Thursday, November 29, 2007

Weekly Haul: November 29th

All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #8 (DC Comics) You know, we all gave Jim Lee and company a hard time due to the crazy delays on this series, so now that it’s back on some sort of semi-regular schedule, I kinda feel like that should be commended…or at least acknowledged.

I mean, it was just two months ago I was watching Batman humping Black Canary on a filthy dock seconds after their first meeting, and now here I am watching The Joker strangling a woman he drugged and just had sex with to death.

This issue scales back on the crazy a tad—I don’t think the phrase “goddam Batman” was used at all, actually—but seems a lot fuller, as we’re introduced to new characters and the story moves a bit faster than in issues past.

Here we’ve got the All-Star Joker (you can’t see it on the cover above, which isn’t the final version, but he has a huge dragon tattoo on his back), the swastikas-over-the-nipples lady from Dark Knight Returns and Catwoman, plus some bonding between Batman and Robin, and a scene between Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan.

The opening with the Joker is pretty rough, but I don’t think it crosses the line into unspeakably inappropriate territory, as out-of-continuity vanity series like this is exactly where DC should be putting all the dark and nasty content. In general, I’m really enjoying the mash-up of Dark Knight sensibilities with the more innocent stories of the first few decades of Batman’s career. I spent some time last week reading old Batman comics from the ‘50s, so I was a little more attuned to Lee’s version of the Silver Age Batman, in terms of ear-length and chest symbol. In this regard, ASBaRtBW is just like All-Star Superman, a post-modern take on the character from specific eras, adding later sensibilities to a Golden and Silver Age template.

And I really enjoyed the abuse heaped on Hal Jordan here, both by Batman (who calls him “a retarded demigod”) and Miller and Lee, who make him seem pretty damn goofy. After reading so many comics in the last few years where Geoff Johns makes Hal look like the greatest guy on the planet, sometimes at Batman’s expense (like when he punched out Batman in Green Lantern: Rebirth #6, something I will never get over), it’s nice to see Miller and Lee turning the tables, and restoring the natural status quo—Batman on top of the totem pole, Hal down at the bottom, nestled between Flash and Hawkman.

Batman #671 (DC) It’s the climax of the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover, which seems a little odd, since this is only part four of seven. Of course, maybe what might seem like poor pacing is actually great storytelling, as I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next three parts. Nor do I have any idea why Batman is wearing chain mail throughout this story.

In this chapter, Batman gives Ra’s a third alternative to killing one or the other of his boys, and takes him to Nanda Parbat, only to find The Sensei and The League of Assassins waiting for him. There’s some fighting, a shock twist (which Dan DiDidio kinda gave away at a recent con) and a cool cliffhanger.

And plenty of terrible, terrible art.

I’m not really digging current penciller Tony Daniel’s watered down Jim Lee style (How watered down? Well, it’s unfortunate for Daniel that a Batman comic drawn by Jim Lee came out the same week as his Batman comic), but different readers have different tastes. What I can’t believe is how weak Daniel’s storytelling chops are, especially considering he’s on DC’s flagship character, working with one of the company’s most well regarded (and bankable) writers.

Got your copy handy? (If not, you can see some of the relevant pages here at Newsarama). Okay, just look at pages two and three. In the second panel, The Sensei demands a key from a monk, and in the next we get a close-up of The Sensei saying “I see,” and in the next, we get what appears to be a two-eyed version of Deathstroke shooting a gun. Presumably, he shot the monk who had the gun to his head in that second panel (although we don’t see who is holding the gun to that character’s head in the second panel, nor is the Deathstroke-looking shooter shown in the establishing shot of the first panel at all). Additionally, there’s no focus on the monk, or a beat for silence. One assumes that the monk was silent and thus killed for not speaking up, but that’s not the story the panels tell at all.

There are other instances of weak storytelling throughout, like the view of the rope bridge on page seven being completely different than in the inset panel in which Batman looks at the exact same bridge through a telescope, or the battle with “the world’s greatest assassins-- The Sensei’s Men of Death” on page nine, which occurs in five panels, none of which have anything to do with one another.

It’s not so bad as to be unreadable, but, like his work in the last issue of Batman, or Ryan Benjamin’s pencil art in part three of the story, Daniel’s just bad enough to call attention to what he’s doing wrong, without it completely ruining the story. There were about a half-dozen times I had to go back and reread pages to make sure I was reading them correctly, including what I think are supposed to be pretty big moments in the story (like that monk walking away whistling at the end, for example).

Batman and the Outsiders #2 (DC) You know, I just do not understand this title at all. When #1 dropped just two weeks ago, I recapped all the craziness of the creative team, but I still find myself perplexed by other elements. This is only the second issue of an ongoing series, part two of a multi-part story, and already two of the characters introduced as members of the team have quit. If they’re needed elsewhere (both are on that villains’ teaser image, and at least one of them is being sent to outer space in the pages of Countdown/Salvation Run), why not just start this series after they’ve left? Also, what’s with the biweekly schedule? Because it’s only the second issue and it’s already time to bring in a new artist (Luckily, pencil artist Carlos Rodriguez’s work is suitably close to that of #1’s Julian Lopez, and one syllable-named inker Bit handles both issues, likely helping the issues look consistent.) Is there a reason this issue had to be published just two weeks after the first one? Couldn’t we have waited two more weeks so Lopez could have drawn it?

As for the story, our team of characters who infiltrated that corporate lab last issue escapes this issue, two team members leave, and a new one arrives. Thunder isn’t one of the characters leaving, but I do hope she leaves pretty soon. Not that I don’t like her as a character—I actually like her a lot more now that her costume is less horrible than it was when she was introduced—or that I don’t like the idea of a guy with Chuck Dixon’s hang-ups about gay folks in comics writing a lesbian (although it does make him seem like a hypocrite), but because there were a couple of times here where his Thunder reminded me of Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner’s character The Lime from The Pro, and I think I’d enjoy this book a lot more if I could get all the way through it without wincing.

Dan Dare #1 (Virgin Comics) Original Robotech cartoons + Garth Ennis’ Vertigo War Stories + Ennis’ Battler Britton relaunch = Dan Dare #1. Don’t judge this one by its cover(s); neither of them reflect the contents of the first issue, or Gary Erskine’s art, at all, and the Greg Horn cover is pretty repulsive (You’ll want to look for the Bryan Talbot one).

Doc Frankenstein #6 (Burlyman Entertainment) Steve Skroce and The Wachowski Brothers’ lavishly illustrated tale of science vs. religion, as embodied as a near future battle between Frankenstein’s monster and militarized Catholic Church, rages on in what is surely now an annual schedule. I have no idea what’s going on anymore, and this would be around the point I’d quit bothering with the pamphlets and just wait for a trade, if this were a bigger, more reliable company and I could be at all certain there will be trades some day. So I guess I just keep getting these when they come out, reading them, marveling at all that hyper-detailed Skroce art, completely forgetting what on earth happened in the previous issue, and then, someday, rereading them all at once.

This issue has the secret origin of God, as told by that little fairy from the box. It’s basically the God of the Old Testament as frat boy boor, which is kind of amusing (and certainly great-looking). I’m pretty sure God has a pretty great sense of humor (In fact, I’m sure there’s some philosophical proof that God has the greatest sense of humor) and thus wouldn’t get bent out of shape by the Wachowskis making fun of him, so I certainly hope no readers do.

Dock Walloper #1 (Virgin) Unlike a lot of Virgin’s comics with someone’s name above the title on the cover—in this case, it’s writer/director/actor Ed Burns—this one is actually co-written by Burns, along with experienced co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti (I wonder if Justin Gray’s jealous; like when Palmiotti meets up with him, if Gray gets all pouty and is like, “So, did you and Mr. Hollywood have fun collaborating last night?” or whatever).

A period piece about a hulking white guy with a freakishly huge right hand and his smaller black friend who seems to know some kind of kung fu as they try to make it in early 20th century New York City. They go from walloping some guys on a dock to working for a criminal syndicate. I wanted a bit more style from the art, which is technically proficient but offers nothing that really sings, but otherwise, this isn’t a bad first issue at all.

Green Lantern Corps #18 (DC) Sodam Yat, pretty boy Daxamite member of the GLC who was just given the name and powers of Ion, fights Superman Prime. In between punches, we get flashbacks to Yat’s origin, as illustrated by Jamal Igle and Jerry Ordway (the latter of whom similarly illustrated Prime’s origin story as part of this “Sinestro Corps War” crossover story). Nothing much happens beyond that, and I kept getting distracted by my own confusion as to where everyone else was while Prime and Yat were beating on one another (the whole DCU was on scene when the fight broke out in the last installment of the crossover) and what exactly Ion can do (When Kyle Rayner was first Ion during Judd Winick’s run on Green Lantern, his powers were pretty much unlimited, but here Yat seems to just be Superman with a Green Lantern ring). A pretty inessential read, despite some nice art (I particularly liked Patrick Gleason and company’s depiction of the heat vision at the beginning of the fight).

JLA: Classified #47 (DC) A post-Infinite Crisis/52 version of the old Year One or Possibly Year Two version of the League (Green Lantern Hal Jordan, cleanshaven Green Arrow Oliver Queen, The Atom, Hawkman and Wonder Woman) vs. Qwardians. It’s a pretty simple Silver Age style story from Mike W. Barr, with art by Randy Green and Andy Owens. Nothing remarkably good or bad about it, which is more of a bad thing than a good thing.

Madman Atomic Comics #5 (Image Comics) I was beginning to weary of the new Madman series, with its meandering cosmic plot, but perked up at the introduction of Allred’s super-team The Atomics to the proceedings. The plot is still rather meandering, and devoted to cosmic business, but at least now there’s a stretchy guy, a giant purple slug lady, and It Girl sharing the panels with our hero. Not sure how much longer I’ll stick around, but even at his dullest, Allred’s art rewards the eye, and I love his character and costume design. This issue sees two new members of The Atomics added to the mix, which means two new character and costume designs.

Marvel Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics) You can hear me babble on for a few hundred words about this in a special “Best Shots” review over at All I’ve got to add is that if my house had a flagpole on the porch and Marvel made and sold ‘em, I’d totally hang the Latverian flag out there, and that, like a few of the posters at Newsarama said, I too would love to read a DCU version.

Superman Annual #13 (DC) It’s the grand finale of the “Camelot Falls” storyline which everyone—the Superman comic book, readers, writer Kurt Busiek—except for the too-slow-for-a-monthly art team of Carlos Pacheco and Jose Merino has already moved on from. It’s Superman vs. Arion one more time, and it ends exactly as one assumes it would, with nothing really changing. It’s also only 22-pages long, the length of a regular issue of Superman, making it pretty clear it’s only stuck in an “annual” to get it out of the way in the monthly.

The rest of the $3.99 book is occupied by profile pages on Subjekt 17 and Khyber, and a winning 14-page back-up by Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes. This later story is kind of slight in terms of content, and probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day in a regular issue of the series (not without a fight being added in there somewhere), but it boasts a lot of gorgeously illustrated character moments, as the whole Superman family—Ma, Pa, Lois, Chris, Supergirl and Krypto—go for a picnic on an alien world. It’s a truly charming little story, one that almost makes up for the silliness of the title’s publication schedule.

Ultimate Spider-Man #116 (Marvel) Oh wow, hey, here’s a well-written, nicely drawn story about a young Peter Parker who isn’t yet married to Mary Jane and whom the whole world doesn’t know is Spider-Man. Kinda makes what’s going on with the Marvel Universe Spider-Man this week seem pretty pointless, doesn’t it?


Patrick C said...

I'm glad to see you're finally giving Green Lantern Corps a try! Granted, this issue wasn't very essential, except I guess for the "origin" of Sodam Yat, but still it's one of my favorite books.

I was totally confused by Batman also. I didn't think the art taken by itself wasn't bad, but he did a terrible job of storytelling with it. I looked over that scene where the monk was shot a few times before I got it. And I guess that Monk whistling was Ra's, although how he jumped into that body escapes me.

Also, what about the "also this week" part of the DC Nation page? Countdown Presents: Red Rain, which I'm pretty sure came out a few weeks ago. Green Lantern 25, which is a month or so away. And I wasn't even aware there was a Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Ion. Who puts that together anyay?

Corey Henson said...

In this regard, ASBaRtBW is just like All-Star Superman, a post-modern take on the character from specific eras, adding later sensibilities to a Golden and Silver Age template.

Nicely done, sir. Most people don't seem to understand what Miller's doing with this book, so it's nice to see someone actually gets it. Everyone else just assumes he's gone insane.

Regault said...

Wait, wouldn't a Marvel map of the US consist of a giant New York, a smaller LA, and three thousand miles of "Danger, missle testing site!" in between? How would a Marvel Atlas even work?

I was suspecting that:
would be a better Ion vs. Superman Prime fight than the actual fight, and it turns out I was right. (For those curious, the power source for the mechs in Gaogaigar are so similar to the Green Lantern Batteries the GGG are essentially a GLC where Guy Gardner turns into a tank.)

Regault said...

Dang, accidentally posted the long version. Skip to the four or five minute mark on the video I posted.

John Foley said...

I guess this was the least awful issue of A-S Batman and Robin, which could be considered progress in some circles. I just don't get why Miller seems so determined to write such hateful characters. Since when is Hal Jordan a simpleton?
I sure wish Jim Lee was drawing some of the other Bat-titles though.

SallyP said...

But...but I LIKE Hal!

Mike Lorah said...

If I weren't already sold on reading All-Star Batman, seeing Hal Jordan abused would've convinced me. I've never liked that guy, and find it endlessly amusing that the most famous stories starring him, "Hard Travelling Heroes," basically shows him as a clueless buffoon.