Monday, May 13, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/8

Archer & Armstrong #0
Story: Fred Van Lente
Art: Clayton Henry

Archer & Armstrong has been one of the most consistently enjoyable titles out there since its debut, and after two very solid arcs, including the return of my favorite Valiant character, the Eternal Warrior, we take a step back and get to see a story of the Anni-Padda brothers in ancient Ur. Armstrong is telling Archer the epic of Gilgamesh, only this is the real version, where Gilgamesh and Enkidu are the Anni-Paddas. We get a really good feeling about who each of these men were, and how they interacted as brothers. It's especially important to really spend time with Ivar, the eldest brother, and the one who we've seen the least of. It's a fun, action story, with hints of the Valiant universe, including a cameo from Spider Aliens, and more about the origin of The Boo, the mystical artifact that was the maguffin on the first arc, but nothing that detracts from this as a perfect one off. Van Lente has done an excellent job of making the first issue of each arc a perfect jumping on point, and this issue works just as well, with a framing sequence featuring our title characters, as well as the main story. Clayton Henry returns to the series with this issue, and while I enjoyed Emanuela Lupacchino's work, it's great to see him back. His Armstrong especially has such vitality, radiates such joy (and melancholy), that it seems to jump right off the page. If you've never tried a Valiant Comic before, this is a great place for you to start.

Batman #20
Story: Scott Snyder/ James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo/ Alex Maleev

The two part reinvention of Clayface for the New 52 wraps up in this second part of this Batman story, and it's as exciting as the first. It feels perfectly like an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, with a great action piece to it, as well as a simple, smart solution to the problem at hand. The new version of Clayface is interesting, with his slightly modified powers, and adds a little pathos to the character without taking away anything from him (a problem I've had with a few of the new 52 reinventions). There's a wonderful nod to the  DC Animated Universe, with the appearance of prototype armor that won't be financially feasible for twenty years, a time when a young man named Terry McGinnis might become a Batman beyond what Bruce has been able to do. It was interesting to see Bruce and Lucius Fox tossed into a deadly situation together, and see Lucius look like he has no idea of Bruce's other identity. I believe Lucius (like Jim Gordon) knows Batman's identity, and just keeps it to himself on principle that if Bruce wants to tell him, he will. It seems Lucius here really doesn't know; whether that is a New 52 continuity tweak or just Lucius being very coy it up to the reader. The final scene, of Bruce and Alfred viewing recordings of Damian together, is touching and heartbreaking; there is no way this Batman is the cold and unfeeling man that so many writers portray him as. In the back up, Batman and Superman fight a magic creature, and Bruce talks to a spirit about how he fells about Superman, and I really like the fact that the current writers do view the two as real friends, not Miller-esque adversaries with a common cause. The final panels are especially fun, as Superman gets a little taste of what Jim Gordon is used to getting.

Batman and Red Hood #20
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason & Cliff Richards

Batman continues his quest through the five stage of grief, and who better to accompany him through rage than the Batman family with the most anger issues of his own, Red Hood. What starts out as Bruce inviting Jason along on a raid of a camp of assassins turns into a much darker fight as Bruce bring Jason back to the site of his death to try to determine the secrets of his resurrection to use it to revive Damian. What begins as the two of them bonding and talking about trust turns into a fist fight, as they both let vent the anger they hold inside on each other. In Gotham, we also get to see a little bit more of Carrie Kelly, who again shows her pluck by standing up to the taciturn Bruce. Both Alfred and Titus, Damian's dog, take a liking to her, and it looks like Carrie is here to stay, which is a good thing, as she is one of the best additions to the Batman cast in many years (or re-addition, I suppose, if you count her appearances in Dark Knight Returns). Patrick Gleason does his usual excellent job on art, with a little pinch hit from Cliff Richards. I've been a fan of Richards since his long run on Dark Horse's original Buffy: The Vampire Slayer title, and I like seeing his work on more high profile titles. I want to team of Tomasi and Gleason on this book as long as possible, but if they need any more fill in work, I hope Richards is at the top of the speed dial.

Suicide Squad #20
Story: Ales Kot
Art: Patrick Zircher

Wow. The Suicide Squad series from the 80s is one of my favorite series ever, with the brilliant John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and a series of amazing artists crafting some of the best, most human stories I've ever read. Since it's return in the New 52, it has been a series I have wanted to like far more than one I actually have. But the difference one issue can make! New writer Ales Kot comes in and spends the issue reintroducing readers to the cast, getting into their heads. Amanda Waller sits with a mysterious figure who is analyzing each of the current members of the Squad, giving her the keys to their psychologies. Some of the things hinted at in the early parts of the run are finally paid off. While I'm not in love with the idea that Waller can resurrect members of the Squad at will (I feel it takes away the feeling of danger and the unexpected that was central to the original run), I like how Kot handles it here. And the big reveal of who Waller's new Squad member is? Well, I was worried this character was going to be overused, especially after how heavily he was used in another title for some time, but this new life he's been given is perfect. I don't want to spoil the end, but needless to say, I'm intrigued. Patrick Zircher's art is the best on this title so far, and I hope he sticks around for a while; inconsistent art has been another thing that has seriously hurt Suicide Squad since its return. This is a great jumping on point for new readers, and I would suggest everyone who's been tempted before to give it a shot.

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