Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Comic shop comics: June 25

Adventures of Superman #14 (DC Comics) I really like the opening story, by writer Max Landis and artist Jock, in which Superman meets The Joker for the very first time (in this story, anyway; the stories in Adventures are all continuity-lite, and tend to be evergreen ones from a time when Superman wore a Superman costume, rather than the Superman-branded suit of nanotech armor he wears in the New 52 line of comics).

It's a 20-page story in which Superman confronts The Joker, who thinks he has Superman's full attention because he's hidden seven bombs all around Metropolis, and the two characters basically just talk to each other for 17 pages. The Joker rails against Superman for being generic, for being boring, for being a blank slate, for lacking the edge and style and realism of Batman (so yeah, it gets pretty meta), while Superman diffuses The Joker with a myriad of harsh verbal shut-downs, many of which are quite surprising (laughing at his jokes, for example, or shrugging when The Joker suggests that Superman never kills: "Batman doesn't kill people because he has a code. I don't have a code. I just don't generally kill people.")

Honestly, I see-saw between finding the story trite and too cutesy, and thinking it brilliant. Either way, it's definitely the best Superman/Joker story I've read, and a damn good meditation on both characters, one that also happens to be short enough to slot into any future greatest story collections featuring either The Joker or Superman. The last three pages, involving a much angrier confrontation with Batman, seems almost out of place, and makes for a weird epilogue.

Landis' story is certianly improved by Jock, who draws Superman only in tight close-ups, as often of some iconic element of his costume as of his eyes, or as a floating, mysterious figure. There's a nice page in which he draws The Joker in a variety of famous takes...
...and while that's nice and showy, his work on the rest of the story is even more excellent, on account of how much more subtle it is. I really liked this story a whole lot.

The back-up story is written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Phil Hester and inked by Eric Gapstur, and is a much funnier idea than the comic itself turns out to be: Clark Kent has to babysit Sugar and Spike, and, when the Atomic Skull attacks STAR Labs, he must bring the babies toddlers into action with him.
I'm a big fan of Hester's art, and I really like his Clark and Superman, but Sheldon Mayer he's not, and Mayer's characters don't quite look or feel right when adapted into Hester's style.

Aquaman #32 (DC) Can I go on record as saying I really rather like the idea of the "Bombshell Variant" covers? Because I really rather do. I know DC is doing a set of prints or something, but I do hope they publish a comic book format, stapled collection of the covers (which I highly doubt they will, but still, I hope, because I sure wouldn't mind owning these, but I'll be damned if I'm going to read all the shitty comics they happen to appear on).

Anyway, this issue of Aquaman had one on it, featuring Mera appearing on what appears to be a postcard from Atlantis. I don't really like the slightly out-of-focus nature of it though, which I think is meant to represent a photograph of an old postcard...? Or they printed them poorly. I don't know.

Anyway—nice cover!

The insides are less notable. I guess the story in the previous issue continued into an issue of Swamp Thing, which I didn't read, so I'm unclear on how the title character got from Point A to Point C.

The mad science monster being created on Triton Base escapes—surprise!—and attacks Aquaman. Mera and Tula beat the shit out of a bunch of would-be assassins, and Mera intimidates one into talking by threatening to have him eaten alived (Man, everyone's a Batman, no one's a Superman). And two dudes get their faces ripped off, while two more are melted alive by some kind of super-powerful biological acid. I also read two comics written by Geoff Johns this week, and neither are anywhere near as violent or gory as this one, so...good job...Jeff Parker...?

Paul Pelletier's art, inked by Sean Parsons and Rick Magyar, is nice, although I think his Chimera is too scary. I don't like looking at it, especially in close-up, as it appears on the title splash page.

This issue, like at least a few others that were released this week, also contains a six-page preview to the rather dumb-looking Grayson series by this issue's artist and Batman Eternal #12 consulting writer Tim Seeley (based on what I saw in the last issue of Nightwing and this preview, anyway). Dick Grayson has faked his own death, and Batman is keeping the fact that Grayson isn't really dead from Alfred so that Dick can dye his hair blond and infiltrate Spyral until Grayson get canceled.

I really liked the last panel though:
Oh shit, Emma Frost is going to call in Maksim Chmerkovskiy, the bad boy of ballroom himself!

Batman Eternal #12 (DC) After the previous issue, featuring the artwork of Ian Bertram, this issue looks positively prosaic, despite the fact that Mikel Janin's artwork (colored by Jeromy Cox) looks fine (Pretty nice cover by Guillem March, featuring a nice variation on the classic, knee-up pose Jim Lee put his Batman in, but boy oh boy, I don't think anyone can make Batman's New 52 bat-knee pads look non-idiotic).

The plot for this issue, scripted by James Tynion IV, is mostly a bunch of forward steps of many different sub-plots: Gotham Police officers Jason Bard, Maggie Sawyer and Harvey Bullock conspire to fight the Falcone/Penguin gang war that their corrupt Commissioner won't let them address (by recruiting unlikely allies), Red Hood and Batgirl search for evidence to clear James Gordon, Gordon's trial starts, Batman wears a disguise over his costume (which is always funny) to visit Gordon, Harper Row hacks into Red Robin's holographic wrist computer system thing and Tim Drake meets Julia Pennyworth.

There's a surprise appearance on the last page, and it's sort of unfortunate that the character is appearing in a story with Jason Bard, as the two look almost identical; Janin distinguishes them slightly by giving Bard a bit of stubble, but man, with different artists every issue, I can forsee this being a problem. One of them should have grown a beard or something.

Batman '66 (DC) Artist Dario Brizuela joins Jeff Parker for the lead story, in which Batman and Robin face Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, who has hired an honest-to-goodness witch—pointy-black hat, bubbling cauldron, the whole nine yards—to help her steal the biggest diamond of all, the Bat-diamond in the Batcave.

In the back-up, the writing team of Art Baltazar and Franco draw a story featuring The Minstrel, with artist Ted Naifeh drawing...and so subverting his own style that I didn't realize it was Naifeh until I read the credits on the last page (and even then to see Naifeh in the art; maybe a bit around Octavia's eyes, and around Robin's ears in that one panel...?). As with every story I read that Baltazar and Franco write that Baltazar doesn't draw, I find myself wishing he would have drawn this himself; i'd love to see what his Batman '66 looks like, as his adult superheroes are generally pretty awesome-looking.

The New 52: Futures End #8 (DC) What's up with the robot-looking thing with the color and design of Superman villain The Parasite on the cover of this issue? No, seriously, what's up with it? I ask because I don't know. It emerges from a hidden temple in Southeast Asia, a temple full of human skeletons, statuary of three-eyed figures, a three-eyed skull engraving, and a big Brainiac symbol.

Also in this issue, stuff happens on Cadmus Island, Lois Lane hires a plane, the masked Superman is kind of a dick to Jason Rusch and a scientist and Hawkman gets his arm cut off—again! (This time it's his left arm though, and he's already dead when it gets cut off).

Scot Eaton pencils this issue, and Drew Geraci inks it.

Saga #20 (Image Comics) Sex, drugs and violence, in that order, in this issue. The sex is on the vanilla side, for this comic, anyway (Fellatio? It may be from a beaver woman, but it's still just fellatio!), but man, that violence sure was shocking.

Secret Origins #3 (DC) Another issue, another couple of origins that have already been told and re-told.

First, there's Green Lantern Hal Jordan's origin, told not too long ago in the pre-Flashpoint Green Lantern story arc "Secret Origin." I don't think it was meant to have changed at all, given that Green Lantern continuity is largely unchanged by the New 52-boot, but this story does seem to indicate that Hal became a Green Lantern before ever working with/for Ferris, and he was a mechanic rather than a test pilot at the time he got the ring. Robert Venditti writes this one, and he does a nice job of defining Hal's life by two aircraft crashes (the one that killed his dad and the one that made him a Green Lantern) and addressing the character's particular relationship with fear. The art by Martin Coccolo is serviceable.

Second, there's the origin of Batwoman, which seems pretty unnecessary, given the fact that anyone reading DC comics for very long has seen the character debut and her story unfold in real-time (She was introduced in 2006, and her much-delayed solo series didn't start until late 2010). In fact, writer Jeremy Haun seems to assume a reader's familiarity with Batwoman's origin, as I have no idea what exactly happened on the first three pages, but they seem to be alluding to a traumatic event in the character's past, likely involving her mom and/or sister.

For the most part, her origin as presented here seems to parallel that of Batman, in slightly different order. After she drops out of the military for being gay, she decides to fight crime as an urban vigilante, and then decides she wants to be a Bat-person. She goes off to travel the world and train (but just for two years), and returns to be a vigilante, helped by a close confidant.

As Infinite Crisis and 52 no longer happened, her origin feels a bit more generic, as she's no longer filling in for a long MIA Batman, as she was in 52 (during the time Batman, Robin and Nightwing all took a year off together, and the Religion of Crime set its sights on Gotham City).

This one's drawn by Trevor McCarthy. It's fine, but the character is so thoroughly associated with J.H. Williams III, that whenever he doesn't draw her comics, they look somehow off.

Finally, there's the origin of Tim "Red Robin" Drake, which was already presented in one of the Batman #0 issues (I forget which title though; I didn't read it, but flipped through it in the shop). His origin, as written by original New 52 Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell, is drastically different than his original origin.

The way it used to go was that young teenage boy Tim Drake realized that Batman was becoming more and more unhinged after the death of Robin II Jason Todd, and believed that Batman needed a Robin. Having figured out that Batman was Bruce Wayne and Dick Grasyon was Robin-turned-Nightwing, he approached Nightwing and tried to convince him to become Robin again (In "A Lonely Place of Dying"). Dick refused, but, after a period of apprenticeship in the Batcave, mostly doing computer-stuff, Drake finally put on a Robin costume and saved Batman's ass from The Scarecrow, getting the gig. Since his world-travelling, neglectful parents were attacked by The Obeah Man, with his mother killed and his dad in a coma, he moved in with Bruce Wayne for a while, until his dad got better, and he eventually moved to a house next door. He's Batman's partner until about the time of Batman's death in Final Crisis, at which point Damian officially becomes Robin to Grayson's Batman.

Here, Lobdell's Drake is a brilliant gymnast bent on discovering Batman's secret identity as a challenge and, when he does, he wants to apply for the job of Robin. Obviously, Batman doesn't want another Robin to replace the dead-and-not-yet-resurrected-Jason Todd (I still don't know how that happened in The New 52), but after Tim fucks with the Penguin and gets his house attacked, his parents get sent into witness protection (the fuck?) and Tim gets sent to live with Bruce Wayne (um...what?), where he gets offered the job of Robin...and refuses, choosing instead to be Red Robin. He quits being Red Robin after what must have only been like six months or so, given the New 52 compressed timeline, in order to go be in The Teen Titans.

Why he chooses to wear the shittiest costume ever is never explained.

Obviously, this changes Tim Drake's relationship to Batman quite a bit, and he becomes a hero not out of concern for Batman/Bruce Wayne, but more so to fill out his resume. He's not altruistic so much as thrill-seeking, and takes up the mantle because it interests him at the time, and only wears it until something more interesting comes up: Being on the dumb-ass, New 52 Teen Titans.

It also knocks just about everything from about 1989-2008 out-of-continuity, even jacking up stories that are supposedly still in-continuity, like Grant Morrison's Batman continuity (Or, to be more precise, it radically retcons everything from that period; the half-assed nature of the New 52-boot wasn't to start over, or to keep the old continuity, just to imply that there is a continuity, but no one really knows what it is—the worst of both worlds!).

Tyler Kirkham draws this story.


SallyP said...

Yeah, that Tim Drake story sucks donkey balls.

Um...that was perhaps too graphic. Am I allowed to say that?

Eric Lee said...

I started out loving thre Superman and Joker story, but slowly started to dislike it. This is mostly because of Superman's veiled threats to kill the Joker. Also, Batman was a real dick at the end.

tomspeelman said...

Man, that theory people have about all DC editors having a timeline that they don't share with the writers sounds more and more plausible the more I read about new origins.