Monday, August 18, 2014

Batman #34 - A Review

One of my favorite Batman stories of all time is an oft-forgotten tale called "The Nobody" from Shadow of the Bat #13.  The story in this months's issue of Batman - titled "The Meek" - reminded me of that story, despite there being no direct links between them nor any common plot points.  The only real common thread between them is that both stories showcase Batman's concern for even the lowest members of society and how Bruce Wayne is truly a modern-day knight.

The plot here concerns a serial killer who targets the homeless.  The twist here is that unlike the vast majority of Gotham City's murderous madmen, this killer wishes to be as anonymous and unknown as the people he kills.  This adds a horrific aspect to the story not found in most modern Batman stories and this too reminds me of the old Shadow of the Bat series from the 1990s.  It is to the credit of co-plotters Scott Snyder and Gerry Duggan that they are able to make so mundane a story work within the context of Batman's world.  Not because his world cannot abide such horror but because the idea of a mad killer working without a gimmick in Gotham City is a surprisingly novel one.

The artwork by Matteo Scalera also reminds me of the gothic-horror based Batman comics of yesteryear.  Scalera's style is exaggerated without seeming cartoonish and the inks are used to great effect, particularly in the scenes with Batman exploring crime scenes.  Colorist Lee Loughridge also deserves praise for a uniquely limited palette that makes use of muted blues, yellows, oranges and grays to subtly suggest sudden intensity and mundane ennui in equal measure.  

Red Sonja #11 - A Review

I've grown used to Red Sonja being a great read since Gail Simone and Walter Geovani took over the monthly book.  There has been a good mix of action and humor, well displayed and well drawn.  Yet I didn't quite expect Red Sonja #11 to be as good a book as it is simply because I did not expect this book to be about Something Important as well as a rollicking good sword and sorcery tale.

The book opens with an action-filled recap which reintroduces us to the current plot. Sonja's current quest involves the retrieval of six artisans in order to secure the freedom of a thousand slaves.  After the recap, we return to the business of Sonja's efforts to rescue the fifth artisan.  An astrologer by trade, this artisan has some rather revolutionary ideas about the heavens and how they operate.  These ideas have made him a target of the local church, which would rather people looked at the feet of the priests than at the skies above.

The historical parallels of this tale are obvious but the targets of Simone's criticism aren't.  While Sonja herself believes this stargazer to be a madman, her anger is reserved for those who would mistreat another over a belief that does no harm to others.  The tale is not Science versus Religion but Spirituality vs. Theocracy, as Sonja considers the simple faith practiced by her family in a humble hut of a church compared to that practiced by the priests hidden away in a great stone temple with golden statues.  The parallels to the modern conflicts between small churches and the mega-churches that are run like big business are inescapable.

Walter Geovani captures this all with his usual flare.  His linework is simple, yet filled with subtle detailing.  His inks are perfect, being just dark enough to add definition without obscuring the fine pencils.  Simply put, this book's artwork is stunning!

Sheena #3 (Moonstone Books 2014) - A Review

Sheena #3 opens in the thick of the action, as the jaguar men - who had only attacked in stealth before - make their presence known.  The Queen of The Jungle has fought many strange things before but beasts that walk as men are unusual even by her standards!  Can she conquer this new supernatural evil while simultaneously protecting an ancient temple from looters and the treacherous Colonel Pinto and his secret police?

The final chapter of "Return of The Jaguar Men" delivers the classic pulp action one would expect of a Sheena comic.  Paul Storrie's script - based on a plot by David de Souza - brings things to a satisfying conclusion while simultaneously setting up material for future stories.  It is gratifying to see this classic heroine written as being more than a beautiful bruiser and Storrie's script offers Sheena ample opportunity to showcase her cunning and intelligence as well as her ability to fight.

The artwork by Shawn McCauley is comparable to the work of Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke.  Stylized and streamlined, McCauley's linework is simple yet is rendered deeper by atmospheric inking.  The final effect is reminiscent of Will Eisner in his prime.

Batgirl #34 - A Review

I am sorry to see the team of Simone, Pasarin and Glapion leave Batgirl.  For the better part of three years, they have delivered one of the best books the New 52 had to offer.  And they deliver one hell of a satisfying conclusion in Batgirl #34.

Gail Simone's script ties up most of the on-going subplots from her run, as Batgirl moves to stop the gang-leader Knightfall from enacting her plan to cleanse Gotham City of all undesirables.  She does this with a team made up of darn near every awesome superheroine Gail Simone has written in the past as well as the heroes of Simone's recently canceled series The Movement.  Some may say this is indulgent on Simone's part but I don't care.  It's nice to see Misfit again, however briefly.

What can I say about Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion that I haven't said before?  Precious little, save that I will look forward to their future projects and am glad to see that Glapion will be taking over the inking duties on Green Arrow.  I can also say that Matt Ryan does a fine job on the two pages that he inks here and that if the title page didn't inform me there was more than one inker working on this book, I never would have known.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green Arrow #34 - A Review

Green Arrow #34 is Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's final issue working together on this title.  This lends this issue a certain bittersweet aura, for what these two creators have managed to do in so short a time is truly miraculous.  Before Lemire and Sorrentino came along, Green Arrow was on the fast-track to cancellation after having had three different creative teams try - and fail - to make the book interesting.

Lemire's script here - as in more recent issues - will doubtlessly remind readers of the current Arrow TV series and not just for the presence of John Diggle, revealed in issues past to have been Ollie's hereunto unmentioned partner in the fight to protect Seattle.  Heck, this issue even borrows a few catch-phrases from the show (i.e. "failed this city").  But that is where the similarities end.  Lemire may have added in some elements from the show but only as window-dressing for his own unique ideas.

It has been a challenge for me to describe Andrea Sorrentino's work on this title every month.  "Good" doesn't begin to do it justice, but neither would a thousand words describing Sorrentino's attention to detail or the way colorist Marcelo Maiolo uses differing palettes to emphasize the panels within panels that Sorrentino utilizes to enhance the action of the issue.  Suffice it to say, I shall miss their work as much as I will miss Lemire's scripts.