Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Justice League of America #1 (April, 2013)

Five years ago in London, Professor Ivo met with a mysterious figure to discuss all the "super-heroes;" the Justice League, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Hawkman; that were turning up with increasing routine. "Well, then. I guess they'll call us super-villains..."

In the present, Amanda Waller feared the Justice League itself, especially the implications of a burgeoning romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Her antidote was a government controlled super-team designed to be capable of taking down the individual members of the six member League. She believed Wonder Woman could be checked by Katana, Batman by Green Arrow, Aquaman by Hawkman and Cyborg by Stargirl. The new Green Lantern Simon Baz could be maneuvered into seemingly canceling out Hal Jordan. Waller needed a veteran to guide the team, and former Justice League liaison (and ex-Wonder Woman boyfriend) Colonel Steve Trevor was the obvious choice, and held some strong opinions of his own. Trevor argued against Green Arrow's inclusion, suggesting that Catwoman would better confound the Dark Knight. He also had strong reservations regarding Waller's measure against the Man of Steel, the Martian Manhunter, and her plan to bring in an untried neophyte to manage the Flash, Detroit's own Vibe...

Again, five years in the past, during the Apokolipsian incursion on Earth, Cisco Ramon was caught in the event horizon of a Boom Tube. One of Cisco's brothers died freeing him from its wake, and Ramon was left "out of sync with the rest of the world." He could not be accurately photographed, and now eighteen, Vibe used his vibratory powers to defend his Detroit neighborhood from petty crime. A surviving brother, Dante, questioned the disconnect of a small-timer like Vibe being picked out from the hundreds of other people to have developed super powers. "Maybe they see potential in you that you and I don't see." What Waller saw was his potential as a "living epicenter of vibrational frequencies" to detect trespasses from other dimensions or "sever the ties that people might have to dimensional power." Steve worried that the inexperienced kid might die before fulfilling any such promise...

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter One" was by Geoff Johns & David Finch. I dug the reversion of Ivo back to a petrified man from that swollen thug seen the last time they decided to name a book Justice League of America. I've always thought that the Secret Society of Super-Villains was a great concept, so I'm happy DC is finally embracing it (without turning it into the Legion of Doom or Injustice Gang, which should be as different as the Avengers, Defenders, and the Champions before everyone became an Avenger.) The twisted takes on some of the team members show potential, and Dave Finch's art is a hell of a lot easier on the eyes and storytelling sensibilities than Jim Lee's.

New 52's Day

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New 52 Aquaman St. Louis Comic Con Exclusive Print by Damon Bowie

14" x 21"
Limited to 100
Intense Yellow Studios

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2007 Commander Steel convention sketch by Uko Smith

Click To Enlarge
"an 11x14 marker rendering I did of Steel at a new show called XcapeCon in Birch Run, Michigan "

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Justice League of America's Vibe #1 (April, 2013)

Elder sibling Armando Ramon was bound for college in California, set to be the first member of his family to attend. Younger brother Dante mocked him for abandoning Michigan, and figured his fortune was waiting somewhere other than academia. The junior Francisco just wanted his brother to stick around, but he was the one who literally became stuck inside the event horizon of an opening Boom Tube. Dante backed away in fear while Armando rushed to pull Cisco free from the disruption in space-time. Tragically, a Parademon emerging from the portal between dimensions killed Armando "For Darkseid!"

Five years later, Armando Ramon was remembered as the first known victim of Darkseid's failed invasion, routed in the debut mission of the Justice League. Cisco was working at an electronics store, where Dante tried to mooch off Cisco's paycheck. Cisco wasn't about to let his college money go to the casino again, and he and their dad were pretty upset that Dante had skipped the memorial ceremony that morning.

Agent Dale Gunn of A.R.G.U.S. was following Francisco Ramon on orders from Amanda Waller. Neither wanted "Subject 2" to end up like the first. Gunn talked Cisco into his car on the promise of justice for his brother's death. Ever since the incident, Cisco had developed certain abilities. He couldn't be photographed without blurring in the picture. He could generate waves of destructive vibrational force. He could detect the presence of intrusions from other dimensions by their different vibrational frequencies, even "seeing" their outlines through solid matter. A.R.G.U.S. had been formed as an offshoot of Homeland Security to defend against super-human threats after Darkseid's invasion, and now they had Francisco's number. "Your internal vibrational frequency is no longer in sync with the rest of the world." They knew he'd been using his powers as a vigilante in the neighborhood, and wanted to harness and direct his abilities for a greater good.

A parademon that had lost its Mother Box was trapped on Earth, hiding out and feeding off the homeless. Agent Gunn told Cisco it was the parademon that had killed his brother, and that he was needed to stop its rampage. "You can destroy it. The power inside you is from beyond this universe. You're tapped into the vibrational tendons that hold reality together." Tearfully, Cisco clashed with the Parademon, which was eventually caught between its own dimension and ours, tearing it apart.

Agent Gunn took Cisco to the Special Detroit Branch of A.R.G.U.S. Darkseid's incursion had thinned the walls between dimensions, leaving the city a nexus point where "creatures and debris" leaked from beyond. Someone had to police those breaches, and Cisco had the perfect power set for the job. "So basically you want me to be a... border cop?" Under the codename Vibe, Cisco would join a new heroic team to protect the world against the next Darkseid... the all-new Justice League of America. This was all hush-hush of course, but Cisco just had to tell Dante at least...

Amanda Waller didn't actually know if that was really the Parademon that killed Armando Ramon. "They all look alike to me." She just needed to motivate Cisco, and she wanted his powers under control, specifically hers. Should he refuse, he would be imprisoned in her underground laboratory dubbed "The Circus." There was already a containment cell that literally had his name on it, should he cause any problems. Subject Gypsy knew about that all too well, as she looked on from confinement as Waller continued to discuss Vibe with Agent Gunn. She wasn't the only such prisoner by a fair margin. "We need to do whatever we can to prepare ourselves for the inevitable, Agent Gunn. Because one day, it's all going to go to hell again. One day, Darkseid's going to come back... for his daughter."

"Not-So-Secret Origin" was by Geoff Johns & Andrew Kreisberg on story and Pete Woods & Sean Parsons on art. I don't recall the constitution of the Ramon family from the 1980s, other than there being sisters, but I do remember that Paco was Armando's older brother. That would be a minor point, except that there is nobody named Paco in this comic, and the only person with a personality remotely resembling the Bronze Age character is Dante. Francisco is a bland, whitewashed version of Paco Ramone, or in other words, the New 52 Vibe is actually a reboot of Reverb/Hardline. The now presumed deceased Ramone family matriarch used a different kind of douche in the New 52, so she never had any daughters, and her first son got a name previously reserved for this boring Cisco kid.

The In-Name-Only-itis doesn't stop there. I never claimed to be a fan of American Colossus Hank Heywood III, but I found that Gerry Conway had surrounded Steel II with solid trappings for a solo hero. His grandfather bestowed upon him a super-heroic legacy, but the twist of Hank Sr. inflicting the cybernetic parts on the kid was a significant twist. Heywood Industries provided all sorts of cool toys to play with, and once the kid inevitably rebelled against the original tyrannical Indestructible Man, it created a conflict of loyalties for his surrogate father, Dale Gunn. Like his new boss Amanda "Apple Bottom" Waller, Gunn has gone from an out of shape, balding and gray war vet to a young aerobicized spy with decidedly gray ethics. Gunn contributes to the homogenization of the New 52, where he was once a unique element that lent diversity to the universe. I'll save my Gypsy criticisms for next issue.

The point is that in trying to make Vibe an important representative of the Latin community, and to make up for the past sins of unintentionally comedic ethnic stereotyping, the creators have removed every bit of organic appeal from the character. They've decided that Vibe is going to be a big deal with a major role to play, then worked backwards from that intention to craft a bare bones perfunctory construct instead of a living character. Even the art seems calculatingly inoffensive, functional in a manner reminiscent of Alex Saviuk. It isn't terrible work by anyone, but it is bereft of passion or soul. I'm not sure how long I'll keep up with it, but I'm confident it'll get canceled before it tries my patience too much.

New 52's Day

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2013 New 52 Zatanna Justice League redesign by Ivan Reis

Click To Enlarge

We're nearly two years into the New 52, and design-wise, there's been some clear hits and misses. One of the earliest, easiest litmus tests is the cosplay measure. It takes an awful lot of money and effort to pull together winning cosplay gear, so if the print design isn't inspiring, it'll be given a pass by fans of dress-up. For instance, despite stamping a glowing red welcome sign across Supergirl's perineum, the ladies of cosplay seem to have embraced her latest threads. I'm sure Supergirl's having a whole wardrobe of redesigns in her history helps with that acceptance, and the nifty current cape clasp couldn't hurt.

Despite having spent a decade and a half in alternative costumes, Zatanna's fans have never seemed to accept anything that strayed too far from her classic top hat, tails & fishnets look. Flashpoint and Justice League Dark tried to sell them on a goth/Suicide Girls ensemble, but when you type "New 52 Zatanna" into a Google image search, 99% of the results are scans from recent DC Comics. Folks don't seem to want fan art of it, and nobody compliments the cosplayer who puts her entire ensemble together at the local Hot Topic outlet.

DC seems intent on correcting this by preparing Zatanna for "The Trinity War" by giving her a hybrid of her first costume and its nearest (though still far distant) competition, the Scarlet Witch knock-off George Pérez worked up in the 1980s. A few days ago, Geoff Johns tweeted what appears to be an Ivan Reis design, which brings even more elements of Pérez into the mix than the number Zee wore in her short-lived solo series. The vest strongly mimics Pérez's white breast and trunks, though George avoided the exposed chest embraced here (and in most versions of the past twenty years.) The thigh high boots had already returned in the late nineties/early aughts, but the ban on the bug hairpiece, granny broach, and enormous "Z" earrings remain in place. Though the image is in black and white, we've seen confirmation elsewhere that there is no blue to be found in the suit, which is all black, white and gray. While preferable to the last two designs, I'm not sure why anyone feels the need to embrace more of a mediocre design abandoned during the first Bush administration when folks seemed to like Stephane Roux suit. Like the Maid of Might, the Mistress of Magic doesn't stay in one costume for too long anyway, and this should do well enough for now. Let's see how the cosplay turns out, eh?