Wednesday, February 23, 2022

On The Shelf: Case studies of old friends reborn

 We're going to do things a wee bit differently this time.

See, as time passes, the heroes of times past are rebooted for new generations of readers, and the original ideas don't always travel well into the new generation.

Take, for example, The Peacemaker.

Created initially by Joe Gill & Pat Boyette for Charlton Comics in 1966 as a backup feature to The Fightin' 5, the Peacemaker was among those acquired by DC Comics 20 years or so later, and the transition has not been smooth.

In 1987, the first attempt at establishing the character into the DC Universe saw his origin rebooted as Christopher Smith being the son of a dead Nazi soldier. Predictably, that didn't work. Sure, Peacemaker has been associated with some form of The Suicide Squad on and off since then, including the current series, which ends in May. The basic idea has been that Smith loved peace so much, he'd kill to achieve it.

In conjunction with the just-concluded 1st season of HBO Max's Peacemaker, DC issued a 1-shot special, Peacemaker: Disturbing The Peace, written by British writer Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher, Hitman), which recasts Smith as having been adopted by robbers as a youth when he was found in a stolen car they used for a getaway. As Smith tells his story to a psychologist in the open air of a park, you wonder if these are real memories or programmed into his system. Anyone that's been reading Suicide Squad knows that Smith is reluctantly a part of the current team under the even more corrupt than ever Amanda Waller, and implanting false memories is something she'd sanction. Ennis leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Not good.

Rating: C.
When Pantha was introduced at Warren in the 70's, she was, and still is, a were-panther, but today's version, again, is not the same.

Back at Warren, Pantha was, like Vampirella, from the planet Drakulon. Today, Dynamite has rebooted Pantha as the reincarnation of an Egyptian Princess cursed with the shape-changing abilities she has. Something about angering the gods.

The funny thing is, there is little, if any, mention of the original series online. Same with Peacemaker. Now, Pantha has no ties to Vampi, which is bad news, and her current book isn't exactly choice reading material. While Dynamite is pimping out Vampi and Red Sonja like there's no tomorrow (ya don't believe me? Check the racks), Pantha is completely unrecognizable to older readers.

Rating: C.
50 years ago, Marvel introduced Ghost Rider in the pages of Marvel Spotlight. Not to be confused with a Western hero of the same name that the company had acquired a few years prior, this was the story of a stunt rider who gave up his soul to save his girl. There have been others bearing the "curse" of Ghost Rider since then, but the original brimstone biker, Johnny Blaze, is back.

Last seen as a lord of hell, the new Ghost Rider, just out, brings Johnny back to earth, caught in a bizarre delusion where nothing is what it seems. He's married his lady love, Roxanne Simpson, has two kids, but it's not real, as Johnny soon discovers.

Benjamin Percy, who came over from DC last year, is at the helm for this series. From an artistic standpoint, they're trying to recapture the vibe of the 90's series, which created a new Rider for the era. Turning Johnny into an alcoholic who's in therapy? Not my cup of tea. Some things are better left alone.

Rating: B--.
We mentioned earlier that Suicide Squad's current run is ending in May with issue 15. So is Teen Titans Academy, also with #15. That book went off the rails with an antichrist story arc. Rest assured, both series will return down the line, because that's how these things work these days.

A solicitation for an issue of DC Vs. Vampires suggested that Jayna, the surviving Wonder Twin after Zan was killed in issue 1 of this non-continuity series, would go on a vengeance hunt. Seems James Tynion IV & Matt Rosenberg changed their minds, and now it is Damian Wayne who becomes a vampire hunter in a 1-shot tie-in special in May. Apparently, these two mooks ain't exactly fans of the Twins, unlike Brian Bendis & Mark Russell. Something tells me it has something to do with the end of the current Justice League series in April.

Current League scribe Josh Williamson is also responsible for Jurassic League, out in May, which posits dinosaurs in the iconic costumes of Batman, Wonder Woman, & Superman. The crazy ideas being green lit these days would suggest there's something in the water at DC.
I was at Walmart the other week, and picked up one of those four packs of DC books. I wish I hadn't.

The first issue of Task Force Z was at the front. Ya might as well say it's Red Hood (Jason Todd) fronting a zombie Suicide Squad without answering to Amanda Waller. Kinda behind the curve, aren't we? Marvel was doing this a while ago, and DC's only now trying to catch up. Spare me.
If you're like me, and you've been waiting for the conclusions of Batman '89 and Suicide Squad: Get Joker, both have been pushed back to mid-April, partially due to supply chain issues. Another reason to hate those Canadian faux patriots protesting because of "losing freedom" due to COVID vaccines. Batman-Catwoman apparently is now bi-monthly, with the next issue set for April, meaning issue 12, the finale, would be in June. Writer Tom King is taking some obscure heroes and throwing them to Danger Street in a bi-monthly series out in May. Caveat emptor, since this is a Black Label line book, marked for a $7 cover price.

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