A short week overall, with me only getting four books. It should be noted that at this time a year ago, I was buying virtually no DC books, since I'm a Marvel Zombie. Now, out of 4 books this week, two are from DC. If I were Marvel, I'd maybe be concerned with more fans edging over to the competition in recent years, as DC seems to be happy at being No. 2, so long as they can take a bite out of sales. Of course, that's not to say that everything DC does is perfect or even a whole lot different than the stuff we blast Marvel for, as this week's first offering points out. But, let's get on with it! I have a class in an hour! BOUGHT/THOUGHT for 9/14/05: SPOILERS! (I just tire of putting tags) ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER #2 And man, I thought it was X-spinoffs that had long titles. Anyway, DC's excuse for an Ultimate line continues with it's first offering, Batman & Robin, by the wonder-twin duo of Frank Miller & Jim Lee. Overall, I liked this issue more than #1, but that may not be saying much as Miller seems to have discovered an evil he hasn't before. No, it's not violence, or cursing, or depicting Batman as a borderline insane pedophile. It's DECOMPRESSION. Not convinced? Read past issues of some of Miller's stories, whether they're SIN CITY or hell, even his abysmal DK2. More happened in 22 pages there than it did here. I guess someone at DC got the memo that if USM can sell in the Top Ten despite most issues having ABSOLUTELY NOTHING friggin' happening, then so can their "Ultimate Batman". Basically, all that happens is Alfred patches up Vale's wounds, only to have her collapse, as Batman speeds away with Grayson in his Batmobile from murderous, corrupt cops (are there any other kinds of cops in Millerland?) while trying to manipulate Grayson into becoming his partner, or at least not barfing in the car. That's IT. I wonder how many more years of this "writing for the trades" drek will continue before fans finally stop being suckers, all collectively wait for the trades so that the stores lose money and blast the company, and the companies go, "Gee, maybe we should stop being greedy ass *****s and tell our writers to move their arses." Oh, well. Not all of a comic is story, though, as you have art and dialogue in the presentation, and in this, both Miller and Lee are at their A-game. Miller's dialogue and narration is as seedy and gritty as it has ever been, with him pulling no punches with a Batman who's incredibly creepy and may not be all sane. Lee's art is naturally pretty to look at even when he's not drawing much happening. Seems this Batman is more like the original Golden Age Batman; unafriad of killing people, as he smashes up some corrupt cops' cars and blows them up in flames in order to launch his flying car into the sky. Not many can pull off gritty noir and comic camp in the same panels, but they do. And who better than to depict a "more corrupt and rotten than Puragtory" Gotham than Miller? I'd say this issue improved on the first, but it still succumbs to the evils of decompression, and ends up being nothing we haven't seen before. No wonder most of fandom is responding to this series, seemingly, with a collective "sigh", and no wonder every store I go to still has at least 2 dozen copies of #1 left, often both covers. The second issue shamelessly has two covers, too, to milk obsessed fans and poor shop keepers. JLA #118: Faring better this week from DC is JLA, which continues their fallout-from-IC storyline under Johns & Heinberg, with stellar art as usual from Batista & Farmer. After the seemingly SWIFT defeat of the Secret Society last issue halfway through their arc, I wondered how exactly the story was going to go from here, but I likely shouldn't have underestimated the writers, or Despero. He's still pounding away at J'onn while the rest of the JLA are distracted with the Society and how to best deal with rogues who're targetting their families (Lois, loved by millions, very barely escaped with her life, and of course DC would never have the guts to do to her what they'd do to Sue Dibney, a character loved by...a dozen). J'onn's powers dampened, he seemingly can't get anyone to aid him...'cept Aquaman, a character even WIZARD made fun of for being mostly left by the wayside for INFINITE CRISIS so far. The "talk to fishes" guy gets in a few good moments against Despero, but alas things won't end well for the pair. The assembled JLA (Superman, Hal Jordon, Flash, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, and Hawkman) vote, once again, on what to do against the Society; mindwipe or not. Hawkman's notion is that with all this experience, Zatanna can only erase their names from their foe's minds, and not leave them lobotimized like Dr. Light was. Still, the moral implications are high, as Jordon, Superman, and Canary vote no. Hawkman, and a begrudging Arrow & Flash vote the other way, but Zatanna refuses to perform such functions anymore and quits the JLA, finding exile in Paradise Island with yet-another-Supergirl and Wonder Woman (who's now feeling bad for killing Max Lord). The issue ends with Despero charging into the Batcave with a brainwashed J'onn & Aquaman in tow to collect Batman, and things look like they're about to go from bad to worse for both Catwoman and the JLA. Because surely, the JLA is no match for a fish-guy and an overrated martial artist who throws Batarangs. Still, quite a good, rollicking issue that keeps things taunt with a very misleading cover. GRAVITY #4: The mysterious "MARVEL NEXT" tagger that found itself on last issue's cover is mysteriously absent; maybe Marvel has learned, for about the 12th time, that it's not a line of books that attract readers, it it good, individual books. If a book is either underadvertised or shoddy, no icon on the cover, whether an X or a Marvel Knights, will make it sell more than it deserves to. It's not 1993 anymore, and it's about time Marvel started facing friggin' reality. As for GRAVITY itself, it continues to be a fun, by-the-books tale about an inexperienced rookie hero's first foray into the MU. I might add with 5 issues to tell a tale instead of 6, more happens in one issue of GRAVITY than usually happens in 2 issues of most other books. If I wanted to be pompus, I'd call this the "prenulimate" chapter, but I won't. Basically, still realing from his losses as Gravity, Greg's quit the superhero game for weeks, content with living college life and dating Lauren, who's eager to pull him out of his "midwestern" shell and enjoys romantic strolls and watching old B-movies. However, when Grenwich Guardian literally travels across the city screaming for Gravity's help, Greg reluctantly answers the call. I'd say this issue had Gravity at his MOST naive; he's so quick to trust the Guardian that he's easily manipulated into stealing something from him (hilariously, as the boss of the facility gave his men a lecture about guarding their tech from metahumans), and any reasonable person would smell something fishy from Gaurdian. How did he vanish last issue so cleanly if he was "mortally wounded"? Why is he lecturing Gravity about "watching his back" when HE abandoned Gravity? And what hero asks someone to steal something and knows all-too-much about Black Death? I looked for excuses for why Gravity would be so naive, and could barely find any. It just felt a little awkward. Alas, while out with Gaurdian, he skipped a date with Lauren, who proves not to be NEARLY as patient as many of Peter Parker's girlfriends and promptly dumps him, which is pretty realistic. Greg's naturally devistated, and copes by skipping school and acting out his anger as a hero, pummeling many muggers in a two-page splash montage (as well as Shocker and Whirlwind). His grades slip and he's facing failing all his classes, and his teacher answers his confused status with "welcome to the real world", and that's sort of what GRAVITY is about in a nutshell; a story about how our often overly-ambitious and unrealistic dreams meet brutal reality, and we question whether it was ever worth having them. At the end, though, Gravity is easily led into a trap by Guardian, who turned out to be Black Death after all (something I predicted last issue, but was really a no-brainer that anyone should have saw coming), who now has the very device to beat him with. It seems like a lot of hassle for Black Death to do this to snare one "guppy fish" hero, but maybe there's more than meets the eye here. Or maybe he needs to vent on SOMEONE after being on the verge of defeat from a C-Lister like Rage in issue #1. A stress-free pleasure as always, even if it's pretty straightfoward and predictable. ULTIMATE X-MEN #63: With a cover that brilliantly homages a classic Uncanny X-Men cover, this story continues on Vaughan's "Magnetic North" story. Vaughan naturally pulls triple duty, having countless characters doing stuff, whether they're X-Men, Alex's ad-hoc squad or even Ultimates leading Longshot into his new prison digs, alongside other captured Vaughan-rogues like Mr. Sinister and Lady Deathstrike. He's still getting all his ducks in a row for what promises to be an explosive climax before he's forced to take a backseat to Singer & Co. Or at least I hope it is. If anything hinders Vaughan here, though, it's still his action scenes. They get very predictable. They go like this; team of heroes line up, state their actions before actually DOING anything, and then get dropped one by one, as whatever enemies are intended to be beaten also state their actions before DOING anything and being dropped, all with usually one attack. Why is Storm threatening Northstar with a lightening bolt at all when he's holding Kitty, who'd get zapped, too? It reminded me of turn-based combat in an RPG more than a fluid fight. Still, the issue of the issue was Cyclops still being torn about how he feels about Lorna and Alex, and as he TKO's Sunspot decisively, he seems to "let" Alex defeat him. Logan and Kurt beat Canonnball off panel, but by then, their squad is beaten and Alex is still gunning for the Triskalon, which is being guarded by Jean, Colossus, and Iceman, before they're joined by the Ultimates. Mystique hints to Forge of their plans as Magneto and Polaris seem to be bonding, or at least the former is playing on the emotions of the latter to get her onto his side. Oh, and Angel & Dazzler talk and make out in the sky and really don't do much but appear. I enjoyed the issue despite it's flaws, as at least Vaughan can be accused of cramming too much into each issue, which is better than being too slow. Still, it naturally leaves the finale with some hefty shoes to fill, successfully satisfying the storyline. Millar had issues with his climaxes and Vaughan's been a little better, but often seems better in stuff like RUNAWAYS. Still, another solid issue of Ultimate X-Men from the best writer the title's had since Millar, who is certainly capable of more nuanced writing. Even if it takes a scorecard to keep track of all the figures.