Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Comic Shop Comics: July 29
And as with the rest of the Brenden Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr team's run on the book, this issue is a pretty excellent one; extremely full, with panel-packed pages that belie its actual, relatively short 20-page page count.
Batgirl and Batman both pursue Livewire, their pursuit temporarily complicated by the fact that the new Batman is supposed to apprehend any and all vigilantes (like Batgirl), even if Gordon himself doesn't really want to. There are some really fun, funny moments between the two here, and it was nice to get this little reminder that Batgirl does take place in Gotham City still, as different as the book may be from the rest of the Bat-books.
Stewart and Fletcher offer some business with a handful of the supporting characters, including a very big moment for one of them on the last page, and Tarr continues to make every single character look hot, cool and sexy at the same time. A friend pointed out an issue of the old, pre-New 52 Batgirl series where that Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) also fought Livewire, and I was struck by the fact that aside from the many similarities, Tarr's Livewire looks so different. And so much better. I mean, check out her heels:
So the cover blurb promises "A Deadly Rendezvous with Grayson...And Much More!" and they were not kidding about the "Much More!" Based on the cover and what I had read of the book, I was expecting a kinda sorta almost reunion with Grayson (who, for reasons that don't really make any sense if you think about them long, Batgirl and everyone other than Bruce Wayne believes to be dead). And that is what we get for the first 18 pages. Artist Bengal, who drew the silent Batgirl: Endgame one-shot, draws that portion of regular writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher's story.
What I didn't expect is the three team-ups that followed, all of which are fairly surprising, even if they do involve crime-fighting ladies in Gotham City. And I will proceed to spoil them, so if you'd like to be delightfully surprised about what the "And Much More!" refers to, maybe don't read this post any further...?
Batgirl first meets and teams up with Spyral's Helena Bertinelli in a scene that makes both the masked vigilante and the super-spy seem rather unconvincingly naive and trusting:
After pages of intense fighting and near-misses, they eventually do come face-to-face, and Grayson's forced to put on a false face...
A few questionable moments aside–like, for example, why the villain was trying to kill a victim via a Wicker Man, aside from the fact that Wicker Mans are cool, or how the Bat-ladies essentially just let a villain go at one point, or how Batgirl and Helena team-up ASAP–this issue was a ton of fun, and did exactly what an annual should do: Give you an extra, extra-big helping of what you like about the regular monthly.
I just wish it were a bigger helping for $5...
This issue is...weird. So there are a lot of splash pages in it. There are six single-page splashes, and two two-page splashes, but artist Tom Scioli's art is so detailed, so full and so peculiar that a single image of his can "read" as long as a few pages worth of panels from other writers and artists. The first splash page, for example, is a single image with two characters speaking about a half-dozen lines between them, but it features a Lovecraftian space horror god holding Billy aloft in its snake tail tentacles, several of which are wrapped around pillars in an elaborate cathedral full of cobra men (or statues of cobra men?), while a Snake Eyes covered in blood spray sits on a platter at what looks like a recreation of The Last Supper with Cobra Commander and his agents–including redesigned members of Cobra-La–while Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join or Die" snake political cartoon is in a frame behind him.
A later splash includes a frame of tiny panels arranged like a film strips bordering the large image, so it could be read as a single-panel splash, but, if you look closely, it has 32 tiny, silent panels embedded within the image.
This book never ceases to amaze with its creative presentation and its ever-deepening mythology intertwining elements of the two title franchises with whatever seems to strike the fancy of Scioli and co-writer John Barber.
The big moments are probably Snake Eyes' escape from the Cobra temple just as Cybertron finally connects to Earth, a battle to the death between Optimus Prime and Megatron and a fight between Omega Supreme and Astrotrain that doubles as a symbolic conflict between the U.S. highway system and rail in the wild, warped vision of Scioli and Barber.
Omega Supreme, like Astrotrain, gets a pretty radical re-design, with Scioli focusing on the weirdest aspect of the original toy/cartoon character (the stretches of road that formed his wings in robot mode–he was a giant robot that's alternate form was an Autobot base, you may recall), and accentuating that over everything else.
There are lots of small moments, too, though, that are often as much fun as the big ones...or at least the more rewarding for the sort of fan whose heart skips a beat when he hears the name "Scoop" spoken aloud: New characters Army, Limbot and Viper (I think), The Pretenders and the introductions of three of the lame characters from Transformers: The Movie*, one of them who Scioli draws like the motorcycle equivalent of a centaur in one panel, and another of which I kind of hope got killed off-panel, as seeing him here reminded me of my loathing for him.
On a strictly formal level, this is probably the best serial comic being published at the moment. On a fan-level, this is definitely the best serial comic book being published at the moment.
*Although to be fair, with the exception of Unicron, all of the characters introduced in Transformers: The Movie were lame.