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The Weekly Comics Wrap-up: Dec. 31, 2007

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image The world of comics is complicated, with multiple companies (and universes) to keep track of. Luckily, CC2K has Joey Esposito, our resident expert on all things pulpy and good. Each week, Joey will break down what's happening in the world of comics, so you can pick up right where he left off. Today, he talks about the blossoming (though too-long delayed) brilliance of DC's Final Crisis.

If you had told me a couple of months ago that DC's Countdown weekly series was going to turn into the book that I reach for first whenever I have a stack of unread comics, I most likely would have hit you. But strangely enough, ever since a few issues ago, I find that to be happening more and more. And it's safe to say that this week's Countdown to Final Crisis #18 is the best issue to date. We finally see where Ray Palmer has been this whole damn time, and it's quite a mind blowing concept that opens up all new kinds of doors leading into the Great Disaster and Final Crisis

It's rather unfortunate though, because this series is pretty much on it's last third – the things that are happening now should have happened months ago to get readers excited, yet it's taken 34 issues to get any steam going whatsoever. I really think the series could have benefitted from a different release schedule – say, I don't know, monthly – rather than DC attempting to capitalize on the success of 52

The best thing to come out of Countdown thus far: Gotham Underground. Writer Frank Tieri and penciller J. Calafiore have delivered to this comic fan what I have wanted for years: a Matches Malone book. For those unaware, Bruce Wayne's Batman is not his only alter ego for fighting crime – the other would be the aforementioned Matches Malone. Malone is essentially a street tough that Wayne uses to infiltrate certain circles of baddies. Gotham Underground is about more than just Matches though, the main plot involves the segregation of Gotham's criminal underground and the war that is brewing. Not to mention, the Suicide Squad has been coming round ruining everyone's day by shipping criminals off to who knows where. The writing is sharp, the story engaging and the art is top notch –  a whole lot more than one should expect from a Countdown spin-off. 

The strangest thing to come from DC this week is Grant Morrison's Batman #672. Not so much strange perhaps, as interrupted. It's rather difficult for me to remember anything that was happening pre-Ra's al Ghul in any of the Batman books, that arc was so sudden and over so quickly that it may have scrambled my brains a bit. Seriously though, this issue was great, I would just recommend going back to the before times to review. Morrison is a master of the cliffhanger and absolutely does not disappoint here. Of course, in this case it's more of a "what the…" than a basic "oh no!". 

One last DC note: Geoff Johns has gained a wonderful addition to his Action Comics team in Gary Frank. If you are in dire need of some good Superman action, look no further. While one may (and probably should) assume that the best in Superman product would be found in the characters flagship title, that is simply not the case here. Kurt Busiek has been pumping out the same boring stories for close to two years now on Superman, meanwhile Johns is pumping out half of the biggest titles at DC and still finds a way to make it interesting. Back to the point, it is impossible to look at Frank's Superman and not recall, in my opinion, the definitive portrayal of Superman: Christopher Reeve. Quite simply, it's a nice touch that adds to the cohesiveness of the character. 

I'm not trying to neglect the Marvel U here, but there is so much happening at DC that it's hard for me to keep up with, what was it? Super Universe Hulk Invasion War? Marvel's best books are all the ones that operate out of the main stream of things (exception: see New Avengers). This week we got two of those books, Daredevil and X-Men: First Class. These two books are exceptional. While Daredevil has lost steam since Marvel superstar writer Ed Brubaker took over from Brian Michael Bendis, this book is still eons above most of the other books being pumped out. I never though Alex Maleev could be challenged when drawing Daredevil, but Michael Lark sure is giving him a run for his money. Lark's noir-ish style and Matt Hollingsworth and Paul Mounts' wonderful color palette gives the book the look it needs to be both stylistically drab but intellectually exciting. These new events that Brubaker is concocting for Matt Murdock are nothing compared to the wringer that Bendis put him through, but I'm sure as hell excited to find out what's next. And after all, what's the point of this medium if not to leave you hanging?

As for First Class, aside from Astonishing X-Men, it's the best X-Book out there. There is no convoluted continuity to stick to (thanks Chris Claremont!) and there is plenty of fun for everyone. Nearly every issue includes a clever splash page or mini-comic of some kind, and writer Jeff Parker really knows his way around each of the characters, giving them each a distinctive personality that is equally lovable and predictable. With the new on-going series, Parker has chosen to start telling some more complex stories than he did with the 8 issue mini-series, and it really works in this format. With Astonishing soon ending, this will soon be the lone X-book worth the three dollars that is forced upon me to enjoy the worlds best storytelling medium.