That guy is a serial henchmen, wearing a silly costume and joining the gangs of Toyman, Clock King and Ocean Master, changing jobs and cities every time Batman and an ally (Superman, Green Arrow and Aquaman, in order) bust up his latest boss.
As usually, Fisch assembles a very strong done-in-one type of story, effortlessly hitting all the pre-requisites of the Batman team-up premise, while still managing to tell a story. Given the target audience, I’m not sure Fisch even needs to do more than that, but this struck me as a particularly effective, socially conscious story about how much good a noble, engaged rich guy can do. Batman’s adventures may be more thrilling, but Bruce Wayne seems able to do a lot more good, and it was kind of refreshing to read a story in which the superhero does something good that doesn’t merely involve brutalizes bullies, giving a taste of their own medicine to villains that dole out violence to the innocent.
Also, no lie, that last panel kinda choked me up a little.
I fell pretty far behind on my Batman: The Brave and The Bold cartoon viewing, so I don’t recall ever actually having seen that show’s designs for Ocean Master, but I was pretty surprised to see what he looked like here.
Here’s Burchett’s drawing of him: Also, lest one think from reading my review that this comic is a slog through old-fashioned superhero relevance, do note the shark repellent gag riffing on something from the original Batman TV show, which takes place in a scene where a character from the current Batman TV show shouts his catchphrase:Comics gold, baby.
Batman 80-Page Giant 2011 #1 (DC) I generally try to steer clear of these things, as DC has taken to using them as new talent proving grounds, and, while seeing what new writers and artists might come up with is potentially exciting, DC generally makes it hard to get too excited with their efforts at promoting them.
For example, here’s what dccomics.com has to say abou the book still, even though it’s been on new comics shelves for several days now:
Don’t want to mention any of those newest voices or freshest talents? Maybe some of their credits? Or even mention what characters might show up? (Catwoman, Solomon Grundy, Mr. Zsasz, The Scarecrow, The Riddler and The Question II; there, I’ve now told you more about this book than DC Comics has).
Written by VARIOUS; Art by VARIOUS; Cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN
Don't miss this new helping of short stories featuring Batman and his partners in crimefighting, told by some of comics' newest voices and freshest talents.
The only reason I picked it up was because I knew one of the stories was going to be written by a couple of guys I used to work with at Newsarama, and the only reason I knew that was because I saw it on Facebook, not because dccomics.com deigned to update their online solicitations with any actual info (The impression I get, hideously unfair or not, is that no one has any idea what any of these Giant anthologies will have in them when the publisher offers solicitations, just three months before the release date, because they are cobbled together from inventory stories).
Well, I’m happy to report that there are more good stories in here than bad ones, so this didn’t feel like $6 wasted or anything.
Let’s take ‘em one at a time.
“Intervention” by Eric Hobbs and Ted Naifeh
Here’s one that would definitely have benefited from name-dropping the artist, as Naifeh isn’t exactly a newest voice or a freshest talent, but an experienced, accomplished writer and artist with a sizable resume full of comics, most of which have bigger and broader audiences than your average $6 Batman anthology.
It’s a strong lead story too, as it’s one of the strongest in the book.
Bruce Wayne is helping a teenage girl with a drug problem get clean, finish school and go to college—when she tells her family about this, they are less than supportive, and assume she’s selling herself to Wayne in exchange for his financial support.
There’s a very engaging parallel drawn between the girl’s drug addiction and Batman’s addiction to being Batman, presented as a verbal barb delivered by Alfred, and then explored in Batman’s own narration, which sounds a lot like someone trying to convince themselves that something they know is true isn’t.
The sole downside of the story for me was Hobbs inclusion of fictional designer drug derived from a villain’s chemical weapon, here “Intrepid,” the “sister compound to Jonathan Crane’s fear toxin.” Street drugs derived from a villain’s weapon is something I remember complaining about having seen way too many times something like five years ago.
He highlight is definitely Naifeh’s artwork. It’s short story—too short a stay in Gotham, given the guy’s talent and prediliction for drawing and designing the dark and gothic—but a few pages of Naifeh Batman comics is better than none.
I especially like his Bruce Wayne, as he draws the character as quirky and colorful as Batman himself, rather than simply as a big, generic-looking strongman in a suit and tie:
“Short Straw” by Matt Brady and Troy Brownfield and Thomas Nachlik
This story is the whole reason I bought this comic. It’s narrated by a black ops/soldier type field-testing some sort of super-high tech suit for a shadowy military-like organization. The narrator talks a lot about how awesome that suit is, and how effective it should be against a normal dude, which Brady and Brownfield use as an angle in which to attack the question of Showing How Awesome Batman Is In A Way That Hasn’t Been Done A Thousand Times Already.
It’s very effective at that goal, and, like at least one more story to follow, this one reads like a complete short story that’s part of a bigger story yet to come. I have no idea if the pair will get to tell more of the story, or even if they want to, but this reads like there’s more to come, like something bigger’s going on, and is that’s the sort of suggestion all serial super-comics should have. Whether or not this is important or will lead to bigger, more and better, Brady and Brownfield managed to instill that feeling in it.
Artist Nachlik is unfamiliar to me, but this is pretty nice stuff. I don’t really care for the designs or settings much—it basically resembles a guy in a Halo-like suit fighting the Finch-designed Batman in some sort of high-tech facility and on a very clean rooftop—but the storytelling is solid, even sharp, and there’s some really ice use of white space to punctuate the big moments.
“Unspoken” by David Skelly, Jennifer Skelly, Cristina Coronas and Bill Sienkiewicz
Attention everyone who complained DC doesn’t have enough female creators! You’re totally gonna want to buy this comic, because it features a story that’s co-written by a lady and penciled by a lady (I think. Jennifer and Cristina are both lady names anyway, so unless they come form a country where Jennfier and Cristina are popular boys’ names, I think it’s safe to assume they are ladies).
This is a Catwoman/Batman romance comic, told in completely wordless panels. There’s not really much to the script side of things, as it seems specifically written to allow the artists to offer their own take an a pretty familiar version of the Bat/Cat relationship, but Coronas’ art is quite lovely, and seems like the rare sort that supports Sienkiewicz’s inks without being over-powered by them.
Oh yeah, Bill Sienkiewicz. There’s a name that might move a few copies, and one you might want to stick in a solicitation for an anthology comic, right? Wouldn’t “Ted Naifeh, Bill Sienkiewicz and some of comics' newest voices and freshest talents tell seven sthort stories featuring Batman and some of his greatest foes” have made for a better solicitation than what dccomics.com went with?
“On The Waterfront” by Guy Major and Eric Nguyen
Colorist Guy Major scripts this one, and lest you think the inclusion of a story told by a creative team featuring two different ladies signaled the fem-friendliness of DC, don’t get your hopes too high up, as the very next story does include a female serial killer groupie stripping to her bra to fight Batman and ultimately getting impaled on a machete:Nguyen’s art is fluid and expressive, and Major colors it for maximum moodiness and grit, but there is just way too familiar about this story to recommend it.
The villain is Mr. Zsasz, the horribly overused generic serial killer that Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle presumably created to be a completely generic, one-dimensional serial killer to use as a maguffin in a story, that countless of writers and artists have used over and over again since.
Major’s plot echoes both that original Zsasz story (in which the killer seems to be escaping from Arkham Asylum to commit murders and returning without anyone missing him, as if he had inside help), and here he’s helped by a character who closely echoes Harley Quinn.
“Danger Drive” by Terrance Grie, Peter Pachoumis and Rodney Ramos
Ugh, I’m afraid I didn’t like anything about this. The Riddler hijacks a Jeopardy-like game show (How Jeopardy-like? It’s called “Imperiled,” it has the same logo in the same font, the rules are the same and its hosted by a guy with a mustache). Dick Grayson is a celebrity contestant playing for charity, but he’s not the hero of the piece—The Question is.
Props for a Riddler/Question match-up, I guess, but between trying to puzzle out when this might take place (Did the Riddler resume villainy already, after spending a year or two or three as a good guy?) and rolling my eyes at the off-brand Jeopardy gags, I found little to like about the scripting.
I didn’t care for the artwork either, perhaps mainly due to a pretty hideous-looking version of the Riddler, with long, curly, chestnut hair and a big, green, billous trench coat with a big pointy collar.
“Fearless” by Caleb Monroe, Geoff Shaw and Jack Purcell
I’d like to tell you that this is terrible and Caleb Monroe is the worst writer ever, but that’s only because of my deep, personal, aversion to other men named “Caleb,” all of whom I consider my foes, secretly conspiring against me in an effort to kill and replace me*.
Nothing personal, Monroe; it’s not you, it’s me.
Sadly, then, I must admit that this is a pretty great little story, perhaps the best, or at least one of the best, in the volume.
Like Brady and Brownfield’s, this one suggests a bigger story yet to come, but it’s perfectly self-contained, with a beginning, middle and end all its own.
And like the Zsasz story, come to think of it, it also features someone who’s a bit of a supervillain groupie, although this character doesn’t fixate on a single supervillain and try to replicate that villains MO like some sort of copycat looking for official recognition, but a character who just thinks it would be cool to be a super-villain and rather meticulously sets about trying to become one.
It’s a neat idea, and Monroe handles it very efficiently, as the character—The Falcon—takes on a Bat-villain and the Batman himself, shares his origin story and decides on the next course of action all within nine short pages. It reads bigger than it is, and I could easily see The Falcon returning at some point (Actually, considering how many scores of pages have been devoted to Zsasz, who has nothing to him other than a visual hook, seeing The Falcon again seems a foregone conclusion), which means Monroe and company managed to craft a convincing Bat-villain out of (almost) whole cloth in less than ten pages.
That’s pretty damn impressive.
This one has really nice art, by the way, perhaps accentuated by the fact that the art in the stories bookending it are the weakest visually.
“One Lock, Many Keys” by Joe Carmagna, oe Lalich and Jack Purcell
Batman inadvertently teaches an autistic (I think…?) boy to say his first word, “Batman,” by fighting Solomon Grundy near the boy. Or was it all in the boy’s head?! I don’t know/care.
Swell cover by Dustin Nguyen, too, although it’s kind of misleading in that only five of those guys appear inside the book.
DC Comics Presents: Batman: Gotham Noir #1 (DC) This is a reprinting of a 2001 Elseworlds special by the Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips creative team, and the title tells you pretty much all you need to know about the premise. It’s 1949 in Gotham City, and disgraced, alcoholic ex-policeman turned private eye James Gordon is hired by beautiful dame Selina Kyle for a simple enough job. When it goes sour, he finds himself a wanted man, with a corrupt political machine and the city’s gangsters all out to get him.
Brubaker and Phillips are well within their element here, and it’s no surprise at how effective they are at adapting film noir, from typical story beats and character types to visual cues and story techniques, into the comics form.
What I was genuinely surprised by is their take on the Batman and his sometimes in-story status as an urban legend and an out-of-story status as a modern myth or, in real world terms, a fictional character. Put simply, this is a completely unique take on the character that I’ve never seen anyone else use before (I’ve read a lot of Batman comics, but I haven’t read all of the Batman comics, so it’s possible it’s not so much unique as extremely rare, but it blew me away).
I’m not talking simply about the visual appearance of the character, although it’s well worth noting that Phillips’ Gotham Noir Batman is pretty amazing:He’s depicted as if he’s literally a piece of shadow come to life, an oversized, jagged, almost amorphous, Batman-shaped piece of pitch blackness: He’s a pure silhouette, save for the two, white triangle eyes.
It’s as abstract as a Batman can get and still be a Batman, a perfectly subjective, perfectly expressionistic take on the character. Even the most wildly expressionistic Batmen I can think of—Sam Kieth’s, Dave McKean’s, Kelley Jones’—always have at least hints of a human being wearing a costume in them, but this Batman? Just shape, blackness and angry triangle eyes.
The title is paired with Batman #604, a 2002 issue from the very end of Brubaker and Scott McDaniel’s run. Following Gotham Noir as it does, it can’t help but seem extremely ordinary, but it’s a nicely done done-in-one in which Batman spends some quality time with Catwoman, doing Batman things and thinking about who he is and what he does and, because it was a sort of coda to that whole “Bruce Wayne: Fugitive” mega-story of the time, reflecting on to what extent he is Bruce Wayne vs. Batman.
McDaniel’s art has changed a lot since then, and I prefer his style from this period to his current style. He was never a really great fit with Brubaker, as is evidenced by seeing a Brubaker/McDaniel story right next to a Brubaker/Phillips one, and his tense, flexing figures are extremely well-suited to angst and action, but can look awkward during quiet, conversational moments (Although that awkwardness can work too; I suppose a man dressed like a bat having a conversation with a woman dressed like a cat on rooftop after they beat up a bunch of evil clowns should be awkward-looking, huh?).
There’s a really great two-page spread in here where McDaniel does that multiple images jumping around to simulate movement that he did all the time during his run on Nightwing; in this instance, he does it from a bat’s eye view, the perspective above Batman, looking down to to the buildings below and a speeding car on the streets below that Batman’s chasing. It’s awesome.
DC Comics Presents: Metal Men #1 (DC) What is the saddest thing? Oh yeah, this is. But you know what’s also fairly sad? When you wait to raed a Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire serial featuring The Metal Men in collected form, and when it finally comes out and you find it in your pull-file, you notice that there was some sort of catastrophic publishing or printing error that resulted in the bulk of it being reproduced terrible pixilated, so that the lettering is readable, but about 80 or so of the pages feature blurry art that can just barely be made out.
Did I get a bum copy, or was this a widespread problem? The entire print run wasn’t like this was it?
I haven’t heard anything, and will have to wait until the next time I have enough free time to drive the 45 minutes to my “local” comic shop to ask about it.
Anyway, it’s pretty sad: I was reeeeaaaallllllly looking forward to this one.
DC Comics Presents: Shazam #1 (DC) This collects four issues from rather late in the run of the Jerry Ordway-written, 1995-1999 Power of Shazam! series. I’m not sure why they started the DCCP collections with issue #38, but this story does feature Captain and Mary Marvel vs. Mr. Mind in a storyline entitled “The Monster Society of Evil,” and has guest-stars like Superman, Impulse and Max Mercury, the Dan Jurgens Teen Titans and both Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and time-lost Green Lantern Hal Jordan, so perhaps that had something to do with it.
The smooshing together of the Marvel Family and the 1990s DCU that occurred in this book was at times uncomfortable, but re-reading chunks of it now, after seeing some incredibly wrong-headed attempts to reinvent the Marvel Family, it seems positively inspired in comparison. (I’m really curious to see if DC will attempt to reinvent the Marvel Family again post-relaunch, and how on earth they’d go about it; I’d suggest trying not to re-invent a perfectly good wheel, but we’ll see).
If I have anything to complain about this bargain-priced almost-trade of good comics featuring some of my favorite, often ill-served super-characters, it’s merely that it doesn’t include the covers. In addition to the one they did use, on the cover, here’s what the covers looked like for the other three issues collected:
Defenders: From The Marvel Vault (Marvel Entertainment, which should be ashamed of the way it continues to treat Jack Kirby, his memory and his heirs, and should Do The Right Thing) The story behind this the existence of this comic is actually more interesting than the story in the comic itself.
Writer Kurt Busiek tells it in a prose afterword to the comic, but, in short, apparently Marvel had Fabian Nicieza plot and Mark Bagley pencil a one-issue fill-in inventory story during Busiek and Erik Larsen’s amazingly fun run on The Defenders, should the creators ever fall far enough behind schedule to need it. They never did, but now ten years later, the publisher decided to release it as part of their “From The Marvel Vault” program, only they didn’t have a script, or a plot, only the art. They called Busiek in to look at the art, then, and try to write a story to fit it.
It sounds like a fun way to write a comic, and a neat, iteration of “The Marvel Method” of comics-writing. The story is…very reminiscent of Busiek and Larsen’s run, in which the four main Defenders were cursed to be summoned together whenever the world was in sufficient danger to need the four titanic heroes who don’t really like each other to unite in order to save it.
It was a neat solution to the problem of banding together four heroes who were always squabbling and/or brawling, and keeping them together. I like all four of them as individuals, especially since all four talk kind of funny, and I love all four of them togther. So this was a nice, welcome revisit of that too-short era of the Defenders team.
Bagley’s art is more polished and less…insane than Larsen’s was on the book, but he’s pretty much a master of big, action-packed, old-school Marvel Comics, and it’s nice to see him drawing something like this, whith lots of superpowers punching and throwing around powers instead of simply talking and emoting, as he’s too often forced to do in this Ultimate Spider-Man work.
I don’t suppose The Marvel Vault has any more Defenders stories from 2001 in it to dust off, polish and publish, but I hope against hope that they do.
Flashpoint #4 (DC) In the penultimate issue of the miniseries, Flash Barry Allen finally convinces Batman Thomas Wayne to join forces with the rest of the altered world’s heroes to stop a war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman and their respective fantasy nations, which, when they get town to it, really doesn’t seem all that hard, as they basically just teleport in between the two main villains and start beating them up.
It’s a rather quaint-looking war, given all the build-up of the threat that Atlantis and the Amazons supposedly pose between this book and the too-many tie-ins I’ve read: All it takes is beating up two people? I guess it would be like if the Iraq War was simply a matter of President George W. Bush and his cabinet teleporting into one of Saddam Hussein’s mansions, and then subduing him hand-to-hand? That’s a pretty cool way to fight a war.
The real villain of the piece, glimpsed only briefly in the first issue, finally appears too, on the very last page.
That page, by the way, is the 22nd page—this is a $3.99/22 book, despite the “Drawing the Line at $2.99” ad campaign. Boooo! Hisss!
What does that extra buck get us? Eight pages of character sketches, which are especially amusing in this issue, since they include notes and sketches of the kids who unite to form Captain Thunder. DC really shoulda shared these pages, marked “For Your Eyes Only” with letterer Nic J. Napolitano and editors Kate Stewart, Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza, as Freddie and Billy are used interchangeably throughout the issue; they are two different characters, drawn in two different sets of clothes, but everyone keeps referring to them with the wrong names throughout.
That’s about the level of care that goes into this fourth issue of the miniseries in general, and another little reason to fear the relaunch (Here’s yet another: Element Woman gets more panel-time in this issue, and is apparently going to be on the Justice Leage post-September. She’s going to be a “funny” character, and Johns’ idea of a joke is to have her refer to juice boxes in every scene. Ha ha ha! It’s funny because…Um…it’s funny because…Wait, it’s funny…?)
At least Andy Kubert has gone four consecutive issues in a row as penciller, without needing a fill-in; that’s quite an accomplishment for him, and for a Flashpoint branded book in general (see below).
Quick question: How do you pronounce the Marvel kids’ magic word in this world? It’s always spelled “S!H!A!Z!A!M!”…does that mean they say “Shazam,” or are they shouting each, individual letter, and thus spelling “Shazam!”….?
Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #3 (DC) Based solely on quality, this is the single most essential of the Flashpoint series, up to and including the main Flashpoint series itself.
In this final issue of the Brian Azzarello-written, Eduardo Risso-drawn series, the premise of which is basically “What if…Joe Chill killed Bruce Wayne instead of Wayne’s parents, and one became Batman and the other The Joker?”, we learn the origin of the Flashpoint Joker.
At the risk of overpraising, it’s perfect fucking comic booking, and the creators manage to do grand guignoil superhero decadence elegantly enough, with enough wit, imagination and craft, that it actually comes across as something between sophisticated and funny, rather than simply crass.
Flashpoint: Lois Lane and The Resistance #2 (DC) This is the second-issue of a three-issue miniseries, and it has a fill-in artist…? (Unsolicited, of course; dccomics.com says art is from the artist of the previous issue, Eddie Nunez; while Gianluca Gugliotta draws this). That’s pretty annoying, especially since I pre-ordered this series based in part on the fact that I liked Nunez’s cover for the first issue, and what I saw of his work when I looked him up online.
Anyway, it’s basically more “Why does this even exist?”-style crossover trash. The Resistance, made up of a group of minor DC heroes, new characters and WildStorm properties fight Wonder Woman’s evil Furies for eight pages (and what a weird scene that is; the Furies consist of Hawkgirl, Cheetah, Huntress and Vixen, but for some reason it takes Etrigan the Demon and a half-dozen other heroes to fight them off; shouldn’t Etrigan be able to slaughter those four in a matter of seconds…?)…eight poorly-drawn, confusing pages in which the dialogue and art don’t always match up, followed by two pages with the title character, then five more pages of Flashpoint Grifter’s origin and then a little more of the title character.
Publishing moves like this don’t do a whole hell of a lot to reassure me that the September relaunch isn’t going to be a complete disaster.
Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3 (DC) I am perfectly able to suspend my disbelief on almost every aspect of this comic, which is about seven different magical and fantasy characters in a dysfunctional non-team killing one another with magic spells in an alternate universe where Emperor Aquaman of the nation of Atlantis has sunk most of Europe during his war with Wonder Woman and her nation of Amazons. Every aspect but one—Zatana's pants.
Pants like that existing? I refuse to believe it, and can't accept it even in order to try and enjoy a comic book about super-wizards killing each other (This comic, by the way, is awful, and should be avoided).
SpongeBob Comics #4 (United Plankton Pictures) R. Sikoryak! James Kochalka! Sam Henderson! Stephen DeStefano! All drawing SpongeBob! Plus, a bunch of other talented folks also writing and drawing SpongeBob comics.
Here’s what DeStefano’s looks like:I love DeStefano’s work; he’s one of those artists I wish was drawing a monthly comic book just so I could see more of it more often.
Dave Roman wrote a one-page strip illustrated by Andy Rementer, in which readers are invited to draw in a missing piece. This is a regular feature.
In this issue, you’re supposed to draw what came out of a can to surprise Squidward. Niece #1 drew her shih tzu Bella as a mer-shih tzu:You said it, Patrick.
*Little boys and teenagers named Caleb I’m okay with, as I can pretend they are named after me, and aren’t doppelgangers of mine out to destroy me.