Monday, June 6, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/1

Batman: Rebirth #1
Story: Tom King & Scott Snyder
Art: Mikel Janin & June Chung

The whole DC Universe is, well, being born again with Rebirth, and so it's time to reset that Batman status quo back to closer to, well, status quo in Batman: Rebirth. There's a passing of the creative baton, as this issue is co-written by Scott Snyder, who has been writing Batman for the past fifty-plus issues and new series writer Tom King. The issue ties up a bunch of plot threads, including fixing Bruce Wayne's issues with his fortune and exactly how Duke Thomas, late of We Are Robin and a semi-regular part of Snyder's run since the "Zero Year" storyline, will fit into the series moving forward. While there's a lot of table setting for the future, and tying up of plot threads from the previous run, we also get a solid done in one story that reintroduces a "classic" Batman foe, the Calendar Man. I use the quotes because the original version of Calendar Man has been mostly forgotten, and the version that most people know is the version from Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. But as with many of the other villains that Snyder re-introduced in his run on Batman, he's added a little bit to the mythos, adding a supernatural or metahuman angle, where Calendar Man changes with the seasons, dying in winter and being reborn in spring, becoming a better version of himself each time. Batman is working to find a way to stop Calendar Man's new mad scheme, where a device is speeding up the seasons, allowing not just Calendar Man's cycle to speed up, but to release deadly spoors on Gotham in the "spring" which would be week's end. It's a crazy super science plot, but that makes it cool to me; it's not grounded in some grim, gritty reality, but it superhero comics at their best. It also does something that I love with Batman: he pushes the limits of what a human is supposed to be able to do. It's not ridiculous, superhuman stuff, but a man who is pushing himself beyond what any human has done because it's what he needs to do to save his city. That's what makes Batman an optimistic character in my mind: he does what he does because he needs to save his city. The art by Mikel Janin is extraordinary, gorgeous and fluid, and is a step up from his already impressive work on Grayson. Seriously, DC, you need to get this man on a Batman book again, and you need to do it soon. If the Rebirth one-shots are designed to get readers excited about the new direction for the DC titles, Batman: Rebirth does a great job.

Buffy: The High School Years- Freaks & Geeks
Story: Faith Erin Hicks
Art: Yishan Li & Rod Espinosa w/ Tony Galvan

There have been plenty of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, from the  original series that ran concurrently with the series to the recent series that continue the TV series for three more seasons. I know many fans who are of mixed feeling about those later seasons, so this, the first in a series of original graphic novels set during seasons 1 & 2 of the TV series, is for them. This story feels right out of the first season of Buffy, as a matter of fact, since she doesn't know about Angel being a vampire yet, it's easy to squeeze it into the timeline. The story sees a Buffy, who is new to Sunnydale and her friends, is coming to terms with her status as more of an outcast and not the popular girl she was before she moved to Sunnydale. The antagonists are a group of four recently turned vampires, who were geeks before they were sired, and thought they'd be cool now that they were undead, but instead are simply geeks in the vampire set. And when they're told that the way to get in with the vamp set would be to kill the Slayer, well, they set out to do it. And since I said this takes place during season one of Buffy and the comic is now in season ten, you can guess who wins. Still, it's interesting to see the vampires call Buffy out on being a bully, as they're used to the pretty girls picking on them, and see how Buffy reacts to it. It embraces ll the angst that made those early seasons of Buffy classics. You can hear the dialogue in the voices of the actors it's so spot on. And while the story embraces the unlimited budget of comics to produce a spell and a creature that would be difficult on a TV show's budget, it doesn't let that fact drown out the character driven nature of the best Buffy stories. I've enjoyed the comic universe of recent Buffy stories, but there's something nice about returning to these early years, when the most Buffy had to worry about was failing a test and the occasional apocalypse.

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1
Story & Art: Matt Wagner
Colors: Brennan Wagner

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow clearly does. Matt Wagner has a history with the Shadow, the mystery man who is a direct spiritual ancestor to Batman; he wrote Shadow: Year One and wrote and drew the crossover between the Shadow and his own creation, the assassin/mob boss Grendel. This is the first full length story starring the Shadow written and drawn by Matt Wagner, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Wagner has a wonderful sense of the period these stories are set in, and the look of the buildings, the design work, and the costumes are all absolutely gorgeous. As with his other Shadow stories, this one is narrated by Margo Lane, the Shadow's romantic partner and one of his many agents in crime fighting, and sees the shadow in conflict with a new boss of the Tongs of Chinatown, the Red Empress. The Shadow's investigations lead him not just to the streets of New York, but to China itself, and then back, If you've never read the Shadow, or are unfamiliar with his world, this first issue does a great job of catching you up, introducing you to his powers, his allies, and his methods. It reads like a pulp, packed with narration and exotic locations, crooks and heroes, reporter and cops, everything you expect from a '30s crime story. As a story narrated in the past tense by Margo, I'm not sure exactly how the title and Margo's seeming death will play in unless she's narrating from beyond the grave, but we'll see as the series progresses. A good Shadow story is filled with crime, shocks, and a touch of the macabre, and this issue has all of that in spades.

And Dan Grote's back with a review this week, reviewing Deadpool #13, a four part crossover in one book...

Deadpool #13/Daredevil #7.1/Power Man and Iron Fist #4.1/Deadpool #13.1
Story: Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule and David Walker
Art: Jacopo Camagni, Guillermo Sanna, Elmo Bondoc, Paco Diaz
Colors: Veronica Gandini, Mat Lopes, Nolan Woodard and Israel Silva

Deadpool teaming up with a hero who can’t stand him is a time-honored tradition dating to his work with Banshee in 1994’s “Sins of the Past” miniseries. This issue, which is actually a four-part crossover in one $9.99 floppy, teams the worst Avenger with Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – none of whom has any lost love for him – to protect a Wall Street investor wanted by multiple mobs and some of the more crooked parts of the NYPD.

So yeah, it’s kind of like “The Other Guys,” one of the better Will Ferrell/Adam McKay movies.

It’s also a spiritual sequel of sorts to the Daredevil/Deadpool ’97 annual, which saw the Man without Fear and the Merc with a Mouth team up for the first time to stop the mentally unstable assassin Typhoid Mary.

Duggan, who writes the first and fourth parts of this intrabook crossover, doesn’t often lean on the work of previous Deadpool scribes. His run has done an amazing job of building Wade Wilson’s world and rich history on its own. But in this issue, he revisits the relationship between Deadpool and Mary built early on in Joe Kelly’s run and says, flat out, what we’ve all been thinking for 20 years.

“It was truly one of the worst experiences of my life,” Wade recounts of the time Mary used an image inducer to pose as Wade’s crush of the time, the X-Force member Siryn. “And that’s saying something, if you’ve read my Handbook entry.”

This time around, Mary is working for the Russian mob, one of the parties who wants investor Marvin Shirkley dead for losing their money. Shirkley hires Deadpool for protection, and Wade agrees to take his case, seeing it as an opportunity to work out his Mary issues. Deadpool takes Marvin to the district attorney’s office – specifically, the broken elevator-turned-office of Assistant District Attorney Matt Murdock – for protection, but that idea falls apart once Deadpool realizes the key piece of evidence they need to protect Marvin, the laptop Marvin gave him containing information on all his clients, he threw in the trash because it didn’t fit in his safe.

And so, with a host of Russian, Japanese and other mob nasties coming for them, Deadpool, Shirkley and the Heroes for Hire spend a day in a New York landfill trying to find the laptop. When the goon squad finally shows, the sanitation workers help the heroes repel them, only after which does a truck roll in with the laptop safe and sound. And after one last fight, Mary is locked away in a SHIELD facility where she can get care for her dissociative identity disorder, courtesy of an ever-softening Wade and his life-model decoy SHIELD friend, Agent Emily Preston.

Oh, and there’s a framing sequence in which Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich tries to figure out how to report all this and gives up, but it doesn’t really affect the story at all.

Had this been an actual four-part crossover, you would have paid almost $20 to collect ‘em all. So while 10 bucks for one book is certainly steep, you are getting one solid, self-contained, quadruple-sized story out of it. And a lot of jokes about being blind.

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