Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekly Haul: August 26th

Batman and Robin #3 (DC Comics) You know who I feel bad for? Poor Philip Tan. If I were him I'd be sitting there looking at this issue, sweating profusely, drawing my knees up to my chin and rocking back and forth in my chair. How exactly do you follow Frank Quitely? Particularly when the assignment is to work with Grant Morrison, a task relatively few artists do well, and no one does as well as Quitely?

And Quitely's work here is absolutely perfect. The action, much of it involving Batman and Robin flipping around flying kicking doll-people, is absolutely flawless, and there are some really clever bits, like the sound-effect written in artfully splashed blood on page 21. Morrison, of course, does pretty great work as well. He certainly writes crazy maniac monologues well, and the timeliness of a pig-themed villain attempting to spread a deadly, flu-like disease all over a city is pretty remarkable.


Batman: The Brave and the Bold #8 (DC) Chinese super-team The Great Ten team up with Batman this issue, and yet there are only four members of The Great Ten in the entire issue. Why are J. Torres, Carlo Barberi and Terry Beatty trying to un-teach our children math?


Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #7 (DC) After Stephen DeStefano's turn penciling last issue, pencil artist Byron Vaughns returns, and I've gotta admit, I don't really dig his style much. There's nothing at all that's technically wrong with his art, and it's purely a question of aesthetic preference, but I just don't really care for his interpretation of some of the characters, or the way he adapts some of Jeff Smith's original designs for them here. Story-wise, Art Baltazar and Franco are still doing an a-okay job here, so I doubt any younger readers will care all that much if it's DeStefano or Vaughns or Kunkel or Smith drawing it given a particular installment. Jaded, bitter old people like me, on the other hand...

Also disappointing? Dr. Sivana's hobo disguise.

Come on Sivana, I'm sure you can do a much more elaborate hobo costume if you put your mind to it!


Detective Comics #856 (DC) Greg Rucka brings back Abbot, a werewolf character he introduced during his last TEC run and used off-and-on through the Religion of Crime business in 52 and elsewhere. He is now apparently the Martin Luther of Crimeism, and he and his fellow animal men take Batwoman's side against the other crime worshipers. It's...well, it's really beautifully drawn by J. H. Williams III, who has incredibly inventive lay-outs, and always seems to be trying to find new and exciting ways to effectively transmit story information.

Unfortunately, it really seems like his skills are being wasted, as there's no real originality to the scripting (So far, there's little that would change if you swapped Batwoman and her dad out for Batman and Alfred).

The Question back-up, while also effectively illustrated, is even worse in terms of originality. The Question could be aboslutely any character; she's just a punching machine fighting bad guys. It probably didn't help that I read this back-up after Batman and Robin, which also had something to do with bad guys selling women into sex-slavery, but there it was a sentence in the origin story of a bizarre new villain; here it's the whole story. The back-up is certainly competently done, it's just completely generic, and I'd rather not spend a $1 on it if I can avoid it.

I think I'll finish up this story arc next month, and then switch to cheaper, ad-free, The Question-free trades.


Flash: Rebirth #4 (DC) If you were doing a big story about a long-dead superhero coming back from the dead, you would probably want to wrap that up before you did an even bigger story about a bunch of long-dead superheroes coming back from the dead, wouldn’t you? And yet for whatever reason, Flash: Rebirth is only on issue #4, the two-thirds-over mark, while Blackest Night has already started in earnest.

It seems like such a shame that DC waited a good 20 years to bring Barry Allen back to life, and then decided to do it at a time when what could have/should have been a momentous event for the company was sure to be eclipsed by another of their own storylines. The contents of this issue even further undermine the importance of Allen’s return, with the big bad guy behind it all pointing out that Allen wasn’t really needed to outrace death and save all existence from an evil god in Final Crisis after all (which we all knew already anyway from reading Final Crisis, but still).

Unfortunate timing aside, the contents of this issue are pretty solid. Artist Ethan Van Sciver continues to do a whole lot of neat things with with his art to suggest super-speed, and Johns’ descriptions often match up with those images quite nicely (I like the bit about Zoom inhaling his sneering after images, for example). This issue is packed with comic book science as applied to The Flash, and it all reads convincing enough—not really contradicting anything that Mark Waid wrote (that I can recall, anyway), but still refashioning it to suit different purposes.


Gotham City Sirens #3 (DC) Well this was a pretty weird issue. The titular heroines—Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn—are relegated to four panels of the entire issue, and when they do appear, they seem to be interrupting another, better comic already in progress. That one involves The Riddler-as-good-guy-private-eye meeting and dealing with the new Batman while they each work the same case.

Also odd? It's only the third issue, and series writer Paul Dini is MIA, with Scott Lobdell filling-in for him (not that the solicitation on dccomics.com reflects either the contents of this issue or the change in writers). It doesn't matter much to me, as Lobdell does a very good job of making this fairly throwaway done-in-one a sharp character study of The Riddler and his present purpose in life (and, to a lesser degree, Dick Grayson's Batman). And it's still drawn by Guillem March, whose fantastic artwork is the only reason I've been picking the book up at all. Still, it's one of those curious releases that leaves one wondering what goes on behind the scenes to result in a comic by a different writer, with a different plot and featuring different characters than the one advertised.


Green Lantern #45 (DC) Geoff Johns pulls back from Earth and all the dead superheroes with black rings making a nuisance of themselves there to check on the rest of the colors in the rainbow. How goes things with the various other armies in the "War of Light?" Not so well. The pink guys are fighting the yellow guys, the red guys are fighting the green guys, the orange guys are fighting the blue guys, and now here come some black rings turning yellow guys and red guys into black guys.

It seems odd to say it of an issue in which a half-dozen space armies shoot one another with laser rings all over the universe, but this issue was actually kind of uneventful, with nothing completely stupid/totally awesome to reccomend it. Aside, perhaps, from the creation of a Black Lantern seemingly specifically designed to fight Mogo, an idea so obvious that I actually laughed "Of course!" when I got to that page. Doug Mahnke continues to draw the living hell out of Johns' scripts. He's not the best pencil artist DC's got drawing their super-comics at the moment (Note Quitely, Williams and March all had books out this very week), but he's definitely one of the better ones.


Runaways #13 (Marvel Comics) Kathryn Immonen has a lot of fun with the names of Nico's spells this issue, doesn't she? I'm not sure what on earth is going on with this title in the near future. The next issue is solicited for next month (with a $3.99 price tag?!), and that's it. No new single issues solicited for October, and the only Runaways solicited for November is a collection of Immonen and Sara Pichelli's four issues (plus the Runaways story that ran serialized in the back of the last round of What If? books...damn! Shoulda switched to trades on Runaways!) If they canceled the book, they sure didn't give the new creative team very long.


Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #2 (DC) I really regret even buying this comic.

It's $4.99, so I assumed it would be pretty over-sized, but having counted the pages once I was done, I see it's actually only 38 story pages long. DC usually charges $3.99 for a 30-to-32-page book, so the extra $1 for just 6 pages struck me as a little excessive. Doing the math though, I guess it works out to 13 cents a page, which is about the rate of a $2.99, 22-page book (which is 13-and-a-half cents per page), and only a penny more per page than the rate for a $3.99, 32-page book (12 cents per page).

It sure seems like a lot to pay for a book about Jimmy Olsen having a short conversation with Mon-El, then having a short conversation with a former member of Luthor's Infinity Inc., and then a very, very long conversation with Natasha Irons (whom I thought was in high school, not deep undercover infiltrating black ops military squads) and then getting shot to death. Oh come on, that's not a spoiler—it's not like DC's ever gonna really slot Jimmy Olsen.

You know who's not in it? The Guardian, shown prominently on the cover that’s still up on dccomics.com. The final cover has The Guardian removed, and Mon-El dropped into his place.


Wednesday Comics #8 (DC)

Batman: A couple of points—

1.) Risso draws cities very well. That first panel is just incredible.

2.) Why is Gotham Today in the Gotham Examiner newspaper box?

3.) Gotham Today was pretty funny headlines.

4.) Doesn’t Gotham have laws against littering? And shouldn’t the commissioner of the city’s police force abide by them?

Kamandi: Are there Horse people on Kamandi’s world? And do they ride horses too?

Superman: Eh, Superman fights an alien.

Deadman: One of the spirits of one of the murdered ladies has visible panty lines.

Green Lantern: Eh, Hal Jordan fights an alien.

Metamorpho: Holy shit you guys! This is something to see this week. Metamorpho and the Element Girl chase the evil, ancient Element Man through a secret chamber in which they must transform their way through the entire periodic table, which Michael Allred has drawn, with multiple element people moving and transforming throughout the squares, which are both part of a single splash panel and tiny, implied panels, while talking and joking, their dialogue bolded and capitalized so that they’re announcing the element they’re in. It’s…wow. You guys gotta see this page. Here’s a terrible photograph of part of it:


Teen Titans: Oh, who really cares? No one gets killed in it, which makes it rather different than the other Titans stories that came out this week in Teen Titans and Blackest Night: Titans.

Strange Adventures: Back on Rann, and Lovern Kindzierski is still coloring Pope, so I guess the switch in colorists wasn’t simply to indicate a switch in settings/planets. At this point, I think it’s fair to declare this the most visually accomplished of the 15 features.

Supergirl: Supergirl takes Krypto and Streaky to Dr. Mid-Nite for an examination (which apparently includes brain scans via colanders with wires sticking out of ‘em), and the super-pets have a very alarming interest in Doc’s pet owl Charlie. Also, Conner sows us the inside of Dr. Mid-Nite’s refrigerator, something I didn’t even know I wanted to see until she drew it for us.

Metal Men: Wait, a Metal Man punctures Chemo’s shell, endangering the city…I swear I’ve read this exact same conflict before. A couple times.

Wonder Woman: Caldwell uses fewer panels than ever, and many of them are relatively large (particularly the huge splash devoted to giant wolf Fenris, which occupies a full third of the page), but it’s still kinda hard to follow, on account of the dialogue bubbles. I admire the hell out of Caldwell’s work here, but he loses the fight with the format more often than he wins it.

Sgt. Rock: Sgt. Rock has not killed a Nazi for eight weeks now.

The Flash: The small army of Flashes do something neat and Flash-y with their powers and, well, that’s about all this week.

The Demon/Catwoman: Okay, I’m afraid I don’t get why Morgan wants Catwoman’s younger, sexier body when Morgan doesn’t look any older than Catwoman in this strip. Should she have maybe been drawn all haggy and crone-y, instead of like Catwoman with a funny haircut, eyebrows and Kirby-designed hot pants…?

Also, I think “strike with the spellsword of lust” is the dirtiest thing I’ve ever read in a comic book.

Hawkman: One panel of Hawkgirl, two panels of Batman, Aquaman getting name-dropped, Kyle Baker’s wiggly “brontosaurus” silhouettes and a T-Rex wandering onto the scene…yeah, that makes for a pretty awesome page of comics.

10 comments:

Robert Repici said...

"...the timeliness of a pig-themed villain attempting to spread a deadly, flu-like disease all over a city is pretty remarkable."

HAHAHAHA...I didn't even think of that. Well said, good sir.

RR
TheFanboyFiles.blogspot.com

Matt said...

You should skim BL: Titans next week in the store, just for giggles. If nothing else, it positions Dove to be a worldbeater, which is a sort of amusing thought. Also, the zombie kiss on the cover? Actually happens.

I need to reread Batman & Robin a bunch of times. It never sinks in on the first read.

And I read that issue of Gotham City Sirens and I didn't realize it was Lobdell and not Dini until I read your review. A little too much "Dick Pretending to be Bruce" but it was a really good effort for a guy coming in out of left field. It's too bad your library almost certainly doesn't have a collection of his Alpha Flight series from a few years ago. That was more amusing than it had any right to be.

Kid Kyoto said...

"Why are J. Torres, Carlo Barberi and Terry Beatty trying to un-teach our children math? "

Because they hate America.

Jeremy H said...

How on Earth did anyone at DC think that sandwiching four issues of Philip Tan in between Quitely and Frazier Irving was a good idea? It's a bit like a Chocolate Chipwich, only instead of ice cream between the delicious cookies they're giving us a terrible artist.

Sam Mildner said...

Batman and Robin 3 was simply stunning. I went back and re-read all three issues and I'm just upset that Quitely isn't doing the whole maxi series (its only 12 issues isn't it?).

Although I adore Morrison's New X-Men re-reading it in trades now feels really uneven, what with the (now) seemingly arbitrary changes in art.

When considered in direct comparison to All-Star Superman one seems like a timeless masterpiece, and one seems like a masterpiece frequently obfuscated by bizzare changes in visual language - something I really don't want to see happen to Batman and Robin (or "Robin and Batman" if Damien had his way)...

Hopefully we're all going to be pleasantly surprised by Tan's arc though; I just Morrison writes to the artists' strengths, seeing Tan attempt to do a Quietly cover version would not be fun!

On a final note does anyone else get the distinct impression that DC are going to gouge readers with the eventual trade releases? I'd love to see one 12 issue volume, but I have a sneaking feeling we're going to have to pony up for each of the artists' arcs separately, making four three issue trades...PLEASE DC NO!!!

Hdefined said...

"It's a bit like a Chocolate Chipwich, only instead of ice cream between the delicious cookies they're giving us a terrible artist."

Um . . . that's not really how an analogy works.

Jeremy H said...

You're not how an analogy works!

Yes! Perfect comeback!

Caleb said...

You should skim BL: Titans next week in the store, just for giggles. If nothing else, it positions Dove to be a worldbeater, which is a sort of amusing thought. Also, the zombie kiss on the cover? Actually happens.

I skimmed it too; I was curious about the contents, and wanted to see how Benes meshed with the Titans. I think his work looks better on characters like Starfire than on Wonder Woman.

I didn't notice anything too crazy in it though, unless Hawk killed Hawk, but it's hard to get excited one way or the other over those things, since every one who dies becomes a Black Lantern.


And I read that issue of Gotham City Sirens and I didn't realize it was Lobdell and not Dini until I read your review... It's too bad your library almost certainly doesn't have a collection of his Alpha Flight series from a few years ago. That was more amusing than it had any right to be.

Yeah, I'm very curious about that books production, as it's so weird for the writer to need a fill-in, but for the problem to occur so far ahead that the regular artists can complete the fill-in.

Lobdell did a very good Dini though; or even better, really.

I'll look for the Alpha Flight...was that the "Bwa-ha-ha"-esque take...?

Caleb said...

On a final note does anyone else get the distinct impression that DC are going to gouge readers with the eventual trade releases? I'd love to see one 12 issue volume, but I have a sneaking feeling we're going to have to pony up for each of the artists' arcs separately, making four three issue trades...PLEASE DC NO!!!

If Morrison's just on for 12 issues, I would assume they do two six-part trades, but who knows. They did a three-issue trade for the JH Williams arc, didn't they? Or was their back-matter in it?

Derek said...

"Okay, I’m afraid I don’t get why Morgan wants Catwoman’s younger, sexier body when Morgan doesn’t look any older than Catwoman in this strip."

It's an illusion. She was haggish in earlier pages.