Thursday, August 05, 2010

Comic shop comics: July 28-August 4

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 (DC Comics) Hey, how come this thing is called The Return of Bruce Wayen and not Bruce Wayne Returns? The latter is a little more active, and shorter, but beyond that, the “_____________ Returns” title formulation was used on one of the most influential comic books of the last 35 years or so, a book that’s still probably one of the most important Batman stories ever told.

I’m kind of surprised that DC would do a Batman comic in which the title alludes to someone returning, and not immediately think Bruce Wayne Returns.

Oh, the comic itself? Eh, it’s okay. I really liked the bat-symbol shaped geological formation on the doesn’t-really-have-anything-to-do-with-the-actual-comic cover, and while the story inside was event-packed and presumably full of call-backs to all sorts of Morrison DC Comics, I think this is the point in the story where I get lost enough that it no longer seems worth trying to keep it all straight.

In addition to the return of Vandal Savage, who has been traveling through time the old-fashioned way, this issue features a doctor named Thomas who is probably the Dr. Hurt/Dr. Thomas Wayne/Whoever character, who seems to know a little bit more about what’s going on than the other Old West characters (Well, Old East, I guess).

The pencil artist changed rather late in the game, so it’s probably unfair to be too hard on Georges Jeanty, Walden Wong and colorist Tony Avina, but this looks like a rush job. With various art mistakes and/or poor choices making it difficult to keep certain characters straight in certain scenes. It usually doesn’t take more than a few seconds to see who actually got shot and died in these instances, but spending a few extra second puzzling out the exact action in a panel doesn’t lead to a very good reading experience, especially compared to how seamlessly the earlier issues in this limited series moved.

Oh and hey, there’s some mention of raping in this issue. Between this and Jonah Hex, a character who is in this issue, though not made very good use of, it’s my understanding that late 19th century America was just about the rape-iest setting of all time.

Brightest Day #7 (DC) Okay, this is the issue where the voice of the White Power Battery, definitively identified as The Entity seen at the end of Blackest Night, explains what’s up with the resurrections. Ready? The entity has “watched over this world from the beginning of existence,” but it is dying and a replacement must be chosen. Each of those brought back from the dead has “returned to protect this world until the arrival of its new champion.”

Thus, each of the characters in this series—plus those whose stories are being told in other books like The Flash and Titans—gets a temporary White Lantern uniform (and I’m not gonna lie, the alternate costumes that have been popping up in various Geoff Johns-written books for the past few years have really excited me for shallow, “Look, it’s the same, but slightly new and different!” reasons) and a one-sentence mission statement.

How the various tasks all fit together will remain to be seen, which means Johns and co-writer Peter Tomasi give us information that leads to more questions, which generally makes for pretty effective serial comics-writing. (Who’s this new champion gonna be? I don’t know; The Anti-Monitor and Dove are the only returnees not given specific instructions, and the emerging Aqualad seems like a pretty good bet in that he’s a new character original to this series).

So this was a pretty big issue in terms of exposition and suspense ratcheting-up (and costume design!), but relatively little else happened.

Oh, and there were only two Firestorm pages, so only 1/11th of the book was gross-looking this week.

Gorilla-Man #2 (Marvel Comics) This issue features an above-the-logo blurb credited to a “CBR” (Comic Book Resources, maybe…?) that reads, “This is one simian who kicks &#% and has fun doing it.”

Is that really all that unusual? Particularly in comics? Don’t most simians seem to take at least a certain amount of simian delight in kicking ass—er, &#%? I’m trying to think of a comic book scene I’ve read that featured an ape or monkey kicking &#% glumly, morosely, regretfully. I can’t think of any.

Anyway, Jeff Parker continues to tell the origin story of Ken “Gorilla-Man” Hale, by having Hale tell it to another character while in the middle of a mission. And Giancarlo Caracuzzo continues to draw these stories, and do a great job of it.

As with the first issue, there’s a one-page Twitter interview with Hale and a six-page re-print of an old Tales To Astonish story about a mad scientist trying to transfer his mind with that of a gorilla to almost, but not quite, make one feel better about having spent $4 on such a short comic book.

Green Lantern #56 (DC) I didn’t really care for Geoff Johns’ weird psychic-voyeur take on giant-headed antagonist Hector Hammond from early on in the pre-otherly colored Corps days of his Green Lantern run, but he makes use of him again here by allying him with one of the Corps (sorta; he gets a costume, anyway), and any creepiness is more than balanced out by Orange Lantern Larfleeze’s hung for a new Guardian, one capable of giving him everything he’s ever wanted.

The Doug Mahnke/Christian Alamy remains the best—and thus perhaps most underrated—one working for DC Comics these days.

I love the fact that Mahnke can do great character expression with a tusk-bearing, hairy humanoid alien like Larfleeze……and also loving draw a junk pile, including such details as a toilet bowl full of television remotes and a refrigerator full of stuffed animals.

Justice League of America #47 (DC) You know what a good sign that maybe your comic book has too many narrators in it? Panels like this.

Justice League: Generation Lost #6 (DC) I went with the big version of this Cliff Chiang cover above because, wow, that thing is just dynamite. Not so much the agonized Captain Atom because really, who hasn’t seen all the agonized Captain Atom poses they need to see at this point? But the background, with the cityscape changing from swirling, concentric circle to swirling, concentric circle, until dinosaurs are the new old rocket ships? And Cap is tumbling into it? That is lovely, lovely stuff.

The insides aren’t so pretty, but they weren’t ugly either. I could make sense of them and didn’t feel despair while doing so, so, um, I guess that’s a win, right? This issue is a little tangent to the narrative of the first five issues—we learn Captain Atom’s origin, and what he learned the last time he was temporarily blasted into a different time. Specifically, we learn the exact stakes of this little mini-League’s conflict with Max Lord (particularly interesting, coupled with what the Entity told Lord he had to do over in Brightest Day) and that Captain Atome elected not to share this information with the rest of his allies.

Nancy In Hell #1 (Image Comics) This comic book is definitely exploitive—the five-page preview on the publisher’s site includes a scene where two scantily-clad devil girls feel up the scantily-clad heroine, one speaking directly into her crotch about how they’re going to eat her soul.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, in and of itself.

Like the recent X-Women one-shot, the exploitation here gets a pass not because it’s got some smart points to make about sexual or gender politics or because it’s hilarious and extremely well-written (the way that Adam Warren’s Empowered is), but simply because it’s a) appropriate to the subject matter and b) really well done.

The story, written by El Torres, is that our heroine Nancy—a blonde wearing only a black leather bra, a white tank top that never seems to cover any part of her bra, a tiny pair of denim shorts shaped more like panties, a pair of work gloves, and a nice big pair of boots with lovingly rendered straps—has awoken in hell, after being killed in an ‘80s-movie style teens-get-slaughtered scenario. In hell, she meets a guy called The Philosopher, who gives her the lay of the land, offers a plausible explanation for why hell is what it is in this comic book, and even offers a William Blake-like point-of-view about how hell could actually be your heaven, depending on how you look at it.

Then he and a bunch of other people making the best of hell get killed by some elaborately designed hellhounds and their nose-less keeper Mr. Macabre, and Nancy on the run, fending off hellhounds and zombies with a chainsaw.

And then there’s a hell of a cliffhanger, in which Nancy meets up with another prisoner of hell, one who also calls to mind William Blake.

Torres’ story has some interesting ideas bouncing around in it, making it an entertaining enough read even if the main character is still a bit of a blank still. The extremely detailed Ryp art, divided between posing a barely-clad woman as suggestively as possible and baroquely detailing the lands and peoples of Hell, is the reason to check this out.

School Rumble Vol. 14, 15 and 16 (Del Rey) This is the first of the new format Del Rey is releasing School Rumble in: Three of the regular $11, 180-ish page volumes jammed together as a big, fat, 500-page, $20 book. As Johanna Draper Carlson pointed out recently, that's a hell of a value. Even if you buy it at a brick-and-mortar store, it's still like buying two volumes and getting a third one free.

And it seems like they rather literally just smooshed three volumes together, as each has its own page numbers and end notes, as if they were prepped for individual release before the new format was decided upon.

The value is great, but I'll have to wait for the next one to see how I like the size of the things. It's an awful big chunk of story. (If you were wondering where why EDILW went update-less yesterday, that's why—I ended up reading through my blogging time in attempt to get through this volume before writing this.) The effect is a little like beginning to rush through the series, which is apparently starting to wind down. It's a Thanksgiving dinner-sized portion, of something I'm used to experiencing in snack portions.

That's a good thing at the moment, but I worry I may get hungry soon.

1 comment:

Jacob T. Levy said...

So Brightest Day is just Lost? That seems kind of lame.