By Miles Baker, Isaac Mills and James O’Connor
Star Trek: New Frontier #5
Written by Peter David
Art by Stephen Thompson
IDW Publishing, 2008
Last week, I commented upon the fact that it can be hard to review the last issue of a miniseries. You’re missing the context of everything that’s happening, and since it’s ending, there generally isn’t enough time to re-introduce all the characters and catch you up on the plot. Now imagine that you not only hadn’t read the previous five issues, you also hadn’t read the 17 previous novels. You’d probably be pretty lost.
And it’s not like I’m completely ignorant of Trek. I’m a fan of Next Generation, and I’ve seen episodes from every series. I just had to randomly draw the comic based in the most esoteric section of Federation Space, where the only characters I might remember are still incredibly obscure.
It’s a damn shame, too. Like I said, I’ve been known to enjoy Trek, and I love Peter David. I should enjoy this issue. But I can’t, because none of it makes any sense without the proper context. But, I will say this: the plot seems to involve mirror-universe doubles, and a character the internet tells me is a descendant of Apollo. So it seems pretty awesome.
As for the art, it’s clean and engaging, and it captures the visual atmosphere of Star Trek well. Thompson’s faces actually remind me a bit of Tommy Lee Edwards, which is high praise from me. If I had one complaint, it’s something I have against every IDW book I’ve read: the art looks like a photocopy. Not being a printer, I don’t really know how to fix the problem, but it just doesn’t look professional. And that’s a shame, because a lack of professionalism cam make books like this feel a lot less like canon and a lot more like bad fan fiction.
War Heroes #1
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Tony Harris
Image Comics, 2008
Mark Millar has an eye for big-picture stories. Worlds where he gets to set the course of human history and then have his characters do bad ass things in it. Superman: Red Son was like this, The Ultimates were like this, his new Wolverine run is like this. It’s what he’s best at, and there is nothing wrong with that — I just wish he were better at characterization.
War Heroes is set in a very near/alternate future where the American people are getting sick of the war in Iraq, until a terrorist unleashes a chemical bomb in Washington. In response, the United States invades Iran (which is pretty plausible, if you ask me). Soon after, by the beginning of this book, the American people tire of this war as well, and citizens begin to dodge the new draft until the U.S. government comes up with the great idea of giving G.I.s super powers in pill form. The science behind that is smartly ignored, but now the tides begin to turn as real live drugged-up supermen begin to win the war.
This issue follows a group of young kids who are about to enter boot camp, excited about the possibility of becoming a war hero. And this would all be good, if every one of these characters weren’t such cut-outs from a million other stories. The main protagonist of this story is Calvin Pierce, whose brother is now a Purple Heart vet from his super pills, and who is very excited to give up his football dreams to join the army. I think I remember him from Full Metal Jacket.
There’s also a quick montage of people that I expect will be fleshed out in coming issues: the kid with a disability looking for respect, a tough boxing chick, a tattooed womanizer.
But the world is smartly rendered. I find the political climate to be very present in the story as something that makes you say, “Yeah, that’s how it would be.” But there are some things that bug me: for example, how the terrorists are never given a face, and how Tony Harris intentionally hides the face of the bomber in Washington. I know that may be something to be explored further in this series, but it definitely raised my eyebrows, and I kinda doubt that Millar will go there.
Super Friends #5
Written by Sholly Fisch
Art by Stewart McKenny
DC Comics, 2008
It’s nice to have a book that’s just fun — that isn’t trying to be the next great thing in the world. The guys writing Super Friends know it’s just a little thing, but they sound like they’re having a lot of fun with this.
The issue has all the humans turning into gorillas and monkeys of all sorts while the Gorillas from Gorilla City (of course) turn human. It’s all a plot of Gorilla Grodd’s to slip through his prison bars and continue to live the kind of non-threatening lifestyle all villains have in the Super Friends universe. Unfortunately he needs the Super Friends’ help when an unfortunate force field keeps Grodd from accessing the device to turn everything back to normal.
Part of me enjoys this book as just a sweet thing for the kid inside, but it does appeal to a more jaded side as well when so much that’s said inside is hilarious when taken with a slightly ironical bent.
For example, up on the Super Friends satellite, when it’s stated that everyone on earth has turned into some kind of ape, John Stewart asks “Then why hasn’t it affected us?”
Superman replies “Probably because we’re NOT on Earth.” When I read that I added the necessary background vocalization of “Stupid!” and suddenly it’s the funniest thing out there.
Bottom of the same page has Superman in a chin stroking thinking pose, while Batman is just standing there pointing up, as though he has something he’d like to share. So the expository world bubble explaining what’s going on could come from either of these two… but the fact that it’s coming from Superman and Batman is just standing there with his hand in the air is so funny.
When the Super Friends land on the planet Aquaman says, “We’re still human! Thank Neptune we didn’t turn into apes” and then proceeds to transform into the goofiest looking proboscis monkey on the planet. Thanks Aquaman.
How did I know he was supposed to be a proboscis monkey, by the way? No, I didn’t do hours of research, but Batman gives an excellent rundown of all these different monkey morphs, and it’s always good to see Batman be the one explaining everything. Maybe even especially when he’s been transformed into a gibbon.
Flash gets to do what he always does; making a whirlwind by moving at super speed — but seeing him just standing there while it’s his tail that whirls around… it’s a great visual all right.
I’m a sucker for good messages in comics (this one has got the classic “being happy with what you are”), and there are some extra activities like “Make a Super Friends Door Hanger” and one about writing as many words as you can think of with the letters in “super-speed” in a minute. It’s a good book for kids, and it’s something a parent could read to their kids for bedtime, which is always a plus.