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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 8/6/8

A triple dose of Young Justice, the latest issue of Fables, old Suicide Squad, and another Starman trade.

Employee’s Pick

Young Justice 25

[DC] Young Justice #20-25
Writers: Peter David (issues 20-21, 23-25), Jay Faerber (issue 22), Todd Dezago (issue 22), Chuck Dixon (issue 22), Brian K. Vaughan (issue 22)
Pencilers: Todd Nauck (issues 20-23 & 25), Sunny Lee (issue 21), Coy Turnbull (issue 22), Patrick Zircher (issue 22), Scott Kolins (issue 22), Eric Battle (issue 24)

Young Justice decide to take a vacation after the Sins of Youth ordeal. Things stay hectic still. Wonder Girl gets a new costume and Robin finally gets permission from the Bat to show his teammates his face, though he still can’t reveal his real name. Lobo shows up to get revenge on Klarion… bum, bum, bum! The Witch Boy for deaging him. The mysterious Empress appears again, destroying legal files on Cissie King-Jones, aka Arrowette. Now, why would she do that?

girl talk Click to enlarge.

With the team on break, a new Young Justice shows up, consisting of Beast Boy, Flamebird, Captain Marvel Jr., Lagoon Boy, and the Cassie Cain Batgirl. While they fight Li’l Lobo and Klarion – bum bum bum! – The Witch Boy, Cissie tries out for the Olympics.

Issue twenty-two is a medley of stories by different writers and artists. Faerber and Turnbull show Red Tornado deal with a playground dispute in charming fashion. Dezago and Nauck focus on the team’s most naive members, Impulse and Secret, who set about trying to restore Superboy’s powers with ideas from Impulse’s comic collection. Dixon shows why he’s the premier Bat-Family writer, sitting Robin and Nightwing down to talk about Batman and their differing experiences as part of a teen team. Vaughan and Kolins look at Wonder Girl, who’s wondering if this is the right time in her life to play the part of hero. Vaughan’s one of several writers I’d like to see handling Wonder Girl, none of whom have done so in recent years.

Empress 1

Peter David and, without explanation, Superboy’s powers return (sort of) in issue twenty-three as Young Justice goes to Australia for the Summer Olympics. There they run into the Republic of Zandia, an entire nation full of supervillains competing in the games. They aren’t playing fair, of course, and an injury to a member of the US Archery Team gets Cissie in trouble until evidence can be gathered on the true culprit.

The archery competition gets underway with more cheating, this time more fortuitous. Empress’ identity is leaked, and we learn Red Tornado’s adopted daughter Traya is an intellectual prodigy. Then Doiby Dickles returns to take Young Justice on a space adventure.

New-Type Books

Fables 74

[DC] Fables #74
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciler: Mark Buckingham

Part two of the three-part War & Pieces, and the promised action is here. Sort of. The air battle is over quickly, another gambit is nonviolent, and the bulk of the ground battle is saved for the conclusion. The best part is the first page, a sad look at the Adversary, who finds himself on the losing side of the war for once. Whether that’ll last remains to be seen; the final page promises part three will be when things stop going right for our heroic fables. They seem likely to wind up ahead overall after the triumphs of these past two issues, but things could yet turn tragic.

Back Issues

Hrm. I’ve run out of new comics. Caught up on Fables, and none of the four DC books I buy come out next week. Unfortunate, that.

YJ 80-Page Giant

[DC] Young Justice 80-Page Giant
Writers: Peter David, Beau Smith, Jay Faerber, Chuck Dixon, Lary Stucker, Peter Tomasi
Pencilers: Justiniano, Sergio Cariello, Tommy Lee Edwards, Ryan Sook, Keron Grant, Dietrich Smith

The genie from JLA: World Without Grown-Ups returns, having hidden inside the Red Tornado’s android body. He plunges Young Justice into a series of waking dreams, using their imaginations to fuel his power. The Totally O.K. Corral has the team playing the part of old west stereotypes. Impulse and Wonder Girl do noir in My Gun is (Super) Quick. Then it’s off to 20’s-style Horror-Movieland for Nosferatu To You Too. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em… Robot? is a vaguely manga-style fight against giant robots, and the weakest of the lot. Our Justice at War is just what you’d expect, a World War II story complete with Nazis. All these stories give the genie immense power, which he means to use to reshape the world, wiping out humanity in the process. Ah, plans. The best of the stories are only decent, but it’s worth a read for YJ fans who can find it cheap.

Suicide Squad 3

[DC] Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #3

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciler: Luke McDonnell

Ah, the Female Furies. Wonderfully, embarrassingly, unbelievably lame. Lashina, in her bizarre S&M gear. Stompa, who… stomps. Bernadette, with the power of being old! And Mad Harriet, who looks and acts like the lovechild of The Joker and Kalibak. Ostrander gets good mileage out of them, focusing on how formidable they are as opponents, but it’s impossible to ignore the godawful names and costumes. If you gave them makeovers, so to speak, leaving the basic concepts intact but changing everything on the surface, they’d be perfectly good characters, made of treachery and hate.

The Wall

Amanda Waller’s not above treachery herself, as she shows this issue. Whatever it takes to see the mission through, she’ll do it, including the painful erasure of an ex-member’s memories of Suicide Squad. She might need to step it up; the less heroic members of the team aren’t ready to fall in line when they don’t have to. Someone needs to encourage them.

Secret/Deadboy

[DC] Sins of Youth: The Secret/Deadboy
Writer: Todd Dezago
Penciler: Michael Avon Oeming

One of eight one-shots focusing on heroes affected by the age mix-up caused by Klarion… bum bum BUM… The Witch Boy! Here we have adult Secret and kid Deadman following in Klarion – bum bum bum – The Witch Boy’s wake, tracking him and his feline familiar, Teekl. Oeming goes for over the top wackiness, Looney Tunes meets Picasso. Not a pretty sight, and the writing’s little better. Secret suddenly has claustrophobia, which just as suddenly stops being a problem after this, Deadman forgets his experience with the loss of his age, and Klarion, bumbumbum, the witch boy is as witty as a four-year-old, with lines like "Give up, you wusses! You are never gonna beat me!" That’s all more or less believable in context, but it’s not terribly interesting.

Trade

[DC] Starman Vol. 5: Times Past
Writer: James Robinson
Pencilers: Phil Jimenez & Lee Weeks (Starman: Secret Files & Origins #1), Teddy H. Kristiansen (Starman #6), Matt Smith (Starman #11), John Watkiss (Starman #18), Craig Hamilton (Starman #28, Starman Annual #1), Bert Blevins & J.H. Williams (Starman Annual #1)

It seems I’ve managed to read these out of order. That’s what I get for trusting Wikipedia. Not that they’re the only ones passing around misinformation. Technically, this is the fourth volume in the series of trade paperbacks, and a cursory examination would lead anyone to believe that it should be read before the official fifth volume. After all, the latest regular issue here is #28, while volume "five" starts with #29. Considering the theme of this volume – stories set in the past, before Jack Knight became Starman – you wouldn’t think it would matter when you read it. But Secret Files changes everything. That issue came out after the last of those collected in volume "five," but because it fits vaguely with the Times Past theme, it’s included in volume "four." And there’s a major spoiler. Something you’d never guess if the trades are your introduction to Starman, a subplot that suddenly leaps ahead without warning. I’m sure it’s properly developed in the pages of volume "five," and the issues collected therein, which were all published before this trade, but this is the most glaring example of how poorly planned the original run of Starman collections was. Several issues were skipped, some collected here, some never collected at all. DC is doing it over right, now, rereleasing the series in hardcover with no skipped issues. That’s probably your best bet for collecting the series if you haven’t already. I can’t recommend the trades as a whole.

Fortunately, I’d been spoiled before I read this, or else I’d have an extremely low opinion of it for that reason alone. Secret Files presents the first story, getting the spoiler front and center. It’s on the redundant side, and a bit forced, a look back on Ted and Jack’s history as father and son and Ted’s days as Starman, spurred on by two people asking them separately to talk about the other. It’s good for what it is, an introduction to the characters and a way for longtime readers to learn more.

Then there’s one of The Shade’s journal entries. There are three such included, unique, if I’m not mistaken, to this volume. Whether they’ll be included in the hardcovers as well, I can’t say. They’d do well to leave the third out, as it repeats the spoiler from Secret Files. Save that one for the third hardcover. It’s worth putting them in where appropriate, though; they’re good reading. The second story is Shade’s, a visit with Oscar Wilde in the nineteenth century, and a violent intervention in sordid affairs. It’s the most brutal I’ve seen him, and more than his actions, his lack of guilt serves to reinforce that the character doesn’t adhere to established tenets of good or evil. He isn’t amoral or psychotic, but he does delight in dancing around the line, crossing back and forth, unwilling to linger on either side.

Oscar Wilde

The third story’s the most forgettable. It’s a good story… It was a good story, the first time Robinson told it. It’s the story of how Ted Knight and his fellow heroes fought the original Ragdoll and, in the end, felt they had no choice but to kill him. The details were glossed over before, but the story was the same. Filling in the blanks now adds little, and the art, by Matt Smith, is dreadful. With Tony Harris absent aside from covers, we get a mixed bag of artists with varying styles and levels of skill. Most are competent, half are good, and then there’s Smith.

Watkiss fares little better in recounting Starman’s first encounter with his archnemesis, The Mist. It’s also less than essential reading, as parts of this story were already told in issues set in the present. That’s an ongoing theme. The writing’s fine, but the stories aren’t that important to Jack and the regular series’ continuity. There are little tidbits that’ll be important, details, and stories that are good despite their lack of importance. But you shouldn’t read this before the "fifth" volume, Infernal Devices, and you needn’t read it all to follow the main storyline.

Mikaal Tomas, the 70’s Starman, is featured in the fifth story, full of cocaine and stream of consciousness narration. We learn that he’s one of two survivors from his alien race, and the other is dying. Mikaal struggles to choose between running away to drugs and dealing with reality, such as it is. Then we leap ahead to the distant future to hear more stories from the past. One about Prince Gavyn, who becomes king and has to face off against an encroaching anti-matter wall to save his planet. The other about Officer Billy O’Dare and how he met and befriended Ted Knight. Gavyn’s is the best of the volume, simple and sketched though it is. Like the first telling of the Ragdoll tale, there aren’t many details and it’s stronger for it. Or maybe it’s not. What’s here is good, though, and adding more wouldn’t necessarily improve it.

Truncation

Young Justice – Delightful as ever, though more scattered than usual.
Fables – Average for this book, which is above average for a comic.
Young Justice 80-Page Giant – Six stories. Five mediocre, one bad. Readable, but nothing special.
Suicide Squad – Better than it should be.
Secret/Deadboy – Ugly art, so-so writing.
Starman – The weakest trade yet. Still worth reading, but it’s best to save it till later.


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