The Great Comic Book Cull of 2010/2011 Part 24: DC Comics – Shazam, Starman, and Supergirl

ShazamShazam & The Monster Society Of Evil

Man, do I love this book. This was Jeff Smith’s first serious foray into the world of mainstream superhero comics, and it’s a doozy. It’s a retelling of the original Monster Society storyline from the original Shazam stories of the 1940’s, but there’s absolutely no need to know anything about that comic, or even the character, to enjoy this book. It’s the story of Billy Batson, a homeless boy who eventually stumbles upon a wizard that tells him a magic word that gives him superpowers. And there’s a talking tiger. And a little girl who can fly. And awesome monsters. So pretty much everything you could ever want in a comic book.

This is a classic adventure story that every comic loving parent should be happy to share with their kids. Jeff Smith’s artwork pops off the page like I’ve never seen before (or since). Fun and wonder pervade every panel.

KEEP

StarmanSins Of The Father, Times Past, Night & Day, Wicked Inclination, Infernal Devices, To Reach The Stars, A Starry Knight, Stars My Destination, Grand Guignol, Sons Of The Father

Starman is considered one of the very best comics DC published in the 90’s, and upon rereading, I think I’d have to agree. With some qualifications, but there’s general agreement. It’s the story of Jack Knight, an antique and collectible dealer who also happens to be the black-sheep son of a retired DC superhero. When Jack’s brother is killed, and their city is targeted by his father’s arch nemesis, Jack is forced to put on the mantle of his father, and reluctantly becomes Starman.

This is an epic story of a hero’s journey. It’s also the story of an antique dealer trying to rebuild his business. And the story of a family of cops trying to deal with an almost impossible legacy of service and duty. And the story of an immortal villain trying to reform. And the story of a gay alien trying to find his lost race.

Yep. There’s a lot to digest. And James Robinson does his best to pull it off. Some storylines work very well, but others (Specifically Jack’s space adventure), fail miserably. Occasionally the plots bite off a little more than they can chew, and introduce too many concepts at once before resolving pre-existing stories. It also requires a pretty serious knowledge of DC history. But in regards to character development, this thing is a beauty. Very few mainstream comics can carry the emotional resonance that Robinson brings to his characters here, and it’s a testament to Robinson’s vision for Jack Knight that DC hasn’t touched the character since.

KEEP

SupergirlCandor, Identity, Power

Probably the biggest question I had while rereading these trades was how I could have ever liked them in the first place. This is DC’s latest version of Supergirl, and I don’t think I’ve seen a more obnoxious, unlikable, bland character in a mainstream comic book. I’m not sure what Jeph Loeb was thinking here, but “writing a good super-hero comic” wasn’t it.

The character shows up out of the blue, and is instantly put through a series of big adventures, meeting pretty much every character in the DCU in a short space of time. There’s nothing to grab onto here, either from a story perspective or a character one. The book does pick up the pace a bit when Joe Kelly takes over the reigns, but it’s not enough to save what was well on its way to a masterpiece in mediocrity. I can’t speak for the quality of the book these days, but I hope that it improved considerably.

CULL

Supergirl & The Legion Of Super-HeroesAdult Education, Strange Visitor From Another Century, Dominator War, Quest For Cosmic Boy

I’ve written about Mark Waid’s Legion run earlier, and this was essentially the continuation of that series, with the addition of a time-lost Supergirl. unfortunately that didn’t seem to do anything for the book other than to further water it down, and any edge or freshness the book once had was quickly lost. It’s not a bad run by any stretch, but there’s really nothing special here, and so they have to go.

CULL

Next up: SUPERMAN!!!!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 23: DC Comics – Robin, Secret Six, and Seven Soldiers of Victory

And I’m back. It’s been a busy month, but I plan on getting back into the blogging thing in full force. In the interest of trying to cull faster and create room for new books, I’ve been jumping ahead a bit, and so I’m actually quite behind in my writing compared to where I am in my reading. Quit your whining.

RobinA Year Reborn, Year One

Robin is one of those fictional characters that always seem to stand the test of time, even though at his core he’s pretty ridiculous. Kind of like Jesus.

A Hero Reborn is the very first mini-series featuring the Tim Drake version of Batman’s platonic preteen boy-partner Robin (for those of you counting at home, there have been five Robins, with Tim Drake being the third. He’s since retired the mantle of Robin, and apparently has the imagination of a rotting tree stump, since he now calls himself Red Robin. Because his costume is red. And because he used to be called Robin. Sweet Sarah Palin). Oh, and one of the Robins had a vagina. She didn’t last long.

Back to Hero Reborn.  The character of Tim Drake has always been one of the more likeable additions to the DCU, and a lot of the character beats that Dixon set up here stuck with the character for years. However, it’s still a relatively generic, though readable story, and like a lot of Dixon’s stuff that I’ve been rereading as part of this cull, it’s enjoyable, but maybe not enough to keep.

However, if Hero Reborn is an exercise in meh, Dixon’s work on Robin: Year One, MORE than makes up for it. It’s a great little coming of age story set in the early days of the first Robin’s career. Lots of fun, and lots of action. It’s a perfect companion piece to Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One, and both books are an essential part of any Bat completest’s collection.

Hero Reborn: Cull. Year One: Keep

Secret SixVillains United, Six Degrees Of Devastation, Unhinged, Depths, Danse Macabre, Cat’s In The Cradle

Secret Six is a fairly simple, yet extremely effective concept: 6 bad-ass super-criminals team up as a merc collective for hire. It’s a reworking of a relatively obscure DC title from the ’60’s and it’s one of the few sparkling jewels in the fetid swamp that is the current DC Universe. This comic book kicks unholy superhero ass. It’s a testament to Gail Simone’s skill as a writer that one of the toughest, hard-hitting books on the stands also somehow manages to reek of pathos, and contain some of the most charming, effective character moments you’ll see in a mainstream comic these days. While the quality of the book varies slightly from arc to arc, as a whole this book is a must read for fans of big, intelligent comic book action. Highly recommended.

Keep

Seven Soldiers Of VictoryVolume One to Four.

My opinion of Grant Morrison’s writing ability changes about as often as a newborn’s diaper, but for the most part I’m one of the few serious comic book fans that do not worship at his bugfuck crazy altar. Seven Soldiers was an interesting experiment: Morrison would take 7 of DC’s more obscure characters, and rebuild them from the ground up, hopefully giving them a new lease on life. The experiment failed miserably, mostly because Morrison couldn’t be bothered to actually work out what happened to the old versions of these characters, or to figure out how any of his crazy changes would affect the current DC storylines. Grant Morrison: Fucking over the creations of others since 1989.

That being said, if you try not to think of how these mini series screw up the rest of DC’s storylines, there’s quite a bit to like here. In particular, the Bulleteer, Shining Knight, Klarion, and Guardian minis still stand up quite well.  The Zatanna and Frankenstein series are fine, and the only real stinker here is the Mr. Miracle mini. LIke I said, as stand alone minis these are relatively enjoyable. It’s when at the end when Morrison tries to bring them all together when disaster strikes. Much has been said of Morrison’s seeming inability to compose complex plots that tie into each other, and Seven Soldiers is a shining example of that. But it’s also a great example of how brilliant an idea man he really can be, and I wouldn’t be sad if some of these concepts were revisited in the future.

Keep.

Next Up: Shazam, Starman, and Supergirl!