It’s all gone a bit DC this time out. Four titles from the publisher, covering some of their major franchises: The Titans, JLA, Green Lantern, and Batman ‘worlds’ all get look at. Plus an oddity from an SF great in collaboration with a comix great published by a straight-up book publisher I’ve never heard of: what could possibly go wrong?
Remember when Clock King was one of those lame-o D-grade villains that made you roll your eyes and hope he was just the stooge for a better character working behind the scenes? Remember when he was so lame he was in Justice League Antarctica and he still made you hope he was just the stooge for someone better? No longer. This Clock King is a proper badass, so much so that he manages to capture the entirety of the Titans roster (Admittedly, a kind of lame, B-grade roster, with the likes of Zatara and Offspring amongst them, but still…), brainwash them, and set them against each other in a pit-fighting tournament in order to create a superpowered army for himself.
Truthfully, this is less a Titans book than it is a solo outing for one of the more interesting Titans characters of recent times: Deathstroke’s mentally unbalanced, world-hating daughter Ravager. Forget the titular Terror Titans — they’re cardboard cutouts of no fixed interest that exist solely to provide some biff and bash action. The story works because this Clock King is genuinely fascinating, and because the story constantly forces Ravager to choose between both sides of her personality — angry misanthrope and wannabe good person — and it’s never certain which way she’ll jump. A perfectly rounded little one-shot that gives you everything it promises.
JLA: Power and Glory
Superman is rubed by an old Kryptonian god who is actually a god, except he’s not a god, except he is, except he sorta is and isn’t but is. Isn’t. All we know is Superman’s a moron, we’ve found another writer who can’t work out how to use Cyborg properly*, and the key to a good JLA adventure has always been to send its members far and wide, spanning as much space and — if you can manage it — time as possible. This volume gives us the modern day, 1961 Chicago, and ancient Krypton, as well as a Green Lantern undergoing a crisis of faith, a useless and rather dim Flash, and a supporting appearance by Infinity Inc — a team so uninteresting I had to look them up while I was reading. And it still manages to give us some good old-fashioned JLA storytelling. I have problems with some of the characterisation (#fanboyproblems), but as far as the narrative goes, the return to core business makes the story all the better. Not perfect by any means, but fun enough.
* Before we get into that argument, Cyborg deserves to be in the JLA, way more than so many other characters I’ve read in this title over the years. (I mean, Lightray? Agent Liberty? Snapper Carr?) Years of Titans comics have shown what a good character he can be. So why nobody seems able to do him… uh… justice in this title is beyond me.
Green Lantern Vol 4: Dark Days
Okay, this is volume 4 of a series for which I don’t have the first 3 volumes, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s Green Lantern. Something something cosmic threat, something something Hal Jordan’s an arsehole, something something Kilowog gruff comedy stylings, something something GL Corps in peril, something something…. It doesn’t matter. At this point, you either love Green Lantern or you don’t. I do, and this has everything in it that I love, which is, basically, everything above and all the somethings. Big, cosmic action, Hal Jordan screwing things up for 99% and then pulling it all together in the final 1%, esprit de corps, insane mad spacey stuff… it’s the same wish fulfillment fantasy that made my 8 year old self go mad with desire for a ring to fly through my bedroom window, and I love it.
Oracle: The Cure
Big Opinion Time: Batgirl is a naff character, and the best thing DC ever did with her was The Killing Joke, because Oracle is an absolutely fantastic character. (I will be bitching like crazy folk about her “resurrection” when I review my Batgirl GN later….). Here, she’s matched mind-for-mind with The Calculator, and the plot revolves around their attempts to out-think and out-tech each other. A comic book about a disabled woman who has to use her intelligence and rampant thirst for knowledge to overcome the bad guys and force the world to interact with her on her terms? Yeah, no wonder DC pissed its pants and hit the reset button. Anyway, this is fun, and 80s-view-of-the-internet schlocky, and makes some extremely on-point points on the way through. It’s good, and there should have been more of it.
Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog
The three ‘Boy and His Dog’ stories by Harlan Ellison, adapted for comics by the man hisself, and drawn by Richard Corben. And it works. Ellison is a deft comic book writer, and he gives Corben’s artwork space in which to breathe without sacrificing the core elements of the narrative. Corben populates his panels with deep shadows, and a palette that emphasises the blue-grey end of the spectrum, until the artificial lights of ‘Downunder’ flood the pages with bright yellows and reds. It’s brutal, and harsh, and uncompromising, and it makes for satisfyingly grim reading, A superb adaptation of a superb cycle of stories.