Review: JLA: The Tenth Circle trade paperback (DC Comics)

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Given what seemed to be a great Internet backlash against JLA: The Tenth Circle, I had prepared myself for something truly adolescent and off-character. Instead, what I found was a fairly cogent, straightforward JLA story. Yes, it takes some ignoring of a "grrl" and an "Alfred, old friend," and a particularly jarring comparison of Wally West to Barry Allen at just the wrong time, but if you let those small complaints go, and it doesn't bother you that the main villain, Crucifer, is a dead ringer for Paul Reubens in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, there's actually a lot to love in this trade paperback.

I'm probably one of the few out there who doesn't know that much about Chris Claremont, having never been an X-fan. He and John Byrne both write here, and I've no way to know who's who. There's a tendency toward George Perez-style overwhelming narrative boxes in the beginning, but they disappear quickly. The character tics I mentioned above reveal an old school DC fan trying writing the "new, hip" JLA, but if you go in expecting it, it's not so bad. Perhaps the biggest asset to this book is the definitively gung-ho League, without much of the self-conscious doubting that plagued JLA: Trial by Fire. Superman is kidnapped, Wonder Woman is stabbed, but throughout it all we have a calm, cool Batman, always with a plan in hand. The creative team gets points for their portrayal of the Atom, too--as this may have been Ray Palmer's last big hurrah before Identity Crisis, The Tenth Circle is a fine sendoff.

John Byrne pencils here, his style most obvious in Superman's face, but more often than not, it's inker Jerry Ordway's art that this book most resembles. In the art, too, the portrayal of the Atom shown through, second only to a very smooth Flash, but the aptly beetle-browed Martian Manhunter and a dark Batman also worked well. Ordway is a true comics professional, and I remember him fondly from the old Superman issues, up to and including Zero Hour.

As for this trade's re-introduction of the Doom Patrol, "together again for the first time," I'm just not going to let it bother me. I've never read much Doom Patrol outside of this story, and the most I can think it affects is a Superman story from ten years ago, and JLA: Year One, neither of which bears on current continuity all that much, anyway. From what I've heard, Geoff Johns tweaks Beast Boy's origin in the upcoming Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls to fix the Doom Patrol/Beast Boy connection, though, if what I hear is true and Byrne's Doom Patrol is headed for the cutting block, to be waved away as an imaginary story, it's too bad that Johns may have to re-fix Beast Boy once more. But then again, aren't they all imaginary stories?

(Hey, it just occured to me. With JLA: Classified and the new JSA: Classified, how long you bet before we get Teen Titans: Classified, like the Teen Titans Spotlight of yore? You heard it here first, kids.)

So, I didn't think I would, but here I am recommending JLA: The Tenth Circle. Now on to JLA: Pain of the Gods, and then a little Green Arrow, what say?

JLA: Trial by Fire review

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I'm trying to figure out why I just didn't like JLA: Trial by Fire as much as JLA: The Obsidian Age. And hopefully I've praised Joe Kelly enough that everyone understands that I mean no offense when I say that, even on the second reading, JLA: Trial by Fire just falls flat for me. It's truly strange, because I think The Obsidian Age, and even JLA: Rules of Engagement are true classics, but when it comes to Trial by Fire ... nothin'.

It could, first of all, be the Martians. When Grant Morrison first introduced the White Martians back in the beginning of JLA, I thought the whole Martians/Hyperclan thing was pretty cool. And the time they came back and impersonated Bruce Wayne wasn't too shabby, either. But maybe I just have bad memories of Bryan Hitch being replaced by a fill-in artist at the end of Mark Waid's run, where White Martians weren't a lot more than "we're bad guys, booga-wooga, fear us," but at some point White Martians stopped being scary to me and started being stock. And now here's a Burning Martian, who--as opposed to Ganamae and her secret, hidden, plan--is just pissed at the world and not afraid to show it. Which isn't as intriguing a villain for me.

Maybe's it's the whole "is this J'onn, is this not J'onn" bit. As much as I liked the bits in J'onn's head (does anyone else really dig the new Leaguers, especially Major Disaster, Faith, and Manitou Raven? That JLA Elite trade paperback can't get here fast enough. Every scene with them just sings,) but me, I prefer the "let's go rescue Aquaman" JLA to the "woe is us, J'onn J'onzz is our soul and he might be evil" JLA. And yeah, maybe Trial by Fire's pathos is better than The Obsidian Age's gung-ho superheroics. But I thought The Obsidian Age had some pretty good pathos, what with Green Lantern's premonitions of death, without my feeling like Superman needed a little less concern, a little more action.

And in the end, maybe Trial by Fire was a little too earthbound for me. Now, I'm all for massive coastal destruction, but that's nothing compared to time-spanning master plans. Maybe all good JLA stories involve alternate timelines/dimensions--who knows? But give me 3,000 year-old schemes versus a 3,000-foot Plastic Man, and the time travel wins every time.

Which is not to say that Trial by Fire didn't have it's good points. To wit: the freaky bit where Firestorm gets slammed by a giant hand on the moon, Green Lantern busting in to Manitou Raven's hut, Major Disaster living in a trailer in the desert, the whole Vandal Savage/Guardians of the Universe mystery, the Burning cleaning up the White Martians (it was a cool scene), the Atom getting chewed on by Krypto, and Batman with Plastic Man's son, to name a few. So take it as it comes--I still say Joe Kelly's JLA run ended much too soon.

Now, however, I'm on to JLA: The Tenth Circle, followed by JLA: Pain of the Gods. Hey, someone who read JLA #100, drop me a line. I have a question--does the JLA disband at the end of that issue (so Pain of the Gods starts without a League in effect?)? Because I saw a mention along these lines in Wizard, but I think they got it wrong. Let me know--thanks!

Dan DiDio and the "Wait-for-Traders"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dan DiDio and the "Wait-for-Traders"--sounds like a band, doesn't it?

New reviews are coming soon; I've been reading old JLA trades, but I'll probably post a JLA: Trial by Fire review tomorrow, followed by JLA: The Tenth Circle and JLA: Pain of the Gods soon after. And I've been meaning to respond to this installment of Joe Casey and Matt Fraction's The Basement Tapes, as well as give my own take on Batman #608, but time, as it were, is fleeting. Those will hopefully come soon.

But in the meantime, I thought I'd be remiss if I didn't mention these remarks by DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio:

As an aside, DiDio said he wanted to put comics out that were so powerful, so exciting, that no one could wait until the trade paperback comes out to read them.

"If people can let the comics sit on the shelves and wait for the trade to come out, then we are not doing our jobs," he said. "This stuff should be so compelling that readers will not be able to wait for the next issue to come out, let alone wait months for the trade."

Now, I agree with Michael San Giacomo, that "DC’s master plan is incredible and I can’t wait to see more." But, in my perfect world, instead of DiDio saying that he wants his comics to be so exciting that no one can stand to wait for the trade, instead he would say he wants his comics to be so exciting that he'll rush the trades out there as soon as the storylines end, so that the wide market of bookstore buyers can jump on the boat just the same as comic book store buyers. Because to say that he wants his product to be so exciting that no one will wait for the trades, and then publish the trades anyway, is like saying a movie studio thinks their movie is so great, they won't bother to release a DVD, because everyone probably saw it the first time anyway. It just doesn't make sense. And with something like Identity Crisis, where the collected edition comes out more than a year later ... what other industry works that way?

Honestly, I don't think DiDio means it. I think "so compelling that readers will not be able to wait" is just hyperbole, and I do think that DiDio has breathed new, great life into the DC Universe. But dude, quit taking pot shots at the "wait-for-traders," eh?

A quick note about JLA: The Obsidian Age

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I just read the two JLA: The Obsidian Age trade paperbacks, and can I say, that's just a great story. Especially read as a whole like that. Drama, mystery, time travel, cliffhangers ... I really think it stands up against some of Grant Morrision's JLA epics, second only to Rock of Ages, and that may be only because the art quality was more constant.

And I think it's too bad that Joe Kelly didn't stay on JLA longer, and get the opportunity, as he said in his afterward to Obsidian Age to tell more of the kind of JLA stories he wanted to tell. Because I liked the new, political JLA stories he began to tell, I'm looking forward to reading JLA: Rules of Engagement, and DC better hurry up with that JLA: Elite trade paperback! This year, eh?

DC trade paperback guesses for 2005

Sunday, April 17, 2005

While we're in the in-between time between one month's solicitations and the next, and especially since DC hasn't released the upcoming trade paperbacks for the season, I though I'd post my current trade paperback expectancy, the trades I think we'll see before the year is up. Got any other guesses (or scoops)? Please feel free to post below.

My guesses:

Birds of Prey: Between Dark and Dawn (#69-73) - we've already seen one Birds of Prey trade paperback this year, and I'd bet we're due for another before the year is out. It remains to be seen if we'd get issue 74 as well; I doubt 75 would be included, as it leads into the next storyline after this.

Catwoman: Wild Ride (#20-24) - this is the next story after Relentless, though it's only five issues, which is small for a trade. I don't want to spoil the surprise by reading issue solicitations to find out if any further issues might be appropriate to include.

Gotham Central: Soft Targets (#11-15) - I seem to recall a DC Letters to the Editor online column that said we'd see Soft Targets trade before the year is up. This is only six issues, which is still shamefully short for a Gotham Central trade. Here's hoping they pad it with the Josie Mac Detective Comics backup stories, and not already-reprinted Batman stories, as with Half a Life.

Green Arrow: New Blood (#40-45) - again, a somewhat small trade, and I'm not sure if any Green Arrow issues after 45 would make sense here.

JLA: Syndicate Rules (#107-114) - collecting the eight-issue storyline. It's possible we might see a JLA Classified trade paperback as well, or in lieu of, this one. Personally, I hope they use the fact that the first JLA Classified arc was only three issues to include the JLA issues missing from collected editions so far (including 83 and 90 [I think] and the Dennis O'Neil arc [despite fan reaction]).

Legion of Super-Heroes (#1-6) - A trade of the new Legion series is inevitable, though I don't know if it would stop at issue 6, 7, or later.

Outsiders: Most Wanted (#16-23) - I'm actually surprised we haven't seen an Outsiders trade yet this year, and I imagine it'll be a big one, going straight from the last trade to the Teen Titans crossover.

Superman (Action Comics) (#820-825) - Just as we've seen two trades of Adventures of Superman, covering the entire Greg Rucka/Matthew Clark run, I imagine we'll see another trade finishing the Chuck Austen/Ivan Reis run before the year is up.

Teen Titans: Titans Tomorrow (#16, Titans/Legion Special, 17-19) - I can't quite decide how large I think DC will make this trade. It's strange in and of itself that they went with three issues of Titans for the Beast Boys and Girls trade; here I wonder if they'll just collect the Titans Tomorrow story, or move into some of the Identity Crisis stuff as well, perhaps up to the Outsiders crossover.

Wonder Woman: Stoned (#206-210) - five issues seems like too small a trade for DC these days (yay large trades! Hey, DC, keep up the good work!), and I wonder if this one will go right up to the Flash crossover. And surely they'll change the title.

In addition, a couple of others I'd like to see, but I wouldn't bet the farm on, are Adam Strange, Firestorm, Hawkman, Nightwing, Robin. And I'd be remiss without mentioning Manhunter, for which we'll see the trade Street Justice later this year.

Other guesses?

Missing Superman/Batman page found!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I found the softcover of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies in a bookstore today, and sure enough, the missing page from the Public Enemies hardcover is in there.

And what a missing page it is.

I knew the page showed the Kryptonsite landing on earth. And I knew it had a newspaper page announcing Luthor's indictment. But what I didn't know was that the page also wraps up (at least for the moment) the whole Batman/Metallo/Luthor plotline, as well as setting up Superman's exile to the JLA Watchtower for Superman/Batman: Supergirl.

To me, this seems like a pretty important page, and I'm sorry DC didn't include it in the hardcover. And, while I guess late is better than never, it does seem like something of a slap in the face to the hardcover buyers that the missing page shows up in the softcover. So here's a few suggestions for fixing all this (none of which I even slightly imagine will ever happen):

1) DC could post that one page online. It's just one page, and now that both the hardcover and softcover are out, it's hardly going to cost DC any revenue to put it up for free. So let's see it online.

2) Make a second printing of the hardcover, with the removed page in it. Sure, those of us who bought the hardcover the first time around are still out of luck, but it's a gesture.

3) Make the page available as a mail-in freebie. Post an address and let people send in photos of themselves with the Superman/Batman: Public Enemies hardcover, and they'll get the page in return, like a tip-in. Heck, I'm sure most people would even pay shipping, too.

So there you go. Any other ideas?

Review: Superman/Batman: Supergirl hardcover collection (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I liked Superman/Batman: Supergirl, though I liked Superman/Batman: Public Enemies more. There seems to be a certain style to Jeph Loeb's writing--which I like, overall; I thought his work on Superman was pure genius--where each issue ends with a "how could that happen" cliffhanger, only to discover the next issue that it actually didn't happen, but it was actually a ruse that one, some, or most of the title characters were in on it. Which was pretty cool, really, when Grant Morrison was doing it back in JLA, but in Superman/Batman, it feels more like "fool me once ..."

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was a story about breaking something down, whereas Superman/Batman: Supergirl was a story about building something up. In that way, I guess they bookend each other well. At the same time, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was largely a story about renewed cooperation between Superman and Batman, where Superman/Batman: Supergirl was a story about Superman and Batman in conflict--and, for a change, a conflict where Wonder Woman was on Batman's side. I liked this, and I liked this dynamic, and I liked how JL brought to the forefront that both Batman and Wonder Woman had shared tragedy in common--the death of sidekicks Jason Todd and Donna Troy (though, watch this space for my spoiler opinons on that).

What I couldn't get around, however, was how trusting Jeph Loeb had to make Superman to put Superman on the opposite side from Batman. I mean, surely, surely Superman must know that speaking Kryptonese, knowing a couple names, and having a couple powers does not an Supergirl make (did the Cir-El fiasco not teach him anything?). Any villain from Dominus to Zod to Darkseid to Luthor could have faked that. Heck, even the dog wasn't sure about her! But Superman arrives at trust through his heart, while Batman arrives at trust through the facts, and while that came through well, I felt at times that Superman came across as foolish.

I also think I came to this comic with something of a handicap, given that I started reading comics in the late 1980s-early '90s, after Kara Zor-el was already gone and Matrix was the only Supergirl around. Now, if Jeph Loeb wanted to bring back Peter David's Linda Danvers, I might get a bit more excited. But the last page, with Supergirl backlit in uniform with glowing captions all around ... the team seems a bit too excited about a blonde-haired sixteen year old girl for my tastes. But I'm being too harsh; I do understand their excitement.

Great art, by the way, by Michael Turner; I wasn't a big fan of his pointy-chinned Darkseid, but I did think he drew the scariest Doomsday I've ever seen. I am curious to see what Jeph Loeb will do in the Supergirl series; without Matrix, it seems like something of a limited concept in the hands of a lesser writer, doomed to repeat Supergirl's pre-Crisis adventures. But this is Jeph Loeb, and he's promised some Identity Crisis tie-ins; I'm eager to see if he can bring his Long Halloween-type mystery style to Supergirl, and how that will turn out.

Not sure what to read next ... I may go back through Joe Kelly's JLA run, through to reviewing JLA: The Tenth Circle and JLA: Pain of the Gods. Or maybe something else; we'll see. Suggestions?

DC Comics July 2005 trade paperback solicitations

Sunday, April 10, 2005

So I'm looking through the DC July 2005 releases, and there's some cool trade paperbacks in there, but nothing we didn't necessarily already know about. And I'm thinking, Cool month, but pity there are no surprises. And then I saw this:

Absolute Batman: Hush. It's here! Released in September, it's $49.99 of Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee-goodness, including a sketchbook and (even better) issue-by-issue commentary by the authors. How cool!? And don't forget, you heard about it here first.

Also of note:

Superman: That Healing Touch (or is it Superman: The Healing Touch), collecting issues 633-638, plus the lead story from Superman Secret Files 2004 (a lead-in to The OMAC Project, perhaps?). This goes to the end of Matthew Clark's run, just before the Captain Marvel issues. In addition, there's a solicitation for volume two of Superman: For Tomorrow, but seriously, who's going to pick that up now when we know that Absolute Superman: For Tomorrow is on the horizon one day?

The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen, collecting issues 207-211 and 213-217, a mammoth 10 issues! (#212 is the Mirror Master profile, which I imagine will show up elsewhere.) This and Superman are both Identity Crisis tie-ins, and it seems a little silly to me to release them before the Identity Crisis hardcover comes out, but hey, what do I know?

We also get Nightwing: Year One, Space Ghost, and Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (finally!). All in all, a pretty good month, no?

Review: JSA: All-Stars trade paperback (DC Comics)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Well, I will say for JSA: All-Stars, if you're a fan of any of the writing-and-art teams involved, there's a lot to love in this book: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale on Hawkman, Darwyn Cooke on Dr. Fate, Brian Azzarello and Edward Risso on Dr. Mid-Nite, Michael Lark with Michael Chabon on Mr. Terrific, and especially James Robinson and Tony Harris on Starman.

That is, it's great to see these teams in action ... but if you're looking for the characters written by these teams to be in-character, go somewhere else. Sure, Dr. Fate is his typically overblown self, and Robinson literally wrote the book on Starman, but in most of the short stories, the characters themselves are nearly interchangable. And don't go looking for much more in the main stories. Some of these do indeed add to the characters' backstories--Hawkgirl, mainly. That the Star-Spangled Kid is redubbed as Stargirl is interesting, and learning Dr. Mid-Nite's connection with the original gives him more resonance--but Dr. Fate fretting about something that might or might not happen? Mr. Terrific gaining what I felt to be a completely unnecessary reason to beat himself up that much more?

Most of these stories felt like one-off "what can we add to this character" bits, with more emphasis on shock than substance, and I did wonder: what would this story have been like if, instead of six individual character issues, each plot was blended with the other throughout the whole series? If anything, it might have added some suspense, making the reader wait until the end to see how things turned out, instead of each chapter wrapping up tidily. I hate to say it, but here's a series that probably worked better as monthlies than as a trade shudder.

I did like how the plots paralleled one another in the end -- Kendra's motherhood tied into her relationship with Dr. Fate most of all. And having Legacy be the Wizard at least redeemed what seemed to be a made-to-order villain, and there was a nice parallel in the legacies of the Justice and Injustice Society -- I hope Geoff Johns picks up on these aspects of the Wizard in his upcoming JLA run. And, both here and in JSA: Prince of Darkness, I enjoyed the realization among the older crowd of the JSA that it's not just about teaching the new dogs new tricks, but also about learning back and forth--and redeeming one another. It makes the JSA more a family than a schoolhouse, and I'm interested to see how that's tested in JSA: Black Reign.

On to Superman/Batman now, and from there, we'll see. Could be some JLA, could be some Majestic, could be Fables ... we'll see.

Review: JSA: Prince of Darkness trade paperback (DC Comics)

I liked JSA: Stealing Thunder a lot, and I thought the trade paperback worked well as a stand-alone story; it had a definite set-up, rising action, climax, denouement, and even a couple of wrap-up issues after the fact. It flowed together well. JSA: Prince of Darkness, on the other hand, unfortunately lost its set-up issue to JSA: Savage Times. I can understand why the prologue issue of the set went to the previous trade paperback—DC would much rather end Savage Times with the Mordu reveal than with the Dove reveal—but for Prince of Darkness, it meant the trade paperback started right in the middle of the action. And never stopped. Sure, there were a couple nice character bits in Prince of Darkness—the interaction between the Star-Spangled Kid and Captain Marvel, for instance, and Dr. Fate with Nabu—but all in all, it seemed to move just too fast for me to get a grip on the characters.

Sand's death, as an example, bugged me quite a bit—sure, no one really believes Sand is gone for good, but at the same time, he gives his life, and in the end, the characters are cheering their victory, instead of mourning their loss. The story seemed more about the battle than the battle-ers, and for that, it wasn't as good as I expected. Stealing Thunder remains superior.

On the other hand, the extra issues in Prince of Darkness, leading in to JSA: Black Reign, were exceptional. I loved the Power Girl/Wildcat fight against the Crimson Avenger—as bloody as a good Tartentino movie—and I could not put it down until the end. The JSA/JLA team-up, too, had some good laughs, and really liked Geoff Johns placing Ma Hunkle as the new JSA historian. I also appreciated the continuity with Flash: Blitz and Flash: Ignition, seeing Jesse Quick move in to JSA headquarters (though Bart-as-Impulse confused me. I'll have to check my trade paperback timeline to see where this takes place in Teen Titans continuity).

So in the end, JSA: Prince of Darkness is certainly not a terrible JSA trade but it doesn't take the top spot, either. Now I'm starting JSA All-Stars, with high hopes, and from there to Superman/Batman: Supergirl.

Nightwing news you already know ...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Loyal readers already know that the Nightwing: Year One trade paperback is due out in July ... now DC confirms it. Can a list of the Fall trade paperbacks be far behind?

Review: Flash: Ignition trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Flash: Ignition is now right up there with some of my favorite trade paperbacks, and it's a tribute to Geoff Johns' excellent writing. This is an origin story, no doubt, one that could have easily been a movie -- the Flash rediscovers his own identity -- and as a jumping-on point, this story never misses a beat.

The best scenes, I think, were those between the Flash and Batman, from the unique way Johns chose to have everyone remember the Flash's identity, to the way Batman figured out the Flash's identity and Batman's concerns about Hal Jordan's behavior, to equating the death of the Flash's children to the death of Batman's parents, the whole thing just shone. And usually, I'm not a fan of an author creating a new character just for the purposes of revealing the character as the mystery villain in a story, but I thought Johns created so many new characters for Ignition, and the villain's rationale was so good, tying into themes of the whole Ignition story -- including Wally's new job -- that it worked. It all just worked.

And I have to give DC credit for bringing Albert Dose's very un-Flash-like art to this story -- and it worked perfectly. Dose's art reminds me of Eduardo Risso's, though perhaps a little less caricatured -- except for Dose's obscenely-veined-and-muscled Batman, which, for the purposes of the story, was A-OK. I don't know much about Dose, and I'm having trouble finding out what else he's done. I actually wouldn't have minded seeing him stay on Flash for a while, or otherwise move to a DC-noir book like Catwoman or Gotham Central. Can anyone fill me in?

If I had one sore spot with Ignition, it was the fact that Linda left in the end. Now, I have enough faith in Geoff Johns not to think that he's one of those writers who just can't write married characters, and has to put the relationship on hold somehow so as to give the main character new romantic tension -- from, perhaps, new characters Reece Wheeler or Ashley Zolomon -- and so I'm believing instead that Linda's leaving is part of a grand plan by Johns, which will ultimately come together in a way that will make me say "that was worth it." And now I'm waiting and seeing. On the other hand, I did think the parallel between Linda and Zolomon was great -- an excellent tie to the end of the trade.

And now bring on Flash: The Secret Life of Barry Allen (or is it just The Secret of Barry Allen?)! I'm off to JSA: Prince of Darkness next, followed by Superman/Batman: Supergirl.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis review

As with Wednesday night's West Wing, I have to admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed by Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Not disappointed, exactly, just underwhelmed. As a story touted to be a sequel to Identity Crisis, Countdown felt to me to be painting by the numbers. Many would claim that Identity Crisis lacked heart, but I felt Countdown lacked heart. And not in the characterization, per se—I thought the Beetle and Booster scenes were especially effective, and I'm glad that if Beetle's really gone, we got to see him with Booster one last time before he went. And certainly, the authors did a fine job paying tribute to the Justice Leagues of yore. But maybe this was spoiled for me by the fact that I knew that the authors had vetoed the idea of doing a "travelogue," or maybe this was spoiled by knowing that four miniseries were already coming after—but by about the second or third chapter, I had a sense that this was really about taking Beetle from place to place to advertise the Countdown to Infinite Crisis miniseries. The chapter on Day of Vengeance, especially—I hope the beetle scarab becomes important in the future, because otherwise, it was simply a plot device to take Beetle to the Wizard Shazam and back again—and it just felt too much like the seams were showing. Not to mention the shoehorned Adam Strange appearance.

There were good parts to the story: Batman and Alfred confronting Identity Crisis, for instance, and the aforementioned look back to the old Justice League. But I couldn't wrap my head around the story's main villain—I hope it's mind control, because I think the old Justice League stories are too tightly plotted to convince us that Maxwell Lord was truly a villain back then, let alone in the Formerly Known as the Justice League stories. Max's betrayal is a good story, and I do look forward to both the miniseries and Infinite Crisis, but overall, for a story that killed Blue Beetle, I wasn't moved like I was with Identity Crisis.

That said, I thought the art was good overall, with the artists doing a nice job emulating one another as well as remaining distinct. Phil Jimenez' art looked different than usual—I'll have to go back and look again, but I though the colors, especially, in his chapter opened up what often seems like very narrow faces and bodies in his work. Phil's a younger guy, but he's been in the DCU for quite a while, and I recall fondly his work on JLA/Titans; I'm glad to see him get this mainstream exposure, even though he's really already pretty well-known. It'll be interesting to see him teamed up with Geoff Johns.

And, by the way, does it creep anyone else out to see Hal Jordan in these pages, smiling and laughing like nothing ever happend? Of course, we poor "wait for traders" haven't read Green Lantern: Rebirth yet, but to see Hal just there, and no one blinks an eye ... brrr.

So there you have it. We're official counted-down. What did you all think?

(And as for West Wing, the bit with Charlie and the President was great, but for the-episode-before-the-season-finale, there wasn't a lot of, well, action. No one kidnapped, no one killed in an explosion or car accident. And there was one tense moment where I wondered if Santos would take the VP seat or not, but really, was it ever a possibility? Not to mention, even as CJ seems to have committed treason, I'm a little cynical after both the President's economic reforms and Leo's trip to Cuba both seemed to have disappeared as soon as the week was up. So I'd like to believe CJ's in major trouble now, but I could just as easily believe we won't hear about it in the finale. So again, as I said, not disappointed per se, just underwhelmed.)