Monday, August 1, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/27

Adventure Time Comics #1
Story & Art: Various

Boom! launches a new Adventure Time series this week, and it's totally mathematical! Featuring some of comics best cartoonists, this first issue features some of my personal favorites as well. This issue has four short stories, which vary from very light in both subject and continuity, to some deep dives into more obscure Adventure Time characters.

"Toothpaste Fairy" by Art Baltazar- Art Baltazar, co-creator of Tiny Titans and Patrick the Wolf Boy, brings us a story of Finn going on a quest for toothpaste! You have to imagine in the post-apocalyptic future of the Land of Ooo, toothpaste isn't exactly easy to come by, but fortunately there's a Toothpaste Fairy! It's a light, fluffy story (an apt description when you see all the clouds) and perfect if you've enjoyed Art's Tiny Titans stories.

"Stand Next to Me" by Katie Cook- Katie Cook, of Gronk fame, tells a story featuring some of Ooo's lesser known princesses. Breakfast Princess is the main character of the story, and I am reminded how awful she is; she's the Mean Girl of the princess set. She leads Pastry Princess and a cupcake person into the woods to retrieve a skeleton that is near Lump Space Princess's campsite because being near LSP is a fate "worse than death." The story shows that LSP, for all her usual craziness and narcissism, does have a good heart, and puts Breakfast Princess sort of in her place. I love Cook's art (I have a tiny commission of her's framed on my mantle), and I love her takes on the princesses and Ooo in general.

"Goliad Gets a Break" by Tony Millionaire- Taking one of Adventure Time's odder characters, the powerful psychic candy beast Goliad out for a romp is none other than Tony Millionaire, whose Sock Monkey and Maakies bear a similarity to the odder and darker corners of the Adventure Time mythos. Millionaire clearly knows his Adventure Time, cramming in cameos by such minor characters as Choose Goose, Ricardio, and the Orgalorg. Millionaire's style is no less cartoony than the rest, but has more of an edge, which fits the darker nature of the story, although it is still lighter than many of the recent episodes of the animated series.

"Good Shelf" by Kate Leyh- Kate Leyh has done some Adventure Time shorts before, and is a co-writer on Lumberjanes, so she knows how to write friendship, so it's nice to have her round out this inaugural issue with a tale of Finn and Jake, with Finn building things out of wood he found. Being this is Ooo, though, boards you just happen to find aren't usually just boards, and Finn's good nature and naivete lead to a bit of an issue. It's a fun short story, and like the best really short stories (only three pages), it has plenty packed into it without seeming cramped or rushed.

Batgirl #1
Story: Hope Larson
Art: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig

Batgirl enters the "Rebirth" era with a solid new status quo and a fun opening issue. After the trauma of the end of the previous volume of her series, Barbara Gordon is taking a trip "Beyond Burnside" (the title of the arc) to do some soul searching. Starting her travels in Japan, Babs is there to investigate the story of one of the world's first superheroines, the Fruit Bat, who fought crime in 1939 Japan, and who is now a one hundred and four year old woman. But Barbara starts off at a hostel where her roommate is a guy named Kai, who coincidentally was a friend of hers when the Gordons lived in Chicago. Barbara seems to take this at face value initially. Hope Larson gets Barbara right from the get go; Babs can't stop calling her friend Frankie back in Burnside to check in on things, even thought she's been gone for less than a day. Babs is fascinated with the history of superheroes. Babs is a good friend. Larson absolutely gets all the aspects of Babs as a character. But Larson doesn't hold back on the action, which is part of what makes this a great first issue. She finds a nice balance between establishing Barbara's new situation with a great action scene as sailor suited clown make-up wearing girl attacks Kai; Babs immediately knows that Kai, who was a kid with a past, is not saying everything about his innocent trip to tour Asia. And the mysteries of the series are deepened when we see that, despite being a centenarian, the Fruit Bat still has some moves, and sets Babs on the next leg of her journey. And I'm glad Rafael Albuquerque is the guy drawing it, because it looks amazing. It's been so long since he regularly did superhero work, except for a short run on Animal Man, that I forgot how great a superhero artist he is; I think of him as a horror artist thanks to American Vampire, forgetting how much I adored his Blue Beetle run. His style has so much energy, so much flare, that Batgirl practically jumps off the page. There's a bit with a thrown knife that flashes from panel to panel on a grid and another of Barbara thinking of how to take down the clown girl with a thrown ball that are absolutely stunning. If this first issue is any indication, the new volume of Batgirl picks up from the last one and maintains the air of fun and adventure while setting its own direction.

Detective Comics #937
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, & Brad Anderson

When will I stop reviewing the Rebirth Detective Comics? When it stops being the best Bat book on the shelves and a love letter to Batman fans! Each issue, writer James Tynion IV packs in more references to classic Batman stories and continuity while still making a series completely accessible to new fans and fans of the characters on Batman's team who might not be mired in years of Batman minutiae. While last issue focused entirely on the team, this issue starts off with and focuses mostly on Batman himself. Imprisoned by the Colony, the military organization using Batman's tactics, we watch as Batman breaks his way out of their imprisonment and gets an idea of what the military is doing using his name. We see the base, the toys, and the man designing it all: Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, better known as The General. A creation of Chuck Dixon, the general was a villain who moved on to be one of Tim Drake's arch-foes, a teenager with a brilliant military mind, and Tynion has him working for the military, designing Batman type weapons for the Colony. It's a great turn, and a great use of a character I love. There's one panel in particular, as Batman watches a video of the Colony do a wetwork mission, where The General offers to see a more gory video in delight, and Batman's one panel, shadowed, "No." radiates rage at the perversion of what he does. As things continue, we get the confrontation between Batman and his uncle, Jake Kane, the man behind the Colony, and again we see why they call Batman the world's greatest detective, as we learn how much Batman already knew before even recruiting his team. Speaking of the team, they have their own pages here, as we get to see the strengths of two of their members: Batwoman's indomitable will as she prepares to stand up to her father, and Red Robin's brain. As a life-long Tim Drake fan (his life, I suppose, as I was nine when he was created, but still he and I go way back), it's cool to see what Tim has been up to and designed in Gotham's underground, and how it also features another nod to one of Chuck Dixon's creations, the Bat-Rocket, the subway vehicle Azrael-Batman drove around. There's another bit of Batman continuity that gets a call out, but it's a mystery for now, a nod to other media Batman and to things to come that I don't want to discuss yet as it would be a spoiler of sorts, but I like that Tynion is building a whole long form narrative; I can't wait to see how it pays off. Seriously, if you're a fan of Batman in general and you're not trying out Detective, do yourself a favor and pick up the series now, because you're in for a treat.

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