Friday, December 08, 2006
Comics! 52 and JSA!
Poor, mucus-sludged Elmo could only muster strength enough to feebly hand over two comic books this week, but oh! what a pair of comics they were!
The first of them was the latest issue of 52, which certainly cemented in my mind the truth of Elmo's earlier assertion that this title is the best thing currently going in comics. This issue is nothing less than epic in its scope and pace, and that would be marvel enough in a MONTHLY book ... it's nothing short of miraculous in something being put out every week.
This issue has it all - sprawling, epic Green Lantern-style cosmic action (and the welcome addition of a A-level super-baddie to the ranks, the power ring-chomping Lady Styx), intimate mustache-twirling evil from Lex Luthor, and the YET AGAIN death of Captain Comet (as all true comics fans know, our Holy Writ - i.e. "Kingdom Come" - the good Captain dies well in the future of our current continuity .... hence this issue's whole bit about 'jettsoning' his 'primary consciousness' ...).
Of course the issue's central knot is the great mass of clues offered us as to the identity of Supernova. Previous to this issue, we here at Stevereads had already taken a guess at the identity of the character ... and this issue's huge amounts of clues confirm our suspicions. There's only one DC character who could possibly be Supernova, and on top of everything there's an indispensible visual clue provided in this issue.
So we here at Stevereads hereby challenge the comic-geeks out there among you: well? You have by now ample clues! Surely one of you has seen the key detail? Surely one of you can tell me who Supernova is? As Ralph Dibny says in this issue, the answer's pretty obvious, once you see it from the right angle.
But as good as '52' was this week, it can't hold a candle to the week's best book, the first issue of the relaunch of 'Justice Society of America.'
The contrast couldn't be any starker, comparing this relaunch with that of the Justice League, which after three issues is already mired in inept, compartmentalized storytelling.
This first issue is a triumph almost from the first page - a triumph not only of plot and artwork (quietly stellar work by Dale Eaglesham) but of balancing the geek-fest wants of old fans with the expository needs of your potential first-issue-attracted new readers. A total stranger to the JSA would be pulled into this issue every bit as fast as a veteran of the last six relaunches.
This is the best JSA relaunch ever! (the only possible superior - and it may not even qualify, technically - would be the first issue of the Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler All-Star Squadron ... but since they've never been collected and happened before all of you were born, I doubt anybody will be able to comment on it). It's got everything: the old guard (Jay Garrick, Wildcat, and Alan Scott, at last back to being called Green Lantern) being saluted by the new (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman); the rebel-wildcard member, in the form of Damage; the requisite newbie to throw everything into contrast (guess Stargirl has seen too much, so the new newbie is the granddaughter of Ma Hunkle, gifted with her own tornado-y powers); the big mysteries (not only who attacked Mr America - wonderful to see that old character so forcefully revived - but also the new Starman, about whom more later).
And then there's the sweetest pleasure of all with any highly-planned and anticipated first issue: the cover. The artist always knows more about what's coming up than the writer is willing to reveal up front, and it almost always bleeds through.
This time is no different. Some things are obvious: of course Hawkman and Doctor Midnight and the new Johnny Thunder and Mr. Terrific will be on the team, even though they weren't in the issue (although we get a quick description of Mr. Terrific as 'the world's third smartest person' ... I confess, I wasn't immediately sure who the first two are - I assume Batman and Lex Luthor, but if so, THEN what are we saying? That the top honor goes to a BAD guy? Or is there somebody I'm leaving out?)
Other things are less obvious but equally welcome: good to see Power Girl in the picture once and for all (and FINALLY free of her creative quagmire - she's a Kryptonian, and that's that ... no more crapola involving feckin Arion or anybody else), and the presence of Liberty Belle is equally welcome - strong female characters are always a good thing, especially if they're not knock-off derivatives of male characters .... yes, I'm still smarting about that stupid female-Wildcat, but my objections apply across the board, up to and most certainly including any version of Supergirl.
But the sweetest things on the cover are the most mysterious. For instance, who is this person in the garb of the original Sandman? And to whom to those mysterious eyes belong, hovering over Wildcat's shoulder (I know, I know - the easy answer is Obsidian, but what if it ends up being something more interesting?)?
And then there's Starman! Of course those of you who know me could predict that this little strand would magnetize me attention: it's Legion! It connects one end of the DC superhero continuity to the other, and in SUCH a delicious way, since of course it's the JSA that holds claim to the 'star-somebody' title.
Because the new Starman featured in this issue is, as all you comic-geeks out there know, wearing the uniform of the Starboy who's a flght ring-carrying member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (well, except for that unfortunate homicide trial, but you've all forgotten that...). Thom Kallor, whose Dave Cockrum-redesigned costume (rest in peace, big guy - you pressed the 'reset' button on a whole lot of imaginations, and you did it all with an unfailing sense of humor ... you will be missed) is identical to that of our new mystery-hero. And that new mystery hero, when he plucks a plummeting helicopter out of the sky, comments 'it looked heavier' - a direct nod to Starboy's mass-changing powers.
And there are the coming attractions! The coming attractions, in which someone clearly Dawnstar (the tassles - and the mention of 'tracking' - give it away, if the wing-feather backdrop didn't) vows to find Starman - not Star BOY, so we-all are taunted with the sliver of a great big cross-time storyline, one featuring not only our JSA stalwarts but a version of an ADULT legion ....
Well, as admitted, the issue largely bears on card-carrying comic-geeks. But it allows newcomers (I know, I know - there aren't any of you out there, in all likelihood) to hop on board without feeling like complete feebs.
So there you have it! A very good (albeit slim) week in comics! But you're right: what would a comics-entry be without a couple of QUIZZES for the rest of you ignore and Kevin to egregiously fail? So here goes:
First - the whole Supernova identity-puzzle put us in mind of this; quick (and, as always, without Google) - name me five superheroes who temporarily masqueraded as OTHER superheroes, and of course include both code-names in each case (and, if you want to show the whole blogosphere how clever you are, feel free to add the REASON for the substitution).
Second, this first issue of Justice Society, while excellent, contains one enormous ERROR, continuity-wise. Can you spot it? And if so, can you explain WHY it's so enormous?
Now let's all gather out on the patio for cocktail weiners while Kevin hunches over with his head in his hands, periodically uttering high-pitched keening sounds ....