Monday, December 10, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 12/5

Creator-Owned Heroes #7
Story: Various
Art: Various

I reviewed the first issue of this anthology/comics magazine when it came out, and have thoroughly enjoyed each subsequent issue, but as things go, never got around to featuring another issue here. Tragically, the most recent issue was released the day the cancellation of the series was announced. And this issue was hands down the best issue so far. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue with their serial, "Killswitch," my favorite of the various serials that have appeared over the seven issues. The hitman called Killswitch is trapped in the middle of an open contract on himself and all hitmen. Artist Jerry Lando does a great job with this action packed story, and the writers are developing a great, multi-faceted character, with some really unusual mental quirks, who I hope has a future beyond this serial. Steve Niles and Scott Morse start "Meatbag," the story of a PI who seems to have gotten involved in a case with something supernatural. Niles does a great gumshoe, and Morse's art is beautiful, a style all his own with gorgeous splash pages. There are some fun interviews with Witch Doctor's Brandon Seifert and the always entertaining Evan Dorkin (C'mon Dorkin, I'm dying for that Eltingville collection you talk about). Aside from the main comic features, there are a couple short horror pieces very much in the style of classic EC Comics, with nice twists at the end. "Blood + Brains" by Jerry Burandt with art by Dean Haspiel is a zombie story with a nice little narrative twist. But the highlight of the book for me, not shocking to anyone who knows my love of certain creators, was "The Deadly Book," a five page horror/crime story by Darwyn Cooke. A thief steals a book that supposedly kills whoever reads it. Between Cooke's masterful art as the thief flees the site of the theft and the history of the book, and his clever narration, this is a perfect short story. And there's a bunch of other stuff in the issue I don't even have room to talk about! I'm going to miss this series after it ends next month.

Detective Comics #15
Story: John Layman
Art: Jason Fabok & Andy Clarke

The "Emperor Penguin" storyline meets the Batfamily crossover "Death of the Family" in another outstanding issue of Detective Comics. Batman spends much of his time on page fighting Clayface, and then using those all important detective skills to figure out exactly what Poison Ivy has done to Clayface. I really am loving how Layman is spotlighting Batman's nature as the world's greatest detective. The tie-in to the crossover was fairly minor, picking up some threads from the back-up in Batman #14, but Layman's use of the Joker is excellent. His presence just looming in the background of Penguin's office, half in shadow, made me initially wonder if he was really there, or just metaphorically. He doesn't say anything, but those mad eyes and wide smile standing out against the darkness, so well drawn by Jay Fabok, sent a chill up my spine. The best part of the issue for me, though, was seeing Penguin's seemingly loyal right hand man, Ignatius Ogilvy, come into his own and decide it's time to start running the show himself. Layman has spent a couple issues developing Ogilvy, so to see the end of the issue, and his decision, was a great moment. His conversation with Poison Ivy, and the logic he showed in working out how to deal with her, was excellent, proving Ogilvy to be possibly on par with Penguin, whose return after he's done with Joker is going to be not as good for him as he hoped. The back-up story shows Clayface's "courtship" by Poison Ivy, and gives a sympathetic look at the big ball of walking clay. Between what Layman is doing here and Snyder is doing in Batman, I feel we have most of the Batvillains back in fine fighting shape in the New 52.

Doctor Who #3
Story: Brandon Seifert
Art: Philip Bond

I'm not as big into the tie-in material with Doctor Who as I am with, say, Star Wars, and I've only been reading the IDW comics occasionally. However, this newest series, using some pretty A-list creators, was something I had to check out. The first two issues, by Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham, were a fun story that sets up the arc of the series. This issue feels like the beginning of a fun one off episode of the series. Amy Pond is sick of "her boys," The Doctor and her husband Rory, sniping at each other, so she orders them to go to a pub without her and spend some time together. Of course, the pub happens to be in 1814, because this is Doctor Who and why not? Well, since neither of them want to do it, the Doctor tries to jump the TARDIS a few hours into the future and... well, you know that isn't going to work, and the usual hijinks ensue. Writer Brandon Seifert has the dynamics between each of these characters down pat. Rory is one of my favorite of the Doctor's companions (probably second only to the inimitable Donna Noble as played by Catherine Tate), and it is nice to see him and the Doctor on an adventure where it's just the two of them and Amy is not in peril (well, ok, maybe by the end she is, but its not the whole thrust of the thing). Amy is also perfectly written, jumping into something with her usual confidence. Philip Bond is an artist I feel like we should see more of in general, and I like his work here. The characters are clearly in his more cartoony style, but they are all clearly them. The issue ends with the London Beer Flood, which is a real historical event. I can't wait to see how Amy gets out of this one...

Hellboy in Hell #1
Story & Art: Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola back on Hellboy with story and art. Do I really need to say anymore? I probably don't need to, but I will anyway. I'll get the heaping of massive praise out of the way first: Duncan Fegredo and Richard Corben have been excellent hands at it, but Mignola was born to draw Hellboy, and it shows. The look of the issue is tremendous, using color, light and shadow, and all the tricks in an artist's bag to make a visual symphony. Special shout out to a scene where Hellboy witnesses a marionette performance of the scene from A Christmas Carol where Jacob Marley comes to Scrooge to warn him that he can save himself. Hellboy also fights an armored adversary last seen back in The Wild Hunt, sees all sorts of tentacled monstrosities, and is aided by a mysterious cloaked and masked man. Monsters, magic, and a protagonist with a surly sense of humor: this is Hellboy as it is meant to be.

Legends of the Dark Knight #3
Story: Steve Niles
Art: Trever Hairsine

When people talk about inspirational superheroes, there's usually a lot of talk about Superman, and even some of Spider-Man, but Batman doesn't usually make the list. This issue, "Letters to Batman," touches on how Batman effects the lives of the people he encounters. After the Joker escapes from custody again, Bruce begins to wonder exactly what it is he's doing, and if he's just part of a revolving door. But when Jim Gordon gives him sacks of mail that have built up at GCPD headquarters mailed to Batman, Bruce reads them and begins to see things is a new light. Back in the 90s, there was an annual issue of Superman under Dan Jurgens where Superman read letters sent to him over the course of the year and tried to help the people who really needed it. This isn't the same grandiose formula, but it has the feel of a hero trying to do more than just pummel a bad guy. All the letters wind up tying into each other in the end, and Batman helps the people in a very simple, day to day sort of way. I like to see the humanity of Batman, see that he still considers the people that he interacts with; that is what makes him different from the Punisher. I also want to give a shout out to artist Trevor Hairsine, who draws a creepy Joker with his face still attached. I'm glad to see the anthology Legends of the Dark Knight working, and hope that it keeps going for a while; Batman is one of the most malleable characters out there, and I like seeing these different interpretations.

Stumptown Vol.2 #4
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Matthew Southworth

As the second volume of Stumptown races to its conclusion (you'll pardon my pun if you have or plan to read the issue). Dex has found Baby, the guitar belonging to rockstar Mim, but it's currently in the hands of a pair of skinheads, and so the chase is one, in this case a car chase that would make the Duke Boys pass out. Rucka gets off some great zingers throughout the issue, but this issue os artist Matthew Southworth's star turn. As the story moves, the issue transitions from a normal portrait design to landscape, making you flip the comic on its side. Whenever Dex is in her car chasing the skinheads, the comic is landscape, and when she gets out it flips back to portrait. It's a great effect that takes advantage of the different layouts to draw some really dynamic action scenes. I love that Rucka can write both intelligent, fun characters, engaging mysteries, and then these great action issues, and I hope that he and Southworth enjoyed working on this issue as much as I enjoyed reading it. With one issue left, I'm curious to see exactly what's going on. I have to say I don't know exactly what's going on, and I look forward to getting the answers.

A couple notes:

I was sent this excellent novel about what I like to call myth of the fake geek girl over on cracked. Great reading.

I also am sad to see Gail Simone off of Batgirl, and so I plan this Friday to be a recommended reading of some of my favorite Gail Simone work. Gail, I hope to see some new books from you soon!

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