Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review

I’m going to cram all of DC into one section this week. Okay (takes a breath), here we go:

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight 2

by Fabian Nicieza and Frazer Irving

Michael Lane faces off against Talia al Ghul, and clues him in on the curse of the Azrael armor. Lane is a somewhat interesting character, but a hint was dropped over in Booster Gold on Rip hunter’s chalkboard that Jean-Paul Valley is still alive, so the question is, will we get to have a new Azrael via Lane, or will Mr. Valley show up next issue. For those who were fans of Azrael, this is a good teaser series.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum 1

by David Hine and Jeremy Haun

If there is one place in Gotham that might deserve a series in its own right, this is the place. Arkham Asylum almost has a personality of its own, and I’m glad I picked up this one-shot. David Hine quickly establishes the insanity and creepiness of the place and its inhabitants as we follow Doctor Jerry Arkham through its twisted confines. Jeremy Haun gives us appropriately gloomy and drab pictures, mixing in scars and disfigurement amongst the shadows, but those are only a surface reflection of the tortured depravity hiding underneath.

Halfway through, the recent events are quickly narrated that have brought Dr. Arkham to this point, but he takes the damage to the asylum as a sign that he should rebuild the place according to his uncles designs. Are his special inmates going to be a help? Alessio paints a face that is eerily reminiscent of the Joker! And this is a guy Jerry is trusting to run loose and help him? It’s weird and cool, and I can’t wait to see how this plays out in the Bat-universe.

For only $2.99, if you can buy one extra book from DC this week, make it this one.

Detective Comics 853

by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert

Hey, an issue of Detective! I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see it. Was that really ten weeks? The opening scene is a silent affirmation of just how talented Andy Kubert really is. Take a look at the three versions of Batman in his coffin, but go back and take a look at the people in the seats, too. The same people remain in the same seats, unchanging, and there is continuity from one panel to the next (watch as Commissioner Gordon goes to take his seat), but we are given a glimpse of some of the villains displaying their own particular sense of loss in the changing panels. Nice.

Kubert has painstakingly taken just about every major art incarnation of Batman from the comics and fit it in, with a masterful attempt to use his own style to depict the older versions, but still update them enough to make each one look cool. That’s no easy task, but he pulls it off wonderfully. Scott Williams has grown as an inker, too. Williams has his own distinct style that used to overshadow the art; as much as his inking was good, it also “showed” itself too much. That is no longer the case here. You can still make out his inking style, but it is much more subdued than it used to be, allowing more of Kubert’s art to shine.

Gaiman’s style is very much present here, with the inward-looking, haltingly questioning narration interspersed with reflection. In just a couple of panels, he helps to differentiate the ideas between Superman and Batman, and at the same time you find yourself agreeing with both sides. Then Kubert’s art takes over again, splashing what seems like iconic dioramas, with seven pages that I would like to blow up and frame along a wall in my house.

The overall tale reads like a circle of life sort of thing, and is about as good as anything else. There are a few good moments and lines, and the atmosphere is equal parts mourning and reflection. I think I would have preferred this to just come out in a deluxe edition and read it all at once, rather than waiting so long for the second part. There are a few familiar Gaiman tricks, such as the incorporation of a child’s storybook that might feel reminiscent of other works Gaiman has written, and maybe it’s the familiarity of the technique that keeps me from going fan-crazed in my reaction to the story, but I put it own thinking, “that was nice.” The art was what really shined, and without that magnificent effort by Kubert, I don’t think the effect of the story would have been anywhere near as big.

This is one case where the choice of creative team was very important, and it paid off in a big way. If you didn’t get this, wait for the deluxe edition and put it out on your end-table as a conversation piece or something.

Justice League of America 32

by Dwayne McDuffie and Rags Morales

Man, that secret room for the trinity really didn’t stay a secret for long, did it? Morales gives us some nice art, but Dr. Light doesn’t look nearly as Japanese as she used to , and it seems like something in the art-inks-colors is messing up with what should be very distinctive looks for each of the characters. The characters are also all “slightly off.”

For example, John Stewart was once the main person in charge of the Green Lantern Corps on Earth. He’s also former military, and should appreciate things from a military perspective, but he speaks against that here, as well as shying away from the leadership role. We also have some wasted space with Vixen doing nothing but questioning everybody and everything for their motives in remaining, which doesn’t mesh well with her personality. The overall read is okay, but McDuffie doesn’t have the best feel for who these people are, and it has an effect when you’ve been reading these characters for years. There are also new developments, like the way John and Firestorm have been interacting in Trinity as a student-mentor relationship that are not touched on here at all, right when there is the best place for that to happen.

Sales are high for DC’s flagship title, so these may just be subjective nits on my part, but there is definite room for improvement in just about every aspect of the creative team that, if implemented, could really be knocking our socks off. If they can get a little better, they might have a shot at climbing the sales charts even further.

Outsiders 17

by Peter Tomasi and Lee Garbett

There isn’t much to say for this issue. We’ve got a murky motivation for the bad guys still, and most of the team’s time is spent fighting a metallic digger. It doesn’t help that Owlman, who is supposed to be the brains, spends too much of his time giving exposition for the obvious in a blatant attempt to set the scene for his intelligence. Garbett is serviceable on the art, but at times you can see the lack of effort by the creative team, such as the panel where they didn’t even bother to give Owlman a mouth.

Hopefully things pick up next issue with the introduction of Deathstroke, who was recently showcased in the ‘Faces of Evil’ campaign. The series feels too much like it’s going through the paces, when they need to still be cementing why the team exists, and for what purpose.

Supergirl 40

by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

Okay, I admit that Gates had me following Supergirl’s logic as to who Superwoman was, so I was slightly surprised on the final panel. At the same time, other things suddenly made a lot of sense, given what they showed us earlier. Anytime I can be surprised, even when it wasn’t high on my list of suspenseful mysteries, is a good thing. Igle’s art is getting better, I think. He is making an effort to show more in his backgrounds. He may not be as good as the legendary George Perez, but he’s definitely trying.

The story is flowing fairly well within the confines of the overall Superman family meta-story, and you can read just the Supergirl series and still get a complete story. This is something that takes a bit more of an effort than simply writing one chapter and picking it up in the next Superman or Action title; they have to write things so you can do that, and at the same time, people who collect only the Supergirl title can read just that title and still come away feeling they have a solid story. That’s the best way to do things.

Trinity 47

by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Fabian Nicieza, Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher

It’s a battle royale as all the pieces come into play. Kroma and company, the Crime Syndicate, Xor, the four fleeing flunkies who decided to come back, even Kanjar Ro. All of the fighting is actually minuscule compared to the consequences if the Worldsoul dies. The backup story lets Lex Luthor play an important role, doing all of the detective work in place of Batman. They get the vast amount of information to the trinity in a clever way in the middle of the fight, and we end with Batman doing his impression of Hannibal from the A-Team: “I have a plan.” Is there any nicer phrase to hear from the caped crusader? Godd stuff, and all of the artists are in good form.

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