Monday, March 30, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/25

Abigail and the Snowman #4
Story & Art: Roger Langridge

Roger Langridge wraps up his story of a girl and her Yeti with an action packed double sized issue, as Abigail and Claude flee the government agents who have been chasing them, specifically the one-eyed monster hunter, who will stop at nothing to make sure if the British government can't have Claude, no one will. The issue has car chases, a helicopter with machine guns, and some mortal peril. The man from the government clearly has no problem hurting or killing Abigail to get at Claude, which leads to some pretty scary moments. But the violence never moves beyond something you'd see in a PG rated movie, and I think we underestimate kids: something can have some scares and some serious moments and still be all ages. Those are teachable moments, moments that can spur a discussion. But while there's more action in this issue, and a last minute reversal, as the other government agents decide they don't like the way this newcomer is willing to do anything to get what he wants, including hurting a little girl, the heart of this book is still the friendship between Abigail and Claude.  The concern they share for each other when in peril, the joy in the photo montage page as Abigail wants a few more pictures of memories with Claude before he leaves, and the wonderful scene of their reunion at issue's end will warm the coldest of hearts. Abigail and the Snowman is another charming delight from Roger Langridge, who is one of those creators whose work I always look forward to. With this series complete, I hope he has something else for us soon.

Batman and Robin #40
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason

After forty issues (plus a zero issue, and a Futures End one), Pete Tomasi wraps up his run on Batman and Robin. Damian, still super powered, gets to go on a big adventure with the Justice League, fighting a giant robot attacking Japan. While this is a very cool action centerpiece to the issue, and shows off Patrick Gleason's skill at drawing big action, it isn't what the issue is really about. No, this issue is really about how much Damian has grown as a character, not just from the beginning of the series but from his introduction. This isn't the killing machine trained by the League of Assassins. No, as Batman points out, during the battle with the robot he works with the team and keeps his emotions in check. But more than that, when we return to Wayne Manor, we see that Damian has made a gift for Bruce and Alfred, something the haughty psychopath he once was never would have done. We get glimpses of everything that this book has done for the character over its run, including Damian's Bat-pet menagerie (Titus the dog, Alfred the cat, and Batcow). I don't think it's a major spoiler or surprise that Damian loses his powers by the end of the issue, since I doubt anyone thought them permanent. I liked that Batman created the situation with the robot to have Damian bleed off the last of his super energy, but did it in a way that allowed Damian to have a big adventure and not in a dictatorial way. Maybe Batman has learned as much about parenting along the way as Damian has learned about himself. While this Wednesday will see a final annual from Tomasi, this issue would serve as a perfect coda to everything this book has done to make Damian the character that he is now.

Django/Zorro #5
Story: Quentin Tarantino & Matt Wagner
Art: Esteve Polls

Now past the halfway point, Django/Zorro is starting to roll towards its inevitable, blood soaked, Tarantino-style conclusion. After Don Diego donned his Zorro costume last issue, the native slave labor of the self-styled Duke of Arizona is starting to stir. And the Duke has decided that Django, seen in proximity to them, is behind it and should be interrogated. After a brief fight between the Duke's guards and Don Diego and Django, Don Diego is able to arrange a meeting with the Duke, and needs Django to steal into the Duke's study to find evidence that he has concocted the whole dukedom plot as a land grab. And to allow Django to more easily slip into the mansion, Don Diego provides Django with a special outfit. So much of what has made this book great has been the interaction between Django and Don Diego, with Django continually perplexed by Diego's demeanor and attitudes, and Diego's completely charming and friendly demeanor. Despite all of this, the highlight of the issue was a flashback of Django's to his time travelling with his friend, the former dentist turned bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz was a strong presence in Django Unchained, very similar to Don Diego, in that his urbane exterior masked a capacity for violence, but at his core he was a good man. It was a delightful scene to watch Scultz put a pair of racist thieves in their place while teaching Django an object lesson. It's a great scene, pitch perfect in its dialogue; I could actually here Christoph Waltz delivering the dialogue. Django/Zorro has been slow building, spending a lot of time with character, getting us to understand who these people are, with only brief flashes of violence. I think we're heading towards a climax worthy of the blood soaked conclusion of Django Unchained, and I wonder if there will be a new Zorro once the story is over.

The Valiant #4
Story: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt
Art: Paolo Rivera

The Valiant, the first event that touched every corner of the Valiant Universe concludes with an ending that is as bitter as it is sweet. The Immortal Enemy, the monstrous entity that seeks to kill the Geomancer, has defeated all the heroes who were set before it, and only Bloodshot stands as the last line of defense between it and Kay McHenry, the current Geomancer. As with the last issue, we really have two stories here, one with Bloodshot and Kay, and the other with Gilad Anni-Pada, the Eternal Warrior and guardian of the Geomancer, unlocking a mystery box sent from the future by himself that he is told will be the one thing that can stop the Enemy. The battle between the Enemy and Bloodshot is brutal, the kind of fight you can only have between two beings that can pretty much recover from any wound. I have to give writers Lemire and Kindt a lot of credit for seeding the fact that Bloodshot has no memories of who he once was throughout the series, making it an important part of his interactions with Kay, and paying it off in the big fight with an enemy who relies not just on physical might but on playing with the worst memories of his victims. The big moment of the issue was when Kay finally stands up to the Enemy. Still wearing the face of Mr. Flay, Kay's childhood boogeyman, Kay stood up to Flay to help save Bloodshot. One of the very cool tricks of the issue is once Gilad touches the mystery box with the weapon in it, we see a five minute countdown that continues to play out even when we move away from his scene, clicking off time in the lower right corner of each page. It adds to the tension of the already intense battle. I'm really loathe to talk about the last few pages, as they are really full of not only some major surprises, but events that completely toss the status quo of the Valiant universe on its ear, setting up Bloodshot Reborn, and hopefully another Eternal Warrior mini-series, since Gilad's final narration screams for a follow up of its own. I'm amazed how Valiant was able to have a crossover that was completely contained in one book, was of high quality, and really did affect its universe. This is great comics. And in a couple months, it will be out in trade for $9.99, so if all my words of praise have gotten you curious, then you'll have no excuse to not check it out when that happens.

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