Weekly Comic Review for 4/16/08–Now With 75% Less Controversy

Batman and the Outsiders #6

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Carlos Rodriguez

Batman and the Outsiders, in my very humble opinion, is what JLA should be.  Now, that might sound like a giant contradiction, especially if you remember that the reason that ol’ Bats took control of the Outsiders was to use the team for jobs that were just too nasty for the JLA–jobs that need to be done, but that would sully the League’s squeaky-clean image.  I’m not saying that the JLA should be like the Outsiders, I just wish that JLA was as much fun to read as BATO.

Unlike the better known title, BATO gives us a pretty action-packed story without the naval-gazing of JLA.  The plot might not be without a few drawbacks–personally, I’m more than a bit over the whole O.M.A.C. thing–but it’s easy enough to overlook them when you get drawn into Dixon’s globe-spanning (and beyond) action story.  Of course, it could just be that I’m a sucker for any book that stars Metamorpho.  And, in case you were worried, there’s plenty of levity in this issue, too.  From Batman dosing Salah with knock-out gas so he can take him to the Batcave and let him play with the Bat-computer (does Batman still refer to it as “the Bat-computer”?) to Ollie’s self-deprecating admission that he used to have a bit of Bat-envy (Arrowplane?  Arrowcave?  C’mon, Ollie!), this book has plenty of lighter moments to break up the back-to-back action pieces.

Rodriguez’s art is also worth noting.  A perfect example is how he can draw Ollie all smirky and cocksure on one page and then, a few pages later, be just as convincing when he draws him with that righteous fire in his eyes that we’ve come to expect from DC’s biggest bleeding heart.  I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that should be expected from an artist, but it must be uncommon enough that I noticed it.  I don’t make a habit of following artists as much as I follow writers, but I’m going to make an effort to keep track of what Rodriguez does in the future.

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Captain America #37

W: Ed Brubaker

A: Steve Epting

Poor Bucky.  His life has been far from easy–getting blowed-up as a teenager, being brainwashed by the Soviet Union–but things just don’t seem to be getting an easier for the new Captain America.

He had the shield strapped on for about a minute and a half, and some ticked-off civilian calls him an impostor.  He’s outed on TV, forcing Stark to pull any SHIELD backing he might have had (including the services of the sultry Black Widow as his sidekick/handler).  Now, in this issue, he has to deal with Clint “Hawkeye” Barton showing up and causing shit.  Clint’s all cheesed-off that Bucky’s the new Cap, going so far as taking a swing at him.  I get Clint’s beef.  He might not have always agreed with Steve Rogers, but he certainly respected Bucky’s predecessor, and doesn’t think Bucky’s good enough to call himself Captain America.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Clint offered the mantle of Captain America and turned it down?  Someone needs to be Cap, especially with the Red Skull trying to destroy the country from the inside.

As if all of that wasn’t enough for Bucky to have to deal with, now there’s another Steve Rogers floating around.  Marvel’s done a pretty good job at trying to convince us that Steve is dead.  Dead dead.  So, it would be wrong of us to think they’re pulling a fast one here.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Red Skull got his hands on a Rogers clone.  So, that’s what I’m going with here.  The Steve Rogers that Sharon discovers at the end of the issue is, in fact, just a clone.

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Catwoman #78

W: Will Pfeifer

A: David Lopez

Good news/bad news time, kids.  The good news is that, after this issue, it seems that Selina is finally getting back to Earth.  The bad news?  Well, she won’t have much time to enjoy it because her series is being canceled in the next few months (I believe #82 is going to be the last).  I understand that publishing is a business and, as such, you can not conceivably make everyone happy, but is Catwoman doing that poorly in sales?  And, if that’s the case, maybe DC should spend less money on insanely expansive “events” with more tie-in books than you can shake a stick at.

Anyway, I’ve only been reading Catwoman for a little while, but I’m going to miss it.  I might not have been happy with Selina getting caught up in that whole Salvation Run business, but you can’t fault the book for that.  At least Selina was able to finally get the upper claw in her ongoing feud with Cheetah, thanks in part to one of Joker’s exploding cigars.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 2

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Scott Kolins

I’m totally baffled by Countdown.  DC has claimed that “Final Crisis” will deal with a victorious Darkseid in control of the universe.  Okay, cool.  But…in this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis, Darkseid is pummeled to death by his son, Orion.  So, you can see where I might be confused.

Unfortunately, the confusion comes at the end of an issue that sees Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen (in giant tortoise boy form) have a smackdown in the middle of Metropolis and Darkseid and Orion going at it.  Jimmy’s also returned to the status quo when Ray Palmer finds the doo-hicky that Darkseid put in Jimmy’s head to contain the powers of the dead New Gods and destroys it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction based on something Dan Didio said in an interview a while back.  Yes, Darkseid is dead.  All of the New Gods of the Fourth World seem to be dead.  But, all of that power is floating around out there, and it has to go somewhere.  So, I’m sure the New Gods will return when this “Fifth World” that Darkseid was all hyped about comes into being.  A new Fifth World will have new, possibly resurrected New Gods of one kind or another.  And, where there are New Gods, there will be a Darkseid.

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The Flash #239

W: Tom Peyer

A: Freddie E. Williams, II

The people of Keystone City continue to mistrust Flash after new villain, Spin, forces him to use his super-speed to rob them.  Spin ups the ante by using his captured dwarf’s mind-whammy powers on Jay Garrick, pushing the original Flash to go after Wally.  To make matters worse, Jay uses Iris and Jai to get to Wally and then initiates a showdown in the middle of Wally’s block.

The whole “people afraid of the hero” thing is nothing new.  It’s one of the Five Basic Plots of Comics.  I’m serious, check it out…I’m sure there’s a copy in your local library or shady used book store.  (Okay, okay, there’s no such book.)  Anyways, it might be a basic plot, but sometimes it works better than others and, in the case of the Flash, it works pretty damned well.  Let’s look at the facts.  Sure, everyone in Metropolis loves Superman, but he’s a global hero.  Batman couldn’t care less what the good people of Gotham think about him.  But the Flash is Keystone City.  Every Flash has been inextricably linked to his hometown, whether it’s Keystone or Central City.  So, for the people of Keystone to suddenly turn their backs on their hometown hero has real resonance.

To further illustrate how highly regarded Wally is, we have a scene with the JLA.  Realizing how they dropped the ball the last time they stuck their noses in Wally’s life, DC’s big guns decide to sit this one out until Wally actually asks them for help.  However, Red Arrow isn’t about to let one of his oldest friends twist in the wind.  Hopefully Roy will be enough back-up when Wally has to face Gorilla Grodd next month.

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Gotham Underground #7 (of 9)

W: Frank Tieri

A: J. Calafiore

The cliffhanger from last issue involving the reappearance of Leslie Thompkins remains more or less hangery as Dick wakes up in an underground medical clinic with Riddler standing over him.  Tieri gives us just enough to make us think that Dick simply hallucinated seeing Leslie at the end of last issue (although some info in this week’s issue of Robin makes me think that Leslie really was there).  Riddler tells Dick to drop the whole fake name business, because Riddler’s too smart not to realize that he’s really talking to Nightwing.  Unfortunately, Riddler’s not smart enough to talk his way out of a little payback at the hands of Penguin.

Elsewhere, the war for Gotham’s underworld reaches a new plateau.  Penguin’s Rent-a-Rogue forces successfully wipe out Tobias Whale’s goons, leading to a partnership between Penguin and Whale against their mutual foe: Intergang.  While the two aquatically-themed crime bosses reach an agreement, Penguin’s forces are getting picked off by this Vigilante sumbitch.  Luckily, Bats has gotten himself out of Blackgate and is ready to rumble with this fool.  Now, is this new Vigilante connected to Intergang or is he (or she??) also tied to the return of Leslie and Steph Brown?

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Robin #173

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Chris Batista

Not unlike Bucky, Tim’s life has been pretty rough lately.  He’s been trying to chase down Violet–a morally ambiguous chick who’s taken it upon herself to rob from the scum to give to the poor.  He’s also managed to get himself saddled with two less than legit G.C.P.D. detectives who seem to think that Robin’s help will be their ticket to the big time.  And, all the while, someone in a Spoiler costume has been keeping tabs on our boy.

Robin’s investigation leads him to a counterfeit ring run by the Korean Mafia.  Now, this is a kid who’s been trained by Batman.  He can handle himself in a situation like this.  But, he also has to deal with Violet.  And Spoiler.  That’s right sports fans, after months of keeping her distance, Spoiler makes herself known to Tim.  She’s there to help, but Robin goes ape-shit and gives the girl with the nerve to wear his dead girlfriend’s costume the business.  It’s an understandable reaction.  But, suspecting what we’ve been led to suspect–that this really is Steph–you just can’t help but wish Tim would settle down for a minute and let this Spoiler explain.  I mean, Tim…c’mon, she used your real name!  In my book, that probably means something.

This could all be a big switcheroo.  We don’t know for sure that this is Stephanie Brown, as much as I really hope it is.  Is she the same mystery girl that Penguin gave the costume to a few months back in the pages of Gotham Underground?  It would certainly make sense that Steph would want a little bit of revenge on Gotham’s underworld after what happened with Black Mask.  Would she think that’s reason enough to strike some kind of deal with Cobblepot?

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Quote of the Week:

“Superman?  You should be so lucky.”–Green Arrow, after being blasted with a fire hose by a Chinese soldier and asked if he was going to be rescued by Big Blue and the JLA, in Batman and the Outsiders #6 (the implication is clear, right?).

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