Frazer Irving steps in as the fifth artist on this series, while Morrison worked with several others during his run on Batman that preceded this title, and this issue features the return of the character claiming to be Batman’s dad Dr. Thomas Wayne.
The character says he’s Dr. Wayne, but he previously went by the name Dr. Hurt. And Batman believed him to actually be actor Mangrove Pierce. Although it’s also heavily implied that he might be the Devil himself.
It would be cool if he therefore looked the same from issue to issue and appearance to appearance, but since a half-dozen artists draw him, there’s little chance of that.
Likewise, the person in the Batman costume changes throughout Morrison’s Batman epic, and The Joker disguises himself as another character for a long stretch of time, but no one looks consistent because there’s no consistency to the art. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes its quality may come down to individual’s taste, but no character ever looks the same for very long, because Morrison is working alone here.
I dig his Batman work, but it’s ultimately half a comic book, not a whole comic book.
Anyway, Irving arrives and everyone shifts appearances again. Batman and Robin interrogate The Joker at different times and in their own different styles, Wayne/Hurt/Pierce/Satan appears and goes public as Thomas Wayne and Dick Grayson and Commissioner Gordon bond.
It’s good comics-writing, pretty strong comics-drawing (I’m not fond of Irving’s style, personally, but it’s solid work) and a less-than-ideal way to tell a massive serial story in a medium defined by the relationship between words and pictures.
On the other hand, Professor Pyg might dance next issue, and that’s certainly something to look forward to.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #18 (DC) Hey, is this even allowed?! Frequent B:BatB writer Landry Q. Walker puts two team-ups in this issue, but rather than just giving the first one a page or three before moving on to the team-up featured on the cover, this issue is split up more equitably, with the opening team-up lasting eight pages…and the second team-up being one with a hero not featured on the cover!
While the format was a bit unexpected, the quality of the story was not—Walker and his regular partner artist Eric Jones do their regular great job on this issue.
Jones’ style varies from that of the cartoon the book is based on, but his design of Martian Manhunter (whom I believe only appeared in the background of a single episode of the TV show so far) is pretty swell, giving J’onn an extra swollen head. He also draws this issue’s villain, a White Martian called “Ma’alefa’ak” (in the Martian Manhunter comics series, that was actually a Green Martian, and J’onn’s brother), and smooths out and simplifies the look of the White Martians from Howard Porter’s JLA run (and their subsequent appearances) while simultaneously blending the design with that of the Green Martians. It’s a very effective design; a child-friendly scary space monster that looks more closely related to J’onn J’onnz than the DCU versions typically do.
The plot? Ma’alefa’ak is hunting various Martian artifacts to boost his psychic powers enough to end human life on earth and restore his lost race; Batman and J’onn team-up to stop him, but he resurfaces about half-way through the book, and Batman needs Dr. Fate’s help to stop him.
I love Walker’s Brave and the Bold Batman, who remains the dark creature of the night we’ve come to know and love, albeit a dark creature of the night with a sense of humor (“Typical. I spent my life learning how to incapacitate a criminal with a single punch… …And nine times out of ten, my enemies are immune to physical harm”). The sequence where he expresses his sympathy for Ma’alefa’ak while also kicking his ass is pretty fantastic, for example.
Brightest Day #5 (DC) Well, the solicitation is pretty far off:
Deadman discovers the truth behind the formation of the White Lantern and what it means to the twelve returnees and the rest of the DC Universe. Plus, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Firestorm discover the price for their resurrections...and why they may be doing more harm than good to the world.Deadman hears a few sentences from the White Lantern, and the Hawks discover something’s still kinda Black Lantern-y with their salivary glands, but if the truth behind the white power battery and what’s up with the returnees is revealed, I didn’t catch it. Additionally, Martian Manhunter and Firestorm aren’t in this issue.
What is in this issue? Well, Hawk, Dove and Deadman try to use the white ring to raise the dead, Hawkman and Hawkgirl find themselves caught up in the middle of a war between two different races of furries, and Aquaman and Mera are solving the crisis in the gulf, but are ambushed by warriors from Mera’s dimension before Aquaman can beat up Tony Hayward.
I can’t tell who is drawing which sections of the book—with the exception of recognizing Patrick Gleason’s Martian Manhunter sections, when he appears—but props to whoever is handling the Hawk-couple’s segment for designing this super-scary bird man-ster.Nostrils, teeth and a huge, beak-like tooth…? Gah!
Unfortunate name for the Evil Mera seen in this issue, though. DC’s already got an evil underwater lady with that name, after all. Here's the "Siren" created by Devin Grayson and Mark Buckingham as a Tempest villain in their short run on a Titans title, as drawn by Phil Jimenez on the cover of the fifth issue of the series:
Green Lantern #55 (DC) Everyone loves Hal Jordan!
Lobo thinks he’s handsome!
And Sinestro thinks Hal's so bad-ass that even Lobo is scared of Hal, despite the fact that Lobo could wipe the floor with Jordan!This is pretty fun issue, although a seeminglh short one. Pencil artist Doug Mahnke and his posse of inkers give up some space to a back-up story, so Lobo only fights a Green, Red, Yellow and Pink Lanterns for the first 16 pages or so. Writer Geoff Johns moves the current storyline—in which the new New Guardians apparently team-up to collect the space avatar thingees before an unknown bad guy can get them all—a step closer, with Red Lantern Atrocitus joining up with Hal, Carol and Sinestro.
Lobo makes fun of them all until the fight ends under suspiciously stacked odds (although the fact that Lobo gets scared off is explained).
The back-up? A “Tales of Red Lantern Corps” story by Johns and artist Shawn Davis, telling the secret origin of Dex-Starr, the acidic blood-vomiting, rage-fueled Red Lantern who is also a house cat. I sort of wished Amanda Conner had drawn this six-pager, as she’s probably the DCU’s best drawer of feline characters at the moment, but it was a fun story none-the-less.
Heralds #5 (Marvel Comics) I could probably just cut-and-paste sections of my review of the previous issues here, but I’ll attempt to restate and summarize.
This is the fifth and final issue of a weekly series about a half-dozen or so completely random Marvel heroines teaming-up to deal with an old Fantastic Four character getting a new lease on life. It should be collected and sold in trade paperback in about 45 minutes or so, although I’m hesitant to actually recommend it, given that the most appealing aspect of the finished book was that it was published weekly.
It’s quite well written, but there’s such a disconnect from the title and the way that it was sold that it’s strayed rather far from the normal frame of reference for Big Two super-comics (That is, in a way, something of a good thing).
It’s called Heralds, but there’s only one herald actually in it; if it were setting up a new all-girl superhero team, then the practically random plural word attached to a book full of a random assortment of superheroes might make sense but, as is, it’s seems like a placeholder title. What is this book actually about, you know?
It doesn’t become apparent until about halfway through, but it’s about Nova (not the human rocket, but an old FF character), who, in her (new?) civilian identity is the closest thing we get to a protagonist.
Writer Kathyrn Immonen fills the book with fun moments, clever dialogue and a decent character arc for the Nova/Frances Hyatt character, but it’s an overall confusingly structured. Why isn’t this just called Nova, and why is the focus shift so oddly from Emma Frost to Frances to something more omniscient?
I appreciate the weirdness of Immomen’s work here, as well as how different it is than the bulk of superhero comics, but reading the book was a somewhat uneasy experience, and I think it ran the risk of seeming meaningless. I certainly don’t expect a Heralds II reuniting these characters, or a Nova series in the near future.
More problematic was the art, which continued to shift back and forth between that of Tonci Zonjic and James Harren. Both are excellent artists, and both would have done a fine job on the series, but Harren’s designs are much, much looser and cartoony than Zonjic’s, and they aren’t compatible. The tone that the images establish therefore shifts repeatedly in this issue, and through the entire series.
A quick aside! I love the way Zonjic draws Reed Richards in this panel, though:Everything is drawn perfectly “straight,” but his right elbow is all floopy because, you know, stretchy powers. Awesome. Zonjic for Plastic Man! Or Fantastic Four!
So I don’t know guys. It’s definitely worth a read, but I don’t know about a trade purchase—in one big chunk, the problems will only be magnified. Maybe check your local library in six months or so, or keep an eye out in dollar bins in the future?
Justice League of America #46 (DC) Well, I meant to drop this title and check back in after the JSA crossover, but I apparently bought it off the shelf enough times in a row that my comic shop accidentally added it to my pull-file.
So I guess I’ll keep reading? Maybe it’s a sign from the universe that I’m not meant to drop JLoA just yet?
This is part one of a story entitled “The Dark Things,” although the story actually began two issues ago. I don’t know, there’s a lot about James Robinson’s still-young run on JLoA that I don’t get—like introducing a huge new team consisting of eleven heroes, some of them brand-new to the Justice League, only to have six or seven of them abandon the team immediately in the next issue or so (Cyborg at least seems to just be taking time off to co-star in the JLoA back-up feature). The weird line-up gymnastics the book has been up to since Robinson took over puts it in an especially strange place for a team-up with the JSA, since there isn’t really a JLA for the JSA to team-up with here.
The League is currently current Batman and long-time Titan (although he did belong to the League for a short time) Dick Grayson, long-time Titan Donna Troy, Congorilla and Starman Mikaal Tomas, with on-again, off-again Titan Supergirl joining this issue.
They team up with former Outsider and Infinity Inc. member Jade and the 500 members of the JSA to battle Green Lantern and JSA member Alan Scott, who has been possessed by his power source.
There’s not much too the story. The assemblage of superheroes is flying around Earth fighting other super-characters who are likewise possessed by the Starheart, and far too many of them over-narrate their scenes as if this was a Chris Claremont comic…except Chris Claremont himself doesn’t even do that anymore (see below).
I do enjoy Mark Bagley’s art though, and, like Trinity, this book essentially seems geared toward allowing Bagley to draw the whole DC Universe, and I’m okay with that.
The back-up is a six-page story by Robinson and artists Pow Rodrix and Belardino which splits its attention evenly between three pages of Cyborg and Red Tornado fighting and three pages of Cyborg and Red Tornado’s wife talking about whether or not it’s wrong for her to love and fuck a weepy android that is always being destroyed.
Confidential to James Robinson: Maybe you should try speaking your dialogue out loud before sending a script in? My creative writing teachers used to say that was a good way to tell how natural your dialogue is.
King City #10 (Image Comics) Still the best comic on the new comics rack. In this issue, Joe continues to try and infiltrate the evil building (he tries the button with an image of a skull on it in the evil elevator), and then must try and infiltrate an alien bordello to aide Pete and Earthling, who have snuck in using a brilliant disguise to try and save Pete’s girl from captivity.
Cool weird monsters! Weirder alien prostitutes! Dozens of puns! An awesome one-page sequence in which Joe tries to knock out a guard by dropping a heavy object on him! Thirty-two pages of great drawing! A back-cover suitable for framing!(Ha ha ha! The Meow Haraja! Wearing cats pajamas!)
I can think of no better use of two dollars and ninety-nine cents than an issue of Brandon Graham’s King City.
Secret Six #23 (DC) I dropped this book when Nicola Scott stopped drawing it (her replacement, Jim Calafiore, is an artist whose style I’ve grown less and less fond of the more and more I’ve seen of it, to the point where I’m pretty sure I’ve read all the Calafiore comics I need to read).
This issue is a done-in-one drawn by a different artist, R.B. Silva inked by Alexandre Palamaro, and was a disposable inventory story set before the current Secret Six story arc and written by John Ostrander, so it seemed like a pretty good place to check in with the title and the characters.
I suppose there are two ways of looking at an issue like this though. It’s a good jumping-on point in that it introduces the characters quickly and thoroughly and serves as a complete story, but, if you’re already on board, then I can see one being disappointed by the fact that this is so clearly a place-holding story, marking time until regular writer Gail Simone is ready to keep the story going.
The story, “Predators,” is pop culture riff number #897, 645 on the “Most Dangerous Game” set-up of rich, bored, amoral hunters hunting human beings for sport.
Ostrander DCU-izes it, so the hunters use a high-tech sci-fi weapons and their remote island is stocked with the Six.
Unsurprisingly, the Six kill their would-be killers, but it’s still fun watching how Ostrander gets to the obvious conclusion. I was surprised at how well Ostrander wrote all of the characters; he clearly “got” them all and did a fairly remarkable job of keeping Simone’s tone of black humor and blacker action. She didn’t write the issue, but Ostrander wrote it as she would have written it—although much more economically—making it pretty much exactly what you’d want from a fill-in issue.
Silva’s artwork is serviceable but unspectacular; there’s a weird tendency to squash everyone’s faces (Calafiore style, I guess), but it gets the job done and doesn’t make any major missteps, which is good enough.
The Smurfs #1 (Papercutz) This “special $1 preview comic” falls into the You’d Have To Be A Fool Not To Buy It category. For just one dollar, 1/3 to 1/4 the price of your average super-comic, you get a 20-page, full-color, ad-free story by European comics master Peyo.
It’s called “The Smurfnapper” and is the first appearance of The Smurfs’ cartoon heavy Gargamel and Azrael.
Being the age I am, I was a kid during the American Smurf craze of the eighties, and saw a lot of cartoons (I was never a big fan, but any cartoon was better than most Saturday morning programming) and Smurfs merchandise, and was sort of surprised by the classic, fairy tale-flavor of this story.
Gargamel, a powerful sorcerer who has apparently already perfected the art of making potions that can turn him into a giant, shrink people and make people invisible wants to create a philosopher’s stone in order to turn lead into gold, and one of the ingredients is a Smurf. He sets a trap, catches one and then its up to Papa Smurf and the rest of the village to rescue the captured Smurf—which they ultimately do by beating the holy hell out of Gargamel.
It’s great cartooning and a great little all-ages story and man, you can’t beat the price.
I was surprised at how often they use the word “smurf” too…...I guess the cartoon producers actually toned down the usage of the word "smurf" in the dialogue.
X-Women #1 (Marvel) Chris Claremont teams with Milo Manara for a 48-page, done-in-one mini-epic featuring a half-dozen female X-Men on an adventure in Madripoor. The leads are often scantily clad, often wet, and often embracing or touching one another suggestively. It is gorgeously drawn, being perhaps the best-looking X-Men comic I’ve ever read that wasn’t drawn by Frank Quitely, and surprisingly well-written, being one of the better X-comics I’ve read not written by Grant Morrison, and by far the best Claremont-written X-book I’ve ever read (Which may sound like a sweeping statement, but I’ve rarely read a Claremont-written X-book that I didn’t want to throw out the window, so my opinion of his work likely varies from that of previous generations of X-Men readers).
I want to talk in greater specificity about this project later, particularly how well it does exploitation and sexy imagery in comparison to the clumsy, half-assed, half-ashamed way it’s typically handled in superhero comics, but I don’t want to make this post any longer than it is, so we’ll save a longer, more scan-filled discussion of X-Women until a later day.
In short though, it’s one of the better-looking comics I’ve read this week, and a rare example of superhero comics for grown-ups (as opposed to superhero comics for all-ages) done right. And for less than the price of two issues of Ed Benes’ new Birds of Prey run!)
Question for the X-Men fans in the reading audience! Is Psylocke Asian? Manara draws her as if she is, but I never would have known that from looking at any picture of her I’ve ever seen prior to this comic book.