Thursday, February 09, 2006

Chris' Reviews 2/8

Light week on my wallet, thank of course, I bought yet another black and white reprint volume! Showcase Presents: House of Mystery looks fun, fun, fun. Can't wait to dig into it. On with the reviews, and Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


OK, so I don't normally pick up this comic, but the fact that it was an oversize done-in-one by Eddie Campbell and Bart Sears struck me as being firmly in the "could potentially be a good comic" region. Imagine if Batman stopped by "House", "ER", "Grey's Anatomy", or any other emergency room show and told everyone that the Joker needed to be saved RIGHT DAMN NOW.

That's what this comic is about.

The story is told from the point of view of a new doctor at Gotham General Hospital, and through the course of one night we follow her and her patients as they piece together the events that led to the scene I described above.

Of course, if you guessed "Joker has bombed/poisoned/infected the city town hall/reservoir/stadium and only he knows where the bomb/poison/virus is, so Batman must keep him alive to find out", you'd be correct. I would also surmise that you've read at least one superhero comic in the last 30 years.

There are no real surprises here --- it's a fairly straightforward Batman story that ends predictably despite glimpses of something interesting. It also provides an interesting "How Suited to Life In Gotham Are You?" Test.

Let's say your computer locks up and immediately displays three clocks counting down and three playing cards with the Joker's face on them. You live in Gotham. You're a nurse, so you're not completely stupid. What's the first thing you do?

A) Call 911 and tell them, "The Joker's taken over the hospital computer and shit, that can't be good, and please God please get Batman down here right friggin' now and start evacuating like crazy! HELP!"

B) Calmly and quietly head for the nearest exit, hoping to slip away and that by the time the Very Bad Thing happens you'll be home in your apartment and the Joker will have taken out the annoying guy from anesthesia who keeps stealing lunches.

C) Call the help desk to fix the computer.

I would consider A and B to be rational responses. I won't give away what happens, but let's just say there's a nurse at Gotham General who probably is more of a Metropolis person.

There were interesting ideas dropped here and there, such as, "What happens when Batman's antidote to Smilex gets used on the Joker", but they're never really followed up on. After the Joker wakes up and rampages through the hospital, it's never quite made clear how or when Batman sets up his trap to catch him. There's a little too much reliance on the "I just KNEW my archenemy would do this or that" factor.

As it is, I must say I did enjoy reading a non-Infinite Crisis Batman comic, and since it's LotDK, it meant I didn't have to worry about continuity. Yay! Also, Bart Sears does a terrific job with non-dialogue panels, showing us everyone's gestures and faces that let us know exactly what they're thinking. Come to think of it, Sears does a helluva job the whole book.

Best Moment: "Are you going to slap me?"

Worst Moment: The ending was rushed and messy, using the "Contingency Plan For Everything" Bat-quality as a deus ex machina.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. If you're tired of being swept up in Infinite Crisis and just want a good old Batman story with a dash of television doctor shows, then pick it up. Completely inoffensive and nice to look at to boot.


This is it! The last issue before we jump ahead to OYL and get renamed to Hawkgirl! Alright, how's Carter going out? Lemme see!



...that's it?...

*blink* *blink*

Fuck off, Rann-Thanagar War.

Just like Flash, just like JLA, just like Wonder Woman, this series limps to an end leaving a bad taste in my mouth like I just licked the Devil's armpit.

Anyhoo, the Hawks engage in a little nakey-nakey pillow talk, have breakfast, then go off and fight more alien starships with Adam Strange, then when everyone despairs over the galactic storm that's going to swallow everything anyway, Carter gives a speech and he and Kendra declare their love for each other fly off to...I dunno...fight some more, I guess.

In this stupid war, good comics are the first casualty.

There's a strange bit of characerization on everyone's part in this, from Kendra reverting to a 13-year old to Carter turning all butt-hurt when Adam Strange presumes to give him advice on fighting spaceships. I won't get into how the Omega Men and Prince Gavyn do absolutely nothing here.

Anyhoo, the speech Carter gives at the end is clearly meant to inspire us and feel heroic about our champions, but it comes off as a totally generic misfire, one of those speeches that utterly fails to garner any emotion whatsoever. Throw in a halfhearted Han Solo/Leia rip-off of a farewell and a final page with terribly drawn incarnations of Kendra and Carter through their past lives, and I'm just going to pretend that this series ended 4 issues ago, mmmmmkay? Mmmmmkay.

Best Moment: The panel that shows the Hawks' gear and clothes strewn across the floor also shows a huge mace that cracked the floor, which was slightly amusing.

Worst Moment: Ugh. Too many to pick one. I'll go with Carter telling Adam Strange, "I've fought against spaceships before, Adam. I know what I'm doing." Well, excuse me, Mr. Just-Laid-His-Partner! Geez! Surly much?

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. I can't imagine anyone who likes the Hawks actively liking this comic. In fact, I can't imagine anyone who likes comics actively liking it.


Next verse same as the first! If you've read any of the prior three issues, you'll know exactly what you're getting --- a done-in-one Western with a fairly predictable plot that gets the job done solidly.

In this issue, Hex has captured his bounty and brings him back to the Evil Mayor, where the criminal is charged with raping the mayor's mute daughter. Eventually, Hex discovers that the Evil Mayor was the one who raped his own daughter, and Hex and the daughter and the town punish the Evil Mayor for his crimes.

Think of it as Jonah Hex: Special Victims Unit.

Signs You Are The Villain In A Jonah Hex Comic:

A) You are a mayor/mine owner/sheriff
B) You make an excuse to delay paying Jonah Hex until tomorrow
C) You thank him for a job well done four pages into the comic
D) You are Caucasian and mustachioed with some kind of hat.

Seriously! This isn't that hard to figure out, which is why my enthusiasm has waned a bit. It's starting to feel like the same story over and over, so I'm anxious to see something different or even a 2-part story.

Despite that, it's still consistently entertaining, and fills a need for enjoyable Western comics. The art is still good, the plotting linear, and the justice sharp, so what am I complaining about?

Best Moment: "Somewhere's quiet."

Worst Moment: Really, folks, could we please get a new villain archetype? Maybe lose the hat and mustache? Or make him French-Indian maybe?

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. I hope I haven't damned this with faint praise, since it really is a good comic, it's just getting a tad repetitive. We're dangerously close to having cycled through the four or five standard Western plots, and we just got started!


Anonymous van Doom said...

Read Young Avengers, for your own good.
Also, I think four issues is hardly enough to say "Come on, Jonah! Switch things up already!" The series is just starting. Yeah, they could throw in a different kind of villain, and I'm sure that's coming along. But for Pete's sake, it's just four issues!

5:35 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Van Doom,

I totally see your point with Jonah Hex, and I'm just trying to nip it in the bud before weariness sets in. All in all, I still think it's one of the top 5 books out there right now. It just seems like there's a pattern developing story-wise. I have faith in Palmiotti and Gray, though.

I read Young Avengers and dropped it after issue 8. I can't deny that it's readable, but A) Jim Cheung's faces are all exactly the same, which for some reason really gets to me, and B) None of the characters have really grabbed me. If I continue to hear reports of excellence, I'll give it another shot in a couple of months.

Thanks for the thoughts!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous van Doom said...

It's probably a good thing that I missed the first Young Avengers arc. I haven't had enough issues to be annoyed by all the similar faces.
The annual did a really good job of developing characters, though, so if you start back into it, might want to grab that one.

6:19 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

So what you're saying is, is that Jonah Hex is Scooby Doo with a six-shooter?

And Young Avengers is great, but I get what you mean about the faces.

11:05 PM  
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