|[ A BLOOMING BARGAIN ]|
To QUOTE John 'Hannibal' Smith: “I love it when a plan comes together”.
THE REVIEW:I really shouldn't like this book. Everything I say when I try to make generalizations about what kind of comics I like, says, 'I shouldn't waste my time and money on this tale'. It's a team book with a suddenly endless roster of heroes and villains who are fighting, on behalf of a mostly unseen omniscient puppetmaster, an abstract entity that manifests as an amorphous blob. It's all “ew” and then it's all “Bam! Pow! Biff!” with a little bit of “oops, try this instead” and then “huzzah!”.
My favorite demon is still delivering sassy one-liners like the next door neighbor on an 80s sit-com. Two of the most interesting female characters in the DCU sometimes sound alternately like little kids playing make believe, or like two stereotypical teenage girls gossiping on the phone. None of this should add up to a book I want to read.
It's all about how this whole rotating roster is actually playing out. This issue reveals to us the details on how Adam Strange got stuck in Zeta-Space. I think we are now caught up with what the characters know about the situation. Most importantly, we have an idea of how it is that Adam knows what “players” need to be put on the board to destroy each breaker. I won't spoil the details, dear reader, but it's a juicy scenario that leaves our core team members in a very interesting quandary.
Mera's still bad ass. Etrigan still doesn't look or feel like Etrigan, but he does eventually speak in rhyme. (Apparently, we're playing by the “rhyme is needed to cast great amounts of hellfire” variant rules of Etrigan?) Miiyahbin is appropriately panicked and inexperienced as a relatively new, teen superhero should be. Poison Ivy continues to be distrustful, especially given Swamp Thing's fate last issue. And Buddy Baker is, well, he's still Buddy.
Foreman's art is still a bit hit or miss for me. Some characters look awesome in his style. Others, just not so much. I absolutely love his depiction of Stargirl in the
Alps (on one of the issue's three
recruitment cut-scenes, used not only to give a glimpse of who's coming up next
issue, but to reveal some backstory).
Credit is likely due to Cox's colors as much as Foreman's art, but the
half-up, fur-lined hood framing her shadowed, masked face is pretty damn
beautiful. Even though I think it's been
established that her staff could keep her warm -- perhaps not while it's
The specifics of how these 'recruitment drives' are working – or, sort of not working, I suppose – is part of the magic of the issue. Even our core Team Blue isn't 100% aware of how it will play out, particularly on this first mission with Adam arranging the plan. We get different forms of response from the different recruits, both in the recruitment scenes and in how they respond to the way the plan is played out. There's distrustful Ivy, who is really, when you think about it, leveraged in to helping as an escape plan, then leveraged again in to staying due to her link to The Green. There's cynical Etrigan, who helps despite assuming it's a trap, or at least a plan of a mad prophet with no problem sacrificing the players, as he is certain he will survive. And there's proud Mera, who will proclaim her outrage at being misled, but will not be the one to back down, as she expects information (on tracking down Arthur) in return. All different responses to the same situation, and it's very well done both from a character standpoint and a story engagement standpoint.
We get to see some great “what-ifs” played out in the story -- showing us how certain characters who might otherwise never have crossed paths would work together. Not just how they interact with one another on a personal level, but how their powers can combine or react with one another to reach a certain end. (Plus, we get a little bonus reveal about Poison Ivy's secret crush. Let's see if that plays out in any other titles!)
My only story complaint is just who Miiyahbin is contacting on comms as “Command”. I thought it was established that only Alanna could talk to Adam (though presumably, if the rest of the team headed back to Canada, they could grab a Rannian Flight Suit and do the same?), so one would assume Alanna and Buddy are “Command.” Yet, when they come on the scene, they are confused about why the island is airborne -- which is the one and only update that Miiyahbin radioed in to this “Command”. I mean, is there another player we haven't seen yet?
My only art complaint is really a colorist complaint. In the Batgirl recruitment cut-scene, the coffee shop bricks are standard “brick red” in one frame, then gray in the next. Really minor point, and, frankly, I like the contrast of the gray bricks better. But it seems like that should have been an easy thing to catch.
All in all, it's just a beautiful issue. It's bright and colorful. It's action-packed. It's perhaps a bit of a moral tale – or at least a tale where characters need to reflect upon the morals of the tasks they are executing. Oh, right, and it takes place on “a super-gross living island thing in the middle of lake Erie”. What's not to love?
THE MUSIC:I've got to admit, the image of Coast Guard ship number 138 absorbed in to the breaker as Miiyahbin runs off half cocked, might have planted the song in my head, but the more I thought on it, the more it fit. The Misfits' We Are 138 isn't that long a tune, just like this isn't that long a story arc, but the ideas of treating people like robot drones to solve a problem (despite their individual desires) just fit too well. It's time to be an android, not a man. (Perhaps a Robotman? Mister Robotman?)
Early in this issue, Poison Ivy makes the observation that the super-gross living island thing in the middle of lake Erie sees their presence like mites. Thus, the breaker is generating antibodies to defeat them. Which brought my mind, eventually, to the Disney ride Body Wars where you get injected in to the human body to investigate the effect of a splinter. Which, of course, goes horribly wrong. But the image felt right, and was certainly a better quality than anything from the 1966 Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence film Fantastic Voyage. They really ought to remaster that film.
THE CONCLUSION:Well, that certainly was a swell intro to our new format for this title. Sure, the “arc” was technically two-and-done, but the format of intertwined stories inside a larger, ongoing, mission-centric arc looks very promising with the recruitment cutaways, progressive reveals, and the mystery of how they can free Adam Strange (and if he'll want freeing when they get there). I'm hoping Parker makes an effort to establish some “science” rules around the Zeta technology over the course of this run, giving readers (and future writers) a framework within which to create new stories. Even if he doesn't, it's sure to be a fun ride.
The end of this issue teased that next month we'll see the return of a “long lost DC hero” – that hero's identity may well have been spoiled in the solicits for October's issue, but on the off chance that's not who they're talking about (since he technically isn't all that “long lost” from the page – just from current continuity). So let's close with some fun speculation over who'll appear along with Batgirl, Steel, Robotman, and Vandal Savage.
- Darrel Dane, a.k.a. Doll Man, last seen in Detective Comics 440 (cover date May, 1974)
- Fear, daughter of Ranarr, last seen in DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #20 (cover date September, 1973)
- Maximillian O'Leary, sidekick to Sargon the Sorcerer, last seen in Batman #238 (cover date January, 1972)
- Robbie the robot dog, last seen in Superman #692 (cover date November, 2009)
- Amentep, a.k.a. Ibis the Invincible, last seen in Justice League of America #135 (cover date October, 1976)
- Thomas Rogers, a.k.a. Little Boy Blue, leader of the Blue Boys, last seen in Sensation Comics #75 (cover date March, 1948)
- SNAHHRRL!, a nonsensical growl, last uttered by Etrigan in this very issue!