Monday, November 19, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/14

Batman #14
Story: Scott Snyder/Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo/ Jock

After last issue, I thought Snyder's Joker couldn't get any creepier. And then I read this issue. The Joker works best when he's unpredictable, and when he works as a sort of deranged chess master, making moves that make no sense to anyone as he does them, but fall perfectly into place when looked at in retrospect, and here the Joker fits that mold perfectly. No one seems to be safe from his macabre plan. The splash page of Jim Gordon collapsing into Batman's arms, bleeding form everywhere, is horrifying. One would think the image of the Joker with his face strapped to his head would get less disturbing the more you see it, but that's not true; it actually gets worse. The Joker's speech, saying he is the court jester to Batman's king, and that the Batfamily is weakening him, and that all this is being done for Batman's benefit, is actually chillingly logical. I mean, as logical as anything that the Joker says, and that makes the plan all the more interesting. The lack of Alfred was keenly felt this issue. Alfred has been a major part of Snyder's run on Batman, and as Batman's own inner monologue says, the possibility of the loss of Alfred is something Bruce can hardly fathom. this is a remarkably personal story, and even though it is writ large with action and gore, it really is a confrontation between these two great opponents. One thing that I want to really draw attention to in this issue is the distinct lettering of the Joker's dialogue. Letterers Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt have done a great job of creating that style that is being used across all the "Death of the Family" tie-ins, and it's so perfectly warped. The back-up again focuses on the Joker interacting with another member of Batman's rogues, this time the Penguin. The Joker's plan seems to involve even using other villains to make Batman better, which is a nice wrinkle; not everything Joker is doing is directly in front of Batman. I especially liked Jock's Penguin, whose body language and appearance was even more birdlike than he is usually drawn without being freakishly Batman Returns. Batman continues to be the flagship title of the Batline, and each issue just makes me more excited for the next.

The Boys #72
Story: Garth Ennis
Art: Darick Robertson

Even under all the blood and swearing, I think Garth Ennis is a sentimentalist. While the main plot of The Boys wrapped up last issue, this final issue puts a nice little bow on the series. Wee Hughie, one of the few truly decent people in the series, does get his happy ending, but not before putting the hurt on The Man From Vought, Stillwell. It's not a physical thing, and it's not one of those grand good triumphs over evil sort of endings. Ennis isn't that soft. Stillwell points out that you can't really beat a company, and that they'll always find a way to make their profit, but what Hughie does do is give Stillwell pause, and in the end he might not be as confident in the plans that he has for the supers. Former CIA Director Rayner also gets some righteous payback at the hands of her former underling, Monkey, with a hand from Hughie in a scene that is mean and funny at the same time, something that's pure Ennis. But it's in the quiet scenes with Hughie, where he makes a small gesture of tribute to his fallen friends and where he makes his reconciliation with Annie January that this final issue sings. It's been a long, hard ride for Hughie, and while power does corrupt, maybe sometimes the good guy gets a victory, even if it's just a small, personal one.

Locke & Key: Omega #1
Story: Joe Hill
Art: Gabriel Rodriguez

As Dodge, the demon freed from beyond the black door, now is residense in the body of Bode Locke, begins its endgame to open the door again and let its brethern in, the other Locke kids face demons far more personal. One of the true strengths of Locke & Key has been its ability to juxtapose the everyday lives of the Locke family against the supernatural horrors of Keyhouse. The pages of Dodge using the keys and the crown of shadows to move past the things keeping him from the door are gorgeous. Gabriel Rodriguez does great work with the shadows that the crown brings to life, animating them in horrible ways. The other plot deals with Scot Kavanaugh, one of Kinsey's friends with whom she had a falling out, making a video of the graduating seniors from Lovecraft Academy, and asking what people would say to their younger selves. Ty Locke talks about the fight he had with his father, right before he lost him, and both Scot and Ty's uncle Duncan try to remind Ty that he isn't responsible for everyone, something Ty has struggled with over the course of the series. We also see Ty learning to smelt and pour iron, something that is clearly a set up for the climax of the series. Kinsey jumps into Scot's path, and has her own cathartic moment after reclaiming her fear and tears, and with that, and a grand gesture from Scot as well, Kinsey, Scot, and their two other broken friends, Jamal and Jackie, and reunited and reconciled. It's a touching scene, but one made bittersweet as, on the final page, Dodge arrives at the black door, presaging great horrors for the end of the series.

Saga #7
Story: Brian K Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

Oh, Saga, how I have missed you on your two month hiatus. Picking up right where the last issue left off (well, after a brief flashback to Marko's youth), Marko's parents make quite a splash. Marko runs off to retrieve Izabel, baby Hazel's ghost babysitter who his parents banished, with his mother following behind, while Alana and Marko's father have a heart-to-heart. Well, the closest one can have to a heart-to-heart when one of you is being held immobile in the air by the spaceship you're traveling in. Vaughan has always done a great job of mixing humor into his series, and Alana and Marko's father's conversation is both revealing and amusing, as is the talk Marko and his mother have while hunting for Izabel. Fiona Staples cotinues to do an excellent job drawing not just the central characters, but creating interesting sci-fi and fantasy backgrounds and some really hideous looking monsters. While we stop in briefly with our heroic couples pursuers, The Will and Prince Robot, this issue is really about the family. I like the mechanic that Vaughan has created for magic in his world, the fact that it is fueled by secrets, and the final secret revealed by Marko's father is quite a doozy. Vaughan is one of comics' kings of the cliffhanger, and the end of this issue is a great example of that. I don't know how anyone could read this and not come back to find out what happens next.

Where is Jake Ellis? #1
Story: Nathan Edmonson
Art: Tonci Zonjic

I really enjoyed the sci-fi/spy comic Who is Jake Ellis? and I was excited to see that image was releasing a sequel. The series opens with Jake Ellis, the titular CIA operative with the ability to astrally project into the mind of others, in a hospital with the scientists and spies interrogating him. Jake had spent the past few years comatose and only able to interact with another agent, Jon Moore, who though Jake was his subconscious, and at the end of the last series, the two had learned differently. Jon is still out there, on the run from the people behind the performed the experiments on Jake. The issue is an exciting thriller, with Jon and Jake escaping their pursuers. It's a fun action comic; nothing too deep happens this issue, but we get a great feel for our two leads and set them on their course to meet up again. I'm looking forward to see what happens to them next.

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