Saturday, August 23, 2014

Comic shop comics: August 21

Batman Eternal #20 (DC Comics) This issue, scripted by Tim Seeley and drawn by Emanuel Simeoni, seems to bring four different storylines to, well, not their conclusions, per se, but at least to turning points. Three of those four storylines are on the cover.

Batgirl and her new posse of Red Hood and Batwoman bust the person that was responsible for mentally manipulating Commissioner Gordon into thinking that dude he shot at in the first issue had a gun (the perpetrator was killed by an unknown assassin who left a big clue, but Batwoman got "evidence...pulled hundreds of computer files" off-panel). Gordon himself stops the Penguin/Falcone gang prison riot in Blackgate pretty much single-handedly, getting a little bit of help from his mysterious cellmate. (OMG who would have thought that the legendary gang boss The Lion referred to with respect by both the cops and the crooks in the same issue would have shown up at some point in this story? Who could have guessed it was the guy known only by the name Leo?! Me. That's who.)

Batman, Killer Croc and Jason Bard deal with their supernatural threat that...may or may not have something to do with the supernatural threat taking place in the bowels of Arkham Asylum. Both events are supernatural, both are underground, and the Ten-Eyed Man was in both locations, but the folks working with him here don't look anything at all like those working with the Ghost of Deacon Blackfire and The Joker's Daughter under Arkham.

And, finally, The New 52 Spoiler debuts her New 52 Spoiler costume.
In general, I like the deeper purple color, but I'm not a fan of the rather generic ninja-style mask or fae plate. Her old mask, consisting only of two big, opaque eyes on an almost spherical black mask that covered her entire head (it was a bit like Global Guardian Jack O' Lantern's mask, actually), was probably the most striking feature of her costume, and that's been excised. I don't really like the gloves or what looks like armor plating on it, as this costume looks less "home-made" than her original one (Also, you can now see her hair and eye color; I imagine it won't be too hard for Cluemaster to figure out who this new vigilante is.

The costume may change, and it may change soon—Spider-Man didn't keep the costume he first made for himself very long either, did he?. Oh, and Seeley and/or the other four contributing writers make an effort to to explain and justify Spoiler's codename for an era in which the word "spoiler" is more commonly meant to refer to something other than someone who spoils something (like a C-List supervillain's plot, for example), but It doesn't really work.

Oh, and the list of candidates for Catwoman's real father grew by one this issue.

I don't really care for Simeoni's work, colored by Blond. There's enough weird shit going on in the Batman scenes that it's difficult to tell what is an artistic flourish from necessary visual information; for example, is that blood coming out of the hooded guys that Batman and company are tearing through, made by Blonde and Simeoni to look more like mist, or is it some kinda red, spooky, ghost mist? I don't know.

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet #3 (DC) This came out a week or two ago—as did Tiny Titans, discussed below—but I somehow missed em. Anyway, this issue of the Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman-written, Ty Templeton-drawn six-parter features maybe my favorite Alex Ross cover for the series yet. I just love the expression and posture Ross gives Batman, and the way he (at least sorta) sells a Robin vs. Kato fight.

The two sidekicks are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of The Joker and General Gumm, and I was sort of surprised that Kato didn't just kick off Robin's head in the first one second of the fight, until I remembered this isn't really Burt Ward '66 vs. Bruce Lee '66, but that those real human beings were just the actors portraying the characters that appear in this comic. That made it a bit easier to take a Kato vs. Robin fight seriously.

The Multiversity #1 (DC) So, this fucking thing.

The long, long in the works Grant Morrison Explores The New, 52-Earth Multiverse Established At The End Of 2006's 52 (And Perhaps Rejiggered A Bit in His 2008 Final Crisis And Maybe His Brief New 52 Action Comics Reboot) series reveals just how long it's been in the works by the fact that it is a more-or-less direct sequel to Final Crisis.

This first issue in the event series revolves around the character of Nix Uotan (whose story I didn't quite follow when I read Final Crisis).

Now, there were a few problems with Final Crisis, but one of them that likely grated with many readers of DC's other comics, was how different it was from the DC Universe it was set in and was nominally about, contradicting the continuity of pretty much everything DC had been publishing for years, even Morrison's own comics, like his JLA and the then on-going Batman storyline, which hopped from book to book.

A sort of in-story excuse was offered by the suggestion taht the death of Darkseid and his fall through time sent out continuity/history altering ripples, but whenever you have to No-Prize your way out of glithes it's really problematic, to say the least (For another good 21st century example in a DC event/crossover story, see Infinite Crisis, Superboy Prime and continuity punches).

The Multiversity is similar to Final Crisis in that it doesn't fit snugly into the shared setting it's about (one almost wishes that Morrison had employed Geoff Johns, in both instances, as some sort of continuity massaging advisor, helping him finesse his stories so that they made the various connections needed to function as he wanted them to while also being about the people and places he wanted them to be about).

The once-infinite Multiverse, we were told in both Final Crisis and Multiversity, consisted of 52 alternate Earths, all occupying the same space, but vibrating at different frequencies. But at the climax of 2011's Flashpoint, Pandora somehow—they still haven't gotten around to that story—smooshed three of those worlds into one, single world, which would reduce the number of alternate earths to 50 (and Morrison did write for The New 52 line; in addition to the aforementioned Action Comics, which this issue contains a few references to, he got to finish his years-long Batman story in a second volume of Batman Inc, to which he consented to have the edges sanded off his square Batman pegs in order to shove them into the round holes of The New 52-iverse).

Now, there is a reference to 50 rather than 52 worlds in this story—"From there you can summon the greatest heroes of fifty worlds!" Uotan shouts to one of this issue's two Thor analgoues—which could refer to the 50 worlds left after Pandora's world-smooshing, but could just as likely refer to a hero-less world like the old Earth-Prime and the world that fell to the the bad guys that call themselves The Gentry, who are a bit like Alan Moore's Great Evil Beast from Swamp Thing and a bit like Morrison's own Sheeda from Seven Soldiers and, in one case, like Mickey Eye from Morrison's Seaguy (this one particular villain speaks in text-like abbreviations and spelling errors—"We want 2 make yu like us"—which may signal Morrison's continuing criticism of that goddam Internet, despite the fact that Morrison's corporate super-comic writing has apparently crossed some boundary into un-editability, so that now the only way to make sense of his comics is to turn to Internet articles from people who only read Morrison's work extremely closely, and have them explain them to you*).

Nix Uoatan goes to Marvel Analogue-iverse 1 and Marvel Analgoue-iverse 2, while various heroes from throughout the multiverse are called to The House of Heroes, where we see cameos of superheroes from all over DC Comics and beyond—Hey, it's...Bloodwynd?! Huh.

Our point-view-hero seems to be cover boy President Superman (previously seen in both Final Crisis and Action Comics, who allies himself with a New 52 redesign of Captain Carrot, Aquawoman (a lady version of Arthur Curry), The Thunderer (one of the aforementioned Thor analogues) and Red Racer (a Flash). Together they journey to another Marvel Analogue world, and face "The Retaliators," most of whom are pretty lazy Avengers-riffs (the weirdest probably being The Behemoth, who is basically a blue Hulk that turns into a muscular giant baby...with a huge, old-fashioned cloth diaper and diaper pin, that must appear on him when he transforms, because otherwise there's no way Doctor David Dibble had that on under his suit pants.
Look at the size of that diaper pin!
Pencil artist Ivan Reis (inked by Joe Prado and colored by Nei Ruffino) acquits himself quite nicely. Everything looks gorgeous. I really rather liked Morrison and Reis' Captain Carrot revamp, although I'm not sure it works, given the fact that he's meant to be from a cartoon universe—
—but rather than cartoony, he looks just as realistic, detailed and articulated as all the human heroes (he's even got a weird, New 52-esque costume).

Of all the unexpected appearances though, the one that threw me the most was that of "Dino-Cop," an orange Savage Dragon with stegosaurus plates, one of which takes the place of Savage Dragon's head fin.
Look, more Bloodwynd cameo action!
His presence implies that the threat is one to all of comics, which, well, if that's the case, 50-52 worlds don't seem to be enough Earths, although I suppose by stories end we may learn the Multiverse is much bigger than we've been told (or than Uotan believed).

(I also wondered why they bothered with making a Dino-Cop instead of just asking Erik Larsen if they could throw Savage Dragon into 3-7 panels. I don't know the guy, but given all the weird crossovers Larsen's character has been used in, this wouldn't seem all that out of the ordinary).

So how is the comic?

Well, it's interesting. It's certainly well-drawn. It reads like slightly out-of-date, slightly out-of-touch, second-to-last draft Grant Morrison. But hell, it's fun, and packed with more characters and compelling concepts then the rest of the comics in the New 52 line combined. In fact, you could probably find 52 new comic book titles to launch between the covers of this single book, 52 new titles that would be just as interesting, if not more so, then that which DC has to keep throwing at the wall to replace their cancelled books in order to maintain 50-ish superhero ongoings a month.

The New 52: Futures End #16 (DC) There was a lot of little, glitchy, confusing stuff in this week's issue, but by far my favorite part was the opening scene, in which new character Stormguard performs a sting operation on a couple of crooks selling fake I.D. cards. Stormguard's disguise consists of a trenchcoat and a hoodie—wide-brimmed hats are out now, apparently—which he naturally wears over his superhero costume, mask, cape, glowing belt and all.

If those two couldn't make Stormguard in that half-assed disguise, they pretty much deserve to get busted and do a "long 20" years.

I also love that splash page. Compare how much dialogue our hero gets off, compared to what the guy he's punching manages to say before getting punched, "Da--"

Second most amusing is probably the weird-ass Cadmus Island scene on page seen. See panel four; I have no idea who that is saying "Didn't I used to have a reputation?" I assumed it was Cole "Grifter" Cash, having the door slammed in his face...but he never enters the room. Tom Bondurant read it as Slade Wilson leaving the room and re-entering it for some reason (or, more likely, the folks who made this dumb page forgetting he was already drawn in the room and given lines there before he was out of the room, and then come back...?).

I don't know. It is such a weird, bad page though that I can't help but laugh at it.

I've heard the term "hate-reading" and "hate-watching" used to describe the phenomena of people consuming media they don't like, but do enjoy some aspect of that dislike. That's not what I'm doing here; I am bemused-reading Futures End though.

Nothing else of any great import or interest occurs in this issue, which this time around is drawn by pencil artist Jesus Merino and Dan Green. Rampage and Superman fight again, and it's revealed that Brother Eye and Brainiac are one and the same.

Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #3 (DC) What originally began as the Titans' search for their missing tree house headquarters, or at least a suitable replacement, has turned in to something of a tour of the DCU. In this issue, they visit the Rock of Eternity with Billy, Mary and Freddie. There they meet The Wizard (simply referred to as "The Wizard," rather than Shazam), who has a lightning bolt pattern all over his robe, making it look more like a novelty bathrobe then anything more ceremonial.

Hoppy The Marvel Bunny also appears, or at least the Tiny Titans version does, and in his brief storyline he joins the Just Us Cows, a team of super-cows headquartered in Ma Kent's barn.

Some of the gags are funnier than the others, as per usual, but there's always something kind of inspired in each issue. This time it is probably Captain Marvel Jr.'s word of power, which, remember, is "Captain Marvel!", because Cap lends him some of his power so Freddie can transform into Junior (Billy and Mary both say "Shazam!" because they get their power directly from the wizard named Shazam).

Robin and Mary say "Aquaman!" or "Etrigan!" and this turns Freddie into whatever they shout the words, their ability to transform Freddie explained simply by Mary's statement t hat "The magic up here on the mountain is kind of unpredictable."
Actually, if those words did work to transform Freddie, then they should turn him into Aquaman Jr. or Etrigan Jr., with differently-colored versions of those characters' costumes, shouldn't they? But whatever, it's good enough for a gag, and that's what this issue is; a series of gentle, kid-friendly gags riffing on various aspects of the Captain Marvel franchise.

*To be clear, that's not a commentary on David Uzumeri's writing on Morrison's writing. That's a great and, I'd argue, almost necessary piece of writing for the heads-or-tails making-out of The Multiversity. Hell, Uzumeri at least remembers what the fuck happened in Final Crisis. I suppose I could have reread it in preparation for Multiversity, but, frankly, there are a lot of good comics being published today, so many that I don't really feel all that jazzed about re-reading so-so ones instead, as an act of homework to get ready to read the next one from Morrison, you know?


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I have always seen FINAL CRISIS as more of a Jack Kirby showcase than a DC capes story. I'm 54 and can remember the insanity of those comics when I read them in my teens. I think this is the main reason I enjoyed FC.

Jer said...

But at the climax of 2011's Flashpoint, Pandora somehow—they still haven't gotten around to that story—smooshed three of those worlds into one, single world, which would reduce the number of alternate earths to 50

Well, maybe that's what happened. I mean, they haven't explained what happened so perhaps there wasn't any smooshing of worlds going on.

I prefer to believe that when Flashpoint ended we just shifted our focus away from Earth-0 and have been following Earth-52 - an earth created to look like one resulting from smooshing the DC, Wildstorm, and Vertigo universes together, but those three original worlds are still out there.

This has the added benefit of making DC's whole "The New 52" naming scheme retroactively make sense for their line.

Anonymous said...

For me the Morrisonverse was both the best & worst thing about the Mozzer's time being magus-in-chief of the DCU. On his good days the connections between stories were sidelong winks (90s JLA); on the iffy, the interconnectedness of all things WAS the story (Batsaga of the Batgod). He can either be clever with it or plain sloppy; the clever-to-sloppy ratio tends to err on the side of slop, however.

For example: the number of times Caeser was alleged to have been stabbed changed significantly from one issue to the next of 'The Black Glove' during serialization.

Not too long ago I whittled my Morrison collection down to a slim handful of Vertigo projects, All-Star Superman, Gothic, Bible John, and a couple issues of The Invisibles. 'Best Man Fall' is probably my favorite Morrison story of all time.

He's a charmer, but he's also a Stan Lee whose hyperbole often generates greater excitement than his actual prose. I'm going to treat him same as Ellis and not trainspot his career for a few years. See if there's any improvement when I start reading him again. Worked with Warren...

O. Douglas Jennings said...

After picking up a handful of New 52 titles in 2012 and dropping them after a few issues, I've been keeping up with the stories from afar (mostly by reading blogs like EDILW). One reason I dropped the titles is due to format. 20 pages of story is not enough for me. So I would wait until the TPB got picked up by my library network or (rarely) I'd buy one. Much more satisfying to read the story arcs that way as far as I'm concerned. To the point…Your mention of Multiversity prompted me to visit my comic store again and pick it up. I plan to follow it. Morrison's writing is so densely packed (in a good way) that 20 pages of his work keeps my mind entertained like no other writer. I followed his Action comic stories longer than the other titles. So, thanks. I also picked up the first two issues of Grayson and I think I'll be enjoying that series for a while as well. You mentioned him on another blog entry. Good stuff on your blog.