Phun Times in the Phantom Zone
Story: Rob Williams
Pencils: Barnaby Bagenda
Inks: Jay Leisten
Backup Story Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Cover Artists: Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki & Tomeu Morey
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: December 13, 2017
**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**
Red Wave? I’d rather listen to New Wave!
Okay, it’s a stupid introduction. Maybe my review of Suicide Squad #31 is better, huh?
Writing for the trade collection is the single biggest problem in comic books today. Not only is it insulting, as a reader of single issues, but it makes the floppies less pleasant to follow. There’s no reward for being a dedicated reader of a series when the creators themselves admit that getting the story “right” trumps keeping a regular schedule, because down the line it will be absorbed all at once anyway. And that…just sucks, you know? Because comic book enthusiasts and collectors are in the trenches, keeping retailers alive by purchasing an initial product from a company that doesn’t really care about it. What we get, buying single issues, are essentially high-quality page proofs, subject to change before being bound in a collection and intended for that format anyway. I wish there were some incentive for these big comics publishing companies to change, but clearly whatever accounting wizardry that happens behind the scenes allows for severely low shipping numbers, unless these businesses are more self-destructive than I imagined.
Last issue, the giant psychic monster Red Wave was released, and was making its way to the old Task Force X satellite, to absorb one of two halves of its heart, thereby destroying Rick Flag Sr.’s girlfriend Karin. And in this issue…it’s the exact same goddamned thing. The story moves forward so incrementally that you’d think we were living it in real time. Except it actually moves forward in less time than it takes to read. So it’s more like the way time moves when you have high school detention: slow as molasses. Meanwhile, on Terra Firma, the mind-controlled King Faraday, being shielded by Red Wave’s telepathic powers by Enchantress, puts in a call to Karin to tell her: go get ‘im, kid. Why is it that I don’t buy any of the emotional beats in this story at all?
Even Harley Quinn cracking open the Phantom Zone, curing Rick Flag Sr. of his Red Wave infection and accelerating him to his true elderly age (even though I could swear the Phantom Zone was timeless, that’s why ancient criminals are still alive and ready for revenge, but whatever), which makes him regretful and protective of Karin as she speeds to a collision that will destroy Red Wave, the satellite and her—it just falls flat, because I don’t feel this whole tragic love triangle between Faraday, Flag, and Karin. I mean, I understand what happened, it just doesn’t seem like such a big deal seven decades on. I dunno. I’ve always been more of a “let bygones be bygones” kinda feller, myself.
Nothing can be said to impugn the spectacular work done by the art team. But this story really feels like something that could have been told in two or three issues. Part of what makes world-threatening disasters so gripping is that they move faster than normal (read: non-heroic) people can act. When disasters unfold over what is, in real time, weeks and months, they feel less imminent and therefore less important. If someone released Red Wave from a vault on the moon but then said it would be six weeks before he took over humanity’s waking minds, I probably wouldn’t freak out. You can get a lot done in six weeks. That’s ample time for me to finish binge-watching Mr. Robot.
Bits and Pieces:
This fairly middling story arc continues to plod along at a pace much slower than it should, and the romantic entanglements of people that are little more than congealed ghosts are shrug-worthy. Red Wave is too crazy-looking a monster for this kind of cerebral treatment. Better he rampage through Tokyo than be subjected to this long-winded chapter.