Weekly Comic Review for 3/19/08

Angel: After the Fall #5

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W: Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch

A: Franco Urru

Before I talk about the actual issue, there’s something that’s been bugging me.  Who the hell is that white dude on the cover standing between Gwen and Gunn?  At first, it looked like Xander, except (a) no eye-patch and (b) what the hell would Xander be doing there?  Then, I thought maybe it was Lindsey…but, y’know, he’s dead.  So, any ideas?

This issue of Angel: After the Fall highlights exactly why I  love Joss Whedon (and, also, how well Brian Lynch understands the way things work in the Whedonverse).  Angel’s on his own, facing the champions of L.A.’s demon lords in an attempt to gain control of the recently damned city and protect its human population.  Even if Angel were still a vampire, it would have been a pretty hard battle, but he goes it alone.  There he is, knee-deep in demon champions, when the cavalry arrives unbidden.  That’s classic Joss.  I can’t count the number of times that Angel (or Buffy, or Mal) went off on their own because they felt a particular job was too dangerous for anyone else, only to find out that they’ve gotten themselves in too deep.  That’s when their friends swoop in and turn the tide.  And, so often, it’s not the bravest of them who rallies the reinforcements, but the one with the most heart–Willow or Wash or, in this case, Lorne.

And, lest you think Joss has given up on tormenting his fans, this issue ends with a doozie of a cliffhanger.  In the midst of terrifying demon warriors, crazy blue bitch-goddess Illyria suddenly and inexplicably reverts to Fred Burkle, in all of her awkward, willowy Texan glory.  Now, from a storytelling point, my guess is that the Senior Partners did it just to mess with Wesley, who received quite a talking to from his new paymasters.  However, for the readers, it’s a simple example of Joss messing with us.  Why?  Well, we’re not going to find out what the hell is going on for a bit, since the next few issues of Angel will be a flashback to what happened in L.A. the night it was sucked into hell.

I guess it’s true what they say: You have to be cruel to be kind.

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B.P.R.D.: 1946 #3

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W: Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

A: Paul Azaceta

Zombies, demons, ghouls, vampires, shape-shifters, and Nazis.  Yup, just another day in the world of Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

Professor Bruttenholm and his team (including pal Howard and the Dirty Half-Dozen) investigate the asylum, with the help of their Soviet counterparts.  We learn that, despite his purge of the mentally ill from Germany, Hitler actually kept this asylum fully-stocked with loonies so that he would have a herd of test subjects to choose from for his wacky vampire experiments.  The mystery of the Nazis’ plans for a vampire army deepen, as Bruttenholm discovers that one hundred of the one hundred and twenty frozen hybrids are missing.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much time to explore this mystery, since an army of pissed-off ghosts emerge from the shadows, J-Horror style, and fall upon the American and Russian soldiers, killing Howard in the process.

This issue also introduces Baron Konig, an albino chap who, most likely, is also a vampire.  He declares that “man” will pay for what happened to Giurescu and his wives.  He probably would have started his vengeance with Bruttenholm, if Varvara hadn’t stopped him with her creepy goat-headed demon mojo.  I’m curious to see if Konig will show up later in this series, or if he will simply be absorbed into the larger Hellboy mythos only to appear three or four years from now in a completely different storyline.

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Batman and the Outsiders #5

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W: Chuck Dixon

A: Julian Lopez

I’m going to be completely honest here, I totally forget about Batman and the Outsiders until I see the new issue at the comic shop (in my case, Cosmic Comics in NYC).  I don’t hate it.  But, it just doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on me in the long-run.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty good things going on here.  Sure, there’s a pretty lame story involving some Euro-trash dude working with O.M.A.C.s to launch some kind of super bio-weapon into orbit.  But I get a kick out of watching Green Arrow trying to play with the Outsiders.  I mean, c’mon, Ollie, Captain Liberal himself, basically working with a black-ops military squad.  That’s hilarious.  Even better: Metamorpho giving Ollie a dressing down about referring to Batman as “Bats.”

But, what really got me jazzed about this issue is the long overdue return of the Dibnys.  We’ve all been waiting for Ralph and Sue Dibny, ghost detectives, to arrive on the scene since the end of 52.  If the Dibnys become a part of Bruce’s team, I just might lose my shit.  It would make sense, even though he hates the supernatural, Bruce does admire Ralph’s detective abilities.

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Captain America #36

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Butch Guice & Mike Perkins

It doesn’t look like things are going to be getting any easier for the new Captain America any time soon.  Sure, Bucky regulates when he goes up against the Serpent Squad, led by Red Skull’s hot redheaded daughter, Syn, and her less-than-hot lover, Crossbones.  And, he’s got a pretty cool partnership going with the Black Widow.  But, it’s not all head-smashing and Russian she-spy goodness.

When Bucky appears before a crowd of rioters, imploring them to return to their homes and take care of their friends and loved-ones, how do they respond?  Well, if you said their hearts grow three sizes at the sight of America’s Sentinel of Liberty, you’d be wrong.  No, the crowd (based on their behavior, I can only assume that they were recently relocated from Springfield) throw beer cans and tell Bucky to “shut up” and that he “ain’t Captain America” because “Captain America’s dead!”  That would put anyone in a bad mood.  So, after slinking off into the night, Bucky gets a second piece of bad news.  Since his appearance on national TV, the Cap’s out of the bag, so to speak, and SHIELD has to distance themselves from Bucky’s actions.  That means that his really awesome partnership with Black Widow has to come to an end, but (fortunately for Buck) not before a little lip action.

And, for the “What the Hell?” moment of the week, we have to go to Red Skull’s top-secret underground lair.  Sharon Carter has managed to get herself free and is skulking about, despite the little voice in her head (which, I’m assuming, belongs to Doctor Faustus) telling her to quit it.  Sharon stumbles into a room and comes face-to-face with Steve Rogers.  Well, okay, not exactly.  He’s in some kind of suspended animation.  And, he’s probably another clone.

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Catwoman #77

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W: Will Pfeifer

A: David Lopez

I’m not really sure what the deal is with Adam Hughes’ cover for this issue.  With the exception of the Joker (who shows up on the final page) none of the characters “chasing” Selina are anywhere in the book.  Also, I’m not sure how accurate the tag-line “Run Catwoman Run” is.  Does she run in this issue?  I say: “Not really.”  In fact, not only doesn’t Catwoman run, but she’s almost tempted to stay in the crazy alien holodeck forever.

And, I’ll be honest, I don’t blame her.  Sure, the machine she’s in is killing her.  But, the alternate reality that it’s created for her is pretty sweet.  People fear her and give her free shit.  And, not only that, in this world, she can actually take out Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Flash.  You don’t see that every day.  But, then Martian Manhunter shows up and throws a huge wet blanket on everything.  (It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally learned to love J’onn’s new pointy-headed, all-business look.)  “You’re going to die,” he says,  “This world isn’t real.”  But wait, what’s J’onn doing there, you ask?  That is a very good question.  It seems that Bruce sent J’onn to the prison planet undercover in the guise of Blockbuster.  That Bruce, always thinking.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 6

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W: Paul Dini & Adam Beechen

A: Mike Norton

Told through the eyes of Buddy Blank, this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis seems to be a means to set up the reappearance of Kamandi into the DC Universe.  Sure, there have been countless hints and winks to Jack Kirby’s old DC series–from the return of the O.M.A.C.s and Brother Eye, to the Command-D bunker in Bludhaven–but this issue cranks things up to “11.”

We still don’t know if the Challengers are on a parallel Earth or if they’ve somehow been erased from the history of New Earth.  But, the answer might not matter.  Karate Kid is dead and the Morticoccus virus he’s been smuggling is loose.  It spreads across the planet, mutating due to Karate Kid’s advanced 31st Century biology.  This virus does something odd.  It not only infects man and beast equally, but it also alters the host’s DNA.  So, in other words, if the virus goes from a man to a dog, the dog’s DNA is made more man-like, and if it than jumps to another human, that human’s DNA becomes more dog-like.  A perfect way to explain the mutated animal-human hybrids seen in Kirby’s old Kamandi series.   So, is the “Great Disaster” that leads to Kamandi being the last boy on Earth the same “Great Disaster” that Ray Palmer just failed to stop?  Possible.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that, when Buddy Blank left Cadmus at the end of the issue (with Una in tow), he went home, grabbed his grandson, and headed off to the bunker in Bludhaven.

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The Flash #238

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W: Tom Peyer

A: Freddie E. Williams, II

What would happen if Scarecrow and Mysterio had a kid?  Most likely, that kid would be a little bit like the newest villain in The Flash: Spin, as in “media spin.”  All we know about this dude so far is that he works in television news, wears a TV screen on his head, and can somehow make the public’s biggest current fears come true.  Somehow he needs to use a naked dwarf trussed up in a multi-media gimp-suit to make his powers work right.  If I knew more about what was going on in Wonder Woman right now, I’d be able to make an educated guess about whether or not Spin’s prisoner is Doctor Psycho.

Spin is a pretty good villain for a hero like Flash, who happens to be one of the biggest media darlings in the DC Universe (probably second only to Superman).  So, when Wally is caught on camera telling a reporter that his biggest problem is that superheroes don’t get paid, the media machine runs with it.  And Spin “spins” it for his own purposes, somehow forcing Flash to rob a bunch of citizens.  Is Spin’s power simple mind-control or a mixture of mind-control, illusion, and/or reality manipulation?

This issue made me feel really bad for Wally.  He wants to be a good husband and father.  He wants to be a provider.  But it’s not easy finding a job, especially when you might be called on at any minute to zip off and save the world (although, in Wally’s defense, he could probably do that in the time it would take any of his potential co-workers to go to the can).  So, Wally’s at the end of his rope, financially speaking, and he snaps.  It’s just his bad luck that it’s caught on film.  And, Jay’s no help with that whole “the lightning bolt must never touch the dollar sign” speech.  Really, Jay?  How about a little understanding?  Wally’s got a wife and two kids to feed.

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Justice League of America #19

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W: Alan Burnett

A: Ed Benes

Hey, Justice League of America, what’s going on?  Umm…yeah…I really think we need to talk.

This is really hard for me, JLA.  I mean, we’ve had a lot of good times and all, but I think we need to break up.  No, no.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Well…actually, it is you.  We used to have so much fun together.  I used to look forward to our time together, but now…well, now I can barely stand to be in the same room as you.

I’m not sure what happened.  We’ve had some really good times in the past–“New World Order” and “Tower of Babel”, for example–and, I must admit, even in our recent rockier times, there’ve been some highlights.  You were there when Wally came back.  You let Roy put on his big-boy costume and become Red Arrow.  But that just isn’t enough for me anymore.  Maybe you’re going through some rough times, and I understand that.  I think we should both take some time to figure out what we both need.  And, who knows, maybe some time down the road, we can have something special again.

I’m sorry, JLA.  I never meant to hurt you, but it is for the best.

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Robin #172

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W: Chuck Dixon

A: David Baldeon

Robin’s life is never simple, is it?  He’s still tracking down Violet, a case that’s led him to Maxie Zeus’s casino.  On top of that, he’s been approached by Detectives Cavallo and Wise, two of the shadiest cops I’ve ever seen (and I’m a big James Ellroy fan), who want to from a partnership with the young crime-fighter.  Oh, and he’s having trouble with would-be girlfriend Zo.

Previous issues of Robin have hinted about the return of Stephanie Brown, and someone was hired by Penguin in the pages of Gotham Underground  to run around in the Spoiler costume.  The question has always been (at least to me) are they both the same person?  Well, according to the end of this issue, it looks very likely.  We finally see Spoiler with her mask off and it is Steph.  But, is she the same Spoiler who’s been working for Penguin?  And, if so, what the hell are you thinking, Steph?  Are you working undercover?  Is this all part of some weird super-plan dreamed up by Leslie Thompkins?  Was Leslie able to pull the wool over Bruce’s eyes for two years, or was he in on it?

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Quote of the Week:

“What the hell are you–?  Are you high?”–the tyrannosaurus demon to Angel, when asked if he was acting against his will, in Angel: After the Fall #5.

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