Friday, April 20, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 18: Does anyone love Jimmy Olsen?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! This week we've got three (count 'em!) reviews plus a look at what's coming up from DC in the month of July. And, if you're really good, I just may tell you Green Arrow's origin story and share my inner feelings about Jimmy Olsen with you.

Let's get started, shall we?

Nova #1

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Sean Chen and Scott Hanna
Published by Marvel

Sometimes you just feel predisposed toward enjoying something. You're in the right mood for it and you sort of make a deal as you start off, "As long as you don't totally suck, I'm going to have a good time. So, please, don't suck."

That's kind of how I felt while reading the first issue of Nova. I knew it wasn't going to be brilliant. I'd seen some preview art and I knew that it wasn't going to astound me with other-worldly visuals. But, I just kind of felt in the mood for a slightly-better-than-mediocre sci-fi super-hero comic-book series.

And that's exactly what this is.

One of the things that Abnett and Lanning do right in this first issue is that they manage to catch the reader up on the status quo of the main character. During the whole Annihilation storyline (about 1/3 of which I've read) the Nova Corps (think Green Lantern Corps, but without the rings) was completely wiped out by Annihilus and his minions. The only one to survive is Richard Rider, Earth guy, and so now he's trying to fill the vacuum left behind by the obliteration of the entire Corps.

Not an easy job.

This first issue shows poor Richard racing around from emergency to emergency, trying desperately to help everyone, but it's clear that he's in way over his head. Further complicating matters, he has the Xandarian Worldmind stuck inside his head, which is sort of like having complete internet access to the entire universe but the downside is that you have to put up with lines like "I am the sum total of all Xandarian art, science, and knowledge, and you are carrying me inside your obstinate human head! I am a resouce too valuable to be jeapardized by engaging in haphazard police actions!"

So, yeah, the Xandarian Worldmind is a total backseat driver.

Anyway, Abnett and Lanning do a good job of getting all us readers caught up on the necessary backstory and the premise of the book looks potentially fun. Nova is incredibly powerful, but he's also been saddled with the impossible task of watching over the entire galaxy by himself. He's a bit overwhelmed, but not whiney. Which is good, because I hate whiney heroes.

The art on Nova is a bit lackluster. This is most notable when Nova encounters 'Planetfall,' a global deterrent weapon that has accidentally been activated. We have a page of build-up about how huge and horrifying this thing is, but when we actually see it, the thing is actually pretty goofy looking. Sean Chen's visuals are simply too mundane to fit with all of the incredible stuff that Nova is supposed to be experiencing in this book, and I can't help but wonder how much better a ride this would have been with someone like Bryan Hitch or Jim Starlin doing the art.

But, it is what it is, and I have to say I enjoyed this comic. I can't give it a strong recommendation, but it might be a good series to trick your friend into buying so you can read his/her copy.

Ha-ha. Stupid friend.

Grifter/Midnighter #1 (of 6)
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Ryan Benjamin
Published by Wildstorm

If there's a story in this comic-book, it's well-hidden.

I'm assuming the purpose of this limited series is to have Grifter (tough guy from WildCats) and Midnighter (tough guy from The Authority) fight. And, hey, why not?

The problem is that the first issue doesn't do much of anything. The main chunk of the book is Midnighter having a nightmare that his super-team, the Authority, are all being killed. He wakes up, strapped to a table, rescued by the Authority. Someone's been mucking with his mind, but no one's quite sure what it is exactly that they've done or why. In any case, now he keeps having flashbacks to the nightmare and thinking that his allies are the evil aliens.

So, there's that.

Then the last few pages switch over to Grifter, who's on some mission that's never really explained to the readers. Also, he seems to be using some sort of mind-control super-powers which I have no recollection of ever having seen before. Granted, I'm not up on my WildCats backstory, but I thought that Grifter was just a tough guy with guns.

Anyway, his allies (I have no idea who they are; are these established characters or new ones?) say something about his cool mind-control powers and then Grifter uses his powers to make them both sing and aim their guns at each other (?). He stops them just before they kill each other and one of them aims her gun at him, shouting "You sick son of a bitch! I'm writing this up!" while her massive breasts float upwards.

I understand setting up mysteries in the first issue, but I really have no idea what's going on here or even which things I'm supposed to be confused about. Why does Grifter have mind-control powers? Who are the people he's working with? What mission did we just watch them do? Why did he use his powers to make them sing and aim their guns at each other? And what, if anything, does any of that have to do with what happened to Midnighter?

Chuck Dixon is usually pretty reliable for the action-y stuff, but Grifter/Midnighter is just a big ol' waste of time.

The Loners #1 (of 6)
Written by C.B. Cebulski
Art by Karl Moline
Published by Marvel

The Loners is a spin-off from Vaughan's kick-ass ongoing series, Runaways. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The premise of The Loners is cute; it's a self-help group for b-list super-heroes who are trying to quit using their powers. There's Mattie Franklin (the third Spider-Woman), Julie Powers (of Power Pack), Darkhawk, Phil Urich (the 'nice' Green Goblin, who had a very brief series of his own), and two former members of Slingers (a group that consisted of four people wearing costumes that Spider-Man had thrown out... now that's a compelling premise for a superhero series!).

I would have liked this first issue more if they'd stuck with the whole "I'm Mattie Franklin and I was a teenage super hero," feel of the book, but by the end of the issue half of the non-team are back in their costumes, rationalizing that they have "one, last mission" that they need to perform before they can finally quit forever.

The problem is, once they're in costume and doing their super-heroey thing, there's nothing to really distinguish The Loners from any other super-team book. Sure, they're reluctant about putting on their costumes and none of them is particularly competent, but I just wish Cebulski hadn't gone the easy route on this one.

Still, The Loners is a fun book and it will not poke you in the eye.


Anyway, my psychologist tells me that it's counter-productive to always be living in the past, so let's take a look at some new stuff that'll be coming out in July, shall we?

This week we're going to focus on DC's books and then next week we'll take a look at Marvel's. After that, God only knows...

Generally speaking, July looks to be a pretty lackluster month for DC, but there are a few potential treasures hidden among the muck. Amongst the stuff that's not so interesting is a too-little-too-late attempt to muster up excitement about The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, one of the least successful new titles to come out of the whole Infinite Crisis / One Year Later wave of books.

At this point, it's hard for me to imagine anything they could do with the character that would really interest me. Bring back Wally West? Bring back Barry Allen? Introduce yet another Flash? Make the new Flash older? Younger? Sideways? Make him wear roller-skates and a pretty yellow skirt? It's all been done a bazillion times by now. (Well, not that last one...)

But, I'll give 'em credit... they're really doing their best to drum up some interest...

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Tony S. Daniel & Art Thibert
Cover by Joshua Middleton
DC Comics announces the second month of a special FLASH promotion as the Fastest Man Alive’s world changes forever! Retailers: please check your the Previews order form for a special incentive designed to help you meet the demand for this story. Fans: remind your retailer early and often to order you a copy!On sale July 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

See, if only I didn't dislike the character, the writer, the artist, and the editorial direction of the past year, I'd be all over this.

I do, however, like the reminder to tell your retailer early and often to order me a copy. Yeah, like that isn't going to drive him completely insane. "Hey, Joe, just calling you up to make sure you haven't forgotten..."

"I know, I know. I wrote it down. Just like I told you last week."

"Ah, that's great. Well, I just wanted to make sure that you didn't forget..."

"Goddammit!!! Stop calling me!!!"

DC is also beginning the Countdown crossovers in July with a couple of Jimmy Olsen stories in the Superman titles. I'd always assumed that no one actually likes Jimmy Olsen; that he's there because of tradition, but that it's universally understood that he's an annoying character and should be left in the background as much as possible. You can't really kill him off, but there's no way you could ever make him interesting either. He's worse than a sidekick; he's Jimmy Olsen.

But, maybe there is a niche market for Jimmy Olsen stories out there. Maybe there are people who really get excited at the thought of a year-long spotlight on Jimmy Olsen. In any case, the Powers That Be at DC must think so, because Jimmy Olsen seems to be a big player in their new weekly series, Countdown.

Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel.

I just don't get that.

Anyway, if you're one of those who have been clamoring for some new Jimmy Olsen stories, July is your month! Check it out:

Written by Kurt Busiek
Art and cover by Brad Walker and John Livesay
3-2-1-ACTION! (part 1 of 3) Hot on the heels of SUPERMAN #665's "Jimmy Olsen Countdown Dossier" comes this true blue COUNTDOWN event! Superman has always been Superman's pal. Will he now become Superman's partner?! More secrets of Jimmy's past revealed, the Kryptonite Man on the loose, and more! This issue ties into the events of COUNTDOWN #40!On sale July 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US


Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks
Cover by Jesus Merino
A special Countdown dossier issue with amazing guest art by Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks, revealing for the first time how Jimmy Olsen came to the Daily Planet! On sale July 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Amazing guest art? Oh, yeah, let's bring in the best artistic talent we have for this special Jimmy Olsen dossier issue. We'll need the best that money can buy to really give this story the oomph! that Jimmy Olsen deserves!


Anyway, enough of that silliness. Let's get to the good stuff...

First of all, I'd just like to point out that issue #668 of Batman has a super-cool cover...

And this description:

Written by Grant Morrison Art and cover by J.H. Williams III

Batman, Robin and the Club of Heroes are stuck on an island rigged with elaborate death traps. And even as the villain behind it all begins to explain his twisted motives, he continues to pick the heroes off one by one.

I haven't really enjoyed Morrison's Batman thus far, but I remain (foolishly?) hopeful...

Then there's this cover for the first issue of Green Arrow: Year One.

Nice stuff. And very green, too.

Unfortunately, Green Arrow has one of the most uninspired origin stories of all time. Here it is:

Oliver Queen was a rich guy. Then he got tossed off a boat and ended up alone on an island where he had to become Robinson Crusoe to survive. Once he got off the island, he dressed up in a green costume and fought crimes using his amazing new archery skills.

Neat, huh?

See, the character didn't actually become interesting until much, much later when he lost his fortune and became the left-wing hot-head that we all know and love today. But that was years later. Poor Andy Diggle (a pretty good writer) is stuck telling the Robinson Crusoe part of the story. So, even though I like his writing and I think Jock's art is pretty (he did the cover and also does interiors), I won't be picking this up.

And then there's this...

THE PROGRAMME #1 Written by Peter Milligan Art and cover by C.P. Smith

From the brilliant mind of critically acclaimed writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, JLA CLASSIFIED) and with the incredible art of C.P. Smith (Punisher, Wolverine) comes a tale a half century in the making! In 1991, the Cold War ended without the two primary players ever facing each other in direct conflict. The vast arsenals of democracy and communism were put on ice, and the world moved toward a new millennium. While the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, the United States rose to unchallenged dominance, but now a long-forgotten Soviet weapon is awakened on one of America's many battlegrounds, threatening the global balance of power. Conventional warfare is suddenly outdated: the new weapons of mass destruction wield super-powers. Does America have an answer to...The Programme?

The premise doesn't particularly grab me, but I am a HUGE fan of Peter Milligan's writing (The Enigma, Shade, the Changing Man, X-Statix, Millenium Fever, etc.) and that cover is... well, it does me right.

Oddly enough, I can't quite figure out if this is a Vertigo book or a Wildstorm book. Then again, who really cares?

Anyway, while we're on the subject of freaky new series, take a look at this:

This cover doesn't work quite as well for me as it should (Maybe it's the choice of sky-blue for the background? I can't help thinking a dark, dark red would have worked better...), but the promo text piqued my interest...


Written by Mike Carey Art and cover by Jock

In the numbing cold of a Minnesota winter, Jessie Kidby and her freshman friends kick off their second semester with a wild party. But in the aftermath of the big blow-out, things start to go horribly wrong for all of them. Jessie is troubled by nasty memories she's been suppressing for years, while her best friend Nick Philo has become an un-person: Nobody outside their tight-knit little clique can remember seeing him before, and his records have been erased from the college's computers. At first, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it becomes increasingly obvious that one of them is not what he appears to be. Chock full of ruthless characters with hidden agendas, FAKER takes place during freshman year in college; the ultimate time of reinvention, where, if you're up for it, you can lie, cheat and fake your way through almost anything. FAKER is by the Eisner-nominated team of Mike Carey (LUCIFER, CROSSING MIDNIGHT) and Jock (THE LOSERS). On sale July 5 o 1 of 6 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US o MATURE READERS

Mike Carey is hit-or-miss for me, but the above summary sound very interesting. Color me intrigued...

And finally from the DC solicitations comes the latest Minx book, Good as Lily. The cover is unimpressive, but it's written by Derek Kirk Kim, who I've heard amazing things about, the plot summary sounds nifty, and the interior art is by a different artist than the cover. So, we'll see...


Written by Derek Kirk Kim

Art by Jesse Hamm

Cover by Derek Kirk Kim

Grace Kwon is about to meet three of her closest friends - the only problem is that they're her past and future selves. What if your biggest competition was yourself? Following a strange mishap on her 18th birthday, Grace Kwon is confronted with herself at three different periods in her life. The timing couldn't be worse as Grace and her friends desperately try to save a crumbling school play. Will her other selves wreak havoc on her present life or illuminate her uncertain future? Writer Derek Kirk Kim scored the "triple crown" with his debut graphic novel, Same Difference and Other Stories, winning all three major industry awards: the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz. It was also selected as one of the best books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly. Jesse Hamm's cartooning has appeared in various mini-comics, anthologies and on the web. All MINX books contain 176 pages, black and white interiors with gray tones and color covers. Each title also includes previews for other MINX books as a special bonus. Advance-solicited; on sale August 15 / 176 pg, B&W, $9.99 US

I probably won't preorder this but will take a look when it comes into the store. Might be very, very good. Might be dull. I just don't know...

Well, that's about it for DC this month. I'm going to pick up my usual ongoing titles (Detective Comics, Superman Confidential [the final issue of the Tim Sale/Darwyn Cooke storyline... sigh], Brave and Bold, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, The Spirit, Fables, and The Atom) and the two Green Lantern titles look like they'll pretty good in July (that whole Sinestro Corps storyline) but, other than that, a pretty quiet month.

Be here next week when we look at what Marvel's got coming up in July, although I can tell you right now that, for Marvel, July is all about the Hulk. Seriously. If you really like the Hulk, you're going to be in heaven this July.

And if you really like the Hulk and Jimmy Olsen, then I think you should brace yourself now for the smorgasbord of orgasmic delights coming your way in July.

I'm just sayin'...

Until next week, here's hoping no one messes with your continuity...

- Paul

1 comment:

spleenal said...

I like the look of faker.
The "wrongness" of the blue there works well. it's jaring, odd.
I hope the comic is too.