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The Good, The Bad, and The Winick...

In some ways, Judd Winick's rise to the top of the superhero comic book heap has been surprising and meteoric. A few years ago, most people only vaguely knew him as "…that Real World guy," if at all. Then he chronicled some of those experiences in a brilliant graphic novel Pedro and Me, while working on the hilarious The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius for Oni Press.

When Oni editor Bob Schreck moved over to DC, he thought to bring Winick with him, originally to "create" the comic strip Kyle Rayner was drawing. Instead, Winick took over writing the book. And then Marvel asked him to do Exiles.

Perhaps it's his ability to put a particularly personal stamp on projects, even when the books aren't particularly personal. At least, that would seem to be the case on long-established titles like Green Lantern: New Journey, Old Path and Green Arrow; the former definitely flourished under his stewardship.

Like Geoff Johns, Winick has proven himself prolific when he has to be. Call him DC's utility guy; the company thinks enough of him to sign him to an exclusive contract. (A move that has caused Exiles to falter.)

Why devote this time to him? Because last week saw three DC titles from Winick which prove his versatility, from intensely personal to (perhaps for the first time) company hack.

Don't worry, though. He's still got more wins than losses.

Blood and Water #4
artist: Tomm Coker

I suspect that every creator secretly has his own take on the vampire mythos. Winick has grounded it firmly in the area he knows well: San Francisco. Though not a native, it is here that he came to live in The Real World, and he literally left his heart there, as with his wife Pam, he has become a Bay Area resident.

Pam, too, seems to be a character in this book, disguised as Nicky, a centuries-old vamp initially set up to be the one with all the wisdom. Hinted at in earlier issues, though, is Nicky having made one crucial mistake: ignoring her instincts that screamed not to turn the protagonist Adam.

Why not? The answer, though not the resolution, comes in this issue as Adam and Nicky sort through the death of her partner Joshua. Their grief is palpable and realistically written; for the effectively immortal, death may even be more stunning than it is for the rest of us.

Winick has spent the bulk of this mini-series exploring the vampire lifestyle, keeping the actual plot in the background. Because his characters are so vivid, though, it's not a hindrance. In fact, the inevitable violent confrontation is almost disappointing, because the ride has been so fun so far.

Unlike the popular Rice version of vampirism, these creatures really are noble (save it - I dig Rice, too, but Lestat is an a**hole no matter how you slice him) and extremely human. Their society has been keenly thought out and far more reassuring than in Vertigo's earlier take on the subject Vamps.

Though the gritty and solid Coker is listed as co-creator, this feels like a project extremely close to Winick's heart, and the passion of both men for the form shines through.

Let this be Winick's first movie deal.


Graduation Day
artists: Ale Garza, Trevor Scott and Marlo Alquiza

…and then there's this DC "event" mini-series. Winick might have passion for the characters, else he wouldn't have agreed to spin from this into Outsiders. But getting from point A (the old Titans) to point B is a joyless, almost mindless exercise in sucking an extra $7.50 out of DC's readers.

In fact, it resembles nothing so much as the previous time DC re-launched the Titans, with a JLA/Titans crossover mini-series now called The Technis Imperative.

An unknown enemy appears, perhaps more misunderstood than really evil. Said enemy possesses a character thought to be an ally (then, Cyborg, now, Superman - okay, a Superman robot, but that was meant to be a surprise). At the end, the status quo has changed, but not really, with characters reaffirming their vow of loyalty to their respective teams. Somehow it all gets stretched out over three issues, and the reasons why it all happened are left for a future story in a regular series.

At least Garza is one of the few pencillers working in a pseudo-manga style that still has a classic sensibility. I've got no complaint with the artwork. The fight scenes (the many, many fight scenes) flow smoothly, jumping off the page. Garza has a good storytelling sense.

But Winick's heart just isn't in it; in a lot of ways, this series is an arbitrary shuffling of characters, ready for relaunch starting this week. It's so overt that I read the third issue twice just to make sure: Metamorpho really, really doesn't serve any purpose in this book. But he's there, because dammit, he's an Outsider.

Never mind that you might think that Superman himself might want to show up and stop a rampaging doppelganger he's responsible for building. But noooooooo…

Elsewhere on this site, Troy Benson has kvetched over the fate of Troia/Wonder Girl/Whatever Girl. (Who mourns for Lilith?) But really, Donna Troy's death is an obvious case of having your dramatic cake and eating it, too, because if anybody decides they need her alive again, the stage has been set. At least her revival won't be as forced as some we could name this year, like …Metamorpho.

Having quickly thumbed through Outsiders #1, it's pretty clear that you can skip Graduation Day. With artists Tom Raney and Scott Hanna, Winick manages to sum the whole thing up in one panel.


Green Arrow #27
artists: Phil Hester and Ande Parks

Following runs by Kevin Smith and novelist Brad Meltzer can't be a picnic. But after dipping a toe in by writing a crossover with Green Lantern, Winick has thrown himself into the pages of Green Arrow with vigor. Where Smith and Meltzer were about re-establishing the Emerald Archer in the DC Universe, Winick has the task now of figuring out just what the heck the guy is supposed to do.

So far, so good.

In this initial arc, "Straight Shooter," Winick melds the die-hard liberal with the billionaire lifestyle he started out having. His battles aren't just fought in the streets; corporate evil lives in the boardroom.

And it's a sneaky way to introduce Black Lightning's daughter to continuity - far more smoothly than Metamorpho popping up to say "what's up?" or "thanks for helping me in my last adventure." (I'm still reeling from that horrible moment in Birds of Prey.)

New character Constantin Drakon also appears to be a rare thing: a post-ironic assassin who has a believable reason for being so. Maybe his deprecating tone will wear thin, but so far it makes sense. Perfectly comfortable with who and what he is, Drakon has no patience for those who aren't. This arc just might end with he and Oliver Queen debating, and it might be no less exciting for it.

Helping the book along, of course, is the original art team of Hester and Parks. Their art style isn't particularly detailed or even realistic, but it does what comic book art should do: live.

If Winick has a problem with this book, it's one that has cropped up for Green Arrow all over the place: how to balance the supposed classic love of his life with more than just a reputation as a hound. Such moments are still a little awkward, but the writer deserves the chance to work it out.


Oh, and what the heck. Up above is a link for Kevin Smith's Quiver storyline. Pick up the new Green Arrow: Sounds of Violence, too, if you haven't already.

Derek McCaw


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