"...Jughead Jones ate Ethel Muggs right in front of us, and no one did anything but stare..."
"I'm done playing 'Brokeback Riverdale' with you."
"...the thing that was once jughead Jones..."
Of course, that is a large part of what makes this unlikely series, a zombie horror movie story featuring the cast from Archie Comics, such a kick. Well, that and the fact that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writes a perfectly solid zombie story so well, using the pre-established characters to great effect without descending into parody at any point, and that Francesco Francavilla straight-up draws the hell out of the book (And his moody, Halloween coloring is great).
Zombie cannibal aspects aside, I was a little surprised at how adult the book was, including Cheryl Blossom referencing alcohol, a panel suggesting sexual jealousy toward Archie coming from her brother and a rather frank discussion in a diner between two lesbian character (I'm not sure familiar enough with the citizens of Riverdale to know if they are new characters or if they previously existed).
And if you're curious as to what Francavilla's art might look like were drawing the cast in the more traditional Archie house style rather than the realistic versions he's using here, there's an awfully nice next issue panel:
The artist they get to draw the Batgirl story is no slouch either, though. That would be Colleen Coover (Her Bandette, written by Paul Tobin, is available as a graphic novel from Dark Horse is in stores this week; you should really check it out if you're not already reading the strip online). It's the first appearance of Batgirl in this particular series, and I had forgotten how much I liked the librarian-by-day, superhero-by-night version of the character. I had also forgotten that this Barbara Gordon didn't have red hair, but a short black bob, and she put on a wig to become Batgirl (In my defense, I haven't watched this show since grade-school). While Batman and Robin "are in Japan, "helping their police hunt down the elusive Lord Death Man" (!!!) it's up to Batgirl to stop Catwoman, who in this
The lead story features Batman and Robin battling The Sandman, a villain from the show I have no memory of. This is the one drawn by Procopio, whose style is a lot more consciously funny-looking than that of most of the artists involved in the series so far (His Bruce Wayne also looks extremely Adam West-ern).
To everyone's credit, this is another issue that Samnee did not draw that it took me a while to notice that he didn't draw it (page eight, I think it was); that's another reason I suspect he might have done breakdowns, but, either way, it's to Copland's credit that the look and feel of the book remains so consistent even when Samnee's not putting the all the lines down on the page.
This is the conclusion to the two-part arc in which Daredevil teams-up with the Legion of Monsters, part of a larger arc in which our hero seeks to combat the Sons of the Serpents' infiltration of the New York judicial system. Given the scope of the conflict, and the ongoing subplot involving Foggy Nelson's cancer, I'm really surprised to learn that the book is ending in just three more issues. I understand Waid and a new artist will take the character into online only (?) comics, but I won't read those until they see print (if they ever do; I'm hoping their digital first, like a bunch of the DC comics I read now, rather than digital period).
What does happen? Well, if you read the first issue, you'll remember that the various Batman villains carved up Gotham City into their own little themed fiefdoms (sorta like what happened in No Man's Land), with The Scarecrow acting as the villains' leader and The Penguin acting as the city's de facto mayor. Meanwhile, Bane has invaded the city with an army of soldiers hopped up on Venom and made landfall at Blackgate Prison, where he plans to free and arm the sane criminals there to add to his forces and take over Gotham (also, I guess all the leftover owls from the first year of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman are cryogenically stored under there?).
So Bane's forces invade Man-Bat's block, where Man-Bat has turned a bunch of guys into Men-Bats, and Bane himself takes a meeting with Mayor Penguin. The Bat-villain army preemptively attacks Blackgate and try to steal the frozen owls before Bane can wake 'em up and use them. Also, Commissioner Gordon tries to rescue Blackgate's warden, because that gives writer Peter Tomasi an excuse to put Gordon in the story.
I can't say the story makes a whole lot of sense, in large part because I don't really know many of the players very well anymore in the wake of the new 52 reboot and others I've never even heard of before (Brute...?), and in small part because bits of penciller Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza's art don't read very clearly, particularly at the climax (Did Bane rip off one of Man-Bat's wings? Did he capture The Scarecrow? Did the Scarecrow inject him with toxin? If not, why not? Did those two get away? The scene just...changes, leaving what should be a big part of the conflict unresolved).
|So what's up with that lady in the background's right arm, exactly? Venom is, as they say, a hell of a drug.|
Did no one ever make a Batman/Das Boot joke before? It really seems like the sort of joke someone should have made by this point.
So, here's the pitch for this: It's a 20-page comic book in which Harley Quinn writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti appear as voices in Harley's head and discuss potential artists for her upcoming series with her, with nearly every page featuring her in some form of bizarre situation or another, drawn by a different artist. These artists are among the most talented and noteworthy stylists who don't seem to mind working for DC at all, having done work for them in the recent past. So we see work from Becky Cloonan, Darwyn Cooke, Sam Kieth, Bruce Timm, Adam Hughes, Walter Simonson and Art Baltazar (who draws a Harley invading the Tiny Titans treehouse). Conner draws a bit, as does Chad Hardin, who will be drawing the series when it officially launches with a #1, and then there's Jeremy Roberts, a newcomer who won whatever goofy contest there was associated with the book (For what its worth, his art is nice, but seems to be exactly the wrong tone for the page of script he gets; his style is very straight, very representational, and a lot like everything else DC publishes, meaning the Duck Amuck aspect is lost; also that last panel doesn't really work...if you're going to visually quote a famous movie image, you should probably put some effort into actually resembling it).
Tony S. Daniel, whose New 52 work included the first arcs of the rebooted Detective Comics, a Justice League arc and who is now drawing Superman/Wonder Woman, contributes a page, although he draws Harley as a giant, building-eating robot. Jim Lee's contribution is actually just a page from his short Batman run, with Harley's costume "digitally tweaked" (i.e. changed form her original duds to her new New 52 costume, as seen on the cover). Palmiotti's voice points out that Lee's three-panel contribution isn't exactly a new drawing and, in fact, he and Conner tend to discuss the work of the artists involved on almost every page, often making fun of them in one way or another (In some cases, they or Harley mention that as good as the artists are, they just can't keep a monthly schedule and thus can't draw the ongoing; I found that particularly amusing, given than Conner and Palmiotti are themselves artists, and neither of them are going to be drawing the book, just writing it).
The best part may be Cooke's contribution, in which Harley teams up with Catwoman to rob Palmiotti and Conner's wedding, as it sees Cooke drawing in a highly-exaggerated cartoon style that doesn't look like what one might expect from the artist.
I was rather curious about the book's construction, as in some cases it seems like Harley and the writers are commenting on the art as if they were seeing it for the first time, so I imagine the artists had a great deal of latitude, and jokes or references were filled in after it came back.
And the worst part? That would probably be the last panel tag reading, "Continued in Harley Quinn #1, where we swear we sill stop breaking the Fourth Wall!" Other than some of the great art on display (I'll take some more Tradd Moore in the future, please), that's probably the best part of the comic.
That last page does seem to tease the premise a bit, as Harley is willed some Coney Island real estate. I'm not sure how the book will go once the creators stop making fun comics and have to get serious—and it's not like there's a great variety of tone in the New 52, so I don't have high hopes that they will be allowed to be very funny moving forward—but this here is a pretty damn fun comic book, and well worth your $3 for the tour of artists alone.
I like the other way better.
Ah well. This is still the one of the best values in serial comics, in terms of dollars-to-good comics, and remains one of my favorite reads each month (Given that these are reprints from comics made before my dad was born, I think that might say something less than flattering about the current state of comic books. Or maybe it just says something about how awesome a cartoonist Sagendorf is, and how compelling E.C. Segar's creations are).
In this issue, Popeye and Olive visit African in order to try and convince some animals to come back home with them to live in a zoo (Is that how zoos get their animals...?), then they protect a gold shipment from bad guys in a story that ends with Popeye doing some real horror movie shit in the last panel, then Wimpy tries to score five free hamburgers by wearing various disguises, one of which involves what has to be one of the worst ways to make a false beard (see above) and then there's a prose story I didn't read and a Ham Gravy solo story in which a Native American stereotype gets the better of Olive's old cowboy sweetheart.
Writer Sholly Fisch's "Man Bat and Robbin'" finds the Mystery Inc team investigating reports of a giant bat creature and, in the parking lot near a mall, they encounter one such bat creature: Their old pal Batman, and his partner Robin ("Long time, no see, Batman-- Ever since our run-in with The Joker and The Penguin!" Daphne says, referring to the 1972 "The Caped Crusader Caper" from The New Scooby-Doo Movies). When a panic erupts inside the mall, they find not one but three Man-Bats engaged in petty robbery (or are they really Man-Bats, and not, say, run-of-the-mill thieves in rubber masks seeking to take advantage of the panic caused by the real Man-Bat?), in addition to the genuine article.
Fisch pulls off a heck of a balancing act in the script, leaning quite close to the tone of the current Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated series' sense of humor, which often makes jokes at the expense of the franchise, but never going too far in that particular direction. His Batman and Robin aren't the same Batman and Robin that appeared in those old Scooby-Doo episodes, either; those were basically animated versions of the Adam West and Burt Ward Batman and Robin (in better costumes), whereas as these seem like more straightforward, less silly versions; these are the classic comic book Batman and Robin.
The artwork, by Dario Brizuela, is pretty incredible. His Scooby and the gang look like they were taken directly form the old cartoons, right down to every character's every pose and expression, only here they are better "animated," the integrity of their designs staying more consistent than they often did during the old cartoons.
Robin and Batman are wearing their original costumes (Well, it's technically "New Look" Batman, with the yellow oval, but you know what I meant, right?), and look like compromises between how they appeared in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons and more modern, comic book-y versions of themselves. Batman in particular wears colors that are more black than blue (like Superman's hair used to look, his costume is perhaps so black its blue, or else its blue but Batman is so dark he just sorta emanates his own moody lighting), and the first panel he appears in looks like it could have come straight out of the DCU line.
As for Man-Bat, he looks like the version from Batman: The Animated Series.
It's a lot of juggling of styles, but Brizuela blends it all smoothly. I got a lot of good comics during this latest trip to the comics shop, but this may just be the very best of them.
SpongeBob Comics #26 (United Plankton Pictures) Joey Weiser, Vanessa Williams, James Kochalka and Maris Wicks are among the creators offering up short SpongeBob gag comics this issue. The one I admire most (aside from the first of Kochaka's three strips, which actually made me laugh out loud) is Robert Leighton and Gregg Schigiel's "Sundae Stroll," in which the artist draws a series of five consecutive two-page splashes, with little, repeated images of Gary, SpongeBob and Patrick walking across them, their actions playing out on several different crisscrossing tiers. It's hard to explain, and I'm doing a bad job of it, but it's really quite inventive and I'm pretty astounded by how well executed it is.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5 (Marvel) The only thing that surprised me more than the fourth-to-last page was the second-to-last page. And that last page was pretty surprising too, come to think of it. I love this book.
The art, by penciler (one L!) Jamie McKelvie and inkers Mike Norton, Stephen Thompson and McKelvie himself, is as excellent as always. As for the story, now that I know the title is ending and writer Kieron Gillen is leaving the book, the whole thing seems a lot worse in retrospect, as this seems to be nearing the conclusion of the book's very first story arc, telling the origin of this incarnation of a superhero team. But it's actually ending now? Seems a bit like watching a TV series where the pilot episode was somehow stretched out to 13 hour-long episodes, or a movie that is all first act. On the plus side, I guess Gillen may end up beating Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America run as the longest one story arc run on a Bit Two superhero comic book in the 21st century. That's...something.
I'm actually kind of annoyed that I've read 12 issues of this series, almost the entirety of this creative team's work on the book, and I have no idea who Miss America is, or anything about her, other than the fact that she calls Loki "Chico" for some reason.
Oh, and hey, how weird is it to see Marvel comic book characters talking about Scott Pilgrim?
I hope when Marvel re-relaunches this series as part of their All-New Marvel NOW! promotion, O'Malley is the new one-man creative team, and that the Earth-616 version of Kim Pine and Wallace Wells are in the new line-up.