BatWondy Nation Weeps

BatWondy fans everywhere — OK, maybe just me — were brokenhearted today when DC announced that Superman and Wonder Woman are officially an item. Justice League writer Geoff Johns described it as “the new status quo,” and Jim Lee’s cover for issue #12 suggests that Wondy keeps a toothbrush at the Fortress of Solitude.

I hate everything about this idea. Aside from being predictable and bland, it dashes any hope, at least for now, that Batman and Wonder Woman will rekindle the romance that stirred so many hearts just a few short years ago. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: Surprises and Comeback Kids

As we’ve all discovered by now, the quality of the relaunched DC books has been all over the map, ranging from the brilliant to the WTF? That’s about what I expected. There’s no need for me to write another mash note to Batwoman, Action Comics, Wonder Woman or even Batman and Robin, so on to the rest of the DCnU buy pile we go! For purposes of this post, I’m focusing on some books that I had previously dismissed or that were initially letdowns. Continue reading

Poll: What’s Your Re-Launch Strategy?

The DC re-launch has dominated the comics conversation since its announcement, and readers are in varying stages of acceptance. But not everyone’s grieving. I’ve heard a handful of people say that this (mostly) clean slate approach is not only necessary, but also smart. The medium is struggling, and most fans would agree that something needs to be done. But is this it?

I’ve got my opinions, but as a consumer with no business experience — and comics are a business — I don’t exactly have a strategic plan for the industry. There are aspects of the re-launch that I find upsetting (feathers on Tim!), and I’m definitely sad to see some of my favorite titles and characters go missing. However, as a Nerd Lunch essay pointed out, it’s not really About Me, and the decision’s been made. So as a reader, I’ve got two choices: Give the new titles a try and make judgments accordingly, or break up with DC. We’ve been together since I was 7 or 8, so I’m not yet ready to call the moving van. Some of the books will be good to great, and others will be mediocre to sucky. That’s pretty much the way it is now.

While I am skeptical, I want this radical plan to succeed because I love comics. When they’re done right, reading them can be a magical experience, or at least a greatly entertaining one. I think more people would agree if they’d just pick one up, but getting comics into the hands of non-readers these days is a mighty big challenge. DC is taking a big gamble in the hopes that old fans will stick around and new ones will be attracted to less intimidating #1 issues.

What’s your take on the re-launch strategy? Are you ready to give it a try or packing your proverbial suitcases?

G3 Review: Justice League – The Rise of Arsenal #1

Cover art by Greg Horn

Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #1
Writers: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Geraldo Borges
Colors: Hi-Fi
DC Comics
March 24, 2010

Spoilers ahead!

In spite of the Un-awesomeness of JL: Cry For Justice, I still wanted to read JL: Rise of Arsenal. I don’t know much about Roy Harper, but I’m all for reading stories about unfamiliar characters. It can be more interesting with an unbiased brain.

Issue one opens with a playback of the events that took place on the JLA satellite in the last issue of Cry For Justice. We see Roy having his last conversation with his daughter, an adorable and realistic debate about ice cream vs. cookies for dessert. This sweet moment is followed abruptly by an intense, bloody face-off with Prometheus. From the heart-tugging conversation with his soon-to-be-dead child to the splash page of Roy’s graphic dismemberment, JT Krul set one hell of a stage.

Jump to Roy waking up in the hospital, surrounded by his concerned friends and teammates. He’s still in serious physical pain, but that is quickly overshadowed by the realization that Lian died during Star City’s destruction. Krul manages to convey the shock, awe and pure devastation of what it’s like for someone to lose not just a limb, but their own child. Where James Robinson dropped the ball with contrived writing and unearned moments in Cry For Justice, Krul delivers an authentic punch in the gut. I got a little teary-eyed when Roy went to the morgue to see Lian’s body. What else would a grieving parent do but imagine their dead child’s final moments? Geraldo Borges’ image of Roy hugging Lian’s lifeless body is one of the most powerful that I’ve seen. Understandably, Roy starts to go a little crazy, but not before kicking an ass or two with one arm. I had no idea he was such a skilled hand-to-hand combatant. The nod to Roy’s past as a drug addict — and the temptation to start using again — added depth to the issue.

Kudos to Krul for bringing this story back to life, making me care and turning an unbelievably shitastic story arc into “pretty damn good.” With Cheshire on the horizon for issue #2, good is going to get better.

P.S. Thanks for not making Black Canary suck at life in this issue.

Comic Judgment: A Pull List Overview

Cover art by Frank Quitely

I read a bunch of comics this week. Here’s how they stack up, from best to worst:

1. Batman and Robin #10
During its short run, this title has ranged from brilliant to odd to plain inscrutable — in other words, classic Grant Morrison. Fortunately, things are back on the upswing with Andy Clarke’s wonderful art and a storyline pitting Damian Wayne (Robin) against Dick Grayson (Batman). Actually, it’s not Damian who’s gunning for Dick so much as his mama, Talia al-Ghul, who wants her son back at her side. Damian may be an arrogant little sod, but there are signs that he’s grown to respect Dick and even enjoy their partnership. As they search Wayne family portraits for signs that Bruce is alive, Damian seems genuinely glum about the end of his crime-fighting relationship with Dick: “If my father returns, we can’t be Batman and Robin anymore, can we?” Things get even more interesting with the appearance of the mysterious Oberon Sexton, and I’ll be very interested to see how these plot threads tie in with Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne saga.

2. Secret Six #19
Black Alice develops a big, honking crush on Ragdoll. If that doesn’t move you, turn in your longboxes immediately.

3. Ultimate Spider-Man #8
This has long been one of my favorite comics, and the recent focus on Peter Parker’s crowded home life — new girlfriend Gwen Stacey, Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde — plays to Brian Michael Bendis’ strengths as a writer. This issue is full of the usual crackling dialogue, but I just wasn’t that into Peter’s neighbor, Rick Jones, who spends roughly half of the book complaining about his new found superpowers as Nova. Being chosen by an alien to help save mankind is heavy stuff for a 16-year-old, but Jones’ extensive, why-me tantrum made me want to smack him. Come to think of it, Johnny Storm wanted to do the same thing. But even on the rare occasion when Ultimate Spidey doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it’s still a good read.

4. Red Robin #10
I love me some Tim Drake, but I didn’t really connect with this book until the last couple of issues. However, #7-9 were downright delightful, illustrating Tim’s considerable ass-whipping/detective skills while introducing a perfect potential girlfriend: button-cute Tam Fox, daughter of Wayne confidante Lucius Fox. Since I’m already way too invested in the Tim/Tam flirtation, Stephanie Brown’s appearance was a serious buzzkill. On the other hand, it was fun to see Stephanie’s Batgirl beat the snot out of a particularly annoying member of the League of Assassins. And I’m still giggling over Alfred’s withering reply to reporter Vicki Vale, who shows up at Wayne Manor looking for Tim: “Master Timothy is far too young for you.” Hee!

5. Justice League Rise and Fall Special
Despite our well-documented loathing of the Black Canary/Green Arrow relationship, there’s no denying that Oliver Queen’s sketchy personal life is good plot fodder. But this one-shot, which takes place immediately after Green Arrow offs Prometheus in Cry for Justice, isn’t about action so much as brooding: Ollie brooding about his maimed son and dead granddaughter; Ollie brooding about hunting down The Electrocutioner; Dinah brooding about Ollie’s fragile state of mind; Justice League members brooding about Ollie’s slide toward the dark side. I’ve generally enjoyed J.T. Krul’s work, but this issue is pretty stagnant. And like V., I’m way over Black Canary following her angry husband around like a wounded groupie. However, there are a few noteworthy moments, like Ollie’s ice-cold rejection of Dick Grayson’s assistance in Star City (It’s my city, “Batman.” Ouch!)  and Barry Allen getting all Judgy McJudgypants when Green Arrow’s lethal act comes to light. But for $3.99, I’d have liked a little more than panels of glowering and fretting.

What did you like this week?


G3 Review: Justice League-Crisis On Two Earths

Rating: PG-13
Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Sam Liu
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Starring: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres and James Woods

There’s an interesting premise at the core of the new DC animated movie “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths:” Every choice we make results in an alternate reality, creating endless variations of ourselves that range from virtually identical to unrecognizable. “Crisis” isn’t nearly as complex a film as that idea suggests, but fortunately, seeing Justice League members take on their evil doubles never gets old.

Thanks to a (mostly) strong vocal cast and some wicked action scenes, “Crisis on Two Earths” is a perfectly respectable addition to DC’s recent lineup of direct-to-DVD films. (Spoilers ahead!) Seeking to defeat the mafia-like Crime Syndicate, Earth-2’s benevolent Lex Luthor — voiced by Chris Noth, who will always be Mr. Big to us — travels across dimensions to get the Justice League’s help. As usual, everyone’s in except Batman, who is inexplicably voiced by Billy Baldwin. Was Alec not available?

Aided by their stable of “made men,” the Crime Syndicate rules with an iron fist that has cowed even the U.S. President of Earth-2: Deathstroke! OK, he’s “President Slade Wilson” here, but it’s a hoot to see him re-imagined as the ultimate public servant. Superman’s Earth-2 counterpart, Ultraman, is a meathead who appears to be fond of guyliner, and Power Ring (evil Green Lantern) comes across as a young Paulie Walnuts in Spandex. In a nice twist on our BatWondy fantasy, Superwoman is coupled with none other than Owlman, whose dick-ish lines are delivered with expert menace by James Woods. When Superwoman slinks into his lair, Owlman greets her by saying, “I thought I told you to call first.”

It turns out that Owlman is less interested in conquering Earth than destroying it and all its alternate versions. As the Justice League and Good Lex race to stop him, we’re treated to some nifty cameos (Firestorm, Black Canary and Aquaman) and several choice moments. Batslut that I am, I got a kick out of watching the Dark Knight respond to Superwoman’s advances by biting her — and probably not the way she hoped he would. Wonder Woman has some of the movie’s best fight scenes, and the explanation of how she wound up with that invisible airplane is pretty clever.

“Crisis” also makes a convincing case for Martian Manhunter as a heartthrob. V. now has a crush on Mr. J’onzz, whose mind-reading skills and bodyguard services lead to a brief romance with Earth-2’s Rose Wilson. Let’s just say that the Martian way of showing affection makes kissing look about as erotic as a high-five.

“Crisis on Two Earths” doesn’t have the epic feel of “Justice League: The New Frontier,” but it’s a solidly entertaining DVD that’s worth seeing, especially with the inclusion of the chillingly retro “Spectre” special feature. Grade: B