Angel: After the Fall #3
W: Brian Lynch
A: Franco Urru
All I can say is this: Thank God for Buffy and Angel for giving me a regularly scheduled dose of Whedony goodness. Sure, there’s Astonishing X-Men and Runaways, but I feel like it’s been forever since they’ve come out (I’m not saying they’ve actually been delayed, but it sure feels that way to me).
The first chunk of this issue focuses on the throw-down between Angel and Illyria (a former bad-ass elder demon now residing in the willowy body of Angel’s former comrade, Fred). Angel’s gone to the Beverly Hills mansion where Spike and Illyria have been hiding out since L.A. was sucked into Hell, convinced that Illyria was responsible for the slaughter of one of L.A.’s demon lords. I’ll admit that some of the fight was a tad confusing–at least to me–mainly because Illyria keeps time-slipping (a minor problem she faced when she was introduced in the show’s fifth season). Although it was confusing, it did offer Lynch the opportunity to give us a glimpse of Puppet-Angel from “Smile Time.” I have mixed feelings about Illyria, mainly stemming from the fact that I adored Fred in all of her awkward, gawky glory. Joss enjoys killing characters and, other than Doyle, it was the death of Fred that probably affected me the most.
This issue of After the Fall also reveals that Spike, despite his outwardly hedonistic lifestyle, has actually been helping Connor round up and protect L.A.’s human population. I think it’s funny that even though he began his existence as a “Big Bad”, Spike’s actually a much more heroic character than Angel. And–unlike Angel–for a large chunk of the time, Spike was doing good without a soul. Staying with Spike for a moment, I want to say that Urru’s depiction of our other vampire with a soul is amazing. A lot of the characters in this book–Angel, Wesley, Connor, Gunn–are not that visually distinct, and an artist probably has a lot of leeway in how they’re drawn. But, Spike is a different story. I think if you aren’t careful, you could make Spike look too much like Billy Idol. Urru does not. Unfortunately, Lynch’s dialogue feels wrong. Lynch does a great job with the other characters, but his Spike doesn’t sound right to me.
The big cliffhanger of this issue comes after Angel challenges all of the demon lords of L.A. to personal combat, with the control of the city hanging in the balance. As Angel and Wesley leave to prepare for the fight, it is revealed that Angel is no longer a vampire. No one specifies if he’s human again or something else, but the rest of the issue seems to be pointing towards the former (although it isn’t beyond Joss to throw us all a wicked curve ball). Oh, and bonus points to whoever had the idea of including Teeth, the Shark-headed demon from the “Tabula Rasa” episode of Buffy, amongst L.A.’s new demon lords.
Booster Gold #6
W: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
A: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
When we last left Booster Gold, Rip Hunter had seriously screwed with him to teach him a valuable lesson about the immutability of certain aspects of the time-stream–I mean, sending Booster to save Barbara Gordon from getting shot by the Joker only to fail and watch the attack time and time again is pretty messed up, right? Rip was trying to convince Booster that he can not go back in time and save his best friend, Ted Kord, from getting killed by Max Lord, because Ted was supposed to die (just like Babs was supposed to be shot, crippled, and become Oracle). Booster might have come around to agree with Rip in time, but the arrival of three Blue Beetles (past, present, and future) kind of put an end to that possibility.
The Beetles have come to save the time-line by saving Ted Kord’s life, and they need Booster’s help to do it. To make a long story short, Ted’s life is saved. But, to make sure that no unnecessary harm is done to the time-line, Ted’s survival must remain a secret. The issue ends with Booster and Ted, together again, ready to become the “greatest heroes no one’s ever heard of.”
Ted’s return is a bit tricky. As much as I liked him, his death had meaning. Like Barry Allen’s death, Ted getting shot in the head by Max Lord had resonance for those who knew him and for the DC Universe as a whole. Now, even though no one knows he’s alive, does his death still have that same weight? I don’t know. Of course, there’s no guarantee that he’ll stay alive for any length of time–would Rip actually try to off Ted a second time to fix history? And what the hell was up with the Blue Beetle of the 27th Century? Is it me or is he seriously creepy?
W: Will Pfeifer
A: David Lopez
I felt that there was a lot wrong with this issue of Catwoman. Just as some serious shit was going down in Selina’s life, Catwoman gets sucked up into DC’s horrible Salvation Run series. So, now she finds herself 4,000 light years from Earth on an alien planet full of super-villains. Do I care? No, not really. Sure, it was fun to see the Joker try to convince Catwoman that they should repopulate this new planet. But that little gem wasn’t worth having to suffer through another issue where Lex Luthor proclaims how brilliant he is and how all other villains should bow before his superior intellect. And, could Cheetah being any less attractive than she is in this issue? I’m not sure if it’s Lopez’ fault or not (he’s usually pretty damned good), but the Cheetah depicted in this issue looked like a transvestite furry.
Now, the good news: Pfeifer doesn’t waste more time than he has to with this God-awful tie-in issue. By the end, not only is Selina back in Gotham, but she arrives just in time to look up and see Bats pointing a gun at her. Yeah…you heard me…Bats is packing. He says he’s come to deal with Selina’s murder of Black Mask. Is it really Batman? Has Selina managed to travel to another Earth? (A possibility, since her return to Earth was accomplished through the use of a wacky alien gizmo.)
Countdown to Final Crisis 15
W: Paul Dini & Tom Bedard
A: Pete Woods, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher
Okay…so the black-clad Superman from the last issue was Superman(boy)-Prime. I probably should have guessed that, but with so many versions of characters running around, I couldn’t be sure.
So, we’re back on Earth-51, and Monarch’s forces are running rough-shod over the planet’s inhabitants (not to mention the combined forces of the Monitors). This issue did seem to lag a bit. We learn what Ray Palmer’s been working on since he arrived on this Earth (some twaddle involving a sentient virus and Ray-51’s blood being the only cure), but still no real revelation as to how Ray Palmer’s supposed to stop the Final Crisis (if, indeed, we are to believe what that back-stabbing skank “Bob” told us). For me, the best scenes of the issue involved Jason Todd and Batman-51 chilling in the “Bat Bunker.” We learn that the Batman on this Earth went thoroughly bug-nuts when his Jason was killed and took it upon himself to single-handedly “take care of” every super-villain on the planet. Like he tells Jason, because of him, there is no Rogues’ Gallery, Legion of Doom, or Secret Society. Of course, that also means that he spends most of his free time locked inside a cave that’s lead-lined, magic proof, and ring-resistant, staring at all of his pretty guns. While all of this world’s other heroes hung up their costumes and led normal lives, this world’s Batman actually hung up Bruce Wayne.
Back on New Earth, a now powerless and repentant Mary Marvel is recruited by Hippolyta to help her rid Paradise Island of the fake Athena and her Female Furies-to-be. I’m glad that my girl Mary is back on the side of the angels, having pretty much turned her back on the power that Black Adam gave her. Lucky for her, she’s helping the Queen of the Amazons and, if anyone can help Mary reconnect with the powers of Shazam, it’s her. Elsewhere, we seen that Brother Eye has all but absorbed Bludhaven, using the technology from the Atomic Knights as raw materials and using Firestorm as a nuclear reactor. Moreover, it’s possible that Brother Eye has access to any alien technology that Desaad left behind when he hauled ass out of town.
The Flash #236
W: Mark Waid
A: Freddie E. Williams, II
Sadly, this is Mark Waid’s last issue of The Flash, however it’s not a bad way to go out. When this arc started, I questioned why a bunch of squad-faced aliens would attack Keystone City. Waid, in all of his genius, explains it and makes it completely plausible. Not only that, but he ties it into the back-up stories that have been running through the last few issues about the Flash-friendly world of Savoth.
Yes, it’s all a bit muddy, but here goes: the aliens attacking Keystone are the hyper-evolved descendants of a dude who attacked Savoth and was defeated by Wally and Bart. That’s why they’re attacking Keystone. Not only do they hate the Flash and his symbol, but they’re actually drawn to the key that the Flashes have used to travel between Earth and Savoth, and it’s that key that the aliens are using to travel to Earth. Wally’s discovery of the truth comes when he realizes that the squid-alien tech is a lot like the technology that he and Linda use to keep Jai and Iris’s hyper-metabolisms in check…technology they acquired on Savoth. To save Earth, Wally has to turn his back on the world that has been a safe-haven for Flashes since the beginning. Does he? Duh. He’s a hero, kids, of course he does.
Finally, and I can’t say this enough, with each issue of The Flash that I read, I love the West family more and more. It’s so rare to have a functional super-hero family these days. For the time being, I think the Wests are it.
Justice League of America #17
W: Alan Burnett
A: Ed Benes
JLA has officially sunken to the bottom of my “To Read” pile. Why? Well, listen to this: in order to avoid the Suicide Squad, a bunch of villains (led by a blind Nazi chick and The Key) go to the Hall of Justice and ask the JLA for sanctuary. What does that mean, kids? Can anyone say Justice League vs. Suicide Squad? It seems that DC sure as hell can.
This isn’t fair to Alan Burnett. Burnett’s done amazing work on shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and The Batman. But, like Dwayne McDuffie, Burnett’s skills aren’t translating well to JLA(again, not all the fault of the writers…I have a feeling that most of the blame goes to DC editorial). However, McDuffie scores huge on the back-up story in this issue–“Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen”–where Vixen and Roy discuss the specifics of Vixen’s new human-based absorbing powers. Does she absorb the abilities of regular humans? Meta-humans? Well, Superman isn’t a meta-human, and she can absorb his powers. More importantly, she can absorb the abilities of a Green Lantern’s power ring. Seriously, what is up with her?
W: Chuck Dixon
A: Chris Batista & Jamal Igle
There’s something fitting that the same week that sees Mark Waid departing The Flash also sees Chuck Dixon returning to Robin. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t know if there’s another writer out there who understands Gotham City and its inhabitants as well as Dixon.
Dixon’s first issue back sees Robin on the trail of a new she-crook called Violet. Violet’s knocking over bag-men all around Gotham. She’s also a fan of purple, and a new purple-clad lady in his life has gotten Tim thinking about Steph. Something else has Tim thinking about Steph, namely the fact that he’s positive he saw her pass him in the crowd at school. Let’s be honest, whether he’s overly bereaved or not, Tim’s a damned good detective. If he thinks a girl’s walking like Steph, then odds are she is. Now, is it really Steph or is someone messing with our boy? If you read these reviews every week, then you know how much I’d love Stephanie Brown to return from the dead, but let’s be honest, it’s just as likely that it’s all a clever ruse. Perhaps it’s the Penguin behind it all…since our pudgy little crime-boss is slowly becoming one of Robin’s main rogues–honestly, is it me or do Robin and Cobblepot cross paths an awful lot?
On to the bad news. Batista and Igle’s art is a bit stilted and static. The fight scenes between Robin and Violet seem awkward and off-kilter. The blocking of the panels feel weird to me, as well. For example, when Tim and Zoanne meet Tim’s friend Ives (umm…guys, who the hell is Ives?) in the hall at school, they’re all squeezed into the panel in a way that no teenagers I’ve ever seen would stand. I’m not a trained artist (unless you count cartoon animals wearing human clothes), and I wouldn’t begin to tell a professional artist how to do their job, but the art in this issue just felt off to me.
Quote of the Week:
“When Fred Sonya is done, I want you to take that thing and get out.”–Spike, after Angel’s pet dragon crushes his fountain of blood in Angel: After the Fall #3.