Thursday, June 08, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: June 7th

Batman #24 (DC Comics) This is a kind-of-a-big-deal issue, of the sort that gets announced ahead of publication in a mainstream media outlet because of the way it promises/threatens to alter the basic status quo of a household name hero. It's probably a bigger deal than "The Button" storyline, if we're being honest, depending on what Catwoman says. Oh, haven't you heard? If not, allow me to spoil the cliffhanger ending of this issue in the next paragraph.

Batman unmasks, gets down on one knee and proposes to Catwoman for some reason.

I suppose the "for some reason" sounds flippant, and, in truth, writer Tom King has been plotting a rather a well-thought out, long-term arc for his characters. This issue, entitled "Every Epilogue is a Prelude," features a now totally cured Gotham Girl from having a long, somewhat philosophical conversation with Batman about what to do with her life; Gotham Girl and her brother were introduced in King's very first issue of the series, which despite a few crossovers ("Night of The Monster Men," the aforementioned "Button") has been basically one long story arc, or arc of arcs, really. That's some impressive plotting, really, and some impressive commitment from a publisher in this era of constant relaunches and creative team shuffles.

Nevertheless, even though King has previously introduced Catwoman as pretty important to Batman, particularly in "I Am Suicide" and "I Am Bane," and even though this issue contains a few cute call-backs to earlier stories--their nicknames for one another, their argument over which meeting from which continuity is the real time they first met--this can't help but feel like out-of-left-field. Aside from an unexpected appearance in All-Star Batman's "Ends of The Earth" arc, and, I don't know, maybe their alliance in Forever Evil, this Batman and this Catwoman haven't really spent all that much time together, and certainly not as allies of any kind. It wasn't so long ago that she had set herself up as the new Queenpin of Crime in Gotham City, following the events of Batman Eternal, and told Batman to blow. As I feel like I'm saying pretty much constantly these days, this is a story that would have played far better without the Flashpoint reboot than it would in the new, five-and-a-half-year-old continuity.

Just prior to Flashpoint, for example, Grant Morrison had Batman pretty much working side-by-side with Catwoman on some Batman Inc business, and there was a definite arc to their history, with her being more-or-less a good guy from the '90s on (or, in the post-Crisis continuity, most of her career, really). The shortened timeline can't help but make everything seem like less of a big deal these days.

I mean, maybe they should at least date first? Other than their creepy, masked, anonymous banging in 2011's Catwoman #1, the pair don't really seem to have anything approaching a relationship, whereas at least prior to Flashpoint, they had an on-again, off-again kind of thing (Perhaps King will fill in the blanks in the upcoming "War of Jokes and Riddles" storyline, which I believe is meant to be set in a "Year One"-like past).

Anyway, it is enough of an occasion that DC got some press coverage. This would have been a great time to break out a big gun in terms of the art, like, say, moving Tim Sale from just doing variant covers to interiors for a single issue (Sale would be a particularly good choice for the story given his history with both characters; and his "Date Knight" collaboration with Darwyn Cooke from Solo, which was collected in Tales of The Batman: Tim Sale, is a pretty perfect distillation of the pair's relationship). But no, DC here relies on David Finch and Danny Miki, for the Catwoman pages, and the far better Clay Mann with Seth Mann for the Gotham Girl pages.

It's not Finch's worst work, and, in truth, splitting the art chores up between the two, alternating scenes helped tremendously, but it just seems like kind of a missed opportunity to downplay the role of the artist in a comic book primed to get more attention than the usual issue Finch only draws 30 panels in the whole issue; they might as well have had the Manns do the whole issue.

As for the script, King does a pretty great job of examining the character of Batman, and Gotham Girl/Claire is actually a really good person for him to have this discussion with, as she's such a new character, and thus can realistically approach him from a different direction, being convincing as an outside voice.

As like much of King's run to date, then, this is a good Batman comic that could have been much better, another chunk in what is shaping up to be a pretty great run, the main drawback of which has been inconsistent and occasionally quite poor artwork.

DC Comics Bombshells #28 (DC) Writer Marguerite Bennett has greater faith in my memory than it warrants, as this issue picks up on plot points as far back as 20 issues ago, points that haven't been revisited since. I can forgive that, as it is not Bennett's fault that I am apparently now so old that my mind can no longer store comics trivia as it used to (and I guess I could always just go back and re-read those issues), but I will throw a pair of yellow flags on the introduction of Doctor October into the Bombshells-iverse. First, Doctor October is a character Bennett herself just created (or co-created) a few months back in the issue of Detective Comics she co-wrote with James Tynion, setting up Batwoman and seems wildly out-of-place among the Bombshells based on that new-ness (I mean, she appeared at the exact same time that Power Girl did, and PG's got decades on October). Secondly, as I was just reminded upon googling "Doctor October," short-lived Dark Horse heroine The Ghost fought a villain named Doctor October, and that Doctor October had a much cooler costume.

DC/Looney Tunes 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 (DC) Despite the cover's using Superman & Bugs Bunny, the title of the four-issue miniseries from 2000, the fine print says this is actually DC/Looney Tunes. "JLA/Looney Tunes" would be a better title than either, more accurately describing the characters involved. Anyway, this is the "Super Spectacular" collection of the original miniseries by Mark Evanier, Joe Staton, Tom Palmer and others, meaning it is a comic book with a spine, but also has ads. Think of it as a hybrid between a comic book and a trade collection. I only read the first three issues from back-issue bins, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this all ends. Happily, I imagine.

Once I've read it, I'll discuss it at greater length later...and likely elsewehre.

Nightwing #22 (DC) The big event of this issue, the first part of a new story arc by the returning writer Tim Seeley (who took last issue off) and artists Miguel Mendonca and Vicente Cifuentes, was when Dick Grayson discusses with his girlfriend and friends whether or not he should bother showing up for a job interview as what I guess is a longshoremen? Lifting crates at a dock, that's what longshoremen do, right? No offense to longshoremen, but that seems an...odd career choice for the twenty-something heir to the Wayne billions, whose past jobs include secret agent, circus performer and circus manager. When Stallion mentions there being an opening as a bartender, even that seems like a better prospect for Dick Grayson, as he's good-looking and personable, and, if the bar is seedy enough, it seems like it would help Dick get intel he could use in his crime-fighting persona.

The actual thrust of the issue, however, is setting up a crime war between Tiger Shark, a smuggler introduced in Scott Snyder's short-but-great pre-Flashpoint run on Detective Comics (back when Dick Grayson was still Batman) and Blockbuster, the villain that original Nightwing writer Chuck Dixon used as the Kingpin to Nightwing's Daredevil. There is a twist in this particular Blockbuster though, which I suppose is just as well, as it will spare me trying to remember if Blockbuster has shown up at all in the post-Flashpoint DCU, where and if he was smart or dumb (Originally, the character was, Hulk-dumb, until the events of Underworld Unleashed, wherein Neron gave him a genius intellect to pair his new brains with his brawn).

Please note that the dog, featured prominently on the cover, does not actually appear at all in the comic book's interior, so if you buy the book simply because of that dog on the cover, you will be disappointed.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch Vol. 1 (Archie Comics) This 500+-page black-and-white digest covers the complete first decades of Sabrina's comics career, from 1962 to 1972. The table of contents credit five writers and 19 artists, but there's going to be a whole lot of Dan DeCarlo in here, and $9.99 is a great price point for a whole lot of Dan DeCarlo art. I haven't yet had time to read any further than the table of contents, so I'm just including this here to meet the rules of the feature I've set up for myself.

Superman #24 (DC) Sigh...

Is this Manchseter Black the one from Superman's new, post-"Superman Reborn" continuity--i.e. the original continuity, over-writing the old new continuity--or is this the new Manchester Black who showed up in, like, Teen Titans or The Ravagers or some other New 52 comic I didn't read? Did Superman's villains all get their continuities rejiggered along with Superman?

So confused...

This issue mainly explains how Manchester Black got his new Super Elite, and why and how they set-up shop in Hamilton County to screw with Jon's head. Not much goes on, aside from that. I really liked panel two on page 17 though. Five characters, a line apiece, pretty great on-the-fly characterization of at least three of them and even their relationships with one another.

I love both Patrick Gleason's and Doug Mahnke's pencils, and think their styles at least close enough aesthetically that they can trade story arcs back and forth okay, but they don't look quite right sharing the same issue, and trading scenes back and forth like this though.

Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor #1 (DC) I actually laughed when I first saw this, as it seemed ironic to me that the first Wednesday after the very, very good opening weekend that the Wonder Woman movie had, DC would publish a comic book focused not on Wonder Woman, but the man in her life.

Sure, her name comes first, she's on the cover, and she does appear in scenes book-ending the main story--cheekily referred to in the credits box as "Wonder Woman's Boyfriend Steve Trevor In: The River of Lost Years"--but this is mainly a Steve Trevor story. Although, like the majority of Lois Lane stories, it's really about how Steve is a prism through which the reader sees a view of his super-powered significant other (Oh, I guess Wonder Woman and Steve are an item again, now that DC rebooted Superman's continuity, which would have had the domino effect of knocking his relationship with Diana out of continuity...?).

In actuality, the main point of this issue--by writer Tim Seeley and artist Christian Duce--is to bring the other people standing around in that photo from the movie into DCU continuity. While Duce's drawings of them don't look much of anything like the actors who played them in the movie, Seeley introduces shaky Sniper Charlie, linguist/con man. actor Sameer and weapons expert The Chief into the comics, here as a rag tag group that Trevor occasionally works with in off-the-books adventures (Diana doesn't know of them at all). I assume this sets some kind of record for how fast characters make it from a media adaptation into the DCU proper, right?

I mean, King Tut, Marvin and Wendy, Chloe Sullivan, John Diggle, Jeremiah the past it has taken anywhere from decades to years to months to show up in the comics, but these guys make it into the DCU in mere days!

The comic is fine. Trevor's friends get into trouble with a mission that reminds him enough of his discovery of Themyscira to let Seeley explore a deep, usually hidden sadness in Trevor, and he goes to bail them out in time, making it back to Diana in time for a date. It's nothing sensational, but it's certainly decent enough. I liked the introduction of the Crimson Men, "a doomsday militia who believe the world will perish under blood red skies." I mean, statistically speaking, whenever their world/universe/reality is near ending, the skies do indeed turn some shade of Crisis On Infinite Earths red...

1 comment:

Jer said...

this is a story that would have played far better without the Flashpoint reboot than it would in the new, five-and-a-half-year-old continuity.

I actually think that the Batman office has given up on the idea that there is any "new 52" continuity. The hypertimeline has reverted, even if it's not been explicit about it.

Because it's all Hypertime. It is ALWAYS Hypertime. It's the one explanation that consistently works because it's a descriptive explanation based on how DC comics are actually written and not an artificial set of rules trying to force order onto the inherently chaotic nature of the DC Universe.

To be honest - the New 52 continuity failed to work almost right out of the gate anyway. The stories in Justice League didn't make any sense for relatively new superheroes after the first origin story arc - they make for better stories if you read them as a team with a longer history. Especially the Forever Evil nonsense which only really makes any sense at all if Earth-3 and the Crime Syndicate are existing threats. Johns mostly ignored the New 52 reboot through the end of his Green Lantern run, and Snyder's Batman pretty much works as an extension of what he was doing pre-Flashpoint as well. (Snyder does a better job of slotting things into the new continuity than Johns does - you can kind of tell from early on that the linewide reboot was not Geoff Johns's baby and he wasn't all that interested in doing more than he had to to work with it. Much like Morrison who pretty obviously didn't want to deal with it on Batman Incorporated).

in the past it has taken anywhere from decades to years to months to show up in the comics, but these guys make it into the DCU in mere days!

You can tell that "other media" is driving the bus these days at both DC and Marvel. Which isn't always a bad thing - a lot of the stuff going on in "other media" is better than what either of them is doing in the comics.