|Wednesday, September 1, 2010 03:26 PM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor's (semi-)weekly comic book review post.
This post covers new releases from the week of 8/25, plus a trade paperback from the library. Beware spoilers!
Back issues and old data
This is a hardcover collection poppy was good enough to get out of the library for me. It collects material from Detective Comics #854-#860, the first story arc from that book where Batwoman was the main character. The writing is by Greg Rucka and the art is by J.H. Williams III. I reviewed Detective Comics #854 when it originally came out, and I was unimpressed. I dropped the book. But I kept hearing great things about Greg Rucka's Batwoman, and I wondered if maybe I should have given it more of a chance. Well, now I finally have, and I am officially upgrading my initial "unimpressed" reaction to "impressed." Kate Kane is a complex and fascinating character, flawed and broken, with a deep, dark backstory that slowly comes out during the course of this book. Her main enemies throughout are devotees of the religion of crime. But she finds she also has allies among those same devotees - one sect of the religion seeks to help her, while another seeks to destroy her. Both see her as the fulfillment of some sort of prophecy, and Gotham as a kind of Mecca. But the shattering revelation of the true identity of the religion's new leader sends Kate into a tailspin and digs up terrible memories from her past that she thought were buried for good.
What really brings the book to the next level is the wildly imaginative, incredibly beautiful, intricately constructed art of J.H. Williams III (which is made even more impressive thanks to the as-always fantastic colors of Dave Stewart). Seriously, this stuff is like a gauntlet thrown down, challenging every other artist to live up to its brilliance. It takes the traditional format and layout of comic book art, blows it apart, and puts it back together in an entirely new way. Early on I thought the mirroring trick he was using - where he positioned panels and characters in similar locations and poses across from each other on the page - was just a cool thing he was doing for coolness' sake, but later in the book I realized it was also conveying meaning - it was a subtle foreshadowing of the secret at the heart of the story. I mean, that's just crazy brilliant.
I might try to track down the next Batwoman story arc. Some research has revealed that Williams was dropped as artist for that arc, which is a shame, but I'd still be interested to see what happened to Kate next.
Astonishing X-Men #35
It's been a while since I laughed as much reading a comic as I did reading this comic. Oh my lord do I love the way Warren Ellis writes the X-Men - because he writes them as a pack of brilliant, bickering bad-asses. This issue opens with Cyclops setting a bunch of monsters on fire and then plowing the blackbird through an escape hatch that is way too small for it. The X-Men then burst out of the exploding craft with their metaphorical guns blazing. "X-Men are go," indeed. Then there's the scene where Armor and Wolverine do a fastball special, against Wolverine's will. Then finally the Big Bad is revealed, and he's pretty interesting. A "real" mutant coming face-to-face with our pretty, hero mutants, hating them for the reverse reason that normal people hated mutants. It's a fascinating concept which I imagine more could be done with in the future. It's a bit of an anticlimax when he just kind of backs down, but I'm not sure how else it could have ended, really. The final scene, when Logan punches him and everybody gets pissed, is just hilarious. "You say potato, I say crazy old man with a wheelchair of death!" Oh my lord. Thank you, Mr. Ellis.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Grant Morrison? Because, damn I love Grant Morrison. This issue is the second part of "The Missing Chapter" of Batman R.I.P. It goes back over some of the central events of Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis, filling in some gaps and adding a new narrative track throughout that is basically The Last Will and Testament of Batman, spoken by him into a tape recorder in the distant past (his own future) in the hopes that somehow Superman, with his godlike powers, will eventually be able to reconstruct it (which, naturally, he does). This gives Morrison the chance to go into more detail about the magic bullet that killed Orion, how Batman turned it back on Orion's murderer, and what Darkseid did to him then. It's amazingly brilliant and imaginative stuff. The bullet, it turns out, isn't just any bullet - it's The Bullet. It's "bulletness" given form. It's every bullet ever. In fact, it's the bullet that killed Batman's parents. That image in the background of young Bruce standing over the graves of Martha and Thomas Wayne as Batman faces off against Darkseid with the gun in his hand? Wow.
Just as The Bullet is the Platonic Ideal of bullets, Darkseid is the Platonic Ideal of villains - The Wolf, The Dragon, The Tyrant. But how do you kill a myth? Answer: with a new myth - "a myth where Ultimate Evil turns its gaze on humanity and humanity gazes right back and says... 'Gotcha.'"
Which should be the moment of Batman's triumph! But Darkseid has something special in store for him: the Omega Sanction - "The death that gives and gives forever! Omega 'tailor-makes' an unbeatable 'life trap' just for you! It uses 'history' to do it!" Darkseid's strike alters all of time to create a trap for Batman from which even Batman can't escape, because his life itself is the trap. "Wounded by the Hunter, Darkseid's Dying Fall made the Hole in Things. The Hole in Things is Darkseid-shaped.... Time is the Omega Sanction." Holy shit. So what can Batman do now? "Don't forget. Survive." He tells himself, "I should have known when I chose to walk this path. It never ends."
That's Batman. That's who Batman is. The Hunter, the Survivor, fighting an endless war. A mortal man with the will and the guts and the smarts to strike down the God of Evil. Yes, yes, yes.
Captain America #609
Bucky is goaded by his enemy into going off half-cocked, running off alone, and falling into a sinister trap?! I didn't see that coming! But seriously, folks, even if the story structure's a little tired, this is still a reasonably effective and engaging tale, and I like the drama of the final showdown taking place on the island where Cap and Bucky were nearly killed by the original Baron Zemo all those years ago. Oh, and now for your Nomad backup story update: it's getting lame again.
Fringe: Tales From the Fringe #3
Both stories in this anthology title are good this month! The first one is sort of an origin story for Astrid; an invention for a class leads her to investigate an apparent murder which turns out to be more and less than it seemed. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I doubt the FBI actually goes to this much trouble to test if somebody has the potential to be an agent (if so, we have easier, cheaper, and less time-intensive options for assessing people's job fitness at the company where I work; call me, FBI, and I can hook you up with a sales rep!), but it's still a fun story, and it's great to see Astrid get the spotlight for once. The second story is sort of a high-speed heist, loaded with clever trickery, double-crosses, and brutal ultra-violence. And the nature of "the weapon" that everybody is fighting over is creepy indeed, and is made creepier by the fact that its nature and origin are not explained. Well done!
"Bible Jack" is turning out to be a seriously formidable enemy. He hits Gravel really hard in this issue, taking away nearly everything he has, including his favorite pub! I mean, that's harsh. (Warning: big spoilers ahead.) I was surprised and a little disappointed to see all of the new characters that were slowly being developed and introduced over the past however many issues, and whom we'd barely gotten to know yet, just get wiped out in a handful of pages. I mean, what's up with that? Of course, there's always the chance Gravel's pulling some elaborate trick and they're actually all still alive, but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the big showdown that will no doubt take place in the next issue.