You'll have to forgive me if I've been a little backed-up on writing -- New York Comic Con was a bear (though a wonderful, sprightly, cosplaying, strangely sensual bear). Here's my thoughts on some DC Comics releases for this week:
After all the hub-bub of the "Villain's Journey" arc that wrapped up last issue, this story is what's known in the nerd nomenclature as a "bridge." If it was the X-Men of, say, 1985, this bridge would involve playing baseball and Rogue flying around in skimpy (yet loosely-fitted, for maximum comfort) shorts. But since this is the Justice League of 2012, we have an angry Cheetah doing her best Cheetara impression (it is simply amazing what a thin layer of fur will cover up) and a dejected Steve Trevor doing his best "wino Superman" impression from "Superman III."
The Good: I love the quick transition here from the highly-touted Superman/Wonder Woman kiss to Wonder Woman having a literal cat-fight with Cheetah. There's something about WW getting her romance with Supes interrupted by a woman from her past she has unresolved issues with...Compare to the cover where Cheetah strangles Superman in a rage (with Wondy's own magic lasso!) while the Amazon helplessly looks on. Seems like jealousy mayhaps? Barbara/Cheetah repeatedly tells Wonder Woman that she's not being true to her "real" nature...is it really just about their "animal" sides? I'm just going to come out and say it: is there or is there not any metaphorical romantic subtext going on between WW/Cheetah? Since this is Comics, I vote a noncommittal unofficial answer that offends no one.
The Bad: TMZ's Harvey Levin as JL's very own Basil Exposition.
The Ugly: Get a shave, Trevor! For god's sake! Pull yourself together, man! Where was that scene where Amanda Waller had enough and just slapped him across the face? This is making me feel nostalgic for Lyle Waggoner.
The first running feature in this book, "Amethyst," reminds me of those old 80s toy lines for girls like "She-Ra" and such where most of the warriors were women and they all came from "Houses" based on jewelry and fruit-flavors. Except also with wolves getting stabbed in the eye. In a current world where the hottest cartoon features a character called "Princess Bubblegum" and takes place after the somewhat graphic event of a post-apocalyptic, "Amethyst" might just fit right in.
"Beowulf," the second story, retells the classic tale with a post-apocalyptic (I can't wait until the new fad is 1950s sock-hops again) twist. Feels a little like "Northlanders," a little like "Prophet"...not enough there to make a full assessment yet.
The Good: It's great reading a comic where the women actually work together and have a meaning and a purpose outside being just "adjuncts" and spinoffs of the male "stars." And Aaron Lopresti's art is gorgeous.
The Bad: I'm having great difficulty telling the different blond chicks apart here, especially in battle scenes; maybe one can have a different haircut or something. Also, I miss the idea from the #0 issue of teenage Amy dealing with the equally-tough battlegrounds of high-school and the strange new world she's found herself in.
The Ugly: Oh that poor wolf.
Simply put, this is the "Requiem For A Dream" of comic books. It's unrelenting. Hollis, peering through a sewer (!) asks in the opening page of issue 4:
"How many of these horrible little truths can a person absorb before they want to crawl in a hole and die?"
How many, indeed?
This issue we have the horrible death of Silhouette and her girlfriend, the even more horrible flashback to Silhouette's younger sister being unmentionably mutilated and god-knows-what by the Nazis, Mothman losing his damn mind, Comedian "going to the path of no return" during the war, and the Hood ohmygodwhatotherhorrors?!
The Good: Sally Jupiter grows a conscience and does an actual bit of selfless heroism, taking out Silhouette's murderer.
The Bad: Within all the unflinching grit and realism of "Minutemen," this title still feels like, along with the other "Before Watchmen" titles, it's massively missing the point of Comedian's "primal sin" in the original graphic novel. I don't fault "Minutemen" writer Darwyn Cooke for this. This all seems to have been a conscious editorial decision to "rehabilitate" this character, much in the same way racially insensitive storylines from the Golden Age are rewritten and "rebooted" to forget that ugly past (I would have to write a book-length dissertation on the "origin" of Comedian's smiley face button from the latest "Silk Spectre"). The only problem here is that Comedian's beating and near-rape of Sally Jupiter in the original book was such an integral part of that mythos...we can (and still do) have good stories in "Before Watchmen," but the meaning has been subtly changed. Is that a deal-breaker? Let's face it, if you're already into the 4th issue of these mini-series, you probably have an open-mind as to the fluidity of these new narratives in comparison to the original. Me? I just like to find things that inspire book-length dissertations.
The Ugly: Sometimes real-life is ugly, folks.