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Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part One

Batman 680

by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel

I am beginning to think it is impossible to comment on a Morrison story until it is finished, because his insistence on telling almost the entire story through pictures leaves out too much that should have been in narration. What this has turned into at this point is a mish-mash, reflected on every bulletin board on the internet, with fans alternately claiming that Morrison is awesome… and at the same time, that they don’t understand what is going on.

Here’s what is going on: the greatest detective of all time has fallen in love with Jezebel Jet, whom I believe is the Black Glove. He didn’t see any of the threats against him, and evidently when he underwent his psychological torture in an attempt to understand madness, he didn’t have any safeguards to prevent Dr. Hurt (now there’s an original name) from planting his own agenda into Batman’s brain. We are supposed to believe that Dr. Hurt waited patiently all this time, because he wants to utterly destroy the Batman. We still don’t know why, and we don’t know why he waited all this time.

The ridiculous villains that make up the group fall easily to either Batman or the Joker. These guys have always been ill-defined, and frankly they look like they were dreamt up on the Character Creator of the City of Heroes online game. The remaining villains are inexplicably wearing Halloween masks and grinning like idiots, creating a masquerade feel to the entire atmosphere that does not give me any chills at all. They strike me as wanna-be masterminds who can’t fight their way out of a paper bag, and even Dr. Hurt calls them nothing more than rich and bored.

Much has been made online of the “brilliant” definition of Bat-Mite, as he claims “Imagination is the 5th dimension,” as if that explains what Bat-Mite is. Let’s be clear: Bat-Mite is an inter-dimensional being, just like Superman’s nemesis. Morrison tried to be clever, but if you look three panels earlier, Bat-Mite also claims to be “the last fading echo of the voice of reason.” So Bat-Mite is both reason and imagination, both real, yet a by-product of Batman’s psychosis. In other words, Morrison is writing mud. Bat-Mite is in the story because Morrison wanted him to be, no other reason, and there is no reason why Bat-Mite couldn’t cross a doorway unless he wasn’t truly involved in the story, meaning the real Bat-Mite wasn’t there ever.

The “masterful” stratagem crafted by Dr. Hurt has been to line up these villains so a stumbling brute of a Batman can run in and brush them all aside with a baseball bat. We have to wait until next episode to find out who Dr. Hurt “really is,” but I’ve pretty much lost interest already. My only hope is if Ryan or someone can come in and explain the entire story in a way that will both erase the contradictions and have everything make sense. Right now, it’s a poorly-written story that makes it difficult for the reader to understand how sane the Batman is, how much he comprehends what is really happening, and wondering where all of these bored rich people came from and why they want to do anything to Batman at all, let alone what took them so long in the first place.

Justice League of America 25

by Dwayne McDuffie, Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, Darrick Robertson, Shane Davis, Ian Churchill, and Ivan Reis

The Red Tornado has been abused or ignored for the better part of the last decade, such that nobody seems to remember what his personality was. He’s slightly “off,” and adding sexual innuendo by Hal is just another poor example of the type of lousy dialogue Robinson has been adding in Superman lately. McDuffie and others would be bettered served to stop with the dirty thoughts and just write a good story. And how in the world does an android with a computer mind misspeak and mess up “proposition” with “proposal?” He also has Black Lightning stick his foot in his mouth with Hawkgirl, in an endless display of immaturity that we are not used to seeing from a character like Jeff Pierce. These guys need to learn to let the character speak “naturally,” and stop inserting their own jokes and words into the character.

Just as soon as Red Tornado comes back and gets his body and powers in working order… he’s taking a leave of absence. So he can be ignored for another decade? Way to treat a good character. Next, we switch over to the kidnapped Vixen, where Black Canary has ordered nobody to touch Vixen’s totem. When we get back to that group, Animal Man is bending down… and touching the totem. Canary just stands there and lets him do it. Sigh. I want to enjoy this series so much, but the editing is nonexistent, and these little story hiccups keep me from reading the story uninterrupted. Every time I get jarred out of the comic by something that doesn’t make sense, it moves farther down the Travometer (copyright, all rights reserved!) to being a bad comic.

The art is great, though , as they pulled in half a dozen star artists to make the 25th issue something special. The new villain weaves stories to create an alternate JLA, which will be united to come back and attempt to beat her/him/whatever the spider-being is. At the end, we are given a little riddle. Anansi seems to be saying that if it can win at everything, it will somehow lose its powers. If Vixen can pull a rabbit out of her hat, and “defeat” Anansi, that will actually fulfill Anansi’s true goal. Despite that, Anansi appears to believe it will win, and if so, it makes you wonder why it did things the way it did. It’s so powerful, couldn’t it rig events better?

If the writing improves, this will all be answered in the next couple issues, and we will have an idea if it is a good story, or something that makes no sense. From McDuffie’s work on Fantastic Four previously, the odds are not good, but he has been doing better in this title.

Manhunter 35

by Marc Andreyko and Michael Gaydos

Another fairly good read that still falls short of impressiveness. Andreyko has fallen into a more recent cliché with this story, but one that has reared its ugly head too many times in the last two years: the villains have been able to engineer an army of super-powered foes. The result is always a bunch of ill-defined, forgettable faces, and the heroes who normally struggle with one or two opponents can somehow churn through the mass of bad guys like so much Swiss cheese.

While the other moments that focus on the supporting cast are nice bits of character development, the Suicide Squad, whose emphasis is on intrigue and undercover work, prove to be rank amateurs, being spied upon and taken down easily by the big bad villain. Next issue concludes the arc; I am more interested in Kate getting back to her son and other friends and interacting with them than I am this particular story.

Nightwing 149

by Peter J. Tomasi and Rags Morales

Kramer’s layouts combined with the characters reminds me of scenes from older Batman stories, in a good way. The villains all turn out to be regular flunkies, misinterpreted because of a dose of fear serum. The twist at the end is a good one, although it does seem odd that one aspect of Two-Face seems to be so fully submerged that he can’t know what the other personality is doing anymore; most of the time, both aspects surge forth knowing full well what the other personality has been doing and saying. Next issue is the conclusion of what is proving to be an entertaining yarn.

Supergirl 34

by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

The first page spoils my mood for the new creative team, as the article is a rip-off of Lois Lane’s article from the recent movie, Superman Returns. We’re about three years (our time) into this Supergirl’s story, and she is still having an identity crisis. As Ryan has pointed out in the past, it’s not so much her as her writers and other handlers. They don’t know what to do with this incarnation of the Superman Family, so each new team flails around trying to give their twist on who she is and what her role should be.

I am, however, going to be giving this series a try, as it is supposed to tie in better with the existing Superman titles, and the final panel gives a small surprise that could make things interesting. The art is good in parts, but lacking a lot of eye candy in the backgrounds; if the writing and the art can both improve a little bit, I might even recommend this to other people some day. If you’re torn on which to try, Manhunter is a little better read.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Regarding Batman RIP, I have to agree with you. It is always best to read Morrison in the trade format. I find I get much more out of his story if I read it all in one sitting.

-- Posted by: Simon MacDonald at October 5, 2008 2:30 PM

I'm backing up Simon on this one. I'm not NOT enjoying the series, but I know it would be a better read as a trade.

In fact, Sitting down and reading everything from "Batman and Son" straight through to the conclusion of Batman RIP may make for a terrific read, but in a monthly format, stretched over 2 years, with insert issues, rotating artists, etc... it's too easy to miss clues and forget small bits.

I can say I don't mind not knowing where the story is going. After 20-odd years of reading comics, I'll take my plot twists where I can get them, especially in a Bat-book.

But I also noticed the discombobulation of Bat-Mite as "voice of reason"/ "imp of imagination". That might make sense in Morrison's mind (and I am guessing it does), but felt a bit short for me here.

On Supergirl 34...

I have never thought to recommend Supergirl to anyone. It's a book that I don't have a complete run of for a reason. BUT...

It sounds like they're finally shaking the last vestigal bits of Loeb's misfire of a character launch and turning the book into something that fits roughly with the rest of the world of Superman. And I think Gates is using the same bit of genius that the Superman Returns article on "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman" argued persuasively against to his own advantage. Why does the DCU need a Supergirl? If he can answer that question, which no writer has since COIE, Gates is doing the character and Superman comics a huge favor.

No more:
-Alternate dimension protoplasmic whatzits
-Earth Angels with fire wings
-Semi-powered former delinquents with some roughly defined quasi-Vertigoish missions
-Kryptonian sleeper agents with secret sunstone spike weaponry (anyone else remember that?)

Just... Kryptonian refugee trying to make good. So simple, but so many folks wanting to leave their finger prints...

-- Posted by: Ryan at October 5, 2008 3:28 PM