Countdown to Mystery #2 -- Let me just say this: if Gerber's intention is to re-invent the way we think of Dr. Fate, he's off to a good start here. It's always a hard line to toe with the magical hero set -- put too many limits on them, and things get much to staid and uninteresting, but set too few limits, and you have to figure out how to threaten a character who can pretty much do anything. There's a good balance here. Justiano's art is equal parts funky and mundane, which also works well considering the subject matter. The Jeanclipso/Spectre backup is helped by once more not really focusing on the titular (no pun intended) star, and instead on Crispin Allen and Plastic Man. It's nothing I would buy on it's own, but as a bonus feature in a Doc Fate story, it's not bad. Pretty neat double-shot for folks who like the mystical stuff.
DC Infinite Halloween Special -- First things first, this thing is thick. It's quite a tome -- and for the price it should be. Sadly, this was not nearly as charming as last year's Holiday special, with only a few standout tales amongst the 13 presented. The best, ironically enough, is the one with "AJ" Curry, Aquaman II, encountering a trio of witches who are actually the offspring of a human and a kelpie -- and considering the relative turn of Aquaman to more supernatural and mythological type stories over the last decade, I'm surprised no one has thought of this earlier. Of course, it looks like they'll be one-shot baddies. Amongst the lesser tales is a meaningless peek into the "Red Rain" Earth, which is little more than an advert for the upcoming one-shot, and the piercingly bad Robin tale featuring the Watchdogs, a set of action-oriented, bounty hunting, reject werewolves the likes of which would have been grating in 1995. Pass on this one, folks.
Justice Society of America #10 -- "Thy Kingdom Come" begins proper here, and appropriately enough we do get a few pages painted by Alex Ross to demonstrate "Earth-22." Say what you will about Kingdom Come and the legacy it created (or destroyed), but in this issue Johns does a good job of addressing some of the key issues raised by Waid and Ross more than a decade ago. Johns also effectively ties the new JSA's mission statement into the thesis of that series as well, so while this isn't really groundbreaking stuff, it certainly is enjoyable to read and expresses itself nicely. The setup for the big bad seems a little obvious at this point, so I am suspecting a swerve coming up. And Eaglesham can draw the "KG" Superman really, really nicely.
Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes #35 -- "The Quest For Cosmic Boy" continues here on the planet Lallor, as Timber Wolf, Shadow Lass, and Atom Girl must face down the fiery assassian known as E.R.G.-1! From there, it's over to Earth itself, where Supergirl, Saturn Girl and my main man Lightning Lad come face to face with a certain big-domed baddie named Evolvo Lad. Bedard balances two concurrent stories with ease and brings a nice sense of flow to the preceedings as we move from one part of the universe to the next. Bedard once again is called upon by DC to be the transition guy, this time from Waid to Jim Shooter, and he is pulling off the role with aplomb. (Needless to say, your's truly is still ticked about the BATO thing.) Next issue is the conclusion, wherein Evolvo Lad will learn a several-hundred megavolt lesson in the class of "You Do NOT Touch Saturn Girl!"
Trials of Shazam! #9 -- Well, I made my Apollo Creed joke last week, and it looks like DC took note of it, judging from the copy on the cover! Anyway, this issue follows the precident set by the earlier ones, as the set-up for the Trial is followed by action, while Sabina and/or the Council of Merlin scheme and do evil stuff. The resolution is a bit too pat and predictable for my tastes, but overall it's not bad for a book-length fight. Say what you will about Judd Winnick -- lord knows everyone does -- but he's taking the ball and running with the concept in this series, despite the seemingly endless criticism it receives. The home stretch is in sight now, and I as a reader want to see how it plays out. Again, it's not classic Captain Marvel, but really, it never claimed to be, either. I find it hard to hold that against it.
Superman Confidential #8 -- I don't know what this title's deal is -- whether it is like JLA Classified, and telling stories from different eras, or if it's a continuity-free zone, or whatever, so I don't know how to deal with this tale itself. Is this an alternate telling of Forever People #1, or is this how the "New Earth" continuity dictates that the meeting occured? It's not really clear. In any event, the Forever People are characters I like (hey, maybe I'll blog that!), so seeing them in action is reason enough for me to check it out. It's a fairly average story all told, from the Kirby-esque cover by Chris Batista and Cam Smith to "DnA's" script featuring Big Blue and the Kids From Supertown battling Parademons and rescuing Beautiful Dreamer from Darkseid. DnA are game, ending sentences with "friend," and hitting most of the character notes for the kids. But there is a strange undercurrent of aggression which seems out of place for the quartet. Mark Moonrider talks about how Earth is not part of the Pact, and thus they are free to "wage war" there -- that's not the Forever People I know. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth for what would otherwise be a perfectly enjoyable tale with Moonrider, Vykin, Big Bear, and Serifan having an adventure. If this is the new. in-continuity first meeting between Supes and the New Gods, I'm a little disappointed, since while it may ramp up the action-quotient, it also jetisons all of Kirby's poinancy regarding the Man of Steel's position of being an outsider on Earth.
Annihilation: Conquest: Quasar #4 -- Meanwhile, over in the Marvel side of the cosmos, it's all out fantasy space opera epic action, with Quasar, wielding a giant sword made of pure energy, mounted on a flying dragon, leading an army of primitives against a legion of robotic overlords. That premise alone pretty much seals the deal for me, right out of the gate. Add in a battle against the Super-Adaptoid -- wherein Quasar summons up energy beings who suspiciously resemble the pantheon of creatures animated by Ray Harryhausen -- plus a cameo by Wendell Vaughn and a second-to-last page reveal of one of the major players in A:C, and things are cooking with gas. Not the deepest or most cerebral thing you're ever going to read, but Annihilation is not about that in the first place: it's an action epic, and so is this series. This week we get the finale to Star-Lord and then A:C proper begins. Not to sound too much like a squeeling fanboy, but... yay!
Iron Man #23 -- I was taking part in a discussion about the relative merits of Iron Man last week when I started to wonder why seemingly every online comic fan cannot sing enough praises for Brubaker's Captain America but have opinions ranging from disdain to ambivalence regarding the Knauf's run on Shellhead, despite both being similar approaches to the current Marvel Universe. The answer is obvious of course; thanks to the machinations of Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski, Dan Slott, and others, most readers are pre-disposed to dislike Tony Stark (before even taking into account the plain-as-day poltical aspects, which irritate me and thus will not be addressed). Thus, since the character is so unlikeable, obviously his solo series must be terrible. (I for one, adore people who insist on calling Iron Man a villain when referring to his own mag, which only highlights the fact that they haven't read it and are simply projecting their own thoughts onto it.) The fact of the matter is that the Knaufs have been crafting solid, well-told tales of armored superhero action mixed with political espionage and intrigue, building a complex plot over the course of several smaller stories. Things hit the fan here as the investigation in Omaha goes terribly wrong, and Tony is forced to clash not with Graviton or Paragon, but with the CSA and their hidden agendas. (By the way, not to be a "told-ya-so"er, but this issue also handily illustrates that Tony Stark has oversight and doesn't "control everthing." Thanks for playing!) The resolution is unsatisfying in the traditional Marvel manner, as there are no real "winners" or "losers," just consequences and after-effects. We also get some more foundation-building for the apporaching showdown with the Mandarin, and the inevitable addressing of Tony's Extremis. I doubt that anyone already a dyed-in-the-wool Iron Hater will be swayed, but this title remains one of Marvel's upper echelon.
Transformers: Beast Wars Sourcebook #2 -- Blame the gamer in me, but I like sourcebooks. There's something about reading all the profiles for lots of different characters which appeals to me. Some properties work better for sourcebooks than others, and Transformers is one of the best. Add to that the fact that "Beast Wars" featured a ton of toy-only characters who were never featured in the cartoon, and until recently there were no comics, and you have a lot to discover within these pages. Transfans will enjoy seeing the famous side by side with the obscure, as everyone from Mainframe mainstays to Japanese-exclusive characters to fast food premium toys (seriously!) are profiled. Highlights from this issue include repaints Manterror and Mantis being on opposite pages from one another, Killer Punch becoming a paranoid nutcase, head Pred Megatron, and some of my favorite Fuzors, including Injector and Noctorro. Unless you like "Beast Wars," like I do, then there's no reason to buy this, however.
The Pick of the Pile is JSoA, not an uncommon occurance around these parts.
So what did YOU read this week?