Friday, October 13, 2017
Comic Shop Comics: October 11th
At least, she's still hanging from the metaphorical cliff when it comes to this issue's cliffhanger ending, having been absorbed into Clayface (Writer Brian K. Vaughan first pit Clayface against the derived-from-clay Wonder Woman in a 2000 two-parter in the pages of Wonder Woman; I've already forgotten the specifics of this Wondy's origin, but I'd bet you three dollars that she's not really dead, and that it will have something to do with her being made from clay too).
There's a pretty neat scene in this issue in which the various "Wonder Girls" all get one of Wonder Woman's accessories, and use them to continue the fallen hero's fight against the villain, which reminded me a bit of the Wednesday Comics story by Ben Caldwell (only in that it divided Wonder Woman's costume into a little arsenal of sorts, which was what she was on a quest to assemble in the Wednesday Comics story).
I was pretty disappointed to see that there were two artists on this issue-- Siya Oum and Luciano Vecchio--as it means we're back to the multiple artists per issue format for the book, which I was hoping would be one of the things changed by the smaller page counts and tighter, character-specific focus of the new iteration of the series. As per usual, they are both good artists.
Cities are falling to the Dark Knights, and there plane is to sink the DC Multiverse down into their own. So a classic Justice League plan is formulated--dividing up into smaller teams to tackle various tasks--while Superman makes a desperate attempt to rescue Batman.
Some of the plot specifics seems almost ridiculously convoluted, like Batman's use of a special S.O.S. code, and an alteration of it, but this is still the best Justice League story in basically forever.
Red Robin Tim Drake is forced to team-up with the Batman from "Titans Tomorrow," the 2004 Teen Titans storyline in which Geoff Johns, Mike McKone and company imagined Tim growing up, taking on the mantle of the Bat and picking up a gun to fight crime. Apparently, Jor-El and/or Doctor Manhattan and/or Whoever put both versions of Tim in this goofy prison. As well as Doomsday, for some reason, who the pair briefly fight this issue.
The main thrust of the issue is the conflict between the two Tims, however, and how they view their lives and careers as crimefighters and, well, their destiny to be Batman. The details can be pretty irritating, as they so often are when continuity plays such a central role in a super-comic, but we get plenty of panels set in Old Man Tim's world, and the ultimate revelation that that Tim is now the grown-up version of New 52-iverse Tim, not pre-Flashpoint Tim, meaning that he can "fix" his own dystopian future one way or another (and he knows exactly how, as he declares it aloud at the end of the issue, providing the cliffhanger ending).
It's hard to assess these individual chapters because so much seems in flux right now, with the upcoming Doomsday Clock (which this is at least tangentially related to) and the in-progress Dark Nights: Metal both potentially having continuity rejiggering potential.
I can say this issue made me feel a lot less uncomfortable than the previous one, and that I'm still no fan of the art, which, again, compares quite unfavorable to the source material its referencing. Also, the colors are dark and muddy--on purpose, I realize, but still not to my liking.
In addition to my affection for his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles work with Peter Laird and Mirage Studios, which generally guarantees that I pick up and at least look at anything he's involved with, I was extremely curious to see a modern Eastman comic that had nothing to do with the TMNT (although there is a turtle man in the issue, this being a Kamandi comic and all).
Eastman has done a few variant covers for DC--like, a half-dozen, maybe?--so I was glad to see the publisher finally putting him on interiors. Now, to look a gift horse in the mouth, I was a little disappointed that the interiors they put him on were these ones, as I'd rather see Eastman on a story where he gets to draw as many DC characters as possible, and this one only has the one (Plus some animal men and, here, a robot). He also kind of sticks out here, as almost every other writer or artist involved is a regular DC Comics contributor; Eastman is just about the only one whose involvement feels particularly "special."
There were a few surprises here, including the fact that Eastman didn't draw the cover, so a passerby might not even know he had drawn it (Instead, Mark Buckingham did, and in a very, very Kirby-esque style). The issue is also in black and white, and the art credits simply list "Kevin Eastman and Freddie Williams II" as "artists." What does that mean, in terms of who did what? I don't know. I am sure Williams handled the color, even though it is really just tones here, although the images often look particularly Williams-y, so I am assuming he also inked over Eastman's pencils, sometimes aggressively enough that he appears to be finishing Eastman's roughs.
It really reminded me of the old Mirage Studios days, where some combination of Eastman, Laird, Eric Talbot, Jim Lawson and others might all draw an issue together, and it's not always clear who did what, but you could see panels or lines or shading that looked like it belonged more to one artist than another.
The story, by Tom King, is a standalone one, with a creepy, philosophical vibe that really isn't dependent on Kamandi being the star. He awakes on a slab in a weird cell with various animal people from his world. Every so often, a large, indestructible robot with what looks like a smooth, featureless dome instead of a face and long, metallic tentacles for arms comes in, grabs someone and drags them out.
Kamandi always tries to fight it and always fails to defeat it, spending the days between its visits working out to make himself stronger and strategizing different ways of attack. Meanwhile, the various animal people all have different beliefs about what happens when you are dragged out and what lies on the other side of the door, and they all have different ways of coping with it.
So it's basically a Kamandi metaphor for life and death, and it works. Me, I liked the pictures better, though.
Re-reading those first three issues, and the two that followed, the two things that kinda bugged me about them the first time through still bugged me, but there was nothing additional that bugged me (Those two things? Naming two of the boys in the Duffy family "Archie" and "Reggie," the fact that the first story arc spun-out of the "Amazo Virus" story arc from the pre-Rebirth Justice League, and the presence of "Superman" Lex Luthor in a large role. Oh, can I add a fourth? Maybe the re-purposing of the name "Kid Amazo." While that first thing just bugged me because it needlessly calls attention to itself and another comic book, the other two just seemed to kind of needlessly embed a new series in the goings-on of other comics. This volume really could and should be an evergreen one, but those specific plot points will date it).
But back to price point; I was pleasantly surprised to find that DC was selling this for just $12.99, within a dollar of the cost of just three individual issues of the series (In singles, it would have cost about $20). There are a handful of Marvel trades within reach of me as I type this, and each of those is much more expensive for the same or less content. Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 2--Civil War II costs $15.99 for five issues. Civil War II: Gods of War costs $15.99 for four issues...and about 18 pages from a 1965 annual as a "bonus" feature. And, most egregiously, even perplexingly, Guardians of The Galaxy: New Guard Vol. 3: Civil War II costs $19.99 for just four issues...and 11 pages from the GOTG-free 2016 Free Comic Book Day giveaway which, remember, was something Marvel was giving away for free last year (Seriously, what is the deal here? Do Bendis trades just plain cost more now? What a racket...)
I'll offer a more full review of this book at a later point. It's pretty good though. I was even more skeptical of the introduction of Jonathan Kent than I was with the original introduction of Damian Wayne, but, as he did with the latter, writer Peter Tomasi eventually won me over with him. The two play particularly well off one another, largely because they are so much like their dads, only, you know, little kids (Robin Tim Drake and the Superboy that emerged from "Reign of The Supermen" were both extremely different from Batman and Superman).
Anyway, a pretty good comic book, without that unfortunate gouging feeling that can accompany the purchase of a Marvel trade...