Monday, April 15, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 4/10

Batman #19
Story: Scott Snyder/ James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo/ Alex Maleev

Since the first issue, the new Batman series has been an epic title, with the two major arcs being long, twisty, and grand. "The Court of Owls" and "Death of the Family" were both great stories, and the two one offs featuring Harper Row were excellent character pieces as well, but this issue was a great change of pace; it's a small Batman story. This isn't a status quo changing arc, it's a great Batman story that is focusing on Batman trying to figure out a mystery. The opening pages show Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and after his escape flashes back to Batman finding out about the apparent suicide of an acquaintance of his, and going to investigate it. Batman is still clearly haunted by the death of Damian, and despite Harper Row's plea to take care of himself last issue, he isn't doing too good a job of it. Batman quickly determines exactly what was behind the death of his friend and the man's seemingly strange criminal behavior. It's just an appealing story of Batman working a case; Snyder captures Batman's voice perfectly, and I like seeing him just working out a case that isn't tearing his world apart. I won't spoil the identity of the perpetrator, despite it being spoiled on the cover of the next issue and the solicitation for some upcoming Batman family titles, but it continues the evolution of a classic Bat villain we have seen popping up sporadically throughout the New 52 era. The back-up is a Batman and Superman team-up written, which is something we haven't seen much of in the New 52 except in Justice League. It's been established they're friends, and so seeing them play off each other is interesting. While the relationship is clearly more pre-Flashpoint than pre-Crisis, Batman isn't acting like Miller's Batman wanting nothing to do with Superman, so I like that; I've always found I prefer the relationship between Batman and Superman to be friendly. It has definitely whet my appetite for the upcoming Batman/Superman series.

Batman and Red Robin #19
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason

OK, there's a lot in this issue, and I'm still of mixed feelings about some of it. The good is so good, though, that I want to talk about that. First the stuff I'm of two minds about. I liked seeing Frankenstein appear, but I would have thought there are more practical resurrection schemes than duplicating Dr. Frankenstein's work; this would have worked more for me if we had seen Batman exploring other plans first. Also, I feel like Red Robin, who is in the title, is underused in the issue; we have barely seen Tim and Bruce interact in the New 52, and I was hoping that this issue might remedy that. On the other hand, the introduction of Carrie Kelly was done beautifully. While she clearly has a different life than the version of her we meet in Dark Knight Returns, Carrie still has the spunk that allows her to stand up to the looming presence of an angry Bruce Wayne. The details of her relationship with Damian are still mysterious, and I'm expecting that to play out over the course of the next few issues. It's interesting to see both Snyder and Tomasi now having young female foils to Batman, and just how different Harper Row and Carrie Kelly are. Carrie seems to be a much lighter, less haunted character, but we'll see. I also have to say, her roommate looks an awful lot like Stephanie Brown. It would be nice to see Steph back. While I felt like Red Robin was underused, I did like how he was handled, and the painful choice he had to make. To top it all off, Patrick Gleason continues to be one of the most impressive artists in the comics right now; his Frankenstein was amazing. With next issue teaming Batman with Red Hood, I'm curious if Jason proves more integral to the plot, and how Carrie Kelly will factor in to the continuing arc of the series.

Batman: Li'l Gotham #1
Story & Art: Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

DC's Johnny DC line,the all ages comics published by DC, seemingly folding all its superhero titles, it's nice to see Li'l Gotham appearing. An all ages Batman title, themed around holidays, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, who have been writing Justice League Beyond for some time and have history as artists on various Bat family titles, have created a fun and accessible Batman comic. The stories star Batman and Robin, a Robin who is Damian Wayne, and play off of Damian's strange upbringing and how unfamiliar he is with these holidays. Bruce attempting to explain Halloween to Damian leads to reminiscence about killing Lazarus Pit generated zombies with his mother and grandfather and Damian to some aggressive trick-or-treating. And on Thanksgiving, Penguin leads an army of turkeys to take the day of turkey slaughter back. The continuity is light, and while it takes place in a universe closer to the pre-Flashpoint one (Barbara Gordon seems to be in her wheelchair, and Cassandra Cain appears at the Bat family Thanksgiving), no knowledge of that is necessary. These are fun stories in the vein of Batman Adventures, all ages without being kiddy comics. If you know a kid who loves Batman and are worried a Joker who cuts off his own face is too much for him or her, this is the perfect gateway book for that young Batman fan.

Princeless Vol.2 #1
Story: Jerome Whitley
Artist Emily Martin

Oh, it's always a joy when an indy series you love pops back up on the radar, and so it is to see the beginning of Jerome Whitley's fairytale for girls who kick butt, Princeless. Picking up shortly after the first series left off, Princess Adrienne and her friend, Bedelia the blacksmith, are off to rescue the first of Adrienne's sisters, Angelica from her tower. Of course, things never go that easily. They can't quite find the tower, and are still having some issues with landings on Sparky, their trusty dragon. But that doesn't stop two such plucky heroines. Adrienne's determination is a great character trait, and as I said in my recommendation of the book, she is a character you want your younger female friends and relatives to look up to. Meanwhile, the King, Adrienne's father, still believes her dead and killed by a mystery knight (who is, in fact, Adrienne), and so he calls six of the kingdom's great bounty hunters and heroes to find the knight and dispatch him. Not surprisingly, these six guys all fit fantasy tropes and subvert them, none being particularly heroic, especially when discussing the possibility of taking one of the king's daughters to wife. New artist Emily Martin gives designs for these bounty hunters that take their trope and pushes it to the extreme; they're so one dimensional it's perfect. There is also a mystery around the behavior of Adrienne's mother, who knows the truth about her daughter and seems complacent about it; I wager that Adrienne gets some of her steel from her mother, and we'll see exactly what the queen is up to soon. Adrienne and Bedelia end the issue with a lead to Angelica's tower and possibly a new traveling companion; I enjoyed the slapsticky humor of the sequence where we meet the young poet who seems to appeal to Sparky more as dinner than as a new friend. Princeless is an all ages treat, smart and funny, and if you enjoy any fairy tale flavored comic, you are doing yourself a disservice not trying this book out.

Saga #12
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

Oh, Prince Robot IV... Brian K. Vaughan has done incredible work over the course of Saga to make every one his characters, both protagonist and antagonist, three dimensional, and this issue, featuring the prince of the Robot world, does a great job of adding new layers to him. Starting with a flashback to Robot IV receiving the injury that has been referenced a few times throughout the series, Vaughan demonstrates his power as a writer by introducing a medic and killing him a couple pages later and making the reader care. In the present Robot IV makes his way to meet D. Oswald Heist, the author of the book that Alana loved and helped draw her to Marko. The issue is mostly a conversation between Robot IV and Heist, about what the book means, and about Heist's son, who fought in the war and eventually took his own life. We learn just how haunted by his own war experience Robot IV is, and see just how much of a deathwish he has; knowing this makes the reader look at many of his actions, especially his murder of The Stalk, in a very different light. The tension of the conversation ratchets up by degree over the course of the issue, with the almost inevitable explosion of violence not dismissing it but leading to even more tensions. The last page reveal marks the end of this arc and the beginning of another hiatus for the title. I've always felt Vaughan was the king of the cliffhanger ending, and if this one doesn't prove me right, I don't know what will.

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