Sunday, June 28, 2009

The League Talks Comics - Batwoman, GL and Superman

Editor's Note: Leaguers, I'm going to go back to occasionally talking comics around here. Feel free to ignore these posts, friends and family who don't care!

I'm also going to mostly focus on suggestions for stuff I liked. It'll save us all a lot of time.

Detective Comics #854
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by JH Williams and Cully Hamner; Cover by JH Williams : Variant Cover by JG Jones

We're on issue #854 of Detective Comics, where Batman made his first appearance in 1939ish in issue #29. So, this is the first issue in quite sometime given over to someone other than Batman, or people standing around talking about/ thinking about Batman.

Instead, after 3 years of getting our chain yanked by DC with its sporadic appearances of the "all new" Batwoman (That's Batwoman, not Batgirl), DC finally committed to the character and gave her a chance to make it on her own. Apparently DC is also trying to make amends with novelist/ comic scribe Greg Rucka, with whom it seems things got crosswise during the "52" event of 06' - 07', by giving him "Detective" and then, just to be extra nice, assigning artist JH Williams III (of Batman and Promethea fame) to the storyline.

With karate she'll kick your ass, from here, to right over there...

Longtime readers will know I'm a fan of Rucka's work on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, OMAC, and I spent a lot of time in Costa Rica reading his "Queen & Country" comics. Rucka does fetishize a certain type of female character, as evidenced by his similar treatment of Renee Montoya from Gotham Central/ The Question, Queen and Country and now Batwoman. Highly competent, jaded, and a personal life in shambles. And maybe he needs to shake that off a bit, which he's forced to do when he's handling characters he didn't manage from scratch (and which he handles quite well).

There's nothing wrong with the narrative here, and, in fact, Rucka does an amazing job of setting the stage for who Kathy Kane is and where we're headed. But Detective Comics just jumped page count and increased its price by 25% with a Question back-up feature by Rucka, that will probably remind readers a bit too much of how similar the two characters actually are.

I'm counting on the back-up feature intersecting with the main feature at some point. We'll see. But both characters have been tied up with Rucka's ongoing "Religion of Crime" storylines at different times.

I'd be remiss in discussing the new Batwoman as character if I didn't point out, like everyone else has, that she is part of DC's efforts at representing the world "as is", in that Kathy Kane has been established as a lesbian. It's not an overarching part of the plot, but its not hard to see that DC was trying to spread its wings a bit with the character intended to be part of its mainstream offerings. Which, I just realized, means that Detective Comics #854 features not one, but two gay heroes.

The art: Is phenomenal. I really don't know what else to say about JH Williams, other than that the man is one of the most wickedly talented people working in the comics business. His style is vastly different from, say, Frank Quitely, but I feel he's in the same category, and it'd be nice if he were a bit better recognized/ had greater influence on the comic art community. I suggest going here and then clicking "view preview" to see his stuff.

Green Lantern #42
Written by Geoff Johns: Art and Cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion; Variant Cover by Rodolfo Migliari

This is more an endorsement of Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi's work on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, two books I enjoy immensely. Johns and Tomasi have both been using the serial and ongoing nature of the books to lead to an event in "Blackest Night", which is hitting at the end of the summer. (And if you're reading GL but not GLC, you are crazy. Seriously.)

Johns and Tomasi have managed to greatly expand the conceits of the GL books of decades past, and have introduced a spectrum of colors and their varying allegiances, roles, etc... And its been a fascinating read.

The last few issues of GL have focused upon the Guardians' attempts to negotiate with Larfleeze, a being who seized the Orange Lantern (think Gollum, but with the power of a thousand GL's) millions of years ago.

As a single issue, it would be incredibly difficult to walk into GL #42, so The League recommends picking up with the Sinestro Corps stuff in trade paperback.

Every once in a while when you're reading a comic, it just clicks, and it becomes abundantly clear that the comic you're reading is going to be remembered and become essential reading for decades. It may eventually spawn movies, etc... And, most certainly, that's the case right now with Green Lantern, provided the whole ending for Blackest Night doesn't crater.

Superman #689

Written by James Robinson; Art by Renato Guedes and José Wilson Magalhães; Cover by Andrew Robinson

Like Batman disappearing from the pages of Detective, Superman hasn't actually appeared in "Superman" for the past few months as the "World of Krypton" mega-story has taken over the Superman wing of the DCU. Clark Kent/ Kal-El is off planet at the moment (a move I confess to thinking was nuts when I first heard it), and has left Metropolis in the hands of a fellow alien, Mon-El. Meanwhile, Action Comics is now featuring an all-new Flamebird and Nightwing, a Kandorian super-team hunting down Phantom Zone criminals.

Mon-El has appeared in the Superman-related comics since the early 1960's, first in Superboy, and then in the Legion of Super-Heroes. From the planet Daxam (and actually named Lar Gand, but given a Kryptonian name by a young Superboy) Mon-El has similar abilities to a Kryptonian. However, unlike Kryptonians, Daxamites are affected by the simple element of lead the way Superman might be affected by Kryptonite. In today's continuity, he was found by a young Clark Kent who was forced to place him into the Phantom Zone to save his life.

Freed from the Zone and given a temporary cure, he's taken Superman's place in protecting not just Metropolis, but, as this issue explores, Earth. Its a great story, showing how this very human alien relates to the planet and is trying to make the most of his time.

I'm not as enamored by Robinson's writing as some, and some scenes, such as The Guardian's defense of Mon-El to Morgan Edge feel simply rushed. Like Robinson had an item he felt he wanted to check off his list of narrative moments, but didn't quite know how to frame it, and so a fairly simple speech cleared up an entire storyline. It seemed almost quaint in this era of televised punditry. It also felt oddly like a call back to Superman's defense of Krypto circa issue 680.

But the issue is an overall enjoyable read, and a great beat in this ever-expanding storyline of World of Krypton, as it runs through the Superman titles.

Sure, its odd that DC has decided that Clark Kent himself isn't the star of his self-titled comic at the moment, but I'm enjoying the feeling of a broad, epic vision for the Superman comics at this moment. Superman's displacement doesn't feel artificial as it did in "Superman: Exile", and I feel that Robinson's stewardship on the title is sound.

Plus, I like the artwork.

That's it for the moment. I doubt this will be a weekly thing, but doing some comic-related writing felt like a good idea today.


NTT said...

Has Geoff Johns finally given up his man crush and fetish for Superman Prime? Even if Geoff Johns was assigned to do a Johna Hex, Bat-Mite and G.I. Robot, he'll try to shoehorn in Superman Prime somehow.

The League said...

Well, I haven't seen Superboy Prime around much of late, but Johns DID work in GI Robot and the Creature Commandos into Action Comics.

Honestly, I've sort of lost track of Superboy Prime, but he might show up in Blackest Night. He was wrapped up in Countdown, and I've washed that trainwreck from the old mental repository.

Aside from GL, the Johns project to look out for will probably be "Superman: Secret Origin".

NTT said...

I believe Superboy Prime is in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds which is still ongoing. Even my love of the Legion and George Perez cannot conquer my overwhelming distaste for Superboy Prime. I passed.

The League said...

I forgot. Right. That @#$% series still isn't wrapped, so I forgot.

I actually enjoyed the issues of that series that appeared to date. Its chaotic, well-drawn Legionny goodness. Overlaying Superboy Prime over the top of it sort of makes sense, and Johns has consistently kept him in character, so do with that what you will.

But, yeah, if you don't care for Superboy Prime, then best to steer clear, as he's on just about every other page.

Simon MacDonald said...

JH Williams art in Detective was pretty amazing. I've always been a fan of his art though so I'm a bit biased. I really like Rucka's scripting but I'm sick of this "Crime Bible" stuff. I just don't see a street level character like Batwoman taking on an alien crime syndicate like Intergang. Hopefully it'll wrap up quick and he'll move on to other more interesting stuff.

NTT said...

I guess my issue with Superman Prime is that he's not that compelling of a character to get so much play in so many titles. Petulance instantiated in a superhuman being capable of destroying worlds gets tedious. I've heard that Superman Prime's personality is an allegory to the more deviant comic fanboys out there and I can kinda see that with his psychotic nostalgia for a golden age but how really fascinating is that? Didn't everyone have enough of it in Infinite Crisis? Was he really that important to use in the Sinestro Corps Wars? I don't know.

JH Williams art is incredible. His workin Promethea was mind-blowing. I really hope the his run gets collected because I don't feel like picking up the monthly.

The League said...

I think Rucka has some plan for the Crime Bible stuff that's been unnecessarily stretched out by his tumultuous relationship with DC. Depite having read 52 and his Question series and Final Crisis: Revelations, I sort of feel like "okay, I think I get it. But where are we going with this?" I'm hoping the Detective run will just seal it up for a while. The Crime Bible stuff just feels unfocused at this point.

I may have been the one championing Superboy Prime as whiny fanboy. I firmly believe that to have been the case in Infinite Crisis (and, oh, the irony that so many whiny fanboys didn't get the joke), and to some extent in the Final Crisis issues. But, yes, at times its tough to read yet another word balloon of SP. Which, in some ways, makes him unbearable, but an ideal villain.