Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 3/4/09 &3/11/09

Two relatively light weeks worth of comics.

BATMAN CACOPHONY #3 - I'm a bit torn on this whole mini-series, particularly this issue.

One the one hand, Smith writes a GREAT Joker and the insights into the character here run deeper than anything done with the character in the comics in the last decade, almost equaling the insight given in The Dark Knight And the scene in which Batman tries to talk reasonably with a momentarily sedated and sane Joker - while heavily recalling a similar moment in The Killing Joke - moves past that scene while also borrowing from the conceit proposed in J.M. DeMatteis' Going Sane and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns that without the existence of a Batman, The Joker has no reason to exist.

"I don't hate you because I'm crazy. I'm crazy because I hate you. And your death - preferably, but not necessarily, by my hand will mean an end to my reign of terror in Gotham. When you're gone, I'll stop hurting people I don't know. I'll stop with the mayhem and the murder....Yes, I want to kill you. And then? Then we'll both finally be free."

Smith also writes a great Batman, having reduced the hero to his core essence in this issue as he explains not only why he doesn't kill his enemies but also why he won't allow them to die either. It all goes back to that line from Mark Waid's Kingdom Come - "More than anyone in the world, when you scratch everything else away from Batman, you're left with someone who doesn't want to see anybody die." Batman says as much here as he is left with a slowly bleeding Joker on the rooftop of Police Headquarters.

On the other hand, while Joker and Batman are spot on, all the other defined characters are a little off... particularly Jim Gordon, who - while being perhaps the only person in the world to have more reason to want to see The Joker dead than Batman and Oracle - I can't see ever telling Batman to just stand there and let The Joker bleed to death instead of getting him to a hospital. Jim's had his own chances to kill The Joker and he's never taken them. Heck, he was the one who went out of his way to save The Joker after Batman briefly lost control during the Hush storyline. And I somehow can't see Bruce feeling too disgusted about "borrowing a good idea" from a professional criminal. After all, if memory serves he's been using icing compounds based on Mr. Freeze technology for a while now...

Overall, not a bad little mini-series. Your mileage may vary depending upon your tolerance for Joker making jokes full of sexual innuendo admits cartoon references. ("Shoot him now! Shoot him now!")

DOCTOR WHO: THE WHISPERING GALLERY ONE-SHOT - A harmless little one-shot dealing with the usual Whovian themes of emotion conquering logic. Not that bad but not that good either. Only for the Who completist.

EX MACHINA SPECIAL #4 - The only one of the Ex Machina specials to fall flat and one of the few Ex Machina stories to fail to satisfy. Less preachy than an episode of Captain Planet, this special - which centers upon Mitchell Hundred's dealings with a man who claims to have the power to talk to plants like he talks to machines - accomplishes little to make an activist's point about the failure of the comic book industry to embrace recycled paper.

The story is actually much better than it sounds in abstract but there isn't any real thrust to the story apart from the Pro-Green message. I'm the last one in the world to complain about such a message on a serious topic but a little more action would have been nice.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #34 - Lots to catch up with here too.

* Despite his wishes to avoid his xenophobic homeworld - now under-siege by the Sinestro Corps - Sodam Yat returns to Daxam to liberate it, along with his partner Arisia.

* Mongul wins his battle for control of the Sinestro Corps, ripping out Arkillo's tongue in the process so that he "will be seen and not heard from this moment forth".

* Kyle and Soranik continue to develop their relationship, outlawed by The Guardian's Third Law about Green Lanterns loving one another.

* On a far distant planet, the many children kidnapped by Kryb begin to cry out for the mother figure they can no longer sense, thanks to Kryb's imprisonment by the Star Sapphires.

* The Green Lanterns try to imprison their first Red Lantern and it doesn't work too well.

FABLES #82 - A perfect examination of people's reactions after a funeral.

Personal story time. A little under a year ago, my friend good Daniel died. It was very sudden and in the days afterward, most of us still couldn't believe that it had happened. Some of us expected that it was all a scam to get out of paying his student loans. Some of us thought it was the set-up to a practical joke where he'd laugh at our foolishness in believing he was really dead.

And one of my friends had a dream - which she told me because she, Daniel and I were all great Doctor Who fans - that she dreamed Daniel hadn't really died but that he had to fake his death to save the world and was saving the universe even now alongside The Doctor.

It was a silly dream, of course. And yet, it was the type of thing - reality aside - Daniel would have done for a chance to sail among the stars.

My point in all this is that it is all too human for us to refuse to believe that our friends are really gone and to think of stories of how they might still be alive. And ironically, in this book where the stories are people, they are all too human too in the death of one of their own.

And that is why this book is the best on the market today.

SECRET SIX #7 - A worthy conclusion of the first story arc. But for my money, the best part of all came at the end.

Ragdoll: But we are your friends, Jervis! If we weren't, would I have found your hat for you like this, amonst all this all the death and bloodshed?

Mad Hatter: My hat! My hat! Give it to me at once, candy stripe!

Ragdoll: Of course I will, Jervis. But may I say one solitary word, first? *tossing the hat off of a bridge and into the bay below* "Fetch!"

Mad Hatter: I really very much dislike you a great deal, sir.

Ragdoll: *smiling* I know.