Thursday, June 25, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: June 24

Batgirl #41 (DC Comics) This is artist Babs Tarr's first issue of the series in which she's not working with Cameron Stewart's layouts, and it shows. The pencil art still looks like the pencil art of the last few issues, of course, but there are some angles that look wholly unlike any we've seen before. Like this third panel on page one:

It's one of a lot of awesome Barbara Gordon expressions in this issue.

Like, for example, her "My Dad Shaved His Mustache" face:

Here's her "I'm A Little Girl And I Love My Dad And Brian The Unicorn" face:

And here's her "My Dad Is Batman Face":

As you can probably tell, this issue is all about Babs and her dad. Batgirl meets the new, police sanctioned, robotic rabbit Batman when they both attempt the apprehend the same perps, and, the next morning, James Gordon shows up at Babs' place to show off his new, clean-shaven look and have a serious talk with Barbara.

Man, even Commissioner Gordon looks sexy when Babs Tarr draws him. Is there any character she draws that doesn't look sexy? Can she draw an unsexy character? I think she may be like Sophie Campbell, and just have a really hard time not drawing sexy people, you know? (I'm not complaining; sexy is good!)

Speaking of sexy, as long as I'm scanning images from this book, check out Babs' suit-ing up for action scene:

That's behind the scenes at a barcade (damn, Burnside is trendy!), where Babs and Frankie are playing the Sailor V arcade game, which is apparently a bizarre mixture of Galaga, Asteroids that the Starship Enterprise there? Was there a Star Trek arcade game I never played?
Then Livewire, from Superman: The Animated Series shows up, and she has a new look (and it's a good one! Maybe Diane Nelson can hop on the Cosmic Treadmill and travel back in time and assign Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr the task of redesigning the whole DC Universe instead of letting Jim Lee and a few others do it? Imagine how sexy the DC Universe would be!). Again the new Batman shows up, and it looks like it's Gordon vs. Gordon, Bat vs. Bat!

I think this may have been my favorite issue of the series so far.

Batman '66 #24 (DC) It's Marsha, Queen of Diamonds once again, with writer Ray Fawkes handling the script of this one story-only issue. The art comes courtesy of Jon Bogdanove, and once again it's disconcerting how...different it looks than what I imagine when I hear Jon Bogdanove is drawing a Batman '66 comic.

His likenesses to not only the characters, but the actors playing the characters, is really quite uncanny, and it can be downright strange when he shows them in action, as Batman looks and acts pretty bad-ass, despite being the Adam West Batman TV show Batman. There are also a lot of pretty cartoony elements added, like floating hearts to indicate Marsha's hypnotism of her marks (including Robin, in this adventure).

Bogdanove seems to be doing a lot of work with computers here, not only in the obvious bits, like some sort of modeling on many of the "sets" and "props," or the special effects (with colorists Roberto Flores and Omar Estevez), but there's something going on regarding the amount of detail in the depth of the panels, so that the characters all look like they were drawn at enormous sizes and shrunk down. dumb and don't really get computers, let alone the ways in which they can be used to produce comic book art.

It looks nice and all, and I enjoyed the issue, it just seemed a little more mechanical than I prefer my comics to be.

Superman #41 (DC) It was a little strange to read Action Comics #41 a few weeks ago, and find an asterisk telling me to check out Superman #41 for background on how it came to be that Superman's secret identity was revealed to the world and that his powers had been greatly decreased (and on a seemingly more long-term basis than the so-called "solar flare" power has decreased them in the past). But then, scheduling SNAFUs aren't exactly new to Big Two super-comics, so it wasn't exactly unheard of to see books like Action, Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman exploring the new Superman status quo (no secret identity, no costume, no powers relative to what he had before) before actually getting this issue.

Well, Superman #41 is out now doesn't explain what prompted the new "Truth" status quo either. In fact, the name of this particular story is "Before Truth Part 1," so we get one page set "After Everything Changed," in which street-clothes Superman is shown, and then the remaining 21-pages are devoted to "Before." Sooooo I guess it's going to be a while before we get answers to the questions regarding the status quo change (which surprises me in large part because the ending of Superman #40 seemed to imply that Lois simply finally put two and two together, helped along by Superman's new flare-related weakness).

And you know, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with jumping around in time like this, or setting certain titles after the events of other titles. I don't think it's the best way to exploit the serial narrative of comic books, in which event should lead to the next, and a reader should always be left wanting to know "And then what?", but whatever.

Getting the long-teased outting of Superman wasn't the only reason I was looking forward to this comic, or either the main reason. This begins writer Gene Luen Yang's run as writer on the title, which is such a big deal it's really hard to overstate what a big deal it really is. Yang is joining the art team that was already in place during Geoff Johns' now concluded story arc, pencil artist John Romita Jr and Klaus Janson. So, basically, we have three great comics talents–at least two of which it would have been impossible to even imagine on a Superman comic book a few years ago–on Superman, maybe the one New 52 title that has suffered the biggest gap between high profile character/importance to the line and the reliability and longevity of it's creative team (Yang is the seventh writer or writing team on Superman since September 2011; in contrast, Batman and Justice League have only had a single writer, and Wonder Woman is only on its second writer). I was really looking forward to reading a reliably good Superman book on a monthly basis for the first time in years.

I dropped the book right after buying it, however. I guess I didn't realize that post-Convergence Superman and several other DC titles would jump 33% in price from $2.99 to $3.99; the extra $1 earning readers an extra two pages (Shouldn't that goddam Twix ad lower the price of these things, or at least keep 'em steady for a month? Do I have no idea how ads work? I thought they were used to offset the cost of producing print periodicals). I guess I'll be following Yang, Romita and Janson's Superman in trade. Which might work best anyway, given the way "Truth" is being structured.

So how is the comic? As expected, it is very good. Romita and Janson's art remains incredible, and I still haven't gotten used to seeing Romita's designs for these iconic DC characters. I still get excited every time I see a Romita drawing of Superman. As for the plot, Yang has Clark Kent and his pal Jimmy Olsen (who recently learned he's really Superman; in a twist, the current version of Superman has confided in Jimmy instead of Lois, rather than vice versa) receive an anonymous tip for a juicy story.

They follow it and get the story, although Superman has to fight a giant 3D printer and Lois Lane takes over half of the reporting before the the article actually sees print. The anonymous tipper than proceeds to blackmail Clark, as he knows his secret identity. This is his first issue, but already Yang seems to have mastered telling very classic-feeling Superman stories, even with so many of the classic elements so different. This issue was a nice reminder that no matter how much tinkering editors may do to continuity, Superman is still Superman, Lois Lane is still Lois Lane and so on. As with a lot of the new creative teams and story arcs debuting this month, I can't help wish that this saw print as Superman #1 back in 2011, rather than being issue #41 in 2015 but, again, whatever. It's nice to know there's a really good Superman comic on the stands, and one that should find its way into the heads of a hell of a lot of kids when it eventually makes it into trade.

It's not worth four fucking dollars though. I mean, it's good, but it's not Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe.

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