Monday, December 3, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/18

Batman Beyond Unlimited #10
Story: Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen/ Adam Beechen/ JT Krul
Art: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs/ Norm Breyfogle/ Howard Porter

DCs anthology of stories from the world of Batman Beyond continues with the conclusion of the first arc of Justice League Beyond. Writer/artist team of Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen have a great feel for all the characters on their team, and while there are some nice character beats in this issue, with Superman saying goodbye to an old friend, Bruce having a brief moment with a surprise old flame, and the reunion between Big Barda and Mister Miracle, the story was more an amazing and gorgeous action piece. While half the team fights the Kobra cultists, Superman and The Demon Etrigan face down the giant serpent they have summoned. Nguyen draws an excellent Demon, and watching him cut loose on the giant serpent is awe-inspiring. In the Superman Beyond segment, Superman is settling into the new identity he has taken up as firefighter Kal Kent, but a mysterious alien pops up that seems to have not so good intentions for the man of steel. The Batman Beyond segment continues the "10,000 Clowns" story. The Batman family is all back, with Dick Grayson helping the future Batman, Terry McGuinness, and Catwoman Beyond on the street, while Tim Drake runs the Bat computer. Taking story elements from the first Batman Beyond comic mini-series and from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the story is full of action and character. While the heroes fight off a legion of suicide bombing Jokerz, the Joker King gives his frightening world view, and heads to the hospital to have a final talk with his family, including his sister, Terry's girlfriend, Dana. But Bruce Wayne, dying of liver failure, happens to be with the Tan's, and the issue ends with Bruce smiling as he plans to fight one final Joker. Aside from the breakneck pace and great story, the Batman Beyond segments are drawn by Norm Breyfogle, one of my favorite Batman artists of all time, whose work is always something to look forward to. There are few comics that cram as much good stuff between their covers than Batman Beyond Unlimited, so if you're looking for more bang for your comic buying buck, this is great place to start.

Batman Incorporated #5
Story: Grant Morrison
Art: Chris Burnham

This issue of Batman Incorporated sees a return to the future from Batman #666, and if you thought things couldn't get worse from their, you were wrong. Framed around Bruce telling Damian he must return to his mother to avoid the dark future, and seeing Damian's heartbreak, we see the vision of the future Bruce had while travelling through time on The Return of Bruce Wayne, the one he has been trying to prevent all along. With a Joker plague on the loose, the only sane people in Gotham are left stranded in Arkahm Asylum, surrounded by armies of the mad. Damian finds a baby that he thinks might hold the key to curing the plague, and brings it to Jackanapes, one of the villains who cameoed in the previous future story, who seems to be a superintelligent molecular biologist gorilla. The story ends with the twist of a metaphoric knife, where the scheme of Leviathan comes to fruition, with the destruction of Gotham. This series seems to be taking the loosest view of New 52 continuity, with appearances by the Outsiders, and with the appearance of Dr. Hurt, a character who is inextricably linked to Darkseid, a character whose interactions with the heroes of the DC Universe seem to have changed greatly. But I take this as an example of one of those cases where continuity doesn't matter as much as the story were being told. Morrison is telling a story of Batman and Talia playing an intricate chess game  with Gotham as the board and Damian as a piece, and I'm curious to see who is put into check next.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4
Story: Darwyn Cooke
Art: Amanda Conner

The first Before Watchmen to reach its conclusion, the final issue of Silk Spectre does a good job of wrapping up all the threads that the series has built. While Laurie Jupiter, the young Silk Spectre, deals with her boyfriend disappearing from her life, Hollis Mason, the original Nite-Owl comes to talk to her and bring her home. Meanwhile The Chairman moves to get rid of all the evidence of his scheme and anyone who might know anything about it. The whole action part of the series, with the manipulation of the flower children, has struck me as secondary to the more personal story of Laurie trying to start a new life away from her hovering mother, and that has been the parts of the story that have interested me the most. Cooke does a great job of portraying Sally Jupiter as a woman who cares about her daughter, but is completely unable to show it, and more who just doesn't understand how to not say the wrong thing. It doesn't make the reader forgive Sally's needlessly cruel and confrontational attitude, and maybe not even understand it, but you don't see her as a monster either. The series ends with the first meeting of the Crimebusters, a scene directly from Watchmen, and a scene that has been featured in nearly all the series so far. It's interesting to see the scene told from the point of view of each of the characters involved, and I wonder if that was something that each writer was asked to do. The art on this series by the always excellent Amanda Conner was outstanding. I can think of few artists who draw better and more expressive faces, and so the scenes that are talking scenes are visually interesting. This has been one of my favorite of the Before Watchmen mini-series, and one I recommend highly.

Gambit #6
Story: James Asmus
Art: Diogenes Neves & Al Barrionuevo

The new Gambit ongoing (his third, if you can believe it) has proven to be a fun superhero-meets-crime comic. James Asmus has a good feel for crime, as evidenced by his cowriting the current arc of Thief of Thieves with Robert Kirkman, and this issue sees Gambit involved in what might be the biggest heist of his life. As I mentioned in this past Friday's recommended reading, MI13 is appearing in this arc, so its not too surprising that Gambit, who has fallen afoul of international criminal mastermind Borya Cich and is currently strapped to a bomb, has to go steal Excalibur, still in the possession of MI13 agent Dr. Faisa Hussain. This doesn't go well, and leaves Gambit to the not too tender mercies of Pete Wisdom, who wants to know exaclty what Gambit was up to. But with international criminals, things aren't always what they seem, and pretty soon Gambit and MI13 are in the middle of a firefight with Cich's henchmen, and the real object of their raid becomes clear. Asmus is writing a Gambit who is the perfect rogue (no pun intended), with a devil may care Han Soloesque grin and just enough scruples to know that working for Cich is something he needs to get out of not just because it's someone controlling him, but because Cich is a really bad guy. He also handles Wisdom well, having the protective Wisdom particularly miffed that Gambit went after Faisa, once of Wisdom's people. Things end with Gambit in a bad place and Wisdom on his heels. I kind of now want a series with Wisdom and Gambit doing The Odd Couple thing, only with more trenchcoats and accents.

Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi - The Prisoner of Bogan #1
Story: John Ostrander
Art: Jan Duursema

John Ostrander has been doing some great work on Agent of the Empire, but he's never more on fire than when he's working with one of his regular artistic collaborators, so seeing him and Jan Duursema together again for  the second Dawn of the Jedi mini-series is a treat. Picking up shortly after the previous series ended, most of this issue is spent with Xesh, the Force Hound who crashed on the Jee'dai (the name of the order that will someday become the Jedi) homeworld of Tython last arc. Xesh has been banished to the moon of Bogan, where he encounters Daegon Lok, a former Jee'dai who the order banished when he had a force vision and seemingly went mad. It seems Lok's vision was correct, presaging the arrival of The Rakatan Infinite Empire, but that doesn't mean he hasn't fallen to the Dark Side. Xesh is an Ostrander protagonist, pulled in multiple directions and unsure of what is right and where he should be going. Xesh and Lok are off on a Butch and Sundance mission to assemble a Force Saber, the weapon of the Force Hounds, but its clear that before this is done, the two will come to blows. Aside from these two characters, we stop in to see the three Jee'dai journeymen who confronted Xesh in the previous arc, and the Rakata and another Force Hound who are preparing to hunt down Xesh and his masters. Ostrander and Duursema are setting up a lot of action for this arc, and moving the pieces of what will most assuradely be war between the Jee'dai and the Rakatans into place. I just hope that, with the probable changes on the horizon for Lucasfilm Licensing and comics due to Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, we get to see the payoff.

No comments: