Monday, January 7, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 1/2

Batman Incorporated #6
Story: Grant Morrison
Art: Chris Burnham

The end of the first half of Grant Morrison's final act on the Batman titles centers around a conversation between Batman and Talia over radio, while Batman makes his way through one of Leviathan's houses of horror. As much as we've heard of Leviathan, Talia's evil organization, we haven't really seen them in play beyond a few small instances before now, but it seems that is about to change as the endgame begins. The whole series has always been really about the relationship between Batman, Talia, and Damian, and the family dynamic, and this is becoming more clear as Batman and Talia discuss Damian while he fights through an army of her minions. Talia gives Batman and ultimatum: save Gotham or save Damian. And Bruce freezes. He isn't sure which he would save, which for Batman is a big deal. It indicates just how important his son has become to him, and how central to his life Damian has become. The scenes taking place away from this confrontation are no less riveting. Members of Batman Inc, wounded and trapped on the top floor of the building that Batman is fighting through, and the scenes of Knight attempting to resuscitate the wounded Squire are heartrending. When The Heretic, Talia's lumbering bodyguard (who I still believe to be a possibly malformed and imperfect product of the same science that gave birth to Damian), arrives, he brutally seems to kill one member of Batman Inc., an event that will resonate further down the series. And in the Batcave, Batman's four sons (Nightwing, Wingman aka Red Hood, Red Robin, and Robin) discuss what they have to do, with Alfred attempting to referee. Damian's pain at possibly being sent back to his mother is apparent, and he has surrounded himself with his pets, Titus the dog and Batcow. And Alfred presents him with a new one: a kitten whose demeanor is as prickly as Damian's own, something that seems to please him. With an army of Leviathan's converts marching the streets of Gotham, and a last minute revelation by Talia about Heretic and the vision Batman saw of the future, this issue moves the series into its highest gear, speeding towards a conclusion that will no doubt leave the lives of Batman and his son changed forever.

Fatale #11
Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips

"The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft" is the first of a series of one off flashback issues of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips horror noir series, Fatale. The issue, set in the 30s, features a younger Josephine then we've seen before. Josephine, one of the protagonists of the series, a seeming immortal with the ability to make men fall madly in love with her whether she wants them to or not, hunts down pulp author Alfred Ravenscroft to find out why the stories she read by him are so similar to the nightmares she has been having. Ravenscroft is a thinly veiled analogue for legendary horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, right down to the diary of his lingering illness, something Lovecraft did in the last years of his life. When Jo asks him where the ideas come from, Ravenscroft spins her a tale of his youth, traveling through Mexico with his mother and a cult that she joined. In the end, the young Ravenscroft sneaks into the leader's tent, and there sees a book that grants him a vision of a many eyed thing, a certainly Lovecraftian monster, something similar to the demonic things that have been plaguing Jo in the arcs set in the present. In the letters page, Brubaker comments that this story is one he's had in his head a long time, one that helped spawn the idea for Fatale, and has been reinvigorated by reading the Dark Horse Comics reprints of classic Creepy and Eerie. While I haven't read any of those, there is also a distinctly EC feel as well to this story, especially at the end when Ravenscroft introduces Jo to his mother, or the thing that was his mother. All Brubaker and Phillips works are atmospheric, and I enjoy how Fatale is taking both of it's literary ancestors, the classic horror and crime noir, and twisting them into a chilling mix. This is the first of four one off issues, and is a great point to give the series a try if you haven't yet.

Hellboy in Hell #2
Story & Art: Mike Mignola

Boy howdy, I can't get over just how gorgeous this book looks! I think I said pretty much the same thing with issue number one, but Mignola has only gotten better during his hiatus away from drawing Hellboy. This issue, Hellboy begins a Dickensian travel through his past, seeing his own birth and how exactly he received the fabled Right Hand of Doom, and then takes a trip to Pandemonium, the great city of Hell. There is no one who draws demons like Mignola in comics, creating things that look close to classic demons, with their cloven, goat like appearance, but still something very much in the vein of the universe that has been created. The dusty, twisted architecture of the abandoned Pandemonium adds to the overwhelmingly eerie feel of the issue. Even trapped in Hell, Hellboy maintains his usual cool and sarcastic demeanor, still refusing to take up the crown that has waited for him his entire life. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, with Hellboy about the confront the last demon in the city of the damned. This series is a great extension of Mignola's already fascinating Hellboy mythos, and it will be interesting to see more and more of what will happen as Hellboy tries to maintain his good spirit in a realm where good spirit is something distinctly lacking

The Manhattan Projects #8
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Pitarra

The Manhattan Projects is one of the most interesting comics on the market for its discussions of science and its relative morality, but this issue, there's nothing relative going on. President Harry Truman and his fellow Mason leaders have decided that the alliance between the Manhattan Projects and their Soviet counterparts in Star City to create science outside the control of their governments is not to be tolerated, and so AI Franklin Roosevelt has taken over all robots and tech that he can and has begun to kill anyone at the sites. And even in all of this chaos, Hickman finds a way to get in some very interesting character moments. The issue is mostly narrated by Wernher Von Braun, and we get a good view inside the head of the former Nazi scientist. I won't say he's made sympathetic, I don't think any of the cast of this series is ever going to be terribly sympathetic, but the reader is given a view into what drives Von Braun, and his passion to reach the stars and make advancements in science. Also, what other comic has an evil alternate dimension Einstein and Robert Feynman shooting robots with their computer screens filled with the image of our 32nd President? While the issue wraps up with the combined Soviet/American scientists winning a victory, the question remains how long can they maintain it?  The issue title, "They Rule," is spoken about the Masons, but with a victory for the Projects, has the balance of power shifted? Or is it just a matter of time before Truman and his crew attack again?

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