Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part 2

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 2

by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

There are two ways to read this comic. One is by acknowledging that Grant Morrison only pays attention to his own continuity, and you will be unable to make sense out of the dialogue unless you see the existence of the DC universe as he sees it, and that involves some structure of Hypertime, but more than the 52 worlds at this point. You will consult annotations on the internet and have to realize that everything from the Invisibles to Final Crisis and the Seven Soldiers for Victory all have elements that are represented, as Morrison is humanly incapable of doing a fresh story without involving and attempting to build a structure on every single comic he a written in the past, weaving in Easter eggs and symbolism.

The other way is to give up the ghost and just try to read the comic in and of itself. Morrison has become convoluted and contradictory enough in his ideas that it is hard to describe exactly what the DCU looks like these days, so I’ll leave that for other people to argue. Bruce battles some hyperfauna and is tended to by a witch. Frazer Irving’s art has some definite promise, and is well-suited to Morrison’s storylines. Unfortunately, the way he draws a character like Superman leaves a bit to be desired.

Bruce adopts another identity and establishes himself as an authority figure to help a fledgling Gotham City survive. Unfortunately, his detective powers have gone rusty, as he defends a woman who is actually guilty of murder. Whoopsie. The hyperfauna reappears later so it can propel Bruce forward through time. The witch finally gets strung up, and she casts a curse on the man she calls Nathaniel Wayne, and all his line. Does the curse work when it’s really Bruce? What is the curse? Would have worked anyway? We know on occasion Bruce has said he doesn’t believe in magic. Will Morrison ever be bothered to answer that little question, or just leave it hanging?

No matter. Bruce comes out of another time vortex in front of Blackbeard, so we can have a different artist give us the Bat-Pirate, so yeah, this whole thing is basically Elseworlds on time-travel steroids. Morrison takes a rather simple origin story and weaves it so that Bruce Wayne was responsible for single-handedly saving Gotham City’s existence in the past. Yay, team. I am already bored with the predictability of Morrison using this as a vehicle to have Batman be responsible for everything important in his own history. It’s too reminiscent of what booster Gold has been doing in his own time-traveling repair series. Morrison litters this mini-series with references that we get to see over in the Batman and Robin title, just so the fans can marvel at how “important” all the clues are, so everything can tie in together. So much so that Morrison spends almost every panel in Batman and Robin trying to make them tie in, but only in his vague, “Guess what this means” style.

The other half of the story is a plug for another mini-series, featuring Superman, Green Lantern, rip hunter, and Booster Gold. They have come to the end of time looking for Batman, and try to ask an archivist for help. At some point, the archivist reveals himself to be Bruce Wayne, and he steals their time bubble. That’s your best friend, there, Clark. Oh, and by the way, the timeline is about to terminate. What a pal.

Superman tries to warn him that Darkseid did something nefarious to him, but Bruce appears to have a plan, like always, so it should reveal itself in the next three issues. As much as I like the attempt by Morrison to encapsulate the idea of cube time into a comic book, unless you know a few things about physics already, your average person isn’t going to get this. Not that I’m against a comic that calls for you to have some knowledge ahead of time, but they should at lest have some editorial comments, or handy web links, or a letter column with some additional footnotes or discussion. Without it, the comic itself isn’t as entertaining as most others on the stands this week.

Justice League: The Rise and Fall of Arsenal 3

by J. T. Krul and Geraldo Borges

Okay, now we’re just getting silly. Roy beats Chesire, one of the most deadly assassins, with a tennis racket, a stapler, and an extension cord. After that humiliating battle, she decides to have sex with him. I’m going to choose to believe that was all part of a scene out of his drug-addled hallucinations.

Borges does a little better than average with the art, but then we find out Roy has been beating up bums in an alleyway after his heroin shoot-up, and he’s holding a dead cat?!? So we possibly have the prospect of him beating up the bums WITH THE CAT. And I just did two reviews on X-Men: Blind Science 1 and Green Lantern 54 which had cats in them, and I’m wondering if there is some rule that orders cats to be featured in comic books this week. If the new cat I took in this week could appreciate the timing, I would have him read all of these, but I’m pretty sure that would take much longer than I have spare time available.

Bat-Grayson takes out Roy, and he wakes up in restraints, with Black Canary walking away from him, sadly aware that he is using drugs again. So when they called this series the “Rise” of Arsenal, were they talking about him getting high? Ehh, the art is good enough, and the story is slightly above average, although I’m still trying to decide if I should be offended about the cat or not. But understand this, DC AND Marvel: I’m keeping my cat, no matter how many strange and disgusting things you do to them in your books.

Madame Xanadu 23

by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley

The final segment with the Martian Manhunter concludes, with Xanadu teleporting them out of the fire, with lets J’onn recover his strength. She goes back to confront Morgana, and tricks her, pulling out some hair belonging to the original host body (forgot about her, didn’t you!). She carries out an exorcism, and banishes Morgana, with J’onn rescuing her from a car crash at the end. It’s short and sweet, and not too surprising. J’onn still has his weird face, which I am chalking up to an intentional design, as this is early in his career, and he hasn’t perfected looking human just yet.

I suspect that Wagner may have accelerated through the time periods too quickly, and gotten too close to the age of heroes, such that as he tries to incorporate parts of the DCU proper, it becomes a little unwieldy. Time will tell if he is grasping for story ideas, or if he can do better in the next couple of story arcs.

War of the Supermen 4

by James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Eddy Barrows, Cafu, and Edward Pansica

Zod really hates Kal-el, and the artists show him really enjoying the beat-down. Barrows really shines for his artistic segments, but all of them do fairly well throughout. Superboy figures out that the Phantom Zone is “usable” again, and sends Krypto to get the generator. Non is the first to go. We get cheated a tiny bit, as Superwoman and Atlas are pretty much beaten up almost all off-panel, when there could have been a couple more pages devoted to that. I think there was too much in the way of cast for a four-issue series to give them all enough space and screen time.

Krypto gets to steal a scene again as he takes a kryptonite dagger intended for Conner, but he’ll be okay. For all that Supergirl has super-speed, you have to wonder why she doesn’t stop General Lane from blowing his brains out once he’s beaten. Superman decides to throw himself into the Zone along with Zod, which I can’t quite figure out, because surely he could have gotten a clean shot sooner or later, but it’s all a convenient plot-point to showcase Chris.

Nightwing has the power to send superman back to the regular universe, and the Nightwing entity leaves Chris behind. Mon-el catches up to him soon, so that leaves us wondering when Chris gets out again, because allegedly, the Zone is sealed off for good. Or until the next time a writer want to get into it, anyway, because we know Mon-el gets out in the future. So there are a few areas where the writing isn’t the best thing in the world, but for a fast mini-series, it reads pretty well. You could do worse than this if you pick it up in trade format later.

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