Saturday, January 20, 2018

Day of Judgment #2 (1999)


Day of Judgment #2 (November, 1999)
"Lost Souls"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - Matt Smith
Inker - Steve Mitchell
Letters - Comicraft
Colorist - James Sinclair
Editor - Dan Raspler
Cover Price: $2.50

Before we hop into Chapter Two of Day of Judgment, I wanna take a minute to celebrate the announced return of Superman's trunks!  What a silly thing to be happy about... but, here we are!

Of course, we've got a Bendis story in the issue it goes down, so I'm already bracing myself for a dozen "casual" mentions that Superman's "red underwear" is back... but ya take the good with the bad.

Apropos of nothing, I think "red underwear" instead of trunks might be up there with "floppies" instead of single issues on my list of things that annoy me about the industry.

Anyhoo... hip hip hooray, the trunks are back... now, let's get back into the Day of Judgment.

--


We pick up right where we left off... with an incredulous Asmodel-Spectre thinking these Sentinels of Magic are pretty adorable in their trespass.  Well, c'mon now... you might've just turned Superman into a pillar of salt, but there's no reason to get cocky.  Madame Xanadu xanazaps him with her crystal ball... which robs him of all his Spectre-y power.  Whoops.


No sooner is his power sapped than everything he'd done to the heroes is undone.  Wow, that was anticlimactic... and feels kind of rushed.  It was a silly idea anyway, so I guess we'll allow it.


Etrigan grabs Asmodel and they flee... however the demons of Hell still haunt the Earth.  The heroes plan their next move... considering that Asmodel is still bonded to the Spectre, they know they're going to need to find a better vessel.  Who betta then ol' Jim Corrigan himself, right?  Zauriel claims to have an "in" in Heaven... so the crew splits into three teams.  One to venture into Heaven, one to go to Hell (which has been frozen over... how did I miss that?)... and a third to protect the Earth from those pesky demons.


Zauriel is joined by Supergirl (who was a fallen angel around this time), Mister Miracle (who wanted to see where miracles are made), Wonder Woman, Alan Scott (to grease the wheels with Corrigan), and... Raven?  One of these things... not like the other.


The Hell crew will be led by Zatanna and Superman... who are joined by Green Lantern, Faust, Firestorm, and Deadman (using the body of Enchantress).


Up in Heaven, the group is greeted by the angel Michael... and Raven is sent packin'.  Can't have the daughter of Trigon stompin' around the pearly gates.  Once she's gone, Alan is greeted by a few of his former teammates and friends... Hourman, the Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Mr. Terrific.


Finally... Jim Corrigan arrives.  Alan pleads the case for Jim to reclaim his mantle.  Corrigan declines... stating that his time has finally passed, and he's ready for his eternal rest.  The heroes decide to respect that, and don't put up much of a fight... and leave.  Since they are currently Raven-less, it's going to be a much longer trek... with a stop in Purgatory, but we'll get there.


In Hell, things get wonky.  Deadman is evicted from the Enchantress... Superman's cape starts attacking him... it gets weird.  As they struggle, they find themselves stood before the three-headed dog itself, Cerberus!


Who... isn't as impressive as you might imagine.  The heroes take Cerberus out in a single page.


Topside, the heroes fight off the demons while Etrigan and Asmodel plot to destroy Madame Xanadu's crystal.


Back in Hell, Superman and the gang come across a... dilapidated boat!  Well, it's actually Charon's Ferry... and it's been left unattended since the River Styx has frozen over.  The heroes load into the craft, and Superman, like a Kryptonian George Washington powers it across the frozen river.


We wrap up in Purgatory... toldja we'd get there... where the heroes are greeted by Sargon, Adrian Chase, and Rick Flag.  Wonder Woman asks for help... which only stirs up the many, many lost souls.  They all reach out, hopeful that they'll be taken back with the heroes.


One soul in particular steps forward... one the heroes never expected.  He's the man who saved the world from freezing...


... and he'd love the opportunity to now save it from burning!


--

Wow, I'm glad I stuck with this for another issue!

After reading the opening chapter... I was rather underwhelmed.  Felt like it started kinda poorly, but this was a lot more like it!  I have no problem admitting I'm wrong about something... especially when it results in getting an enjoyable story.

As I mentioned in the preamble, ya take the good with the bad... so, let's get the bad out of the way first.  Madame Xanadu dispatching the Spectre so quickly/early on?  Ehh... I feel like that was a bit much.  I mean, if they were planning on a Xanadu/Sentinels series spinning out of this, I'd get it... but they're not.

I guess it facilitated making Superman less salty... ahem, but that kinda begs the question... why turn him into salt in the first place if it was just going to be undone a page or two later?  I get going for a cliffhanger, but if you're reading this in collected edition... it's literally a couple of pages.  Hell... even as a cliffhanger, it's pretty weak.  The only Superman book that even tied into this was Superman: The Man of Tomorrow... and that doesn't come out until Week Five.  I don't think anyone's heart skipped a beat when Superman was "salted".

Speaking of "quick dispatches"... why they gotta "job out" ol' Cerberus like that?  I mean, he barely gets a page before getting taken out... pretty poor showing from the Hound of Hell.

Anyhoo... with that out of the way, let's talk the good.  I'm a sucker for these kinda "splitting of forces" stories... when they're done right.  I thought it was cool to follow the heroes into Heaven and Hell.  It was especially neat to have Alan Scott greeted by some of his Golden Age pals.

Jim Corrigan deciding to accept his "eternal reward" is fine.  I don't have any problem with that... especially since he'd been bonded to the Spectre for...ever.  Hell, I know if I had the chance to get away from the Spectre, I'd accept just about any "out"!  I also appreciate the fact that the heroes respected his decision... and didn't hassle or attempt to guilt-trip him.

Which took them to Purgatory.  This was a really well-done bit... I love the fact that the heroes found themselves surrounded by lost souls... all of whom begged to be taken back with them.  So cool!  Even cooler was the appearance of... Mister Hal Jordan.

I dug through my collection of Diamond Previews (knew I kept those around for some reason) to see if Hal's return had been solicited.  I was pretty surprised to see that Hal Jordan gets zero mention in any of the solicits!  Hell, they don't even include the cover of Day of Judgment #5 here!  Man, I miss the days before internet comics "journalism"... I miss being surprised... I miss a time before internet jokers literally trip over one another in hopes that they spoil things "first".



Anyhoo... I really enjoyed this... and would even go so far as to amend my lack of recommendation for the first issue.  I think this story is a pretty good read so far... and, barring me changing my mind again... I think you'll get plenty of fun from it.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Day of Judgment #1 (1999)


Day of Judgment #1 (November, 1999)
"The Summoning"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - Matt Smith
Inker - Steve Mitchell
Letterer - Comicraft
Colorist - James Sinclair
Editor - Kevin Dooley
Special Thanks - Chris Jones
Cover Price: $2.95

Here's one I've been wanting to check out.  This is one of the few DC Events that I have never read!  I really only started my DC collection in earnest just as this was ending... or maybe it was still going on.  Whatever the case, I didn't buy this then... and ever since, I've only seen it sporadically in the bins.

Having learned from past mistakes, I knew better than to grab one of these five issues at a time... I knew I'd lose track, and somehow wind up with a dozen copies of issue #4 or something.  I also knew that, one of these days, I was going to come across the whole kit and caboodle on the cheap... which I did!  The other day, I found the entire five-part series, plus the Secret Files & Origins for two-bucks.  Not too shabby.

Now, I'm not expecting much from this... but it's always cool to fill in holes, and it should be interesting to check out some very early work from Geoff Johns.

Now, let's get to it!

--


We open in Hell, where fallen angel Asmodel is being tormented by our pal from Underworld Unleashed, Neron.  As he remains chained, with tiny demons pecking at his flesh he is finally rescued by... Etrigan the Demon, who shares with him the fact that the Spectre has finally released Jim Corrigan's soul... and is looking for another!


Asmodel isn't quite sure what Etrigan's getting at... and doesn't quite buy what he's selling regardless.  Just then, the Spectre himself arrives!  Wow, Etrigan and the Spectre in the same panel... be still my yawns!


The Spectre lashes out, severing one of Asmodel's wings.... which is exactly what the Demon hoped he'd do.  Ya see, per Merlin... via the ashes of an angel's wing... souls could be bound, or ya know, something that actually rhymes.  And so, Asmodel is the new host for the Spectre!


Topside, we meet with Zatanna as she's wrapping up a magic show... and has to deal with being hit on by a geeky barman.  While being chatted up, she gets the gist of what's going on down below... and zips out.


Next stop, New Jersey... the Ostrander Mental Institute.  This is where June Moone is being kept, and wouldn'tcha know it... tonight's the night the Enchantress manages to bust on out.  She flies out of the hospital, where as luck would have it... Kyle Rayner just happened to be flying by.  More on them in a bit.


Back in Hell, we do that thing where a new "big bad" easily beats an older "big bad".  We've seen it with Doomsday defeating Darkseid... and later, Imperiex defeating Doomsday.  It's a trope as old as time... and here we see the new-look Spectre ixnay Neron, and then commanding the forces of Hell to follow his will.


Topside, Kyle approaches the Enchantress... who kinda takes him out in a single panel... all the while declaring that he's not the Green Lantern that she knew.


After landing on the street... it begins to split!  From it, emerges Etrigan... and, flanked by an army of demons, the Spectre!


We rejoin Zatanna as she begins recruiting for what's to come.  First stop, Dr. Occult... who is in Boston, admiring a crying statue.  Ya see, crying statues are a sign of the end-times... apparently.  Either way, he's in.


Next stop, a St. Louis movie theater where Boston Brand is taking in a flick.  Not sure which one... but he's really here for the popcorn anyway.  Zee insists he vacate the body... and come along with her, which he does.


Back on the street, Kyle is calling the "trouble ticket" into the JLA, who at this time have their own angel on the roster... Zauriel.  As Kyle spills the beans, Zauriel notices that his heavensword has begun to flare... meaning something nasty is on the way.


The JLA heads into action while J'onn remains at the Watchtower to call in some more heavy (and not-so heavy) hitters.  These folks include Firestorm... Argent and Damage (ay...), the Marvel Family, Star-Spangled Kid and S.T.R.I.P.E. (gee, I wonder why?), the JSA and Batman and Superman.


We're off to Purgatory... where we see a Sargon the Sorcerer, Rick Flag, and Vigilante Adrian Chase...'s souls?  More importantly... we see another soul in waiting... I suppose it's not giving it all away to reveal that this is the soul of Hal Jordan... and it's now awake!


We next check in with the Quintessence... which is, I dunno, a group of powerful folks who kinda play a similar role as Uatu the Watcher?  It consists of Ganthet, the Wizard Shazam, the Highfather, and Zeus.  They discuss whether or not they ought to intervene... which turns out to be a moot point.  The Spectre sees them and tells them to stay put.


Back to Zatanna's magical mystery tour... next stop, Detroit where she chats up Faust... the son of Felix Faust, natch.  He's busy... er, washing bones in the sink, but agrees to come along nonetheless.  I get it though, I know my wife gets annoyed when I let the bones pile up in the sink!


Then... Greenwich Village, to the home of Madame Xanadu, who is already being attacked by demons!  Zee pops in and ixnays the baddies... then calls forth the Phantom Stranger.  Wow, this cast... it really is like my perfect sleep-aid.


Okay, so back on the street... the assembled heroes have arrived, and they're taking the fight to the Spectre.  Their efforts are, at best, futile.  Asmod-Spec shrugs them off completely... including fellow angel Zauriel.  We get a bit of exposition, and a handful of handy editorial notes to learn that Zauriel had recently freed the Spectre... so, kinda tipping over that first domino.


Finally, the Spectre tires of the fight... and decides to end it.  With a blast from his fingers, he turns Superman into a pile of salt, Green Lantern into petrified wood... and does some similarly nasty stuff to the rest of the goodniks.


The Spectre and Etrigan celebrate their victory, however, it's short-lived... because they now must face... the Sentinels of Magic!


--

I'm underwhelmed... but not disappointed.  Ya see, I kinda went into this expecting to be underwhelmed... so I can't get mad at it for delivering.

It's no secret that the Spectre is not one of my favorites... but I gotta say, I think I can get behind him as a villain.  He is definitely a thief of joy... so why not just turn him evil for a bit?  I must admit, I chuckled when the Spectre popped in on the Quintessence as they struggled with whether or not they should get involved... when that's basically all the Spectre ever does!  Especially during event books!

I'm always a bit iffy when a new big-bad takes out an old one to show their dominance... but, ya know... even if I don't necessarily care for him, I know what the Spectre means to DC... and it's not like he was entirely a Johnny Come Lately.  So, I guess I don't have a problem with him taking out Neron in a single panel.

The art here is... good, but not a good fit.  Matt Smith's work feels like a more cartoony version of Mike Mignola.  It's good, really quite good... and nice to look at.  I just don't think it evokes a sense of urgency... which I feel like this story kinda needs.

Let's look at the cover for a second... if I didn't know any better, I'd figure Batman would have a rather sizable role... but he doesn't!  I think he appears in maybe three panels?  I know why they do this... but can't help but to roll my eyes when they do.  Hell... least it's not the Joker, right?  Here's a bit of a rant for ya... recently there was a loot-geek-nerd-fanboy-box-crate thing based on the Teen Titans.  Phil Jimenez drew an amazing cover for it... where almost half the thing was Batman's freaking face.  Hell, he always was my favorite Teen Titan!  Apropos of nothing... this kinda thing just really bugs me.  I know why they do it... it just bugs me that they do.

Ahem... back to Day of Judgment.  If I didn't know any better, I would assume... from this point... that this event was put together to facilitate a Sentinels of Magic ongoing series.  Seems a lot of work was put into getting them together.  As far as I know, that never came to be... but it wouldn't surprise me if the later Shadowpact team had its roots in it.

Overall... this wasn't a bad issue... it just didn't do much for me.  I guess everything has to start somewhere.  I'd probably tell you this isn't one you need to break your back tracking down, unless, like me, you're filling in gaps in your Hal Jordan library... or if you want to see how Geoff Johns handled his first ever DC Comics event.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Flash (vol.2) #33 (1989)


Flash (vol.2) #33 (December, 1989)
"Joker's Holiday"
Writer - William Messner-Loebs
Penciller - Greg LaRocque
Inker - Tim Dzon
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Letterer - Tim Harkins
Editor - Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.00

Here's one I've been wanting to talk about for a long while.  It's one of those "key" issues, maybe to no one but me... but one I'd only heard whispers about when the subject of early Flash (vol.2) comes up.

It's been on my ever-growing list of books to keep an eye out for... for as long as I've carried a list.  Finally stumbled across it in a cheap-o bin yesterday... and couldn't wait to get home and read it.

So, we'll take the hit "views" wise... I don't know what it is, but anytime we discuss The Flash here, views go wayyy down.  And engagement?  Fuhgeddaboudit!  Maybe this very strange issue will change that... who knows?

Only one way to find out...

--


We open with a reminiscence from a young woman... she recalls her tenth birthday party, when her parents hired Rags the Clown to entertain.  What's worse, they left ol' Rags in charge of the party... and he was in a bad way.  He was drunk/hung-over, creepy... destructive.  Just not the best chaperone.  Go figure, right?  Anyways, when her parents (finally) returned, the house was cleaned up... and ol' Rags gave our gal a peck on the cheek as he left.  This would begin her fear of clowns... something that stuck with her until the present day.  More on that in just a bit.


We shift scenes to Wally West moving into his new Keystone City digs.  He is given a weird housewarming visit by a blonde woman... who greets him with a slap in the face.  Ya see, during an earlier adventure, The Flash zipped across the country... and unfortunately, right through her puppy Bunches!


She continues to berate him as Joan Garrick arrives with a young couple to introduce to Wally.  The grieving woman stomps out... and we learn that she was just an actress hired by a shadowy figure in order to keep young Mr. West on his toes.


Now, with that out of the way... Wally meets this couple.  It's Dana and Ken Simpson... and wouldn'tcha know it, Dana is the coulrophobic woman we met earlier.  She tells Wally (I probably ought to mention that his "secret identity" is publicly known at this point) that the Joker is trying to steal her baby.  He's made threatening phone calls... and has sent her twisted packages.


Wally "flashes up", and hits the town to follow up.  He heads to the Keystone City Police Station... where he's given a rather chilly "how do you do?".  They basically tell him to hit the skids... and so, he decides to escalate things by visiting the Police Captain personally... only to find he's a few minutes too late!


We jump ahead to Linda Park delivering a news report on the murder-by-Joker-toxin of the Keystone City Police Chief... she also interviews the Simpsons about the threats the Joker made to them... which causes Dana to rush off a sobbing mess.


Flash and Linda share a bit of flirty/contentious banter before Wally rushes off to make a phone call... to Bruce Wayne.


Bruce informs Wally that there's no possible way that the Joker is terrorizing Keystone City... but offers to send him any information he has to help him connect whichever dots need connectin'.


At the station, Wally goes through the information sent by Wayne... and learns that the Police Captain was set to meet with a fella by the name of Juice Mantee the day he was murdered.  He cross-references that name with the Bat-File, and finds that Mr. Mantee was once a member of the Joker's Gang.


With Wally on the job, Joan Garrick approaches Linda about visiting with a friend.  A friend who happens to be a therapist, who'd like to discuss postpartum depression.  Seems Joan has some suspicions about Mrs. Simpson.


Wally heads to Mantee's office... and thinks about how he'd very likely have access to Joker toxin.  He is greeted upon arrival by a gaggle of gunny geeks... one of whom delivers the immortal line "Eat leaden death!"  Gotta love it!


Back at the clinic, Linda and Joan get more of the quick and dirty on postpartum depression... and it's delivered in an easy-to-digest way.  Really like the way this was handled... no condescension, while at the same time, it's not "dumbed down".  Joan decides to call Dana to have her come in... however, learns that she (and the baby) have gone missing!


We rejoin Wally as he busts into Mantee's office.  After a brief skirmish... Mantee is shot.  This scene is kind of a mess... we wouldn't know that Mantee was shot if Wally didn't tell us.  It's like they forgot to draw backgrounds for the bottom three panels here... really pulls me out of it.  I mean, just look at it...


As Wally tends to Mantee...'s body, the phone rings!  It's Joan, and she tells him he must get to the Keystone Bridge "ASAP as possible".  He's there... in a flash... and finds Dana Simpson precariously dangling her baby off the side of the bridge.  Maybe she figures the only way to save the tot from the Joker is to toss him in the drink.  Her delusions have gotten far worse... and she is now seeing everybody as the Joker.


Hell, check that, she even now sees her baby as the Joker!  And so, into the drink he goes!  Luckily, Wally can outrun a falling child, and rescues him before impact.  The police help Dana down from the bridge... and, as you may imagine, she is rather disoriented.  She doesn't remember how she got here... and what she'd just done.


We wrap up with Wally having a housewarming party at his new pad... and we now see the shadowy figure who's had his eye on him throughout the issue.  Are ya ready for this?  Ladies and gentlemen... I give you, the Turtle.  Aye yai yai.


--

Well... that certainly was a weird issue.

First, we get a Joker "guest appearance" without him even showing up!  That's pretty cool... especially back in the day where Joker appearances weren't a weekly occurrence.  I mean, really... is there a single week without a Joker appearance... or at least a cover appearance?  I don't think so...

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way before going "deep".  We wrap up with the introduction of the Flash's first Keystone threat... the Turtle.  Ya get it?  Turtles are slow!  Oi.  Can't say that this would entice me to buy the next issue... but, what do I know?

The Wally/Linda dynamic was pretty cool.  I get a sort of Billy/Allison from Melrose Place vibe from them... and that's good enough for me.  You can tell there's an underlying attraction there... but neither of them really wants to see/admit it.

The art... was a bit of a miss.  We get some sorta McFarlane-esque "gummy/blobby faces"... but it doesn't really work.  Then there's that page where Juice gets shot.  Such a missed opportunity... I mean, removing the backgrounds was such a bad idea... especially if they weren't going to change the angle to make the scene more dynamic.  We really wouldn't have had the slightest idea that he was shot if Flash didn't outright tell us.  My initial reaction was that Wally punched him... I never would have guessed he was actually shot.  Another art issue I have is that baby Donnie looks older than I'd have liked.

Now... the crux of the issue, postpartum depression.  Well, there's a heavy topic one normally wouldn't associate with superhero comics.  It's a potentially touchy topic as well... one that I feel didn't get fleshed out enough in my six years of psychology courses.  For any current students/recent psych grads... you probably know that there are certain "inconvenient" topics that don't quite get their due... not saying it's universal, but at least for me, postpartum kind of got glossed over.  It was never denounced, mind you... but wasn't "boosted" either.

It's a pretty scary subject... and, as mentioned, a pretty heavy one at that.  I feel like Messner-Loebs handled it pretty well here.  Let's break it down into the Dana Simpson thread, and the Linda/Joan thread... starting with the latter.

We joined Linda and Joan chatting up a clinician... who educated them on postpartum... and did so in a way that didn't talk down to them (or the audience), and even shined a light on the stigma related to the malady... and again, didn't do so in a way that talked down to anybody.  I feel like if this were written today, it would be riddled with passive-aggressive agenda-pushing.  Thankfully, we don't get that here.

Now Dana... isn't depicted as totally insane.  Sure, it gets really dicey at the end... but in the lead-up, she's treated pretty fairly.  She's convinced that the Joker is trying to kidnap her baby... and her husband hasn't said anything to argue that.  If he's going to go along with this... whether he believes it or not (we have no reason to believe he doesn't), her fears will only compound... and she'll continue to dig her heels in.

Let's look at her childhood trauma for a bit.  She associates clowns with... in a way, abandonment.  Her parents left her alone with that rotten Rags... and it stands to reason she's make a link between child abandonment, danger, and clowns.

To the end of the story... Dana kinda goes off the rails.  Tossing baby Donnie off the Keystone Bridge is a rather extreme way to wrap up... and it's the kind of ending that I don't really dig.  I mean, in the real world... there is no Flash.  On that, we can probably all agree.  I don't like it when they mix very real problems/situations with the fantastic.  It's... I dunno, kind of cheap.  I mean, it invites questions as to why superheroes don't just solve all of the world's problems, ya know?

Anyhoo... despite my very few complaints... I'm glad I finally had the opportunity to read (and share) this issue.  I'd definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for a rather off-beat adventure of the Flash.  For your convenience, this bugger is available digitally... and for just a buck!

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