Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part 2

Blackest Night: Batman 3

by Peter Tomasi and Ardian Syaf

Tim’s father and Dick’s parents make the dynamic duo fall prey to the manipulations of the Black Lantern enemies, but their attacks are far more mental than physical. Perhaps because these non-powered heroes rely more on their unemotional intellect than the physical powers, the bad guys resort to a more mental approach, causing both of them to lose their cool reserve and let their emotions ride free. That is exactly what the bad guys need to power themselves up. Only the timely arrival of Etrigan, possessed by Deadman, saves the new Batman and Robin.

The art is great, some of the best I’ve seen by Syaf. The fact that Damian brought Commissioner Gordon to where Alfred could help puts a little trouble into the idea of maintaining a secret identity, but I’m sure they’ll write it off as Gordon being woozy and out of it. The solution to the problem is innovative: Batman and Robin encase themselves in ice, the Black Lanterns cannot locate the two subjects, nor feed on their emotions, and so take off in search of other prey. Deadman possesses each one to enable the breakout from the ice. A handy advantage that should be used elsewhere in this meta-event.

This was a very satisfying mini-series. Good marks for both story and art.

Detective Comics Annual 11

by Fabian Nicieza and Tom Mandrake

The beginning is a little awkward, with the Question and Batman trading words in an attempt to bring the reader up to speed on what’s going on from the Batman annual; it reads as too forced, too much unnatural exposition. Madrake does well with the art, even if he does resort to a few too many of his regular tricks when drawing. The swirly mist effect has been overdone by him in just about every environment he has drawn the past few years.

Long story short, they rescue everyone and Azrael sort of plays a key role, while Grayson points a finger at Azrael and complains about him not doing it the right way. The tale is average, which is a problem. The aim was to interest people in the new Azrael series, but he was not involved enough to bring out anything exciting. I don’t see how this will generate much interest.

The backup feature was terrible! The transitions are murky, and we’re just dealing with a wannabe vampire, who manages to get away at the end. The art by Kelley Jones is despicable, with almost no line-work on some panels, and even poor coloring choices. It’s not a complete story; we do not really learn who this villain is, nor the main motivation. Will is be pursued somewhere else? Stories in annuals should have an acceptable beginning, middle, and end. This story had a lousy middle and no end.

JSA vs. Kobra 5

by Eric Trautmann, Don Kramer, and Neil Edwards

Yet another reason to love Don Kramer’s art style: he has no problem drawing more than a dozen heroes on the same page, and doing justice to them all. Neil Edwards helps out, and they try to spread the love around as much as they can with a large cast. The writers of Uncanny X-Men could take a few hints from these guys on how to showcase a large cast of characters.

The JSA has gone on the offensive, taking out some hidden Kobra bases. Part of the problem with this is that the new head of the organization wants to weed out the old driftwood from his brother’s organization anyway, so he doesn’t mind the losses that much. He does sacrifice Ariadne so he can slow the team down, though. Jason runs away to the capital of the USA, just about ready to launch into his ultimate agenda. The suspense is still going strong, and Trautmann has given his readers a reason to tune in for this entire series. I have high expectations for the last issue.

Secret Six 14

by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott

Hey, remember in the old days when Wonder Woman was bound or tied up somehow and helpless? Well, just in case she hasn’t been humiliated enough in her own title lately, they have been sure to show her tied up spread-eagle, right where a monster can come lick her. Said monster immediately stops and goes off to kill some others first. You know, if I was a monster, I would probably feel pretty secure about eating what was in front of me first, and then hunting down the others for dessert, but maybe that’s just me.

Scandal has reversed course, and instead of pleading with Bane to take his venom drugs, she takes them instead. Simone repeats herself by having the “good guys” rush at the guards, and the guards are so intimidated to see women running at them firing weapons, they start praying instead of fighting. You know, just what they did last issue. So nice to see her shaking things up a bit. Notice how the guys in Batman or Green Arrow never wet their pants when seeing huge muscle-bound guys pummeling them to bits, or pointing razor-sharp arrows their direction. But in this prison, for some reason, any female running at you is reason enough for you to bow down and make peace with your maker.

Rag Doll takes care of the leader of the prison, and Deadshot comes to the rescue of the people he had been sent to kill. I have long since stopped trying to make any sense out of what Deadshot or any other character will or won’t do; I know each one will do whatever is necessary at the moment, including attack their teammates, but will never do enough to kill any of them. Which is just cool enough to make the book predictable and boring.

Whoops, spoke too soon! The head of the prison is about to die, but he gets on the vid-cast system and explains that the Amazons attacked America, and were “properly” imprisoned. According to him, if they run to escape, they will be hunted down and their entire civilization destroyed. Rather than thinking that this mortally-wounded guy is off his rocker, especially considering that more than just these Amazons attacked America and Paradise island is still standing, they all decide to commit suicide instead of return to prison. Gutless wonders. What happened to the fighting Amazon spirit? “Ooh, the scary man about to die just held a video conference! I don’t want to fight anyone anymore. Let’s just kill ourselves now instead of fight!”

Wait, it gets worse. Wonder Woman walks in on a woman about to kill every other Amazon in the room and calls her brave. In five sentences or less, maybe 35 words, she convinces Artemis and everyone else not to kill themselves. Wow, isn’t she impressive? Give me two minutes alone with them, I bet I could convince them to kill themselves all over again. Writing this bad makes me want to scream.

Wonder Woman lets the Secret Six go, for no obvious reason, because they’re all wanted killers, and she could order the Amazons to take them down easy. For a woman who just killed a demon and saw fit to kill Max Lord, the idea of arresting six wanted murderers isn’t enough to take them down? They helped out a little; well, some of them helped out a little. Most of them stood around and watched people die. Whatever, she gives them a break. Then Bane elects himself leader and tells Scandal she’s off the team.

Finally, Deadshot sits there with the dying old guy and claims he “tricked” Deadshot into shooting an escaping slave lady in the back. This was back in issue 10. The guy announces a prisoner is escaping, and Deadshot volunteers to shoot her. He does so. Deadshot shoots an unarmed, fleeing woman in the back on a stranger’s say-so, and then announces that “She ran, I shot.” How is there any trickery involved in this at all? Lawton could have cared less about her. Four issues later, he cares?

Worst-written comic for the entire week. Is there anyone out there who can justify this? What happened to Gail Simone’s talent? Is there anyone willing to defend the story as anything passing good? What am I missing, how is this book still being published?

The Shield 2

by Eric Trautmann and Marco Rudy

The sense of the military continues as the Shield and Magog, Army and Marines, butt heads. Even with that, they do manage to get through the situation all right. The fatalistic attitude of the kid Shuja matches the culture as I have studied it, and with the small number of people from the Middle-East I have known. The coolest parts are left for the illustrations; the reader isn’t beat over the head with them. For instance, the suit is programmed to scan and identify threats compared to known villains. They let the art tell that part of the story well, without too much exposition.

The real menace is revealed as Gorilla Grodd! Mingling Magog into this title along with Grodd ups Magog’s exposure as well as the Shield’s, and helps to embed the Shield into the fabric of the DC universe, something which is needed for each of the Red Circle characters. Unfortunately, I still can’t say anything nice about the Inferno back-up feature, and the price makes this comic a “borderline drop” for me each month. It needs to be very good each time, because the first time I hear myself saying “Meh” after I put it down, odds are I will cancel it due to the price and the lack of a good second feature.

Titans 18

by Bryan Q. Miller and Angel Unzueta

Any time you see Bryan Miller’s name on a comic, be aware you’re in for an average reading experience. Unzueta does great on the art, at least. Not too much for backgrounds, which is a limitation. We are reduced to seeing Raven fight her fellow Trigon siblings, because nobody in the entire DC writing stable has managed to come up with any personal villains that Raven can face off against. With all of Raven’s abilities, what does she do? She turns into a version of Nightcrawler, with red ‘bamfing,’ and fights the dude physically.

Raven’s subsequent analysis of her fellow members is a little off, showing how little miller understands the characters. The truth is, Raven has been tampered with so many times, she is almost unrecognizable from the intense, interesting character that Wolfman and Perez created. She has been reborn closer to a normal 16-year-old, all uniqueness drained. We have a super-hero who has been part of the Titans family forever, and just now we are supposed to believe her major problem is loneliness. All after the past few years of her constantly telling Garfield she doesn’t want to date him, like a broken record? So she doesn’t want to be lonely… but she’d rather not hang out with Garfield. Must really cheer up his ego!

To make matters worse, she still ends up asking the same question at the end, and after an entire issue of focusing on her, we still aren’t told what she’s going to do. Why bother?

the Unwritten 6

by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The American judge takes advantage of a French claim to ditch the Tom Taylor case in a funny moment. Tom has been framed for murder. Mike Carey has fun incorporating the modern technology we live with into the fabric of Taylor’s environment, capturing the bulletin boards and instant messaging and forums perfectly. He puts in snarky counterpoints from forum members, and even includes misspellings, on purpose, to reflect the true nature of people typing fast on their keyboard and hitting the send button during what passes for normal real-time conversation on the internet.

The next interesting scene shows Lizzie Hexam making contact with her “handler” via books in a library, with the directions appearing in the middle of classic novels. I wish half of the DC and Marvel artists were as inventive with a piece of a story as this one communication method was. Meanwhile, Tom finds another geographic literature fact: the prison is built on the site of the battle from the Song of Roland, when the Basques massacred Charlemagne’s Franks. Then Tom’s tattoo reappears on the back of his hand. Later, parts of the Tommy Taylor novel come to life and find Tom.

Peter Gross handles the wide changes in atmosphere and time amazingly well, providing an excellent variety in one issue. The threads of story are coming together, and some readers are impatient, but I find the pace to be excellent for a monthly periodical.

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