Wednesday, November 24, 2010
recently read, indie bat edition
A two-week catch-up in which I regain the teensiest bit of indie cred whilst still wallowing among all things Bat. (Seriously. There were, like, 75 Bat titles came out the last two weeks.)
Red Robin 17 (Fabian Nicieza/Marcus To/Ray McCarthy; DC): Well, DC can't have meant this to be the first title out of the gate to bear the Batman Inc. logo, but it doesn't hugely matter. Tim winds up in Hong Kong, locating Cassandra Cain. Oddly, while she keeps the suit that Tim gives her, she refuses to take up the title of Batgirl again, since Stephanie is both doing relatively well with it and seems to need it more than she does right now. (From interviews I've read, Cassandra Cain may be playing a larger role in the Bat Inc universe sometime soon. But I digress.) Back in Gotham, Tim purchases the buildings around Crime Alley, planning to live and work there. (Why this doesn't send Bruce into fits, I'm sure I don't know.) Tim also begins re-acquainting himself with old friends, like Ives. He also recruits his own technogeek support -- Lonnie, the kid who'd been held prisoner by Armstrong, and whose body no longer functions on its own. His brain, however, is top notch. (Now I really really REALLY want a "Network" one-shot, wherein the Bat sections technogeeks save the world. It would be awesome. Especially since it would need to be something where the heroes they work for had been disabled or were off elsewhere -- and something that could distract/disable Power Girl, Batman, Batgirl and the Birds, the Web and the others would be quite the event. But I digress.) Tim also continues the family tradition of getting involved with possibly criminally-inclined cat-themed women; he is, perhaps, the first to commit actual illegal acts to do so, breaking Lynx out of police custody. She thanks him in a very special way ... which Bruce has some eloquent commentary about. And the ending is... oddly delightful, in fact.
Very good; Recommended.
Ethan? #1 (Alessandro Apreda/Fabrizio Fiorentino/Giuseppe/BBox Boccia; GG Studio):
Another title from GG Studio Design out of Naples, Italy, apparently aimed at the American market. (Interestingly, the credits don't show a translator, so I'm guessing this is an English language original.)
Ethan Babylon wakes up after a sexual assignation, disoriented, confused, having had a beer or ten too many the night before. Not all that unusual, right? Except that it seems that he's in someone else's body. A serial killer's body, as it turns out, right before he gets captured by the Tokyo police. And Tokyo has become a bit more violent than it was in the past, to the point where they're actually willing to exercise the death penalty with a bit more regularity and emphasis. (Historical note: Japan actually does have the death penalty, and has used it. Japan is notorious for the capriciousness with which they actually execute people. Once you're sentenced, it could be weeks, months, years before the sentence is carried out; you have no idea when your last day will be. Not because of the appeals process, but because that's just the way they roll. But I digress.) Once the serial killer is executed, Ethan finds himself inside the body of one of the police observers of the execution, the previous occupant having been apparently evicted by the process.
It's essentially the same as the idea behind the comic Existence 2.0/3.0, with a bit less initial technological intervention. Whenever he dies, Ethan leaps into the body of someone nearby. Reincarnation gone horribly awry, in effect.
Fiorentino's art is very detailed and highly stylized and works well with the futuristic story. The story itself is intensely intriguing; I am curious to see exactly where this story is headed, what, if anything, will distinguish it. On the one hand, Ethan isn't a particularly appealing character, but the concept is interesting. What would you do if you discovered that upon your death, you would wind up in someone else's body, all of your memories intact and none of theirs, but you still had to live their lives? What if they were some sincerely unpleasant people? What would you do?
Good; Recommended for mautre audiences due to some adult (and profoundly icky) themes.
Batman: The Return one-shot (Grant Morrison/David Finch/Batt/Ryan Winn; DC): In which Bruce's Batman Inc. concept begins to take shape. He dons a new variant of his costume, and begins to order about the other members of his team in some incredibly high-handed ways. Seriously, the man wants Stephanie to go to a girls finishing school in England -- the very idea that she would form a Batman Inc outpost in England would be highly insulting to Knight and Squire (WHO ARE BRITISH, SO VERY BRITISH, OH MY GOODNESS YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE HOW BRITISH THEY ARE... Er, sorry. Read Knight and Squire #2 recently. Not bad, but it has ... an attitude, let's say. But I digress.). He's giving Barbara early and enhanced access to Waynetech's "Internet 3.0", also allowing her to redesign her online avatar -- but he's given her a starting-point design that looks like a technological version of her old Batgirl costume, managing to be incredibly insulting to both Barbara and Stephanie in one fell swoop. Now that he can be more above-ground with it, he's having Lucius Fox design all sorts of insane things at Waynetech itself, explicitly for use by Batman Inc. people. Oh, and there's a new villain, Leviathan, that looks like a very bad guy indeed. And finally, the Catwoman plot, in which Bruce asks her how she'd like to steal something, winds up being a direct lead-in to Batman Inc. #1 -- but we'll get to that. All in all, an interesting place to start ... but it's going to be interesting to see how things go. It'll be a while before his plans for Stephanie take shape, at least; she's got to finish out the current arc in her title before she can go anywhere, and it looks like that might be a bit involved. Anyway, the art by Finch et al is perfectly serviceable with the story -- although, that said, Dick frequently winds up with a somewhat featureless face, and Alfred looks like he doesn't have any teeth.
Mindfield #4 (JT Krul/Alex Konat/Jon Bolerjack/John Starr; Aspen): In which the attack unleashed by the bad guys -- whoever they be -- against the minds of Jessica the programmer and Connor the remote viewing (sort of) government secret agent continue. It's essentially an issue long fight sequence, except with a most unusual fight. Instead of taking place out in the open, wrecking Denver International Airport where their bodies are, it takes place entirely in Jessica's mindscape.The Project Cobalt backup story this month is about Kassem, the Muslim member of the group. Normally, the Project Cobalt files show the events in the life of the main character that rendered them susceptible to recruitment; in this case, I think perhaps a few pages got left out, because Kassem's story just stops. There's no traumatic event, no recruitment, just Kassem standing in the middle of a campus, ogling the behinds of the female students.
Good; recommended if you've been following the series.
Batman, Inc #1, "Mr Unknown is Dead!" (Grant Morrison/Yannick Paquette/Michel Lacombe; DC): In which Bruce goes to Japan to recruit Mr Unknown for the first extension of his Batman Inc. concept, talking Selina along to steal a jewel that isn't a jewel and that he doesn't want in the hands of its inventor -- said inventor being off making the lives of Power Girl and Justice League International a misery at the bidding of Max Lord at the moment -- or of any government, either. (But he trusts himself, of course. Mighty high-handed, this Batman Inc. concept.) Sadly, Mr Unknown has been, shall we say, permanently recruited by other forces, as the issue title might state. We also discover that Catwoman has a few unexpected talents that even Bruce didn't know about. And a new -- I think -- villain makes his appearance. Interestingly, while the Super Young Team is mentioned, they don't make an appearance, and despite the yeoman-like service they rendered during the last crisis, at the moment, at least, they don't seem to be a part of Bruce's concept. Odd, that. (Then again, he was being imprisoned and then dead for a while during all of that, so he probably simply doesn't know what they did.) The art and colors work for the story, which, for a Bat story, has some unexpectedly bright spots, quite literally. (Like many an artist before him, Paquette is quite enamored of Selina's bosom.) All that said, the last page of the story is truly odd; it has text between the rows of frames, phrased in a way that sounds straight out of the 1960s Batman TV series. Wonder why?
Good; Recommended. An intriguing start to the concept.
Morning Glories #4 (Nick Spencer/Joe Eisma/Alex Sollazzo; Image): In which the students begin to scheme to get out of their captivity, despite being observed at all times and in (mostly) all places. And in which we discover that the same is true of the evil faculty, as well. Casey uses her persuasive powers on the rest of the glories to get them to fall in with her plan, which involves Sane (as opposed to Mad) Science. It's an interesting story but I am beginning to vaguely hope that this is a mini/maxi series and not an ongoing. Not because it's bad -- I think Spencer's writing is excellent, and Eisma's art is very good -- but because we've now had four issues of an odd combination of setup and thwarting, and it would be nice to know what's being setup and why the thwarting matters, you know? Just the odd answer to keep us engaged.
OK; recommended, with reservations.
Batman #704 (Tony Daniel; DC): In which Bruce officially, if somewhat theoretically, cedes Gotham to Dick "while he's gone". He also takes extreme exception to Catwoman's new sidekick Catgirl, and tells Dick to "deal with her". Dick tries, but as Selina points out to him, the hypocrisy of asking her to keep a 15-year-old girl out of sidekick danger while he's dragging an eleven-year-old boy into dangerous situations willy-nilly is rather extreme. In the meantime, an Asian businesswoman wants to purchase Crime Alley from Wayne Enterprises and is trying to negotiate that with Dick. Given that Tim just purchased the area for his work, this is probably not going to go well. Later on in the story, we also see that the new Waynetech equipment lends itself to some ... interesting applications.
The One #1 (Giuliano Monni/Davide Rigamonti/Pasquale Qualano; GG Studio):
The first of the GG Studio Design titles I've seen that actually lists English translators, so this title was clearly intended for elsewhere before being brought here. And that said ... I have no idea what this freakin' thing actually is. It's some sort of sword and sorcery story, but beyond that, I have no strong sense of what's going on.
Masdhin, a "junior berserker" (...what?), is searching for Faras, a woman who broke his heart when she chose to go off to become a warrior herself. A few years in the future, Faras has been captured by Targhan, who seems to be an evil sorceror. He and his minion threaten her with being kept alive for their "amusement" -- they cut her breast and forehead with a sword to demonstrate what said amusement will be like -- only to be interrupted by the arrival of Masdhin, who had to fight his way out of his mother's palace to do so. (She would seem to disapprove of Faras.) And there ends the relatively coherent part of the story.
There follows a lot of fighting in very dark scenes, and apparently both the evil sorceror and his minion wind up dead, Faras gets rescued, and the priestess who set all this in motion gets annoyed. Strangely enough, we do find out what The One is, although not what it does. The artwork is insanely detailed, very stylized and unfortunately, very dark during the action sequence. The story, sadly, didn't grab me. It's not that it's bad, necessarily, but there wasn't enough character development to make me care about what happens to them next, and the story got so muddled in the middle that it's hard to care about the actual plot. I do realize that this is a first issue, but there needs to be enough character and/or story content for me to want to pick up the next issue, and right now, I really don't. And for perhaps the first time ever, I shall actually remark on the lettering: for the art and the amount of dialogue it's got to support, it's WAY too small and difficult to read. Unfortunately, good lettering should be somewhat invisible; it should match the art, be appropriate to the story, but not generally call attention to itself. If it's too small to read comfortably, then that calls attention, and not in a good way.
OK; no recommendation.
Angel: Illyria: Haunted #1 (Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner/Elena Casagrande/Walter Trono/Ilaria Traversi; IDW): In which Illyria begins to have increasing problems with her inner Fred, and seeks out ways to cope with it. She talks to Angel, but that winds up being sincerely unhelpful, and in any event, he's got issues of his own to deal with. She then seeks out Spike, which winds up being more useful. Oh, and along the way, any number of demons get squelched. An intriguing start to the miniseries; it's going to be interesting to see where they leave the character at the end, when the entirety of the franchise moves to Dark Horse.
OK; recommended if you're into Angel and Buffy and utterly impenetrable if you're not.
Azrael 14 (David Hine/Cliff Richards; DC)
In which Azrael returns to Gotham and his end game begins.
As usual, it's utterly impossible to discuss this story without thoroughly spoiling the end, so:
NOTE: HERE BE SPOILERS! SPOILER CITY! SPOILERRIFIC REVIEW HERE! WHOA NELLIE, WILL THIS STORY GET SPOILED FOR YOU!
In short, the flayed Father Grieve reiterates that the Suit of Sorrows was made for the descendants of Jesus, and Michael should tell Father Day this. Michael not only refuses -- apparently he hasn't wrapped his brain around the whole Gnostic Gospel/Dan Brown heresy yet -- but he kills Father Grieve to keep him from saying anything more. Bruce and Dick begin to worry about Michael's sanity, since he really doesn't believe in justice even as much as they do (which is saying something). Bruce thinks he should be brought into the Batman Inc. group to keep him controlled -- a thoroughly demented idea if ever there was one. Dick as Batman goes out to make Michael the proposition, more or less immediately after discovering that Michael has been using the suit's swords to cut a swath through Gotham's criminal element, and, as anybody reasonable would expect, this does Not Go Well; in fact, he tries to kill Dick, and only just manages to stop himself. Ra's al-Ghul also comes back into the story -- turns out he's the true employer of the guy who is allegedly Michael's liaison to the Order and maintainer of the armor -- and manages to imply to the White Ghost that Michael himself is the descendant of Jesus for whom the suit was intended.
And, as we knew he would since the first issue of the series, Michael dies, in a way befitting a descendant of Jesus. And manages to do it in an apparently completely impossible way, at that.
I have to admit, I'm kind of in awe at the way Hine and Azrael's other writers gripped a certain angle of heresy with both hands and leapt into the story, utterly without restraint. In all seriousness, if you're going to take this sort of tack, you have to commit to it and keep going, no matter what. I'm even more surprised that DC let Azrael's writers keep going this way. A lot of people could be pretty profoundly offended by the storyline, yet it's managed to keep itself out of people's view. (...Which probably wouldn't be DC's preference, come to think of it.) And I'm also impressed that Richards' art manages to keep up with the pure and utter insanity of the story, emphasizing and enhancing it as needed.
As usual, impossible to qualify or recommend, but utterly fascinating.
Posted by iain at 03:22 AM in category things comickal