Birds of Prey #99
"Headhunter, part 4. Class Dismissed"
Black Canary and Huntress chase the Turkish gunrunner Yasemin into an abandoned tenement as Oracle faces the new Batgirl. The new Batgirl seems to know all about Barbara and her Birds and claims to have been in Oracle's base many times before. In keeping with superhero tradition Faux-Batgirl attacks Babs before getting dropped herself. Barbara realizes that the girl isn't really a threat, but she cannot let her fight crime under her cowl. Faux-Batgirl asks Barbara to train her "just like you trained Cassandra (the last Batgirl, who is now apparently evil)" and Babs gets angry slaps the girl, promising to show her "what it means to be Batgirl." Meanwhile Huntress is forced to pursue Yasemin after a henchman waylays Black Canary. Yasemin taunts Huntress, threatening to kill every child in the class Huntress' alter ego teaches. This pisses Huntress off and, after scaling the side of the building, beats Yasemin with an antenna before dangling her over the edge. Huntress threatens to drop her 10 stories to the pavement below unless she promises to stay away from her students. Yasemin, bruised and bloody, consents; much to the relief of Black Canary who thought her friend may once again cross a line. Back in Barbara's base she reluctantly shows the girl just what it means to be Batgirl, giving her the slug The Joker put into her spine, and showing her pictures of Spoiler lying dead on a mortuary slab. The girl is heartbroken by the images and agrees to give up her dreams of being Batgirl and leave, although she says she never promised she wouldn't become a superhero. Next we see Black Canary present Babs with a copy of her memoirs as she tells her best friend that she is leaving the team to spend more time with her adopted daughter, Sin. The two reminisce over past adventures before Dinah goes to break the news to Huntress. In a scene with a surprising amount of lesbian subtext Dinah says goodbye to Helena, with Helena thanking her for being such a good friend. At the end Huntress has, for the first time, taken over as narrator of the series.
...And so begins a new era for one of the best, most consistent books on the market. The dialogue between Canary and Huntress in the first few pages, Huntress teasing Canary about gaining weight, Canary speaking in Bizarro Black Canary voice was absolutely priceless and served as a great counterpoint to the Oracle/Faux-Batgirl scenes. Raiz did a great job capturing the combination grief and determination on Oracle's face as she showed the young girl exactly what being a Batgirl can do to you. Huntress also had a great scene with Yasemin on the roof; almost everything you need to know about her character was included on those few pages. Raiz' art was pretty good (complete with the new trend of drawing every seam, buckle and lace on the costumes) although his faces looked a little blocky and odd at times. The scene with Huntress and Canary at the end was odd. To call it lesbian subtext almost doesn't do it justice, I really expected the two characters to start making out for a moment. It didn't detract from the story, but it took a scene that was (in my opinion) supposed to be more about the big sister-little sister dynamic and turned it into something else completely.
Bottom Line: Humor, poignancy, action, character development and lesbian subtext, all in one neat package
The Authority #1
A submarine in the Norwegian Sea goes down after members of the crew attack one another. A man named Ken wakes up in England to a cold, unhappy marriage. Ken is called in to investigate the submarine incident but his wife doesn't want him to go. Ken and his crew, Tor and Dex, take a small sub and investigate the site as his wife packs a bag to leave him. They reach the sub and find the crew had been killed, some with broken necks, others with their heads torn off. Tor is confronted by a familiar wall of shimmering orange light before disappearing suddenly without a trace. Ken is worried when he is informed that a large anomalous object has been detected right in front of them. They hit the lights and see an absolutely massive structure sitting on the bottom of the sea.
When I got to the last page of this book I almost thought there were pages missing from my copy. Why? BECAUSE ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED! It felt like the first five minutes of an episode of Law & Order. The Authority, you know the stars of the title, do not appear in one single panel in the entire book. Books that have rich, complex, likable supporting casts can survive an issue without the stars, but the cast of this issue has all the appeal of canker sore. Did I mention that in the first post-reboot issue of one of the flagship titles of the Wildstorm line the main characters are not even mentioned? The whole book just feels pretentious; like it's so mind-numbingly brilliant that they don't actually have to include anything approaching a story to make you but it. The only saving grace of this book is Gene Ha's art, which is impressive to say the least. Other than that there is nothing to this issue. Don't buy it. Avert your eyes lest its hippotamic feculence infects thine eyes.
Bottom Line: Quite possibly the worst comic I've ever read that didn't have the words 'Rob Leifeld' on the cover
John Woo's 7 Brothers #1
"Son of Heaven, Son of Hell"
A great Chinese Emperor sends four treasure fleets to the four corners of the Earth. These fleets circumnavigate the globe collecting wealth and knowledge before returning to the Middle Kingdom. Upon arriving home they are greeted not with honor but with scorn. The expedition cost so much money that the peasants revolted and the Empire was thrown into disarray. In the end China turned to isolationism and all records of the treasure fleets were stricken from history. Almost. In the present day Los Angels a pimp named Double-Double is letting some hos know what the score is when the ladies proceed to beat the crap out of Double-Double for their boss, a big pimp named Skull. We then see a very nice apartment where six men are meeting. All six men were given a plane ticket to LA and $50,000, with the promise of another $50,000 if they attend the meeting. All of the men are intelligent and speak English but hail from all over the globe. The story then cuts back to Double-Double, who is about to receive The Unkindest Cut from Skull when a slender Asian woman pulls up in a sports car. She proceed to beat the holy hell out of Skull and his crew, hitting them so quickly that they did not feel the blows until 30 seconds later. She takes Double-Double, real name Ronald, with her to the apartment. The Asian lady, Rachael, informs the men that she does not have the rest of their money at the moment and they begin to leave when she divulges their secrets. Each man has powers: speed, far-seeing, far-hearing, teleportation, sonic scream and flight. She does not know what Ronald's power is but she knows that all seven of them are needed to save the world. We then move to China where a team of spelunkers is in a cave under the Great Wall. They find a wall inscribed with characters but before they can breach it several members are killed in a freak cave in, an omen of things to come.
I really wasn't expecting much from this book but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Garth Ennis' trademark over the top dialogue mixed with John Woo's martial arts flair and just a hint of Eastern mysticism produced a fun book. Geevan Kang's art was a little rough and dark for my tastes but he did an adequate job on the book. Ennis' work is fun if not exactly original; its equal parts obscene and funny. The scenes with Double-Double, Skull and Rachael were fun, but the rest of the story seems a bit light in comparison.
Bottom Line: An interesting beginning that falls just short of compelling
3 out of 5
"X'D Out, part 3"
The Eldest Tryp calmly explains to Madrox, Rahne and Monet that he is also a kind of 'Multiple Man', capable of existing as past, present and future versions of himself at any point along his own timeline. In his future X-Factor was instrumental in undoing the effects of the Decimation and restoring the Mutant's powers. But the sudden re-powering of millions of mutants caused the balance of power to shift and soon there were 'No More Humans'. A pair of rampaging mutants destroyed Tryp's future body while his mind was in the present, so he now exists in a state of near incorporeality. His goal now is to either keep the mutants powerless or kill X-Factor; both actions would suit his goals. A scuffle ensues and the ghostly Tryp uses his powers to show them the future he is trying to prevent. Layla meanwhile does her Butterfly thing back at X-Factor HQ with a few calls to local pizzerias and a set of bolt cutters, the end result being Mrs. Buchanon getting sprung from her captor's van. While Madrox and the others are busy fighting with Eldest Tryp Rictor and Siryn discover Singularity's hidden files and their even more hidden armory. Rictor and Siryn are ambushed by the other two Tryps but the manage to escape. Madrox tells them to stand down as they go the leave Singularity alone. However a Dupe, created in the scuffle with Tryp, comes out of the armory strapped with C-4. This Dupe remembers when Tryp used his elemental powers to kill Madrox' family with a tornado when he was small. The Dupe blows himself up, ejecting X-Factor from the building and destroying The Tryps and their offices in the process. Back at X-Factor HQ Layla is confronted by the Eldest Tryp, who survived the blast. He realizes that Layla is actually the danger point of the group, and tells the stunned girl, "When chaos battles chaos, expect the unexpected"
Firstly, Tryp's power is a little hard for me to get a firm handle on. Whether this is an intentional obfuscation or just a poor explanation is still an open question. The story itself was Peter David near the top of his game. Deep philosophical questions layered over some breakneck plot twists and sprinkled with quirky humor. It was a very villain heavy piece so a lot of the cast faded into the background a bit, but not enough to weaken the story. The art, especially that of Roy Allan Martinez (Son of M) on the flashbacks, was good, although Renato Arlem tries a bit too hard at times to make the book feel noir-ish. I love the concept of Madrox's Dupes each having different personalities with slightly different lettering for each Dupe's speech bubbles.
Runaways #21 - Chase does the right thing in the end, even if the reader may have been wishing for him to do otherwise. And Molly has too much caffeine.
Checkmate #7 - Only three members of the Suicide Squad died on a mission. That's like an all time low.
52 #24 - The Justice League is back (sort of), Skeets returns (better than ever), Black Adam makes peace (for now) and Amanda Waller makes Atom Smasher an offer that he can't refuse (although he may wish he had). Plus the debuts of POLEDANCER AND E.S.PETE!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Birds of Prey #99