Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 8

October 25th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Another week has gone by and once again, I have my plate full. Last month, I dropped Blue Beetle, Legion of Superheroes and Red Hood and the Outlaws. From what I hear from those who have read those, I made the right decision. That leaves ten comics to read and review.

First is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which may no longer tie in with Nightwing. It’s hard to tell, since their “Dick Grayson is a killer” plots appear to be moving in different directions. Still, it’s the best Bat-book of the relaunch by far. Snyder’s Batman seems to embrace just enough sci-fi gadgetry, high-octane action and dickery without going too overboard. I really dug his moment of confronting Nightwing about the suspicions that he was involved in a murder. He takes Dick’s explanation at face value, which makes it seem like a trust moment where he’s cool because they’re family… only we find out that Bruce is a bit of a cock (calling him a dick in presence of Dick doesn’t sound right) and didn’t trust him all that much after all. Dick, used to all of this, plays it off like it’s the usual Bruce thing, but even Bruce seems a little disappointed in himself.

“Yes, I’m a jerk. I know.”

The main story is moving along well enough and I’m cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of the new mayor hopeful character. Of course, I won’t know more about what he’s all about until the next issue. Most definitely sticking.

Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz isn’t so much a bad comic as it’s just weak. I kind of like it, but there’s nothing especially strong about it. There wasn’t too much in terms of strength of the last issue either. It’s cute and I can easily see the potential in the characters, but it’s in this strange middle area. Nothing about it offends me, but nothing about it has me super excited. I’m going to go probation style on this one. Sticking, but I need something to latch onto by the next one or I’m done.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 4

September 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

We’ve reached our fourth week and if you’ve been following the comic blogosphere (whoa, Microsoft Word accepts that as an actual word!), it’s one filled with two instances of controversy that are bundled together. Don’t let it distract you too much, as we still get a really solid week overall. Am I going to be keeping every book? Hell no. But in the end, it’s a strong set.

Now let’s get to the gratuitous boob—I mean, let’s get to the reviews.

We get a sandwich of fantastic and the first slice of bread is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. A far stronger showing than the Detective Comics issue we got a couple weeks ago. Both comics used the same idea of trying to lure in new readers by showing what they know as an intro – in Detective‘s case, Batman vs. Joker mystery and in Batman‘s case, a fight against a bunch of known and lesser known villains – but this one simply gets it out of the way so it can move on to the real story. It’s a great scene that doesn’t so much show Batman as being able to beat a bunch of villains on his own, but able to beat a bunch of villains with a sneaky plan and teamwork. In fact, I just realized that with the reveal from a couple pages later that the opening scene of Batman #1 is a modern-day retelling of the Adam West show’s animated opening.

The opening scene is pretty awesome and does something that, to me, makes a good comic. That is, give us a cool sequence but have it make sense. Snyder decided to give us Batman and Joker vs. a bunch of rogues and goes out of his way to give us an explanation that makes total sense and even slightly hints towards the big cliffhanger. It’s opposite of Secret Avengers #13 where Nick Spencer had the kickass idea of having the ghost of George Washington lead a bunch of soldier ghosts and the Lincoln Monument against Nazi mechs, but when it came time to explain it, the entire issue imploded on its complete lack of logic and fell apart.

Capullo’s facial expressions rule the roost here, especially once Harvey Bullock enters the story. I genuinely enjoy it whenever Bullock and Batman get a scene together, mainly due to their mutual respect and Bullock’s inability to give into Batman’s bullshit. In only a few pages, Harvey becomes so expressive that it’s hard not to love the lug.

If there’s any complaint about this book, it’s that Riddler Mohawk. Hey, remember when Riddler was a detective on the level? Remember how promising that was? Well, nowadays he’s in Arkham with a Mohawk shaped like a green question mark. Goddamn it, DC.

Snyder’s Batman is not only better than the other Batman-starred books of the reboot so far, but it’s also better than his work on Swamp Thing. You better believe I’m sticking.

Then we have Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz. This is a weird one because it’s a good comic that I quite enjoyed, but it’s the least memorable one of the week. I’ve never gotten into Birds of Prey before, but as an introduction and rebooting of Black Canary as a wanted criminal for accidental vigilante murder, it does its job well. There’s fun action, good art and some okay character interaction. Especially that of Keen and the new heroine Starling. It’s cute to see them play off each other and the ending hits us with a curveball in regards to what we expect to see out of their possibilities. The ending also hits us with a mystery and a major sense of doom in terms of what’s been going on with Black Canary in the last fourth of the issue. I’m interested enough to stick and see where this is going.

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This Week in Panels: Week 59

November 7th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to another great week of ThWiP! Lot of fun comic stuff this week. Bruce Wayne made a major announcement that’s going to shake up the DC status quo. Frank Castle met up with a woman whose unmasking is likely to piss off SO MANY hardcore Punisher fans, more so than the Frankenstein fiasco. And panel contributor Was Taters believes the Red Hood image shows that it’s only a matter of time before some crap writer tries to retcon Damian Wayne’s heritage even further.

Amazing Spider-Man #647
Fred Van Lente, Max Fiumara and Various

Avengers Academy #6
Christos Gage and Mike McKone

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 3: Two Faces

September 30th, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Probably the biggest sin the Elseworlds line committed is that for every breakout hit or disaster the line produced, there were two or three bland piles of tripe released. Batman got the most Elseworlds, so he got the most dull stories- it’s simple probability. Today we’re going to start peering at those.

Batman: Two Faces
Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Anthony Williams & Tom Palmer
Focuses on: Batman
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1998
Central premise: Stretches the “duality of criminals/vigilantes” metaphor to its limit via the use of Two-Face, while Batman is also the Joker (oh like you couldn’t guess that from the cover)
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

To be honest, I think the framing device for this story is a bit clever: inside the Iceberg Lounge, a gentleman’s club in late Victorian Era Gotham, Peregrine White and James Gordon swap tales of the bizarre and exciting from their lines of work, sworn to secrecy within the club’s walls. This evening, it’s Gordon’s turn to tell the tale, and he fills in the details on a case that was “the talk of every broadsheet in America” at the time.

There’s a recurring theme in a lot of Elseworlds of putting Batman a) in a Victorian-ish time period (fun note: this story takes place three years before the similarly-timed Gotham by Gaslight, the ur-Elseworld), and b) making him some sort of psychologist or similar skillset. Here he’s a criminologist “and amateur sleuth” of some renown. It doesn’t really have much to do with this story aside from his wanting to help cure the schizophrenia of Harvey Dent, but I just thought I’d point it out, being that this is the first we’re getting to that touches on those themes.

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How I Learned to Love The Cat

September 16th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Before The Hunter came out, Selina’s Big Score was my favorite Darwyn Cooke book. I’ve liked Catwoman for years, but for no good reason. It wasn’t the spandex, because I got over “ooh, hot girl comics!” pretty quickly. It definitely wasn’t the character, as I only really liked her in Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Year One before I read SBC.

I think what it was that made Selina’s Big Score work so much for me was the tone. SBC is this dark, inky, noir-y heist tale. There’s no costumes, not really. It’s just about a woman who needs a big score, the team she gathers to make it work, and the troubles she runs into. More than anything, though, it’s glamourous. The cover promises the kind of heist tale that features fast chases, pretty people, and action, like the finest of ’70s crime cinema.

The insides more than deliver. Characters are introduced by text on black panels, a technique I’ve always loved when I’ve seen it in movies. The graphic novel is divided up into four separate books, making for easy chapter and story breaks.

The first chapter, Selina, sets the stage for the book. Selina had money, but lost it, and now she needs it back. The second chapter, Stark, focuses on the muscle. The third chapter, Slam, gives us the down low on the man chasing Selina. The fourth chapter, Score, gives us the heist itself.

The writing is sharp and fast-paced. Old friends and new enemies are introduced with aplomb, leaving you just enough to get going, but not so much that you can’t apply a bit of imagination into the mix. Cooke doesn’t overload on the first person captions, either. Slam’s section is appropriately hardboiled, Stark’s is cynical and, well, stark, and Selina’s is borderline hopeful. Rather than being a crutch, or another way to show the tortured existence of these heroes as they buckle under several tons of angst, the captions come across as genuine character builders.

Selina’s Big Score crawls across genres, too. Slam’s the tired avenger, the very picture of the good man alone in a hard world. Stark is Parker– impatient, amoral, skilled at violence, and professional to a fault. Chantel is a blaxploitation figure, a good girl in a bad situation, and uses her sass as a defensive mechanism. Jeff is your ’90s action movie criminal, seemingly all flash and recklessness, but with a surprisingly solid core. And Selina? She’s the ever-present femme fatale, but put into a position where she’s the focus, rather than a sidekick or villain.

Cooke mines several decades of American cinema to create the comic book heist story to end all comic book heist stories. It gives Selina Kyle the Year One treatment. It redefines her for a new era, re-contextualizes her as a character, and provides a focus that I feel like wasn’t there before. Pre-SBC, to me, Catwoman was another sexpot in spandex, all cat puns and tortured Jim Balent poses, clothes strategically torn. After? She’s viable, interesting, and has a movie-ready story that puts a lot of other books to shame.

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Fourcast! 15: The Sinister Six

September 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental brings us in as we discuss our three favorite Batman and Spider-Man villains, and just what makes them so great. Esther’s got Bane, Catwoman, and the Riddler, I’ve got Norman Osborn, Black Cat, and Doc Ock. There’s a surprised amount of similarities in our picks, even though we surprised each other.

After that is the Continuity Off to end all Continuity Offs, as Esther explains Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Hawkwoman, and Hawkworld, and I… well, give it a listen.

Grab the Fourcast! via RSS or iTunes.

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May 31st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

When asked about the best significant other to pair up with Batman, the first choice I’ve gotten from nearly everyone I talk to is Catwoman.

I understand the symbolic pairing.  His sense of order and her lawlessness.  His grim quest and her indulgent enthusiasms.  Their two avatars complementing each other.  That really works in the comics.  I can totally get on board with them as the two those two people who can’t keep their hands off each other. 

But in every other way, I just don’t feel the pairing at all.  They don’t work except jumping across rooftops flirting with each other.  Whenever they interact in any other way, all I can think about when I see the two of them together is how he’s too good for her while she is, simultaneously, too good for him.

Professionally, he’s too good for her.  He’s a guy who works tirelessly to rid the streets of crime, to look out for the truly helpless, to make sure that no one else has to feel what he felt as a child.  She’s a klepto with some social skills.

But then, at least she has those social skills.  Good god, imagine dating Bruce Wayne even if you knew he was Batman.

“I don’t know Bruce, what do you think the Penguin is up to?”

“Gee, Bruce, that’s okay.  I don’t mind you missing dinner again.  It’s only been sixteen days in a row.”

“Wow.  That’s a picture of a really cute kid.  So how did you get estranged from this one?”

Even aside from all of that, honestly, what a boring, judgmental, withdrawn, sullen, self-righteous, and humorless prick Batman is.  I love him.  I got into comics reading Batman.  But he’s a trial to be around, and I can’t ignore that.

Selina Kyle, on the other hand, has consistently shown, wit, humor, empathy, charm and a joie de vivre that would make her a fantastic date and a great girlfriend.

So while these two are equally weighted and eternally paired in the public consciousness, and while they really do know how to steam up a fight scene, I’ve never been a fan.  You?

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‘Sexy’ is Performance Art

May 17th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I’d like to start by thanking everyone for their responses to my post last week about how sexiness is used in the comics industry.

Believe it or not, that post was going to be longer.  I was going to add an extraneous bit about how Batman or the Joker would never be shown in the poses that Harley Quinn or Catwoman were in on the covers of those books, and how that was an example of sexism.

Now I can’t decide whether it is or not.  Not because I think that Batman would be posed the way that Oracle was on any of the covers of her comic, but because the artists, when drawing female characters one way and male characters another, are simply following the rules of society in general.

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Comic Book Morality

February 21st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The latest issue of Batman/Superman has Batman announcing his absolute control over Gotham and much of the world.  This doesn’t surprise me.  Batman is self-righteous, is a control freak, is someone who balances, not always well, his sense of responsibility with his sense of entitlement.

What does surprise me, at least as far as the character is concerned, is that he does this after brutally beating Catwoman and Nightwing.  Considering the fact that the character is emotionally involved with both of them, that comes off as him beating his girlfriend and his son.

Why this sudden reign of terror?  Because he acquired the powers of Superman.  I’ve said before that Superman/Batman is the comic to watch, and I meant it.  I mean it now.  I just find it interesting that this comic follows a very common literary idea: excess leads to disaster.  Read the rest of this entry �

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And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

November 24th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

I love YouTube. Did I ever tell you that? Well, I do. There’s so much great stuff to be found within.

The other day, I went on a voyage into its dark underbelly to discover some rather interesting superhero-related commercials. Some of it is too great not to share.

It all started when someone brought up this odd commercial about Ralph Nader discussing kryptonite. I haven’t the slightest clue what this is even about and I suspect nobody does other than Nader himself.

That opened the floodgates.

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