RandoMonday: Stormwatch #1

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Stormwatch (2011) #1 by Paul Cornell (writer), Miguel Sepulveda (artist), Allen Passalaqua (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer), Sean Mackiewicz, Pat McCallum, & Sepulveda and Nathan Eyring (cover)

While I’d read a couple trades of the previous volume of Stormwatch, and then followed some of those characters into The Authority, it was really the mystery of why J’onn J’onz was really with this group and finding out more about his time with the Justice League (which have never been adequately answered, but I hope will be in the Martian Manhunter series that is launching in June 2015) that drew me to this comic when the New 52 relaunch was announced. Having Paul Cornell as the writer was also a draw.

This issue is, as you would expect, a reintroduction of some of the familiar characters, complete with didactic explanations of what their power sets are, but they are mostly in the context of explaining to Apollo, whom they are trying to recruit. He tells them no, so they continue to hound and then fight him in that classic superhero tradition. There are some other plot threads introduced as well, including that the moon is apparently threatening Earth, as demonstrated by the claws reaching toward our Planet. The story ends with Midnighter showing up and offering to partner with Apollo. I only got tiny nuggets about J’onn, primarily that when he needs to be a warrior as opposed to a hero, he wars with Stormwatch.

Sepulveda’s art here is mostly good, though some body parts tend to get exaggerated to almost comical effect at times. Passalaqua’s colors in a few spots in this issue are lovely to see, but since most of the story takes place at night or in space, the pallette tends towards the muted and dark.

All in all, not a bad first issue that reintroduces the characters and offers some high-concept, sci-fi fun.

RandoMonday: Martian Manhunter #4

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Martian Manhunter (1988) #4 by J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mark Badger (art/colors/cover), Bob Lappan (letters), and Andrew Helfer (editor)

J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, has long been a favorite DC character of mine. When I found out about this mini series, I had to get it, and what a doozy. This was 1988, and everything was being shook up at DC, evolving, changing, much like a certain Martian. In this mini series, everything you thought you knew about J’onn’s past is wrong, or at least different. J’onn’s fire weakness is not some weird, convenient plot device, but rather a psychological weakness that manifests on a physical level. The scientist that brought J’onn to Earth and then died is shown to be quite alive. Also, not only did Erdel bring J’onn from Mars, he also brought J’onn through time from the past. Even J’onn’s real physical form turns out to be different (though, unfortunately, abandoned or shifted again over the years).

In issue 4, J’onn is on Mars to confront his past and the Martian God of Fire, H’ronmeer. Meanwhile, Batman and three Justice League members (Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Mr. Miracle show up at Dr. Erdel’s Colorado retreat to convince him to bring J’onn back. When he refuses, Batman threatens him (“Do you realize who I am? What I’m capable of doing to you?”), but Dr. Erdel is taking none of Batman’s shit, thank you very much. When Batman asks if Miracle can work Erdel’s equipment, Miracle refuses, stating that when H’ronmeer confronted him (in an earlier issue), Miracle realized what was going on. So, Batman has to grim and bear it until J’onn does finally arrive back on Earth. But while he’s on Mars, J’onn remembers the plague, the burning bodies, his dead wife and daughter. He acceptance of these memories allows his family’s spirits to move on. The story ends with J’onn singing and dancing in the way of his people in a desert on Earth–it’s a dirge, but he is healing.

I really enjoyed this story back in 1988 and thumbing through it again nearly 27 years later. The art, while not my particular cup of tea, fits the character very well. What doesn’t quite fit is the insertion of the Bwah-ha-ha Justice League members in this story. Out of everyone, only Batman and Mr. Miracle was needed–Beetle and Booster were entirely superfluous, which was maybe the point? Still, a minor bump in what was an interesting retelling for one of the Silver Age’s most enduring characters.

RandoMonday: Cosmic Odyssey #3

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Cosmic Odyssey #3 by Jim Starlin (writer), Mike Mignola (penciller), Carlos Garzon (inker), Steve Oliff (color artist), John Workman (letterer), and Mignola and Oliff (cover)

Despite having only read this series a few times, it has remained in high standing in my collection over the years. In fact, I’ve been wanting to get a trade collection for a while now. But, having thumbed through all four issues again after many years, the series has tarnished a bit for me. Primarily, many of the protagonists speak and act out of character, behaving to move the plot more than anything. I like to think it was just Starlin’s unfamiliarity with the characters. As to the plot, Metron has discovered the anti-life equation and it is alive! Plus, it has invaded the DCU, so Highfather and Darkseid gather some of Earth’s heroes to help prevent the destruction of the Milky Way galaxy. Along the way, Batman and Forager tussle with a parademon, Superman and Orion battle Thanagarians, Starfire and Lightray help Adam Strange on Rann (with this and the previous pairing comprising much of issue three), and John Stewart and J’onn J’onzz attempt to protect the planet Xanshi, with a disastrous result. Along the way, Darkseid is playing his own game, using Etrigan, and hastening the destruction of the galaxy and probably beyond.

This series was notable mostly for the consequences of John Stewart’s hubris, for expanding  the idea of the anti-life equation (though I think that the idea of it being a sentient creature was summarily dropped after this), and, more personally, realizing that Mignola’s art was something that I did appreciate. There’s a bit of Kirby in this book (and Simonson to me), but Mignola never loses himself in that homage.