Thursday, September 28, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: September 27th

Archie #24 (Archie Comics) There's a pretty solid, honestly amusing Jughead gag in here, which is only really that remarkable in that the title is still very much in melodrama mode, following the terrible injury that put Betty Cooper in a wheelchair (temporary, I have to assume). Mark Waid is really showing off his skills as a comic book script writer with this series of late. While Reggie gets the cover, and there's some pretty high emotion involving he and his parents (but what does Vader, the "Me" in Reggie and Me, think?), most of the issue is devoted to Archie's heartbreak at not being able to see Betty, and the lengths Mr. Cooper is going to in the hopes of preventing them ever seeing one another again.

I admittedly enjoy the "fun" new Riverdale comics, including the earlier arcs of this series, but Waid and new artist Audrey Mok are doing pretty great work on the book.

Bombshells United #2 (DC) So one of my hopes for this new iteration of Bombshells, which appeared to be focused on a single character in a single story arc, rather than the more sprawling casts of dozens in the previous incarnation, was that a single artist would be involved with each arc, giving the book some much-needed visual consistency.

That turns out not to be the case, after all. Though Marguerite Sauvage did indeed draw the entire first issue--in DC Comics Bombshells, each issue had three art teams--she only manages half of this issue, with Marcelo DiChiara taking over about halfway through. As was the case in the last series, both artists are good, they are just different.

In the opening half, Dawnstar explains her self and her origins to some of her fellows, and there's a neat exchange where this Legion of Super-Heroes character seems to be talking about what it's like being a member of that oft-rebooted and rejiggered part of the DC Universe.

Dawnstar: I exist in many planes at once. I exist in an alien world, where my people rule along nebulas, soaring skies, cresting galaxies, building ships that carry us sweeping around the curves of the moons. 
I exist in a world where I lived and died in the desert, for lack of water and a poisoned well. 
Emily Sung: You hold them all in your head at once? 
Dawnstar: And see many lifetimes, all of w hich I have lived or am living or will live. 
Emily Sung: That sounds unbearably complicated.

Yep. Sounds like the Legion of Super-Heroes to me!

On the next page, Dawnstar tells the girls "What is The United States, but a history made and remade?" Dude, that's totally DC Comics!

As much as I'm enjoying the book so far, I do have to call bullshit on at least one line of writer Marguerite Bennett's dialogue. When Yuki sees her sister Yuri pointing a crossbow at her, she exclaims, "Holy Wile E. Coyote."  This story is set in 1943. But Wile E. Coyote wouldn't debut until 1949...!

Of course, this is alt-history story, set in an alternate universe to a fictional universe, so I suppose it's possible that among the many differences between the Bomshells-iverse and our own world is that the cartoon short "Fast and Furry-ous" was released some six years earlier in that world...

Detective Comics #956 (DC) Not unlike Batman writer Scott Snyder's evocation of  classic Batman story "A Death in the Family" early in his run with "Death of the Family," Snyder's sometimes collaborator James Tynion is deliberately echoing "A Lonely Place of Dying," the 19 introduction of third Robin Tim Drake, with his latest story arc, "A Lonely Place of Living."

Tynion and his artistic collaborators Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira are going a lot farther than just the title though, and it goes well beyond Barrows' homage to George Perez's cover for Batman #441 (below).

In addition, Tynion and Barrows are borrowing entire scenes from earlier Batman comics, images as well as dialogue, in re-telling Tim Drake's origin. Here are just a few of the more prominent examples.

That's the first page from this issue of Detective, which was colored by Adriano Lucas, followed by one from 1989's New Titans #60, by George Perez, Tom Grummett, Bob McLeod and Adrienne Roy. The panels in Barrows' page, which seem to be falling out of the envelope as Dick Grayson frantically flips through them, contain dialogue from the scene on the following page of the New Titans issue.

In that regard, it's a good thing that the credits for the issue include a thanks to "Lonely Place of Dying" creators Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jim Aparo, but they probably should have kept handing out thanks.

For example:

That's a two-page splash from this issue of Detective, followed by the spread that inspired it from 1990's Batman #457, by Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Steve Mitchell and Adrienne Roy.

There is a lot more of that going on throughout the issue. I would like to talk about these acts of "sampling" in a separate post at some point in the near future, likely when "Living" is completed, in large part because it involves several issues I am personally fascinated with, but for now I think it's at least worth pointing out.

One thing that is immediately obvious, of course, is how different the art style of Barrows is compared to that of pencil artists and Breyfogle. I've never been a fan of Barrows'--having spent the most time with his work in the rather revolting, gory era of Teen Titans--but credit where credit is due, it takes some chutzpah to directly invite comparisons between your work and that of such talented, all-time greats like Jim Aparo, George Perez and Norm Breyfogle (One of whom, Aparo, is probably one of the artists many discerning readers consider the definitive Batman artists).

I don't think it holds up all that well, but still, kudos for the courage!

Now, the thing I kind of hate about this particular issue is a thing I've hated about Tynion's run from the start. It is basically an ideal example of DC's pervasive "worst of both worlds" problem, where the publishers and editors and perhaps even some creators have tried to sell 2011's reboot as a, well, as a reboot, a fresh start excising old comics continuity in favor of a blank slate continuity and ideal jumping on point, but the fans-turned-writers insist on playing with the toys and building blocks from the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe.

Tim Drake was given a brand-new origin in The New 52-iverse, on which pretty directly contradicted his previous one, and which the one recounted in this story fits rather awkwardly with. If, like me, you get all the references to the comics of the early '90s, then you likely weren't a fan of the reboot, and might have your attention drawn to the differences. If you started reading sometime around the start of the New 52, elements of this story will likely feel either incongruous with what you've read previously, or alienatingly specific--fan service for a previous generation.

(What actually made me yell out loud at the comic was seeing the original Robin costume, the one worn by both Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, in the glass case in Barrows' spread above. If you've been reading New 52 Batman comics, or even just me griping about them, then you know that costume never existed at all post-Flashpoint. Dick's Robin costume more closely resembled a very busy version of Tim Drake's original costume in the new continuity, and Jason Todd wore a different costume than that. No one ever wore the one in the case above. There's also a panel in this issue that samples a later scene in "Dying," where Batman and Nightwing are in trouble and, in an act of desperation, Tim Drake grabs the original Robin costume out of a display case and rushes to save them in it; here Tim's drawn wearing Dick's costume. So what the hell is that other Robin costume doing in a glass case in Barrows' spread...?)

And, I should note, this single issue doesn't just refer back to Tim's original origin stories and Tynion's 'Tec run to date. Tim has been kept in a mysterious prison alongside the likes of Mr. Mxyzptlk and Doomsday, held there by the mysterious, hooded Mr. Oz, who is working in concert Doctor Manhattan, the character from 1986-1987's Watchmen (and more recent spin-offs Before Watchmen spin-offs and DC Universe: Rebirth).

In the pages of Action Comics, Mr. Oz was just recently revealed to be...spoiler warning!...Superman's father Jor-El.

When I read that issue, I just kind of threw my hands up at the news, as I have completely lost track of Superman's continuity at this point (as I understood it, the current Superman is the pre-Flashpoint Superman, altered during Convergence, who has merged with and overwritten the continuity of post-Flashpoint Superman, or, put another way, he is a soft-rebooted, de-rebooted version of the rebooted Superman, living in a rebooted DC Universe). So which version of Superman's dad this is, well, your guess is as good as mine. He's wearing a version of his original costume, but then Kryptonian fashion has see-sawed back and forth repeatedly over the years of occasional continuity clean-up that began with Crisis On Infinite Earths.

In this issue, Jor-El interrogates a very forthcoming Red Robin Tim Drake, who breaks free, only to be let go by Jor-El, who leaves him there in the prison. Tim finds an unlikely ally in Batman...but not his Batman. Instead, this Batman appears to be the one from the 2004-2005 "Titans Tomorrow" arc from Geoff Johns' run on Teen Titans.

So the 2011 edition of Batman: A Death In The Family (which also collects "Dying"), Teen Titans Vol 4: The Future Is Now, Robin: A Hero Reborn and Watchmen...that's kind of a lot of homework to do just to read this fucking thing, isn't it...?

Justice League/Power Rangers #6 (Boom Studios) There's nothing like months of delays to kill the momentum of a comic, especially one like this, which, despite whatever juice the crossover element might have, is out-of-continuity, so there's not even any sense of suspense of the sort that might come with, say, a badly delayed event comic like Civil War II or Secret Wars or whatever.

I really dug at least one bit of this fairly pro forma, even generic crossover. After the fight is over, the Leaguers doff their costumes to hang out in Ernie's Juice Bar with the Rangers after the battle is ended, and Bruce Wayne scares away Bulk and Skull and, later, tries to pay for everyone's food with a 100-dollar bill bearing the face of President Lex Luthor. I think I would have liked more of that, actually.

There's a horror movie like ending, in which a vanquished threat is revealed to be not-so-vanquished after all, but I kind of hope Tom Taylor and Stephen Byrne don't follow up on it. I mean, I wouldn't mind seeing more DC Universe/Power Rangers crossovers, but this one didn't do a whole lot for me, and I say that as a fan of both the Justice League and the Power Rangers.

Saga #47 (Image Comics) The focus shifts to the new mystery villain on the cover there and her captive, one of the earlier and once awesomer characters in the series, although he's fallen on some pretty hard times of late. She uses a magic VCR to plunder his memories, so Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn get to show us many of our old faves at various points in their pasts, like The Will, Lying Cat, Gwendolyn, The Stalk and The Will's uncle, The Letter (and his sweet animal sidekick).

There is, as per usual, a lot of weird-ass designs and some incredible violence. There is also extremely well-drawn naked ladies, a super-cool space ship (maybe the coolest so far...?) and the usual demonstration of  the mastery of this sort of narrative by Vaughan and Staples.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #30 (DC) The official guest-stars in this month's issue, by the regular creative team of Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela, are The Challengers of The Unknown, but as is Fisch's wont of late, he packs in as many minor DC guest-stars along a particular theme as possible. This issue's theme is apparently pre-superhero adventure teams akin to the Challengers, so within these mere 20 pages we also get The Sea Devils, Cave Carson and his crew, Rip Hunter and his crew and the original Secret Six. I was about half-way through before the thought occurred to me that wow, that is a whole lot of white people. Out of about 30 characters, there are just two people of color: One of the two FEMA agents who kick off the plot, and one of the members of the Six. Other than that, it's a sea of Caucasian faces. This makes sense, of course, given the era in which all of these characters originated, but it's a pretty stark demonstration of how much comics and cartoons have changed in the past half-century or so...for the better.

As for the plot, a Gnome King goes to an office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ask their help in securing the ingredients necessary for a "mystic elixir" to help "save this world!" Faced with "a mysterious super-natural menace," each of the two agents thinks of a different team to call. One of them calls upon The Challengers of The Unknown, the other calls upon Mystery Inc.

The two teams race to the various inaccessible locations in order to get the ingredients, and keep running into other Challengers-like teams along the way. It's pretty awesome, really.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 6: Who Runs the World? Squirrels (Marvel Entertainment) Okay so normally when I buy a new graphic novel or trade collection t the shop on a Wednesday evening, I just post the cover image and title and say something like, "I haven't had time to read this yet, obviously, but I'm going to go ahead and list it here in order to obey the rules of this feature that I've set up for myself."

But this time, I actually did read already! That's how much I love Ryan North and Erica Henderson's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I couldn't wait to read it, so as soon as I finished the new floppies I got this week, I sat right down and dug into this collection, without bothering to type up these hastily-written, off-the-cuff "reviews" of the other comics I bought and read.

This volume collects issues #17-#21, and basically includes just two stories, one a four-part arc in which Squirrel Girl gets a new mentor and a new flying squirrel suit, and a done-in-one about Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk and Brain Drain having a "boy's night."

Both feature some pretty ingenious evil plots. The first has a fairly elaborate plot in which a new villain has found a way to control and weaponize pretty much any animal on Earth, although her end game of discrediting and/or destroying Squirrel Girl seems like kind of a waste of the power she accumulated. The second has common thieves dressing up both as supervillains and the heroes that show up to stop them; I have a feeling I've read the supervillains-and-superheroes-in-cahoots scheme somewhere before, but I can't recall where. And it hardly matters, as that's basically just the superhero part of the conflict in the story, and it also gives Henderson to draw all sorts of Marvel characters who aren't really in the story.

There are a lot of good bear-related jokes in the dialogue and in the visuals, as well as a pretty great look at what shows are big on Broadway in the Marvel Universe at the moment. The best part might have been how Squirrel Girl was able to talk The Rhino down (Shh! No one tell him there is already at least one other Marvel villain using that particular name!)

I was also quite relieved to see that Tony Stark has continued to play his role as one of Squirrel Girl's not-Twitter friends; apparently the AI version of himself that has "survived" his being put in a coma can still post on the Internet. I confess that when I saw Tony's fate at the end of Civil War II, the thing that worried me most about that status quo was that maybe he wouldn't appear in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl anymore. So this was actually quite a relief for me.


Hey, how did Squirrel Girl get out of having to do anything with Civil War II...? Even Patsy Walker had a kinda sorta tie-in issue. All we get here is a not-tweet tweet from Tony Stark @-ing Squirrel Girl, "Hey just a heads up: there was a really big super hero fight, a 'civil war' if you will. It was definitely a good idea, buuut..."

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