Saturday, June 20, 2015

On The Shelf: Girl power to the Nth power

Marvel Comics recently ended their Spider-Gwen series after 5 issues due to Secret Wars more than anything else, as the Gwen Stacy of an alternate universe appears in Spider-Verse (2nd series), which will run until the current Secret Wars ends in October. Beyond that, who knows?

Meanwhile, DC decided to copy the hero-is-a-rocker theme with the latest Black Canary series. Seriously. Dinah Lance has torn her trademark fishnet stockings to pass herself off as a rock chick, and is fronting a band called---wait for it---Black Canary. Seems one of the other band members has some mystical powers, and now Dinah has to protect the band from some demons. Uh-oh. The torn hose look is so 25 years ago, though. After thinking this over for 2 days after reading the first issue, well, I don't see this going very far. I give them less than a year before pulling the plug.

Rating: C-.

35 years ago, George Perez and Marv Wolfman reinvented the Teen Titans, introducing three new characters to join founding members Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), and Kid Flash (Wally West), plus ex-Doom Patrol member-turned-actor Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy, or, when New Teen Titans started, Changeling. Today, two of those newbies now have their own books.

Cyborg was promoted, for lack of a better term, to the Justice League 4 years ago, and his solo series launches next month. Meantime, Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran, aka Starfire, has relocated to Key West, Florida for her new series, which debuted 10 days ago. The husband & wife team of Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Connor, who also chronicle Harley Quinn's two books (yes, she now has a 2nd title, she's so hot with readers), have been tasked with rebooting Starfire as a, well, fish out of water. Only now is she learning about life on earth, after being here for 35 years? Her costume's been remade in the image of her cartoon attire, covering up her cleavage, which should work pretty well in the Bible Belt states. I digress. What the Palmiottis are trying to do is use the vibe created by Mork & Mindy nearly 40 years ago, and ramp it up to the nth power, if at all possible.

I should note that, back in the day, Perez drew Kori with golden skin, which now has been recolored orange, to match her hair, and that, oh, by the way, isn't quite as long as it used to be. The jury's out on this one, so there's no rating for the time being.

The late Joe Simon returned to DC in 1972, and, with artist Jerry Grandinetti, created Prez, which suggested that it was possible that a teenager could become president. 43 years later, the concept has been revived as a political and social satire, but the titular chief executive this time is a girl. It's not that DC is foreseeing a certain carpetbagger becoming President next year (not gonna happen), but the new Prez, a 12-issue maxiseries, is set 21 years into the future. No age limits for voting, and you can vote via social media? Well, the latter seems more likely to actually happen down the road, but relaxing age restrictions? Not so much. I'm actually digging this, as there some legit laugh-out-loud moments in the opener. Think back to Howard Chaykin's similarly themed American Flagg! from the 80's, but without the sexual innuendos mixed into the satire, and, you've got Prez.

Rating: A-.

Back to Black Canary. Earlier this year, award winning writer-producer Paul Dini wrote a graphic novel for DC that paired Dinah with that other fishnet-clad heroine, Zatanna (a personal favorite of Dini's, since he's married to a magician, Misty Lee). Now, Bloodspell is available in trade paperback for almost $10 less than the hardcover original edition. Artist Joe Quinones, currently working on Howard the Duck for Marvel, made Dinah look about 10 years older than she should be. Our Gals pair up to take on the ghost of an evil magician who has a habit of possessing other people's bodies. Yeah, that's been done in the movies ("Fallen" comes to mind), and while Quinones is trying to capture the DC Animated style perfected by Bruce Timm nearly 25 years ago, he comes up a wee bit short, like he expects the male readers to be more interested in Dinah & Zatanna's legs than their faces. Meh, please. Dini delivers a fairly good story, so we'll let that lone quibble pass.

Rating: B+.

Taking another trip into the Convergence family of miniseries, we find out how even villains can have compassion. Brian Buccellato wrote Crime Syndicate, showcasing the evil dopplegangers of the JLA from Earth-3, who take stock with their own mortality when faced with extermination. Phil Winslade's art is always nice to look at, though it seems a little restrained this time. The Justice Legion Alpha from the 853rd century appear to represent other planets. For example, the Aquaman of this era is a green-skinned native of Neptune. Wonder Woman hails from Venus. Products of Grant Morrison's fevered imagination, of course. Decent stuff, but it drags.

Rating: B--.

For some male-centric humor, I wouldn't recommend either of the miniseries DC has introduced. Bat-Mite, written by Dan Jurgens, has the 5th dimensional imp exiled to Earth, where he'll encounter various heroes, including Batman & Hawkman in the first issue. Not on board with the storyline, not enough laughs. Bizarro is saddled with an artistic look that suggests that it's actually aiming for the Teen Titans Go! audience, and even they don't deserve that.

Bat-Mite gets a C--. Bizarro merits a D. Both are six issues. You might want to wait for the trade paperbacks. Seems DC wants to posit Bat-Mite as their answer to Howard the Duck, and it fails.

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