Thursday, April 19, 2007

World War III

52 #50, World War III 1-4

This is DC's fuck you to Marvel's Civil War, five installments in a day, kudos to the group just for this rare experience.

Twists and Dead Ends: The thing is, DC doesn't seem to be interested in attracting new readers. World War III's marketing blitz is a tiny, lonely spark compared to the fireworks display of Civil War or even Infinite Crisis. No doubt it is a major event with gazillion book crossovers but it does feel that it is solely for 52 readers. I can't imagine jumping into this arc without reading the past 49 issues of 52 and a few OYL titles (Supergirl, Trials of Shazam). With this frighteningly focused market, in this sense, World War III is an ambitious indy act, let's say Sufjan Stevens, let's say Sufjan Stevens' Avalanche album, an acquired taste, a collection of rarities and B-sides, and only for the loyal listeners. 52 #50 is, not surprisingly, the best of the bunch, drawing to a close Black Adam's murderous rampage. The other closures---the Question and Montoya's, Batman's soul searching, Luthor's rain of the supermen---all neatly tied, if a little too hushed. Black Adam's journey in contrast is superhero UFC smackdown, loud, fast and furious. The ending is quite a punch, mystical in nature but true to the characters.

World War III takes a close look at the events of 52 #50, with a few forced and useless plotlines, mostly found in Book Two. Supergirl comes back from the future changed. Duh. Or this is why she has two ongoing titles. Donna Troy picks up the Wonder Woman tiara, but never answers why. Bat Girl confused; Jason poses as Nightwing. Given, given. The return and death of Terra...whathafuck? How? And why?

But the books do succeed in telling the story of Black Adam and J'onn J'onzz. No spoilers here, but choosing Manhunter to be the narrator of the story worked beyond my expectations. The loss and guilt that connects both characters made the telling more...poignant. Not the greatest thing about a comic book mega-event but it's what is sorely lacking in Civil War. All fists. No punches.

Highlights and low life: Martian Manhunter vs. Black Adam. China's heroes vs. Black Adam. DCU vs. Black Adam. All sweet. Infinity Inc.'s response to Black Adam was hilarious. Loved the conversations between the DCU heroes before the final attack: love lives, rent woes, anything but what they were about to face. Major mehs: Teen Titans. Interesting pre-OYL line-up but too many questions left unanswered like why BB left the Titans in the first place. And Terra? When and how did this happen? Apparently it's the same Terra, GF's sister. And Frankenstein Jr.? Argh. Years worth of Teen Titans history in my head and the Titans are written out of sync. There's nothing remotely Raven about Raven, Gar's a mess, and...just too many gaps in the telling which started immediately after the OYL jump. Sorry, grumpy fan. And oh, the art. Not very good especially in the first two books. I guess it's what DC had to sacrifice to meet the shipping schedule.

All in all, a great story in the DCU continuity. And mired in continuity this is. Works for me but definitely not for walk-ins.

52 # 50 (Rucka, Johns, Morrison, Waid, Various artists) *****
World War III Book One (Champagne/Oliffe and Geraci) ***
World War III Book Two (Champagne/Smith and Snyder) *
World War III Book Three (Ostrander/Derenick and Rapmund) ****
World War III Book Four (Ostrander/Jadson and Ramos) ****

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