Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Haul: April 22nd

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #4 (DC Comics) I suppose I should leave it to Chris Sims to discuss the first two-pages of this issue when he posts his reviews later this week, as they involve Batman teaming up with a couple of characters he had asked DC about the possibility of a trade collection of, and Dan DiDio responded by saying they didn’t want to do any new stories with these characters.

Er, is that vague enough? And could the grammar be more circuitous? Suffice it to say that the first two-pages involve probably the last characters you’d expect to see Batman team-up with in any book.

This issue is the work of Matt Wayne, penciller Andy Suriano (The Good B:TBatB Penciller) and inker Dan Davis, and I think it’s the strongest of the four so far.

Two years in the future, the boisterous, maniac version of Aquaman from the cartoon is sitting through a boring Atlantean Earth Day celebration, and tries to entertain himself by telling Mera “The Tale of the Earth Day When Aquaman Saved the Entire Planet!”(The title of the actual comic book story is the more prosaic “Menace of The Time Thief!”)

Back in 2009, he teams up with Batman to fight a dinosaur and then borrow Rip Hunter’s time sphere and stop all of time from unraveling, while shouting “Outrageous!” about once a page.

It’s pretty awesome. How awesome? Awesome enough that at one point Batman says, “And onnce the bough of evil breaks-- --The hammer of justice must fall!

And, at another point, Aquaman ponders the motivations of villain Dr. Cyber, who is trying to compress the time-stream to re-start human history for the benefit of earth, declaring, “Dr. Cyber’s not evil, only misguided! That’s never happened before!”

Man, when this book is on, it’s almost as good as the cartoon, and you can’t really ask for more than that from a comic book tie-in to a cartoon…

Buck Rogers #0 (Dynamite Entertainment) I have no real experience or even interest in the long-lived, occasionally re-invented character of Buck Rogers—I saw an episode of the TV show with a space vampire in it that scared me as a child, and I liked the weird retro aesthetic of a few of the classic comic strips I’ve seen in comics anthologies and histories—and I question how much enthusiasm or interest there is in Buck Rogers out there in the comics market, but there’s nothing wrong with having another decent comic book on the market. And this is a pretty decent comic book.

For just twenty-five cents, you get to see manly man space hero Buck Rogers fighting an invading alien race of gigantic paramecium, and ultimately sacrifice his life to stop them. That’s right, the hero dies in his own #0 issue, before his series has even begins! Of course, since he dies creating a gravity well, I have a feeling he actually gets sent through time, which, if true, is a pretty neat take: The hero whose whole schtick was being shot forward into the future being shot further into the future.

It’s written by Scott Beatty and illustrated by Carlos Rafael, and I really like the character design. Buck’s costume? A black one-piece suit with glowing jodhpurs. You can’t beat that. Nor can you beat a complete, 12-page story for just a quarter.

Detective Comics #853 (DC) Wow, this Neil Gaiman guy is pretty good, huh? After finishing the first half of his “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” story, I was concerned about how well he’d be able to wrap up the premise, as that first chapter featured long stories by several characters about various Batman deaths, but it works out quite well, as the stories get quicker and quicker as the point emerges: Various versions of various villains and various supporting characters each tell their story of the death of a Batman, a Batman who is the Batman, in that all Batmen are aspects of the one Batman.

There are some very Morrison-esque ideas at work in this story, particularly in the way Gaiman riffs on the “everything happened” aspect of Morrison’s Batman run, and the way in which Gaiman treats Batman as a real fictional character at least somewhat in tune with the fact that he is a fictional character (From a certain angle, this story seems a closer companion to Morrison’s All-Star Superman than his Batman).

And Gaiman achieves this by telling a story that is a very Neil Gaiman kind of story, echoing some of his Sandman stories (“World’s End” and “The Wake” most clearly), while achieving the sort of gentle humanity that his characters always emanate (and too few comic book writers seem to be able to achieve).

Perhaps most impressive though, is the fact that Gaiman figured out a way to make this really and truly the last Batman story, the one that would occur right after Batman really died for reals, whenever that actually does happen (i.e. never), so that it isn’t quite a What If…? or Elseworlds kind of thing, and yet it’s not something that would ever need to be retconned, re-written or avoided, as anything anyone else ever writes about the Batman would still fit in with this.

I don’t really want to get into particulars about the story, for fear of ruining it, but it does contain the line “Goodnight, Mechanical Dinosaur.”

As for Andy Kubert, he does the work of his career here, although granted a great deal of that work involves trying to replicate the work of a dozen or so other Batman artists. It’s another reminder of how unfortunate it is that he wasn’t able to stick with a monthly-ish schedule long enough to stay on the Batman monthly.

Incredible Hercules #128 (Marvel) Fighting! Do you like that in your comics? If so, then you should love this issue of Incredible Herc, which is a very long fight scene. It’s Herc, Amadeus and Athena (but mostly Herc) vs. Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers vs. The Olympus Group (Hera, Typhon, Pluto).

Props to Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente for at least trying to explain why The Sentry is so goddam useless in a fight despite being the most powerful dude in the Marvel Universe by a factor of a million or so. (“Hercules. Do you really want me to unleash the power of a million exploding suns?”).

It doesn’t quite work, but having the Sentry around was at least worth it for the sound effect his being thrown through a roof generates (“N-TU-DASUNNN!”), and the look on his face when Herc decides to fight dirty. The whole scene in which Herc’s fist gets caught in Venom’s big, sloppy tongue and teeth filled mouth is pretty fun too.

Bits of staging and pacing seemed off here and there, but it was a pretty fun fight, with a clever ending, and plenty of character moments seeded throughout, so I’m not going to complain.

Justice League of America #32 (DC) Hey, Justice League of America! How have you been? Man, I haven’t seen you in forever. How long has it been now? I believe it was the Final Crisis tie-in issue illustrated by Carlos Pacheco, so I guess that means it’s been…nine months. Wow. Nine months. We used to see each other all the time! Why, back when you were going by JLA, you were my favorite comic book!

Well, I would have skipped this issue too, were it not for the fact that it was drawn by Rags Morales and John Dell. While Dwayne McDuffie’s run has been incredibly tedious, devoting just as much attention to setting up, cleaning up or just plain keeping up with crossovers and other people’s comics, it was Ed Benes’ art that drove me away from reading the book.

So now that there’s a good writer and an excellent art team, it sure seemed like a good time to check in with the book.

As it turns out, not so much. This is apparently chapter four of “Nyctophobia,” a storyline that apparently has something to do with the Milestone characters appearing in the DCU, and general post-Final Crisis, “Batman R.I.P.,” “World Without Superman” and “Rise of the Olympian” tie-ins.

Given that most of the script seems to be a reaction to other stories more than a story in and of itself, McDuffie must have done a pretty good job on it, as I found it rather easy to follow, despite walking in on the middle of this movie. Superman and Black Canary chat about the state of the League, which she disbanded because Hal and Ollie started their own League, which actually occurs in a six-issue miniseries that starts in July and thus won’t wrap up until January of 2010, provided it’s on time. That’s…well, it’s a curious way to run a railroad, isn’t it?

From their, the remaining Leaguers—Firestorm II, Dr. Light II, Vixen, Zatanna and Green Lantern John Stewart—have a meeting, and then Dr. Light and Firestorm encounter Shadow Thief and Starbreaker.

The character work is pretty nicely done, which makes it seem like even more of a shame that McDuffie seems to be squeezing bits of story in wherever he can.

The art was the best I’ve seen during this volume of Justice Leage, which, considering how awful most of it is, may not sound like much of a compliment. But it is nice to see one of DC’s flagship titles and bestsellers being genuinely well-illustrated once again. Backgrounds, distinct character designs, expressions that change to evoke different emotions—just seeing things we should take for granted now seems like a special treat, they’ve been missing for so long.

(Look! Facial expressions!)

A McDuffie/Morales/Dell JLoA might still be a pretty poor comic, if it had to be a book about little more than how the characters reacted to the events of the rest of the DC line, but hell, at least it would be readable. says Morales will be back again next month, but then, it says this issue has art by Frederico Dallocchio, so I guess I shouldn’t put too much stock in that.

Trinity #47 (DC) Okay, now we’re climaxing. The Busiek/Bagley half is one big fight. In this corner we have Krona, Morgan Le Fay, Despero, Despero’s armada of cannon fodder and the Void Hound and in this corner we have the trinity, the superheroes of Earth, Enigma and The Crime Syndicate of America and Xor and the Dreambound. That’s a whole lot of superhero battle for just twelve pages.

In the back-half,, drawn this time by Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher, we see the same battle from Alfred’s point-of-view, as he takes a call from Lex Luthor, who has devised a plan to save the day. I always like seeing the forced-to-be-a-good-guy-by-a-greater-threat Luthor.

Wolverine: First Class #14 (Marvel) Fred Van Lente and Peter David seem to have rather different sense of humor. Under the latter, who inherited the title from the former, Wolverine: First Class is still a lighthearted superhero title appropriate for all-ages, but David’s humor seems far broader to me, and some scenes seem written as a way to get to a joke, rather than the joke growing organically from them.

Of course, it could just be a matter of me still adjusting to the new writer after twelve issues with the old one, and since the old one was the title’s original writer, his way is bound to seem more like “the right way” for a while.

In this second half of David’s first story, illustrated by Ronan Cliquet, Wolverine and Kitty Pryde find themselves in a museum after closing, embroiled in a battle between Daredevil, The Hand and Elektra, over a magic demon mask who transforms its wearer into “Shinigami.”

No, not that kind of shinigami.

It’s all competent enough, although neither Elektra nor Daredevil really needed to be here, as neither brings anything to the table except a sentence of exposition and the recognition factor that comes from seeing them. Like, “Oh hey, Daredevil’s in this. And so’s Elektra.” Given that their presence isn’t even teased on the cover though, which is instead a generic Wolverine action shot from the Wolverine cover drawer, it doesn’t even seem like they’re there for marketing’s sake.


Anonymous said...

Hey, you did ask for the characters who appeared in the beginning of Batman: Brave in the Bold to meet up with Booster Gold at some point. Teaming up with Batman has to be a close second place.

LurkerWithout said...

Batman teams up with Sugar & Spike?

Hdefined said...

Yay! Death Note reference!

You know, Death Note became so popular with the mainstream so quickly that it almost seemed like the critics who recognized how good it was stopped referring to it for a while, for fear of jumping on the pop wagon. But I think that, only a year or two after it reached the height of its popularity, it's a perfectly good time to start referring to it again as the superb work of comics it is.

John Cochrane said...

You mean it's the Batman/Vibe team-up I've been dying for?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Agreed all around about JLA.

I *loved* seeing Hercules pounding Sentry with his fist still stuck in Venom's mouth. I can't even remember the last time I saw anything in a Marvel comic that I loved so much.

Dru said...

Something really surprising about that Justice League page you scanned - Even though it's a page of people sitting around a table, Morales WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to draw almost everyone's feet.

When he could have avoided it entirely, what with there being a big ol' table there.

I'm kind of impressed.

(I do feel a little sad that the bar's been set that low for "impressed" though.)

(Wait, this somehow turned into a backhanded compliment. But I actually am impressed! What he did is like the opposite of lazy! If only there were some word in the English language I could use to describe it...)

Jacob T. Levy said...

There is some unfortunate lingering effect of Benes on Morales' JLA work: the Power Girl-ification of Vixen.

She showed less cleavage when she was working as a bikini supermodel in Suicide Squad.