Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OWL: One Week Later

Due to my unusual buying habits, I usually don't get my comics until sometime Monday afternoon; by the time I've read them, processed them, and found the time to rant about them, it's been almost a full week since everyone else has read them. And yet, my opinions must be heard, and so I have decided to embrace my tardiness and publish my comic reviews One Week Later; we'll see how long before that feels really dated.

My excuses aren't nearly as good, or at least aren't nearly as interesting. At almost three bucks a gallon and my comic shop being thirty miles away I need an excuse to be in Norman and that excuse does't usually present itself until the weekend. Thirty miles isn't really that far away considering how much space OKC sprawls over, but going to Norman is like a rocket launch: miss your window and it'll be a terrible tragedy. I can't be there when the high school directly across from the comic shop is on lunch or dismissing and the Other University doesn't make it easy either.

At any rate, I'm willing to go with the Cap'n and review the titles OWL until it annoys us, our readers (both of them) or ourselves. I'm sure it goes without saying that spoilers may happen.

52 #1: The first issue of DC's latest "event" has garnered a ton of negative reviews so far, so let me once again assume the mantle of Cap'n Contrarian and say: I kinda liked it. Did it blow me away? Not hardly. But for me, it did the job it needed to do, setting up the characters for the storyline to come. I don't mind a bit of a slow build to my storylines, and while there might not have been a lot of "action" in the first issue, I didn't fell like it was filler, either. As for the shift in Booster's attitude jumping from Infinite Crisis to here, it didn't bother me as much as some; yes, Booster was all serious in his quest to avenge Beetle's death, but being successful in that endeavor coupled with the knowledge that he's about to become part of the greatest League ever seems sufficient to bring out the old glory-hound in him. I do think that having him cry crocodile tears for Conner was a bit over-the-top, but after his freak out at the ceremony I think we can all agree that our boy Booster ain't exactly the picture of stability.

She-Hulk #7: I'm a big Slott fan and am very broken-hearted over the news that The Thing has been cancelled; it was a danged fun book. But, at least I still have his take on Shulkie to keep me entertained. While I personally haven't been as big on the Starfox storyline as I have most of his work, I haven't had the visceral reaction to it that many other have. I'm going to trust that Slott has a bigger plan in mind, and that the truth behind Eros's action will be fully explored soon.

Angel Spotlight: Illyria One-shot: I don't usually buy and of IDW's books until they're collected in trades due to the price, but I' a sucker for Peter David's writing, and the chance to see him explore one of the more interesting characters from the last season of Angel was too intriguing to pass up. I must say I was not disappointed; PAD crafts an entertaining story and does a good job of capturing the voices of the characters. If nothing else, reading this made me pine for the late, lamented series by reminding me of how much potential there is left for the characters.

Firestorm the Nuclear Man #25: Despite my early reticince at the removal of Ronnie as Firestorm, I have to say that this series has grown on me considerably. In terms of characters, this was another stellar issue; I'm enjoying the Jason/Lorraine partnership, and am intrigued by Gehenna. As for the plot itself . . . look, I know comic books are all about suspension of disbelief, but the "science" in this one made my head hurt; I kept hoping that Jason was going to wake up and that the whole "trip to the sun and back" was just a bad dream. C'mon, guys, it's not the Silver Age anymore, things like that don't get to squeek by anymore.

Spider-Girl #98: I honestly don't know why I'm still buying this book; inertia, I suppose. It's not that it's a bad book; things would be much easier if it was. Instead, it's a steady, sturdy, average book; never chomping at the bit to read it, but rarely disappointed by it either. So, there's a part of me that's looking forward to its upcoming cancellation just so I can finally extricate myself from its unusually strong pull; if the rumors of its reboot are to be believed, I'm pretty sure I can resist.


Thunderbolts #102: I have to confess that I've been underwhelmed by the latest incarnation of this title; Nicieza has fallen into the trap of relying too heavily on shock endings, which can't help but wear thin on me after a while. Don't get me wrong, some of the surprises have been good ones, but the satisfaction gets drowned out by the sheer bulk of revelations and reversals and double crosses and such. All that being said, I thought this issue focusing on Joystick was one of the better efforts recently, and I chalk it up to one thing: characterization. This issue gave us insight into Joystick's history, which is something that I always loved about this book in the olden days; it was always at its strongest when it made us care about (or at least understand the motivations of) the characters. I think that might be another part of why I'm not as hot on the series now as I once was; the characters I grew to love are either MIA or massively changed. I miss Moonstone and Hawkeye and Moonstone and Jolt and Moonstone and Charcoal and Moonstone, and am not happy with the directions they've taken Songbird and Atlas and MACH [insert roman numeral here]. Oh, and did I mention that I miss Moonstone?

I'm easy this week, I only bought one book: Busiek and Johns' latest installment of Up, Up And Away in Superman #652.

Five parts into the series and we finally see Clark Kent take a backseat to Superman. I'm beginning to complain that a problem with Batman is that we never see Bruce Wayne, but I've never felt that this was an issue with Superman. However, Johns and Busiek have gone to lengths to show that, while a reader may see enough of both month to month, Clark's friends, family, co-workers and bosses (Perry and Lois) see decidedly less of him than they do of his caped alter ego. It will be interesting to see how much is said or done with the fact that Clark, who has spent the last year proving that being a reporter isn't just a disquise but is a calling and a talent as much as being Superman, will go back to looking like a flake who can't make his deadlines and can't adequately explain why. For instance, it would be interesting to have Perry throw up his hands in exasperation and just fire him over it. We'll see.

I'd better bullet the high points for brevity.
* Clark getting reaqcuainted with his powers in amusing and sometimes destructive ways.

* Lois discovering that Clark's powers are back because he's essentially a giant klutz who would probably kill himself if he weren't indestructible.

* Lois' reaction to Clark discovering his powers are coming back is a testament to how marriages actually work. Sure she was happy he was around more, but she knew his job when they got married and she loves and supports Clark no matter what clothes he's wearing.

* "Do that thing with your hair. I like it when you do that."

* Not at full strength, Superman is forced to use his head to defeat a cadre of very tough villains. He may not be Batman in the brains department, but no idiot is that good an investigative reporter.

* Superman overcomes his lack of powers and, thereby, regains them in order to save his pal.

I've been enjoying the hell out of this re-set-up of Superman for a Post-Infinite Crisis DCU so it pains me to point out that, intentionally or not, Johns and Busiek are keeping around some of the Pre-IC baggage. To wit, it is established that Superman's powers likely didn't return because he was unsure of his place in the world as Superman and he was willing them to not return. Many of you will recognize this device from Spider-Man 2. Many of you will also probably agree with me that this is a device much more suited for Peter Parker than it is for Clark Kent.

Post-Crisis (the other one) Superman was, for the first time, a man of doubt. He didn't always know what to do in a given situation, he despaired at how out of control his life was and often questioned the Never Ending Battle and his place in the world of super-heroes. I don't like it. That isn't Superman. Superman is a man of action to a fault. A man willing to sacrifice to do good. A man who would have been a hero in some capacity regardless of his powers (we're shown that in Up, Up And Away as he takes on Luthor and Intergang with nothing but a steno pad and a can-do attitude). Big picture, metatextually I don't want to even consider that Superman could or WOULD suppress his powers out of self doubt. It bothers me a lot and is perhaps all the more glaring due to how much I'm enjoying the rest of this arc.

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