Suspended Animation Suspended Animation
by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter

Check-out Michael Vance Comic books for sale

August 25, 1999

Reviews in this issue:

Browser and Sequoia - Justice Society of America - Guns of the Dragon

Browser and Sequoia

          Published by SaberCat and marketed for youngsters. This pseudo-American Indian folktale about gentle sky spirits, cute animals and evil hunters portrays Creation as more important than Creator, and culture as more important than truth. The truth is out there, and this is not it. 

Justice Society of America

          After a fairly dull summer, things are looking up, at least for DC Comics.

          The first issue of JSA comes as no surprise to those who followed the two-issue revival of All Star Comics earlier this year and the "Crisis Times 5" storyline in JLA.

          JSA and JLA are, of course, shorthand for the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America.

          The first JSA story is well written and well drawn. If James Robinson and David Goyer can maintain the intriguing scripts and Stephen Sandowski can maintain his initial art, the future looks bright. (There have been other bright starts in the JSA's history that have not held up.)

          The new JSA has some returning members from its earliest days: Wildcat, Green Lantern (now known as Sentinel), and Flash. Many of the new members are children of early members: Black Canary, Atom and Starman. There is a promise of a new Hawkwoman and a new Sandman.

          The first issue begins with the funeral of the original Sandman and the death of the latest version of Doctor Fate. It ends with a mysterious summons to recreate the JSA in order to save the world. There are hints of other menaces to appear in later issues. All in all, this is an auspicious blend of old and new.

          A very desirable reprint of the 14 "Cataclysm" stories from the various Batman titles has appeared. Although those stories are barely a year old, demand has been so high that back issues are very difficult to obtain. Reading the stories at one setting certainly increases their impact although there are small glitches in continuity. For $17.95, this is a bargain.

          DC has had stories about similar catastrophes, but they rarely affect subsequent plotlines. The impact of the "Invasion" series soon faded. The destruction of Coast City in Green Lantern has surprisingly few ripples. That dilutes the impact of such stories, but "Cataclysm" may be more significant.

          Review by Dr. Jon Suter

Guns of the Dragon

In late 1998, a curious four issue series from DC Comics slipped into comic book stores. At first, I was rather aghast at the concept behind Guns of the Dragon, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The hero should have been dead before the time of the story.

I still remember the impact in 1965 of DC's Showcase #'s57 and 58. Joe Kubert's first "Enemy Ace" stories were unlike anything my generation had seen. The brooding hero, a German pilot of W.W.I, quickly became a legend but was never able to generate a long running series.

It was hinted many times that the Enemy Ace, Rittmeister von Hammer, would perish in the closing days of the Great War; therefore, it was a shock to see him on the cover of Guns of the Dragon with Bat Lash (a disreputable, humorous character from DC's westerns), and a dinosaur.

I did buy all four issues, partially because of the artist. I have always respected artist Tim Truman.

The story, set in 1927 Asia, is deeply influenced by Terry and the Pirates, a classic comic strip of the 1930s, and Steve Canyon. Some of the political intrigue also reminds me of Mr. Moto novels, but this story is far more fantastic. The flavor of pulp magazines in the 1930s is strong.

Remember that dinosaur? In the 1960s, long before Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, DC's Star Spangled War Stories featured stories about Dinosaur Island. In Guns, von Hammer, Bat Lash, and others agree to find the legendary isle.

The cast includes Vandal Savage, the immortal villain; Miss Fear (a rewrite of Caniff's Dragon Lady) and a Japanese werewolf Even Mao Tse-tung and Chian Kai-shek figure briefly in the story.

The story holds together better than I expected, but purists will probably protest the use of Enemy Ace in such a context. Even if you don't care for or want this story, you should have some of Kubert's original version in your collection.

Review by Dr. Jon Suter

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