Dean Trippe's The Good Stuff (3/23/09)

In the interest of helping the mainstream comics industry by both promoting their best stuff and ignoring their less successful attempts, Dean Trippe takes time out of his busy schedule to inform you about the best of the best put out by the Big Two. Here are his picks for the last few months.

Final Crisis #7 by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke. Since it's been a while since I've had time to post some reviews, I'm mostly going to skip to recent stuff without catching up. But I can't skip Final Crisis. I understand there are a lot of folks who were confused by this series, and I really don't have the ability to convert anyone to loving it as much as I did. I really think it was written for a very specific kind of reader, and it may have been written just for me, personally. Having read nearly every Morrison supertitle since I was 12 (just a short time after I began reading comics), I'm still constantly thrilled by that man's superhero stories. I feel like they've gotten more complex and daring as I've become more capable of following the stranger and bigger ideas, and he's writing on a level that leaves some readers feeling confused (though I do think that if you accept that feeling and hang on, you'll be fine), for me it was incredible, beautiful, and moving. I consider myself a reconstructionist as far as the superhero myth goes, and while many comics continue to rip off Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns and other excellent deconstructions of the concept, we're more than ten years into letting them be what they say they are and tell us their stories.

Final Crisis had Batman mortally wound the god of all evil, sacrificing his life to do it. The use of the gun was particularly powerful, since while Batman's hatred of guns is justified, it's also irrational to think any particular tool or action might NEVER be useful. In sealing Darkseid's fate, Batman overcame his last fear, ending his life as Batman with an act of heroism using the tool that began it with an act of villainy. There was so much more, of course. Superman's wish. Nix Uotan's emergence as the world's first hyperhero. Lois's story. And the constant reminder that signs ARE what we interpret them to be. As with all hero stories, choices, not events, are what define our reality. I feel like Final Crisis would've been stronger as part of Justice League and not a company-wide crossover, but having read all the "required" bits in the old JLA, Seven Soldiers, Batman RIP, and Superman Beyond, I had the lucky pleasure of being told one of the best superhero stories that's been printed and stapled. Hats off to the various artists and of course, Mr. Morrison.

Ghost Rider #33 by Jason Aaron and Tony Moore. Dudes, okay, listen. If you're not reading Ghost Rider right now, first, slap yourself out of your lameness and grab the first trade of Jason Aaron's run. Aaron has turned this B-list character into the Marvel book I look forward to the most every month. As you may already know, Johnny Blaze has recently found out his powers draw from Heaven, not Hell, and that there are many, many more Ghost Riders that have been operating around the world since Biblical times. (The new variant Ghost Riders Aaron's come up with are all awesome, btw, and if there's not a Tales of the Spirits of Vengeance spinoff or regular backup feature coming out of this, then the universe is against us.) Former Ghost Rider Danny Ketch has been corrupted by an angel in charge of manipulating the Spirits of Vengeance, and has been on a mission to deliver all their accumulated power back to that angel, Zadkiel, who is waging a war in heaven. In the hands of a lesser writer, this would all sound pretty cool, but with Aaron's dialogue, it's flipping incredible. He's the master of the badass quip, making Ghost Rider the most fun mainstream book I read.

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, and Pete Woods. Superman trying to find his place on New Krypton is pretty interesting, as Supergirl's mom Allura and Kal's longtime adversary General Zod form the new world order. I love how the Johns-helmed superbooks are applying the "both+ and" philosophy to the representations of Krypton we've seen before. The superwriters seem to have found the true voice of General Zod, much like Johns has done over on Green Lantern with Sinestro. These world-conquering super-villains may drop the occassional "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD," but they're also real people who believe in what they're doing and have reasons for their actions, crazy as they may seem to our stalwart heroes. Zod's motivations have become clearer and clearer since Johns took over Action Comics, and here we see him in his element more than ever before. My only criticism with the whole New Krypton story is how easily Kryptonians have taken to having superpowers. Kal makes a point of schooling them with his superior control of them, but still. While I miss the old inking style Woods used to prefer, he's still rocking out some solid work here (despite the incongruous coloring style). Woods' ability to convey his characters' emotions effectively is still super-impressive. And just to make it an even 10 for this review, "SUPER."

Green Lantern #38 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. The thing that impresses me most about this whole Blackest Night event buildup stuff, is that it's not an EVENT so much as an engine to make entertaining comics month after month. Johns has been laying the groundwork for this stuff for YEARS now, since Green Lantern: Rebirth and the first arc on this volume of GL with Carlos Pacheco (collected in Green Lantern: No Fear). Each new Lantern color that shows up runs the risk of being lame, or handled poorly, missing either a strong character motivation or failing in an understanding of the color's base emotional concept, but Johns defies those risks, constantly surprising us readers with how much thought he's clearly put into this. This month, we learned that the hope-powered Blue Lanterns are only powerful when working alongside a Green Lantern, whose strength is will-power. Hope without willpower is powerless. I love that superhero comics can deal in abstract concepts like that, and Johns and Reis manage to create a kickass action series around it all. GL is the most recommendable title at DC right now. Grab some trades and get on board.

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