Thursday, June 08, 2017
Comic Shop Comics: June 7th
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.
Once I've read it, I'll discuss it at greater length later...and likely elsewehre.
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 dumb...like, 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.
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?
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.
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 Danvers...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!
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...