Saturday, January 31, 2015

Monthly Dose: January 2015

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

100 Bullets #27: This issue presents what is, essentially, a piece of historical fiction, wherein JFK's assassination might have been carried out by Joe DiMaggio as retribution for Marilyn Monroe's clandestine murder. None of those names I just mentioned ever get said aloud, but they're not exactly kept secret, either. There's a record-breaking baseball player whose celebrity wife also has a relationship with the President, and is then murdered for it, so Graves gives the player the attaché with the hundred untraceable bullets, and on "November twenty-second. Nineteen Sixty-Three," the player takes a shot at the President in Dallas. You don't really need to hear anyone's name to know who this story is about, or who it's inspired by anyway. We're even told that there were other shooters, and no one knows whose bullet actually did the job, so this version of events fits with both the official story of what happened and many of the more popular conspiracy theories. None of which matters all that much, anyway. The real point of this narrative in the context of the larger series is to establish just how long Graves has been doing the thing where he gives people the attaché, and how much influence he has or at least used to have back in the day. Though the narrative of the baseball player is the focus, the takeaway has to do entirely with Graves, which speaks to how well Brian Azzarello writes the issue. He gives us background on one of the most important characters (and perhaps the most inscrutable) without needing to remove any of Graves' mystery or natural intimidation. If anything, he's more intriguing and scary than ever. The strongest aspect of this issue, though, has nothing to do with Graves or the baseball player, at least not directly, and may not even be something Azzarello wrote. It's the entirely silent background story about the two nurses (or maybe she's a nurse and he's an orderly/resident?) who sneak off for some romance and it angers a patient so much that she dies. Eduardo Risso weaves it in quite easily without it stealing the spotlight or taking up too much space, and he makes it light and funny somehow despite the darkness of the resolution. The old woman always makes me laugh with her classic, almost cartoonish curmudgeonliness. I'm not totally sold on the JFK/Monroe/DiMaggio thing, if only because JFK conspiracy talk feels trite, but I like the expansion of Graves and I love the B-plot, so I enjoyed more of this than I didn't.

Automatic Kafka #3: To escape the clutches of the shadowy National Parks Service, Automatic Kafka decides to become a celebrity (at the Waring's suggestion). It's a clever move, one that makes sense considering both Kafka's history and goals. He was always partially just meant to be a star, a member of a manufactured superhero team that had merchandise and marketing from day zero, so cashing in on his name now is a pretty easy thing to do. And with the whole world paying attention to him once again, it becomes considerably harder for the NPS to make good on their threat to make his life miserable, since the NPS would rather the public not know what kinds of secret, evil government shit they're really up to. It does take the issue kind of a long time to get there, but in between the scenes of Kafka talking to the NPS and then the Warning, we see him as the host of a gameshow called The Milling Dollar Detail, where the contestants are literally killed at the end if they can't guess one random, secret detail they have no good way of knowing. It's a bleak but not unbelievable vision of the evolution of popular entertainment, in the same way Kafka is a severe yet logical reimagining of both classic android and classic superhero characters. Between a fresh appearance from the Warning, the two pages with four panels each of Kafka in ads for various parody products, and all of the scenes of Detail, this was the funniest issue by far, though a dark comedy to be sure. It was also the least story advancement in an issue yet, but the progress that did get made was very interesting and unexpected, and it resulted in a lot of solid material. I was also really impressed with the visual changes that accompanied the Detail stuff; Ashley Wood does those pages in a wash of blue, a much softer and more inviting color than we've seen used so dominantly in this series before. Along with that, only the middle third of those pages have actual panels of them, and the top and bottom tiers are filled with the overlapping logos of a bunch of imagined, mostly satirical companies, all presumably sponsors of Detail. It was a great way to fit a bunch of jokes in a small space, and along with the coloring, it helped those parts of the narrative pop on every level. Predicting the direction of this comic is a futile exercise, and that's what I like most about it. This issue was a perfect demonstration of the kinds of sudden turns Automatic Kafka likes to take, and of how effective they can be.

X-Force (vol. 1) #27: This was a pretty classic X-story, dressed up in the hyper-90s aesthetic and attitude this book has always had. There's a human who hates mutants, so the bad mutants want to kill him, and the good mutants want to stop the bad mutants because that's what good mutants do and who needs more reason than that? And that's fine; I like a good action comic just fine, and this is definitely that, but it doesn't particularly stand out because there's nothing special going on. It's 100% the one-sentence synopsis I provided above, nothing deeper or more complex to it, or at least not that we're shown within this issue. Are twists coming, are there narrative wrinkles yet to be discovered? Probably, but this opening beat is all surface, characters stating their feelings aloud and X-Force fighting the MLF primarily because no other heroes are available, as opposed to some more compelling connection between the two teams. They've faced off before, but that was when Stryfe was running the MLF so Cable was personally invested. Now, it's a more generic mutant-related problem, and it's only through spying on the Commission for Super Human Activities that X-Force even know about it and decide to get involved. Before that happens, we see the MLF kidnap their target, Henry Peter Gyrich, and learn that not every member of that team gets along or agrees on what level or mercilessness is appropriate in the field. I imagine this dissension amongst the villains' ranks will come into play later, but for now it's merely something we discover exists. Afterwards, X-Force splits into three teams and invades the MLF's base, and they win some fights and lose others, which was to be expected. That's where things resolve this month, with some of X-Force doing well and other doing horribly in the midst of this somewhat misguided rescue mission. All fine, but none of it grabs me or makes me especially excited for next time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Elsewhere/Snow Day

It's been more than a month since I've done one of these Elsewhere posts, mostly because of the holidays affecting my schedule and those of the sites I write for. Since last time, I've had two 1987 And All That posts go up on CSBG, one on Captain America #325-336 and another on Little Shop of Horrors. Most recently, I had a piece go up at PopMatters discussing how I like but mistrust the entire cast of Hinterkind.

I live in Massachusetts, so today is officially a snow day, as Juno has the whole state pretty much buried. The last two days have been spent preparing for this storm, both at work and at home, so I haven't had time yet for what should've been this weeks Weekly Action Comics Weekly Reviews. Once again, that post will be late. I doubt if it'l be today, even though I technically have the time, because I am enjoying doing nothing in the midst of the blizzard, and will most likely let inertia rule my time. Even writing this tiny post is starting to take it out of me.

Something I Failed to Mention
The Captain America issues I discussed work on one level which I did not explore in my column, as a commentary on the current state of comics and the industry's handling of its more popular, well-established characters. Steve Rogers struggles with feeling like he's outgrown his original identity and purpose, which creates conflict when the government demands he go back to fighting who they say and being their obedient soldier. It's easy to map this onto the idea of the character of Captain America getting to big and complex and modern to fir into his original concept, and the fear his creators understandably have that fans might not enjoy seeing that much growth or change. Similarly, when the government brings in John Walker, a more focused, violent, show-boaty kind of guy, the comic itself presents the readers with a choice: do we want Steve Rogers the fully-realized human or John Walker and his violent spectacle? Obviously the book favors Rogers, but part of how it does so is by giving us Walker as a comparison, a watered-down and obnoxious version of the Captain America idea that isn't enough to satisfy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #614

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 fourteenth of those reviews.
Sick of wordiness
So haikus only this week
A fun, weird challenge
Hal's ring removed fear
Cool concept, explained too fast
With lame, sappy end
Great art, great story
A truly scary villain
Solid two-part tale
Cheshire gets her man
It's still a Speedy story
Fluffy, but not bad
Recap again? Ugh!
But Supes gets to save the day
And looks fantastic
I didn't have room to say it in the poem but this is a fantastic first page
Catwoman murders
And then frames Arthur for it
Dark, twisted justice
I'm still so confused
One awesome action panel
Otherwise, whatevs

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Black Canary/"Bitter Fruit Part 4" [It's really Part 6 but "Part 4" is what it says]
5. Green Lantern/"Bring me a Man"
4. Nightwing/"First Blood"
3. Catwoman/"The Tin Roof Club Part Four"
2. Superman/"Death Comes Calling..."
1. Phantom Stranger/"Death God"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #613

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 thirteenth of those reviews.
Woo, boy, I am sure starting to let that "one per week" promise slip, huh? But as my parents recently pointed out to me while visiting this weekend, if I miss a self-imposed deadline once in a while, who's going to punish me? I will try to get back to posting these reviews on Sundays more regularly again, but obviously this one is coming in a few days late. Forgive me.
This might've been my favorite Green Lantern chapter yet. The art hasn't done a lot of cutting loose in the Green Lantern story so far, but Tod Smith goes big here, getting to be the star of the first five of the eight pages. Hal Jordan spends those pages in a nightmare world of his own imagination, as influenced by Mind Games' mental superpowers. Up to now, we've only seen him turn people into homicidal maniacs, but apparently he can also influence other emotions as well, at least when he mind-blasts someone directly instead of through his machine. So he puts Jordan through a bunch of intense, negative feelings, things like hate and guilt, which manifest as crazy hallucinations, meaning Smith gets to play around a little. He also gets to draw a Hal who's on the brink, sporting some awesomely exaggerated expressions of anger and contempt. Eventually Mind Games tries to make Hal experience fear, which backfires since of course Hal has no fear. I liked this for a couple reasons, primarily that it tied together what had seemed up to now to be two concurrently running but non-intersecting threads: Hal's questioning of his fearlessness and the Mind Games threat. Also, it speaks to a larger issue, which Hal himself recognizes. For Mind Games' attack to fail, Hal would have to literally possess no fear, not even the kind that's buried deep or wholly ignored. Does this indicate damage, a flaw in Hal's personality? Acting fearlessly is heroic, but a legitimate absence of fear, an inability to feel it even when being controlled by another person, that may be symptomatic of deep dysfunction. It's definitely worth exploring, and as that seems to be Hal's intention, I'm still on very much on board. Mind Games seems to be taken care of for now, an appropriately quick defeat for such a lame villain, and one which moved the narrative in an interesting direction.
This is not a Nightwing story; it's a Speedy story in which Nightwing features prominently. At least, that's the only conclusion I can draw based on this first part. The story centers on Speedy's mission for the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation, which I guess was a thing in the DCU at this time) and revolves around Cheshire, who is Speedy's ex and the mother of his child. Remove the part where he asks Nightwing for help and this is a nice, clean, Speedy story with solid stakes. On the other hand, if it weren't for Speedy showing up in need of a partner, Nightwing wouldn't even know anything about what happens in this story. So why is he the title character? I assume it has mostly to do with him being a more popular (and, admittedly, better) character, plus maybe some as-yet-unrevealed plot detail that makes this narrative a better fit for him. Whatever, the fact that it's really a Speedy story doesn't make it bad. Nightwing is an amusing narrator, he and Speedy have a nice friendship, and the conversation between them about how they are both former wards of millionaire superheroes is interesting if a little obvious. Do I care about Cheshire trying to assassinate random ambassadors? Not really, but her villainous monologuing was fun. I also liked the looks of all three main characters. They were extra 80's, but it suited them, and everyone's outfits looked practical even if they didn't age all that well. I found this an entertaining but not quite exciting read, unremarkable save to say that it was actually a Speedy story.
Even though Tom Grindberg's art is not as standout as Kyle Baker's was in the first Phantom Stranger story back in Action Comics Weekly #610, this ended up being the best story, visually, in this whole issue. Grindberg is inked by Dennis Janke and colored by Petra Scotese, and all three of them really bring it when it comes to the horror elements. The opening page's final panel of the young woman who aged so suddenly it killed her, lying on the floor of the bus like the world's most terrifying ragdoll...I got chills. And Ah Puch is gloriously grotesque and enormous, believable as a god and a viable foe for the Stranger. Part of me feels like I've seen the concept of a book that kills the people who read it before, but I can't place it, and the added touch of having them grow old while having their faces sucked by magical leeches makes it compelling even if it's not original (which, again, it might actually be). I don't have a ton of experience with the Phantom Stranger, but this seemed a pretty good beginner story, with an obvious threat presenting itself, one that can and no doubt will serve as a perfect opportunity for the Stranger to show off the full breadth of his power. I am anxious to see that, especially with this particular opponent and in the hands of this artistic team.
This was the first time reading Superman in Action Comics Weekly felt like a slog, which was hugely disappointing. Recap, followed by super-dull housecleaning-type stuff, followed by the hint of a start of something dramatic and worthwhile, which came right at the end. There's reason to be hopeful about next week's installment, I suppose, but that doesn't make this week's any better. The five panels of info-dumping at the start already felt like a waste, or at the very least an inefficient way to remind readers of what's happened so far. But to follow them with two sizable panels of Clark Kent hiding Bob Galt in his apartment was just plain boring. The panel that came right after those, where Superman thinks to himself that Galt will probably be safe in the apartment, was really all that was needed to establish where Galt would be while Supes continued the investigation, but instead we had to spend time seeing Galt get dropped off, possibly the dullest scene ever. Clark Kent wasn't even wearing the amazing jacket he's had on in every other issue, and when we finally saw Superman in costume, it was small and action-less. I felt a little let down by this, because Superman has been so impressive up to this point, but everyone is allowed one off week, and it took three months worth of weekly chapters for Superman to have a real stinker.
Holly dies suddenly, and Selina mourns in her way, first getting drunk and then trying to get revenge. Selina knows that Holly's house didn't just blow up randomly; Arthur, Holly's husband, must have been responsible, trying to take his wife out so that the brooch Selina gave her could be all his. It's a simple enough hook, and it works well, bolstered considerably by Barry Kitson, Bruce Patterson, and Adrienne Roy's art. The explosion itself is bright and huge and devastating, and the page which follows, in which Holly slowly dies in Selina's arms, is done mostly in tight shots and lit only by the fire, making it intimate and pale and oh so sad. The real standout panel is two pages later when Selina confronts Arthur, and we see her standing over him on his bed, brandishing her whip, obscured by shadow but still terrifying and intimidating with her glowing eyes and fierce-looking cat ears. These are all good-looking pages, and the scene between Selina and George is tightly written, doing what it needs to do for her character and the plot without dragging its heels or taking up too much space. I'm starting to get into the groove of this Catwoman story now for real, and with Holly's death amping things up considerably, it's bound to get better from here.
I could've sworn that last week, in the scene where the mysterious Mr. Scales was talking on the phone, there was some dialogue about Hector Librado being terminated or some similar word. Apparently I misunderstood, though, as Librado is still alive, having survived the attempt on his life when another patient in the hospital happened to wake up and see him being strangled. Just one more detail I either missed, misinterpreted, or never understood. This Black Canary story has become a chore to get through, because I am so far from being invested in it at this point. It has never been clear to me what the stakes really are or why I am meant to care, there are still major players I know next to nothing about, and on top of everything else, it's slow-moving, with none of the hard-hitting street-level action I was hoping to see from this character. While I still enjoy Randy DuBurke's art and find his down-to-Earth style to be pretty perfect for this reality, it doesn't do anything original or interesting ever, really, save for that one panel a few weeks back where we first saw Black Canary in costume. Since then, it's been a by-the-books story art-wise, and Sharon Wright's narrative has never been totally accessible or even moderately interesting to me. I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I don't have anything new to say, because my problems with this story are the same every week. I'll stop for now, and try to find a new angle from which to approach my criticism next time.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Superman/"Wicked Business!"
5. Black Canary/"Bitter Fruit Part 5"
4. Nightwing/"The Cheshire Contract!"
3. Catwoman/"The Tin Roof Club Part 3"
2. Phantom Stranger/"Can't Judge a Book..."
1. Green Lantern/"Head Trip"

Friday, January 9, 2015

Terminal Hero #5 Review

I like Mia and Minesh. They have so much more personality than Rory; they're funnier and more perceptive and smarter and faster-acting. Rory, who has never been my favorite character, really starts to look boring when he shares the stage with Minesh and Mia. At the end of the issue, they ask him to join them, and I find myself wanting him to do it, even though that's basically like wanting Luke to embrace the Dark Side. Mia and Minesh are also visually more interesting. He has sharp, almost aggressive features that are attractive up close, and she exudes a weird kind of desperate confidence. She's also pale and red-headed while he's a tan brunette, so they have a nice, simple contrast as a duo. They're a great pair with a natural chemistry, and I like them so much better than the protagonist.
     The Tumor Kid, on the other hand, I'm sort of getting sick of. For one thing...I could've sworn he explained himself as Rory's tumor personified when he was introduced, but in this issue he seems to be the concept of all cancer personified, since he demands Rory kill some stranger who had a miraculous, inexplicable recovery from pancreatic cancer. Tumor Kid is angry that someone escaped him with no clear reason, and while it is quirkily compelling to think that cancer is bothered by its survivors, it's also kind of gross to introduce a random character as someone who recently beat cancer and then have him killed off because cancer somehow takes a human form. Speaking of gross, Tumor Kid is horrible to look at, and I know that's exactly what Piotr Kowalski is shooting for, so it's a successful character design, but it still bums me out.
     My biggest problem with this issue comes from, surprise surprise, it's pacing. Or, rather, the series' pacing, and the way it detracts from some of the emotional stakes. Both Tumor Kid and Agent Davenport threaten to hurt Rory's family, a.k.a. the family of Chris Walker, the man Rory whose life Rory stole after killing him (and a bunch of other people) in an explosion. The idea of the family being in danger seems to be enough to get Rory to do or at least seriously consider things he's not morally comfortable with, but I find that hard to buy or get into because as a reader, there hasn't been nearly enough for me to form any connection of my own with the Walkers. They're two cipher children characters and a woman who we know is cool, talented, and kind, but we've been given no reason to love yet. So while Rory acts as if he loves Chris' family as his own, I find that kind of hard to believe; it comes across as self-delusion on Rory's part because I have never seen or felt any of the love he supposedly has for them. The scene where he sends a projection to check in on his daughter was the most forced, uncomfortable moment in this book yet, and also maybe the most inappropriate use of Rory's powers so far.
     Similarly, I am pretty sick of Rory pining over Emma, and the scene where he spies on her and inadvertently attacks and maybe even kills her new boyfriend bugged me and felt gratuitous. Why is he so hung up on this woman? As with the family, I have not seen any clear reason to go nuts over Emma yet, simply because she hasn't been present enough for me to form any strong opinion. I guess Rory keeps coming back to her because she was the last person he was with before he got his powers, but...that's a flimsy reason for the obsessiveness he displays.
     Other than Rory's unconvincing relationships, Peter Milligan's writing was on point this month, if only because Mia and Minesh got to be on so many pages. That really is the main thing I enjoyed about Terminal Hero #5, getting to see more of those two characters, and considering they and Rory are face-to-face in the closing scene, I'm banking on getting a good deal more of them next month, and hopefully for many months after.
     Here's one last thing: I have not, in any of the four previous reviews, mentioned letterer Simon Bowland at all. I didn't even tag him in those posts originally (though for consistency's sake he is tagged in all of them now). The lettering isn't flashy or experimental at all, but it's reliable stuff. It's never in the way, it's easy to follow, there are expressive flourishes when needed but they're never excessive, and, in this issue at least, I didn't notice any errors. So, apologies for the oversight in credit-giving, but please know that Bowland's work is solid and appreciated.
     (I have also never mentioned cover artist Jae Lee, but that was more intentional, because I am not a big fan of the covers. They're way too similar to each other, and none are particularly remarkable or reflective of either the content or tone of the comic. I'm going to go ahead and leave Lee untagged in all these reviews, because I like him a lot as an artist, but this series is the least I've ever enjoyed his work.)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Weekly Action Comics Weekly Review: Issue #612

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 twelfth of those reviews.
Both Deadman and Secret Six concluded this week, and I wasn't expecting either of them to do so. I looked back at last week's issue and it did say at the end of the Deadman story that it would conclude next time, but somehow I missed that. Secret Six, however, gave no such indication, and considering what a non-ending we get this issue, I have to assume that maybe the original plan was to have it run longer, but for some reason that changed. The Paul Gulacy cover above is pretty awesome, though, a nice way to highlight the team and the tone of their narrative before putting it on pause.
So Mind Games is short, like bizarrely short, and has a super passionate Napoleon complex. It's not the best motivation for a villain, and it gets written by Peter David without an ounce of subtlety. I think that's because it's meant to be funny, and Green Latnern definitely finds it amusing, unapologetically pointing and laughing his tiny new foe, but the comedy doesn't connect. So he's short and mad about it, so what? I mean, yeah, he takes it to a crazy level, turning people into raging murderers just to get revenge on the entire world for failing to take his small self seriously. But him being maniacally self-conscious about his size isn't automatically humorous. It's sadder than it is silly, and it means Mind Games is terrifyingly unhinged, even crazier than his scheme made him seem at first. So I was not wild about the last couple pages where Green Lantern and Mind Games were face-to-face. Before that, we got to see Lt. Rensaleer be a total badass when confronted with an enraged Green Lantern, and Arisia commit to being a model, both of which were much more to my liking. I did not like the gag where the stray dog stole the letter Mind Games sent in and ran off with it, because why would a dog be interested in a random piece of paper? That's nonsense. I guess I liked everything here that wasn't supposed to be funny, which makes me wish David didn't bother with the jokey stuff at all. I did chuckle a little at the opening splash page (above), but that was all Tod Smith. The contrast between Hal Jordan's uncontrollable fury and Rensaleer's childlike joy is wonderful, a fantastic opening image to pull the reader in.
As I mentioned above, this is a jarring final chapter. While it does pretty much tie a ribbon on the tainted meat mission, it also opens up a whole new can of worms by revealing that both that and the first mission were connected to the same company, Technodyne. We also see Rafael's friend/employee, whose name I completely forget right now, break into the Secret Six's HQ just like Raf did before. At first he and the team fight it out, but ultimately he explains himself and they agree to work together to try and investigate Mockingbird, find Rafael, and solve the mystery of what happened to the original Secret Six. These are all good, intriguing developments, connected to the general mystique of Mockingbird, which is one of the biggest draws this Secret Six story has. Meanwhile, Mockingbird himself seems to know what's going to happen already, and is even anticipating and counting on the Secret Six and Raf's friend to try and free Raf, so that adds another layer of tension I enjoy. Martin Pasko has been letting this slowly come to a boil for twelve issues, and it's really starting to froth now, but then WHAM! The final panel has a caption reading, "So ends the opening story of the new Secret Six." Does it? Ok, if you say so, caption, but it really seemed like we were just getting going on an awesome third act, and it's a bummer that we don't get to see it yet. The team is supposed to be back in issue #619, so it's not a painfully long wait, but this is the first time a story has ended in Action Comics Weekly without reaching it's natural stopping point, even in a wedged-in way. And it was such a solid story, too, along with some of the best, strangest, creepiest art in the whole book. Dan Spiegle's presence will be a more notable absence than Pasko's, I think, and really the whole project is going to be dearly missed. For seven weeks, anyway.
The ending of this story is as rushed and disjointed as the rest of it has been, despite Mike Baron bringing back Talaoc, one of the earliest enemies Deadman faced in this tale. Somehow, without explanation or any hints at all, Deadman figures out that the character who claimed to be the Devil last week is in truth the leader of the alien visitors of whom Talaoc is also a member. This doesn't quite add up, because the Devil character has displayed some pretty impressive power, and he had that demon follower who he sent away last week, and also I am assuming he created the "Hell" that Deadman was trapped in, so...can all the aliens do those things? Is he also the Devil, like an alien came to Earth ages ago, went crazy, turned himself into the Devil, and then became a part of Judeo-Christian mythology? That'd be sort of cool, actually, but nobody ever makes it clear how this all is supposed to make sense, which makes me feel like it just doesn't. There's some other highly flawed logic, like Major Kasaba deciding to sue the CIA for slipping her hallucinogens. Does she honestly believe that's what happened, because if so, she's an idiot, which does not fit with what we've seen of her in the past. However, if the hallucinogen thing is a lie, how could she possible expect to win the lawsuit? It's a garbage, hand-wavy way of wrapping up the story in a hurry. Dan Jurgens and Liz Bérubé both absolutely crush it on the page of Deadman shooting the Devil-possessed Kasaba and trapping the Devil in one of the glass tubes. That's a blast of dazzlement that the story desperately needed more of, and it was the one bright spot in the conclusion of this Deadman story, other than the simple fact that it concluded at all. He'll be back in just six issues, which I'm not thrilled for right now, but maybe round 2 will be a bit more focused or well put together.
At long last, the part of the story where Bob Galt explains his past to Clark Kent is over, and Superman can once again actively work on solving this mystery. Don't get me wrong, I've liked getting Galt's background, and it's more exciting and comicbooky than I anticipated, with his group of Superman worshippers being attacked by some sort of large evil organization, the scope of which is starting to look pretty damn impressive. We get a glimpse of their leadership at the end of this installment, some of whom I think we've seen before, and they are just as interested in Superman's search for them as he is. Their intention to to take him out before he can uncover them, so it's a bit o a race now between Supes and the baddies—who can find and stop the other first? It'll be fun to see that play out, and I'm also very excited to seeing Superman beat up some of the goons in the red space suits, so there's a lot of good-vs.-evil action to look forward to. Basically, as the final beat of a section of exposition, this is mostly set-up for future events, but it's quite effective in that role.
This I liked a lot, and it made me like the Catwoman debut from last week more than I thought I did when I read it. I complained then that Mindy Newell might have crammed too much into her first chapter, introducing Selina, Holly, and Detective Flannery all at the same time. However, this week, Flannery saves Selina's life, only to immediately try and arrest her for still being Catwoman, and you get the feeling that he's more upset about her lying to him than he is about her actual criminal activities. That's a nice dynamic for them to have, both of them essentially good people, and therefore friends, but still on opposite sides of the law, and thus forced to also be enemies. Plus their actual fight, which only takes four panels, looks great, Barry Kitson showing Selina's grace, strength, and skill quickly and in tight spaces. With things starting to get out of hand, Selina regrets that she gave Holly the stolen brooch, and breaks into Holly's house to retrieve it. Turns out Holly already opened it and gave it to her husband, news that distresses the complete hell out of Selina, at least for the few moments between her hearing it and Holly's house exploding. The downward spiral Selina's on is fast-moving, but I appreciate how the rapidity doesn't make the story hard to follow. Newell and Kitson do a good job of creating a sense of urgency rather than mere hurriedness. The opening beat was good but failed to grab me; this week, everything got much better, and I am now fully (and happily) grabbed.
I've just about given up on trying to follow along with the Black Canary narrative. Take the opening page scanned above; I see that it's a homeless woman finding a gun, but I'm not sure whose gun it is or what the significance of the scene is meant to be. It's followed by Black Canary waking up in a dumpster, and the random cowboy who offered to help her last week saying he got left in another dumpster across the street. So evidently whatever happened at the end of last issue involved both of them getting knocked out, but the details are still hazy, even after the cowboy character provided a bit of an info dump here. He and Dinah part ways suddenly and awkwardly, and he gives her a card identifying him as Doug Vallines. Then we see Vincent Scales, who must be a villain, based on the dark lighting and menacing cigar, talking on the phone to someone named Gary in semi-cryptic language. The implication is that Scales is responsible for killing Rita's father, but I'm not sure that's what's going on, and even if it is, I still have no clue why. Anyway, there is then an entire page of Dinah in the shower, and for a minute it looks like someone is going to attack her but then, surprise surprise, it's just Oliver Queen coming in for a little romance. Dinah gets a call from Rita saying something happened to Rita's father, and then the final page is a short bald man in Hollywood running as fast as he can to a pay phone, calling someone named Barry, and naming himself as Doug Vallines. I imagine we're supposed to understand that this means the cowboy was lying about his identity, but again, that's not clear, nor are his reasons. Also...I don't care. There are so many half-introduced characters running around, and such a thing, sloppy story tying them together, I'm having a hard time feeling invested. I do continue to enjoy Randy DuBurke's realistic art style, and he did an especially nice job for the scene of Scales on the phone, but Sharon Wright's narrative is a big mess.

In conclusion, here are all the stories from this issue, listed from worst to best:
6. Deadman/"Take us to Our Leader"
5. Black Canary/"Bitter Fruit Part 4"
4. Green Lantern/"Mind Over Matter"
3. Secret Six/"Out of the Frying Pan...Into the Fire"
2. Superman/"Where Lurks the Evil?"
1. Catwoman/"The Tin Roof Club Part Two"