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Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mess O' Reviews 

Action Comics #851, by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert, published by DC

For a long-delayed continuation of a story-line, there really isn't much in the way of forward plot momentum here. We get a cameo by Mon-El, a surprise villain team-up in the conclusion, and very brief check-ups on various cast members. But the bulk of the issue is devoted to Superman in the Phantom Zone, fighting enemies there, and seeing lots of, well, formless gray shapes. The real point of the book, though, isn't to advance the plot, though a tiny bit of exposition takes place, and there is an explanation as to how a child could be born in the Phantom Zone. No, the point of the book is to show off the "new and improved" Phantom Zone, updated for the 21st century, but strangely reminiscent of the design aesthetics of the 1970s, in eye-straining 3D.
It's pretty much style over substance, to be blunt. And it's another reason why I'm enjoying Kurt Busiek's Superman a lot more than this title.

All Flash #1, by Mark Waid and various, published by DC

So, DC broke the Flash. To put that statement into context, the last time DC broke a character so badly, it was Hawkman, in a book called Zero Hour. If we accept as true DC's assertion that the Bart Allen Flash series was a deliberate exercise in planned obsolescence, it's hard not to read this as simultaneously a "eff you" to the people who did enjoy that series, and a mea culpa to those who absolutely had to have Wally West back. It's not quite Flash: Rebirth, but the attempt seems to have been made. Of course, what many saw as the problem with the Bart Allen Flash was that the character's evolution was too much and too sudden. He went from an essentially optimistic teen hero character to an angsty and insecure adult. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the changes to Wally West's character when his title first launched. And what of Wally West now? He's gone from a former side-kick grown into his predecessor's role to...a middle-aged father of pre-adolescent twins, who, oh yeah, are also super-heroes, with extra bonus angst over the death of a relative and a new dark and grim and gritty and grim and dark and grim no-nonsense attitude towards dealing with criminals. With ironic torture.

Black Diamond #2, by Larry Young and Jon Proctor, published by AIT/Planet Lar

The second issue features lots of snappy dialogue and a big jump in exposition, as more characters come into play and the various factions at play get fleshed out. It's very good building on the world and filling in of back-story, but now I'm really eager to see some car chase action smash-em-ups in the book. For the back-up this time, we have a surprisingly sincere story from Ken Lowery, revealing that there's more to the Black Diamond than lawless gangs.

Elephantmen: The Pilot by various, published by Image

This is a cute little collection of alternative interpretations of Hip Flask and his world through pin-ups and "fan comics", presented as web-comics within the world of of Elephantmen. The material is of varying quality, though the intentions are good and appreciated. The stand-out of the book is a Hip Flask as Spirit pastiche by Busiek and Immonen.

The Programme #1, by Peter Milligan and C.P. Smith, published by DC/Wildstorm

Milligan's latest is an interesting science-fiction tale with "super-human" overtones that draws a connection between the competition for Nazi scientists between Russia and America post-World War Two and contemporary and Cold War-era conflicts in the Middle East. It's actually pulled off quite well; there's some meat to the premise and an intriguing cast of characters who are skillfully introduced through subtle characterization. Which is a bit of a problem, as the build up is a little too slow. There's simply not enough explanation of what is going on to justify a reader's interest. In a collected form, the book feels like it will read quite nicely, but as a monthly series, with information doled out slowly, there's not enough here in the premiere to get worked up about.
Smith's artwork is very good. He has a style which suggests photo-realism, while still making effective use of more expressionistic techniques. It grounds the visual look of the series, gives it a "realistic" edge, which does a good job towards selling the concept of the book.



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