Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/20 & Greetings from Battleworld

Convergence: Justice League of America #2
Story: Fabian Nicieza
Art: ChrisCross

The highlight of Convergence for me, and I think for most, has been revisiting old characters that have been changed tremendously or forgotten in the most recent DC reboot.While the Justice League Detroit was a little before my time, this series is narrated by Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny. They are my favorite married couple in comics history, and it's great to see them back. This issue, with the drastically underpowered Justice League facing down the Secret Six of the Tangent Universe (a favorite alternate reality from DC history), a group comprising the most powerful superbeings of its world, is a classic underdog story. With Ralph leading the inexperienced team while it's most powerful members have already been taken out, we get to see characters like Vibe and Vixen using their powers as best they can and fighting with guts and smarts. Superhero comics are at their best when the heroes don't just use their brawn, but their brains and hearts to deal with their problems, and Ralph Dibny has always has always been a character who relies on brains over brawn. We also see Sue working with the GCPD to free the trapped members of the League, and we get the sense that they are true partners. Fabian Nicieza shows he understands all these characters and liked them, giving them a story that allows the B-list to shine. With versions of two of these characters currently appearing or set to appear in the DC TV universe (the new Vibe on Flash and Vixen on her own animated web series), it makes sense to give them a spotlight where they aren't being used as a punchline. And now that Convergence is wrapping up, it would be nice to see some of these characters pop up again in the prime DC Universe; I'd love to see the Dibnys show up in Flash comics again, for instance.

Ghosted #20
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Goran Sudzuka and Laci

Sometimes the end of a series creeps up on you. I probably should have realized that after the last issue ended with the death of series protagonist Jackson Winters that this would be the final issue of Ghosted, but I didn't until I reached the very end of the issue. And it was a pleasant surprise in its way, since it was a great send off to the title. The issue opens with original series artist Goran Sudzuka returning to draw the confrontation that has been brewing since the series began: Jackson Winters meets Death. And Jackson takes about as much crap from the Grim Reaper as he took from anyone else in the series. He's glib, sarcastic, and we finally get to understand exactly what Death's fascination with the thief is. And after that winds down, we slip back into the land of the dead from the past few issues, where the confrontation between Jackson's friends and his nemesis, Schrecken, has reached it's conclusion. But leave it to Jackson to steal the scene in the end, popping up as Death's newest employee and turning the tables on Schrecken, who gets his wish of eternal life, but not in the way that he was hoping for. Ghosted has played on a lot of classic horror story and movie cliches in its run, so ending on a classic Twilight Zone/ Monkey's Paw note seems appropriate for the villain. And the series last page, focused on Nina, the young woman Jackson saved and would up being his protege of sorts over the last half of the series, shows that while Jackson might be gone, he's not forgotten. With two other series coming out from Image regularly (Birthright and Nailbiter), it's not like I'll be wanting for Joshua Williamson, but Ghosted was an exciting supernatural caper comic, combining two of my favorite genres, one with great characters. If you never picked it up, well, there are four trades out with a fifth on the way. What are you waiting for?

Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars #3
Story: Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
Art: J. Bone

It would have been easy to translate the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast over to comic form and just make it a wacky humor comic. But series creators Acker & Blacker instead fully embraced the medium, giving us a story that wouldn't work as well in the radio format. This issue of Sparks Nevada features an extended fight scene between Sparks and bounty hunter Orna Peganu on top of a space stage coach. While we could have easily heard the witty repartee over the radio (including Sparks discussing how that whole we only use ten percent of our brain thing is hogwash), and it would have been delightful. But since we have the full visual medium, it allows artist J. Bone to really go to town, drawing a great background in the lava fields of Mars, and creating an excellent alien design for Orna. The main story also ties into the flashbacks we've been seeing, with a character other than Sparks now showing up in both. I also love the parallels drawn between Sparks and James T. Kirk in those flashbacks, and I'm curious to see how Sparks's no-win situation turns out next issue. We also get to see more of Croach the Tracker interacting with the Johnsons; it's interesting to see how different Croach was in these stories set early in continuity versus how he appears on the show now; here he does seem to be unemotional and detached, versus how he is in the show now, where he claims to be but clearly has emotional ties. With one issue to go, we now know that someone is a deadly outlaw, and Sparks is about to come face-to-face with someone he fears (so it must have to do with intimacy, since everyone knows Sparks has intimacy issues). It's all the highlights of a Sparks Nevada story, with some great art. So, go and ride the plains of the Red Planet with everyone's favorite Martian lawman who's... from Earth.

Dan Grote now brings you the first full installment of Greetings from Battleworld, our Secret Wars feature, that will have this Tuesday spot on its own starting next week

A-Force #1
Story: Marguerite Bennett & G. Willow Wilson
Art: Jorge Molina, Craig Yeung, Laura Martin and Matt Milla

“In the vast oceans of our planet, isolated from the forbidden domains of Battleworld, there is an island. … Welcome to Arcadia. It’s pretty tight.”

Yeah, it is.

The domain of A-Force, the all-female superhero team, is essentially the suburbs for superheroes. Where the main Secret Wars book gives us decapitations and God Emperor Doom casting those who oppose him into a pit of zombies, A-Force shows a peaceful fiefdom where the Cage family can go for a stroll without fear of attack by the Wrecking Crew, where even the female-form Loki of J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor run is a force for good.

Until a prehistoric shark attacks the island.

A-Force promptly kicks the megalodon’s butt and, in a continued effort to shame the movie Man of Steel, prioritizes civilian safety as much as they do punching a sea-kaiju. (If you haven’t read Michael Calia’s Wall Street Journal piece on civilian casualties in superhero movies, click that last link. We’ll be here when you get back.)

These are some of Marvel’s greatest heroines as their best selves. Why else would we get Dazzler in her disco jumper and roller skates or Carol Danvers in her Captain Marvel outfit or Jubilee back in the yellow trenchcoat and pink shades, fireworks shooting out her fingers on the cover? And artist Jorge Molina draws each and every one of these women as beautiful and powerful as they are, as they should be.

But in defeating a thing that shouldn’t be, A-Force runs afoul of Doom’s laws, requiring one of their own to be thrown to the zombies and leading some team members to question the leadership of She-Hulk, who is one of Doom’s barons.

The book ends with She-Hulk asking Namor and his kin to investigate the appearance of the megalodon and the arrival of a new character, Singularity, who was teased in images soliciting the series, including the cover of the first issue.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I have lots of questions. The following are not meant to be taken as criticisms of the book or its creators, but as things I don’t yet understand about Secret Wars as a whole:

A-Force works out of the Hall of Justice. Is that really not trademarked?

Was flight always part of Dazzler’s skill set? Either way, she’s fabulous.

A-Force features a Meggan who is not pregnant, as opposed to the one shown in Secret Wars #2 whom Baron Sinister kept calling a cow. Is this meant to be the same woman, or do multiple versions of people exist on Battleworld? Same question applies to Namor.

Considering what we know about the makeup of Battleworld, is it weird that characters like Captain Britain and Ms. America Chavez can exist in this world, as symbols of lands that don’t technically exist?

Ms. America at one point references “Sharknado.” It made me laugh. It made my wife laugh. It’s a good line. BUT, if this is Doom’s world, and he’s got Dr. Strange basically mandating everyone believe Doom’s creation myth, is a 2013 cable TV movie something anyone should remember?

Also, if Doom is God, is there a chance this island is just some creepy Doom spandex fantasy? It might explain why this team wears fan-favorite uniforms as opposed to matching ones.

How has no one thought to make Sam Wilson a Thor before this? That man is Worthy as all get-out. Certainly worthier than Eric Masterson. (On behalf of my generation, I apologize that Thunderstrike a) is still around and b) has a cameo in this book).

I’m 100 percent willing to believe I may be overthinking some things.

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #1
Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Matteo Lolli and Ruth Redmond

Part of Team Deadpool’s schtick the past few years has been retroactively inserting him into stories set before the character’s first appearance in 1991. And so we’ve had Deadpool stealing the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos or teaming up with Power Man and Iron Fist against an alabaster villain called the White Man.

In the Merc with a Mouth’s latest retro romp, we find out what role he played in the original Secret Wars from 1984.

Deadpool gets zapped to Battleworld alongside Earth’s heroes, including Spider-Man, Hulk and members of the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. And Magneto, whom DP promptly villain-shames. As usual, no one recognizes him, despite his now-established history in the MU. By the end of the issue, it appears the heroes have all been killed, save Deadpool, who now looks like … nope, not gonna spoil it.

Cullen Bunn’s Deadpool minis have always been madcap romps where continuity takes a backseat to fun and ultraviolence, so it’s great to see him giving this revisionist history lesson, and pointing out inconsistencies such as the state of Charles Xavier’s paralysis at the time. Artist Matteo Lolli perfectly captures the heroes’ 1984 fashions, re-creating Mike Zeck’s original panels where warranted as Bunn re-creates Jim Shooter’s original (cornball) dialogue. Not only that, fans of Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s run on the book will recognize the 1980s version of DP’s costume – complete with the letters DP on the chest – from artist Scott Koblish’s throwback issues.

The award for most Deadpool moment in this issue goes to when he shoots at the Absorbing Man to the tune of Scandal’s “The Warrior.” Honorable mention goes to DP mule-kicking Kang the Conqueror in the nards.

In a bonus strip, Deadpool is inserted into 1982’s Contest of Champions, teaming up with Howard the Duck, Doop, She-Man-Thing, Rocket Racer, and other Z-list heroes at the whim of cosmic beings.

No comments: