Saturday, January 07, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: January 4th

Batman #14 (DC Comics) Regular writer Tom King is joined by guest artist Mitch Gerards for the first of a two-part "I Am Suicide" epilogue story. Catwoman was on Batman's unofficial Suicide Squad, and her payment for her assistance in retrieving The Psycho-Pirate is that her sentence has been commuted from death to life without parole, and she'll be locked up forever not in Arkham, where he found her at the beginning of the last arc, but in Blackgate (Why they would be keeping someone sentenced to death in an insane asylum where none of the inmates are ever sent to be executed, I don't know; "Because Gotham City," I suppose, or otherwise The Joker, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Harley Quinn any anyone else who have killed double-to-triple-digits of people in terrorist attacks would be either killed in drone attacks or sent to Guantanamo).

Batman wants more, he wants to exonerate her for the 100+ murders she's been charged with (I don't know, it was mentioned but not explained in the previous arc), and she wants more, too--she wants one last night of freedom on the rooftops of Gotham with Batman, doing whatever they want.

He, of course, wants to fight super-crime. So much of the issue allows for King to parade a bunch of minor villains, many of them being reintroduced for the first time in the current continuity here: Magpie, Signal Man, The Gorilla Boss (of Gotham City), The Ten-Eyed Man, Copperhead, Amygdala, King Snake, Condiment King, The Cavalier, Zerbra Man, Film Freak and The Mad Monk. Also appearing are Kite Man, which I'm afraid I have to call bullshit on. I know King is a little obsessed with Kite Man, and that's cool; hell, it's endearing, and I would certainly look forward to a Kite Man story arc in the future. But he just showed us Kite Man locked up in Arkham at the beginning of "I Am Suicide"; that was, what, days ago? I also need to call bullshit on The Clock King. He appears here, in a redesigned version of his Batman: The Animated Series look. Which is completely different than that of the "classic" Clock King look he sported in Deathstroke a few weeks back. Oh, and Deathstroke totally killed him. Unless there are two Clock Kings, but really, how many Clock Kings does a single comics line need?

As for Catwoman, she would rather just have sex with Batman, and they do. She spreads out a bed of diamonds on some filthy Gotham rooftop and they take off their costumes (in defiance to Frank Miller's repeated insistence that superhero sex is better with the costumes on, and that weird scene on the last page of 2011's Catwoman #1 where Batman and Catwoman had fully-clothed sex). Now, I have never had sex on a bagful of diamonds scattered atop a rooftop. Hell, I've never accidentally sat on a diamond, naked or clothed, so I can't be certain, but I always imagined that diamonds are hard and pointy, and thus I can't imagine that would be the most comfortable way to do it.

It's a pretty nicely written story, and a better exploration of this particular relationship than other stories about it of late. Gerads handles pencils, inks and colors, and while his style is not to my particular taste--it's a little too realistic--I feel silly voicing any objections about the artwork in Batman, given that one of the two regular artists is David Finch (He drew the initial story arc "I Am Gotham," and is returning for the next one, "I Am Bane"), and he is pretty much the worst person to draw a Batman comic in maybe...ever?

The double-page splash is very well handled, as is the sex scene (again, compared to that one in Catwoman #1). The sequence on page 12 though, where Batman takes on Cavalier, Zebra Man, Film Freak and Mad Monk in four consecutive horizontal panels? That didn't work for me at all. The setting remained the same in all four panels, and Batman fights his way across that setting, from left to right, while Catwoman stands stationary at the very end, continuing a conversation from panel to panel, suggesting it's all happening in a matter of seconds. But the villains appear and disappear in each panel. That is, Batman kicks The Cavalier in the first panel, and the other three villains aren't right there behind Cavalier. Then, in the next panel, Batman is kicking Zebra Man, and the presumably now unconscious Cavalier is no longer there, not lying behind Batman. It...doesn't work at all, and I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the page, trying to make sense of the story it was trying to tell.

So, all in all, this was maybe the very definition of a mediocre Batman issue in this particular run. Not as good, visually or in terms of script, let alone both, as "I Am Suicide" or the "I Am Gotham" epilogue issue (penciled by Ivan Reis), but better than the opening arc "I Am Gotham").

The cover is by Stephanie Hans, so it's representative of the content of the story, if not the style of the art within. Stephanie Hans is a woman and not a man, so I really think DC should consider moving her to Batman interiors. Because of that whole there's-never-been-a-female-artist-on-a-Batman-book thing. Hans wouldn't be my first choice to correct that unfortunate pattern, but if she's drawing the cover, then one assumes editor Mark Doyle likes her work okay and already has her contact info. And since David Finch is one of the two regular artists on Batman right now, it's not like DC cares who's drawing Batman at all, so why not let Hans or a female artists take over for Finch? Or, you know, anyone?

DC Comics Bombshells #21 (DC) For this books frankly much longer than I imagine anyone might have guessed run, Ant Luca has been providing the covers. Why? Luca is the artist who designed the original DC Comic Bombshells statuettes that this series is based on...or at least inspired by. This issue features a cover by Marguerite Sauvage, however, a too-infrequent contributor to the book who has drawn some of its best passages to date. Hopefully she'll stay on cover duty; that way Bomshells readers will get at least one image per issue from her.

If you're not reading this book, I would cajole you give it a shot. It's basically an all-lesbian remake of All-Star Squadron, except not really. In the current story arc, writer Marguerite Bennett has sent a team of Bombshells--Batwoman, Catwoman and Renee Montoya--to join Vixen and her more-than-likely girlfriend Hawkgirl in Vixen's kingdom of Zambesi. They are there to beat the Nazis to some sort of secret, ancient super-weapon, which turn out to be monstrous, metal versions of various representatives of African fauna, all of whom can speak and consider themselves gods.

In this issue, drawn by Mirka Andolfo, Richard Ortiz and Laura Braga, Barbara Minerva allies herself with these monster gods and delivers them to her mistress, Baroness Paula Von Ghunther. Gadgeteer Hawkgirl builds her team "an animal-unaffiliated-mobile" that looks an awful lot like a Batmobile (there are two pointy fins atop it reminiscent of Batman's cowl). Each claims it for their own species. "Fox," Vixen says. "Bat," Batwoman says. "Cat," Catwoman says. "Or, y'know, Hawk," Hawkgirl throws in.

I think given its current gray color, Batwoman and Catwoman have the strongest claim; however a red paint job could seal the deal for Vixen. I can't really get Hawk out of it though, Hawkgirl; maybe a paint job and some feather decals on the fins atop it to make them look like the wings on the Hawks' helmets...?

The ongoing, present-day action is broken up by the origin of Minerva, explaining how she came to be a soldier of fortune working for Von Gunther, but it looks like her origin is ongoing, and she's about to get a redesign to make her look more like the Modern Age Minerva than she currently does (so far, she's just been rocking generic Safari garb with an animal print belt and sometimes visible boustier).

Because this book never credits which artist drew which section, I'm not 100% positive who is responsible for a few of the glitches in this issue, where in the images drawn clearly don't reflect what the text says, but there are a noticeable amount of them. On page three, Hawkgirl tells Vixen the tail she just ripped off of a mechanical cheetah regenerated while the image shows that is definitely not the case. Hawkgirl gives Vixen a pair of boots to wear so she won't continue the adventure in high heels (as Catwoman does), but every drawing of Vixen afterwards still shows her in the heels, not the boots. There appears to be the butt of a rifle sticking out of the mouth of a hanged man in one panel, but the angle of the head is wrong, if the intent was to show that his killer shoved the rifle down his throat (if she broke it in half and then did so, well that's not clear).

Am I nitpicking? Sure. But then, that's what I do.

Nightwing #12 (DC) Poor Orca. Created during Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel's millennial run on Batman, during a time in which Batman was meant to be the book that focused on Batman-as-superhero, she was pretty maligned at the time as a pretty lame Batman character--that entire run, regardless of sales, doesn't have a particularly good reputation (Batman took on Orca, for example, by donning a special Bat-scuba suit that made him resemble an ancillary figure from a Batman toy line).

From there, Orca only appeared briefly in Joker's Last Laugh, during a scene where several of the "sea monster" type characters are released from their cells in supervillain prison The Slab, and then turned up dead in James Robinson's not very good "One Year Later" story arc, "Face The Face."

But thanks to the magic of rebooting, she's alive again! After being name-dropped in the initial All-Star Batman story arc ("My Own Worst Enemy"; buy it in trade if you missed it, as it is awesome), she is now appearing in Nightwing.

This current story arc finds her in her Orca form--initially she cold switch back and forth between paralyzed marine biologist Dr. Grace Balin and the monstrous Orca--and working as muscle in Bludhaven, which in the "Rebirth" era is essentially a crime-ridden analogue to Atlantic City, where various '90s and millennial Gotham-based villains end up when they want to turn their lives around (and, one presumes, quite getting beat up by Batman).

As drawn by artist Marcus To, she looks much bigger and more muscular than she did in her initial Scott McDaniel design. In truth, she should be a pretty terrible threat to Batman and his allies, as she is basically a sort of were-killer whale now. So imagine Killer Croc or King Shark, only instead of having strength and "powers" similar to crocodiles or Great White sharks, she would/should have strength and powers similar to a killer whale*, and they are bigger and more deadly than either.**

Nightwing wins his fight with her, of course, but he gets some help in the form of The Run-Offs, reforming supervillains like Mouse, Giz, Stallion and Thrill Devil (I hope writer Tim Seeley is writing Chuck Dixon, who co-created all these guys, thank you notes twice a month). Also, like the rest of The Run-Offs, her heart doesn't really seem to be in crime these days.

That's kind of too bad, in that I like the idea of Bludhaven, a sort of Gotham Jr., under the protection of Nightwing, a sort of Batman Jr., being full of junior versions of Gotham City's villains, but then, I also like the idea of Nightwing being the sort of friendly vigilante who believes in reforming villains instead of just beating them within an inch of their lives and throwing them in the least effective mental health facility in the world.

As I said the other day, I'm really digging the current story arc. I like To's art an awful lot, and, with Nightwing back in Bludhaven and crossing paths with the sorts of villains that Dixon wrote back when he was writing Nightwing, this is the first time Nightwing has felt like the old Nightwing in a very long time.

Superman #14 (DC) I was a little disappointed to see that neither of the regular pencil artists on this book, Patrick Gleason or Doug Mahnke would be drawing this issue. Not only are they both great artists (and Gleason the book's co-writer, with Peter Tomasi), but their art is pretty compatible in terms of style and tone, and that's something that can't be said of all of the rotating art teams on DC's bi-monthly books (see, for example, Batman, complained about above).

The artist here isn't a bad one, though; it's Ivan Reis, teamed with Joe Prado. They are also a damn appropriate art team, given this new story arc's guest-stars: Justice League Incarnate, the superhero team composed of heroes from various parallel Earth's that was at the center of the Grant Morrison-written Multiversity. Reis and Prado drew the bookend issues.

Here "our" Superman encounters Red Son Superman, who is on the run from some vague, kinda generic-looking alien army traveling the Multiverse collecting each Earth's Superman. They are on Earth-0 not for the Superman who stars in this book, but for Kenan Kong, the New Super-Man from New Super-Man (Earth-0's Superman is dead, remember, and this Superman is the Superman from a previous iteration of Earth-0, prior to the Dark Trinity of Pandora, Doctor Manhattan and Geoff Johns rebootifying of it).

Anyway, here's a team-up between Superman and Justice League Incarnate to rescue New-Superman and at least a dozen other Supermen, including Captain Carrot, who this implies is the Superman of his Earth. Given how individual a talent Morrison is and how difficult it is to follow him, I'd normally be worried about this arc, but Tomasi, Gleason, Reis, Prado and company pulled this first chapter off just fine, and Tomasi and Gleason have already teamed Superman up with the Morrison/Mahnke Frankenstein, Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hacken from Hitman and a survivor from an early chapter of Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, so in about six months worth of their book, they have managed to pretty successfully reference and riff on other disparate DC stories from some of the publisher's most distinct creative teams, so hell, if anyone can pull it off...

Aditionally, it's just plain neat to see characters like President Superman and the Green Lantern-who-is-also-The Demon again, and I'm really looking forward to the first meetings between Superman and Kenan Kong. It was reading this issue that I realized one of the things that is so appealing about Kenan: He is basically the 21st century answer to the Superboy of the '90s.

*Hey, want to hear my pitch for a Predator comic? Okay, it goes like this. There's this one, particularly old and experienced Predator who has been visiting Earth on hunting trips for pretty much ever and has killed all sorts of bad-ass human beings. He's pretty jaded about the whole experience, really. He human beings like to talk about how we're "the most dangerous game" but really, we're damn easy to kill. You have to get a pretty large group of us together and arm us pretty well to really prove a challenge to a Predator alien, unless the human in question is, say, Dutch, Dutch's brother or Batman. So this predator learns that there's actually a predatory mammal that can reach lengths of up to 30 feet and weights of up to six tons, and, if that wasn't formidable enough, it lives in the water, often in the most inhospitable place on Earth for the Predator aliens: The frozen north. Intrigued, this particular Predator abandons humans and sets out to be the first of his kind to kill an orca. Along the way he comes into combat with other formidable creatures of the arctic and, when he finally does battle with an orca, he finds he is unable to remove the skull as a trophy due to its size and the fact that it sinks. His fellows don't believe him. So he must return to try again, and this time he perishes while trying to remove the skull from the dead and sinking whale. It would have no words except alien clicking and whale noises, and basically be the Moby Dick of Predator which I mean it will be really, really fucking long.

**Say, did you ever see 1977 movie Orca? Much scarier than jaws, as the sea-going predator in the title is basically like Jaws if Jaws was a bit bigger and also a brilliant strategist. Like, the shark in Jaws would eat you if he could get to you, but the orca in Orca would find a way to trick you into coming to him. He would cut your brake lines so you would get in a car accident on your way to work and if anyone suspected foul play, they surely wouldn't expect that it was a whale that did it. Don't fuck with orcas, I believe was the moral of the film.


Bram said...

1. That's a pretty good Predator pitch.

2. Yes. My parents took me to a pretty good amount of movies not entirely appropriate for my age. Bo Derek getting her cast leg bit off?

3. Dropped Bombshells around 9; seemed like it was a premise without an actual story. Not for us, but good that it's going on.

Jose Gregorio Bencomo Gomez said...

"He appears here, in a redesigned version of his Batman: The Animated Series look. Which is completely different than that of the "classic" Clock King look he sported in Deathstroke a few weeks back. Oh, and Deathstroke totally killed him. Unless there are two Clock Kings, but really, how many Clock Kings does a single comics line need?"

Actually, the two Clock Kings have always been different people. The classic guy was named William Tockman and the BTAS guy was named Temple Fugate.

No, seriously.

Caleb said...

"A premise without a story" isn't a bad way to describe Bombshells, really. I admit I enjoy it more for the art and the excitement of seeing the way Bennett re-creates characters and the way their origins get presented (Raven's origins as Beauty and The Beast, for example). I do think it was a lot more successful than originally imagined, and that what might have been a miniseries has just kept going, so Bennett and company have had to think of new arcs that might not have originally been planned.

"Premise without a story" also seems to describe all those endless Injustice books, although they don't have strong art to help justify their existence.