Comic Judgment: Debuts and Curtain Calls

There’s nothing like a hefty Wednesday haul, especially when the books are as good as mine were this week. From a promising upstart to two venerable titles that took their bows, there’s quite a bit to cover. Here we go:

Better. Stronger. Faster.

The Bionic Man #1: Can a comic book based on a classic TV show withstand the white-hot expectations of readers full of nostalgia? Or will said nostalgia warp one’s view, resulting in an overly positive or negative response?

Though Dynamite’s new Bionic Man comic had me at “Oscar Goldman,” I still approached it with caution. Col. Steve Austin, astronaut, loomed so large in my childhood that I successfully lobbied my parents to buy me his doll – uh, action figure when I was 7 or 8. As I began reading, I thought of the great RuPaul’s advice to his drag competition contestants: Don’t *%$! it up.
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Wonder Woman: On the Mend

Even the cat hates those boots.

JMS has left the building, so what’s to become of Wonder Woman? After a undergoing a tacky Hollywood-style makeover, the Amazon Princess is now in writer Phil Hester’s hands. He’s got his work cut out for him. But though the House of Wondy remains under (re)construction, Hester’s debut with issue #605 is a hopeful sign. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: Superman, Superstar

Superman #701
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Rod Reis (colors) and J.P. Mayer (ink)
Cover: John Cassaday and David Baron
Letters: John J. Hill

There’s nothing new about the similarities between Superman and a certain carpenter from Nazareth, but in some stories, the parallels are neon-sign obvious. Shortly after watching Superman Returns — in which Kal-El even rises from his hospital deathbed after a few days (three?) — my brother asked, “Are we sure this isn’t a movie about Jesus?”

Writer J. Michael Straczynski is an atheist, but he has spoken of Superman in biblical (or, depending on your point of view, mythological) terms. In JMS’ highly anticipated Superman debut, the Man of Steel comes across the way I’ve often imagined Jesus might: captivating, earnest, the tiniest bit smug. He doesn’t carry much in the way of cash or material possessions, and he walks a lot. Wherever he goes, people pepper him with questions, try his patience and practically dare him to use his powers. Sound familiar?

Literally down to Earth, Superman is on a sort of fact-finding stroll through America, telling one journalist, “I’m not flying because I’m walking.” (As a former newspaper reporter, I thought the pack of hero-chasing journalists seemed gratuitously dim, especially considering Clark Kent’s line of work. But maybe they were TMZ types.)

The best moments in this issue are the smallest, like when Superman checks the funds in his cape pocket before ordering a cheese steak sandwich, or when star-struck residents react as if a caped Zac Efron were in their presence. It’s not every day that you see a metahuman celebrity in Philly, and I was charmed by Eddy Barrows’ scenes of grinning, gobsmacked citizens.

Unfortunately, the effort to make Superman “relevant” is all too obvious at times, and the book begins to strain under the weight of its own message. There’s a deeply goofy segment involving some drug dealers who appear to have stepped right out of New Jack City, and Supes has one too many Preachy McPreachypants moments. By the end, I found myself wishing Original Batman were around to bust the guy’s chops. However, despite these stumbles and my lack of any deep investment in Superman (the character or the comic), JMS has laid out an interesting premise — one that makes me want to stick around for at least one more stop on Kal-El’s tour.

Wonder Woman’s Wardrobe Malfunction

Messing with a classic is ballsy, but doing so successfully requires finesse. Do it right, and you get something like the “Star Trek” movie reboot. Misstep, and you’ve got New Coke. It is not for the faint of heart —or the clumsy.

This brings us to Wonder Woman’s new costume, which you can see today in its full glory with the debut of issue #600. As this is being written, V. and I have yet to read new Wondy writer J. Michael Stracynzski’s first issue, so we can’t comment on the story. The outfit, redesigned by none other than Jim Lee, is another story.

Here’s what we like: The old-school top is fine, and the gloves are hot in an I-will-beat-you-down-in-an-alley kind of way.

What don’t we like? Let’s start with the boots, which pissed us off mightily. If you’re going to put Diana in black leggings, why not let her keep some version of her iconic, red kicks? As V. put it, it’s all about the fucking boots, and the mall footwear with golden frippery isn’t going to cut it. And we like biker chick chic as much as anyone, but the star-spangled blue jacket looks like a Black Canary ripoff. And a choker? No. Seriously, no.

Wonder Woman’s new clothes aren’t terrible or offensive; but they are disappointingly generic and dated. As one person wrote on the DCU blog: “Looks like she’s just changed for happy hour after work. In 1996.” Continue reading