6.10.09 Reviews - Part 1
The Unwritten #2 (DC/Vertigo): Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to put this book together remarkably well. There’s a ton of effort being poured into the book, from the free floating prose, to the great panel layouts, and the faux web searches and chat sessions – yet I still feel bored. I’m sorry, I know the book has its fans, and some friends convinced me to give the book another shake after my review of the first issue, but I can’t shake the sense of ennui it instills in me. I do enjoy the craft of it like I said, I appreciate the random bits of literary trivia and calculated blurring of the line between reality and fantasy, but it’s confounding to me that everyone seems to know more than they let on, compared to Tom – and the audience. Instead of being intrigued, I’m feeling frustrated. I’m probably in the minority declaring that I’ll take a pass on the series, but it’s crafted well and has some interesting qualities. A probably not for me… Grade B.
Batman #687 (DC): It’s exciting to see the official ascension of Dick Grayson to Batman, though editorialistically… err, something, this is confusing, as it seems to all pre-date what’s happened in Batman & Robin #1 last week. Here we see Dick making the transition from Nightwing garb to the Bat mantle, and Tim still as Robin, with Damian mentioned, but mostly off panel. There are some touching callbacks to the seminal “Death in the Family” story, sufficiently somber shots of the glass cases housing the empty uniforms, and Alfred tearing up as he refers to Bruce as his son, but the narrative seems out of balance. I would have liked to see much more of Dick setting up his new HQ, the relationships with both Alfred and Damian, a conversation with Jim Gordon (does he even know it’s Dick behind the cowl?), and the impact on the trifecta including Clark and Diana, which upholds much of the DCU. Instead we get silly scenes of Scarecrow on a bridge, a Heat style bank heist, and a going nowhere bit about Doctor Phosphorous. I did enjoy Dick’s recurring dismissal of Damian’s attitude (“Get in the car.”), but overall this is a boring denouement to the first issue. Judd Winick and Ed Benes offer something passable, but not very rousing. It shows promise in theory, but lacks pizzazz in execution. Grade B-.
Buck Rogers #1 (Dynamite Entertainment): I suppose it’s considered poor form these days to call a weak book weak, but this is so… painfully straightforward. I grew up in the 80’s, so the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers is a part of my Saturday morning rerun DNA (though my Buck Rogers was Captain William “Buck” Rogers, why the book insists on calling him Anthony Rogers I don’t know), along with Erin Gray (whose been a seemingly permanent fixture on the con circuit as long as I’ve been going) as Wilma Deering, the cheap looking aesthetic of the Hawks and the whole Easter Island arc, and even that (would probably be hoary and silly today, so I’ve resisted re-watching it to avoid spoiling the nostalgia) space vampire episode, which was one of the scariest things I’d seen up until that point. This new series doesn’t do anything wrong per se, unless you consider being boring a crime in today’s marketplace. It’s a shame too because superficially it’s got all of the trappings that I’d usually like. There’s the slick production values of Dynamite, the Cassaday covers (and for simple curb appeal, it doesn’t get a whole lot better on the stands than a Cassaday cover), and a competent creative team, but it falls flat. This character archetype doesn’t do anything that Hal “Highball” Jordan hasn’t done already, and the choppy scene transitions left me scratching my head – I guess the crash scene turning into the space scene was a blackout(?), but without any sort of visual cue how am I supposed to infer that? Overall, it’s feeling like a pricey ($3.50) conglomeration of the watered down remnants, in both content and approach, of better books. I’ll just stick with Fear Agent (space thrills!), The Lone Ranger (reimaging of an old property!), and a dash of Dan Dare (swagger and charm!) thrown in for good measure. Grade C.
Red Robin #1 (DC): I have some faith in Christopher Yost after his stints co-writing New X-Men and (currently) X-Force, so I thought I’d give this a spin (while resisting bottomless french fry jokes, heh). Despite my love for the Bat Family, I’m a little confused right from jump. It seems that despite its Elseworlds origins, deliberate effort is being made lately to make Kingdom Come official canon and to drive current continuity toward that story. However, as I recall, Dick Grayson was behind the Red Robin mask, not Tim Drake. So, it’s odd to find Tim here. I find it equally odd that Dick would essentially push Tim out of the roster to make room for Damian as Robin. It’s an out of character move, considering the same thing happened to him and he’s always been the more sensitive one, not to mention his friendship with Tim. Perhaps it’s tough love, in his heart knowing his own move to Nightwing was ultimately healthy, but it seems he could have facilitated the next step for Tim in a more supportive way. I do like that he doesn’t automatically “graduate” to the Nightwing role. While Batman is inherently an idea that Dick can fill, Nightwing was intrinsically Dick (even down to the name, which reflects his unique relationship to Superman). I also like the way that Tim reacts to this and creates the Red Robin persona as a way of dealing with his anger over Bruce’s death and the isolation he feels at being excluded from Dick’s plans. While there are some interesting story threads flailing around, Ramon Bachs' art isn’t helping matters much. There are isolated flashes of brilliance that bring to mind the thick lines of say, David Lapham or Ryan Kelly, but the majority of the panels are pretty wonky, with bubbly Bimmers, disgusting Ducatis, and downright Liefeldian lower legs and feet. Tim seems to ask himself a lot of rhetorical questions in order for the exposition to begin. What’s then revealed is a really formulaic approach with no real hook. Grade C.