Monday, July 10, 2006

Chris' Reviews 7/5

Pretty good week in comics, with only 5 purchases but no regrets! Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


Well, put it this way: it's the closest thing we're ever going to get to another episode of Batman: The Animated Series. And it's really, really good. There's a "gimmick villain" (Batman's words, not mine) targeting Gotham's high society, and Bruce sets out to bring them to justice.
In this issue, we get:

-- Bruce Wayne making the rounds of all the upper-class Gotham hotspots, hobnobbing and making excuses
-- Batman saving a woman from being mugged
-- Alfred throwing a couple zingers towards Bruce
-- A new villain, Facade
-- Bruce doing a smart bit of detecting
-- Narration panels that aren't obnoxious and clearly tell us what Batman's thinking
-- Batman and Robin punching and kicking bad guys and gun-toting mannequins
-- J.H. Williams III drawing the hell out of this comic

I just checked that list again, and I didn't see anything not to like.

But the beauty of it is not only that it's a self-contained story, but that it is refreshingly agenda-free. There isn't some larger story being told, no crossover to support, no metatextual point to be made, it's just Batman and Robin solving a case.

And it's wonderful.

Best Moment: It's hard to pick one. I'll go with Bruce using his mojo to swipe a clue from a reporter in a bar. A good bit of detective work there.

Worst Moment: The art, while I loved it, may seem a bit too detailed/stiff for some.

Comic Book Goodness: 5/5. It's exactly what I want in a Batman comic. Bonus points for having the narration font be the same typestyle from B:TAS.


Garth Ennis attempts to revive forgotten Silver Age Brit hero Battler Britton, who's a World War II RAF pilot. (Seriously. That's pretty much the extent of the character, from what I've seen.)

This issue sees Britton and his squadron landing in Egypt to train an American fighter squadron. The Yanks and the Brits don't get along too well, as characterized by Stock Character Tension Building Scene #4; you know, the one where men from different military units get in a fistfight because they're, um, from different units. Or something.

Anyhoo, they go on a mission together, the Yanks screw something up because they didn't listen to Britton, and at the end they're assigned to a mission behind enemy lines together.


Will the U.S. and British squadrons learn to work together? Will there end up being a traitor in their midst who puts the mission in jeopardy? Will Britton get shot down at one point and have to punch his way back to freedom?

Only if the rules that apply to 99% of all WWII comics and Alistair McLean novels hold fast here. I'd like to give Ennis the benefit of the doubt, though.

The problem is that there's not enough differentiation between the characters; they're all wearing brown, all talk roughly alike, and none of them show a glimmer of rising beyond the cardboard Sgt. Rock-like stock characterizations we've seen a million times before.

But the aerial sequences were good, and I'm inclined to give this one another issue to see what happens.

Best Moment: The text piece by Ennis after the comic that explains who the hell Britton is and why this series exists. (Although in retrospect, shouldn't that have been done in the comic proper?)

Worst Moment: I seriously lost track of who was who, because all the uniforms looked the same.

(It's like the time my buddy and I got separated at the Pink Floyd concert, and when I called him to find out where he was, he told me, "Look for me at the entrance - I'll be the guy in the Pink Floyd T-shirt.")

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5. I had this book higher rated the first time I read it, but upon rereading it's not particularly outstanding. Still, there might be enough here to stick with. Next issue has a lot riding on it. Nice art by Colin Wilson, too.


Well, this was a weird comic.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it --- but there's a strange vibe here.

The issue is a good first issue, in that it establishes the main characters (Ryan Choi and his supporting cast of fellow professors at Ivy University), has him experimenting with his new powers (Ray Palmer handpicked Ryan and left him his Atom belt; Wacky Shrinking Adventure With Now-Giant Rat ensues), and we see glimpses of the story arc to-be, with an invasion by microscopic aliens being the threat at hand.

Did I mention there's some weird stuff going on here?

First of all, with the exception of a couple of the supporting characters, apparently Ivy University has a strict No Professors Over The Age Of 25 policy in place. I'm not kidding, most of these people looked way too young for their position.

Second, there are some unexplained jumps in logic and time here that it's best not to spend too much time thinking about, like how Ryan suddenly realizes that Ray has been trying to contact him, or the poker game sequence.

(The more I think about it, the more this whole needle thing seems odd. Ray Palmer's thought process must have been, "I need to somehow let Ryan know where I hid the Atom gear. Instead of sending a secure email, or sending a telegram or safe deposit box, I'll engrave anagrams in needles I'll hide in the carpet of my old office! Painful foot wounds will make him a better hero!")

Third, the caption boxes with quotes from famous people (real and fictional) tend to get a little intrusive. Is this a comic book or a Ken Burns documentary?

But it's a good setup, with good characterization and a neat supporting cast. I'm on board.

Best Moment: OK, I'm a sucker for miniaturized people getting chased by giant rats.

Worst Moment: Anagrams in needles, while VERY Silver Age, were a tad silly.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Definitely worth checking out. I'll be pissed, though, if the preview I read in Brave New World turns out to be the end of this story arc.


JONAH HEX #9 -- Something of a misstep here, as upon first reading there's a lot of confusion as to what the hell the first three pages were all about, and it took me a couple times (and the title of the story) to realize that this was a ghost story about exorcising personal demons. A difficult read, but a cool one if you put the effort into it. CBG: 3/5.

SECRET SIX #2 -- Deadshot, Comedy Genius. Seriously, the dude gets all the good lines in this one, and there's a nice bit of characterization in that he shows himself a good friend to Scandal by killing her prisoner so that she won't have to. Also, Cheshire shows back up with her and Catman's son, and the joke that I predicted months ago finally shows up! Excellent series,
excellent characters, plus the Mad Hatter makes cake. CBG: 4/5.


Blogger Bubblegum Tate said...

While overall I enjoyed the detective work and return of the too-little seen Bruce Wayne, was I the only one who was a little put off by Batman being guilty of manslaughter in front of at least three witnesses on page three?

Personally that really bugged me and cast a pretty signifcant shadow over the rest of the book. A very poor choice on Dini's part.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I thought the same thing until I went back and looked at the panel and saw the bad guy stumbling towards the train, and Batman reaching out to try and stop him.

So it didn't bother me much at all after that.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Bubblegum Tate said...

I agree that trying to grab him is a nice gesture and all, but it doesn't solve the problem for me.

I've had a friend of mine telling me that Batman accidentally killing some thug isn't that big a deal anyway. So, I'm chocking this one up to it just being me.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Gail Simone said...

You know, good or bad, I always, always enjoy reading the reviews on this site. Fun and lively and thoughtful and entertaining.

It's just good stuff.

Thanks for the kind words, as well, but even when you don't have kind words for me, I appreciate what you have to say.



1:10 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow! Thanks for the compliment, Gail! Keep up the great work!

4:56 AM  

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