Thursday, June 29, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: June 28th

Detective Comics #959 (DC Comics) There are an unusual amount of typos in the lettering of this issue--at least two doozies that I noticed--but that may be simply because there are so many goddam words in this issue. James Tynion IV really seems to be trying to out-Bendis Brian Michael Bendis in quite a few scenes here, particularly when young, teenage Bruce Wayne gasses on and on to young, teenage Zatanna about the lights of Gotham City during a flashback sequence (the artwork, by pencil artist Alvaro Martinez, inker Raul Fernandez and colorist Brad Anderson doesn't at all reflect what Wayne says of the Gotham City skyline, by the way, despite Zatanna's agreement that it does). If Wayne's paragraphs of dialogue were split into several more panels, and were written so as to be read as part of a comic book story, such verbiage might not seem so egregious, but instead Tynion just dumps it all in a pair of static panels, giving the impression of a stock still Wayne babbling incessantly at a disinterested Zatanna.

That was probably the most noteworthy aspect of this particular issue, unfortunately, save, perhaps, for some cute dialogue involving Doctor October (from Batwoman and the Marguerite Bennett co-written issues of this series), Clayface and Nomoz, and a rather scary-looking design given to a fairly familiar name from Batman comics (and elsewhere) that appears on the last page.

Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam Special #1 (DC) There's a sequence on page 14 of this entry into DC's bizarre suite of Looney Tunes crossover comics where the realistically-drawn Yosemite Sam confronts a prostitute for spreading the word that he had just struck gold all around the bar/brothel he was patronizing. "I'll do whatever I please!" she responds, and so "BAFF," he punches her in the face.

I'll be honest: I am completely baffled as to why writer Jimmy Palmiotti included this scene in this comic book. I think it's meant to be a joke of some kind, as right before he hits her, Sam gives one of his catchphrase-like exclamations of rage (usually reserved for cartoon rabbits)--"oOoo!"--and it is followed up by Hex objecting as the pair casually walk away, Hex saying he's opposed to "small men that punch ladies square in the face," while Sam replies that she "wun't no lady," as if that excuses hitting her in the face.

A too-generous reader could maybe make some dumb argument about how this shows the gritty reality of the American frontier in the 19th century (that is often the excuse of the sexist, even misogynist content of past Jonah Hex stories written or co-written by Palmiotti), or point out that the woman who got punched did specifically tell someone who she must have known planned on killing Sam to get his gold (not that Sam knew it at that point), but that's all bullshit. This is a comic book about Yosemite fucking Sam and talking rooster Foghorn fucking Leghorn teaming up with Jonah Hex, so there's no reason for anything approaching "realism" here, nor is there any reason to include the scene.

Whatever the thought process was, it's still a scene of a man punching a woman in the face to shut her up in a DC/Looney Tunes comic book. Weirdness has been prevalent in all of these books, often to their benefit, but that's probably the most bizarre thing I've seen in one of them so far, as it's just noxious, ugly and unnecessary.

Beyond that unfortunate scene, Palmiotti makes another somewhat curious choice in casting perennial Looney Tunes villain and Bugs Bunny arch-foe Yosemite Sam as a hero here. He's still quick to anger, and he has the speech patterns of his cartoon-self--Yosemite Sam is among the most fun Looney Tunes characters to write dialogue for, I imagine--but other than punching that lady in the face, he's more-or-less an all-around good guy here, only raising his six-guns in self-defense, going out of his way to save a man from drowning (well, a rooster-man), talking wistfully of his late wife and defending his friends and allies.

Sam strikes it rich in a goldmine, and when word gets out that he's done so, he fears claim-jumpers, so he hires Hex to help him defend his claim. Meanwhile, a rooster-man/pugilist in an evil travelling circus (Foghorn Leghorn, the other most fun Looney Tunes character to write dialogue for, I imagine) comes to his aid in the nick of time.

Mark Texeira handles the artwork, and he draws in a very realistic style that makes Yosemite Sam look...nothing like Yosemite Sam, really. Sure, he's got the mustache and the hat and the six-guns, but that's just not a character that one can draw realistic-like and still have him come out looking anything at all like himself (the eyebrows and lack of mask especially look off). Foghorn Leghorn, presented as mutant of some kind, is awfully out-of-place here, although Texeira giving him an eye-patch to suggest True Grit's Rooster Cogburn is kind of cute.

The back-up, scripted by Bill Matheny and drawn by Dave Alvarez, finds Hex in the snowy woods, bounty-hunting a grizzly bear...and he crosses paths with Sam, who is hunting-hunting Bugs Bunny. It's good to see the "real" Sam after having spent time with the weird version of him in the preceding pages, and Alvarez has a wonderful style that looks like animation cels arranged into panels, although his designs of Sam and Bugs are highly-stylized to the point that while they look like themselves, they also look like Alvarez's version of them. His Hex is remarkably handsome, too.

I still haven't read the Batman/Elmer Fudd Special, which my shop was sold out of, but of the remaining five, this was probably the worst...or maybe tied with Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil for the worst. The WW/Taz team-up was kind of dull, but it was really well-drawn, and, hell, it didn't have random woman-beating in it.

Jughead #16 (Archie Comics) When we last left Jughead, Sabrina had accidentally cast a spell that made Josie and The Pussycats and all of the girls in Riverdale, conveniently all gathered at a Josie concert, fall madly in love with Jughead as if he were The Beatles and it was the 1960s. In this issue, Sabrina, Jughead, Archie and Reggie solve this problem, without Sabrina revealing her powers. Along the way, co-writers Mark Waid and Ian Flynn adopt some of previous writers Chip Zdarsky and Ryan North's Jughead gags, which they acknowledge in a North-like footnote joke, allowing artist Derek Charm to do a Francesco Francavilla-impression, as Jughead experiences an Afterlife With Archie-style daydream.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the issue, however, is that Reggie only agrees to help after Sabrina agrees to go on a date with him, and since Sabrina (well, this version of Sabrina) and Reggie don't have their own books, I don't think we'll ever actually get to see that, but that would be a fantastic story, particularly given how great Charm's versions of those characters are.

Lumberjanes #39 (Boom Studios) Well, I was wrong; the trickster that revealed itself at the cliffhanger ending of the previous issue was not Coyote, as I thought it might be, but instead some form of evil magic fox. It introduces itself to the 'janes here and reveals its plot, while simultaneously revealing the particulars of the conflict that are driving it to act in this way.

Co-writer Kat Leyh's cover is somewhat unusual for this title, in that it more closely reflects the specific contents of the issue than Lumberjanes covers usually do.

Saga #44 (Image Comics) Did you ever wonder what the progeny of a relationship between a centaur and a human being would look like? No? Well, in this issue of Saga, artist Fiona Staples provides a possible answer and yeesh, it is disturbing looking. The characters intimate that the hybrid is unnatural, and I suppose this family's make-up should echo that of the family that stars in the book, although it's worth noting that Hazel simply looks like a humanoid with the distinguishing features of her humanoid parents, while this weirdo centaur looks...weird.

It's one of the several striking images in this very issue--dig that train!--that demonstrates Saga's continual ability to surprise and impress with its visuals alone.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #27 (DC) It occurred to me that this may very well be the first issue of a comic book starring Plastic Man that DC has published in...well, I forget how long. There was that Injustice annual, and the two-issue Plastic Man and The Freedom Fighters miniseries that was part of the Convergence, however long ago that was...?

These tend to be a lot of fun, but it sometimes weirds me out a little to think that issues of a Scooby-Doo comic are the best or only places one can find DC comics starring characters like Plas, Martian Manhunter, Captain Marvel and Hawkman. For the most part, those characters are MIA even from the sorts of team titles that used to be their homes as supporting characters.

Plas is an interesting case because while it sort of confounds me that there isn't a place for him in the current DC line--there's a panel on the bottom of page 14, I think it was, where he punches out four crooks with a single blow of his stretching arm that reminded me that he's an all-around fun character to draw, with a stripped-down design that makes him easier to draw than other stretchy heroes like Ms. Marvel or Mister Fantastic--I'm also often relieved. Given the changes DC often makes to their non-Batman characters, particularly since their last reboot, I'm kind of glad Plas has been spared from any of the sorts of rejiggerings that, well, any of those other characters I mentioned in the previous paragraph have had to go through (Yes, I did see that one panel in that one comic book).

For this adventure, regular Scooby-Doo Team-Up writer Sholly Fisch (who might secretly have the best and most fun gig at DC right now, as he apparently can use any character he wants, so long as Scooby-Doo and the gang are in there too), hews pretty close to Golden Age Plastic Man. Plas works for the FBI under Chief Banner. His hapless best friend Woozy Winks wants to help, but usually just gets in the way. The villain is even one from the 1940s, The Granite Lady.

When Woozy is cursed by an irate fortune teller, Plas calls in Mystery Inc to discredit her ASAP so he can quit dealing with Woozy's fear of a curse and get back to working the Granite Lady case. It is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch (hee hee!) to have the ghost-breakers involved, as it's only tangentially related to their usual work, but I guess it gets then in the comic, and that's the main thing.

Regular artist Dario Brizuela similarly hews close to the original designs of all the characters (although his Banner looked a bit off to me), even using several familiar poses and shapes from Jack Cole's hey-day on Golden Age Plas in the story.

As issues of Scooby-Doo Team-Up go, this isn't one of the better ones, but as Plastic Man comics go, well, it's not like there's any competition at the moment!

Suicide Squad #20 (DC) I sat out the previous story arc, because it was being drawn by Tony Daniel, and I do not really care for Tony Daniel's artwork, like, at all--although, to be fair, it has shown a marked degree of improvement since I first started seeing and hating it (circa Batman and, especially, Battle For The Cowl). I was therefore a little hesitant about picking up this issue, for fear of not knowing what was going on.

It turns out that my fear was unfounded, because nothing's going on in this issue! Writer Rob Williams has Amanda Waller walk around the prison, talk to some members of the Squad and narrate about what it takes to be a good Suicide Squad leader, as apparently Rick Flag is dead. This would probably be a good time to bring in Bronze Tiger, right? No; Waller's just going to promote one of the characters already on the team, and you can guess which one based on the cover. Er, covers.

Stjepan Sejic somehow found time to draw this issue, in addition to the oversized Aquaman #25, so it is obviously very pretty, and perhaps worth picking up if only to look at Sejic's art, and see his versions of the various characters, all of which look great, if maybe too pretty. Like, his Captain Boomerang, for example, is really good-looking.

Wonder Woman #25 (DC) Well, Liam Sharp sure draws a fine Justice League. His Batman in particular is excellent; I hope all of DC's editors hit that panel on page seven and sat up straight, making mental notes to keep Sharp in mind for some future collaboration with Scott Snyder on a Batman book, and/or any big Justice League or event comics in the future.

This is, as you've likely already heard, the final issue of writer Greg Rucka's brief return to the Wonder Woman character, and he's taking current artist Liam Sharp and Bilquis Evely with him when he goes, plunging the title into a series of temporary fill-in arcs that may be good and may not be, but will certainly have a lot of talented people involved in their crafting.

I know 25-issues doesn't exactly seem brief, but when one considers the bi-weekly publishing schedule, it's only been about a year, and when one further considers that Rucka has only really crafted a single story broken into a few movements, well, this reminds me a little of Brian Meltzer's run on Justice League of America--a big origin story/status quo re-set, followed by an undeserved mic drop.

Don't get me wrong, the comic has been fine, but I don't know that Rucka really said or did anything with Wonder Woman, aside from moving the character further away from what his predecessors Brian Azzarello and The Finches (and, to a certain extent, Geoff Johns) had done with her, and closer to what he was doing when he was last writing her. This wan't a real run on Wonder Woman so much as one more alternate take on what an auteur of sorts thinks the character's origin, role and supporting cast should be like, and thus is little different in terms of stature or importance than Azzarello's New 52 run, or Renae De Liz's Legend of Wonder Woman, or Grant Morrison and company's Wonder Woman: Earth One.

Again, a pretty good comic book, but not as good or as important or as relevant as so many people seem to have thought it was, or as I would have liked it to be.

I'm going to keep reading, because while the next two arcs don't sound all that amazing, I like the character and am curious to see what writers like Shea Fontana and James Robinson will do with her. But I am admittedly much more interested in seeing what Evely and Sharp draw next than I am with Wonder Woman's next adventure.


Bram said...

Second time today I've heard about excessive typos in DC comics. Disappointing; despite mainstream comics' many failures, I was always amazed that proofreading wasn't one of them.

Caleb said...

Yeah, they really jump out when you see them in a DC comic book instead of, for example, this blog, because they are so remarkably rare. So to see more than one in a single issue was actually kinda shocking.