Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Comic-books... a little late

For those who read this blog, you know by now that I have missed the last two "New Comic-book Night" posts.  The reason for this is simple: I was out of town. My comic shop held my comics, of course, so I picked them up on Thursday, along with some back-issues.

The bottom row of comics are my new issues for the month. From left to right: Justice League of America 6, Supergirl 22, Thor 10, and Red Sonja 1.  The top row are the last four issues in the fourth Supergirl series (aka. Supergirl, vol. 5, since vol. 3 was a mini-series).  I now have, in either individual issue or (mostly) trade paperback form, every single issue of that series, plus every single issue of Supergirl and the Legion of Super-heroes, which completes my collection of this Supergirl version (who I have taken to calling "midriff Supergirl"), since she's the only one who, for her entire existence, wore a costume leaving her midriff unnecessarily bare.

Interestingly, JLA is not actually on my comic-shop pull list (I have just been buying it off the stand), and I have zero interest in the other JL title, JL Dark, but the shop owner handed me both when he gave me the ones that actually are on my pull list (Supergirl, Thor, and Red Sonja). I immediately said, "Uh, these aren't on my pull list." His answer was that they were, as a courtesy, pulling all parts of the Trinity War crossover for people who pull any of the JL titles.  He assumed I would want to read all 6 parts.  I said no thanks, and handed him back JLD, and put the JLA that I had just taken from the shelf back (since I didn't need two of them).

The shop owner was flabbergasted.  "You're mainly a DC reader, right?" Yes.  "And you get Justice League, and this is a 6-part story. How are you going to read it without getting all the parts?"

Although it was very nice of them to pull the extra comics for me, and although he is logically correct, that it makes sense not to skip parts of a story arc, I also refuse to be played by +DC Comics.  They know that JL and JLA sell way better than JLD, so they are trying to force JL and JLA readers to pick up an extra title for two months, in the hopes of (a) selling more books, and (b) winning us over to reading the other title.

I don't mind sampling, and maybe, perhaps, if they hadn't done this, the next time I dropped a title, I might have tried JLD.  But I don't like having my hand forced.  And I don't like gimmicks, and Trinity War, as with every other event DC has done recently, is not quality storytelling (and certainly not quality art); it's a gimmick.

So, I told the shop owner that since I am on the verge of dropping both of the other JL titles anyway, I didn't see the point of buying JLD.  Wait until Villain month comes. I am going to blow his mind, because I am not buying a single DC comic that month.  I am boycotting Villain Month, because I hate all of these silly, gimmicky events.  Instead, in September, I am going to widely sample indie titles. And maybe some more Marvel, if I can find something like Thor that is a stand-alone title. I've heard Journey into Mystery is good.

At any rate, I've now read all of these issues, so I will review them below:

Justice League of America #6 - This second part of the Trinity War JL/JLA/JLD crossover begins where the first part left off, with a battle royale between the JL and the JLA. For all the build-up to this "big fight between the two leagues," the battle was short and disappointing, not to mention forced.  Superman's heat vision is out of control, which is what started the whole fight (he "accidentally" killed Dr. Light in JL 22).  The two sides battle, but we don't see very much of the fight.  We see J'onn grab Superman... and Flash stun J'onn.  Then Vibe neutralizes Flash. Then a lightning blast explodes -- from whom, or where, is not adequately explained, though Vibe implies that it is from another world or dimension.  We see Batman wrestle Catwoman, and Cyborg blast in the vicinity of Star Girl, and Wonder Woman kick Katana into Hawkman. Then Superman stops the battle with a giant shockwave to the ground, stunning everyone.  The battle is disappointing because the fight sequence seems completely random, and because so many of the characters are left out.  Aquaman, Shazam, Firestorm, Green Arrow, and Star Girl basically do nothing.  Most of the other characters get, at most one panel of "action."   I couldn't help thinking... all the build up and this is all we get?  Presumably there will be more fighting later on, but this first battle was extremely lame.

The rest of the issue shows Batman and Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor trying to figure out what made Superman lose control of his heat vision.  Batman blames Dr. Light's powers. Wonder Woman blames Pandora's box.  Wonder Woman then flies off to Hephaestus, who she thinks made the box, and asks him how it works and how to stop it. But he claims not to be the creator of the box, nor to know how it was made, nor how to stop it.  In desperation, Wonder Woman goes to find the Justice League Dark, and asks for their help.  The story ends as the Question shows up in Superman's holding cell and asks him if he wants to find out who "really" killed Dr. Light.

Overall, the story in this comic had its ups and downs. The battle was underwhelming and did not live up to the hype.  On the other hand, the detective work done by Batman and Wonder Woman in this issue was strong and interesting to read.  It's strange that those two characters would feature so prominently in JLA, which is not their book, however.  Yes, this is a crossover, but the guest stars shouldn't be featured more prominently than the stars, even so.  But that's a minor quibble.    The art is a much bigger problem. Doug Mahnke's style is definitely not for me.   I found the art sloppy and rushed-looking on most pages.  Additionally, the big splash pages fell flat, because it's not clear what is happening in them, especially the big double-splash page where Superman does the shockwave. It looks more like he's falling to the ground than slamming it with his fist, and it's not clear why the other characters are in their positions.  I mean... I know what is happening but the spread is very badly laid out.  Thanks to the poor art and the lame-o JL/JLA battle at the beginning, this book loses 3 stars. 7/10, and that's frankly being generous.

Supergirl #22 - This issue of Supergirl picks up with the Cyborg Superman trying to sweet-talk Kara into helping him. At first, he and the people of I'noxia give her what she wants -- a recreation of her home, and even her mother.  Supergirl realizes this is a lie, and that, at least, is a relief. After how easily she has been duped in previous storylines (H'el, etc.), at least this time, Supergirl keeps stopping and pointing out that "it would all be based on a lie," and that it's not truly real.   Finally, however, Cyborg Superman's plan is revealed, and it turns out he wants to download Kara's memory into I'noxia, and then take her body and use it to complete his own.  Supergirl doesn't go along with that idea willingly, and so it turns into a battle between her and Cyborg Superman.  She ends the story by getting away on her speed-bike (why she needs one when she should be able to fly faster than any earthly vehicle remains unexplained in this issue), but the I'noxians create all the superheroes and villains in her memory and send them after her.  The story ends there.

Overall, this is an average story.  I liked that, for once, Kara is not so easily duped and manipulated.  She keeps backing away from what Cyborg and the I'noxians are trying to convince her to do, realizing that it's not real, that it's a lie.   So I liked Kara's characterization here -- she still can't hold a candle to the original or to Peter David's, but at least, for once, she's not an obvious, almost willing dupe, as she has been so many times in the past.

On the other hand, the whole concept of I'noxia is rather strange and hard to believe -- that they could read her mind and create anything, even something like Argo City in all its detail, is simply over the top.  After all, the implications of a race that is able to do this are staggering.  They could all become Kryptonians, with full Superman powers, and be equally unstoppable.  Indeed, why don't they do that?  The I'noxians also lead to serious logic holes in the story. For example, if they can become anything, including Kryptonians with full powers (as is clearly implied when the I'noxian who becomes Alura exhibits Kryptonian abilities like flight, or the ones that clone Supergirl from her memories display all her powers), and Cyborg needs a Kryptonian body to finish himself, why doesn't he just capture and use one of them?  The number of logic errors produced by the over-the-top Deux Ex Machina powers of the I'noxians are too many to list here.

I'noxia  would work better if, rather than them being able to physically arrange matter to copy anything in the universe, they simply produced the mental illusion of such things -- somewhat like the old Star Trek episode "The Cage" (aka "The Menagerie").  If this were all happening in Kara's head, then the I'noxians being able to produce anything at all would not be so problematic. It's a shame Nelson didn't take this direction.  The story would have been far easier to believe.

Now for a word about the art.  The word is "awful." To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Mahmud Asrar, but the new artist, Diogenes Neves, makes me pine for Asrar.  I don't like the way he draws Kara's face (it looks to "Anime" to me), and the majority of his panels look sloppy and unfinished.  Some of this probably has to do with the inkers (Deering, Albert, and Jose), and maybe the book was harmed by having so many different finishing artists.  But the art, overall, was weaker than usual for this book.

Unfortunately, the Deus Ex Machina I'noxians and the sloppy art harmed what could have been a good story, forcing me to dock this issue several stars.  In the end, I could only give it a 7/10.

Thor, God of Thunder #10 - This is another interesting and engaging story with excellent, stylized art by Aaron and Ribic.  As the story begins, the Thors have been captured, along with Thor's three granddaughters.  Meanwhile, Gorr the God-butcher has nearly completed the creation of the god bomb, which he will use to destroy all gods everywhere in the universe throughout the whole of time and space.  However, Thors are not easily kept down, and the three Thors each escape to take the battle to Gorr.

Meanwhile, something very tantalizing happens... Gorr's wife says that he is her god.  Gorr lashes out in fury and kills her, but the wife has seen something that is likely key to the final part of the story: By growing in power so greatly that he can kill gods, that he has become immortal, and so on, Gorr has become the thing he professes to hate: a god.  This is a nice twist on a common plot.  Normally, we see heroes become ruthless or brutal and become the thing they hate -- sort of a "fall from grace." Gorr's journey has been almost the reverse, a "rise to power" in which he becomes what he despises.  And there is another wrinkle that Gorr seems not to have noticed, and Aaron doesn't discuss explicitly, but is clearly worth considering: if Gorr is now, as his wife claims, a god, and if the god bomb destroys all gods... won't Gorr be killing himself?  This may be a key to how Gorr will ultimately be defeated, as one must assume will have to happen eventually.

Overall, this is another solid installment from Aaron and Ribic.  The art continues to delight me with its style, again looking like oil paintings rather than pencil and ink drawings.  The story captures the attention, and Aaron continues to deftly dance the line of using time-spanning stories without confusing the reader too much.  However, there are a couple of panels here in which I'm not exactly sure what is going on.  For example, Gorr says he is going to use young Thor's heart to set off the bomb, yet when he rips the heart out of someone, it's clearly not Thor (the victim has four-fingered, clawed paws, a lion mane, and a tail). I'm unsure of whose heart has been harvested.  Additionally, although we see how young and middle Thor escape, exactly how old Thor gets out of his predicament is not clearly depicted.  If these scenes had been less confusing, I'd have given this issue full marks, but it's still good enough for a 9/10.

Red Sonja #1 is reviewed separately here.

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