Weekly Comic Review #16

Batman #670 (Grant Morrison-writer, Tony Daniel-artist)

You all know by now that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Morrison’s run on Batman–and it’s been really bothering me, because I like Morrison’s writing a lot.  I think I felt like he was trying to reinvent the wheel, putting Ol’ Bats into situations that Batman might not necessarily get into just to make it “interesting.”  The previous arc of this book fell squarely into the “hate” column in my mental Morrison ledger.  This new story arc may actually end up in the “love” column.

Batman #670 begins “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” storyline that will run throughout all of the Bat-titles (or, at least, the main titles, I’m not sure if books like Catwoman or Birds of Prey will be in on the fun).  I’ve always liked Ra’s.  I felt he was a good adversary for Batman…sort of the Professor Moriarty to his Sherlock Holmes…and I certainly didn’t think it was a good idea to kill him off.  The “Resurrection” storyline has been building since Al Ghul’s daughter Talia popped up at the beginning of Morrison’s run with Bruce’s kid, Damian, in tow.  It seems like the little Moppet From Hell has been bred to serve as the vessel of his grandfather’s consciousness.  Of course, Damian isn’t going to play ball so easily, and he basically tells his mother and grandfather (Ra’s is currently residing in a mummy-ish body that’s been ravaged by radiation poisoning) to get bent, adding that his father (Bruce) will “break them.”

I’m not sure how I feel about Damian Wayne.  Obnoxious children kind of piss me off as much in fiction as they do in real life.  Plus, every time Damian pops up in a Bat-book, he tries to off Tim and, let’s be honest, Tim’s life is hard enough as it is.

 Anyways…for now, I’m back on board Morrison’s run, although I still have a sneaking suspicion that things could get unnecessarily complicated before they’re over (throwing Nanda Parbat into any story can be potentially obfuscating).  Tony Daniels, however, continues to amaze with his pencils.  After channeling every artist in DC’s history in the “Batmen of Many Nations” story arc, Daniels effortlessly returns to his own style in this issue.

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Countdown to Final Crisis #26 (Paul Dini, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti-writers, Scott Kolins-artist)

Title change notwithstanding (DC’s uber-event series, it seems, will now be called Countdown to Final Crisis rather than the more poetic and succinct Countdown), this was a pretty poor issue.  It wasn’t really even an issue.  It was a recap.  It was like one of those thirty second “Previously on…” things that you get before shows like 24, Lost or Heroes

The crux of this “issue” is a meeting of all of the 52-niverse’s Monitors–with the obvious exception of Bob, of course.  They all stand around talking about everything that’s happened in the last twenty-six issues, as if we haven’t been reading it (trust me DC, with the negative press this event’s been getting, you probably aren’t grabbing new readers at this point).  Eventually they decide to end this philosophical circle-jerk and declare open war on Monarch, hoping this will prevent him from totally destroying the new Multiverse.  Oh…and Jason Todd isn’t a traitor because, I guess, that would have been too cool.  He just pretended to kill to Donna to distract the Monarch’s forces so Monitor Bob could teleport the Challengers to safety.  Oh well…it was fun while it lasted, Evil Jason.

Were there any high points?  Sure.  One or two.  The idea that the longer the Multiverse exists, the more physically (and possibly psychologically) varied the Monitors become was kind of neat.  The Monitors also decide that whatever is going on is not happening randomly, someone has been orchestrating everything from Karate Kid’s O.M.A.C. virus to Jimmy Olsen’s super-powers.  But who?  That question is left hanging by the end of the issue (and probably will remain so for a while, I have a feeling), although the Monitors do decide to round up and interrogate anyone in the Multiverse who may have the motive to put such things into motion.  Maybe it’s a sucker’s bet, but I wonder if Darkseid will turn out to be the Big Bad.  The Monitors seemed to liken what’s been going on to pieces being moved across a board, and we’ve seen the chess motif used in conjunction with Ol’ Rock-head before.

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Daredevil Annual (Ed Brubaker-writer, Leandro Fernandez-artist)

What does a superhero do when he has the flu?  Well, according to Brubaker, if that hero is Daredevil, he sucks it up and gets his ass to work anyway.  Of course, having the flu is much worse when you usually rely on your super senses of hearing and smell, which are now seriously congested.  Plus, it seems, the influenza bug wreaks all sorts of havok with one’s radar sense.  Who knew?

As if things weren’t bad enough, Matt also has to deal with Carlos LaMuerto, a.k.a. Black Tarantula, who was recently released from prison (he and Matt were both in Ryker’s Island at the same time).  LaMuerto wants to do good.  He goes to his P.O. (who, it turns out, is as crooked as a three-dollar bill) and takes his power-suppressing meds.  He wants to do right by his old neighborhood, which, although always poor, has really gone to seed.  This is where LaMuerto and Matt are so similar.  In fact, I’d dare say they were two sides of the same coin.  Both are overly protective of their neighborhoods and the people who live there.  Sure, maybe LaMuerto goes about things in the wrong way (usually resulting in some blood loss and property damage), but he wants the same thing for his ‘hood that Matt wants for his.  That’s probably why Matt tries so hard to keep LaMuerto on the straight-and-narrow…going so far as offering him a job.  Of course, a leopard can rarely change his spots, so in the end Black Tarantula returns to what he knows best (although he does give Matt his P.O.’s files to help indict the little creep).

If for nothing else, this issue gets high marks for offering an oddly realistic storyline amongst all of the super-heroing and vigilantizing.  While trying to deal with his flu and the sudden appearance of a seemingly repentant villain, Matt’s in the middle of investigating a murder.  What was the motive?  Well, it turns out that the murder victim wouldn’t vacate their apartment and the building owner wanted to turn them all into condos.  Yes.  Matt’s investigating a murder that has to do with the gentrification of Hell’s Kitchen (or, as people who’ve never lived in NYC call it, “Clinton”).  God bless you, Brubaker.

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Justice Society of America #10 (Geoff Johns-writer, Dale Eaglesham-artist)

The more I read JSA, the more I wish I’ve been reading it all along.  Furthermore, the more I read this title, the more I wish the current run of JLA could be like this.  Maybe it’s just easier writing the Justice Society than it is writing the Justice League.  I can see how that could be possible.  The heroes in the JLA are so inherently untouchable.  Almost Olympian in nature.  The heroes in the JSA are, by the very nature of being “legacy heroes”, fleeting.  If you’re in the JSA, you will age.  You will retire, possibly six-feet-under.  And you will be replaced by a younger hero who will assume your mantle.  That’s more or less the way the Justice Society works.  So, since the characters in JSA are a tad bit more human, maybe that makes them easier to write.  It’s also possible (and more than likely) that Geoff Johns is just a much better writer than Brad Meltzer and Dwayne McDuffie–although to be fair to Meltzer and McDuffie, JLA has frequently suffered from bad storylines over the years.

Anywho…this issue picks up with the sudden appearance of Superman from Earth-22 (a.k.a. Kingdom Come Superman), who emerged from a black hole just in time to save Starman from a burning paint factory.  Obviously, everyone’s trying to figure out exactly who this new Superman is (this hits Power Girl especially hard–she’s still dealing with the recent death of “her” Superman, Kal-L of Earth-2, during Infinite Crisis).  Remember, as far as most folks in the DC Universe know, the Multiverse does not exist.  However, this sudden appearance of another Superman has gotten people thinking–mainly Jay Garrick, who (in a nod to the original Flash’s first foray into the Multiverse) theorizes that he can use Barry’s Cosmic Treadmill to vibrate himself into parallel worlds.

KC Superman tells the members of the JSA (many of whom he knows, in one form or another, from his Earth) what a shit-hole his Earth is compared to New Earth.  I find this Superman’s relative perspective interesting, since Infinite Crisisstarted simply because those refugees from the original Multiverse thought New Earth was too grim and dark.  I guess even a dark and grim New Earth can seem like heaven if you come from a world where a dude named Magog blasts the Joker’s head clean off his body. 

As good a writer as Johns is, equal credit must go to Dale Eaglesham, whose art is always clean and precise without shying away from detail.  This issue (as is fitting for a book dealing with Kingdom Come) contains flashbacks painted by Alex Ross.  For a split-second, I was impressed that Eaglesham would have attempted (and succeeded) in aping Ross’s style…of course, a quick glance at the credits told me that it was, in fact, Ross.

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Robin Annual #7 (Keith Champagne-writer, Jason Pearson & Derec Donovan-artists)

Tim and Harvey Bullock team-up (sort of) when eviscerated corpses start popping up all around Gotham on Halloween.  Champagne gives us a fun new villainous for Tim to deal with later on down the road: Scary Mary Quintas.  It seems that the Quintas family is a bunch of psycho-killers, who–for reasons known only to them, I’d imagine–take pleasure in one-upping each other.  The corpses that Tim and Bullock find are both members of the Quintas family and, it turns out, they were killed by Mary Quintas (in a bid to become the family favorite, naturally).  Although Tim manages to chase Scary Mary off, he (and we) know she’ll be back at some point to make his life, and possibly Bruce’s life, miserable.

First off, I’d like to say how happy I am that Harvey Bullock was in this issue.  I first encountered Harv in the Batman cartoon.  He was, in a word, awesome.  What I can’t figure out is how Bullock went from being a disgraced, drunken has-been to the star detective of the G.C.P.D. again.  I don’t know about you, but I crave answers.  Do you hear me, DC?  Answers.  I crave.  I’m also a tad bit confused with the sub-plot involving Tim and Zoanne.  Are they dating?  When did that happen?  Didn’t she kind of push Tim aside when his Robin-ing got in the way?  Finally, as befitting a Halloween-inspired issue, I felt that the art seemed to be inspired by the gloomy art that Mike Mignola uses in his Hellboy books.

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Ultimate Power #8 (Jeph Loeb-writer, Greg Land-artist)

With one issue remaining in this mini-series, I’m pretty sure it will amount to absolutely nothing.  It sort of feels like the comic equivalent of a TV show doing stunt casting for Sweeps month.  Yeah, maybe it’s cool to have a shitload of characters fighting for no good reason.  But, I have a sinking suspicion that after all is said and done, this will feel like the result of some schoolyard argument about who would win in a fight: Ultimate Spider-man or Hyperion.

Now, I have to admit that there are a few fun moments in this issue.  The Thing going up against Doctor Doom and realizing that he was actually fighting (for the first time, I believe) a Doom-bot.  Also, Nick Fury telling Spider-man to act as The Hulk’s conscience (telling him to be Hulk’s “Jimmy Cricket”) was pretty funny.  I also find it funny how, somewhere along the line, The Powers That Be at Marvel decided that Scarlet Witch’s powers are so whacky and unpredictable that she’s essentially like the loony aunt from Bewitched.

Loeb throws a little theoretical comic book physics at us in this issue, too.  When a second group of Squadron Supreme characters (actually the original Squadron characters from Marvel’s Earth-whatever) arrives on the scene, each version starts to realize that his or her powers are half as effective as they usually are.  It seems that, according to Loeb, two versions of the same character can not exist on the same Earth at the same time without some form of diminishing returns.  In fact, the longer both Squadrons remain together, the more they “synch-up”…until each version acts and speaks exactly they the other.  Weird, huh?

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Quote of the week:

“It was the freakin’ Great Pumpkin, all right?  Now go run with scissors, we’re tryin’ to work here.”–Harvey Bullock to the press, regarding the pre-Halloween murders, in Robin Annual #7.

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2 responses to “Weekly Comic Review #16

  1. I also felt that the Robin annual was somehow unstuck in time, since last I checked, Tim’s love interest was dating some tennis team douche. I guess it’s hard enough scheduling these things to coincide with the various crises and crossovers that might be going on at any particular moment. Keeping track of a character’s lovelife is just too much to ask.

    Bullock”s redemption did seem to get swept under the One Year Later rug, didn’t it? But then again, we never did find out how Gordon became the commish again either. I’m saying we need a special 80-page GCPD Annual to fill in the blanks.

  2. Well, it’s good to know that I wasn’t hallucinating about either of those.

    Gordon and Bullock’s returns to active duty were almost like an Ed Wood movie: “Remember all that crazy shit that happened last year? Thank god that’s over and we’re both back on the force.” I always assumed the changes to the GCPD would be covered in 52…but it seems they weren’t. C’mon, DC.

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