John Buys Batman Comics. And Also Some Other Stuff

Man. There was a lot of Batman this week. And ever since I started reviewing on a regular basis there is nothing I can resist less than a Batman-related comic book. Except for Gotham City Sirens.

Batman and Robin No. 3

Man, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are a great team. I have heard it said that there will be a Quitely-free arc on this book in the near future and it will be very interesting to see how it stacks up against these first few issues in terms of how much I love it. I remember that the Frank-less issues of New X-Men weren't as delightful to mine eyes as the issues before and after them but I also remember thinking that the art on those issues was "actively bad" as opposed to "not sublime". How about it, DC? Can you provide a fill-in artist who isn't terrible?

Anyway, this issue provides plenty of examples of how well these two work together. Professor Pyg's pre-surgery psych-up/disco dance/psychotic break? Hot damn. I don't know of too many other artists who could put pictures to those words so well. I think I stayed on those few pages for five or six minutes. Heck, between Pyg and that Alice dame in Detective the bar is getting set pretty high in terms of the madness level of the Gotham City criminal element. Pretty soon guys like Firefly, with their garden-variety manias, are going to look like chumps.

The... character involved in the last-page reveal is another good example: an interesting Morrison concept, fantastically-realized by Quitely. My imagination is tormenting me with images of how other artists might have portrayed... that character, I love it that much.

I've been reading a lot of Batman recently, as I said earlier, and most of it has been decent, but precious few are providing me with as much glee as this here book. Hooray!

King City No. 1

Okay. Okay okay. Okay okay okay. I can do this. I can't do this. All of my summarization glands have dried up.

No, I can do it. King City is the best kind of crazy. Brandon Graham had, it seems, about a hundred neat ideas and took maybe half a dozen of them (utility cats, a city full of spies and spy hotels, and blah and blah) and deployed the rest of them liberally as vending machine concepts and street flavour and incidental character fun. The result: exactly the kind of comic that I like to devote half an hour or more to, which is good because it took at least that long to take a signifiicant portion of it in.

So there's this guy named Joe and he has a cat and he steals a key and is operating in this huge crazy cool town. There's a girl he'd rather not meet and some guys who wish him ill and that's all that I've managed to piece together yet but I'm already completely charmed. From what I've been able to gather through doing absolutely no research, some of King City has already appeared elsewhere but this series will mark its first complete run and that's terrific for one reason: it will be coming out very regularly if the publishing spirits are kind. Oh Typesetules, oh Shipontime, hear my plea! Do right by me!

The Red Circle: The Shield One-Shot

Okay! Thus concludes the introduction of the Archie Comics heroes to the DC Universe! Kind of!

I was waiting for all four issues to come out before commenting on this, because sometimes when I don’t wait I end up making an idiot out of myself (for instance, when I asserted that the killy Batman in Battle for the Cowl couldn’t be Jason Todd because hey, there’s a new Red Robin series coming up!). Now that it’s done, though… for a series with the avowed purpose of introducing characters to a universe, there was surprisingly little in the way of interaction with that universe in the course of the various issues. Like, none. No JLA fighting Starro on the teevee, no Web running into the Manhattan Guardian in one panel on page 10, nothing. There’s a guy in this issue who mentions how all the American super-heroes should join the Army, but he names no names. Now, this is probably a purposeful attempt to settle the characters into their own interconnected portion of the DCU before having the JSA stop in for a guest appearance, but dropping a few names now and again might have been nice. Ah well, looks like there’ll be a couple of ongoing series, so we shall see how this plays out in them, I guess.

As for the issue, well, it was just fine. The Shield is hardly the most distinct of super-heroes, despite his long pedigree. Generic superpowers, patriotic theme, war casualty-rebuilt-as-supersoldier? Check check check. The potentially interesting part of this iteration of the character is going to be the fact that he’s working directly for the Army, which is usually a role for psychotic assholes, though I have absolutely no idea how it’ll be handled here. The character was sympathetic and interesting for the first three or four pages, until he got blown up. After that, and well into his transformation into the Shield, he got a bit emotionally flat. Wait and see, I suppose.

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen Special No. 2 - Pretty meh, I gotta say. The whole ‘massive military conspiracy’ plot that has been running through the Superman family of books has been in a holding pattern for a while now, and though this issue and the ones featuring the ugly-ass half ‘n half characters on the front seem to be designed to get the whole thing rolling again I may have lost a bit too much interest to care. At least there’s a wee little Odd Man shout-out, and on a week that saw me thinking about him, for some reason! Oh this madcap life of mine!

Superman No. 691 - As I said, it looks like they’re starting to ramp up this conspiracy storyline. Is anyone else being reminded more and more of Legends the longer this goes on? If they manage to work Brimstone into the plot somehow then I will regain interest a lot more quickly, as gigantic fiery wrestlers are just neat. Wait, does Death of the New Gods mean no more Brimstone ever again? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Flash: Rebirth No. 4 - I was pretty enthusiastic about this series and then I got less so and then I was positively grumpy about the whole thing. Now? I guess I’m okay with it. It doesn’t look like Johns is going to kill Max Mercury, and I can get behind that, but he hasn’t yet made a good enough case for Barry actually needing to be back. I was actually kind of hoping that he’d go back into the Speed Force at the end of Final Crisis, as it would have been quite tantalizing and fun to have him appear only in times of great peril, like a fast red Phantom Stranger. You could stretch out the explanation of why it was happening for years!

Batwoman in Detective Comics No. 856 -  Dang, yo. This is another of those quality Batman-related comics that I was talking about earlier. So nice-looking, such a high level of villainous craziness. Plus: an octopus man!

The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson No. 2 (of 4) - Gosh, is that a long title. Ah, but it's for a good cause, with lots of Beaker-abuse, rat abuse and general battering of felt to delight the senses. The various mysteries that are the theme of this miniseries are providing me with much joy.

Sherlock Holmes No. 4 - My brain feels a bit pummeled, as I'm not at home right now and so can't refer to the previous issues but can't escape the feeling that I should be able to figure at least part of the mystery out. Gah! Ah well, it's still a damn fine comic. Tune in next month to see if I figure it out before Leah Moore tells me whodunit.

The Unknown No. 4 (of 4) - I was all set to grump about how the mysteries of life and death hadn't been solved and how there'd better be more of this series and then the ding dong dang house ad at the back just shut me right up. Guess I'll just hold my tongue until next month, won't I?

Green Lantern No. 45 - Lots of great Corps vs Corps fun here: Sinestro Corps vs Star Sapphires! Red lanterns vs Green Lanterns! Blue vs Orange! Everybody vs the Black Lanterns!

ZOMBIE WATCH: Pariah, Planet Xanshi, Loads of dead Sinestro Corpsers, Qwardians and (hooray!) all of Larfleeze's victims.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink No. 4 (of 6) - This series was my least favourite of the four, butt I do believe that it's growing on me. I honestly hope that yon Tattooed Man makes it through with his life, tattoos and newfound heroism intact. Man, though, the characters in this have some terrible names. Not birth names, the kind you choose for yourselves. Twisttedd? Crim$o? Phat Diamond? G-Filter? SYNcK? Is it because they're all in gangs? Do gang folk not know how to name themselves well?

Wednesday Comics No. 8 - With four left to go, a quick rundown: Metamorpho, Strange Adventures, Supergirl, Deadman, Flash and Kamandi: going strong the whole time. Sgt Rock, Metal Men, Demon/Catwoman, Batman and Green Lantern have been perfectly serviceable. Teen Titans has gotten much better, possibly due to some art tweaking and possibly because it took a while to get up to speed. Wonder Woman has also gotten better but is still very very tough to read (but featured a really neato version of Etta Candy). I grossly underestimated Hawkman, it turns out, though elaborate joke or not, that first comic is still kind of painful. And Superman... I reckon that the only hope for this comic is for the next four installments to be one long alien-wrassli' exhibition, and that is way unlikely.

Batman: the Widening Gyre No. 1 (of 6) - I've never read any of Kevin Smith's comic work, did you know that? Most of it came out while I was in my poor times, when I would basically buy Astro City and one or two other titles and then eat crackers for supper. And I'm addicted to Batman comics, too. So I ignored the mockery of my blogmates and that of the dog that they had gotten from somewhere and bought this. And it ain't bad, really. It's too late for me to really articulate things, so I'll subject it to the ol' SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGMENT treatment later. Oh, but K. Smith is going on the big list of People Who Can't Write the Demon's Rhymespeak. Because he can't. The rhythm is all wrong and there are too many near-rhymes.

Anyway: good night all.

The Something Something John Buys Comics

I've shuffled the comics and fed the cat and now it's time to revieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwww!

Detective Comics No. 854

WHOOOEEE! Good goddam! This, my friends, is a pretty, pretty comic.

JH Williams is the arteest on this one and has just destroyed it. The art style shifts to reflect mood and tone! The panel layout is astonishing (and enough too make my poor rectangular-marquee-using panel sampler's heart cringe with sympathy for the mento-bloggers of the future)! Batwoman's outfit actually looks like black leather, rather than a thin sheen of body paint! Actually, all of the clothing looks pretty darned good.

On top of this, Dave Stewart, the World's Greatest Colorist, is on the job. If you've been reading DC comics at all this month then you've probably seen the preview for this book. Well, it continues in that incredibly vibrant vein. Woo Dave!

Meanwhile, the story. Basically, it boils down to the Church of Crime setting up shop in Gotham again and Batwoman wanting this not to happen. You know, because they stabbed her in the heart that one time. The Crime religion is something that could have some legs, I reckon - this might end up being a pretty damn good run. But even if it isn't, even if this story ends up going nowhere... I can maybe forgive that if it keeps looking this good. Anyway, the dialogue is decent and they don't avoid the fact that Batwoman is a lesbian, so I shall wait and see with my trademark optimism.

ALSO: there's a Question backup to this tale, featuring Renee Montoya taking a missing persons case via her website (which is also the Web's shtick... that's two similarly themed comics on the shelves in August again, DC. This is a weird pattern).Looks like it's shaping up to be a decent detective tale with good art by Cully Hammer, but I'm going to have to pass on going into specifics while still under the lead story's influence. These two-featured books are making me happy so far - now to wait impatiently for the Doom Patrol/Metal Men book to come out.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink No. 2

You know, I'm still not too sure what to think about this comic. It's a decent book, sure, but it just doesn't have the high-concept trappings of Escape or the intriguing subject matter of Run or Dance. Super-villain turned super-hero attempts to remain heroic in the face of adversity, that's not a bad theme, just not a new theme. Still, the Tattooed Man was always an interesting if slightly goofy villain and it was nice to see his newest incarnation get some time in the sun in Final Crisis. Hopefully this series puts him in something like a good position at the end and doesn't just turn him back into a cheap and/or rage-filled villain again, like my John-sense is warning might happen.

Good thing there are lots of interesting uses of the tattoo superpower to keep me interested. Bat-winged skull ahoy!

The Actress and the Bishop No. 1

I bought this one one a whim, I must admit. How could I pass up that title, huh? How?

The Actress and the Bishop live in domestic bliss in a wee house in a British suburb or small town, stock characters from a dozen jokes brought to life and drawn real nice.

I mean, really, really nice. Brian Bolland did both the art and the writing on this, and he has produced some damn fine black and white pictures. The whole thing reminds me strongly of the Italian comics that I have read like Dylan Dog or... okay, mostly Dylan Dog. We need more translations of Italian comics. Back on track: as in these Italian comics of which I speak, Bolland has drawn this thing with a lot of clean, precise, beautiful art, lovingly detailed (check out the neato illustrations on the Bishop's robes) and inked. Be warned, prudish-at-heart: the "MATURE READERS" tag on the front is code for "there are some boobies".

As for plot, well, there isn't really one. As I said, the Actress and the Bishop are stock characters living in a house, so this is one of my favourite set-ups: a strange situation with no explanation and no apologies, just further strangeness. The A and the B take a trip, throw a party and have something living in their shed - no origin story necessary. AND: the whole thing's told in rhyme! Pretty decent rhyme, too, though I reckon that I say a few words with a different number of syllables than Brian Bolland does. Curse you, regional differences in the English language!

(UPDATE: I guess that this is collecting appearances of the Actress and the bishop from other places. I felt that I should mention that, in case rabid A&B fans got mad at me after buying it for more A&B action and found none)

Superman No. 689

Hot damn! now this is the sort of thing that I've been talking about! I don't know if there's some sort of editorial mandate to show off more of the super-human--infested world over at DC but they've been doing a decent job of it for the past month or so. And in this issue things get crazy, as Mon-El, newly interested in the joys of life and the pleasure to be found in experiencing new things, takes a trip around the world, encountering old favourites like the Rocket Reds, Freedom Beast and Rising Sun as well as a wide selection of (as far as I know) new international characters including a super-cool German paranormal detective type named Will von Hammer (!!!) and a disturbing new Blockbuster. Seriously, James Robinson could write a monthly series consisting entirely of one-page super-hero vignettes. Especially if he had the same art team. But Blockkbuster should not wear Daisy Dukes.

Good lord I hope that some of these characters/concepts get expanded upon in the future and not just trotted out as cannon fodder during the next crossover. DC! I will buy The Very German Mysteries of Will von Hammer! For real!

Gotham Sirens No. 1

Cue mixed feelings.

I have no idea whether Birds of Prey was cancelled in order to make room for this book. I hope not, because they could have played off of one another in interesting ways, as the good and the bad-ish ladies of the DCU went about their business. I'm also not sure whether this book is supposed to sell based on T&A potential, but that doesn't seem to be its mission statement, cover aside. Am I conveying my problem here? I want to be cynical about this comic, especially given its kind-of-lousy name, but none of my snark seems to be panning out. The basic idea behind the story - Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy teaming up in the face of the dangerous times going on in Gotham - is sound enough to pass, given the characters' history. Hell, they even bothered to set it up during Battle for the Cowl.

So I can't find anything ideologically wrong with Gotham City Sirens, so what? What's up with the contents? Well, they're not bad, not bad at all. Paul Dini and Guillem March team up to write and draw these characters with a good deal of individuality - Ivy is cold and slightly inhuman, Harley is goofy and slightly insane, etc. There are lots of good facial expressions (particularly on Harley and chump-super-villain-of-the-issue Boneblaster), plenty of nice kinetic fight scenes and yadda and yadda and yadda. The colour ain't up to Dave Stewart levels, but it looks real pretty.

You know what the trouble with this issue is? It's a set-up issue. It's concerned with getting the characters to the physical and interpersonal places that they need to be for the rest of the series to play out. So while the lameo title and cheesecake cover and the vein of cynicism that runs through my tiny heart say that there is way too much potential for terribleness here to give it a pass, the characterization and potential for nutty fun and the inventiveness that's been shown so far swing me back the other way. I'm afraid that I'm going to have to reserve judgement for now. Check with me after Issue 2.

The Last Days of Animal Man No. 2 (of 6) - You know what's really nice? The occasional tale set in a non-apocalyptic future. Here's Animal Man, some time in the future, and there hasn't been a giant war or a plague or a zombie uprising. Time has continued to pass and things have changed somewhat, as is the nature of comics (blue whale Green Lantern is possibly the best idea of the week. Okay, tied with Will von Hammer), but being set in the future has not been taken as license to destroy the world to a level just below that of the average issue of What If? or Elseworld featuring the Justice League. Good show, guys. May this book continue to be a good time for the next four issues.

Buck Rogers No. 1 - This looks like it could be a very good time. We shall see how the old "stranger in a strange land" scenario pans out over the next few issues as Buck figures out a) that he is in the future and b) that this is an opportunity to kick a lot of ass. Features a cybernetic bear and an air force man too dumb to wait until a plane lands to try to commandeer it.

Viking No. 2 - Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein have put together another incredible comic here. Amazing and atypical art and colouring, crazy-good and definitely not comics-norm story... This is fast becoming one of my go-to comics for giving people who claim not to be into comics. Man, and the final page on this one is incredible. I don't often lust after original art, but... damn.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold No. 6 - Batman plus Kid Eternity! Plus - thanks to the Kid's powers - Vigilante and Shining Knight and Viking Prince and GI Robot! Versus General Immortus! This series is doing a great job of capturing some of the down-home good times of the cartoon, including the great dumb jokes and the very loose adherence to DC continuity in favour of reinterpreting characters as necessary to tell a better story. Good show!

Rapture No. 2 - The post-apocalyptic fun continues! Our heroes, Evelyn and Gil, are struggling to survive in a world that has been devastated and subsequently abandoned by its super-heroes. Evelyn seems to be becoming some sort of devine avenger type, righting wrongs and fighting cannibals. Gil plays his guitar. Featuring! A very amusing old man named Old Man! This series looks like it's going to be a good time, as superheroics in the rubble so often is.