Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weekly Haul: March 11th

Action Comics #875 (DC Comics) The secret identities of the new Nightwing and Flamebird are revealed, and the new Nightwing’s not who I thought it was and the new Flamebird is someone I’ve never heard of. Potentially exciting, I guess, depending on how much you care about the one or whether you even know the other or not (Or is she a brand-new character? I don’t know).

New Action Comics writer Greg Rucka provides a decent enough set-up for the ongoing adventures of Nightwing and Flamebird, hunting down Kryptonian sleeper agents on Earth while trying to hide the fact that they themselves are Kryptonian, but, like last week’s World of New Krypton, it reveals a premise I find myself not very interested in.

Eddy Barrows provides the pencil art, and his art’s not as terrible as I remember it being on Teen Titans—Perhaps in large part because he’s drawing super-people in tight clothes more than teenagers in strange casual denim and cotton clothing that fits like spandeX?—but it’s a noticeable step down the ladder of quality for the post-OYL Superman books.

If this is indicative of the near future of Action, I think I’ll drop it until Superman comes back. It’s by no means a bad comic, it’s just a very ordinary comic book that did nothing for me personally.

Batman: Battle For The Cowl #1 (DC) Why oh why did I buy this? I’ve complained long and loudly about what an awful, awful comic book artist Tony Daniel is for the entirety of his run on Batman with Grant Morrison, a run he managed to personally ruin, and the only reason I continued reading his Batman month after month was the fact that it was, you know, being written by Grant Morrison, whose work I’m always interested in reading (Even his worst writing is interesting; he’s never bad so much as disappointing, you know?).

Well, here’s Tony Daniel on Batman without Morrison, so there’s really no reason for me to buy this damn thing.

And yet here I am, looking at it sitting there next to my laptop a few hours after I left the shop, looking patiently up at me while I look down on it in disgust, preparing to review it here.

Well, I know why I bought it. It was an exceptionally light week for periodicals and, upon flipping through it, I saw a few solid pages of The Squire, the sidekick of England’s Batman The Knight, hanging around Robin, and I thought, “Cool, it’s The Squire! And don’t her and Robin make a cute couple!” and so I bought a $4, 30-page comic written and illustrated by perhaps my least favorite comics artist not named Ed Benes.


Well it’s not actually as horrible as I sort of expected it to be. Let’s take a look at the cover, shall we?

You’ll note seven figures on it, and only one foot. Daniel, like a lot of artists, hates drawing feet. Unlike a lot of artists, he seems to go out of his way to avoid drawing them, and will go to comical lengths to avoid doing so. Any cover image on which very few feet need to be drawn is a good one, no matter how it’s arranged to avoid it.

So we have a low angle shot of Nightwing and some random Batman allies on the cover, their feet hidden by the rooftop, or disappearing off-panel, or hidden behind other characters.

Check it out—Catwoman and Batwoman have lined their legs up perfectly with Nightwing’s so that his shin will block both of their feet from view. What are the chances of that? Actually, I’m not sure what’s going on with Batwoman…she looks like she’s crouching, but must be jumping, since her feet don’t touch the ground. And her entire left leg is just plain missing. Apparently she’s got her right foot and most of her left leg in Catwoman’s ass, somehow? That is gross. This is a gross, gross cover. So gross that the fact that Black Canary is jumping out of Batwoman’s hair and off a building doesn’t even seem that weird to me.

So this cover, this cover of what will be the most-read Batman comic book since his “death?” It’s classic Tony Daniel art. Something you would expect an editor to see in portfolio review at a con, try really hard not to laugh, and then politely give his spiel about composition and studying art other than other comic books to improve your craft.

But no! It’s on the cover! Of a DC comic book! And the next 30 pages are full of the stuff, and written by the same person!

But the insides aren’t as awful as that cover would imply. Daniel even draws some feet in the very first panel. (For much of the rest of the book, mist, smoke, shadows and rubble will be employed to hide many of the feet).

All of the women look the exact same, save for their different hair colors and costumes, and Damian al Ghul, Tim Drake and Dick Grayson all look identical, save for their costumes, but they’re wearing their costumes throughout, so this isn’t actually as troublesome as it could be, and has been in some issues of Batman.

The worst thing about Daniel, however, is his lack of basic staging skills, so that action scenes can be very, very confusing when he draws them, to the point a reader won’t know how many people are in a room at a certain time, or where they are in relation to one another and so on.

Thankfully there’s only one panel in here that doesn’t really make much sense, so that’s a pretty good showing form Daniel. So perhaps he’s getting better, or perhaps it’s just so much harder to foster a disconnect between the writing and the images when the same guy’s doing both (in which case maybe DC oughta let him write his own scripts for his work in the future…?).

The writing end of things isn’t so bad. It’s not good, but making a good story out of the pile of plot-points in this exercise in extended cameos is probably darn near impossible.

It’s a few weeks after Batman’s death, and Gotham City has gone all to hell, with gangs whose members are all dressed in matching uniforms are going ape shit and turning the city in to a war zone. They need Batman to tamp down on things, and even having five times as many crimefighters as usual doesn’t seem to be helping much.

While Nightwing, Robin, The Knight, Squire, Black Canary, Wildcat, Man-Bat, Batwoman, Batgirl, Huntress, Damian, Oracle, Lady Blackhawk and Catwoman fight gang crime, we’re told Two-Face and Penguin are each leading half of the cities organized crime families against each other.

Two new players enter the mess. One is the late Black Mask, who frees every Arkham inmate and pressgangs them in to his army, and the other is a new player calling himself Batman who was apparently once a member of the Bat-family and isn’t afraid to kill his opponents.

This is presumably Jason Todd, who came back to life well over a year ago (DCU time) and started killing people, yet Batman and his allies never really seemed to care all that much about it—Batman even took two vacations while Todd was on the loose, one of them a one-year long vacation. Seems a little late to worry about him now.

Tim, who narrates, is worried now, however, and he has been trying to convince Nightwing to put on the Bat-suit and fill-in for Batman again. But Dick’s been reluctant, so Tim apparently does so himself. Then that adorable scamp Damian, who chopped off The Spook’s head, gets in a scrape and Nightwing has to rescue him from Killer Croc and they both end up face-to-face with the mysterious new killer Batman-who-is-probably-Jaon-Todd the end.

It seems like the cowl will ultimately fall to Nightwing, who will be convinced that someone needs to be Batman, and, whether he likes it or not, he’s a better candidate than Tim and, obviously, Jason. But probably not for two more issues.

If those are anything like this, they’ll be two more issues of a bunch of random running around and character appearances punctuated by some occasionally funny narration like, “Chasing three armed gangsters into an abandoned hospital can seem pretty spontaneous, too. As in, you might spontaneously die.” Come on, that’s pretty good isn’t it? That totally sounds like something Frank Miller would have wrote.

Batman Confidential #27 (DC) Now here’s a great example of a comic featuring artwork that makes Tony Daniel’s work seem all the sadder. Here we have legendary artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez pencils and Kevin Nowlan inks and the results are just fantastic: Every panel looks nice, every page lay out looks nice, panel borders are only broken for storytelling purposes, splash pages are used properly, there are backgrounds, the drawings are all so clear that I could be reading a Hindi translation of the comic and still know exactly what was going on in ever panel And what is this team doing? Illustrating a perfectly enjoyable but completely unremarkable story for Batman Confidential, which is sort of like Legends of the Dark Knight, except nobody reads it. What a world.

Booster Gold #18 (DC) Note to self: Steer clear of future issues of Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund’s Booster Gold that don’t prominently feature any guest-stars, since Booster Gold with no one to talk to except himself, his sister and Skeets makes for one extremely boring comic book.

Captain Britain and MI13 #11 (Marvel Comics) Considering how zany certain aspects of the last issue were (i.e. Dracula launching vampires like missiles from the moon), this one was notably sober and grounded one, one that’s probably as realistic as a story about Dracula declaring war on the UK in the hopes of conquering it for his people (i.e. vampires) can be. A great deal of attention is paid to the personal, emotional reactions to a few of those caught up in the war—Faiza, who gets a new code name, Spitfire, who’s being recruited by Dracula, and Pete Wisdom, who has to get very serious very fast. It’s a pretty exciting storyline so far, and it’s nice to see creators like writer Paul Cornell and pencilers Leonard Kirk and Mike Collins turning in work that takes care of their superhero thrill-machine obligations and their character drama obligations without letting either overwhelm the other.

Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 4 (DC) I haven’t read a single one of the 516 pages of this yet, but based on the previous three volume, I think it’s quite safe to assume that this is going to be a very awesome reading experience, which I will likely draw out by reading a few issues worth of it each night, and then be very sad when I reach the end. And then I’ll start looking forward to volume 5.

Special Forces #4 (Image Comics) After resisting the temptations of joining a mercenary army/independent security firm, our heroine Felony waterboards an enemy combatant to get invaluable intel about a ticking time bomb situation, and it totally works! Then she tracks the terrorist leader The Desert Fox to an oil refinery, where she discovers there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq all along! She asks him, “Why are you doing this?” and he replies “Because we hate your freedom!” It’s all just like they told us!

In the climax of his beautiful, blistering Iraq war satire, Kyle Baker takes that various fantasies of the Bush adminisration’s most ardent warmongers and, presenting them more or less straight, they’re so ridiculous they’re hilarious. It makes for a pretty strong indictment of the war’s premise that would probably make its architects seem like amusing clowns, were it not so hard to laugh about a conflict that’s cost uncounted tens of thousands of people their lives, and continues to ruin lives every day.

If you missed the single issues, which were released on a somewhat erratic schedule, keep your eyes peeled for the trade, which Baker says is expected to drop in the summer. It’s pretty devastating work.

Trinity #41 (DC) Well, this comic book certainly came out again this week. Tom Derenick pencils the back-up.


James Figueiredo said...

I just want to say that, from the moment I first laid my eyes on the Dr. Strangefate book many years ago, I've been fervently hoping for another collaboration between Garcia-López and Nowlan - It could be three issues of Batman reading the paper over breakfast, you just know it would look gorgeous.

D. Robert Lynam said...

I illegally downloaded Battle For The Cowl and I STILL want my money back. What an awful, awful comic.

Hdefined said...

"my least favorite comics artist not named Ed Benes."

Michael Turner? I always wondered why you never said anything about his passing away.

Phillyradiogeek said...

Batman Confidential being "unremarkable" is exactly what makes it remarkable. It's a no-bullshit, straight up, old school Batman story, plain and simple. Highly recommended for those not into what Morrison has done with the main title.

E. Peterman said...

Dude, you are soooo right about "Battle for the Cowl." The artwork really reeked and I feel kinda ripped off.

Matt D said...

I thought Captain Britain was a very, very strong issue. Gripping stuff. Cornell is so full of ideas.

Sea-of-Green said...

I have to admit that I've been enjoying the heck out of Captain Britain and MI13. It's just about the only Marvel title that I DO like right now.

-- Sea

LurkerWithout said...

The "Special Forces" trade is due in three months. I just pre-ordered it and a new edition of "Brat Pack" thru HeavyInk a week or so back...

Caleb said...

Batman Confidential being "unremarkable" is exactly what makes it remarkable.

Yes, exactly. I can't see them using "Remarkably unremarkable!" as a blurb on a trade though (Although I'd surely take a second look at anything I saw a blurb like that on).