Besides the awkward bookends, which writer Grant Morrison seems to be writing as close to pulp as possible, The Society of Super-Heroes is an excellent Multiversity tie-in. Chris Sprouse is the perfect artist for the time period–it’s set in the forties or fifties, with some familiar heroes in newly designed, functional, period appropriate garb.
Morrison is real fast when it comes to establishing the characters–the Al Pratt Atom and Doc Fate get about the most attention–and there’s a mix of pulp sensibility and old science fiction magazine stories. It works out pretty well in the setup, but then Morrison and Sprouse get to the action and nothing else really matters. The comic is fast and entertaining.
There’s some rather nice work in the dialogue too, with Morrison handling the large cast through brief expository dialogue.
Until the really lame, tying to the greater event denouement. Until then, it’s quite good.
Conquerors from the Counter-World; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and Walden Wong; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual; editor, Rickey Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.
It's the all-new Batgirl, which is mostly just a "Veronica Mars" in college where Babs solves hip crimes–the supervillain this issue is hacking phones and putting the embarrassing private information online. Why? Because he's a bad guy. And he's got a cybernetic brain and can hold his own with Batgirl in a fight.
Writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher write a painfully hip comic for hip comic reading college girls, but they do so with fervor and a real understanding of how to tell a story. For all the visual, modern gimmicks, this issue of Batgirl is just seventies DC Comics updated. The dressing is just a little different.
Babs Tarr's art is fine–Stewart handles the page layouts. Stewart and Fletcher do it like an episode of "Sherlock" how Babs sees the world with her photographic memory.
It feels a little too like Kate Bishop Hawkeye but it's successful enough.
Burned; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.
Gotham Academy manages to be entirely competent without being compelling at all. Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher do a good job setting up the series–they go through the cast, making sure to make supporting players just memorable enough (the fireworks dealer, for example)–while raising questions about the protagonist.
Said protagonist is Olive, who is at Gotham Academy on the Wayne Scholarship. So she knows Bruce Wayne–she even sees Batman standing in his place sometimes when groggy–and she's got a sort of ex-boyfriend and she's the mentor to his little sister. It's all very formulaic, all very melodramatic, all very well handled from Cloonan and Fletcher.
Karl Kerschl's art is fine. He brings a lot of personality to the cast, getting their emotions across.
Gotham Academy is better than I would have thought, but there's still nothing special about it other than it being a decent young, female protagonist DC comic.
Welcome to Gotham Academy; writers, Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher; artist, Karl Kerschl; colorists, Geyser and Dave McCaig; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Matt Humphreys and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.
The issue's all action, which makes up for Alan Kupperberg and Bill Collins's artwork. The proportions are weird, even if Kupperberg's fight choreography and panel composition are generally okay. It's a forced crossover issue, with Blue Devil passing through Pittsburgh so of course he's going to get into the middle of a fight between Firestorm and his foes.
Writers Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin do a fairly good job for the visiting Firestorm readers. There are maybe three pages of regular Blue Devil stuff going on, all of them compelling and inviting enough to try to get those visitors back for the next issue. There's a big reveal for Blue Devil too and the writers are able to make it palatable to new readers.
It's a fairly neat issue, all told; Firestorm gets almost as much to do as Blue Devil and their protracted conflict makes narrative sense.
Caught in the Firestorm; writers, Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin; penciller, Alan Kupperberg; inker, Bill Collins; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Albert DeGuzman; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.
Joe Brozowski appears to be taking over as regular penciller. He does okay; he tries real hard with expressions, which don’t tend to work out with the regular people but it’s fine with the action scenes. He’s stuck with plotting out an action scene in an arena–a bunch of giant computers on loan from the Batcave.
Conway plots some really odd action scenes in this series, really odd locations. It might be a natural side effect of having a flying superhero in stories more in the web-slinging superhero level.
For instance, this issue has lots of character development for Ronnie and his father. They finally hash it out about a number of things, like Ronnie’s problems with his bully and the father’s fiancée. Though Conway still hasn’t made her likable and he does reduce Ronnie’s girlfriend to a non-speaking prop.
It’s simultaneously too late while still ambitious.
Deadly Prelude; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Gustovich; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It's funny, but George Tuska really brings the book around. He's just filling in, but Conway's got Multiplex (Firestorm's foe since the second issue of the original series) getting all the villains together–although Firestorm's rogues gallery doesn't have a clubhouse–to attack him. Or something.
But it's a very Flash, very Spider-Man story and Tuska just brings that fun, Silver Age vibe to the book. The art isn't great–some of he and Mike Gustovich's faces are atrocious–but it's got a lot of energy to it. They bring the same energy to the civilian storyline, with Ronnie and Martin both having problems at school. Ronnie because his stepmother-to-be is suing Firestorm and Martin because his sexy dean has the hots for him.
Conway's prudish portrayal of Martin–along with a chaste one of Ronnie and his girlfriend's relationship–is peculiar. He teases character development then doesn't deliver.
Still, the Tuska energy gets it through.
A Gathering of Hate!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, George Tuska; inker, Mike Gustovich; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
Akin and Garvey’s inks are a little better this issue. Not much, but a little. There are a lot of action sequences and most of them come off well, as does Firestorm’s trip to the sun. Martin has some theories about their powers and wants to investigate; for a moment, Firestorm feels like sci-fi and it works better for it. Conway’s engaged and imaginative.
The main story of the issue, however, just gives Kayanan an excuse to draw elaborate fight sequences in Miami. They’re fine, they’re just pointless. Ronnie and Martin get involved because they see it on TV. And Conway wastes a lot of time setting up the characters for this pointless excursion.
Well, it’s an annual so I guess it’s the special element to the issue.
The rest–Martin’s going away party at work, Ronnie’s father’s awful girlfriend–is the regular series stuff; sadly, Conway short-changes them on page time.
Sparx; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s Conway’s most ambitious issue in a long time. The first third of the issue is Firestorm versus a natural disaster–a freak tornado in Pittsburgh. Of course, Typhoon is creating the tornado to draw Firestorm out, but Firestorm doesn’t know it. Conway does a lot with the narration and the trying to use it to pace the scenes.
It doesn’t work, but it’s ambitious. Maybe if the art were better. Machlan’s inks are a mess this issue. They’re better in the superhero part, but still a mess.
The second part of the issue is Ronnie and Martin’s adventures at school. It’s just a regular day–they’re worried they can’t turn back into Firestorm but it’s barely a plot point. It’s all character development; if it weren’t for the dumb high school nemesis, it might work out.
Meanwhile, there’s the villain storyline, which Conway also handles ambitiously.
It’s decent enough.
An East Wind Blowing; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
What is it about Kayanan? Why does he never gets the right inker on Firestorm? Mike Machlan is better than the last couple guys, but still not great. For a lot of the pages, Kayanan seems to avoid a lot of close-ups because Machlan butchers the faces.
The story has Ronnie and Martin at college, with Ronnie adjusting to college freshman life and Martin's thought balloons covering his unease as a new professor. He doesn't really get a story, however. And Conway gives Ronnie too much. Between football tryouts, which Kayanan doesn't break out well, his girlfriend and his high school nemesis plotting his downfall… it's too much. What's really bad is how ineffectual the girlfriend is as a character; Conway basically reinvents her every seven issues.
The other plot–villain Typhoon's return–as awkward. Conway wants him to be both dangerous and sympathetic, but goes to far in the first direction.
Night of Tears, Sky of Sorrow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s a thoroughly decent Crisis crossover. Firehawk and Wonder Girl are trying to find loved ones in New York and they run into all sorts of problems since New York City is split between different eras.
Akin and Garvey don’t do great on the inks but they do better than they ever have before. The people’s faces don’t look two dimensional anymore. The action stuff is good and Kayanan breaks out a very nice flying sequence.
Eventually there’s a Tomahawk guest appearance when they find themselves in colonial America Manhattan. There’s some adventure with Firehawk and Wonder Girl helping the troops against the British. Conway presents both time periods well; when they go to colonial time, it feels like they’re guesting in a Tomahawk story.
There’s a big narration thing from Firehawk about her embracing life as a superhero. It’s not great, but it’s serviceable. It’s a crossover after all.
A Long Night’s Journey Into Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
The issue is simultaneously likable and shallow. The first half has Firestorm moving the Pittsburgh and Conway introducing the new supporting cast on the book. Conway gives Martin a whole new supporting cast of colleagues and teaching assistants, while Ronnie has his cast held over. His high school girlfriend, his high school rival. The former works out but the latter feels way too forced.
Speaking of forced, the second half of the issue is the Crisis tie-in and Conway is rapidly cycling in place. Firestorm goes a little kooky because of Psycho Pirate and Harbinger has to calm him down. So what? And it’s the finish of the issue too. There’s not just no more character stuff with the supporting cast, there’s no character stuff with Firestorm.
Akin and Garvey’s inks are a little better than usual. Some of the panels are excellent; Kayanan’s composition shines.
Storm Warning; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Rafael Kayanan; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
For the first time in a while–maybe ever–Conway dedicates over half the issue to Ronnie. He’s in trouble at school because he did too well on his final exams. He and Martin figure out it’s leakage from Martin, when they’re fused as Firestorm.
There’s also a lot of stuff with his high school classmates–an argument with his girlfriend (the teenage one, Firehawk has been absent for a while) and then a fight with his adversary. Conway seems to have forgotten he’s already done the fight with the high school antagonist, but it lets him “mature” Ronnie in a matter of scenes than to do actual character development.
Conway’s narrative construction is fine and if the art were better the issue would be a whole lot more successful. But the art’s weak. Mike Clark guest pencils; his lethargic composition gets no help from the inkers either.
Graduation Day; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Mike Clark; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
What a terrible comic. Chaykin’s handling of The Shadow reminds of someone trying to catch a hot potato; whenever he does have a hold on it, it’s not for long enough and it always leaves that all right place for an unpredictable direction.
The problem with this issue–besides the big revelations are predictable and idiotic–is the focus on the villains. Chaykin elevates villains maybe deserving of a half issue crisis to a full four issues. All the sex and drugs and violence is supposed to be enough to make up for them not having any depth, but it doesn’t. It’s not even real flash–it’s implied flash.
And Chaykin could try for flash but doesn’t. He doesn’t try with the art. After the art being The Shadow’s single exemplary factor to this point, he gives up for the last issue.
It’s not completely worthless–the art’s still more than decent–but it’s close.
Blood & Judgment, Conclusion; writer and artist, Howard Chaykin; colorist, Alex Wald; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Andrew Helfer; publisher, DC Comics.
Even though Conway tries a few things, the issue doesn't work out well. He's got both Martin and Ronnie playing detective, with a transformation into Firestorm a way for them to get out of trouble. It's lazy though–turning into a superhero when the detecting gets too dangerous.
And then there's Martin's love interest for the issue. Just when she starts to make an impression, Conway exits her from the issue and returns to the lame villain, the Weasel. The reveal on him is underdone, maybe because of space, maybe because not even Conway is interested.
There's a lot of Pittsburgh landmark minutiae, which makes little sense since it's New Yorker Martin identifying it all.
The worst part is when Ronnie is talking about how his dad isn't a particularly big part of his life anymore–not that the father has ever had a significant role in the comic.
Weak art too.
Publish or Perish or the Academic Life is Killing Me!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Rafael Kayanan and Mike Chen; inkers, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Duncan Andrews; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.