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From Box Four 12/19/07
brought to you by Illusive Comics and Games of Santa Clara

Looking over my stack of books last week, it became obvious that I'm long overdue to crash in crossover fatigue. Yet still some of the reading has been extremely satisfying - mostly when the crossover in question is background, not imperative to the story.

At first, Booster Gold #5 shot to the top of the stack - then I had to think about it. Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz have repositioned Booster as DC's continuity cop, but they're not revisiting old stories in quite the way you would think. Last issue, they offered up a really intriguing idea, that the things we've accepted as in continuity may be the flaws undoing the very fabric of the multiverse.

So Booster spends most of this issue trying to undo the paralyzation of Barbara Gordon at the hand of The Joker. Aside from taking several beatings from The Joker - either proving that Booster has a lot to learn about fighting or that The Joker is just insanely bad-ass - Booster shows his desperate determination to do the right thing no matter what personal cost.

As characterization, it's admirable. As sweeping action, it's a fun ride. And then you realize that the "lesson" Rip Hunter teaches Booster actually contradicts the premise of the series so far. At least the villains come into clearer focus. Time travel always has its tricky edges, and Booster Gold keeps falling on them. But if you ignore that, the book continues to be a breezy read. Ignore the ramifications and hope against hope that somehow it won't butt up against The Final Crisis.

Fat chance.

What unexpectedly ran into Countdown was Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #3. Last week in the podcast I defended the book, glad that writer Bill Morrison had taken steps to right the wrongs established in Teen Titans. Then suddenly this issue shifts gears and abruptly lurches toward a cross-over.

Here's a hint of how drastic the change is - creator Scott Shaw! relinquishes the last four pages to Phil Winslade. In some ways it's bringing Captain Carrot full circle, but it's jarring, ridiculously inconclusive and no doubt alienating any adult picking up this cute funny animal book for their kids this Christmas. Sigh. Maybe their time has passed - just like Bird Rental's career.

Keith Champagne's should be on the ascendancy, as Countdown Arena #2 proves the guy can take an obvious "it's going to happen no matter who writes it" job and give it a little spin and sparkle. Given a little more freedom in the DCU, the guy may really make things fly.

Witness a Nazi Earth Ray - or better, just listen to the way he talks. It's a great streetpunk Nazi propaganda argot that makes this Earth seem like more than a throwaway, even though I fear events elsewhere in Countdown will just throw it away.

And even though some plot points got determined by fan voting, Champagne manages to spin new points off of them that should reverberate a while. Coupled with Scott McDaniel working at the top of his game, and Countdown Arena feels like the best of the spin-offs. That's not faint praise - it's a lot more fun than The Search For Ray Palmer or Aftermath books have been.

In fact, it reads a lot better than Countdown To Final Crisis #20, though that might not be saying much. This book has been all over the place, and not just because of its wide cast of characters. Very little moves forward this issue, with more attention being placed on things like Val and Luornu's possible unspoken attraction to each other than things like the OMACs they've unleashed.

Granted, 52 focused on the inner lives of the characters, and everybody liked that. But characterizations were actually developing; here they're slave to the plot. For old-timers, there's not only nothing between Val and Luornu - it just doesn't occur to us.

Then it's saddled with Howard Porter art, in which Turtle Boy Jimmy Olsen unmasks Forager to realize she's "…weirdly pretty." Jimmy, Jimmy, that's Porter pretty, which is to say that you can tell us all you like; we're not going to believe it.

Thank heavens for Fables #68. In some ways, I can hardly wait for this series to end so that I can go back and truly appreciate all the groundwork carefully laid by Bill Williingham and blithely ignored by readers. Every step of the way, Willingham delivers the unexpected, from the revelation of the Adversary to last year's horrific retelling of Snow White.

Now he has repurposed Flycatcher Ambrose, aka The Frog Prince, as the Christ figure of the Homelands. If you haven't read Fables, then you don't get what a tremendous feat of storytelling this is. Start from the beginning and bear in mind that no character is what he seems. Except maybe for Shere Khan - that tiger is a bastard from start to finish. Having said that, now Willingham will prove me wrong.

My stack ended with Green Lantern #25, the finale of "The Sinestro Corps War." The artwork has been nothing short of spectacular, done here by Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver. The action has been almost exhausting in its exhilaration, and within the confines of a title, it feels like something of real lasting impact has happened.

On the down side, some of it got telegraphed by scheduling, with spoilers revealed by that pesky Countdown. Yet if you could go back and re-read everything in chronological order instead of order of release, it would add up smoothly.

The end promises another huge event, with Geoff Johns having the courtesy to inform us that he will wait until after the smoke has cleared from The Final Crisis. I think that's best; don't you? I've got plenty of stuff to keep me occupied between now and then.

Derek McCaw


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