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Sean William Scott

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Monday, April 03, 2006

More One Year Later Reviews 

Batman #651 by James Robinson, Don Kramer and Keith Champagne
It's probably worth pointing out that this isn't a bad Batman comic by any means. It's simply not significantly different in style or tone than the bulk of the last several decades worth of Batman stories. And the continuing throwbacks to the past (Bullock, Gordon and now Jason Bard) are more annoying than compelling. Once Dini and Morrison take over the Bat-books, they will probably be worth another look, but as it stands now, Robinson's story-line is feeling more and more like filler.

Birds of Prey #92 by Gail Simone, Paulo Siqueira and Robin Riggs
Birds of Prey has consistently been one of DC's better titles the last few years, and wisely only minor changes have been made for the jump forward. The cast has been juggled slightly, but the light tone and "super-hero romp" mood are retained. And Paulo Siqueira is another in a long-line of tasteful semi-cheesecake artists to work on the title. The over-all impression is that the "One Year Later" tack on this book was "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

Blue Beetle #1 by Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner
Not strictly speaking a "One Year Later" title, but it seems fitting to look at DC's re-launch titles in the same light. People who were incensed by DC killing off the previous Blue Beetle probably aren't going to like this book. But frankly, nothing short of "Ted Kord: Rebirth" is going to make those people happy, so we can safely discount their opinions and examine the book on its own merit. The first issue is a bit of a jumble, skipping between a recap of the new Beetle's origin and the obligatory "super-hero misunderstanding leads to fight" scene. The writing is crisp and clever, quick-paced and funny. And Hamner's art strikes a nice balance between cartoony and dramatic styles. So, while it's not a perfect first issue, and perhaps more could have been done to establish the central conflicts and direction of the title, it still suggests a promising start to me.

Catwoman #53 by Will Pfeifer, David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez
Again, Catwoman makes one of the better "One Year Later" transitions by tweaking the status quo slightly but largely continuing on from what has gone before. Given the direction the book had been heading in prior to the jump, the changes that have occurred here seem logical and natural. The change over to the new Catwoman in particular is well handled. It allows some forward character development and momentum for the characters involved and feels like a logical "legacy" figure to step into the role.

Hawkgirl #50 by Walter Simonson and Howard Chaykin
Of the books that make dramatic changes to their status quo, this is the most effective. Despite the many attempts to "fix" Hawkman, the character was still over-burdened with baggage. Jettisoning him for a fresher character was probably long overdue. And what we get instead is an impressive dark action title that for the most part foregoes costumed antics for its premier. It's stylish and sexy and funny, and shows what two seasoned creators can do, especially when they approach their material with tongue firmly in cheek.

JSA Classified #10 by Stuart Moore, Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti
There's no serious flaws in this comic, but there's nothing particularly remarkable about it either. If you're a JSA fan, or a Vandal Savage fan, there's material of interest here, especially as the story plays with the disparate elements of Savage's character and back-story that have been cobbled together over the years. In other words, it's a decent super-hero book, but nothing special.

Manhunter #20 by Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina and Fernando Blanco
Manhunter is another of DC's consistently better titles, and one that's been underappreciated. And, again, it successfully makes the transistion to the new status quo. The changes feel natural based on what has gone before, and the central premise has only slightly been tweaked. It's not a great jumping-on point, as some familiarity with the characters is assumed, but this is definitely one of those books that DC fans should be reading anyway.

Nightwing #118 by Bruce Jones, Joe Dodd and Bit
I had little expectations going into this, and they were met. The one bit of good character development that preceded this launch, the proposal to Barbara Gordon, has been abandoned, in favor of the "himbo" version of Dick Grayson he's often mockingly been interpreted as by fans. Even the inclusion of the, at this point, far more interesting Jason Todd does little to alleviate the utter banality of this comic.

Robin #148 by Adam Beechen, Karl Kerschl, Wayne Faucher and Prentiss Rollins
Robin, as a solo title, has really only worked best as lightly toned super-hero adventures. This works nicely within that mold, but it doesn't break out of it either. It's not angsty and it's not frustrating, but it does, disturbingly, seem to start a storyline that doesn't bode well for the kind of treatment the former Batgirl can expect in the new status quo, a character I did find engaging and interesting.
So, not a bad book, but not, I think, a book I'm particularly interested in reading.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #16 by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson and Mick Gray
I thought that book was over-praised and too pleased to wallow in nostalgia in before. Introducing Supergirl into the book does precisely nothing to change my opinion.

Superman #650 and Action Comics #837 by Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns and Pete Woods
These Superman books superficially possess the same problems as James Robinson's Batman titles: too many throwbacks to how things used to be and a hinted-at mystery that's not very compelling. We know Superman is going to get his powers back so there's no real dramatic tension there. And the inability for a simple charge to stick against Luthor is increasingly implausible. This is, what, the twelth time he's gotten off scott-free since the last Crisis? But unlike Batman and Detective, there seems to be a sense that this story is going somewhere, that Busiek and Johns have a distinct destination in mind, that this isn't a place-holder story until a more anticipated creative team can start on the books. It's a problematic start, but it seems to hold more potential to be a satisfying story.


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