Thursday, December 08, 2005

LEGION OF SUPERHEROES #12

I was discussing this issue with a friend the other day and we came to the same conclusion: for better or for worse, we're enjoying this book despite little to no involvement in the plot. I'm not sure whether that's a statement about us or about Mark Waid or, if it's the latter, whether it's a compliment or an insult.

One of the necessary coping mechanisms of reading Legion is an appreciation of Elseworlds-type stories. Because, as often as the Legion gets rebooted, part of the fun has to be in discovering the new interpretations of old characters. In this, Waid has been close to spectacular. Not every change may be considered for the better, but he's definitely got somewhere to go with all of the Legionnaires and they are all pleasantly multi-dimensional. *looking straight at you, Cos*

The plot and purpose of the story arc... Waid has been very good about distracting us from the fact that it's pretty pedestrian. Take away Praetor Lemnos's funky power and he's a stock megalomaniac aspiring to universal domination. His army of disaffected youth doesn't have any spin that the Brotherhood of Mutants or the Injustice Society hasn't tried first. The UP government utters such breathtakingly fresh lines as "But the Legion warned us! Why didn't we listen?!". And you know what? It totally doesn't matter.

Last issue's "Waid was showing us all along and we didn't see until he told us" moment was Imra's muteness, which was toyed with nicely this month. Brainy's stirring grief at Nura's death was also expanded upon to include the introduction of Shrinking Violet Atom Girl, who, to quote the aforementioned pal, skipped straight past ShyVi and into Levitz-era tuchus-kicking mode. Projectra literally forces everyone to see things differently, starting with herself.

All in all, the Legionnaires worked well together and played off each other without forgetting that they are only a couple of issues away from betrayal and infighting. And so the story worked, even if Elysion and actions and cronies remain largely irrelevant to the enjoyment of the issue.

Back to Nura for a second... the forcefield bubble is reminiscent of Lightning Lad's earlier-boot demise and Brainy's grief is certainly reminiscent of his pain at Kara's death. There's very little likelihood that Jeckie will be eligible for any Sensor Girl-type storyline, but... Nura?

And, since Waid is trying to keep himself to 'Lad/Lass/Kid/Boy/Girl' names for the Legionnaires... Does this mean Brin Londo will have to be Feral Lad instead of Timberwolf?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

BATMAN #647

Here, on the other hand, the bleeped-out F-bomb works just fine. (this'll make sense if you're scrolling up.)

For the first half, I laughed myself sick in spite of myself. Because, really. It was funny, but in a way that made me feel vaguely twelve. Or a Wizard reader.

The second half was action drama instead of comedy and worked surprisingly well because Judd Winick laid off the angst. Jason and Bruce, this Jason and Bruce, have a fantastically complicated relationship. Batman, the eternal party pooper, is a not-so-secret optimist at heart and he has faith that he can win Jason over even though every indication is that Jason is too far gone -- hell, he was too far gone the moment he tried to swipe the hubcaps off the Batmobile.

As they face off against the Society's three thugs, Bruce doesn't consider that he has enabled a miscreant by training Jason, he only sees the son he let down. And when they act by muscle memory and shared history, that view is reinforced -- Batman is prepared to Jason to double-cross him, but doesn't think he will. The betrayal comes later, after a clever-for-Winick action sequence that gets unqualified praise for not relying on either a deus ex machina or Batgadgets.

The issue ends with Bruce vowing to take Jason down. (Again.) Whether he will or not... Alfred speaks of Batman's resolve. What Alfred knows and doesn't say is that that resolve has always gotten distorted around family.

Winick's strong work on this book continues. Fast-paced and not undone by Winick's love of banter steering him off course. Still no love for Doug Mahnke's art, but...

BATGIRL #70

... What's up with the potty mouth?

Seriously. None of the ^%^#%@ moments were outrageous within context, but considering that there's no precedent for them, they felt jarring and out of place.

As for the actual issue... *sigh* The ugly first: The throwback funky-fonted debut of Lazara hurt. It was bad, worse than the throwback funky-fonted Batgirl at the end. Nora deserved better. So did Victor, for that matter. I beg that this isn't the introduction of a new Cass nemesis. I'd have to stop mocking Judd Winick for his villains.

Otherwise, it read like Andersen Gabrych was short a coat of paint. With only some scattershot self-analysis by Cass to push things along, you didn't have to look too closely to see the foundations of forthcoming arcs. Some of the fighting felt gratuitous -- or maybe I'm still too unexcited by Pop Mhan's art to be entertained by it. Too many wannabe League of Assassins types, all of whom we're supposed to care about -- or at least remember their names. Too much Cass watching Shiva watching Cass. Not enough Nyssa making sense. Not enough clear storytelling to justify the "we just spent how many issues on the Who's My Mommy storyline and we're dropping it like a hot rock?" ending.

I still think highly of the title, but I can't say that this was one of Gabrych's better arcs -- that Pig Dude Lobo ripoff from earlier on will haunt him as well. Gabrych clearly had an idea of where he wanted Cass to go in this storyline, but there were too many places where he told us rather than showed us how she got there. On the other hand, he did get parts of the Infinite Crisis prequel stories to make sense, so...

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #1

Who knew?

After the awesome drek that was All-Star Batman & Robin, the Ultimate DCU All-Star project had a dark cloud hanging over it like the news that Halle Berry had signed a three-picture deal to make Catwoman movies. Sure, the Superman book would feature the reuniting of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, but... Frank Miller and Jim Lee sounded promising in the solicits, too.

This was fun. In no small part because it has nothing to do with Infinite Crisis -- which seems to have a black hole vacuum effect on my ability to read comics -- but mostly because it's got attitude.

Reducing the origin story to one page was marvelously cheeky precisely because Morrison could. We all know the tale, so there's no need to waste time on it. On to the next bit of business and then the next and then the next. This debut had a fantastic pace, deftly bobbing and weaving in the fight against the Exposition Fairy to explain how this universe is different from everywhere else in the DCU (a skill that will prove more necessary and sadly more rare in the coming year). In no order: Lex Luthor's status is revealed, Lois Lane and the staff at the Daily Planet is brought in, the peril explained, the protagonists introduced, the primum mobile plot device brought out, and the status of Lois and Clark is not only explained but also changed... all in 22 pages.

Brian Bendis's head is still spinning three weeks later.

After all this time, there are no truly unique spins on Superman anymore. But Morrison does cobble together a pretty good basis for a story arc: a Superman in cahoots with a mad scientist benefactor (or is he?), a Superman who knows that he is dying a slow death and has time to make preparations, and a Lex Luthor who is far more clever than anyone else has written him recently save for Brian Azzarello. These bits -- along with the last page reveal by Clark -- have legs.

Because it's a valid comparison point: I thought the accolades Morrison got for his X-Men run were overstated. It was good in that it was interesting, but it wasn't fall-over-yourself awesome and not all the Chuck Austen that followed is going to make me think that the run was landmark. I think he can do as well, if not better, here. I liked Morrison's JLA run quite a bit -- not as much as Waid's, but it was a great restart to the series -- and Superman is a property with enough flexibility that Morrison can play.

For the record, I still am not a fan of Quitely's art, but his lantern-jawed Supes and vapid-looking women weren't too distracting. (Which is about as high praise as I'm willing to offer a man who managed to make Jean Grey ugly and unattractive.)



I seem to be making these "not dead, only resting" explanations too often. So I won't. In terms of catching up on comics... I will be trying. Working the insectivore claws on Infinite Crisis is both too easy and too hard -- it's like aiming at an elephant with a self-targeting missile in that it's impossible to miss, but on the other hand it is incredible draining to work up the energy to do so. All I know is that the DCU I generally liked -- hadn't loved in a little bit -- is gone and that almost everything I liked about it is going with it. If I let myself care, then I'm opening up all the wounds at once. I'm just... very tired of watching the things I enjoy get ground into tiny little pieces.