Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Comic shop comics: Nov. 10

The All New Batman: The Brave and The Bold #1 (DC Comics) Okay, I see a problem right here on the cover: Shouldn’t it be All-New, rather than All New, since the words are describing Batman: The Brave and The Bold?

No complaints or even questions about what’s under the cover of the first issue, though. Writer Sholly Fisch maintains the basic two team-up format of the previous version of the comic (and the cartoon that spawned it), with an introductory scene involving Batman teaming up with one hero (here, Black Canary, to battle The Joker and his robot army) before being called away to a different adventure with a different hero.

As the cover shows, that other hero is Superman, who invites Batman into the Bottle City of Kandor—where Superman has no more powers than Batman—in order to help him solve a mysterious crime.

Fisch’s scripting is solid. This is hardly the wackiest or funniest issue of the Batman team-up comic, but it’s amusing, and plays fair as far as the mystery is concerned (in that respect, it’s superior to Identity Crisis).

The real treat here, for me at least, was seeing new artist Rick Burchett tackle this particular version of Batman.

Burchett is, of course, a great talent, and one of those artists that I can’t quite figure out why they aren’t more popular (in addition to being an artist who I’m always eager to see more work from).

His presence on this title is particularly interesting to me because I’m always fascinated by the ways different artists portray the same things, or how different artists try to attune their individual styles to something like pre-existing character designs or models.

Burchett has plenty of experience with DC comics based on previous animated Batman TV shows, for example, but like The Batman, Batman: The Brave and The Bold is quite far removed from the Bruce Timm-designed world of Batman: The Animated Series and its immediate descendants.

Burchett actually acquits himself quite nicely. His Batman here resembles something between the Animated Series version and the Brave and the Boldversion. He’s slightly elongated and rounder and smoother than the latter, but has the same square head and expressive face. Superman, meanwhile, resembles the one from his animated series, although with more personality in his expressions as well.

All in all, it’s a quite decent all-ages super-comic: Fine for kids, with enough craft and entertainment value to entertain picky adults like me as well.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (DC) Grant Morrison ties everything together—and I do mean everything—in this final, finally-shipped last issue. Batman makes it explicit that he has, in fact, been going through what Mister Miracle went through in 2005’s Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle series. When time gets a little flooey, there are scenes flashing back to 2006’s 52. Why did Dr. Hurt think, say and sometimes act like he was actually the devil during “Batman R.I.P.” and the build-up to it? That’s explained here, as the connection to Final Crisis is made explicit—turns out there’s more to it than Darkseid “killing” Batman back to the stone-age.

Batman dies and comes back to life again. The universe is rebooted again. Grant Morrison’s long multi-book, multi-year plotting pays off in a very satisfying way, and we get to see his Batman interacting with Wonder Woman, Superman, Tim Drake and plenty of other heroes and villains while cosmic stuff happens all around them, evoking fond memories of Morrison’s JLA run, which was some of my favorite superhero comics of all time (and some of my fondest memories of reading comics period).

The art in this particular issue is from Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, Alejandro Sicat and Walden Wong, and while it is a bit uneven—especially compared to the previous issues in the series—no one fucks anything up, and it all works fine.

Henry & Glenn Forever (Cantankerous Titles) What does it say about the relative comedic power of this particular comic book that you don’t even really need to read it to enjoy it?

Having now read the $6, 56-page little square trade paperback, I can honestly say that nothing in it struck me as hard as the first time I heard that title, saw that cover and heard the words “romance comic starring Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig.”

Does that speak to a weakness of the material, and it’s failure to really capitalize on an inspired, hilarious idea? Or does that simply speak to the strength of that idea—a comic gag so great you don’t even need to read the comic that it emanates from to enjoy it?

I don’t know. I know when I brought it into my house the other day, a guest saw the cover and broke into a long, giggling laugh, followed by a deep breath, and a second long, giggling laugh. complete with a “He’s giving him a back rub!” as punctuation.

The comic? A series of one-panel cartoons featuring the title characters, who are a couple, with occasional appearances by their Satanist neighbors, Hall and Oates.

The work is all credited to Igloo Tornado, a four-person collective. Each artist has a very different style of drawing, and makes different jokes regarding the two characters and their relationship, but all stem from the odd-couple nature of the two characters’ physical appearances, and the dissonance between their public personas and the insecure, emotional, relationship-focused scenario here. (You know what’s funny? This is hardly an extended “Ha ha, Danzig and Rollins are gay” joke; the fact that they are in a relationship with one another and they are both men is pretty much secondary to the weirdness of the pair in any sort of romantic, domestic narrative).

I don’t know exactly who did which strips, but I know Tom Neely is responsible for the ones I liked the best:Regardless of what they’re saying or doing, I love Neely’s comic strip/cartoon character versions of the characters, which makes for a visual odd-couple gag. I love the expressive little-button eyes on his Glenn, who looks like an early Walt Disney design of Danzig (Steamboat Danzig…?), and the fact that his big, old Henry Rollins looks so much like Dick Tracy.

Knight and Squire #2 (DC) If the Knight and Squire characters are Silver Age creations, and their modern, Grant Morrison-created versions are meant to be the results of a parallel, decades’ worth of imaginary comics that never actually saw print, but which can hypothetically have existed, is it strange that the Knight and Squire still seem to be Silver Age characters, having Silver Age-style adventures?

This isn’t a criticism, mind you; I’m glad writer Paul Cornell and artist Jimmy Broxton are telling a story that tries to mirror the DCU of 2010 in a British setting, it just strikes me as odd that the Silver Age seems to have never really ended in DC’s UK, at least judging by the first two issues of this six-issue miniseries.

But perhaps that’s appropriate—England is an old-fashioned country, right?

In this issue, another strong done-in-one with a beginning, middle and end that should read just as well in isolation as it did on the heels of the previous issue, we get to see a little of the title characters outside of their costumes before they take a case.

It’s a very local color sort of case, so much so that there’s a text page at the end explaining the situation to those of us who don’t quite know the ins and outs of the Lobsterback life-style and traditions we escaped from in the late 18th century. It also involves the supernatural, which is a neat twist given the nature of the conflict, but does make for two issues in a row where England’s Batman and Robin deal with the sort of thing you might expect England’s Dr. Strange to deal with.

That said, there’s a very relaxed, leisurely tone to Cornell’s Knight and Squire scripts so far, to the extent that reading the books seems to be an experience akin to just sort of hanging out with the characters, as opposed to sitting back while they struggle to thrill or entertain their passive audience on the other side of a fourth wall.

I can’t say enough good things about Broxton’s art. It’s clean, smooth and cartoony, but not so much that the exaggerations or abstractions color the tone of the story and suggest that it’s a comedy. Rather, the visual tone is one of serious (if light-hearted) superhero adventure, with some funny bits to it. Broxton’s art reminds me quite a bit of Cameron Stewart’s, which is a good thing, because Cameron Stewart is the best.

Perhaps the most ridiculous scene in the issue involves the Knight and Squire disguising themselves:I love what the Knight’s wannabe Bat-ears do to the hat, and the fact that I can’t imagine that same scene with Batman occurring in a DCU comic.

Tiny Titans/Little Archie #2 (DC) With the second issue, it’s made even clearer still that this is basically just an extra issue of Tiny Titans each month. Same creators, same style, same format—the only real difference is a couple of the guest-stars. And given my affection for the regular, old Tiny Titans series, you’ll get no complaints out of me regarding a couple of extra issues of it every month for the next few months (Unless DC and Archie Comics want to go ahead and make this an ongoing…? I seriously don’t mind them doing that at all!).

In this particular issue, confusion over the band name “Josie and the Pussycats” gets the girls an invite to join Pet Club, and gives Art Baltazar the opportunity to design “Little” versions of the Pussycats, here wearing little mitten gloves that I can’t imagine makes playing guitar or bass very easy.

In the second half of the book, Archie and his friends return, now dressed in their superhero costumes. There’s also an Archie villain I’ve never heard of, disposed of in a rather adorable way.

But perhaps most notably, this issue contains this:Wow, it’s so much easier than it looks!

1 comment:

Eyz said...

Ah :)
Love the Tiny Titans^^