Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

things comickal

-- things comickal -- recently read, drives us bats edition

Hey, I'm not the one who decided to release 6,789 Batman-related titles every week through the end of time. Anyway, let's try for a few quick(ish) hits on some of last week's singles, shall we? Let's shall.


Azrael 13 (David Hine/Guillem March; DC)

Quite honestly, it's impossible to talk about this issue without giving away major points, so I'll just do it up top. In this issue, we sail from the gnostic gospels straight into Dan Brown territory.

Yes, that's right; we're talking about the descendants of Jesus.

But before we get to that point, we get to bounce back and forth between Michael and Father Day recovering the Shroud of Turin and trying fruitlessly to escape the chapel -- or, really, not actually trying to escape, but angsting about lots of things -- and the Crusader flaying Father Grieve. Which he manages to survive. There's a lovely scene where Father Grieve, muscles and viscera exposed, carries his skin to Michael and Father Day to tell them exactly what's going on and who the suit of sorrows is really meant for.

Honestly, I think this story might work better when it's collected, and you can just immerse yourself in it and go from wire to wire without coming up for air. Although, that said, this story has veered so spectacularly from the early arcs to this that it feels like it's dealing with different characters altogether. Part of that, of course, is the fact that the suit of sorrows is driving Michael messily mad. But there are certainly threads that were discarded; the Ra's al-Ghul/Talia storyline, where Michael was told he would need to go to them to find out the truth of the suit of sorrows, has disappeared entirely, and might not fit the story as it is now. He seems utterly disconnected from anything remotely resembling sane humans. And the story is effectively depicting all Christians, especially Catholics, as dupes of the Church. To be sure, Protestants are merely clueless; Catholics are being actively deceived.

It is a weirdly engrossing story. I think, at this stage, I keep reading to see just how much farther off the rails this story can go, and every issue it keeps leaping even further away. And March's art is actually keeping up with the weird.

Impossible to recommend or qualify, but utterly fascinating, in a train wreck sort of way.

Batman and Robin 15 (Morrison/Irving; DC): In which Dick gets shot in the head to remarkably little immediate effect, the Joker turns out not to be entirely on the side of evil, Damian rescues Commissioner Gordon from Pyg, and we find out more about Doctor Hurt. This issue, in fact, dovetails really beautifully with issue 5 of "The Return of Bruce Wayne". Irving's art is, as usual, spectacular, and well-fitted to Morrison's storytelling.
Excellent; Highly recommended.

Bruce Wayne, The Road Home: Commissioner Gordon (Adam Beechen/Szymon Kudranski; DC): Honestly, alone of the "Road Home" stories so far, this one is kind of awesome. Principally because this is the first issue in which Bruce isn't testing someone; he comes in the middle of a crisis and helps out, only to discover that Gordon has more or less got it covered. The Vicki Vale thread continues, and actually makes absolutely no sense this time through, mostly because it isn't quite about her. It's about Ra's al-Ghul using her for ... something. Offscreen, he lets the underworld know that Vicki has information revealing the secret identities of the Bat clan, basically setting off a free-for-all as everyone tries to get hold of her to get the information out of her. It's not at all clear why he does this; after all, he knows Bruce's secret identity. And causing chaos for chaos' sake isn't really his style. Regardless, this issue is more about showing why Commissioner Gordon makes such a good partner for Batman, and making Bruce realize it. (And also demonstrating that the corruption of the Gotham PD will never ever ever be gone.) Kudranski's art is interestingly dark and textured, and a great match for Beechen's story. It's apparently a hard lead into the Oracle "Road Home" story, which, given that she already knows that Bruce is home and is the Insider, should be a very different story than the other Road Home titles. This one, however, is the only one that really does stand alone, even meant as a lead in. If you want to see something that shows you the core of the Bruce/Gordon relationship, this is a good title for that.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Batman Beyond 5 (Beechen/Ryan Benjamin/John Stanisci; DC)
In which we find out who it was that attacked Terry, the new Catwoman helps Bruce save him, and we discover that Amanda Waller has, sadly, gone brilliantly batshit insane. She has decided that Gotham should always have a Batman -- more importanly, I suspect, a Batman under Cadmus/her control. And the steps she's taken resulted in a murderous lunatic running around Gotham. Oh, and Bruce accidentally admits something important to Terry. This isn't a bad story, exactly ... but I think we got Beechen at his best in the above Commissioner Gordon story, and at somewhat less than his best in this story. In particular, the idea that Amanda Waller, of all people, would decide that Gotham needs her to make it a Batman is just bizarre.
OK; No recommendation because it's the fifth issue of a six-issue arc.

Power Girl 17 (Winick/Basri; DC)
The first issue of the current arc that hasn't felt like it should have a "Brightest Day" banner on it, instead we get ... Batman. Seriously, people, he's everywhere this month. Any road, the villain of the piece, whom we've known about for a while, finally makes an appearance. Bats and PG's new sidekick, Nicco Cho, help her figure out where to find said villain, although not who it is. I hope the revelation of the villain to PG means that we're near the end of this arc; with all the crossovers, it's felt like it's gone on forever. That said, while taking a more serious approach overall, Winick has managed to sustain much of the humor that Palmiotti and Gray put into the character; the one major difference is that whereas Palmiotti and Gray let her enjoy her life and enjoy being a superhero, Winick hasn't let PG enjoy much of anything at all, as all aspects of her life have fallen apart. In terms of the art, Basri manages something really interesting this month; the bulk of the issue looks much like the last one, but somehow Batman looks as though he's come in to visit from a Fraser Irving issue of Batman and Robin. He really looks very different from anything else in the issue, somehow.
Very good; Recommended.

(Purely a side note: Is it wrong that right now, I kind of want a new issue of "The Network" that focuses on some big conspiracy that can only be uncovered by the technosidekicks of the DCU? There's wossername that Barbara sent to handle the Web's tech, there's Proxy who handles Batgirl when Barbara's not available, Barbara is the only person who works with the Birds, and now we've got Nicco and PG. If you could figure out how to make it work, it would be kind of awesome. Though maybe it should be a big one-shot/annual type deal.)

Knight and Squire 1 of 6 (Paul Cornell/Jimmy Broxton; DC)
In wihch THEY ARE BRITISH. THEY ARE VERY VERY BRITISH. OH, THEY ARE SO BRITISH ... Sorry for the shouting, but half the issue is dedicated to establishing the setting and how very different the British do things than the Americans do, and not a lot else. If you didn't see the earlier issues of Morrison's Batman run in which Knight and Squire appeared, you don't actually know much more about them at the end of the issue than you did at the beginning. But you do know that the British superheroes and supervillains handle themselves very differently than the American ones. Even the ones who patterned themselves after American heroes and villains. Because they're British. Thing is, if this had been the first issue of a full ongoing series, it might not be a bad start. As the beginning of a miniseries ... it seems rather a waste of space, really.
No recommendation, because this was an utterly pointless issue to start off a miniseries.

And now, a musical reward for having survived to the end of this entry:

Because Neil Patrick Harris makes everything better, doesn't he?

Questions? Comments? Batarangs?

Posted by iain at 12:23 AM in category things comickal