Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Comic shop comics: July 10th (Plus, Batwoman Vol. 1, because there were like no comics out this week)
So this trade, Hydrology, is interesting in that it collects an early 2011 Hey, remember Batwoman still exists and we're gonna publish a monthly series like we promised five years ago someday, we swear! #0 issue (and second #0 issue would follow the next year) from before the launch of "The New 52" line and universe, and then the first five issues of the series from after it's September 2011 launch as part of "The New 52."
It is written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, with Williams providing the bulk of the visuals (The #0 issue he splits art duties with Amy Redder and Richard Friend, and, for reasons unfathomable to me, letterer Todd Klein gives both Batman and Bruce Wayne their own, distinct narration box styles, even though the narration is presented as an investigation of Batwoman; Batman tails her in his costume, while Bruce Wayne tails her civilian identity in a variety of disguises).
As a story, it is remarkable in the degree to which it completely ignores the New 52 reboot. Even the the least rebooted franchises (Batman and Green Lantern) had some tweaks, like more lines in their costumes. The only changes here are this weird images where Williams or and/or colorist Dave Stewart alters a crowd scene of Batman, Inc members so that the costumes or characters that don't exist anymore look like they're being incinerated by lightning.
As far as I've read then, this is the first of The New 52 comics to almost completely ignore the New 52 and pick up right where it left off, heavily reliant on the old continuity.
Oh wait, they made Stewart color Commissioner Gordon's hair and mustache red instead of gray; I guess that's a bow to the new continuity.
Is that a drawback? I don't know; it sure seems to run counter to the goal of the New 52, but it's not that hard to follow, and Williams' and Reeder's art is so goddam pretty—you can argue that a lot of the storytelling choices here are overly-byzantine and made more for baroque showiness than clarity, but you can't argue the images themselves aren't gorgeous—I think that more than makes up for it.
On the writing side, it's a little pedestrian, and a little far removed from a Gotham City Bat-story (When not dealing with were-creatures, Batwoman is pursuing a ghost that kidnaps children and drowns victims with her super-tears) but, again, art this good goes a long way. It's easy to imagine this same story being awful if drawn by, I don't know, Eddy Barrows or David Finch or Tony Daniel or whoever they've got drawing TEC this month, but Williams' solid character design and figure work and constant experimenting with lighting and texture keep each page exciting.
I was a little surprised—pleasantly so—how much female flesh there is in this book, as when in costume Kate is essentially naked, being maybe the only female heroine who looks like an anatomically correct female when she's wearing latex or spandex or black spray-paint or whatever her costume's made out of (Also surprising? The scene where Maggie Sawyer goes down on Kate while her sidekick is in the process of being brutally murdered...though she does pull through).
I also greatly enjoyed seeing Maggie Sawyer pursue Kate romantically while also trying to arrest Batwoman, all while she and Kate repeatedly talk about what a great detective Sawyer is. Batwoman and Kate Kane both have skin so white she seems more like a mime or a drowning victim than simply pale, and both have red hair (Batwoman's is a few inches longer). Not being suspicious that the two are one in the same is a lot like the people of Star City electing Oliver Queen mayor without being suspicious that he and Green Arrow are the only big, fit, blonds with goofy van dyke beards in the 21st century.
Anyway, this is good, great art elevating okay scripting to all-around good status. And, somewhat to my surprise, it looks like it's actually one of those "refuge" comics for folks leery of The New 52, along with Legends of the Dark Knight, Adventures of Superman, Wonder Woman and, um, and I missing any others...?
This story follows Clint's older brother Barney, whom I had never heard of before the recap page, and who is apparently also really good at shooting bows and arrows, but is now a hobo. A hobo! I knew this book was missing something! (Shame on Francavilla for giving him a dufflebag instead of a bindle stick though).
Barney Barton is coming to visit his brother (who does own an apartment building, and Grills' place just opened up, so he really should hood a brother up) and runs afoul of those guys who say "bro." Along the way, we get flashbacks to the Barton boys' childhood, which apparently sucked. I didn't know that either.
But don't worry, there is still plenty of silliness from some of the greatest cartoonists making comics today, including three strips written by Joey Weiser (one of which Weiser draws himself), a page from James Kochalka, another by Shane Houghton and Andy Rementer, and two-pages of art from Stephen DeStefano, one of my two favorite artists whose work I way to rarely get to see anywhere (The other? Ronnie del Carmen). Plus, some other stuff from other people too!
So apparently this new group of Young Avengers have been having an on-again, off-again war with a group of shape-changing aliens they assume to be Skrulls, while kid Loki has been training Wiccan in the use of magic, and someone convinced him to get a new costume. Not quite sure how I feel about this new costume—not a fan of star-field patterns—but I didn't like the old one much either, so I think I'm going to end up being pretty okay with it.
It looks like Speed and Prodigy might end up joining the team after this story arc...? I don't know. I do wish the real Patriot would rejoin 'em at some point, as I kinda liked that character, but then, the way Gillen writes these guys, I kind of like all of 'em now.