Friday, July 07, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: July 5th

Batman #26 (DC Comics) No, sorry. The first chapter of writer Tom King and artist Mikel Janin's "The War of Jokes and Riddles" arc had something of a rocky start. The premise is apparently some sort of post-reboot answer to The Long Halloween, a big (New 52) "Year One" era arc featuring all of Batman's worst foes taking sides in a brutal gang war. It's a fine idea, but the leaders of those two sides are The Riddler and The Joker, and despite King's efforts to convince the readers that such a conflict makes sense, he also made The Riddler a lot more Joker-esque.

Here, things only get worse. There's a really weird-ass scene in which King and Janin do a cover version of The Joker's origin story from Batman '89, only with the Riddler and a bullet wound to the torso rather than, you know, the whole rictus-grin clown face thing. The Riddler responds by making the bullet hole the dot at the bottom of a question mark scar he draws with a sharp object on his own chest. And then he kills the doctor, leaving bloody question marks all over the room which...well, that's not really a very Riddler-y thing to do, is it?

Later, The Joker kind of co-opts Carmine Falcone's mob, telling a top hat-less, monocle-less Penguin: "You. Fatman. You will be my assistant." Is this their very first meeting...? It seems out of character, for both characters.

There's also a scene wherein we see The Riddler recruiting Poison Ivy, seemingly by lying to her about The Joker's motives and, well, is that all it takes? Or does she just appreciate that he wears a lot of green clothing?

Finally, there are a pair of double-page spreads showing the "sides" of the two armies. Apparently The Riddler will pick-up Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Clayface, Killer Croc, Mr. Zsasz, Deathstroke and I'm guessing Firefly, while The Joker somehow gets The Mad Hatter, The Tweedles, Solomon Grundy, Mister Freeze, Man-Bat, Deadshot, Scarface and The Ventriloquist and...Cluemaster, maybe?

It remains to be seen how the various actors will be wrangled into "teams;" while some of them are clearly mercenaries or muscle that it's easy to imagine working for one villain or another given enough money or motivation, most aren't exactly rational actors, so I'm not sure why, say, The Scarecrow or Zsasz or The Hatter would pick any side at all, or why someone like, say, Scarface/The Ventriloquist would work for someone with no real organized crime ambitions like The Joker.

Beyond that, it's weird to think that all of these guys were active within a year of Batman beginning his career; apparently in the new, compressed timeline, Batman's just always had the same number of villains, with no new ones ever arriving in Gotham City...?

As I said before, I like the basic idea of the story, and this sort of all-out gang war in Gotham using all of Batman's villains isn't really something we've seen done, or at least done well, before. But over 50 pages or so in, a real premise has yet to emerge. At least with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the creators were telling a story of sorts about a time when Gotham City crime was transitioning from traditional, real-world organized crime to the more random themed-crimes and terror attacks of costumed super-villains ("Freaks," as the mob guys in the series referred to them). They were organized, but they organized in a more-or-less logical way, doing bad things against good people. And then, of course, most of them had relatively minor roles, as guns for hire and suchlike, and a character like The Joker was a wild card rather than, I don't know, the team captain of Team Joker.

I guess this could still end up being worthwhile, but, if so, King sure is taking his time in revealing a premise beyond The Riddler and The Joker are fighting and everyone is taking sides because that's the cool story idea I had. It is a cool story idea, but it's just a story idea, not a story.

DC Comics Bombshells #30 (DC)'s 1942! There is no such person as Christian Bale yet, and won't be for over 30 more years. And I don't think there is a Batman yet. There's a Batwoman, and Batgirls, but I don't recall meeting the Bombshells-iverse's Batman yet.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days Vol. 6 (ADV Mannga) The first five volumes of this series have been sitting on a dresser in my bedroom in one of the half-dozen "To Be Read" piles scattered around my apartment for years now. So many years, in fact, that when I finally had the opportunity and the inclination to start reading them earlier this week, I managed to race through all five volumes in a day and, when I went to see how many more were left, I discovered online that it was just a six-volume series...but that the sixth volume was out of print! Thankfully, my local comic shop still had a copy of the sixth and final volume on their manga shelves.

This series by Fumino Hayashi is kinda sorta set in the light-hearted, romantic comedy world briefly glimpsed in the final episode of the anime series, although it quickly evolves to involve the Angels and EVAs, but Hayashi maintains the light-hearted tone and even gives most of the characters an honest-to-God happy ending, as we see the kids all grown up into adulthood in a brief scene in the fourth volume. In this concluding volume, Hayashi flashes back a bit from the ending of the fourth, to show us a little of what life was like for the kids after they grew too old to pilot the EVAs and were no long battling angels.

I wasn't crazy about the artwork, which took a little bit to get used to, but it was a relief to see these kids just being happy, and not being torn apart by angst and terrible, world-shattering secrets...Hell, I think Rei is even a normal human being in this, and Kaworu more of an It's A Wonderful Life-style angel than the more Satanic figure of the original anime.

Well, I guess I'm finally ready to tackle the much, much, much longer Shinji Ikari Raising Project...

Nightwing #24 (DC) Nightwing battles his way through Tiger Ship's boat full of villains, most of whom are relatively minor ones, but a few of whom are also very powerful minor ones (Like Magog, for example). This issue is mostly a combination fight scene and chase scene, with Dick Grayson's first-person narration introducing the various villains while he's in the process of facing and dispatching them all.

It's a pretty fun action-oriented issue, and pencil artist Miguel Mendonca and inker Diana Conesa sell it all well. Some of the villains feature some truly ghastly re-designs, but I'm assuming things like Count Vertigo's new look or this newer, secondary Clock King (one that resembled the classic version with the clock face-themed pajamas previously appeared in Deathstroke) have been imported into this issue from other comics.

Back in Bludhaven, writer Tim Seeley continues to move forward the Shawn-is-mad-that-Dick-doesn't-have-a-day-job and Shawn-needs-funding plots, which I've mentioned before seem unconvincing to me, given that Dick is one of the heirs to the Wayne fortune and should be able to fund the hell out of the Shawn's community center with a phone call. I'm afraid Seeley is leading up to her turning back to crime for a noble reason, perhaps telegraphed by the series' many references to Robin Hood, which is going to feel pretty artificial if they don't at least raise and dismiss the fact that Grayson is close, personal friends with a billionaire who loves nothing more than funding community programs to help keep young people from lives of crime.

There's one point in the narration where Dick calls himself "the Dickster" and, well, no, Dick.

Snotgirl #6 (Image Comics) Hey, after it's brief-ish hiatus, Snotgirl is back! I think I kinda dig the publishing model that it and a few other Image comics I pay attention to seem to be following, wherein individual issues are published serially, then a few months of hiatus are taken during which those issue are released in collected format, and then the individual issues resume serialization.

I do kinda wish I was trade-waiting this, because I think the story probably benefits from more time spent in it at longer intervals...and because I somehow missed the fifth issue, due to the vagaries of Diamond or my shop messing up and my not noticing until months and months later. On the other hand, I really like reading comic books in the beloved comic book format, particularly ones like this--$2.99! No ads!--and comic book-comics worth one's time, money and attention are unfortunately getting fewer and fewer and farther and farther between.

Sun Bakery #4 (Image) I do hope everyone's reading this. It's awesome.

Superman #26 (DC) After the big Manchester Black story arc that just concluded, I suppose it makes sense for a done-in-one "breather" issue like this, but, unfortunately its from the guest creative team of writer Michael Moreci and artist Scott Godlewski. They both do a decent enough job telling a story about Superman struggling to train Superboy in the best way possible, which causes Clark to flashback to lessons he learned from the late Pa Kent, but I read Superman for the creators more than the characters, so this really couldn't help but feel like a disappointment. I probably would have skipped it, were it not on my pull-list.

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