Thursday, August 16, 2007

Snap Judgments:
The Programme, Flash, Terror Inc, Black Canary, JLA, Shadowpact

As always, Snap Judgments gives you Triple-S comic reviews: short, sweet, and spoiler-free.

Promise Fulfilled - The Programme #2

If you're a regular Geekanerd reader, you may remember that last month I was saying The Programme was either a great book or a shitty book, and the verdict would be clear upon reading the second issue. Well the verdict is officially in, and The Programme is officially great. Where the first issue tried to cover a bit too much ground and therefore was a bit of a confusing mess, this issue sticks to two stories whose connection is clear. The result is much more quality time spent with the characters, who by the end are well developed and compelling.

I feel comfortable laying out the basic premise now, which I wasn't confident enough to do last month. While raiding some Soviet laboratories after World War II, American soldiers came across an unborn Commie Übermensch. Now that li'l fetus is all grow'd up in America, but he's been living a normal life for a long time and isn't aware of his origins. His government, however, needs him to combat a mysterious superhuman dubbed the "Talibstan Terror," so they're trying to unlock some of his latent abilities.

Sound interesting to you? Great, pick it up. Don't think it's your cup of tea? Pick it up anyway. The story will grow on you, and this book is honestly worth picking up for the art alone. It's dense, dark, and requires some effort on your part, but it pays off with a stark expressiveness and some alarmingly inventive uses of color.

CP Smith's Haunting Art + Johnny Rench's Brilliant Colors + A Story That's Really Coming Together = A

Reviews for Terror, Inc. #1 and Flash #231, JLA #12, Shadowpact #16, and the wretched Black Canary #4 after the jump...

Finger Rippin' Good, Ya'll - Terror, Inc. #1

Somehow the relaunch of this title had flown under my radar, and when I discovered it on the comic store shelf I let out an inadvertent yelp of glee. I was a big fan of the series in the nineties, and I'm a big fan of David Lapham in the current decade, so for a moment I felt like I was having one of those dreams where you walk into a comic store and see all these awesome comics that don't really exist (I have this dream at least once a year).

If you're not savvy, Terror (that's his name, alright) was cursed by a demon a few thousand years ago and became immortal. The catch is that his body is dead tissue and decays as such, so he needs to continually take limbs from other people (or animals) and attach them to himself in order to keep things fresh. When the body part is attached, he gains any inherent abilities that limb had. For instance, a sharpshooter's eye will make him a great shot. An Olympian sprinter's legs will make him very fast. AHR's head will make him Mexican. You see how this works?

After a lengthy origin story, the scene this Limited (boo!) Series sets is that Terror's hit-for-hire company Terror, Inc. has been tapped by some government types to take out a high-ranking official who has become a liability. Ho hum plot as far as these things go, but his unique approach to problem solving (tearing body parts from people) makes it a fresh read in spite of itself. If a complaint can be made it's that it feels like it's moving a bit too fast, but I suppose when you've only got five issues you've got to get things moving. Here's hoping this goes well so we can get a regular series.

Return of a Fave + Unique Solutions to Old Problems + It's Terror, Inc! = A-

Growing Up Fast - The Flash #231

Now that Impulse is buried and Flash: The Fastest Man Alive is canceled, Wally West can return to the fore in his own book which hasn't seen an issue since the beginning of 2006. Are you a Flash fan? Great! Do you like The Incredibles? I hope so, because if not you're going to be very disappointed with this relaunch.

Wally's kids have grown up amazingly fast (shoulda seen that coming) and now they're out and about in Keystone City with their Pop, saving folk and getting home in time for dinner. The issue's got heart, and a playful take on the character might be the best plan of action after Bart Allen met such a grim end.

Daniel Acuña's art is a unique Photoshop painting style which more often than not is gorgeous, but which sometimes falls prey to some slack character work. The good outweighs the bad here, but it's still unpleasant to see a character's face fall apart between splash pages.

New Playful Direction + Art That's Pretty... - ...but Inconsistent = B

Magic Should Be Fun - Shadowpact #16

I almost didn't pick this up because of the horribly obnoxious cover, but then I remembered the great "Blue Devil is going to sue hell to get his soul back" cliffhanger last month. Unfortunately, that storyline is squelched in two pages; granted it's a very funny two pages, but I was hoping for a several-issue subplot. No dice.

So what are we left with? The Shadowpact crew trying to save Chicago from volcanic ash, a cameo by the female contingent of the Justice League (plus Superman for added value), and an unimpressive fight with Doctor Gotham. Not exactly the rip-roaring magical adventures this book offers on it's better days.

Lackluster plot aside, Bill Willingham is still one of the best writers around, and his entertaining characterizations of the gang save this ish from the discard pile. But even the dialogue feels a bit off, with a few real groan-worthy bits of comic cliche amidst the usual top-notch material.

Plotline Disappointment - Wasted Cameos + D.C Chimp = C+

Time Keeps Slippin' - Justice League #12

I was a fan of the majority of Brad Meltzer's run on JLA, although he kind of lost me with the crossover-heavy Lighting Saga. The final issue of his run on JLA has examples of everything Meltzer distinguished himself with on this series - fragmented storytelling, frequent flashbacks, small interpersonal moments, and an extremely complicated plot.

The idea behind the story is simple; a glimpse of how each JLA member spends their time on dreaded monitor duty. This would imply a relatively low-key look inside the heads of these heroes, and we do get some nice, particularly evocative moments with the tragic Red Tornado, a character who's robot angst ironically became the heart of much of this series. But Meltzer also crams in a number of "shockers", which are treated with a lot of weight but don't pack much of a punch. Still, as with all of Meltzer's work on JLA, it's ambitious in its storytelling and trying to follow it all has a certain frustrating appeal. Plus it's got a sweet Alex Ross cover, ain't nothing wrong with that.

Challenging storytelling + Confusing Storytelling + Poor Reddy = B

Sin-ful Plot Twists - Black Canary #4

In the last issue of this series, the big cliffhanger was that Black Canary's awesome little adopted daughter/sister Sin was killed by Green Arrow. I say, a child character was "killed". By Green Arrow. Off-screen. By disapearing into water.

The crime was not so much in the transparent cliffhanger, but in the way it was written as if the Black Canary, not to mention the readers, would fall for such a absurdly cliche set-up in a series that had seemed so smart. I finished that issue and looked at the preview for this month's issue and thought, "There's no way I'm buying that crap." But I did. And that's a testament to how much fun the first two issues of this series were, so congrats to Tony Bedard for making me pay money for something I knew would insult my intelligence. And oh, how my intelligence was insulted. Black Canary spends the entire issue looking like a fool for accepting the events exactly as they appeared, and when the truth is finally revealed we get a TWO-PAGE SPREAD explaining the twist ending, when a simple "It happened just like you thought it did" would have sufficed.

The really sad thing is that this issue still has a lot of fun bits and pieces, such as a great beatdown by BC and some good continuity moments that tie together events from Green Arrow's past. Still, comic shops are one of the few places in the world where I don't feel likely to be insulted, and I now feel obligated to challenge this book to a duel.

Waste of Two Characters - Contempt for the Audience - Pistols at Dawn = D


AHR said...

AHR's head will also give him genius level IQ and make him highly attractive to certain kinds of people. My personal superpowers.

Bishop said...

Or if he say, attached Degan's hand, he'd be able to manually stimulate a bull to orgasm in about 47 seconds.

Damnit Albo now I'm going to have to go pick up Programme AND Terror Inc. I've always been curious about the old Terror Inc, because it seemed like an odd concept, and I mean, a green dude with spikes coming from his neck named Shreck? Priceless.

Albo said...

You'll be sad to know, Bishop, that the spikes coming out of his neck are gone...