Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buy Pile Report

It was a pretty deep week for "Dark Reign" titles over at Marvel. However, if you're like me and looking to steer as far clear of that fiasco as possible, this week turned out to be slower than one might have expected.

To be honest, and I know I may get a little heat for this as a Geoff Johns/DC fanboy (yes, he didn't write the book but he's had a big hand in it), was Supergirl #40. The ONLY criticism that can be made of this book is that the Supergirl we saw for the 30 issues or so before Johns and writer Sterling Gates got their hands on her could never be as intelligent or responsible as the Supergirl we've seen since, and at no time has the "Maid of Might" been more impressive than in this issue.

That's not to say that Kara wasn't herself in this issue, either. Rest assured, those of you who remember the early 1980s, Supergirl is in no way becoming a cookie-cutter female version of Superman. In trying to solve the mystery of "Who is Superwoman?" Kara nearly jumps to conclusions condemning her best friend, becomes overly emotional dealing with issues surrounding her father's murder, and carelessly falls into a trap Kal-El would never have stumbled into. But, in a brilliantly choreographed fight sequence with the father-murdering Reactron, Gates not only illustrates Kara's non-powered ingenuity ("I trained with Batman. With the Amazons. I know first level *indecipherable kryptonian fighting style*. Just because I can't use heat vision doesn't mean I'm helpless."), but writes an inner monologue spot-on with how a character like Supergirl would think.

And yes, at issue's end, as predicted, we do learn who Superwoman is, and it's a bit of a jaw-dropper -- if only in that Gates has plenty of explaining to do. But even without the big reveal, this singular issue is proof of why all DC fans and especially all Superman-family fans should have "Supergirl" in their buy pile each month.

Much less impressive was Justice League of America #32. I know I've been hard on Dwayne McDuffie in the past, and I'm sorry it has to continue, but this issue felt to me a bit like I was reading about that false Justice League that appeared briefly during "52." And, come to think of it, didn't Firestorm lead that "League?" Half this issue is spent watching Firestorm, John Stewart, Zantanna, Vixen and Dr. Light discuss staying together as the JLA. All I could think the entire time was, "DC wants us to read about these guys?" I have no interest in the new Firestorm. I have very little interest in Vixen. And since when is Dr. Light such a superhero? Don't get me wrong, the Justice League International teams had very few A+ heroes, but they had A+ personalities and characters. I just don't buy this team as a book worth reading, even when Black Canary, who I love, eventually comes back into the fold.

The problem is, DC is just biding its time before infusing this team full of the Milestone characters who were recently reintroduced. And therein lies the true flaw: I get the feeling DC has no intentions in the near future of trying to return the Justice League of America to its rightful place atop their mountain of titles. It seems like DC is content to keep forcing the JLA to be the book where every single big event can have a tie-in issue, or editorial can use the book for such wastes of time as this Milestone stuff. And there I cannot even blame McDuffie, because I know when given the opportunity to use the pieces he wants to use, he can deliver an adequate if not hokey superhero product. But I just don't see that happening in the near future, as we can see from this Starbreaker junk crammed into the end of this book. Such a shame.

Lastly from DC, Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum was at once entirely irrelevant and fantastic. In the long run, after reading the end of this one-shot, I am sure the resolutions reached here will have very little ramifications on the Batman Universe. That said, David Hine pulls off a beautiful narrative dissecting what the asylum's original intentions were, what the asylum had become and why it must be changed to go forward. A good deal of time is spent detailing how the more notable inmates harped on Jeremiah Arkham's own mental weaknesses, but equal time was given to a side of the asylum we rarely -- if ever -- have seen before: the truly non-violent inmates who just need help.

A small touch that I felt worked very well here was that apparently in Arkham, solitary confinement serves the opposite purpose of what it would anywhere else. Here, solitary is given to the peaceful inmates who need to be protected from the masses. And using that as a jumping off point, Hine turns what could have been the same old "jailer gets consumed by the darkness"-type story into a sweet tale of a doctor just looking to help. I highly recommend this story, but I admit, it will be as irrelevant as all the other "Battle of the Cowl" one-shots soon enough.

Over on the Marvel side of things I only picked up two books, both of them mutant related. One, X-Force #14, is the third part of the "Messiah War" crossover with "Cable." And while I do once again praise the writing team of Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost and Duane Swierczynski ("Cable" writer) for a strong next installment in a brilliant series, I've promoted that event enough already in this space for you to know you should be reading it. Instead, I want to talk about Astonishing X-Men #29.

It's been a long time since writer Warren Ellis and illustrator Simone Bianchi put out an issue of this series. In that time, the pair learned NOTHING of the characters they are writing. Emma Frost is a helpless damzel. Cyclops is an unthinking, unfeeling, impotent leader without real planning abilities, overly concerned with codenames. And did I mention this story still defies all the laws of Marvel Universe physics?

Entirely too much of this book is spent watching the X-Men listen to themselves speak. And I'm not one against wordy comic books, but when characters open their mouths, it has to mean something. This is just one long waterfall of exposition, cascading onto our ears as if it's supposed to mean something. Apparently, the story is Forge was "probing the multiverse" (which doesn't exist in Marvel, looking for alternate-reality mutants (who apparently popped into existence just because Hope Summers was born), pissed them off just because he was looking for them enough to attack the Earth, so his solution wasn't to alert anyone else, it was to start trying to make his own brand of mutants, who hated him for it. All makes sense, right?

And excuse me, but when the hell did Forge go crazy, anyway? According to Wolverine, "This guy from Georgia who ran with the CIA, he once called Forge Crazier'n a run-over dog, and that was twenty years ago." First off, Forge has always been one of the best minds in the X-Men's arsenal. Second off, after all the contact the X-Men have had with Forge -- Storm especially -- they need Wolverine to spout off this little story?

"Astonishing X-Men" has quickly descended into unknown levels of the most horrible X-Men stories ever. And Simone Bianchi's art still pisses me off.

Argh. Just talking about how Ellis and Bianchi have ruined what Joss Whedon and John Cassady started has be in a huff. I'm off to watch tonight's episode of "Scrubs." Maybe Zach Braff acting like an idiot for the 100th time can calm me down. It always has in the past.

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