Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Which I Talk About Some Comics

editor's note: I've seen a surprising spike in traffic thanks to the link from When Fangirls Attack. Welcome to all new visitors! Please feel free to poke around, ask questions, take off your shoes, etc...

Poe #2
Writer: J. Barton Mitchell
Art: Dean Kotz

Obviously I'm a bit biased, what with knowing JackBart and all, but I was very pleased with Poe #2. The story took a supernatural turn I wasn't expecting, there's elements of Poe's work peppering the comic without weighing it down or feeling like a wink, and, honestly, its got an intriguing mystery that's a page turner.

I am also happy to report that there's a "blink and you'll miss it" shout out to a Leaguer or two in the comic.

Dean Kotz's style suits the mood for this story very well.

The comic comes in two different covers, so keep your eyes peeled if you pick up issues #1 and #2, so you don't think you're picking up different comics.

But I can safely recommend the book as a smart, well-characterized, well-paced read. For JackBart's first comic on the shelves, he's outdoing many of his veteran counterparts, and certainly bringing his own perspective to the work.

Color me impressed!

Power Girl #4
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Amanda Conner

Power Girl has long been a point of contention in the comics-sphere. Her origin was a mess until 2006. She was sorta Supergirl/ sorta not. But mostly she became characterized as the poorly tempered hero with the cleavage-bearing costume.

Whether bloggers had actually ever read any comics featuring Power Girl or not, the character design was held up routinely as "what's wrong with comics". And given how many artists and writers handled the character, it was hard to argue the point.

However, the new series takes Power Girl in one of the two directions in which Power Girl seems to work best. Position 1 is: capable leader or the JSA, with a short fuse, but a decisive "let's take the fight to them" sort of attitude. It works in a team book, but in a solo project, Power Girl works well as Position #2: She's great at being a superhero, but is sort of sit-com-ish about everything else.

Power Girl takes on a big challenge

I adore Amanda Conner's work (also currently being seen in her Supergirl strip in "Wednesday Comics"), but have not not always been a fan of her writer-husband and his partner, Justin Gray. I'd initially skipped the first issue, but eventually decided to give the series a try.

I have to give kudos to Conner, Palmiotti and Gray. I wasn't sure how things would shake out on this series after the first three issues, but #4 tells me what this team wants to do with the book, and I'm in.

They're not resorting to an endless bunch of boob jokes, and there's a lot of love for the character they see as cranky, messy, and probably a lot unfocused. There's not an attempt to make the character a "bad ass", a la everything Warren Ellis ever wrote. Nor is she a Mary Sue, filling in for a 12 year-old's fantasy version of themselves.

"Fun" was a dirty word in superhero comics a few years ago, but I think when you see a project like "Power Girl", you can have a little hope that there's an audience out there for a different tone in their superhero reading.

Potential pitfalls include:
-Tying into grim'n'gritty storylines in which Power Girl might appear (see: JSA vs. Kobra)
-Deciding Power Girl doesn't have enough pathos and steering toward much of the rest of superherodom
-The current team leaving and a new writer going back to "Power Girl's boobs" jokes (ie: laugh at, not with)

I'm pleased to say I'm recommending the title.

Batgirl #1
Writer: Brain Q. Miller
Art: Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott

Spoilers below.

He he. Spoilers.

Dear DC: On your new Batgirl comic. No.

Let me confess, there's a certain drudgery to reading a certain percentage of Batman comics. At the end of the day, there are only so many things a Batman can actually do as he wages a war against colorful villains in what has got to be the worst @#$%ing place to live in the Western Hemisphere.

What separates the great writers from everyone else at DC Comics may be whether or not they can pull off an interesting Batman story in this day and age, while keeping the stories in an environment in which the most fantastic thing about Batman is that nobody in Gotham has pieced together that the traumatized billionaire with the technology company might also be the Bat-guy with all the crazy technology.

These days, I'm giving Morrison an "A" in this area, Dini a "B-" on Streets of Gotham, Rucka a "B", Winick a "C-" and everyone else, a solid "D".

There is absolutely no compelling reason to read the new Batgirl series.

Batgirl is the character formerly known as Spoiler, btw (if you read comics and didn't put that together, well, you need your nerd-card revoked). I still remember when Spoiler showed up the first time. She was the teen-aged daughter of Injustice League villain "Clue Master", a Riddler-like villain who occasionally annoyed Batman. To get back at her old man, Stephanie Brown put on a mask and tried to ruin his day. She became the girlfriend of the 3rd Robin.

Brown would later become famous as the "failed Robin", who was supposedly killed by Bat-villain Black Mask. DC, reacting to their fans calling shenanigans, brought Brown back. She was Spoiler again.

For a #1, this comic is so tied up in recent (post Silver-Age) Bat-Comics, it feels like what it is: another unnecessary splinter off the Batman franchise that absolutely nobody was asking for (see: Red Robin and Gotham Sirens). Were Stephanie Brown a new character and not tied up with what has to be almost 20 years of Batman history, I would be more enthusiastic (see: Rucka's current take on Batwoman in Detective Comics).

Miller, in the first issue, assumes we've all already been following Brown for two decades. There's no explanation of the all-important origin. The passing of costumes from Cassandra (The Batgirl who made fandom say 'Meh") Cain to Brown is contrived and nonsensical (she walks off, presumably, in her underwear?).

Little details also make no sense. In the first few pages, the all-new Batgirl lands, breaking a guy's knee without warning, after destroying his car, because people are racing for car titles?

Judd Winick's "Batman" shouldn't feel light years more competent than anyone's Batbook, but that's the case here.

Also, DC: Stop it with the blond teen-aged heroines.

Your three-main franchise teen-girl spin-offs will now all appear identical when handled by 50% of your pencillers. Not all teen-aged girls are blond. Many of them aren't even anglo. Just a little something to ponder.

Also, how many people's houses is a wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon really going to break into? There's got to be somebody tracking this.


Simon MacDonald said...

I agree with you there is no reason to keep reading the Batgirl title. I flipped through it at the shop last week to validate the suspicions that Batgirl really is Stephanie Brown. Other than that it was cool to see some moments between Barbara and Jim Gordon. However, that just made me with for Birds of Prey again! Hopefully this title will die quickly and they'll find something better for Barbara to do than tutor a new Batgirl.

The League said...

There's just so much mediocre Bat-stuff out there. Why DC couldn't wait on this title until they had something worth reading is absolutely beyond me.

I read BoP for a pretty long stretch, and I'd also welcome its return (under the right conditions).