Thursday, September 17, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: September 16

Bizarro #4 (DC Comics) I believe I've mentioned before what an inspired pairing Bizarro, the backwards Superman, and Zatanna, the sorceress who speaks her spells backwards, make for. Both are extremely comic book-y characters that may work okay in other media, but work best in their home medium of comics, where a reader can read their dialogue for themselves. Have they ever shared a comic before? It seems impossible that they haven't done so before this, but I can't think of another instance in which they've met one another.

In this issue, Bizarro, Jimmy Olsen and Colin the Chupacabra have arrived in Branson, Missouri to meet Chastity Hex, and while they're there they take in a show (Zatanna's poster design is by this issue's special guest-contributor, Darwyn Cooke). Bizarro turns out to be so backwards that he's able to master backwards spell-casting of the type Zatanna employs fairly instantly, giving him (and readers) a quick tour of various magical characters and planes of the DCU (and an opportunity for artist Gustavo Duarte to draw such unlikely cameos as The Wizard Shazam* and Warlord). Among Bizarro's uncontrollable spells are one that strips Zatanna of her own magical powers, and another that transfers his Bizzarocity to Jimmy, which has the effect of making B. completely normal. The two get to walk in one another's shoes for a bit.

This the quickest paced issue of the series so far, and thanks to the premise, maybe the wildest and most enjoyable issue as well. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Bizarro, but I continue to find 's particular take on his speech patters particularly amusing, like the consistent but weird use of the words "miscontrue" and "construe" in this issue, and the way Bizarro sets up his first magic trick, with the simple instructions to, "Ignore closely."

Bizarro is only two-thirds of the way over, but I'm already beginning to worry about how much I'll mis it when it's gone.

Black Canary #4 (DC) Regular artist Annie Wu is missing this issue, which focuses mainly on the archenemy of Black Canary (the band), their ex-singer Mo Baeve. Don' worry too much though; Wu's fill-in artist is none other than the great, too-little-seen Pia Guerra (Y: The Last Man) who does an excellent job with all of the characters, and provides some particularly fluid fight scenes. A bit more superheroic than the last few issues, between flashbacks to Mo Baeve's origins we get to see Dinah take on a would-be car-jacker, a mysterious blonde lady ninja who is not Dinah take on ARGUS and Amanda Waller (who Guerra draws with shorter hair and the sort of suit she used to wear. She's still really slim to be Amanda Waller, though. Maybe DC can just gradually have her put some pounds back on, like having her gain two pounds between every appearance or something...?).

I like the weird new take on the character in general, but this was by far the best-looking and most clear issue to date. I don't know if the change in artist alone is responsible, but I doubt it, since I do like Wu an awful lot too; I suspect it has more to do with the first story arc starting to come to a head.

There's also a one-panel appearance by Frankie, who has been acting as Barbara Gordon's own Oracle over in Batgirl. Here she's oracle-ing for Dinah too.

Doctor Fate #4 (DC) At the pace that Paul Levitz's origin of the new Doctor Fate I could probably just start cutting and pasting the paragraphs I wrote about the last few issues, as there hasn't been any real noteworthy story progression: Young med student Khalid is still trying to figure out how to use the hem of Fate to stop Anubis' plan to cleanse the Earth in a massive rain storm that is threatening to flood the world. Meanwhile, life goes on (?), as there doesn't seem to be any threat of evacuation or even canceled classes. I guess it's a very gradual plan to kill of humanity via flood.

There are a few dribs and drabs of new info in here, of course, but it's a very leisurely told story, of the sort that reads better in trade than in monthly, 20-page installments. As with the previous issues, the book's saving grace is the artwork of Sonny Liew, who here gets several scenes to really show off, as Khalid gets sucked into the helmet to have another trippy talk with Nabu and then an ancient Egyptian sphinx.

Lumberjanes #18 (Boom Studios) I think current artist Carolyn Nowak's character designs are a little off, as all of the characters seem to be blending together so that they're all roughly the same height and weight, but aside from that, I really like her much-looser take on them, as they now look and act more like comic strip or animated cartoon characters. This is especially effective given that most of the issue they spend in various reaction shots.

The first two pages are among my favorite sequences in Lumberjanes history, and were certainly my favorite of this week's batch of comics. To spoil it, the girls meet some real mermaids–"we PREFER merwomyn,"–and mermaid-crazy April insists that they get involved in trying to solve the problems between one of them and her best friend, who had a falling out after a conflict involving their band. These mer-people are apparently just like land people. Except for the fact that they live under a lake, of course.

I wonder if this story wasn't supposed to have taken place earlier or something, given that mer-people appeared on the cover for #16...or, more likely, one of the covers.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #14 (DC) This issue contains a single, 30-page story written by Karen Traviss and drawn by Andres Guinaldo and Raul Fernandez. The stories in Sensation tend to be continuity-lite, but I prefer ones that can simply be slotted into different eras or runs; this is one of those confused ones that borrows elements from multiple runs so that it calls attention to the ways it relates to one or the other.

So, for example, Wonder Woman mentions being a demi-god (New 52) and another character mentions Themyscria's treatment of males (New 52...although I thought that was a big secret, that was news even to Diana when she first heard it?) and the fact that she lives in London (New 52), but she wears a version of her old costume, has an invisible jet and acts as Themyscria's ambassador to "Patriarch's World." That's all very post-Crisis Wonder Woman, as is the talk of Ares and Zeus and the political/diplomacy focus of the story.

Strife appears as Wonder Woman's main antagonist, but she looks nothing like she does in the New 52 redesign, which is a little strange, as the dialogue at one point sounds like it would be better-suited to New 52 Strife than any other Strife.

Anyway, Traviss' story is entitled "Nine Days," and sees Wonder Woman being called in to act as the broker of a peace treaty between two warring, fictional South American countries. Her half-sister Strife, Strife's other aspect Eris, complicate matters immensely, as they help discover oil in a stretch of disputed land between the two countries, upping the stakes of their talks. Night itself narrates.

Amusingly, Wonder Woman struggles to bring peace to the two hostile nations through diplomacy, but ultimately peace only comes when she throws the pair around, knocks their heads together, chokes them and threatens them with violence from the U.S. and U.N. I know peace through violence is kind of modern Wonder Woman's whole thing, but it is kind of funny here, as most of the 30 pages include mediations on the nature of struggle and the difficulty of peace.

Traviss' story and scripting is pretty evocative of the Greg Rucka era of the Wonder Woman title, and Guinaldo's designs are all pretty great. His Strife/Eris are pretty generic-looking, but I like his several Wonder Woman costumes, and his drawings of Night, an complicated abstract, organic-looking strand of swirling outer-space in a vaguely mandala-like form, is fantastic.

I'm really gonna miss this book when it's gone, especially since it's the most reliable source of decent Wonder Woman stories.

*It didn't occur to me while reading this last night, but now that I'm typing that name up, I realize that it was the "old" Shazam, rather than the New 52 version of the character, for whatever that's worth. Very little, I imagine, given the relatively loose continuity of the title, but interesting to note that when some people–like the artist and/or writer of this very DC comic book–think of The Wizard Shazam, thy think of the original version rather than the New 52 version.


Shriner said...

I'm not sure about Dr. Fate. it's already 4 issues in and it feels *way* too leisurely. I feel like I've read the same exact story 4 times now.

If it was $3.99, I'd have dropped it by now. As it is, I will be surprised if I make it to issue #6 at this pace.

I mean, it's nice to look at. And I'm glad to see Levitz has a book to write. But this one is moving way too slow.

Greg said...

Shannon Watters told me on Saturday that the Grootslang story went a little long in Lumberjanes, so yes, the mermaid story was supposed to start a bit earlier, but they just didn't feel like changing the covers.