Today I’m going to give you guys my thoughts on a few recent comics, including three more Brightest Day issues, and the most recent comic in Marvel’s version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Let’s start with a book that hit the week I was in Pittsburgh…
Continuing the story of the four Justice Leaguers who remember the truth about Maxwell Lord. As we’ve learned through Booster Gold’s little robot sidekick Skeets, though, computer intelligences also remember Maxwell Lord and all the nasty things he did — and that includes the scarab that gives power to the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Jaime’s family is targeted by a group of Max’s OMACs, and he joins up Booster Gold to help hunt down the man who murdered his predecessor. It’s really nice to see Jaime having a place in this group, and what’s more, writers Keith Giffen and Judd Winick spread out and cover a lot more of the DC Universe here as well. Fire’s confrontation with her former associates in the Checkmate organization is very strong, and the return of another former JLI member at the end bodes poorly for our heroes. The tone of this book, of course, is drastically different from the old “Bwa-ha-ha” comedy of the original JLI run, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t work. the story is very solid and the characters feel like they’ve evolved since the old days, Booster especially. I also really love Tony Harris‘s cover, featuring Jaime and Ted Kord. It’s just a great cover, really. Three issues in, I’ve really been impressed with this maxi-series. I just hope that the writers can keep up this quality for the next 11 months.
In the fourth chapter of the core Brightest Day series, the Hawks find an arch built from the bones of their many, many former incarnations. There’s a trap that’s been laid for them, something that’s been calling to them for a very long time. Deadman, meanwhile, finally gets a chance to rest, only to find himself throwing down with Hawk and Dove, an oasis in the New Mexico desert mysteriously dries up, and Ronnie Raymond starts to have some nasty dreams about what he did while he was a Black Lantern. There’s definite plot progression here, although some of it is incremental. The Deadman story, however, moves forward quite a bit. This, I think, is the way to best handle a book like this one. With such a large cast, coming out every other week, each issue should progress all of the stories a little bit and one of them a lot. That makes for a satisfying read, and it seems like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have figured that out. What happens at the end of this issue is really cool — it’s one of those instances where the characters come to the sort of conclusion that the readers did two or three issues ago, and they start to act on it. One of the most interesting things about Brightest Day thus far has been the strange new powers that Deadman is exhibiting. If the cliffhanger here is any indication, next issue we may actually get an examination of how those powers work, and that’s something we’re all interested in seeing. It’s also nice to bring in the Hawk and Dove story, which hasn’t played much a part in this main title yet (they’ve been featured more prominently in Birds of Prey). Solid issue.
Birds of Prey #2
Speaking of the Birds of Prey, Gail Simone and Ed Benes‘s return to this title has been magnificent. Black Canary and Huntress find themselves facing a strange woman called the White Canary. As they go into battle their teammates — Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk — arrive on the scene just in time to find themselves targeted… not by the villains, but by the Gotham City Police Department. While the characters feel familiar — and wonderfully familiar — the book has a different dynamic than it did in its previous incarnation. There’s a different status quo, a different feeling, and that’s all to the good. We’ve actually got the Birds here trying to escape the GCPD and protect the Penguin, and the way it comes about doesn’t feel forced and it doesn’t make anyone seem out of character. The book is exciting, the fight scenes are fantastic, and the last few pages really makes Oracle out to be the bad-ass she actually is. Forget the fact that she’s in a wheelchair, forget the fact that she doesn’t have any super powers. Barbara Gordon’s mind and skill can make her one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, and Gail Simone gets that more than anybody else. The book doesn’t really seem to have a direct tie to Brightest Day, other than the inclusion of Hawk and Dove, but that’s no problem. You can read the title by itself or as part of the larger story, and either way, you’ve got a great comic.
And as a little change of pace, let’s look at something that doesn’t have anything to do with Brightest Day, but is cool nonetheless…
Despite having perhaps the most unwieldy title of any comic book published this year, this miniseries has really turned out to be strong. The first cycle of Dark Tower comics ended with the previous miniseries, The Battle of Jericho Hill. Although this miniseries has begun the adaptation of the first Dark Tower novel, we’re still filling in backstory, showing how Roland, the last gunslinger, went from the massacre at Jericho Hill to the point we find him at the beginning of Stephen King‘s masterwork. Here we see Roland’s final journey to his destroyed homeland, the introduction of a creature whose family will turn out to be very important to him later in the series, a terrible sight and a bloody battle, and some haunted happenings back home. Robin Furth, King’s longtime assistant, is doing great work developing the story. All of her additions and alterations come with King’s approval, which makes it easier to accept, but even if he wasn’t involved the things we see here work very well with the world he established. Peter David‘s script, and the artwork of Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove come together to make a really magnificent comic book. I’ve been reading the Dark Tower comics ever since Marvel began publishing them a few years ago, but it’s been some time since I was so impressed by an issue that I felt compelled to talk about it. King fans, check this out. It’s great stuff.