Edit : It´s now one week later during which I was not able to finish this post. I hope I have more luck this time.
Now it´s been ages since I wrote something and there is a huge pile of comics to write about. Last month me and my brother went to the COMIC ACTION in Essen thanks to the kind invitation of the guys from Schwarzer Turm. They had rented a place where we ( and a lot of other comic freaks ) could crash. Without that possibility we surely wouldn´t have gone to Essen because we couldn´t afford to pay for hotel rooms. On the first day we came a little late because like always my brother is not cabable of packing his stuff BEFORE we have to go anywhere. So we arrived two hours before closing time on the first day but we stayed till the last day and so we had plenty of time for hanging with the guys. And thanks to Robi and Co it was like one big comic book party. But more on that subject later.
There are so many comics to write about that I have no idea where to begin so I´m going to zig zag from new comics to old ones and back. The first one is WILDCATS 1 by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. I don´t remember if this is the third number one or the fourth. The first time I encountered the WILDCATS ( or better the WildC.A.T.S. ) was way back when comics were selling by the truckloads ( compared to now anyway ) and this new company called Image had just started. All the superstar artists from Marvel had left and were now trying to make their own comics and everybody knew they were not going to last longer than one year. Two years tops. The comics that came out were known for two things : mindblowing art with computer coloring and incredible gaps in publication. I remember seeing the first image of the team and thinking : Who is that bum with the stupid mask ? Who needs a guy with guns on a superhero team ? And what kind of a name is " Grifter " anyway ? He sucks.
Yeah, that shows you how much I know - since Grifter a.k.a. Cole Cash is not only cooler than Wolverine but became my favorite team member from the first issue on. How can you not like a guy with a removable neck ? Or the next best thing. The comic had more action than X - Men and really hot babes like Vodoo and Zealot. Especially Zealot who was featured on a cover which showed her best ASSett.........or in other words - her butt ! You guys out there know which cover I´m speaking of. I tried to find a pic of the cover but no luck so far. Anyway that image made a huge impression on young Subzero...like the whole series. I stayed on the book till the first tour of duty of Travis Charest with stories by Alan Moore. From the following relaunches and cancellations I don´t remember that much. There was one relaunch with Travis Charest as an artist with fill-in issues by Carlos Meglia and Brian Hitch but soon afterwards Travis Charest left for good and so did I. There were one or two series that got good reviews but didn´t sell very well which in my opinion had something to do with the less than stellar art. And that was that.
Now the series is back with a new number 1, a new creative team of Jim Lee and Grant Morrison and you may just be asking yourself if we really need a new volume of a comic that has failed time and again. Which by the way was what everyone was saying when Marv Wolfman and George Perez relaunched TEEN TITANS. So, isn´t Grant Morrison already writing like a dozen of books ? Do we really need Jim Lee on another book when he should be busy finishing the next issue of that fan favorite series DC ALL STARS - BATMAN AND ROBIN ? Come on, you know you can´t wait for the next issue.
Is this book really necessary ?
The answer for all this is - yeah ! Or better yet : Hell, yeah ! After reading the first issue I can say that we, as comic readers, really need this book. There is not much happening storywise in issue one which just serves to catch up the readers to where the old team members are now. Which for me is essential because I have no idea what happened in those other two series. So in this issue we see some old friends - and Grifter kicking some ass ! Man, he really kicks some ass. This series is already the best Wildcats series of all time because page 21 ( which is in fact the now already famous " Grifter kicking ass " page ) is completely in german ! I´m not joking. It´s just three ways of cool to read : " Grifter ist Verwirrung ! " in a Wildcats comic. So, it needs a little more hot babes ( Hey, Mr. Lee, how about another butt cover ? Hint, hint. ) but otherwise this series is off to a good start.
Now the second part of this post is about the storyline A GAME OF CHANCE than ran through issues 22 to 25 of JLA CLASSIFIED and issues 14 to 16 of JSA CLASSIFIED. The story is by Steve Englehart with pencils by Tom Derenick, inks by Mark Farmer and covers by Mike Zeck who really does not enough comic book work these days. And before I say anything else I have to say it again : inks by Mark Farmer ! Because that´s the main reason I bought the book. Now Tom Derenick is a good artist but sometimes his work can suffer by unfortunate inks like in the last JLA story where he was inked by Dan Green, longtime X - Men inker. But in this case Mark Farmer manages to lift the art onto a new level. Tom´s art has never looked so good - at least as I can remember. And the artwork is really worthy of such excellent embellishment featuring such hot babes like Gypsy and Vixen stretching and strutting their stuff. Which reminds me that someone should tell DC that the name Vixen sounds like a german word for spanking the monkey. So maybe her name should be translated in the german version to something like " die Füchsin " .
The story has been splitted between the two series because it is told in two parts. One tells a story from the past featuring the Detroit League and the other tells a story from the present involving members of the JSA and of the old Detroit League. Now you may be already crying out in pain : " Oh no, not the Detroit League ! Why DC, why ? " For me this was one of the first encounters with this particular version of the Justice League that most Justice League conoisseurs regard as the worst League ever. So maybe I was lucky to not have read something about them before and my mind was still untainted by them. And maybe I just missed the best JLA stories ever. But for me all the characters are new and intruiging and - cool. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. I only know the characters of Vixen and Vibe from the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited where they were really well written. Especially Vibe was featured in one issue of the comic to Justice League Unlimited and he was really muy macho.
Before I go any further and spoil the hell out of this comic I have to ask one question : What is wrong with Steve Englehart ? During the entire story he´s dissing Gypsy and talking trash about gypsies. Either his whole family was eradicated by gypsies or they ate his favorite dog or......I don´t know what is going on ! I don´t like to think there are prejudiced comic writers but I just can´t help myself. There is a sneaking suspicion that this comic does not show gypsies in a good light. I mean, yes, the character of Gypsy is very heroic but there is an underlying voice that warns us about the evil of the gypsies. Like in issue JLA CLASSIFIED issue 23, page 16 when Gypsy says : " It´s a game of chance fat boy ! And a game of trickery ! You´ve got no chance against a gypsy ! " Now is it just me or does she basically say : " Gypsies are the world´s greatest cheaters. " ? Sure sounds like it.
Or in JSA CLASSIFIED 14, page 16 : " A gypsy always has secrets....".
Or JSA CLASSIFIED 15, page 16 : " The great thing about being a gypsy - everyone ignores you until it´s to - ".
Or JSA CLASSIFIED 16, page 6 : " I need more energy to rouse Vixen. So I steal it ! It´s what Gypsies do ! ". Okay, I´m all for women rousing other women....especially when they have names like Vixen. But come on, man. Isn´t that enough already ? So gypsies are not only cheaters and always keeping secrets now they are also all thieves. Talk about stereotypes in comics. But enough about gypsies and how american comic book writers see them. Because apart from that it´s really a good read.
Okay, here comes the spoiler part so anybody who has not read the issues and relies on my word just go and buy the issues. To all others : You´ve been warned. The first part of the story, being told in the four issues of JLA CLASSIFIED, takes place in the past when Jonn Jonzz takes the four new members Steel, Vibe, Gypsy and Vixen on a camping trip / training exercise into the woods. His plan : to secretly evaluate them while they run their training sessions by reading their minds. Sure sounds like the evil version of the martian but let´s not dwell on that. What nobody is counting on is that the old Royal Flush Gang becomes aware of this and plans to get their revenge on the JLA by killing them all. Which should be pretty easy since they are all new, untested members and apart from the Martian Manhunter they have no heavy hitters. Right ? Wrong. Things start to really get interesting when members of the Royal Flush Gang are killed, a forest fire breaks out that traps the Detroit League, a new Royal Flush Gang appears - taking on not only the old Royal Flush Gang but the Detroit League too, trying to kill them both. The story itself revolves around luck, chances and possibilities which makes sense with adversaries like the Royal Flush Gang. Too many times they are presented in comics as throwaway villains with a gimmick that just are good for being clobbered in three seconds. Here Steve Englehart shows what makes them so special and in the process manages not only to make them interesting but downright scary. I´m not so sure if the science involved in the story is based on real science or if it is just this comic book science that doesn´t work in the real world but it does not detract from the story.
So who cares ?
Each of the four issues is told from the point of view of one of the new Detroit League members allowing them to take center stage and especially Vibe manages to win over the reader in just a few pages. He´s cool, he´s macho, he´s funny and if you have him - who needs the rest of the Jay - El - Ay ? On the other hand....a gang can always use numbers. It also gives a quick orign story of the four newbies which makes sense for all the readers who are not so familiar with JLA lore.....like me. What I especially liked about the story was that it not only manages to spotlight the different characters and make them cool ( yes, even Aquaman ) but it doesn´t shy away from gritty or really gruesome elements - like when Aquaman has to cover himself in the blood of the slain Royal Flush Gang members to stay alive.
The second part in JSA CLASSIFIED takes place in the present and features Vixen, Gypsy, Star- Girl and a few members of the JSA. Somehow the main villain from the JLA storyline has kidnapped the members of the JSA, making them fight against each other and Star - Girl, Vixen and Gypsy are out to rescue them. And Gypsy and Vixen are also there to get even with him. But of course nothing goes as planned and they end up in a world of trouble. Now before finishing the post I have to say I´m not sure about Gypsy´s powers because I have not read that many comics with her. There was one story of the Giffen League were Despero killed her parents but she didn´t use her powers that much. So her power level in these new stories seem kind of retconned to make her more of a A - level hero but maybe she was always this powerful. All things considered this is a storyline where your money is well spent and you get a lot of fun, excitemnet and entertainment for your buck. Good story, good art - what more do you need ?
Did I mention that Wildcat beats the crap out of his JSA teammates in hardcore steelcage action ? Now if that doesn´t make you buy the comic......nothing will.
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Just remember : Don´t hate the player, hate the game.