Saturday, June 21, 2014

Comic shop comics: June 4-18

Batman Eternal #9 (DC Comics) It's another Guillem March and Tomeu Morey issue, meaning it's another of the better-looking issues of the series so far. In this John Layman-scripted installment, Catwoman continues to cause problems for The Roman in Gotham, ultimately getting herself captured by him, while Batman investigates The Roman's recent dealings in Hong Kong. And by "investigates" I mean "just fights a bunch of guys."

That's actually a lot more fun than it sounds, as he gets help from The Batman of Japan, from the pages of the late, great Batman Inc (seen on the cover with The Super Young Team's Shy Young Lolita Canary—simply referred to as "Canary" within—fighting the lame, New 52 version of The Ghost Dragons), and the two Batmen ride their Bat-planes to Jiro's Batcave, which comes complete with his own wizened old man who serves him tea and his own, culturally appropriate version of dinosaur statue:
I'm a huge fan of the world-building Grant Morrison has done on...pretty much everything he's done for DC Comics, so it's a pleasure to see Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Team Eternal making use of many of those additions (speaking of which, Snyder-creation Roadrunner also appears in this issue).

There's a pretty big reveal in the last panel, regarding the identity of the mysterious British lady seen climbing a skyscraper in a cat-suit in the last panel of #8, which I won't spoil here, but will in a few more sentences.

Batman Eternal #10 (DC) The bulk of this issue, drawn by Riccardo Burchielli and still scripted by John Layman, involves Catwoman's captor, Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, being captured by Professor Pyg and his frankly rather horrifying "Farm Hands," human beings with animal heads apparently sewn on:
Not sure how that chicken-headed guy even works, biologically, but I suppose a man brandishing farming implements whose body is powered by the brain of a chicken is about as scary as you can get. Wanting revenge on Falcone for blowing up his lab in an earlier issue, Pyg kills his way into Falcone's pad, holds the gangster and the cat-burglar hostage as he prepares to perform some surgery on them, until Batman appears to save the day.

There are two bits of sup-plot momentum here, as Alfred Pennyworth is reunited with his long-lost (to the Crisis On Infinite Earths, I believe) daughter, now a sort of secret agent for Britain, and we find out where Stephanie Brown's been hiding out. I'm not a fan of Burchielli's artwork here, especially coming as it does right after personal favorite March's, but he certainly does a nice job in making the scary Farm Hands scary.

Batman Eternal #11 (DC) While the cover shows Scorpiana (another character from Morrison's time on the Bat-books) furiously scissoring Batgirl, the interior artwork quite literally looks nothing like that; the designs of both ladies, as well as the style of their rendering, is about as different as can be. It is also awesome, but having already extolled the virtues of Ian Bertram's art at (too?) great length at Robot 6 this week, I suppose I should just link to that piece rather than rant and rave about him some more here.

Suffice it to say that it's probably the best-looking issue of the series so far, and certainly the most wild and visually interesting, Bertram being an ideal candidate to follow in the footsteps of artists like Frank Quitely and Chris Burnham when it comes to drawing Batman adventures (Say, where is Burnham at the moment? Shouldn't he be drawing...whatever he wants for DC?). Bertram is maybe the most highly-stylized, idiosyncratic artist to draw a regular issue of an ongoing, in-continuity Batman book since Kelley Jones, and needs a showcase original graphic novel or miniseries of his own ASAP.

As for the plot, this one checks in with various father/daughter relationships among the cast. Batgirl journeys to Rio De Janiero to try and clear her father's name, which means rescuing a telenovela star from The Club of Villains' Scorpiana (with assists from some unlikely characters, all of whom look awesomely unique as rendered by Bertram). Catwoman reads a letter in the pouring rain of a cemetery. Stephanie Brown learns about her father, Cluemaster. And Alfred and Julia have a conversation, in which she expresses her extreme disappointment with him for abandoning his former career of stitching up soldiers in order to work for Bruce Wayne. That last bit is more emotional than I expected; I was invested enough to read it and think to myself, "Oh, if you only knew, Julia!"

Maybe Julia Pennyworth will be the next Robin! (Ha ha no, it's going to be a resurrected Damian, I'm sure.)
This was by far my favorite issue so far, mostly because of the art, but it's well-written as well...even if it has my least favorite Bat-family character of all (Red Hood, of course, who Bertram manages to draw in a way that reminded me of Kevin O'Neill's superhero work).

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet (DC/Dynamite) Believe me when I say this isn't meant to be insulting at all, but one of the best things about this comic, which is co-written by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, is that you can't tell that it's written by Kevin Smith at all. A comic book based on a show—well, a pair of shows—with a very particular tone, Batman '66 doesn't really leave much room for a writer to insert too much of their own personalities, and, if they do, it would easily implode the rather delicate imitation that's necessary to get the comic over. But the various weakness of Smith's comics-writing one might be familiar with—the no-brow potty and gay panic humor, the wordiness—none of that's here. Smith and Garman, like the more seasoned comics writer Jeff Parker, who writes the ongoing Batman '66 series, doe a pretty pitch perfect impression of the show, with little more than a hint of self-awareness.

Bruce Wayne is accompanying a shipment of "priceless fossils" from the Gotham Museum of Natural History on a train headed for Green Hornet's hometown. On the train, he meets his old friend Britt Reid, and Reid's valet Kato. While the two secret identities banter a bit, making fun of one another's alter-egos, their previous foe attacks the train, and the men excuse themselves to secretly slip into their work clothes.

Ty Templeton, a great cartoonist and great comics artist whose work I don't get to see on the printed page nearly as much as I like, handles the art chores, and it's good stuff, although the fact that he draws Adam West so on-model somewhat unnerves me. Alex Ross, whose been conspicuously absent from DC of late (where was Ross when they were redesigning all the costumes?!), provides a fully-painted cover in his familiar photo-realistic style. I would have loved to see what this book might have looked like had it featured Ross-painted interiors, as I think the hyper-real look of his art coupled with the goofy scripting would have matched the high-camp of the television show in a way that no drawn art has been able to accomplish.

Classic Popeye #23 (IDW) Popeye fights some pirates, with no help at all from Wimpy and Olive. Then Popeye and Pappy clean up his ship. And there's a dumb Shermy story. And that's it. I should probably drop this book, which I say to myself about once a month now, but I just can't seem to bring myself to do so.

The Lake Erie Monster #5 (Shiner Comics Group) I'm assuming that this wasn't on the racks of your local comic shop this month, unless your local comic shop is in northeast Ohio (I'm not sure how widely it's distributed, actually; did you guys down in Columbus see it on the shelves of the Ogre or anywheres?). But you can buy it online, if you like. This is the fifth and final issue of writer Jake Kelly and artist John G's horror adventure comic about a Creature From The Black Lagoon-like fish-man rising from the polluted Lake Erie to terrorize 1970s Cleveland, an idea originally inspired by movie posters for movies that don't exist that the creator's engaged in.

In this final issue, the various protagonists all convene at the abandoned Euclid Beach amusement park for a showdown with the monster...s! They prove nigh unkillable, but that doesn't stop our heroes from pumping them full of shotgun shells, hurling molotov cocktails at them and, in one case, pulping one's head with a huge rock. It's all very horror movie, up to and including not-very-good-ideas, like seeking refuge from a monster engulfed in flames in a hall of mirrors or climbing up the rails of a roller coaster to escape one. Not to mention the The movie might be over, but the horror is still out there, in case we want to do a sequel ending.

John G's thick lines and ink-heavy art have reminded me of early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles art, especially the stuff by Kevin Eastman and/or Eric Talbot, an aesthetic only furthered by the grungy, urban environments and the lettering. As with previous issues, the book is chockablock with ads (there are 31 story pages, counting the introduction and "Commodore's Cleveland" feature starring the horror host character The Commodore, and 11 pages of ads, all for local businesses and drawn by the creators. Some are rather unfortunately placed between story pages).

I enjoyed reading it in this format, although I sincerely hope a publisher out there notices this series and decides to reprint it in trade paperback format. I think its earned an audience beyond the regional one it's so far enjoyed.

The New 52: Futures End #5 (DC) Of DC's two weekly series, this is the bad one, but I haven't been able to tear myself away from it yet—or tear it out of my pull-list, to be more accurate. I'm curious about where it's all going, and just plain love the weekly comics format. It's not great comics, no, and it's not always good comics either, but it's relatively cheap (i.e. it's not $3.99) and it's not as bad as a lot of the publisher's New 52 line.

Jesus Merino and Dan Green are this week's art team, while the writing credits remain unchanged as always (and this time Keith Giffen does not get an art consultant credit).

In this issue, the slightly sinister, awfully douchey Mister Terrific launches his new product, the uSphere, which I guess is a sort of combination T-sphere and iPhone, via a live product announcement which various characters we've been introduced to watch intently. As does two we haven't seen yet, the Batman and Alfred Pennyworth of the year 2019.

King Faraday talks to Grifter about his plans for him. Earth 2's Fury, the daughter of that world's Wonder Woman, tries to escape her prison on Cadmus Island, tearing apart the OMAC guards, only to be stopped by a mysterious little girl. Firestorm finally breaks up. And a guy named Tommy and a lady named Midge bring John Constantine to look at a Brainiac symbol-shaped crop circle in Kansas.

The New 52: Futures End #6 (DC) Patrick Zircher steps up to bat as the artist, and the various plots all move incrementally forward! New 52 Key, Plastique and Coil plan a heist of Terrifitech, which Batman Beyond spies on, as he wants to get in there to totally kill Mr. Terrific. Father Time sends Agents of SHADE Ray Palmer, Amethyst and Frankenstein to investigate the death of StormWatch, via a shortcut through The Phantom Zone, where they unexpectedly encounter Black Adam. And Lois Lane confronts bearded Tim Drake and his new girlfriend after closing time in the bar that Drake, now going by the name "Cal Corcoran," manages.

You know, I didn't really realize this until I saw him taking a drunk, randy, rowdy Ronnie Raymond out using martial arts in this issue, but this plotline is essentially Tim Drake faking his own death and pretending to be Patrick Swayze in Road House, which is actually a pretty fantastic premise (although here the road house is a lame bar in a strip mall called "The Wounded Duck").

The mysterious, masked Superman shows up to warn Faraday not to mess with Lois Lane, which I suppose is mean to suggest that the mysterious, masked Superman is "our" Superman, who Tom Bondurant reminds us must still be around in 2019, if he's going to be made into a monster OMAC/Deathlok cyborg in time for the events of Futures End #0, which Batman Beyond went back to 2019 in order to prevent.

The New 52: Future's End #7 (DC) Well it's about time. No one has lost a limb in issues. Does it even count when Frankenstein gets his arms ripped off though, given that he an always just sew new arms on...? I like that it is Black Adam who disarms him though, as Black Adam previously tore the arms off of Young Frankenstein in that shitty World War III comic. (Remember that? Here were the highlights.) Anyway, the agents of SHADE finally arrive at the crime scene where StormWatch is floating around dead in space, and it looks like they really are all least Midnighter, Mermaid, Jack Hawksmoor and Hawkeye all look pretty dead.

Of greatest note this Aaron Lopresti-penciled, Art Thibert-inked issue is that we finally get a name for that little girl on Cadmus Island, "Fifty Sue" (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Get it? Ah ha. I'm gonna guess Brian Azzarello gets the high-five for that one?), and Batman Beyond is confronted by Mr. Terrific, which one would expect to be just what BB wants, since he's come back in time to kill him and all, but, instead, BB runs away, leaving Mr. T. with the stowaway OMAC/Deathlok from the future, which seems to give Mr. T. ideas. Time travel sure is stupid.

She-Hulk #5 (Marvel Entertainment) What's this? A She-Hulk/Superior Foes of Spider-Man crossover...? Not quite, but not not in the same ballpark, as writer Charles Soule and guest artist Ron Wimberly send She-Hulk to the apartment of Superior Foe Herman Schultz, AKA The Shocker (and, like Superior Foes, She-Hulk has thus far managed a light, comedic tone).

Our heroine Hulk is investigating the mysterious "blue file," a case in which someone named George Saywitz sued a whole bunch of super-powered people in North Dakota, including She-Hulk, but she has absolutely no knowledge of or memory of the case. The Shocker is another defendant named in the case, as is Tigra, who Shulkie's new employee Patsy Walker, Hellcat goes to interview, and her paralegal (and her paralegal's monkey) go to North Dakota to look for paper records pertaining to the case.

So it's a whole lot of legal legwork in the might Marvel manner!

Actually, there is quite a lot of action, as when Patsy says "George Saywitz" aloud, it acts as some sort of trigger word, makaing Tigra go crazy and try to murder her in a brutal cat fight. As for the Shulkie/Shocker interaction, after Herman initially tries to run, they basically just sit down and share Chinese food, and have an interesting heart-to-heart (page 16 is pretty priceless).

With Wemberly drawing, this issue looks nothing like the previous, Javier Pulido-drawn issues, but that's A-OK, as Wemberly is an incredibly interesting artist in his own right. The panels are drawn almost exclusively in weird, extreme angles, often from very high or very low, to the point that many sequences made me nostalgic for those old Aeon Flux shorts that used to run on MTV's Liquid Television, back when I was still young and vital and had long, flowing hair on my head. Color artist Rico Renzi does bright, poppy, flat work akin to that of regular colorist Munsta Vicente, making some very interesting choices, like the pink sky above New York City in the Patsy/Tigra scenes.

In addition to not being drawn by Pulido, this is the first issue that isn't really standalone. I mean, it's not impenetrable if you read it by itself or anything, but, unlike the first few issues, it's not a complete story unto itself, but a plot-carrying piece, as the sub-plot hinted at and teased in the earlier issues finally comes to the fore.

She-Hulk is still good, but, better yet, it's unexpectedly good.

SpongeBob Comics #33 (United Plankton Pictures) This issue continues the first multi-issue narrative of the series so far, in which writer Derek Drymon sends SpongeBob to Shady Shoals retirement home to learn about the first encounter between his hero Mermaid Man and new hero Viro Reganto, the Esperanto-speaking sea king (Drymon draws the present bits, in the usual SpongeBob style, while Jerry Ordway draws the flashbacks, in his superhero style). Perhaps reflecting the old-school superhero shenanigans of this storyline, the cover reflects those of some old DC crossover comics.

I kind of love the arrogant Reganto character, and I particularly enjoy the Esperanto-sprinkled dialogue.

That's but one of the stories in this issue of, course. There's also a Joey Weiser/Jacob Chabot story in which Gary goes off to camp, a Brian Smith story in which SpongeBob and Patrick visit Sandy, a 10-page story in which Larry the Lobster must defend his beach from invading jellyfish, two pages worth of James Kochalka strips, a Maris Wicks "Flotsam and Jetsam" educational strip about jellyfish and a really rather lovely Ramona Fradon back cover pin-up, featuring Viro Reganto autographing various love-struck female sea creatures.

SpongeBob Comics Annual-Size Super-Giant Swimtacular #2 (United Plankton Pictures) Hey, remember last year when I wondered aloud whether United Plankton Pictures were going to publish their annual annually, or do something goofy like DC and Marvel, and publish them whenever, or with the year in the title so they can use a #1 every year...? Well, now we've got our answer.

As with the previous Swimtacular, this one is all superhero-related stories, one of which I plan on discussing with you at greater length in the near future. In the mean time, suffice it to say this issue features work from creators as various as Israel Sanchez, Mark Martin, Jay Lender, Paul Karasik and SpongeBob regulars R. Sikoryak, James Kochalka and Jacob Chabot. I really enjoyed the work by Sanchez, who drew the adorable cover, as he's an artist I'm unfamiliar with, and whose work is super-cute, while somewhat suggesting that of occasional SpongeoBob contributor Stephen DeStefano (Now please stop reading this post and click on "Israel Sanchez" above and look at all his amazing work. Wow.)

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12 (Marvel) And Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber are back, and the book is back on track. Boomerang is able to convince his erstwhile allies who aren't The Shocker to join him on a new heist, stealing back the painting he stole from The Owl for The Owl, who was helpful enough to fund The Sinister Sixteen:
Hey, it's Bi-Beast! I was just talking about that guy!

I can't really decide what my favorite part of this issue was. I really liked the bit where Hammerhead struggled not to slip into talking like James Cagney when he got excited, but then the bit where Overdrive uses his super-weird powers to create a Segway was pretty great too. And that's not even considering the George Herriman homage or the panel with the Lenin mummies on it.

Anyway, Superior Foes remains one of the only comics I like so much I'm willing to pay $3.99 for it, even though I know in my heart I should probably just wait for the trade.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time #1 (IDW) And hey, speaking of $3.99 books I know I should trade-wait, but can't help but buy on the day of release, here's a new TMNT comic, drawn by EDILW-favorite Ross Campbell. This is the other book I raved about at Robot 6 this week, and thus should probably shut up about at this point. It's drawn by Campbell, written by Paul Allor, colored by Bill Crabtree, and features the ninja turtles running around dinosaur times, fighting awesome feathered dinosaurs and/or Utroms, because Renet (Or, as the headline to Chris Sims' review at Comics Alliance puts it, "Turtles In Time #1 has ninja turtles riding dinosaurs to fight brains in robot suits, all other comics inferior by definition").

Seriously, this issue is 100% pure comics, and tt he only thing I don't like about it is...the font on the "Turtles In Time" logo.That, and I'm not sure if Campbell is drawing the rest of the series or not.


SallyP said...

I am SO glad that you are reading the DC Future Explosion/Kill all the Heroes Crossover and not me.

But She-Hulk and Batman '66 have been just delightful. said...

I love Ron Wimberley's artwork so much I bought She-Hulk #5 without having read any of the previous issues. It, and Soule's writing, definitely didn't disappoint.

The only thing that would have made it the perfect comic book for me is if Wimberley had drawn Shocker's comic the way it appears in Superior Foes, ie. made of the same fabric of his costume.

JohnF said...

I didn't think there were any highlights to World War III

Greg said...

Burnham is drawing Morrison's new Image book, and presumably it will be out in a year to give both of them a ton of lead time. But that's where he is!