Saturday, November 30, 2013

So I have a Tumblr [sic] blog now, which I am calling The Library of Calebxandria, and which you can visit here.  It took me about two days to figure out how to sign up for and work it, because I am dumb, and I've only been posting once daily for two days now, so there are a grand total of two whole posts there.

My plan is to use it mainly for images with a sentence or two of commentary, and stick to reviews and longer form stuff here at EDILW.

Also, the impetus for starting one was to have a space where I could make jokes about books and DVDs and other, non-comic media material (hence the name), although so far all I've put up there has been comics related.

Will I be able to update it regularly, like Every Day Is Like Wednesday, or will I neglect it, like my sad, under-used Twitter account, @jkaylub? Only time will tell.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Most iconic? Yes, what character could possibly be more iconic than a renamed character based on a character who was a thinly-veiled counterfeit version of Fawcett's Captain Marvel character created solely to continue publishing Captain Marvel comics in the UK after Fawcett discontinued publication of their Captain Marvel comics as part of a legal action taken by DC Comics contending that Captain Marvel was too derivative of Superman...?

What character could possibly be more iconic than a renamed derivation of a derivation of a derivation of Superman, a character best known for a relatively short run of comics that no reader younger than Those of a Certain Age have been able to read, due to complicated legal issues just now being untangled, some 30 years after those comics were originally produced...?

And as for "and popular"...? I have no idea what metric they might have used to determine that Miracleman/Marvelman was the most popular superhero that comic book fans have ever read, but I generally consider comic book sales, licensing revenue and "being a superhero that people might have actually heard of in their entire fucking lives" to be pretty good indicators of a character's popularity.

UPDATE: Please read the comments, where it is revealed whether it was IGN who said something dumb, or Marvel who misquoted IGN.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ooh sick burn, Sojourner Truth!

That's a panel from the Nick Thorkelson portion of Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith, which I reviewed at Robot 6 this week.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comic shop comics: November 27

Adventures of Superman #7 (DC Comics) David Lapham's story, which occupies the first half of this issue, includes to elements I feel are pretty overdone in Superman books, namely religious movements springing up to worship the character and people being saved by Superman after jumping off of buildings. Luckily, Lapham has interesting twists on each, and they are related to one another in an unusual way. Lapham has a nice, clean, clear art style that looks great, and perfectly appropriate, too. The dramatic character moments work perfectly well, as they usually do in Lapham's art, and the action scenes featuring Superman fighting Metallo and flying around and stuff looks perfect, evoking the very best in old-school Silver Age Superman comics.

This was one of the better short stories I can remember reading since this anthology series launched, and has two rather incredible images, including Superman making a gigantic "peashooter" to just wreck Metallo, and a Superman adopting a "disguise" to confront the leaders of the Superman-worshipping movement (see above).

The back-up story is written by Tim Seeley and drawn by the great Mike Norton. It's not quite as impressive as a story, contrasting the bleak experience of a five-year-old Russian orphan with the super-exploits of grown-up orphan Superman, but it was nice to seen Norton not only drawing Superman in his real costume, but drawing Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter in their original costumes too.

FF #14 (Marvel Entertainment) I'm not sure if this is really the penultimate issue of the Matt Fraction/Mike Allred-turned-Matt Fraction/Lee Allred/Michael Allred volume of the title, but it certainly reads like one. The ever-expanding alliance orbiting around Scott Lang and company—now including Sun Tzu,the shrunken tiger the kids named Cargo Manshark, an obscure Golden Age magician and a whole mess of repurposed robots—spend the issue planning and preparing for their final confrontation with Dr. Doom.

There's also a Japanese hot spring scene that could have come straight out of a manga comic (at least in set-up; Allred's art doesn't look like anyone's art but Mike Allred's) and a neat in-joke cameo from Matt Fraction, who made his first in-story appearance alongside Cargo Manshark a few issues back.

It's not just going to be sad when this title ends, it's going to be downright depressing.

Hawkeye #14 (Marvel) Props to Fraction (him again!) and artist Annie Wu for this issue, which reads like an entire story arc of most comics, but is actually only 19 pages long (Of all of these books, I think this is the one that took the longest to read). This is a Kate Bishop (i.e. Lady Hawkguy) issue, set in L.A., and featuring her attempts to become a Luke Cage-style Hero For Hire, in order to earn some money.

It's a little disconcerting to match this Kate Bishop with the one in Young Avengers, as this one seems to barely know anything about crimefighting, law enforcement or superheroing ("Oh, thank God," she says in one panel, as someone pulls a gun on her and she raises a bow and arrow at him, "I was beginning to forget how to use this thing"). But, as usual, Fraction's writing is so sharp, witty and layered, it hardly matters. This Kate Bishop is fun to hang out with and read about, and Hawkeye is a fun and funny comic book, so if one wonders where her laser bow is or why she seems like this is her first rodeo at all, these are thoughts that come after the comic's over.

I continue to love this book, and while I'm not crazy about the split-focus (Clint Barton drawn by David Aja one issue, Kate Bishop by Wu the next), I understand it, Fraction writes about characters well, and both Aja and Wu are great artists.

Saga #16 (Image Comics) This comic is just the worst.
Oh Lying Cat, no one can sneak anything untrue by you, can they?

Zombie War #2 (IDW) The second half of an old Kevin Eastman, Tom Skulan and Eric Talbot's not-very-good zombie comic, seeing colorization and republication by IDW, with whom Eastman has been working on various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-related projects. I didn't care for the first half, and probably would have skipped this one, had I not especially pre-ordered it the day the first issue came out.

The story's not very good and essentially pointless, just ending rather than concluding, but the art is nice, and I like Eastman and Talbot's gritty, ragged lines, their usage of blacks, the way they draw skulls and even the handwriting on the dialogue and special effects. It's an aesthetically pleasing work of absolutely no other value.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Beware The Batman #1

I thought about reviewing this for Good Comics For Kids, and it was with that in mind that I read it a few nights ago, but I quickly realized pretty much everything I had to say about it wasn't really a commentary on its quality (it's excellent, if unremarkable; a perfectly executed, straightforward, generic Batman done-in-one of which the only really interesting bits reflect the unusual choices of the producers of the cartoon its based on and, perhaps a confluence of coincidences). Rather, everything had to do with my own, personal, fan-ish responses.

So a blog post here seemed more appropriate.

Now, what's noteworthy about Beware the Batman, aside from the fact that it's the first 3D, computer-animated Batman cartoon, and, I should point out here, that I've never seen an episode of it yet, is how far it apparently veers from previous Batman cartoons.

This Alfred does not have a mustache (!!!), and seems to be more of an old, tough guy who helps Batman out behind the scenes (a little like the Alfred of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Batman: Earth One original graphic novel, only sans the goatee).

There are no Robins or Batgirls, but Batman's sidekick is instead Tatsu/Katana, who here seems to be a teenager or at least a much younger person than Batman (In that respect, at least, not unlike the version who appeared in Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and she seems to be rather Kato-like. In this issue, we see her serving as Bruce Wayne's chauffeur, accompanying him into a party and, later, putting on a small black domino mask and wielding a sword with a greenish hue and runes on it (it looked like the sword from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and fighting crime with him. As with Green Hornet's Kato, I'm not really sure how they'd be able to maintain their secret identities for longer than a few days like this, but whatever.

And the rogue's gallery is apparently made up entirely of characters that have never appeared in any of the previous cartoons, which is interesting in that it seems like animators might have felt like there wasn't many new ways to go with the traditional characters. While Batman: The Animated Series played them all relatively straight, using streamlined versions of the characters from the comics, and even redesigned them all at one point (apparently fearing they were getting a bit stale), later shows cast about for new ways to reinvent them. The Batman featured drastically different takes (including very physical versions of characters like The Penguin and The Joker, ones able to hold their own in kung fu fights with the superhero) and Batman: The Brave and the The Bold plundered Batman's Silver Age apperances for obscure characters to use, and used Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff influenced characterizations of the big villains (and, its worth noting, using villains from throughout the entire DC Universe to pit against Batman). With all those avenues exhausted, plus the various versions of the characters in videogames and direct-to-DVD movies, well, why not give Mocking Bird and Professor Pyg and The Silver Monkey a shot?

So in addition to Batman, Alfred and Kato-ana, this issue rather prominently featured evil-looking industrialist Simon Stagg (Metamorpho's boss/antagonist) and Beware The Batman's version of Anarky.

This Anarky has been pretty significantly redesigned from his comics counterpart, wearing all white instead of red and gold (That's his hooded head on the cover, although he looks a bit more like The Spectre, doesn't he?). He is apparently an adult now, rather than a teenager, but his goals are more-or-less the same: Doing away with the present military industrial complex/capitalist-ruled class society of haves and have-nots in order to bring about a new social order. In the comics, particularly his first few appearances, he was an intriguing villain specifically because he tended to have noble goals—punishing polluters who were destroying the environment, for example—and he forced Batman into the uncomfortable position of having to fight to defend the morally corrupt but technically lawful from an angry, brilliant teenager who was morally righteous, but technically a criminal—and prone, in that first story, anyway, to a zeal that left his targets badly hurt.

Here he's infiltrated Stagg's company and is trying to plunge Gotham City into some sort of property-less society, which begins with everyone robbing and looting one another's homes. There's a Occupy Wall Street-like protest movement in town too, and Anarky seems to have something to do with them, even if he's just hiding amongst them, or trying to manipulate them. Or something.

As much as I've always liked the character, Anarky never struck me as more than a minor villain, or even more of a foil character or frenemy for Batman, along the lines of Catwoman. But this single issue really sold the character as a sort of opposite number to Batman, a character who has more against Bruce Wayne the businessman than Batman, the vigilante.

Writer Ivan Cohen links Anarky a lot closer to creators Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's inspiration for the character, the masked vigilante in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta; closer than ever before, with Anarky  here borrowing an alias from an associate of Guy Fawkes and planning his big move for Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes being the inspiration for the V character, of course. And Guy Fawkes masks, popularized by the movie based on the comic book V For Vendetta, the comic that also inspired Anarky remember, have become common sights in any large modern steet protests, like the one in the Occupy Gotham-like one seen in this comic.


I'm not familiar with the work of either Cohen or artist Luciano Vecchio, but they both seem to have done quite a bit of work for DC's various all-ages comics, and both do a fine job here. Having not seen the show, I'm not sure how these designs look in motion, but I like them in the two-dimensions of paper, particularly the unusual Batman design, which has wide, horn-like bat ears reminiscent of the character's first comic book appearance and a black-on-black costume almost never seen outside of the live action movies.

Seeing him hang out with a little Asian girl sidekick, I kept wishing they had used Cassandra Cain in this instead of Katana, but given that Simon Stagg appears in this issue and Black Lightning villain Tobias Whale is apparently going to appear in the third issue, I wonder if the producers' plan wasn't to gradually introduce different members of The Outsiders throughout the series, and perhaps follow this show up with a Batman and The Outsiders one (In The Batman, for example, Batman gradually met various superheroes until they formed a Justice League toward the end of the show's run).

Maybe if Anarky achieves some kind of new prominence thanks to this show and this comic it's based on, DC will get Grant and Breyfogle back to do a New 52 version of the character in his own title. As much as I love the original character, I sure wouldn't mind seeing his creators working on a monthly again, and seeing a new version of him acting as a monkey wrench in a the new, New 52-iverse could be fun.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A much longer than necessary, story-by-story review of The Joker: Death of the Family

One factor in both the creative success and, I think, the reader popularity of writer Scott Snyder’s five-part “Death of the Family” arc in Batman was its context.

After a one-issue appearance in writer/artist Tony Daniel’s  2011 Detective Comics #1, in which the new, New 52 Joker appears just long enough to have his own face removed and nailed to a wall, the character disappeared for one year, both in story time and in real-time.

Thanks to remarkable restraint on the part of Snyder and the other writers of DC’s ever-growing line of Batman comics (and, one imagines, a great deal of editorial enforcement), The Joker was a non-presence in their line for that entire year (save for flashbacks and appearances in out-of-continuity books like the digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight).

That meant that when The Joker finally did return in this storyline, it almost automatically made the storyline special, and the reader could more readily identify with Batman: This wasn’t an everydaynight threat like The Court of Owls or The Penguin or Two-Face or the Al Ghul family, this was something more rare, unique and even apocalyptic (It wasn’t all due to the fact that DC rested the character, of course, but that sure helped prime the pump).

The stories collected in Joker: Death in the Family chronicle DC’s 180-degree turn on their policy regarding Joker appearances, the strictly controlled rationing of the first year of The New 52 turning into a deluge.

If you read the storyline monthly, I imagine all these Joker appearances in all of the Batman books got very tedious very fast, and might have even ruined the experience that Snyder, artists Greg Capullo, Jock and others crafted  in the Batman title: A 100-page, novel-length, can’t-put-it-down epic, perfect for a graphic novel reading (Also hurting? The climax of Grant Morrison’s years-long run on Batman, which was playing out simultaneously in Batman Inc; the stories don’t compliment one another very well, and somewhat contradict one another, and a thing that DC was promising at the end of “Death of the Family” actually occurred in Batman Inc like a month later. More on that later).

This Joker book, on the other hand, collects every thing labeled as a crossover or a tie-in, making for a 456-page slog that oughta make anyone sick and tired of The Joker. Most of these are somewhere between lesser quality and far lesser quality than that of the Sndyer and company material from Batman…except for the bits of it that are Snyder and company’s material from Batman.

As DC did with their "Night of the Owls" crossover material, this book doesn’t collect everything, but it does collect all of the tie-ins (which will also be collected individually in collections of their home titles), plus repeats important material from the main book, Batman.

So this doesn’t replace Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family, it’s meant to be a companion to it…although it does include some key material from Batman Vol. 3 as well.

It’s meant for completeists who trade-wait, basically. If you just want to read “Death of the Family,” then you’ll want to read Batman Vol. 3. If you just want to read “Death of the Family” and maybe follow your favorite character Batgirl, well, read Batman Vol. 3 and Batgirl Vol. 3, both sub-titled “Death of the Family.” And so on. But this book? This is really only for someone who wants way too much of what might at first seem like a good thing.

Because the book contains material taken from so many books (in addition to collecting the entirety of many issues), its broken up by character, rather than title or story arc.

Let’s take them on individually, because I am a glutton for punishment and, if you’re still reading, so are you (For a more concise, and less exhaustive exhausting review, I did cover this book in the space of a few paragraphs elsewhere already).


This part is taken from three issues of Detective Comics, by writer John Layman and artists Jason Fabok and Andy Clarke…or, I should say, the lead story in three issues of TEC, as TEC now has back-up stories featuring related side-stories. It seems that what Layman and company did for the “Death” crossover was to use the main story for the tie-in, and retreat into the back-ups to tell their own, ongoing story (In which The Penguin’s right-hand man decides to usurp his boss’ criminal empire, and declare himself “Emperor Penguin”).

The TEC tie-in is sort of counter-productive, and doesn’t seem to sit well next to the Batman portion of the event, unfolding in Batman.

In it, Batman is running around town dealing with various Joker wannabes, clown-themed killers, gang-bangers and idolizers who are celebrating the villain’s return by going on crime sprees of their own.

Among the legions of Joker fans is a small group of the most-accomplished and threatening of the would-be Joker acolytes, calling themselves “The League of Smiles.” They’re lead by someone calling himself “The Merrymaker” who claims to represent The Joker.

On it’s own, and de-coupled from “Death,” this would be an okay Joker story not actually featuring The Joker, but here it basically just raises logistical questions, like why Batman is dealing with this crap all by himself when he has a family of helpers who could be dealing with it while he concentrates on bringing down The Joker (The whole point of the "Death" story being that Batman now has an entire family of helpers, and whether The Joker can kill that family unit or not; in it, Batman expressly forbids them all from going after The Joker themselves), and when he finds time to do this between the panels of the story in Batman, which, frankly, keeps him pretty busy.

The designs for a few of the Leaguers are stronger than others—too many of the background characters look too much like juggalos (Am I spelling that right? It is not in my spellcheck, apparently)—although I’m not a fan of Fabok’s art. It’s very detailed, and looks like very good David Finch art (if you can imagine such a thing), or perhaps not-as-good Ethan Van Sciver art.

The origin of The Merrymaker is kind of interesting, especially when taken in relation to the overall theme of Layman’s story here, although I had a hard time accepting his fate after reading The Law of Superheroes regarding whether The Joker and his ilk should be able to avoid prison or the death penalty by being criminally insane.

Also, the whole Joker-as-inspirational figure aspect of the story does feel like something cribbed from the old Batman Beyond cartoon, and was recently explored in the new-ish Batman Beyond comic book storyline “10,000 Clowns.” Not sure if Layman’s story came out before “Clowns” or not, but the cartoon certainly established that aspect of the Joker long ago. 


This two-part story by regular Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti, pencil artist Rafa Sandoval and inker Jordi Tarragona is just a mess, although it’s a pretty good-looking mess, thanks to the fine artwork. Or, that is, the fine design and rendering chops on display in the artwork; large sections of the art border on unreadable.

I suspect that was a creative choice on the part of Sandoval and/or Nocenti, meant to reflect the crazy mind of The Joker, or the crazed state he puts Catwoman in, and/or the effects of various drugs she’s exposed to.

There are whole passages though, some of which are action scenes, that don’t make any sense in terms of size, scale and place. The Joker and Catwoman will be fighting in a panel, for example, and both bodies are just drawn on the page, not interacting in any logical way with one another or the setting they’re in; Catwoman will be perched on a ledge high above the city, and a truck will drive by and hit her. Toys change sizes and function in bizarre ways. At least two death-traps she escapes from require careful reading of the text and then re-reading of the art, so a reader can figure out what should have been drawn there in order for the scene to make sense.

It’s so hard to read, and there seems to be some breakdown in communication between the script and the art, that it’s hard to even give the story too much in the way of consideration. Basically, Catwoman falls somewhere between a Batman villain and a Batman ally, and Joker treats her accordingly: Visiting her and trying to press her into some service as he does to Harley Quinn, The Penguin and Riddler in the Jock-drawn Batman back-up stories, yet also attempting to take her out of Batman’s life in order to kill Batman’s “family.”

This could be due in large part to Catwoman’s rather confused status in The New 52, but I suspect Nocenti chooses simply to present The Joker as feeling Catwoman out, emotionally torturing her and physically trying to kill her in an attempt to figure out where she is in terms of Batman, before leaving her as they go their separate ways.

I really liked what bits of the artwork I could read, and I suppose the storyline works well enough as a time-wasting answer to the question of “Hey, how come Catwoman didn’t help Batman out during ‘Death of The Family’…?”

If that is what you’re in to.

I was surprised by three bits, the first two because they seemed needlessly provocative, the third for just being dumb.

The first was the scene in which Catwoman’s black friend shows up clutching a bucket of fried chicken (She’s only on three pages, two of which feature her eating fried chicken). I think the chicken’s only there so Catwoman can make a comment about not liking the skin, meataphorically tying in to one of the themes of this story and “Death” in general, but it feels…off to have your only black character eating a bucket of fried chicken constantly. (Also? Catwoman doesn’t seem like the sort to eat fast food-chain fried chicken; nutrition aside, I can’t imagine that grease is all that great a thing to get on a super-thief’s hands as she’s about to go to work).

The second was the inelegant way in which Catwoman phrases her realization that The Joker is even more in love with Batman than she could ever be: “He’s so blind he can’t see he just wants to be Batman’s be-yotch.”

The third? Just the disguise Catwoman wears to a meet a contact:

Er, maybe a short blonde wig and a pair of dark sunglasses might have disguised the fact that you’re Catwoman a little better than simply wearing a hood over your Catwoman costume…?


This section includes the two Harley Quinn bits from Batman: The Snyder/James Tynion IV/Jock back-up story in which The Joker approaches Harley and presses her into service in his plot to take down Batman, first suggesting he allow her to cut off her face with a straight razor and, when she declines, instead having her dress up as The Red Hood for him, and the Snyder/Capullo portion of Batman in which she does as The Joker asks.

These are book-ended by passages from Suicide Squad, written by Adam Glass and penciled by Fernando Dagnino, which show The Joker pre-approaching Harley for this task, and then attempting to dispose of her afterwards.

It’s unnecessary information to non-readers of Suicide Squad, and evidently only there for the anal retentive who want an explanation for, say, what Suicide Squad leader Amanda Waller might think about Harley running off to be in a Batman comic for a few pages.

It’s also, in keeping with what little of Suicide Squad I’ve read, crass and poorly-drawn.
Dagnino’s main concern seems to be getting Harley’s huge, white boobs just right, as they are in most every panel, barely contained in her tiny, ever descending corset thingee. He also spends a lot of attention on the Joker’s gross new face, but he pays less attention to things like Harley’s cape, which is there in one panel, gone in another, and then back again.

The plot of these book-ends? Harley, Captain Boomerang and Amanda Waller are at Deadshot’s funeral, when The Joker attacks everyone with a paralyzing rain that knocks everyone but Harley, dressed in a black fetish-y widow’s outfit, unconscious.

The Joker punches her in the face, then sticks a straight razor in her open mouth, playing around the inside of it with the blade as he talks to her a half-dozen panels.  Then he threatens to cut of Deadshot’s corpse’s dick if Harley doesn’t help him. She agrees.

Then we get the Batman sections.

Harley, back in her tiny Suicide Squad costume is then attacked by The Joker, and the pair have a pretty savage battle.
He strangles her with a chain, attempts to throw her in a vat of chemicals, bites off part of her ear, and sics rabid hyenas on her (These Dagnino draws as if he’s simply going by someone’s description of a hyena, rather than Google Image-d “hyena;” one takes a big, bloody bite out of Harley’s thigh, but the wound disappears in the next panel, and apparently she doesn’t get rabies from the bite).

She attempts to throw him into the same vat of chemicals, bites off part of his tongue and smashes him face-first into a boiler so hard that his face sticks to it, and he has to peel it off and re-fasten it before continuing the fight.

The Joker ultimately wins, and chains her in a room full of skeletons to starve to death, but she manages to escape, by tearing her flesh out of the shackles.


Gail Simone’s Batgirl is one of the books I’ve been most actively avoiding since the New 52-boot. I don’t think the reboot was a good idea in general, particularly since it was a sort of half-assed reboot where rather than starting over, they just changed a bunch of stuff in the characters’ histories, and didn’t tell anyone what had changed (And, of course, certain characters, titles and franchises were rebooted more thoroughly than others).

And, speaking as a fan here, I liked Barbara Gordon. I liked Oracle. I liked that she had a story, a character arc, in which she grew up and changed. I liked that there was such a prominent character in the DC Universe that was in a wheel chair. Reverting her to a teenage crime fighter in a Bat-costume, making her Female Batman Analogue #2 seemed like a supremely bad idea to me (Also, I didn’t like any of the creators involved enough to try to ignore all of that to try the book out).

But! If you were going to so thoroughly reboot Barbara Gordon’s history so that she was never Oracle, so that she was still a very young girl and so that she was still Batgirl (something she gave up being before she lost the use of her legs), then why on earth wouldn’t you also reboot the fact that The Joker once shot and paralyzed her?

The only things they kept in continuity regarding Barbara Gordon were 1). She has red hair 2.) Her dad is Police Commissioner Jim Gordon and 3.) Batman: The Killing Joke totally happened.

This got to brain blowing-up for me when Barbara mentions in the narration that not only did The Joker still shoot and paralyze her, she was paralyzed for three years, and has only been Batgirl for a year after that.

So, and I know I mentioned this on the blog before rather randomly, this means that Batgirl was only Batgirl for about a year or less before being shot, and has only been Batgirl for another year or two since. It also means she was Batgirl sometime around Year Two of Batman’s career, and also got shot by The Joker around that time.

That’s just nuts. In the previous continuity, Dick Grayson wasn’t even Robin until the third year of Batman’s career. Here Batman's got (and lost!) a Batgirl immediately. It also rather boggles the mind as to how Batgirl is, like, any good at all when it comes to like, you know, fighting and superheroing. I had spent as much time training to run 5K races by the end of my sophomore year of high school, and I wasn’t exactly Olympic material or anything, you know?

This also means that while The Killing Joke still happened, it happened very differently (Maybe Simone already wrote it, within the earlier pages of Batgirl?). I’m not sure the story—written as a sort of “last” Joker story—makes sense if it happened, like, during Year Two, as Batman and Commissioner Gordon could have only dealt with The Joker so many times by that point in their careers (Also, where was Robin in The New 52 Killing Joke? There had to be one. With four Robins in five years, Batman couldn’t have gone without one for any significant stretch of time). Batgirl couldn’t have retired from crimefighting at that point; she’d just started. And if that was four years ago and she’s in her early 20s no, did that mean she was a minor at the time? Because that’s a whole new icky aspect to an already dark, dark story.


Anyway: This story. It’s four issues of the Batgirl monthly, all written by Simone. The first issue is drawn by Ed Benes who is, you know, Ed Benes.

The rest of them seem to be drawn by Daniel Sampere, who does one of the better Joker faces (but it’s still not as good as Patrick Gleason; that guy’s the all-around champion Joker face drawer).

Simone is picking up the Commissioner-Gordon’s-son-is-a-brilliant-serial-killer plotline that Scott Snyder started during his Detective Comics run, which The New 52 reboot cut short (and seemingly forced him to abruptly end unsatisfactorily).

In this story arc, The Joker has kidnapped Barbara’s mother as a means to lure her to him for capture, ultimately deciding he wants to marry Batgirl. James Gordon Jr. is heavily involved throughout, ultimately outwitting The Joker and temporarily saving his sister and himself—but Batgirl still ends up as she must, in The Joker’s clutches for the finale.

The story ends with a splash page featuring The Joker changed out of his repairman’s costume and into his more traditional purple suit, about to uncover a silver serving dish dripping blood, and telling Batgirl, “You simply won’t BELIEVE what I’ve got under her for YOU!” (Hey, so, uh, spoiler warning, right? You’ve all read “Death” at this point, and know what is actually under all the serving trays? What did he show to The Penguin and Two-Face in the penultimate issue of the arc? He showed them one of them, I guess, but which one? That bugs me).

In the context of this book, and taken on its own terms rather than in the greater scheme of things (i.e. all my kvetching about continuity and the fucked-up, ridiculous timeline of the Bativerse above), this is probably the average book in the collection. It’s not the best, it’s not one of the better ones, but it’s not the worst, nor one of the worse ones.

It does present a couple of problems, I think.

First, The Joker’s plan for his wife is to Boxing Helena her, although I don’t think Boxing Helena is ever mentioned. Is there another source for a story in which a dude cuts off a woman’s limbs in order to keep her that both Simone and writer/director Jennifer Chambers Lynch were alluding to independently in Batgirl and Boxing Helena, or is this an unattributed homage to the film on Simone’s part? (To be charitable in my phrasing).

And secondly, this story seems to directly contradict the ending of “Death” in Batman in two ways. (Again, spoiler warnings, okay?) So one of the ways in which The Joker metaphorically kills Batman’s family is by sowing doubt and distrust among his sidekicks. He repeatedly claims to know who they all are in their real, civilian lives, and to have all of their secrets written down in a little book he carries with him at all times.

These are, it ends up, “jokes.” He has no idea who they are (nor does he care at all), and the book is blank. Like the gag with the serving dishes, this is just a fiendish joke of his own.

But in the Batgirl arc, he shows his book to an Arkham psychologist in flashback, and it doesn’t seem to be blank.

Also, clown-masked thugs attack Barbara Gordon’s apartment, and The Joker kidnaps Barbara Gordon’s mom to apparently trap her; the script makes it sound like The Joker doesn’t know she’s Batgirl’s mom, but, at the same time, why did he kidnap her in the first place? If it was to draw someone else out, like Commissioner Gordon or Batman, it doesn’t work, and he doesn’t seem to have tried to contact them, or be disappointed to end up with Batgirl instead.  He’s just sort of hanging around a skating rink with a kidnapped Mrs. Gordon, having set a bomb and ringed the place with snipers…just in case Batgirl or someone comes for him…?


And here we get into the absolute nadir of the tie-ins, the Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza-written issues of Red Hood and The Outlaws and Teen Titans that crossover with one another, featuring art by six different artists (Of whom Ale Garza is maybe my favorite, and Brett Booth is probably the biggest star).

Now Teen Titans and Red Hood are two more books I’ve avoided since the reboot, for much the same reasons as Batgirl. In addition to featuring creators I wasn’t interested in, they rebooted characters I liked into unrecognizable versions that don’t really make any sense, if you stop and think about them for, like, any seconds.

The characters are—or were—second and third-generation heroes, but there are no longer any generations in the DCU, as everything sort of happened simultaneously, so Robin III Tim Drake and the grown-up sidekick of Green Arrow Roy Harper aren’t really themselves anymore (Also, have you seen what they make poor Tim wear these days? Yikes).

Also, as with Batgirl and The Killing Joke, DC apparently decided not to reboot “A Death In The Family,” the storyline in which The Joker killed Robin II Jason Todd, who DC brought back to life many years later through a Superboy punch (I don’t know the explanation for why he’s alive in The New 52, but he was apparently still killed by The Joker and resurrected).

Reading this felt like reading a “Heroes Reborn” version of The Titans.

Here’s a plot synopsis.

The Teen Titans, in civilian clothes and calling each other by their real names (Kiran, Miguel, Cassie) discover that The Joker must have kidnapped their ally, Red Robin (These Titans are apparently Some All-Black Lady With Glowing Eyes I Didn't Catch The Name Of; Bunker, introduced with some fanfare as a gay teen, who here talks like 1980s Vibe only without the phonetic accent; Wonder Girl and Kid Flash, who is Bart Allen).

Meanwhile, Jason Todd, in his civilian identity, was hooking up with some lady he hooks up with, when The Joker stages an extremely elaborate attack in her apartment (Again, this story seems to indicate that The Joker knows Red Hood’s secret identity), and eventually captures Todd.

He fights him, and after making him run a gauntlet seemingly designed to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he totally  knows his secret identity, deposits him in a room alongside an unconscious Red Robin.

The Teen Titans and the, uh, Outlaws arrive in Gotham to look for their teammates, and Batgirl shows up to make a stupid, already outdated po culture reference…
…and offer some sort of logistical support (So this story must take place after the Batgirl one, which it follows in the collection).

The Joker has, of course, planned for the intervention of Red Hood and Red Robin’s allies, and while Kid Flash runs all over town looking for them, he’s spreading a form of Joker toxin that turns everyone it touches into a Joker, which the superheroes spend the rest of the story fighting.

In this hideout, Joker says he has kidnapped Todd and Drake’s fathers, and he makes the two former Robins fight to the death in order to save their own father (This is a fake-out. He doesn’t actually have their fathers, but reasonable facsimiles. But in order to fake them out, he must have known enough about them to know what their father’s might look like, right? So, again, this seems contrary to the end of “Death”).

The Robins figure out The Joker’s game, and Red Hood tries to shoot him to death, but The Joker anticipated that too, and then The Robins are both gassed unconscious again, and the last page features the serving tray scene we’ve already seen at the end of Batgirl.
Oh, and the weirdest part? At one point, Tim narrates that Jason is "Maybe the person who has come closest to being an actual brother in my entire life."

That's...that's a pretty extraordinary difference than the old DCU. 


This three-issue arc of Nightwing, by writers Kyle Higgins and Tom DeFalco and pencil artists Eddy Barrows and Andres Guinaldo (with a pair of inkers and a pair of colorists), seems like a conclusion to what was a major arc in the title, and seems to come so close on the heels of that arc that it seems as if the book must have changed directions rather suddenly.

The last Nightwing comics I read came in the trade Nighwing Vol. 2 and in it, Dick Grayson had decided to invest in Gotham, similar to Bruce Wayne, but without Wayne’s finances backing him, creating “Amusement Mile,” an entertainment area in which his Haly’s Circus would be housed.

The Joker scuttles those plans, killing off one of Haly’s clowns, kidnapping and Joker-izing the rest of the circus and, in the course of his fight with Nightwing, blowing the whole place to kingdom come. That seems pretty significant to the title,  but then, I haven’t read anything that’s followed, so I’m not sure to what extent the title really did change direction.

As with several of the stories above, this one features a Joker plan so elaborate that it stretches credibility in and of itself. If all he did during this night or three screwing with Batman was the stuff he pulled off in Batman, that in and of itself would have been a near miraculous bit of planning (tapestries of living victims hanging from the ceiling, recruiting The Penguin, freeing the Arkham inmates, dressing some of them up and pressing them into service, et cetera).

But in addition to that—and his elaborate traps and plans to get Batgirl, Robin, Red Robin and Red Hood—here he breaks someone out of Blackgate, kidnaps and poisons an entire circus, rigs a section of town with explosions and, digs up almost every single person at Haley’s who has died and posed their corpses on pikes just to shock Nightwing. And, unlike in Batgirl, where he had a gang, here he seems to be working alone.

Maybe the real origin of the New 52 Joker was that he was a janitor at the Central City police station, and he was mopping the floor on the other side of the shelf full of Flash chemicals the night lightning through Barry Allen into them…?

On its own, it’s a fine example of The Joker as a master-planner, Batman’s evil opposite in terms of being prepared for any eventuality and able to take down anyone, so long as he has time to plot for a victory.  But with the other half-dozen stories that occur simultaneously? It’s kind of hard to process how this event works, unless The Joker is, like, six different people.

Oh, and the fact that Joker targets everyone at Haly’s except Dick Grayson in order to get at Nightwing would seem to indicate, once again, that The Joker totally knows his secret identity, which is contradicted in the conclusion of the arc in Batman.
The art is, as it was in the previous issues of the series I read, the weakest part, and the multiple art teams for just a single arc is a good indication of why (although I’m not generally a fan of Barrows’ style, with its muscular, agonized figure work and strained, over-acting faces…even if it is somewhat appropriate here, given the number of characters wearing chemically-enforced expressions and fighting to the death).


This section contains the tie-in issues of Batman and Robin, by Peter Tomasi, pencil artist Patrick Gleason (only one pencil artist? Weird!) and inkers Mick Gray and Keith Champagne.

Visually, it’s by far the most accomplished work in the book, eclipsing even Greg Capullo’s chapter (Looking at sales charts, I may be in the minority here, but I think Gleason is the best Batman artist at the moment, head and shoulders above Capullo and head, shoulders and torso above the rest).

His is also the best and scariest Joker. Part of that is simply how horrifying some of The Joker’s actions with his face that Tomasi has him take are (When Robin first encounters him, Robin is hanging upside down by his ankles, and The Joker has his own face on upside down, so his eye-holes are full of teeth and his maniacal eyes are staring out of a wide mouth hole).
Much of that though is how Gleason draws the face. First, it’s thoroughly three-dimensional, with a pancake-like thickness, rather than appearing like a mummy-think, paper-like mask, as most of the other artists draw it.  There’s a tactile quality to The Joker’s flayed-off face, which makes his playing with it all the scarier.
Gleason also seems to have put more thought into what that might actually look like, so instead of having a nose structure, the face is smooth there (Having never skinned a face, I’m not sure what happens to the nose area, as there’s no bone under there, just cartilege…would the face-flayer have cut around the nose, leaving a nose hole, similar to the eye and mouth holes, or chopped it off completely? Is it possible to skin the nose itself?)

Most of the time, The Joker’s eyes aren’t visible through his eye-holes, but appear in shadow….particularly in medium or long shot.
Tomasi and Gleason include plenty of other horror elements, though. First, the setting here is a zoo, which The Joker has also taken over and filled with various traps (a giant, prop Robin’s egg, an avalanche of insects, hyena’s poisoned with Joker venom, etc). A skating rink, an abandoned church, Amusement Mile, the Gotham City Zoo, and incursions into police headquarters, Wayne Manor and Blackgate Prison…how much of the city did The Joker conquer in this crossover series…?

Gleason draws awesome animals, and fills the pages with the squicky horror of insects crawling all over. The Joker’s rotting face naturally attracts the attention of flies and, here, maggots (as the crossover progresses, flies gradually appear around The Joker, and, at its climax, Capullo and company show the face starting to turn brown rather than chalk white, as if it were rotting).

Remember feeling itchy, wriggly and repulsed during that bug-cave scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Imagine this then: The Joker pulls a cord, and a trapdoor opens above Robin, half-burying him in piles of insects, worms and other creepy-crawlies..

Damian and The Joker have encountered one another a couple of times during Morrison’s apparently still in-continuity issues of pre-New 52-boot Batman reboot, and those are referenced here. The two have a pretty interesting relationship, as Damian is generally written like a kid-version of the angry, violent take of Batman, albeit one who is even more angry, more violent and willing and able to kill, as he was trained to do since birth.

Knowing this, The Joker apparently presents Robin with an enemy he’d hesitate to hurt too badly: A Joker-ized Batman (who ends up not being Batman, but a reasonable enough facsimile to fool the drugged-up Damian).

He first appears emerging from the sea of bugs.
It ends as all of these chapters do, with The Joker seemingly in a life-and-death struggle with the sidekicks, before the whole thing is more-or-less called off, and the sidekick taken captive, only to awaken to The Joker offering up a gory sliver platter that readers would have safely assumed almost certainly contained the head of Alfred Pennyworth.

Oh, hey, check out Gleason’s drawing of the polar bear habitat:
As with the architecture of the parks in Gotham City (as seen in Batman/Superman #1), and its many insane-looking gargoyles, that seem to be more evidence that the reason that there are so many violently insane people in Gotham City is that all of the public space seem to have been specifically designed to drive everyone who lives there crazy.


This is Batman #17, by Snyder, Capullo and inker Jonathan Glapion, the conclusion of the core “Death of the Family” story from Batman.

It also appears in Batman: Death of The Family, and Batgirl: Death of The Family, and Batman and Robin: Death of The Family and, I imagine, every one of the trades that are coming out sub-titled “Death of the Family.” It kind of has to, in order to resolve the stories that will appear in those books, but if you’re only reading, like Batman, Batman and Robin (the two best Batman books at the moment) and pick up this The Joker volume, you’ll be buying that same issue three times. If you read more of the Batman line in trade, you’ll be buying it and reading it in each of them (I sort of talked about this phenomenon the other week).

I’ve already reviewed Batman Vol. 3 elsewhere, of which this is the climax, but I did want to reiterate that what I thought most brilliant about it (other than those cool last two pages, where The Joker leaves a goodbye message only Batman would find), was that The Joker’s ultimate attack was premised on a series of evil jokes on Batman and his family of fellow crimefighters (The contents of the platters, which we find out here actually number five, rather than just the one, and the contents of his little black bat book).

The former is somewhat perplexing in that, if The Joker still has access to his face-flayer*, he really could have done what he only pretended to do, effectively ending the lives of the characters as they know them, permanently building an unclimbable wall between them and Batman and maybe driving some of them and/or Batman crazy in the process.

I also like that Batman ultimately defeated Joker by turning his own strategy—that of the evil joke—back on The Joker. That, and that the Joker is defeated by seemingly dying—not being killed by The Batman, but falling to his apparent but certainly not actual death, his body never being found. I much prefer that sort of “ending” to a Joker story than the whole arrest and incarcerate in Arkham ending, as it forces the uncomfortable question of why doesn’t someone, anyone just kill The Joker at this point to the fore, and Arkham seems pretty silly the longer you read Batman comics, given its revolving door (If Bruce Wayne devoted his entire fortune to securing Arkham and making it impregnable, he would probably save more lives in Gotham City than he does by Batmanning).

What I didn’t like about the issue was a certain professional wrestling aspect to it; Batman seems to have been getting his ass kicked throughout the entire story arc and then, halfway through this issue, he just starts winning, because it’s time for the story to end, and he has to win (or, at least, he can’t be killed or physically lose a member of his family).

As for the metaphorical “death,” it’s a clever, coy play on The Joker’s plans, and ends ambiguously—did Batman really win? Did The Joker win? Will things ever be the same?

It was slightly clumsy in its execution though, as it makes most of the characters seem unconcerned about Alfred, who is shown to still be recovering in bed when the various family members rebuff Batman,when it’s really Batman they’re mad at. And they’re all a little too transparent. Damian’s excuse seemed especially flimsy, since unlike the others he actually lives with Batman and works with him consistently.

The other huge problem with this ending isn’t the fault of the story, but the fault of its timing in relation to the climax of Morrison’s Batman Inc, as I mentioned up top. These two stories could have used a year between them, whichever one came first, but, it ended up there was only a month between them, meaning what seemed like what was likely to happen at the end of “Death” didn’t, and the death was metaphorical; then, the very next month, someone did die.  (More on that in a bit).


The final bit of the book, before the gallery of covers, is Batman and Robin #17, by Tomasi, Gleason and Gray. It begins as a nice, night-in-the-life type of story, with Alfred meeting the Dynamic Duo in the locker room corner of the Batcave with an after-crime fighting meal, and then all three of them going off to bed.

The rest of the issue is devoted to the three characters’ dreams, with Damian haunted by a nightmare within a nightmare, and getting to enjoy a happy dream at the end, one that takes a very elegiac turn read at this point, given what happens to him next in the pages of Batman Inc.

I liked the send-off it gives Damian, and the way Tomasi and Gleason are able to touch on the stories they’ve told featuring these three characters up until this point, and to tease future directions, some of which will naturally never come to be (unless Damian is resurrected as his immortal grandfather is always being resurrected).

Additionally, the story Tomasi writes is full of cool shit for Gleason to draw, which is always a treat.

Some final Caleb thoughts…

So this  book is a little strange in the way it collects so much, and as I said, I think that, collectively, these stories all diminish the core “Death” arc, either by contradicting important elements of it, or simply by stretching a reader’s credulity well past the breaking point.

Financially, all of these tie-ins existing was probably a great idea, but I think I would have preferred it if The Joker had managed to capture the Bat-Family off-panel somehow, and, naturally, some of these tie-ins probably shouldn’t have existed at all (Catwoman and TEC certainly, and the Suicide Squad, Red Hood and The Outlaws and Teen Titans issues probably could have been toned down or trimmed so that The Joker was focused on Harley, Red Hood and Red Robin, rather than involving their extended teams…although, given that Snyder already wrote a story about how The Joker approaches Harley, I’m not sure the Suicide Squad story needed to exist at all, really. In addition to being a super-violent, poorly-made comic, it also thematically lumps her into the Bat-Family, which isn’t quite right).

The extensive targeting of characters only vaguely associated with Batman or people vaguely associated with Batman—Harley Quinn and, through her, Captain Boomerang, for example, or Red Hood and Red Robin’s teammates in the Titans and the, um, Outlaws—sort of begs questions like, “Hey, why did The Joker leave Batwoman out of it? She’s got a “Bat” right there in her name, unlike Catwoman").

Or why wasn’t Batman Inc more extensively targeted, particularly given the fact that, you know, most of them were in Gotham City at this very same time.

And that’s the biggest problem with “Death of the Family” and the conclusion of Batman Inc, the end of Morrison’s years-in-the-writing Batman story.

The events of “Death” are obviously pretty dramatic, with The Joker, as I said, conquering several square miles of Gotham City (on the downlow, apparently), publicly attacking a few big targets and killing God-knows-how-many, while managing to capture a half-dozen vigilantes and the bulter of the city’s most prominent citizen).

The events of Batman Inc’s ending are even more dramatic, with Talia al Ghul’s army setting a trap that lured most of Batman Inc into it, killing Britian’s Batman, occupying Wayne Tower and then blowing it up. Batman is outlawed in Gotham City. The skies are filled with warring Man-Bat ninjas and Batman robots (“Ro-Bats,” I think they called ‘em). Damian and Jason Todd have created new identities.

Obviously they weren’t happening simultaneously, and comic book readers are pretty adept at self-editing what they read, arranging into chronologies that makes sense to them.

That would have all been fine, were it not for the fact that a Robin dies at the end.

So immediately after the conclusion of “Death of the Family,” a storyline named for one of the most famous Batman stories of all time, the one in which The Joker kills Robin, a conclusion which seemed to promise the literal death of a character (with Alfred seemingly the most likely, but Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne all seeming kill off-able to a certain degree), but ended up being a metaphorical death.

Readers worried about their favorite characters could breathe a sigh of relief.

And then next month Robin Damian Wayne gets killed.

I imagine that was more frustrating to serial readers of the comics than to trade readers, but the suddenness of it, the way these two huge storylines jut right up against one another, was really driven home for me when I read Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family. Only a single issue (and the short story from Young Romance) separate the reprinting of Batman #17, the conclusion of “Death”, and the issue of Batgirl in which she mourns the death of Robin (mostly on the cover, and by trying to call Nightwing on the phone, as she has her own storyline following up on “Death,” involving her brother, in-progress. We’ll talk about that later).

I don’t know what the solution would have been, really. I’ve wondered before if DC maybe should have waited a few years for a New 52 reboot, at least until Geoff Johns wrapped up his years-long Green Lantern mega-story and Morrison his Batman story. DC did take a few months off with Batman Inc, as it wasn’t one of the original New 52, but a replacement title in a later wave of new series. Perhaps if it weren’t for that, it would have wrapped up prior to “Death,” which wouldn’t have featured Damian in it at all…but I don’t know, maybe a Batman without a Robin wouldn’t have worked, as then Batman would be working more or less solo, just with a large group of ex-sidekicks…?

The timing of the two stories was obviously less than ideal, and I think hurt each of them when read in a larger context of the Batman line. But I don’t know how one fixes that, either, even with the benefit of hindsight.

Perhaps one fix might have been not to make such a big deal out of Damian’s death, and resurrect him immediately? I was really struck by how un-final his death was in Batman Inc. By the end of the story, his grave has been emptied, as has that of his mother, who surely won’t stay dead for long, and his grandfather is shown in a room full of clones of Damian and talking about inventing a new process for bringing the dead back to life.

I imagine Morrison left things as they were so that he could have his ending—he created Damian, he killed him—and let DC go whatever way they wanted to with him after that. But by having the entire line of Batman books mourn Damian, and then relaunching Batman and Robin as Batman and [Someone Helping Him Cope With Damian’s Loss], it seems like DC decided to let Damian stay dead for a while.

* Dollmaker, I think? I had no interest in reading Tony Daniel’s TEC run, but this story made me think it might be worth reading it just to read that initial Joker story, which seems like it probably should have been something to occur in Batman, rather than TEC, since Snyder followed-up on it; I imagine that that first New 52 Batman/Joker story in TEC was an example of DC’s editors kinda sorta pre-writing plots for their writers.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

On some recent DC Comics-related imagery

From the last two pages of all of last week's DC Comics I read...
Happy Batsgiving!

The brand-new holiday, apparently celebrated the Wednesday before the Wednesday before Thanksgiving where...Batman gives us stuff...? I think that's what it means. I hope so. That guy's loaded.

Actually, it looks like one of those promotional images that DC occasionally produces, wherein the image conceals a bunch of generally impenetrable (until after the fact) symbolic allusions to upcoming storylines. My memory's a bit cloudy on this, but I seem to remember one for Infinite Crisis or Final Crisis (I remember one with Wonder Woman comforting a crying Superman) and for Countdown, and at least one specific to the Batman family of books, that "I Am Batman" teaser in which Two-Face had an awesome Batman costume...

Anyway, I'm not as engaged with plot specifics as I used to be, but a few things jumped out at me about this image, which DC Women Kicking Ass identified the inspiration for.

Here, let's juxtapose 'em...

Here's what jumped out at me:

1.) All of the current Bat-Pets are present and accounted for save Bat-Cow. And I see an awful lot of bones. Around. Hopefully they didn't dispose of Bat-Cow by, you know...

2.) There are a whole lot of folks in this image I don't recognize. Like that blonde dude. I suppose it could be Cluemaster, since we've been told Stephanie "The Spoiler" Brown is going to be appearing in the upcoming Batman Eternal series (and there's someone wearing a purple hood there). I suppose it could be Calvin "Talon" Rose with a new mask, or the New 52 introduction of Jean-Paul Valley in a new mask. Or it could be Dick Grayson with bleached blonde hair, perhaps as a new hero (He was outted in Forever Evil and I'm not sure how they plan on putting that back in the box, as Dick Grayson being Nightwing pretty much outs Bruce Wayne as Batman too...I guess we'll see. At any rate, Grayson's missing from the image).

3.) Given the inspiration for the image, I really think Chief Man-of-Bats and Red Raven should be in there; in fact, Man-of-Bats should be sitting where Batman is.

4.) What on earth is Alfred wearing? A radiation suit? Just how does he prepare turkey? I know fried turkey is becoming a thing now; maybe the rich and eccentric are trying even more out there an dangerous ways of turkey preparation?

5.) The thing I can't take my eyes off though is Batman and the way he's just grabbing that turkey (and thus perhaps accounting for the dirty look Alfred is giving him). It just looks so weird and awkward. Perhaps that's Caveman Batman from the first issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne...?
His table manners would seem to indicate that it is.

At any rate, let's all endeavor to make Batsgiving an annual holiday, and spend ever Wednesday before the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, put on our weird, fetish costumes, get together with our friends, family members and sworn enemies, and think about all of the things we're thankful to Batman for...

From Superman/Wonder Woman #2...

So, is that some kind of new power? I don't think "healing factor" is something I've ever heard in association with Wonder Woman before, primarily because she's so strong, fast and invulnerable (and her hometown has something called a purple healing ray) that she probably doesn't need one.

Then again, she's only had "divine blood" for about two years now.

If it's completely unlcear what's going on in those images (the lay-out the first scan is from was more horizontal than vertical, and artist Tony S. Daniel used irregularly sized panels in it), Doomsday punches Wonder Woman so hard he breaks both her arms (but he disappears or teleports away somehow before he can deliver a killing blow, so she's okay).

The issue, written by Charles Soule and inked by Batt and Sandu Florea, also features another prominent Superman villain, and a scene during which Superman meets some of Wonder Woman's Olympian family, namely Smith, Discord and Sun/Apollo. None seem particularly happy to meet him, and Apollo and Superman even exchange blows.

From Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 1...
Apologies for the poor scan (hard to flatten a hardcover on to the surface of a scanner), but hopefully the second panel is still legible. Despite writing about Tom Taylor's Injustice last week (repeatedly, even), I completely neglected to mention that panel, in which Nightwing refers to one of Batman's behavioral ticks as "kind of douchey."

I'm curious: Is that the very first instance of some variation of the word "douche" in a DC comic...?

From, like, all of their books...
Maybe the single most horrifying image I've ever encountered between the covers of a DC Comic. Largely because it not only frightens me, but makes me feel 1,000 years old.

(Also, what's Grifter of all characters doing there?)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas...

It's mostly the color scheme and the dress-over-tights look, but the first scene of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's Bandette really reminded me of another caped and masked young person, here drawn by Damion Scott, I believe.

At any rate, I have a brief review of Bandette Vol. 1: Presto! in this week's issue of Las Vegas Weekly. It's a really great comic book, and I had a blast reading.

I was particularly impressed with the way Coover's art looked like something from a classic European comic album, rather than the work of the Colleen Coover I've most recently seen in American comics. It wasn't so great or so fun that it made me want to start following it online or anything—I'm probably always gonna prefer paper to the screen of my laptop—but thanks to Dark Horse's collection, the curious need no longer choose between reading it online or not reading it at all.

 I can't wait for the next one.

Two more by Tom Taylor

Today at Robot 6 I reviewed the first collected volume of Injustice: Gods Among Us, the comic book adaptation of that dumb-looking fighting game, written by Tom Taylor and drawn by about seven artists too many. As the thing I liked most about the book—hich I ended up really rather liking, to my own surprise—was Taylor's writing, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to check out a few more things he wrote for DC that were just recently released, Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1 and Earth 2 #17.

Now one of the reasons I found Injustice to be such an unexpected pleasure, I suspect, was that in many ways it reflected the pre-New 52 DC Universe, and I found myself in more familiar territory than I've been in a long time when reading many DC comics.

Obviously, the status quo is pretty different—Superman and Wonder Woman are killers imposing their will on the world, and gradually getting more and more bonkers in the process—but even that is a sort of pre-New 52 thing, a good old-fashioned Elseworlds story.

Beyond that though, Injustice presents a DC Universe where The Joker has a face, Green Arrow has a beard, Hawkgirl exists and so on. The series' first annual is pretty much premised on a very pre-New 52 version of a character entering the world of Injustice: A totally '90s, "bastich" this and "frag" that, albino space biker version of Lobo.
As the cover indicates, the story of the annual is that of Lobo taking out a contract on Harley Quinn, and running into some unexpected trouble.

In keeping with Injustice's apparent refusal to ever let a single artist draw more than one consecutive scene, this 38-page comic features four different artists—Xermanico, Mike S. Miller and Bruno Redondo and Jonas Trindade, who it looks like is only inking the Xermanico-pencilled pages that Xermanico didn't ink himself—and two different colorists.

I haven't read anything past issue six of the (paper version of) the series so far, so I think there's about a four-issue gap between where I left off and where this annual picks up; apparently in that time Green Arrow started hanging out with Black Canary (whose costume I actually rather like; it looks like her traditional bathing suit and fishnets look, but with some armor plating here and there), Robin started hanging out on the Justice League's satellite and Superman "punched a god ta death" and Lex Luthor has started working with Superman, developing a glowing green pill that gives people super-powers.

Lobo comes to earth in order to collect a bounty on Superman, but finds the Man of Steel very changed, which Superman demonstrates by forcibly flying Lobo to the sun and threatening to throw him into it, as that would destroy even the, um, Main Man, who needs at least a single drop of blood to regenerate from.

After thinking about it for all of one panel, Superman then hires Lobo to hunt down Harley Quinn for him, and Lobo agrees—in exchange for a super-pill. Harley gets her hands on the pill, and with her newfound powers, plus the help of Green Arrow and Black Canary, she is able to defeat Lobo, first through extreme violence and then through the power of psychotherapy.
Once the plot is adequately set up, it's a pretty fun and funny comic; the best scenes of Injustice so far have all been the ones in which Harley and Green Arrow banter, so naturally putting the two of them together with Canary and Lobo works really well. There's even a single page that felt an awful lot like an old Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League page (That would be page 31, which comes during Bruno Redondo's section of the book; Redondo is probably the best of the way too many artists working on Injustice, from what I've seen so far).
I love the expressions in that last panel.

Anyway, this was a pretty excellent installment of the surprisingly entertaining series, and one I suspect will be especially welcome to any long-suffering Lobo fans in DC's reading audience.

As for Earth 2 #17, it's the start of Taylor's run on the book, which follows that of James Robinson. It's nice to see DC giving Taylor something else—and something in-continuity—to work on, even if it's not  a Green Arrow/Harley Quinn book. Trouble is, this doesn't really feel any more a part of the DC Universe than Injustice does.

Set on the New 52 version of Earth-2, where the Justice Society lives, this series began by introducing new versions of traditional Earth-2 natives like Flash Jay Garrick and Green Lantern Alan Scott, only rather than being aged Golden Age heroes, they were young men whose careers were contemporaneous with that of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman (all three of whom died in the first issue).

I haven't read past the first story arc (and the two awful Villains Month decimal point-ed issues), so I was a little lost as to what was going on in this issue. The dead Superman, returns to Earth wearing a new, evil Superman costume (all red and black) and proceeded to beat up this world's superheroes (called "Wonders") and kill "a god", whom I think is supposed to be the New God villain Steppenwolf.
While the heroes fret over how to deal with an evil Superman, a new Batman, secret identity unrevealed, (and also wearing red and black) appears with a plan to stop Superman and save the world. Given the premise of Injustice, Batman fighting an evil version of Superman on an alternate earth maybe isn't the smartest place for Taylor to start his run, certainly not if he doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as the guy who only writes story about Batman fighting evil versions of Superman on alternate earths, anyway.

While this isn't a terrible jumping-on point, I was a little surprised that Taylor seemed to be picking up on a story in-progress (perhaps Robinson left extremely unexpectedly?), and there were a few characters I didn't recognize at all. The Flash, Green Lantern, The Sandman, The Atom, Mr. Terrific, Terry Sloane and Amire Khan all appear, as does the Dr. Fate and Red Tornado. There's also an archer character, whose identity I couldn't even begin to guess at. Oddly, there are little text bubbles and arrows identifying some of the characters, but among those identified are the most obvious characters, like Fate and the Flash. No bubble for archer-guy.
Oh, and this version of Red Tornado is a female robot. And she's Lois Lane, for some reason.

I feel the book has drifted pretty far from what seemed like its original premise—a brand-new, "Ultimate" Justice Society on a parallel world with no Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—given that this issue featured Superman, Batman, Lois Lane-in-Red Tornado's android girl-body and Lois' dad, General Sam Lane.

Given the roughly ten million awesome Golden Age characters in DC's character catalogue, many of whom have some connection to the Justice Society, it would be nice to see pretty much anyone other than Superman and Batman in this comic.

The art is still quite strong though, thanks to pencil artist Nicola Scott, who has been drawing the book since it launched.