W: Grant Morrison
A: Ryan Benjamin
Okay, I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of how Morrison writes Batman. He starts with a bunch of issues that don’t seem to make any sense whatsoever–including references to and appearances by characters who haven’t been seen or heard from in over two decades–and he somehow…somehow…ties it all together at the end. This leaves me with a book that, although still good as a whole, has months where it sits at the bottom of the “to read” pile.
This issue has something that I haven’t seen in quite some time: a Bruce Wayne babe with a brain. Jezebel Jet might look like all of the other brainless arm-candy that Bruce escorts around town in an attempt to foster his image as a billionaire playboy, but she’s intuitive enough to recognize that Bruce, the real Bruce, is a much darker soul than his public image might suggest. She senses his true face behind the mask of the bored billionaire. It’s possible that it could have ended there. Bruce would have just walked out and she’d never hear from him again. Of course, when Jezebel stumbles on Brucie beating some blindfolded ne’er-do-well into a thick, scarlet paste–rendered by Benjamin in an almost Frank Miller-esque fashion–she realizes just how right she was. Bruce Wayne is Batman. This revelation means, of course, that Ms. Jet will be dead within the year.
Just for shits and giggles, Morrison throws in a little Nightwing/Robin action, and for that I’m glad. I love the sibling vibe you get watching Dick and Tim work together (plus, they get to fight a bunch of thieves in dog masks…I shit you not). And, since it wouldn’t be a Morrison story without Damian, we get to see that little shit, too. Hey, was anyone else surprised to learn that Talia has some kind of weird spider-sense thing going on?
Countdown to Final Crisis 1
W: Paul Dini
A: Tom Derenick
I guess now that Countdown to Final Crisis is officially over, we can look at the series as a whole and see if it worked or if it didn’t. I think it would be safe to say that some of what DC was attempting with Countdown worked. Some, not so much. Because of the size and scope of the series, there was a lot of padding to fill up 52 issues. And, since the various threads of the story were only slightly connected, there were moments when it felt disjointed (was that bit with Piper and Trickster–fun though it might have been–really necessary?). Also, what was all of that traipsing about the new Multiverse all about? Did that have anything to do with anything?
I think the major problem has to do with intent. 52 was about telling a story. Countdown was about setting up a story. Everything that happened in this series was just a means to get the characters where they needed to be for Final Crisis. I’m not saying that Countdown didn’t have its moments, in fact the last three months or so were quite good (this has a bit to do with the converging of the various plots). Unfortunately, I think it often dropped the ball on more than one occasion. What was the whole thing with Monarch all about? It looked to me to be little more than an excuse to play a big ol’ game of “What If…” (What if Donna Troy had to fight evil Donna Troy? What if Jason Todd came face to face with a good Joker?).
The final analysis: Countdown to Final Crisis had enough fun moments to make it a good read in a collected trade, but as a weekly series, it really couldn’t sustain enough thrills and/or momentum. Plus, what the hell is up with keeping Mary Marvel evil??!!??
Justice League of America #20
W: Dwayne McDuffie
A: Ethan Van Sciver
I know what you’re saying: “What’s going on here, I thought you broke up with JLA.” Well, all I have to say to that is: “You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve, mister.”
It was a light week–only four books that I read came out–so, while standing in the comic shop, I picked up the new issue of JLA and gave it a quick flip-through. And, what did I find? Well, apparently it’s 1996 again. And I mean that in a good way.
McDuffie gives us a classic, stand-alone story about Flash and Wonder Woman teaming up to stop Queen Bee from stealing a fancy teleportation gizmo. This is it guys, it’s not rocket science. No company-wide, super-mega-final-ultimate tie-in bullshit. No unnecessary naval-gazing ( “Vixen, why are your powers different?”… “Roy, how dare you still care about the mother of your daughter when I’m standing here all sexy and winged?”). This was just a fun, balls-out old school super-hero story. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all wrapped up between two covers. And, more importantly, it was satisfying.
I knew McDuffie could deliver a story like this–he did it on the Justice League cartoon constantly–all he needed was to get the go-ahead from DC.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #53
W: Mike Carey
A: Tyler Kirkham
The deus ex machina run rampant through this issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Ben was dead, but he really wasn’t. Reed was dead, but he really wasn’t. One was transported to another planet by Thanos’s pissed off daughter. The other simply altered his body into a form of living light. No points for guessing who did what. Then, Reed manages to get his hands on the Cosmic Cube and switch off the safety that prevents it from making people’s random thoughts a reality (don’t ask). That means that when Thanos takes the Cube and gets a giant hard-on thinking about Death, he dies. Neat, huh? Fortunately, that means that Reed can undo everything Thanos did in the last few issues, thereby saving the world. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be Reed.”
There’s a little bit at the end that puts the episode of Quantum Leap when Sam saved the life of Jackie Kennedy–erasing the knowledge of her death from the memories of the viewers–to shame. Reed drops the Cosmic Cube he created into a rift in time and space. It falls through the heavens, eventually landing at the feet of past-Thanos. That’s right, kids. The Cosmic Cube that Thanos found all those ages ago was the very Cube that he forced Reed to make to replace the one he lost all of those ages ago. Trippy.
Ultimate Spider-Man #121
W: Brian Michael Bendis
A: Stuart Immonen
I’ve come to realize that there are three kinds of Ultimate Spider-Man stories. There are the multiple-part super-villain smackdowns where Spider-Man fights a Goblin or Sandman or Doc Ock. There are the low-key, slice-of-life stories that look at Peter Parker’s civilian life. The third combines the first two, showing how Peter balances both sides of his dual life. This issue of Ultimate Spider-Man falls into the third category.
While explaining why the fake baby that he and Kitty Pryde were supposed to be taking care of is in about a ba-jillion pieces, Peter tells their teacher about the day he had. He was at the Bugle when Omega Red stops by. Omega Who? Don’t worry, I’m always surprised when he shows up in Ultimate Spider-Man. Anyways…Omega is pissed that J. Jonah Jameson ran an article about his defeat at the hands of Spider-Man. This article–and the insinuations it contained–has ruined Omega Red’s mercenary cred. Lucky for J.J., Peter happened to be in the newsroom that day, and Omega Red and Spidey meet for the second time.
There are numerous villains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery who just couldn’t hold down an entire story on their own–Shocker, Rhino, Leap-Frog–so these kinds of issues are great places to showcase them. These stand-alone issues are also great ways to let readers catch their breaths between larger arcs. Overall, Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man never disappoints.