Amazing Spider-Man #569 Second Printing (Marvel Comics) This isn’t just the second printing of the second chapter of the Dan Slott/John Romita Jr. Venom vs. Anti-Venom vs. Spider-Man vs. The Thunderbolts and Green Goblin storyline “New Ways To Die,” it is, according to the upper right corner of the cover, a “2nd Printing Variant,” so you better buy an issue even if you have the first printing of ASM #569. Otherwise, your collection is incomplete. (You can’t tell from the cover image above, but the final copy has Anti-Venom gripping the logo of the book between his hands, so it looks like he’s playing the words “The Amazing Spider-Man” like an accordion).
I missed the first printing of this issue, having not quite gotten used to the title’s wacky schedule, but it turns out I didn’t miss much that I hadn’t already assumed happened by reading the later issues. The only terribly noteworthy bit is the second panel, in which Peter Parker knows that Norman Osborn used to know that he was Spider-Man, and also knows that he no longer knows. And then he follows that with, “Everything we did is still up and running.” What’s he talking about? He and Mephisto? He and MJ and Mephisto?
Batman #680 (DC Comics) It’s the penultimate chapter of “Batman R.I.P.,” in which mysterious villain Black Glove manipulates the characters in the Batman comic like a group editor at a writer’s summit—changing our hero’s costume and attitude, imperiling his supporting cast, and making him fight his archenemy for the amusement of an audience that puts up money to see if good will triumph over evil as per usual, or if this is really it for Batman.
Or maybe that’s just me looking for deeper meaning in the story, something one is almost forced into doing because the surface story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Not just because Morrison’s Batman scripts are bat-shit insane—Batman’s still The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh and hanging out with what looks like a parasite-infested Bat-Mite, he’s fighting his way through an Arkham Asylum decorated like a high school gymnasium for a prom where the them is “Romantic Roulette” to fight a Joker that wasn’t in “Injustice League,” Salvation Run or any other shitty stories since “One Year Later,” etc.
No, because this Tony Daniel character who is credited with penciling this book? He can’t draw a comic book.
Again and again I couldn’t figure out what exactly I’d just read until a few pages later when the context gathered from the words explains it to me; the pictures themselves just don’t do the job.
How many different guys are in the room with The Joker on page four? Two? Three? No, just one apparently.
Which way are we supposed to read the semi-spread on pages six and seven, right to left and up to down like usual? No, up to down, diagonally left to right, then up to down.
What’s going on with the fire and explosion on page eight? Page nine will explain it. Did Batman just kill a chauffeur, or did somebody just leave their lights on?
What’s going on in the bottom panel of page 10? Did El Sombrero get thrown through a skylight? A window? A monitor screen? Or pulled through one of the above by the rope around his neck?
So, like the rest of this story arc, this particular issue consists of Daniel and the art team doing their level best to render an already intentionally obtuse comic book script impenetrable.
The Batman Strikes #50 (DC) Having recently sampled The Batman on DVD and then voraciously devoured most of the show’s run (Seasons three through five are just plain great, aren’t they?), I then thought to myself, Hey, DC publishes a comic book based on this wonderful show! And it’s only $2.25, not drawn by Tony Daniel and 100-percent guaranteed Hush- and Jason Todd-free! Maybe I should start reading that.
So I picked up The Batman Strikes #49 and it too was great; one of the best Robin stories I’ve read in, like, ten years.
And now, a month later, comes #50…the last issue in the series? Damn you DC!
This issue is like a shortened version of the Brave and the Bold-style team-ups from season five, with Batman joining forces with a DC superhero to fight one of that heroes’ rogues. Although, in this case, the rogue and hero are the same character: The Demon Etrigan and his life partner/flesh cage Jason Blood.
It’s Halloween night and Etrigan’s reciting poetry and beating people up in a nightclub to attract Batman and Robin’s attention, and then they all try to find the goth Riddler, who is unlocking a puzzle box in which the Demons Three are kept as some kinda crazy snake monster thing.
James Peaty’s script is pretty paint by the numbers (actually, punch by the numbers), but it’s inoffensive enough, and his Demon is a lot like the old Alan Grant-written one I spent the most time with: Rhyming, but often in not very accomplished poetry, and a big, huge, fire-breathing maniac who just kinda jumps around followed by a cloud of big, blocky “HA”s.
I was more impressed with Christopher Jones’ Demon design; Etrigan was never on the show, so Jones apparently got to The Batman-ize the character for himself, and he’s pretty Kirby-esque without breaking the style of the cartoon this book is based on. The one innovation is his size: He’s at least twice as big as Batman. Oh, and dig his mouth full of Kirby dots—that’s pretty cool.
And that’s it for The Batman Strikes! I guess; that’ll teach me to show up 49 months late to a party. Hopefully there’s a Johnny DC Brave and the Bold adaptation based on the next Batman cartoon already in the works…
Nightwing #149 (DC) Holy shit, if you read one superhero comic this week, make sure it’s this one. Not because it’s particularly good (It’s not. Hell, it’s Nightwing), but because it is incredibly, spectacularly awful.
You know all those awful, gore-filled DC comics that pop up here and there like weeds in the company’s line? Black Adam ripping folks apart in World War III? Superboy-Prime pulling bottom-tier heroes apart like bugs in Infinite Crisis? Solomon Grundy pulling off Red Tornado’s arm at the elbow and sucking the flesh and blood from the bone in JLoA? Wonderdog chewing apart Wendy and Marvin in one issue of Teen Titans, which is immediately followed by a blood-soaked issue of bandaged-up teen girls lying dead or near-dead?
It’s like Peter J. Tomasi said, “Fuck those guys. You want to see blood, gore and superhero decadence DiDio? Check this out,” and went on to write the bloodiest issue of Nightwing he possibly could, even going so far as to write some of the worst superhero dialogue imaginable—the stuff 13-year-olds dream of one day writing when they grow up and get hired to Youngblood versus Avengers— on top of it, so that I can’t help but imagine this was all meant to be a parody.
I mean, Tomasi used to be an editor at DC, back when that still meant something*.
I mean, surely he’s got to know how dumb it sounds to have Nightwing shout, “What’s the problem…fear got your tongue?!? Spit it out--I can’t hear you with all that blood in your mouth?”
Or take the very next panel: Poison Ivy asks Nightwing if he likes the smell of the flowers on the vines she’s wrapping around him and he says, “I like the smell of cut grass better after it’s been mowed.” What? And she answers, “That hurt my feelings. I think you should apologize to the ceiling.” And then she throws him at the ceiling!
The whole first 18 pages or so are Nightwing fighting and, in some cases, brutally murdering members of Batman’s rogues gallery who are themselves in the act of brutally murdering and then re-murdering the woman Nightwing has sworn to protect, while waist deep in a pool of blood (Newsarama has the first four pages here).
It’s all a hallucination, brought on by the Scarecrow’s fear gas, so I guess it doesn’t “count,” but man, how do you top Nightwing smashing Killer Croc’s eyeballs with his little Daredevil sticks, or shoving Mister Freeze’s freeze ray into the villains’ mouth and shooting it, so that icicles explode out of his eye sockets?
There’s at least one real murder in here, in which Two-Face shoots a woman in the gut and Nightwing fails to save her because he was too busy rescuing hallucinations of his dead parents (He does rip her shirt off while performing CPR though, giving us both blood and boobs on the same page. Tomasi gets bonus points!).
The ending has a neat (if obvious) little twist that would make for a fine little character study of how crazy Two-Face is, if it would have just ended there. But it doesn’t. The story continues next month.
Honestly, I don’t know why they need even bother—this is the best-worst Nighwing comic ever, and it’s impossible to imagine another issue ever coming anywhere near the terrible glory of #149.
School Rumble Vol. 6 (Del Rey Manga) I don’t normally buy manga on my weekly Wednesday trips to the comic shop, which are usually devoted to the latest installments of ongoing superhero soap operas, but I had to make a special exception this week.
Jin Kobayashi’s high school comedy is my current manga obsession, and while I’ve been reading volumes borrowed from the library, they didn’t have volume six, and I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened.
See, not only were the ten or so ongoing romantic conflicts left up in the air at the close of the last volume, but the powerful and evil foreign exchange students in Class 2-D—including Mexican giantess Lala Gonzalez, daughter of a luchadore, and cool American Harry Mackenzie, who recently fought both the powerful class delinquent and the powerful class representative—were about to brawl with our heroes in Class 2-C in the cafeteria, until it was determined that they would resolve all their differences during the school athletics fair…in the next volume.
You see why I just couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
Trinity #18 (DC) On light weeks like this, a weekly super-comic is especially welcome, since it guarantees a heaping handful of superheroes, no matter how relatively few other books I’m interested in are being released in that particular week.
In this issue, we get our first real look at what happened when the Anti-Trinity seemed to remake the world without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in it.
The results are a little like It’s a Wonderful Life applied to the DCU—it’s now a darker, sadder place, and the characters touched most by the trinity seem to be the worst ones off.
Why, without Superman there to fill Lois with marriage madness, she became the same soulless, cynical, hard-drinking, chain-smoking monster that all who work in the field of media are destined to become. It’s through her Fox News-type opinion magazine format show that we get caught up on the DCU’s status in the main story, while the Scott McDaniel-drawn back-up features a closer look at a Gotham City without Batman. Oliver Queen and Green Arrow loom large, while caped crusaders Ragman and his sidekick, um, Tatters, deliver street-level justice.
It sure looks like Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley and company have just created a pretty fertile playground to mess around with for the next suite of issues.
Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (DC) This new five-issue miniseries starring the Justice League’s African-born superheroine/fashion model is sub-titled “Return of the Lion,” so as not to be mistaken for all of those other Vixen series out there. Oh, wait a minute…
It’s the work of writer G. Willow Wilson, an actual lady, who has produced comics for Vertigo (Cairo, Air) and the DCU (The Outsdiers: Five of Kind—Aquaman/Metamorpho; Oh Shit, Do We Have Any Idea What We’re Doing With This Series Anymore? #1), with mixed results. She’s teamed with artist Cafu and artist Santiago Arcas.
It’s really not bad at all, considering the baggage the character has acquired lately (I believe Brad Meltzer and Dwayne McDuffie have spent over two years messing around with her superpowers in JLoA now, and I honestly don’t even know what they are anymore—here she seems to be able to transform her body parts into those of various animals?)
Wilson hits the ground running—A sales-goosing Justice League appear in the initial scene leads to the discovery of a file that proves the man who killed Vixen’s mom is still out there, and she heads off to Africa for revenge, gets in a fight, and then another fight, and then there’s a dramatic cliffhanger. It’s kind of a lot for just 22-pages, but hurried is always better than dragged out; if you’re curious about the series, you’ll know after one issue if it’s for you or not.
Cafu’s art looks like it may have been colored straight from the pencils. All of the lines seem soft, giving it a painterly quality. It’s not as dramatic as Joshua Middleton’s beautiful cover, but it’s in the same aesthetic ballpark, so if Middleton couldn’t draw the whole thing, you could certainly do worse than what Cafu provides for the interiors.
I think I’ll probably be back for Vixen #2.
*Er, just kidding DC editors! You’re all brilliant, nice-looking people, who are currently wearing outfits I like a lot. And hey, you guys smell nice, too. Now, who wants to see a pitch for Legion of Super-Pets? Ace and The Bat-Hound Gang? Red Bee/Red Arrow? Doctor Mid-Nite/Chief-Man-of-Bats: Medicine Men? Anyone? Anyone…?