Monday, August 31, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 8/26

Batman '66 #26
Story: Jeff Parker
Art: Jesse Hamm & Kelly Fitzpatrick

OK, I admit it: I have absolutely fallen in love with Jeff Parker introducing more modern Batman villains into the universe of the classic TV show. This issue, in case you couldn't tell by the cover, introduces the '66 version of Poison Ivy. Side note: I've read in various places that Ivy was created in the comics as a character to be used on the show, but the show was cancelled before she could transition over. If this is true, and while I imagine it is, I haven't found any primary sources to confirm it, it makes an interesting full circle to have her appear in the comic. The plot is pretty much what any plot of the Batman TV show or this comic is: criminal arrives in Gotham and Batman must thwart her or him. But it's the details that sell the comic. One thing I really enjoyed was how the story ties Ivy in with a foe created for the show: Milton Berle's Louie the Lilac. Louie had all these deadly plant hybrids, so saying that he purchased them from Ivy makes absolute perfect sense. Ivy herself is more playful and lighter than her traditional comic book counterpart; this is much more the thieving criminal Ivy of the 60s and 70s than the eco-warrior Ivy that Batman: The Animated Series created. Artist Jesse Hamm gives her some really great body language, with a couple panels of her moving that makes me think he envisioned her as moving like a dancer, with big kicks. Parker wrote her with a southern accent, something that hearkens back to her original appearances in the comics (thanks to Jeff Parker for replying to my tweet about this). The middle of the issue also had a cliffhanger moment that felt perfectly in line with the best cliffhangers of the show, with Batman and Robin about to be devoured by Ivy's Jupiter Flytrap (because Jupiter is a big planet, and this is a huge flytrap, naturally), which has a great joke about Robin talking about taking up the mantle of the Bat and Batman totally telling him to back off in that funnily passive aggressive way only Batman '66 can. Even if this isn't the Bruce Wayne of my heart, it's nice to have Bruce popping up in couple places as Batman while Jim Gordon runs around in the Bat armor over in the main DCU (which is a good story, but I need my fix of more traditional Batman). If you're missing some Bruce Wayne Batman, this is good stop to make while we wait for his return elsewhere.

Hellboy in Hell #7
Story: Mike Mignola
Art: Mike Mignola & Dave Stewart

Hellboy's back! Whoo-hoo! There are some comics where massive gaps between issues kill momentum and make you frustrated, but Hellboy, in any of its myriad forms, is not one of them. Mignola keeps the premise of the series simple and direct, and so when you come back in, you're back at home, and it feels good. This issue opens with Hellboy... unconscious I guess is the right word, even though he's dead he still seems to be able to slip in and out of consciousness, where he has a vision of Alice, the girl he might have loved if he had more time, and the world tree that she says he left behind in Enland upon his death. He awakes in Hell, found by two doctors who say he has an ectoplasmic parasite, and they lead him to a third doctor, Dr. Hoffman, who they say can aid him in freeing him of the parasite. But because nothing's ever easy, Hellboy finds Dr. Hoffman on trial. Hoffman gets off, but Dr. Coppelius, who is the plaintiff, is pretty pissed about it. Dr. Hoffman is able to help Hellboy, but not cure him before Coppelius, whose rage has turned him into a giant rage monster comes after Hoffman. Hellboy in Hell is a book you experience as much as read, and you just have to let it wash over you. The plot doesn't reflect half of what's going on in Mignola's incredible art, and with the way the book is written, with flashes of other things happening, and communicating with Hellboy, a synopsis doesn't work. The puppet theatre that Mignola used back in issue 1 is back, now performing the witches from Macbeth, which is a great visual. And it wouldn't be Hellboy without a touch of bizarre humor, in this case part of the backstory of the rivalry between Hoffman and Coppelius has to do with a golem who's obsessed with fish. If that line doesn't sell you on this story, well, Hellboy probably isn't for you.

Princeless Book 4: Be Yourself #3
Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Emily Martin & Brett Gruning

Hey, I don't think I write about enough Jeremy Whitley comics last week, so I'm doing another one this week!  We're into the third issue of the new volume of Princeless, the story of Princess Adrienne and her friends attempting to rescue her sisters from the towers her father imprisoned them in, and things are going about as well as usual. Adrienne and Bedelia are travelling across a swamp to find the tower of the gothiest princess in all the land, Angoisse, while her dragon, Sparky, is staying to help defend a tribe of goblins from a monster called the Grimmorax. Before the issue is done, Adrienne will arrive at her sister's tower and Sparky will defeat the Grimmorax, but what struck me in this issue was a consistency of theme; specifically the theme of the use and abuse of power. The goblin plot reveals that the Grimmorax was actually purchased by the leader of the goblins to be a threat to his people that he could defend them against, thus cementing his leadership. We also learn there's a monster farm, where nobility goes to purchase creatures like the Grimmorax (and Sparky, as it turns out), to serve as guardians. The goblin king is breaking the tacit agreement between a ruler and his people by not ruling for them, but putting his own desire to be ruler over the benefit of his people. This isn't too far off what King Ash has done to his daughters (also, is it just me, or are all goblin rulers jerks? Jareth from Labyrinth, Xergiok from Adventure Time, and now this dude. Not a line of work you want to get into, unless you're already a jerk I suppose). At the tower, we get to see Angoisse and her vampire boyfriend, Raphael. Raphael comes off as this slick, mannerly prince type, but when he realizes the huge bounty on Adrienne's head, he asks Angoisse to drug her so he can bring her to King Ash and collect. He actually uses the, "If you really love me, you'll do this," argument, which is the absolute worst, and an abuse of the power two people give each other when they form a relationship. Vampires are rarely good guys, and it's pretty clear Raphael isn't one either. Princeless does a good job of playing with the themes of fairy tales, but also reaches out to more modern issues women, especially the young women who are the target demographic for the book, might face. I'm hoping the final issue of the series let's Angoisse see exactly what kind of guy Raphael is.

We Are Robin #3
Story: Lee Bermejo
Art: Joe Corona & Trish Mulvihill and Khary Randolph & Emilio Lopez

There were rumors last week of DC Comics wanting its creators to stop "Batgirling" titles and go back to more traditional superhero comics. If this is true, it's a real shame, because I've found the two titles I've enjoyed the most coming out of Convergence are two of these less traditional series: Black Canary and We Are Robin. This week's issue of We Are Robin pushes the events of the first two into a climax, as a team of Robins try to defuse the bombs set to destroy the hall of records, while others attempt to halt the riot the people from Gotham Underground has started. We're starting to get more of a feel for various members of the Robin Squad (Robin Brigade? Robin Gang?), and while I like Riko and Shug, it's still Duke Thomas who I find myself coming back to. While appearing in Batman as well, it's here that Duke gets a spotlight. He's a perfect Robin: smart, brave, and willing to do whatever it takes to help those in need. The issue has a countdown clock ticking, as the bombs near the point they'll explode, while Team Robin (there we go! I like that one) work to defuse them while ducking subway trains that pass by the bombs. The tension is high, and Lee Bermejo ratchets it up slowly until the issue comes to its explosive conclusion. Character death is often cheap in comics now, but I feel like the moments at the end, where a Robin sacrifices himself in a vain attempt to stop the explosion, hits home, partially because of the character's youth, and partly because of the nobility of the choice. The moment where the Batman (Jim Gordon) arrives at the riot and orders the Robins to disperse along with the rioters, the moment where they seem to realize that it's not Batman whose drawn them together breaks your heart, and Joe Corona flashes between Robins to show their varied reactions. And while the revelation of who is behind The Nest wasn't shocking to me (I, like many I've talked to, has seen it coming since the series beginning), to see that character's reaction, cements so much of the emotion of this title. I'm hoping that DC gives this book the time it needs to find its readership, because I think it's one of the best books DC is releasing right now, with a diverse and interesting cast, and potential to introduce a lot of new characters to the DCU.

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