ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
So, I still haven't progressed into following the current DC main continuity, but I've read the first eight issues of Batman Confidential. The art is kind of mediocre -- both art teams actually, they switched teams when the new storyline started in issue #7 -- but not really bad. I think mostly it bothers me that it looks, um, squirrelly? Somehow there isn't really a clean line, or maybe it's that the shadows aren't really mood setting, I just rarely like that kind of style in comics but favor either a "cleaner" look or something that has a really distinct style otherwise.

Like many other Batman (mini-)series not tying directly into the current timeline it is also set in the ever more crowded early days of Batman's career, before he was joined by a Robin, so it is just him, Alfred and Gordon. I don't really have a problem with that, at least not as long as Ican turn off the obsessive inner comic geek who wants to figure out how all this could possibly fit. It's not as if I don't know that comic timelines are kind of hopeless, but obviously that never stops a fan from wanting to try...

Anyway, the first story, Rules of Engagement, in issues #1-6 (written by Andy Diggle, pencils by Whilce Portacio, inks by Richard Friend), deals with Bruce/Batman, as well as Wayne Enterprises, facing off against Luthor and his company. The story is fairly action heavy, but the action is rather fun not pointless, like this weird endless snowmobile chase I lamented about in the R'as Al Ghul Year One. The main thing I don't get is how Superman could not make an appearance in this scenario, and without any mention or explanation too. Still, other than that I enjoyed it, and I kind of like stories with Wayne Enterprises and Bruce and Lucius Fox working together in particular. Actually if it was for me Lucius could have had a bigger part. And well, there are battle robots, which counts as a plus for me. (What? I like Batman fighting robots...)

The current story, Lovers & Madmen (written by Michel Green, pencils by Denys Cowen, inks by John Floyd), is apparently another Joker origin, though so far he isn't the Joker yet. On principle I'm kind of wary of such Joker stories, but so far it is decent. The scenes with Bruce and Alfred are a lot of fun, and I like the crime spree plot okay so far. I'm a bit dubious about the girlfriend plot, though. I didn't like the "mental healing through sex" vibes I got -- you know, Bruce feeling "at peace" after he sleeps with her described in ways that imply more than that getting laid is good against insomnia. And it looks like she's going to be the damsel in distress next issue, and I half expect her to end up dead for his angst. Also, these "the blight of drugs in Gotham" plots always are somewhat cringe-worthy. Still, so far the fun bits outweigh the rest.

I've also read the first five issues of Superman Confidential, an obvious choice since I'm a Tim Sale fan, but I figure I wait talking about these until the first story ends in the next issue.
ratcreature: Procrastination is a Lifestyle. RatCreature in a hammock doing nothing. (procrastination)
Well, since I won't get my copy of DH until tomorrow morning, and it's not like I could randomly surf to pass time lest I ruin my unspoilt state this late, I've been reading another comic:

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1-4 (written and drawn by Jeff Smith)

This is the first Captain Marvel comic I've read. I've come across the character a couple of times in ensemble stories (like in the Justice limited series), but in general I'm not that much into the magic DC characters. However I really like Jeff Smith's work (in case you couldn't tell from my pseud *g*), so I got the series because of that.

Since I had no clue about the character beyond that he says "Shazam!" and then transforms, it was fortunate that this mini-series retells the origin story (or maybe retcons it? I've no idea whether this is in continuity or not). So I can't tell how this story would come across for long time fans of the character, but I found it was quite a lot of fun, in an entertaining, angst-free adventure story way.

I mean, it's not heavy on any mythology for the character, so after reading it I still don't know why there's some wizard bestowing powers from gods to a boy, or what kind of entity this Captain Marvel is. Before reading this I had always thought that Captain Marvel was Billy, just with added powers, but apparently he is something else and just uses Billy as a host. Kind of like a Tok'ra maybe. I also still don't know why Billy and Mary were split up or any kind of background. But I didn't really care. The comic worked much like a children's book that way, that is there isn't any attempt to reconcile it with more realist constraints.

Basically I liked the art, the transformed monsters where fun, there was a talking tiger, and the Dr. Sivana guy was hilarious.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I've read both six issue series falling under this umbrella, i.e. Batman & The Monster Men and Batman & The Mad Monk. From what I've heard these are supposed to take place after Year One, but before that new Joker origin story that I haven't read (yet), but as I've said before, it is kind of tricky to make the overcrowded timeline of Batman's early career work, so I found it best not to worry too much.

Batman & The Monster Men (by Matt Wagner)

I liked this one. The combination of the mafia story with the creepiness of Hugo Strange worked well for me, and Strange made a good foil for Batman. I liked Bruce's girlfriend, Julie Madison too, and how she gets frustrated and suspicious with him.

Also, I just <3 the younger Jim Gordon, because among other things his expression when he says to Batman: "Giant mutant cannibals... you... you're serious?" was priceless. The poor guy will get used to a lot through his association with Batman over the years.

Alfred's dry humor is great here, e.g.: "And so, in keeping with conventional wisdom, you've chosen to secretly drug your girlfriend."

And not that I'm complaining exactly, but-- wow, this was rather more bloody than a usual Batman comic. So you should probably avoid it if you have problems with gore, but otherwise it's a good read.

Batman & The Mad Monk (by Matt Wagner)

This is also a mix of Batman vs. mafia and an encounter with the "new kind" of creepier villain. I liked that Batman worries whether he inspires or encourages the costumed villains. True, that angst is somewhat of a classic theme, but it works for me.

I also enjoyed the tension that comes from Gordon still working within a widely corrupt police force, and that Batman was shown doing detective work. To get some nod to the pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent was pretty cool as well.

I found Norman Madison's fear of Batman quite believable. However the (fake?) vampire cult didn't work as well for me as Hugo Strange did in the first series. While it was plenty gruesome, it just didn't build up as much terror somehow as I would have expected with the threat to Julie and the whole bunch of injuries Bruce suffers while fighting them. Still the plot overall was engaging enough, and some of the scenes in the castle were bizarre yet worked.

Anyway, I enjoyed both series but liked the first better.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
Year One: Batman/Scarecrow #1-2 (written by Bruce Jones, art by Sean Murphy)

This was pretty good. I really liked the art, and I actually recognized several panels from icons I've seen around, so I guess I'm not alone in my fondness for Murphy's art.

I'm a bit tired of yet another psychopath getting a cliched backstory with an evil mother (or rather grandmother in this case) figure warping him, aided by the ubiquitous bullies, at but least the specifics of his case with the birds were rather cool and creepy, and I liked the Scarecrow overall.

In particular I liked the visual parallels between the young proto-Scarecrow's defining scene with the birds swooping down on him through a broken skylight, and the typical iconic panels in Batman's origin stories of bats coming down on young Bruce and such. That nicely sets up the following scenes where Bruce angsts about his similarities to costumed villains dressing up as something scary.

I also liked that this story, despite being set earlier, already includes Robin, though it would have been nice if Alfred had been present as well. Also it seemed that for information gathering purposes this particular early version of Batman could have used Oracle's talents with the way their investigation progresses. But I didn't mind that much, overall the plot was okay, and the art and atmosphere made the comic as a whole really enjoyable for me.
ratcreature: RatCreature as zombie. (zombie)
First, the whole Harry Potter thing is making me jittery. I haven't sought out the leaked copy because I'm not about to slog through hundreds of pages as crappy photographs, that's just unpleasant for reading. Not to mention that I don't really reread the HP books, so I'd rather read it the one time as proper book. But it is hard to keep away, knowing other fans have already read the book and are talking about it, even though my f-list is good with not spoiling me so far. (*insert the obligatory dire threats here*).

I will only get my copy on Saturday and I'm not the fastest reader, so at the earliest I'm going to talk about Deathly Hollows on Sunday if at all, and then I will of course use cut-tags and be very careful not to mess them up accidentally.

But until then I definitely need to distract myself with fandoms besides HP-- those still exist after all, even if half of my f-list apparently decided to avoid LJ and sometimes the internet entirely to be on the safe side. Anyway, thus I'm going to talk some more about Batman comics, in particular:

Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul #1-2 (written by Devin Grayson, pencils by Paul Gulacy, inks by Jimmy Palmiotti)

One of my main reasons to buy these (besides being a general sucker for all Batman comics DC publishes) was actually that I found the three color covers (black, white, and red) really attractive. I like the interior art okay too, but not as much as the covers (take a look at cover #1 and cover #2). If only the story had lived up to the packaging...

For the sake of my sanity I didn't even try to figure out why this is published as "Year One". I don't think this is supposed to fit in Batman's "Year One" or even just his early career, but rather after Batman: Death and the Maidens? But I don't have Ra's al Ghul's backstory that present. Maybe it is because of some flashbacks in the comic, and those could be made to work somehow in his first year.

First, while the basic idea that the Lazarus Pits affect death and life's balance in general was neat (even if what exactly their connection is was never really explained in any remotely consistent or logical way), the plot built around this was too thin for 96 pages. On the bright side, it had zombies, which is always a plus, but I can't say I enjoyed much else.

And even the zombies weren't particularly great specimens. Okay, so destroying the Lazarus Pits somehow stopped and even reversed death, thus the zombie problem, but I didn't really get why that particular horde of disgruntled undead was after Batman.

The action sequences were plain confusing sometimes, like when Batman was running from the zombies I had no idea how he suddenly got into the Batmobile again after, or if that even was still the vehicle he started out in earlier that night, which was definitely a car not some sort of glider. Yet later his vehicle could suddenly fly. Traditionally the car can't, right? So maybe what he used then wasn't the car, but some magically appearing Bat-Glider or whatever that was supposed to be, that we don't even see him remote call as far as I could tell. Maybe the Batmobile car transformed into a glider.

I also didn't understand what happened to the zombies he lured into that supermarket, did he lock them up there somehow? I couldn't tell, later it seemed he did lock them up, leaving them to rampage there, but why didn't they smash the glass?

Other times the action was just boring. You can tell that a comic has too little plot if it shows a frelling snowmobile chase over eight(!!) pages. Eight. I like certain kinds of action in comics, but snowmobile chases just don't come across that well in this medium. Certainly not if they last eight of the 48 pages in an issue and that on top of other chase scenes. And in a fairly pointless flashback at that.

Anyway while we get zombies, we don't really get to see Batman fight them for plain zombie fun, he flies flies around the globe interspersed with boring Ra's al Ghul flashbacks about some magical peach, and then Batman happens to find a monk chanting the Lazarus Pit formula, yet Ra's al Ghul followers were too stupid to figure that out... The whole thing made no sense to me.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I actually read this a few days ago, but didn't get around to take notes right away, so this is lacking detail. (me = sloth)

Batman: Journey Into Knight (written by Andrew Helfer, art by Tan Eng Huat)

Overall I enjoyed reading this limited series quite a lot. There were some elements that bugged me (like that hypnotist was cringe-worthy), but in the end those didn't overshadow my enjoyment.

The first major problem of this series is of course that Bruce Wayne's early career as Batman is already kind of "overcrowded" so it is hard to fit yet another thing into the continuity, especially if it covers things that were addressed previously (like Bruce getting involved in Wayne Enterprises) and presents them differently. But if you read with a relaxed attitude and don't view it as a canon puzzle this story is quite cool.

I liked that Bruce wasn't yet fully competent and equipped to deal with the criminals he encounters, especially the crazy ones, because he expected to fight "normal" crime. He still makes mistakes and still learns. In some instances he made mistakes that I couldn't quite believe Bruce would make, even this early, and thought he should be more competent, but overall I liked this view. I also liked that he just acted plain younger. I also liked Alfred and Bruce's relationship with Gordon. I could have done without the Joker though.

Still, I think it's worth picking up.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Two-Face flipping a coin. (twoface)
Batman: Jekyll & Hyde #1-6 (written by Paul Jenkins, art by Jae Lee)

I didn't like the art much, the inking in particular. The black areas--and there were many of them--seemed more randomly dumped than being placed deliberately for either consistent composition, drama or lightening reasons, so there was a lot of black scattered around making the page look flat and dark, and the shapes harder to see for the lack of a clear line, and the many smallish black areas didn't help guide the eyes through the panels and pages either. All of which made the reading slower and more tedious than it needed to be, with no equal gain on the "dark and gloomy" mood scale.

That said, I quite liked the mini-series otherwise. Okay, so there didn't really need to be yet another origin story for Two-Face making his history even more complicated, and the mad scientist running creepy gothic labs in Gotham (in cooperation with Two-Face no less) isn't the most original thing either, but the basic set-up of the drug plot worked for me.

And while I don't have all the details of the various Two-Face background stories very present, this expansion still goes with the general stuff I recalled from the others, so it's probably not a retcon or intended to be outside of continuity. It made about as much sense as these attempts at supervillain psychology ever do, and is IMO actually one of the better examples for this kind of plot. (I'm kind of ambivalent about the trend to somehow rationalize supervillain behavior through some cobbled together (pseudo-)psychology because it almost never works well.)

And it was nice to see Batman working with Gordon, and there was plenty of Alfred too, so overall I think this was a solid mini-series.

Also, I made a Two-Face!RatCreature icon, because I don't have any Batman villain icons yet.

pencils and larger inked version )
ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
I spent much of last night catching up with 30 issues of Y: The Last Man.

First, I didn't notice this as much in monthly reading, but I really like the series' structure that alternates between single shot stories giving more background on the characters or focus on minor characters elsewhere, and the multi-issue stories.

Y: The Last Man #27-57 (written by Brian K. Vaughan, pencils by Pia Guerra and Goran Sudžuka, inks by Jose Marzan, Jr.)

my reactions while reading, cut for length and spoilers )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
When I asked what next to read from my waiting comic pile, Y: The Last Man topped the list, followed by All Star Superman and Fables. Since of these three All Star Superman didn't involve me remembering the place where I stopped and previous plots, I decided to go with that firstt.

All Star Superman #1-8 (written by Grant Morrison, pencils by Frank Quietly, inks by Jamie Grant)

I am less enamored with this than I thought I'd be. It is a lot of fun, but I think it is a bit too whimsical for my taste. Or rather... it's not that I mind the absurd, but I think I miss the underlying angst that I appreciate in mainstream superhero comics, which is strangely absent, and that despite the overarching plot being Superman facing his death from Lex Luthor's cunning plan to overload his system with solar radiation, and subplots like flashbacks to when Jonathan Kent died. Also, the art is okay, but not outstanding, that is, I can't really find anything wrong with it, but it didn't grab me on a visceral level or really connected with me.

That said, the series is definitely entertaining to read, and there's a lot of humor, both in the dialog and in visual jokes. From the start we get hilarious lines, like Luthor's exploding monster telling Superman "The purpose of my existence is to explode! You have no right to limit my ambitions, fascist! No right at all to stand in the way of my self-realization!" or the visual jokes, like when Clark, without disguise, saves people by being clumsy, e.g. when he saves someone from a dropping part of a flying vehicle by stumbling into him, without anyone even realizing it. Or the punchline with the key to his fortress being regularly sized (for being more secure) but actually turning out to be superdense and thus even heavier, and impossible to lift by anyone but him etc. The series is packed with funny details.

And I enjoyed the wacky hijinks in the plots, like the dinosaurs at earth's center, the Frankenstein scientist in a rainbow coat, who is actually kind of creepy if you stop to think about what he does, Jimmy Olsen crossdressing, the Bizarros zombiefying lots of people... and while I wasn't too impressed with the art, it does very well with illustrating all the quirky and bizarre stuff, like that Chronovore rampaging through Smallville.

Anyway, if you like wacky and funny superhero comics, and don't need baseline angst in the genre, this series is perfect.
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
Since finally #12 of the Justice maxiseries (written by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross, art by Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite) has come out I got around to reading the series.

cut for spoilers )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I've just read Batman: Death and the Maidens #9 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Klaus Janson) and spoilers... )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I adore A Lonely Place of Dying for many reasons, for example it has some of my all time favorite Batman art. I adore the art because it uses art for storytelling to its full effect. A while ago, in this post to [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily I posted examples for panel transitions, covers, and intercuts I really like, but another awesome effect is how we see events from Tim's viewpoint, without knowing who Tim is, and that he stalks Batman and Nightwing only because he wants the best for them.

It's incredibly creepy to see with the eyes of a stalker, to watch Batman from a distance with cameras and binoculars, to browse through a scrapbook with all those photos, something which is made even creepier because it's put inbetween the intimate scene of Alfred caring for the injured Bruce, so that even the snapshots and clippings we see get an intimate quality. For a long time we only see his hands, holding binoculars, and cameras as he spies on Batman, watches Kory and the other Titans, rifling through photos and articles, opening the door to Dick's apartment even...

And it gets to me every time. I know it is Tim, I know it's not an enemy stalking them, uncovering their identities, and still it gets to me, because even knowing it's Tim and seeing through the "stalker's" eyes I still somehow identify with the "prey," I think, even as I reread it.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
I've read Superman #204 (written by Brian Azzarello, pencils by Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams), and I liked it. Okay, it is a bit of trick to start telling your story starting at the end to hook readers so that they wonder what brought the characters there, and Azzarello does it both on the level of this issue, with not revealing for quite some time what the monumental event Superman and the priest were both referring to was (I know I'm kind of vague, but I don't want to spoil), and for the cliffhanger, because we still don't know what Superman did exactly, and I guess the tension will be kept up for a bit in that fashion. But the trick with the narrative structure totally worked. I'm thoroughly hooked.

The art is very much eye candy, the way Superman is often backlit with lots of shadows gives him a great look, and Lee has the iconic poses down pat. Gorgeous.

So naturally I couldn't resist and have icons for your enjoyment, the usual rules apply, comment if you claim one, say if you're willing to share, otherwise the icon belongs to the first person to claim it, and of course you can modify them in any way you want:

twenty Superman icons from #204 )
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
A recent post by [livejournal.com profile] buggery reminded me that I still hadn't read Batman: Family #1-8 (written by John Francis Moore, art by Stefan Gaudiano and by Rick Hoberg). So today I remedied that.

It's a good story and I recommend it also. First, it has an interesting, complex crime plot that you can actually follow (though I think I would have appreciated the exposition recaps more had I read it in monthly installments, but even so they weren't tedious, and helped to stay on top of the developments). Second, it included *all* of the Batfamily in a (mostly) organic way into that plot, and it is always great to see all of them relate to each other. Third, all of the main members of the villain group had distinct personalities and there were glimpses of their motivations and backgrounds, while at the same time they remained scary, or very scary, with a dash of disturbing. Several of them were clearly psychopaths, and the rest wasn't exactly sane either, but they weren't costumes, unless it suited them for convenience, they were rational and had goals that weren't centered around battling with Batman. And that made them more dangerous, and scarier.

I mean, Mr. Fun? Made me shiver, how he had those bizarre motivational slogans for better job performance running through his head while he was killing people. And Celia Kazantkakis/Athena is a psychopath but scarily competent, and nearly perfect at passing for normal. I had varied reactions to all of the villains, they read as full personalities to me. There were little details that made them real to me, like that the Technician wasn't just into his techno-toys, but also into Gotham history, especially the history of crime in Gotham (and I liked the kid).

Actually all of the minor and supporting characters worked surprisingly well, they were vivid, without hogging too much attention or storytime, and that made Gotham seem populated with lots of real people besides the heroes and the villains.

I also read JLA: Year One (by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and Barry Kitson), and that was lots of fun. I liked seeing the early team together, and much to my surprise I even liked this Aquaman. It was also great to see Barry and Hal early in their career rather than as larger-than-life heroes (even if GL was somewhat of a chauvinist jerk, I still like him). Their fights were a bit on the bizarre side, but I suspect that is because the series might adapt/retell their early Silver Age exploits. I haven't read those, so I didn't recognize the stories, but somehow they had that logic-defying feel to them. Like that strange ray gun that took body parts and meshed them together to be controlled by the Brain, yet they didn't die (or were near death) even if half their body was missing, and it was easily reversible too. If their adventures aren't retellings, they certainly are in the same spirit. However those really only serve as backdrop for their personal lives, the developing team dynamic, and the conflicts that come from both, and those parts are very much *not* like Silver Age camp. I felt sometimes a bit lost, for example I have no clue about the Doom Patrol or the Blackhawks, but I could still follow the story.

And not related to any of the above: I looked at a preview for an upcoming Batman Elseworld The Order of Beasts, and can someone explain to me why, if the writer feels the need to have someone shout a German word, he can't look up the proper article? It can't be that hard to go to a dictionary website if you want someone shout "The Bat!" in German and find out that "Fledermaus" is feminine, and put the right article in front of the word. It's not like it's rocket science. It wouldn't aggravate me so, if this kind of thing didn't happen in a lot of cases where the authors feel the need to sprinkle some foreign language bits throughout their comic, instead of just indicating foreign languages with "< >" or similar markers. I've notice butchered French sometimes too (and my French is really bad, so it's not as if I'd even notice less than blatant mistakes), not just German. Often Spanish bits seem a better to me, which could be either because I know even less Spanish than French, or because Spanish is more widely spoken and read in the US, so that in the case of Spanish writers actually know what they're doing. But still it really throws me out of the story every time when the very thing that is supposedly there to make it look/sound more "authentic" just comes across as ridiculous.
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
First the bitching: this series is seriously overpriced. Even with 64 pages and no ads the price of $6.95 per issue is too much. I mean, I prefer stapled comics to the prestige binding, because you can easily see double pages without hurting the spine, so I actually don't mind that, and don't wish the format was different, but it's just too expensive for 64 pages. The reason I'm nevertheless buying the single issues is because I suspect DC is going to release it as HC edition before publishing it as trade, and with eventually six issues of 64 pages each, i.e. 384 pages, they even might publish it in two trades, so it's not certain that I'd end up paying less than for the single issues, and I prefer collecting single issues.

However, once you forget about how much money you handed over -- which happened quickly enough in my case -- the series is a lot of fun, and I think it's well worth reading. I'm not very familiar with the Silver Age DCU, and haven't read the stories New Frontier draws upon and retells, and there are many characters I don't recognize, but it stands very well on its own. I guess the reading experience becomes more layered the more background you know, but it's not necessary to have that knowledge.

Basically New Frontier takes the Silver Age DCU and transplants it from the goofy and campy comic reality of that time as which it was first published into the real world of those times (well a more "real" world anyway), transforming it in the process. And it's fascinating, one of the rare cases in which the mixing of real world politics and superhero comics actually works for me. Usually it's something that I think tends to end in a narrative disaster, and more often than not unintended utter ridiculousness, because the assumptions and internal logic of the two just don't mesh without some serious effort. But IMO it works here, and totally it sucked me in.

You get the comic elements like giant dinosaurs combined with McCarthyism, the KKK, and the build-up to the Vietnam war, J'onn J'onzz learning about humanity through television (and it was a great sequence to see him try out shapes, and to see him as Bugs Bunny) and watching 1950s space invasion movies, the historical "space race" combined with (behind the scene) covert ops of the DCU Suicide Squad and the like... and it works. And I like Cooke's versions of the characters, too.

I'm very curious how the different narrative strands will come together in the second half of the series. New Frontier takes its time to establish the characters and the setting, but it doesn't read slow or drags. And I'm impatiently waiting for the next issue to come out, as its unfortunately on a bi-monthly publishing schedule now, which isn't surprising with the length and just a single writer and artist (except for the coloring which is by Dave Stewart).

Anyway, I like this way of paying tribute to the DC Silver Age a lot more than resurrecting it one piece at a time in the main continuity.
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
I think the primary reason why there's so little personal stuff in this blog is because inertia rules supreme in my RL and it would be really, really boring if I were to write at length about how the most activity-like thing I've done the last days was to try out the bread baking machine my siblings got me for my birthday last Sunday (in short: bread is really much easier to make with such a machine, and it turns out better too). Also it's kind of embarrassing. Ahem.

But on to more interesting topics, namely: Comics!

Birds of Prey #62-65 (written by Gail Simone, pencils by Ed Benes and Cliff Richards, inks by Alex Lei)

So far I enjoy the Sensei & Student story a lot. I like how Simone writes the characters, but I like even more that the story has me hooked with its plot. I want to know how it turns out, there's plenty of suspense: the as of yet mysterious threat/attack Oracle's computer system faces is creepy, I'm curious whether Black Canary will accept Lady Shiva's offer despite her apprehension (btw [livejournal.com profile] kerithwyn has put up some scans of Dinah's nightmare of the consequences of accepting), I like the plot with Chesire and the senator... Also I'm really starting to like Lady Shiva, and I gained at least some appreciation for Chesire. In the unlikely event that anyone even remotely interested in these characters isn't getting this, IMO you really should.

Batgirl #48-50 (written by Dylan Horrocks, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Jesse Delperdang)

Horrocks doesn't quite write Batman like I see him, however I really like the art team, and I'm shallow enough to enjoy pages and pages of fight scenes when they're done like this. The story about the improved Soul drug made from corpses is kind of wacky, IMO, and I'm a bit dubious about Batman's tactic of fighting as therapy, though I guess I can see him act like that if I squint a little, especially if he was partly under the influence of Soul-- I have a hard time seeing how he would cause a huge explosion on a bridge with all those innocent bystanders otherwise, and I hope Bruce Wayne is going to make some generous donations or something to make up for blowing up a bridge to fix Batman's relationship problems. As many others have noted the Batman/Batgirl smiling and cuddling gave us some weird visuals. Though #50 had some good lines, like Barbara to Batman after he explained his "therapy": "You're crazy." Batman's reply: "So they say. But it works."

Flash #80-83 (written by Mark Waid, pencils by Mike Wieringo, inks by Jose Marzan Jr.)

I'm reading Flash back issues kind of randomly and out of order, which probably doesn't help me follow the sometimes convoluted storylines any better, but at the moment I'm just buying those stories of which my store happens to have all backissues available, and this leads to some haphazard selection. This story features Flash's ex-girlfriend Magenta, and reading up on her background just made my eyes glaze over (I got lost somewhere around Raven in an evil form implanting parts of Trigon's soul into her, I guess you just had to be there for the relevant Titans issues...), but that didn't turn out to be that important for the story anyway. The story, "Back On Track", has Wally working together with Kory and Nightwing to fight some intergalactic arms dealers who set up shop in Keystone City, and it was fun to read. I'm missing something of the Titans background causing Dick to have some kind of existential angst, but taking place, I think, around the time when Batman chose Azrael as replacement during Knightfall can't help with his self-doubt either. I thought it was sweet how Wally tries to involve him to cheer him up. Also we get lots of panels with Wally carrying Nightwing piggyback, which no matter how sensible it is, still looks kind of dorky, and IMO alone makes this story worth picking up.

Finally a totally random domestic Superman scan, which I uploaded for my feedback to [livejournal.com profile] corinna_5's funny SV/QEftSG x-over, but which is just so cute that I'll link to it here too. It shows Superman being really sweet, and cooking macrobiotic special dishes for Lois in his Superman costume. (In case anyone's interested, the story the panel is taken from is in the Superman 80-Page Giant from 1999.)
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
I've decided to get over myself and just ignore that huge pile of comics, which I all wanted to talk about at some point, but which is just getting more intimidating, while my recollections of what I wanted to say fade.

Instead I'll just talk about two comics from last week. I wanted to comment on two more (Legends of the Dark Knight #177 and Nightwing #91), but it's getting close to four a.m. here and my head hurts (not from the comics, probably from staring on my monitor too long though).

Gotham Central #17 (written by Greg Rucka, art by Greg Scott)

I have to admit that even after 17 issues I'd still love to have an overview, from something like an SF&O issue, just listing all the cops, their first names, last names, nick names, ranks, and with whom they are partnered. I know I've said this before, and I admit it is getting better, and I like that each arc seems to highlight some character(s) so that gradually we get to know them better -- but honestly, on the top of my head I couldn't list even half of them with full names and ranks. I don't know whether it's my scattered brain, or something intrinsic to the stories, but it is starting to seriously bug me.

This issue also showed the quiet, tedious part of police work rather well, and because of the personal plots interwoven with it, it wasn't actually boring to read, but personally I like some more action. I guess I'm juvenile that way. Though I liked the cliffhanger with Huntress showing up at Vincent's place. See, already I can't remember his last name *looks it up* del Arrazio, Vincent del Arrazio, it's like learning frelling vocabulary in school, I always hated that too. The people writing the "Next month in..." bits also seem to have problems, because there it says 'The action focuses on Detective Azeveda who gets a surprise visit from an "old pal" who just happens to go by the name "Huntress."' when the last panel this issue shows Vincent and Huntress meeting, and I doubt she also knows Josh Azeveda. (And yes, I had to look up Azeveda's first name, because I didn't remember that either.) Finally I think this habit of putting the title and credits at the end should be stopped, I want to see the title of a story in the first couple of pages.

JLA #94 (written by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, art by John Byrne and Jerry Ordway)

After reading a few older JLA issues, and some feeble, in the end futile internal resistance, I've finally resigned myself to being interested in the comic Justice League, and I figured I might as well start getting the new ones. I'm neither a particular Byrne nor a particular Claremont fan (I don't dislike them either, I just haven't read much by either), but a new story is usually a good time to start getting issues, and since DC would want it to be attractive to people into Byrne and/or Claremont who haven't read the previous JLA issues it probably would be enough of a standalone for me to get the story without major confusion, and ease into the on-going JLA. And I was mostly right about that. I mean, of course I experienced the by now all too familiar confusion, like I have no idea who this Manitou Raven guy who (seemingly?) died on page two is, but overall I had no problems.

So a great evil threatens (whatever, I wasn't that impressed with the foreboding, but then generally magic stories are my least favorite, so I'm biased), children with low-level meta potential are disappearing, Batman notices a pattern, the JLA investigates, and Clark gets mind-controlled by some cult (apparently those who abducted the children), and then bitten by its vampire leader. So far I'm not really exited about the story. For example somehow mind-controlled and even vampiric Superman here is much less creepy/scary than I think he could be.

Still it's early in the story, and I liked the art, which in a way was charmingly retro. I think a lot of the "retro feel" is due to the use of thought balloons and additional omniscient narrator boxes, which has become unusual. I mean, if you get internal thoughts, the most common way these days seems to be to have the thoughts of the POV character in the narrative boxes and no thought balloons. Still, I liked the retro. And on the completely shallow side, with my new found Flash appreciation I noticed that Byrne draws a rather cute Wally West (or you can see both the retro thought balloons/narrative boxes and Wally here).
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I apologize for being so quiet last week. I wasn't even extremely busy or anything, nor do I have the excuse of being buried under tons of snow, not a single snowflake in sight around here. I just felt kind of sapped of all energy, and somehow when you miss posting one day it becomes easier just to skip updating the next day. A bit like with website updates.

Anyway, now to the actual content. Comments on Batverse comics from the last couple of weeks:
on Batgirl #46, Batman #621, Batman: Death and the Maidens #4, Batman: Gotham Knights #47, Birds of Prey #61, Detective Comics #789, Gotham Central #13, and Nightwing #87 )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Spidey (spidey)
After the Neal Adams & Denny O'Neil run on Green Lantern / Green Arrow caught my interest in that Superheroes Unmasked documentary, like I posted a while ago, y'all knew of course how it would end. Once I covet a comic (and can find and afford it, or at least find it and beg others for money to afford it *g*) it's only a matter of time until it finds its way into my greedy little hands. That I have more than twice as much shelf space filled with comics than with books without even counting the ten or so boxes filled with US comic books is ample proof of that.

Anyway, I got the seven reprint issues from 1983 at a very fair price on ebay, and the package with them arrived yesterday. I have read some of the stories, but not yet all, because I think they're best read in smaller doses. They're not bad or anything, but wow, they are preachy, like, really, really preachy. I don't mind fiction about issues as such, though my preference is for a somewhat subtler approach, and I definitely can appreciate those GL/GA comics in their historical context. Still, there's only so much of being all about the ISSUES that I can stand at one time, even with Neal Adam art to distract me.

Still it is fun to read about GL and GA doing this road trip to discover themselves and the true America or whatever. And please, someone tell me that there is GL/GA slash set during this? I don't mean necessarily a romantic relationship between the two, but I mean they are in the 70s and on a hippie self-discovery road trip, they seem to develop a real friendship despite their different outlooks, and at least GL questions pretty much everything he previously believed to be true without questioning, so it's not a huge step to assume he might question his sexual orientation as well (and hey, it would fit with the ISSUES *g*). So I can definitely see some "experimentation" going on between the two. And there are some scenes that are at least open to a slash interpretation, like for example in the issue that was Green Lantern #78 originally, I think, when GL tells GA he should forget about Black Canary, who was brainwashed by the cult leader, only they don't know that yet, but GA suspects something, yet GL tells him "Chum, it's tough... but you've got to swallow it -- she just doesn't dig you -- " Okay, so GA then hits GL, but hey, surely you can reinterpret the aggressive response...

I also made a few Green Lantern and Green Arrow icons from these issues, if you want one, just comment, I'll customize them with text on request, too... )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
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.
comments on Detective Comics #786, JLA/Avengers #1, Batman: Tenses #1, Gotham Knights #44, Batgirl #43, Birds of Prey: Batgirl/Catwoman and Oracle/Catwoman )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
First, let me get the obligatory weather whine out of the way: weather whining in detail )

On a more positive note, this afternoon, when it was hot outside, and quite unbearable inside, I ventured out to get my comic subscriptions, and then spend a pleasant late afternoon sitting outside in the shade reading some of the comics. This week I got Superman/Batman #1, Superman Birthright #2, Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #4, Detective Comics #785, Batman: Death and the Maidens #1, Batman Nevermore #5 (Elseworld), Supreme Power #1, Uncanny X-Men #429, Strangers in Paradise #59, and Paradise Too #14.

longer comments on Superman Birthright #2, Superman/Batman #1, and Supreme Power #1 )

More on the other comics later, probably.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
The pile of comics I read that I've vaguely thought of talking about in blog entries is getting larger by the week, but instead of "working" on the backlog, I'm going to comment on the newest Birds of Prey (which at least I got this week, unlike the Gotham Knights #42, which was supposed to be on sale now too, but wasn't at my comic store *hrmpf*).

Spoilers for Birds of Prey #56 )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I got a copy of Gotham City Secret Files & Origins from April 2000 today, and it's a neat resource on post-NML Gotham City. It has a city map, that shows key locations (not very detailed, but it still gives a general idea), conceptual sketches of part of Gotham City's skyline and some of its memorable buildings, and a plan as well as overview sketches of the Batcave, all of which might be quite useful for fan art (probably also of interest for fanfic). Sure, you can see all of that elsewhere too, but I think it's still nice to have some of that in an easy to find issue with at least some annotations. And the one longer story telling the first meeting of the new Batgirl with Catwoman (written by Scott Peterson and Kelley Puckett, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Walden Wong) was quite enjoyable too, and introduced several areas of the rebuilt Gotham as well. Though I would have liked some more info about Gotham and its buildings, and (as usual) the "profile pages" on characters are not particularly interesting or informative.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
More Batman talk (and I seem to start keeping a Batman-like schedule as well, I mean I'm posting around 3:30 a.m., again?!), today I offer comments on Batman: Prodigal...

Read more... )
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I'm still not feeling well, but not really ill either, so I guess that's something; I'm still reading Batman comics, thanks to the next batch that just arrived in my mail today, and obviously also still writing blog entries way past a healthy bed time. Though I have to say, all this "free trade" ideology and there are still 16% customs to pay for a few frelling used Batman comics?! I'd like to see some tangible results from all that "free trade" too -- and hey, I'm not even a developing country looking to export agricultural products... okay, they still wouldn't win me over for their neoliberalism, if I hadn't had to pay customs on Batman comics, but it would be a start...

I talk about Batman comics again, and this time it's not about an Elseworlds story, like the previous three times. I review Batman #408-410 and #416, and talk a bit about Batman, Nightwing and Robin II, respectively their other personas. )
ratcreature: RatCreature feels sick. (sick)
Today -- well technically yesterday -- wasn't a very good day. It started when I woke up from a nightmare of me picking splinters of a broken glass out of my bleeding throat and mouth (there was more unpleasantness, but that was what I was dreaming right before I woke up, and all that stuck in my memory), and as soon as I was fully awake I noticed that my throat was hurting for real. Granted, not like "bleeding and cut by glass" hurt, so waking up to a sore throat was maybe still an improvement. Anyway, the whole day I've been feeling like in a limbo between being well and the real onset of a cold, not feeling ill or in serious discomfort, yet not quite right either. I don't have a fever, and still my body temperature feels off to me, my throat doesn't hurt so much that swallowing is painful, but it feels scratchy, my neck and head feel achy etc. So while I hope that this goes away without getting worse, I have a suspicion it will not.

Of course I realize that my onsetting cold is not the most interesting thing, however, I spent a good part of the day in bed reading comics, and because I took a nap earlier, I have a problem to fall asleep right now, so I thought I'd start to share my opinions on them. I read The Batman of Arkham, Batman: Prodigal, Nightwing: A Knight In Blüdhaven, and Superman: Metropolis #1. I have half-composed comments in my head on all of them, however since I do want to sleep (after all it's said to be good against colds) I'll just comment on The Batman of Arkham for now.

The Batman of Arkham is an Elseworlds story, 48 pages, written by Alan Grant, art by Alcatena. It is set in 1900, and I bought it because I really like the idea of a Batman in that era, and I like other Elseworlds stories set then, however unlike The Golden Streets of Gotham (which I reviewed here) and Gotham by Gaslight, this one didn't do much for me.

Part of it is the artwork. It's not bad exactly, but for example it is not very dynamic. It rarely uses perspective for dramatic or composition purposes, though maybe I just noticed that because I read it right after Nightwing: A Knight In Blüdhaven, where Scott McDaniel goes, IMO, totally overboard with the other extreme, using unusual perspectives so much that the art is sometimes hard to follow and the perspective looses its impact (but more about that in my hopefully upcoming review of that comic). Also the bodies in motion and the fight scenes aren't great. And the hatching isn't really done well. I know from experience that hatching well is frelling hard, and I'm not good at it either, but look at the hatching of artists who really know how to do this well, like for example Bryan Talbot when he uses the technique (for Batman fans I can really recommend his two-parter Mask, in Legends of the Dark Knight #39/#40), and then at The Batman of Arkham. And after all there is no rule you have to use a lot of hatching in comic artwork. But I think what works least for me are the broad white ornamental panel borders. I think they are supposed to evoke a turn of the century "feel", and reflect the theme of the page, but they just were somewhat annoying to me, and another very "static" thing.

All that said, there is much worse comic artwork out there, and I guess it wouldn't have mattered this much to me, had the story really worked, but that was somewhat flat too.

The premise is okay, this Batman isn't looking for justice or for revenge as much as for understanding, why his parents were killed. And since in this reality his parents were killed by someone mentally ill, this Batman sums up his mission like this, when talking to Gordon: "My parents were murdered by a lunatic when I was a child. I vowed then to dedicate my life to the prevention of such needless tragedies -- by curing the madmen responsible." So he studied the emerging theories of psychology, bought Arkham Asylum, reformed its methods, and captures mad criminals during the night as Batman, to research and cure the criminally insane as Doctor Wayne during the day.

We meet a number of Batman villains briefly, some getting better (like Killer Croc), some not or not yet (like Two-Face and the Ventriloquist), some still on the loose (like the Joker), also Crane as a psychiatrist with a rather different set of theories from Wayne's ("Fear will accomplish what kindness never could!") and if the reader didn't get that anvil, all the time his shadow is cast in the form of a Scarecrow. Also we see Poison Ivy (with whom I'm not familiar at all) who turned to crime because her feminist suffrage demands were denied, though we never get details, but I thought it was interesting touch that she's incarcerated as insane because she's feminist (and also refuses to comply with the demand to wear "decent" dresses). The main plot finally is about Batman thwarting Joker's plan to turn all of Gotham mad through his laughing gas.

All this could have been interesting if there had been a real B plot besides the Joker-Batman thing. That alone isn't enough for 48 pages, at least for me it isn't. The only thing that might count as B plot is Crane taking over the asylum when Bruce is disabled by Joker's gas, and Killer Croc helping him, but we don't really see enough of the characters for them to have an emotional impact. Instead of developing some of the altered characters, who then get to do something that ties into the main plot, we meet all those others just as briefly, as if just to show them and how they turned out in this Elseworld, but they don't really seem to have a purpose and we don't really learn a lot about their fates either. The one or two page flashbacks and doctor patient talks with each of the bad guys who are not really involved with anything in the action just slow things down, and take up space that could have been used to make me care more about the characters who actually do things, like Crane.

I think my final verdict on this one is that it is thoroughly mediocre, both in its artwork and in its story, and I wouldn't spend $5.95 on it again.

Now this review turned out longer than I thought, it's after four a.m., and I hope I'll be able to sleep now. More on the other comics in some future entry.

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