Thursday, November 10, 2016
Comic Shop Comics: November 9th
Dark enough that reading a comic book drawn by John Romita Jr. in which Batman uses heavy metal music to defeat undead ninjas underwater failed to cheer me up.
Scott Snyder and JRJR's "My Own Worst Enemy" story arc seems to be nearing a conclusion as, at the very least, no new villains are introduced or pass through the story, which was the main joy of the previous three issues (Those ninjas, by the way, turned out to be Court of Owls Talons, dressed in costumes designed to appeal to Two-Face's aesthetic sensibility). Snyder is doing something very, very different with Two-Face's origin and relationship with Bruce Wayne, so different, in fact, that I'm tempted to reread the Peter Tomasi-written "Big Burn" story arc from Batman and Robin, which gave Two-Face a new, post-Flashpoint origin story. I'm not sure how or if these two stories even line up, although I'm not terribly bothered. Two-Face regularly gets origin tweaks.
The Declan Shalvey-drawn back-up starring Duke Thomas seems to have reached its conclusion here, as Duke figures everything out, and then is about to be murdered by Zsasz when Batman intervenes. I know I've said this before, but each installment of this reminds me of the fact that Snyder seems to be writing Duke with Tim Drake's origin story and general portrayal...right down to Duke being smart enough to solve crimes, but not yet good enough to take on supervillains hand-to-hand like Batman can.
The fact that there is a second crossover between the two coming just a few weeks after the first was released as a trade collection is comforting, though, because if they are going to do more than one of these things, then it certainly relieves the pressure on each of them to be amazing. It helps too that this second one has such a particular focus: This isn't Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it is the Batman from Batman: The Animated Series and the TMNT from the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
At first, that seems an odd pairing, if only because of the timing. New episodes of Batman: The Animated Series was on-air from 1992-1995, whereas TMNT debuted in 2012 and is still ongoing. I suppose pairing a TAS Batman with the Turtles from the original 1987 cartoon, or the Batman from Beware The Batman with the 2012 Turtles would make more sense in terms of timing, but it depends on how one wants to look at it. The TAS Batman is the best animated Batman, and the current cartoon's TMNT are the best animated TMNT, so there's your commonality.
(And I hope they keep doing these; it increases the likelihood of them producing one I really, really want like, say, an Alan Grant/Kevin Eastman/Eric Talbot black and white comic featuring late-era Mirage TMNT teaming with early 1990s Batman, for example.)
I'm honestly not familiar with the creative team here, although two-thirds of the names are familiar. It's written by Matrthew K. Manning, and drawn by Jon Sommariva (credited as "artist") and inked by Sean Parsons.
It's set in two different worlds, the Gotham of TAS and the New York City of TMNT. A bunch of inmates have escaped from Arkham Asylum at once, under extremely mysterious circumstances, and Batman is trying to track them down. He gets Two-Face, but a few others have appeared in TMNT's NYC: Clayface and, on the last page, The Joker and Harley Quinn.
Manning seems to write everyone well, and they all seem in character (There's a particularly sweet Alfred burn in here, too). The title characters have yet to meet, and the exact nature of the setting-swapping hasn't been explained yet, but so far, so good.
The artwork by Sommariva is a little awkward to my eye, and may take some getting used to. He does a fine job of using the designs of the source material, and drawing "neutral" things like civilians, settings and objects in a way that fits both shows' aesthetics. There's a certain fidelity lacking, though; scenes in Gotham look a little too detailed (And Two-Face is watching Pretty Pretty Pegasus from Teen Titans Go! on TV? Not Tiny Toons?), and those characters all look a bit more dynamic and stylized than they probably should.
Additionally, I'm not used to seeing these TMNT characters on the drawn page at all, so they always look weird to me.
Of course, maybe I'm operating under the wrong assumptions. Maybe this comic isn't meant to be a crossover of the two TV shows in comic book form, but a crossover of the two comic books based on those two TV shows...?
I don't know. It may take me a few issues to just get used to what is admittedly a pretty peculiar but fun crossover story.
There were two or three covers available at my shop, and I chose the one above (by Ciro Nieli). There's a two-page spread in the back showing all 20 different variants for the issues (20!), and the two probably worth noting are the one by Ty Templeton (who drew plenty of issues of the original Batman Adventures comic book) and another by Mirage's Steve Lavigne, inked by Peter Laird. Kevin Eastman also provides a cover, but he did so for the original series too; whenever he draws ninja turtles with pupils in their masks it really freaks me out.
It should be noted that there's little here that feels inappropriately oversexualized, and most of that awkwardness comes from what a reader might bring to the book regarding Hughes' oeuvre and Archie Comics' characters. Well, that and, perhaps, the fact that Hughes draws in such a realistic style that his teen girls look so much more like real teen girls than the flatter, coloring-book look that has been Archie's house style for so long. For example, there are a few classic pin-ups in the back of this issue, in which the girls wear bathing suits and are otherwise much more scantily-clad than they are at any point in the Hughes story, and they still look somehow more innocent than a Hughes drawing of Betty in a sweatshirt and jeans.
It's not the comic, though; it's us. (Well, me, I guess, but I'm extrapolating here).
I mean, there's a bikini car wash in this issue, and yet we don't really see any girls in bikinis–just in extreme long-shot, and then off-panel. (The top tier of panels on page 15 could prove objectionable, I suppose).
There's a little of that weirdness I noted in the first issue here, where it seems like maybe Hughes is filling space, but the story continues apace, and the dialogue is still surprisingly funny, with a quick clip to the number of jokes per panels.
Betty is trying to raise the $60,000 necessary to save Pop's from being turned into a Starbucks (er, a "Kweekwegs"), and Veronica, whose father owns the Kweekwegs chain, is trying to thwart her by simultaneously raising money for charity in more attractive ways, sucking up everyone's would-be donations.
I didn't understand the ending, and I remain confused over whether that's supposed to be Kevin Keller standing with Veronica throughout, or just a generic blonde guy.
Otherwise, pretty solid stuff.
Most of the action occurred in the penultimate issue, with Rosie and April wrestling the amalgamated bone monster and then everyone tying it up constituting the biggest action scene in this issue (I'm surprised writer Chynna Clugston Flores failed to make any jokes or references to knot-tying when the 'Janes tied it up; surely one of the benefits of being a Lumberjane tying up supernatural threats is that you know your way around knots, right? I'm pretty sure they've all got badges in that).
Otherwise, the climax is all about talking, understanding and realization...a pretty nice conclusion that is in keeping with the spirit of the home comics. Overall, I liked Rosemary Valero-O'Connell's art work, but her style didn't serve the resolution particularly well, as I was unclear if the girl at the center of the spell aged into adulthood like the rest of the kidnapped grown-ups upon the spell breaking, or if she retained her youth. Valero-O'Connell's artwork was so abstracted and smoothed that her forty-somethings don't look any different than her teenagers, for the most part.
As to what the weird plot, which involves stealing and burning books is all about, it's never really revealed, but it clearly has something to do with the witch and school librarian Mister Scarlet. The bigger events happen around the margins, however, as we learn that Colton is apparently gay (and has a crush on Kyle) and that he's to be expelled from Gotham Academy.