Thursday, April 14, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: April 13

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (DC Comics) Waaaaaaaaaaait. Commissioner James Gordon appears in this issue, and he has white hair and a white mustache and is smoking a pipe. That would indicate that this series is not–I repeat not–in current, New 52 Batman continuity, despite the relative pains taken by writer James Tynion IV to keep the six-issue miniseries consistent with IDW's TMNT Vol. 5 continuity and all the rigamarole that was required to build the entire plot around the Turtles traveling from their own universe to that of Batman's DCU. I've been saying all along that I would have preferred a more standalone crossover, which would have freed up a lot more pages space to devote to things other than explaining how the TMNT and Batman got to be in the same place at the same time.

This is the penultimate issue, and two big things of some interest occur, neither of which are what is depicted on the least, not exactly (That cover is worth studying though, if only to see who artist Freddie Williams II decided to include–8 to 10 of those inmates aren't actually inmates at the moment, or never were, for example–and whether he decided to draw the New 52 or classic versions of each of them.)

The first is that Robin Damian Wayne returns to the Batcave in time to fight Michaelangelo Michelangelo and Donatello, and the second is a last page splash showing what exactly The Shredder and Ra's al Ghul did with the mutagen they brought into Arkham Asylum with them. Some of the mutations, like that of The Penguin–
–and The Scarecrow are obvious, others much less so. I suppose Ra's and Shredder brought DNA samples of all kinds of animals into the asylum with them?

The next issue should be fairly insane, given how insane this last page is (Here's hoping Batman and Robin get mutated into a bat-man and a robin-boy in order to fight their mutated foes on the same level!), and it is one more example of how Williams has been fairly killing it on this series. At least in broad strokes...the action remains a little muddier than it should be in a comic book about a bunch of martial artists fighting.

Black Canary #10 (DC) Grumpy Black Canary has been appearing in the last few issues of Batgirl, and so for this issue Barbara Gordon returns the favor and tries to help Canary crack the mystery of what exactly is up with her late mother, her mysterious aunt and the ninja death cult.

Regular artist Annie Wu is still MIA (although she draws the cover of this issue, and, oddly enough, a 6-page Black Canary/Gotham Academy crossover in this week's issue of Gotham Academy, detailing "that time...Pom had an emotion.") Not to worry though, as always-welcome Moritat draws the first six pages, and Sandy Jarrell draws the other 14; Jarrel's style is pretty far from that of Moritat, but they are within the same stylistic ballpark, and it helps that there's a scene change separating the two artists.

They're both excellent artists, by the way, and Jarrel's brief fight scene between Canary and Greyeyes on page 17 is better and more clear than any that Williams has drawn for Batman/TMNT to date.

DC Comics: Bombshells #11 (DC) Writer Marguerite Bennett assembles all of the Bombshells–or, at least, all of the main ones working under Commander Amanda Waller–together for "The Battle of Britain Part 1 of 2," a full-length beat-'em-up action comic. So that's Waller, Aquamwoman, Supergirl, Stargirl, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Dr. Light and Big Barda, all together for the first time, beating up undead demon Nazi things and sea monsters.

Mirka Andolfo and Laura Braga are the artists, although I'm not sure who drew which section. So I am unable to properly credit whoever drew the above page, probably my favorite in any comic that I read today.

It is, like most issues of the series, pretty good. There are two things of special interest worth mentioning, though, aside from how awesome "I FUCKING LOVE HOMONYMS!" is as a battle-cry (We're all agreed that Batwoman's "@#$^%*&' should be pronounced "fucking," right?).

First, I'm not entirely convinced that being caught in an explosion and then seeing civilians menaced by a giant octopus on the streets of London would really cure one of shell-shock, as it apparently does Steve Trevor here. I'm even less sure that it would suddenly make him so confident that he would decide to fist-fight sea monsters instead of, say, pick up a gun again.

Second, I guess Big Barda is dating Doctor Light in the Bombshells-iverse? This series has had a lot of girl-on-girl action thus far, but I was actually surprised to see Light plant one on Barda. Wonder Woman and Steve also share a passionate kiss (I'm sure it's not Bennett's intention, but it sure reads like now that Steve is over his temporary PTSD, Wonder Woman is sexually attracted to him), but it is immediately followed by Mera telling Steve that she was Diana's first kiss.

The Barda thing only surprised me because unlike Batwoman or Maggie Sawyer, who are gay in the "real" DC Universe, or even Wonder Woman or Mera, who are sufficiently different here that they could be, Barda is totally married to a man in the DCU, and she has his surname in this comic. On the page immediately preceding this one, Doctor Light refers to Barda as "Barda Free," implying that Bombshell Barda is married to Scott Free, AKA Mister Miracle (Or maybe he died off-panel in this? Was that mentioned already and I forgot?).

Anyway, that was a surprise!

Slightly more surprising was the fact that Barda fought with her Megarod/sex toy (as seen on the cover of this issue) as she usually does, but her the hand portion of her elbow-length gloves glowed here when she had punching to do, and she had glowing yellow wheels appear on the bottom of the soles of her boots, turning them into roller-skates? Are roller-skates the WWII-era analogue to the flying discs that Mister Miracle used...?

This was a particularly fun, if particularly weird, issue of this unpredictable series. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for a kinda sorta Easter Egg appearances of Britain's future Batman and Robin, The Knight and Squire!

Gotham Academy #17 (DC) The apparently never-ending "Yearbook" storyline continues to not end! Writer Brenden Fletcher's story playing out in the "interstitials," which are drawn by Adam Archer and Sandra Hope, are taking on the shape of a story, as Robin Damian Wayne has apparently stolen Maps and Olive's fake "yearbook" for some reason, and they are in hot pursuit. Say, has Damian been stealing books from Gotham Academy on the reg? Looks like!

The shorts that make up the bulk of this issue, as they have each issue of "Yearbook," are from a predictably unpredictable line-up. The Black Canary team of Fletcher and Annie Wu present a kinda/sorta Black Canary/Gotham Academy crossover focusing on Heathcliff (from the former) and Pomeline (from the latter), Michael Dialynas writes and draws a story featuring a particularly terrifying version of Klarion The Witch Boy's generally creepy-looking Teekl (and Klarion too; this one actually seems like it could have been an issue or couple of Gotham Academy, if expanded, given how well that character fits into this milieu), and, finally, David Petersen draws a three-page urban legend about what became of a group of four students in the 1980s when they tried playing Dungeons & Dragons Serpents & Spells in what looks like it might have been Jonathan Crane's old lab.

Next issue? More "Yearbook"...!

The Legend of Wonder Woman #4 (DC) It was a little weird reading this particular issue of the so far still excellent Renae De Liz Wonder Woman origin re-telling less than 24 hours after reading Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume One (review forthcoming), which was also a Wonder Woman origin re-telling. De Liz obviously has more room to work, given that she's producing a serially-published miniseries consisting of nine over-sized issues, but there is a great deal of over lap between Morrison/Paquette's story and this particular chapter of Legend. In this issue, Princess Diana finds herself in Man's World, and befriends Etta Candy. (As an aside, it was also a little depressing to note that both of these Wonder Woman origins would make excellent, standalone Wonder Woman graphic novels, presenting the long sought-after Wonder Woman equivalent of a "Batman: Year One," were they not both so clearly set outside of the continuity of the "real" DC Universe–De Liz's story is set in the 1940s, and Morrison and Paquette made a few choices that put their story in conflict with any and all post-Crisis versions of the Wonder Woman story).

Here, Diana is quite lucky to end up in a bed under the care of a kindly old Massachusetts fisherman's wife, where she sees her second man, and her first male/female relationship. From there the still-stunned Diana wanders away, coming upon a party at Holliday College, where Etta Candy recognizes her as a fish-out-of-water and "rescues" her, putting her up in her dorm room while she continues to come to grips with what happened to her.

Etta is an extremely difficult character to deal with on this side of the Silver Age, as she was such a jokey, sidekick character defined, in large part, by a single characteristic that polite mass entertainment doesn't really point out like it used to. In other words, she's fat, and obsessed with the eating of candy. Sure, she's not so troublesome a character as The Spirit's old sidekick Ebony, but she doesn't translate as seamlessly as, say, Robin (Like Green Lantern's Doiby Dickles and Plastic Man's Woozy Winks, she was also drawn in a cartoonish style that clashed with the design of her hero, making her a visually difficult character to translate.)

Actually, that's unfair. While creator William Moulton Marston used her weight and love of candy as a running gag, it was hardly her only characteristic. She was not the least bit ashamed of her physical appearance, or even terribly interested in the opposite sex and what men might think of her figure–often to the confusion of her fellow Holliday Girls and even Diana herself–and was loud and brassy (a characteristic that perhaps is due to the fact that she was not only American in contrast to Diana's Amazonian, but she was Texan). She was also a born leader, more general than mascot to the Holliday Girls, and quite a brawler.

She's actually a pretty fascinating character, and it's interesting to see the way that various DC creators have tried to deal with her in the modern age. De Liz's approach is closer to that of, say, Ben Caldwell's in Wednesday Comics (and Morrison and Paquette's in Earth One) than George Perez's in the post-Crisis reboot or Geoff Johns, Gene Ha and company's in the post-Flashpoint reboot.

De Liz's Candy is still big, but taller too; she's neither obese nor doll-like in stature. She's still not ashamed of her body in the least, and seems to be quite a hit with the boys, and she seems at least somewhat interested in them (she jokes about marrying Clark Gable, for example, rather than saying she wants to marry a box of candy or something). She's popular at school, with her girls as well as the boys, and even has a mean girl archenemy: Interestingly, Etta seems like a character from her own comic book that Diana just bumped into here. One gets the impression from De Liz's issue that Etta could have been starring in her own teenage, Archie or Patsy Walker-esque gag comic for years before joining the cast of Legend of Wonder Woman.

So De Liz gets a hearty high-five for her Etta (Oh how I hope Greg Rucka and company have been reading Marston, and Wednesday Comics and saw this issue of Legend before they went to work trying to reconcile all of Wonder Woman's various origins, which is apparently going to be the focus of the post-Rebirth Wonder Woman comic, and they can do right by Etta in the "real" DC Universe).

I'm less sure of how De Liz handles the introduction of a major Wonder Woman villain, the first in the series so far (The conflict of the previous issues has been between good Amazons and bad Amazons). That's the Duke of Deception, who is named near the end of the issue, and first seen as a morose Scottish (I think?) young man in a dream of Diana's. He embraces some kind of dark force/entity, and becomes some form of sorcerer, raising the undead to fight against the Allies in the European theater (Not unlike what's going on in Bombshells, actually; and yeah, with Bombshells, this makes three comics featuring a version of the Wonder Woman origin story I've read in the last 24 hours, none of which are related to DC's "real" Wonder Woman in their "real" universe).

SpongeBob Comics #55 (United Plankton Pictures) Dig that quite intentional reference to the old Dell Popeye comics on the cover of this month's issue of SpongeBob, the bulk of which is dedicated to a real rarity for the series: The first 26-pages comprise the first chapter of a multi-part, multi-issue storyline. That storyline, written by Derek Drymon and drawn mostly by Jacob Chabot, is "The Ballad of Barnacle Bill," a Popeye analogue that I wasn't sure was original to this comic or a recurring character from the cartoon. A good 45-seconds worth of Internet research revealed that the name "Barnacle Bill" has history, and history with Popeye even, but doesn't seem to be a character from the cartoon that spawned the character who stars in this comic (although I guess there is a band by that name on at least one episode of SpongeBob...?)

The essential conflict here is that the Popeye analogue is convinced that the Aqualad analogue is really the grown-up version of a Swee'pea analogue, stolen from him by the Aquaman analogue. And that's all kinds of right up my alley. Drymon and company are anything but coy when it comes to their Popeye pastiche, going so far as to name his boat the S.S. Segar, and packing in many other gags of varying degrees of subtlety, some out of homage, some out of parody, most out of a combination of the two. Stephen DeStefano, who is tied with Ronnie del Carmen for Caleb's Favorite Cartoonist Who Doesn't Draw Comics Often Enough, draws Barnacle Bill's biography, which the sailor has tattooed onto his torso.

Now, a 26-page, ad-free comic might seem like more than enough for your hard-earned $3.99, but wait, there's still four more features spread out over six more pages! There's James Kochalka's regular contribution! (Why the shark is dressed like that is a mystery that is maybe the funniest part of this issue; no, I will not tell you what I'm talking about, as I really think you should buy and read this issue for yourself.) There's Vanessa Davis illustrating a Karen Sneider-scripted informational comic strip about mermaids! There's Corey Barba kinda sorta riffing on Wimpy! And Sam Henderson scripted a one-page gag that Gregg Schiegiel illustrated in SpongeBob (the TV show) style! (Man, Sam Henderson gags drawn by someone other than Sam Henderson look so weird.)

We're on issue #55 of this series, and I still find myself slightly astounded by it. Like, if you told me that there was a comic book-format comic featuring the work of Stephen DeStephano, Vanessa Davis, James Kochalka and Sam Henderson, I would be dubious, as that's an awfully all-star line-up for a comic book-comic in the year 2016. And if you told me it was a comic book based on a Nickelodeon cartoon? I would scoff, and scoff hard. If I wasn't already familiar with SpongeBob Comics, of course. SpongeBob Comics–the extremely unlikely home of your favorite cartoonists!

1 comment:

londonkds said...

Scott's an alien space hippie, he'd be fine with an open relationship.