This Week in Panels: Week 125

February 12th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

The This Week in Panels concept is easy. Me and some other comic readers (and this includes you if you’re ever interested) take every new comic we’ve read from the week and cut out 99% of it, leaving only a lone panel. This panel is meant to illustrate what the comic’s all about. Sell what you’re reading without giving too much away. Catch someone’s eye. Explain it with one image.

125 is a nice round number that feels like something important should happen. We have a full crew this week in me, David Brothers, Was Taters, Space Jawa and Jody, so that works out. Taters supplied the Brave and the Bold panel, which is astounding. She’s just sad that this has to be the final issue of the series.

Batman and Robin #6
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16
Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett and Dan Davis

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This Week in Panels: Week 107

October 9th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

blah blah blah panels blah David Brothers, Was Taters blah Space Jawa.

On with the show.

Action Comics #2
Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Brent Anderson

Animal Man #2
Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

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Compare and Contrast

May 7th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The Battle for the Cowl so far is comprised of three main books, numerous associated mini-series, and a few scattered one-shot tie-ins.  I’m not strongly affected either way by most of these, but this week two of those one-shots loom large in my mind.

The first is an example of the perfect tie-in.  It shows us something we never would have seen if we were following a conventional narrative, and offers us something truly different from the norm while still maintaining the tone of the world for which it was created.  That one was Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum.  Written by David Hine, it takes us on a tour of Arkham Asylum, and for once focuses on the less gruesome aspects of the institution.  Jeremiah Arkham narrates the story, not in the usual hard-boiled tone taken by the Gotham crowd, but with sincere sadness that he hasn’t been able to help the inmates. 

While we sense that he is somewhat unhinged himself, he’s an eccentric and an idealist, not the usual film-noir lunatic.  He finds picks a few inmates who pose no threat, and leads them out of the ruined structure.  In the end, before the final, worrying sting, he expresses the hope that he can rebuild the asylum so that it lives up to its name – so that it can be a true asylum for those who are unable to survive in the conventional world.  It’s refreshing, it’s sobering, and it’s creative.

Sadly, I only really got to thinking about how excellent it was while reading Battle for the Cowl: The Network.  Well, now I know something about myself, at least.  Pissiness is a bigger motivator than honest admiration.

So let’s get to it! 

Well, first thing’s first.  Huntress’s costume has been changed back to a glorified bikini.  And why?  Because the promotional poster for the event, drawn by Tony Daniel, has her back in her Jim Lee costume.  I don’t see why this would necessitate a costume change in the actual book any more than the ‘The Real Power In The DCU’ poster would necessitate putting every woman in the DCU in a white evening dress, but I guess that’s how they’re going to play it.

Honestly?  I didn’t even notice the costume change.  A girl fighting crime in a bikini doesn’t catch my eye anymore.  What made me notice was the characters in the story can’t stop picking at the new outfit.  Batgirl, still with a perfect command of the English language, mentions it once.  Oracle mentions it later.  Both talk about how impractical it is.

I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s a jab by writer at a mandated costume change.  Maybe he’s was trying to have his cake and eat it, too, by putting Huntress in a two-piece bathing suit and still snarking about it.  I’m not sure who made the decisions to regress Huntress sartorially. 

I just know that the decision was also made to regress her personally.  When the villain announces that he will start murdering two hostages if the heroes don’t murder one, Huntress pulls her crossbow and is about to take a hostage out when Batgirl knocks her aside.  This is the deal-breaker for me.  Cass is back on the moral high ground, but she had to knock Helena off it to get there.  Never mind that in continuity we haven’t seen Huntress kill in years.  Never mind that we’ve never seen her kill that casually.  In the end, the plot of this book involves the worst mistake a team book can make: cutting off one character at the knees to make another character look good.  That’s never the way to go.

In short: Buy Battle for the Cowl:Arkham Asylum.  Leave Battle for the Cowl: The Network on the shelf.  And stop making women fight in swimwear.

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Huntress: Getting Past The Crucifix and the Crossbow

March 11th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

For me, Huntress has always been one of DC’s least accessible characters.  It seemed like she was given half a helping of costume, two helpings of temper, and sent in whenever Batman needed to tell someone they had ‘crossed a line.’  Helena Bertinelli could kick, punch, toss off one-liners, and work with a cape, but she was more like a collection of behaviors than a person.

That’s why Huntress: Year One was such a pleasant surprise.  Though it is a Year One book, the mini-series follows Helena from childhood up through her assumption of the Huntress persona.  It examines her deep religious convictions, her time bouncing between mafia families after her parents are killed, and her instinctive feminism.  What emerges from these examinations is a young woman who  is surprisingly thoughtful, though still in possession of the smoldering anger that characterizes Huntress in regular continuity.

It’s the characterization of Huntress, and of those who inhabit her world, that makes this book really interesting.  Through Helena we meet various mob bosses, young heirs, mistresses, wives, and hangers-on, none of them boring.  Some surprise the reader only with the depths to which they will sink.  Others take unexpected turns.  All of them have a heft that’s unusual for comic-book characters.

Another strength of Huntress: Year Oneis its overt feminism.  Unlike most comics, Huntress doesn’t confine its feminism to a wronged woman beating up a sexist man.  It considers an adolescent’s first few quibbles with male authority and gendered language.  It explores the compromises made by women and men living in male-dominated social structures like the mafia.  And it takes a refreshingly unsentimental look at female victimhood.  This book doesn’t frame its victims as martyrs meant to set the plot in motion, or provocateurs who are complicit in their own suffering.  Nor does it imbue female suffering with any kind of glorification.  Victimhood is a shitty way to live, not an operatic finish to a pretty story.

The true test of a mini-series is if it leaves you wanting more, and Huntress did that for me.  The continuity would be tough to hammer out, of course, but in some ways continuing the comic would take fewer contrivances than a lot of other series.   The figures in Helena’s life are so fleshed out that they seem able to carry on the story simply by being themselves.

All six issues of the Huntress: Year One mini are out.  It is also available as a softcover trade paperback.

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