Thursday, December 17, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: December 16

Batgirl #46 (DC Comics) It's the moment you've all been waiting for! Or, at least, my best friend has been waiting for, so if you're her, than it is definitely the moment you've been waiting for! Stephanie Brown, the pre-Flashpoint Batgirl, and the current Spoiler, migrates from her supporting role in Catwoman to a supporting role in Batgirl. At least for this issue. And another one in March, which looks like it is going to be awesome. Here's the cover for it, in case you've forgotten since I showed it to you yesterday-ish:
Maybe she'll stick around for the issues in-between as well, I don't know. One of the great strengths of Batgirl is it's rather wide supporting cast, with characters who come and go issue-to-issue.

David LaFuente (who would be a pretty okay person to draw the theoretical Birds of Prey comic that I hope the cover for Batgirl #50 is presaging), provides the cover for this issue, and while he's art's not quite as soft and sexy as that of interior artist Babs Tarr, his thicker, bolder lines still encapsulate a similar-enough design style.

So Barbara Gordon and Nadimah are working on their grad school community research project and Babs is complaining about how frazzled she is lately, which leads immediately into a scene of why: She's defending Burnside from street crime by night. During a routine gang beating up, she's interrupted by a man with ties to Gotham's underworld, who recruits Batgirl to get Spoiler out of some hot water. Apparently the events of Catwoman (the last few issues of which I haven't been reading) lead to the Hasigawa crime family putting a hit out on Spoiler. The guy, Lewis, thinks if a Bat-person swoops in to aid Spoiler, it will get the Hasigawa heat off of her.

So Batgirl and new, official partner Frankie (who, once again, mentions she has a codename in mind, and is once again interrupted before she can say what I assume must be "Oracle") go to save Spoiler, who's doing pretty okay against a gang of bad guys, untile their awesome, manga-inspired specialist shows up...luckly Batgirl shows up immediately after, and the girls double-team and take him out.

Batgirl stashes Spoiler in a Gotham penthouse apartment belonging to a wealthy member of the Bat-family that she's been romantically involved with (this time it's current boyfriend Luke Fox, although interestingly Dick Grayson just stashed Spoiler in one of his Gotham penthouse apartments in the pages of Batman & Robin Eternal. That poor Spoiler; always seeing things she shouldn't, and having to hide out from massive Gotham criminal organizations and conspiracies! (I actually wish Grayson would have taken her with him; it's kind of unclear why he decided to just leave her behind with Harper's non-vigilante brother Cullen, but whatevs).

Something bigger is clearly going on, and Spoiler is apparently going to be a part of it's resolution. In fact, it seems to have started in the comic in which the pair first officially met (Batgirl Annual #3, if we're not counting that one splash page in Batman Eternal), as it looks likes someone or something is after Babs' memory of a maguffin she saw during the first chapter of the annual, the Negahedron.

In the mean time, this issue offers a surprisingly great fight scene or two for an American superhero comic, sine cute super-girl bonding and Tarr's always gorgeous designs (like few other artists–Brandon Graham and Sophie Campbell springing most immediately to mind–I just love the way Tarr draws everyday people. Their clothes, their hair, their faces, their bodies–she's a hell of an artist, and one I don't think gets enough credit for being as awesome as she is).

Batman '66 #30 (DC) One couldn't really ask for a better final issue of Batman '66, as cover artist Michael Allred finally–finally!–moves into the interiors to draw the entire issue (something I've been hoping would happen for at least 30 months now, I guess), and he brings other Allreds with him. Mike Allred's art is colored, as always, by Laura Allred, and the script comes courtesy of Lee Allred. Like the final issues of Marvel's FF, this is an all-Allred affair, and it's also, incidentally, pretty great.

The plot finds Gotham seeming bereft of any and all crime, which worries Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara. The reason? Three of Batman's four archenemies–The Joker, Penguin and Catwoman–have organized a criminal convention, having purposely left out their co-conspirator from the original Batman movie, The Riddler, as his riddles always ruin everything.

The cameo-filled convention features just about every villain to appear in the series so far (even if some of those appearances are no more than a cameo), tons of obscure call-backs to the show, and introductions of several Batman or DC villains who didn't ever appear on the show, but could have and maybe should have, given their vintage. Batman and Robin wade in, after first meeting Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White (next door for a sort of media convention) during a wall-climging gag), fighting all of their villains at once using the rather unique strategy of just punching them all over and over.

The problem is there are so many villains that they'll knock one out, and are still knocking out the others by the time that first one they knocked out wakes back up. All might be lost, were it not for the timely intervention of allies expected (Batgirl, the Gotham Police) and unexpected (I guess I shouldn't spoil it, but you've probably already guessed just from reading these few paragraphs, and will certainly guess while reading the actual comic).

The Allreds are clearly having a blast making this comic, with Lee including all of the most iconic dialogue and gags he can, and Mike drawing all of the most iconic imagery he can. In fact, the narrative structure of the entire issue is essentially based on the opening and closing credits of the TV show, taking the images in the semi-animated opening and essentially finding a story to explain the situation in which those exact images could unfold.

It's a viking funeral of a last issue, although I guess we should use the term "last" with a certain amount of qualification; this will be followed by a Batman '66/Man From U.N.C.L.E. miniseries, and I'm assuming (hoping?) the door will be open for more returns to the milieu in the future. I hope an all-Allred Batgirl special or miniseries might be one of them, given that Allred only gets to draw her in five panels here.

The best panel, however, isn't a Mike Allred-drawing-TV's Batgirl panel, however, it's probably this cameo-filled one:
Aw yeah, Easter Eggs!

Batman & Robin Eternal #11 (DC) The interiors of this issue are in no way reflective of the cool, colorfuly, trippy cover provided by Guillem March (who really should be given an excellent Batman title to illustrate permanent-like, as he's one of the best artists who regularly works for the publisher, but doesn't have an ongoing to stake out as his territory). The interiors feature a well-drawn fframing sequence by Christian Duce, in which Dick Grayson and Harper "Bluebird" Row and new character, the psychic Sculptor do some sort of psychic investigation into Cassandra Cain's origin story, on the way to finding out what Batman's connection to Mother was (obviously, it was a fake out on Batman's part, and if any of the Robins were really actually made-to-order, it would have to be either Jason or Tim, and since Tim's the good one, it would be Tim).

Cassandra's origin is pretty similar here, as her father trains her almost exclusively through actions and violence, so that she never learns to speak, but does learn to read body language well-enough to predict it. And she's eventually used as an assassin, which she doesn't like.

What's different is that Cain is now a dark-haired young man (there can be no gray hair in the New 52!) and he works with Mother as part of her organization; he's the character we met in the first few issues called Orphan. (Cass was a side-project of his.)

Much less silly than the last few issues, and slightly better drawn, it's another okay issues of an okay series, the main selling point of which seems to be giving Batman's many book-less allies a place to show up and do stuff on the regular, and the ones with books of their own to show up and conduct Batman-related business without having to over-involve all their New 52 baggage (i.e. no Teen Titans or Arsenal, minimal Spyral, etc).

Lumberjanes #21 (Boom Studios) Writers Shannon Watters and Kate Leyh and artist Carey Pietsch launch a new story arc with this issue, and it seems to be all about shape-changers. When the girls meet a new, harsher-than-most counselor who will only grant them their All For Knot knot-tying badge if they succeed at knot-tying as a cabin rather than as individuals, they investigate and find that this new counselor, Seafarin' Karen, got her job when she was marooned here, incapable of returning to her boat, as it has been hijacked by Selies.

They've parked it without taunting distance of the shore, and enchanted the water so that Seafarin' Karen can't sail, float or swim back out to it. What's the deal? The girls split up to investigate, one team going to ask the Bear Woman about shape-changing, since she can turn into a bear and all. Also, a werewolf is involved.

It's a pretty great start to a pretty promising new arc, and artist Rosemary Valero-O'Connell offers a particularly beautiful cover for this issue.

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