Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Comic shop comics: July 30

Adventures of Superman #15 (DC Comics) It's the Superman/Iron Giant team-up you never knew you wanted!

Writer Ron Marz writes a perhaps too pat, too convenient story in which Lois Lane ridicules Clark Kent's human interest article about two long-lost brothers who reunite relatively late in their lives and become besties...seconds before the Iron Giant, here built by Jor-El comes to Earth, seemingly giving Superman the same chance to similarly find and befriend a "brother" he never knew he had.

This is a superhero comic, though, and there must therefore be punching and tragedy, and so it turns out Jor-El's Iron Giant has been reprogrammed by evil alien war-starters to serve as their scout. Superman re-reprograms I.G. by hitting him really hard, and the two team-up to save the day, but the Iron Giant treachery "won't go unpunished" by the aliens, and thus he gets blown-up to death, leaving Superman a one-of-a-kind orphan once again.

It actually works quite as well as a one-off, character study of Superman, of the sort this book provides on a monthly basis, though. Sure, one can see Marz working the levers and ropes, but that doesn't mean the story itself doesn't work. It certainly helps that the story is drawn by Evan "Doc" Shaner in a lovely, masterly illustrative style that stands right in that sweet spot between representational realism and "Yeah, a talented guy drew this with a pen." His is the sort of art that makes you re-read the comic as soon as you finish, spending the second time just looking at the individual characters and their expressions on the cover, the way he draws the lines on the sides of Lois' face when she talks down to Clark or the the way the whole mood of a scene changes just by the way he draws Superman's eyes.

On the one hand, it seems too bad that Shaner's drawing this minor, off-in-the-corner Superman book instead of one with more eyeballs on it, but, on the other hand, this is a good, solid story of just the right length, offering the sort of work an artist of his caliber can be proud of, rather than, you know, one of the "regular" Superman comics, all of which are currently busy tying into one, big goofy story in which Superman turns into Doomsday or something (Except for Superman, which is currently about John Romita Jr. getting to draw Superman).

Batman Eternal (DC) I never actually read the 1988 Jim Starlin/Bernie Wrightston miniseries Batman: The Cult, so I don't know if the events involving Deacon Blackfire in this particular issue are "rebooted" at all, or if Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and the other three writers to work on this book are simply picking up on plot-lines from that long ago book or not.

Blackfire, or the ghost of Blackfire, or a new, demonic version of Blackfire, or whatever, is the supernatural Boss behind the haunted Arkham sub-plot that Batwing and Jim Corrigan are involved in, and in this issue there is a rather substantial flashback to Blackfire's normal, mortal life, including his ministry and his encounter with Batman, which ended very, very badly for him.

That plotline occupies most of this particular issue's page count. For a while, it seemed like including Corrigan in this story was something of a last minute substitution for the more natural choice, Jason Blood, but here we see Corrigan getting pretty desperate, and wanting to summon The Spectre, but being unable to. So maybe Snyder and Tynion did intend to use Corrigan all along? But I don't really know how either character "works" in the New 52; the old Jason Blood could release Etrigan, The Demon pretty much at will (in fact, he was usually struggling to keep him in). And the old Corrigan was a ghost inhabited by "The Spectre Force," and was pretty much The Spectre all the time, just not always taking that form. Whatever's up with The Spectre now, it seems as different as this occult investigator version of Corrigan is from the old, dead cop/detective version.

Anyway, lots of ghosts and goblins business this time, with some flashbacks to either the events of The Cult or The New 52 version of The Cult. There are a few pages with Harper and Tim in Japan, and two pages of Alfred's daughter being a jerk to him because she doesn't know his boss is really Batman yet (I kinda hope he pulls aside the grandfather clock and pushes her down the stairs to the Batcave next issue, she's being such a jerk about it).

The ending involves Blackfire-in-Zeus transforming some of the Arkham goblins into bat-winged demons and unleashing them on Gotham City, which lacks the oomph it might if they didn't look so Man-Bat-like, and if John Layman and Jason Fabok didn't just do a story about an army of Man-Bats invading Gotham not long ago in Detective.

The Dustin Nguyen/Derek Fridolfs team is still illustrating, so Batman Eternal looks great.

Please note: Tim's interior beard is much fuller than his cover beard.
New 52: Futures End #13 (DC) In this issue, bearded barkeep Tim Drake allows a guy to rob the register and take the necklace he bought is girlfriend from off her neck, pretending to be a coward unable to take out a single armed thug (or, you know, a normal person) in order to keep his true identity a secret from the lady he's sleeping with.

It's a little like Silver Age Superman used to do; acting like a meek coward when in his Clark Kent identity, and then taking off his suit and glasses, donning a cape and tights and then flying off to kick the ass he just pretended to be unable to kick. Only to disguise his appearance, Drake just...puts on a red baseball cap. (You know, for a guy trying awfully hard to convince his girlfriend and prize-winning journalist Lois Lane that he's not the man formerly known as Red Robin, Drake sure as hell wears red a lot).

In other plots, all drawn this week by Patrick Zircher, Mr. Terrific talks to HAL 9000 in his underpants, Grifter and Fifty Sue sneak around an air duct, the villains Batman Beyond was considering teaming up with for some reason betray him and Deathstroke, The Terminator threatens Big Barda, as if that fight would last longer than one good punch from Barda.
Look out, invincible, super-strong immortal warrior goddess! That guy's got a sword!
It's...not very good. But it's not so bad I don't pick it up every week. I can't stop reading it, even if at this point it's more out of habit than anything else.

1 comment:

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

In "The Cult" Blackfire gets considerably further in his plans to take over Gotham before Batman stops him than he does in the "Batman Eternal" flashbacks. So I guess it probably is a reboot.

I'm kind of disappointed, the new reboot continuity makes Blackfire considerably less intimidating. Having the pre-reboot Blackfire return would be a serious problem considering how hard he was to beat, but BlackfireNew52 didn't seem to accomplish nearly as much villainy and so isn't nearly as big a deal.

I kind of hope that the writers realize their mistake and retcon that flashback to make Blackfire a bigger deal.