Thursday, May 07, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: May 6

Afterlife With Archie #8 (Archie Comics) The surviving Riverdale refugees hole up for Christmas in an abandoned hotel, where Archie meets the ghost of Jughead, and tells his spectral friend all that has transpired since the last issue, which featured a pretty dramatic death.

It was strange to hear how many goddam allusions to movies and TV shows the characters used in this, and I have a very hard time imagining Jughead Jones watching I Spit On Your Grave, but then I suppose this series is all about the characters acting in ways that were never more than roughly suggested in the original Archie Comics. Like what happened between the Blossom siblings, for example, which was apparently so awful that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa doesn't explicitly tell us, leaving it to our imagination. Not that you can't figure it out, of course, it's just too ugly to dramatize, I guess.

Near the end, there's a neat little bit of meta-commentary about the safe, unchanging nature of Riverdale and the Archie Comics line, followed immediately by a big, weird plot development (I thought the words Jughead was referring to were "I love you," not the ones Archie actually utters).

Convergence #5 (DC Comics) What a weird cover on this issue, depicting Warlord, with his beard hidden to make him harder to recognize, fighting his archenemy Deimos atop a baby triceratops that is freaking out and in apparent danger of biting off its own grossly oversized tongue. The image is the work of Andy Kubert, who actually pencils the entirety of the interior as well (with Sandra Hope inking).

Deimos proves to be a much bigger villain than one might have guessed at the outset, taking out both Telos and Brainiac (at least temporarily) and assuming control over Battleworld Telos: The addition to killing two of the three Warlord characters who get rather brutally killed in this issue (although given that continuity shenanigans are inherent in the plot of this storyline, and that Deimos tells Yolanda Montez he's going to re-do Crisis On Infinite Earths or some such nonsesne, dead likely isn't exactly dead in this series).

It's nice to see Kubert's art here, although he's relegated to drawing the Earth-2 characters, who are the stars of Convergence (It would have been nice if DC gave us fair warning and entitled this series Earth 2: Convergence, but then I suppose no one would read it). Kubert does some really weird stuff with the human body though in the two gory deaths of Warlord supporting cast members.

When Tara gets impaled from behind, her skin around the blade pokes out as if she were made out of plastic...
..and later, when Deimos tears out Machiste's heart, you can see Deimos' fingers pressing out of the dying man's skin as if he were made of fabric.
With this issue, writer Jeff King reaches the fifth of the series' eight parts, and its climax involves Deimos calling off all of the city vs. city fights that have provided the A-plots of the many two-issue tie-in series. That's interesting, as I was highly curious about how exactly all of those #2 issues would work, as by the "rules" established in the #1 issues, one set of characters would have to kill another set, or both cities would be destroyed. Apparently we won't actually have to watch all of our favorite DC superhereos from throughout the decades kill or be killed throughout the month of May after all.

Convergence: Batgirl #2 (DC) I kind of want to like pencil artist Rick Leonardi's work in this issue. There are plenty of panels that look pretty damn good, but then there are plenty of others wherein the art looks a bit wrong–hurried and unfinished, but inked and colored like that anyway, so that details are missing, or limbs or fingers just sort of disappear. It would probably have looked okay in black and white, but the coloring really draws attention to how rough the artwork is.

Also, he gives Gorilla Grodd human-shaped feet, rather than gorilla-feet, so that he looks more like a Bigfoot than a gorilla.
This issue continues and concludes the fight between Batgirl Stephanie Brown, Black Bat Cassandra Cain, Red Robin Tim Drake and Flashpoint Catman vs. Flashpoint Gorilla Grodd, with Stephanie and Catman (the two "official" combatants) finding a workaround to end the fight. The rules of the competition are so vague and ill-defined that I'm not sure how or if this would even really work (Like, in the pages of the other tie-in I bought this week, there's another pre-Flashpoint Gotham City vs. Flashpoint fight. In fact, all of this week's tie-ins have pre-Flashpoint Gotham City champions fighting contenders from various cities. So I guess Telos has to add up the losses and wins of the individual fights before deciding which city lives and which one dies...?)

That was probably beyond writer Alisa Kwitney's control, as there doesn't seem to be any consensus among the various books regarding how elements of Convergence work, but we can call her out for having Cassandra Cain be the only one of the four caped humans to be taken out by Grodd. I mean, he roughs them all up, but Cass is the first one he grabs, and he knocks her unconscious. I have no idea how you grab a person who can predict your movements, or how the best fighter among the four–by a factor of, like, 50–is the only one who gets taken down, but whatever (It probably would have made more sense to have Grodd use his telepathy on Cassandra to paralyze her first or something, as he later briefly takes over Robin's mind).

Also, I have no idea why Stephanie decided to punch Tim in the face when he tried talking to her about their relationship; maybe he said some dumb and/or insulting things, but that's a pretty extreme reaction, isn't it?

Regardless, Kwitney includes a few cute moments, like Cass's ability to read people's intentions grossing her out when she seek Tim and Steph together, or the pair of young lovers trying to hook up later, but both being so injured and beat up that they can barely cuddle without hurting.

All in all, Convergence: Batgirl was a weird, messy series, but it had its charms, and it was nice to see Tim and Steph get their happy ending. Of course, it did make me miss these characters, and the fact that a few of them exist in The New 52-iverse doesn't make me miss them any less, as those are simply characters with their names, rather than the actual characters as they existed before the reboot.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2 (DC) Distressingly, Barbara Gordon's wedding dress containing a circuit board-like pattern isn't just an artistic flourish added by cover artist Jill Thompson; the dress she wears on the inside of the book also has the same pattern, making it one hell of a lame wedding dress.

Anyway, it's Nightwing vs. Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman, with Oracle working behind the scenes and calling in some extra muscle to turn the tide in the battle. The title characters win, of course, but rather than killing the Hawks, they let them live–Barbara even offers to take them in to their Gotham, suggesting Hawkwoman curate a museum of her Thanagar's dead culture.

The greatest pleasure of this issue was probably Jan Duursema's artwork. She did a fairly incredible job on the Hawks, who, in this incarnation, are both scantily clad warriors, both showing off plenty of flesh, and Duursema draws it all, as well as their imposing physicality, quite well. And both contrast nicely to the slimmer, sleeker, quicker Nightwing.

Duursema also draws a fantastic image of Black Canary letting loose a canary cry which I really liked.
There are some glitches in the writing and art, like Nightwing referring to 7 million Gothamites and Oracle to 8 million Gothamites some ten pages later, and there's a weird panel where Oracle is shown crawling to a wheelchair that looks to be just sitting out in the desert after her helicopter crashes, but all in all this was a nice showcase of the two characters' personalities and skills, a nice showcase of Duursema's artwork and, of course, a happy ending for another young Bat-Family couple.

Hey, look at this!
So Barbara's bridesmaids have terrible dresses, but then, she has a circuitry design on hers, so maybe their terrible-ness isn't so terrible. But who are all these people? That's Clark and Lois on the left side of the panel, and, in the background, we see Bruce Wayne, Alfred and a redhead I have to assume is Wally West rather than Roy (Wally was Dick's best friend, and thus a more likely candidate for best man). But who are the bridesmaids, and the two ladies on the far right?

I suppose the bridesmaids could be Black Canary, The Huntress and Lady Blackhawk (i.e., The Birds of Prey), and that would make the girls on the right Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, although the black haired girl doesn't look Asian.

Or are Steph and Cass the two bridesmaids who aren't Black Canary, which would make the two on the right Huntress and Lady Blackhawk? Or is the dark-haired lady Donna Troy, and the blonde, um...someone else? Hey, someone go ask Gail Simone and report back, huh? Simone's on the social media all the time, right?

Also, where is Barbara's dad? And Tim? And Damian? And Starfire?

As much as I liked this last page, it, like that in Batgirl, just kinda made me wish I could read about these two characters more. I suppose it's impossible now, as I can't imagine DC wanting to do different books set on different timelines or with different continuities or whatever, but I sure would like to read more Simone/Duursema Nightwing/Oracle comics...

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #10 (DC) My favorite part of Johnny Quest was always the opening theme, so it felt sort of off to see these characters without first seeing a swooping, screeching pterodactyl, or a robot eyeball spider laser-beaming a tank or an alligator crawling into a river. But they do get the mummy in there right away! Writer Sholly Fisch and artist Dario Brizuela do their by now expected pitch perfect cover version of the two cartoon franchises, blending them together perfectly. These particular Hanna-Barbera characters fit much more seamlessly with Scooby and the gang, and there's no hint of the sort of design clash that punctuated a handful of previous issues, particularly those guest=starring The Flintstones and The Jetsons.

Needed more Bandit, though.

Wonder Woman '77 #1 (DC) I could have sworn the plan for this book, when originally announced, was a digital-first, ongoing series akin to Batman '66, with Marc Andreyko writing and Nicola Scott drawing. I guess plans changed since the initial announcement, or that I was mistaken and just heard it the way I wanted to, however. Probably the latter. So what we get instead of a monthly series is this giant, $7.99 book, containing two multi-part stories by Andreyko and drawn by multiple artists (none of whom are Scott; she simply provides the cover of an eerily on-model Lynda Carter). It's big and has a spine, so it's a bit like an old-school "prestige format" DC comic, or a trade with ads and no writing on the spine.

I got bored rather quickly with the first story, to be honest, and so set the book aside to read the second story and other materiallater. It's 60 pages of comics, followed by a full-page image of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman (Say, you know who'd make an pretty okay Wonder Woman in the Carter tradition? Katy Perry), and a five-page essay heavily illustrated by photos of Carter, and some back matter consisting of sketches. The first story was okay, and I probably could have made it through the rest of the book were it not the last in a stack of comics I was reading in one sitting, but the fact that the art changed so often and so much in terms of style was extremely off-putting.


Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

I've been handling the inconsistencies in the tournament rules by assuming Telos is an idiot and can't keep them straight. I don't know if the writers intended it, but so far Telos has struck me as a raving lunatic who doesn't have much of a clear plan for what to do in his head, and is dangerous because of his power combined with his madness.

SallyP said...

Evan, that's actually a smart approach to the whole thing!

And yes, that opening sequence in Jonny Quest was...awesome!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

When EARTH 2: SOCIETY comes out, I wonder if it will be a weird version of GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC. The twist being instead of all the cities being stolen from other planets, there will be some of these domed cities left on Telos.

DC will just mess that idea up the first time they go back to it. I can't understand why so many titles have Kingdom Come characters appear, and a fair share have Flashpoint characters.