Monday, March 14, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 3/9

The Baker Street Peculiars #1
Story: Roger Langridge
Art: Andy Hirsch & Fred Stresing

I love Sherlock Holmes. I love the work of Roger Langridge. So a comic by Roger Langridge working in the world of Sherlock Holmes is guaranteed to catch my interest. But being that this is a Roger Langridge project, it's not going to be a straight adaptation. The issue introduces us to three children, street smart Rajani, sweet Molly, and upper crust Humphrey (along with his dog/valet Wellington), who start the issue chasing after what seems to be a lion statue come to life. Artist Andy Hirsh has a style well in line with Langridge's own, and his page layouts and especially a page where the kids are chased by a police officer feel like a natural fit. The kids' personalities  compliment each other nicely, creating a cast that is charming an likable, but distinct. Rajani is a street kid, while Humphrey is going to the boarding school St. Baskerville's (another Holmes nod, obviously), with Molly as the middle ground between them. Their meeting with "Holmes" officially makes the kids part of Holmes's network of informants and agents, usually called irregulars. The big twist at the end, though, is that Holmes is not in fact Holmes, but is Mrs. Hudson, Holmes's redoubtable landlady. It's clear from her reaction when Molly says that her grandfather says all Molly can be is a housekeeper and never a detective, that Mrs. Hudson understands what it's like to have people react to her like that; Langridge's comics, as fun as they are, never exist on just that one level of fun. There's always more to them. And so the kids are now helping "Holmes" investigate the statues that have been going missing all over London. And while Mrs. Hudson does not believe in any magic that may have animated the statues, we readers know different, and the title of the series, "The Case of the Cockney Golem" gives readers who know their myths another hint of what's going on. It's great to have a new Roger Langridge series with it's usual mix of charm, wit, and warmth, and the extra flavor ofSherlock Holmes is going to make The Baker Street Peculiars something really special.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Freddie Williams II & Jeremy Colwell

The inter-company crossover is a tricky beast. You have all these moving parts, and all these characters, and it can be easy to just make it this big slugfest. But after three high octane action issues, the fourth issue of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles takes a step back. Aside from some sparring between Batman and Leonardo, and some off panel fighting, this is a character issue. While the Turtles and Splinter are trapped on Batman's world, with the mutagen that created them due to wear off any time now and leave them as normal animals, and three of the brothers are just living and enjoying their time: Leo is sparring with Batman, Donatello is looking at Batman's tech, and Michelangelo is infuriating Alfred by riding his skateboard in the house. But the interaction with the infuriated Raphael is the centerpiece of the issue. Raph is furious about how little is being done, and views Batman as a poseur, and lets him know. It's not exactly an uncommon argument in fandom, about Batman just being a rich guy whop beats on crooks. But when Bruce picks up Raph in the Batmobile and takes him to Crime Alley and explains to him the whys and wherefores of what he does, well James Tynion has a really good understanding of who Batman is. Meanwhile, Shredder and his new ally, Ra's al Ghul, have been able to open a portal to the Turtles home, connecting to a signal from that world, and who pops out but one of the Turtles main allies, Casey Jones. The battle between Jones and the League of Assassins is entirely off panel, which is a shame, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing Casey fight all sorts of monster and mutants as the series reaches its climax. It was also nice to see Tynion revisit Dr. Mahreen Zaheer, the Arkham doctor he wrote about in his "Endgame" back-ups, something you don't need to know to appreciate the scenes with the Foot Clan Ninjas in Arkham, it's a nice nod for those of use who are big Batman readers. If you're a fan of either of these franchises in comic or animated form, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a must read.

The Haunted Mansion #1
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Jorge Coelho & Jean-Francois Bealieu

After writing about Joshua Williamson's decidedly non-all ages Nailbiter on Friday, it's interesting to visit his work that, while still tinged with horror, is decidedly more family friendly. The most recent "Disney Kingdoms" mini-series from Marvel is inspired by my favorite Disney ride, Haunted Mansion. Danny is a kid who recently lost his grandfather, a world traveler and adventurer. Before his grandfather left on his last adventure, he promised Danny that the two of them would investigate the local haunted house when he got back. But now, Danny has lost his grandfather, and his parents are both not taking it well either. But one night, not long after his grandfather's death, a spirit from inside the house reaches out and calls Danny to come to the house to help save his grandfather's spirit. And so Danny sets out for the mansion, and when he gets there, the house is filled to brimming with all sorts of spirits, most of them seemingly malevolent. And so, after talking to the spirit of the fortune teller Madame Leota, Danny knows that he must find a way to stop the ghost of the evil Captain to save his grandfather and the other good spirits in the house. The first issue already has a few images cribbed right from the ride, and I'd be disappointed if all the more of them don't pop up over the rest of the series. Artist Jorge Coelho draws the ghosts and goblins really well, making them perfectly creepy and right in tone with the writing. But he also draws the more benevolent spirits in a way that is otherworldly but not frightening. Williamson's writing walks that perfect line for all ages horror. I think we don't give younger readers enough credit; they're more resilient than grown-ups think they are a lot of the time. If you're a grown-up who likes to share a spooky story with the little ones in your life, I think The Haunted Mansion is going to be a great choice for you.

Spider-Man 2099 #8
Story: Peter David
Art: Will Sliney & Rachelle Rosenberg

Peter David is a writer who plays a long game. After a two parter involving Inhumans and terrigensis (the second part of which was excellent, and due to a problem with shipping to me local shop I only got this week as well), we return to Spider-Man 2099 Miguel O'Hara's tragic love life. And not tragic in the, "Oh, no Mary Jane can't know I'm Spider-Man way," but in the, "My fiancee's mother faked her death and I just found out," way. Yes, thanks to keeping Tempest, Miguel's fiancee, in the hospital, Miguel's employee, Jasmine, wounded in the previous issue, sees Tempest, and Miguel storms the hospital looking for answers. And at the hospital, he finds the room Tespest is in being guarded by Man Mountain Marko, a C-List Spidey villain (not to be confused with Cain Marko, the considerably harder to fight Juggernaut). I really liked the fight scene between Miguel, both in and out of costume, and Marko. Will Sliney's fight choreography is excellent. You need a good handle on layout when you're dealing with an acrobatic hero, and Sliney has that in spades. I also think the panel where Miguel loses his temper with his assistant Raul when he finds out Tempest might still be alive is phenomenal, his look of rage chilling; he also lets his fangs slip, so I'm wondering what that's going to mean for future issues (see, like I said, David plays the long game). The way David writes Miguel at this point rings very true to me. Many super-heroes, when faced with a tragedy or a mystery close to them, do this cold, rational approach. Not Miguel. He goes in guns blazing and filled to the brim with anger. And while, with a little help from a friend, he succeeds, it looks like things are only going to get worse. I also have to admit that when Man Mountain Marko showed up, I kinda laughed him off, but David makes him a threat through his actions; this guy has no qualms about threatening the most innocent people, and so I hope he comes back soon so Miguel gets a chance to lay him out. Peter David has been weaving a lot of threads throughout the first eight issues of this volume of Spider-Man 2099 (not to mention the ones left over from the previous volume), and I think those threads are finally tightening into something that is going to only get more exciting.

Dan Grote takes on the book he was born to talk about, Joe Kelly's SpiderMan/Deadpool...

Spider-Man/Deadpool #3
Story by Joe Kelly
Art by Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, & Jason Keith

I’ve avoided writing about this book up to now largely because, quite frankly, I needed to take a break from writing about Deadpool.

Spidey and Deadpool are an odd pairing. On one hand, teaming up Marvel’s two biggest jokers sounds like a naturally funny book. On the other hand, it forces one of them – specifically Spidey – into the role of straight man. In any other Marvel Team-Up, old Double-P would be the one getting asked to stuff a sock in it.

Spider-Man/Deadpool plays off current continuity, in which Peter Parker is the CEO of a major tech company and Wade is a universally beloved superhero, Avenger and head of his own band of misanthropic mercenaries. He’s also been hired to off Parker by an as-yet-unseen enemy, and he sees cozying up to Parker’s errand boy, Spidey, as the best way to get close enough to him to do the deed. Spidey can’t stand Deadpool, but he sees that Deadpool actually has an understanding of what it means to be a good guy and is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In the meantime, they partner up with each other’s supporting casts and punch baddies from Spidey’s rogues gallery. In this issue, they tackle the obscure nihilistic duo Styx and Stone, who are terrorizing a Bolivian drug-farming village Wade and the Mercs for Money were hired to protect.

Once Spidey realizes he’s protecting a drug farm, he climbs up on his high horse, but Deadpool – who earlier in the issue rode an actual horse, which he later forgets about – ends up providing the situation’s moral nuance:

“We’re not here helping Scarface or Pablo Escobar. Look at these people – it’s cook drugs or get shot for half of them. Then it’s get shot or farm drugs for the other half. We don’t all get to be white guys in America. What they’re doing is for their own survival.” Also, “The check cleared.”

Having successfully checked Spidey’s privilege, DP continues to surprise the wall-crawler by introducing him to his daughter, Ellie, thoroughly melting whatever was left of Spidey’s anti-Deadpool heart.

“Just when you think you know a guy you hate,” he says as he webs off.

Don’t get too misty, though. While they were in Bolivia, Wade had one of his mercs, Foolkiller, scan Spidey for weaknesses, looking for a way to take him down so he can take out his boss, Parker, because Wade believes they are two different people (Hobie Brown, the former Prowler, dresses up as Spidey early in the issue so Spidey and Parker can be in the same room at the same time).

This book does a great job showing how Ed McGuinness’ art has evolved over the years. McGuinness’ original, short-lived run on DP showed off a blocky, cartoonish style that ultimately got him gigs drawing the Hulk and Superman. Here, his edges are rounder and his heroes trimmer. Merc-for-Money Slapstick may be the tiniest heroes he’s ever drawn (unless he drew the Atom at some point while at DC).

While this book reunites the creative team from the original Deadpool ongoing, it’s no nostalgia trip. Kelly and McGuinness are telling a brand-new story, and so old DP mainstays like Blind Al, Weasel, and Deuce the Devil Dog are nowhere to be found. That said, after 15 years away, Kelly may have a firmer grasp now on what makes Deadpool tick than he did when he originally wrote the character. Spider-Man/Deadpool is an excellent companion to Wade’s solo series, and if you’ve got the dollars to commit to a second Deadpool title each month, this should be the one.

No comments: