Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #609

In 1988-89, DC changed Action Comics from a monthly Superman-focused series to a weekly anthology, also changing its name to Action Comics Weekly. It lasted 42 issues before reverting to a monthly format. I am going to review all 42 of those issues, one per week for 42 weeks. This is the ninth of those reviews.
Brian Bolland has got to be one of my top 3 cover artists ever, and this cover is easily the best Action Comics Weekly has had yet, so...score another one for ol' BB. Also, some of the scans of this issue are super crooked, which, once again, has to do with the misshapenness of my beat up old copy.
I liked this opening chapter of the new Black Canary storyline, even though it didn't really offer much of a story hook. Instead, it introduced the very beginnings of several threads: Dinah Lance burning her Black Canary costume in favor of going old school, and also becoming more practical; Rita, a friend of Dinah's, getting into some kind of violent trouble, the details of which are still vague—someone named Luis gets chased, caught, and pummeled by three other men, and Rita comes to his aid with a baseball bat, but we don't know any more than that; a cop named William B. MacDonald is trying to round up immigrants who are known criminals in their home countries; and finally, there's a news story about a man suing a chemical company, claiming they caused him to fail his physical and thus lose his job as a pilot. Other than Rita and Dinah being friends, none of these ideas are connected yet in any apparent way, but they all have potential, and I definitely want to know more about each of them. There are a lot of questions raised by these brief, cursory glances at the various stories being set up by Sharon Wright, and I am excited for the answers to start rolling in. In the meantime, Randy Duburke produced very grounded, lifelike art, and made some interesting choices in terms of angles and flow. The momentum of the story was jerky yet smooth, every panel placed and constructed with obvious care, but not always leading super naturally from one moment to the next. It made the action very bold, what little there was of it. None of that action involved the title character, but she was drawn exceptionally, both herself and Oliver Queen being the most detailed in their design and emotion. Once that in-depth physicality is combined with Duburke's flair for unpredictable action, there should be some stellar fights involving Black Canary herself, so that's one more thing to look forward to. Basically, this whole section is about giving the reader stuff to look forward to, and while it borders on throwing too many balls into the air too early, it's effective as a whole, and I am sincerely looking forward to seeing where the story goes.
Deadman and Satan jump into the bodies of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, respectively, and after some badly-written, dull arguing that goes nowhere, they switch to Nancy and Raisa, also swapping countries during the transition, so Deadman ends up in Raisa's body. At that point, Satan explains his hyper-inane evil scheme: he's going to make Nancy Reagan into a TV star, and use her fame to encourage American women to starve themselves. Not only is that convoluted as shit, it's surprisingly low-stakes and narrow in scope for a villain like the Devil. This Deadman narrative has never done a great job of holding my interest because of its lack of focus, but this installment lost me because it was fundamentally boring on a conceptual level. Also, the first two pages were Deadman as the CIA director having an argument with the director's mistress, Lynn, before realizing that it was completely pointless to stay in the director's body any longer and bailing. So Lynn, who was the center of the conclusion last week and takes up the first 25% of this week is a totally unnecessary character, a distraction that the story and its protagonist abandon in an incredibly awkward fashion. I'm beyond tired of Deadman in Action Comics Weekly by now, with this being my least favorite chapter to date, trying to force tension and excitement into a drawn-out conversation about an unimpressive threat.
Secret Six seems to be in a pretty good groove right now, one it slipped into a few weeks ago, around the time Rafael first infiltrated the Six's HQ. His storyline, the mission with the meat-packing plant, and Vic's personal drama have all been developed pretty steadily since then, and all three are compelling in their own ways. Vic's story has had the best art from Dan Spiegle, the fistfight between Vic and his ex-wife's new husband having a few new great moments this issue (see above for more than one example). That thread is also the most in-depth individual character development Martin Pasko has done, and all of the Secret Six seem like interesting people, so it's been a nice little arc to follow for that reason as well. It seems to be resolved now, with Vic returning to the team in San Francisco, but it was fun while it lasted. Rafael's story is basically the central plot, all tied up in the tangled web of Mockingbird's hidden identity and motives. This issue, the Secret Six gets close to finding where Rafael ran off to, but not in time to get to him before some other, previously unseen agents of Mockingbird's do. Those men kidnap Rafael, but also say something about Mockingbird not wanting him hurt, so it's still tough to say just how Mockingbird views Rafael, or what he wants from the whole situation. We also still don't know if he was responsible for killing the original Secret Six, or which one of them he is (if they were right about him being one of the team). Pasko has successfully stretched out the mystery surrounding Mockingbird all this time, keeping much about the character unknown without it slowing things down or getting frustrating. I feel very close to gaining some insight now, since it seems Rafael may get to meet Mockingbird in person at last. The meat-packing stuff continues to be the least interesting, but the end of this chapter has the Secret Six ambushing two reporters in their car, and I liked the style and teamwork employed in that scene. It was a nice moment of excitement at the end, in a chapter full of exciting bursts, in a story that's reliably solid nowadays. As I said, it's in a groove.
Superman slightly deceives a citizen in the name of tracking down the people who tried to have said citizen murdered. That works for me, especially since Roger Stern makes sure to have Superman think to himself how uncomfortable he is taking advantage of Bob Galt's belief in Superman as a god/savior. Supes is on the edges of his typical boy scout morality, and I always prefer to see him sticking to that straight-laced attitude. I'm not big on the character overall, but when I see him, I want him to be the Superman I know, the supreme do-gooder, the lawful good paladin of the DC Universe. This is that version, but with just the right pinch of flexibility, willing to lie a little if it can lead to helping a lot. Not much else goes on this week; Superman (as Clark Kent) accompanies Galt out of police custody, then uses his heat vision to send Galt a message from Superman saying, "Trust Kent." That way, he figures, he can get the info he needs from Galt about the people who were after him without needing to expose that Kent and Superman are one and the same. It's a smart plan, easy to execute quickly, cutting right through Galt's hesitation and getting to the point. That directness is another thing I expect and enjoy in Superman. It's been true from the very first issue of Action Comics Weekly, where Curt Swan drew the best Superman hair curl I've ever seen—this Superman is the ideal Superman, a take on the character that's classic without being dated or stiff. The story is also a lot of fun, maybe it's best quality.
Wild Dog finally concludes, and it mostly sucks for all the usual reasons, but the very, very end got a giggle out of me. Wild Dog, as he's wont to do, reveals that he is only pretending to be down, getting the jump on the guy guarding him. He then demands to know where the Legion of Morality is headed, but the guard insists he doesn't have that information. One page later, Wild Dog shows up at the museum which the Legion had just finished attacking, saying that he "gathered" that it would be the target location, but there's zero explanation beyond that, so it's a weak-at-best plot point. Six men then unload automatic weapons at Wild Dog, who slides under the bullets. I wish I were kidding, but he seriously just drops to the ground and slips beneath the shots, before gunning down all of his attackers in one motion. Wild Dog has always been one of those inexplicably bullet-proof heroes, but this was a new level of insanity and unbelievability. Continuing to defy logic, he then decides he cannot trust a confession from antagonist B. Lyle Layman at gunpoint, but he can believe Layman if he's strapped to explosives. Seems crazy to me, because threatening a person's life is threatening their life, no matter the method you choose, but I guess we needed one final example of how insane and extreme Wild Dog likes to be. Ultimately, there's not enough evidence for the police to hold Layman, but one of the victims of the museum attack turns out to be the son of Helen Scournt, the woman Laymen recently started sleeping with, and the very last panel of this story is Helen, with a crazed look in her eye, sneaking up on Layman in bed and wielding a knife. So we can pretty safely assume she kills him, and as dark as that is, I liked it better as an ending than Wild Dog being the one to do Layman in. Helen as Layman's executioner is considerably less expected, and indeed was something I would never have anticipated at all, so I give the story credit for surprising me in it's closing beat. Otherwise, though, it was pretty awful stuff, okay-looking violence that I neither supported nor believed, all in the context of an uninteresting story with a fairly flimsy cast.
I loved this. The Oprah audience challenges Hal Jordan's assertion that he has no fear, and the points they make are well thought-out and convincing. It's human nature to be fearful, they say, and a truly fearless person would have trouble surviving into adulthood, because children are already more reckless as it is. There's also a woman who challenges the idea that a hero can really be fearless, because heroism necessitates doing something in spite of the fact that it's scary, real bravery requires facing fears, not lacking them. I buy that as a valid definition of "hero," even if I don't entirely agree, and it shakes up Hal for sure. He doesn't have much to say in response to any of the audience's ideas, and after the show is over, we see him actively doubt himself. Even during the show, actually, there's a moment where he's asked if his fearlessness also means he's mentally unstable, and though he denies his own insanity, he has to (internally) admit that Guy Gardner, another Green Lantern, is frighteningly crazy. Hal's post-show self-doubt gets interrupted by a madman attacking a café full of people with a sword, but when Hal swoops in to save the day, his ring leaves him. I'm guessing this is because all the questioning of his fear has made Hal fearful, suddenly afraid that he does feel fear or that he should feel fear, and this new fear of fear makes him no longer worthy of being a Green Lantern. If that's the case, I'm in. If not...I'm still interested to see what is going on. Peter David is clearly quite interested in the whole fearless thing that has long been a part of the Green Lantern mythos, and based on this issue, I'm happy to be along for the ride as David examines the ins and outs of it. Hal feels like the best Lantern to do this with, too, because he's always been the most eager to prove himself, the most determined to do the job right, do it better than anyone. Now he's ringless and fearful for the first time, so it should make for some entertaining comics.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Deadman/"Faux Pas"
5. Wild Dog/"Moral Stand Chapter Nine: Red Pencil"
4. Secret Six/"Canned in Boston"
3. Superman/"And There Will be a Sign!"
2. Black Canary/"Bitter Fruit Part 1"
1. Green Lantern/"Cutting Remarks"

Elsewhere

Two weeks back I put out my new "1987 And All That" on Comics Should Be Good, looking at the first four issues of the first-ever The Punisher ongoing series. Also, CSBG celebrated its 10th anniversary a few days ago, which is freakin' awesome, so a big congrats to them. This week, I wrote for PopMatters about the differences between big cities and small towns, as interpreted through several comics I've read lately. That column was inspired by Sometimes a Great Notion, my all-time favorite prose book and something I recently reread.

Something I Failed to Mention
Obviously for the PopMatters post, I focused on the comics themselves, and only briefly nodded to Sometimes a Great Notion as the story that brought all of this city-vs.-country stuff to the front of my mind. I didn't dig into the novel in any way, partly because the bulk of my writing is always devoted to comics, and partly because Sometimes a Great Notion is supremely dense and complicated, so I don't think I could've given it a proper analysis, even just looking at one specific theme, and still had room to discuss comics at all. That's still true, but there is a single bit of praise I'd like to give to Sometimes in a public forum, the one thing about it that makes me claim it as my favorite book above all others forever. Joe Ben's death scene is the best, most impactful, most heartbreaking, most effective fictional death I've ever experienced. I can still remember reading it for the first time, alone in a hotel room in Madrid, where I'd spent the last three in solitude plowing through most of the novel. When Joe Ben finally died, after many excruciating pages of the water rising around him, his body pinned down by a tree, his cousin and best friend Hank standing there helplessly and watching it happen...I had to take a nap. It shook me to my core. On this most recent reread, that scene got to me all over again. Of all the crazy, deeply personal, truly tragic shit that goes down in the story, Joe Ben dying is the moment that burns most brightly in my memory. It rocks me every time I revisit it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Terminal Hero #4 Review

Obviously this review is coming in pretty late. This whole blog is running late these days. I meant to do a Dirty Dozen on Hinterkind weeks ago, which is like the easiest thing I ever write, but somehow I never got around to it and now issue #13 is out. Don't fret, though, because I think I'm just going to do a piece on that title for PopMatters instead. I've got lots of reasons for my tardiness that aren't worth getting into, but please don't think Terminal Hero is the only comic I'm neglecting. On to the actual review!
     It finally hit me in this issue that Terminal Hero isn't a narrative with a strange pacing problem like I've thought all this time. It's more like a thought experiment in comicbook form, and therefore it intentionally rushes from one idea to the next, since its top priority is idea generation, not storytelling. Part of my realizing this was the phrase "thought experiment" being used in the dialogue, and the rest came from the fact that this issue represented yet another sudden turn in the direction of Rory's life. I've been thinking of the constant status quo shake-ups as Peter Milligan moving too quickly through the narrative, but now I'm convinced that what he's doing is letting all the ideas he has for this central concept (a guy suddenly getting unlimited power from his cancer treatment) spill out of his head freely into the comic. Rather than finding a specific interesting angle an then developing something around it, Milligan is looking at all the possible the angles one by one, and that's fine. It's not what I expected and maybe not even what I'd prefer, but at least I feel like I get it now.
     While I was having that minor epiphany, here's something that confused me: I thought Mia and Minesh were a couple, but evidently he's never seen her naked before, since she reveals her body and its many self-inflicted scars to him in this issue. So now I'm not clear on what their relationship is, exactly, or how they even know each other. Maybe we were told that when they originally met with Raza, but I can't remember seeing any explanation of who they are to one another, which I'm assuming is why I assumed they were romantically involved. I'll have to go back and find out what their connection is before issue #5 comes out.
     The moment where Mia exposes herself is handled nicely by Piotr Kowalski, who continues to be a great fit for this book. His ghost Dr. Quigley, who is essentially the center of the issue's main conflict, is somehow even more terrifying and gross-looking than the original Quigley, who was an unnerving, over-inflated freakshow in his own right. I think it's the paleness that really pushes the ghost version over the edge, so kudos to Kelly Fitzpatrick on that one as well. Terminal Hero found its look right away, so I won't continue to praise the art repetitively in these reviews, but some other visual highlights from this issue were Rory running through the woods with while freaking out and letting his powers do the same, and the moment where the agent in charge of handling Rory—I forget her name right now...I think of her as "Sir" because that's what the other agent calls her in like every one of his lines—looks at the table full of alcohol bottles and prepares herself for some big-league drinking. She hasn't been developed much at all aside from being a fairly typical hardass secret agent type character, and while someone like that having a drinking problem isn't exactly new ground, I was glad to get some insight into who she is when she's off the clock. Of course, it was Milligan who chose to include that scene, but Kowalski made it work in a single panel, perfectly capturing the resignation in her face, the surrender she finally allows herself. It's an important bit of characterization done efficiently.
     I don't have tons of new stuff to say about Terminal Hero #4. Basically, it was much like the previous three issues, except that the rapid-fire tempo of the series finally clicked for me this time, whereas it has always rubbed me the wrong way before. That makes me look forward to what's coming down the pipeline more than I ever have previously, and Rory being on a collision course with Mia and Minesh now only adds to that anticipation. Maybe Terminal Hero #5 will be the one that makes me fall in love.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #608

In 1988-89, DC changed Action Comics from a monthly Superman-focused series to a weekly anthology, also changing its name to Action Comics Weekly. It lasted 42 issues before reverting to a monthly format. I am going to review all 42 of those issues, one per week for 42 weeks. This is the eighth of those reviews.
Green Lantern gets a new writer! Blackhawk concludes! Wild Dog almost concludes! Deadman, Secret Six, and Superman all keep on keepin on!
After Tod Smith replaced original artist Gil Kane last issue, Peter David takes over the writing duties from James Owsley this week, and it's a very weird story to be the first of his run. Hal Jordan sleeps in the day of his Oprah interview, stops a few small-time robbers on his way there, and makes it just in time. Then, during the show, when he says he was chosen because he has no fear, the whole audience bursts into laughter, which seems to throw Hal for quite a loop. That's the story's ending, a much less exciting beat than, say, when Jordan makes a gigantic green gorilla to scoop up the robbers' vehicle and swallow it whole. So I didn't love the conclusion, and the entire affair was bizarre inasmuch as the notion of Green Lantern going on Oprah struck me as odd right away when it was brought up last time. Not to mention, there's very little talk during the actual interview about the whole mess with Star Sapphire and John Stewart, even though supposedly the main reason for Hal to be on the show was to clear all that up. Oprah does ask a question about Star Sapphire, and when Hal starts to answer, we suddenly cut to a half hour later. The details of what he said, how he tried to save his friend from being wrongfully imprisoned, and how effective any of that was all remain a mystery, and I'm a little worried we'll never get answers. I have to trust David not to merely drop threads established by Owsley, but the final scene of this story is about people laughing at Hal over his fearlessness, a completely new problem introduced, perhaps, too soon, as little else has been resolved yet. This wasn't a bad chapter of Green Lantern, but it was blah and a bit off, and not at all the strongest introduction for David.
The best part of this Wild Dog story is that it promises to conclude next week. I'm excited for that. This issue sees main villain B. Lyle Layman finally make his move on Helen, the woman he was leering at in the earliest issues but who hasn't been seen since. I had sort of forgotten that their potential future relationship had even ever been hinted at, and all of a sudden here they were sealing the deal. When talking with the police, Helen seems to remember something she saw that I bet will be important in catching Layman in the end, though she won't admit it yet, not when their romance is still so fresh. Still, for someone who has been mostly ignored by this story, Helen is in a possibly very powerful and influential position. The rest of the story centers on Wild Dog's injury from last week's gunfight. After he and Lt. Flint talk about the wound for a page, Wild Dog meets back up with the Legion of Morality and finally gets to be part of one of their outings. However, as he's suiting up to join them, one of the team leaders spots his bandaged arm, and this reveals him as Wild Dog. So Layman pistol whips him real good right in the face, and the Legion heads out to do their evil deeds unhindered while our hero is trapped and unconscious in their clutches. It should be the height of tension and drama in this story, but I'm not feeling much of that, because a) I'm not super invested in this story overall, and b) Wild Dog has been seemingly taken out once before, and he just woke up and blasted his way throw the bad guys effortlessly that time like he always does. His skill and luck in every fight are so ridiculously good, I don't worry about him even when it looks like all is lost. The dude is nigh-invincible, and I have no doubt he'll shoot his way out of this pickle per usual. Whatever happens, next week is the last week of Wild Dog for a stretch, and I could use the break.
All-in-all, this was a fairly average installment of Secret Six, but it was my favorite section of the issue because of a few key panels as drawn by the talented Mr. Dan Spiegle. In the opening page above, you can see Rafael Di Renzi looking like a shocked muppet in the lower right corner, an expression that gets repeated in the same space of the last page but by a different character (someone in the Secret Six—I still don't know most of their names). Both of those images made me laugh, and even if comedy isn't what Spiegle was going for, the point is the characters' emphatic looks got a reaction out of me, their emotions coming through so forcefully that I was disarmed. Spiegle has in the past done some excellent horror stuff, and there's a panel in here of Vic being fitted with a latex face over his vision-restoring helmet that I enjoyed on a gross-out level. But the best visual in this story, and indeed in this entire issue, was Vic punching his ex-wife's new husband through a window and onto a table. The panel where he hits the table, his limbs flailing, glass flying everywhere, people freaking out all around him, it's fantastically chaotic. There are no sound effects or dialogue, yet all the sounds of madness are still present somehow, because Spiegle just nails the sight of it so perfectly. It might be the best single panel in Action Comics Weekly yet, combining the fun of comicbook physics with Spiegle's generally more grounded style to create an entertaining, eye-catching, hard-hitting image. Do I care much about Vic's difficulties with his ex? Not particularly, but if it's going to lead to more of this level of artwork, I'm all for it. Meanwhile, the Secret Six continue to prepare for their next mission, exposing an evil meat-packing place that's making people sick, and the throughline of the investigation into the original Secret Six's plane crash moves slightly forward, too. So there's a lot going on, and while none of it makes a great deal of progress this week, it all looks great.
The plot thickens, as we get a glimpse of the people behind the attempted murder of Mr. Galt, whom they call "the Courier," whatever that means. He in turn refers to them as "non-believers," and since we know Galt worships Superman, and the baddies also say something about not planning on encountering Superman for months, it's starting to look like this whole thing is more directly tied to the Man of Steel than it originally seemed. Things are starting to develop more and more quickly now that there's a decent amount of information available, and since it's a fairly safe assumption that the silhouette who wants to talk to Galt at the end of this chapter is Superman, chances are we're going to learn a good deal more next week. The real headline here, though, is how comfy and cool Clark Kent's jacket looks. Is it wool? It seems like it might be, and whatever it's made of, I want one. Something about the loose-yet-snuggly fit of it and the visual appeal of the little black dots...Curt Swan, John Beatty, and Tom Ziuko all come together to make it one of the coziest-looking articles of clothing I've ever come across, comicbook or otherwise. I'm not sure if that was the intent, since Clark is wearing it at work so it's probably just a sports jacket, but whatever they were going for, it was, no jokes, my favorite part of this week's Superman story. Also, I liked that despite having no action and no in-costume Superman, this was still a fun, captivating read. I keep getting a lot out of this Superman narrative, which manages to advance just the right amount almost every week.
Dammit, Deadman! Why must you continue to be so disjointed? This week, we see Deadman escape Hell, only to discover that the Devil (or whoever it is that claims to be the Devil) got out first and is on the loose, killing people and doing who knows what else. So Deadman jumps into the body of the director of the CIA as a means of getting his hands on the special alien weapon he believes will be able to capture the Devil, just like it did to him. From there, things go nutty and get mostly boring. We get a few pages worth of Deadman trying to deal with the CIA director's personal problems, namely his wife leaving him over his numerous affairs. Part of that ordeal involves one of the women he cheated with, Lynn, calling him to say his wife found out about them somehow and confronted her. Deadman engages with Lynn at first, but quickly decides he doesn't have time to care about that stuff, which is basically how I felt about it while it was happening. He also "has a feeling" that the Devil is going to attend a gala reception that night for a visiting Soviet premier, though why the Devil would make that move is unclear to me and never properly explained. Mostly Deadman seems to choose that spot because the CIA director already has an invite, so it's a convenient place to start, but you've got to figure that in service of the story, the Devil will be there, so I'm curious to see if it ends up making sense for Deadman to have predicted that once we find out what the Devil's motives are. The cliffhanger this week is Deadman running into Lynn, the CIA director's girlfriend, at the gala, which might be exciting if he hadn't been so dismissive of her earlier, and if his dismissiveness hadn't matched my own feelings. I mean, better to have her show back up than for the initial conversation between her and Deadman to have been wholly pointless, but I'd kind of prefer if the CIA director's own life wasn't part of this story at all. Unless...Lynn's probably the Devil, huh? I'm just thinking that for the first time now, and there's no real evidence besides her having red hair, but I'll make that prediction anyway, because it seems like the only good reason to include her. Regardless, the whole story was annoying because, once again, it represented a totally new situation for Deadman to deal with, and the frequency with which that happens is becoming unpleasantly dizzying.
The ending of the Blackhawk narrative, while satisfying in its results, felt rushed in its execution. There's a ton of exposition from Cynthia about the history of the statue she came to retrieve, and none of it is all that interesting. It's the typical history of religious art in wartime, thing changing hands several times and records being lost, and while that is certainly a sad reality of war, it's not the most compelling material, especially when delivered in info dump format. Once that's all been explained, Blackhawk and Cynthia's lives get saved because of a random lightning strike toppling a tree and causing a cave-in, which is a pretty lame way to get the heroes out of trouble. If not for a perfectly timed and placed act of nature, they'd be dead and Red Dragon would still have all her money and power. Instead, she gets shot out of the sky by André, who we knew had to show up last minute to save the day based on his set-up. He's surprisingly joined by Chuck Sirianni, who I'm assuming is an established Blackhawk character but had never been mentioned before in this story as far as I can remember. So that was a random addition to the cast right at the finish line, and it fed into the generally sped-up feeling of this whole conclusion. Even the central plane fight was a bit hard to follow, not given enough room to do anything all that fun or explosive. The very, very end, where Blackhawk and Cynthia take a few parting, friendly jabs at each other worked nicely as a topper, as their dynamic has always been the best element of this narrative, and now that all their secrets are out they can be even more at-ease with one another. I'm guessing she won't come along when Blackhawk returns in Action Comics Weekly #615 (as promised at the end of this issue), which is too bad, but I appreciate that she and he had one final, enjoyable exchange. This ended as I knew it would end, with Cynthia's past exposed, and both she and Blackhawk barely escaping with the gold and their lives, so in terms of the facts of the plot, I liked this as much as I expected to. It moved a little fast, so I sort of wish that Blackhawk had gotten one more issue, but what can you do? It worked, just not quite as smoothly as I'd hoped.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Wild Dog/"Moral Stand Chapter Eight: Winged Dog"
5. Deadman/"Gala Reception"
4. Green Lantern/"Where the Heck is Green Lantern?"
3. Blackhawk/"Another Fine War - Conclusion"
2. Superman/"Questions and Mysteries"
1. Secret Six/"Blind Impulse"

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monthly Dose: November 2014 [Belated]

Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I read one issue each month of long-completed series.

100 Bullets #25: There is an awful lot of talk about the Trust and the Minutemen in this issue, way more conversation on those topics (and somewhat less cryptic), than we've seen in this series thus far. Brian Azzarello isn't providing many concrete answers, but we get a considerable amount of insight into how the Trust operates, and what their relationship was and is to the Minutemen. Exactly why and how those two groups parted ways remains unclear, and what either side wants now is hard to suss out, too, mostly because it doesn't seem like the Trust even knows what Graves wants, and Graves is the Minutemen, for all intents and purposes. The air of mystery surrounding these characters is enticing, but at the same time, a good chunk of the dialogue in this issue felt empty because of its ambiguity. The members of the Trust took various shots at one another and at Graves, but it didn't amount to much, and most of it was too vague to carry any real weight. The most enjoyable part of seeing the Trust all together was the variety Eduardo Risso brought to their designs. Physically, they're quite the unusual bunch, but they all share the smugness and self-importance that comes with being insanely wealthy and powerful, and all of their body language speaks to that, even if they all have different body dialects. The Trust felt like the center of this issue, but the real thrust of the arc has always been Benito's plotline, and it concludes here in a fairly spectacular fashion. Benito offers his would-be killer a choice: either take the cash he thinks he's owed, or risk everything by taking a bet on a basketball game for significantly more money. It's an intelligent play by Benito, presenting him as much smarter, more aware, and more concerned for others than he's been up to this point, yet it still fits with what else we've seen of his character. He's a more layered figure than he appeared initially, and this arc did a lot to build him up, as well as adding depth and intrigue to the overarching Trust-Minutemen story that we'd gotten only glimpses of before.


Automatic Kafka #1: Right away, Automatic Kafka is a trip, yet Joe Casey and Ashley Wood take pains to make it comprehensible, too. You get a full hook: android and former professional superhero/celebrity Automatic Kafka has spent his whole life trying to find some kind of humanity for himself, and finally touches it when he tries nanotecheroin, a drug/nanobot hybrid designed specifically to get androids high. Most of the issue is us watching Kafka experience that high, revisiting parts of his past, both specific and symbolic, guided by a nude woman who claims to be death but is probably really just a powerful, perhaps even supernatural hallucination. It gives Wood ample opportunities to draw some crazy, near-abstract stuff, since it's all essentially Kafka's dream, so it doesn't need to abide by any rules. Casey can go a little nuts, too, and that's the whole spirit of this book from the cover to the backmatter—free-flowing creativity. It makes for an incredibly fun read, and a bit of a challenge in places, more a comment on or exploration of the comicbook medium than the superhero genre. Kafka being a hero is, for the debut at least, largely incidental. It helps explain his existence and gives him some rich material for his high, but his being a robot is more important, and so is the mere fact that he's on drugs. This issue does what a first issue ought to do, introducing the story's protagonist and inserting him into an interesting situation, and it does so with style. Casey's writing is verbose without being dense; Wood's art is chaotic without being unclear. It's a damn impressive opening move.


X-Force (vol. 1) #25: The big 25th-issue extravaganza sees Cable return to X-Force, and it's a pretty big disappointment from my point of view. I've been loving this series since it switched gears and became all about a group of young, angry mutants trying to forge their own path, but with poppa Cable back in the mix, I'm not super optimistic about where this comic is going anymore. It took such a long time for the old, Liefeld-era crap to be disposed of, and just when it seemed like we were done with that for good, here comes perhaps the most classically Liefeldian character of all time. The story's fairly weak, too, all about the team trying to reclaim Graymalkin (or at least its programming) from Magneto, which, again...it's just all Cable shit, the comic's past showing up and taking the reins again. I was also sort of confused by everyone's behavior...Exodus arrives suddenly with a weird offer to take a specific set of X-Force's members to someplace called Heaven (it's Graymalkin), and the reactions from the heroes seem off to me. Cannonball, rather than being all "Fuck you" like usual, agrees to go with Exodus, but only if certain extra people from X-Force can come along. Then that the whole thing turns out to be sort of a scam, because Cannonball gives Cable the means to track him when he leaves with Exodus, which feels like it defeats the purpose of his going in the first place. If Cannonball is legitimately interested in what Exodus has to say, then why have Cable and the rest of the team do a track and rescue thing? If Cannonball's not interested, why not tell Exodus to shove it? I have a hard time understanding the motivations, and it's all immaterial, anyway, since the real point of all that is just to get Cable to Graymalkin so he can be pissed off at Magneto for stealing it. Oh, and the reveal of Magento, as well as the much earlier reveal of Cable, are both about as unsurprising as possible. I'm sure there's more I could say, but I'm finding I don't have the energy to keep going, because this issue was more deflating than anything else. I disliked it passionlessly.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #607

In 1988-89, DC changed Action Comics from a monthly Superman-focused series to a weekly anthology, also changing its name to Action Comics Weekly. It lasted 42 issues before reverting to a monthly format. I am going to review all 42 of those issues, one per week for 42 weeks. This is the seventh of those reviews.
I found this issue rather dry. All the stories felt like they were spinning their wheels a bit.
I can't decide if I love or hate that Hal Jordan books himself on Oprah. I always find it weird when real celebrities get used in fiction, though it can work if there's a reason for it. In this story, I feel like Oprah could've been any talk show host, so I wasn't crazy about her inclusion. I'm assuming she'll be back next week when we see Hal actually go on the show, so we'll see how that goes, but I wouldn't exactly say I'm looking forward to it. Beyond that, this issue is mostly recap, with Hal flying around the globe remembering things that have happened in this comic's previous issues. He then discovers that, due to the bad publicity surrounding his recent run-ins with Star Sapphire, he is feared and hated all over the world, everyone now believing Green Lantern is a murderer. This fact, along with a playful suggestion from Arisia, inspires Hal to call Oprah in an effort to clear his name, and hopefully get John Stewart out of jail. The concept of a superhero using P.R. as a tactic is something I feel like I've seen a lot of recently, so kudos to this story for being ahead of the curve, but it doesn't actually happen here, we just get told that it's going to happen. Nothing much happens here at all, is the problem, the whole eight pages being either regurgitated information or set-up for upcoming events. The headline is really that Gil Kane has been replaced by Tod Smith for some reason, and I'm sad to see Kane go. Smith delivers a good-looking issue, and his style isn't too distant from Kane's, but there is definitely some energy missing from the artwork. It's missing from the script, too, making this an altogether low-energy affair, which is a particularly bad way to kick off any anthology.
Turns out D.B. Cooper isn't D.B. Cooper, but the Sensei—Deadman's murderer from when he was alive—in disguise. I guess that pretending to be Cooper is a tactical decision, posing as a famous person to throw off suspicion, but I have to question once again why Cooper of all people was chosen. Considering he acts as a guide for Deadman to get out of Hell, some recognizable explorer or adventurer would've made way more sense, and Cooper just seems like an arbitrary call. We don't even know if he's dead in the real world, right? Not positively. It's minor but it really bugs me. Meanwhile, this Deadman narrative keeps jerking me around, though at least the focus is still on Deadman escaping Hell. By bringing in the Sensei, it does change from a self-contained story to one pulling more heavily from Deadman's continuity, and it also highlights the thing I think has been troubling me all along about the Deadman sections that I have tried but mostly failed to articulate precisely: the conflict changes every week. Though there is a forward momentum to the narrative that makes it all one thing, each week sees Deadman facing a different threat/villain. The reader gets no chance to root against anyone for very long, or to care about Deadman accomplishing anything because he always does it so quickly and then it gets replaced by the next thing right away. The Sensei revealed himself and I felt nothing about it, because it was just one more new obstacle I knew would be disposed of post-haste. I was right. Though it's not very often the worst individual part of any issue of Action Comics Weekly, I think I'm most eager for this Deadman story to be resolved and swapped out for some other character.
Wild Dog continues to do its usual thing, and I continue not to be into it. This time around, there is that classically frustrating action cliché of the hero who cannot be hit by bullets no matter how many get fired at him, but then turns around and hits the bad guys immediately. A very weak piece of storytelling there. Other than that, it's just a bunch of the typical violence, and then we learn that Wild Dog's old college friend and current local newspaper reporter Lou Godder has known his secret identity for a while, which is significant I guess but doesn't really feel like a shock, as even Wild Dog's reaction is fairly understated. My favorite thing about Wild Dog this week was the mistake in the page above. You'll notice that the head of the Legion of Morality team has the line, "Task force leader: shoot him!" which makes no sense because is the task force leader. Also, last issue that same guy just said, "Shoot him!" So I'm guessing this is a situation where letterer Gaspar Saladino saw the script and accidentally included the name of the character in his dialogue, a mistake which editor Mike Gold then missed. It took me a few seconds of blank staring to figure that out, and once I did it genuinely amused me, something Wild Dog has failed to do much before now. Of course, for an error to be what I liked best about the story is not a good sign, but at least this was no worse than usual; it as exactly as uninteresting as I expected it to be.
I've always been attracted to this story in part because it's a mystery, and Superman isn't usually a mystery-solving type of hero in my mind. He comes from Action Comics, while Batman comes from Detective Comics, and to me that's always been kind of the key difference between DC's two most well-known characters. That said, I found myself having an "Oh, right..." moment when reading the part in this story where Supes refers to himself as, "The Daily Planet's top investigative reporter." Because, yeah, of course Superman is equipped to solve a mystery, since that kind of thing is what he does in his day job constantly. It brought Superman and Batman a bit closer, and underlined for me an important set of skills and resources Superman has access to that, for whatever reason, I've always more or less ignored in the past. Just getting to that point was almost half of the story this week, with the back half being Superman finding the name of the man who blew himself up a few issues back, Charles Culpepper, then learning that Culpepper is supposed to have died that same morning somewhere far away from where Superman actually saw him die. It thickens the plot by demonstrating the true reach of whoever was behind Culpepper's suicide and the mugging that set it off—if the primary villain can so quickly change the story of how one of his/her agents died, then he/she must have some significant pull. Roger Stern continues to add a bit more spice to the narrative recipe every week, even with his two-page limit, and though the progress was minimal here, it served to point out an aspect of Superman's character for this particular reader that I never previously gave any real consideration.
Sadly, the reveal of who the intruder was from last issue held no surprise. It was Rafael di Renzi, who I suppose it basically had to be, but I was hoping to see someone unexpected underneath his mask. He tells his backstory to the new Secret Six, explaining how his father Carlo was forced to work for Mockingbird in order for Mockingbird to keep providing the pills that keep Rafael's bone disorder in check. In other words, Carlo did it for his son, so now his son is trying to do something for him by figuring out the truth behind the plane crash that supposedly killed off all the old Secret Six. Many of the specifics of Rafael's story were new information, but the broad strokes were all well-established, so this wasn't the most interesting installment. It was important for Rafael and the current Secret Six to transition from enemies to allies, and that got accomplished in a believable and efficient fashion, but it meant explaining to the Secret Six a few things the reader has known for a while now. I did enjoy how their next mission was also introduced; Martin Pasko has done a good job of keeping more than one ball in the air at a time in this story, and keeps it up here. The idea of the team going after a corrupt meat-packing plant isn't all that gripping, but I do like how Mockingbird's whole deal seems to be ending corporate dishonesty, holding businesses accountable for the damage they cause and exposing them when they lie or cut corners in a way that hurts innocent people. That's an interesting focus for a vigilante to have, so I'm curious to see what other types of enemies this group might face in the long run. For now, having them and Rafael working together is bound to complicate things, and with those characters finally together, it's harder than ever to predict where this story is headed.
As I mentioned up top, this issue was perhaps the least exciting yet on the whole, but the Blackhawk section was the exception that proved that rule. Cynthia Hastings finally reveals that she's not just seeking Red Dragon's gold but a specific item within the collection, Massie shows exactly what a scumbag and villain he truly is, and then Massie and Blackhawk finally get to have an all-out brawl before Red Dragon shows up to put everybody's lives at risk. It's a lot of development and peak-reaching back-to-back, with some tight action from Rick Burchett and Pablo Marcos, colored perfectly in brash oranges, reds, and blacks by Tom Ziuko. At the end, we're promised that next week will be this story's finale, which makes sense considering there's not a lot left to do. The gold is on Blackhawk's plane, Cynthia has shown her hand, and that in turn has caused both Massie and Blackhawk to show theirs. With the cards fully on the table, Red Dragon seems to be in a super-advantageous position, and considering the isolated location, our heroes are in a tense, apparently impossible situation. Mike Grell got us to this point at a quick but steady pace, and he's done a pretty amazing job of developing the cast along the way, so that I'm legitimately curious as to how this will shake out for all four people, invested in their outcomes equally. I want different things for each of them, and I wholly despise Massie whereas I like the others to different degrees, but I care about them all, which is what matters most. While I hold out hope that Deadman and Wild Dog will wrap up ASAP, I'm bummed to know Blackhawk is on its way out. It's been reliably entertaining, and it's perhaps the most unlike any of the other stories in this book.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Deadman/"Escape from Hell"
5. Wild Dog/"Moral Stand Chapter Seven: Legionnaire's Disease"
4. Green Lantern/"Guilty!"
3. Secret Six/"Gino"
2. Superman/"Familiar Face?"
1. Blackhawk/"Another Fine War Chapter 7"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #606

In 1988-89, DC changed Action Comics from a monthly Superman-focused series to a weekly anthology, also changing its name to Action Comics Weekly. It lasted 42 issues before reverting to a monthly format. I am going to review all 42 of those issues, one per week for 42 weeks. This is the sixth of those reviews.
Sorry if all my scans are extra crooked this time. My copy of this issue is kinda warped. It also has a weird, long black splotch on a handful of pages that obscured small parts of the panels, which was annoying. Not enough to impede any comprehension, but an ugly distraction nonetheless.
The premise of this Green Lantern chapter is super simple, and I totally love it. Hal Jordan, having the briefest respite in the midst of all the crap he's been going through lately, decides he needs some support. With his whole life coming to pieces around him, he wants a friend, if not to help directly then at least to prop him up emotionally for a minute so he can get back to Green Lantern-ing properly. John Stewart has been furious with Hal since the end of the first issue of Action Comics Weekly, and things have only gotten worse for John since then, so he's angrier than ever. So Hal makes a list of his other allies in the superhero community, and reaches out to them one by one. He's extremely open and honest about how bad things have gotten and about his need for help, but despite his vulnerability, he cannot find anyone who's willing to lend a hand or even a sympathetic ear. Bruce Wayne gives Hal a harsh colder shoulder, Clark Kent scolds him for letting things get so out of hand, and Oliver Queen, Hal's oldest and most trusted friend and former crimefighting partner, no longer seems interested in having anything to do with Hal. Ollie's got his own life in Seattle with Dinah Lance/Black Canary, and would rather not let any outside superheroics rock the boat. Ultimately, Hal crumples his list of names and throws it into the street despondently, feeling more alone and hopeless at the end of the story than he did at the beginning. The reason I like this so much is that, in a shared reality like the DC universe, the question of why all the heroes don't help each other more often gets frequently ignored. When it is addressed, the solution is typically to explain why one or more other good guys are unavailable/otherwise occupied, rather than to give them an in-character, emotional reason not to get involved in another hero's business. In this Green Lantern tale, though, there is no imminent threat that Hal needs assistance with, just the general collapse of his world. So no explanation was even called for as far as why he's all alone. Yet James Owsley took the time to explicitly point out how unsupported Hal is right now, anyway, an unexpected and especially brutal new trial to put him through.
This is a transitional chapter for the Secret Six, officially putting the lid on the Technodyne mission they completed last time, and more fully launching the plotline of Rafael di Renzi going after Mockingbird to figure out what caused the plane crash that seemingly killed the original Secret Six. It's a necessary beat, I think, with Martin Pasko taking his time letting the story unfold, and also taking a minute to remind us that Mockingbird can disable the special equipment he provided the Secret Six that allows them to operate as an efficient team. The scene (which you can see most of in the page scanned above) where all their stuff turns off and they have a minute of group panic is the most exciting part of the story, including the ending when the Secret Six gets attacked by a masked intruder. I'm guessing we are meant to assume the intruder is Rafael, but I'm not placing any bets yet. We do see Rafael find his father's old communication watch, which allows him to listen in when Mockingbird contacts the current Six. So at the very least, Rafael knows the team is in San Francisco, meaning even if he's not the guy who attacks them at the end, he will undoubtedly cross paths with them sooner than later. In the meantime, Mockingbird has promised a second mission, two federal agents have been introduced to the story, taking over the investigation of the plane crash, with the indication being they know something about Mockingbird and/or the Secret Six. So things are getting more tangled and fresh players are being brought onto the stage, but it's all part of developing the existing threads, which I like. This has been a reliably good story to follow, and the more details that get stirred into the mix, the more captivating it becomes.
I've grown rather tired of this Deadman story. I've mentioned a few times now how it jumps from one thread to the next too quickly, and that happens again here, though to a slightly lesser degree. The entire story is technically about Deadman being trapped in Hell, but it starts off with him being given a tour of the place by the Devil, then suddenly shifts gears and has him approached by D.B. Cooper who wants help with an escape plan. Choosing Cooper seems random, especially since the plan to get out has nothing to with planes. It's a pretty standard "get to the summit of a mystical mountain" set-up, which could've been introduced by literally any character at all, so the significance of it being Cooper is thus far lost on me. An interesting guy, no doubt, and I'm sort of into the notion that his mysterious disappearance had to do with a deal he made with Satan, but that's only mentioned off-hand, not actually explored, and otherwise he's a generic white guy whose only narrative purpose is to know more than Deadman about how to exit Hell. I loved Dan Jurgens' art when Deadman challenges the Devil's gender ("Why are you male? What if women had written the Bible?) and the Devil responds by first becoming a sultry nude human woman, then a terrifying nude demon woman. It was a funny and pseudo-psychedelic moment, and Jurgens did a good job with the other inhabitants  of Hell as well, cutting a little loose with his designs for the demons and imps and such that populated the backgrounds. Other than that, though, there wasn't much going on that I cared about, and once D.B. Cooper showed up, it was three full pages of boredom leading to a less-than-stellar final beat.
I'm very into the story of Superman being worshipped as a god. I know this kind of thing has been done by others, and I don't know enough about Superman history to accurately place this particular take on Superman as a deity in relation to any others. What I'm saying is, I don't have a strong sense of whether or not Roger Stern was one of the first writers to tackle this concept or not, but I like his (so far) simple approach. Certainly some of that has to do with the fact that he's telling the tale two pages at a time, but whatever Stern's motivation for keeping things straightforward, the character who sees Superman as his savior in-story has fairly obvious reasons for doing so. Superman's origins, falling from the sky as he did, and his incredible powers and squeaky-clean personality, make for a pretty compelling messiah story. It's easy to imagine that if a Superman-like figure emerged in the real world, some group would crop up to worship him/her. That's all we have so far in the comic, a logical extension of the whole Superman idea, and the directness is nice, especially in such a tight space. All that praise aside, it is sort of a drag that this issue's cover more or less covers the same ground in a single image. It's not exactly the same, narratively speaking—the cover has a whole Superman cult, whereas the actual Superman pages have just one guy, but the basic idea of people deifying Superman and him being surprised and extremely uncomfortable with that is summed up perfectly in the cover by Kerry Gammill and John Nyberg. That's about as far as Stern and Curt Swan get in their two pages this week, and it's also basically something they already established in the final panels of last week's issue, so...not a ton of progress, and maybe not the most efficient use of the space, but still an enjoyable if slight advancement of what continues to be an interesting story.
Oh Wild Dog...I just have very little new to say about you. This continues to be a weirdly low-stakes conflict, moving at an uneven pace, with the conclusion of each chapter being awkward and abrupt. This was the worst ending yet, because it was confusing on top of everything else, and it ended right at the beginning of a fight that hadn't gotten good yet. Wild Dog shows up to stop the Legion of Morality from blowing up the local newspaper. For some reason, there are buckets of something (paint? ink? water?) in the room. It looks like paint, but that makes the least sense, because why would a newspaper have a stack of paint buckets lying around? Whatever it is, Wild Dog opens up one can and pours it out onto the floor, and apparently it spills and spreads so fast that three different Legionnaires of Morality are caught off-guard and slip in it, falling on their asses. Maybe it's oil? I can't figure it out for the life of me, and it seems some laws of physics get disobeyed or at least stretched beyond belief when Wild Dog uses the strange dark liquid as a weapon. Something you pour onto the floor doesn't aggressively spread out and knock your opponents over, does it? It reads like nonsense. Also, the more I look at those pages, the more I'm convinced it's supposed to be ink, because the next weapon Wild Dog improvises from the environment is a giant roll of paper, and those are the two key ingredients in a newspaper. But ink would flow even more slowly out of its container than something like water or oil, right? And it'd be sticky, rather than slippery. So what the hell? Anyway, that final fight confused me, and ended way too quickly, and everything else in this issue was painstakingly slow build-up to that scene, so...another big whiff for Wild Dog.
That's an excellent title page, no? The page that follows features some pretty great-looking brawling, too. That fight between Blackhawk and Massie was the highlight of this Blackhawk section, which was a pretty strong installment overall, complicating everyone's relationship with everyone else. Blackhawk impresses the Red Dragon and the two of them go to bed together, all a part of his manipulations to try and steal her gold. We can see that she's genuinely impressed by and attracted to him, so his plan works to a degree, but in the end she states out loud that she still doesn't trust him, and proves herself to be one step ahead of his scheming. He offers to fly her and her goods out of the jungle so she can have a better life in the civilized world, and she agrees, but adds the stipulation that Cynthia will have to be left behind to keep Blackhawk honest. She makes him think he's successfully tricking her right up until the final bit of negotiation, then twists the knife by revealing she's smarter and more cautious than he gives her credit for. Meanwhile, Massie comes to Cynthia to warn her that Blackhawk and Red Dragon getting together is bad news. Massie says that he and Cynthia are now expendable, and that the Red Dragon has a history of using people up and then ruthlessly casting them aside when they stop being useful. Massie wants to form an alliance with Cynthia (and probably to sleep with her, too, though she seems disgusted/terrified at that thought) but she's a little hesitant, still wanting to trust her original partner but aware that she's somewhat out of her depth. It's a tense situation full of dishonesty and mistrust, and Mike Grell has done a good job of constructing such fraught circumstances. Rick Burchett's art has been essential, too, because there are a lot of subtle and secret facial expressions from all four of the major players that inform the hell out of this story and provide a great deal of subtext to the dialogue. I feel like Blackhawk is the most hit-or-miss story in this book, but when it hits, it hits hard.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Wild Dog/"Moral Stand Chapter Six: Stop the Presses!"
5. Deadman/"This is Hell"
4. Superman/"The True Believer"
3. Secret Six/"The Sins of the Father..."
2. Blackhawk/"Another Fine War Part 6"
1. Green Lantern/"The List"

Elsewhere

I wrote a piece for PopMatters last week about Ms. Marvel and how its star handles the many changes in her life in an exemplary fashion. That's a mighty fine series and an important one for many reasons. Go read it. This week I published my latest "1987 And All That" on Comics Should Be Good, looking at Blue Beetle #8-19, specifically focusing on its optimistic outlook. I enjoyed the heck out of that comic, and found myself wishing more modern series could find the balance between comedy and drama that Blue Beetle got so right. Certainly those books exist, but I feel like there's greater importance placed on the serious stuff these days, and less willingness to have some silly, simple fun. Flash Gordon is probably the closest current parallel I can think of.

Something I Failed to Mention
I zeroed in on Blue Beetle's propensity to use sympathetic or at least relatable villains, and it's true that most of the bad guys in the issues I read had some amount of likability. There were exceptions, the most obvious of which was Carapax, a super jerky guy whose mind gets zapped into a giant robot, making him even jerkier. I didn't see the initial introduction to this character in the issues I read (Wikipedia tells me he debuted in Blue Beetle #1) but I did watch him go from full human to human-mind-trapped-in-a-machine, essentially witnessing his origins as a supervillain, if not as a self-important ass. He was gratingly full of himself from the start, and soon as he gained any amount of power, he started murdering people mercilessly. So Carapax was a full-blown, clear-cut villain, with nothing redeeming about him in a single panel of what I read, a rare exception to the series' normal take on its antagonists. That said, the story of Beetle discovering and battling Carapax is also the story of him and police detective Lt. Fisher becoming friends instead of enemies. Fisher had problems with both the Beetle and his secret identity Ted Kord, but over the course of their fighting Carapax together, the two men managed to form something of an alliance. They're not best buds or anything, but they start to work together rather than against each other. Even when the main villain of an arc is a evil as they come, then, Blue Beetle shows its readers that not all opponents are bad, and that trusting in one another produces better results than the opposite approach, since Fisher and Beetle win in the end.