Monday, July 6, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/1

Detective Comics #42
Story: Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul
Art: Fernando Blanco

The first issue of Detective Comics in the new Batman era got a bit lost for me last month, as it was released the same day as the new issue of Batman that really introduced Jim Gordon as Batman, despite having good things to say for it. This second issue is not only just as good, but might even be better than the first. While Jim/Batman does show up, both in and out of costume, this issue, and I think this book in general, has the feel of some of the best old GCPD stories from the '90s, and even a touch of Gotham Central, as Harvey Bullock is clearly the main character of this title, not Batman. While we open with a really cool fight scene between Batman and a gang of skull painted assassins called LaMorte, assassins with tech designed to take out the new Bat-mech suit, the thrust of the issue is Bullock trying to come to terms with his new status quo. I'm super-excited that Renee Montoya is back, and it's interesting to see her in a lighter tone. From "Half a Life," when Two-Face outed her, through her appearances as the Question, Renee was a haunted character. I can imagine people familiar with her exclusively through her time as written by Greg Rucka might see this more confident, less tormented Renee as a departure. But if you read her in the '90s, when she was first introduced, this Renee is close to that, a good, strong officer of the law. I love the interplay between her and Harvey, both when they're getting along and when they're fighting. Bullock's anger when he thinks Renee might be internal affairs is also perfectly in character; with the exception of Jim Gordon (and his late, old continuity wife, Sarah) Bullock has always had a problem with authority figures, and his somewhat old school rough cop attitude has caused problems with IA before. There's a lot of building blocks in this issue, with Bullock realizing that his partner/lover Yip might be hiding something from him, and I like that this book is focusing on the Batman support unit of the GCPD, as it's fleshing out exactly how Batman now relates to the city. Fernando Blanco's art is outstanding, sharing some of the git with guys like Michael Lark and Steve Lieber, artists I associate with GCPD, so I feel he's a great fit for the title now that Francis Manapul is off art and soon will be leaving the title. I'm glad that each Bat-title is getting more and more of its own flavor in this new DC era, and as the police/crime book, I think Detective Comics has a lot of potential.

Groot #2
Story: Jeff Loveness
Art: Brian Kesinger

"How Groot Met Rocket..." would be an apt description of this issue. I was a little worried when Skottie Young left his delightful Rocket Raccoon ongoing, and it was replaced by this new Groot title; after all, Groot can only say one sentence. But last issue's adventure with Rocket was fun, and left Groot floating in space, and this issue sees Groot thinking about how he met his pal. He also bumps into a space bus and accidentally terrifies everyone as some sort of floating space monster, but that's just an amusing aside. The main flashback sequence sees Rocket and Groot meet while both locked up in a jail in space. I like how Jeff Loveness builds the relationship. Rocket isn't friendly at first with Groot, which makes sense, since Rocket isn't exactly known to be friendly. But when the guards pick on Groot, Rocket stands up for him, which is a perfect character beat for Rocket, who I think views himself as a defender of the little guy, even though most little guys are bigger than him. The rest of the issue is them getting to know each other more, and Rocket warming up to Groot, and eventually learning to understand Groot's language, although the how  that isn't explained, which I don't mind, This is a fun comic, an all ages book, and I like that we're really just watching these two character on an adventure, not encumbered with any of the continuity of the ongoing Marvel universe epic.

Nailbiter #14
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Mike Henderson

I'm not sure if Joshua Williamson is moving his serial killer horror comic, Nailbiter, to its endgame, but he's certainly ramping up the tension and starting to give us some answers. After last issue's horrific final page reveal, we see exactly what Reverend Fairgold's plan is, and that might make his little act of cannibalism all the creepier, as it's all to get rid of Edward Charles Warren, the Nailbiter. But as Warren's reluctant protectors, Sheriff Crane and Agent Finch cart him off, they don't take him to jail. Instead, they insist he show them what he has learned about the history of Buckaroo and how the town continues to give birth to serial killers. What we get is a gorgeous and atmospheric scene, where artist Mike Henderson shows descents into caverns and submerged Aztec temples. It's a creepy scene from a comic that has done a tremendous job of building atmosphere from issue one. Nailbiter is a master class on tension and mood, not just in individual scenes (most notably the scene where we saw Warren hiding under the Sheriff's bed a few issues ago), but in the way the whole two feels. I can't think of another series since Starman that has built the personality of its setting as well as this. And I love the buts of background we get on the Buckaroo Butcher phenomenon. It's not enough to tie everything up, not in the least, but it happily whets my appetite for more. And I was happy to see a brief return of Alice, the teen who believes she is destined to be the next Butcher, as brief as it was. She and Sheriff Crane have been my favorite characters in the series, and I hope her fate isn't sealed in this issue, although this is a comic that doesn't shy away from a body count. I also absolutely loved the flashbacks to Warren and Crane as young lovers on the night of their prom, and the early sign of Warren's slipping. More than that, the fact that Warren resists the urge to kill Crane and leaves a note for her is actually touching. I like that we're seeing more of Warren as a character, and not just the sort of grinning killer he's been since the series started. Joshua Williamson recently wrapped his excellent supernatural caper comic, Ghosted, and that ending showed me this is a guy who knows how to pay off his readers. While I know that Nailbiter will have as great an ending, I do hope there's some more time before we see that end.

We Stand on Guard #1
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Steve Skroce

It's an embarrassment of riches when we have multiple titles from Brian K. Vaughan on the racks. While Saga is a space opera war story centered around the idea of family, We Stand On Guard is set on Earth in the not too distant future. I was going to say it was more grounded, but that would be doing Saga a disservice, since that comic, despite being set in worlds unknown with magic and superscience, is emotionally one of the most grounded comics out there. We Stand On Guard is set in a world where the USA is at war with Canada, and we readers are following the Canadian side of things. We open with the first salvos of the war, and see our protagonist, Amber, lose her parents to a bombing. Flash forward twelve years, and Amber is now alone in the wilderness and fighting off a robot dog, only to be saved by Canadian freedom fighters. Vaughan gives us snapshots of who each of these characters are, and even gives on, Booth, a great speech about how Superman is Canadian (read it to get the full impact, but it's great). And then a giant walker mech shows up, and we get a great scene of The Two-Four, the name of the resistance, taking it down. While Vaughan does his usual strong job building character and writing clever dialogue, it's Steve Skroce's art hat floored me this issue. Skroce is an artist who doesn't do a lot of comics anymore, working mostly as a storyboard artist in Hollywood, but I've been a fan since he drew Cable and X-Man back in the '90s for Marvel. His gorgeously detailed art is perfect not only for the characters faces and body language, but he draws a mean robot. The giant walker and the robot dog are rendered beautifully, and the action scenes are some of the best I've seen in years. The first issue of We Stand On Guard is a strong start to a new series from two creators I'm glad to see still working in comics.

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