Monday, August 5, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/31

Detective Comics Annual #2
Story: John Layman & Joshua Williamson
Art: Scot Eaton, Szymon Kudranski, Derlis Santacruz

Some years ago, Dan Slott, best known for his work on Amazing/Superior Spider-Man as well as other Marvel books, wrote some great Batman stories, mostly in the animated series title, Batman Adventures. But he also wrote a really creepy mini-series called Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, which not only had some great uses of classic Bat villains, but introduced a bunch of new ones, most of whom have been underused or not at all used. This years Detective Comics Annual takes one of these villains and introduces her into the New 52: Jane Doe, who has no identity of her own and takes the identities, skins, and skills of her victims. Its a very Batman villain concept, and John Layman, regular Detective Comics writer, and co-writer Joshua Williamson, don't change the formula. Instead we get Batman playing detective, trying to find out who Jane has replaced while also dealing with the Wrath killings that are happening in the main story in the monthly series. What I really enjoyed was the annual was divided into interconnected stories. The first is the traditional Batman versus a villain story, which is a well orchestrated little piece. The others deal with the ramifications of what happened in that story. One story deals with Jane Doe in Arkham, and we get a little more a view of exactly what she in from her own point of view. The last story deals with Jane's surviving final victim, and how he or she deals with seeing what Jane did with his or her life. I don't want to say who it is, but it was a great reveal at the ending to the main story, and seeing exactly how one's life is affected by supervillains is something we usually don't see from more common person, so its a nice touch, especially in an issue that deals so much with identity.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #5
Story: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham

The first arc on the now ongoing Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray wraps up with our title hero making peace with his past and the ghosts that haunt him, both literally and metaphorically. While Fabian faces down the Vampire, who seems to have his sister, imprisoned, in the final test, Shangri-la is under siege, with Fabian's friend, Sebastian, at risk from the attacking sorcerer. The inner battle Fabian has with the Vampire is less important than the peace he makes with the loss of Sylvia, his sister. Not that Fabian has given up his quest to find her, far from it, but he now has a drive to do good beyond that. If this had been the end of the series, it would have been a great place to leave him, but knowing that more is coming makes it all the more exciting, especially with the hints of the mysterious cabal that has been hunting Fabian. Chris Mooneyham's art, which has been excellent so far, kicks up into a new and even more incredible gear. The scenes in the dreamscape, as Fabian fights the Vampire and sees his sister are ethereal and gorgeous, and his battle in the real world with the swordsman/sorcerer is one of the most dynamic fight scenes I've seen in comics in a long time. While I'm trying to keep my comic consumption at a stable level, I'm very excited that I can add this book to my list of ongoing titles; Five Ghosts is a definite keeper.

Indestructible Hulk #11
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Matteo Scalera

Indestructible Hulk has been a solid book since its inception, but has stood in the shadow of Mark Waid's excellent run on Daredevil for me. This new issue, the beginning of the "Agent of T.I.M.E." arc, feels like the start of the breakout arc. This book has been a mix of superheroics and sci-fi, so a Hulk heading into the timestream to help fix the mess that the Avengers made of the it in Age of Ultron fits with the book's mission statement.  Before the time travel and Hulking-out, we get some great scenes between Bruce Banner and Maria Hill; Hill and Banner butt heads pretty much constantly, and I really enjoy the adversarial relationship between them. The appearance of Arthur Zarrko, a C-List Marvel time travel villain also known as the Tomorrow Man sets up the plot, and explains some of the interesting things Waid has been doing with Hulk. I haven't read a lot of Hulk since Peter David left, with the exception of an arc or two here and there, so I don't know exactly what the relationship between Bruce and his ex-wife Betty is right now, other than the fact that she's a Red She-Hulk, but Waid puts her to an interesting use in the issue. And the idea of Banner's consciousness travelling in a robot with the Hulk, and the two having to interact, is a very cool one too. Mark Waid made good use of time travel in his legendary run on The Flash, so I'm excited to see more of what he does in this arc. Oh, the above cover is the variant, by the way, but as a Revolutionary War buff, I had to choose it. Can't you just picture the Hulk screaming, "NO, John Hancock! Hulk will sign first!"

Scartch 9: Cat Tails #1
Story: Rob M. Worley
Art: Shannon Eric Dento, Justin Casteneda, Caanan Grall, Mike Roll, Jason T. Kruse

Scratch 9 returns with an anthology featuring a story for each of house cat Scratch's nine lives, each with a different artist. The original Scratch 9 series was a charming, action filled romp perfect for all ages, and the new incarnation is just as much fun, but the short story format allows writer Rob M. Worley to stretch his artistic legs and tell different kinds of stories. Each of this first issue's four tales have a completely different flavor, which makes sense as each cat is very different. The story of D'Argent, the black and white French cat who can spread both good and bad luck, is a sweet story of him helping a human friend find love. Ix, the cat from the far future with the hyper-evolved brain, breaks the fourth wall and shows the reader some fun interactive number/letter games and optical illusions. Gargogga, the smilodon (that's sabre-toothed tiger in layman's terms), wanders the cold winter of prehistoria, where the last of the smilodons shows just how big his heart is. And in my favorite tale of the issue, Bektah, the guardian cat of a young Pharaoh, must save his young master from his own ill chosen words when a demon takes him up on an offer made rashly. And all of that is framed by one page intros featuring Scratch's supporting cast in homage to all manner of classic TV hosts, from Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone to Masterpiece Theatre. I have an affinity for all ages comics, anyone who has read more than a couple posts on here knows that, and the original Scratch 9 really grabbed me, so I was glad to get my hands on this new issue. If you are a cat lover, or a lover of any fun animal story, this is a comic well worth trying.

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