Trouble with Comics
TWC Question Time #26: Anniversary Time

This week’s question: What’s your favorite anniversary issue?

Tim Durkee:  I’m glad that this question was given an extra week. I knew I could catch up with my reading and two anniversary issues would be a part of that. First off, I’m very far behind, so please don’t chuckle too loud when tell you I just finished Amazing Spider-Man # 690-700 including every point one and gimmick book in between. For all purposes issue 692 is the 50th anniversary issue, but that was overshadowed by the hype surrounding 700. The cat has been out of the bag for several years now, the question would have it been worth the cover price when first released?

I hate when a character dies in a book, not because my favorite hero or villain has perished, but because they never last. Give it a few months, maybe a year and they are back so I was I was in hurry as I knew what to expect. Did ASM 700 deliver to a reader who is very skeptical of deaths, anniversaries, and gimmicks? It sure did!

For a moment I actually thought this was it, the last story. No more Parker. The way the letter columns were filled it was more like a eulogy page rather that a celebration of one of the greatest super-heroes created. And I am reading this, believing this, knowing what happened. That’s what we call darn good writing, true believers! Now I’m on to Superior Spider-Man, which I stayed away from initially. I’ve never been known to have a favorite anniversary issue, until today.


Mike Sterling: Very early on in my comic collecting endeavors, I always went out of my way to pick up “special” issues. Extra-sized anniversary editions or annuals or the large treasury editions, even if they were from series or featuring characters I didn’t normally follow. There was just something especially enticing about these, even if the higher pricetags bit into my funnybook-buying budget. And, in the late ‘70s/early '80s, there was no shortage of fine books to choose from: Flash #300, detailing the origins of all the Rogues, Detective Comics #500, a monster of a comic featuring stories starring not just Batman, but several other characters featuring throughout the series’ long run.

And then there was Justice League of America #200 from 1982.

A great premise: the founding members of the League have gone out of 
control, and it’s up to their latter-day teammates to bring them down.
A great story structure: each confrontation is divided into its own short chapter, including one splash page punctuating the conflict between the characters.
A great collection of artists: each chapter is illustrated either by the artist most strongly associated with the characters involved (such as the Flash versus the Elongated Man by Carmine Infantino, or the Atom versus Green Lantern by Gil Kane), or by an artist that is most perfectly suited to said characters (such as Green Arrow and Black Canary versus Batman as drawn by Brian Bolland). The artwork for the framing and connective sequences is by George Pérez, who was then nearing the end of his run as the regular Justice League artist.
The story, by Gerry Conway, very nicely showcases each major character from the title’s history, as well as tying the plot into the team's origins. It is, in effect, a sequel to Justice League of America #9 (1962), where the League’s origin was initially told. Conway also contributes an extensive text history of the series on the inside front and back covers.

This is 72 adless pages of superhero perfection, presenting the almost Platonic ideal of how each character should be treated. Sure, maybe Pérez isn’t quite as polished here as he would become in short order, but there’s no denying his work’s power and enthusiasm. He certainly holds his own with the other featured artists. In addition to Bolland, Kane and Infantino, there’s Jim Aparo, and Dick Giordano, and Joe Kubert, and Brett Breeding, and more. If anyone’s taking suggestions for one of those giant tomes that features high-quality scans of original art, I nominate this book for the treatment.

Justice League of America #200 is the comic I think of when I think of superhero comics. It’s the one that reminds me of why I became interested in superhero comics in the first place. Not that it was my first superhero comic, by any means, but it still remains, at least to the part of me that still remembers that youthful thrill of seeing the week’s new arrivals on the newsstand racks, the best.


Scott Cederlund: My Legion of Super-Heroes fandom started out sporadically.  I probably read more reprints of older Legion stories in Adventure Comics or even the old Treasury Editions.  There’s one Treasury Edition that reprinted a Mordru story that’s still one of my favorite comic stories.  Those old Silver-Age stories were hokey but all of those super-powered kids running in those old fashioned costumes held a wonderful charm over me.  That’s probably why I had a problem with some of the more modern (at least modern circa 1983) Legion stories.  The characters kind of seemed familiar but with all of their updated, Bronze Age costumes, my mind couldn’t connect those old Legion stories to the current Legion stories.

Legion of Super-Heroes #300 is a suspect anniversary issue because the series continued the numbering of the original Superboy series after it became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes with issue #197.  So maybe the 300th issue of Legion of Super-Heroes is a bit of a stretch but it provided the link for me between the Legion I knew from those old reprints and the modern day Legion as it contained a number of imaginary stories about possible timelines for the Legion, all written by Paul Levitz and drawn by a number of different artists.  

Levitz’s story touched on all of the eras of the Legion, all the way back to it’s earliest and corniest days in the late 1950s and 1960s, through the Bronze Age cynicism of the 1970s and all the way through the Keith Giffen technological utopia of the 1980s. These stories were “what ifs,” looking at the decisions that the Legion had made through those years and how they could have been different. And Levitz even framed it through the perspective of the brother of the late Ferro Lad.  All of these maybes and could-have-been were told from the point of view of one of the Legion’s first and greatest tragedies.

There’s only a handful of comics from 1983 (or even before that) that I can actually remember buying and reading for the first time. I got the issue from a shop called All American Comics in Evergreen Park, Il, on a summer night. And I read the comic in the lobby of the Christ Medical Center on 95th Street. My father had taken me to the comic shop as a mild bribe before going to visit my grandmother in the hospital. I can remember the lighting still being dim in the waiting area while my father went up to my grandma’s room. I probably went up to her room for a little bit but I was probably quickly allowed to go down to the lobby to read my comics while my dad spent time with his mother.  

The comic means as much to me about the contents of it as it does about the summer of 1983 when my grandmother died of cancer. When the question was posed about anniversary issues for this column, I immediately thought of this issue but it took a while to sink in about what the comic means to me and why I still have it in my collection.  The comic is full of possibilities and things that never happened in the Legion continuity, but they all could have happened if the writer and artists had made different choices along the ways. For this anniversary issue, Paul Levitz tapped into some of that potential that exists in all comics within the boundaries of continuity.


Joe Gualtieri: This week’s question is borderline impossible. It would have been tough enough if we could pick five, but one anniversary issue? Especially as someone who was a young teen during the prime years of anniversary mania (Marvel made a way bigger deal about the thirtieth anniversaries of their various superheroes than they did the fiftieth), this felt like a nigh-impossible task. Outside of material reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (“To Kill a Legend” from Detective Comics #500 is a contender here), my first anniversary issue was likely Detectve #627, celebrating Batman’s 600th appearance in the title (yes, it’s actually his 601st, an error pointed by many letter writers in subsequent issues). It reprinted the very first Batman story, “The Case of the Criminal Syndicate” by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, and a retelling of the story, “The Cry of the Night is- ‘Kill’”, from #387 by Mike Friederich, Bob Brown, and Joe Giella. It also contained two new reinterpretations of that first story by essentially the then-contemporary teams on both Detective and Batman: Marv Wolfman, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, and Adrienne Roy, and Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Steve Mitchell, and Roy. The Grant/Breyfogle tale was a little gruesome for my tastes at the time, but getting four variations, retold over time, has always left an impression on me as a great way to do an anniversary issue.

My favorite though? In the end, it comes down to two issues, both from the same storyline, Spectacular Spider-Man #189 (the first of four issues celebrating Spider-Man’s thirtieth anniversary in 1992, each with a hologram on the cover, because 1992) and #200. My first Spider-Man comics were Amazing #347 (Venom!) and Spectacular #175 (Doc Ock!), both purchased from Robinson’s Convenience Store on the same day because they had villains I liked from Marvel trading cards. Funnily enough, I came in as a classic creator left, as Spectacular #175 wrapped up Gerry Conway’s final Spider-Man story-arc (though it was written by David Michelinie). The next two issues were fill-ins by some guy named Kurt Busiek, and then in #178, J.M. DeMatteis’s run started with a sequel to his already legendary Kraven’s Last Hunt, with Sal Buscema on art. Despite not having read that story, his run worked really for me, in part because the story was something of a thematic sequel, focusing on Harry Osborn and his struggles with his father’s legacy as the Green Goblin. By the end of that initial arc, Harry had fallen to his worse impulses, becoming a villain again.

After a detour involving the Vulture, DeMatteis brought Harry back in #189 for “The Osborn Legacy.” Deranged after using his father’s super-strength formula, Harry kidnaps his own family and starts psychologically torturing Spider-Man. At the end of the issue, Spidey actually turns Harry over to the authorities, despite the threat of Harry revealing his secret identity as Peter Parker. Over the next year, Harry would occasionally show that he could still reach out from prison, but he was released in #199. The next issue, “Best of Enemies!” sees Harry up his war against Spider-Man, his family struggling to deal with his instability and Harry fighting himself, caught between wanting to do what his evil father would want and his long friendship with Parker. The issue is tense, and features one of probably only two scenes returning to the scene of Gwen Stacy’s death that is actually any good, as Harry takes Mary Jane Parker there to assure her he will not hurt her. In the end, Peter and Harry come to blows, Harry poisons Peter and leaves him to die in a death trap before Mary Jane talks him into going back. Then the super strength formula he used a year earlier turns to poison and kills him (a simple metaphor, but beautifully done, and perfect for the genre). Harry Osborn’s death is absolutely stunning, a scene so well done by Buscema that DeMatteis deviated from his original plans and left the final pages silent.

Spectacular Spider-Man #200 is everything an anniversary issue should be: it wraps up the current creative team’s story-lines, but beyond that it truly builds on the history of the characters involved. “Best of Enemies” gets its impact not just from the artistry of DeMatteis and Buscema, but from everyone who came before on the Spider-Man comics. It’s a story that demands a mature Spider-Man, and is inconceivable without him being married to Mary Jane. Marvel has, inexplicably, just reprinted parts of it, and the only way that makes sense to me as vindictiveness over how it shows how wrong nearly everything the company has tried to with the character since has been, as Marvel’s flailed about, trying to de-age him, believing kids couldn’t relate to an older, married Spider-Man. *Ahem* Anyway, it also has a foil cover, and being 11 in 1992, I confess to having a weakness for those when they’re well done.

It Takes A Villain #7: Worse Ways to Live - Future Imperfect: Warzones!


It Takes A Villain is TWC’s bi-weekly column about comics in which super-villains take the starring role, brought to you by the alternate future reality more bad-ass version of Mick Martin.

The army of mini-series rolled out with Marvel’s Secret Wars event had its share of villain titles. The chronicles of Battleworld included M.O.D.O.K. Assassin, Squadron Sinister, and Red Skull. But while It Takes A Villain continues to feed my interest in super-villain comics, my first comic book allegiance was to a certain green-sometimes-gray (never red, not in this house) goliath. Because of that, because of the fact that I write about super-villain comics, and in spite of what was initially a lukewarm interest in the new Secret Wars event, the announcement of Peter David and Greg Land’s Future Imperfect mini-series confirmed that I would be reading at the least one of these alternate-reality-crazy, nostalgia-fueled Secret Wars things.


Now, I have to warn you that this column is filled with spoilers. That’s something I like to avoid normally, but this isn’t an ordinary review. What intrigues me about this new version of Future Imperfect has less to do with how good the series is and more to do with the intentions of the writer. And it’s impossible for me to discuss that without revealing exactly how this series ends. You’ve been warned.

Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect was released in 1992 as a two-issue prestige format mini-series. During a period in which Banner’s mind occupies the Hulk’s body, the hero goes into the future at the request of a squad of desperate rebels. Shortly after he arrives in Dystopia – presumably the only city left standing in the post-nuclear Earth – the Hulk learns that the super-powered despot he’s been recruited to take down is, in fact, himself.  The radiation that killed so many only served to make the Hulk of the future more powerful, as well as helping to nudge him toward insanity. The Robert Bruce Banner of the future calls himself The Maestro. He sports long white hair and a beard, and a skin of darker green with sick-looking welts rising off its surface.

Incredible Hulk writer Peter David had already won over scores of fans to his redefining of Bruce Banner’s relationship with his alter ego, and his original Future Imperfect series is widely considered one of the best stories in a run that is still a fan standard against which every other Hulk writer is judged. Veteran artist George Perez created visuals in the comic that remain fan favorites; the most memorable being a double-page splash of a trophy room featuring relics from just about every Marvel character you could think of.

Of the many Secret Wars series based on old series and crossovers, Future Imperfect is possibly the only one written by the same guy who wrote the source material. Because of this, there’s something of a metafictional edge to Future Imperfect, particularly to the Hulk fan who remembers David’s groundbreaking run and how it ended.

Like most of the Secret Wars series, Future Imperfect’s opening setting is just another one of God Doom’s kingdoms. This one is Dystopia, of which The Maestro is the Baron. The series opens in the wasteland outside Dystopia, where the mutant Ruby Summers (presumably the daughter of Cyclops and Emma Frost, though I don’t remember if this is ever confirmed) stumbles upon an old, weak man who claims to be a de-powered Odin. Ruby is a member of the anti-Maestro resistance and brings the old man to the rebel hideout. Once there, a psychic scan reveals the truth: the old man is The Maestro, but in Banner’s human form. It’s a brilliant move by David for a couple of reasons. First, when Maestro was introduced, the Hulk did not transform back and forth between his body and Banner’s, so it was always kind of assumed the Maestro was the future version of that specific incarnation of the Hulk. I don’t believe a single appearance of the Maestro exists before this one in which he transforms to human. Second, having Maestro enter the story as a false god is a nice bit of foreshadowing.

Once the cat’s out of the bag, Maestro gets his Hulk on and the rebel leader soon appears: The Thing, but not Ben Grimm. In this Dystopia’s history, it was good ol’ Thunderbolt Ross who got belted by cosmic rays and transformed into the Thing. It’s a huge, bloody battle, and in the end the Maestro is the victor. Maestro takes Ross prisoner, but he has more in mind than torture and death.

Okay, the biggest spoilers are inbound. Again, I consider you warned.

The Maestro, predictably, doesn’t like taking orders from God Doom. He’s found a book claiming that a suit of armor exists called The Destroyer that gives its bearer the power to kill Doom. With the possible outcomes that the Maestro will either succeed and leave Dystopia or fail and be murdered by Doom, Thunderbolt Thing and his rebels agree to join Maestro on his quest to find the armor. They travel to the very Asgard-y Battleworld domain Nornheim. After a tussle in a tavern and fight with Ulik and some of Ulik’s troll buddies, Maestro and his reluctant comrades learn that the aged, wheelchair-bound Rick Jones is the guardian of the Destroyer armor.

Jones happily allows the Maestro to use the armor. Soon after, Doom appears and attacks his subversive Baron. The Destroyer armor is as good as the stolen book promised and the Maestro easily kills Doom and takes over Battleworld.

But, not really.

One moment we see a triumphant Maestro standing amid a crowd of kneeling super-heroes, promising to be a just and beneficent god. The next, we see Ross and his rebels watching Maestro, confused. They see the Maestro standing before the armor, yelling at no one in particular. Rather than giving him the power to kill Doom, the armor simply fed the Maestro the dream he wanted to see and apparently will always see until he dies.

Future Imperfect ends with the deluded Maestro – a false god now as he was in the desert in the beginning of the series – paraphrasing lines from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias: “I am the Maestro! King of kings! Look on my works, ye mighty…and despair!”

This is not the first time David has quoted Ozymandias.  He referenced it heavily in Incredible Hulk #467; the powerful issue that ended his 12-year run on the series. The title of the story, “The Lone and Level Sands,” was taken directly from the sonnet.

Reading this new Future Imperfect series with that in mind puts an interesting spin on it.

There are loud echoes not only from the original Future Imperfect, but also David’s original Hulk run and even his one shot Incredible Hulk: The End, in this newer mini.

Some of the references are specific. During his final, delusional battle with Doom, the Maestro taunts Doom by implying the villain’s deadly blasts are serving simply to scratch his back.


Any fan of the fantastic Peter David/Dale Keown era of Incredible Hulk should immediately recognize this gag as a repeat from the Hulk’s battle with the U-Foes in Incredible Hulk #397.


I guess it’s possible to take a less generous view of this and assume David just did something easy rather than coming up with something new. The fact that he uses the same joke in a battle between the Hulk and Avengers of the Secret Wars mini Secret Wars 2099 could support that, but not in light of all the other references found in Future Imperfect to his previous work.

David introducing Maestro as a false Odin, the journey to Nornheim, and all the references to pagan gods are reminiscent of Incredible Hulk: The End. In that one-shot David compared the Hulk and the other, long-dead heroes of Marvel to gods and titans. The Hulk was specifically compared to Prometheus who gave fire to humanity and who was punished by being strapped to a rock and having his insides ravaged by birds every day, only to survive and have the process repeat. To reproduce this in Hulk: The End, David gives us a swarm of irradiated cockroaches who constantly hunt the Hulk and tear him to pieces though he survives because of his healing factor. In that one-shot, David waited toward the end to compare super-heroes to figures of myth, but in Future Imperfect, he does it as early as the first page. As she walks through the desert, Ruby Summers’s narration tells us about the myths of the world that existed before Battleworld: myths she doesn’t believe in. Her attitude is echoed a few issues later in Nornheim’s blind Hoder, who laments the downfall of the gods.

The ending of the first issue is a surprising and clever reference to the original Future Imperfect mini. In the 1992 series, the first issue ended with the Hulk of the present and the Maestro meeting nose-to-nose in the underground rebel base and saying in unison, “Doctor Banner, I presume.” Again, in the 2015 Future Imperfect, the issue ends with the Maestro having found and infiltrated the rebel base, but the issues ends with Maestro not facing another Hulk, but facing Thunderbolt Ross as the Thing.

In light of everything else, this seems like it could almost be a tribute to not David’s own work on Hulk, but to Jeph Loeb’s. Or, if not tribute, then some kind of commentary. The reason why it should have been a surprise to no one that Thunderbolt Ross was the Red Hulk in Loeb’s Hulk was that, through the eyes of Betty Ross, Loeb had portrayed Hulk and Thunderbolt Ross as two sides of the same coin in the first significant work he did on the character: the 2003 retrospective mini-series Hulk: Gray. And here, David puts Ross in the Hulk’s shoes. The absence of a heroic Hulk, like the intelligent Hulk of the 1992 Future Imperfect, is the biggest absence felt in this newer series. We have a Maestro, but no Hulk to counter him. Thunderbolt Thing is the closest we have and he’s a poor substitute. Like the Hulk of the original mini, Thunderbolt Thing’s battle with Maestro ends in his defeat. He is captured, just like Hulk in the original mini. The difference is when the Maestro offers the Hulk an alliance, he tells him to go to Hell, eventually only appearing to give in so he can lull Maestro into a false sense of security. Thunderbolt Thing, on the other hand, isn’t awake five minutes before he bends over and gives in.

The Maestro’s ultimate fate in the 2015 Future Imperfect should remind Hulk fans of one of David’s tie-ins to the 1996 Onslaught event. In Incredible Hulk #445, an egotistical Hulk led a small team of Avengers in hopes of taking down Onslaught, all in defiance of Captain America’s plans. In the scene that unfolded, the Hulk defeats Onslaught, but only after the villain kills everyone else. As the Hulk cheers over his triumph, it’s revealed that the battle never happened. Just like Maestro’s “triumph” over Doom, the battle with Onslaught is an illusion Onslaught psychically created to fool the Hulk. When the rest of Hulk’s team sees him celebrate his victory in spite of what he believes to be their grisly deaths, the last few of Marvel’s heroes who feel any trust toward the Hulk turn their back on him.

The very quest for the Destroyer armor is a reference to David’s original Hulk run. At the end of the original 1992 mini, the Hulk defeats Maestro by sending him back in time to ground zero of the original gamma bomb blast that created the Hulk. The Maestro was so powerful, however, that some piece of him survived the blast. We eventually learned toward the end of David’s original Hulk run that the mysterious call back to the gamma bomb blast Hulk had felt over the years was, in fact, a summons from the Maestro. He was calling the Hulk there to feed off of his gamma energy in hopes of one day resurrecting. In Incredible Hulk #461, the Maestro did return but not in his own body. With the help of some vengeful trolls, the Maestro possessed the Destroyer armor and used it to go after the Hulk.

But the loudest echo back to his original work on Hulk is David’s handling of the ancient, wheelchair-bound Rick Jones.

In David’s Hulk finale, the story is told from the perspective of Rick Jones ten years after the events of the previous issue. David’s departure from the title was not a happy one and was over a passionate disagreement of the future direction of the title. David speaks through Jones of his own situation at many points in the story. Speaking of the disagreement in the title’s direction, Jones says the events of the previous issue were, “the day the Hulk started down the road he never wanted to travel.” Toward the end of the issue, he says, “I could keep on telling stories about the Hulk…keep on going…but there’s other things in life, you know?”

It’s tempting, then, and perhaps fitting to see Jones’s words in the same light at the end of Future Imperfect. Maestro’s quoting of Ozymandias certainly seems like a direct signal that we should do that. And, if we do, it does not exactly put a positive spin on David’s return to this story.

In spite of working for 12 years on Incredible Hulk, subsequent Hulk writers rarely referenced David’s run. It seems likely this is at least in part due to what used to be some fairly public conflicts between David and Marvel’s Powers That Be. It’s always been surprising to me, for example, that of all the wonderful villains David created during his tenure as Hulk writer, few have popped up elsewhere. It’s only been in very recent years that we’ve seen them surface. Mark Millar killed off Speedfreek in the opening pages of Civil War. Daniel Way brought back David’s villain Mercy for his Thunderbolts revival.  The Maestro, in the meantime, has appeared a couple of times, but considering the success of the original Future Imperfect, it’s surprising how rarely it’s happened. Usually, he’s shown up only because David himself was writing him, like his appearance in a time travel issue of Captain Marvel. Perhaps because the conflicts have cooled over the years, Maestro is just now peeking out of the sand. He appeared in an issue of A+X, and Gerry Duggan gave his new Flowers-for-Algernon version of the Hulk nightmarish visions of his transformation into the Maestro. And now, with Secret Wars over (again), and Amadeus Cho replacing Banner as the Hulk in Totally Awesome Hulk, we have a Maestro appearing regularly in the mobile game tie-in Contest of Champions. In the pages of Totally Awesome Hulk, we so far we have been given only snapshots of what happened to Banner, and it seems like a good possibility we will eventually learn that the reason Cho replaced Banner as the Hulk is because Banner has finally become the Maestro. That’s only speculation, but the evidence fits.

You might think that this would give David some satisfaction; that his stories are finally being honored and acknowledged. But the ending of the 2015’s Future Imperfect may make you question that.

Once we learn that Maestro’s battle with Doom has been nothing but an illusion, Maestro transforms back to human form. We learn that the quest for the Destroyer armor has been an elaborate trap that Doom set for the Maestro. The now ancient Rick Jones is there on Doom’s orders. Just as she appeared in the original mini, Jones’s granddaughter Janis Jones is one of the rebels who accompanies Maestro to Nornheim.

When Janis asks Rick to leave with her and the rebels, Rick tells his granddaughter that Doom has tasked Jones to stay and watch over the deluded Maestro. “Me and him. Until the end of time.”

“That sucks,” Janis says.

Jones answers, “Eh. There’s worse ways to live.”

If we consider David speaking through Jones in Incredible Hulk #467, consider Jones’s appointed task, and consider the very fact that this new Future Imperfect series even exists, it casts a pretty dismal light on David’s opinion of the whole thing.

Jones says he has to stay with the Maestro until “the end of time.” Likewise, here’s David, tasked to return to a story he wrote over 20 years ago, with a character he set aside before the current century began. Not just tasked with writing the same character, but the same story. Not a sequel. Write Future Imperfect, David. Write it again.  

The New DC 52 Week Four, Part Two - Three Men and a Little Daemonite

Four titles here, and another four in a day or two to wrap up the first month of DC′s relaunches. It′s been a long time since I′ve reviewed this many books in this short a time, and I fully admit it′s probably unfair that books from IDW (a very good Star Trek series just started) and Dark Horse (the B.P.R.D. still going strong) and lots of interesting books from Fantagraphics, not to mention some important reissues. But hey, I felt like doing this, you know? Not because it′s important, just because I wanted to be thorough and fair when in all honesty I thought this would be much more of a disaster. So, without further adieu, and chosen at random…

Voodoo #1 by Ron Marz and Sami Basri is not a title that will last very long. Very minor WildStorm character, journeyman writer and relatively unknown artist. The alien-turned-stripper-turned-superhero didn’t even get Alan Moore′s best efforts way back when he wrote a miniseries for her. But that’s okay. As I′ve said before, the titles no one expects much from are the ones where the creative team usually has more freedom.

When Moore wrote Voodoo back in the ′90s, he perhaps not surprisingly focused on her New Orleans background and the magic native to the region. It wasn’t a bad idea, but Marz sticks more with the science fiction thriller angle, as we are introduced to Voodoo performing in front of a rapt crowd made up partially of two federal agents who have been tracking her. Before we find out much about this, Marz essentially atones for introducing Voodoo in a bikini, stripping, by showing the dressing room backstage, where we learn that these are just young women doing the best they can, trying to make money to take care of children with no father in the picture, or who are earning money for classes to better themselves. There′s no intrigue or competition here, just women trying to look out for each other. Like others, I′ve taken issue with the portrayal of some of the women characters in other new DC books, but Marz deserves a pass here, especially for the higher degree of difficulty of writing a stripper in a non-exploitative way. Basri also deserves credit—Voodoo and the other women are all very attractive but his line is clear and minimal, the naughty bits left to the imagination, and aside from a little cleavage there aren’t really any panels where body parts are the main point.

Instead, Voodoo, or Priscilla as she′s known, is not the most sympathetic character, killing one of the agents once he revealed what he knew about her, but its not unlike the violence Supergirl caused in her first issue; they′re both just trying to survive. The trick is to see how long readers can take it before she turns toward humanity′s side instead of her Daemonite people. 

Superman #1 by George Perez and Jesus Merino is a solid B, B+. Yes, for the most part I feel like it’s a book Perez already did back on his Action Comics run about 25 years ago, but I liked those books. Although Perez is only writing and providing layouts, those layouts let him control how much information he wants to get across here, and it′s more than most books. Sometimes the old, non-decompressed ways are best, as I felt like I got my money′s worth here. 

We see the Daily Planet building, with its famous gold globe, come crashing down, a victim of changing times. With print on its way to a final death rattle, the Planet has been purchased by Galaxy Communications, to be just a piece of its multimedia empire that also includes the local television station. Seems the new owner has something of a fearsome reputation, and even has a Murdoch-like wiretapping scandal in his recent past, though that is apparently more the fault of the previous owner. Lois Lane has been tapped to head the TV network, which in real life makes no sense, as she is a print journalist with no production, direction or management skills, but for comics drama I guess we can let it go. Or just call it the one big flaw of the issue.

The rest is taken up with reintroducing the cast and showing how they are all reacting to the change in the status quo. Perry White has to get used to a new boss, and Lois has to get used to being a boss immediately, going from the gala announcing the changes to covering Superman fighting a creature made of flame. She has to be resourceful to keep her helicopter crew out of harm′s way, and we find out her boss is more interested in results than safety, so she′s got her work cut out for her there.

The Superman fight ended with no answers, but we do see that this is a cockier, more threatening Superman, although still heroic and concerned with the safety of innocents. He has that in common with Lois, but neither he nor his Clark Kent alter ego have much of a connection with her aside from mutual respect. Clark cares for Lois, but she finds him too distant, and she′s in a relationship with some guy and it doesn’t appear to be much deeper than sex. Comics fans are often pretty puritanical, especially about long-running characters, so Im sure the implication that Lois is getting it on unashamedly in her apartment is going to turn some people off, but I thought it was a good way for Perez to raise the emotional stakes and nudge the book into, I dunno, the 80s? Merino is following Perez′s blueprint here, but clearly his style is a bit different and it looks terrific. Aside from some unsuccessful bits here and there, such as the narrative captions describing the fight that don’t read anything like the newspaper article they are supposed to emulate, this is a solid book with old school craft. 

Green Lantern New Guardians #1 by Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham is an amiably ho-hum book, which I guess is going to happen when you mandate four Green Lantern books a month. Kyle Rayner now has a little more potential to be cool, since he′s not the #1 GL anymore. Bedard introduces him as a nice, creative guy (although the majority of waitresses would not take kindly to a patron leaving a sketch of them in lieu of a tip), but there isn’t time for much more, as we have to get his GL induction out of the way in rapid, Silver Age style. Before you know it, he′s saving folks and meeting his not-so-adoring public, and then something weird happens where a bunch of different Lanterns have their rings taken away and all the rings go to Kyle. I was confused, because taking the ring away seemed clearly to cause some of these Lanterns to die, either because they were in the middle of fighting or they were in space and using the ring to provide breathable air, but at the end, there′s a bunch of different-colored Lanterns all heading to beat up Kyle. Oh, and in keeping with the Johns model, there is a disemboweling where it would have been just as well to cut away to the next scene. I′m not very interested in the mystery, there are plenty of kinda likable heroes out there, and Kirkham′s Jim Lee-influenced art isn’t enough of a draw. I wouldn’t call this a terrible book, but it’s an easy one to drop.

The Savage Hawkman #1 by Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan is probably going to bother a lot of Hawkman fans, as Carter Hall is now a rather reckless loser of a cryptologist who finds that when he tries to give up on Hawkman completely, the Nth metal bonds with him, so hes sort of like Venom, with his costume and weapons erupting from his body. This comes in handy on his first day back on the job, when a sunken artifact releases a deadly alien energy vampire thing. 

Philip Tan goes for a bit more of a painterly look here, possibly trying to approach an old pulp novel cover, but for now he can add this to the list of styles he hasn’t mastered. I liked it better than what he did on Batman & Robin, but that’s not saying much. Nice creature, though, although Daniel gives him a rather unalienlike name, Morticius, which seems more like the name of a cackling ghoul meant to host one of DC′s old horror books. 

It′s kind of funny when were introduced to Carter Hall talking about getting rid of Hawkman, and his narrative caption has a hawk symbol in it, not that there was much doubt he was going to be Hawkman again. That part isn’t Daniel′s fault, but he does louse that scene up with a tendency to go over-the-top. I mean, you can′t just pour gasoline on the Hawkman garb and light a match? No, instead it’s a fifth of bourbon, ignited with a gunshot, which seems like a waste of booze and ammo. I′m not sure how to take the lack of any kind of sexual tension between Carter and his boss′ pretty daughter. You gave the fat old guy a hot daughter for a reason, Daniel—do something with her more than a bland, ″Hi Carter″. I guess this might turn into something as far as the buttkicking aspects, but so far I′m not impressed. 

–Christopher Allen

The New DC 52 - Week One Scorecard

Looking at the late-August release of Justice League #1 as a kind of preseason game, how did the new season of DC Comics pan out for its first real week?

Action Comics was heavily favored, written by Grant Morrison, with art by the solid Rags Morales. It was okay but very restrained, as if Morrison was trying to hold back the usual torrent of ideas to see what the other kids brought, see if this experiment was going to flop. Could be he is less interested in trying to match or top All Star Superman and is instead playing games with himself, trying to come up with a Superman who is pretty much the opposite of the All Star version and see if that can be compelling, too.

Animal Man was the best book of the book, so let us get that out of the way quickly. The Believer bit was clever, and a good way to get exposition out of the way quickly, leaving room for not just good characterization of Buddy Baker and his family, but a done-in-one menace (of sorts), AND a creepy, suprising twist. Add to that that he honors Morrisons star-making run on the book by somehow introducing Moore Swamp Thing elements, and color me impressed. Artist Travel Foreman makes a mistake or two with perspective, but that nightmare sequence is stunning.

Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yannick Paquette is a solid, attractive book, though one of many where it isn’t clear what is still considered canon and what isn’t. Alec Holland used to be Swamp Thing, but isn’t anymore, but clearly he will be again, or somehow bonded with ST. And Superman knows him. Paquette has some nice Nowlan-style art here and while hes always been a bit stuff, dude does work hard and is always consistent. Some interesting, creepy stuff that oddly enough has some parallels with Animal Man, though unintentionally.

Those were really the three books I will definitely continue with. Ones on the fence or securely on the other side of it…?

O.M.A.C. by DiDio and Giffen is better than I thought, a fun remix of the Kirby semiclassic series, although I wanted D&G to bring more of their own ideas to it. Also, O.M.A.C. himself isn’t very cool. I would rather he had that crazy otherworldly swagger and command of all kinds of crazy weapons and gadgets, but here he is kind of a mindless thug.

Batgirl by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf suffers from an ugly costume design, awkward dialogue and narration and a character reboot that fails to honor Barbara Gordons time as Oracle, which is to say, the past 20+ years. Honestly, it would have been better to completely ditch her paralysis entirely than make it a spinal injury that she was able to utterly overcome, physically, yet causes her to mentally freeze when someone points a gun at her. If she was mentally strong enough to get herself back in superhero shape, she should be mentally ready for anything. And as far as that costume, isn’t the appeal of Batgirl, and most young female superheroes, that they present a contradiction, a litheness and unpadded fragility and abandon that flies in the face of the danger they are in from bigger, stronger opponents? When you give them armored costumes and clunky boots, it takes the fun out of it. The one positive thing I would say about the book is that at least its somewhat lighthearted and is the only one to even attempt to give the lead character a friend, though she (the new roommate) is pretty unrealistic so far. Is there a lamer attempt at activism than painting Fight the Power on your own apartment wall? Another security deposit sacrificed to the Cause.

Men of War is one I am kind of torn on. I think Sgt. Rock meets Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a great tag, but not sure theres enough here to make anyone put down their controllers. Also, for a book that spends so much time on military jargon, one would think it would be a heavily researched war series, but all of a sudden it looks like these guys are up against a supervillain? I will give it another issue or two, but I don’t know quite what this book is supposed to be. Im all for war stories of impossible odds, but when that means regular guys against superpowers, maybe that crosses the line from brave patriot to fool?

Detective Comics by Tony Daniel is…well, I give Daniel credit in that I have studiously avoided his Batman run after the first couple of pretty poor issues. His art has improved since then, and he writes a coherent Batman. And yes, I was very surprised by the gross-out twist at the end, both as a reader and as a guy who wonders who oversees how DC handles their franchise characters. So, it may be a good deal of morbid curiosity, but I will be back for issue #2.

Batwing by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver is one of the better-looking books, but Winick fails to distinguish the character enough from Batman. Well, hes more like Jim Gordon as the only good cop on an African police force, who also puts on Bat-armor at night. The character isn’t interesting enough and the setting isn’t used well enough.

Green Arrow by J.T. Krul, Dan Jurgens and George Perez is a pleasant surprise. Krul doesn’t do anything very impressive here—Ollie Queen is kind of Tony Stark, kind of Bruce Wayne, the corporate superhero playboy—but at least the pace is quick and with the Jurgens/Perez art it looks a lot like the comics I read in the 80s and 90s that were probably crap in retrospect, but at least they were my kind of crap. I would prefer Krul get to work developing one interesting villain, though, instead of unleashing a torrent of codenames and powers who only want to bust stuff up and upload it to YouTube.

Static Shock by John Rozum and Scott McDaniel is too energetic and goodhearted to come down too hard on. I generally like teen heroes who are still recognizably teens in their behavior, and Rozum keeps Statics Peter Parkery science nerd thoughts going along rapidly, humorously and pretty endearingly. I didn’t love the book or felt like there was anything new, but its enjoyable.

Justice League International by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti is thoroughly average. I don’t have anything against Booster Gold, Fire, Ice or the other lightweights on this team, but either make them real interesting real quick, or treat them as punchlines the way Giffen and DeMatteis did back in the day. Jurgens isn’t sure which way he wants to go here so he never adopts a consistent tone, as if hes trying to please everyone. To be fair, with the heavy hitters on the real Justice League, writing these guys is like managing the Pittsburgh Pirates. You cant beat fun at the old ballpark, but theres a lot more talent on other teams, in other ballparks. Having Batman cameo smacked of desperation, and has anyone said anything about the plot? No, because its dull. Team gets together at the behest of two characters we know nothing about, and after farcical meet and greet, go off to find a missing UN research team. Question: aside from the real world value of making this a Justice League title, why would you name your UN-sanctioned team after the independent superhero team with which youre not associated and don’t control?

Stormwatch by Paul Cornell and Manuel Sepulveda is one of the bigger disappointments of the week, although to be fair, that’s partly because at one time I gave a shit about Stormwatch/The Authority and never cared much about Batgirl, Green Arrow, Static, etc. Having the Moon threaten Earth seems kinda like something Warren Ellis might have come up with, although he would have used some science in there somewhere, right? How is this giant Moon-fist going to break out of its orbit? Its like when you put your hand on a kids head and hold him far enough away from you that he cant punch you. Doesn’t that happen to you? Anyway, Cornell is tasked with restarting Apollo, Midnighter et al pretty much from scratch, except now with 100% more Martian Manhunter, and some new would be badass called Eminence of Blades or something. I think he lives through this but gets his ass kicked. I didn’t mind it overall but it was underwhelming, much of which could be laid at Sepulvedas feet, as he fails to make cool what Cornell gives him, while at the same time, Cornell doesn’t do a very good job of reintroducing these characters by having them do or say interesting things.

Hawk & Dove – I didn’t read it. And yeah, Rob Liefeld had something to do with that, but no more than Sterling Gates did. No thanks.

–Christopher Allen