Justice Society of America #17
As much as I want to dislike Geoff Johns - and Lord knows he more than deserves the lion's share of the criticism he's got over the years - reading some of his later work I can't help but feel as if he's turned some sort of corner. There's not so much of the left-field ultraviolence that worked against the supposedly mellower tone of his nostalgic work. The tendency to wallow in continuity seems less annoying now. Sure, all of his main DCU titles are pretty much "inside baseball", but I liked his recent Legion of Super-Heroes a story much more than I thought I would, and I guess my delight at seeing the "old school" Legion once again influenced my generosity towards the rest of his work. And sure enough, his JSA has actually become interesting. I'm surprised it's even readable - it's in the middle of an ongoing patch-job dedicated to finally integrating Kingdom Come with the mainline continuity. I don't think Kingdom Come holds up well at all so I am surprised they were able to find a clever angle on the material, but the idea behind the storyline is actually quite strong. The idea of a godlike being coming to earth and upending the apple-cart for genuinely benign purposes is, amazingly, not one that's been played before in a lot of superhero books. The dialogue about faith and religion is being tackled pretty honestly, all things considered, especially in light of how corny it could have been. I just have two reservations: One, the sinking feeling that Gog will turn out to be less than advertised. The idea of an outer-space god willing to change the whole of humanity for the better is a rich enough idea that it would be a shame if Johns took the easy way out and gave him an ulterior motive. Second - Mr. Terrific is one of the only openly atheistic characters in super-dooper comics - as stupid as it may seem, I guess I'm attached to him for the same reason Jews are attached to Kitty Pryde, Catholics like Nightcrawler* and Scientologists dig Triathlon (hah!). Hopefully his crisis of un-faith will not result in him having a bogus spiritual conversion. (It may not make much sense to be an atheist in a fictional universe where on every other Tuesday you are given some form of concrete proof in the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, but hey. There shouldn't be any global warming on Earth-DC after Final Night, but I bet they have that, too.)
Secret Invasion #4
Considering all the buildup, I don't think this is what people were expecting. I think people were probably expecting something a bit more substantive, like a taut thriller that hinged on escalating tension and surprise reveals, sort of a Marvel Universe version of one of those John LeCarre novels. But this - well, we're halfway through and the story has taken up all of, what, eight hours so far? Where's the intrigue? There's no intrigue, it's all smashing and shooting, and most of that is pretty nonsensical at that. (Like, who are Nick Fury's new stooges and what are they doing, exactly? If I hadn't read the tie-in where they were introduced I'd have no idea whatsoever why they were even in this comic.) The only attempt at intrigue is the "is Tony Stark a Skrull?" plot, but since everyone in the world pretty much knows they're not going to pull that trigger, it's a useless red herring. Unless, of course, they do, in which case I take back everything I said. But they won't. So, yeah: it's on time and it'll probably continue to ship on time, but what price punctuality? It isn't reading well in serial format, it'll be nonsensical in a trade unless it's a huge omnibus with all the pertinent tie-ins, and it's just not very good to begin with. Oh well.
Mighty Avengers #16
And then there's this. Before Secret Invasion, I would have bet money that one of Marvel's primary - if obviously unstated - goals was to ultimately reveal that the resurrected Elektra that's been running around the Marvel Universe for the past decade or so had in fact been a deep-cover Skrull all along. None of the post-Frank Miller Elektra titles have amounted to anything much, and I doubt the creators involved would really begrudge the move at such a late date. I mean, Miller has never made any secret of the fact that he thought the resurrected Elektra was stupid. And Joe Quesada even made a half-hearted attempt to placate Alan Moore, for God's sake, so it seemed like a pretty obvious proposition: even if it was unlikely that Miller would really want to come back to Marvel in the first place - since it would probably distract him from counting all the money he's got stuffed in Will Eisner's taxidermied corpse - undoing all the bad Elektra stories that postdate Elektra Lives Again would have been a pretty solid way to re-ingratiate themselves with a topper-than-top-shelf talent nonetheless, just on the off-chance he would ever want to do an All-Star Daredevil The Man Without Fear. But no, they didn't, and more's the pity. At least they did have the faux-Elektra get beaten to death by a Super-Skrull, but it's a missed opportunity.
Doesn't make up for those stories when she was hanging out with Wolverine, after he lost his nose. (I'm not making that last part up, if you're too young to remember.)
I'm not stupid, this just isn't very good. It reads incredibly choppy, the art obviously makes a bad situation worse, and is Batman on crytal meth now? Seriously, if I didn't read blogs I wouldn't understand what was going on. I don't know how anyone else figured it out, because frankly this is a mess, and it's just not worth the trouble to sit around a decipher crap in the hope there are nuggets of gold secreted inside the feces.
Jokers Asylum: The Penguin
Wait a minute, Jason Pearson is doing interiors again? Does anyone remember when he was a big deal? And wait, this story is actually pretty good? Wow. The Penguin, of all things.
* Do Catholics still care about Nightcrawler, or did the whole demon-pope thing from Chuck Austen's run pretty much salt that proverbial earth?