- The Brave and the Bold #13, by Mark Waid, Jerry Ordway, Scott Koblish & Bob McLeod (DC)
- Countdown to Mystery #8 of 8, by Matthew Sturges, Chad Hardin & Robert Campanella, and Adam Beechen & Stephen Jorge Segovia, and Mark Evanier, Joe Bennett & Belardino Brabo, and Mark Waid, Michael O’Hare & John Floyd, and Gail Simone, Chad Hardin & Walden Wong (DC)
- Justice Society of America #15, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham & Prentis Rollins (DC)
- Tangent: Superman’s Reign #3 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Jamal Ingle & Robin Riggs (DC)
- Echo #3, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studios)
- The End League #3, by Rick Remender, Mat Broome & Sean Parsons (Dark Horse)
- Grendel: Devil Quest HC, by Matt Wagner (Dark Horse)
- Star Trek: Assignment: Earth #1 of 12, by John Byrne (IDW)
- The Perhapanauts #2, by Todd Dezago & Craig Rousseau (Image)
We’ll probably never know what Steve Gerber had in mind for the conclusion to his Doctor Fate story in Countdown to Mystery before he died. Four 4-page entries written by four different writers probably wasn’t it, and consequently the story comes to a rather abrupt end (several of them) with none of the delicacy it really required, as Gerber was always walking on the knife-edge of making the thing work anyway. Of the four, Mark Evanier’s version feels most true to Gerber’s style, while Gail Simone’s feels the least. But all of them are too short, too simplistic. Gerber’s writing has always (well, that I’ve seen) had a strong psychological component, not only having quirky characters but exploring what their quirks mean and where they come from. Although this facet of his work was often the most uneven part, it’s also a tack that few other comics writers ever take, and unfortunately what there is of that facet in these four endings tends to be far more heavy-handed than Gerber would have used.
It’s not really anybody’s fault, and I appreciate that DC and the four writers wanted to pay a little tribute to Gerber, but I think the story and the readers would have been better served to have picked one ending and done that one the best they could. Ah well.
The other half of the comics, the Eclipso yarn, ended up being slightly more meaningful than I’d expected, comparing the similarities between Eclipso and the Spectre. The thing was still pretty superfluous, though, as nearly everything tied in to Countdown to Final Crisis has been. Just think: If DC had gone with Plan A and just done a Doctor Fate mini-series (which they had solicited and then cancelled), we could have avoided this whole Eclipso rubbish and Gerber might have been able to finish the story in his lifetime. Sheesh.
Things really pick up in the third issue of Echo, which encourages me enormously: We find out something about
Matt Wagner’s Grendel series is one of my favorites. It didn’t start out that way, though, as its first volume, Devil by the Deed concerned a crime lord named Hunter Rose. Wagner has revisited the Rose character from time to time, but I’ve pretty much given up on those, as it’s the least interesting slice of the Grendel story. Much more interesting are the stories which concern how Grendel – a spirit of aggression – affects the history of Earth over the next few hundred years, expanding from profoundly affecting a few influential individuals, to eventually helping to craft a global empire under the rule of Emperor Orion Assante several hundred years from now.
This volume, Devil Quest, takes place several generations after the excellent War Child story – which is about Orion’s son, Jupiter – concerning several interested parties trying to locate the Grendel cyborg who had helped Jupiter establish his own rule after his father died. The cyborg Grendel-Prime is on his own mission trying to strengthen the Empire, too, and his quest leads directly into the second half of the Batman/Grendel volume (the better half, as the first half involves Hunter Rose meeting Batman).
Written and drawn by Wagner, the art is superb. The story is eccentric and sometimes violently brutal, which I think is intentional; Wagner was trying to shock and push the envelope a little. Unfortunately it also comes to an ending which feels unfinished – even with the Batman story factored in – which makes it a disappointing read in total. Though the trip to get there is quite interesting.
Anyway, I did enjoy it enough to pick up this new hardcover collection. But your mileage may vary. I keep waiting for Wagner to do another Grendel sequence carrying the future history beyond this volume, but it seems like Wagner’s done as much as he plans to with the tale and he’s otherwise just poking around in the side corridors of the earlier stories, which doesn’t interest me as much. Alas.
“Assignment: Earth” was an episode of the original Star Trek series which was intended as a pilot for a new TV series. The series didn’t sell, which isn’t surprising because it was a pretty wan, unimaginative episode. Nonetheless, IDW’s current renaissance of Star Trek comic books has resulted in a series based on the episode, written and drawn by John Byrne! As he’s done elsewhere, Byrne is using an unorthodox storytelling technique of having each issue take place a year later than the first one. Although not everything Byrne does works for me, I do usually enjoy his stories which are structurally adventurous like this, so I was moved to buy it.
It’s not bad, although it doesn’t go much past the TV episode. But then, it’s basically trying to lay the groundwork for the overall arc, which will I guess run through about 1980. He obviously has a lot of fun writing Roberta Lincoln (the Teri Garr role), as well as drawing Gary Seven (the Robert Lansing role) whose character he expands a little bit here. So it’s a decent start, and I’m curious to see where Byrne goes with it.