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Hope you all enjoy my possibly daily thoughts. Comments? E-mail them to me or IM me, that way I dont get ads.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Today's reviews include:
The Trials of Shazam! ..1
52 Week Sixteen
Civil War: Frontline ..4

The Trials of Shazam! 1 (of 12)
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Howard Porter
DC Comics

Captain Marvel is in for a change. Fresh from Black Adams wedding (see below review for 52 Week Sixteen) Billy Batson rescues some kids, destroys four magically powered enemies, has a chat with Zatanna, and then becomes an old man. Busy day for the Big Red Cheese. This is part of the long re-imagining of Captain Marvel, an attempt to make Shazam profitable/popular again. The idea behind Shazam has always been an easy sell; take Superman and make his alter ego a kid. What child wouldnt want to take his interest in superheroes and magic, combine the two by saying one word, and then have god like powers? So of course DC Comics recognizes this and turns Captain Marvel into an old man?
Many of us see the writing on the wall and know that comics arent written for single issue sales anymore, but for the graphic novels. This also prevents new fans from picking up the single issues. A newbie will pay three dollars to try out an issue, and then maybe come back. However, its tougher to get that same person to pay 15-20 for a graphic novel on a whim. Look at Trials of Shazam from an old and new perspective.
New Fan: Who is Shazam? Why is he living in a big floating rock? Whos the magician with the short outfit? Who are all these random unnamed magical monsters?
Old Fan: Once again a classic character is going to grow old and need to find a younger replacement in an attempt to increase sales.
Neither opinion bodes well for the future of Captain Marvel. This is only the first issue though, there are 11 more for Shazam to face some of these Trials. At least he fights monsters and does something heroic here unlike

52 Week Sixteen
Written by Geoff Jones, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art by Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, JG Jones
DC Comics

Marvel at Shazam, Mary Marvel, Black Adam and Isis floating around on the wedding day of Black Adam and Isis! Is it wrong to expect superheroes to do something super or heroic? Also, not to play fashion critic but if I was wearing a barely there dress (like Isis) or a short skirt (Mary Marvel) I dont think I would hover above thousands of people looking up at my super Underoos.
Our real heroes of the book, the Question and Renee Montoya, use ordinary human detective work, with time to argue morals and philosophy, before saving the day -- at a price. While Trials of Shazam and 52 are both limited series and thus meant to be read as a whole (graphic novel), 52 gives enough drama to make me want to spend $2.50 next week. Renee Montoya outshines the Question every step of the way, but the result of being the one to catch the bad guy is that shes also the one to catch the consequences. This is only one of the many set ups for the weeks to come. Renee tells the Question that a suicide bomb will not only kill people from the bomb but also from the ensuing stampede. Yet her gun shot yields no reaction. Are the people that wrapped up in watching the marriage of Black Adam and Isis? Or is there some mind control going on and Adam isnt what he appears to be? How will she deal with her decision? These dangling questions leave the reader wanting more while debating on breaking into UPS to steal next weeks issue instead of waiting the full seven long days for it to arrive at the local comic store.
Two short (two pages) back ups round out the issue and are like A1 sauce on a good steak. Its that last kicker that makes you want to come back for more. First there is a history of Black Adam. It may only be one character in the book, but a short biography on any of them is more than welcome. Now that I know a little more about Adam I care a little more too and I care enough to spend more money to find out whats next. Secondly, we see that Animal Man, Starfire, and Adam Strange finally got their spaceship to work and theyre off to next weeks adventure. With the added spoiler that Lobo is back in week seventeen, 52 makes it tough to wait for the next issue. Thankfully its only a seven more days.

Civil War: Frontline ..4
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Ramon Bachs, Steve Lieber, Lee Weeks, Sean Chen
Marvel Comics

The B side to the hit single that is Civil War. Frontline is part set up for the next issue and part self contained stories. Remember Marvel Comics Presents? There were 1 or 2 main stories (usually with Wolverine) that would continue through a few issues. Then there were two or three back up self contained stories using lesser characters. Frontline works in the same way, and ironically uses some of those same lesser characters. Our lead story features Ben Urich in his role as everyman to the Marvel Universe. Ben has coffee with his opposite in Frontline (reporter Sally Floyd), warns her to be safe, and then is caught in an alley by the Green Goblin. With Goblin out of jail he should be after the newly unmasked Spider-Man (of course old Norman Osborne and Peter Parker already know all about each other, but really it seems the perfect time to attack.) Instead the Green Goblin goes after Urich for printing lies about him. You would think Norman could afford a good PR team.
Meanwhile, Sally Floyd plays fly on the wall for a secret meeting of unregistered B and C team superheroes. Apparently Solo, Battlestar and company couldnt get booked in She Hulk this month. After someone leaks the location site, the meeting is broken up by SHIELD and a quick yet costly battle is fought.
Robbie Baldwin, formerly known as Speedball, plays the role of Tobias Beecher from Oz. A man that made one mistake and is now in way over his head. Robbie picked up boxing skills somewhere along the way (maybe that time he tried out for the Avengers) and dominates his prison boxing match. After another prisoner pulls a shank, slices Robbies calf, and then the Speedball powers show up well we have to wait until next issue.
The forth story this issue explores another side of wars. Weve already seen the soldiers, the reporters, and the prisoners. Now we come to the spies. When something happens that needs explanation, many of us dont go to the obvious answer first, but the most adventurous one. A business is destroyed, and the investigating officer plays wouldnt it be cool if instead of what actually happened here. For probably the first time in his life, the cool answer is the right answer. Namor (sorry, Joe), in all his Atlantean glory has returned. He destroys his fish shop, disguises himself as a fireman, and once again we have to wait until next issue to find out more. At least this one comes out on time.
Rounding out the issue is a parallel between the Vietnam war and Marvels Civil War. Told through the song lyrics of Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel this last story makes the heroes into humans. Whether youre with Iron Man or with Captain America (or anyone else on the plethora of Civil War banners) there are casualties on both sides. Men and women that had families and dreams that are gone because people, even people with all the power in the world, cant get along. Its easy to label the other side an enemy but harder to call them humans and know that theyre people too.

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