Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cosmic Odyssey, part three: Massacre

Cosmic Odyssey #3
Book Three: Decisions
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Mike Mignola
Inker: Carlos Garzon

Karen: We're at the mid-point of this space-saga, where nothing less than the fate of the universe rests in the hands of eight heroes. So far, I've felt let down; the story seems flat, and it doesn't move me. It's somewhat fun to look at though. I still don't know if I think Mignola is a great choice for standard super-hero fare, but his work with some of the more bizarre scenery is compelling. 

Karen: The story picks up on Rann, with Adam Strange out of commission, and Lightray and Starfire being informed that John Stewart and the Martian Manhunter have failed in their mission -the planet Xanshi and its sun have been destroyed. Now, if even one more of the three remaining target planets is destroyed, it will weaken the barrier enough so that the Anti-Life Entity can enter their universe.While Starfire watches over the unconscious Strange, Lightray goes off to look for the Aspect in the abandoned factory they tracked it to last issue. There's some friction between these two, as Starfire thinks the New God is a bit of a jerk. While she sits with the unconscious Strange, she notices a weird green oil on the floor. As she leans over to inspect it, we see a green tentacle-like appendage rise from a pool of the stuff behind her, and she is apparently struck off-panel.  One thing of note here is that Starfire, or Kory if you will, never sounds like I remember her from the Teen Titans. I don't think Starlin was familiar with her, at least not enough to get a good read on her voice. I can't help but think somebody at the top said, "We need a female character in this book," and because the Titans were popular, she was selected.

Karen: Back on Thanagar, the uncomfortable pairing of Superman and Orion contemplates how to enter the heavily fortified city where, no doubt, the doomsday bomb is being held. Being the warrior he is, Orion wants to do a frontal assault, but a calmer Superman suggest an easier, and less bloody, method. He will travel underground to the city while Orion creates a diversion. Superman does his "spin into the ground" thing and heads for the city while Orion takes to the air for his diversion. You just know this is not going to end well. Superman has already had to remind Orion that the Thanagarians are innocent pawns in this struggle. But I suppose he has no choice but to trust the New God.

Karen: On Rann, Lightray scours the factory and utilizes his ability to see in the electromagnetic spectrum to pick up the trail of the Aspect. It leads right back to the chamber where he left Starfire and Adam Strange. He flies in and is immediately attacked by a huge green blob -a metamorph.

Karen: We cut quickly back to Thanagar as Superman bursts into an underground chamber. Using his x-ray vision he spots the doomsday bomb buried beneath his feet. Mignola like to depict Superman's vision powers by blacking out his face (sometimes his whole body)  and leaving the eyes colored. He drops down to begin destroying the bomb, and then this planet's version of the Aspect shows up: a rather goofy-looking robot! Honestly, it looks like a cobbled-together thing, with a head not unlike Kirby's Asgardian Destroyer, due to its visor, but then it has these spindly arms and legs -not the most threatening mechanical monster the Man of Steel has ever faced. It really makes the threat seem laughable. This is juxtaposed with Lightray's battle with the metamorph, which comes off as pretty dangerous, as the creature is able to dodge his energy blasts and easily lash out and hit the New God with its many tentacles. It eventually knocks Lightray out and then activates the doomsday bomb -the timer reads 120 seconds. Kory awakens and sees this too. She gets Strange and Lightray out of harm's way while the creature is off in another part of the room. Then she confronts it. She has picked up on something about its nature, but before we can learn any more, she's thrown -hard -against a wall.

Karen: A one page interlude takes us to Earth, where Batman and Forager are hanging out on  the side of the road in Moosejaw, Arizona, discussing a butte off in the distance where a bunch of scientific equipment has been delivered (buttes have addresses?). Batman believes that's where they'll find the Aspect. But who will be its host? The dead cop, Joe Bester, or the Apokoliptian soldier that Batman left with a hole through his guts?

Karen: Back on Thanagar, the robot kicks Superman through a wall, and he goes limp. The robot picks him up by his cape and is about to grab the device Darkseid made for catching the Aspect when we realize it's just a ploy by Supes. He begins battering the metal man, pounding it mercilessly til energy is streaming out of it. Despite the robot's somewhat silly appearance, Mignola gives us some very exciting work here, with Supes really bashing the bot. Superman employs Darkseid's device and bottles up the Aspect. He destroys the doomsday bomb with heat vision -whoa, couldn't that be dangerous? How the heck does Superman just know it's OK to do these things? Then he reports in to Highfather and Darkseid of his success. He's feeling pretty good about himself  -"It looks like this round goes to the good guys" - until he gets to the planet's surface. Then he sees what his partner's been up to. Orion's "diversion" has been the slaughter of countless mind-controlled Thanagarians. Superman stares in shock and the bodies piled high. Orion says he doesn't play games - his galaxy was at stake. Enraged, Superman calls him out as a murderer and punches him across the battlefield. Orion in unperturbed. He heads back to New Genesis. Superman stays to bury the dead. There should be repercussions from this and I'll be quite disappointed if nothing comes of it in the final issue.

Karen: Back on New Genesis, Darkseid tries to convince Highfather that they should move forward with his Plan B, which is to allow Darkseid to immediately confront the Anti-Life Entity in its own realm. Highfather refuses, saying he must think about it more before acting on it and goes off. Darkseid though believes Highfather weak and eventually he'll come around to his plan -a plan that he thinks will grant him ultimate power. As Highfather wanders off, he realizes that Darkseid is scheming to acquire more might, but he is concerned that the super-heroes will not be able to prevent the destruction of the four worlds. As he ponders this, he encounters a mysterious figure, one who is kept off-panel. He does however recognize them. "I know you! You're-" "A friend of the Batman," the figure says. So this is who Batman called in the first issue. The figure explains he's here to keep an eye on Darkseid, and he recognizes what he's planning, and knows what they should do.: they must let Darkseid have his way.

Karen: Lightray awakens on Rann to see there are only 8 seconds left on the bomb timer -and the metamorph has an unconscious Kory in its grip. He readies to blast it, but suddenly Kory awakens and shouts no, flaring up, her fiery powers igniting the creature. She turns and grabs Lightray and the two fly out of the building as there is a huge explosion. They stand in the ruins and are joined by Adam Strange. A puzzled Lightray asks what happened. Kory explains that the Aspect blew up and took the bomb with it. She had smelled a petroleum scent on the creature earlier and it had avoided her fire blasts -she put it together and realized it was flammable. She played possum til the last second in order to blow it and the bomb up. Adam congratulates her on a job well done, but Lightray seems miffed. They soon spot a small black energy blob fleeing the scene. Unfortunately, they aren't fast enough to catch it. They call back to New Genesis with the news.

Karen: Darkseid and the Demon have a conversation about the situation. Darkseid, of course, thinks there's no point in depending on Batman and Forager to save Earth, or to even go assist them. Darkseid insists that the universe's salvation can only come by facing the Anti-Life Entity head-on, but the Demon laughs at the thought of trusting him fully. However, in this case, he senses that the two of them are needed to do this.

Karen: Orion, John Stewart, and Martian Manhunter arrive on New Genesis. Orion is disgusted with the other two and quite vocal about it, but Highfather tells him to be kind. But Stewart is having none of it. He recognizes that his arrogance has destroyed a world. He wanders off into the woods. Highfather tells J'Onn J'onnz maybe he better watch over his friend, and J'Onn is very reluctant to do so, but accedes.

Karen: Darkseid has got himself all geared-up, with a harness that attaches by a cable to a similar one worn by the Demon. Their access to the Anti-Life's universe or dimension is not really explained. It's very odd. Darkseid just flips a switch, there's some captions discussing metamorphosis, and then they are there. There's no sense of a journey at all and I think it's quite underwhelming. They pop up in a Ditko-like crazy space, full of twisted branches, floating planets, and eyeballs. Highfather and Orion discover that the two have left and are distraught until the reappearance of the mysterious stranger, who tells them that if they come with him, they may still be able to save things. They take his golden-gloved hands and disappear.

Karen: Back on Earth, inside a cavern in the butte in Arizona, the not-quite-dead-yet Apokoliptian soldier and the possibly dead Joe Bester work on another doomsday bomb. With everything ready, they start the countdown. The final page is filled with numbers, from 118 to 95. 

Karen: The only real highpoint for me in this issue was Superman's confrontation with Orion. That kind of mass murder by a character is something that still gets under my skin and to me, should have consequences, at least between these characters if not further out (although there was nothing said between Highfather and Orion in this issue). Otherwise, I hate to say it, but I found the whole story rather boring and the cross-cutting between the groups tiresome. It kills me, because I feel like I should be enjoying this much more. But it just leaves me cold. I don't feel any real sense of menace -I think that's the real problem. The threat is depersonalized. It's so anonymous- it's like being threatened by a hurricane -how do you take away any personal element from that? Darkseid has been off to the side, scheming, and one can only hope the final issue will have a big pay off with him becoming the chief threat. The Anti-Life Entity itself is too nebulous, at least a portrayed so far, to be a meaningful threat.


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, you touched on two other major problems I had with this whole story:
1. Starfire. Not the fact that she was included - after all, it's a cosmic story and she's a cosmic hero so it made sense - but her characterization. She was all surly and reminded me more of Power Girl.
2. Speaking of Power Girl, why wasn't she in this as well? Would have been a perfect fit. Same goes for Big Barda, who could have been easily worked into the story given the New Genesis angle (perhaps in lieu of Orion?) Also, since Batman and Supes are here, why wasn't Wonder Woman included? The general lack of women in this story is glaring, and it's not like DC had a shortage of good female characters that Starlin could have chosen from.

Otherwise, I agree with you about the confrontation between Superman and Orion. Really well done. And as usual, I'm still loving the art.

J.A. Morris said...

Doesn't sound so great. I'm big fan of Starlin's writing & art on Captain Marvel and Warlock, but I've never been crazy about his work for DC.
At least 'Cosmic Odyssey' didn't feature Darkseid teaming up with Ayatollah Khomeini, which happened in another Starlin-penned tale from around this time:

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