Friday, March 30, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: March 28th

Dark Nights: Metal #6 (DC Comics) That's Jim Lee's variant cover for this week's final issue of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company's Dark Nights: Metal event series. I didn't buy it. I got the Capullo cover, but I didn't use that here because it has that weird metal ink on it and a gloss that means you can't really see decent images of it online. So I'm using the Lee one to illustrate this post instead.

As you'll note, it features a few alternate Batmen from alternate dimensions/"Earths", which is something that I'll get to further down. But, for now, I would just like to point out that one of those Batmans in apparently meant to be the Kelley Jones-designed vampire Batman from the trilogy of vampire Batman original graphic novels that Jones did with Dough Moench, and, off the top of my head, this is the first instance of Lee drawing a Jones design that I can think of. I am not impressed. Those ears should be much, much longer. They look like they barely crack six inches there!

Anyway, the final issue of this Batman-centric, Justice League story with Multiversal implications ends as strongly as it started, maybe a little more so, as the various teams of heroes all fulfill their tasks, play their various aces in the hole and reunite for what feels like the ultimate battle between good and evil for the fate of the all big Justice League stories should.

This is perhaps my favorite thing that Snyder has written to date, and I was pretty thoroughly impressed with how he played various notes and themes throughout: Metals, the power of story and dream, how all are one.

In the afterword, Snyder thanks various writers for inspiration and advice, and it's unsurprising to see Neil Gaiman (whose post-Sandman Dream/Daniel and Lucien play roles within it) and Grant Morrison (whose Batman run, Final Crisis and Multiversity inspired plot points and themes throughout; Metal is built as a sort of continuation of elements from Final Crisis and "Batman: RIP"/The Return of Bruce Wayne). I was actually even a little taken aback to see how much the climax echoed that of "World War III," the final story and climax of Morrison's JLA run (That's the story, remember, where it took the combined effort of every single human being on the planet, including you, the reader, using our newly gifted superhpowers against Maggedon, The Anti-Sun).

(An even bigger surprise, the biggest, really, was how the story broke a literal barrier in the DC Universe and, in doing so, seemed to break a long-standing, retroactively foundational rule of that fictional shared-setting).

Anyway, this is a very skilled writer taking inspiration from a few of DC's best writers to tell the biggest, Crisis-level story of his career, and the biggest that DC has dared in a long while...and, unlike the last few they've tried, it seemed to be immediately of consequence, as it set the stage for, like, everything the publisher has planned in the near future, most obviously the new Justice League comic (er, family of comics, I guess) and "The New Age of Heroes" line.

The book is divided into two pretty distinct sections. The first 32 pages are the conclusion of Metal, written by Snyder and drawn by Capullo--and that's 32 story pages; there are no ads here. It is followed by a 12-page "Coda" written by Snyder and his occasional co-writer James Tynion IV, and drawn mainly by Batman artist Mikel Janin.

The coda begins with Alfred inviting the Justice League, and new additions J'onn J'onnz and Kendra Saunders, into a formal dinner. He apparently tailored tuxedos for all of them, which is a pretty weird thing to do. (The scene reminded me of that nice piece of art from a while back, where Adam Hughes dressed various super-ladies from the DCU in dresses. It inspired me to draw their male counterparts in was pretty poor art on my part, as per usual, but I think the ideas were solid. I'm a writer, not an artist, dammit!)

Batman makes a long-ass toast/speech, and yields the floor to Kendra for a long-ass info dump, and it doesn't appear anyone gets to eat anything, but the talking part makes for a decent transition of Snyder's focus from Batman to the Justice League, while catching us up on how the DC Universe and Multiverse may have changed, if Hawkman's going to be okay and teasing the way in which "The New Age of DC Heroes" might actually connect to Metal ("Tell us, Immortal Man," one of the characters appearing in The Immortal Men asks the one that is apparently Immortal Man, "what does it mean?" as they regard images of Sideways and some other characters, and Immortal Man answers, "This is the dawn of a New Age of Heroes... If they can survive what's coming for them." Presumably he's taking about market apathy, low sales and cancellation...? Anyway, that panel is how those series all tie into Metal, I guess!) and, somewhat tiresomely, glimpses of future events across various DC books, a scene that looks like it was written and drawn after the creators had already seen the solicitations for coming months (A new version of Darkstar suit appears, there's a mention of "The Flash War," the "Dark Pantheon" from upcoming issues of Wonder Woman, etc).

Then this new-and-improved League enters a room where many other players from the drama are also dressed in formal wear, while Damian, Jon and Alfred's band performs. I kind of hated this image, if only because there were so many characters I couldn't recognize in it (I suspect many of the ones I don't recognize are meant to be the Titans...not the Teen Titans, but the other ones).

On the last page, Bruce Wayne walks Clark Kent and Wonder Woman into a room where he tells them he has a plan, and we see the blue prints for a "Hall of Justice," which looks pretty much just like the one from Super Friends. I do not approve. That version of their HQ officially entered the DCU when Brad Meltzer briefly wrote Justice League of America, and it is most memorable for a kind of basic, hilarious mistake that got both real world history and DCU continuity super-wrong*. In cartoons, we've seen that  basic base reconfigured in a few different ways, putting it atop a skyscraper, for example, or covering it in a dome and having it orbiting earth as a satellite, but I'd prefer to see something new.**

Anyway, as I've praised Metal so much in past reviews, and everyone else has had so many nice things to say about it over past months, I just want to concentrate on the things I didn't like about Metal #6 here, if that's cool with you guys (and even if it's not, I'm going to go ahead and do so anyway).

So, here are The Things I Didn't Like About Metal #6:

1.) There are way too few Batmen on page 10. So, a major plot point of the event, the one that lead to all those one-shots, is that Barbatos has recruited a Justice League's worth of failed, nightmare Batmen from various fallen worlds to serve as his army, right? On page nine, a voice from off-panel tells Barbatos "Well, we've been across the Multiverse, too. And we see your evil Batmen..." And then, on page 10, we see that the speaker is Cyborg, and he finishes the sentence: "...And we raise."

It's a splash page, and a Cyborg and a few tiny figures--Flash and Raven--are shown in the distance, on the bridge of Nix Uotan's Ultima Thule. Detective Chimp, Mr. Stubbs and a handful of alternate Batmen from across the Multiverse are shown leaping into the fray.

It's...disappointing. There are only four Batmen, after all, from The Dark Knight Returns, Red Rain, Red Son and Gotham By Gaslight (I think) and...that's it. If you're going to raise, shouldn't you have more Batmen, not less...? Or at least, like, an equal number of Batmen? (There are seven Nightmare Batmen). I guess Stubbs and Detective Chimp do make it seven, but neither of them are Batmen--not in this universe, anyway--so it's a very weird page, one where the writing seems to suggest something much, much bigger and more dramatic than the art reveals. I would have expected a page full of Batmen (also, these are some weak-ass Batmen to bring into a superhero fight; Speeding Bullets and In Darkest Night Batmen would be better-suited to the task than 3/4ths of these Elseworlds Batmen).

Oh, and where the hell are the Primate Legion...?

2.) It's super-weird that we never see Flash or Cyborg before the coda.  Other than that glimpse of them in the extreme background of page 10, where I wouldn't even know for sure that the characters in the image were Flash and Cyborg had I not read the tie-in The Wild Hunt, they spend the climax of the series talking to the other Leaguers over the radio, but we never see them on-panel.

3.) I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the breaching of the Source Wall, but I suppose it will depend on when or if that is ever followed-up on. I'm pretty sure the Wall's been traveled past or through before--didn't Kyle Rayner do so since the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot?--but I don't have any clear memory of what's on the other side exactly, so I won't know how well this will line up with previous stories. But like finding out what the Anti-Life Equation is, it just seems like one of those things better left mysterious.

4.) I hate Wonder Woman's dress. I don't know if Alfred made that for her, or if it's her own, but I found it to be pretty hideous, mirroring her regular costume too much. I think she should have rocked a tuxedo like all the guys did. If former President Trump enabler Hope Hicks could pull it off, certainly Diana of Themyscira could.

5.) The tie-in to the "New Age of Heroes" was pretty weak. And I had, at this point, assumed there wasn't even going to be a tie-in within the pages of Metal.

6.) I already mentioned the bits about the last three pages I didn't like. I should add that it seems weird to find Mister Terrific at the after-party, but not Plastic Man. Neither of them are at the dinner, and neither will be part of the new Justice League, which seems...well, a little unnatural given the events of the series, but then, I suppose that's because of The Terrifics. From what I understand, they are lost in the Dark Multiverse or something in that book, but here we see Mister Terrific at the party, Plas-less.

And I didn't notice this, but I suppose it can be listed among the flaws of the issue...

7.) Mike Sterling caught a pretty egregious typo. 

I have some concerns about what follows--No Justice and then a new, too-big Justice League line of books with a Snyder-written main book at its center--but Metal was a blast, and I hope Snyder is able to have as creatively strong and successful run on that book as he was on Batman.

Saga #50 (Image Comics) Fifty issues is a lot of issues. Especially in this decade. And especially from a single creative team in this decade. Let's take a moment to appreciate and applaud what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have managed to accomplish here, presenting a compelling, 50-issue narrative (so far!) powered more by imaginative character design and character-focused writing than on any sort of particularly hooky premise of the sort that generally drives new series.

My only criticism of this particular issue? There are two panels on page three. I wish the bottom panel were removed, and the top one filled the entire page, making it the best splash page in comic book history. Because it would have a double-meaning in that context, you see. Or you don't see, unless you are looking at the page in question, or...never mind.

Another good issue of a great series.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #36 (DC) Sure, Dark Nights: Metal is the DC comic that everyone's going to be all jazzed about this week, but I think it's well worth pointing out that this particular issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up features almost as many characters as the penultimate issue of Metal, and its DC character catalog deep cuts are far deeper than the deepest you'll find in Metal.

While regular writer Sholly Fisch and artist Dario Brizuela's DC superhero team-ups sometimes focus on a particular character or team, they occasionally do thematic issues, in which Scooby and the gang encounter, say, all of the ghost characters, or all of the alien characters, or all of the superhero dogs and so on.

This is one of those issues, which is why the title of the story--"Too Many Kooks"--appears on the cover instead of  the words "Angel and The Ape,"who are on either side of Shaggy and Scooby on that cover. The monster seen in silhouette is also a relatively obscure-ish and comedic DC Comics character, and his name, at least as it appears in the title of his feature, is "Monster."

The theme for this issue? A bunch of the kookier DC characters, I guess, including analogues of Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, who used to have DC comics (and whose names the publisher apparently can't use as cavalierly as they can use Angel and The Ape).

A young Jerry Lewis Louie Jervis is hosting his regular charity telethon when he sees a monster just off-camera. Luckily for him, in the audience are Scooby-Doo and Mystery, Inc. As well as private investigators Angel O'Day and Sam Simeon.  And superhero team The Inferior Five.

But wait, there's more! Stanley and His Monster, The Maniaks, Bob Hope Rob Pope...and that's not even mentioning the even more obscure characters who get name-dropped, or spoiling the identity of some of the meddling kids.

This is one of, if not the best, issues of the series to date. Many of the above guest-stars would have provided enough material to fill a 20-page Scooby-Doo crossover. But with all of them together in a single book? There's barely space for a slow or dull panel.

*Remember when Brad Meltzer had his short-lived Justice League of America say they built their Hall of Justice in Washington D.C. on the site of the All-Star Squadron's HQ, which was itself built on the grounds of the 1939 World's Fair, which was in New York, not D.C.?

**That said, I can't actually think of a good place to stick the Hall. It's been in Metropolis, in D.C., in orbit...At this point, it's got to be getting kind of hard to think of a place to put any Justice League HQ that feels new and fresh and unique. Personally, I thought the Watchtower on the moon was the very best location, but it feels weird to return to one particular base of operations just because the creators might like it best. Like, what's the in-story justification for abandoning the satellite--which did just crash out of orbit--and the Sanctuary in Happy Harbor for the moon or...wherever Snyder decides to stick the new Hall...? Based on Metal, I thought the League might end up on Challengers Mountain or Blackhawk Island, but that doesn't seem too terribly likely the closer to the relaunch we get. 


Kevin McHugh said...

I think you forgot some footnotes?

Caleb said...

I sure did. I put them in now, though. I think that was what I was going to say a few weeks ago...