the Vampire Slayer #15
by Drew Goddard and Georges Jeanty:
Wow. Issue fifteen is the excellent conclusion to the “Wolves at the Gate” story by Drew Goddard. It has pretty much everything you would want. It opens with a death scene shown from the perspective of the person who’s dying and the unspoken declaration of love for Xander by Renee. As a Buffy fan, you feel great remorse for Xander. This isn’t the first time that he’s lost someone he loves to this crusade. There’s also a big fight scene between a cadre of slayers and an army of vampires. Goddard and Jeanty do a great job of balancing the big fight with individual battles within the larger melee, especially focusing on more familiar characters like Willow. So, yeah, there’s a witch fight between Willow and Kumiko which is probably the best magic-on-magic fight I’ve seen since the wizard’s duel in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” There’s another great fight between giant Dawn and Mecha-Dawn. Hey, if you’re going to Tokyo, you might as well have a scene that pays homage to Godzilla. That particular scene is made even better by the supportive commentary from Andrew, whose entire life has been leading up to this moment. Besides the great fights, there’s also plenty of humor and subtle character moments. My one complaint is that it was occasionally difficult to distinguish between Dracula and Twilight. Considering that one is the chief villain and the other a temporary but untrustworthy ally that was a significant detail. Even so, with all of the other good stuff going on in this issue, the best was probably the relationship between Dracula and Xander. We see that Dracula really does care for Xander. And we see Xander grow in his relationship with Dracula, finally standing up to him. Buffy is a great series and this was a great issue.
I had been looking forward to the Kingdom Come story-line but lately, JSA has seemed a little slow. I suppose you could accuse this issue of being slow as well as the story isn’t progressed that far in the issue. But in this case, that’s not a problem as the issue itself is so well done. The basic plot is pretty simple. Magog has just been killed and in his place stands Gog. The Justice Society doesn’t know quite what to do. The real story is in their reaction. Some call Gog “a god.” Others are in disbelief. They follow Gog around as he gives gifts of life to the African natives. The heroes aren’t sure if they should stop him or help him. There are some great scenes including a stand-off between Mr. Terrific and Amazing Man as they debate the value of the scientific approach and the approach of faith. Yet the surprising heart of this story has to do with Damage. Johns opens the issue with a quick run-down of Damage’s life from his own point of view. We discover that Damage’s name is more than just a description of his powers. It’s also an apt description of Grant himself. He’s been damaged by a life history filled with abandonment and abuse. So it’s not surprising that Damage is one of the heroes most skeptical of Gog. It is surprising how Gog reacts to Damage: smiling and then healing him outside and in. There’s no big fight in this issue of JSA. But it’s a very good issue anyway, raising questions and issues in a way that is neither one-sided nor trite. And it’s definitely an issue that makes you want to come back for the next one, just to see how it will all work out in the end.
Noble Causes continues its excellent return from a planned hiatus with this issue. There’s a big battle with a giant Pharaoh. But the real battle is the inter-family squabble as the team is torn apart by the accusation that Frost tried to rape Surge’s girlfriend Amy. The argument shows the rifts that already exist in the family- that Surge has never really felt that he fits in, and that many of the others don’t really trust Celeste who’s proven to be unfaithful in her relationships in the past. Of course, that’s just the argument on the table. Jay Faerber lets the audience in on even more secrets. So while we’re captivated by the current arguments, we’re also salivating at the thought of future arguments that will occur when other secrets get out- especially the arrangement between Doc’s current wife Olympia and his former wife Gaia. There are a couple of other nice features worth mentioning. For one, Yildiray Cinar continues to show his flexibility as an artist, drawing intimate family fights with close-ups and impersonal fights verse villains from afar, and even mixing in a flashback scene with a real Bronze Age feel to it. The other nice feature was the way in which Jay Faerber is building his own little world. He’s previously brought Venture and the Firebirds into Noble Causes. Now, he builds connections to his other title Dynamo 5 by including Captain Dynamo in the flashback and featuring Dynamo 5 villain Bonechill.
I’ve been getting into Wolverine quite a bit recently so I’ve started ordering a lot of these extra one-shots without reading the solicitation information. I found out from X-Axis that this particular issue was going to involve fox-hunting. While Paul O’Brien of that site was pretty cynical about the likelihood that this would be more treatise than story, I was still willing to give the issue a chance. Unfortunately, O’Brien was right. There are plenty of tidbits explaining to us why fox-hunting is unfair, wrong and evil. The hunters are shown to be either stupid or evil. Even the dogs are drawn in a way that makes them look like demons. Spurrier does try to give us a couple of twists to make the story worthwhile. The main hunter had actually planned to get Wolverine involved because he thought that Logan would be a more compelling prey than the foxes. And the hippy who first gets Wolverine involved in the protest turns out to be a traitor working for the hunter. But while that does give the story something more to go on, it doesn’t elevate it above its trite roots as a treatise against fox-hunting. The quote by Oscar Wilde at the end of the story only confirms that this is little more than a morality play. The one good thing is the Ben Oliver art, which has a crisp Carlos Pacheco-like look to it. The back-up is a little bit better. Wolverine is in Thailand, protecting a monastery from a crime syndicate. There’s a glimpse of romance and a brutal battle. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but that set-up usually works for Wolverine and it does here as well. My complaint this time is that Wolverine is again shown to be a remorseless killer. I think that particular characterization is off. He does have honor and remorse, even if he has to occasionally set them aside in order to get the job done. He’ll kill when he must, but he doesn’t take glee in it (as he did in the fox-hunt story). As he was once known to say, what he does isn’t very pretty and he’s at least aware of it.
I enjoyed the first Rann/Thanagar War, which was depicted in one of the mini-series leading up to Infinite Crisis. Despite my growing disinterest in DC comics right now (or should that be decreasing interest?), I went ahead and picked this up hoping to be able to recapture some of the enjoyment I felt a couple of years ago. The issue certainly started out okay. Katar Hol, aka Hawkman, is infiltrating his own people of Thanagar. He opposed the earlier war and is afraid the religious undercurrents of his society might lead to a second war. Adam Strange, the human who has relocated to Rann, is Hawkman’s ally in this. However, Adam Strange has discovered something sinister on Rann. Whereas Rann had always been a society centered on science, after the last war the Rannians have begun to embrace religion. Hawkman and Strange worry that the two fundamentalist viewpoints will lead to another war. This is the point at which I started to have my first problem with this comic. The Rann/Thanagar conflict had previously been used as a metaphor for the wars between science and religion. While I don’t think that particular conflict needs to exist in the way that it does, I at least have to admit that it does exist. However, now the Rann/Thanagar war is being shown as a battle between two religions. Again, there is both historical and current precedent for that situation. But I don’t really appreciate that religion is being shown as an entirely insidious force while all of the science-minded people are shown to be both rational and ethical. It’s a little too narrow a viewpoint, even for comics. I much prefer the openness I saw in JSA. I wouldn’t write this series off just for that. After all, it’s early and the conflict may yet twist into something else. But I am admittedly leery at this point. That concern was joined by another as the story seemed to stall as it continued. Keith Giffen is working with a large cast. After introducing Hawkman, Adam Strange and the current conflict, he then proceeds to introduce the new Captain Comet (just “Comet,” sorry), Tigorr of the Omega Men, Prince Gavyn of Throneworld (Starman III) and others. Not all of these characters tie into the story immediately, though I suspect they will at some point. However, that made the issue a series of introductions rather than a story. Giffen would have been better off holding back on some of those introductions until the second issue so that more of the story could have been played out in this one. I did enjoy aspects of this comic. I liked the Ron Lim art and it certainly started out well. But I’m not sure I enjoyed enough of this issue to pick up the second one.
At one point, Rebellion was the weakest of the Star Wars titles. That’s no longer the case. The current arc, “Small Victories,” has been the best of this title so far and one of the better Star Wars stories of the year. This conclusion continues the quality. The issue opens with an opportunity for Colin Wilson to show off. Being a Star Wars artist requires the ability to draw technology. Wilson does a great job here depicting multiple Star Destroyers in the midst of evasive maneuvers, a collision and a crash. Later on, Wilson will get another shot with a beautiful B-wing splash page followed by a second space battle. The story is just as strong. Luke, Leia and the other members of the Rebellion strike team are desperate to get off of the planet now that their main objective has been achieved. And there’s a tense moment as they debate whether or not to look for Deena Shan before they depart. As one pilot notes, they don’t even know if she’s alive or dead. Deena has become a real star in this story and Barlow and Wilson do an incredible job of portraying her. Wilson draws her with blood and tears while Barlow gives her dialogue with a powerful mix of tenacity and resignation. We know that the budding romance between Deena and Luke won’t work out, but it’s fun to see it start to blossom anyway.
After an excellent first issue, the second issue of Captain Britain and MI:13 is a bit of a step backwards. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good issue. It just isn’t as great as the first. The Leonard Kirk art is occasionally breath-taking. I loved the splash page of the Skrull armada and the picture of the Black Knight’s body being split apart. Plus, there are some great story moments. Faiza Hussain is turning into an interesting character. With Faiza in this book and Dust in Young X-Men, Marvel is creating a couple of very strong Muslim characters. And I appreciated that none of the current heroes were able to pull the sword from the stone. It was a good twist on the usual tale, and it fits what we know of Pete Wisdom and “John Lennon.” Unfortunately, the story does get a little complicated at points. Tink comes out of nowhere in this story and I’m not entirely sure how Oberon is supposed to fit in with Otherworld (the home of the Captain Britain corps currently being invaded by Skrulls). It’s possible these things make sense to people who have read Cornell’s “Wisdom” mini-series but they’re a little confusing here. However, the first issue was strong enough and there are enough good moments here that I’ll definitely be back for another issue. Plus, how could I pass up getting a chance to read about a super Skrull magical monster with all of earth’s mystical items at his disposal?