Month: June 2007

Top and Bottom of the Pile 6-27-07

TOP: X-Men First Class #1
Take the creators of an excellent mini series that they obviously loved creating and tell them that they can do it in an ongoing and you have the first issue of the ongoing X-Men First Class. Everything that was great about the mini series is still here, and the story remained self-contained, which nudges it over the cliffhanger endings of Cable/Deadpool #43 and X-Men #200. This was just a fun story, which I hope will remain the tradition of this title.

BOTTOM: Teen Titans #48
So I get that they want to debut the new creative team with issue 50, but that means three issues have to fill time with lame crossover events. Without any kind of synopsis of what Amazons Attack is about, it’s hard to get into this story. It’s also tough that the Titans play background characters, and several members of the team don’t even show up. I have a feeling the follow up issue will end up on this side of the list as well.

Flash: Fastest Man Alive: Full Throttle (9-13)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…but the Flash is dead. That’s right – dead, gone, kaput. A full 13 issues after Flash was relaunched with Bart Allen in the suit, the character is killed by the Rogues and the title ends, with the older title restarting with it’s old numbering. It was a touching, unexpected ending for Bart. Sure, it had been said that he had permanently lost his powers, but since when has permanent meant anything in comics?

The only question that rages through my mind is how long has Bart’s fate been planned? Surely when the book was relaunched following Infinite Crisis, this was not the plan. Why all the buildup with Bart? Why give him his own setting and his own characters? Surely this much effort wasn’t made purely for the bait and switch. With the book’s original team taking off after the first six issues, perhaps that’s when the plan was made – halfway through 52 when Countdown was being planned.

Of course, there’s DC Editor in Chief Dan DiDio’s comment that the Flash on the promotional picture of Countdown was long-dead Barry Allen. That got the rumor mill turning, and cut the surprise of Bart’s death down for some people. I expected Bart to hang back in the DCU, but not to die. Then, of course, saw the finale of the Lightning Saga crossover between the JLA and the JSA, which brought back the missing Wally West, and you knew something was coming. But since both books came out on the same day, it was really a matter of which one you read first. Maybe not everyone saw Wally coming back, but it would have been ridiculous for the Legion to travel back to bring back Lightning Lad.

Now all the rampant speculation starts. With DC’s continuity shifting (courtesy of Infinite Crisis), it would be easy to say that it wasn’t really Bart Allen who came back, but rather an alternate Allen from another timeline. That leaves the door open for Kid Flash to come back to the role he was much better suited for. I’d like to see that, because I think they wasted Bart’s potential in running his up into the Flash suit so soon after becoming Kid Flash. But I’m not betting on this thing. Bart’s death seems to be a Flash milestone, and I’m thinking that this one’s going to stick.

The curious part of this is why DC delayed the title two weeks. The book had been doing fine with schedule thus far, and it seemed that the ending had been planned months in advance. So was the book pushed back to coincide with the final part of the Lightning Saga over in JLA and JSA? Was it schedule? The whole thing just seemed pointless. DC’s not nearly as bad with their schedule as Marvel (All-Star Batman and Robin doesn’t count), so it seems like the reason was intentional. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

The Flash is dead, long live the Flash. Time for Wally to run!

New Avengers: Revolution (27-31)

Leading into Civil War, New Avengers was arguably Marvel’s hottest title. However, with the fallout from the event – Captain America’s death and the rogue heroes going underground – the book had to establish a new status quo, differentiate itself from the launching Mighty Avengers, and try to build back the momentum lost while the book was treading water during Civil War.

With Revolution – the first storyline featuring new artist Lenil Francis Yu – writer Brian Bendis has managed to accomplish that, as well as add a few twists and turns and still end with a ‘What the f*ck?!’ moment to finish it out.

Let me take a moment to say that this book seems to have dropped the six issue chapters format that fits so nicely into trade paperbacks in favor of an ongoing storyline. I’m assuming this is the story break. There was no ‘5 of 5’ to close the story out.

Coming off of Civil War, New Avengers had to do two main things: explain how this team came together (with new members Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, and a new Ronin), and get the action pumping. This story certainly delivered in a rather unusual way. The story sets up in the present, while flashing back to the team’s post-Civil War days and a side mission that sets their status against Iron Man’s government-approved Avengers. It does this by clearing up that little ‘Cap’s still alive’ comment from the epilogue issue. For those wandering, he’s still dead. And Iron Man’s still acting like a douche bag, as he seems to be in every Bendis-written story.

So the remaining anti-registration Avengers (Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine for added flavor) join up with some of the leftovers (Iron Fist and Dr. Strange) and go off to rescue Echo, who apparently has been killed by Elektra and the Hand. So where does Ronin come in? Turns out Hawkeye, who’s been alive since House of M ended, still wants to play hero, but doesn’t want to be Hawkeye anymore, so a new Ronin is born. The Avengers take off for Japan, have a useless conversation with Silver Samurai, and fight tons and tons of ninjas. Oh yeah, Echo comes back to life, stabs Dr. Strange, comes to her senses, then stabs Elektra. Now ready for the big reveal? Brace yourself.

Elektra was a frickin’ Skrull!

This is one of those moments where I’m shocked at the end of an issue. Thor showing up at the end of Civil War #3 and Colossus charging out in Astonishing X-Men #4 produced a similar reaction. It finally seems like the mischaracterization of Elektra has been part of a grand scheme all along. This is a very intriguing development, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Unlike some titles, I honestly can’t imagine what the grand scheme of all this is, but I am interested in finding out.

But I must add something to the art of Lenil Yu in this title. His pencils really set this book apart from Frank Cho’s cleaner style over on Mighty Avengers. The art gives the comic a much darker tone, which fits perfectly with this renegade, underground team. The art’s a little blotchy here and there, but it really works with the story, and I hope that Yu stays around for as long as this team remains underground (I really don’t think it’ll last far too long).

Does this story get New Avengers back to where it was before Civil War? Nope, but it’s on its way. The loss of Captain America, Iron Man, and the Sentry does hurt, but the team is a much more original lineup, and I love the dynamics between them. The groupings of Luke Cage/Iron Fist and Spider-Man/Ronin are especially enjoyable. Here’s hoping this book keeps on track and sets a new kind of standard for comics of its type.

Fear the CRISIS! Fear the CRISIS!

There are some terms that should trigger some kind of recognition for every fan in the Comicdom. Marvel fans will acknowledge a Secret War as important (though strangely enough, very few have any clue who the Beyonder is), and will fear the Infinity Gems. For DC fans, one word strikes fear into their hearts: CRISIS.

This rampant fear stems back to 1985 mini-series that attempted to clean up the clusterf*ck that was DC continuity. The event quite literally changed everything, and represented a new era for DC Comics. Until, of course, they screwed up the follow-up, and kept doing so for the next ten years.

It was then that Dan Jurgens (you know him as the guy who killed Superman) decided to fix everything with his infamous Zero Hour. The result killed most of the Justice Society, ruined Hawkman, screwed with Atom, and basically changed nothing, universe wise. The only bright spot was that it allowed the 40 year old Legion of Superheroes to ditch their convoluted history and relaunch.

No one will ever accuse Crisis or Zero Hour (identified as a Crisis itself) of being easy to follow, especially for the casual fan. Despite that, the two storylines solidified the term in DC lore. If something was identified as a Crisis, it was a big deal. Period.

DC was well aware of this when they put out their Identity Crisis storyline that tore apart the bonds between the early members of the Justice League and killed one of the most adored side characters in the DCU. All the whilst, a bigger, badder Crisis was in the works. After great hype, a lead in issue and four mini-series to set the stage, DC busted out with Infinite Crisis, where a whole lot of crap went down, but nothing really happened. It was exactly as its predecessors had been: a mega event that allowed all titles to make any changes deemed necessary with no storyline excuse whatsoever.

And once again, DC had solidified the Crisis as something to be taken very, very seriously.

These universe-changing events had taken place well apart from each other. Crisis on Infinite Earths was in 1985, Zero Hour in 1994, and Infinite Crisis in 2005. It seemed that DC was aware that this was something to hold onto in case of emergency. A mega event ready to be used, as long as it had enough time to build. And with the enormous scope of the potential storyline, it would need quite a bit of building.

So, of course, now it’s tossed out every available chance.

A year after Infinite Crisis wrapped up (and the completion of the 52 mini-series that followed several side characters), DC was once again ready for a Crisis using the same Monitor characters from Crisis on Infinite Earths. This time it would be following the return of the Multiverse (52 parallel worlds brought about by Infinite Crisis) and the Monitors’ efforts to stabilize the world from any and all possible threats. The word Crisis is thrown around repeatedly, and everything seems ready to change again.

And this time, it doesn’t seem important at all.

Countdown lacks pretty much everything its parent series (Infinite Crisis and 52) had going for it. The novelty of a year long weekly comic is long since gone since the book started the week after 52 ended. The mega, everything changes event? We just had one. Actually, more like we just had two. It simply feels like they’re going through the motions now. The drama’s gone.

After Infinite Crisis and 52, we’re all ready to settle in and enjoy our regular titles. Instead, just after we finish adjusting to the Infinite Crisis changes, all the titles start crossing into Countdown, to give it its status of mega event. But there’s nothing new here. The heroes have gathered and prevented the destruction of the universe this way so many times already, it’s not fun anymore. It’s time to do something else, and give the universe a little bit of time to recuperate before blowing it up again.

So this time next year, hopefully DC will give it a rest and let their universe be for a while. Crossover events? Sure, have at them. But for the love of the big red ‘S’, give the Crises a break. We’ve all had enough for a while.