Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comic shop comics: May 28

Adventures of Superman #13 (DC Comics) Writer B. Clay Moore and artist Gabriel Rodriguez deliver a pretty great, evergreen, could-fit-in-any-continuity-really Superman story, one big enough to fill the entire issue, and substantial enough to read like a satisfying graphic novella. A Metropolis reporter has noticed how much time Superman spends around the Daily Planet and its staff, and is pursuing an explosive story by simply connecting the dots.

It all works out for Superman and friends—and the reporter, actually—but Moore wrings some suspense out of it. He also gives us a tour of Superman's rogues gallery during a visit to Ryker's Island. Metallo is the main villain of the piece, but we get a few panels each of Toyman, The Atomic Skull, Bizarro, Parasite, Kalibak and, most delightfully, Terra-Man (Oh, and there's a wordless cameo by Magog, whom I don't think we've seen anywhere since the New 52 launch, and I certainly didn't expect to see him here of all places).

Rodriguez's layouts are somewhat dictated by the digital format, with each page easily chopped in half, but the artwork within all of those sometimes strangely layed-out pages is quite fine. Rodriguez puts in a lot of detail, and has quite distinct character designs. I liked looking at his characters, I liked the way they moved and talked and emoted, and I liked the way they seemed to have weight. I would like to see more of Rodriguez drawing stuff.

Aquaman #31 (DC) Jeff Parker's script for this issue is pretty compartmentalized, with three distinct and unrelated plotlines being advanced. The main event, the one on the cover, features Aquaman and his The Others teammate Ya'wara traveling to the swamps in Louisiana to fight Swamp Thing over an algae bloom that I assume occurred in the pages of Swamp Thing (but was referenced in Aquaman previously. It's fun to watch Aquaman and Swamp Thing fight. It's fun to watch Aquaman and Swamp Thing fight.

In another, Mera, Aquagirl Tula and Some Other Guy travel to an Atlantean neighborhood closest to the ocean floor, where a bunch of people try to kill them. Tula totally murders an innocent eel for no reason. I liked the guys with guns who stood atop giant crabs, that were like crustacean Roombas.

Finally, we check in at Triton Base, where that guy who seemed like he was gonna rebuild that guy who got chewed up by sharks as some sort of sea monster is doing just that.

The issue has two art teams, Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons, and Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez. I liked them both just fine, and they were compatible enough that there was no unpleasant jarring feeling when they switched.

Batman Eternal #8 (DC) Hey, it's Guillem March! I'm a big fan of his work, and I think he's one of the better artists in DC's current roster, and he's long been one of their better Batman artists, although he unfortunately hasn't had a really great opportunity to prove it, with a sustained run on a relatively high-profile title with a stable creative teams and stable direction (Not that DC has a lot of those at the moment, anyway). His appearance here likely won't change that any, as after the first three issue "arc" of the weekly Batman series, every issue has been done by a different art team; so, in a sense, it's as if every issue is a fill-in issue.

No matter. This is one of the visually strongest of the issues so far, right up there with Dustin Nguyen's on #4. March draws a big, muscular Batman, akin to Jim Lee or Tim Sale's, but his linework is reminiscent of Joe Kubert's; lots of little lines forming bigger lines, and none of those little lines wasted (Additionally, he seemingly draws everything; nothing looks posed or dropped in with computers, not even the backgrounds, which is getting rarer and rarer...with the exception of the Hong Kong on the last page; way to prove me a liar, March!). I wouldn't be surprised to learn he spent some time re-reading The Long Halloween before drawing this, actually; his Carmine Falcone looks particularly Sale-inspired, right down to the heavy rings of shadow around his eyes.

And March additionally goes for incredibly dynamic lay-outs and panel constructions (Check out the third panel on page three, a car chase where the left border of the panel is the point at which the bad guys' car hits the road; it's essentially a sideways car chase...Or the angle of the first panel that stretches across pages 4 and 5). Throughout the issue, I saw suggestions, glimpses and reminders of Bat-artists like Norm Breyfogle (page 3, panel 2; page 14, panel 4; page 18, panel 3), David Mazzucchelli (The Jason Bard scenes) and Alan Davis (page 6, panel 4; page 7, panel 3) and, of course, the aforementioned Sale. Not that this issue is a pastiche or anything. March makes all of these elements his own, he just possesses a style that's fluid and dynamic enough to be able to incorporate things like Breyfogle's angry or surprised Batman face's with Sale's Falcone design and make it all work.

His work is, as always, well complemented by Tomeu Morey's colors, who here does a particularly fine job on lighting, presenting the same places in Gotham at both night and day in a few instances.

I would love to have a Batman comic book at least this well-written every month that looked this good. In the mean time, all I can do is cheer when March and Morey show up in the weekly, I guess.

As for the plot end of things, this issue seems to focus on Batman's current struggles with the Gotham City Police Department, thanks to the influence of Falcone. Batman busts a bunch of criminals who the police won't arrest, the new, crooked commissioner sets up a rooftop meeting/trap with Batman that Jason Bard helps him escape, Bard meets Vicki Vale, and, on the last page, a lady I don't recognize is unhappy to see Batman flying into Hong Kong. Should I recognize her? She says "bloody hell," so I assume she's meant to be British...?

The New 52: Futures End #4 (DC) So I didn't like how Frankenstein chopped the right paw off of a polar bear and then stabbed it to death last issue. In this issue, Frankenstein has his right paw chopped off (not his whole arm, as the cover suggests). The polar bear and Frankenstein aren't quite even yet, however. For one thing, Frankenstein is still alive, and for another, it wasn't the ghost of the polar bear who did the hand-chopping-off, it is Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld Agent of SHADE, whose face is scarred and who has one all-white eye, because this is the future, so she must look more like Cable than normal...?

I think this is the future, anyway. Frankenstein meets her in SHADE's neat-o "Ant Farm" base (which I'm assuming is just coincidentally named after a Disney Channel comedy show, because Jeff Lemire doesn't seem like he watches too much Disney Channel), where Father Time is, five years from "now," still inhabiting the body of a little girl who hasn't aged at all in five years...? That's weird, right? But this is still the future, since Hawkman's still dead, Tim Drake has a well-groomed beard, Ray Palmer has a big, bushy beard, and Amehtyst, Prince of Gemworld has Cable-itis...?

One shouldn't think too hard about this stuff, I guess. Because if one does, it just sort of falls apart. Like remember that polar bear I won't shut up about? It had a robot living in its body that attacked Frankenstein after Frankenstein killed the bear before the bear could kill a little Eskimo boy. The robot was labeled SHADE. It was all to get Frankenstein to come looking for Father Time, the leader of SHADE, so the latter could ask the former to investigate the deaths of StormWatch a few weeks ago. So, Father Time wanted to get a hold of Frankenstein, and he thought the best way to do this would be to put a robot inside a polar bear in the hopes that the polar bear and Frankenstein would cross paths and that Frankenstein would kill the bear.

Also in this issue, we spend some time with Tim Drake, who has changed his name to Cal Corcoran, grown a beard and moved to New York City, but he can't stop wearing the color red, nor can he stop himself from getting mad when he sees Batman Beyond on the news. Also also, Plastique and The Key meet with another villain (I don't know if these are the New 52 versions of these characters, or new New 52 versions, as this is in the future). Also also also, Grifter kills a bunch more aliens, and badly-drawn King Faraday shoots him in the spine and sets him up as a serial killer which...he is, he just kills aliens-posed-as-people instead of people who aren't aliens.

Aaron Lopresti draws this issue. It's not that good. But maybe he was just rushed (the last page is the worst page).

Secret Origins #2 (DC) The cover story in this second issue of the new Secret Origins, which features three New 52 origin stories per issue, is another recounting of Batman's origin, perhaps the most often told, re-told and referenced superhero origin story of all. In fact, I just read his new, New 52 origins tory within the last couple of weeks—in Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year—Secret City. Has it changed at all in the last few weeks?

No, it has not.

And so writer Ray Fawkes and the Dustin Nguyen/Derek Fridolfs art team run through the same story Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company just told, including all of the new and relevant details the Batman team just added, although not making them clear; I wouldn't have known what exactly was up with the flock of bats and the sparkles in Wayne's library had I not read Batman Vol. 4 and thus already knew about Thomas Wayne's hologram-recording sphere thingee. I also woulda been pretty damn confused to see a monkey in a Batman origin story.

That's followed by the origin of Aquaman by Aquaman writer Jeff Parker and this week's Aquaman fill-in art team of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez. Parker basically comes up with a structure through which to re-tell all of the bits of origin Geoff Johns told during his opening run on the New 52 Aquaman title. I lived through almost all of this story once. Parker at least repeats it in an interesting way, and the art is nice—although I didn't like the bubble-stream effect on that last image of Aquaman, which I assume colorist Rain Bereoo added.

Finally, there was a Starfire story by Scott Lobdell and Paulo Siqueira, lettered by Carlos M. Mangual in a calligraphic font atop pink narration boxes, because Starfire is a girl. I...didn't actually make it all the way through this one. It was Starfire fighting in gladiator battles with Dominators or something...?


Bram said...

Ant Farm, I'm pretty sure, is another wonderfully weird Morrison-ism from Doom Patrol that worked its way into the N52.

JohnF said...

I just assumed that was Catwoman.

JohnF said...

Welp, it's not Catwoman.