Monday, July 4, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/29

Grayson Annual #3
Story: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Art: Roge Antonio and Jeremy Cox, Natasha Alterici, Christian Duce and Mat Lopes, Flaviano and Jeremy Cox, & Javier Fernandez and Chris Sotomayor

Grayson wraps up with this annual a final issue that is of dubious placement in the timeline (something referenced intentionally in a bit of narration), but that doesn't matter because this is more a story about who Dick Grayson is and all that parts that make him up. The issue opens with Harley Quinn arriving at a room where Azrael, Green Lantern Simon Baz, and John Constantine already waiting. They have been called together by Jim Corrigan, the detective who is the host of the Spectre, to find out about their encounters with Agent 37, Dick's Spyral identity, and to try to determine who he is. What follows are four vignettes revealing never before told tales of these heroes and anti-heroes meeting Dick, and spotlighting a different aspect of his personality that lines up with each of the characters he meets. With John Constantine, he's "The Charmer," where he fight vampires with the power of his good looks and remarkable posterior (I do hope that when Dick returns to his Nightwing identity, the now established fact that he has the best tuchus in the DC Universe is not forgotten). With Azrael, he is "The Savior," working with him to stop the Order of St. Dumas from stealing a holy relic from the people who guard it. Harley meets, "The Acrobat," in a beautiful and gracefully illustrated segment where the two dance their way through security lasers to retrieve super villain paraphernalia from a millionaire collector. And finally, with Simon Baz, he is "The Superhero," as he and Simon work together to figure out what Parademons are doing on Earth again, and Simon, who tends to be angry and aggressive, learns from Dick's years of experience. Each of the stories in fun and exciting, but more than that, it starts to play into the Rebirth theme of the return of legacy to the DC Universe: pre-Flashpoint, Dick Grayson was the glue that connected the old guard of the Justice League generation with the heroes of the Teen Titans generation, someone universally respected by all. Seeing him again with all these heroes, and seeing how he impacted them, even when they couldn't see his face,  begins repositioning Dick as the hero's hero. In the end, Dick makes an unexpected appearance, and then heads off into the night for one final adventure with his former Spyral partner, Helena Bertinelli, tying a nice bow on the superspy portion of his life, and positioning him for Nightwing: Rebirth.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #9
Writer: Ryan North
Art: Erica Henderson, Tom Fowler, & Rico Renzi (with guest page  by David Malki)

One of the things that makes the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl a real treat as a comic is that it's protagonist, Squirrel Girl, does her best to solve conflicts nonviolently. And more often than not? This works for her. She's convinced Kraven to stop hunting people. She convinced Galactus to not devour Earth. She's awesome that way (she did kick Dr. Doom's butt, but he totally had it coming). But it's nice to see Ryan North and Erica Henderson, who've been working on this book since the first issue one, still find new ways to challenge Squirrel Girl. This time, Just being as nice as she is comes back to bite Squirrel Girl, because the Mole Man shows up to get revenge on her for inadvertently siccing Kraven in monsters. And after she explains the mishap and is kind to him... he proposes. And when she says no, he doesn't take no for an answer easily. There's some solid feminism in here about nice guy syndrome and consent, especially when Squirrel Girl's roommate and best friend smacks him for grabbing Squirrel Girl's hand without permission and how Mole Man blames her friends for her not being into him, as opposed to his own behavior, but it doesn't weigh down the book; it's a natural extension of the story itself. And as Mole Man's plans get even more ridiculous, Squirrel Girl continues to be nice to him, and it's interesting to see her admitting not being nice all the time is necessary; we know she'll always be optimistic and bright, but the idea that sometimes you need to just say, "No," is an important lesson that a lot of people need to know. But not everything is resolved this issue, so we will be getting more Mole Man and Squirrel Girl next issue, and now he's pushed her to the point where it's no more Ms, Nice squirrel Themed Heroine, so that's going to be interesting. But there are some absolutely wonderful little moments in the issue I want to call out. There's one page that explains, "Mole Man's deal..." (that's what the credits call it), drawn by David Malki, which looks like turn of the twentieth century art, referencing the fact that Mole Man is apparently over one hundred years old (something I did not know, so you learn something new every day), and it's just absolutely charming. Oh, and when Mole Man proposes to Squirrel Girl, he asks if she'll be his Mole Ma'am. Sure, me, but I love that kind of word play.

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