Fifth Wednesdays in a month are always a weird mystery grab bag for comics. Everything is generally scheduled for release over the first four Wednesdays. So what you have leftover is usually a lot of independents, the occasional annual, and the truly bizarre. And this Wednesday was no exception.
DC released a series of crossover comics with the Hanna-Barbera characters. And they were all better than they had any right to be. On paper the ideas are ludicrous: Green Lantern/Space Ghost, Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits, Booster Gold/The Flintstones, and Adam Strange/Future Quest. I’ll only be talking about the first two but they’re all worth checking out.
Green Lantern/Space Ghost
Written by James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela
Art by Ariel Olivetti
This is the most recognizable of the stories as a standard superhero crossover. It comes complete with heroes mistaking each other as villains and the inevitable fight leading to the inevitable team-up. What makes this story remarkable is how familiar it feels. It works as a superhero comic. Tynion and Sebela treat the characters with equal honesty. This is a Space Ghost that could have his own series, garner a following, and do quite well. This is the Green Lantern that we are familiar with from his own book. The story could fit neatly into the regular Hal Jordan comic as a solid done-in-one story without anyone complaining.
The art is clean but still has that animation quality about it that makes you think of a cartoon. This is an episode where problems are limited to the 30 minutes of television and everything wraps up neatly for next week’s adventure.
But everything doesn’t –not completely- and that’s what makes this book something more than just a gimmick. Tynion and Sebela have snuck a warning about fierce nationalism into the text making a very relevant political commentary.
The back-up story features Ruff n’ Ready and is created by Howard Chaykin. Normally I like Chaykin but this was probably the weakest of the back-ups. It’s not that there’s anything ‘bad’ about the comic. It’s interesting placing the characters into the lives of comedians during the fifties. Imagining them as an Abbott and Costello type duo and treating them as real. But the story comes off as more of an exercise in re-imaging than having any sort of actual narrative purpose or flow.
Suicide Squad/Banana Splits
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Ben Caldwell, Mark Morales, and Jeremy Lawson
This is probably my favourite of the crossovers. Both the main story and the back-up (featuring Snagglepuss) are dripping in social commentary. Behind the fun and high jinks you would expect putting an anthropomorphic rock band anywhere near Harley Quinn, there are some pretty slick and savvy nods to race and police violence. I went into this comic with pretty low expectations but Bedard really pulled it off.
Where the comic really shines for me though is the back-up written by Mark Russell and drawn by Howard Porter. Putting Snagglepuss in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations during the McCarthy hearings is brilliant. And surprisingly poignant. Russell –very self-referentially- speaks through Snagglepuss to us –the reader about what he, as an artist, can accomplish. And what he expects to accomplish. Unabashedly political, it carries an important message that we should all take to heart.
Harley’s Little Black Book
Written by Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Simon Bisley
This book is wonderfully raunchy and terribly wrong. There’s so much fan service in it that it may have actually been part of Bisley’s contract to get him onto the book. What I’m trying to say is Lobo and Harley spend most of the issue in some state of tattered clothing or undress. But whatever got him here I’m glad Bisley is back drawing Lobo. It’s clear that he hasn’t lost a step from his classic team-ups with Keith Giffen on Lobo or Lobo’s Back.
This book feels like a spiritual successor to those titles. It has the look. It has the style. It has all the innuendo. And it wipes the taste of that New 52 Lobo out of the mouth for good.
Bulletpoint rapid fire reviews:
- Xmen Prime (Marvel Comics): Please don’t mess this up, Marvel. Please. I really didn’t like how you ended the X-men/Inhuman War. I think the abrupt turn to the Inhumans being reasonable and heroic was shallow and frankly pretty unbelievable. But this feels like a fresh start and I’ll give you a chance.
- Animosity #6 (Aftershock Comics) This comic continues to be one of my favourite titles. Marguerite Bennett and Rafael De Latorre have created a wonderful story. If you haven’t been picking this up… do so! I think the first trade paperback is now available.
- White #4 (Devil’s Due/1First Comics) The final issue of Dan Schaffer’s shark extravaganza finishes solid. I fully expect to see this story turned into a movie at some point.