Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekly Haul: November 11th

Batman and Robin #6 (DC Comics) Grant Morrison continues to do that thing Grant Morrison tends to do on low-pressure superhero comic books like this. Mainly, turning out perfectly serviceable genre stories that cover all of the expected bases, while also being exceedingly clever, addressing the audience both as readers of comics and people who like to know and think about comics in a general sense.

In this issue, the climax of the three-part “Revenge of the The Red Hood,” the late Bruce Wayne’s two protégés battle, but find their rivalry interrupted by a villain who renders their disagreements on crime-figthing philosophy moot, while simultaneously proving an example on which to test their philosophies.

It’s also the best Jason Todd story I’ve read since DC made the silly decision to bring him back to life. I don’t know that it justifies that decision, or makes all of those terrible Jason Todd stories between his fake-out return in “Hush” and this very issue worth while, but I’ll be damned if Morrison didn’t find ways to turn the character’s significant baggage into something appealing. (For example, Dick Grayson sums up Todd’s post resurrection Countdown career thusly: “…Jason’s fought aliens and been to parallel worlds. He’s died and been brought back to life. Don’t ever underestimate him.” It’s just the set-up for Damian to act arrogant and dismiss Todd while escaping from his bonds: “Well, he’s useless at tying knots.”

Also cool? Someone finally wrote a story about the grown-ups in Gotham City treating Jason Todd like the murderous villain he’s been written as, rather than as an annoyance on the peripheray of Batman and company’s radar.

Like the previous two issues, Philip Tan handles the art, and it is a credit to Morrison’s abilities that the art doesn’t destroy the book, given the gulf in quality.

Tan’s art is a bit different here, although stronger than it was. There’s still no real sense of setting or place, and some action scenes are handled poorly—the death blow administered to the bad guy, for example, or a character being shot five times being revealed in dialogue a few pages later, not when it was supposed to be occurring right before the readers eyes.

Jonathan Glapion is creidte as inker and Alex Sinclair as colorist, but I’m not sure what is going on with the art, really.

The Batman and Robin scenes seem to be color effects applied directly to pencils with no inks, whereas the the Red Hood and Scarlet scenes look penciled, inked and colored in the same way previous issues were.
When all of the characters start interacting, everything takes on the gauzy, soft, ink-less look of the Batman scenes.

It’s better, but it’s still bad work, and of a confoundingly amateur quality, given this is one of the American comic industry’s biggest publisher’s biggest books.

It’s not all Tan’s fault, of course. Someone hired the guy, approved his work, and put this issue together so that it looks half like a late ‘90s Wildstorm Universe book and half like a couple photo-referenced characters jumping around fields of color effects.

Batman says it himself in this panel…
…but note the writing in the “background.” What’s that say? “*colors flames in left bg”…? I don’t know. I tlooks like Tan penciled Batman and left instructions for the colorist to finish it up…?

And then there’s the very last page of the book:
I think it’s supposed to be a big, climactic splash panel, revealing original Batman Bruce Wayne’s body, which Dick Grayson has hidden away. But in addition to the lack of visual context leading up to the reveal, the way the page is laid out, it simply looks like it may be a piece of the next issue ad, which is just as big as the splash panel.

(And to get all nerdy for a second, if Dick Grayson has Batman’s body, whose buried in Batman’s grave (and whose skull is The Black Hand toting around in Blackest Night? The mystery of the multiple Batman bodies deepens!)

Booster Gold #26 (DC) One of the things that buggd me about all the wanton character death in the DCU starting around the time of Identity Crisis and Countdown to Infinite Crisis was how realatively little was actually being done with the deaths.

Like, if DC was going to start killing off characters, why not explore the dramatic possibilities of those deaths? Why not have some character development result or, at the very least, some special funeral issues? Instead, the deaths tended to be events leading to particular actions, but never any real stories or consequences. It felt like the editors and writers were swatting flies, not killing characters.

Well, writer/artist Dan Jurgens finally gives us the funeral of Ted “Blue Beetle II” Kord, so this issue of Booster Gold has that going for it. The time-travelling Booster was apparently so upset and so angry with everyone at his best friend’s superhero funeral that he couldn’t give a eulogy, and he goes back in time to try again.

It ain’t exactly great literature or anything, but it’s at least character-focused. It makes an effort, dammit, and I appreciate someone making an effort every now and then.

This is the Blackest Night tie-in issue of Booster Gold, which should come with a plastic ring of some sort (I got an orange). It will therefore probably be the best-selling issue of Booster Gold…perhaps of its entire run.

I’m not sure how great a job it does of showing off the specific virtues of the title in a way that might keep ring-hunting, Blakest Night completist readers, but it struck me as fairly reader-friendly.

The Blue Beetle back-up is done away with for the issue, with the character and page-count being absorbed by the lead feature, as Jaime Reyes joins Skeets, Booster and Supernova against Black Lantern Blue Beetle (Regular Beetle back-up artist Mike Norton provides some of the art).

Like last week’s Doom Patrol, the issue opens with a info dump of exposition narrated by Ted Kord, excused as the character’s memories being downloaded into the Black Lantern form of his corpse.

From there, Rip Hunter and Skeets search for the missing Booster, who is attending/re-attending Beetle’s funeral. Perhaps fighting a zombie douchebag version of his friend in the present will help give him closure?

I dug it.

(Hey, did you guys read the five-page preview of JSA All-Stars #1, the new series featuring all of the unpopular JSA characters in their own book, that was included in the back? What’d you think? It sure made me not want to read that series at all. I was pretty surprised by the artwork too. I liked it well enough, but it didn’t really look like the previous Freddie Williams III art I’ve seen at all).

Comic Book Comics #4 (Evil Twin Comics) Another excellent issue of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s brilliant idea of presenting the history of comic books as a comic book.

This issue is chockfull of short pieces, including one on crime comics, another on Marvel Comics’ golden era, another on the career of R. Crumb and finally a piece on European comics.

The history of comics, like all history, can be boiled down to a series of conflicts, and this issue has plenty behind its cover of Crumb, Ditko, Kirby and Tintin and Snowy versus a gigantic Stan Lee monster. Mr. Crime vs. Mr. Coffee Nerves! Stan Lee vs. the State of New York! Ayn Rand vs. The Marvel Method! Galactus vs. God! Spider-Man vs. The Comics Code Authority seal! Crumb vs. himself!

This issue has pretty much everything you’d want, including things you never knew you wanted, like seeing the dozen different ways Dunlavey can add Stan Lee’s moustache, smile and glasses on to different types of people to make them completely disturbing, and the Le Soir Vole headline “Hitler = Awesome” (next to picture of Der Fuherer surfing).

This is one of those books where I could probably have spent the entire night just scanning random panels and typing, “Ha ha, look at this it’s so great!”

I limited myself to two.

First, here’s a friendly reminder that while comics may be more accepted and cool then they’ve ever been before in America, no one really reads the damn things anymore:
Yes, the very best-selling comics in North America today would have been abysmal, embarrassing failures and canceled immediately, back when comics were a real business.

And here’s Van Lente and Dunlavey boiling the entirety of Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and company’s classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics down into just a portion of a single panel:
That entire run was exactly like that, for two whole trade paperbacks.

Anyway, if you like comics, you’ll love Comic Book Comics.
today's creators


...Wait, one more nerdy detail thing and I'll shut up about this week's comics. What color of the emotional spectrum is racism? Because the Racist Lanterns would destroy the Green Lantern Corps handily.


Hdefined said...

This issue of Booster Gold was my first since issue #1, but I really didn't find it interesting enough to make me want to pick up the series. It felt really perfunctory, just going through the motions of the crossover, which is a shame since you'd think the Blue/Gold relationship could serve as the real backbone for this series. It felt rather taken for granted . . . like the feeling a lot of people, like Paul O'Brien, who pick up a DC comic for the first time get - that of getting the impression important things are going on, but not being given sufficient reason to care. This is the first time I felt that way, and the worst part is I actually understood everything.

On the other hand, I bought the tie-in issue of R.E.B.E.L.S., which was my first of that series, and thought it had a pretty good hook.

Greg said...

Freddie Williams is but the second of that name. J. H. Williams is the third.

I see you got a scanner. Congratulations!

Phillyradiogeek said...

What, no Batman/Doc Savage one-shot? Damn, I was interested to hear what you thought about it. The $5 price tag put you off, I assume.

Caleb said...

Freddie Williams is but the second of that name. J. H. Williams is the third.

Oops, looks like I misread the exclamation point after his name ion the preview pages as an extra roman numeral "I." Thanks, I'll fix it.

I see you got a scanner. Congratulations!

No, I just had so few comics this week that instead of spending the afternoon in my apartment in my special comics-reading chair, I read them in a doughnut shop between the comics shop and the library where I scan images.

What, no Batman/Doc Savage one-shot? Damn, I was interested to hear what you thought about it. The $5 price tag put you off, I assume.

It was actually on my shopping list for the week, but I got a review copy on Tuesday, so I didn't actually by one (that price tag was daunting...and I haven't counted up the story pages to see if they charged for the "bonus" material or not).

I'm planning on covering it at Blog@ this week, so if you wanna know my thoughts on it, check there on...Saturday, probably.

In general, it wasn't what I expected or wanted it to be, but it wasn't bad either, and I'm still looking forward to First Wave.

chiasaur11 said...

I was going to ask about SWORD, myself. Quite good and it's the first comic in over a decade to have the good Death's Head.

Which, you know, I figure might be worth mentioning considering your experience with the abomination that causes desolation.

rjt said...

The Batman/Doc Savage contained 40 story pages not counting the back matter, for what it's worth.

IMO, while it made me interested to check out the First Wave mini, I don't think the Phil Noto artwork was a good match for Azzarello's script.

Caleb said...

I was going to ask about SWORD, myself.

I gave it a quick flip-through...the interior art looked very different and fun, and made the book seem completely different than Cassaday's cover did (Marvel's reeaaalllly got a do a better job matching contents and covers).

I'm gonna keep an eye out for reviews and probably check it out in trade when it gets there.

The Batman/Doc Savage contained 40 story pages not counting the back matter, for what it's worth

Thanks! You saved me counting.

...I don't think the Phil Noto artwork was a good match for Azzarello's script.

Yeah, I like Noto in general, but he didn't seem right for the story. Like, something pulp-ier would have been better...or Morales himself, if he's doing the art for the final product too.

JohnF said...

I enjoyed Batman/Doc Savage, but was that the worst JG Jones cover ever or what? Unless I'm missing the gag, and he rendered Doc's anatomy all screwy as an homage to old pulp covers. And yeah, Phil Noto's the wrong choice. His art is pretty good, but too cutesy for something like this.

JohnF said...
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