Quick Comics Review

I’d said that I’d do a round-up review of the series I followed (or briefly followed) last year, and, well, here it is!

Scott Snyder’s Justice League Stuff – I enjoyed Metal a lot, and despite the promises of the short-lived New Age of Heroes that were “Taken from the pages of Metal”, the real follow-up to the event was Snyder’s new sprawling Justice League story. It started out promising, with Justice League: No Justice, but I felt like the wheels were falling off by the time his new Justice League title started; I dropped it after #2, because frankly it was too bloated and dull. Which surprised me because I thought he’d handled a large ensemble fairly well in No Justice. But the start of Justice League was just so sloppy I skipped out on everything else.

The Immortal Men – Slow, pretentious, and utterly beautiful–the art wasn’t enough to make up for the plodding attempt to cram all of the Immortal Men mythos into what ended up being a six-issue mini-series due to its cancellation. I picked this book up because “Oh, hey, Batman Who Laughs is here!” and I was curious what he was up to after Metal. Well, it turned out he was mostly just standing around behind some other villain whose name I forget so they could put him on the cover and trick people like me into following the title.

The Brave and the Bold – If not for Kings of Fear, this would be my book of the year. A Celtic / Dunsanian fantasy fairy tale murder mystery that Wonder Woman and Batman have to solve. The art was gorgeous and story compelling, and it was wonderful to see this kind of fantasy story being told today.

The Terrifics – I love the Terrifics, and due to the hiccups at DC, it’s as close as I’ll be getting to the Outsiders for some time. It was a bit slow early on, but it really hit its stride with issue 5 and hasn’t really let up since. This has been my favorite ongoing since I got back into comics, and the price is right at 2.99.

Raven: Daughter of Darkness – This one started out slow, and it’s not a take on Raven that I’m a huge fan of, but it got better after a few issues; while it’s not great, I don’t regret my decision to not drop the title.

Catwoman – I love Joelle Jones’ art style; I just wish she was better at pacing her story. I think the first story could’ve been told in 3 issues instead of 6, but that’s really a problem with contemporary comics in general. I almost dropped this after the first arc, because even though I enjoyed it, I’m not invested in Catwoman beyond her place in the Bat-o-sphere. Then Penguin showed up in issue 7, so I’m sticking around, even if he really should’ve shown up several pages earlier to offer her the gig instead of at the end of the book; again, pacing.

Batman – I’ve done a complete 180 on Tom King and his Batman. Yes, I raved about his cozy Batman stories, but when he’s not doing cozy Batman, his stuff was terrible. I got tired of watching Batman lose and not save anybody, and the lead-up to the wedding was egregious. I could’ve stuck out the Batrayal or the price hike, but not both.

Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome – This is a gem I picked up on a whim and ended up not only following the 4-issue series, I’ve got a few issues from an earlier run, as well. Great art, fun and intriguing story. I hear there’s an omnibus collecting all of Britannia up through this, so I’ll be nabbing that.

Batman: Kings of Fear – Book of the year, right here. (Sorry Brave & Bold; you were fantastic and beautiful and sublime and all, but this is ImportantTM)

Kings of Fear blew up the post-modern approach to the Batman mythology with two tons of TNT and is easily one of the best Batman stories ever written.

Batman gets hit with an abnormally large dose of Scarecrow gas, and Doctor Crane tries to analyze Batman to see what makes him tick.

It turns out that Batman’s greatest fear is that the contemporary post-modern approach to writing and critiquing Batman as a rich crazy guy who is probably just making things worse by his crime-fighting is true.

And if this were a contemporary post-modern Batman story where Batman is a loser, doesn’t save anyone, and creates more supervillains than he stops, his fears would be reality.

Only it’s not, and they aren’t. Spoilers: This Batman saves lives. Not only does Batman save the lives of people targeted by criminals, Batman saves the lives of criminals, too. It turns out that the recidivism rate of criminals who are stopped by Batman is only 2% (pretty much his rogues and their most devoted henchmen); criminals stopped by Batman turn their lives around: they go to jail, learn trades, get out, start families, and keep their shit together.

Both the tone and aesthetic of this book hearken back to a time when Batman was still a winner–a good guy who saves the day. So, while Batman is letting randos get murdered in Batman, and Leslie Thompkins just got killed by the Joker in the current Detective Comics countdown to #1000, at least one Bat-book from the last year has a real goddamn Batman who saves the day and makes Gotham a better and safer place.

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The Search

Thanks to Midtown Comics and my own local Comic Book store, I’ve got all but the last two uncollected chapters of Knightsquest: the Search.

Justice League Task Force. Obviously, this is a Justice League title for the inclusion of D-listers, so I can understand why the comic store guy said they’d banished them all to the $.50 boxes because ‘we just couldn’t move them’. The art is pretty bad; I know Bruce is supposed to look a bit rough after being beaten by Bane, but here he’s drawn like Dustin Hoffman dying of AIDS in Midnight Cowboy. The cameo of Tim Drake makes him look like he’s in his 40s; now, I know how Tim is drawn is hella inconsisten throughout the various titles, but this is the worst I’ve seen him look. The coloring was pretty bad, too, with the villain’s mustache being brown only half the time and fleshtone pink the rest. Bruce was obviously here to raise awareness of a mediocre new title before continuing his story in higher quality lines.

The Shadow of the Bat arc with the Hood, however, is pretty great. In fact, I’ve come to learn from the Knightfall Omnibuses that Shadow of the Bat is a consistently high quality title, and SotB interludes in the main story were often high points. The Shadow of the Bat: Bruce Wane mini-arc is no exception. The art and writing were far superior to the JLTF portion. The villain is pretty WTF evil. Cripple Bruce is cane-wielding faux-british badass, though I’ll admit that I would’ve never thought the dude with the mutton-chops on the cover was the same guy as Batman.

I’ll probably start the Quarry once I get the last two issues of Legends of the Dark Knight, which have proved somewhat more elusive. How good the QUarry is will determine a lot of my feelings for the Search. The JLTF was lousy, the SotB was great, so my opinion hangs in the balance! I do have a feeling that it will make me appreciate the Crusade a bit more. Because Abattoir and Tallyman were both pretty good villains. It’s just nice to have the full story.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m going to go all out on “modern” Batman stuff. I figure checking out all of the ‘important’ stories and arcs from between Crisis and Flashpoint gives me a reasonable 25 years of stuff to choose from. If anything, I can be thankful that the “New 52” gave me a nice hardline cut-off point, where I can say “And after 2011, I can stop caring, because that’s not the Batman from my childhood anymore.” Thanks, Dan DiDio!