Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Comic shop comics: November 7-14
What the series is, then, is a fairly generic, old-school American superhero narrative which, by the second issue, seems to be this: All of the villains have teamed-up, in the service of a mysterious off-panel mastermind (if you notice the statuettes in the solicitations, however, you'll already know who that is), and now all of the heroines must band together to defeat them.
And there's not much more to it than that. The main innovation seems to be that all the heroes and heroines are female. Last issue focused on Wonder Woman. This issue's cover belongs to Batgirl Barbara Gordon, daughter of wheelchair-bound Commissioner james Gordon, and her Robin, who is her real-life cousin named Carrie. They fight Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Duela Dent and The Cheetah both reappear. We meet the Ame-Comi version of Steel, Natasha, who is apparently older than Barbara and Carrie.
Green's art is great, and is, in fact, one of the reasons I decided to pre-order this weird little series in the first place. He's inking his own work here, and it looks less smooth and polished than the last time I saw it, but it also has a rougher, slightly more ragged line that gives the art a fair amount of texture. His isn't a style I would think appropriate for this particular book, but as I mentioned at the top of the review, the book isn't at all the book one might expect from the source material.
I really like Wimpy's presence in these comics, particularly this story, as he is a sort of built-in antagonist who causes Popeye the most amount of trouble, but he's also his best friend. In this story, for example, Wimpy attempts to shoot Popeye to death (in order to save himself, of course), and Popeye later forgives him with, "Knowin' what a weak chracter ya is, Wimpy— I does not blame ya fer the things ya does."
My favorite part, however, is when the giant brute of a cowboy Big Pete Little Skull taunts Popeye into a fight with the words, "I hate boats and salt water is full of fish!!" Them's, apparently, fighting words.ue
The second half of the book belongs to a domestic story involving Swee'Pea and a crazy creature; as with the similar Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics, I find the stories where they are traveling tend to be more engaging than the ones where they are home.
It doesn't feel at all like a brand-new series, or even much of a brand-new direction, so the #1 on the cover of such a particularly long-lived title seems particularly cynical, and the number of ads and big, fat "AR" symbols in the corners of panels made it a fairly unpleasant reading experience. I kind of want to give it a few more issues to win me over—I'm more interested in it's sister title, FF, which will feature art by Mike Allred—but if #2 and maybe #3 are as insubstantial and distractingly-packed with non-comics info as this one was, I can't imagine reading this serially for very long.
It may simply be that I read this (and Green Lantern) in the same hour or two that I read the ad-free Classic Popeye, Saga and SpongeBob Comics, but given how much visual noise there are in Big Two super-comics (almost all of if produced for house ads, by the way), it's a miracle anyone reads them serially instead of waiting for the trades.
Oh, and there are only 20 story pages in Marvel's $2.99 books...? I guess I haven't been reading enough of 'em to notice. But this has only 20 pages, three of which are full-page splashes. Feh.
There are 20 pages here, including one full-page splash page and one two-page splash. A few pages have six whole panels, a few have just two panels, most have about three or four.
This picks up right where the previous issue left off, with Superman and the New 52 Justice League ambushing the new Green Lantern, literally punching first and asking questions later. To his credit, Geoff Johns does present a more traditional take on Superman and the League here, with the characters trying to talk it out, before the new GL tries to rabbit. There are updates on what perfidy the Guardians and Black Hand are up to, as well as what's up with the not really dead Hal Jordan and Sinestro as well.
In the final panels of the comic, Bruce Wayne asks The Joker, "What was the point of all this, anyway?" And The Joker, unaware of Wayne's other identity, responds condescendingly, "You're wasting your time looking for rules in this game."
That, unfortunately, seems to apply to the comic book story itself. It all seems rather random and pointless, the sort of move-the-action-figures-around storytelling that has come to dominate far too many Batman comics these days. It's not a bad comic, of course, there's just nothing to it, really.
The Joker's latest nefarious plot is this: He's kidnapped The Mad Hatter, tied him to a chair, and is then kidnapping prominent Gothamites, forcing The Mad Hatter to hypnotize them into thinking they're Batman, dressing 'em in homemade Bat-costumes, and then sending them off to play Batman and thus meet their deaths...in the jaws of Killer Croc. Things go awry when he kidnaps Bruce Wayne and tries to give him the treatment.
Templesmith's art is as good as you would expect, and it's fun to see his particular, almost peculiar style applied to the Batman cast of characters. There's a dirty, luminescent look to the art, as if it was being lit through a used coffee filter, and there's a bold streak of cartooniness that runs through the designs, creating a tensions with the gritty brick backgrounds of sewers and back alleys in which the story is set.
Templesmith's Joker is a particularly strong design, featuring a stretched-out, pinned-back looking mouth with normal-sized, rather human set of teeth within his maw (The Joker dresses up as Commissioner Gordon during the brain-washing process, and the mustache and smile combo is kind of cool).
Anyway: High-quality, continuity-free, owl-less Batman comic with pretty great artwork. Even if it ultimately lacks a point-of-view or reason for being (beyond filling up pages of comics, of course).
Another great cover on this issue, too.
SpongeBob Comics #4 (United Plankton Pictures) SpongeBob cedes his starring role to the villainous Plankton in this issue, as our porous protagonist, Squidward, Patrick and Mr. Krabs are relegated to supporting roles in various Plankton comics by the likes of Chuck Dixon (!!!), Hilary Barta, James Kochalka, Joey Weiser, Vanessa Davis and others. Perhaps the most impressive of them all is the Robert Leighton-written, Jacob Chabot-drawn 64-panel, two-page story in which a giant SpongeBob image is divided into a comics grid, and Plankton runs in and out of his pores and pockets for the length of the "story," which is surprisingly sophisticated.