Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: May 11th

Archie #8 (Archie Comics) Yes, that's a perfectly lovely cover by interior artist Veronica Fish. But did you know that Faith Erin Hicks also drew a cover for this very issue? That's right! Faith Erin Hicks! Drawing Archie! That is something I would like to see and/or have in my house! But, alas, Archie Comics' insistence on the variant cover model means that one must choose between the two or, as was my case, just take whichever one my local comic shop ordered or that Archie sent them.

In this issue, Hiram Lodge tries various ways of keeping Archie and Veronica apart, ultimately settling on a scheme as devious as it is effective–but the Andrews men prove too gosh darn noble to let Lodge get the best of them. As usual, this is a wonderfully entertaining comic book, that writer Mark Waid manages to make a perfectly readable and enjoyable stand alone issue, while also being part of an ongoing narrative. That Mark Waid guy is really good at writing comic books. Fish, meanwhile, manages to capture some of the best elements of Archie Comics artists classic as well as Fiona Staples' visual reimagination of Riverdale. This has rapidly become one of the most reliable comic books available.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6 (DC Comics) This is it! The final installment of the comic book I love in theory, but have been more lukewarm on in reality. Writer James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II present what is probably the dumbest thing I have ever seen in a comic book (EVER) in this issue.

Batman and Robin are on the ropes in the bowels of Arkham Asylum, where The Shredder and Ra's al Ghul have mutated all of the inmates into mutant animal people, when the Turtles arrive to help save the day. "We brought something along," Donatello tells Batman, "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." What is this thing he brought along? It is a mutant ninja turtle battle-suit for Batman to wear. It's an all-black affair, giving him a stocky build, three-toed ninja turtle feet and even–and I am not making this up–a turtle shell. For some weird-ass reason, it has four bat-symbols on it, one in each of the turtles' colors, with a purple one serving as a face plate, which is over a green section of the bat-shaped head.

In a pretty good example of where Williams has repeatedly disappointed on this series, it's not too thoroughly introduced visually at any point (for example, we never see the shell, its weirdest and most noteworthy feature, from behind). Even when Batman shoots the shell off like a projectile, it's in an extreme long-shot, and drawn in profile, so we don't really get to get a good look at this stupid, stupid thing.

As dumb as it is, of course, I did just spend a few paragraphs blogging about it, and I've tweeted about it previously today. So, while I don't think that it reaches the level of so-stupid-it's-awesome, it's not too far away. It's certainly memorable. It's the kind of thing that the Chris Sims of the next generation will be writing about in a blog post on the hive-mind holo-net or whatever has replaced the Internet then.

Williams also does a pretty poor job of depicting action, again. Yes, we get to see Ra's al Ghul take on all four of the Turtles (I call bullshit; any one of them should be able to thrash him; dude's okay with a scimitar, but that's about it), without even bothering to take his shirt off, and Batman fights Shredder in his goofy Bat-Turtle suit (in a pretty splendid 20-panel sequence somewhat obscured by a splash image of the figures), but other fights, like, say, Splinter taking out every single mutated Arkhamite occur off-panel.

Williams draws the hell out of those mutated Arkhamites, though, and while I still haven't gotten used to his Batman, his Gotham City and his Turtles just get better and better. I haven't read any of IDW's TMNT ongoing since the ninth trade paperback collection, but Williams may jut be the best artist of the IDW era who isn't Sophie Campbell.

My favorite part of the issue, however, was the lower right-hand corner of the very last panel, which read: The End...For Now!

There's a pretty strong suggestion that the next time they meet, it will be not in Gotham City but in the New York City of the parallel universe that IDW's TMNT book is set in, but I hope a future Batman/TMNT pairing will be looked at as something more elaborate than a straightforward supehero team-up story (Personally, I'd prefer to read a black-and-white, over-sized miniseries that's like a mash-up of Legends of The Dark Knight with Turtle Soup, an anthology book giving plenty of artists involved with Batman and the TMNT from over the years to do whatever they want with the characters for ten pages or so. I mean, as much as I'd love it if Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley* teamed-up to write and draw a Batman/TMNT team-up, or to see, I don't know, Scotty Snyder and Sophie Campbell do so, I'd also like to see Eastman, Eric Talbot, Michael Dooney, Jim Lawson and Michael Zulli drawing Batman and Kelley Jones, Neal Adams, Andy Kubert, Greg Capullo, Eduardo Risso and maybe even Frank Miller drawing ninja turtles and so on).

Anyway, this series ended up being totally different than anything I would have imagined, and while there's a lot about it I found disappointing, I really enjoyed all of the surprises it offered, and was more and more impressed by Williams work on the series with each consecutive issue.


You all know the DC/IDW team-up I really want though, right? Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campebell's Black Canary/Jem and The Holograms. How awesome would that be...?

DC Comics Bombshells #12 (DC) This is the concluding half of the first year's two-part climax, "The Battle of Britain," and I'm sorry to say it's probably the weakest issue of the series so far. Writer Marguerite Bennett has assembled (almost) all of the Bombshells–Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Supergirl, Stargirl, Mera/"Aquawoman", Big Barda, Doctor Light, Amanda Waller–to defend London from an invading horde of sea monsters and undead, and this issue is therefore one big fight.

Two characters seemingly sacrifice their lives at two different points, one of whom is almost certainly not actually dead, and another of whom certainly seems to be.

The story and the script aren't at all problematic, however, it's the fact that the art doesn't really tell that story clearly, or turn that script into something visually legible, let alone compelling. Regular contributors Laura Braga and Mirka Andolfo provide the art, but in a good half-dozen or so instances the images don't quite correspond to the what the words seems to be saying, or the images don't make sense sequentially and a reader is forced to try and m make sense of them after the fact. It's sub-par work, really, which is pretty damn surprising, given the fact that this is one of the two biggest publishers in the direct market today, and that the quality of the first 10-11 issues of this series always fell somewhere between rather good and excellent.

I'm not entirely sure what went wrong behind-the-scenes this time, but it is evident something did.

The last panel contains the words "The End of DC Comics Bombshells Year One," which makes me wonder if this book, like its fellow digital-first book Injustice, will relaunch with a new #1 on an annual basis. If so, then there's another five years/60 issues to go yet, as these first 12 issues were set in 1940. That is presuming, of course, that the war lasts as long in the pages of Bombshells as it did in real life. I suppose they could wrap things up a little quicker here, given that the Axis Powers are facing so many ladies with super-powers in this version of events.

Gotham Academy #18 (DC) The "Yearbook" storyline, and this volume of the series in general, conclude with this issue. According to the last panel, there will be a new volume launching in September, following a special in August (plus there's that Lumberjanes crossover on the horizon).

As with the previous installments of "Yearbook," this one features a story by writer Brenden Fletcher and art by Adam Archer and Sandra Hope, regularly broken up by short stories from guest creators. Most notable among them is Faith Erin Hicks, who contributes a two-pager in which Kyle teaches Maps to drive in a Bat-branded vehicle.

The last page, in which Maps and Olive finally recover their stolen, home-made year book from Robin Damian Wayne, is adorable and I may–may–have spontaneously and inadvertently let out an audible "Aww" while reading those last few panels.

SpongeBob Comics #56 (United Plankton Pictures) This issue offers the second half of Derek Drymon and Jacob Chabot's Popeye parody, featuring flashback panels by Stephen DeStefano, who draws such fantastic Popeye parody characters in a highly-animated, semi-Segar style that I kinda wish IDW was still publishing new, original Popeye material, just so someone could hire DeStefano to drew the genuine article. The second and final installment of "The Ballad of Barnacle Bill" is a full 24 pages, and is followed by eight more pages of comics by James Kochalka, Hilary Barta, Corey Barba and Maris Wicks.

Swamp Thing #5 (DC) DC's "Rebirth" event/branding initiative is widely expected to involve some form of cosmic continuity rejiggering component to it, and while this Len Wein-written, Kelley Jones-drawn six-issue miniseries launched before "Rebirth" was ever even announced, it demonstrates just how fluid and unformed DC continuity still is at this point, almost five years after "The New 52" reboot/relaunch.

There was, of course, some wonkiness involving Matt Cable in this series that was easy enough to roll with, as the character hasn't been mentioned or used in decades, but it's harder still to reconcile a Phantom Stranger who seems to very much be a pre-New 52 Phantom Stranger and, in this issue, a Spectre who seems like the pre-New 52 Spectre, rather than the one that appeared in Batman Eternal and Gotham After Midnight. This Spectre's design, as well as his relationship to Jim Corrigan and the way the pair work together seemed all wrong here...I suppose it could have been revised since the last issues of Gotham After Midnight I read, but that's just the thing, isn't it? The powers and premise of a particular character shouldn't really change that much across a handful of appearances in less than five years (I'd be surprised if The Spectre/Corrigan had as many as 25 appearances across all of DC's titles in that time).

Although, if you're like me, you're not reading this book for the story; you're reading it for Jones' crazy artwork. In that story, Cable has tricked Alec Holland out of his Swamp Thing powers, and, as the newly minted Swamp Thing, Cable has some dumb-ass, cartoon plan to take over the world by giving an ultimatum to all world leaders via television to just declare him king of the world or whatever. With a little motivation from The Parliament of Trees and the Stranger, Holland finds himself first in Nanda Parbat, where he chats with Deadman, and then in Gotham, where he chats briefly with Corrigan.

It was particularly interesting to see Jones revisiting Deadman here. That is a character that the artist rather radically redesigned in a couple of miniseries, giving the spectral superhero the look of skeletal, rotting corpse, rather than the pale and bald but otherwise physically fit looking design he always sported prior to Jones revamp. Here Deadman is more "classic" in his appearance, looking as hale and hearty as a ghost can. It's interesting then to see how Jones' version of the original Deadman design looks. It looks cool, despite looking completely different from what one might expect.

If you ignore the shaky state of serial storytelling in the DC Unvierse, this miniseries hasn't been bad, and Wein continues to throw various supernatural characters at Jones to draw, in addition to the title character.

*Just out of curiosity, are Simon Bisley and Michael Zulli the only artist who has drawn both Batman and at least one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in published comics before? Oh wait, Dario Brizuela has as well. Hmm...any others? Those are all I can think of off the top of my head.

1 comment:

William Burns said...

Trying to figure out how Bombshells relates to the actual history of WWII is a good way to drive yourself crazy. Germany has already invaded the Soviet Union, but the fall of France has just happened, and the Battle of Britain is going on. Germany and the US are at war in the Wonder Woman sequences, but Americans are traipsing around Berlin regardless in the sections set in Berlin. Going to get even worse when they start dealing with the Pacific theater, I'm sure.