Saturday, August 28, 2010

Comic shop comics: August 25th

Batman #702 (DC Comics) This is the end of Grant Morrison’s three-issue return to Batman, and the two-issue “R.I.P.: The Missing Chapter,” in which Morrison makes the connections between Final Crisis and “Batman: R.I.P.” and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne as clear as possible. It’s a weird mixture of exposition and flashbacks stitched together into the shape of a story, but it works surprisingly well, thanks in large part to Batman’s narration, which begins as Batman recording a message to Superman.

Tony Daniel is still on art, and it is, again, his best work so far, with very few weak panels.

Like this one! Yes, Daniel draws the worst Superman, and it still sort of boggles my mind that he's the dude drawing Batman for DC when you can google "Superman" and "Fan art" and find a mess of Superman drawings that are at least as good as that (You can also find a picture of the pony-tail having version of Nightwing making out with Superman under those particular search terms, for some reason). And he gives Batman some severe underbite in a few of these panels. But Daniel's getting there! I could totally read every page of this comic, and only rarely found things to shake my head sadly at (like that Superman).

Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam! #19 (DC) If and when they ever get around to making a live-action Captain Marvel movie, I wonder if they’ll cast Christopher Lee? I’m getting a real Saruman The White vibe from Mike Norton’s version of Shazam.

Justice League of America #48 (DC) Aaaa! Aaaa! Sooo many narration caption boxes! Why would you do this, James Robinson? Why would anyone do this?!

Also, what was up with this stupid scene?IfBatman Dick Grayson wanted a speedster to join the Justice League of America, I wonder why he chose Jesse Quick instead of one of the three guys named "The Flash" who are alive and running around these days. Especially since one of those guys named The Flash is a founding member of the Justice League and another of them is Dick’s best friend. Hell, even if Dick was just being lazy and asking Jesse because she was in the same room as him at the time, Jay "The Flash" Garrick was in the same room at the same time!

I don't much mind—like I said at Blog@ the other day, seeing Jesse Quick fight Earth-Evil's version of The Flash will be a bit more interesting than watching one of the JLA's regular Flashes do it—I just think it's a really strange thing to toss off like that, given how many JLA readers are going to be thinking "Wait, what about Wally or Barry?" as they read that exchange. Maybe Robinson had Dick call them in one of the JSoA chapters of this "The Dark Things" storyline; I didn't read any of those.

Superman/Batman #75 (DC) I haven’t been reading this title regularly for a few years now (#35 was my last issue, although I did pick up #66 and #67, the Bizarro/Man-Bat team-up), but this special milestone issue was over-sized and packed with contributions from some great creators, so it seemed like a good time to pick up an issue again.

I probably needn’t have really bothered, as there’s only one real story in it, and it’s a pretty so-so one; after a 25-page Legion of Super-Hero Stories (and what an odd title to find a LOSH story in!), there are a bunch of two-page spreads by a bunch of interesting creators, although the best of these could easily have been read while standing in the comic shop—you’d probably be able to get through ‘em all before your foot fell asleep or the shop’s proprietor was able to point out that this is not, in fact, a library.

The cover by Frank Quitely, the artist who drew probably the best Superman story of all-time and the first arc of Morrison’s Batman and Robin, is rather typical of the offerings. On the one hand, a Frank Quitely cover is a really great idea, however this one of a couple of busts floating in front of a head and behind a couple of tiny figures is far from Quitely’s best work. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a weak Quitely cover, to be honest.

The lead story, as I mentioned, is a LOSH one, and while Superman, Batman, Superboy and Lex Luthor all play rather minor roles. Given that writer Paul Levitz currently has two other comics starring the Legion of Super-Heroes that he writes, I was sorta surprised to see how LOSH-centric this story was, and that it didn’t do anything too unusual with the Legionnaires and their relations to Superman and Batman (LOSH and Adventure Comics).

The art for this story is provided by Jerry Ordway, whose work I love and usually goes quite a long way in getting me to forgive minor problems with a book, but here Ordway is colored by Pete Pantazis so that the panels more closely resemble painted art, and the result is that Ordway’s usually bold and distinctive lines become fuzzy and indistinct.

As for the rest of the book…

Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen write a two-page story entitled “It’s A Bat…”, which is meant to be a riff on their It’s a Bird…. It basically consists of an editor calling up Seagle and asking him to contribute to Superman/Batman #75, and Seagle refusing. Meta!

Billy Tucci draws a nine-panel gag strip about cosplaying, half of which is colored fuzzily.

Adam Hughes draws a nice ten-panel, six-word piece featuring the parallel lives of Batgirl Barbara Gordon and the Silver Age Supergirl.

J.T. Krul and Francis Manapul have Superboy talking to Superman and Red Robin Tim Drake talking to Batman Dick Grayson about that one time Tim kissed Superboy’s girlfriend Wonder Girl, while Superboy was dead. Manapul’s art is nice; both story threads are done in black and white, but instead of “black,” the Batman scenes are done in dark blue and the Super-scenes in a light red. I’m not sure it amounts to a story, but Krul’s dialogue is decent enough and it amounts to an okay vignette. Nothing like this happens in it: Jill Thompson contributes two pin-ups, one of Catwoman and one of Lois Lane, both painted in a much more realistic style than she’s been working with in a while. There both gorgeous, but they are just pin-ups…I woulda preferred Jill Thompson do some comics. (Maybe DC can invite her back to do a whole issue at some point in the future…?)

Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Shane Davis, Sandra Hope and Rafael Albuquerque do something so weird I couldn’t begin to make sense of it…I think it references previous issues of the series I didn’t read.

Duncan Rouleau does “Krypto (The Super Dog) Vs. Ace (The Bat Hound),” a team-up I assumed Thompson would be handling, given her recent work with Evan Dorkin. Rouleau premises the piece as a series of eight challenges between the two super-pets, to determine “Who is best at being a superhero’s best friend?” and presents a bunch of jokes. None of them are really very funny, but his art is pretty great, as he explode the dogs’ designs into something super-cartoony, and I love his Bathound mask and utility collar.

Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo present the very best piece of the book, “Joker and Lex,” which is a diminutive Lex Luthor hanging out with a tall, lanky Joker, in the format and style of a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip. Can Bermejo really do a convincing Bill Watterson impression?

And how.

Letterer Nick J. Nap did a swell job on Watterson-style lettering too.

Okay, two more left…

David Finch writes and draws “Eternal,” in which future Batman Damian Wayne and future Superman Conner Kent/Kon-El/Superboy meet up to shoot the shit about how awesome their dads were. Possible future stories that only last eight panels are…weird.

Finally, Peter J. Tomasi wrote and Gene Ha drew a story about a father and son playing superhero together that I’d really like to make fun of given how earnest and precious the writing is (and how unappealing Ha’s artwork is when applied to drawing real people realistically), but I suspect it may be autobiographical, and the last thing I want to do is make fun of a little kid. So I’ll just note that this isn’t as good as the Joker and Lex strip.

It’s weird though. If James Kochalka wrote this exact same story, I probably would have loved it. I guess it boils down to a taste in style, or perhaps Kochalka’s work just has more life to it? Or I find life in his work where Ha’s work here just looks like creepy wax dummies to me? I dunno…I like Ha too. Just not drawing hairy bearded nerd dads and their little boys I guess.

And that’s Superman/Batman #75. All in all, I’d rather have $5 in my wallet than it in a longbox, but that’s the way the comic book…um...crumbles…?


LurkerWithout said...

Its been awhile since I bothered with JSA, but didn't Jesse's costume originally have pants? Or is that just a bad color job? Also who's the dude in the shades next to Atom-Smasher?

Matthew said...

I don't read JLA or JSA, but I have a ridiculous memory for pointless things, so I wonder if the costume you're thinking of is the one she wore as Liberty Belle. That costume had a blue top with cream jodphurs - possibly in the style of Amelia Earhart, with the flappy side bits.

On Tony S. Daniel - is it the inking? I was reading a bit of BATMAN RIP this morning, and it occurred to me that the inking is a bit too sharp. I wondered if a more graceful, painterly, even feminine(?) ink style might serve him better.