Thursday, February 02, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: February 1st

Batman #16 (DC) Remember "Joker's Wild," that one episode of Batman: The Animated Series where a casino mogul makes ill-advisedly opens a new, Joker-themed casino, only to be attacked by The Joker, who isn't happy about his likeness being used in such a fashion? Well, whatever unnamed, fictional Gotham businessman who opened the Batburger fast food restaurant obviously doesn't.

In addition to using Batman's name and likeness and those of his sidekicks, the menu items also include things like Riddle-Me-Fish, Two-Face Sandwich and the KGBLT. You can also "Jokerize," your fries, which is when they add a white, red and green seasoning. The place is just begging to be attacked and all of its employees and customers murdered.

While maybe not too terribly realistic, a restaurant--even if one could except the embrace of The Joker, surely the paneling showing resembling the hashmarks Mr. Zsasz carves in his own flesh after killing a victim with a knife is too much--I kind of like the idea of Bruce Wayne and his gang visiting Batburger at the same time that a new Batman movie is in theaters, and marketing for it is everywhere. Even, I assume, in some fast food restaurant.

Additionally, probably the most fun part of Tom King's script for this issue is when the boys--Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne and Duke Thomas--decide to answer Bruce's call for a meeting here rather than in the Batcave. King works a lot of neat little gags into the scene, many of them based simply on the differing personalities of the five characters, and it's nice to see them all interacting with one another, given that they are so often kept separate by the narrative needs of the many books of their franchise that need supported.

It's really too bad that artist David Finch has returned for this particular story arc, "I Am Bane." He does well enough on the scenes of Batman in costume, doing Batman stuff, but, well, character design and acting aren't exactly his strong suits, and his Damian, Dick and Jason are all completely indistinguishable from one another despite the fact that Damian is only 13 and the other two are somewhere in their twenties...Jason, apparently old enough to worry about his hairline.

As promised a few issues ago, Bane is coming to Gotham to exact revenge on Batman, and Batman wants to send the boys all out of town so none of them get killed, like Tim did (Ironically, this follows a few panels in which Duke learns everyone at the table has died at least once before). Apparently he's not that concerned about Batgirl and his Detective Comics crew, but maybe after eating a Batburger he decided to just email the rest of his Bat-army instead of doing another face-to-face. The ending would seem to indicate the first step in Bane's promised revenge--with the shirtless corpses of Damian, Dick and Jason all handing from nooses in the Batcave--but given that DC hasn't canceled Teen Titans, Nightwing and Red Hood and The Outlaws, I think it's safe to say those are just corpses Bane dressed up or mannequins or something.

Anyway, this is a pretty great script and pretty poor art, which equals out to a mediocre super-comic. Good enough is, in this day and age, no longer good enough, though.

Oh, by the way, did you see Tim Sale's variant for this issue?
I love Sale's Damian (and his Robins in general), and he's spent so much time drawing his own particular, "Year One" versions of the Batman characters, that it's always a kick to see how he draws more modern characters, like Nightwing or Bane and so on. I hope to see him move into interiors for an annual or a done-in-one arc at some point, instead of simply being confined to variant covers.

DC Comics Bomshells #22 (DC) I'm pretty sure Renee Montoya, who is the only one of the characters in this issue other than Batwoman who is a lesbian in the "real" DC Universe, is the only female character who doesn't kiss, get kissed and/or declare her love for another female character in this issue. That's just an observation: This is the gayest comic book in the world.

The characters' adventures in Vixen's kingdom of Zambesi seem to be coming to an end, as the Wonder Woman villains and their mechanical gods have them on the ropes when who should appear but Wonder Woman herself. Writer Marguerite Bennett has some neat stuff in here about lost civilizations and human history, mostly voiced through Hawkgirl, and there is another scene of a dog wearing an army helmet.

The art is a little disappointing at points though. At the climax, the mechanical gods all seem to combine into a giant, humanoid-shaped robot--Think Predaking, the combiner giant that the Predacon Transformers create, as the two giant robots share many component robots shaped like the same animals--but whicheve of th e three artist drew the scene, they skimped on the transformation sequence, and the design of the robot. Sad!

Josie and The Pussycats #4 (Archie Comics) Hey, it's Marguerite Bennett again! Here she is co-writing with Cameron Deordio, while Audrey Mok. Given how ornate the dialogue is with allusions and puns--not sure what the best analogy for the dialogue in this book is; maybe Joss Whedon possessed by the ghost of Shakespeare?--I'm kind of surprised there are only two writers. It seems like one or two could handle the script and, like, 75% of the jokes, but another six or so people would go through to squeeze in more wordplay. Seriously, there is barely a line of dialogue in this entire book that isn't layered with jokes and double-meanings.

I could see how it could get tiresome, or even be an acquired taste, but I like it. So far the characters, in whichever medium, were more or less defined by their visuals, so it's neat to see such a verbal take on them. Sure, Mok's art is great, but it's not all that distinct, certainly not as much as the words in the comic.

This issue revolves around and seemingly resolves Josie's relationship with manager/love interest Alan M., who Bennet and Deordio have rather reinvented, and while I'm not sure how pure their version is--he's sneaky like Alexander, who hasn't appeared on-panel yet, but also a bit of shallow lothario--but then, why shouldn't they have the freedom to reinvent that character, too?

Four issues in, the three lead characters are all developed enough through pure exposure that their characterizations are beginning to pay off. This is a really great comic, and I'd say it was my favorite of the new Archie comics, but I don't know, I do like Jughead a lot. It's not a competition, though. If it was, I'd say it's a tie, I think.

Nightwing #14 (DC) Man, I'm really on the fence with this book. This is the conclusion to the "Bludhaven" arc and Nightwing's dealing with The Run-Offs. It seems to give him a new girlfriend, a new job and a new town. And it's certainly more promising than just sending him back to Gotham or packing him off to Chicago or having him be a super-spy or any of the other stuff DC has tried with him in the past five years. This particular issue though, while it resolves the murder plot and sets up his new status quo, seems to add one more issue to the arc than was needed. Maybe "Bludhaven" could have been a little more tightly written? I don't know. Like I said, I'm on the fence. I wasn't crazy about the initial story arc of the "Rebirth" era, but I really liked this one, even if the ending seemed to drag a bit. I guess I'll stay on board until there are, like, two or three bad issues in a row...?

I do really love artist Marcus To's work though, and I'm kind of afraid he'll be taking a few issues off after this one.

Superman #15-16 (DC) Jeez, what happened here? Okay, so I missed issue #15, but picked it up this week, and read both it and this week's new issue. Apparently, the book's artwork just kind of fell apart during this "Multiplicity" story arc, which wraps up this week. Like the other bi-weekly books, Superman had two primary pencil artists--Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke--and has been alternating between them. With "Multiplicity," they brought in a new artist (as many of the other bi-monthlies have had to do at this point too), and while that artist wasn't a great fit for the book's visuals, he was a great fit for the particular storyline: Ivan Reis, who drew Multiversity, which this is a kinda sorta follow-up of.

But in #15, we get four artists of varying degrees of skill and various styles--Ryan Sook, Ed Benes, Clay Mann and Jorge Jimenez. For #16, they have managed to reduce the number of artists down to two pencil artist and two inkers. Those pencil artists are Mann again and Tony S. Daniel. So six pencil artists, over the course of just three issues? Yeesh.

If deployed strategically, that might not have been too bad a thing, as there is a lot of dimension-hopping, but it's not like there's a fill-in artists assigned to each alternate reality, while Reis or someone handles the ones set on Earth and/or the other two main settings. It's all pretty ramshackle, and it's nowhere as apparent as when the designs of various characters shift radically from artist to artist, with the Super-Demon of Earth-13 suffering the most.

As much fun as the plot is, as it allows us to revisit characters and worlds from Multiversity and elsewhere (like, there's a panel set in the Batman Beyond-iverse, for example), its basically nonsensical. A big, boring-looking giant called Prophecy has detected a threat to the Multiverse, and so he's kidnapping the Supermen and Superwomen of each Earth in order to drain their powers, making himself strong enough to defeat the oncoming challenge.

Our Superman comes up with a half-assed plan to find where the Superman jail is--it requires a Flash killing himself, which is kind of dumb, given that the half-dozen Supermen could probably have just helped him in his super-speed task before hand--and then for no reason that is ever explained exactly, the power-less Supermen get their powers back and kick Prophecy's ass. And he is abducted like Doomsday and Red Robin before him by Mr. Oz.

So I suppose to be fair to writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, there is really only so much they could do in order to offer any real resolution to the story, as this is just another drip in the drip-drip-drip ongoing foreshadowing of whatever DC has planned as a future event, the Crisis Of Infinite Watchmen thing. So this basically just reminds us that a) There's some sort of threat to the Multiverse, b) There's something wrong with Superman, to the extent that he is not what he seems and may be tied to the wrong-ness of the current DCU/Earth-0/New Earth and c) Mr. Oz seems to have something to do with it.


Chris said...

Tom King is the Batman writer, not Tom Taylor.

Caleb said...

Yikes. You're right, of course, and I fixed it. Thanks for taking the time to point that out, or I might not have never noticed it otherwise (My excuse? I was just writing about Taylor's All-News Wolverine the night before).