Box Four 01/07/08
"Why can't you just let it go?"
brought to you by Illusive
Comics and Games of Santa Clara
That's a question my wife asked me when
I told her that Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Season
Eight" was appearing in comic book form. A subtle attempt
to get her to read a comic book, it didn't work, nor did
the promise of an Angel sixth season or even a fourth
season of our beloved Veronica Mars. So why did this
book become one I had to pick up when I'd steadfastly ignored
every other Buffy book?
Obviously, Joss Whedon is all our master
now, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 helps
explain why. After a great side trip to redefine Faith,
the book returns its focus to Buffy and her Big Bad for
the "season." Whedon also takes a step or two in a direction
to reconcile the continuities of his classic television
series and his original future sequel, Fray.
Taking a breather to check in on everybody's
status, Whedon also pits Buffy against a vampires' nest,
which should be a cake walk. Instead, it gets interrupted
by a new player in the game, a masked character that probably
could not have worked on television simply because he looks
like a comic book villain.
As with Dawn's status as a giant, this
new character has all the rhythms and recognizability of
a Whedon character, but plays absolutely to the strengths
of the comic book format. And yet, Whedon writes so smoothly,
understands comics so well, that one scene blurred the line
between media so well I thought I heard musical underscoring.
Georges Jeanty laid it out so well it could have been a
scene from the show.
And that's why I can't let it go.
However, there's a point to be made in
that like many comics fans, I pick up books for the sake
of completion, not always for the sake of enjoyment. Such
was the case that DC counted on with Countdown. After
nine months of mindlessly buying the book and thinking "it
will get better," it sort of actually did.
to Final Crisis #12 kicks free of the multiple Earths
dilemma and places the action almost purely on Apokolips.
The story has streamlined, gaining some focus at the cost
of ignoring a few subplots for a while. They come back into
play for a few pages here, and because Paul Dini and Adam
Beechen have settled on a direction, Karate Kid, Trickster
and Mary Marvel don't feel like distractions. It's all coalescing
over Darkseid's strange game of HeroClix (or maybe Heroscape)
with the Monitor named Solomon.
It's still not a book for the casual reader
to pick up and understand, but finally hardcore fans can
get rid of some of that bitter taste in their mouth and
not regret the extra $12 a month this title has cost us.
The casual reader, though, should enjoy
the heck out of Detective Comics #841. As
most of Paul Dini's stories have been for this title, it's
a stand-alone that combines some faux-detective work
- you can't guess the Gotham City geographical clues - with
some of Batman's more colorful villains. It also hints at
the strange relationship the Dark Knight has with his enemies.
It's not quite affection he has for Jervis Tetch, the Mad
Hatter, but in Dini's hands Batman remembers that he isn't
working for vengeance; he works for the redemption of his
foes. Dustin Nguyen pencils in a style that brings a good
cartoonishness to the proceedings. Though a little bit violent
for younger readers, it's still the kind of book you could
give to a kid 10 and up and share a moment of, yeah, Batman's
Not as cool, however, as Ambrose the Good
Prince. Fables #69 concludes a storyline that
not only held surprises about the man Fabletown once called
Flycatcher, but marks even more of a major turning point
in the book's overall throughline than you could have expected.
A sense of melancholy suffuses the cover and first few pages,
but writer Bill Willingham could never settle for that.
Within one issue, it's a roller coaster ride of emotions,
and if there's any real melancholy to be had here, it's
that it does feel like Willingham must be readying Fables
for a close. After 69 issues, a couple of specials and a
hardcover graphic novel, the guy has not produced a disappointing
Justice Society of America #12
doesn't disappoint, either, but it's not as thrilling as
it has been. Geoff Johns and Alex Ross spend most of the
book introducing a handful of new legacy heroes, also remembering
that Jakeem Thunder was here. It's becoming almost unwieldy,
and bizarre that so many have been operating unknown until
such time as the JSA realized they should be training new
Retconning yet another daughter for Black
Lightning, Johns is developing an almost unwieldy cast of
characters. Though the last one introduced in this issue
has an interesting resonance, he also comes out of left
field in more ways than one. Meanwhile, it would be nice
to see exactly what the plot of this book is.
Full of strong characterization, Justice
Society of America reads well and stays fun. It's just
not quite showing much direction.
And yet J. Michael Stracyznski manages
to juggle his new super team while still moving his plot
forward. The Twelve #2 continues the promise
of the first issue, cleanly continuing its man out of time
theme, commenting on the Marvel Universe's current state
of affairs and deepening the mystery of one of "The Twelve"
being murdered in the as-yet-unseen third act.
Chris Weston provides sharp clean art to
match Straczynski's dense plotting and characterization,
and ultimately, it doesn't matter that a few characters
haven't had the spotlight yet. The Phantom Reporter deserves
to be the break-out character in what I'm already predicting
will be my favorite series this year.