Thursday, February 05, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: January 28-February 4

Batman Eternal #43 (DC Comics) Huh. I never realized how much New 52 Spoiler's costume resembles New 52 Huntress' costume until I glanced at this pretty okay cover by Ivan Reis and thought, for a split-second, that Huntress was on the cover. Spoiler's basically just missing the big white cross design over the torso, right? And, obviously, the two costumes differ from the neck up.

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.
I'm still not crazy about Harper's costume, which will hopefully get revamped before too long, but I've managed to stomach that godawful Red Robin costume for however many issues of this series he's appeared in so far, so certainly Harper could look worse. I still don't like her using a gun to fight with though; even if it's a non-lethal stun gun, it just doesn't seem like the sort of thing Batman would be cool with. Maybe he'll teach her karate like she asks just so she'll stop using a big-ass, Cable-looking gun to shoot her foes with (And if electrical engineering's her thing, maybe she can settle for electro-knuckled gloves or something...?).

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:
I'm not sure who came up with the cat's dialogue bubble resembling a cat emoticon—LaFuente, letterer John J. Hill, or one of the many writers, but they deserve some props for it. That is awesome.

Batman Eternal #44 (DC) Ray Fawkes assumes scripting duties for this issue, and the grinding sound you may hear is the book changing gears. Spoiler's bombshell is only followed up on in a two-page sequence, in which artist "ACO" draws Harper so differently from LaFuente one might not recognize her were there not a caption telling us the scene was set in her apartment. There's also a one-page check-in with Luke Fox, aka Batwing (Oh yeah, he's in this book; remember him?). The rest of the book deals with the fall-out of the haunted Arkham sub-plot, and Batman's hunt for obscure villain Professor Milo, a pharmacist at Arkham who all the inmates point to as being key to the occult shenanigans that went on there (As with all of the other master villains to appear int he series so far, he received an invitation to do what he did...along with a spellbook of some sort).

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.

Batman '66 #19 (DC) Poor Boy Wonder.

Gotham Academy #4 (DC) This book has a rather frustrating habit of jumping a few beats ahead of the cliffhanger ending of the previous issue, which can make each new issue start in a rather disorienting fashion. Gotham Academy #3, for example, ending with a monstrous hand reaching out from a hole in the ground of an abandoned building on campus, apparently trying to grab our young protagonists. This issue opens at least a day later, with Olive Silverlock and Pomeline Fritch in gym class out of doors, staring at the sealed up North Hall, where they encountered the monster hand last issue.

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."

New 52: Futures End #39 (DC) Despite Ryan Sook's striking cover, in which Amethyst takes up a sword and torch to fend off a horde of monsters—the most notable of which is a huge gorilla with mechanical wings and bolts in its neck—the interior art by Stephen Thompson is significantly more mundane, and only five of the book's 20-pages deal with the Amethyst/Frankenstein plot (At Frankenstein's request, Amethyst beheads Frankenstein Sr. and then kills all the mechanical/animal hybrid monsters in three quick, lame panels.

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.
That's just science, isn't it...?

New 52: Futures End #40 (DC) Hmm, I wonder if this wouldn't have been the best place to start with the series? It's certainly where stuff really seems to be happening, after a lot of issues in which very little of any interest did. Superman flies off to get his New 52 Year One outfit with which to fight Brainiac (who appears in Manhattan in the giant form you see on the cover), Constanine summons a big fiery pig monster to eat the little corn men who all seemed to have been burned to death in the previous issue. The Atom, Hawkman and what looks like the full roster of the 2020 Justice League gather to take on Brainiac, Batman 2020, Plastique and Tim Drake storm Terrifitech and find a bunch of dead SHIELD Agents there (wrong superhero universe, artist Patrick Zircher!), and Brainiac seems to be intent on sealing off Manhattan, perhaps for collection purposes. So lots of heroes, lots of stuff happening.

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.

Saga #25 (Image Comics) Man, this book...! I like how the rather large cast, composed almost entirely of very interesting characters with an incredibly interesting character designs, has broken up into several different groups, and I liked the way Hazel spoils the plot in her narration by telling us how much time will pass between certain events and even the outcome of certain conflicts, but in a matter-of-fact way that only heightens the tension, as the "spoilers" are vague enough to make the reader curious about what will happen between where we are now and the outcomes she's talking about.

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?


SallyP said...

Everyone should meet Guy Gardner. Just for the experience.

Benjamin McDowell said...

Dude, it's "C-3PO!"

Saint Godard said...

Loved how in the last couple issues of Batman Inc. the lobby staff was making fun of RR, asking him if "The clubs just let out."

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I'm a writer, Caleb. Usually a novel runs 400 typed pages. Hitchcock once said that, in a film, if a gun is introduced in the first act, it must be fired in the second act."

Let's say BATMAN ETERNAL is in Act Three (as what applies to film applies to novels), 12 issues an act. I'm not reading the book, but from what you wrote, unless DC is throwing out a dodge (which I don't believe they are capable of doing), they are screwing up bad. Any unseen mastermind should have been shown better than being in the shadows all this time.

At best, several other villains show at least know who he is, and the character should have been seen in perhaps a benign environment.

Thanks for the reviews, though. I enjoy your column.

Michael Hoskin said...

Re: Bluebird

I thought DC purchased Wildstorm, not Extreme Studios...?

Robt Seda-Schreiber said...

@Wayne Allen Sallee:

Quote is Chekhov, not Hitchcock, just so's ya' know...

Caleb said...

Dude, it's "C-3PO!"

Thanks; I was trying so hard to make sure i used a "0" instead of an "O" that I didn't pay attention to the dash...and it turns out that it's supposed to be an "O" rather than a "0" anyway.

I'm just gonna go ahead and call him Threepio from now on, I think.