Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekly Haul: September 30th

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #9 (DC Comics) The Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures… creative team of Landry Walker and Eric Jones get a crack at the current cartoon version of Batman, and they take the opportunity to tackle a whole chunk of his rogues gallery as well.

After a three-page, before-the-credits team-up with a Sentinels of Magic of sorts (Dr. Fate, Zatanna, Dr. Occult, Sargon and Mento), and a two-panel credit/title sequence echoing that of the show, they plunge into “The Tale of the Catman!”

Batman gets some unexpected help against the Riddler from a hero in a similar costume with a name that rhymes with his own, and soon Gotham has two crime-busters whose names end with –atman taking on The Penguin, The Joker and Two-Face. But is there a villain under Catman’s heroic façade? And is there a hero under the villain under Catman’s heroic façade?

Landry Walker’s set-up is pretty clever (and, in a few places, a little more mature than some of the previous issues of this kids series), and I greatly enjoyed seeing Jones’ takes on so many of these characters, many of whom aren’t influenced by the TV character designs.

This Catman, for example, was apparently designed before he appeared in the show; I liked the cartoon version’s crazy eyes better, but Jones' version is overall cooler, closer to that Breyfogle Catman design than the Silver Age one with the “CM” on his chest.

I don’t think I care for skinny Penguin at all, but I’d need to see him in action for a few more panels to make up my mind. I’m really quite enamored of the The Batman version, though.

Oh, and there’s a panel of this in which Batman grabs a mind-controlled seal wearing a burglar’s costume by the tail and smashes it against Penguin’s head (Sound effect? “SEAL!”). So it has that going for it.

Green Lantern #46 (DC) If one wanted to be completely uncharitable about it, this issue of the main Green Lantern title is, in the broadest sense, the exact same as most of the issues of Green Lantern from the past year or so, only much better drawn than all the Orange Lantern issues: Hal Jordan flits about while variously-colored Lanterns fight and yell about prophecies and Green Lantern continuity.

But so what? People apparently love this stuff, so what’s another a few issues of it? Green Lantern Hal Jordan and indigo lantern Indigo-1 join an in-progress battle involving the violet, yellow and black Lanterns, Mongul and Sinestro have it out, there’s some crazy-ass shit going on among the love-powered Lanterns (What are those particular characters doing in their central battery? Why do they have a giant, scary monster called The Predator caged up?), the John Stewart sub-plot takes another four panels forward (Is it me, or is it moving much more slowly than the other threads of this thing?), and then a few Black Lanterns important to Hal and Sinestro show up in the typical Geoff Johns ending.

Dough Mahnke and Christian Alamy continue to do incredible work, the degree to which they render big superhero action better than so many of their peers underscored by the fact that they’re drawing the same characters and sorts of scenes we’ve seen a half-dozen or so times in GL since “Sinestro Corps War.”

Weird and/or gross aliens, rotting zombie corpses, beautiful humans in very tight and/or very little clothing, Sinestro being knocked around by Mongul while his face contorts into a variety of defiant sneers—these guys can draw it all. I wish more superhero comics looked more like this one does.

Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1 (DC) I love 80-Page Giants, at least in theory. I love the idea of a comic book starring your favorite characters that, like an annual used to be, is an over-sized, extra-helping of their adventures. I love the instant gratification of the possibility of a whole story arc read in one sitting, and not an “old” one, as you get in a trade, but a brand-new, fresh one. And I love the idea of something that, in today’s market, could quite easily be sold with a spine as an original graphic novel coming out in stapled, comic-book format.

So 80-Page Giants? I am quite willing to give you a chance. This particular one is something of a cross between JLA 80-Page Giants #1 and #2, which were anthologies featuring team-ups between Leaguers, and JLA 80-Page Giant #3, a self-contained, novel-length adventure.

In the framing sequence, Snapper Carr and The Cheetah (who are apparently dating now?), witness the pre-Final Crisis Justice League battling Epoch the Time Lord, who sends them hurtling through time. In six, self-contained stories by different creative teams, pairs of Leaguers find themselves encountering DC heroes from different time periods for the length of a complete—if short—story, and then disappearing at the end of each, until reappearing in the second half of the framing sequence. (Similar to Justice League Europe Annual #2, actually, which was a pretty awesome comic).

Most of the creators are ones I’ve either never heard of, and/or never read anything by before, and none of them do truly exceptional work (The art of Jan Buran and “Daxiong” stand out from the pack the most, but mostly on account of their style, not because they seem to be leaps ahead of the rest of the artists or anything). It’s worth noting that the bar for Justice League art is set so low though that even if the bulk of this work is merely mediocre, at least none of it is working at direct cross-purposes with the work of any of the writers, the way Ed Benes’ art often did Brad Meltzer's or Dwayne McDuffie’s scripts.

Likewise none of the scripts are going to change your life or anything, but they’re good enough to fit a whole story into about ten pages or so, and this book accomplishes the rare feat of an actual Justice League adventure between two covers—it seems like ever since the Justice League book was relaunched, all of the stories were about who was joining the team and who was leaving it and why, with a few issues devoted to promoting Salvation Run or Tangent or whatever.

It was fun just to see the Justice League doing Justice League things again, you know?

So what have we got? Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Red Arrow in the Old West with Cinnamon; Vixen and Green Lantern John Stewart in Camelot with Shining Knight; Zatanna and Black Canary in 1939 with The Crimson Avenger; Green Arrow and Firestorm teaming up with The Bride from Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke’s Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein against Ra’s al Ghul in 1942; Wonder Woman and Steel (who, hilariously, wasn’t even sent back in time with the others, but just randomly appears here; I like Steel and I’m not complaining he’s here, but maybe he should have appeared at the beginning with the rest of the team if they were going to use him) encounter The Black Pirate while fighting Starro in pirate days; and, finally, Superman and Doctor Light are sent to feudal Japan where they encounter an apparently new, DCU-version of Superfriend Samurai (this version's costume, by the way, is terrible).

Yes, it’s all rather rushed, kind of shoddily produced and, ultimately, of no consequence, but it’s still the best goddam Justice League comic in years, and that’s gotta count for something, right?

Marvel Mystery Handbook: 70th Anniversary Special (Marvel Comics) In a week with this much great stuff getting released, a $5 handbook devoted to the Marvel heroes that appeared in the company’s first year of existence (as Timely, but whatever) probably wasn’t the best thing to spend $5 on, but I can’t help it. Many of those great graphic novels will show up as review copies, or in libraries, or still be there waiting for me to buy them off the rack in the near future.

Not this thing.

I love reading about Golden Age superheroes, in many cases even more than I enjoy actually reading adventures featuring them, and I’d probably need to spend more time and verbiage than I’m willing to at the moment to explain why.

Part of it is definitely nostalgia, as reading a book like this reminds me of being a teenager and being so excited about the worlds of comics and superheroes and wanting to learn as much as I could about them, but the relative paucity of books on the subject leading me to pore through things like Overstreet Price Guides and just contemplating the strange names of characters I had never seen a cartoon featuring before.

This sort of thing fires the imagination in the way even the comics themselves may not. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll read all the Phantom Reporter or and Red Raven comics Marvel cares to publish, but there’s just something about imagining those characters that I enjoy.

This book is nothing but writing about those characters—some from The Twelve, a few from the other 70th Anniversary Special one-shots, some that are completely new to me—and thus I’m really looking forward to tucking into it when I have some free time.

Runaways #14 (Marvel) Well, that was certainly unstatisfying. Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli’s run ends almost as soon as it begins, after just four and a half issues. They sure don’t get much of a chance to wrap things up here, either. Chases uncle extends an offer to the teen team, and they neither accept nor reject it. A dead character or two seemingly return from the dead (see the cover for one of ‘em), another character gets run down by a car and is on his or her deathbed on the last page, with the words “The end…For now…” along the bottom of the last page.

It’s totally unfair. Terry Moore got nine issues, and his run was terrible.

Superman #691 (DC) I skipped the last issue of this series, because it had this repulsive cover by Fernando Dagnino and Raúl Fernandez and tied into all the other Super-titles I’m not reading for the month, so I figured I could do without it. How much can change in one storyline?

Apparently a lot, as Mon-El is thought dead, someone destroyed Metropolis’ sewer system so thoroughly that the combined might of the Justice League and Society can’t fix it and thus the city stands on the brink of collapse, because none of the Flashes or Green Lanterns standing around in the sewer thought of just run/fly over to the next city and start importing bottled water.

This is why the world needs Superman! He would have just flown up to a frozen lake in Canada and brought back a gigantic chunk of ice to melt into water. He is apparently the only superhero on Earth smart enough to figure a way around a water shortage. (Also, can’t Firestorm make water, through his transmutation powers?)

So James Robinson sort of lost me on the first page of this issue, as my suspend-my-disbelief muscles were already strained to the limit by the Everyone On Earth Hates Superman Just Because premise.

I’d given up pretending to take the story seriously by the point where The Guardian reveals Mon-El’s secret identity, which you’ll recall uses the last name Kent, to a bar full of cops. So it didn’t even bother me when Robinson trotted out another Legion character I’m unfamiliar with, revealing her costume in a way that was probably significant to someone who knew exactly who she was and what her deal was (i.e. someone who is not me).

The art for this entire issue is by the Dagnino/Fernandez art team responsible for that terrible cover on Superman #691, and while I suppose you could charitably call it “DC house style” at the moment, it’s a huge drop in quality from the art I’d become accustomed through thus far in Robinson’s run on the book.

Not sure if I should stick with this title or not, as it seems the next one will have the same art team, and the solicitation makes me think we’ll be in store for another Robinson-written torture scene...


Jennifer said...

"the solicitation makes me think we’ll be in store for another Robinson-written torture scene..."

Well, on the plus side, at least it looks like it'll be the bad guys doing the torturing this time! I can accept villainous behavior in my villains more than in my heroes...

doron said...

the Predator in G.L is the embodiment of love like Parallax is fear and Ion is will. Why they have it caged I don't really know.
Snapper and Cheetah met and did the nasty during final crisis. It was in either submit or resist, whichever was the one about Checkmate.

Dean said...

Is it just me, or is DC having a hard time acquiring and retaining quality artists?

Their scripting strategy appears to be having Geoff Johns and his pals (i.e. Robinson, Gates) write everything unless Grant Morrison wants to write it. While that isn't ideal, at least it ensures a minimum level of quality. On the art side, it is much spottier.