Monday, March 02, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: February 25

Batman Eternal #47 (DC Comics) Okay, I'm reasonably certain I know who the ultimate villain is of this series, and I don't think I'm going to like it, as it's a character who hasn't appeared at all in the series so far, a character belonging to an organization only mentioned once in passing.

"He" appears in silhouette a few times in this issue, and gets a line of dialogue or two, but otherwise remains un-revealed. It can't be too much longer though now, can it? Particularly since the Gotham City is in flames now, just as it was on the first page of Batman Eternal #1.

As with the previous issue, this one features a rather striking villain portrait by Jae Lee for its cover, but unlike that issue, the interiors are just as good...if not better. These are drawn by Juan Ferreyra, who colors is own work, and there's some really rather beautiful and just plain fun stuff going on in here, with the way the artists uses cross-cuts (the first panel is a little map of the Wayne Arkham Manor and The Batcave, an otherwise straightforward panel of Batman flying in his Batplane shows the technological guts of the vehicle) and pages two and three have some almost Eisner-like lay-outs going on, with the silhouettes of two buildings serving as panel borders for the panels depicting the events going on inside the buildings.

It's a really rather bravura bit of comics-making, and more than enough to guarantee that Ferreyra's name goes into the exceptional column of artists who have contributed to this series so far.

And that's before I even get to mention how much I liked Julia Pennyworth's "costume" in this issue (she uses one of those high-tech masks Batman and Dick Grayson have used previously in co-plotter Scott Snyder's run on the Bat-books to effect a completely blank, Question-esque face, with a Bat-symbol where the eyes would be on a normal face. Or that he joins Dustin Nguyen in almost making Red Robin's costume not look terrible (It's only on a page here, but it looks a bit like Nightwing's red costume with arm-wings...and, unfortunately, that weird utility harness and too many Red Robin logos.

He also draws a hell of a Scarecrow. Since the New 52-boot, The Scarecrow's design has been pretty much standardized, and apparently he's not allowed to wear hats anymore. Ferreyra sticks with the bag-headed look, but gives it a pointy, slightly waving top, and his Scarecrow has a slim, almost skeletal frame and scary, glowing eyes.

As for the events of the issue, this time out scripted by Tim Seeley, Team Batman has split up to deal with the now heavily armed and funded Arkham escapees (Team Batman is here Red Robin, Bluebird, Red Hood, Batgirl, Batwing and, coordinating them while Batman is flying back from last issue, Julia Pennyworth). Meanwhile, someone gets into the Batcave—that would be the bad guy behind all the other badguys, I'm guessing—and helps Hush escape and capture the Pennyworths.

Batman '66 (DC Comics) While reading writer Rob Williams' and artist Ruben Procopio's issue-length, 20-page story, I kept thinking of Jerry Robinson's classic "The Joker Follows Suit" from Batman #37 (and/or Batman in The Forties), to the extent that I wondered if perhaps this wasn't a Batman '66 retelling of that classic Joker story, until I remembered the difference between the two.

While the original did feature The Joker with his own Jokersignal and Jokermobile, there he was Batman's opposite number in that he was a "hero" who would come to the rescue of Gotham City's criminal element when they were menaced by the police or Batman. Here, however, Joker's new "Jokerman" identity—complete with a Jokermobile (which is, at first, a purple-painted version of the 1966 Batmobile), Jokersignal and a costume mixing elements of Batman's and his own, is an actual crime-fighter, attempting to beat Batman at his own game and, ultimately, replace him.

And it works for a while too, with The Joker taking down several of his fellow archcriminals (and therefore allowing Procopio to draw more of the book's rogues gallery), including The Penguin, Cawoman and, at greatest length, Egghead (Hooray! Egg puns!). Has The Joker really reformed, or is this part of a larger plot? Um, I'm pretty sure you already know the answer to that, but there's certainly fun to be had on the way to the inevitable conclusion. Me, I liked how "Jokerman" tried to keep his secret identity as The Joker hidden.

Gotham Academy #5 (DC) Somewhat disappointing that the "SHOCKING secret revealed" being mentioned on the cover is spoiled in the very tagline that includes the phrase. Also, there aren't Man-Bats, just a Man-Bat, unless you count Batman as a Man-Bat, in which case, okay, yeah, this issue does include multiple Man-Bats (Batman appears in just one panel, however; presumably the next issue will have much more Batman, since the panel he appears in is the last one, in which he's attacking Olive and friends, who have befriended a long-time Batman villain).

This issue goes a long way towards explaining a few of the mysteries of the series, including the identity of the ghost (which was kinda sorta revealed last issue) and what exactly is up with that mysterious but dreamy Tristan. The answers are somewhat prosaic, at least as far as Batman comics go, as they are rather Batman-ish solutions to the mysteries.

There are still plenty of mysteries left to unravel though, some of them pretty big, though. I tried for a few minutes to make sense out of Killer Croc's presence in an Arkham Asylum uniform, and his explanation that he came to the Academy after Arkham fell, but then, he wasn't in Arkham during the events of Batman Eternal (When The Spectre destroyed Arkham), so I wasn't sure where this was set in relation to the other Batman comics and I decided to stop thinking about it, because it was only bugging me, and this reads well enough on its own that pretending the other Batman comics don't exist doesn't hurt it any.

The New 52: Futures End #43 (DC) Huh. And to think I thought the Sarah Palin joke from last week's issue was weird. Here they're just straight up talking about how the lady character is all about dick.

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