Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reviewing Comics 

Trials of Shazam #1, by Judd Winick and Howard Porter

I'm apparently staking out an unpopular opinion here, but I quite liked this first issue. Captain Marvel is one of those characters that hasn't really translated to the modern comics period from his Golden Age roots. Under creator C.C. Beck he was an often childish and child-like character. And under Beck, that worked for the character. Under other writers, the "silly" Captain Marvel has come off as, well, silly. And not in a fun way, but a dated and tiresome way. The only attempt at contemporizing the character that even came off half-successfully was Ordway's Power of Shazam series, and even that book had to mostly isolate the character from the rest of the DC Universe. That may, actually, be the best approach to take with the character, from a purist point of view, but the realities of modern comics publishing really don't allow that outside of short projects. Winick's approach here, to heavily emphasize the supernatural aspects of the character, turning him into a sort of Superman-lite for the magical world, is at the very least an attempt at doing something that lets the character move around in a shared universe while retaining something of his own personality and purpose.
It's also worth noting that this is the finest work I've seen from Howard Porter. It's very painterly, with excellent color work.

Justice League of America #1, by Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and Sandra Hope

I'm tempted to be glib and call this the emo version of the League, especially in comparison to the last relaunch and Grant Morrison's deliberately iconic take on the concept. But that's being overly-glib. It's a very good comic, with short, sharp character sketches that reveal that Meltzer has a good grasp of the personalities and interactions of the characters. There's an appealing mystery and very clever uses of existing characters and ties to past stories to keep a dedicated DC fan happy, but not so much that a kid who loved the Cartoon Network Justice League cartoon would be lost trying to read this. I'm trying not to over-praise, but I have to confess I'm excited by this new version of the book. Ed Benes does an exception job as well, and surpasses his past work.

Batman and the Mad Monk #1 by Matt Wagner
Batman and the Monster Men by Matt Wagner

These latest Batman projects by Wagner offer a thoroughly enjoyable look at Batman's early career. It's a stripped down version of Batman, free of the continuity baggage he would later acquire, and it presents to the reader a pared-down, iconic version of the character. It's almost an ur-Batman, in a sense. It distills all those early takes on the character into something that feels both modern and timeless. There's also a very adept blending of the original stories being retold in these books and the more recent takes on the "early days" of Batman's career. The short version, then, is that these are very good Batman comics that play with the idea of early Batman stories, but don't slavishly recreate them.

Hero Squared #3, by Keith Giffen, J.M Dematteis and Joe Abraham
Talent #3, by Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski and Paul Azaceta

Talent continues the compelling mystery of the plane crash survivor who wakes up with the skills and unfinished business of everyone who died in the crash. The reason behind the crash is revealed, and the architects of the disaster start to get a better grasp of what they're dealing with. Meanwhile, in Hero Squared Milo and Captain Valor embarrass themselves at a funeral, Stephie takes her break up with Milo in a very mature fashion, and Evil! Stephie plots against Captain Valor. Comedy hijinx ensue. Both books do what they do (mystery/adventure and comedy, respectively) very well and are well worth a look.


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