Batman: Battle for the Cowl – The Underground #1: Seriously, how many subtitles can these books have? Anyway, this is a one-shot leading up to Battle for the Cowl #3 and the Gotham City Sirens series (not to be confused with the Gotham Girls roller derby team), hereby proving that DC is trying to outdo Marvel’s Secret Invasion for sheer volume of ancillary titles. It’s kind of a shame that this book is a one-shot, as between the art and writing it could actually make a decent series.
This book opens with the Penguin hiring the Riddler to track down the former crime boss Black Mask, who is waging a war against both the Penguin and Two-Face’s respective gangs. Besides the obvious problem, there’s also the fact that Black Mask was supposed to have been killed by Catwoman years ago. Writer Chris Yost gives us a solid crime story, filled with all the back-stabbing and mistrust one would expect of the underworld. He fits the costumed fighting in this well, especially when Catwoman confronts the armed Batman imposter. The feel is fairly reminiscent of The Dark Knight, while Pablo Raimondi’s art has a clean, almost Vertigo-like feel to it. Obviously Batman’s going to have to come back fairly soon, but reading this makes me think there could be some potentially good stories without him. Ah well, I suppose there’s always fan fiction for that.
Captain America: Theater of War – A Brother in Arms: This issue continues the line of Theater of War one-shots, featuring the original Cap in various wartime stories. AbiA takes place in Germany, 1945, where Cap and a group of Army Rangers are shot down behind enemy lines. In the process of fighting for survival they take a German soldier prisoner – much to the disgust of the group’s corporal, who’d as soon shoot him and be done. As the story progresses, the enemies find their common humanity, especially when faced with the local SS officer, who has no use for common German Army soldiers.
Writer Paul Jenkins delivers a decent enough script, balancing the action scenes with the personal interplay, and John McCrea’s art is clean and tells the story well. But the story – both the plot and way it plays out – feels a bit too familiar. Not to take away from Jenkins, but it feels a lot like one of Garth Ennis’ many war books – so much so that you can guess the ending well in advance. Not a bad book by any means, but just a little too familiar.
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #4: I’ll fully admit that when Final Crisis was in full swing, this was one of the many tie-ins I ignored, figuring that a) anything not written by Grant Morrison would probably be incidental, and b) I’ve never been a huge Legion of Super-Heroes fan. Well here we are five months after the main FC ended, and FC:Lo3W is still going, mainly I think for one reason: who’s going to tell legendary artist George Pérez he needs to hurry up? Add to that the fact that he probably crams the most panels per page of any book currently on the stands and yeah, you’re going to have to just forget about that monthly deadline.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the book provided a good read. The main problem with this book is, four issues in, all I can really get out of it is Superboy killing a whole bunch of people while whining. There are some interesting developments: the return of Bart Allen (which we knew) as well as one of the casualties of Infinite Crisis, and a twist with the Time Trapper. Maybe like the main FC series, it works better when read in one sitting, so look to try that out some time between now and, oh, the 30th century.
Justice Society of America #26: With this issue, writer Geoff Johns and penciller Dale Eaglesham end their run on JSA, and they go out not with a bang nor whimper, but a party. A birthday party that is, for teenage member Stargirl, which allows Johns to really focus on the personal interactions and human dimension of the team while avoiding having to insert any mandatory fight scenes. That’s right, not a single punch is thrown in the entire issue, giving one of those rare fun comics we see all too few of out of the Big Two any more. And of course, Alex Ross’ covers (count ‘em, three for this issue!) are simply amazing. Not a bad way to go out.
And that does it for this round!