It’s another solid issue, with Babs stumbling onto a crime on campus. Stewart and Fletcher also introduce a few more supporting cast members–the issue ends with a sitcom-like tag with all of them, sans Dinah, who’s clearly a guest star. It gives Batgirl a nice feel, though the more impressive stuff comes just before.
Babs’s investigation leads her to a showdown with the bad guys, which is the second action scene in the comic. Between two action scenes and a lot of character stuff for Babs–not to mention Batgirl investigating–it’s a full comic book. The plotting is fantastic.
And, slowly, it’s starting to come together. Stewart, Fletcher and artist Tarr are trying really hard to establish Batgirl as a hip, yet incredibly competent comic book. Unfortunately, Babs is the single aspect of the book without a lot of character yet. She’s indistinct; getting better, but indistinct.
Tomorrow Cries Danger; 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.
Either the reader is going to buy into Gaiman’s setup for this issue or the reader is going to reject it. Even before Gaiman gets into the “meat” of the issue, which is basically a lengthy monologue from Dream about the importance of Death. Both as a natural event and as Dream’s sister.
The issue opens with them seeing each other for the first time after Dream’s escape from captivity and his quest. Gaiman goes really far on the self-aware dialogue, using Death to expound on the comic book and on its protagonist.
He also goes with an inanely cheap ending; many of Sandman’s worst moments are just ones cribbed from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing (without any of the context).
Once again, Gaiman does a montage of regular people who he doesn’t care about. It’s slightly less tedious than the overdone immortal sibling dialogue.
Dringenberg’s art annoys too.
The Sound of Her Wings; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
Ah, the big fight issue. Doctor Destiny versus Dream for control of the Dreamworld. Or whatever it’s called. After the two stand-off in the diner, after some glimpses of the world going mad, Doctor Destiny has a trippy dream he’s Caesar and then the big fight. It’s the two of them against a white background. Not the most visceral setting for a comic book fight scene.
Gaiman has a lot of problems trying to make this issue work as a comic. He’s so wrapped up in traditions, he doesn’t just not do anything new, he doesn’t do anything worthwhile. The glimpses to the world gone mad don’t create concern, they create distance.
Dringenberg’s pencils don’t help things. The awkwardly proportioned figures change throughout, without rhyme or reason. Sandman gives the pretense of thoughtfulness and depth, but it’s generic.
There’s no sense of scale or character. Gaiman avoids writing Dream.
Sound and Fury; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
The issue takes place over a day at a diner. Doctor Destiny is trying to bring about the end of the world and he traps a bunch of people in the diner and slowly drives them mad. Or not slowly.
Gaiman makes the characters distinct, horrific, pitiable. He doesn’t have time to establish them as sympathetic so he doesn’t even try. Some of them he plays for laughs, others for shock value. Dringenberg takes over the pencils; he doesn’t do a particularly good job. There’s no personality to the art, especially not in the horrific scenes. Some of the talking heads stuff is decent.
The issue feels so derivative, so manipulative, it starts to get boring before the halfway point. Gaiman’s using sensational human suffering. Even when he writes a good scene, it’s still just a cheap trick in a bridging issue.
All to avoid giving Doctor Destiny a personality.
24 Hours Diner; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
Gaiman’s strings show a little too much this issue. The Justice League guest stars–well, just Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. Turns out while Dream was away, someone became a supervillain with one of his gadgets. It ties things into the DC universe a little too much. There’s a great bit where Mister Miracle is dreaming of Apokolips and Kieth and Malcolm Jones III do a fantastic Kirby homage.
But most of the issue is this supervillain kidnapping a housewife and having her drive him to the location of this gadget. It’s in Justice League storage, which is just a storage unit somewhere. No security. It’s idiotic, but fits the issue, where Gaiman goes the predictable route every time.
He does have a handle on the humor. And, oddly enough, Dream barely narrates. It’s like Gaiman doesn’t want him to distract from the winks back to previous comics.
Passengers; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
Dream goes to Hell, which requires the Demon as a guest star. Gaiman doesn’t have anything for him to do, past rhyme a little for the protagonist and cause some mischief. It’s a pointless cameo, though Kieth and Dringenberg do fine on the Demon. They don’t do so well later, when they have to draw every demon in Hell. Actually, they do fine on the demons… they lose their hold on Dream at that point. He feels too out of place.
The issue has maybe the most narration from Dream so far and it gets tedious. He needs to outwit the demons of Hell with riddles and so on. Intentionally or not, Gaiman’s so sincere he doesn’t have any wit. It’s all very heavy and very boring.
Just when things should pick up in the second half, the comic slows, getting more tedious. So far, Dream’s boring as a lead.
A Hope in Hell; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
Dream’s quest brings him into a John Constantine story–and with Constantine comes a return of Kieth’s improbably proportions for people’s legs–but it’s the strongest issue so far. Gaiman writes Constantine really well, with enough nods to his adventures and the DC universe but never to the point he’s just filling in.
And having Constantine and Dream team-up gives the reader a somewhat human perspective on the fantastical things in the issue–especially since Constantine doesn’t know about Dream. He’s experiencing these things for the first time too.
It’s also nice how Gaiman doesn’t go too far outside the issue’s narrative. He doesn’t work on subplots, just the particular quest experience for Dream and Constantine’s strange encounter. It feels more cohesive, but it also feels a lot more organic. Gaiman’s not trying too hard.
Other than the stumpy legs, Kieth and Dringenberg do really well on the art.
Dream a Little Dream of Me; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
For the second issue, with Dream ending up needing help from Cain and Abel–who appropriately bookend the tale–Gaiman doesn’t do a lot except continue to setup Dream’s eventual quest. He needs to regain his talismans or whatnot; all the exposition about what’s happened to his world in his absence is secondary.
Until the end of the issue, at least, because there’s where Gaiman introduces the next steps Dream may take. It’s a promised tour of the DC supernatural universe–with Constantine–but also the superheroes. There’s a Batman connection, including an Arkham Asylum visit.
The result is Gaiman doesn’t really do anything to establish the series, which is fine, but he also has a floundering Dream. For a protagonist, in a second issue, it doesn’t help. It leaves the series–and the reader–without footing when relying on the lead.
Nicely, the art’s consistently strong throughout the issue.
Imperfect Hosts; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
Neil Gaiman starts Sandman with the world changing. Except it’s in flashback, so it’s entirely possible the reader has been living in this changed world without realizing it. Except it’s sort of in DC continuity–the Golden Age Sandman shows up–so the reader isn’t really in that world anyway. Gaiman plays with the ideas a little, but doesn’t go particularly far with them.
Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg’s art is fantastic for these parts of the issue. Creepy, gory, but never overboard with it. They find the exact balance–and retain some physical humor in the art. It’s great.
Then the titular character comes in and, all of a sudden, Keith can’t draw figures in the right proportion anymore. And Gaiman’s narrating from Dream’s perspective (he doesn’t get named yet but still), but only from the second half of the issue or later.
It’s disjointed overall, but pretty good.
Sleep of the Just; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s sort of a goofy issue, with Firestorm’s lawsuit ending in the first scene, then the rest of the issue is the Moonbow story. Conway continues the Marvel vibe–maybe it’s because Moonbow (a female college student who moonlights as a vigilante) looks like a Marvel character, but also because there’s no other vibe to the comic.
Conway doesn’t give his protagonists anything to do. Martin has a date, which Ronnie interrupts for a Firestorm outing, and Conway uses the interruption so as not to make any decisions for Martin. It’s more treading water.
There are art problems too–Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez join Machlan on inks and the issue never has a consistent look to it. Brozowski again does all right with his page composition and the comic moves at a good pace.
Even the ending, with Firestorm and Moonbow finally crossing paths, moves well.
It’s passable enough.
Justice: Lost and Found; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inkers, Mike Machlan, Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
Firestorm hasn’t cratered or anything so severe, but Conway does seem to have found a new level for the book. It’s a little low, sure, but he’s hitting it consistently.
And even though Brozowski and Machlan leave a lot to be desired in the art–creativity–the book does look okay. It doesn’t look much like a DC comic this issue, however; it looks a lot like an eighties Spider-Man, which is fine.
Conway doesn’t do anything fresh or inventive. Firestorm is getting sued by Ronnie’s stepmother-to-be and she’s real impressed with his speech in court. Of course she’s impressed, otherwise the story might do something unexpected. Ditto the introduction of another girl in Ronnie’s life. Could she be the bow-wielding vigilante plaguing Pittsburgh’s mob?
Conway doesn’t even make that one a surprise.
It reads okay in parts, not okay in others. It’s bland superhero stuff.
Moonbow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s not a bad special guest star issue, just another pointless one. Blue Devil and Firestorm are now teamed up–after a couple issues of mistaken fighting–against all of Firestorm’s villains.
Brozowski continues to do a very clean, obvious approach with the composition; he and inker Mike Machlan don’t have a single outstanding panel in the comic, but there also aren’t any lemons. It’s straightforward superhero stuff and, given there’s a hallucination sequence with demons, the art works out okay. Never anything more… but okay isn’t terrible.
As for Conway’s script… he tries a little character development (Ronnie’s dad and stepmother-to-be are hostages of all his villains, along with a mention of one of the villain’s failed rehabilitations), but it’s mostly action. It’s not great action; the giant-size computer showroom is goofy.
Like I said, it’s not too bad. It’s a guest star issue, big whoop.
Dead Devils Don’t Wear Blue!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.
I’m a little shocked, though maybe I shouldn’t be. For their “Futures End” tie-in with G.I. Zombie, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti tell the last G.I. Zombie story. Maybe all the “Futures End” are the last issues in imaginarily long series (I don’t think I’ll find out). But what they do here works out.
They’ve got their butt-kicking protagonist, G.I. Zombie, who doesn’t just fist fight or monster fight, he also gets in an old crop duster and has an air battle too. It’s a lot for artist Scott Hampton and the art is fantastic. There’s a lot going on; Hampton excels at it.
But there’s also the sidekick and the nemesis, not to mention the end of the world. It actually would have worked better as a first issue than the third of Gray, Palmiotti and Hampton’s Star Spangled War Stories but whatever… it’s absolutely great comics.
United States of the Dead; writers, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; artist and colorist, Scott Hampton; letterer, Rob Leigh; editors, David Piña and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.
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.