Thursday, July 14, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: July 6-13

DC Comics Bombshells #15 (DC Comics) This particular issue, featuring three distinct storylines, with flashback stories embedded within those stories, is a pretty good example of what a big, strange, wonderful tapestry Marguerite Bennett's ongoing epic answer to the question of "What if a bunch of sexy 'ships had fought World War II?" has gradually become.

Teamed with artists Laura Braga, Mirka Andolfo and Sandy Jarrell, Bennett tells the story of Irish lighthouse keeper Arthur Curry and the princess from Atlantis who washed up on his island, and how she fought to defend it from a creature of Celtic folkore (I think this is Braga's section, but whoever drew it, that is a fine depiction of a "water horse"); Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Zatanna, Constatntine and Raven on various levels of the tunnels beneath Berlin; and of Kate Kane and Renee Montoya's time as romantic warriors who signed up to fight in the Spanish Revolution (featuring a cameo by Ernest Hemingway).

I really dug this version of Raven, which is a rather radical redesign that stays true to the spirit of the original in a way that other redesigns (i.e. The New 52 one) did not, and updating her origin story into a kind of old European folk tale version of the Beauty and The Beast story was a nice tough.

Catwoman appears during the beautifully-illustrated recounting of Kate's time in Spain (drawn by Sandy Jarrell, I think?).

This book isn't always on, but when it is, there's pretty much nothing else like it on the stands.

The Legend of Wonder Woman #8 (DC) This is the penultimate issue of the original series, although word on the street Internet is that it is going to continue past the originally-announced nine-issue run. I'm not sure if that means there will be a tenth issue, or if it will relaunch with a new #1 and turn into a series of mini-series kind of thing, but I'm glad they are continuing it. It's the best comic book prominently featuring Wonder Woman DC is publishing at the moment, and a great argument for Etta Candy's presence in the world of Wonder Woman. Writer/artist Renae De Liz's Etta isn't the exact same as that of creators William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, but De Liz managed to update her in a way that serves the character and her role in the narrative extremely well.

There seems to be too much story to wrap-up in just one more issue, especially considering how much Amazonian business is left to attend to from the early issues of the series, so I suspect we will be getting a #10 of this series, and that perhaps De Liz got word of the green-lighting for future issues while working on this comic, and thus started to shift her story-telling plans during its creation.

That's just a guess though, based on how much is yet to be done. Here Diana, Etta and the Holliday Girls board an experimental plane that converts into an "invisible jet" (allowing for the expected jokes, including an old-timey one with alcohol you never see anymore) and take off to help Steve Trevor and the allies take on the Nazis and The Duke of Deception, who is about to raise a The Titan, a humanity-extinction event that Zeus told Diana about last issue, in trying to get her to sign on as his champion (and sign up for his world-cleansing program).

The Titan just awakes in the last panel, so fighting it will wait until the next issue. This issue includes a rousing aerial battle, lots of nice dresses at a nice party with multiple musical numbers, Wonder Woman "turning" a foe through compassion and understanding, the promotion of a just-introduced villain into a more adversarial role and the revelation of her dual identity to pretty much everyone close to her.

But foreget all that. The big event in this story? The introduction of nine-year-old Alfred Pennyworth, a Dickensian street urchin who pops out of a crate in the ladies dressing room and introduces to Etta with a "May'aps I can hel, Miss! The name's Alfred Pennyworth, Miss! World-class juggler, singer, actor, and all 'round entertainer extraordinaire!"

He's only in like eight panels, but they are among the best eight panels.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #2 (Boom Studios) I really love the cover of this particular issue, and spent some time just staring at it. I love how beautiful everyone–especially on the 'Janes side of the cover–looks, and the range of expressions on both sides. The little Maps/Ripley face off is particular great, as they're drawn to look almost like mirror images, like Ripley is the Earth-3 version of Maps or something (The story establishes the pair as sort of being cut from the same, or at least similar cloth, "Hey!" Ripley yells at one point, "My fellow tiny friend has a plan!").

Looking to see who drew this awesome cover, I saw it was none other than Natacha Bustos, a name I just learned this weekend upon reading the ridiculously charming Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which Bustos draws for Marvel.

Anyway, hooray for Natacha Bustos!

The interior artists are still Rosemary Valero-O'Connell on pencils and Maddi Gonzalez on inks. I like the art, and it's growing on me, but as with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few months back, I wish the artist was someone associated with one or the other franchise, as right now the crossover is happening more in the script (and, of course, the reader's imagination) than visually, on the page. On the other hand, it gives the two groups of characters from two very different books a sort of "neutral" aesthetic, not attached to either of them, which makes a certain amount of sense...although since we're at the Lumberjanes Camp now, perhaps the book should look more like an issue of Lumberjanes....? These are the things I think about it.

The plot takes a turn for the much-weirder here, and weird in a different direction than the sort of weird associated with either of the books crossing over here. And weird in a sort of way that seems like the sort of comic I would have expected from writer Chynna Clugston Flores.

As you'll recall, the director of the 'Janes' camp and a professor from Gotham Academy went missing, and so both groups of kids went off rescue them...which lead to Olive and Jen both getting captured, too. So now our young heroes have to rescue twice as many people as they had originally attended, and much of this issue is divided between the kids retreating back to camp to argue, plan and gear up, while Olive and Jen explore their new and weird prison.

I'm stil having fun with it, and I imagine it is a good introduction to Lumberjanes for Gotham Academy readers, and vice versa.

New Super-Man #1 (DC) Listening to NPR's "Morning Edition" today, I was pleasantly surprised to hear host Renee Montagne interviewing Gene Luen Yang about New Super-Man #1. The angle was that superheroes, who used to be universally white men and boys, are now growing more diverse, and she mentioned years-old examples like the bi-racial Spider-Man and the Muslim Ms. Marvel, plus the new Iron Man, who will be a black teenage girl. From those three Marvel Comics examples, they jumped to DC and Yang.

It highlighted what a "get" for DC Yang is, I think, that NPR cared enough to cover the fact that one of the five new Super-people starring in a new title as part of the "Rebirth" initiative is a Chinese man, and Yang did a nice job defending all diversity within superhero lines as being story driven rather than diversity for diversty's sake (I think the latter is the motivation, but in all of the examples listed above and, in fact, all of the examples I can think of that I've read so far, the emerging legacy characters who aren't straight white guys have all been sold with compelling stories). Yang pointed out that just moving the Superman character and his never-ending fight for Truth, Justice and The American Way to China in and of itself is enough to open up unexplored territory for the concept of the character.

And then I read New Super-Man #1 a few hours later and man was it disappointing. The story and the script are great, and the art by pencil artist Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend isn't bad, but it's not great either, and just looks like any random DC Comic of today, and not even one of the more distinct ones, like so many of those we saw coming out of the "DCYou" initiative.

And then when you compare it to Yang's own art, or the art of any of his collaborators on any of the comics he's written but not drawn (with the exception, perhaps, of some of the non-John Romita Jr. books), it just looks really weak, and not like something that belongs on the shelves with the rest of the Yang's books.

Granted, that is likely intentional, and that DC and Yang wanted to make this look as much like a generic DC Comics comic book of the moment as possible, since the real deviation was going to be in transporting American superhero concepts (China's Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman show up on the last page), but it didn't work for me, and I already find myself wondering how much rope DC will give this book should sales fall to about where I would expect them to fall for a comic featuring a brand-new character relatively far removed from the "important" books of the DCU.

I'll talk about this much more, or at least in greater, more book-specific detail, later in the week when we look at this week's various "Rebirth" debuts, but my initial, general impression was that this was a decent book that should have been much better.

Paper Girls #7 (Image Comics) Cliff Chiang and Brian K. Vaughan turn to the most horrifying-looking creature in the real world and blow it up kaiju-size and plop a pair of them into the Cuyahoga River. Luckily for us, they are, in reality, microscopic, but when I first saw photos of them, I thought about how terrifying they would be were they the size of, say, dogs or bears. Oddly, seeing them as big as Godzilla make them appear less scary, and more like hook-clawed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons.

This series' weirdness and time travel make it a slightly disconcerting read, and as someone who lives a short drive from all these settings, it feels particularly surreal to me. Like, I've seen that bridge in the background, and I've been to that abandoned mall.

Less a love letter to the Cleveland suburbs of his youth than a complex science fiction novel, Paper Girls is far from the most fun or accessible of Vaughan's recent books, but it is his most fascinating.

Renato Jones The One% #3 (Image) D'oh! I just saw "Kaare Kyle Andrews" real big along the bottom of this cover and thought, "Oh, a new Kaare Andrews comic? I like that guy's art!" and threw it atop my stack. It was the very definitions of an impulse buy. Apparently I could use a little impulse control, however, as it wasn't until I got home and sat down to read it that I noticed the words "Issue Three" real small and in a lighter gray font under the big, bold black logo.

The art did look nice, and on skim-through the words "Frank Miller" and "Midnighter" flashed through my head, but I guess I will wait until I find, buy and read the first two issues before I read this one.

So this "review" is not a review. Just a reminder to thoroughly read the covers of all comics you impulse buy, I guess!

SpongeBob Cmics #58 (United Plankton Pictures) The main story here is an extended riff on castaway stories, but my favorite bit was probably the Maris Wicks' edutainment feature, "Flotsam and Jetsam," which may be the best installment of it to date. That it is about fish beards–well, barbels–likely has a lot to do with it (Why does the Black Drum look so much more unhappy than the Channel Catfish, Yellow Goatfish and Nurse Shark though...?).

The other high-points are probably John Trabbic's incredibly over-acted three-pager which features some really wild cartooning and, just as an unexpected surprise, Vanessa Davis' back cover.

Wonder Woman #2 (DC) Given the ever-changing origins of Wonder Woman, an official "Year One" origin story has probably been long overdue. In fact, when 2006's Infinite Crisis re-set her origin so that it was "about ten years ago, around the time Batman, Superman and the Justice League were getting started" rather than "like, a year or two ago," as George Perez made it in the then-new post-Crisis On Infinite Earths composite DC Universe, DC could have used a nice, definitive Wonder Woman origin story.

It has of course changed at least one more time, during the Brian Azzarello-written New 52 run, although the first issues of Greg Rucka's second run on the character has started out intimating that maybe it hasn't changed after all.

So what is the deal with Wonder Woman's origin? That seems to be the question Rucka and artist Nicola Scott will be answering in "Year One," the storyline that will be playing out in every other issue of the now bi-weekly Wonder Woman (with chapters of a modern day story drawn by Liam Sharp occurring between each installment).

As I've noted before, however, this seems like a pretty terrible time to do a new Wonder Woman origin story, since Renae De Liz is just in the process of wrapping up her version in the first arc of Legend of Wonder Woman, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette just published their version in their Earth One book and Marguerite Bennett and company did their version last year in the pages of DC Comics Bombshells.

Sure, none of those are DCU "canon," but they all tell different versions of the same story, and, more importantly, they are all really good and, based on this single chapter anyway, better than Rucka's version, which doesn't do anything new or different to distinguish itself from those others (It reads a lot like a less elaborate, less distinctively illustrated version of the one from Legend of... actually, only Steve Trevor comes crashing down onto the island in modern day rather than in the 1940s, and he comes with planeful of dudes, all of whom seem to die in the crash).

If anything, the big difference is the amount of time spent on Steve Trevor, as we see snippets of both his life and Diana's life, structured around parallels and coincidences between them, before the fateful crash, which occurs at the climax of this issue.

Young Diana wears a toga on an island of toga-wearing women, she dreams of the outside world in a way that her queen mother and her fellow Amazons do not, she seems to have a strange destiny before her, plane crash, the end.

Scott's art is, of course, great, and probably her best to date. It's nice to see DC giving her such a high-profile book at this point, after having essentially squandered her talent earlier on the doomed Earth 2 book. I'm not quite sure what to make of the use of white space in the book, however, as sometimes it seems to be...wrong, like a mistake rather than a deliberate artistic choice. Like this spread, for example:
This spread, by the way, has a semi-cryptic panel I didn't understand, which I think might have been meant to imply that either Diana had lots of lovers among the island's women, or that many of the island's women had crushes on her. A couple of Amazons are lounging naked by a pool, while Diana's in the background in the water, also naked.

"She merges like Aphrodite. Gods, she's killing me," one of them says. Another responds "I thought she and Kasia...?" To which the original speaker says "...And Meghara and Eurayle. I don't even know..."


If that is meant to say something about Diana having female lovers, then I prefer Morrison's tactic of her basically saying "Mala is my lover" and Etta referring to Themyscira as a sci-fi island of lesbians. If not, I don't know what they might be talking about.

There's also a bit where a woman talks about how she was murdered before coming to Paradise Island, which calls to mind Perez's weird Amazon creation story  involving the souls of murdered women, but other than that, Rucka doesn't get into the who, where, when, what and why of Paradise Island/Themyscira, and where exactly Wonder Woman came from (i.e. was she born in the traditional fashion or molded from clay, was she Zeus' daughter or not?)

It's strange to say, but if DC had published this exact same comic in 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014, it would have seemed like a pretty good, and long overdue story. In 2016 though, DC has already published a handful of better tellings of the same story.


Jeremy said...

lookin' at that Wonder Woman page, you got all these vertical panels of people having fun, being together, harmonizing, then you got this big wide screen panel drifting along showing Diana is isolated from their fun and parties and debauchery. Then there's the panel on the far right, bottom, completely out of sync with the rest of the page mirroring her own feelings of loneliness and wishing for something more with her life.

Thats just my guess cuz I havent read the book

Steve said...

Not to mention that in two months, Jill Thompson will give us ANOTHER origin for Wonder Woman! So that'll make five in the last couple years.