By: James Robinson (story), Yildiray Cinar (pencils), Rob Hunter (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)

The Story: Well, this is a first—someone volunteering to enter the pits of Hell.

The Review: I have no idea who will take over this series once Robinson leaves in a few months, but I’m optimistic enough to hope that he or she will be an improvement over the thoroughly mediocre material we’ve gotten for the last few months.  Until then, however, we’ll have to live through Robinson’s plodding, bulky writing a little longer.  It’s tempting (for me at least) to just temporarily step out on this series until the switch takes place.

Tempting, but imprudent, ultimately.  Robinson has his faults, but you can always be assured that every issue will have some kind of important information or development.  Substantively, or conceptually, there’s little wrong with what Robinson does.  It’s just the matter of execution here he has serious problems.

Case in point: his whole approach to explaining Captain Steel’s origins, the nature of the fire-pits, and their importance to the plot at hand.  It’s hard to imagine a more mundane way of conveying all that information than having two people talk back-and-forth on the matters.  Surely Robinson could have found a way to tell us what we needed to know with more active storytelling rather than have Khan brief his superiors on the World Council for about eight or ten pages and little action to break that rambling monotony.

We definitely could’ve used a lot more pizzazz during the telling of Captain Steel’s background, which is basically a mixture of Captain America’s frail-invalid-turned-into-superhuman and Cyborg’s more-machine-than-man.  I don’t take too much issue with these blatant similarities, but I do think encapsulating the whole thing into a two-page summary does absolutely nothing to connect us with the character or make him more impressive.

This in turn kills whatever angst he hopes to generate when he remarks, “When the mad-metal…saved my life, it took away something at the same time.  When I go on missions—when I kill, capture, or do whatever I’m ordered to—the enemies I face—the crazy foes—all of it to protect the planet—none of it matters to me.  Because what else is there?  But I do not care.”  With such little empathy for him to begin with, you can probably share his sentiment.*

But this seems par for the course for Robinson, who’s constantly struggled to really sell points in his story.  What business does he have claiming that Hawkgirl has solved so many mysteries that “she has lost count,” when the number of mysteries we’ve seen her actually solve is essentially zero?  Speaking as someone who works in a field where credibility is the whole game, I find overstatement very unpersuasive.  Robinson, perhaps sensing that he doesn’t have us convinced, seems compelled to get even shriller (Steel, emerging from a fire-pit in Rio de Janeiro: “…she’s unstoppable!  Horrible! We have to save the world from her! Protect the Earth.  If she ever gets outour planet dies!”).

I’m not really much of a Cinar fan—his style always seemed unmemorable and boring to me—but I can’t fault it much either.  While his detailing leaves a lot to be desired, he has a pretty good feel for action sequences.  Hawkgirl swerving in mid-air and dodging energy blasts shot from the backs of giant mutant rats is a pretty action-packed panel and perfectly captures her winged agility.  These are standouts, however, amidst a sea of mostly decent, not impressive, pages.

Conclusion: Another bit of proof that although Robinson’s failings lie more in execution than substance, his execution is weak enough to defeat the quality of the work as a whole.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * I also find it a touch bizarre that he makes this confession to essentially a complete stranger with little prompting.  Kind of makes you wonder if he just lays this stuff on every passerby who happens to test his patience.

– The narrator introduces Hawkgirl as “Shiera Munoz-Saunders,” but we’ve been calling her Kendra all along.  How did that happen?

– I don’t know about you, but the Red Torpedo may be the goofiest looking aircraft I’ve ever seen.