| Comics Cabana
Thanks to writer/artist Tim Truman, we have an extra-special Comics Cabana for you this month! Tim put in a good word for us and got us a preview packet for the month of March, which includes THREE issues of his new series, Creature Commandoes, plus Batboy and Robin #1 and Impulse #60. We appreciate it, Tim (and the good folks at DC who mailed it out for us)!
Tim Truman's initial previews for this series confused me. Was this an Elseworlds? A retcon? Was the previous incarnation of the Creature Commandoes wiped out? If not, how do you explain a modern-day CC who bears a similar membership to the classic Commandoes?
And the answer is so simple: Project M created both of them. (Don't worry, that's not a major revelation. It's the first thing you see when the new group is introduced.)
The old World War II Creature Commandoes were rather ridiculous, with a VERY forced premise. Supposedly, Project M(onster) genetically redesigned some soldiers to bear a resemblence to movie monsters the idea being that this would psychologically intimidate the enemy, while at the same time creating strong, tough supersoldiers. Eh. I give it a C for effort.
Tim's reworking of the concept is more interesting. Project M's professor, a chair-bound crazy geneticist complete with goggles and bad hair (and really, what IS a monster movie without a mad scientist somewhere?), has a rather unhealthy fascination with movie monsters. We're talking a charter subscriber to Fangoria and Gorezone, here! I keep expecting him to start taunting the spaceman and robots who he's forcing to watch "B" movies.
Thus, the new Commandoes bearing a resemblence to movie monsters may be no more than the eccentricity of the project leader! (Dilbert never had it this bad!) I may be wrong in this assumption, as Tim takes his good sweet time explaining what's going on, and there's a lot of action occuring in the first three issues. So the true origin may be vastly different; I'm guessing he may be saving that for later.
The surprise cast member of the series is Gunner. As in "Gunner and Sarge", also of World War II. However, unlike the Commandoes, this is the same guy! Well, parts of him are, anyway. While Gunner's new incarnation bears a lot of resemblence to Guy Gardner, Warrior, it's the backstory that's intriguing.
Speaking of "new incarnations," Tim and Scot redesign and reintroduce a number of old Silver Age characters, such as Hyathis, Kromm and Mosteel, the planetary rulers from that old "Slaveship Of Space" JLoA story. There's also Simon Magus, Xotar the Weapons Master, King Saturna and Zazzala, who was unfortunately also reintroduced by Grant Morrison in JLA just a few months earlier. (Tim tells me by e-mail that the decision was made that this is actually Lazzala, Zazzala's sister.) Much like Truman's Guns of the Dragon, this title features those comic book-insider moments which make fanboys race to the newsgroups to proclaim, "Didja catch this bit here? "
But such minor quibbles don't detract from the enjoyment of this series. Tim's snappy writing has numerous laughs (including a few hilarious cracks by Magus that I'm dying to tell you) and throwaway bits. I think it's cute that an additional Creature, Bogman (like that critter from the Black Lagoon what would a movie monster line-up be without one?), is introduced for the sake of completeness but then is quickly sidelined.
It's not all humor. There's a lot of action, too although it's harder for me to appreciate some of it in black and white, as there's so much activity that I can't make out what's going on. I'm sure that it'll look great in color, since Scot Eaton's level of detail really is a delight to behold. In fact, it's very similar to Tim's style of artwork, which may be why these two guys work so well together.
This book is a hard one to classify: horror/war characters take on sci-fi characters, with plenty of humor and superhero action. Sort of a catch-all for all the genre's Tim Truman enjoys doing, I guess, which may be why he's been hyping this series for so long! While three issues isn't enough to gauge the overal resilience of the title, I have a feeling this could make a cool ongoing series after this 8-issue mini is over. DC's needed a government/military actioner to fill the void of Suicide Squad and Chase. The Creature Commandoes, odd as they are, may do the trick.
Do I have any complaints? Yeah. I like Hyathis and don't really appreciate Tim's take on her. But that's a minor quibble, which is why I give "Creature Commandoes"
My vote: 9 out of 10
The new Fifth Week Event, "Sins of Youth," looks to be a hell of a lot of fun. Hard to believe how far these fifth week things have come since the days of Tangent Comics. Few of them have been good, but every now and then a truly innovative idea strikes. "Sins of Youth", in which the adults and kids of the DCU swap ages, is a cool idea especially since this goes beyond your typical Freaky Friday rip-off. The kids gain maturity in their new bodies, while the adults receive an influx of puberty and raging hormones. Nice touch.
However, the "Bat-Boy and Robin" tie-in tends to eschew the emotional rollercoaster plotlines of the other tie-in titles. Even as a mixed-up teenager, Tim Drake has generally had a mature head on his shoulders. And Bruce Wayne stopped being a kid long before his teens, so being thrown back to that age isn't as much of a handicap. Instead, Tim and Bruce swap costumes and prepare to hit the town as Batman and Robin. Their goal? Find Klarion the Witch-Boy, hopefully with the help of Zatanna the sorceress, whose stage tour has arrived in Gotham.
Sorry, did I give you the idea that this is all superserious Batman as usual? Mea culpa. Whatever the circumstances for it, this is the book where Tim Drake finally gets to drive the Batmobile! (It's been a long time since I saw a genuine smile of enjoyment on Batman ANY Batman.) His conversation with Jim Gordon is funny, too. Klarion also has a hilarious scene.
Some of the scenes are almost too farcical, as when Tim (as Batman) says two sentences in a row to a thug and Robin whispers, "You're talking too much."
And amongst all the humor and action, there is poignance. Tim finally states his reluctance to take over the role of Batman, while Bruce's emotions are closer to the surface than he thought.
I haven't heard of Cary Nord, and my reaction is mixed. Alfred looked deucedly different than his usual appearance, the Batman cowl seems odd, Dectective Montoya looks like Traci Lords (I doubt the addition of colors would make much difference in that appraisal) and Zatanna's face looks different in every panel. On the other hand, the monstrous "twins" are fearsome. And Nord draws a very sexy Zatanna, and I don't mean in the usual "copious T&A" way.
I do have several quibbles; it's up to you to decide whether they're major or minor, as a couple are more continuity-driven. If you're the type to have hissy-fits at the very word, then relax, skip this part and buy the book because it's otherwise a 10. However, this may not be minor nit-picking.
First off, Chuck Dixon or the letterer makes a big mistake in the way Zatanna's spells are written. Ttraditionally, the words are backwards, not the sentences; you don't start at the bottom of the word balloon and work your way up. What's doubly annoying is that EVERY SINGLE ONE of Zatanna's spells in this book is written in such a way that it can be misunderstood if you aren't reading it in the right direction. I mean, if one of Z's ordinary spells were written wrong, I could figure it out because they're in complete sentences and they don't make sense any other way. "Wind lift us away from Paradise Island!" can only be read in one direction, right? But the phrase "dagger to snake" has a very different meaning from "snake to dagger." "Bugs to bullets!" would mean that bugs should be attracted to bullets, when "bullets to bugs!" would transform the bullets into bugs, right? It's a simple matter of syntax, I know, but it's extremely confusing when done improperly.
And on the subject of Zatanna this isn't Chuck's fault, I realize, but I just don't get this jive about Zatanna being a world-renowned stage performer AND a superheroine who operates under the same name! For crying out loud, she was not only a member of the world-famous JLA back during the glory days, but she later rebuilt the entire City of Metropolis out of rubble as the world watched! There can't be that many people who don't know the name Zatanna as the woman who is really a powerful sorceress with actual magic powers. Yet we're supposed to believe that she pulls flowers from her sleeve and bunnies from her hat and people flock to see it? Does this mean people don't know who Zatanna really is? Note that Commissioner Gordon says, "World Famous Entertainer Kidnapped." Just "entertainer"?
Bullock and Montoya don't work together anymore, but it's a very recent change and Chuck isn't on the Batman books anymore, so I can easily excuse that.
My major complaint is that this story is the first post-1994 reference (to my knowledge) to this Zero Hour retcon that Batman never found the killer of his parents. I was plenty disappointed when I found out it was Chuck who requested this rewrite not only because I'm a big fan of "Batman: Year Two" and hate to see it wiped out, but I also vehemently disagree with Chuck's whole premise that Batman's sole motivation is to find their killer. I could write an article (and probably will) about Batman's motives, but for now suffice to say that I wish Chuck hadn't reaffirmed this.
My vote: 8 out of 10
Unless I've missed an announcement somewhere, this is just a fill-in issue for the regular team of Todd DeZago and Ethan Van Sciver. That's not a bad thing, as I've not been thrilled with the latest team's version of Impulse.
A good many people regularly cry that the title has been bad since Mark Waid left. Not true. Loebs' run was also entertaining, with some downright hilarious issues. But DeZago's take has more often accentuated superheroics and downplayed the everyday school boy elements that make the title.
Issue #60, "What Would Flash Do", is a humor-packed story featuring an interesting (if far-fetched) villain. I'd really like to give this one a hearty thumbs-up, because I like the overall take on Impulse. But it features an infuriating, uncharacteristic portrayal of Max Mercury and Helen that makes me want to scream at them.
The plot: Bart gets in trouble for the umpteenth time, and makes a concerted effort to change his ways. Asking himself "What would Flash do in my place?" when making decisions, he becomes industrious, conscientious, polite and well-behaved. He even stops fighting a supervillain because he's got to get home before his curfew!
The supervillain, Pocket Pal, is one of those gimmick villains who works so long as you don't ask for a believeable origin.
There's a lot to like about this. McDuffie appears to be very creative and has a great deal of wit in his writing. In general, I might even prefer McDuffie over DeZago.
However, the portrayal of Max and Helen is, as I noted, infuriating. Granted, Impulse has always been a superhero sitcom but here the humor is at the expense of any parental concern or feeling. As Impulse changes his ways and begins making a heartfelt effort to be a better person, Max and Helen gawk and make "Who are you and what have you done with Bart"-esque jokes. They roll their eyes, drop their jaws and resignedly talk about how Bart will be back to his old habits as soon as his attention span lags.
It crosses the line between "Home Improvement" (where the parents joke but never lose sight of their role as supportive parents) and "Married With Children" (where the actions of kids are merely fodder for uncaring humor). Ironically, Max makes a remark about the Brady Bunch. "The Brady Bunch" is actually a good example of a balance between humor and good parenting.
Here's Bart, trying to grow as a person and he doesn't get any encouragement from either of his parents. No verbal reinforcement. No thanking him for doing his chores or commending him on his improved behavior. All they can do is gape and joke.
This is not the way to derive humor from the situation, and in the end it hurts the issue. Max crosses the line from being a strict but loving father figure. It appears that he doesn't care about Impulse's development, and that's unfair to the characters of Max Mercury and Impulse.
My vote: 6 out of 10
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