Monday, August 19, 2013

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 8/14

Batman #23
Story: Scott Snyder/ James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo/ Rafael Albuquerque

Zero Year continues on in the breakneck pace, with this issue paying off not only much of the set up from the previous two issues, but much of what was given us in Batman #0 from a year ago. The issue opens with the Red Hood gang invading Bruce's penthouse and basically beating the hell out of him and burning the penthouse, juxtaposed with Bruce falling into the caves below Wayne Manor. Bruce escapes into below Gotham, and makes his way through the subterranean caverns to Wayne Manor, where he is met by Alfred. The symmetry of the two events is presented beautifully, and Capullo is in top form. It's also wonderful to see Bruce find his way to the Manor and have Alfred waiting, affirming the strong relationship between them that Snyder has been writing since his first issue on the series. Snyder continues to tease the identity of the Red Hood Leader; based on classic continuity, it should be the Joker, and the beating with the crowbar he gives Bruce is a nod to Joker's beating of Jason Todd, and the dialogue sounds very Joker like, but I feel like Snyder might have an ace (or a Joker) up his sleeve when the big reveal comes. Also interesting are Phillip Kane's words to Riddler as he leaves his employ. I'm curious to see exactly what changes Snyder has made to the Riddler's background, and whether we'll see them in next month's Villain's Month Riddler issue.And the issue ends with one of the most iconic scenes from the Batman canon: the bat on the bust and the realization of what Bruce must be. Snyder adds his own twist on it, while maintaining touches from Batman: Year One, including Bruce talking to his father and the bell on the table, and it is still a powerful scene every time I've seen it done. This issue's backup, "The Pit," is about Bruce's physical training, and ties into the main piece by showing how Bruce can take such a savage beating, but also ties nicely into the eventual driving force behind what Bruce does: fear. While he won't kill, the driving, obsessive need to keep going inspires as much fear as the fear of death. And now, next issue, it's time for him to don the cowl for the first time. I can't wait.

Batman: Li'l Gotham #5
Story & Art: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs

And on the other end of the Batman spectrum is Li'l Gotham. This is not just an incredibly fun book, but the perfect comic for those who miss the pre-Flashpoint Batman continuity. This is a delightfully all ages comic; it never talks down to its readers, and has great action, but is well suited for younger readers as well as those of us who like a superhero romp that isn't steeped in angst. The first of this month's two stories is a Mr. Freeze tale, about Freeze being released from Arkham and after having a good day, he decides to freeze the city in that state of perfection so when Nora awakes, she will find the perfect city. This is the tragic Freeze created by Paul Dini, not the more disturbed New 52 version, and I have a very soft spot for this incarnation of the character. Probably second only to Claremont's Magneto, this Freeze is a villain who you can empathize with, although he is clearly not exactly right in the head. The second story is a Cinco de Mayo tale (since this is a digital first comic, the holidays each story touches on are usually a couple months behind) of Red Robin, Robin, Katana, and Abuse (a Gotham vigilante who Damian befriended, a kid who was experimented on with Venom so he could grow to adult size, sort of a very angry Captain Marvel) trying to infiltrate Bane's gang. It's a light tale, and is cut with scenes of Batman, Huntress, Zatanna, and Red Hood playing Scrabble and Nightwing and Oracle out on a date. While I have embraced the New 52 and all its changes, these are the incarnations of these characters I grew up with, and to get a chance to see them again makes me smile. I love how Nguyen and Fridolfs find a way to write Damian as both bratty and endearing, and I like this incarnation of Katana, although part of me feels like she is taking the place of Cassandra Cain who is verboten by some strange DC fiat. If you want so fun Batman action without any continuity that you can share with anyone, I can't think of a better book.

Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance #1
Story & Art: Mike Kunkel

Herobear and the Kid is one of those all ages books I missed the first time around, and have heard nothing but amazing things about. Now that BOOM! is publishing new material, I was hoping they would do exactly what they're doing, which is reprinting the original mini-series. The Inheritance is the original Herobear and the Kid story, initially selfpublished by creator Mike Kunkel. Tyler is ten, and he and his family have just moved into the house that belonged to his grandfather before he passed away. For a kids comic, it starts very frankly, at Tyler's grandfather's funeral, and is narrated beautifully by Tyler as he remembers his grandfather. When Tyler receives his inheritance, he is surprised to find it is just a stuffed bear and a broken pocketwatch. When Tyler goes to school, we see a lot of the typical schoolyard tropes: the geeky kid, the bully, the pretty girl. Kunkel handles all these characters well, but it's only after Tyler is soundly thrashed by the local bullies that he smacks the stuffed bear on the nose, and it spins around on its own and changes into a polar bear in a cape. That's the end of issue #1, so we haven't really gotten to meet Herobear yet, but Tyler is a likable protagonist, and this comic feels to me to be about the wonder of childhood and so a teddy bear superhero is a perfect vehicle for all that is special about childhood.

Saga #13
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

Saga is back! It seems the time between new arcs on Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples space/fantasy/war/romance comic gets longer each time. This issue picks up a bit before the end of the last issue, setting up exactly how Marko, Alana, Hazel, and their extended family wound up on the planet Quietus in the home of D. Oswald Heist. The family dynamic with the addition of Marko's mother, Klara, is fun, as she clearly is not a fan of Alana, but after the death of her husband, she wants to stay with her family. There's some great action once the family arrive on Quietus, with living bones attacking them, and as Hazel points out in her narration, the first impression give by Heist is not the best, adding some humor to a tense scene. Meanwhile, The Will has crashed his ship and is stranded with Gwendolyn and Slave Girl. There's a Tracy and Hepburn banter going to between The Will and Gwendolyn that is clear to everyone but them, especially to the spirit of The Stalk, that seems to appear to The Will and tells him what she really wants for him. For an issue where there is very little action, a lot happens here, especially when The Will makes a statement at the end regarding Slave Girl. I think I've stated before that I think Vaughan is the master of the cliffhanger in comics, and while this issue's end isn't a jawdropper of WTF!!! proportion, it is the beginning of what I think is serious character evolution for The Will. The thrill of Saga has been how well wrought all the characters are, so this cliffhanger is actually more meaningful to me than a ship crashing into a blackhole.

The X-Files: Season 10 #3
Story: Joe Harris
Art:Michael Walsh

When it aired, I was a huge fan of The X-Files. I'm talking huge; watched every episode multiple times, owned all the novels, comics, episode guides, poured over it's arcane mythology. I stuck with it to the bitter end, and am one of probably eight people who saw the second feature film on the big screen (on the second weekend it was out (it opened opposite The Dark Knight. There was no competition there). And despite the lackluster last couple seasons, I had to admit a new season presented in comic form like Buffy and Angel, with show creator Chris Carter "executive producing" it, the same way Whedon does his comics, made me very curious. Three issues later, I'm actually pretty pleased. Writer Joe Harris has the character's voices pretty much dead on, and artist Michael Walsh, whose work on Comeback I loved, has their likenesses down while still putting it in his own style. The creators have quite a ways to go, since the series finale prophesied an alien invasion that never happened, and the mythology grew so complex by the end it took a map to find your way out of it, but Harris jumped in headfirst, with a mystery involving Mulder and Scully's son, William, long since given up for adoption, alien/human hybrids, and cults pursuing Scully. This issue brings back one of The X-Files most notorious characters, Cancer Man, the mysterious smoking man who seems to have all the answers. He and Mulder have a confrontation in a diner, and the dialogue given to the mystery man is so perfect I could hear Wiliam B. Davis's voice in my head. The last page gives a reveal that sends a shiver up my spine as it hearkens back to some of the best of the mythology episodes of the series, with Mulder unwrapping a gift from Cancer Man, who for once flat out makes a pronouncement about his relationship to Mulder. There's more going on with ol' CM than it seems, as he has now been killed twice and yet seems mostly fine, although there is a hint that he might not be as healthy as he seems. Scully, meanwhile, is running through the countryside with an alien to protect her from other aliens, and... yeah, it's good to be back in X-Files territory. Let's just hope that the truth is really out there this time, and not a whole lot of unanswerable mysteries.

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