12.23.2009

12.23.09 Reviews (Part 1)

Detective Comics #860 (DC): JH Williams III recently let slip on his web-site’s message board that the second arc of this originally planned 12 issue run might not appear in Detective Comics, and that DC was working on setting up “another venue,” pending a “big announcement” from the company. CBR confirmed that story this morning. Jock will still be coming in and doing his arc with Greg Rucka, and then it appears likely that the continuing adventures of Kate Kane will appear in a new solo Batwoman title. In the long run, I don’t really care I guess, all 12 issues will probably be collected as one package since there’s so much popularity and critical acclaim, but it is kinda’ stupid that the first half of the story is in one title, the second half in another title, with a “fill in” artist interrupting the halves. DC’s logic of not wanting to “damage the Batman brand” with a comic about a “lesbian socialite vigilante” (and good god, I hate that description, I mean, if that’s all you can reduce Kate Kane’s character to, you’re really missing the point of the series, DC marketing chaps) in her own solo book in the first place seems weak. Wouldn’t the liberal fanboy fascination with lipstick lesbians, coupled with a great creative team, on top of a notoriously high-selling new #1, have overcome all of the homosexual backlash DC claims to have wrongly anticipated? In short, this feels like a poor publishing move, with an even weaker explanation when they’re pressed on it. They were too chicken shit to provide her with her own damn title in the first place, took the low risk route, and now that it’s proven successful, want to cash in on a new #1 while interest is high, despite interrupting the organic flow of a run. Way to plan, DC. Way to stick by your creators with a potentially “controversial” character. At the end of the day though, I’ll happily purchase this great team on a great character, regardless of the largely superficial title of the book. Now that my tirade is over, this issue wraps up Kate Kane’s origin story. It’s a great issue that focuses on the realism of the interplay between Kate and her dad. It was a big draw for me last issue and it continues here. Kate has a great father who is emotionally mature and forward thinking; instead of pushing back on her unconventional desires and limiting her development, he always finds a way to encourage and support, whether morally or physically in the form of training, equipment, or identifiable mission parameters that will measure and attain success. It’s such a structured environment and it differentiates her from other folks in the Bat Family. Not only is it her actual biological father, as opposed to a stand-in or adopted caretaker, but her father succinctly points out that (unlike Bruce) the mission can’t be about bringing dead family members back or she’s already failed. Dad plays the hybrid role of Oracle/Microchip/Alfred all in one, and antes up with SAS operatives and FBI favors, training in hand to hand combat, weapons, urban warfare, academics, and forensics, all depicted in a killer two page spread that is superbly efficient. It’s remarkable to me that Kate’s chosen lifestyle is somehow celebratory, until the cold truths about Elizabeth are revealed, early on she isn’t depicted as a lost soul tragically doomed to a mission of revenge, but adorned with Kaballistic symbols of strength and power. I think it’s great that today’s “Favorite 13 of 2009” post was about this book, because hopefully the double tap emphasis on this outstanding collaboration will urge any stragglers who’ve missed it to get on board with one of the upper echelon of superhero comics currently being produced. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #519 (Marvel): Matt Fraction gives us a look at asymmetrical warfare being waged on multiple fronts. There’s a psychic assault on the X-Men’s leaders, power and sustainability issues addressed by the Science Team, and a nano-invasion discovered while struggling with a vacuum of leadership due to the absence of Beast, who himself is enduring a crisis of purpose. Yup, Matt's juggling some plot threads here. It’s interesting that this relatively small scale set of issues on this little island nation are a representation of society’s problems as a whole. Some of the psychic physics seem implausible, but I guess suspending reality is partially the reason people read escapist literature in the first place. Magneto turns to an interesting person for assistance and is adorned with some interesting vocabulary, infusing “diaspora” into the mix, but his lines seem largely out of character. He’s lost the condescending intellect in his voice that made him so compelling in the first place. Dodson’s art is certainly better than Land’s when it comes to individual figure work, but his backgrounds tend to be sparse to non-existent, typically a monochromatic backdrop devoid of any line work. At the end of it all, Scott proves to not only be a tactician in the field, a strategist leading his people, but also a psychic combatant who’s picked up tricks from his many friends and lovers along the way. Fraction also gives us a little Jed Bartlett homage with the simple line: “What’s next?” Grade B.

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