Monday, December 14, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 12/10

Batman #47
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, & FCO Plascencia

Jim Gordon's fight with Mr. Bloom continues as the countdown to Bruce Wayne's memory returning kicks into high gear. The end of last issues looked pretty grim for Gordon, as Mr. Bloom has taken over Gordon's Bat-armor and set it against him. Jim once again proves that he's more clever than people have given him credit for, by not only having the blocker that he was prepared to use on Bloom, but another handy device or two. And when thrown through the roof by his now villain-possessed armor, Jim uses his Bat tools and his smarts to avoid a particularly gory death in an action beat that Capullo handles beautifully; it's only two pages, but it shows exactly how talented Capullo is when it comes to motion and to faces, as the smile on Gordon's is priceless. Meanwhile, the two other character plots for the previous couple issues intersect, as Duke Thomas, still trying to make his way out of the Penguin's Iceberg Casino with Penguin and his fellow freak mobsters on his tail. But when it looks like two of Penguin's men have the drop on him, it turns out that it's Bruce Wayne who has the drop on them, having figured out where Duke was going. And it's Duke who is finally the person who pushes Bruce, who tells him who he is without flat out saying it. He points out that Bruce is the best in the world at deduction, and gives him the clues he needs. And standing in front of an oncoming subway train, as Bruce sees the lights bearing down on them, just before he pushes Duke out of the way, he sees the shape of what he was. If I haven't said it before, between here, We Are Robin, and his appearances in this week's "Robin War" issues, sign me up for the official Duke Thomas should be Batman's new partner club. He is my favorite new character launching out of the Bat books in years (Sorry, Harper Row. I like you too, but Duke is awesome). Meanwhile, things aren't quite as easy for Jim as it would seem, as we learn the one thing that is more creepy than one flower masked, gangly monster villain.And I don't want to say anything about the last page, even though it's been spoiled by various articles on-line, but it FINALLY begins answering a question I've been asking since we saw Bruce up and about again in issue forty-two, one that I'm surprised no one on the context of the comic has been asking, Whether we get payoff on it next issue, or it's going to be a long term plot, well, we'll have to see, but I'm excited to see where it goes.

Harrow County #8
Story: Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook
Art: Tyler Crook and Simon Roy

The second arc of Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook's exemplary horror coming, Harrow County, comes to an end with a war of ghosts and witches. The war between the series protagonist, Emmy, and her twin sister, the wicked witch Kammi, allows both of the series creators to show their strengths. Emmy's fight through the woods from the army of "haints" that have allied with her sister is full of some of Crook's painstakingly designed monsters, with things like harpies, swamp monsters, mud monsters, along with the ghost bears and flaming skeletons that remain loyal to Emmy. The woods themselves have an air of creepiness that Crook brings out in the long shadowed dark corners and the scrubby grass, and when you add in the monsters, it is a place you would not want to go in day or night. It's also impressive to see how, with an identical protagonist and antagonist, it's never hard to tell the two apart, even when Kammi is glamoured to have the same hair and clothes as Emmy. Expressions and body language are perfectly suited to each. The final confrontation between the sisters is Bunn's shining moment, letting everything the two have been feeling for the past arc come to the surface. And the final twist, as Emmy is able to dispose of Kammi, is a terrifying moment, one that makes perfect sense in the world, and ends in a heartbreaking splash of Emmy, once again alone. And while the end of the story seems a country idyll, as the narration points out, the things are still out there, waiting, which is the cornerstone of good horror. Throw in the one page back-up written by Crook and drawn by Simon Roy, a horror tied to something any homeowner knows and fears for mundane reasons, and you have a top notch issue. Two arcs in and Harrow County is one of the best horror comics on the racks right now.

Star Wars Annual #1
Story: Kieron Gillen
Art: Angel Unzueto & Paul Mounts

After Friday's post about Star Wars comics I'd like to see featured two espionage titles, I found it oddly fitting that this week's Star Wars Annual would be a story of the Rebel spy embedded in the Empire. Eneb Ray is a new character, working as a tax collector under the name Tharius Demo. I like the idea that the Rebellion is exploiting the colossal bureaucracy of the Empire to get its people in places where they can effect change, and that through taxes and tariffs they are able to impact change. But Ray isn't just a number cruncher, and he receives a mission more fitting a comic book, as he must go and liberate a group of senators who have spoken against the Empire from prison before they are executed. Ray's entrance to the prison, drawn beautifully by Angel Unzueto, is right out of Mission: Impossible or the James Bond series, with Ray diving off a pseeding transport, using magnetic gloves to stick to the side of the prison, and enter through the vents with the aid of a magnetic grapple gun. But the mission changes when Ray finds out that the Emperor himself is coming to have one last interview with the senators, and Ray decides it's time to make a play at assassinating Palpatine. Calling in all of the Rebellion's assets on Coruscant, Ray mounts what seems to be a very successful assassination of the Emperor. Too successful if you know anything about Star Wars, and I can't resist quoting everyone's favorite Mon Cal by simply pointing out, "It's a trap!" In the end, as good a spy as Ray is, he's nothing compared to the master of manipulation that is Palpatine, and things don't turn out too well for the Rebels. The issue is narrated by Ray, who thinks of himself as a man who makes the hard choices and not a hero. The journey that he makes throughout the issue is well written and is a great character arc. This is a new character who I hope gets to come back in future issues of this title, or in Darth Vader, which is written by this annual's writer, Kieron Gillen,

And Dan Grote is coming at you with two reviews this week...

Deadpool #3
Story: Gerry Duggan
Art: Mike Hawthorne, Terry Pallot, & Guru eFX.

It’s payday at Deadpool’s Mercs for Money ... or it would be if their checks hadn’t all bounced.

That means Solo can't pay alimony to his ex-wife, Terror can’t afford organ transplants from Morbius the Living Vampire, Slapstick can’t afford the prostitutes he pays to pretend to be his family, and Foolkiller can’t afford more guns.

Meanwhile, original-recipe Deadpool is being interrogated by the police about the killing of the zoning commissioner in issue 1. Turns out the cops don’t think he did it, even though whoever did left loud evidence to the contrary. As part of a crazy-like-a-fox plan, Wade has the cops formally arrest him. While being transported to jail, his bus is attacked by the fake DP who’s been causing all the trouble. The two fight, and we get a brief glimpse under the mask. Whoever’s under there has jaundiced, scaly skin and black eyes.

(Hey, you guys remember Slayback? Just a thought.)

Fake DP gets away, but he leaves Wade a present – a well-beaten, possibly actually still alive Scott Adsit, last seen stabbed in issue 2.

Now for the two Deadpools we haven’t talked about yet. Turns out Stingray has been working as a mole for Steve Rogers, Wade’s Uncanny Avengers boss. Stingray has some concerns about fellow faux-Pool Madcap, who apparently wasn’t so much invited to join DP’s M4M as he just showed up one day. And so the two go to confront him.

Madcap’s hotel room, in a word, is great. A bubble machine blows nonstop, and there are lava lamps and welcome mats everywhere. Told to straighten up and fly right, Madcap boops Stingray on the nose and tried to do the same to Old Man Rogers, who grabs his finger and threatens to do World War II things to him. In response, Madcap cuts off his own finger and jumps out a window. “He needs to go,” Rogers declares. I disagree.

Last week I declared Doctor Strange my favorite of the All-New, All-Different Marvel titles so far. That ranking holds, but Deadpool is a close second. The book has taken such a sharp turn from the previous volume, with a nearly entirely new supporting cast, yet still feels solid. The creative team clearly has a plan for each of the Mercs for Money and refuses to allow them to become one bland mass of red-and-black-clad lunatic killers. A-game stuff.

Gwenpool Holiday Special
Stories: Charles Soule (She-Hulk), Margaret Stohl (Ms. Marvel), Gerry Duggan (Hawkeye & Deadpool), and Christopher Hastings (Gwenpool)
Art: Langdon Foss (She-Hulk), Juan Gedeon (Ms. Marvel), Danilo S. Beyruth (Hawkeye & Deadpool), and Gurihiru (Gwenpool)

What if I told you there was a place where all your favorite canceled but beloved Marvel series characters gathered in one place to warm your heart and make you smile?

What if I told you Deadpool was there, too? And his alternate-Earth Gwen Stacy counterpart that started life as a variant-cover gimmick?

Welcome to Marvel’s 2015 holiday special, billed as a Gwenpool one-shot but actually mostly a She-Hulk story reuniting the Atomic Age attorney with writer Charles Soule.

A holiday happening at the Brooklyn building that houses Shulkie’s law office (and Howard the Duck’s PI agency) acts as the framing device for the book, as Jen and the gang party the night away to ward off insectlike Realtors who use magic to convince people to give up on their dreams and turn over their property so it can be flipped at higher values. In other words, Charles Soule wrote a Charles Soule She-Hulk story, you guys!

A series of interludes shows other heroes making their way to Jen’s party, stopping only to bust a skull or two.

In the first one, Ms. Marvel battles her conflicted feelings about the holidays as a practicing Muslim, a Secret Santa exchange with her platonic-but-not-really bestie Bruno and a store-robbing Santa. Though not handled by her normal creative team, Kamala is as delightful as ever, even when she’s being a Christmas crank. (Even her brother, the most devout Muslim in her family, can find the joy in Rudolph.) After toppling bad Santa, K exchanges gifts with her mentor, Captain Marvel, and the two head off to She-Hulk’s place.

Next up, fellow Avengers Deadpool and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) team up to catch a pickpocket who stole money from Simone, one of the residents of Clint’s apartment building from the Fraction/Aja series. Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) catches the crook, who says he was just trying to get money to buy presents for his son. Wade opens his heart and his wallet, and the three deliver the boy gifts before whisking his dad off to the police. Then it’s off to Jen’s party … and just as quickly away from it, as she has a strict no-Deadpool policy.

Finally, we come to Gwenpool, who combines all the cutesiness of a superconfident fictional teenage girl with the murderiness and colored speech balloons of Deadpool. Gwen is hired to take out a sword-swinging snake-man who looks like the genie from Aladdin, requiring her to watch hours of sword-training videos on YouTube till she gives up and decides to just blow him up with a bomb. Because she’s been a supporting player in Howard the Duck, she too ends up at She-Hulk’s party, where she bonds with Ms. Marvel over karaoke, but not so much over murdering dudes.

Quick shoutout to Langdon Foss, who drew the She-Hulk bits. His splash pages are like a superhero Where’s Waldo, with many more Marvel characters drawn into them than I’ve mentioned.

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