Thursday, January 22, 2015
Comic Shop Comics: January 14-21
In this issue, our heroine starts dating that dreamy police officer from the end of the last issue, Liam, and, in the course of their conversations, she learns he's pretty anti-vigilante (which should be a dealbreaker, right?). I can't imagine that's a popular sentiment in Gotham City, given how often Batman personally saves it from complete and utter apocalypse, but then, as I've noted before, the Burnside neighborhood of Gotham seems to be in a parallel dimension from the rest of the city as seen in the rest of the New 52 Line; Burnside is to Gotham as Narnia is to New York, it seems, more so than Burnside is to Gotham as Brooklyn is to New York.
Babs seems to take some of what Liam was saying to heart, and tries to use her extra-legal wiggle room to take down a local bad boy reality TV star that Liam says is a menace but whom the justice system hasn't been able to take down. Enter Batgirl. Things...don't go so well for her, and she struggles with the fickle tastes of the social media-scape and gets told off by Black Canary, who moves out and joins a rock band as its lead singer (Jeez, that sounds dangerous!) and still seems like the most obvious candidate for whoever is messing with Barbara's life so badly.
Also, it obscures the fact that this particular issue is drawn by the great Joe Quinones! Well, his surname is on the cover, but it's the fifth name on a list of six, appearing below those of the two consulting writers and above that of the colorist.
So yeah, this is one of those issues of Batman Eternal which is a better-looking than most; this is a tricky book, visually, because the art can be really awful sometimes, it can be really great sometimes and, on average, is somewhere in the middle. It's still the best-looking of DC's three weekly series, however, like, by far, I just sorta wish it could just be handed back and forth between, I don't know, Guillem March, Dustin Nguyen, Ian Bertham and Joe Quinones ever arc or so.
Anyway, let's focus on the positive: Joe Quinones, drawing Red Robin, Harper Row, Spoiler, Batgirl, Red Hood and the mystery villain behind the nanotech plot, rather casually revealed after so long (And, since this issue is a week old at this point, I don't feel bad spoiling the fact that it is, in fact, The Mad Hatter, who Quinones gives the same basic costume that Ethan Van Sciver gave him in that really rather unpleasant The Dark Knight story arc "Mad", but otherwise draws him less demented in appearance. And, I should note, the Batman Eternal writing team, with Kyle Higgins scripting this issue and the next, writes Hatter in a more traditional, less murderously, violently psychotic way than in the Gregg Hurwitz-scripted "Mad").
The artwork is fantastic, and this is the best-looking issue of Batman Eternal in sometime. A good test of how good an artist is when it comes to New 52 books is if they can kinda sorta not make some of the costumes look terrible. Quinones obviously can't save that dumb-ass Red Robin costume (Hey, how come Tim has to wear that dumb Titans "T" on his shoulder when he's not with the Titans?), but everyone else looks good, and he takes a little of the stupid out of Red Robin's costume, simply by drawing very well.
As for the plot to this issue, it is apparently the start of the two-part climax to the nanotech plague plot. Red Robin and his allies all get unexpectedly taken by the nanotech virus, leaving only Harper Row to save the day. She goes home and puts on her dumb-looking costume—not as bad as Red Robin's, but not as good as Batgirl's—which, for reasons I can't imagine, includes a battle corset.
Harper Row takes her dumb Wildstorm-style mask and battle corset—complete with Tron-like glowing bits that protect her from nanotech infection—into Hatter HQ to save Batman's sidekicks and, thus, the day. Batman arrives after Harper has The Hatter on the ropes, and he merely grabs him by the lapels and slaps him across the face once this time; he doesn't beat the little man within an inch of his life and almost drown him, as in their previous encounter. Then she and Red Robin have a nice little chat on a rooftop. And then Catwoman and her buttonless blouse show up in another sub-plot.
The artwork in this particular issue comes from Jed Dougherty, Goran Sudzuka and Roger Robinson; I'm not sure who did what, exactly, but I really like the art of the last half-dozen pages or so. I think that's Robinson, but it's been so long since I've seen him drawing any of these characters, I'm not 100% sure.
Nowak's a fine artist and all, but her work in noticeably different than that of Allen, and her Molly in particular looks rather distractingly off-model. As with the last issue, this seems to be another "breather" issue following the big, eight-issue opening story arc, with the girls splitting up into two groups. It's a "free day" at camp, so Mal and Molly are off on a picnic date, while the remaining girls scour the handbook for easy badges they can try to earn. This being Lumberjanes, however, Mal and Molly's date ends with the pair traveling through an unusually placed portal and ending up somewhere where there are dinosaurs.
Those would be the Firestorm plot and the increasingly poorly-told Batmen plot. In the case of the Firestorm plot, the new Jason/Maddy female Firestorm showed up on the Justice League satellite on the last page of #36, to the shock of Shazam-as-Superman II and Stormguard, who last knew Firestorm as their male teammate. Here, the two Leaguers have returned to earth to fight Dr. Polaris, leaving Firestorm alone on the satellite to experiment with their equipment in an effort to turn herself back into her component identities.
In the Batmen plot, something apparently happened off-panel somewhere, involving Batman 2020 Terry "Batman Beyond" McGinnis somehow closed down former Red Robin Tim Drake's bar...?
So, in this issue:
•An astral projection of John Constantine shows up at Justice League Dark HQ to tell Amethyst they can't help save Frankenstein, but maybe his dad Frankenstein of Castle Frankenstein can. Then Amethyst and he recount the events of an Apokolptian invasion of Gemworld to one another as if it were the first time either of them had heard the story, despite the fact that they were both present for it and, in Amethyst's case anyway, it was probably the most pivotal event of her life.
•The aforementioned Firestorm/Justice League bit
•A five-page scene with The Fifty-Sue Crew, which ends with one of Faraday/Rock's assassin's killing Sue, who just gets back up and teleports herself, Lana, Grifter and the giant vault containing the DNA of all the superhumans on Earth and Earth-2 (ew) away
•Mr. Terrifc works out while Brother Eye watches
•Constantine breaks out an entirely different accent to argue with bearded Superman in Smallville
•McGinnis and Plastique finish having sex on a rooftop while Batman 2020 Bruce Wayne watched through binoculars, and then McGinnis swoops down to talk with Red Robin, just when the Batman 2045/Joker 2045 hybrid cyborg monster arrives and starts machine-gunning them in a cliffhanger so awkward I sincerely thought they might have left a page out of this issue.
Here's the first page, for example, in which the Batman/Joker murder-borg from even further in the future continues shooting his gun at Batman II and Tim Drake, something he started doing last issue. He is a terrible, terrible shot, and the two superheroes have the worst reflexes in the world.
It only gets worse after that, when Batman 2020 and Plastique join the fray. I'm not sure I can even blame artist Andy MacDonald for how poor this scene is, as it seems to be a symptom of the book's creative approach in general; there's enough blame to be shared between artist, the four writers and the editors that it's hard to pinpoint anyone who should be forced to wear this issue around their neck for all eternity, like a lightweight but rather more ridiculous albatross necklace.
Meanwhile, in Metropolis, a slightly less confusing, but still terrible battle rages. Dr. Polaris has Stormguard on the ropes, and tells Stormguard Stormguard's own origin, something Stormguard just told Superman II two issues ago (pretty sure this scene was from an earlier draft that somehow got illustrated and published), and then the new Firestorm appears to tell off Stormguard and Superman II (the latter of whom she defeats by...opening up a hole under his feet, causing him to fall into the sewer. I guess he was so surprised that he forgot he could fly?) and rescues Dr. Polaris from them, thinking only he can restore her to normal.
Then there's some more Fifty Sue/Grifter/Lana business, and Amethyst brings Frankenstein to Castle Frankenstein, where we see his father, Frankenstein, who has apparently started working on Dr. Moreau-like experiments since the last time he saw his namesake. That actually seems like a pretty interesting plot point with a lot of potential, and also feels like something that writer Jeff Lemire might have been planning to do at some point with in the pages of Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE, had that book not been canceled as quickly as it was.
This issue features two stories, both of 'em rather good ones.
The first is written by Michael Jelenic and features particularly lush, almost painterly art by penciller Drew Johnson, inker Ray Snyder and colorist Lizzy John. It appears to be set sometime between Crisis On Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, I'm going to guess (The Amazons have George Perez's origin, Hippolyta has dark hair and used to be The Golden Age Wonder Woman, complete with Invisible Plane, The Cheetha is the Barbara Minerva version, here with limited super-speed).
It's Hippolyta's birthday, and Diana is absent from the celebration, as she's looking for the perfect gift, one to replace something of her mother's she broke as a child. Unfortunately for her, The Cheetah also wants the particularly precious item, and thus there is a lot of fighting between cutaways to Hippolyta's birthday party and flashbacks' to Wonder Woman's childhood.
I was a bit surprised to see The Cheetah shove a spear through Wonder Woman's torso, only for Wonder Woman to recover (Does she/did she have invulnerability or not at this point? And/or a Wolverine-like healing factor? Or what?), and the use of various color-coded narration boxes got a little confusing, since the story features narration by Modern Wonder Woman, Flashback Wonder Woman, Modern Hippolyta and Flashback Hippolyta.
Otherwise, the script is pretty strong, as is the art—Johnson's version of Hippolyta's Golden Age Wonder Woman costume is particularly great. That story, entitled "Generations," takes up the first 22-pages of this issue, while the remaining 10 pages go to Adam P. Knave and Matthew Dow Smith's "Not Included."
The worst that can be said about this story is that it alludes to various continuities but doesn't fit in any of them; Wonder Woman is wearing her New 52 costume while co-star Big Barda is wearing her pre-Flashpoint costume. And, more importantly, the two characters no one another and apparently work or worked together on the Justice League; there's also mention of Mister Miracle, and I think a reference to Scott and Barda being in charge of one of the Fourth World's worlds...?
They fight the two coolest Doom Patrol villains, and a bunch of rather awesomely designed robot gorillas at "The Museum of Alternative Energy," a place I just like the sound of.
The focus here is on Barda being a more battle-hungry version of Wonder Woman, which is sort of refreshing, given how battle-hungry Wonder Woman is usually portrayed pretty much everywhere. Here, she's one of two warrior women from cultures of warrior women, but she's the good cop of the pair, and the one who actually attempts and succeeds with diplomacy. Knave also includes a lot of banter, portraying the two as pretty good friends—something Grant Morrison's breakneck-paced JLA run, during which Barda and Wonder Woman were on the same League at the same time, didn't have much time for.
Nate Neal's credits page comic featuring pirates and Maris Wicks' educational "Flotsam and Jetsam" also deal with volcanos...well, "Hydro-thermal deep sea vents" in the case of the latter, but close enough for comics.