Monday, January 25, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 1/20

Batman #48
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia

Well, here it is: the next confrontation between Batman and the Joker, and it is honestly like none you've ever read before. As Bruce Wayne, his memory slowly returning, sits on a bench in a Gotham park, he is joined by the Joker, seemingly normal, healed, and doing fine. And they just talk. Talk about life, about peaceful places, and about life. It's a strange scenario, with the Joker now being the one who is talking about how important it is to simply be and to let your actions carry forward. There are moments where it's clear that both of these old enemies are fighting their true natures, although I think this arc has made me question of that nature is true or just a construct of what they lived through. I knew that it would be devastating to watch Bruce give up what he had built in this life to once again become Batman, and while he hasn't taken up the cowl at the end of the issue, it's obvious that's where it's going. The only thing sadder is seeing Alfred, denying, ignoring, hoping that Bruce will keep the happy ending that he has wished for him for so long. I think, when Snyder's run on Batman ends I'll miss his Alfred even more than I'll miss his Batman or Jim Gordon.

The conversation between Bruce and Joker only takes up half the issue, as the rest spotlights Mr. Bloom and exactly what his plan and thinking is. We lean exactly what Bloom believes, why he made his move now, and why he's the perfect arch-enemy for Jim Gordon's Batman. His beliefs about a twisted almost natural selection about how the city is a failed experiment, stands in direct opposition to Jim Gordon, who has always fought to keep order and keep the city alive. I give a lot of credit to artist Greg Capullo, who makes Bloom this distorted, twisted monster, whose physiology continues to morph and change, and whose minions are equally strange and monstrous. And part of the climax of the issue guarantees even more monsters by the end of the story. The last three pages of this issue are some of the most tensely paced and put together pages of any comic I've ever read, the first ending each of the plotlines running in the book on a dark note (if this were a different kind of comic, I'd think there was no going back), the second dealing with Alfred, and the final is one of the best, most exciting splash pages I've seen in a long time. He's coming back next issue, folks, and while Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are winding down their run, it looks like it'll end on a high note.

Lucifer #2
Story: Holly Black
Art: Lee Garbett & Antonio Fabela

Mike Carey's Lucifer is one of the best series ever produced by Vertigo, maybe second only in my estimation to Sandman itself, and so a new series with the character made me leery. But the first issue was strong, and this second one was as well, strong enough to want to call out for anyone else who loves Lucifer Morningstar and had my doubts. Holly Black, a writer I'm mostly familiar with from various fantasy anthologies, was clearly a fan of the Mike Carey series and hasn't thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Lucifer retains the scars, both physical and mental, from the previous volume, and he's in a buddy cop drama with the Archangel Gabriel, the same one from Garth Ennis's run on Hellblazer; we're deep in the weeds of Vertigo continuity without getting lost, and that says a lot for Black as a writer. In their quest to find out who killed The Presence (the DCU/Vertigo codephrase for God, although both of our leads just call him father) and assaulted Lucifer with a weapon of the same metal, this issue takes Lucifer and Gabriel to Hell, because where are there going to be more beings who want God dead, not to mention Lucifer suspects Hell is the source of whatever hurt him and killed God. But Hell seems to be in a state of civil war, with Lillim and some demons serving the current queen, Lucifer's former lover Mazikeen, while others seek to place a demon upon the throne again. Lee Garbett draws some great demons, and the battle between Lucifer and Gabriel against one of Hell's army is phenomenal. While Lucifer is still the star of the show, and rightly so because he's amazing, Gabriel is sort of the comedic foil to Lucifer, making glib comments and giving someone for Lucifer to talk down to; also, didn't this guy learn his lesson about consorting with demonesses in Hellblazer? Sheesh, We do get to see Mazikeen again, and Lucifer and she have a brief reunion before she gives him his next lead, sending him and Gabriel off to another famous Vertigo location for next issue. But as is the way with most comics that exist in the same world as Sandman, we also get to spend time with some mortals who are being drawn into the workings of these mighty beings. Teena Hornick has found the jar that contains the demon Azazel from Sandman with the expected malign results, and I'm curious if we find out how Azazel's jar escaped the Dreaming next issue, and Lorin Hammon, a young man who found a feather from the wing of an angel, continues to feel the pull of the feather to who knows where. Holly Black is beginning to weave a tapestry like all great Vertigo series, with threads that will intersect in hopefully unexpected and new ways, and in a way worthy of the name Lucifer.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat #2
Story: Kate Leth
Art: Brittney L. Williams & Megan Wilson

After Dan's sterling review of issue one, I couldn't resist picking that issue up, and loved it so much I added the book to my pull list, and I'm very glad I did, as issue two is just as fun as issue one. So, Patsy Walker now has an idea, to set up a temp agency for super powered folks who don't want to be either superheroes or supervillains, but she needs capital to start it. So she gets a job. A retail job. A retail job at a mall. I don't know how many of you out there reading this have done that, but I worked for a year and change at the Borders Books (remember Borders? I miss Borders) at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and boy howdy does Kate Leth capture the nightmare of mall retail.  But this is a superhero comic, so Patsy has bigger problems than being recognized by Millenials as Patsy from the comics or her painful 17 year old manager (I never had that problem. I was the 17 year old shift supervisor! Take that establishment!). When a superpowered shop lifter shows up, Hellcat gives pursuit, and not only doesn't catch her, but she hears that a mysterious "she" has ominous plans for her. But one of the charms of the book is that supervillains don't seem to be the biggest pain in Patsy's life. No, that's Hedy Wolfe, the Veronica to Patsy's Betty in the comics Patsy's mother wrote about Patsy's teen years, and the current publisher of those comics. Patsy dealing with Hedy is the highlight of the book, as Patsy reads Hedy the riot act and Hedy doesn't care. I like that Hedy doesn't seem to be supervillain evil, just mean, selfish person evil, which is way more difficult to deal with, just like it is in real life. But Patsy doesn't just have enemies. We get some more time with Ian Soo, Patsy's new roommate, and he's a great guy, and an excellent entry point into Patsy's world; she's been a superhero for so long now her life is super crazy and Ian reacts like most of us would when she casually mentions having been dead. And after the crappy day at work, Patsy calls a bunch of her friends, who all happen to be superheroes (they're all on that cover above), and they go out for burgers. I would love to see a series that as just superheroes hanging out doing normal stuff if Kate Leth wrote it; even f it's only two pages before crazy superlife interferes, it's absolutely fun. I'm glad that Marvel continues to publish these kind of fun, all ages titles, and Patsy Walker is a great addition to the bunch.

Star Wars #15
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Mayhew

After the "Vader Down" crossover, it's nice to get a little break from the main action of the Star Wars ongoing, so going back into the journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi is an excellent choice  for Jason Aaron. Making the issue even more exciting is the choice of Mike Mayhew, best known to Star Wars fans as the artist on The Star Wars, the comic mini-series based on George Lucas's original draft of the Star Wars screenplay. Mayhew's art, which he colors himself, looks painted, although as I'm no expert, I'm not sure if it's done with actual paints or digitally. Still his character look phenomenal. He's doing a great job transitioning Kenobi from the Obi-Wan of the prequels to the Old Ben of A New Hope, and the same can be said of his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Lars. I will say the artistic high point of the issue is two pages of Obi-Wan going toe-to-toe, unarmed, with a raiding party of Sand People. It's a reminder of the great Jedi Obi-Wan was before the dark times sent him into hiding. The story has Obi-Wan trying to help young Luke Skywalker in a way that isn't just stopping thugs from interfering with his life or saving him from sand storms, which is a nice touch. It's not like Obi-Wan had much to do for the nineteen years he was on Tatooine other than watch out for Luke. The highlight of the issue for me, though, is a scene where Owen shows up at Ben's hut with some parts that Ben acquired for Luke's skyhopper (picture a flying go cart) and had Jawa's give to the boy, telling Ben to take them back and leave Luke and the Lars family alone. For a character who appears in three of the first six Star Wars films, Owen has very little story of his own. And while this scene is still just him talking about Luke, it really cements something that was strong subtext in A New Hope; Owen really cares about Luke and honestly thinks he's protecting him. Sure, he's gruff, but when you see things from his perspective, you can sympathize more with him. I'd like to see a similar small spotlight on Luke's more patient Aunt Beru in an upcoming issue. And from the end of this issue, I assume we have at least one more of these Obi-Wan stories in the future, as we get an appearance by the Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan without the facial scar he has in the present, a scar that could easily have been inflicted by a lightsaber. Jedi vs. Wookiee, huh? That's an issue I look forward to seeing.

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