Monday, May 2, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 4/27 Part 1

Batman #51
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, & FCO Plascencia

After putting Batman through his paces for the past four years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo end their monumental run on Batman with a quiet night. When a tremor causes Gotham to black out, Batman swings into action to find... nothing. The streets are quiet. The security at Arkham works for once, keeping the villains in. We see a city at peace, and the issue is narrated from the "Gotham is..." colum. Snyder has been exploring the idea of Gotham as a living breathing place since his earliest work with Batman, the "Black Mirror" arc in Detective Comics, and this issue is the time when the city seems happier, seems to be moving in the right direction. We see the man who is writing the column now, whose history throws back to the beginning of the run, and we see the changes Batman has ade to the city in the time since "The Court of Owls." More than that, we see how changed Batman is. This is a Batman who smiles, who enjoys taking the new Batmobile out on its first run, and a Batman who trades wit with Alfred and doesn't simply brood over it. It's a Batman you'd be more likely to see in Batman: The Animated Series than in any Batman comic, and if the comics can borrow more heavily from that version of Batman, you won't see any complaints from this fan. We see the status quo in Gotham back, with Jim Gordon as commissioner, and a great scene between the two friends, and I love Jim's new understanding of what it means to be Batman. But it's not all reflecting on the past. Whether he's planning on doing it himself or setting something up for a future writer, we do get hints that the Court of Owls has something big in the works, and it's good to see Snyder revisit what is probably his biggest contribution to the Batman mythos as he wraps things up here. And there are two simple panels of the once and future Joker, sitting by the pond that he and Bruce sat by in issue #48, now with the mosquitoes returning, a statement I feel about the cyclical nature of comic book storytelling. But in the end, the story wraps with Batman against the dawning sky, and the simple phrase, directed to Batman that, "Gotham is... you. Always." I's a great place to end a run that has explored Batman and what he means to Gotham. I'm looking forward to see what new creators bring to Batman, and what Snyder does in his All-Star Batman, but for now, I'm happy with a quiet night for the Dark Knight.

Ms. Marvel #6
Story: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Nico Leon & Ian Herring

It's been a while since I checked in with Kamala Khan, the wonderful Ms. Marvel, in my reviews here, and that's not a dig against the book; as with many comics that are great each month, you can only say how great a comic is month in and month out before you run out of new things to say. But this month's issue, the wrap up of the second arc in the new volume, does so much right that I have all sorts of things to say. I want to talk about this issue in two different sections, one about the superhero plot, and one about Kamala's personal development. G. Willow Wilson has always written wonderful characters, and her plots and superhero action have been solid, but this arc takes the superhero antics to a level of extreme wildness. Long story short, Kamala asked her friend Bruno, who was experimenting with the golems Loki left behind at their school, to make clones of her so she could deal with school, her family, and being an Avenger all at once. Only the clones are out of control, and now there's a giant one attacking her brother's engagement party. So we have Kamala versus a giant clone of herself. You know comedy is going to ensue, But Bruno has a solution! He's going to create a T-Rex golem to eat all the little clones. Yes. That is his plan. So now we have a giant Kamala, a T-Rex, and still a bunch of little clones. Oh, and Loki shows up too, to drop some snark bombs. It's the kind of wild plot you can only get in a superhero comic, and Nico Leon draws it wonderfully. And it's resolved with a supehero-ex-machina, as Captain Marvel calls down lasers from space to blast them out of existence, because the joy in this isn't how it's resolved, but how it happened. And more important, what Kamala chose to do. Kamala reached out for help, she did the smart thing. And she also realized just how important balancing her life as Kamala is with balancing her life as Ms. Marvel. That is an important lesson all teenagers have to learn, whether it's balancing their time as a football star with that as a student and friend, or their time studying with their time being a Level 12 Paladin. And the great thing is that Kamala does is and doesn't have to bemoan, "the ol' Parker luck," when everything falls apart. Spider-Man never really won; Kamala's life is balanced nicely where she learns her lesson, even when it involves getting caught in the middle of an argument between Captain Marvel and Iron Man (a foreshadowing of the upcoming Civil War 2), and in the end she's able to make her brother's wedding in a beautiful scene. The importance of family, friends, and superheroics, all in one book is part of the wonderful charm of Ms. Marvel, and this issue shows it off at its best.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat #5
Story: Kate Leth
Art: Brittney L. Williams & Megan Wilson

If you're expecting a taut, psychological thriller from Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat after the character's appearances in the amazing Jessica Jones TV series, you're in for a surprise, because this comic continues to be a whimsical, hilarious superhero comic. Wrapping up its first arc, this issue has Patsy dealing with two major rivals: the Asgardian sorceress, Casiolena, and her ex-BFF, Hedy Wolfe; specifically, captured by Casiolena, Patsy can't escape to help her lawyer, Jen Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk, face down Hedy, who is reprinting the comics that featured the two of them as teens and not giving Patsy any royalties It's two very different conflicts as Patsy basically trash talks her way to Casiolena while Jen does her best to keep Hedy in check until Patsy arrives, only to leave when she finds out Patsy needs help. The issue also features Valkyrie, Patsy's friends, Ian and Tom, Bailey, one of Casiolena's former henchpeople who has realized that she's being sold a bill of goods and whose journey is a nice example fo how a hero can effect someone's life for the good, and an appearance by Jessica Jones, setting up the furst comic book meeting between the two characters, What's really clever is that the story sets up the ideological conflict between Casiolena and Patsy perfectly; Patsy wants to start a temp agency to help powered people get jobs outside the traditional hero/villain dynamic, while Casiolena is taking in young powered people and turning them into her army of villains by lying to them, saying she can fix their problems. Casiolena's downfall isn't just brought about by Patsy and her heroic allies, but by She-Hulk talking to one of her hench-people, and telling him that you can't use magic to fix a credit score. That sentence just delights me. It's also a great contrast that Patsy has friends and treats them with love and caring, while Casiolena is betrayed by her manservant, Poppo, because she treats him like he's nothing; it's the lesson that the golden rule really works. If you enjoy all ages comics like the new Archie and Lumberjanes and want to dip your toe into superhero comics, Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat is the perfect book for you to try,

We Are Robin #11
Story: Lee Bermejo
Art: Jorge Corona, Rob Haynes, & Trish Mulvihill

It's sad that we're in the homestretch on the DC You titles like We Are Robin, as it's a book that has a lot to say, and does it in a way that remains entertaining and exciting, without becoming preachy, And this issue could have very easily descended into preachy, as the Jokers gang, a gang of teens who idolize the Joker, take hostages at Gotham's Middletown High School. School shootings and hostage situations are a sensitive topic, understandably so, but the issue handles it with decorum, as the core group of Robins we've been following, many of them students at Middletown, work to stop anyone from dying at the hands of the Jokers and their leader, Smiley. Much of the issue is narrated by Duke Thomas, the breakout star of the title and regular guest star in Batman, as he thinks abut guns, what they mean, the power they grant, and the bravery it takes to not use one. It's not an uncommon theme in Batman stories, as Batman is the most traditionally anti-gun superhero there is. But Duke provides an interesting incite, as he's not the deeply traumatized Batman; he even adits to wondering when he was younger why Batman didn't use a gun. But like I said, while there's a lot to think about here, the comic doesn't wallow in philosophy. Instead we see Duke and Riko making their way through the school, taking out some Jokers and preparing to save the faculty who Smiley has all corralled and ready to kill, Dax and Izzy both outside the school determining a way to get in and help (while Izzy makes her decision about being part of the Robins and we get a shock revelation of Dax's ties to an important criminal in the Batman mythos), and Dre, having disguised himself as one of the Jokers, doing his best to liberate the student body. The stories flow back and forth seamlessly, and come together perfectly at the end. After the crisis is over, the Robins meet "The Nest," the man who has been providing them gear, and tell him that they're ready to strike out on their own and learn their own way, and it's a satisfying wrap up of the events and lives of the characters, so I'm curious to see what the final issue of the series does next issue, and where it leaves them moving forward. I've come to really enjoy these characters, and while we've seen Duke in promo art for the Rebirth era, I hope the rest of the Robins find a home as well.

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