Comics

Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Brad

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My Week in Comics – 16/04/14

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My week in comics this week features Batman. Batman everywhere…

Well, I tell a lie, he’s in two out of four. Plus Mercury imitates him on the cover of Justice League, and the Batman 75 logo is on the cover of Wonder Woman. Still. One gets the feeling, if you read DC comics, that the Caped Crusader has been a touch inescapable over the last few years. This month alone, a staggering 20 comics under the Batman umbrella will be released. The good people of DC evidently know where their bread is buttered, and Bruce Wayne is certainly their biggest money maker.

Since the launch of the New 52, the main Batman book, and thus the overall direction of Gotham’s heroes, has been in the more than capable hands of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. Snyder is probably the hottest writer at DC right now, with seemingly everything he’s touched in the four years since his breakthrough with American Vampire for Vertigo turning to gold, whilst Capullo is a veritable legend at this point, having done the rounds at Marvel for a few years before Todd McFarlane tapped him as the second artist, after McFarlane himself, to draw the Spawn comic.

Batman is presently at the height of its third storyline since the New 52 relaunch, Zero Year. It’s been epic, not much of a surprise for those who’ve been following the book, as previous storylines The Court of Owls and Death of the Family have more than established a very high standard, and almost impossibly high expectations, which keep getting met. This month’s issue launches the third and final act of Zero Year, Savage City. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, and if you’ve not got it, I recommend back issues. The story goes back to June’s Batman #21, and the first volume, Secret City, is out in hardback and digital next month.

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Batman #30

Written by Scott Snyder. Drawn by Greg Capullo.

So after that hype, it’s quite a subdued issue. Where the two previous mini-arcs within Zero Year opened with a bang, and the immediately previous arc Dark City finished with destruction on an astonishing scale, this feels a little “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. We open with Bruce waking up after the devastation of Riddler’s attack, to see Gotham fully in his grasp. The streets are overgrown, there’s no way in or out of the city, and every day he appears on giant screens to make the people an offer; pose him a riddle he can’t solve, and he will give them their city back.

Batman #30 is a very tantalising set-up for what’s to come, and given the breathless action sequence that was the latter part of #29, it’ll probably read a lot better in sequence. As a monthly comic, though, it feels a bit slow. There are some great sequences, with a very tense standoff between Jim Gordon, a tactical military team and some drones controlled by the Riddler standing out, but it’s very exposition-heavy. The book essentially boils down to two conversations, a monologue and an action sequence, with very little going on.

That said, Riddler is my favourite Bat-villain, so getting more of Snyder’s superb take on him was great. He’s never better than when he’s lording it over the inferior masses, so seeing him in total control of a city, and the lives of millions, is to see him totally in his element. Snyder has a great ear for Nygma’s voice, and it rings through here.

Greg Capullo has absolutely owned this book for the last couple of years. Under his pencil, the transformed Gotham takes on a new, terrifying look, utterly alien and yet familiarly the Gotham City we’ve been living in since the beginning of this creative team’s run. Not an issue goes by where Capullo doesn’t supply us with a “Holy cow, Batman!” moment, and this month (pages 6 and 7) is a beauty. He’s contracted through to issue 50, and frankly he can stay on this book forever.

Batman #30 isn’t the best issue of this run, by any stretch, and I’d probably recommend reading the rest of Zero Year before picking this one up. That said, it’s still a damn fine comic, from a creative team destined to go down with the O’Neils and Adams’ of this world, as one of the best duos to ever work on the book.

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Batman Eternal #2

Story and Script by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Consulting Writers Ray Fawkes, John Layman and Tim Seeley. Drawn by Jason Fabok.

In the aftermath of last week’s shocking ending, Batman Eternal starts setting more wheels in motion. Allies, enemies and other supporting characters are all drawn in, with the Dark Knight Detective taking a backseat, appearing in just 7 pages. This allows for the richness of Gotham’s supporting cast to step to the fore and carry us through, and when the main Batman book returns to the present in a few months, I expect that the spotlight in this book will turn almost exclusively to supporting players.

There is a trap #2 issues can fall into, wherein the stakes feel a lot lower; #1 opens with a bang, piques the audience’s interest, and then #2 can let things slide a little. In a monthly, it’s easier to get away with, as there’s a little separation between the purchases, but with a weekly, you need to break out something big and new every time, so as not to give the impression of “same old, same old”. On that level, Batman Eternal #2 succeeds quite nicely, with the big reveal at the end grabbing my attention. The character’s name might not mean a lot to new readers, but the contrast between his body language and Batman and Catwoman’s reactions to him make it immediately apparent what a threat he is going to be.

Jason Fabok absolutely nails it again. The two-page whistle-stop introduction of the Bat-family has a nice variety to it, the introduction of Catwoman is just a joy to look at, and there’s a sequence in Arkham Asylum with Doctor Phosphorus that’ll stick in the mind for a while. Fabok’s first block on Eternal concludes with #4, and the artists that follow have a tough act to follow.

Batman Eternal #2 is a good continuation of the great work of #1. A weekly comic is a hell of a challenge, but on this early evidence, Team Batman are more than a match for it. Bring on #3.

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Wonder Woman #30

Written by Brian Azzarello. Drawn by Goran Sudzuka.

Everyone in the world should be reading this series. Wonder Woman is AWESOME. Azzarello’s storyline, one which has been ongoing since he relaunched the book with #1 at the start of the New 52, has been fantastic tale, taking Wonder Woman through modernised takes on the Greek mythology with which she is so intrinsically linked. Typically drawn by Cliff Chiang, assisted by some great fill-in artists like Sudzuka, the book has a unique look, and the character designs, particularly on the various gods of Olympus, are superb.

#30 is somewhat of a transitional issue. The Azzarello run is building to its endgame, and the showdown against Diana’s half-brother, the First Born. As such, it’s probably not the best place for new readers to start. The story is compelling, and Sudzuka does a good job of imitating Chiang’s style, making it feel coherent within the series. I’ll probably go into more depth on this book when the run is done, as it’s been a genuinely spectacular series. As a standalone issue, though, I’d say it’s for people who’ve been following only.

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Justice League #29

Written by Geoff Johns. Drawn by Doug Mahnke.

Forever Evil grinds on. Beset by delays, this event has never really been able to build up a head of steam. This particular issue follows Cyborg, and his quest to find the Metal Men, the second of a two-part storyline which has effectively served as a Metal Men #0, should DC wish to launch that book. If they do, I hope Johns writes it, because for all the flaws there have been in Justice League of late, dude can write the Metal Men like no one’s business.

With their ability to transform and transmute, the MM give artist Doug Mahnke an opportunity to spread his wings a little, and his work is reliably good in those scenes. What’s a little disappointing, however, is the limited imagination on display in the digital confrontation between Cyborg and Grid, a contest that’s far too short and lacking on charge, given the horrific manner of Grid’s origin and how it affected Cyborg way back in August when this storyline kicked off.

Justice League #29 is flawed, though the bits that work do work quite well. If you like the Metal Men, I’d pick up #28 and #29, as it is great to see them involved, and their parts are the best bits. As a whole, though, creaky. Looking forward to Forever Evil ending next month, so these other books can move on.

 

At this point, I should be reviewing American Vampire: Second Cycle #2. However, my comic shop didn’t receive its full allocation, and I was one of the unlucky ones who subscribe but didn’t get it. Massively frustrating, but I’ll cover the continuing adventures of Skinner and Pearl next week.

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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