R.E.B.E.L.S. #24 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Holy shit-- four recognizable team members on the cover, and every one of them get a feature segment inside. They even managed to squeeze in a member of the early cast, Tribulus. Okay, I swear that from now on I won't bitch about the old team members not being in the book, so long as these four consistently show up to the game (plus Captain Comet, preferably.)
There might actually be a legitimate budding romance between Vril Dox and Blackfire, and I wouldn't have minded it taking up an entire issue. As it was though, we really only got exposition and foreshadowing, rather than genuine conversation. It wasn't bad, and it doesn't take up too much space, but I mourn the missed opportunity. It's could have been like being a fly on the wall during that first date between Eva and Adolph.
For some reason, seeing Adam Strange's wife Alanna in lingerie feels kind of skeevy and wrong. It's like how it's okay to find Lois Lane hot in a sharp suit, but have her strip in an American flag bikini and you realize someone has swapped her out for Vicki "Valtrex" Vale. I have too much respect for the sanctity of Adam Strange's marriage to ogle his babymama, especially since he had to have bought that shit special from Victoria's Secret. Rannian fashion would have demanded nipple visors or floating hip rings or a fin down her crotch or something. Besides, it's still three pages of exposition tarted up.
Next we have Lobo taunting Captain Comet about Starfire's lovesauce fish funk, probably one of the best things to ever come up in this series ever. Adam Blake is such a '50s square about his situation, and I love it. Besides having the only "real" dialogue in a talky issue, this portion also leads to the only twists and forward momentum of the issue.
The issue ends abruptly at a point where one would typically expect a splash page opening rather than a closing. This is the first time I felt the two page price of drawing the line at $2.99. On the other hand, Claude St. Aubin's art looks as good as ever, so I'm glad the guy's getting cut a few days worth of slack each month.
Shazam! #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
For years, I have had a secret plan for how I would like to write the Marvel Family. It would involve murder, betrayal, Satanic sacrifice, tentacle rape-- just every fucked up thing possible as part of an epic maxi-series where the entire concept of doing "mature" stories about "The World's Mightiest Mortal" would collapse in on itself in a hale of internet Hoppy-the-Marvel-Bunny-beastiality, 2-Marvels-1-Cup schadenfreude shitstorm. Then from out of the muck would emerge a doe-eyed eight year old boy in his own innocent continuity, free from all the creepiness and the worst kind of forced integration, and a welcome relief to all the readers whose basest thoughts had been purged by the overload of sheer awfulness of what had come before. Also, Jesus Christ would descend from the heavens and give us back Mike Wieringo to draw stories about evil cartoon worms with tiny speaker boxes dangling from their necks. I say plural, because in this world, there's Mrs. Mind and an incorruptibly good Mr. Mind Jr. who shames the family name.
"Shazam!" does nothing to impede my secret plan. For some reason I don't know about because I don't read Judd Winick books, Freddy Freeman has long greasy white trash hair and is no longer handicapped. Mary Batson is a conniving little bitch. Billy Batson is as pointless a presence as Marvin in Super Friends. Freeman as Captain Marvel doesn't so much invoke a super-heroic Samson as a greasy teenage redneck's head superimposed on a well muscled body. Castoff Superman demoness Blaze is in this, because Jerry Ordway doesn't get enough blame for bad ideas like making her the Wizard's daughter. She gets impaled on a sword and electrocuted with lots of bloodletting, by the way.
I was downright kind to Eric Wallace when he killed off Ryan Choi, but at this point I'm officially tagging him as a bad writer. This entire story was a meandering hash of wretched characterization and a total lack of stakes setting up an upcoming story arc in a book no one with any self respect buys. The art by Cliff Richards is superficially attractive in a Mike Mayhew photo reference lightboxing kind of way, but he gets really cheap when he has to draw fantastic elements not easily traced from a magazine feature. Blaze is often merely an awkward stencil when the lighting would demand otherwise. The exclamation point in the title is like his prick and single nut waved in the face of aesthetics.
Again, allow me to thank the creative team for helping to maintain my messianic delusions of my perfect Shazam age not being able to arrive until the very worst Marvel Family comic books see print. They are the industry equivalent of the constant turmoil in the Middle East keeping up the spirits of Baptists.
Steel #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I bought the original John Henry Irons "Steel #1" when it came out a decade & a half back, so I can honestly say that this rushed cash-in on a questionable event is still better than that first sour note. Chris Batista became a pretty good artist, but he was worse as a novice than Ed Benes' phoned-in work here. Unlike Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, writer Steve Lyons never trades on any unintentional liberal white racism. This is just the simple story of the plagiarizing of another simple story of