Thursday, February 12, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: February 11

Batman Eternal #45 (DC Comics) Javi Fernandez provides the art and Gotham By Midnight writer Ray Fawkes provides the script for this issue, which is concerned mostly with the supernatural sub-plot: Batman brings down Professor Milo and The Bygone Man, who were assaulting him with ghosts last issue; Jim Corrigan checks in on Batwing to see how he's doing with his whole punching-ghosts-to-death-with-Nth Metal knuckles project and then Batman meets up with both of them. There's a scene with Spoiler and Bluebird, and then another with Batman and Julia in the Batcave in which Batman thinks he may have uncovered the true mastermind of the whole plot.

The suspect? Maybe the most obvious one, probably the one most readers thought of upon hearing the title of this book when it was first announced, and who they thought of when they read the first page of the first issue.

That said, this particular suspect hasn't appeared in the book at all yet, and thus if it does turn out to be him—and I'm assuming it won't, but he's just one of the last red herrings that plotters Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV have to introduce before convincing us it was Julia Pennyworth all along—than this will have been a very, very poorly constructed mystery.

Regarding that mystery, there are a few clues mentioned here to consider: Spoiler's insistence that it's Bruce Wayne behind everything (Bruce Wayne's brother or "brother"...?), Corrigan's revelation that a dream bird instructed Milo on how to write his evil book of ghost summoning (The Penguin? The Court of Owls?) and the fact that Bruce Wayne's company and fortune was divided up by shell companies all bearing the names of Arabic-language demons (Ra's? Talia?).

I liked Fernandez's art quite a bit. The first scene, with the ghosts, is a little on the messy side, but there's some nice stuff throughout the rest of the issue. I particularly enjoyed a bit where Corrigan and Milo talk in the extreme background, while Batman and Batwing catch-up in the foreground:

The New 52: Futures End #41 (DC) You know, I wish I could travel through time. If I could, I would have jump back 41 weeks or so and worn the past Caleb to not even bother reading Futures End until about, oh, until the series reaches the mid-to-late thirties, as nothing much of interest or importance seems to happen in the first 30-some issues, but now everything's starting to come together.

In outer space, Justice League 2020 and StormWatch 2020 battle Brainiac's skull ship, while on Earth, the two Supermen battle a giant Brainiac. Meanwhile, Batman Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake and Plastique continue to infiltrate Terrifitech.

The most intriguing pages of this issue, drawn by Jesus Merino, Andy MacDonald and Dan Green, are probably the splash spread on pages five and six, wherein Hawkman flies into the glowing pink mouth of the Brainiac ship and runs headlong into the pink-tinted Multiverse, as the spread is full of casualties of continuity and characters from different realities: Batman '66, Red Son Superman, Doc Fate, Superboy Prime, headband Supergirl, Pariah and Harbinger, and, most notably, what appears to be a not-very-good-drawing of the protagonist of Jeff Lemire's Vertigo series Sweet Tooth.
There are some eye-rolling moments and some glitches in the proceedings, to be sure. I'm not sure why people keep almost referring to Tim Drake as "Robin" if he never was Robin but always Red Robin, I can't imagine this scene made anyone all that happy—
—as, like the re-introduction of Donna Troy to the New 52, it just reminds one that DC can't quit picking at its constantly rebooting continuity like a scab that will never heal and, well, the whole thing struck me as rather hackneyed and poorly-made. But I think much of that has to do with the fact that I read Tom Scioli's Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe immediately before reading this, and after seeing Scioli's Quintessons—giant, god-like robot heads with metal tentacles—the Brainiac ship seemed, well, mundane.

Like, I had just read a pretty insane narrative with a scene almost identical to the scene in this book, and that one blew my mind. This one I find wanting. My fault, I know, but come on, forty guys making Futures End, step up your game; Scioli and co-writer John Barber are crushing you on their Hasbro-licensed toy comic.

SpongeBob Comics #41 (United Plankton Pictures) This issue features a 24-page story by Derek Drymon and Jacob Chabot in which Squidward and SpongeBob become an unlikely stars in the world of live performance. Squidward's clarinet/modern dance performance is interrupted by the naturally-occurring slapstick of SpongeBob, and, try as he might, he can't break away from being the straightman in a Vaudevillian comedy act to be taken seriously as an artist. There's probably something to be said in here about the metafictional nature of Squidward and the plight of those with more ambition and dreams than talent, but it's really too depressing to think about too deeply, so I decided to just concentrate on the jokes.

As much real-estate as "Star of the Show" takes up, there's still room in here for a few shorts, including contributions of various length from Noah Van Sciver, Maris Wicks, James Kochalka, Nate Neal and another, shorter Drymon comic. Did you know dolphins only vocalize through their blowholes, and not their mouths? I did not know that; I thought their clicks came from their weird toothy jaws. You learn something new every day. In a SpongeBob comic. Well, every day that you read a SpongeBob comic, I guess.

Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe #5 (IDW) This is an extremely difficult comic book to review, and not just because I ran out of synonyms for the word "awesome" by the second issue. Each one ends with a commentary section, in which writer/artist Tom Scioli and co-writer John Barber discuss the comic book you just got done reading, and their discussions are more often than not full of superlatives and more colorful expressions of what's so great about the book that reviewing it on top of their own kinda sorta review of it generally seems superfluous.

For example, here are some phrases and sentences taken from their five-page story commentary:


•"In early drafts, Cover Girl and Bumblebee get married. That's probably not going to happen."

•"I've been a comics professional for 10 years, I've made comics way longer, I've read comics even longer and I haven't seen this one before."

•"It's a comics Advent calendar, with moments instead of chocolate in each box."

•"I think this is the only comic where a character has a removable head that is a separate character, who also has a removable head that is a separate character."

•"One Joe alone can hold off Cobra forever...three can take 'em down."

This issue is a particularly action-packed one, although I suppose that's a little redundant, because every issue of this series is packed with action. Essentially one gigantic fight scene, full of the various toys teaming up in different combinations to engage in the war between the Decepticon/Cobra alliance (Decepticobra) and the Joe/Autobot allians (The Jotobots).

So Optimus Prime, Snake-Eyes and Duke join forces to fight off the Quintessons to get to Cybertron; Decepticon mobile bases Trypticon and Fortress Maximus and an army of Cobra foot soldiers storm mobile Autobot base Metroplex; Tunnel Rat leads a daring mission within Fortress Maximus to rescue the mind-controlled Joe pets dubbed U.S. 7 (and have to fight their way through the Oktober Guard to do so); Hot Rod and Grimlock come to blows over leadership of the Autobots; Grimlock fights Megatron to the death; and Optimus Prime fights some alien invader-destroying satellites in a strange configuration I've never seen, in which he wears his trailer on his back like a pair of wings ("his avenging angel mode," according to Scioli).

There are just three brief looks at the action on Earth; one is a page with three scenes involving Storm Shadow trying to kill General Hawk in the bathroom and a weird hint about the significance of the latter's stone axe; another involves Destro and The Baroness plotting to kill the comatose Cobra Commander only to make a startling discover; and the final one involves someone breaking Tomax, Xamot and "the poet laureate of terror" Major Bludd out of jail. Given Scioli's penchant for taking everything to the extreme, it's not surprising that he has the Crimson Twins not only finishing one another's sentences, but finishing one another's words, so that they alternate saying syllables.

Scioli has a pretty amazing technique he continue to use throughout, in which he embeds tiny little panels into what might otherwise be splash pages, so he gets his cake and gets to eat it, too; almost every page is a splash page and a six (or more) panel page. The result is a comic that is full of big, huge moments of the sort that would only fit on splash pages or two-page spreads, but which is full of story, event and moments; it's a 20-page comic that reads like a poster book and like a graphic novella at the same goddam time.

The best example of this is probably the spread on pages two and three, which shows the Joe-terraformed Cybertron approaching Earth orbit, while the giant robot bases all converge for battle, and there are a full fourteen tiny panels full of information and/or awesome shit embedded within them. (Awesome shit like Gung-Ho getting an Autobot tattoo on his left arm, for example). The spread is too big to fit on my scanner (but you can see it and a few other pages here), so here's the "Advent calendar" page instead:
I love this comic so much.

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