Thursday, February 05, 2015
Comic Shop Comics: January 28-February 4
I think the big news about this particular issue, however, is who provided the interior art: David Lafuente, an excellent artist who has been provided excellent art for Marvel...exclusively, as far as I know. He's worked with Brian Michael Bendis a few times on All-New X-Men and a bunch of Ultimate Spider-stuff, and the last place I saw his work was in All-New Doop. I was pretty shocked to see him turn up here, as I was fairly certain he would have signed some sort of exclusive agreement with Marvel by this point. Well, that and I'm surprised Marvel editors would let them out of his sight. Well, that and, Batman or no, issue #43 of a 52-issue weekly Batman series seems like an awfully random place for the artist to show up for what I'm pretty sure is his first DC work.
He's a very welcome presence, and his work helps put this particular issue of Batman Eternal into the handful of issues so far with really, truly, excellent interior art. The story, this time scripted by James Tynion IV, involves Batman, Red Robin and Harper "Bluebird" Row rescuing Spoiler from Catwoman. It looks great, even with two different inkers (Victor Olazaba and Scot Hanna), and it's a pretty good issue of the series as well, showing some real forward momentum, and focusing on some of the more interesting players in the sprawling cast.
Spoiler offers a bombshell revelation about who the big, behind-the-scenes villain is in the last panel. Unfortunately, it's one of the few people we know can't possibly be the real villain, although it does seem to point toward a character I've suspected, even if I don't think it's "fair" to use that character, as he hasn't been introduced into the series. I don't read a lot of mystery novels—I've maybe read a dozen in my whole life—but are you allowed to introduce the mystery villain in the last, oh, the last 40 pages of a 250-page novel...?
Not that Tynion, co-plotter Scott Snyder and the other writers have actually revealed the villain here. They just have Spoiler name who she thinks the villain is, which points towards a particular character.
Oh, and this is in Batman #43:
There's a somewhat awkward accounting for the character having appeared in both Batman Eternal and Gotham Academy, which has used relatively obscure Batman characters as faculty members, simultaneously, with Julia Pennyworth telling Batman, "Get this: Not only was he on the Arkham staff, he was teaching chemistry over at Gotham Academy. Can you imagine, they let him near children...with that haircut?"*
ACO's art is a pretty jarring shift from that of LaFuente, probably made still more so by the fact that I read these two issues back-to-back, rather than waiting seven days between. I wonder how this will ultimately read in trade? I have to imagine it will be a weird experience, with the art shifting so drastically so often.
Anyway, this artist has a very realistic style, so that Batman looks like movie Batman more than comic book Batman, and there are a lot of effects in the imagery to make it all look very realistic and not terribly comic book-y. It even borders on illegible during a few points, where there are maybe some kinda sorta ghosts or something and, in the action climax, when Milo unleashes a cloud of some sort of gas.
Perhaps this reads better in trade than serially. At any rate, our heroine Olive and her sidekick Maps continue their investigations of the mysteries of Gotham Academy, while Olive keeps her own secrets from everyone, including the readers (while letting clues gradually dribble out). In this issue, they interrogate an "intense" young man who seems to know something about everything, bust someone Scooby-Dooing a ghost, discover a secret passage, eavesdrop on Bruce Wayne's one-panel appearance and, in the last few pages, Olive meets an unexpected recurring Batman villain, and the encounter is much more casual than one might expect.
We also meet another member of the Academy's faculty, drama teacher Mr. Trent. I think this might be a stealth cameo by Simon Trent, the actor who played TV superhero The Gray Ghost on Batman: The Animated Series in the episode called "The Gray Ghost" (Adam West voiced the character, who that show's Bruce Wayne used to admire as a child). Beyond the surname and the profession, there's but one other clue: Trent mentions in one line of dialogue that "I do have some experience playing a ghost you know! Heh heh."
The rest of the book is devoted to check-ins with various sub-plots: Firestorm and Dr. Polaris on the Justice League satellite, the boring-ass, barely comprehensible plot involving the Grifter, Fifty-Sue and their friends and enemies, and Constantine and Superman I in Smallville.
I kinda liked the idea of these little corn-based monsters that come rushing out of the Smallville cornfields to attack them, but I'm not so clear on why they didn't turn into popcorn when Superman blasted them with his head vision and set the fields ablaze.
I thought it weird that Wildfire and Superman II would both be on the same League at the same time, considering how similar their costumes are...particularly since the new Superman has already been outted and doesn't need to wear the Wildfire-like hemet/mask anymore.
Even weirder? There's a panel where Hawkman responds to an observation The Atom makes with the lines, "Really, Dr. Genius? We can see that--but what is it!?" That didn't strike me as a particularly Hawkman thing to say, but what do I know? I'm only one guy, and four guys wrote this comic book.
I also like Marko's beard.
I also also like the way Fiona Staples draws breasts.
Star Wars #2 (Marvel Entertainment) Okay, I didn't actually buy this one ($4? Fuck that), but I did read my friends copy, as she bought one. John Cassaday's art is pretty good, but there were a few bits that bugged me. Vader's knockdown of Luke when they cross light sabers doesn't really work (based on the way they crossed swords, he would have knocked him in the opposite direction), and the scene with C-3PO trying to scare away scavengers with a blaster pistol seemed like a real missed opportunity, as we never even get to see C-3PO holding the blaster (He appears in silhouette only, and then there's a close up of the blaster clattering down the runway of the Millennium Falcon).
Other than that, the art was pretty solid—as weird as the attempts to pair the characters so closely with the actors playing them occasionally seem (Like, there was at least one panel where I felt like I knew exactly where Cassaday paused his DVD to use as reference when drawing). The script was pretty great. I liked the way Vader was about to behead Luke in the same way that Anakin Skywalker beheaded Count Poopy in Episode III, and Han's insistence that there's no such thing as The Force and, of course, the fact that there was an Imperial Walker in it. I fucking love Imperial Walkers.
*Has Professor Milo ever met Guy Gardner? If not, why not?