Weekly Comic Review for 3/12/08

Abe Sapien: The Drowning #2 (of 5)

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W: Mike Mignola

A: Jason Shawn Alexander

While Abe dives for the shipwreck taken out by Sir Edward Grey in 1884, evil runs through the streets of Saint-Sebastien on tiny, big-headed feet. I’m never surprised at the sheer number of “out of the way” places that somehow attract the attention of otherworldly forces (anyone who’s read a Stephen King novel would assume that there are vampires, werewolves, killer clowns, and Old Ones behind every other tree in Maine).

The old croon that we met in the last issue has, somehow, been given custody of Epke Vrooman’s coffin. She’s known that people would come looking for it eventually, so she’s been on the lookout. When Abe and his team from the B.P.R.D. showed up, she naturally assumed that they were after Vrooman’s remains for nefarious purposes, which is why she sent the seafood buffet after Abe and Van Fleet. But, once the real threat–in the form of Vrooman’s hobbit army from Hell–appears on the island, she calls off the calamari before it can do in Abe.

There’s a nice little section in the middle of this issue where, plagues with doubts about what to do, Abe has some pretty harsh hallucinations. Images of Hellboy, Liz and Professor Bruttenholm appear to him and basically tell him he isn’t up to the job at hand. It’s nothing new, as plot devices go, but it’s jarring. It’s easy to forget that Abe is a young agent in this story, and still prone to self-doubt. So, to have his best friends appear and give voice to his own doubts is pretty rough. I’m not even sure if these were genuine hallucinations or manifestations brought on by the island’s freaky mojo.

*For some strange reason, I completely missed B.P.R.D.: 1946 this week. I’ll have a review for you all next week…after I finish flogging myself.

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Booster Gold #7

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W: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz

A: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

I guess it’s true what they say: No good deed goes unpunished. Booster risked his neck to go back and save his best friend’s life. Unfortunately, when Booster and Blue Beetle return to the present, they find the Earth over-run with O.M.A.C.s. Max Lord and Brother Eye have taken over the planet and all meta-humans have either been neutralized or are part of an underground resistance (led by the anti-Booster Gold and Blue Beetle: Hawkman and Green Arrow). And, as always seems to happen in these dystopian situations, Superman is working for (whether willingly or not, it isn’t made clear) Max Lord. So, what gives? Well, if you art to believe cranky time-traveller Rip Hunter, Booster Gold just destroyed the universe.

Apparently, saving Ted has led to Max Lord’s victory. I’m not sure how, exactly. The Blue Beetles seemed to take great care to make sure that history continued along as if Ted had still died. Unfortunately, there’s a hitch. Blue Beetle of the future is a douche. Not only does he go by the clearly eeevil name Black Beetle, but he’s also working with Booster’s scumbag dad–who, in turn, is working with Degaton, Ultra-Humanite, and Despero…a.k.a. The Time Stealers (bum-bum-bummmmm).

Let’s review: Booster saving Blue Beetle in the past led to an O.M.A.C.-controlled present…the mission to save Ted was led by Black Beetle…Black Beetle is working with a gaggle of super-villains…saving Ted was a bad idea. Although it’s the only logical conclusion, I hope DC isn’t planning on taking Ted Kord away from us again. The scenes in this issue where Booster and Ted take on a bunch of O.M.A.C.s and then break into the Justice League’s old U.K. embassy are comedy gold (and…er…blue). Honestly, who does a guy gotta talk to to make sure that Blue Beetle stays alive?

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Countdown to Final Crisis 7

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W: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen

A: Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher

Just when you thought that the Multiverse had made it’s final appearance in Countdown

Our ragtag band of heroes–including the Challengers, Ray Palmer, Firestorm, Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, Holly and Harley–find themselves back on Earth after a rather intense few issues on Apokolips. But, it doesn’t appear that they are on “their Earth”–it’s easy to see how they’d get that impression when they beam into the Hall of Justice and get into a tussle with Flash, Green Lantern and Superman, who claim to have no idea who they are. Are they on another parallel Earth or something else entirely? (And I only ask because I think it’s weird that there would be an Earth where none of these characters exist.)

Unfortunately, they really don’t have the time to figure all of that out. Ray still needs to examine the killer virus inside the slowly dying body of Legionnaire Karate Kid.  Jimmy suggests busting into a super-secret Cadmus bunker. After fighting a bunch of genetically-engineered security goons–during which Jimmy really seems to be getting off on using his “borrowed” New God powers–the Challengers meet Dubbilex, whose telepathy makes the whole “Who are you and how do you know my name?” conversation a good deal easier. Sadly, by the time everyone gets their ducks in a row, ol’ Karate Kid karate kicks the bucket. Now here’s a question for us all to ponder: if Karate Kid dies, does the super-virus die with him? Or does it get released?

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Gen 13 #18

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W: Simon Oliver

A: Carlo Barberi

I’m torn.

I really enjoyed the first few issues of the Gen13 reboot–due in no small part, I’m sure, to the talented hand of Gail Simone–and, even when things got a tad weird (I’m looking at you, Authori-Teens!), it was still a groovy little book. The current “15 Minutes” storyline, although interesting, feels like it’s dragging a little bit.

For example, in this issue, all of the Gens who have befriended the kids of Gen13 are given the go-ahead to off our heroes. Some–like Bird, Lux and Jimmy–relish the opportunity to take out the younger Gens; others–Sherry and Jenny–are having second thoughts. By the end of the issue, the kids of Gen13 have realized that Caitlin was right all along. They come together in Times Square, where they suit-up and prepare to bring the fight to I.O.

I’ve been enjoying the arc–especially the scene in this issue where Caitlin takes out some of her pursuers with a pebble–I’m just not sure it had to be this long. I’d like to see the Gen13-ers in classic super-hero stories, fighting crazy super-villains, protecting the world. That kinda thing. Maybe it’s against the mission statement for the reboot, but I think it can be done–and done well–within the parameters of the new series.

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Green Lantern Corps #22

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W: Sterling Gates

A: Nelson

I must admit that I was not overly thrilled with the last issue of Green Lantern Corps. I understand that Gates was using Boodikka’s past as a pirate as a way to examine her present as an Alpha Lantern. I just felt the whole idea of Boodikka being sent by the Guardians to her old home-world to arrest her sister felt forced and more than a little tired. Fortunately, this issue is an improvement.

We’re starting to see the effect that the new Alpha Lanterns will have on the Green Lantern Corps as a whole. Sure, they’re creepy as all hell–what with their lack of emotions and flip-open Manhunter faces–but the worst part about them is their dispassionate devotion to “justice.” And, let’s not forget the fact that they, above all other Lanterns, are rewarded for their service with additional rings–Boodikka receiving her second ring for successfully bringing in her renegade sister is a nice juxtaposition to the opening flashback where we see Hal Jordan (all juiced-up on Parallax evil) taking Boodikka’s ring (and the hand it was attached to).

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Gotham Underground #6

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W: Frank Tieri

A: J. Calafiore

All hell has broken loose between Penguin’s third-tier Rogue wannabes and Tobias Whale’s regular crooks. It’s funny, I always knew that Penguin wasn’t the most trustworthy of fellows, but to sell out Gotham’s fruitcake element to the Suicide Squad and Checkmate just so he could take over the city’s underworld. Now that takes balls. Unfortunately, the random thugs who Penguin hired to wield the “borrowed” Rogue equipment aren’t what you would call the cream of the crop.

Elsewhere, Great White Shark fills Matches Malone in on how he got trussed-up in Blackgate’s infirmary. The Suicide Squad was just supposed to rough him up a little before transporting him off-world (part of that roughing-up involved Boomerang, Jr. using a banana like a boomerang…I shit you not), but Shark got under Bane’s skin, so Bane went a little overboard in the roughing-up department. Oh, and when the Squad busts into Shark’s cell, he’s reading Jaws and Calafiore actually drew the cover of the book, he didn’t just write JAWS by PETER BENCHLEY, which most artists probably would have done (I should know, I a copy of Benchley’s novel).

This issue ends with Dick Grayson (still masquerading as Freddie DiNardo) getting shot in the gut by whoever is calling themselves Vigilante these days. Furthermore, as Dick’s laying dying in an alley, who should appear but Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Leslie hasn’t been around since she supposedly let Stephanie Brown die to teach Bruce a lesson, which forced Bruce to chase her out of the country and threaten to arrest her if she ever returned. That who thing was, without a doubt, the stupidest piece of storytelling I’ve ever seen. Now, someone is back in the Spoiler suit. Tim thinks he’s been seeing Steph around school. And Leslie’s back in Gotham. Does this mean that the whole thing was one big sleight-of-hand trick? I hope so. Leslie never should have been labeled a “murderer” in the first place.

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Serenity: Better Days #1 (of 3)

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W: Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews

A: Will Conrad

I always find myself in a moral quandary whenever a Joss book comes out. I mean, let’s be honest, Joss could down a case of NyQuil, put on a blindfold, and write something with his feet, and I’d probably eat it up with a spoon.

This three-part mini-series is set before the events of Serenity, so everyone’s favorite wacky pilot, Wash, is still among the living, and Kaylee’s crush on Simon remains…um…unrequited. It begins with Mal and his crew in the midst of crime–this time, they’re jacking a bunch of art. Of course, that kind of job seems a bit out of the scope of the crew’s usual crime, so it should come as no surprise that Mal was using the art heist as a way to get the real loot–a super hi-tech ED-209-y security robot dingus. After a high-speed chase, and little Kaylee’s best Mission: Impossible impression, the crew secure the robot. Long story short: the pay-off for this job (hidden under a Buddha statue, no less) is in the millions. Mal and his crew are rich!

As can be expected of a Joss-helmed project, there are a ton of little character moments that mesh into the larger tapestry of the Firefly world. For starters, we see Simon donning his sunglasses, which we hadn’t seen since the pilot episode (not even when he was on the desert-like Higgins’ Moon, when you would expect him to throw on a pair of shades), and learn that the lenses actually mask his retinal patterns, allowing him to get past security scanners. Then, while the crew is grabbing the cash out of the Buddhist temple, one of the monks interrupts them. When Jayne pays the monk off with a stack of cash, the confused Buddhist simply mutters “The Hero of Canton…he’s real!”

As good as the writing is (and I’m sure equal credit has to go to Brett Matthews), I’m not sure how I feel about the art. Conrad certainly has a grasp of the world of Serenity. His backgrounds and (most of) his tech look great. However, his depiction of the crew needs a little work–and I think it stems from trying to make them look exactly like the show’s actors. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it again, sometimes you can’t capture an actual person’s features in a two-dimensional comic. Sometimes it works. There are panels where Conrad’s Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Adam Baldwin are amazing; but, there are also panels where his Alan Tudyk and Jewel Staite are unrecognizable (and you don’t mess with my Wash and Kaylee). And, I think that right there is the problem. Conrad wasn’t drawing Mal, Zoe, Jayne, etc.; he was drawing Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, et al. Capture the essence of the “character” and the reader will do the rest.

The only other minor problem I had was with the inclusion of Chinese characters in the dialogue. You need the characters to speak Chinese, that’s part of the world. But, placing the actual characters into the bubbles was jarring, jarring enough to pull me out of the narrative. Maybe it’s just me. I’m not sure if phonetically transcribing the Chinese to English would work, but at the moment it’s the only option I can think of (clearly a translation at the bottom of the page would render the use of Chinese for “manly swearing” pointless).

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Quote of the Week:

“If you suddenly break into ‘The Way We Were’ I’m leaving you here to fend for yourself.”–Blue Beetle, to a reminiscing Booster Gold as they’re about to break into the old JLI U.K. embassy, in Booster Gold #7.

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