chuck Dixon.  Boo.)

The bulk of this issue deals with the Justice League crashing Bruce’s covert party and trying to shut him down.  It’s funny hearing some super-powered so-and-so telling Bruce that he’s trying to handle something that’s too big for him.  He’s Batman, dip-shit.  Nothing’s “too big” for him to handle.  He stopped an army of White Martians with a book of matches.  He created fail-safes to disable the most powerful members of the League if they ever went rogue.  If there’s anyone on the planet who can stop Brother Eye and the O.M.A.C.s, it’s Bruce.

Now, a brief discussion on comic book covers.  Most covers do a fairly good job of telling you what’s going to happen inside.  Every now and then, a cover appears on the stands that blatantly lies to you, displaying a scene, character, or incident that does not appear anywhere in that issue.  The cover of this issue of Batman and the Outsiders kind of falls into the latter category.  It shows the Outsiders throwing down with the Justice League.  Did this happen?  Yeah.  Did it happen as the cover leads you to believe?  No.  Finally, roughly half of the characters on the cover do not even appear in the scene being depicted. 

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Catwoman #74 (Will Pfeifer-writer, David Lopez-artist)

Well, we finally find out who that weird-o leather dude at the end of the last issue is.  He’s some dude calling himself “The Thief.”  He’s taking advantage of the sudden vacuum in Gotham’s criminal landscape to try and make a name for himself (but, to be honest, isn’t everyone these days?).  He’s fairly low-key and low-tech.  He’s not as flashy as some of the crazier denizens of Gotham’s underworld.  And, he wants Catwoman off the streets. 

After everything that “The Thief” and Calculator did to Selina, our girl has absolutely nothing left to lose, so she goes old School Catwoman on their asses.  She reverts back to her shorter hairstyle.  She finds a spare cat-suit in one of the safe-houses that Holly was using during her year as Catwoman.  I’m not sure how I feel about sending Selina down a darker road. 

Catwoman’s always been an interesting character, especially in the Bat-books.  She wasn’t insanely evil, nor was she super-noble.  She was the quintessential rogue, always out for herself.  That’s what made her, and her relationship with Bruce, so interesting.  One month, they’re working side-by-side on a case, practically choking on the sexual tension; the next month, they’re at each other’s throats, actually choking on the sexual tension.  What happens if they make Selina a real criminal again?  (This seems a real possibility, since the Suicide Squad shows up at the end of this issue to haul Selina off to Salvation Run.)

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Countdown to Final Crisis 19 (Paul Dini & Adam Beechen-writers, Jesus Saiz-artist)

If there was one thing this week that was close to the awkwardness I felt reading a Chuck Dixon homosexual scene, it was reading a scene where Jimmy Olsen makes out with a giant humanoid bug.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for freaky alien make-out sessions (I grew up watching Star Trek, okay, so sue me), but bug-girls?  I think I might draw the line at that one.  And, speaking of Jimmy Olsen, the little ginger bastard seems to have become a vessel for the Source.  Basically, Jimmy’s become a human Mother Box.  This could explain his powers.  This could explain why the dead New Gods aren’t returning to the Source Wall.  And, this could explain why Darkseid is so interested in Mr. Olsen.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth (er…or should I say “New Earth”?), Pied Piper is dragging Trickster’s lifeless corpse through the desert.  Not only are they still chained together by Deadshot’s booby-trapped handcuffs, but poor Piper’s hallucinating that Trickster’s still talking to him.  The more time that Piper spends lugging Trickster’s decaying remains through the western half of the U.S., the more it seems that Trickster might be dead for real.

Halfway around the globe, Holly and Harley stumble upon a cave filled to the brim with ancient Amazonian weapons…not to mention an honest to gods Amazonian Queen.  Hippolyta explains that the Athena in charge of the Athenian Women’s Shelter is not the real Athena.  Furthermore, she charges them with going undercover and being her eyes and ears on Paradise Island.  Is DC heading for an all-out showdown between the New Gods and the Greek Gods?  That could be interesting.

Bob and the Challengers arrive on Earth-51, an idyllic version of Earth with no crime, poverty, or secret identities.  Bob is more or less certain that Ray Palmer is on this Earth.  It would make sense that Ray, after what happened to him during the Identity Crisis arc, would seek shelter on an Earth where heroes no longer had to hide behind secret identities.  It should also be noted that, given the number of Earths in the new Multiverse, Ray chose the next to the last Earth to hide on.

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Detective Comics #839 (Paul Dini-writer, Ryan Benjamin with Don Kramer-artists)

The final part of the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Yes, there were stunning moments: learning that Ra’s al Ghul’s sycophantic, albino henchman, the White Ghost, is actually his son, Dusan; watching Bruce swing into action, ordering Ra’s to “Get the hell away from my son!” was cool; Bruce telling Talia that he expects Damian to stand and fight at his side, just like his other sons. 

Now, if there were stunning moments, there also had to be less-than-stunning moments.  The biggest let-down, for me anyway, was the nebulous conclusion.  After Bruce’s team and Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins beat the ever-living crap out of each other, Rama Kushna declares that they must all leave Nanda Parbat forever.  So, in a scene similar to the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Bruce leads his team (minus Damian, who was cold-cocked and spirited away from danger by Talia) out of the sacred city, leaving Ra’s (now in the body of his son, Dusan) seemingly buried under rubble.  Is Ra’s alive or dead?  Does it even matter?  If he’s still active, will Ra’s go back to being Bruce’s greatest adversary, or will DC trot him out every few months until we’re all sick of him?

I do give this issue of Detective Comics high marks for ending with a scene where we see Bruce, Dick, Tim, and Alfred on the private Wayne jet, presumably heading home, enjoying hot cocoa and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.  It’s almost like Dini tore a page out of a Carl Barks Scrooge McDuck comic, which is always okay with me.

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Justice League of America #16 (Dwayne McDuffie-writer, Joe Benitez-artist)

This issue might be the nail in the coffin for JLA for the time being.  I hate to abandon the book, but I really have no interest in seeing what McDuffie is doing on this book.  I was certainly willing to give McDuffie the benefit of the doubt for a few issues (even though the Injustice Legion of Super-Doom Gang was pretty lame), but when I read this issue and saw that he was referencing DC’s Tangent Universe, I damn near almost crapped myself.  I’ve gone on record as being a fan of DC’s new Multiverse (which includes the Tangent Universe), but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with refugees from some of DC’s lesser universes so soon.  Honestly, McDuffie, why couldn’t you have the Charleton characters from Earth-4 show up instead?  Now that would have been interesting!

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Metamorpho: Year One #6 (Dan Jurgens-writer, Mike Norton-artist)

I almost wish that this issue was really the third or fourth in the Year One story of Metamorpho, the Element Man.  This issue was a goofy throw-back to the days of rollicking ’60s comics. 

Rex, Stagg, Sapphire, and Java are on Stagg’s private jet (everyone in the DC Universe seems to have one of those) giving an interview to Clark Kent, when the jet is mysteriously drawn to an uncharted isle (and not a Billionaire or Movie Star in sight).  The group is soon attacked by Goldface (yeah, you heard me), who offers to cure Rex in return for Rex using his Metamorpho powers to help Goldface attain godhood.  Pretty standard super-villain stuff, really.  What really makes this issue stand out is how it suddenly takes a weird turn and becomes an episode of Scooby-Doo.  You see, it isn’t really Goldface on the island.  The Justice League set the whole thing up to test Rex and offer him membership in the JLA–all of Goldface’s “powers” were just Clark, Barry, and Ray taking turns masquerading as Goldface.  Who knew the League had such a wacky sense of humor?

In the end, Rex declines.  He can’t bring himself to stand next to folks like Superman and Batman looking like a freak (although given the twisted sense of humor that members of the JLA seem to have, maybe they’re the freaks and not Rex).  Rex opts to try and live a normal life, hoping for the day that he finds a cure and can be with Sapphire again.  In the meantime, even though he’s not going to actively pursue super-heroing, Rex vows to help anyone in need that he comes across.

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Ultimate X-Men #89 (Robert Kirkman-writer, Salvador Larroca-artist)

This issue is for all of you Storm fans out there.  Hope you both enjoyed it.  Okay, that was mean and uncalled for.  Honestly, this was a pretty good issue.  Kirkman explores a little more of Storm’s past, while also examining her present.

Before she was approached by Xavier (well, technically she was approached by that hot little Jean Grey telepathically posing as a Fed, but why nit-pick?), Storm led a less-than-law-abiding existence.  In the Ultimate Universe, Storm is friends with Yuriko (who will one day become Lady Deathstrike).  She was also friends (and lovers) with Amahl Farouk, a.k.a. The Shadow King.  During a particularly intense moment, Farouk is struck by a stray lightning bolt and falls into a coma.  While he’s comatose, Farouk’s telepathic powers increase, becoming the Shadow King.  He returns later (possibly telepathically summoned by Storm’s subconscious mind as she wrote a story called, of all things, The Shadow King) and totally messes with Storm’s head–he even brings along the Brood, who in this universe are not aliens, but residents of something called the Mindscape.

All of this is going on while Storm has to decide between old boyfriend Hank McCoy and bad boy Logan.  Storm realizes that she’s always had a thing for the bad boys, and wants to turn over a new leaf.  It doesn’t hurt that she noticed Logan’s interest in her didn’t peak until Hank returned from the dead.

The art in this issue might not have been the best–it was actually a bit confusing from time to time–but Kirkman’s script was solid, providing a stand-alone, character-driven story. 

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Quote of the Week:

“Immortality is overrated.  I finally figured that out.”–Nightwing in Detective Comics #839.

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