Thursday, May 01, 2014

Comic shop comics: April 23-30

Adventures of Superman #12 (DC Comics) Writer Peter Milligan takes advantage of the continuity-lite mandate of this anthology series to go continuity-free. Superman has a "Secret Citadel" (labeled with his logo on the front door) in the mountains outside Metropolis (although its drawn to look as if it could be in the arctic; I guess I don't know how much ice there is atop the mountains outside Metropolis). Lois Lane is stuck writing womanly fluff for The Daily Planet rather than the hard crime she wants to (And when she does get to write a crime story, it's in the first-person, editorial-rather-than-news writing style that the Silver Age Daily Planet apparently published exclusively). And Superman does some very, very un-Superman-like things.

There's a new vigilante superhero in Metropolis, going by the not-very-creative name "The Demolisher." He's darker and more violent than Superman, and more than willing to threaten, cripple and even beat villains to the point they end up on life support. He wears all-black spandex and an ugly mask that looks like rock but wears and moves like spandex (despite supposedly being carved from a space-rock; one of several instances where artist Agustin Padilla and Milligan seem slightly at cross-purposes), he carries a shield and a knife, he's super-strong and super-fast.

He's also Superman, who decides to create a third identity in the same way that he created the Superman and Clark Kent identities.

It's another riff on a story that's been told pretty much endlessly, a story comparing and contrasting what Superman is versus what he is not, how being a good and virtuous hero is actually better than being a grim bad-ass (even if the comics starring the latter outsell comics starring the former) and so on. It's fairly cleverly executed, and Milligan goes so far with it that a reader can't help but read this as a standalone story, categorizing it as an Elseworlds/Imaginary Story, that if it hits some too-familiar notes, it feels more like a stylish cover song than a repetition of an over-played song on the radio, if that metaphor hasn't been completely broken about half-way through that last phrase.

The Atomic Skull looked cool, and my eyes always appreciate an opportunity to revisit the real Superman costume after too much exposure to the New 52 one.

Aquaman #30 (DC) Most of this issue—all written by Jeff Parker, with pages divvied up between the art teams of Paul Pelletier and Sean Parson and Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez—features Aquaman and the crazed Atlas Hercules fighting, with Aquaman doing the same thing to this Herc that the uncool thing a previous king of Atlantis did to drive him crazy in the first place. Not cool, Aquaman! (I'm assuming Parker will pick this plot back up sooner rather than later, although the last panel teases two different stories featuring team-ups with two other DC characters; Wonder Woman in the next Annual, and Swamp Thing in the next issue).

Meanwhile, some assassins try to assassinate Mera, and she assassinates two of them right back (Tula, who no one's calling Aquagirl yet, kills the remaining ones that Mera doesn't kill). So much killing in Aquaman!

And the Triton base plot moves forward another page as well.

I'm enjoying this much more than I enjoyed the Johns run—I'm still reading, anyway. I think that may be because this feels a lot more like a superhero comic book than Johns' run was towards the end, particularly during the "Death of a King" arc where it was all Atlantean politics and ancient prophecies and garish costume design and too many coloring effects.

I'm having a hard time dealing with Mera being the "queen" of Atlantis when she and Aquaman are just dating and not married; that really seems more like a response to some weird "No More Marriages!" edict that Dan DiDio Scarlet Witch-ed than anything approaching organic and logical. Are there any monarchal societies, real or fantasy, above the water or below, where anyone who makes out with the king gets to be queen, ceremonies, rituals or rites be damned....?

Whenever an Atlantean calls Mera "my queen," it seems a little like a kid calling their divorced father's new girlfriend "Mom."

Batman Eternal #3 (DC) Hey, is that a new Batmobile...?

This issue features the debut of New 52 Stephanie Brown (if you don't count that flash-forward, teaseri issue of Batman), as she enters her father's house unannounced and sees New 52 Cluemaster sitting around his kitchen table with the equally lame villains Lock-Up, Firefly or Firebug or some character I don't recognize and Signalman (who actually seems like he might be too big a deal to be teaming up with these losers now, given his fairly prominent role in Evil Alfred's The Society in the build-up to Forever Evil.)

It also moves the plot forward rather far in a couple of different directions, as Carmine Falcone's gang goes to war with The Penguin and an interim Police Commissioner intent on focusing attention and resources away from the brewing gang war and toward bringing down Batman is named.

Jason Fabok is still drawing, and while I'm still not a fan of his style and some of his design choices (his Penguin, for example), this issue is certainly better than the first was in terms of storytelling.

Batman Eternal #4 (DC) The credits for the weekly Batman series change for the first time this issue. Most significantly, pencil artist Dustin Ngueyn and inker Derek Dridolfs assume the art duties from Fabok, and already the storytelling has improved, the artwork looks much cleaner, smoother and polished than the ink-heavy, lots-of-little-lines panels Fabok provided.

I also noticed Ngueyn's more stripped-down art removes a lot of the extraneous details from the overly-fussy New 52 costumes; Batgirl's costume still lines up visually with the one she usually wears, but the seams, the armor, the texture is all downplayed. Like Nguyen's Batman, she seems lighter, more dynamic, more fluid. If you've got an issue near you as you read, flip from Fabok's cover of a leaping Batman engaging Batgirl to Nguyen and Fridolfs' title page featuring a leaping Batman engaging Batgirl (page 4).

Or, if you don't have a copy handy as you read this...
The cover looks like two very expensive action figures molded from Jim Lee designs being smashed together, while the title page looks like comic book superhero Batman swooping out of the night onto a rooftop, where Batgirl stands posed and waiting.

The writing credits have shifted around a bit too. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, credited as writers of the first three issues, are here credited with "story," while John Layman gets a "script" credit, and Ray Fawkes an Tim Seeley remain in the "consulting writers" column.

After the big changes introduced in the previous three issues, this one is more of an ellipsis than an exclamation point. Gordon is sent to Blackgate; the good police officers don't care for their new, bad commissioner; Stephanie Brown is on the run from her villain father and can't go to the police because apparently the unseen "boss" in the last issue was a police officer (I'm assuming he or she was wearing a uniform; that, or Stephanie is really more plugged into city politics than I was as a teenager); Batman confronts Falcone (who has put on a suit here); and Batgirl is all obsessed with clearing her dad, to the point that she's throwing punches at Batman.
Say, I thought Batman's whole tough guy line about getting punched in the face by his friends and allies was something along the lines of "Everyone gets one" free punch before he starts blocking or punching back. How come Batgirl gets two punches?

I think Batman owes Hal Jordan and just about everyone else who has ever punched him in the face once extra punches...

Batman '66 #10 (DC) Cover artist Mike Allred draws a fantastic Bat-snowmobile on this cover, but Batman and Robin don't really ride one inside the book at all; rather, they use rocket-powered skis to travel through Gotham City, which Mister Freeze has plunged into arctic conditions. That's in the first story, by Jeff Parker, pencil artist David Williams and inker and colorist Kelsey Shannon.

The back-up, also written by Parker but drawn by Joelle Jones, is a shorter story in which Batgirl battles Cleopatra. The story accentuates librarian Barbara Gordon's encylopedic knowledge of just-about everything, as well as her research abilities (which were a lot more impressive when research involved microfilm of newspapers, rather than just Googling everything, Oracle).

A beautiful, brilliant librarian who is also Batman? Batgirl is basically my dream girl.

Classic Popeye #21 (IDW) Hey, remember that Mars Attacks Popeye comic Evan Dorkin kinda sorta almost half-pitched, which would involve Popeye boxing a Martian...? Well this issue contains a story in which Popeye boxes a Martian.

This Martian, Jetoe "The all-weight champeen fighter of the planet mars," seems more like J'onn J'onnz's fellow Martians, as he's able to change his shape and size at will, than like the skull-faced little green men style Martians of Mars Attacks. When Popeye is unable to get anyone "on this ol' earth" to face him in a boxing match, which can spell doom for a prizefighter, Wimpy decides to try a radio broadcast, which attracts the attention of Jetoe. That's followed by a story in which Popeye tries his hand at wallpaper hanging and a short, lame "Sherm" story. There's also a prose story about horse that thinks he's human, but I haven't read that yet.

I would post the cover to this comic, as I did the covers to all the other comics discussed here, but I accidentally dropped it in the bath tub and it is still drying out. Classic Popeye: The only comic book I feel comfortable reading in the bath tub.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Batman '66 was divine. I LOVE this book! Adventures of Superman was a bit...startling. I kept waiting to see if he had been exposed to red Kryptonite or something...but not bad at all.

Aquaman and Mera are married. I don't care what Dan Didio says.