Sunday, October 18, 2009

Comic Reviews - 09/30/09 and 10/07/09

I still haven't gotten my comics for this last week yet and I probably won't be able to until next weekend. Still, I have two weeks worth to catch up on... so let's get to it, as I give you my thoughts on the issues of the past two weeks plus one page scan (or, in one case, one scan made up of parts of two pages that go better together) from each book.

So come along, if you are at all interested in Batman: The Widening Gyre #2, Blackest Night: Titans #2, , Green Lantern #46, Jack of Fables #38, Knights Of The Dinner Table #154, Warlord #7 and Wonder Woman #36

BATMAN: THE WIDENING GYRE #2 - Kevin Smith's writing seems to be hit and miss with most people; you either hate it or you love it. With me, it hits. And in reading this most recent issue, I've noticed something regarding one of the more common complaints about Smith's take on Batman; specifically, how Smith's Batman curses and uses common slang.

"I'm embarrassed I let him run me this far. Look at him, the big fat mess. Under any other circumstances, at this point, I'm watching Gordon's men load him into the meat wagon, with breaks that will never heal. You're so lucky you fat, bloated turd... So lucky you're holding that kid. He plays the hostage card, banking on me going after the (falling) girl instead of him. Dammit... I hate being predictable."

The interesting thing is that after this issue I think I can justify this by comparing it to Principal Skinner from The Simpsons and the old line "I know you can read my thoughts, Bart. Just a little reminder - if i find out you cut class, your ass is mine! Yes, you heard me. I THINK words I'd never SAY." Because if you look carefully throughout this book - and Smith's other Batman works - you'll note that Batman never actually says "Dammit." or "You bastard!" or the like... but he sure does THINK them loud.

This is not to say that this isn't jarring for those of us who aren't used to getting an internal dialogue in a Batman book. They haven't been in vogue for a while now. And Smith's other great flaw is that the story so far - and this issue in particular - go all OVER the place on the fanboy in-joke/continuity scale.

Here's the quick summary: We start out with Batman in an amusement park, fighting a child molester/serial killer with a hostage who appears so have been taken from the Doll's House book of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Batman has a quick flashback to himself and Robin fighting Toyman with an assist from Superman. He returns home to have a quiet moment with longtime 70's love interest Silver St. Cloud. And the issue ends with Batman going after Cornelius Stirk -a telepathic cannibal from the Dark Age of Comics. And throughout all of this, there is a mysterious goat-masked hero who is helping Batman out from the shadows

Yes, that's the QUICK summary.

So what does Smith get right? A lot more than he gets wrong, for my money.

While the story does go over the place and is a bit reference heavy, Smith explains it all effortlessly and without making it feel like he's info-dumping on the reader. And the Funland reference is more of an Easter Egg for Sandman fans more than anything, as you don't have to have read Doll's House to appreciate this story.

And I must say that more than any writer in recent memory, I do love Smith's take on Alfred.

The artwork is excellent as well, with Walt Flanaghan effortlessly switching between 70's kitsch, 80's grit and 90's horror as the scene warrants.

All in all, it's not so great that you can't wait for the trade but there are much worse things to spend your money on if you're up for a good classic Batman story.

BLACKEST NIGHT: TITANS #2 - This book is pretty much what we were afraid all of the Blackest Night tie-ins would be; a pitiful excuse for the heroes of the DC Universe to get smacked around by super-powered zombies, while being written horribly out of character.

And I'd like to officially nominate Donna Troy for the title of Dumbest Heroine Ever just for this moment alone.

What's that? My dead husband wants me to hold my dead son? No problem!

GREEN LANTERN #46 - This issue is titled Uneasy Alliance. And boy does that sum it up.

* Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Carol Ferris and Indigo One form the titular Uneasy Alliance as Zamaron is captured by the Black Lanterns.

* We find out that the mysterious dead couple, whose endless love created the violet star sapphires that the Zamarons used to power their love-based Corps were a previous reincarnation of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Way to tie it together, Johns!

* Sinestro finally confronts - and defeats - Mongul, as they fight for control over the fear-powered Sinestro Corps. Bonus Points - Sinestro does this in order to save the homeworld that has shunned him. Nice thematic resonance for the Green Lantern saga as the idea of a hero having to save the people who rejected his heroism has come up several times (Hal saving the Earth after the Parallax incident, Sodam Yat saving Daxam...)

Lots of cool moments, but for my money, the best is Carol giving voice to the thoughts that 90% of the reading audience had about the new Star Sapphire uniform.

JACK OF FABLES #38 - Not much to tell in this issue. Jack is continuing to get fatter and balder. His son, Jack Frost, has undertaken his first serious quest as a hero. Plot wise nothing much has changed. So now for something completely different - the adventures of Babe The Blue Ox!

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #154 - A nice jumping-on issue for those who have been curious about this book but haven't dared tried an issue yet because of the on-going storylines. The Knights and The Black Hands gear up to go to a gaming convention but Bob, Dave and Brian get locked in Brian's basement before they can get on the road.

Hilarity ensues as three gamers resort to children's board games in order to get their gaming fix, though playing Mystery Date using the cards from a nudie playing card deck in lieu of the actual dates is rather inspired as are Bob's attempts to run a Hackmaster campaign without his usual gear.

Who would have thought you could turn Clue into Ravenloft? Only a mad genius like Bob!

WARLORD #7 - Honestly, how much you will enjoy this issue will depend upon four factors.

1. How much you like Mike Grell's writing.
2. How much you like Mike Grell's artwork.
3. Your tolerance for mystery stories where you are left to puzzle things out along with the hero.
4. How much you like big pages with lots of artwork, few panels and a good deal of violence and near nudity - both male and female.

My one complaint? I wish Grell had done this as a Vertigo series, because the lengths taken to keep the toga-clad virgin from showing anything while she is running around and falling out of her ripped garment are just comically ridiculous. Give that man points for being inventive, though.

WONDER WOMAN #36 - Taking it as read that anything Gail Simone writes is brilliant and funny, what else can I say about this issue?

I like how the contrived romance with Nemesis started and promoted by the previous writing teams has finally been ended.

I like how Giganta calls a momentary truce to talk relationship conflicts with a clearly upset Diana - something she can full well relate to being a growing supervillain who is dating a shrinking superhero. (The Atom shout out for the win!)

I like the continued resistance that the female amazons (especially the former queen's honor guard) show to their new male counterparts.

But mostly? I love this moment as Diana confronts the newly-crowned Amazon King Achilles.

If you aren't reading this book, you should be.

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