Sunday, January 15, 2017

On the Shelf: A new age Nancy Drew and other things

One of the best things about Free Comic Book Day last May was my first exposure to Hope Larsen's teen sleuth, Goldie Vance. Already, comparisons have been made between Goldie, a 16 year old African American, and Nancy Drew, who will be on comic shelves in March via Dynamite Entertainment.

The first four issues of Goldie Vance have been collected by Boom! Studios in a sweet little trade paperback that does capture the essence of the Drew classics credited to "Carolyn Keene", with an urban spin, aided by a healthy dose of Disney. How, you might ask?

Goldie and her father work at a Miami hotel, where Goldie aspires to become the house detective when she gets older. The artistic style is a blend of DC's Batman Adventures of the 90's and Disney's Proud Family, among other influences. The hotel setting suggests The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, but without the twins. Goldie's first adventure follows all the predictable tropes of amateur teen sleuths, plus a willingness by Goldie to go against the law to find pertinent clues. Older fans will think it's a more saccharine, watered down, juvenile clone of 70's sleuths John Shaft and Christie Love, but it really isn't. It's safe and family friendly.

Rating: A.

On the other hand, former Marvel executive Bill (Pa) Jemas is back with a new company, DoubleTake. A collected miniseries, Soul, happened to pop up the other day, and the local shop owner was giving copies away, if but because the publisher dropped off a bundle for a test run. I couldn't wrap my head around the plot. Not enough dialogue, not enough real story. It may have carried a $10 cover price, but it'll be in the remainder bins very shortly if there are copies left.

Rating: D.

Ever since the Crisis on Infinite Earths rewrote the rules for comics writing in the 80's, DC has repeatedly rebooted Justice League of America, due in part to the perception that there is still a hysterical market for first issues, and a generation of executives who just don't have clue one.

When the series was relaunched in 1987, it was known simply as Justice League, and turned into a modern day festival of camp craziness mixed with adventure, courtesy of writers Keith Giffen & J. Marc DeMatteis (currently on Scooby Apocalypse). Eventually, a spinoff series, Justice League Europe, led to the parent book being rechristened, Justice League America, leaving "of" off the title.

When DC launched the infamous New 52 in 2011, having learned nothing, they stuck with Justice League, then added Justice League of America as a spin-off title, not once, but twice. The 2nd time around, the book was entrusted to writer-artist Bryan Hitch, whose penchant for being deadline-challenged left the series at a glacial pace.

And so it is that after Rebirth and a new Justice League #1, Justice League of America is spun off again, and returns in February, preceded by a series of 1-shot specials featuring the Atom, the Ray, and Vixen, among others.

On an impulse buy, I picked up Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth the other day, having seen both seasons of the animated Vixen on CW Seed. Bear in mind that this would actually be the first first issue of a Vixen comic book to see the light of day. Mari McCabe, aka Vixen, was originally meant to be introduced as part of the infamous DC Explosion in 1978, but her book never came out, and subsequently was issued as part of something called Cancelled Comics Cavalcade (good luck finding that). In current DC continuity, Mari is a supermodel-turned-social worker who goes through a bit of personal introspection to get her careers back on track. Nothing like the cartoons, which is a good thing, because if they tried to adapt the animated series, there would be some comparisons to how Marvel is using Black Panther these days. The artwork, however, looks a little too busy for my tastes.

Rating: B--.

In the post-Crisis era, DC gave three of Charlton's best known heroes their own books. Of these, Blue Beetle, written by Len Wein, had the shortest run, and presented a more serious Beetle than the one appearing at the time in Justice League. Denny O'Neil & Denys Cowan were given The Question, which gave O'Neil a bully pulpit for his interest in martial arts and Zen. Veteran writer Cary Bates, best known for his work on The Flash & Superman in the pre-Crisis era, teamed with co-author Greg Weisman and artist Pat Broderick to completely reboot Captain Atom, where we were introduced to General Wade Eiling before he became a totally corrupt military wackjob.

Nathaniel Adam's story is retold by Bates & Weisman in the new miniseries, The Rise & Fall of Captain Atom, nearly 30 years after DC's launch of the series. There's some backstory that will be covered beginning in issue 2, but if you're familiar with the series during its run in the late 80's-early 90's, you may be ahead of the game. There is a reason Captain Atom has that metallic blue bodysuit instead of the standard costume that Steve Ditko gave him, and I think that origin will be revisited next month. Me? I'll wait for the trade paperback.

Rating: Incomplete.

Oh, by the way, Weisman went on to a successful career in television animation, with credits including Gargoyles & Young Justice, that has made him more of a fan favorite than when he was at DC.

Scooby Apocalypse artist Howard (Pret-a-) Porter has been pulled away from the series to work on a crossover project involving The Flash, so Ron Wagner and Bill Reinhold are filling in beginning with issue 9 (out now). Dale Eaglesham drew the back-up feature, and wait until you see what Giffen & DeMatteis have done to Scrappy-Doo. Bigger, meaner, but still a smart cookie with some compassion. His story will finally move to the front in short order.

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