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The ’00s Revisited: Detective Comics #826

detective_comics_0826Slayride

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Simone Bianchi
Assoc. Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: February 2007
Cover Price: $2.99

Hard to believe even this issue was published OVER 12 YEARS AGO, but then, it’s been 8 since the announcement of The New 52, and it’s been a decade longer SINCE Tim Burton’s Batman than IT was from the ’60s series. Time flies. This issue is from a period where I’d largely stepped away from the Bat-books, before I came back for Batman RIP and Battle for the Cowl and such. So though I obviously knew Detective Comics was out there, I was not buying it regularly in 2006/2007. I actually found out about this issue from a post on Facebook with a discussion of "favorite Tim stories," and decided to track it down. Sort of surprisingly, the very first place I looked for it, I found it–for about $4, or "only" $1 more than cover price, and perfectly in line with what would be paid for a contemporary 2019 new comic!

This issue opens on Robin–Tim Drake–speeding away, being chased and shot at after winding up in the middle of rival drug gangs. As his bike is totaled, a minivan pulls up and someone throws the passenger door open, calling to him by name. Not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, Robin leaps in…to be greeted by The Joker! When Tim awakes from the Joker’s gas, he’s bound to his seat, the heat in the vehicle is on, the seat-warmer is on, and the original owners of the vehicle are dead in the back. Tim’s in for a hell-ride with one of those most deadly individuals he’s come up against, as the Joker drives over pedestrians and generally tortures Tim with his inability to DO anything. We get some flashbacks to some "human" moments Tim has with Dick…that also lend context to Tim’s eventually distracting Joker enough to escape. Unfortunately, he’s unable to capture the Joker. Batman appears, and the two leave the scene, knowing this is anything but the end of their old foe.

I don’t know if I’d consider this the greatest Tim story ever–but for reading it as a sole, single issue, completely out of any context of issues surrounding it, and getting a complete story in one issue…this is definitely an excellent issue TO get as a one-shot!

Adding to my enjoyment of this issue was having just watched a couple episodes from early in Batman: The Animated Series. Perhaps that this issue was written by the same Paul Dini that wrote those episodes, this had a certain vibe that fit right in with that…especially for being a complete story told in a short amount of time!

The cover is primarily black-and-white…with only the title logo "Detective Comics" in red. Bianchi is a hit-or-miss artist with me…but for a cover, this works very well! It also helps that the cover is actually RELEVANT to the CONTENTS of the issue–something that seems to all-too-rarely be the case in 2019, where "variants" rule and the cover doesn’t often seem to matter.

The interior art is quite good as well. I would not say I’m familiar with Kramer‘s work by style or name, but I was able to follow the story quite well and "get" what was going on, with no great distractions to yank me out of the story. If the art doesn’t "blow me away" with sheer awesomeness, then I greatly appreciate when–as with this issue–it recedes to the background and simply does its job. BY receding to the background it’s better as it becomes part of the story, the issue, and doesn’t take anything away. That said, this is probably one of the best-looking Jokers I’ve seen, and I WOULD welcome this art for the Joker in more contemporary stories!

Story-wise, the writing is very good, and along with presenting a solid story about Tim as Robin–facing and surviving The Joker–it gets into character moments/downtime with the character, and manages to give us a complete story in a single issue! Nowadays something like this one issue would be stretched to at least 3 issues, if not somehow 6 to be a full graphic novel, if one wants a "complete story." While it might be slightly toned back, this would be an excellent episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

Having thoroughly enjoyed this issue, I’m reminded that I may have read that there was a time with the title where Dini was doing a bunch of done-in-one issues…and I will definitely have to "investigate" that as that’s something I would almost certainly enjoy reading more of!

If you’re a fan of Robin, of Tim Drake, of Joker stories, or just getting a full story in a single issue of a comic, I’d highly recommend this! I consider it to absolutely be "worth" $4 or so…and anything under that is a bargain!

detective_comics_0826_blogtrailer

Zero Hour Revisited – L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 #70

90srevisited_zerohour

legion_94_0070Down to Zero

Writer: Tennessee Peyer
Pencillers: Arnie Jorgensen, Derec Aucoin
Inker: James Pascoe
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Peter Tomasi
Editor: Dan Raspler
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $2.50

This is yet another issue that I “missed” in 1994 and never have gotten around to reading until now in 2016…at least that I can recall. I had a slight sense of deja vu reading this and though I don’t remember reading it…it’s possible I paged through and read part of it somewhere along the way. (Or at the least, I must’ve read ABOUT it, being curious about how this series ended). I jumped on to R.E.B.E.L.S. ’94 with #0 and followed for a handful of issues, though right now I can’t even recall any of THAT.

LEGION (Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network) is not in good shape, apparently, as we begin this issue. The leader of the group–Vril Dox–laments the loss (or apparent loss) of several members of the team, as well as stuff perpetrated by his (apparently) infant son. His reminiscing is interrupted by coming across the freshly-murdered body of a man he’d murdered years ago, giving him pause. Meanwhile, the mother of his son chases after an apparent imposter impersonating Lady Qark (There’s a name I remember but don’t think I really knew appeared in this title post-COIE!); we also see another member with a time-travel buddy preparing to take her “back” to the future….and on learning recent events he freaks out, knowing only something HUGE happens, the details of which are lost to history but not its impact. Also meanwhile, Lobo and Borb arrive at Garv and Strata’s wedding…we eventually learn that Lobo expects a great party–the reception–so he’s none too pleased to have to stand quietly by for something mushy. Plotlines unfold, somewhat converge, and ultimately Dox loses LEGION–usurped by his son. And things will never be the same.

Unlike, say, Valor #23 that appears to be “just” another issue but ends that series, this is an extra-sized issue, basically double-sized…but not quite twice the price. In an age of standard DC comics being $1.50 with some titles at $1.95…this issue was “only” $2.50 with 40-some pages. And the extra pages do service to the story–allowing it to be longer, to involve more events, wrap some stuff up and set other things up for going forward, without requiring an extra issue. It’s like the two-hour series finale of a show that’s usually only got an hour.

While I’m aware OF many of these characters, I’m not all that familiar with them. I remember being loosely aware of this title, though it was well into its run before I learned of it…but it was that awareness that led to me particularly jumping into REBELS–that was a fresh start, a jumping-on point, a continuation of something with a bit of history, but that I could get in on from #1 (or #0, as the case was).

While undoubtedly cheesy by contemporary standards, the story does quite well, letting events unfold, characters move around, the status quo shifts…but there’s ALSO enough context for me to FIGURE OUT what’s going on even not having read any of the issues immediately prior. I was not–am not–all that impressed with the art, though characters that ought to be familiar are, and I was able to follow what was going on without having much problem.

The visuals just aren’t all that appealing to me…though perhaps a part of that is that this is [1.] not a typical superhero book and [2.] these characters are largely unfamiliar to me. I realize as well that visually, this puts me in mind of pre-Annihilation stuff with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The issue is a solid enough read, but only tangentially tied to Zero Hour. Dox seeing the body from years before is presumably a result OF the Time-stuff going on; beyond that, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Zero Hour nor any expansion/development of the core story. If you’re reading LEGION stuff or REBELS, or trying to read every tie in (as I am) this would be worthwhile; otherwise, nothing much here for a random/casual reader.

JLA/Hitman #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: On the Darkside Part One

Faced with the return of an old threat, the JLA finds itself in close quarters with the Hitman!

jlahitman001Writer: Garth Ennis
Art and Cover: John McCrea
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Michael Siglain

Before I sat down to read this, I noticed some doubts had crept in. When this 2-parter was solicited, something about it piqued my interest–I would not have sought it out if it hadn’t. But seeing it sitting on my desk waiting to be read, I asked myself how entertaining it could possibly be. I’ve never read one single issue of Hitman. All I know of it comes from panels reprinted online and/or in Wizard magazine (such as the main character vomiting on Batman) and that the character was (one of?) the only success story to come from the Bloodlines event that ran through the 1993 DC Annuals. And the 90s JLA logo evoking a feel of the 90s-to-Infinite Crisis version of the Justice League–an era I’m not terribly familiar with–left me wondering if I’d care at all for this.

Thankfully, once I started reading, I just kept going.

We open on a scene with someone asking Clark Kent some questions, ultimately leading Kent to divulge a story Superman had shared with him a long time ago. This framing sequence leads into the core story itself. With information discovered about a returning NASA probe, the JLA realizes that a threat from the past is resurfacing, and that they’ll need access to another remnant of the past–and Batman knows just where to find such a person. Unfortunately, this person is Tommy Monaghan–the Hitman, and he doesn’t exactly mesh well with the JLA. Before too much can go down between the two parties, the real threat arrives, and the JLA finds itself in quite the ridiculous predicament, both frightening and yet almost silver-age simplistic.

Ennis crafts a very entertaining tale here, that takes these characters who–on the surface, at least–should have nothing to do with each other and puts them together in a believable fashion, while allowing the absurdity of things to also show through. The two things that stood out most to me and really tripped my geek-meter were the use of footnotes (which have me stoked to track down the referenced issues, not to merely understand what’s going on here–I get that just fine, but to read the original events characters reference and thus enjoy stuff that much more). And the Bloodlines event is mentioned by name and in broad strokes recapped–showing that other than being a generic "origin" for the Hitman, it’s an event that actually DID happen, that these characters DO remember, that actually MATTERED in the grand scheme of things.

Offhand, I’m not familiar with the artist, though the visual style feels familiar. I know that I like the visuals here, overall–the art just works, plain and simple. Though Batman in particular seems just a bit off with the sculpting of the cowl, something about it feels–somehow–like it fits.

This is the first of two chapters, probably "just" a one-off sorta story that while it references and builds on "continuity," will have no lasting impact on it at present. As a package, though, it’s a fun, enjoyable story. There’s a dark humour present here, and the character interactions speak to a fairly rich history. Also, for a guy that grew up on 90s’ comics, this carries the feel of those mid-to-late-90s comics, while the framing sequence seems pretty timeless, such that it could be taking place in the present.

If you’re a fan of the pre-Meltzer incarnation of the JLA, or of the Hitman, this should be a nice romp through familiar-but-now-gone territory. And even if you’re not familiar with one or both sides, this stands decently as its own story…and you could do a heckuva lot worse.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Green Lantern #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, part one

It’s One Year Later, and Green Lantern is definitely back…but with quite a shadow hanging over him; meanwhile, Hal Jordan prepares to be honored for a past deed…

greenlantern010 Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Marc Campos
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: Simone Bianchi
Publisher: DC Comics

So…awhile back, Hall Jordan lost his city when it was blown up by an alien bent on having revenge on Superman for failing to save his family and driving him away from Earth. Hal couldn’t handle the strain, went nuts, killed a bunch of other GLs in his bid for control of the central power battery on Oa, became Parallax, tried to wipe out time to set things right, died to re-ignite Earth’s sun when it was put out, stepped forward as a volunteer-host for the Spectre during a spiritual crisis, and ultimately split from the Spectre as the real Parallax stood revealed…huh?

You don’t really need to know all that–though it adds a bit of context to the character. What you need to know for this issue is that Hal Jordan–Green Lantern–has apparently had his past exposed to the world, and/or done something that has led to most people of Earth not trusting him–regarding him as little more than some criminal acting without regard for Earthly laws and regulations.

Of course, this issue takes place a year after the events of the currently-unfolding Infinite Crisis so there’s a lot that’s happened that we–as readers–are not yet aware of. Though Green Lantern has been cast in a negative light (and this seems to extend to Jon Stewart as well, though we don’t actually see him in this issue), Hal Jordan is regarded as a hero for things he’s taken part in during the past year.

On the one hand–at the surface–this story seemed rather boring to me. Looking deeper, though, it’s actually a lot better than I wanted to give it credit for. The one-year jump allows for stories to be beyond the whole "hey…you’re back?!?" sort of situations. Hal’s gotten himself very much involved in life again and rebuilt as well as simply built new relationships. He’s fairly established again within the DC Universe.

Apparent flashbacks give some hint as to a fairly major event in Hal’s past (the missing year) that seems rich in character potential. I also like the fact that a story from the Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins 2005 comes into play here–we saw in that story last year that Hal leaves his ring behind when he flies. It added an extra touch of humanity (and/or recklessness) to the character, and provides context for stuff shown in this issue). That’s not to say that you need to have read that to "get" this issue.

The art gives me little to talk about–it worked for me. Things were clear panel-to-panel as to what was going on, all the more in context of the text. The imagery in general is pretty bright–we’re not mired in shadows here. Characters are recognizable and while they may not be clones of versions from other artists, they don’t at all come across as a reinterpretation, which means we have good art, good story, and a good issue.

There are some definite questions that arise from this issue: exactly what does the world know about Hal Jordan? What do they actually know about Green Lantern that has made GL unwelcome outside the US? (As readers, we have plenty of "dirt" that could place him in that position if the info were common knowledge to the residents of the DCU) And so on.

Having seen (and had it as my computer’s desktop for the last few weeks) the cover to a later issue of this title, I’ve a pretty good idea who the villain of this arc is, which takes away from the "shock" that’s apparent at the end of the issue. But then, anything lost there is replaced by an eager "Why?" to the whole thing.
In the end, this is definitely a good issue, and well worth checking out if you haven’t already. It’s also a good jumping-on point, as it’s the first "One Year Later" issue for this title, and in many ways functions as a new # 1–old and new readers alike are at the same point regarding Hal’s past year or so and his new life.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog [Review]

Thy Kingdom Come – Magog: The Real Me

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Dale Eaglesham & Mark McKenna)
Publisher: DC Comics

We get a look at the new (true?) Magog in this issue–the former marine known to the JSA as Lance Corporal David Reid. Reid was recently “killed” but immediately ressurrected by the entity known as Gog, and seems to be Superman’s worst fear come true, a sign of his “history” repeating itself. The story takes a break here to follow Reid/Magog to some old comrades, allowing for flashbacks to fill us in on his past and what they meant to him. As Reid lashes out at those who captured his old friends, he becomes more like the Magog known to readers of Kingdom Come.

The story is pretty straight-forward, and nicely fleshes out the David Reid character, filling in details hinted at but not fully revealed. We get the background to his motivation, and what makes him what he is at present. This adds depth not only to him, but to the Magog we know from Kingdom Come…and gives cause to see Reid’s potential here.

Once more I’m unfamiliar with the artist, so I have no point of comparison on quality. However, in terms of this story I have no complaint. The visuals follow the story, and there’s a nice level of detail that does not disappoint. The visual style is very much that of a super-hero comic book…showing Magog as a recognizeable figure, but distinctly contrasted with Alex Ross’s rendition as seen on the cover–like comparing a live-action product with the comic adaptation.

We’re also treated to a back-up story, focusing on:

The Secret Origin of Starman

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Scott Kolins
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Lettering: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain

This back-up story fills us in on the origin of this latest Starman as well as his costume. The art is a real treat…no complaint there, as I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s also cool to see well ahead time that for however it’ll play into Final Crisis, that Legion of 3 Worlds has some bearing on how we got this version of Starman. I find it interesting the “mythology” I’m beginning to really notice with Starman, the way the various people to use the Star- name are linked…something quite enjoyable.

This backup does feel almost like it was crammed in, though…rushed to explain stuff before the overall Thy Kingdom Come / Gog story(ies) finish. Almost segmented TO get the information told where there may not be room in the main JSA series or even these specials to tell it otherwise.

On the whole, this was another strong issue, giving further background of major players in the Gog saga as we head (presumably) toward its conclusion soon.

I’m not sure this is essential to the story, but if you’re diggin’ the story and are interested in more about Magog and Starman and how they play into the ongoing saga, this issue’s worth picking up despite the higher price tag (justified, I suppose, by this being a special and not just a regular issue of a series).

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

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