Sunday, January 2, 2011

Quick Reviews: Teen Titans, The Flash, Action Comics

Teen Titans #90

(Written by JT Krul; art by Nicola Scott; DC Comics)

Last month I was so pissed off at the way J.T. Krul had written Damian Wayne completely out of character in TT #89 that I not only decided to immediately drop this title from my pull list, but I even vowed never to spend another dime on a comic written by Krul. And yet, as the release of this new issue drew closer, I realized that I wanted to keep reading. Why give this book another chance? First, because I do think that for the most part Krul has found the right tone for this book. Aside from his blatant mishandling of Damian, he seems to have a good handle on the characters and the relationships between them. Second, I'm also really enjoying Nicola Scott's art. And third, I try not to be a stickler when it comes continuity between titles in a shared universe. I always say that each writer's take on a character is a possible interpretation, and that all these different versions can co-exist and contradict each other, and this is part of what ultimately makes the characters compelling and multi-layered. So never mind that this is not the Damian Wayne I've been reading in the pages of Grant Morrison's Batman for the past year or so. I'll keep an open mind and let Krul play with him.

I'm glad I decided to get over my initial fan rage, because this really is not a bad book. In fact, it's a pretty good one. I still think Krul's characterization of Damian is a bit of a caricature, but it was toned down a little in this issue, and Damian's budding friendship with Rose is something I can definitely get behind. We also got a couple more pages of Kiran, a Hindi girl who I'm guessing will join the Titans in a few more issues. So far her appearances are nothing more than teasers, with no obvious connection to the main story, but my curiosity has been piqued.

The Flash #8

(Written by Geoff Johns; art by Scott Kolins; DC Comics)

Like the last issue, this is another "filler" with art by Scott Kolins, giving main artist Francis Manapul a breather before the next big storyline gets started. Last time we got the secret origins of Captain Boomerang in a series of flashbacks, as he broke his way into prison to free the Reverse Flash. This time we go back to the future as the Reverse Flash zips through time, retconning his own history in the process. It's cleverly structured, with the Reverse Flash gradually removes every obstacle from his life until he gets it right, almost à la Groundhog Day. Kolins' art is very good, making this a cut above your usual filler issue, although I find his style is a little too caricature-like for my taste.  I'm looking forward to the return of Francis Manapul next month.

Action Comics #896

(Written by Paul Cornell; art by Pete Woods; DC Comics)

Greg Burgas, over at Comics Should Be Good, didn't really enjoy this comic. And who can blame him? He was coming at it as a regular reader of Secret Six, since for some unfathomable reason, the editors at DC thought it would be a good idea to turn their guest appearance in this issue of Action into a mini-crossover. (This issue ends with a "To be concluded in Secret Six #29!") The problem, of course, is that this issue is also part seven of "The Black Ring," the long story arc starring Lex Luthor that Paul Cornell has been writing for about half a year now. So any Secret Six reader who gets suckered into buying this issue because it ties into the series they're reading are of course going to be completely lost, as Greg's review demonstrates.

So what's the point of this crossover? Nobody is going to pick up this issue and get hooked. So at best, it might temporarily boost sales for one issue, but at what cost? Pissing off the fans of both series who get suckered into it? Fucking things up for the collected edition of this story, which is now presumably going to have a gaping hole in the narrative, unless they include the Secret Six issue in the trade, in which case it'll probably stick out like a sore thumb. So who does this really benefit?

This just seems like yet another example of the shortsightedness of DC editors. They have a really good thing going in Action Comics right now. Paul Cornell's run has been thoroughly entertaining and relatively self-contained up to this point. By all accounts, Gail Simone's Secret Six is just as good if not better. (The only reason I'm not picking it up is that I missed the boat on it and I want to read it from the beginning, so I'm planning to pick up the trades at some point instead.) If the editors of both series were at all concerned about quality, artistic integrity and how these stories are going to read in their collected formats (which have a much longer shelf-life than the single issues), they would just leave them the hell alone instead of imposing this pointless crossover.

Anyway. Within the context of "The Black Ring," this was a great issue. Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny in a number of places, but it also included a few important clues as to what is really going on in this story and who is pulling strings behind the scene. As I suspected from the beginning, robot Lois Lane has a hidden agenda, although exactly who she's working for isn't clear yet. We also get evidence that whoever Mister Mind was working for in the first couple of issues is still around and that this is not the same person robo-Lois is working for. I've been reading the solicits for the upcoming issues and I have to say I'm really excited about where this is all headed.

Now I'm left with the question: Do I pick up the tie-in issue of Secret Six, or will I be able to follow the story if I just stick to Action?

For whatever reason, I haven't been reading the Jimmy Olsen back-up, although I've hear nothing but positive comments about Nick Spencer's story and R.B. Silva's art looks great. Now that it's all going to be reprinted/concluded in the Jimmy Olsen one-shot, I might as well wait until then and read it all in one sitting.


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