Thursday, November 03, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: November 2nd

DC Comics Bombshells #19 (DC Comics) It's back to the home front, which means another issue featuring Gotham City's way too many Batgirls (a few of whom are boys). It's reading such issues that I really wish the book would provide an old-school Justice League style roll call with headshots, so I can remember who is who (there's about a baseball team's worth of Batgirls, all of whom just go by their first, civilian names, and many of whom aren't as immediately identifiable as, say, Harper Row or Tim Drake).

This issue also picks up on the plots from earlier Batgirls issues, which means we get paper girl Lois Lane, compromised politician Harvey Dent (whose face gets marred in this issue), The Penguin, Killer Frost and Hugo Strange. And introducing The Reaper. That's right; the series has been going on long enough that they've introduced The Reaper!

It's fine, but a rather unremarkable issue of the series, particularly after some of the bigger goings-on overseas of late. Marguerite Bennett is of course still writing (Hey, I just realized I bought exactly two comic book-format comics this week at the shop, and both were by Bennett!) and the art chores are split between Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell and Pasquale Quanlo. As usual, each of the artists is a good one, but there are still too many of them for a single story.

DC Super Hero Girls: Hits and Myths (DC) I'll discuss this second graphic novel based on the titular toy line and cartoon at greater length elsewhere in the near future, but for now I just wanted to note a couple of fannish things. First of all, above is artist Yancey Labat's Raven, who is apparently being introduced to the kids from Super Hero High School for the first time. I like the design, which is a nice compromise between her classic design (at least as familiar from the Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go cartoons) and her current "Rebirth" design, with some extra reds to highlight her new red highlights.

This volume actually includes a lot more characters I was surprised to see, including Lobo, Trigon, Etrigan (SHHS's poetry teacher, whose ID read's "not just A Demon, The Demon") and the members of Black Canary's band "Black Canary and The Birds of Prey."
These are Magpie (a really great redesign) and Black Condor (the design most closely resembling that of Black Condor III), and they are all played as bad guys–even Black Canary, who steals the Batplane after a battle of the bands and requires being chased down, fought and captured by our heroines. Interesting to see Black Canary in such a role.

Oh! And Lion Mane is in this. Lion Mane!

Made for kids, obviously, but a blast for DC fans of any age.

JLA Presents: Aztek The Ultimate Man (DC) It was a light week, so I finally purchased this 2008 collection of the 10-issue 1996-1997 series. This is one of the most fascinating books from that creatively fruitful period at DC Comics, not only being one of several great high-concept comics that didn't last that long, but because it was a book featuring a brand-new character created and written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and it only lasted 10 issues. Granted, this was pre-Authority, pre-Ultimate X-Men Mark Millar, when he was writing whatever minor DC gigs he could get, often in a style much like that of Morrison, rather than adjusting his old DC and Marvel superhero pitches to write for the Hollywood adaptations, but man, crazy to think two writers DC would publish just about anything from at this point couldn't sustain a series back then, huh?

I was never able to read the tenth and final issue, during which Aztek joins the JLA, so I've been meaning to buy this (which will also clear up some space in my longboxes). I just read that issue tonight. It's set during and around JLA #5, when the new "Magnificent 7" line-up held their first recruitment drive (during which they chose new character Tomorrow Woman; Aztek wouldn't show up until "Rock of Ages" in #10-15).

Looking at these pages now, I imagine that artists N. Steven Harris and Keith Champagne may have been at least one factor in the book's swift demise. The lay-outs are messy and hard to read, even when compared to say, Howard Porter's JLA, and Morrison at least doesn't seem like a writer who writes to his artist's strengths or weaknesses, apparently leaving it to his editors to make sure he and the artist are on the same page (sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't; his Batman run is a perfect example of how quality fluctuates from arc to arc and issue to issue based on who he's paired with).

It made me awfully nostalgic for the era of Justice League stories, though, and a time period where the League seemed to make sense and the characters and their histories still felt genuine (that is, before all the reboots). Me, I like the table with the symbol chairs, Martian Manhunter referring to himself as the chairman, rookie Green Lantern Kyle Rayner with a clipboard giving prospective Leaguers tests and, especially, the intimaion of an initiation ritual at the end, involving the costume of the Crimson Avenger and a Bible "written by the Justice Society" (?).

The plot of this particular issue, oddly enough, involves Professor Ivo, one of the villains of Morrison's JLA #5, and Amazo, the villain for Millar's eventual JLA fill-in, 1999's #27. It's pretty clear that the pair had a lot more plans for the series, as there is a two-page sequence that features little one-panel epilogues for various characters, each suggesting future plots...which don't come to fruition. The final, romantic sub-plot resolution is pretty funny and, as we saw in JLA, Aztek gets a pretty big, heroic send-off at the climax of Morrison's run.

But, for the most part, this felt a little like finding a "lost" issue of Morrison's JLA, still one of my favorite comic book series.

I hope to re-read the whole of Aztek now that I have it between a single set of covers in the near future, and will perhaps to discuss it here later.

Josie and The Pussycats #2 (Archie Comics) Co-writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio have mostly reintroduced and set-up the cast. Alan only had a panel or two last issue, and just gets mentioned in this issue, while Alexander has yet to appear (he only does so in the back-up reprint this issue), but with this second issue the curiosity factor of how the creators will reboot the series has begun to subside, and a reader can begin to appreciate what they're doing with the characters and the comic instead of just noting and beginning to process the choices.

The key word here seems to be clever. Bennett and Deorido's script is relentlessly clever, with more wordplay and meta-gags than any of the other Archie Comics relaunches. The girls refer to themselves as comic book characters aware that they are in a comic book (generally in passing though; it's the dialogue and not the plot that makes note of this), and the climax involves the sound effect "COMIC BOOK SCIENCE" and a dare for Neil DeGrasse Tyson to "come at" the Pussycats for it).

Bad puns, awkward incorporation of song lyrics, Melody's non-sequiturs (they continue to play her as more weird than dumb, which is working out quite well) and an all-around steady stream of witty dialogue makes this the most verbally ambitious of Archie's new line of rebooted humor comics, and maybe it's most rewarding.

The plot involves the band, which has only been a band for a few hours, off on tour in a big, fancy tour bus that stretches credibility (something Valerie notes) heading out on tour. Their first stop could also be their last, thanks to the ill-advised signing of autographs on the signature lines of contracts forcing them to be the houseband and a sketchy biker bar full of decidely cool, young, good-looking bikers. Their only hope to escape? A motorcycle race, obviously.

Audrey Mok's art is great. It took me an issue to adjust my expectations from the Josie that exists in my head (That is, Dan DeCarlo's) to the one on these pages, but Mok's artwork is a great compromise between emotive and cartoony and more realistic, blending the looks of the new Archie Comics series into an aesthetic that synthesizes the styles. It looks like part of the line, and to be a superior part of that line, visually (Derke Charm's art on Jughead is still my favorite though, and I'm not thinking about Adam Hughes' work on Betty and Veronica, which is the real aesthetic outlier so far...of course, he's only done the one issue, so it's hard to assess it in relation to the rest of the artists who have worked on the line so far).

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