A big haul this week!
- Booster Gold #2, by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
- Countdown #33 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Adam Beechen, Keith Giffen, Carlos Magno & Jay Leisten (DC)
- Fables #65, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
- Justice Society of America #9, by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham & Ruy Jose (DC)
- Suicide Squad: Raise The Flag #1 of 8, by John Ostrander, Javier Pina & Robin Riggs (DC)
- Welcome to Tranquility #10, by Gail Simone, Neil Googe & Scott Shaw! (DC/Wildstorm)
- Nova #6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Sean Chen, Scott Hanna & Brian Denham (Marvel)
- Thor #3, by J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
- B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #3 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
- Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others TPB vol 7, by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben & P. Craig Russell (Dark Horse)
- Castle Waiting #8, by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics)
The new JSA kicks off the storyline “Thy Kingdom Come”. Power Girl, as anyone who’s warped enough to be able to keep track of this stuff knows, is the last survivor of Earth-2 from before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, her cousin Kal-L (the Golden Age Superman) having died in the Infinite Crisis, making her feel especially alone. “Thy Kingdom Come” will feature the Superman from Kingdom Come, who’s a rather tortured soul who superficially resembles Power Girl’s cousin. This is also the world that current JSA member Starman spent some time in. So there’s a lot of interesting potential for character drama here. Is Geoff Johns the writer to realize the potential of this scenario? I tend to think of Johns as a plot-driven writer – characterization isn’t really his forte. But this could be the story in which he rises above his limitations.
Weirdly, the first issue of Suicide Squad: Raise The Flag is missing both a chapter title and creator credits. I can’t remember the last time I read a book by a major publisher that was missing its credits. Must’ve been some oversight. I wonder if this is related to it being titled From The Ashes on the cover?
Anyway, this is the mini-series sequel to the 1980s series written by Ostrander and grittily illustrated by Luke McDonnell, who at the time was the artist of choice for hard-hitting series with a strong human component (e.g., Denny O’Neil’s Iron Man run when Tony Stark is overcome by his alcoholism, and the latter days of Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar run). The premise was that the government operated a covert squad with a few D-list superheroes, but which mainly consisted of incarcerated supervillains who would go on high-risk missions and have their sentences commuted if successful. Oh, plus they’d get their arms blown off by remote control if they tried to escape. The thing was a big balancing act among various personalities of varying degrees of stability, and it worked very well and is fondly remembered today.
Halfway through the original series, Rick Flag, one of the main heroic figures, died in a nuclear explosion in a foreign country. This series is based on the notion that he didn’t actually die. The first issue is a flashback in which key members of the old Squad travel to Russia to investigate a rumor that Flag is imprisoned there. It gives you a great feel for the original series – really, it’s like no time has passed at all – and ends on a cliffhanger implying what really happened.
Ostrander might never surpass his original GrimJack series (though it sounds like the Grinner might be moving over to a new site called ComicMix), but Suicide Squad is also excellent, and this looks like a terrific follow-on to the original.
Oh, and Javier Pina’s art is excellent – even better than his stuff on Manhunter.
Okay, each of the last three issues of Nova have ended with a cliffhanger in which things were worse for our heroes than they were an issue before. I don’t think it can go on much longer, though; I’m impressed it’s gotten this far!
J. Michael Straczynski has been taking some flak for his portrayal of Iron Man in this issue of Thor (for instance, from Brian Cronin). I think this criticism is misguided, for two reasons: (1) Thor is justified, given that Iron Man created a subservient clone of him during the Civil War, and (2) Iron Man has been pretty much acting like a dick since the start of the Civil War, most of his actions have been morally indefensible, and frankly emotionally the reader wants someone to kick his ass: Thor, the Hulk, whoever. Iron Man’s not a hero anymore, and seeing Thor lay into him is just plain fun.
The real problem with this issue is also twofold: (1) The fight with Iron Man doesn’t advance the story, and (2) the story is boring. Thor going around to rescue his Asgardian brethren in the wake of, well, whatever happened to remove them from our plane of existence. The first issue was promising in that it suggested the return of the Thor/Don Blake dynamic, perhaps with actually giving Blake some characterization this time around. Blake hasn’t appeared since he changed into Thor at the beginning of #2, and “ponderous Thor” just isn’t very interesting. Kurt Busiek knew to lighten him up with “bombastic Thor” every so often, but Straczynski doesn’t seem to have learned the trick yet.
I figure if there isn’t some actual story advancement – and I mean more than just finding more Asgardians, because that’s just a boring old quest, not a decent plot – by issue #6 or so, then it might be time to give up on this one.
I’ve been less-than-kind to Mike Mignola’s comics recently, so I’m happy to say that Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others mostly has the nifty stuff that I enjoy most about Hellboy: Hellboy kicking ass, making quips, and dealing with bizarrely inventive supernatural menaces. The centerpiece of the book, “Makoma”, is actually one of the weaker stories: A myth about Hellboy perhaps about one of his previous incarnations. The framing sequence, about a supernatural explorer’s club, is more interesting than the main story. The short stories are nifty, though. My favorite Hellboy stories seem to be those which feature or imply time travel so I think “Dr. Carp’s Experiments” is my favorite of the volume.