Blackest Night: Batman #3 (DC Comics)
Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. I was just lost in my own head, imagining how much cooler the final issue of Blackest Night: Batman—which features Batman, Deadman, zombies and Etrigan, The Demon—might have been if, say, Kelley Jones or Tom Mandrake had penciled it. Or perhaps John McCrea. Or even Norm Breyfogle. Or shit, Matt Wagner.
Instead, we’ve got Ardian Syaf inked by Vincente Cifuentes, and while Syaf’s art is certainly readable, it’s more serviceable than beautiful. There just isn’t a whole lot of life to it, which becomes particularly apparent when a character like Etrigan bounds on to the scene.
If Generic Ogre-Type is the best you can bring to a character like Jack Kirby’s Etrigan, then maybe you’re not ready for a book that crosses-over DC’s two biggest brand names at the moment.
It doesn’t help any that the majority of the panels featuring Etrigan also feature copious amounts of computer-generated flame coloring effects, so that photos of fire seem super-imposed over Syaf and Cifuentes’ drawings. What’s the point of that? Who doesn’t like drawing fire? Fire is, like, one of the most fun things to draw…! It’s right up there with smoke and pretty ladies, except much easier than the latter!
As for the story, it’s rather unsatisfying, although I suppose that was to be expected—it’s not like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake. Damian al Ghul, Deadman and Etrigan could crack the case of the Black Lanterns or anything, given that Blackest Night isn’t even half over yet.
So Dick and Tim find themselves in a graveyard that their back-from-the-dead parents have apparently built a huge circus tent/Drake family home set upon, and then proceed to use this elaborate set just to fuck with their sons’ heads.
With no way to destroy or defeat the Black Lanterns, even when an actual demon from hell shows up and starts bathing them in hellfire, Dick decides to put himself and Tim in a death-like cryogenic state for a few panels, and, thinking the pair are dead, the Black Lanterns all fly off. Dick Grayson heroically looks off into the distance and declares, “Well, that’s the end of this miniseries. Perhaps we’ll meet them again in future issues of Blackest Night.”
As for the Black Lanterns, they presumably go off to continue terrorizing, killing and eating the citizens of Gotham City.
Dick Grayson, you are a terrible superhero.
Points go to writer Peter Tomasi and Syaf for Black Lantern Tony Zucco though, the very first Black Lantern I’ve seen whose uniform is actually for sale at my local comic shop right this minute.
Deadpool #900 (Marvel Comics) Marvel may have adopted the most fan-reaming pricing strategy conceivable, but you’ve got to give them credit for books like this—Over 100 pages of comics, the majority of them brand-new ones, from a host of creators who, for the most part, happen to be really, really good at making comics, all for just $4.99, the price of one and one-fourth issues of Doctor Voodoo.
I have relatively little experience with Deadpool the character or Deadpool the comic, and I’ve been rather intrigued by the character’s quite sudden popularity.
The bulk of my exposure came from a rather spotty run of Deadpool comics from between #44 and #59 that were among the collection recently gifted to be by a friend moving out of town and trying to divest himself from as many comics as possible. I’ve been meaning to blog about the experience of reading those issue with an eye toward unlocking the secret of the character’s popularity for a while now, but I just never find myself with the time and/or desire to write a couple thousand words about Deadpool. (My main question about the character is why his dialogue bubbles are colored yellow).
This is all a long way of saying that prior experience with or affection for the character doesn’t seem to be mandatory to enjoy this book, which is an obscenely good value.
Let’s take the stories one at a time.
“Close Encounters of the @*#$ed-Up Kind” by Jason Aaron, Chris Staggs and Juan Vlasco
Deadpool gets abducted by aliens, kills them. Um, not really much to this one.
“Silent But Deadly” by Fred Van Lente and Dalibor Talajic
Deadpool fights a gang of mines who have some sort of super-maguffin that makes their silent, imaginary actions real. So if one mimes the throwing of a grenade, a grenade-explosion will result.
I can’t think of any examples, but as I was reading this, I was convinced that someone must have thought of this gag before. If not, than kudos to Van Lente for putting a somewhat obvious gag into a comic and beating everyone else to it.
This story is mostly a silent one, and relies on Talajic to do a lot of the story telling—and he’s more than up to the challenge.
Words only appear in the last three panels of the story, and this is the first one in the book in which two different narration boxes are used to communicate the voices in Deadpool’s head.
This is apparently new to the character, as I don’t remember any such boxes during the run I read.
I’m not entirely comfortable with mental illness being used for comedy like this—the next story diagnoses ‘pool as a schizophrenic on account of those voices—and think I prefer the character’s craziness being treated as more of a Daffy Duck-style daffiness than anything out of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Not that anyone asked.
“Shrunken Master” by Mike Benson and Damion Scott
Hey, it’s our old friend Damion Scott, the pencil artist who made the last volume of Batgirl so awesome. This short story is a little…dark, with Deadpool’s motivation for taking and executing a particular hit being the target’s sexual abuse of a minor. That coupled with the rather obvious direction Benson was going with the story, drains it of fun and surprise, but Scott’s imagery is energetic and inventive throughout.
Now, how does Deadpool sit in an easy chair while wearing two katana on his back.
“Pinky Swear” by Joe Kelly and Rob Liefeld
Hey, I’m not sure if anyone’s ever pointed this out before or not, but this Rob Liefeld fellow? He’s not a very good comic book artist.
He’s especially poorly suited to a comical comic book story like this, which calls for more in the way of panel-to-panel continuity and timing than pouches, guns and grimacing (Deadpool wears a full face-mask! You can only fit a few dozen little lines on it!)
That said, it’s actually not as bad as I was thought it might be, and there were only a couple of panels I had to puzzle over to figure out.
Kelly’s script is fast-paced and funny, and he seems to be writing towards Liefeld’s strengths as much as possible.
“What Happens in Vegas…” by Duane Swierczynski and Shawn Crystal
This is apparently a parody of a show featuring police investigators that Deadpool refers to as “crime scene guys.” I don’t think I watch the particular show Swierczynski, so I’m not sure how effective it is. I liked the gag about the presence of the chicken at the end, though. Crystal’s art is pretty great though, striking a nice balance between funny and gritty.
“Great Balls of Thunder on the Deep Blue Sea” by Victor Gischler and Sanford Greene
Deadpool and the voice in his head go on a vacation cruise, and fights Doctor Octopus, who is also on the same cruise. I like Greeen’s art a whole lot, and Gischler’s story is amusing enough.
“One Down” by Charlie Huston and Kyle Baker
This is probably the most clever of the stories, and while Baker’s such a fine cartoonist that it took me a while to get used to the very computer-y style he’s working in here, it eventually won me over as a bit of collage. I don’t want to say much of anything about the story so as not to risk ruining it, although I will note there’s one panel featuring Deadpool fighting Fin Fang Foom on top of a pile of Tyrannosaurus Rexes, and FFF is wearing a pirate hat in it.
And then there’s a reprint of 1998 one-shot Deadool Team-Up by James Felder, Pete Woods and Walden Wong. It involves a little Deadpool called “Widdle Wade” on the cover, The Beyonder and sumo wrestlers.
House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1 (DC/Vertigo) I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I have a real weakness for comics featuring characters who have pumpkins for heads, so the inclusion of a Merv Pumpkinhead story by Mark Buckingham, Kevin Nowlan and Bill Willingham was enough to edge this big, fat anthology special from my “maybe” pile and on into my “what the hell” pile. I am not going to review it here now though, as I’m planning on covering it and another Halloween-themed anthology I bought today at Blog@ in the near future. I’m just including it here for the sake of complete accuracy in reporting the comics that I hauled home during my weekly comics-buying trip.
Incredible Hercules #136 (Marvel) In previous issues, we’ve seen Hercules impersonating Thor, and on the last page of the last issue, we see that the Warriors Three have convinced Thor that he needs to disguise himself as Hercules and defeat Hercules-as-Thor (the fate of the world hangs in the balance, you see).
In this issue, which Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente had to call “Thorcules Versus Hercuthor!”, the two do battle while dressed as one another, and Herc faces a dilemma—he knows Thor has to defeat him in order to save the world, which would, of course, also prove to everyone watching that Hercules is thus superior to Thor, but if he lets Thor-disguised-as-Hercules win too easily, he won’t get a chance to beat the bejeezus out of Thor for a while.
What’s he to do?
Simply initiate the single greatest fight scene in comic book history (that I can recall without stopping the typing of this sentence long enough to think hard on the matter for a potentially better example)! Seriously guys, the fight in this issue is awesome.
And the best part is that while it is genuinely funny, it also serves to define the character of Hercules, and what makes him such an appealing character and even such an great hero, super or otherwise.
And as much credit as Pak and Van Lente deserve for this issue, it was penciler Reilly Brown who completely pulled it off. The facial expressions throughout the entire issue are so…well, perfect really. Reilly Brown should be the only person allowed to pencil Inc Herc from this way forward.
The Perhapanauts Halloween Spooktacular #1 (Image Comics) See the second sentence of the House of Mystery entry above.
Secret Six #14 (DC) Here are the second and third pages of this month’s issue of Secret Six, featuring Grendel touching and licking a spread eagle, chained-down Wonder Woman while talking about how he’s totally going to eat her:
Huh. This scene is written by Gail Simone and penciled by Nicola Scott, so what do you know? Women can create gross, questionably sexual “superhero decadence” scenes just as well as male creators can.
And believe me, this is one decadent issue, which is pretty much cover-to-cover killing.
An Amazon, from the Wonder Woman comic, explains how she used to be in charge of the purple healing ray and, because of it, she got into cutting and self-mutilation (Remember, the term “purple death ray” was deemed so goofy and Silver Age-y that DC actually eliminated reference of it in Infinite Crisis when they collected that series in trade).
Catman announces his intention to chop up, dress and clean a self-healing foe (If it occurs, it happens off-panel).
A bunch of Amazons totally kill a bunch of dudes, then kneel down in order for Artemis to machine gun them all to death because they’d rather die than be jailed.
Wonder Woman breaks another villain’s neck.
And, of course, the Secret Six just kill the living shit out of tons of people.
In general, I’m not a fan of completely gratuitous gore and violence in super-comics, and tend to find it all somewhere between hilarious and depressing. As I’ve said before though, what might be inappropriate for Justice League or Teen Titans generally works just fine in this book, because it’s usually well written and excellently drawn (there are, unfortunately, two pencillers in this issue, leading to at least one confusing scene), and because Secret Six has a different focus than most superhero books.
Wonder Woman’s presence this time out, however, kinda cancels out the “Well, it is a book about nasty villains fighting nastier villains” excuse and, at the risk of getting all fan entitlement-y on you guys here, it just sort of goes a long way toward making Wonder Woman look like a useless schmuck.
What sort of superhero has to a) kill a villain and b) let a bunch of other villains and her own pals kill themselves out of a tough situation, without even attempting to bring any of ‘em to justice?
Well, I know what sort of superhero does…the Punisher/Wolverine/Ghost Rider type that the other guys publish, not Wonder freaking Woman. I know it might not be “realistic” for Wonder Woman to be able to solve all the problems confronting all the characters in this book without resulting to killing or tolerating killing, but then, that’s the point of characters like Wonder Woman. They find impossible, third-way solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems, and they do so without compromising themselves or their ideals.
Superman could have shut this whole place down without killing anyone or allowing anyone else to kill anyone. Batman might not have been able to, but he would have tried. But Wonder Woman? She’s apparently no Superman or Batman.
(Wonder Woman’s excuse for forcibly turning this villain’s head backwards is simply that “Demons are an exception,” but in the previous scene the same villain indicates that he is not a supernatural creature, but the son of Vandal Savage and a “cavebeast of a mother.”)
X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (Marvel) Well, look who finally showed up in central Ohio! Mr. Johnny Got Shipped-Late-ly! Regular AoA writer Jeff Parker and original AoA art team of Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz get together for a hopefully sales-goosing two-issue miniseries pitting their guys, Marvel’s least popular team franchise, against Marvel’s second most popular team franchise, The X-Men.
I haven’t read an X-Men comic since…well, it’s been long enough that I don’t remember when. I think I read a trade that Ed Brubaker wrote where Professor X was kind of a dick to his students and got ‘em all killed on an island…? Or maybe it was Joss Whedon’s first Astonishing arc, back when it was shipping on some semblance of a schedule…?
Anyway, the point is, I haven’t read an X-Men comic in a super-long time, but found this quite easy to follow, thanks in large part to the cute little character-introducing boxes and Parker’s otherwise organic approach to clear, straightforward storytelling.
The mutants are apparently building their all-new, mutant-only country, perhaps thinking that the eight time’s the charm (They’re even building it on the ruins of one of the old, failed mutant-only countries!), when they learn the Agents are trying to borrow Cerebra (without asking!) to help them find a their missing teammate Venus.
Then they fight.
The cliffhanger ending involves a second, bigger group of X-folks teleporting into AoA HQ, so presumably Parker and company will eschew the “then team-up” part of the traditional Marvel “fight, then team-up” formula for a new and improved “fight, and then fight some more” formula.
Marvel’s solicitation for this $3.99 issue referred to it as “a monster-sized throwdown,” but apparently Marvel’s solicitation-writer and I have very different ideas about how big something needs to be to earn the description “monster-sized.” It’s 30 pages, with a back-up eight-pager featuring the Agents in their original costumes facing off against the First Class version of the X-Men (This one’s written by Parker, but drawn by Chris Samnee). So, not a rip-off or anything, but when they say monster-sized, I think they mean more Hulk-sized than Fin Fang Foom-sized.
Oh, and in the next issue, Gorilla Man apparently gets to use all that high-tech weapondry he’s been tricked out with. So that should be cool.
—Who’s that X-gal with the glowy hands between, um, Rockslide and Beast on the last page?
—Have any of you been reading any of this Dark X-Men business? I see Namor pops up here in a new X-Men costume, and his involvement in that makes me kinda curious about tracking down an eventual trade. Are those Dark X-Men comics any good? If you’re a fan of the shouty, fight-y Namor, would you like ‘em? They’re not full of gross Greg Land art are they?