Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part One

All-Star Batman & Robin 10

by Frank Miller and Jim Lee

The All-Star Superman title has hit an interesting note on handling the character of Superman. The note for Miller’s Batman is noticeably different, and stylistically unique. It is also a little different from the normal Batman we are used to, but the purpose of the All-Star brand is to enable stories to be told with a slightly different take on the character. While the Superman title has given us some nostalgia that reminds us of older times, Miller’s version of Batman is a little surreal.

Reading this title makes me a little uncomfortable. Jim Lee is in his usual excellent form, with a good creative team to back him up, giving us some great visuals the entire way through. The characterization of Batman and Black Canary in particular are grim and gritty to the point that they remind me of certain gang members I have come across in real life; they are going to do whatever they want, and heaven help the person who gets in the way.

Part of this uncomfortable feeling is that this is not the way heroes are supposed to act. Miller knows this, and has purposefully taken the characters in this direction, whether out of a sense of realism, out of a wish to flip comic companies his middle finger, or whatever, I don’t know. What I do know is that in making me feel uncomfortable from the edge he has injected into the characters, he has been successful in a way few writers have been. That makes this one of the harder titles to review, because as much as the art has to recommend it, and as much as I want to keep reading, it still feels a little like watching a car wreck.

If there is a good direction for the current storyline, it’s going to take a few more issues for it to be fully fleshed out, but with the infrequency of its publishing, will people hang out long enough to find out? Long-time Miller fans and Jim Lee fans will wait, and it being an all-Star title is one of the better formats if you can’t put it out on a monthly basis, but the rare times it comes out is putting a serious dent in its sales potential, and isn’t doing the flow of the story any favors either.

Legion of Super-Heroes 46

by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul

Jim Shooter is insisting on following an Ultra Boy-Saturn Girl affair, which rings false for Imra; granted, this is supposed to be an alternate Legion, not the one we grew up reading, but you know what? I want the old Legion back. It’s one thing to show us an alternate universe and have some of your favorite characters portrayed in new ways, sometimes backwards or evil too; but at the end of the day, I want to be able to go back to the good characters. With the current setup, this Legion is all we’re gong to get, and as interesting characters… they suck. Pretty much all of them.

Even Brainiac 5’s arrogance was portrayed much better in the old days than it is here, and Chameleon Boy has been transformed from a colorful character into a simplistic, naïve alien with almost no sign of individuality. Element lad is a stuffy bore, and the art cannot convey the emotional impact that the story calls for, leaving us with a shadow of what made the Legion great.

Time to close the doors again and revamp. DC, bring us a new Legion series when you have a clue as to what makes them tick.

Superman 680

by James Robinson and Renato Guedes

I hpe the limited series are a better read this week, because the regular monthlies are getting on my nerves. As soon as I saw Krypto on the cover, I groaned. This meant that I had to read more doggie narration captions, like, “I bite this one,” and “I hurt him.” Are we in Kindergarten again? Is it time for “See Dick run?” All this to show how badly Lois Lane misjudged the animal. It is so over the top unsubtle, it is literally painful to read.

Guedes makes the most of the scenery with his art, and the coloring is great, but not even Alex Ross’ cover can save this. I hope we have reached rock-bottom for the story, because I can’t imagine a worse superman story since Chuck Austen was writing. And even then, it feels like a toss-up. Did anyone out there think Krypto needed a showcase? That his reputation needed salvaging? Did he need a writer to come in and dream up a scenario where Supergirl and Superman were both easily defeated, so Krypto could run in and be the hero? If you want to read a story with doggie thoughts, go pick up a Golden Age Superman comic with Krypto, they were a lot more fun, and better written.

Superman/Batman 52

by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Rafael Albuquerque

The conclusion of the mini-super powers, with miniature versions of the bad guys finding themselves in a world where evil is really bad, as opposed to cartoon bad, where you can recover from any calamity. With my normal attraction to tight art lines, this cartoony stuff really should not have grabbed my interest, but it was actually well done, and genuinely amusing to see a little cartoon Batman bobblehead-looking thing trying to act his own version of grim and gritty next to “the real thing.”

This kind of story can be tricky in the modern world of comic writing, and the usual practice is to bring in a kid-friendly artist, but Albuquerque handles the cartoon characters side-by-side with the regular characters, and it comes out well. Some of the themes of this Superman/Batman series call to mind some of the more outlandish stories of the Golden Age, but in a different way than most. Whereas someone like Geoff Johns or Kurt Busiek might weave a past tale into the current continuity, Green and Johnson seem content to craft inventive tales that are reminiscent of past kooky stories, but without trying to invent a clever reason to allow it to happen. Sometimes the result falls flat, but here, it was pleasant.

Look for more of this type of “reminiscent tales” approach from these writers coming up, as Batman and superman look to be having a power switch. Definitely reminiscent of things that have been done, but hopefully without the laborious perambulations that we’d have to undertake to follow along if it were a Grant Morrison DC story.

Teen Titans 63

by Sean McKeever and Eddy Barows with Allan Goldman

When I started reading comics this week, I didn’t think one of the more enjoyable ones would be the Teen Titans, but with the Superman story… well, how the mighty have fallen. Barrows has been consistently good with the art, although the inking here has been a little thick, where a lighter touch might have benefited the attempt to make it feel like the characters are teenagers. The panle placement and stage direction are also excellent, and McKeever even manages to toss in the funny observation that the shorts that Red Devil wears match the shorts that Stargirl wears.

The story itself is slightly awkward, trying to introduce a new deity to plague Cassie while reminding us of the weird death of Marvin last issue, all while focusing mostly on reintroducing a no-longer-dead Bombshell. The story should become clearer in an issue or two, but McKeever could stand to improve on his ability to properly convey events and settings. It hops around a little too much, and is heavy on reading past issues. For newer readers who just jumped on, this may prove to be too much effort for them.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

I want to read stories with Krypto's doggy thoughts.

Krypto is one of those things that Superman nuts know is pretty deeply divisive. And it is the last thing I would say "well, you don't get it". Rather, I think its purely a matter of taste.

Many of us were excited when Jeph Loeb brought back Krypto, and disappointed that writers who followed up were unable to think of how to use him (although he did get a great spotlight in "Our Worlds at War"). Busiek seemed interested, but for whatever reason, that got side-lined (would love to see that in print someday).

In a universe full of humanish superheroes, I don't mind the dog thought captions. I don't see it is inherently childish, and I do think the idea of an animal with powers, as they're defining it here, is pretty engaging.

The idea, I think, is not to tell a single morality tale of "Lois learns to love a dog", but to reintroduce Krypto to the DCU as part of the Superman Family (a concept which could be as rich as it once was, if properly reinvigorated).

-- Posted by: Ryan at September 27, 2008 1:43 PM

I guess I can see re-introducing Krypto, even though we've had a handful of appearances by him lately that have been pretty good. I just disagree with the method. Maybe if they would convey his thoughts as imagery or something better than a first-grade reading level; I have a hard time reading doggy thoughts and not throwing the comic down.


-- Posted by: tpull at September 28, 2008 2:56 AM

I understand the sentiment. And, yeah... maybe a writer will come along who finds a more abstract/ satisfying way to provide Krypto's thoughts.

Honestly, I kind of find Silver-Age Krypto's thought bubbles creepy. He always comes off as kind of pathetic as his only concern is if Superman and/ or boy will like him. It's kind of pitiful.

-- Posted by: Ryan at September 28, 2008 1:25 PM