"Dead Man's Hand"
Writing: Giffen and De Matteis
Art: Maguire and Rubinstein
The introduction of antagonist Roulette takes things up a notch for the laughable team, as she spirits them away to the first interesting Fight Club parody in years.
Every series has to have a star. Captain Atom is, as ever, the ultimate straight man. (Should I be ashamed of actually liking his overly ornate costume from the first issue?) His co-stars last time included Guy (sometimes), the Booster and Beetle road show, Martian Manhunter (eventually) and especially Batman (is there any doubt where Morrison got his inspiration for the uber-competent JLA Batman?). This time, the central spotlight fastens most often on League newcomer Mary Marvel. She's turning out to be the fizz in this well-aged bottle of champagne, and this issue shows us why.
Roulette is a poor woman's Arcade, but she gets the job done. Ralph is ridiculously self-involved (thank God Sue got the common sense in that family), Booster and Beetle aren't quite the goofs they used to be, and Fire finds the innocent Mary (a teen in a woman's body) a trying companion. It wouldn't be so funny if Roulette's operation didn't include some variant of mind control, which keeps her captors eerily docile … mostly.
If anybody's got character problems this issue, actually, it's Maxwell Lord. From the name of his new team ("Superbuddies") to just about every other plan and "insight" he has, it's balefully clear why he keeps losing all his money. The greedy poor businessman is a bit of a tired stereotype, but his supporting players deflect attention from his deficits ably.
And none of it would work so well without the excellent comic timing of Kevin Maguire. Maguire is a unique artist: his style is nothing short of realistic, so he doesn't entertain by goofy exaggerations. Instead, his layouts and facial expressions deliver the jokes visually. Through careful pacing he subtly steps back and gives the characters room to make their inevitable mistakes.
And what a bonus that he's doing the covers, too. Without reading the story, you're not sure why Mary Marvel's gone all Savage She-Hulk on Cap Atom, or what the female thumbs down on the monitor might mean, but you know you're in for a show. The brutal battle inside, when it comes, doesn't disappoint. As the pitiful excuse for an infomercial (drawn in winning SuperFriends® style by Maguire) says in the intro, "not quite Supergirl, but close!"
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!