Thursday, April 17, 2014

Comic shop comics: April 9-16

Poor Fabok draws the whole damn issue, and three "consulting writers" are billed above him on the cover.
Batman Eternal #2 (DC Comics) Well, I thought this second issue of the new Batman weekly comic was a substantial improvement over the first, which consisted only of a pair of action scenes, both poorly told by artist Jason Fabok, and a bookend teaser of some terrible events in the future, also somewhat bumbled by the artist.

Fabok's art is still lazier than I'd like here, but the worst bits in this issue are simply an obvious recycling of an image between two consecutive panels (page 10, panels 1 and 2), and the scene near the end where Batman hears someone sneaking up on him and responds by throwing four razor-sharp projectiles hard enough that one embeds itself in the wall; it's Catwoman, who appears with her goggles up and her zipper down, and she manages to pose her way through the barrage (It looks like he repeats images on the last page too, somewhat awkwardly, but its such an extreme zoom-in that it's difficult to be sure).

If this first issue involved a big, splashy, status quo-changing incident and gave Batman a mystery to solve (and it did), then this issue serves to give some suggestion of the size and scope of the cast. Last issue, we met the New 52 version of Jason Bard, and saw Batman, Commissioner Gordon, Professor Pyg and Harvey Bullock, Maggie Sawyer and another police officer who might be a bigger deal in the series as it unfolds.

In this issue, a whole bunch of characters cameo, some more unexpected than others. So we see Batgirl, Jason "Red Hood" Todd, Batwoman, teen roboticist Tim "Red Robin" Drake, Lucius and Luke "Batwing" Fox, Cullen and Harper Row and the aforementioned Catwoman (So the entire extended Bat-Family save Dick "Nightwing" Grayson, who must totally have gotten killed in the yet-to-ship Forever Evil #7). But wait, there's also Vicki Vale (and wouldn't it be nice if writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV spent the year trying to turn her back into Batman's Lois Lane) Doctor Phosphorous, and a trio of big surprises, which I will now proceed to spoil, so quick, click away if you don't want to know yet.

Who are these surprise characters? Look...

It's Jim Corrigan, AKA The Spectre! Probably! (Seriously; the shadow may not be much of a reveal, but he's also wearing all green, The Spectre's favorite color, and he does that thing with his eyeballs where a skull appears in them. I'm not clear on the "rules" of who belongs to what Earth, as, by rights, The Spectre should be relegated to Earth-2 along with the rest of the Golden Age heroes, but whatever).

And who's this, the ghost of Deacon Blackfire?! (From 1988's Batman: The Cult...? Is that still in-continuity? What the hell guys? You excised "Batman Year Two," "Batman Year Three," "Lonely Place of Dying," Oracle, Cassandra Cain and God knows what else to fit all of Bat-history into just 5-7 years, but you kept The Cult?)

And Carmine "The Roman" Falcone! (Where's your tie, hippie? His appearance would be immensely more exciting to me in the "old" continuity; as it stands, I have no idea how much if any of Batman: Year One or Long Halloween or Dark Victory still "count," so there's a tension between thinking, "Oh cool, it's that old-school villain set-up as the symbol of a corrupt, crime-riddled Gotham City before the advent of the superhero and supervillain" and just thinking, "Hey, it's just some guy with the name and scar of another comic book character from other comics I read!").

Anyway, this issue certainly promises a big story, one involving Batman's whole army of fellow vigilantes, and some traditional crime elements as well as supervillainy and supernatural shenanigans, and it's therefore much more promising than the first issue.

After the "Next: Gotham Goes To War" tag at the bottom of the last panel of the last story page in this issue, there's the two-page ad-vertorial "Channel 52" feature promoting the new direction of The Flash, by a new creative team that includes pencil artist Brett Booth, whose two splash-pages make up the majority of the feature.
Brett Booth...where have I heard that name lately...

Oh yeah.

So here's the thing. All-around nice person Janelle Asselin, who writes about comics for some of the places I write about comics, in addition to having worked in an editorial capacity at both DC Comics and Disney, wrote a guest column at Comic Book Resources criticizing a shitty cover for a shitty-looking comic book, New Teen Titans #1.
In the process, she pointed out some of the weak anatomy in the work of Kenneth Rocafort, who is actually one of the better artists on DC's payroll at the moment, some of the ickiness that comes from over-sexualizing teenage girls and the general boneheadedness of DC continuing to chase the same, very small demographic of adult male readers, despite plenty of evidence that they are leaving plenty of money on the table by doing so (Teen Titans was just canceled for low-ass sales; check out David Carter's analysis of DC sales at The Beat, where he notes IDW's all-ages, little girl friendly My Little Pony outsold all but 24 of the however many books DC shipped last month...which is about 52 in their main superhero line, plus all the other stuff. Teen Titans was not one of those 24 comics).

Now, she's right, of course.

As a reader, as me personally, I don't mind the sexualization of teenage characters in my comic books (For example, one of my favorite manga series at the moment is Yoshinobu Yamada's Cage of Eden, which rarely passes up any opportunity for up-skirt or down-blouse staging, and there's generally at least one bathing scene per volume), but I do recognize that there's a place for such content, and an all-ages, DC superhero comic book featuring characters that simultaneously star in a children's cartoon probably isn't that place (Cage of Eden is of course a translated version of a Japanese comic, sold only in digest-sized, $11 trades and rated "Older Teen, 16 and up," if you care).

And DC's decision to pursue their current strategy with the Teen Titans comics is, let's be honest, completely fucking bonkers, as has been most of their decisions to revamp their characters and books far, far away from their popular, easily recognizable versions into more niche, more adult versions.

So the Teen Titans characters, who have been appearing in cartoon shows—and attendant DVD collections, videogames, toys and comic book adapations—for about 10 years now (Teen Titans was 2003-2006, Young Justice 2010-2013 and the Teen Titans derived Teen Titans Go 2013 to present), appeared in the New 52 looking not like this
...or this...
but this
Giving themselves an opportunity for a do-over, DC comes up with that Rocafort image that Asselin assessed.

Now, at least Beast Boy is the same color as he is in all of his cartoon appearances (When he was first introduced into the New 52 line, in the almost-immediately canceled book The Ravagers, he was red).

The person whose face is mostly encased in some sort of stone/bone visor? The one with the claws? That's apparently Raven, if you're wondering.

Asselin's piece did not sit well with Booth, who is not the artist who drew that shitty cover, but instead drew the far, far shittier cover for Teen Titans #1, the cover that, when first revealed, made me think this whole "New 52" thing must be some kind of demented joke.

So Booth, on the eve of his debut as the new artist for The Flash, where he'll be replacing the critically acclaimed and universally beloved art team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, went on a social media charm offensive in which he picked a fight with Asselin, said many, many, many very ignorant things and revealed himself to be not much for spelling or grammar (The Outhousers collect a lot of Booth's tweets, and those of his followers, here).

This sort of thing always boggles my mind, because Booth went pretty far out of his way to make himself into a (comics press, comics social media) news story, and he doesn't look very good. Again, on the eve of his new run on a new comic book. Now, a lot of people were going to avoid reading The Flash anyway because Booth is drawing it, rather than Manapul (or a good artist, period), but I imagine Booth has cost himself (and thus his book, his collaborators and his publisher) a lot more sales this week just by being as ass in public.

I don't know how much that sort of behavior factors into the purchasing decisions of the folks who encounter it, but I can't imagine how it could do anything other than hurt Booth and his book/s.

She-Hulk #3 (Marvel Entertainment) For the third issue in a row, She-Hulk takes on a legal case and ends up fighting killer robots. This time, the particular case is that Kristoff Vernard, the son of Dr. Doom, is seeking political asylum in the United States. So, naturally, the killer robots she fights in this issue are all Doombots.

As in the previous issues, this new iteration feels like a sort of compromise between Dan Slott's early Ally McBeal-in-the-Marvel Universe volume of She-Hulk and Mark Waid and company's previous volume of Daredevil. The mixture of superheroics, the practice of law and, especially, Javier Pulido's art really makes the book read like a funnier version of the Waid-written Daredevil.

SpongeBob Comics #31 (United Plankton Pictures) Another issue, another 33 ad-free pages of funny gag comics by a wide and unlikely variety of cartoonists and comics creators, this time including contributions from Joey Weiser, Vince Deporter, David DeGrand, Gregg Schigiel (Sharkbeard, a pirate who is a shark with a bear, is an awesome creation), James Kochalka, Maris Wicks and Elanor Davis. Oh, and there's a 10-page Mermaid Man story by Chuck Dixon and Ramona Fradon.

My favorite part was the back cover though (above); I just can't get over how cute Davis' Sandy is...

Please note: None of these characters appear in this issue
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11 (Marvel) Marvel continues its bizarre campaign to try and get Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's excellent Superior Foes of Spider-Man canceled.

You may recall the last issue shipped just one week after the issue before that, and it was a fill-in issue.

This issue is also a fill-in issue, but unlike the previous fill-in issue, it doesn't even feature any of the characters from the regular cast. Instead it focuses on two different not-so-loveable losers among Spidey's rogues—The Grizzly and The Looter—who are at least given some tangental connection to the temporarily abandoned narrative of the book by having them appear and tell their stories in the Villains Anonymous type support group that Boomerang attended in issue #3.

And it was at this particular point Marvel decided to jack the price of the book up 33%, to $3.99 for 20 pages (that have nothing to do with Superior Foes). Tom Peyer wrote the Grizzly story, while Carmen Carnero and Terry Pallot drew it. The Looter story was written by Elliott Kalan and drawn by Nuno Plati. They're both fine, but I don't think they're worth $2 a piece instead of $1.50 a piece, and I'll be damned if I know what they're doing in this book.


SallyP said...

She-Hulk has been a delight. An absolute delight.

The Flash WAS a delight, but if Brett Booth is going to be the artist, then put me down as one of those people who are repulsed both by the quality of his art, and his on-line nastiness.

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

In a way I appreciate Marvel getting their small-ish number of books I like cancelled, it saves me more money. It also makes me sad because titles I like suffer, but considering how little I'm making lately maybe it is good all the good comics are dying.

I'm gonna go cry now.

Anonymous said...

I'm committed to Superior Foes, don't get me wrong. I can look past the $3.99 price point. The thing is, I'm committed to the title as written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.

At the very least, I enjoyed this fill-in more than the last one. Somewhat worried how they'll be bundled in the trade, though.