Archive for Gail Simone

Wonder Woman #33

Posted in Comics, Wonder Woman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
A much-needed return to form for Princess Diana.

A much-needed return to form for Princess Diana.

“Rise of the Olympian Finale: Monarch of the Dead”
Author: Gail Simone
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Artists: Aaron Lopresti & Hi-Fi
Variant Cover Artist: Bernard Chang
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Elisabeth V. Gehrlein

The cinematic opening of Wonder Woman #33 promises a return to form for Gail Simone’s flagging run on the series, and I’m happy to say this issue delivers on that promise.  With a giant clam shell falling from the Hunter’s Moon, this story picks up from before it all went so wrong – that is, before Genocide.  Perhaps it was an issue of tone after all.  This overtly grim Doomsday clone sapped all the magic and charm from a series that dealt chiefly in magic and charm.  Over seven issues, no less!  Well, Wonder Woman fans, it’s safe to come out now, the bad creature has gone.  But already we’re at the eighth and final part of “Rise of the Olympian”, and I’m wondering where it all went – it all went to Genocide, that’s where – is it too little too late for Simone to make us care about this story?

The answer is no, surprisingly, and it causes me to wonder if the problem was simply an editorial one or not.  In the course of a single issue, Simone has managed to accomplish everything she needed to accomplish with this storyline, without it feeling rushed, all the while drastically changing Diana’s status quo.  Judging from her earlier work on this series, and her stellar run on Secret Six, Simone deals primarily in short three-issue arcs and one-shots, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if what was originally planned to be a three-issue story arc was forced on her as an eight part epic by editorial.  After all, Batman had “R.I.P.” and Superman had New Krypton, what was the third pillar of the Holy DC Trinity going to have?  In light of this issue, the preceding seven issues of mindless brawling were clearly filler (and admittedly, by filler standards it was not too bad).  Still, I can see how Genocide, or something like her, was somehow necessary to reach this interesting point B.  In retrospect, this could have been done more easily by restoring a villain that requires no introduction, and that of course is Cheetah.  That Cheetah *did* appear in a greatly limited capacity just screams to me of missed opportunity.  Instead we had to deal with seven issues of build-up for a villain we didn’t care about, and never really had more than two dimensions to begin with.  But enough bitching and moaning about the waste of ink that was Genocide – she’s gone now, so let’s get on with the story.

Wonder Woman returns to Themyscira in dire need of medical attention.  To make matters worse, the island is being attacked by gigantic sea monsters, which is awesome.  Diana’s mother Hippolyta shows her true strength as a woman and a leader, as she prepares to lead her people into battle.  Now, I don’t know where Hippolyta stands in current DC continuity, but I get the sense that this is the same Hippolyta that was Wonder Woman in previous iterations, and if that’s the case, Simone makes it fit quite nicely here.  The stubborn warrior-woman that she is, Diana ignores all emotional pleas and medical advice, binding axe and lasso to her severely burnt hands, and goes into battle.  This is awesome to watch, because you know in your heart of hearts that this is exactly what Wonder Woman would do.

The battle itself is fun and reminiscent of those big monster films and Moby Dick-style epic sea stories.  All of the action is cleanly and wonderfully drawn by Aaron Lopresti, who seems right at home with horror themes and Greek mythology.  The battle yields revelations that the gods are once again involved in foul play, Zeus and Ares in particular.  Diana’s had just about enough of this, and the result is more than shocking.  The gods finally play their hand, and so does Wonder Woman.  I don’t want to spoil it by going into detail, but one can’t help but feel that she’ll never be the same again.

Everything about this issue is a shock, in what is essentially the boldest Wonder Woman story in a long time.  Just when I’d lost hope in this series, Simone leaves me hooked on all the charm and magic that brought me to her series in the first place, along with a smorgasbord of new story possibilities.  It’s time to start reading Wonder Woman again, people.

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Secret Six #9

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Secret Six with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23rd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

The funniest funeral I've ever been to.

“A Debt of Significant Blood”
Author: Gail Simone
Artist: Nicola Scott
Inker: Doug Hazelwood
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sean Ryan

It’s official.  Gail Simone’s Secret Six is now my favourite comic book.  Secret Six #9 is the best issue of the series thus far.

I’ve heard someone say that they would happily read these characters eating sandwiches and having a chat, and I’d have to say, I agree!  And that’s because – despite their grimeyness; despite their moral greyness – they’re so damn vibrant.  And so they should be – Simone herself nursed them to maturity.  Nobody writes these characters like Simone (and nobody draws them like Nicola Scott); even Bane – the man who broke the Batman’s back – has been enriched under her tenure.  The next part will come as a strange coincidence, then: Secret Six #9 is a Battle for the Cowl tie-in featuring only three of the Secret Six – Catman, Ragdoll, and Bane – returning to Gotham to pay their respects to Batman!  Talk about your strange situations.

And it pays off in spades, too.  This is easily the most hilarious single issue I’ve read this year, and definitely my favourite Secret Six story so far (and I’ve read them all).  Our three anti-heroes go from mansion to mansion to save the children of wealthy families from terrorists who seek to take them hostage.  This was a smart setup that very much parallels the Bruce Wayne’s own origins.  Bane in particular shines through, which is only appropriate for one of Batman’s greatest adversaries.  Of particular amusement was a scene in which Catman leaves Bane to take care of a little girl.  I’ll give you a taste:

CATMAN: Hang on, I count one missing.  Here.  Take this thing.

*Hands the toddler to Bane*.

BANE: What?  No.  I can’t.

I don’t…I don’t know how.

Blake.  BLAKE!

Hummm…

*Sings* Hush, little baby, don’t say a–

LITTLE GIRL: WAAAHH!!

BANE: Blake!  I MAY HAVE BROKEN IT!

To have such an imposing figure cradling a tiny child with a genuine look of terror on his face is priceless.

Ragdoll pays tribute to the Bat in his own twisted way, dressing as the Boy Wonder.  You can imagine this pleases Nightwing to no end when he arrives on the scene.  Ragdoll also realises his uncanny knack for making any word sound perverted.  Cheese-stuffed manicotti!

Most hilarious of all is Catman and Bane’s continuing debate over who is the biggest Batman wannabe – neither party wishes to admit it – both present strong cases; both raise many a chortle.  (Just quietly, I believe Catman loses that debate – read it and find out why!)

They may kill scores of terrorists in gruesome ways, but the Secret Six’s send-off to the Dark Knight achieves a level of poignancy comparable to Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”  When you step back and look at all the elements in play here, it’s easy to see just how much sense this Batman tie-in made.  Hand in a glove springs to mind.  So does “velvety throw pillows!”  Well done, Gail and team.

The All-New Atom: Future/Past TPB

Posted in All-New Atom, Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Don't be fooled - it's bigger than it looks!

Don't be fooled - it's bigger than it looks!

Collecting Issues #7-11
Author: Gail Simone
Artists: Mike Norton & Eddy Barrows

Were it not heavily discounted for Free Comic Book Day, and had Gail Simone’s name not appeared on the cover, I probably would have glossed over the “All-New” Atom.  I nearly missed it altogether, because it was so tiny, and nestled next to an oversized hardcover.  (Which is ironic – get it?  Because the Atom’s so small that you wouldn’t notice him!  Sorry about that, but it really is a small trade paperback, and someone had to say it.)

A bit of background: it’s called the “All-New” Atom, because the previous Atom – Ray Palmer – shrunk himself and disappeared when he found out his wife murdered the Elongated Man’s wife in Identity Crisis.  *I think.*  I don’t really remember, to be honest.  Maybe I should read that one again.  Anyway, the “All-New” Atom is Ryan Choi, an expatriate university lecturer from Hong Kong.  He’s lecturing at Ivy University, where Palmer was once a professor, so presumably this is how Ryan came into possession of the subatomic belt.  (See, it was the only All-New Atom on the shelves, so I assumed Future/Past was the first and last in the series.  After checking the inside cover, it appears that the All-New Atom lasted for *at least* 11 issues, and that this was the second collection of them.)

Gail Simone uses Choi’s expatriate status to great effect, playing on the character’s vocab-in-progress.  It was particularly humorous watching his attempts at superhero trash-talk, which steadily improved over the course of the book.  Dialogue is probably Gail Simone’s greatest asset, and she creates many opportunities to showcase it comedically.  The book kicks off with a troupe of cowboys (as in actual cowboys warped from the cowboy time period) crashing through Ryan’s front wall.  As an Australian, I can confirm that her spelling of their Deep Southern accent is spot-on, and is exactly how a non-American would hear it.  Ryan also has a pet disembodied alien head, whose speech (“can I get you anything, Head?”/ “Orange soda or death!”) is hilariously reminiscent of mis-translated Japanese Role-Playing Games (“All your base are belong to us”, “I am Error”, etc.).  There’s also a brief appearance from the taxi-driver that speaks in anagrams.  So it’s good to see that Simone has given our hero a strong supporting cast of weirdos and misfits.

The stories of time-travel and demon bullies are fantastical, but amidst it all Ryan Choi remains strangely believable.  He’s the school nerd we can get behind (or at least he was), like Clark Kent or Peter Parker, but he’s also a Chinese physicist struggling to come to terms with the very American superhero dichotomy of bravado, and never-say-die attitude.  And he doesn’t have much in the way of superpowers, either.  Simone comes up with some interesting applications of the Belt’s powers, but it’s hard to say what exactly its powers are.  I *think* it can manipulate the size and mass of the wearer’s particles, but sometimes it feels like Simone’s making up the rules as she goes along.  In some ways, I would have liked a bit more science fiction injected into these stories, but I’ve always found it’s wisely avoided if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Maybe this is the case with Simone.  She does seem to know her Chinese superstition, though, which was good for a few twists and turns when Ryan returned to Hong Kong.  Speaking of which, these curious caption boxes keep popping up in strange places containing Chinese proverbs and quotes from JFK, and I have to say, I don’t get it.  The quotes don’t seem to have anything to do with what’s going on at the time, and I can only assume that these quotes are popping up in Ryan’s head (due to his Chinese heritage?).  Normally with an asterisk and a caption box, you’d expect to read a goofy message from Stan Lee plugging another comic book, so I guess it’s not all bad.

I suppose I should talk about the stories briefly.  The first story is called “The Man Who Swallowed Eternity” with a more cartoony feel from artist Mike Norton.  The Atom time-travels with literally half a professor through time to find his other half!  Yeah, it’s crazy, but it’s action-packed and fun-filled.  The second story is still crazy, but more serious in subject matter.  In “Jia”, Ryan’s high school flame (Jia) begs him to return and protect her from the school bully, now her abusive husband.  Except she forgot to mention he was dead.  Nice one, Jia.  Barrow’s pencil work is detailed, dynamic, and infused with horror elements that were perfect for the story.

You never would have guessed it, but Gail Simone – being a woman and all – has a gift for three-dimensional female characters.  Jia is seductive like most comic book vixens, but she’s also a complicated creature, and infuriatingly so!  Let’s just say that the ending is intriguing and leave it at that.

All in all, Gail Simone’s All-New Atom is a charming romp across space and time; definitely more about the journey than the destination.  Knowing that the Atom’s journey ends at issue 25 (and Gail’s at #19) helps to put things in perspective.  All you can really do is sit back and enjoy the ride.