Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

things comickal

-- things comickal -- recently read, batastrophic edition 2: return of the batastrophe

In which we get to see what happens when you tie one big event to another big event, and the last two issues of the first big event ship late.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 (Grant Morrison/Ryan Sook, Pere PĂ©rez, Mick Gray, Jose Villarubia; DC): In which Bruce finds himself in Gotham shortly after his parents' death. Of course, having no memory of himself, he doesn't know anything about that. He winds up getting shot, winds up in the hospital, and thence winds up working for Marsha Lamarr, a friend of his mother's. Marsha seems to want him to prove that Thomas is still alive and that he had Martha murdered. Of course, this being Gotham, nothing is quite what it seems to be. Through her, we see some of the connections to Dr Hurt and several other characters and storylines. (And, somewhat incidentally, it helped me figure out how the Kanes and Waynes were connected, and where Kate Kane falls in relation to Bruce. But I digress.) The style of the main story is hard boiled noir, dames and double-crosses galore. Bruce, despite having no memory and getting more and more suspicious of what he's being asked to do, fits into the role of noir detective like a hand in a glove. Fitted into that are flashes forward to the present, with Tim/Red Robin and the Justice League trying to figure out how to stop Bruce, especially since Superman, Green Lantern, and the others sent to stop Bruce seem to have gotten lost in time. ("Time Masters", an allegedly related miniseries, has become almost completely disconnected from this story, and I suspect has been so spectacularly delayed that it wouldn't matter if it got back on track anyway.) And at the end of the story, almost all of the connections stand revealed. Almost. The artwork is pretty much perfect for the story it's helping to tell, stylish and stylized just enough.
Good; Recommended -- Surprisingly enough, if you haven't read any other issues of The Return, this one almost stands alone. It wouldn't be difficult to piece together the shape of what's going on, although you'd be missing a few (dozen) details.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home (DC)
- Batman and Robin (Fabian Nicieza/Cliff Richards)
- Red Robin (Fabian Nicieza/Ramon Bachs/John Lucas)
- Batgirl (Bryan Q. Miller/Pere Perez)
- Outsiders (Mike W. Barr/Javier Saltares/ Rebecca Buchman)

Reviewed in a lump because they're all sequenced and ... honestly, there's nothing that special about them.

The idea is that Bruce, using an incredibly zippy high-tech suit that gives him functional invisibility, super speed and a few other tricks, tests the various members of his Bat-family now that he's returned and all of the traps that Darkseid left behind have been defanged. (Thus blowing the end of "The Return of Bruce Wayne", which won't ship until next month, at best.) He uses methods and techniques tailored to each of the people. Having seen that everyone somehow managed without him, he concocts a plan for how to proceed, while still apparently leaving everyone doing what they clearly do well. (Batman, Inc., anyone?)

It starts with Batman and Robin, in which Dick and Damian, among other things, prevent the assassination of the mayor of Gotham by Killshot and/or the Order of Spiders. Vicki Vale also continues her investigation into the lives of Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Tim, et al. (I will point out that this investigation into Batman, Robin, Tim and who could be whom has been singularly unexplained and unmotivated; she seems to be doing it because she's obsessed, and for no other real reason.)

The story continues in Red Robin, in which Tim is trying to figure out why the order of the Spider is trying to assassinate various mayors and heads of state. (Mostly succeeding, too.) In the meantime, Vicki Vale finds out the truth behind her investigations, and doesn't know what to do with it. (Alfred does get an absolutely priceless line: "We thought he was [dead], but he's better now.") In "Outsiders", Bruce -- somewhat incidentally -- helps the Outsiders prevent an unrelated assassination of a head of state. In "Batgirl", Bruce does nothing but test Stephanie -- that said, Barbara has a perfectly awesome moment with Vicki Vale. There is a thoroughly puzzling conversation between Bruce and Alfred about Cassandra Cain -- a conversation that makes me wonder if she may reappear later as a different member of the Batfamily.

As mentioned, there's nothing particularly special about these titles. Bruce is testing everyone to see if the Batman Inc. concept is going to work, or if he'll need to put things back the way they were. The other throughline is Vicki Vale's nonsensical investigation; I assume it's going to have something to do with something at some point. The artwork runs the gamut from stellar (Richards in "Batman and Robin") to very good ("Batgirl" and "Outsiders") to barely serviceable (Bachs in "Red Robin" -- his Vicki Vale is particularly cartoonish). Moreover, Vicki Vale in particular has an oddly wide variance in how she looks from title to title. Granting that different artists do things in different ways, she ought to be easily identifiable from title to title, especially with four appearances in the same week.

OK. No recommendation. I suspect it may wind up being necessary to understand Batman Inc, when it appears, but other than that: meh.

Massive Awesome (Stephen Lindsay/Rolf Lejdegard; 215 Ink)

In which a sentient piece of bacon and a sentient pickle (that thinks he's a zombie, but really isn't) are members of a military task force. Or ... were. Turns out that they've been forced to retire, because they were "loose cannons". (Well, Bacon was. Pickle was, you know, being zombie-like and somehow got himself arrested, but don't ask how or why.) And just when it looks like Bacon and Pickle might settle into retirement, they're attacked by an Evil Person and his pet ninja ... creatures.

I honestly cannot describe the purely fantastic lunacy of this title. Fighting Bacon! Fighting neo-zombie Pickle that really isn't a zombie! Humans who think this state of affairs is perfectly normal! Ninja ... things that attack in broad daylight in downtown Hollywood! This is not the sort of comic you read when you want your normal superhero epic. Not your average ordinary story. This is the sort of thing you read when you just want to sit back and enjoy the heights of true absurdity.

It also has a backup "Jesus Hates Zombies" story, which would, all by itself, be enough to sell me on the issue.

Highly recommended. I'm not sure a quality ranking would really apply here, somehow. I mean, seriously: a world with talking sentient food. How does Bacon take it when people eat nonsentient bacon in front of him, one wonders? I think I hope I get to find out.

I think.

Questions? Comments? Cigars, cigarettes, Cigarillos?

Posted by iain at 01:19 AM in category things comickal