Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: March 23

Batman & Robin Eternal #25 (DC Comics) This is the penultimate issue of the series, which has turned out to be not only half as long as its predecessor Batman Eternal was, but also about half as compelling. Lacking the driving mystery element of the previous Batman weekly co-plotted by Scott Snyder and James Tynion (even if they did cheat at the end there), the concluding chapters of this series have been more inevitable than suspenseful.

The stakes are, technically, higher, as Mother had endangered the entire world here, but it's not like there's any real question of whether or not she'll kill our half-dozen heroes and their network of allies and conquer the world. And so in this issue we just take a few more steps toward the conclusion. If this issue and it's cliffhanger are any indication, than I suppose that conclusion will simply involve Dick Grayson fighting Mother, with the most likely assistance coming from Bluebird, Azrael and Cassandra Cain, who may not even get a costume or codename.

Javi Pina and Goran Sudzuka handle the art this time around, while Steve Orlando scripts. He does give Midnighter, whose monthly he's been writing, a pretty cool scene, albeit one that's not as violent as he might get in his own book (he's hanging out with Batman and his non-lethal protegees, after all) and much more poorly drawn than any scene in Midnighter.

There hasn't been a whole lot to this series over the past 25 weeks, but, at the same time, I'll miss it when it's gone. I do so enjoy knowing there will be at least one new comic book waiting for me at the shop every Wednesday, especially on particularly slow weeks like this one.

Circuit Breaker #1 (Image Comics) Despite my affection for Kyle Baker's work, I somehow managed to not hear anything at all about this book until I saw it sitting among the new books at the shop today and noticed that the lady on the cover looked a lot like Kyle Baker doing a Osama Tezuka impression (That, or I did hear of it, but then somehow failed to retain that information).

That, it turns out, is almost exactly what Circuit Breaker is. Baker is working with writer Kevin McCarthy, and together they imagine a somewhat meta, Tezuka-like Japan of the future. Or, as McCarthy has an old, Japanese lady say to our protagonist and title character, "This isn't Japan...we all live in a place that the rest of the world called Japan...Now there is only the super metropolis that the manga-ka kept warning us would happen."

McCarthy and Baker lay out and unfold the world a bit for us in the opening scenes, although pink-haired young woman Chiren does provide an info-dump, which she refers to as such, about half-way through. Her grandfather invented advanced robots to perform many roles in society, including war-fighting, and, eventually, those wars destroyed much of the world save Japan, which was forced to take in refugees from the destroyed-parts of the world.

Now there is a great deal of tension between the robots that are left and human beings, and robots are a despised and down-trodden class. Some strike back against humanity violently, and it's up to Chiren, the most advanced robot here "grandfather" ever created, to deactivate robots who would do humanity harm, trying to keep society from plunging into an all-out human vs. robot war.

It sounds a lot more serious than it is. Well, it is serious, but there are jokes and sly genre and media commentary, but the greatest pleasure is in seeing the way that McCarthy and Baker both use Tezuka's work for inspiration in a more direct, obvious, even naked way than most other cartoonists have or continue to do; this is a comic book that features the same tensions of many of Tezuka's robot stories and which uses Tezuka's charming, Disney cartoon-inspired style to make the characters all look somewhat cute, no matter the role they play.

Baker even fills the backgrounds with characters from Tezuka's comics (check out the third panel); giving them cameos as bit players in the story, the same way Tezuka himself used various characters he created as "actors" that appeared in parts large and small in many of his comics.

I know I'm sort of rambling here, but I think there's a lot of worthwhile stuff going on in this comic, and it will bear serious consideration and discussion in another three to five issues, when they've either finished their story or the first significant, novel-length chunk of a story.

For now, it's Kyle Baker doing Tezuka, so fans of either or both artists will definitely want to check this out. And even if you're not a fan of either–which likely just means you haven't read either; stop reading my dumb blog and go to your local library's website and just start reserving everything with either artist's name attached–then this is a comic about a robot girl who fights bad robots to keep the peace in a cartoon-y, futuristic fantasy Japan built from the raw materials of manga and anime history. So you're still definitely going to want to check this out.

1 comment:

William Burns said...

My question is, if you can get a Kyle Baker comic on good paper for three dollars, what's the justification for charging four dollars for any comic?