World War III: Hell is for Heroes

In what could very well be the biggest World War in comics this year, we’ve already seen death counts soaring into the millions, lots of B-list heroes straining to save the day, Black Adam pulling off some serious ass-stomping and even a bundle of answers to those pesky One Year Later mysteries.

hell is for heroesIn this fourth World War III book, Hell is for Heroes, the attention is focused largely on the continued battling between Black Adam and the Teen Titans (who sport an amazingly unimpressive roster), some random expository moments with other characters needing their OYL status quo changes explained and a whole lot of the original Manhunter flying around and being, well, weird. Now, let’s cut to the quick of this issue, Worst to First style:

Worst: Didio’s DC Nation column

Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to essentially come out publically and admit that this World War III stuff was just kind of randomly thrown out there, despite all the careful plotting and planning that had brought a lot of new readers to DC in the past couple years. Just a thought. So, instead of us readers getting a full series devoted to explaining the “missing year,” we get a world war with a bunch of under-cooked revelations shoe-horned in.

Just as bad: The timing

Right now, not far from everyone’s thoughts is the massacre at Virginia Tech. Reading a comic book filled with violence during this week is about the last thing anyone wants to do. I’m not saying entertainment shouldn’t have violence, and obviously DC couldn’t pull this event in light of what happened. It’s just unfortunate, but that doesn’t change that it colors the reading experience.

Lacking: Black Adam, part one

Ever since the ol’ evil Mr. Marvel did a reverse through-the-brains eye poke on Psycho Pirate in Infinite Crisis, he’s been the bad-ass du jour in the DCU. This wasn’t the case so much in the other issues of WW3, but he doesn’t get a lot of panel time in Hell is for Heroes. Understandable, sure, but this whole she-bang centers on him. In general, I did think the series could’ve used a lot more of Black Adam, but that ties into my next point…

Marginally annoying: The narration

It was a mistake to use J’onn as the narrator for WW3 (oops, I just stole Jim Doom’s gimmick). For one, we all already know that his OYL series is a pile of crap, so there’s no interest in him. Yes, he provides the outsider looking in at humanity, but this story is about BLACK ADAM. He should be the central point, if anything. After all, the writers set him up as a very different sort of villain (one whose outburst is understandable). Why not go ahead and show things from his perspective? Oh, I know why. It’s because DC needed to shoe-horn in all the OYL explanations, and J’onn is omniscient, and omniscient third-person narration happens to be the easiest way to tell a story.

Just marginal: The OYL explanations

Okay, I swear, I won’t do any more clever segues. Now, in some of the WW3 issues (and in the Nightwing Annual), we get decent answers for the OYL questions. But this issue covers the characters that don’t really matter that much. Mostly, it spins tires on the whole Checkmate situation, which I just don’t give two hoots about. Also, a few pages are devoted to the other Manhunter, the female one who doesn’t come from Mars. It packs way too little punch for the space it consumes.

Speaking of decent: The deaths

Killing off Grant Morrison’s Frankenstein creature carried about as much heft as Clor biting the dust in Civil War. They’re both not really alive. Nobody cares about either. Meh. At least Frankenstein went with the whole arms-ripped-off routine. The death of Terra, though, served as a terrifying climax to the issue. I hated to see it happen, even though I don’t know a thing about the character. Chalk that up to good writing.

Best: Black Adam, part one

When he was around, he wreaked some epic damage. What was really well done in this issue was the use of Black Adam’s temper to define his character. He was simply trying to avenge the deaths of Isis and Osiris, and he didn’t want to fight or kill any of the heroes. But, when pushed too far, he snapped.