Friday, February 13, 2009

The Curse! (DC)
Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1
When: March 2009 Why: Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins
How: Scott Kolins

The Story So Far...
Solomon Grundy... Born on a Monday...

The chalk-skinned behemoth that rose from Slaughter Swamp is a creature of many lives. His existence, as if a curse, sees him rise forevermore, no matter how often he might be slain by the well meaning, or evil, of this world. Stories say he was once Cyrus Gold - a wealthy man of few scruples who lived in Gotham in the eighteen hundreds.

One fateful night, Cyrus Gold's sins came back to bite him, leaving him sinking in the bog of Slaughter Swamp with a knife buried in his heart. There he was said to have sunk, becoming one with the marsh, only to rise again decades later as Solomon Grundy -- the lumbering beast who battled Green Lantern!

Something changed, however. Something brought Cyrus back.
Though he tries desperately to cling to life, Gold's first breath in a hundred years is cut short. Once again he rises as Solmon Grundy, confused and trapped by the lights of Gotham. For a week, Grundy wreaks havoc across the city, only to seek refuge in the sewers on a Saturday night, where he faces the wrath of a Killer!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Solomon Grundy 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Killer Croc 2 (Average)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Solomon Grundy 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Power: Draw 1 (None)

- Waylon Jones was a two-bit crook born with a bad attitude and a skin condition to match. As a tough guy on the streets of Gotham City, Jones involved himself in petty crime, earning the street name Killer Croc due to his increasingly scaley appearance. The moniker proved a self-fullfiling prophecy as Croc began to undergo a series of transformations that further enhanced his reptilian qualities, mutating him into something very much resembling a crocodile.

Due to his unique capabilities, and penchant for cannibalism, Croc is typically incarcerated in Arkham Asylum upon capture. His criminal activities have brought him into regular conflict with the Batman, leading to repeat capture. Killer has also developed personal rivalries with Bane, who physically dominated him during his early entry into the Gotham underworld. The Riddler and Mad Hatter have also earned his ire in recent times as a result of their repeated manipulations.

Killer Croc's skin is highly durable and not at all sensitive.
Already a powerful man, Croc's strength levels have reached superhuman levels during various periods of mutation. Often these transformations are seen to be accompanied by a decreased, animalistic mental state. He is also known to develop talons, a snout-like mouth full of jagged teeth, and even a tail.

- The true origins of Solomon Grundy are unclear, but it is widely believed he is the spirit of wealthy merchant, Cyrus Gold, who is said to have been murdered in the late 1800's and dumped in Slaughter Swamp. Rising from the marsh, Grundy becomes an undead force that would come to menace Batman, Green Lantern, and both the Justice Society and Justice League.

Grundy possesses superhuman strength and endurance, and a penchant for returning from even the most fatal of scenarios. His personality is seen to shift after many of these lethal experiences, usually with minimal higher brain functions, reducing him to a lumbering and disgruntled monster.

Due to his marshy origins at Slaughter Swamp, Solomon Grundy has been seen to possess the ability to negate the Green Lantern's ring by way of it's weakness for things made of wood. This is presumably due to the bark and debris from the bog that saw his formation.

Math: Solomon Grundy Ranking: Killer Croc (#658)

What Went Down...
Disturbed from his place of rest by a voice emerging from the gloom, the sewer dwelling Solomon Grundy is faced with a challenger. Intent on defending his territory, a sufficiently mutated Killer Croc launches an attack on his intruder!

Killer Croc's jaws clamp around Grundy's throat, powerful enough to flip the undying behemoth over head with a violent snap of his powerful neck. Blood flows into the Croc's mouth, "Tastes like slime." His advantage is short lived.
Grundy sends the reptilian villain smashing into the sewer wall with sufficient force to breach the structure. Killer Croc issues a defiant challenge, "Bring it on."

Croc drags Solomon Grundy into a scrappy exchange in the sewer waters.
Haunted by the memory of his alter ego, Cyrus Gold; Grundy finds a violent inspiration. Towering, he pounds his fists against the sewer tunnel ceiling.

Fighting through the sewer, the pair of creature-feature rejects burst into a cemetary above, Grundy launching his foe with a thunderous uppercut!

In a simplistic rage, Solomon Grundy targets the Croc's deadly maw. Snatching his mouth like a bear trap, Grundy uses his phenomenal strength to break Croc's jaw, tearing the connective tissue at the corners of his mouth with gorey results!

As the clock strikes midnight, the presence of Monday has mystic significance, calming Grundy as his heaving body begins to shrink again into the form of Cyrus Gold. With a stranger watching from the graveyard, Grundy becomes vulnerable again, leaving Killer Croc to writhe and choke on his own blood...

The Hammer...
Born on a Monday, victorious on Friday: Solomon Grundy!

In his increasingly mutated form, I can only imagine Killer Croc will manage to survive having his face ripped open, even if he was left on his back and almost certainly should've drowned in a baptism of his own gore. Should the future reveal something else, we will of course ammend our "kill" statistics, and begin to speculate a possible return in Blackest Night. I really find that rather unlikely, but we weren't exactly confident when we forecast the first deadite to return in the event [spoiler!].

Faces of Evil proved to be a very curious event.
At this point, I'm still not entirely sure what it achieved, aside from giving various titles a graphic overhaul on shelves, using cover space to highlight individual characters on a stark black background. Visually striking, even if the artwork wasn't always spectacular.

The "FoE" specials all provide fairly clear lead-in to upcoming storyarcs.
In the case of Solomon Grundy, we have an action packed seven issue mini-series to look forward. With an issue for each day of his epic week, the series so far promises to delve more into the mysterious origins of the character, while pitting the character against villains, such as; Bizarro and Poison Ivy. Intriguing!

This issue quite obviously promotes the mini-series, possibly at the cost of any substantial material of it's own. I almost wonder if these specials might not have been better served by the popular 99c promotional price, but that might be too harsh an assessment of the content, and the good fortune of a $2.99 tag.
The Killer Croc fight is definitely the stand-out scene of the issue, overshadowing brief glimpses of Cyrus Gold's past, present, and ominous future, by virtue of it's action-packed specifics. The "future" is represented by the issue-end arrival of Phantom Stranger, and Grundy's original arch-nemesis, Green Lantern.

I have an inexplicable fondness for Solomon Grundy, particularly Jeph Loeb's sewer-dwelling gentle giant of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory fame.
That said, even I have to wonder exactly what the point of the mini-series is!

Demystifying the secret origins of the character seems to provide a throughline for the series, Cyrus Gold attempts, presumably, to resolve his death in life, as a way of ending the endless resurrections that have made him a prevelant fixture of DC comics. I'm not sure I'm terribly fond of either prospect, having enjoyed the sense of mystery about the character, and the assurance that he'll come back from any fate, no matter how grim. The chance of failure in his attempts to end his curse is probably reasonably good, but you have to wonder.

More intriguing are the ominous words spoken by Phantom Stranger at the end of the special; "There is an unholy night approaching. As black as the undead's blood. And it's best if Solomon Grundy was not around for it."
It doesn't take the world's greatest detective to speculate that Grundy might have some greater significance in the Blackest Night series. It stands to reason, after all, that a character so intrinsically connected to the power of death would be a potential factor in a story dedicated to the dead rising. Given the grim reticence of Phantom Stranger, one can only assume Grundy's mastery over the resurrection could have dire consequences for all who opposed the Black Lanterns. That is, assuming Grundy even lasts that long!

Scott Kolins continues to redeem himself for some of his work earlier in the decade. I'd still like to see a different inker finish his work, but his recent DC projects have been a substantial improvement on the likes of Marvel Team-Up and the cover I would call one of the worst I've ever seen (New Invaders #3).
His Grundy has a good weight to him, approaching the Hulk-esque proportions of my much loved Tim Sale version.
The introduction of Cyrus Gold as an intrusive personality continues comparisons to the Hulk, less comfortable than a burly frame. While I undoubtedly prefer a monosyllabic Grundy preoccupied with his D.O.B, I wouldn't want the lines to be blurred to a point where the 1940's precursor loses his identity.

Geoff Johns notches up another violent and bloody story to his name, albeit, splitting writing credits with Kolins. I can't say I have any problem with liberal uses of blood in superhero violence, particularly when it adds to a suitably macabre setting, but this was the issue that I really noticed it. Kolins' art style isn't nearly realistic enough to make witnessing Cyrus Gold's bifurcation under a truck as horrific as it might otherwise be, but this probably isn't the comic you'll give small children.

Not that they wouldn't enjoy it, if you did!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

The first issue of the Solomon Grundy mini-series is currently scheduled for March 4. A collected edition probably won't emerge until the end of the year, which gives you plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the character's previous exploits! You'll find plenty of collected editions in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe, including plenty of trades featuring Solomon Grundy, and the stories featured in previous reviews! Using purchase links on the site sponsors future entries in the Infinite Wars, so when it comes time to buy, give Amazon a try!

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