Showcase Presents: Aquaman v.1 -- He is the King of the Seven Seas! So proclaims the copy on the back cover of his black and white, phonebook-style trade paperback. Contained in these 500+ pages are the early Silver Age adventures of Aquaman and, a little later, Aqualad. Before becoming the King of Altantis, Aquaman was content to have adventures involving modern pirates, mysterious ship disapperances, mischevious water sprites, and aliens. Stories range from shorts from "Adventure Comics" to feature-length tales from "Showcase" and his own series, to a couple of anamolies -- one issue each of "Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane" and "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen," both of which feature Aquaman. Good Clean Fun for fans of DC before "COIE." My favorite story from this volume remains "The Undersea Hospital," a short from "Adventure Comics" #262 which is both endearing in its innocent simplicity as well as grin-inducing in its silliness. We're getting a taste of some of this kind of fun in the Tad Williams' scribed issues of "Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis," but nothing on this scale.
Trials of Shazam #7 -- The first thing you notice about this comic is (appropriately) the cover, which I think was solicited as being attached to a much earlier issue than this one. Which makes sense, as it features Sabina and Freddie in the desert, which was the previous trial. But that's alright. Winnick finally gives us some background on Freddie's rival (Black Sabina?) as well as having Freddie fail at a task (partially). Compared to Smith's "Shazam! and the Monster Society of Evil!" this series is dark and brooding. But to be completely fair, I have enjoyed it quite a bit because of that. The mandate at DC says that Magic Has Changed, so let's play with that. Just because it's different from what Captain Marvel used to be doesn't mean it's automatically crap. Once "Trials" has wrapped, I think the DCU will have a pretty reasonably interesting character in Shazam, alter-ego of Freddie Freeman. Maybe he can guest-star in Black Adam's ongoing title -- oh come on, you KNOW that's coming eventually. Recomended for Captain Marvel fans, but with forewarning.
Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 -- Well, you probably read about it anyway, but in case you missed it, this is the finale of this series, axed in order to return to the previous volume's numbering to go along with the resurrection of... ah, you-know-who. Facing down Inertia's master plan, Bart has to stop the Rogues and keep not only himself, but also his grandmother and gal-pal safe... without the Speed Force. Bart never had a chance, really -- editorially turned into the Flash, a lot of his unique character was lost in translation. I'm the teensy-tiny minority that actually enjoyed this series from the beginning. In my mind, Bart's ascension to the Flash mantle compared well with Wally's following "COIE" and "Legends." But I recognize that my opinion is not shared, and that's cool. What most readers will agree on is that this title had been picking up steam since Marc Guggenheim came on board as writer. Ah well. Overall, even knowing how the comic was going to end, I thought this was a pretty good issue. I felt bad for Bart, even if part of it was metatextual. I'd recommend this to Flash fans, but you know what? You can safely skip it if the whole thing irritates you, and just wait for "All-Flash" and then the relaunch with Waid in a few months. It annoys me to have Wally come back so soon. I wanted Barry Allen back, to be honest, and I think that may still happen, depending on how you read the ending to "Justice League of America" #10. But the fanboy in me is torn... nnnnnnh, Mark Waid back on Flash! Lure... too... strong!
Detective Comics #833 -- The Dark Knight rings up former teammate Zatanna after an increasingly controversial and dangerous stage magician has one of his assistants die during a performance. Whatever you may feel about "Identity Crisis," it's nice to see the fallout from it still being dealt with this many years after the fact. Also nice to see is Dini making callbacks to minor characters he has introduced, which help the "universe building" (for lack of a better term) feel to the Bat-verse which he has been laying the foundation for since "OYL." It's obvious that Dini has a lot of affection for Zatanna (Gee I wonder why? Not that I blame him...), but since said affection doesn't go so far as to be pandering or simple doe-eyed fanlust, it plays pretty well. The cliffhanger caught me by surprise, but I'm not sure how it fits in with what Morrison is doing over in "Batman;" then again, I'm not sure how anything fits in with that, so I grin and bear it. Bat-fans have things pretty good right now and this title is a good indication of why.
Pick of the Pile: This is a hard call. I really want to pick "Showcase: Aquaman," but that's not really fair to the others. So I will instead go with "Flash: FTMA." Seeing Bart's last stand was a major bummer, and the whole way the entire ordeal was handled was off-putting, but I liked the story and enjoyed the conclusion. Hopefully this Big Red Reset Button stuff won't keep spiraling like it has been lately.