Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Comic Shop Comics: October 29

Batman Eternal #30 (DC) In this issue, The Spectre finally makes his appearance, as all readers knew he would the moment Jim Corrigan was introduced into the series. It's still a pretty dramatic moment, seen from afar, as the sky above Gotham City literally opens up, a beam of green light that's not exactly light strikes Arkham Asylum and, after a few pages of Batman and Julia Pennyworth noting the strange, Biblical events from the cockpit of a helicopter and the Batcave respectively, we get a good look at The New 52 Spectre, who, like every other New 52 character re-design, looks worse than he originally did (Did any character get a cooler costume during the reboot? I feel like at least a few must have, just going by the laws of probability and math and junk).

I don't think that design is pencil artist Fernando Pasarin's fault—The Spectre previously appeared in an early issue of Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger, I know—but I was bemused to see that they replaced his green shorts with what appear to be black leather pants (The New 52-boot has been pretty hard on bare least for the men, although DC did flirt with giving Wonde Woman a pair of pants), and gave him a chain and some weird straps to cover his giant, spectral nipples and belly button, I guess.

I know they've tweaked The Spectre's design over the years, mostly to reflect changes in the host, giving him a goatee when Crispus Allen was The Spectre, and a Green Lantern-esque costume when Hal Jordan was, but as far as character designs go, The Spectre is pretty much a perfect example of It's Not Broken So Don't Fix It (Also, this Spectre just rises out of Corrigan, and picks up ghosts or whatever in his giant hands; he doesn't turn his fists into mallets or scythes, or open his mouth into a hellmouth to suck all the demons back into himself, or do anything overtly cool and Spectre-y).

Ah well.

This is, as I said, a pretty dramatic issue. The Spectre puts the expected end to the Blackfire's ghost-haunting-Arkham sub-plot in the expected fashion, destroying the asylum in the process (as was spoiled in last week's Arkham Manor #1 set well after this issue). Interestingly, The Spectre accessing his power from heaven or whatever causes all kinds of nasty side-effects, downing a plane full of passengers (Don't worry Literal Wrath of God; Batman's got your back!) and collapsing the asylum atop of everyone who was in it or under it. Things look particularly grim for poor Batwing II, because his monthly title is being canceled.

Meanwhile, a shadowy figure is manipulating The Joker's Daughter, and it's apparently a different shadowy figure than Hush, because they've already revealed that Hush is Hush, so why keep his identity a mystery once he's outted? So there are multiple shadowy figures manipulating events from behind the scenes of the series, I guess...?

After that super-intense issue, it was nice to get some comedy relief in the form of this week's Channel 52 advertorial, written by Wonder Woman assistant editor David Pina, in which Pina calls David Finch "one of the greatest comics artists alive." No qualifiers, like, "one of the greatest comics artists I've every had the pleasure to work with," or "one of the greatest comics artists to work for the Big Two in the last decade" or "one of my personal favorite comics artists" or "one of the greatest comics artists whose first name and last name both have the same number of letters in them." No, just David is one of the greatest comics artists alive. Alive! David Pina, assistant editor of Wonder Woman, has, I gather, never read any comic books ever. (I'm honestly struggling to think of a not-terrible comic Finch has done for DC, and I cant' think of anything. Even going back to his Marvel work, I can't think of anything all that great. Maybe his first few issues of New Avengers...? A Moon Knight cover? Seriously, what is that guy's best work? Because he is really, really bad at drawing superhero comics. I don't mean that in a "I personally don't care for his style kind of way," but just in a, "Wait, you drew that arm three times thicker than that arm," or "The leg connects to the hip, no the rib cage" or "The person jumping through that window is three times larger than the window itself" kind of way).

Anyway, maybe that's one problem with DC Comics...? There are members of their editorial staff that think David Finch is one of the greatest comics artists alive...?

The New 52: Futures End #26 (DC) Hey, it's Batman! He's on the cover. He's also in the comic book, with Bruce Wayne meeting very briefly with Mr. Terrific in the first scene, and Batman himself trick-texting Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch into meeting one another in the Central Park Zoo after closing so that he could tell them to quit being babies and just be Firestorm again already, jeez.

The other Batman, the one from the future who is named Terry, is also in this issue, and he talks to Plastique about time travel over the course of two pages, saying things that directly contradict thing she said right before those other things. Maybe if the book had just a fifth or sixth writer, it would have a better script, but four writers just aren't enough.

I think that's all of interest that happened. There's some new information about Fifty Sue, presented in the form of a holographic file Brother Eye/Brainiac causes to appear before her, which is almost interesting, at least in that it refers to the tenets of creationism, and implies that she is a man-made God.

Scot Eaton penciled this issue, while Scott Hanna and Drew Geraci inked it. I read it. I don't know why, but I read it. I'll read next week's too, I bet. I know it's not good for me, I don't even really enjoy it, but I keep doing it—Futures End is the Lay's potato chips of superhero comics.

Saga #24 (Image Comics) On almost any other week, this would have been hands-down my favorite comic book. Not only is there some awesome/terrible swearing, not only does a character say the immortal line "the main ingredient this elixir requires is dragon semen" (Damn, and I thought slaying dragons was challenging!), not only is their missionary style memory sex between The Will and The Stalk (I have no idea where he's putting his penis), but this issue features the return of all of the beloved characters we haven't seen in forever, and the long-awaited (by me) fight between Lying Cat and Sweet Boy.

Sensation Comics #3 (DC) This turned out to be my favorite comic of the week, though.

Savage Critic and retailer Brian Hibbs discussed one big problem he had with the book as a guy who actively wants to sell comic books to people, and, as a reader, I agree with him: It is a terrible, terrible cover.

Hibbs' point is that it is tonally opposite of the entire contents of the book (two-and-a-half stories spread over 26 pages), and, if you're someone who likes the comics in the book, you'll likely be repelled by that cover, while if you're attracted to that cover, you'll probably recoil at the contents.

It's not a very good image, even taken in isolation. It's drawn by Ivan Reis, one of the DC's more popular artists over the last few years, and one who has obvious skills to back-up that popularity. He's drawn Wonder Woman plenty of times, most often and most recently in Justice League, and here he draws her as she's generally portrayed in the DC Universe. She's a fierce and violent warrior, shown here locked in bloody combat with a generic bad guy, apparently charging her way through some opponent/s while blood spray and sparks are everywhere, all the while strangling a zombie orc...thing...guy.

I never understood how her magic lasso became simply a glowing garrote. She usually throws it around people's throats, which I took just as various writers and artists striving to show how brutal and cruel she is. But it's a fucking magic lasso, that compels whoever it entwines to tell the truth and submit to Wonder Woman's will. Why's she always strangling people with it? Is she commanding that zombie orc thing guy, "Allow me to choke you with my lariat, while you struggle and claw at it as if you weren't under my control the whole time"...?

It's also just an all-around not that great image. It's such a close-up of Wonder Woman that one can't really tell what she's doing, other than shouting and strangling; her gaze is off the page, focused on...what? A horde of these guys? A villain of some sort? It looks like Reis cut a tiny part out of a larger image here.

Now, with DC's previous digital-first, rotating creators, continuity-lite anthology series Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman, the covers rarely matched the interiors. Rather, it seemed as if DC just had a file of generic Superman and Batman images by various artist, and they would then just grab one at random to use as the cover for a print edition. That seems to be the case here, but a) it's not a great image, and b) no one seemed to think better of using it here.

Forget what Hibbs said, although it is important. If you look real close at this cover, you'll see the first person credited as a contributor is someone named "Hernandez." Do you know who that is? Only legendary cartoonist Gilbert fucking Hernandez, an incredible, stand-up-and-take-notice get for a random DC superhero comic, and instead of putting, say, a Giblert Hernadez drawing of Wonder Woman on the cover, they went with what looks like an over-colored commission piece by Reis, drawn for an autoerotic asphyxiation fetishizing fan.

Anyway, once you get past the cover, the insides of the book are actually totally awesome.

The first story, a 10-pager written by Sean E. Williams and drawn by Marguerite Sauvage, introduces us to a Wonder Woman who s playing guitar on stage at a rock show, either Williams is using "rock star" metaphorically to convey the character's rock star status, or because the continuity-free venue allows he and Sauvage to just make Wonder Woman a guitar-shredding rock star if they want, and they want.

After a brief recounting of her (Silver Age) origin (in which some of her powers come from males Mercury and Hercules), we see Wonder Woman's hang-up regarding Steve, her dealing with criticism of her revealing costume from two different directions, her attempts to help and empower a pair of young women and her use of super-strength to emasculate a male fan who goes from cluelessly over-complimenting her to touching her to pulling a shotgun on her rather ridiculously (although, again, maybe we're supposed to read the various elements as metaphors rather than plot points).

I'm not normally a fan of skirts over shorts when it comes to her costume, as I tend to think hewing to the original costumes is generally the best, but Sauvage finds a nice compromise by giving Wonder Woman a very short, very tight skirt.
So it fits like her shorts did, but provides more coverage (that is, it doesn't look like she simply forgot to finish getting dressed before she left the house), and the additional fabric allows room for a field of stars (I think she's down to just two stars in the New 52, because that's all the room she has left).

Her top is pretty tiny, and rather than choosing between the eagle motif or the WW motif, Sauvage just leaves it blank, additional gold trim and a prominent gold belt (or maybe just swathe of fabric) taking the place of the eagle or WW. So she still has the same amount of primary colors, just slightly rearranged.
Finally, I like Wonder Woman's default red boots with the white stripe. But I also liked those super-strappy ballerina-style shoes sandal/shoes she sometimes wore. Personally, I can never decide which I prefer. Sauvage comes up with a great compromise; she gives her the boots, but they have laces on the back.

When not on stage, Wondy puts on a red jacket with black trim that looks fashionable, and a little sci-fi as well.

Not to reduce the art to fashion, but that's what I most immediately noted and gravitated toward, given how elegantly Sauvage addressed and resolved a lot of the issues regarding what Wondy wears (you'll note Wonder Woman gets redesigned far more often than the other six members of the the original Justice League line-up).

The character designs are great, Wonder Woman appearing beautiful, dynamic and with a full range of emotions, all perfectly acted. Sauvage does interesting things with color throughout, matching the color of scenes to certain emotions, just as she plays with the panels to affect different moods (I'm not a big fan of panel manipulation like that). As I was reading, I couldn't help imagining what Sauvage's Wonder Woman the comic book would look like, now that I've seen her Wonder Woman, the character.
That story is followed by 10-page story written by an Ollie Masters and drawn by Amy Mebberson. This one could be in-continuity, featuring Catwoman in her Darwyn Cooke-designed costume attempting to rob a museum in London, where New 52 Wonder Woman is based (Well, Mebberson's costume is pre-New 52; she gives Wonder woman's costume gold rather than silver highlights, and the star-spangled blue shorts, rather than the black, two-stars-only shorts she wears now. And her boots are red instead of black).

Masters' story is smart, fun and funny, but not so funny that it can't also be taken seriously. Catwoman plans a robbery of a mythic artifact, but one that comes with a guardian attached to it that she can't possibly hope to defeat on her own. So she allows Wonder Woman to "capture" her.

Previously, I've only seen Mebberson draw Muppets (for Boom), so it was interesting seeing her tackle human beings. I love her artwork here, although I didn't care for the way the characters' heads looked too big for their bodies, similar to the Lil' Gotham designs I never quite took to. I like the heads and faces, and I like the bodies they're attached to, I just wish the ratio wasn't so skewed. Even still, that's a style thing, not a quality thing.
And, finally, there's six pages of Gilbert Hernandez, with "To Be Continued!" in the last panel; apparently the second half will appear in Sensation #4, unless there are more than two parts to his story. Kind of annoying that DC split his story up, particularly since I imagine there will be readers who read this issue just for his contribution/s (provided they can find it/them), but it's difficult to get too bent out of shape about it. It's a treat, however it's served.

Hernandez's Wonder Woman, as one can imagine, is truly Amazonian-looking; not in Marston's version of the Amazons, but in a more popular definition. Wonder Woman is toweringly tall, with big hips, big breasts and even bigger biceps. In terms of physique, she honestly looks like the female equivalent of Superman.

Hernandez's story, "No Chains Can Hold Her!" features Wonder Woman aboard a flying saucer, wailing on some charmingly generic robots, working for Sayyar an Kanjar Ro (both from Justice League #3, although the latter obviously went on to greater relative fame).

Wonder Woman's costume is a straight Silver Age one, and Supergirl, who also appears, is simiarly wearing her Silver Age duds, and acting as she would have at that time. So basically what we have here is Gilbert Hernandez homage to those original Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky JLA comics, drawn in his own style.


SallyP said...

Sensation/Wonder Woman was pretty fabulous. So was Saga.

But Finch being a great artist? I agree with you that he seems to be able to draw a whole lot of static poses, that are endlessly represented in tiny frames to fill up a double page, in what passes for "edgy"...but that's about it.

His faces, on both men AND women are all identical. His version of Wonder Woman looks about fourteen,except with ginormous breasts, and she can't seem to be able to stand up straight, always bent over, and exposing her behind. I'm dreading the Finch's new version of Diana, I'll tell you that!

JohnF said...

Be fair now. The Spectre's original costume was REALLY terrible.

David said...

Only character whose costume was improved by New 52 was Wonder Girl, and that's because her only decent costume before that point only lasted for the two issues of Young Justice and the Graduation Day crossover. After that she wore Donna Troy's old costume that didn't mesh well with her coloring and another riff on Superboy's boring "t-shirt and jeans" costume.

Bram said...

Spectre image made me think of Eidolon — which, now that I look at it, isn't actually that similar, but there's still something.

So to pile on Brian's comment — unless there's something we totally missed in the solicits or promotion somewhere, retailers would've had no idea there was a Hernandez story in there. That's kind of a huge selling point.

Caleb said...


No, I honestly, seriously love the original Spectre costume. It's perfect! Granted, I wouldn't wear it, but if eye was a pupil-less, white-skinned ghost who could grow to gigantic size and was also pretty much all powerful, then yeah, that's what I'd be rocking.

I'm not sure how SENSATION #3 was solicited; I'd have to look it up. I know they announced Hernandez would be doing something at some point long ago, but I didn't know it was this month's issue until Tuesday-ish.

Based on the cover, the only way a reader would know would be to see the name "Hernandez" atop the pile of surnames on it, and then make the not-exactly-likely guess that maybe Gilbert Hernandez was drawing a DC comic book for some reason.

Bram said...

Yeah, checking back, must've overlooked it on the solicit — he's listed in the credits, but it still seems like the kinda thing that could benefit from a little extra mention.

'Cause it's not like we're looking at that cover any longer than we need to.