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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 5/21/8

New Wonder Woman, yet another Free Comic Book Day comic, more Static, still more Static, Crossing Midnight, and the conclusion of Alan Moore’s Voodoo miniseries.

Employee’s Pick

Static 16

[DC] Static #15-20
Writers: Sholly Fisch (issue 15), Robert L. Washington III (issues 16-18), Ivan Velez Jr. (issues 19-20)
Pencilers: Shawn Martinbrough (issue 15), Wilfred (issues 16-20)

In a Very Special Static, Virgil deals with the issue of role models. His friends, doing double duty as plot devices, posit that superheroes need to be willing to put criminals down like rabid dogs. Going out as Static, Virgil finds that neighborhood kids idolize drug dealers for their power and success in life. He decides to offer them an alternative, and at first it works. Kids start to emulate Static, who’s tougher than the drug dealers, who stands up to foes bigger and in greater number than himself and wins. But the emulation goes too far, and one kid almost gets hurt or worse trying to fight crime like Static. It’s not an especially deep story, but I enjoyed it. The good guy wins without compromising his principles. That’s the stuff.

Regular writer Robert L. Washington III returns for the book’s longest story arc to date, the five part What Are Little Boys Made Of?, only to leave midway through. It’s odd that a book with so many slow burn subplots has such a high turnover rate for writers. You start wondering about the original author’s intent when a thread he started more than a year ago is tied up by a third writer. One such thread is addressed by first/second series writer Washington in this story. After dropping hints since the start of the series, we finally get confirmation that Virgil’s friend Rick is gay, after Rick and a friend are savagely beaten by skinheads. Rick then asks his friends to attend a gay pride rally, while his friend quietly disappears, a nonspeaking extra we’ll presumably never hear from again. I can only assume he didn’t die by the fact that Rick doesn’t mention it, though he never says he lived.

After a fill-in issue portraying Static as the consummate hero, this arc lets us see him as he is, as flawed as anyone. We’ve seen Static’s imperfections before. In the first issue, he begged for mercy when he discovered his opponent, Hotstreak, was a bully who’d beat him up in school once. He’d been so determined to get back at the bully, he got a gun and went up to Paris Island to kill him. He stopped before doing the wrong thing, but not before irrevocably changing his life, as Paris Island was the location of the Big Bang, and being there on that night caused Virgil to be one of many bang babies. He’ll always have to live with the fact that he only has powers because he almost killed a guy for humiliating him. Later, Holocaust tempted Static with power, riches, respect, and women, and like Scorsese’s Jesus, Virgil took a while to realize the easy course was not the right one. Here, we see him at his worst, abandoning a friend simply because he doesn’t want to be labeled gay by association. Nevermind that he has a girlfriend, one who has too much sense to jump to the insane conclusion that homosexuality is contagious, or whatever "logic" leads someone to believe you have to be gay to have gay friends. Forget that he’s nowhere near popular to begin with. It was okay hanging with Rick when they were both geeks, but geeky and gay? That’d knock Virgil below the, like, three people who’re still lower on the social ladder than he is.

I’m disappointed in him. So’s Frieda, who lays a massive guilt trip on him while steadfastly supporting Rick like a true friend, leading to Virgil catching cold, leading to Hotsreak almost beating him, leading to Frieda being held hostage after Static goes home to sleep it off, leading to Rick doing what Virgil set out to do way back when: shooting Hotstreak. Now Rick has to live with possibly killing a man, and I’m left wondering when he learned to shoot well enough that he felt confident he could hit Hotstreak and not Frieda. And where he got the gun, and whether I should accept this as more than a contrivance. Why couldn’t a cop shoot him? Is it all really Static’s fault? First for turning his back on Rick, then for knocking Hotstreak out and considering him taken care of, despite the police force’s inability to deal with superpowered threats.

More importantly, is Rick a character worth caring about, or a token gay dude? It quickly becomes apparent that most of the people in Static’s life have some shameful secret, and they’re all the sort of things that can too easily become the topics of sermons. Worse, they can define a character, who should have more to her than a single trait. Rick is gay, Felix is abused at home, Larry’s a drug dealer, and this story arc gives us the first hint that Frieda has an eating disorder. Frieda’s well-rounded, and Larry has more to him than his job, if only a tough guy exterior, but every time we see Rick or Felix there’s some reference to Rick’s sexuality (in the form of gay jokes about his ballet dancing before he was out) and Felix’s latest injury from "running into a door" or whatever lie he concocted this week. There’s little else to them as people, and when it reaches the point where the writers seem to think it necessary to give everyone a dramatic quirk, it begs the question of whether some characters were ever intended to be more than that. It makes sense not to flesh out Rick, Felix, and Chuck (Virgil’s other geeky friend, who made jokes at Rick’s expense), as they’re minor characters, but when you throw something in like abusive parents and still don’t flesh them out, they’re not minor characters, they’re just gimmicks. I’d like to believe Rick’s more than that, but so far he’s only served as a tool to further develop other characters, namely Virgil and Frieda.

But like I said, Rick’s never been more than a minor character, and that doesn’t change here. His story could’ve been told in one issue, two at the most, but this is Static’s comic, and the focus remains on his superheroic life. Including Hotstreak, he fights four different foes over the course of five issues. Joyride, a car thief who can defy physics while behind the wheel of a car, driving up walls, along telephone poles, and so on. Palisade, a would be hero who’s more concerned with making a reputation for himself than, you know, being heroic, and ends up fighting Static twice for no clear reason before wandering off to do who knows what. Also, a female illusionist who has the right idea in opposing misogynistic music, but whose methods are brutal and terroristic. She could make for an interesting character, but in her first appearance she only spouts rhetoric and threats, which are duly ignored by the whole cast. She’s similar to Magneto on a very basic level; if only there were more to her than me-against-the-world teenage anger.

New-Type Books

Wonder Woman 20

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #20
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Aaron Lopresti

I officially do not miss the Dodsons at all. Terry Dodson’s art was great, I loved it, and I hope to see him and Rachel on other books worth reading. But it was offputting how his Wondy would sometimes look mannish. It’s not so much that Lopresti is hands down better than Dodson, rather that they’re both so very good and it’s not often you get to switch from one good artist to another. Lopresti’s Wonder Woman is consistently feminine in appearance, simultaneously beautiful and powerful from cover to cover. The cover is, perhaps, my favorite part of the issue. That’s usually a terrible thing to say about a comic, but I don’t mean it as a slight to the interior pages at all. It’s that great a cover, especially if I’m not reading too much into my interpretation of it. On it, there are four shots of Wonder Woman, each garbed differently from the last. The regular Wondy appears close up in the foreground, while what appears to be a Wondy retrospective occupies the background. The remaining three Dianas have slightly different faces and markedly different attitudes. They seem to be, from right to left, Diana from her youth (a passionate warrior without a hint of wrinkles, looking almost manga-influenced), Diana as a young woman (still full of fire, but more controlled and self-assured after years of training), and Diana as she is now (wise, matronly, using force as a last resort but using it well).


It’s the last outfit that’s featured inside, as Diana treks through the wilderness in search of… Beowulf? Yeah, I’m not sure what’s going on as yet. A mysterious dude known only as Stalker, an obscure DC character who has no soul and has been portrayed alternately as hero and villain in the past, tricks Diana into transporting her… mind? I guess, to what appears to be the distant past, where the fabled Beowulf hunts Grendel. Her body and powers remain on Earth, yet she has corporeal form, a costume, and weapons on this new world. It’s confusing, but in the "I want to know more" way. In the "I can’t wait for the next issue" way.

Death Defying blahdeblah

[Dynamite] Project Superpowers: The Death Defying ‘Devil FCBD Special Edition
Writers: Alex Ross (plot), Jim Krueger (plot, script)
Penciler: Andy Smith

I like Alex Ross as an artist, but I’ve yet to be impressed by his and Jim Krueger’s writing. The idea behind this giveaway – I’m guessing – is that people will be hooked by the story and pick up the comics to learn more. That’s my guess, because in the ten page story – the rest of the issue taken up largely by ads – nothing happens. The Superpowers sit around a table talking to some French woman who badly feigns ignorance of the English language, explaining to her the backstory of some villain called The Claw. We see [s]Daredevil[/s] The ‘Devil sort of fight him in flashback, flying a plane around him, shooting a few times and making a volcano explode with the awesome power of deus ex machina. Or, as the unnamed narrator puts it, "all of the energy and force of The ‘Devil’s battle with The Claw brought the volcano to life." Uh huh.

Namelessness is a common trait here, as The ‘Devil and The Claw are the only characters named in or out of the story, aside from one hero referred to by his civilian name, Niles, and a list of names among the copyright info in the indicia. I understand not being able to work names naturally into a story, especially one so short, but they couldn’t have spared a page for a cast list? I have no idea who most of these people are, and I only recognize any at all from what little else I’ve read of Project Superpowers. So, some strange people unleash a load of exposition, announce their intent to go after the villain, and… The End. Maybe this was meant as a treat for fans of the series, who are happy to get more background info to flesh out a world that’s better established elsewhere. All I know is it doesn’t make me want to read more. Quite the opposite.

Back Issues

Voodoo 4

[Image] Voodoo #4
Writer: Alan Moore
Penciler: Al Rio

Voodoo belatedly remembers she’s a superhero and decides to fight the evil resurrected priest by… dancing. This leads to her being possessed again and a group of voodoo gods beating the big bad while she’s out to lunch. So, that’s that. Four issue miniseries about a superhero who doesn’t do anything heroic. Well, OK, she kicked the one bad guy. She suddenly became ultraconfident in the final issue, almost but not quite realizing what was right in front of her face the whole time. Then she went away and the gods did play. The issue ends with Voodoo and some old voodoo teacher sitting together naked, about to begin the former’s training. That was apparently the point of this miniseries, to recast Voodoo as a sorceror whose name was more than a random word. Maybe Moore got good mileage out of that in Wildcats; I don’t know, and I’m not eager to find out.  This mini was disappointing enough, teaching me the valuable lesson that even Alan Moore isn’t always worth reading. And oh, what terrible art.

Static 14

[DC] Static #14
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Denys Cowan, Prentis Rollins

The conclusion to Worlds Collide, a crossover event between the DC and Milestone universes. Some feeb gets Real Ultimate Power and uses it to merge the two Earths. He kills a bunch of people, including Static’s family, the heroes of both worlds team up to find a macguffin, reset everything, and never mention it again. Sounds like a plan.


[DC] Crossing Midnight Vol. 1: Cut Here
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciler: Jim Fern

Kaikou and Toshi Hara were born shortly before and after midnight. That’s significant. Before their birth, their father prayed at a shrine to an unknown kami, an action innocent in intent, done solely to please his superstitious mother. This, too, is significant. Crossing Midnight is full of significance, though it’s not entirely clear what any of it means. The prayer is taken by Aratsu, master of the swords, as a promise. The younger Toshi is born with an invulnerability to blades, to all points that would cut and impale a normal person. Or maybe she wasn’t born with it. That could get in the way of cutting the umbilical cord and receiving inoculations against deadly diseases. Her parents would have to notice something when needles bent and broke against her skin. Perhaps, like this series, it’s more complicated than that.

Stare into silence

Kai has a power as well. It’s never clearly stated that he does, but with the way Aratsu’s blades refuse to attack him and the other strange things that happen around him, Kai has to have some supernatural ability. Telekinesis perhaps, or something like it. He might be able to command objects as Aratsu does, but only on a subconscious level. I wish Carey had made it plain. Five issues are collected here, and after all that I can’t say for certain that Kai has a power. He must, but no one mentions it, even the godlike beings who know so much more of what’s happening than this humble reader. I don’t know how the Hara twins and their friend Saburo found a gateway into another world, why Saburo was trapped on the other side, or what any of these kami are up to.

I trust Carey to have a story worth telling, and admire the amount of research he clearly put into this, but I don’t think I want to see the rest. It’s creepy and mysterious; the most memorable moments were the most disturbing, like when Aratsu used his many blades julienne some unfortunate victim, and there wasn’t enough plot to hook me without moments I want to experience again. Lots of little plot – subplots and the beginnings of a story – but too ephemeral. If you like horror and have a decent amount of patience, you might get more enjoyment out of it.


Static – The more I think about it, the less I like this series. It’s good at being shallow entertainment, but its attempts at depth are mixed.
Wonder Woman – So, so glad Aaron Lopresti left Ms. Marvel to draw this. It doesn’t get much better than this for writer/artist pairings.
Death Defying ‘Devil – Ugly and boring.
Voodoo – As much as I dislike heroes overcoming insurmountable odds just because, the more believable course of beating a god by letting another god do it for you doesn’t endear me to the so-called hero.
Static – Final issue of yet another forgettable crossover.
Crossing Midnight – I’m sure it’s going somewhere, but I can’t tell where and don’t much care.

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