Thursday, July 13, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: July 12th

To my great disappointment, my comic shop had sold out of Dark Days: The Casting #1 by the time I got there after work, so the individual issue I was most looking forward to reading last night was unattainable. Luckily, there was still one comic I was intensely curious about--the first issue of the new Wonder Woman team--and a new issue of one of my all-around favorite ongoing monthlies, Josie and The Pussycats, so it's not like it was a complete waste of a trip or anything. Anyway, here's what I brought home with me last night...

Detective Comics #960 (DC Comics) This issue splits its attention between two so-far un-related plots, Batman trying to get some particular information from Zatanna that is only available through a particularly dangerous magical object, and the Azrael stuff.

The former is all pretty well written by James Tynion, complete with flashbacks to the time they spent together in their youth, Zatanna trying to scare Batman out of using the device and discussions about magic in general. The latter is a little messier, in part because it seems to deal with thorny continuity issues--Tynion references some very old-school, pre-reboot business as well as his own, current version of Azrael and the Order of St. Dumas, and doesn't do a very good job of synthesizing the two different versions, making this another example of the number one problem with DC's half-ass reboots--and in part because it has, so far, nothing at all to do with the other plot.

I guess that's how comic books might have worked in the '70s, '80s and '90s, but it feels wrong in 2017, when we've come to expect story arcs rather than soap opera-style plots and sub-plots that don't always align.

There's also what looks to be a robot pope in one scene of this. I really like the robo-pope. He looks cool.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #11 (DC) This is it! The penultimate issue of Brenden Fletcher and company's Gotham Academy saga, under both its titles. As the cute cover by original series artist Karl Kerschl indicates, this issue once again sees Maps Mizoguchi crossing paths with Damian Wayne, and thus it is one of the better issues since the last time Maps and Damian shared panel space.

The characters are so divergent from one another, so opposite that Maps plays off of Damian maybe better than any other kid character, certainly better than any of Damian's current Teen Titans line-up, or his friend Maya or even the new Superboy, whose odd-couple chemistry is what is powering the current Super Sons ongoing.

It's pretty clear that the market has spoken in terms of where it stands on Gotham Academy, and re-tooling the book so completely as to make it more salable would be a disservice to Fletcher, Kerschl, Cameron Stewart, Becky Cloonan and company's original conception, but I for one would love to read a new Robin series by Brenden Fletcher in which Damian Wayne enrolls at the Academy, and Maps is a prominent part of his supporting cast.

Anyway, now that the fact that Olive is semi-possessed by a centuries old pyrokinetic witch is firmly established, Maps is ready to write her old friend off completely, but Pomeline and Colton convince Maps to help them get the one thing that might cure Olive, which is held in a safe in Wayne Manor.

Unfortunately for them, Two-Face has the same idea, and so it's up to Damian and Maps to team-up and save the day. So, yeah, lots of great Maps/Damian scenes.

Gotham Academy's Two-Face still seems a bit off, especially compared to the one in All-Star Batman; just seeing him work with regular hench-people in ski-masks seems wrong. The last pages, in which Damian reappears as Robin are pretty great, as is the moment he hands something over to Maps. I think the sequence could have been handled a little better, as it's not entirely clear if she even takes in who he is under the mask or not; it could very easily be not, considering how worried she is for Olive at that point.

It's ending, but if this issue is any indication, than at least it's ending strong.

Josie and The Pussycats #8 (Archie Comics) What fortuitous timing! Just yesterday Archie Comics announced a new series called The Archies, focusing on the Archie's band (last seen, I think, as first The Reggies and then The Jugheads in the pages of Jughead), and then the very same day The Archies guest-star in the pages of Josie and The Pussycats...!

What are they doing there? Well, apparently The Pussycats invited them to open for them when they played the Tokyo Dome. In Japan. That's...a pretty good gig for a high school garage band. The Archies are mostly incidental to the plot, there to zing and ping quips off of, as most of the action involves the Pussycats' decision to either keep Alan M as their manager, or accept Alexander Cabot's offer to be their manager. Both have their downsides; Alan slept with Josie and kinda sorta broker her heart a little bit. Alexander kidnapped the band and flew them to his Antarctic fortress.

Oh, and then there's the fact that Alexander's sister, Josie's long-time frenemy Alexandra, just slept with Alan the previous night, and the pair of them must wrestle with whether it's better to tell Josie and potentially hurt her feelings, or not tell Josie, and potentially hurt her feelings.

It's great that Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett, have finally got all of the players in the same comic at the same time, as well as The Archies for texture, and they are doing a pretty good job of balancing drama, music and crime-fighting, as villains the Pussycats previously busted return to exact their revenge mid-show.

There was a cryptic meta-statement from Melody that kinda scared me there, but I haven't heard anything official to confirm it yet.

As usual, the 20-page story is followed goddam pages of Riverdale (the TV show) ads.

Wonder Woman #26 (DC) The Wonder Woman title experiences its first transition between writers since last year's "Rebirth" relaunch, and only its fourth since the 2011 "New 52" reboot and relaunch. The new writer taking the torch from Greg Rucka is Shea Fontana, a name that will likely be unfamiliar to a lot of DC Comics readers and fans, but she's not exactly new to scripting comics starring female superheroines, including Wonder Woman. Fontana, a television writer, has been writing original graphic novels based on the Mattel line of DC Super Hero Girls toys and merchandise (I've read two of the three published so far, and they were both just fine).

Fontana, who is writing a five-part, place-holding story arc, is paired with artist Mirka Andolfo, who similarly has a great deal of experience with Wonder Woman, just not this Wonder Woman, as Andolfo has been a long-time part of the DC Comics Bombshells artist roster.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by their first issue. It is a little strange to finally be reading a "new" Wonder Woman story after so long, as the entirety of Greg Rucka's 25-issue run (plus an annual and a special) was devoted to telling a single story, that of Wonder Woman's origins and conflict with Veronica Cale. Because this is not that, I worry that many readers will think it feels like a fill-in arc, something to generate content while DC waits for the next writer's scripts to get drawn (That next writer, by the way, is James Robinson, although I believe he too will have a pretty short run).

Fontana opens with Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor on a mission to protect a U.N. refugee camp in Greece, where she sees something that triggers a painful (but cute!) memory of her own girlhood on Themyscira. Back home, Diana has a medical check-up which seems slightly suspect, and then joins Etta Candy at Etta's brother's wedding (Sadly, her brother is not named, so we don't know for certain whether or not the brother getting married is Mint Candy). There Diana encounters a little girl, and a pretty rote cliffhanger ending (see the cover), although it is presented in a rather dramatic fashion.

Andolfo's artwork is in pretty sharp contrast to her predecessors Liam Sharp, Bilquis Evely and Nicola Scott, but it's good, and I liked how cute everyone looked...not just Wondy and the Amazons and Etta, but even the gray-haired, mustachioed army guy and so on. Like the storyline being started, it's a pretty drastic change of pace, but it's a refreshing one.

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