Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bullet Points 2: The Quickening.

All right, gradually whittling down my To-Read pile, here's what I've been into of late:

-BATMAN AND ROBIN #11: Up until Grant Morrison began his mad little romp with Dick Grayson as Batman and Bruce Wayne's illegitimate son Damian Wayne as Robin, I'd largely given up on the Batman books. I'm sure they were entertaining, but the depiction of Batman as Batgod over the years had worn down my enthusiasm for the character's comicbook adventures. Yes, I'm aware that Batman is a grim avenger out to get justice from the criminal element for the death of his parents and their deaths haunt him and he must walk alone without emotional ties a man of strengthblahblahblahblahBLAH. The apathy reached it's apex with the release of Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT which (hold on, put the pitchforks and torches down) while an amazing film and a powerful emotional study of both a man and city on the brink, wasn't really a lot of what I'd call fun. There's a reason I gravitate more toward the depiction of Batman in series like Batman: The Brave and the Bold these days: I'm tired of the sturm und drang when it comes to superheroes. What's wrong with good triumphing over evil while having a little fun in the process? That I think is what Grant Morrison gets. While sometimes he can wander far, far off the beaten path while on his peyote-induced visionquests dictated to him by the Lord High Space Coyote, when he's on the ball (and on his meds) Morrison gets superheroes. He knows that their adventures are larger than life, often almost but not quite silly, and that the primary mandate should be entertainment. His portrayal of Dick Grayson, the former high-flying boy wonder and longtime hero in his own right stepping into the role of the Dark Knight and honoring his mentor while still being his own man is entertaining, and it's just logical. Dick as Batman works, and I don't want him sent back to the second tier when Bruce Wayne returns. Damian Wayne is a little bastard, an arrogant little punk who I initially felt deserved a good smack to the mouth, but over the course of this series he's grown on me, and I like the interplay between the more laid back, slightly jocular Batman and his grim, ass-kicking, all-business Robin. Alfred is more than a mere gentleman's gentleman here; he's the anchor, doing his best to be a father figure to both heirs to the legacy. The book has three stars really, but BATMAN AND ROBIN AND ALFRED doesn't really have the same panache. This issue kicks off The Return of Bruce Wayne arc, and with the aid of masked detective Sexton Blake (whom Damian finds a little. . .familiar), the clues left by the time-lost Bruce Wayne are beginning to be unearthed. Also, a long-lost member of the Wayne family is set to make his own comeback, and he's not a very nice man at all. As I said, when Morrison is on point he knows how to bring the thunder, and the issue crackles with an enthusiasm that can't be denied. Andy Clarke's work on pencils is very good, a nice mix of the initial Quitely style with a hint of Aparo. I hope he's on board for the long haul. An entertaining book that I initally gravitated toward because of two words (flying batmobile), Batman and Robin is easily one of the few reasons I return to DC month after month. Oh, and what's better than a flying batmobile? A flying batmobile piloted by Alfred. Check it out.

-DOOMWAR #3: Hey, Doctor Doom is back! Latveria must've recalled that faulty Doombot taking orders from a glorified gangster/third-tier supervillain because this is the premier villain of the Marvel universe doing what he does best: terrorizing the planet. Doom has invaded Wakanda, home of the Black Panther and is out to get it's unique vibranium ore to forward his own plans for a world entirely under his rule. The new Black Panther and King T'Challa (the former Black Panther and the current version's brother) have called upon a band of heroes from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men to aid the King in liberating his land and saving his queen, Storm, from Doom's clutches. Okay, I have no idea who Jonathan Mayberry is, but this guy has given Doom his balls back. This is the Doctor Doom of the John Byrne era, the apex of arrogant assuredness in the belief that his way will provide a better future for all men and women. . .under his immortal and eternal rule. Scott Eaton's art provides widescreen action that puts you in the midst of a nation in chaos, and his depiction of Doom makes Darth Vader look like a 98-pound asthmatic. I will not give away this issue's twist, but it is so. Good. So good, that I grinned from ear to ear when this book was finished. If you aren't reading this book you're missing the best portrayal of the bad doctor to come down the pike in twenty years.

-THE SPIRIT #1: After the horrible, horrible, ho-rib-ble experience of watching Frank Miller's cinmatic excrement I had little desire to look upon anything based upon Will Eisner's classic creation. Nothing could wash the reeking filth of that corruption clean. But it was part of DC's new First Wave line of pulp-themed and inspired books, and looking at the pedigree (written by Xenozoic Tales creator Mark Schultz, with a backup by Denny O'Neil and Bill Sienkiewicz) I girded my loins, handed my brother my hard-earned cash and say down with the title. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The book was neither insipid nor trite, but an entertaining romp that reintroduces us to the world of Denny Colt and Central City without overstaying it's welcome. The art by Moritat is stylized and fresh, with some nice little Eisnerian touches that I found fun. Schultz gets the character, and I like his rueful, slightly cynical voice as he has Denny narrate to us in the best gumshoe tradition. The backup by O'Neil and Sienkiewicz is very much an Eisner pastiche, and it has a nice twist ending in the classic Spirit style. If you've got a little money left over after buying the latest round of crossovers you could do worse than to pick this up as a fun little breath of fresh air. I say give it a look.

-GREEN HORNET YEAR ONE #2: I've been a fan of The Green Hornet since I was a kid, listening to C100FM's Theater of the Mind broadcasts of the classic radio program from the '30s. The Green Hornet and Kato were as easily accepted as superheroes to my young mind as the dynamic duo of DC, and I remember picking up the NOW Comics adventures of the emerald enemy of evil with enthusiasm. When I heard that Dynamite would be producing both the contemporary, Kevin Smith penned version of the character as well as the classic version from the early 20th century, I was in like Flynn. Sadly though. . .this book qualifies as another 'good but not great' for me. Matt Wagner has proven in the past that he can write the period adventures of a masked hero (if you haven't read his excellent work with Steven T. Seagle and Guy Davis on Vertigo's SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER you missed out big time), but here. . .mm. It's a Year One book, which frankly I'm scratching my head over. I guess we need to explain who the Hornet is, but couldn't we do that during an actual adventure? It makes me yearn for the days when comics had that little blurb above the title page detailing the protagonist's mission statement then launching right into the action. The book is clearly meant to be The Story Behind The Legend. . .but I don't want that. I don't need it. I want the Green Hornet and Kato at the height of their powers being badass. I don't need to see how they got into the groove. I'm reasonably sure I can put that together for myself, thanks. The art by Aaron Campbell is another problem as well. . .it feels muddy and too contemporary. This art style might work for something like NEW AVENGERS, but a pulp story needs an artist whose got a pulp mentality, a feel for the work. It's not gelling for me. The book is competently done and if you're a newcomer to the Hornet mythos I suppose you might find it fun. But for $3.99 US a pop, I don't want to pay for 'good'. I want Great. Skip it and try SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL 1: THE TARANTULA.

-THE WARLORD #13: This. . .this one will be brief. The pain of loss is still healing. I have got to give Mike Grell his due; I legitimately did not see issue #12 of this title coming. Within the span of about 22 pages plus ads Grell took everything we found comfortable and nostalgic about the title and threw it into a garbage disposal. Simply put, he changed the game. There's a new Warlord in town, an event which takes the book's previous status quo and flips it upside down, and an entirely new twist on what we've been used to. It's gut-wrenching, it's painful, and it's awesome beyond the telling of it. If DC truly is planning to end this series with issue eighteen then they are fools, and will be sent by Lo Pan to the Hell Where Fools Are Skinned Alive. I've already reviewed the DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS WARLORD VOL 1 elsewhere , but simply put it's one of the best grindhouse movies the '70s never saw made. Buy this book and buy it quick, because all too often in this industry what's original and fun gets buried beneath the chaff.

That's all for now, more as the To-Read pile gets smote.


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