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09/10/2003: brief comments on some recent (and not so recent) comic books

Somehow I always seem to end up rather reading yet another comic book instead of blogging about the ones I've read. But I read some really good comics recently, stuff you shouldn't miss, in particular I want to point you to Batman: Tenses #1.

Detective Comics #786 (main story written by Ed Brubaker, pencils by Patrick Zircher, inks by Aaron Sowd)
First, I have no clue what the "Shadow of the Bat" text is doing on the cover, as it contains the final part of "Made of Wood". Why they put the series title of a different long canceled Batman series on the cover in addition to the Dective Comics title remains a mystery. Anyway, the I've talked about the first two parts of "Made of Wood" before, and the conclusion didn't disappoint. I liked Batman working with the original Green Lantern (in particular I thought the image of the green energy bat-shape Alan projects behind Batman in one panel looked really cool), and I thought that Thomas Wayne was a Green Lantern fan back in the day was a nice touch. I like the backup story so far, the dilemma the poor dog catcher is in is quite original, though I don't think anyone with some sense would really follow up on that dog, if they suspected it belonged to the Joker (however there's always the possibility that someone just named their dog "Joker" and put that on the tag and that it isn't the owner's name).

JLA/Avengers #1 (written by Kurt Busiek, art by George Pérez)
I have to preface my comments and admit near total cluelessness about the characters. Before this one I had never picked up a comic featuring the Avengers, nor am I really familiar with the JLA, beyond what I picked up in non-JLA DC titles, from reading a few online character bios, and watching one episode of the JLA Animated series (though I'm not sure that counts). I still had a really good time reading this comic book, and was quite entertained. The art is really good, the story sucked me in -- even though I'm not all that fond of the cosmic plot device, but I guess you have to do something to x-over the universes. I had fun to read how the groups view each other's universe, and the mass fighting scenes were great to look at, too. So no in-depth comments, but you shouldn't shy away from this title just because you don't know one team (or even both ;).

Batman: Tenses #1 (written by Joe Casey, pencils by Cully Hamner, inks by Dexter Vines)
I think this one has a really cool idea at its core, i.e. the time right after Bruce Wayne takes responsibility for Wayne Corp and transforms it into the company that ultimately is best suited to aid him as Batman, and provide him with cash to build all his Batman stuff. He's downsizing less profitable parts, shaping the company into his vision, and meets with considerable resistance in the process. And he's not nice about it, nor -- it seems -- particularly concerned about the employees he's laying off. It doesn't fit with the incompetent playboy image he's fostering in the current day stories for the public, but this story is set early. His relationship to the media is different, he hasn't settled yet on that image, and I think it's totally plausible that he had to be involved far more in the early days of Wayne Corp to make it the company that could produce and support his secret technology and research and provide the massive cash flow for his Batman stuff. I never really thought about this aspect of the early Batman before, but it makes a lot of sense. I mean, his parents' company could not have been the company that in the end is there (from Bruce's perspective) as a support basis for Batman, and only he would know the ultimate goals of the transformation, which is why he can't really explain it, and comes across as so arrogant to the board members. I mean, at least for me this is a really new angle for Bruce's backstory and Batman's origins.

The plot about the guy with the dreadful visions of people's deaths is fairly interesting too, but not nearly as much as the Wayne Corp plot for me. Also, on a fluffy note, who would have thought that some of Gotham's high society senior citizens were into D/s play with dog colors and leather gear? It's nice to see that at least in some media older people have a visible sex life. ;) I really like this story, I hope the second part will hold up. I quite liked the art too. So I definitely recommend getting this one, even though you have to shell out $6.95 for 64 pages.

Batman: Gotham Knights #44 (written by Scott Beatty, pencils by Roger Robinson, inks by John Floyd)
There wasn't a retelling of the events around Jason's death, or a continuous flashback as I had hoped after reading the last issue, but rather (sometimes confusing) flashbacks alternating with the current day plot and child abuse investigation. But if you do missing scenes/flashbacks for something you should take a closer look at the original story. I mean, I don't expect knowledge of every arcane continuity detail or anything, and I actually probably would have even welcomed an outright retcon of the events in a full retelling so that the mess makes more sense, as I have never made a secret out of my dislike for "A Death in the Family" and its ludicrous plot, in particular if the retcon wouldn't involve Chomeini, but -- I don't think it is supposed to be a retcon, and as such I find it annoying that the story claims Batman's logo changed in the wake of Jason's death to the yellow/black one. I mean, Batman holding the dead Robin in his arms is a really well known and powerful image from that story, and he wears the yellow in that panel. I can overlook that the art in the previous issue in the flashback didn't match the costume, I'm not quite that nitpicky, but if you make a plot point out of it, i.e. turn the logo change into something signifying a death wish by Batman, it would have been nice if there had been a logo change. Then again, maybe I'm just grumpy. I quite liked other parts of the story, like the bits between Nightwing and Batman, so it's not like the whole issue felt like a letdown or anything.

Batgirl #43 (written by Dylan Horrocks, pencils by Adrian Sibar, inks by Andy Owens)
Okay, I'm never fond of thinly disguised RL politics making their way into superhero plots. That said, compared to some examples of that genre (again, I'm just saying Chomeini, the Joker as Iranian UN ambassador), this really wasn't all that bad. I still don't like the art, but OTOH I still like Batgirl enough to keep reading, and that it had some action adventure rather than just a romance plot was a plus for me.

And finally, I've read the two issue prestige format Birds of Prey: Batgirl/Catwoman (written by John Francis Moore, pencils by Darick Robertson, inks by Jimmy Palmiotti) and Birds of Prey: Oracle/Catwoman (written by John Francis Moore, pencils by David Ross, inks by Jimmy Palmiotti).
It's been out a while now, and in my backlog pile of comics to read, however I got around to reading it just yesterday. The story was engaging, the villains actually made sense, seeing Batgirl (and years later Oracle) together with Catwoman was a lot fun, and there were some really good lines (like Catwoman to Villain who doesn't recognize Batgirl: "This is Batgirl. Apparently he's franchising the whole Dark Knight package."). The art in both issues isn't breathtaking, but still pretty good, and it works well with the story. So if you haven't read these already, you should get them, especially if you like stories focusing on Barbara Gordon.

Posted by RatC @ 01:24 AM CET
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