It’s not easy reading comics and watching World Cup soccer games at the same time on a sunny, summer Saturday afternoon, especially during the Knockout Stage where the intensity level brims well over the cup, but when the comics are good there’s no contest. I’ll get back to the guys running back and forth on those big green lawns later.
The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1. August, 2006. DC Comics. (By Paul DeMeo, Danny Bilson, and Ken Lashley) Superboy: Once cheerful, carefree, now dead. Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle: Once jovial, lighthearted: now dead. Bart Allen: formerly Impulse, formerly Kid Flash, once upbeat and untroubled, now heavyhearted, depressed, and at the end of Flash #1 possibly on the verge of death. And the fun just keeps on coming! Oh, don’t mind me, I thought the book was just fine. It had everything that a Flash comic read on the first day of summer should have: character establishment, Flash history, human drama, villainous melodrama, mystery, lots of lightning bolts, and some cool speed scenes. I love the destruction Bart does to his bedroom during a bad dream. The new supporting characters have a lot of potential, and it’s always nice to see the Golden Age Flash. Even Barry Allen fans are going to be pleased. The writer and artist of this book are not familiar to me, but I thought they did a good job. There are traces of Howard Porter and Greg LaRocque in the artwork, which lends it some continuity with previous Flash renditions. I was happy after the first read, which is more than I could say for Wonder Woman #1 the first time around. A-
Speaking of Wonder Woman #1?
Wonder Woman #1. August, 2006. DC Comics. (By Allan Heinberg, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson) It took three reads to warm up to this comic. The first time around I thought, “Eh.” The second time around I thought, “Not so bad.” The third time around was the charm. It got better the more I read it. Basically, it has all the qualities Flash #1 has, but Flash #1 took its time unfolding, while Wonder Woman seemed to flash by (you’ll read it in three to four minutes). Once I got into the pace of the action, though, everything clicked. The story builds off of established Wonder Woman history with a few alterations and new twists along the way. There are plenty of full-page illustrations to “wow” things up and maybe distract you from the fact that the entire story takes place over the course of a half hour. There’s also a clever nod to the Diana Prince, powerless-Wonder Woman days of the late ’60s, early ’70s, but I wonder how many long-time Wonder Woman fans are left to read into it? B+
Blood of the Demon. DC Comics. (By John Byrne, Will Pfeifer, and Dan Green) No one’s talking about saving this comic. The first of the ‘One Year Later’ books to fall. I got the feeling it just wanted to play in its own corner of the DC universe, sales be damned, and enjoy its time before the ax inevitably fell. The book had its moments. I appreciated its connections to Kirby’s original series (which would make a spellbinding Archives or Absolute edition). Byrne succeeded in conveying an ugly, macabre intensity and look to the Demon and his foes. I’d stay clear of them. But sales were lousy, and dragging it into the ‘One Year Later’ jumpstart didn’t help. And so next month I’ll be free of my Demon! B (the entire run)
Byrne has left his artistic mark on several Kirby creations over the years. Fantastic Four, New Gods, OMAC, The Demon. Time to flip a coin, John! Kamandi?or the Dingbats of Danger Street?
Take a look at this 1942 Superman cover by Jack Burnley. Isn’t it great? The family car probably broke down on the way to a picnic, and the Man of Steel, in-between battles with Luthor, Nazis, and gangsters, saw the family’s plight and swooped down to lend a couple of powerful hands, smiling all the way. Everybody’s going to have a great day after all. Even the dog is ecstatic! What a simple, thrilling Golden Age of comics moment. Hey, did you know that the Superman on this cover was brutally beaten to death by an evil Superboy earlier this year in a comic book? Yeah, that’s right it sucks.
But I’m not going to end this week’s column on a downbeat. All-Star Superman #4 (DC, July, 2006), by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant, was funtastic, possibly the best Jimmy Olsen tale ever told, I don’t know, there’s not a lot of competition. One thing I know for certain. Without all those goofy Jimmy Olsen stories of yesteryear, of which there are legion (throw in a few Superman tales for good measure), “The Superman/Olsen War!” could never have happened. Morrison and Quitely have made all that Silver Age goofiness worthwhile. The story is that good, It’s even good if you’ve never read a Jimmy Olsen story before! A+ (and that goes for all the re-readings, too)