Monday, November 24, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/19

Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1
Story: Harlan Ellison
Adaptation: Len Wein
Art: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

I've been enjoying a lot of the Batman '66 comics, both the regular series and the Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet mini-series, but this particular one-shot was something I've been looking forward to a great deal since it was announced. It has a lot going for it. First, it's an actual unaired concept from the original series that was greenlit but never aired. Secondly, that concept was by Harlan Ellison, one of the greatest living legends of science fiction writing. Thirdly, it features Two-Face, my second favorite Batman villain (and yes, I realize the irony in that), who never actually made it onto the show. It's a really solid story, fitting perfectly with the tone of the classic show. Two-Face's obsession with the number two and his use of the two-headed coin are stressed, which makes him fit in with the gimmick heavy villains of the classic show (you'd think if Gotham would stop having twins princesses with twin jewel encrusted crowns arrive at 2 a.m. at Dock #2, they'd save themselves a lot of trouble). His origin is retold, and it is pretty much right out of the comic, so there is more pathos than with most of the other villains, with the possible exception of King Tut, who had that whole mild-mannered professor alter ego. And Batman winds up defeating Two-Face using his brain, not his fists, which is a touch I like. I also wonder if the treatment for this episode is ever referenced as inspiration for two other memorable Two-Face stories: Two-Face has his base on a sailing ship here, and the legendary Modern Age return of Two-Face by O'Neil and Adams features a set piece on an old ship, and Two-Face's coin landing on edge is a major plot point in the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Second Chance." The issue is also chock full of backmatter. There's a full copy of the story with no colors or words, so you can enjoy the art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; this guy is a legend for a reason, and the art in this issue shows he hasn't slowed down in the least. There are also some preliminary sketches by Garcia-Lopez, showing the evolution of Two-Face's look. And finally, there's the original treatment, reproduced directly from Ellison's notes. If you're a fan of the classic Batman TV show, even if you haven't tried any of the other recent tie-in comics, this is an issue well worth checking out.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #9
Story: Christos Gage
Art: Rebekah Isaacs

I hate Andrew Wells. If I could wish one character created by Joss Whedon out into the cornfield, it would be Andrew, the smarmy little git who started out as a villain in season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and was "redeemed" and helped out the good guys by the end of season seven. He's an over the top geek caricature who I never felt earned his repentance. Faith, who clearly came from a bad background and who was manipulated by a centuries old evil who played on her issues, she had to go to jail for killing someone. Andrew, who became a super villain (his words) because his friends thought it would be cool and because he was bullied in high school (hands up if anyone who reads this wouldn't fall under the same criteria), and stabbed his one friend because there was a promise of power in it, he gets to shed a couple tears and all is forgiven? I hate the little weasel. So major kudos to Christos Gage for doing something no one else ever has, not even the mighty Joss himself: he got me to care about Andrew. This issue, where Willow faces down an Andrew dead set on resurrecting Tara, Willow's girlfriend killed by Andrew's friend Warren, gives us a view into what makes Andrew tick. And he's confronted with what he does wrong, not just what he did in the TV show, but in the comics too; the fact that Andrew acts for whatever Andrew thinks is best, without really considering others, and that Andrew comes to this realization, finally shows some growth in the character. I like that Gage let Willow be the one who talks him down, because if anyone would know about making a big mistake with magic, it would be Willow. Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike are fighting a tentacle faced soul eating demon, and while there's a lot of coll action here, what we get in the way of character is more important, as we see exactly what Spike thinks of himself and his past, and how he has come to value his soul in a way I'm not sure Angel ever has. Now, the issue's end makes me a little leery of saying exactly how much Andrew has learned from this experience, but still, for a brief glimmering second, I actually didn't want to strangle Andrew. And that took a lot of work, so congratulations.

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