Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/26

Arkham Manor #2
Story: Gerry Duggan
Art: Shawn Crystal

I didn't review the first issue of Arkham Manor, not because I didn't like it, but because it didn't jump off the page at me. It felt like a lot of Batman in a book I was hoping would be something different than that. But the second issue, while Batman is still a major part of it, jumped right at me. I feel like this books is finding its feet. The scene that I absolutely loved, the one that showed me all the potential this book could have, was a group therapy session headed by Jeremiah Arkham. Other than "Jack Shaw," Batman's secret identity as a new inmate he is using to investigate murders in Arkham, we see Seth Wickham, a new inmate whose origin we get at the beginning of the issue, Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze, who has to live in a walk in freezer until his cell is completed, so he appears via what reminded me of a monitor on a segue robot. Not only is the scene great, with some nice character bits from both the villains and Dr. Arkham, but the minute it's clear "Shaw: is hiding something, everyone starts accusing him of being Joker in disguise. This reinforces to me the fact that Joker is the boogeyman to even the boogeymen. Since this takes place before "Endgame" we also get to see Eric Border, who if you're reading Batman you know what his story is, and that adds an air of menace, of wondering exactly what he might have been up to before the big reveal. The fact that Zsasz is the villain who has escaped and who Batman suspects of the murders feels like a great parallel to Zsasz's first appearance in "The Last Arkham," a story where Arkham has been redesigned and Zsasz is escaping to commit murders. Since the parallel is so clear, I have a feeling Zsasz is a red herring, but if he isn't I'm still excited to see Gerry Duggan write one of my favorite Bat-foes. Shawn Crystal's art has a feel that suits this comic perfectly, with dark lines and heavy shadows, adding to the feeling of foreboding that permeates Arkham. There was also a brief scene that ties very closely to events in Gotham Academy, one of the other new Bat books, which answered one of the mysteries of that series without giving too much context, so it doesn't spoil anything heavily for that book and if you're not reading Academy, could seem like set-up for future plots in Arkham Manor. Since The New 52, it feels like the Bat books all exist in their own corners, with very little tie-ins between them, so I was happy to see some connectivity in the world. There's a really solid ending, a nice mystery set up, and it's an exciting final few pages. This issue really makes me look forward to my next visit to Arkham Manor.

Batman Beyond Universe #16
Story: Alex Siegel & Kyle Higgins
Art: Thony Silas

The end of Batman Beyond Universe snuck up on me. For the foreseeable future, this is the last comic taking place in the world created so many years ago by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and their collaborators on Batman: The Animated Series, and I feel attention must be paid. It's a great send off to Terry McGinnis, tying up a lot of the threads that the series has been playing out over this new volume. While there's a battle with Rewire, the new villain introduced at the beginning of this series, and it's a really well thought out one, with some very logical superheroics and tech to finally defeat him, this issue grabbed me because of the themes of family it explored. Since Terry learned that his father was alive in an alternate timeline, he has been spending more time there, connecting with the father he lost who he never appreciated in life. But this issue gives Terry the choice about whether he should spend his time there, or with the family he has built in his own world, the one comprised of Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne, and Barbara Gordon. Siegel and Higgins show Terry's struggle, and also give a very human moment or two to Bruce. The Beyond-era Bruce is at times even more closed off than his contemporary counterpart, but over the course of the animated series, had moments of warmth and openness, like visiting Tim Drake at the end of Return of the Joker, or making Terry soup at the end of the Justice League Unlimited episode, "Epilogue." It was nice to see Bruce reacting to the possibility of losing Dick. Another key scene was Terry confronting Ghoul, the member of the Jokerz street gang who has been a nemesis of Terry's through the recent comics. Terry gives a short speech about breaking the cycle of Batman and Joker to Ghoul, and that moment of self awareness is a strong sign of how much Terry has grown over the course of this series. And that's it. The series has wrapped, and while a version of Terry is playing a part in New 52: Futures End, this is the last we will see of the original version of that character for a while at least. It's been nice to revisit the character and his world in comics after the end of the animated series, and I think I might just have to go back and watch some of my favorite episodes of the cartoon now, to really see how far Terry has come.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters #2
Story: Erik Burnham & Tom Waltz
Art: Dan Schoening

Crossovers are a tricky thing, especially when you're crossing over two well known and well regarded properties. You can sometimes make one property too much of a focus, or it can feel like one is being used to show how much cooler the other is at the expense of the first property. None of that is happening in the TMNT/Ghostbusters mini-series. The first issue spent a lot of time revealing the current status quo of the Turtles, since it is a little less familiar than the one the Ghostbusters have, but now that all the preliminaries are out of the way, this issue throws the two sets of characters together and plays them off each other. The plot is forwarded, as the evil god Chi You continues to build his army and walk around with Turtles ally Casey Jones as his puppet, the scene I loved was where the Turtles go to the firehouse and we see a pairing off of the two casts. Egon and Donatello argue about the science and the existence of ghosts, Peter and Raphael make sarcastic comments, Ray and Michelangelo get a nice comedic scene, Winston and Leonardo comment on being the steady ones in groups whose members are, let's say, easily distracted, and Janine and April just sort of take in the chaos. Since the two writers responsible for the mini-series have long standing histories with these characters, it should come as no surprise that they all sound exactly as you'd expect, but it didn't occur to me how well the two teams would blend, and how many parallels there are. This issue sets the stakes for the remaining two, now that we know exactly how long the Turtles have to get back to their world and what it will take. This is everything you'd ask for in a crossover, and I can just picture ten year old me being completely blown away by it. Thirty-four year old me is pretty blown away as it is.

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