Sunday, February 12, 2017

On the Shelf: Of Champions & icons

The latest Batman '66 miniseries from DC stays in-house this time, as Batman & Robin will meet Wonder Woman '77 in the course of a new 6-issue miniseries, co-written by Jeff Parker & Marc Andreyko.

The plot will have the heroes meeting R'as Al Ghul and his daughter, Talia. In a odd contrivance, Bruce Wayne and Alfred spin the tale of how Bruce met Talia when they were kids. Sounds like a knock-off of young Bruce meeting a teenaged Selina Kyle on Gotham to me. There is a Catwoman, this one modeled after Eartha Kitt, the last actress to essay the part on the 1966-8 Batman series. Time travel seems to be looming on the horizon, which suggests to me that the Batman '66 franchise may have just jumped the shark.

As a side note, I suggest getting the variant cover to issue 1, rendered by the inestimable Alex Ross.

Rating: B+.

Marvel, meanwhile, has revived The Champions, this time as their latest attempt to copy the success of DC's Teen Titans. Marvel had to obtain a license from Heroic Publishing, which took over the copyright to the Champions several years ago for role playing games and comics. Anyway, this team features the smartest Hulk there is, Amadeus Cho, plus Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova (not the original), and Viv, the synthezoid daughter of the Vision, introduced in the latter's short-lived series. Viv's also the only one who doesn't have her own series outside of this one. Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos are the creative team, and with Waid's track record, this will hang around for a while. I have never been a big fan of Ramos' manga-inspired art, but it seems to work well here. Of course, Marvel's insistence on pricing everything at $4 is a turnoff.

Rating: B.

As fans of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD know all too well, Marvel is giving the Inhumans a heavy push due to a dispute between the publisher and 20th Century Fox, which holds the rights to the X-Men for movies. In 2015, Uncanny Inhumans was launched as a new vehicle for Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, since the Fantastic Four had been split up. Charles Soule came up with the idea of having Medusa, the Queen of the Inhumans, and an enemy-turned-ally of the FF (she was even a member of the FF at one time), cheat on her husband, Black Bolt, with Johnny (who had dated Medusa's cousin, Crystal, back in the day). So not digging.

Retro rating: C.

There is no question that the pro basketball player that serves as the star of Marvel's Mosaic, is modeled after an amalgam of real-life NBA players, including LeBron James. Geoffrey Thorne had to have James, in particular, in mind. Mosaic can possess people for a while. Not the first Marvel character to do that, but I'm not feeling this one, either.

Rating: C-.

Just for the sake of saying so, I acquired the last three in a package at Walmart. Marvel & DC are both producing 3-packs for the bargain price of $5 per pack. That means that with Marvel, you're saving $7 by buying one of these packages. These packs have been out since the holidays, so get them while you can.

Will Eisner's legendary Spirit returns in a new miniseries from Dynamite, this one written AND illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, and of course that means that Afterlife With Archie will fall further behind schedule, between Francavilla's commitments, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's commitments to Riverdale. Anyway, Francavilla's take on The Spirit has a little Mike Mignola-meets-Gray Morrow influence, not entirely on the Eisner tip. "The Corpse Makers" is worth a look, though.

Rating: B.

Seeing as how he works on a pair of DC Comics shows for CW, Marc "Crazy" Guggenheim, you'd think, would be given a writing gig at DC. Nope. Guggenheim, long regarded for his work at Marvel, returns there in April to write X-Men Gold. Yes, they're splitting the X-Men into multiple teams again. Will they never learn? For what it's worth, X-Men Blue (the colors represent the color scheme used for the team's uniforms since the 70's) is written by Cullen "Hot Cross" Bunn.

Not content with the current event miniseries, Marvel is going full-bore with the revival of Monsters Unleashed, with an ongoing series debuting in April. They've created some heroic monsters for this project, to differentiate it from the black & white anthology series of the 70's.

Now, if only someone could convince the Marbleheads to, you know, lower the cover prices.

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