1.27.10 Reviews (Part 3)

Batman & Robin #7 (DC): Thank the heavens for Cam Stewart, because I was getting ready to drop this title. It’s still not up to the level of an artist like Frank Quitely, or even the offbeat appeal of Frazer Irving, but it’s a welcome improvement nonetheless. Grant Morrison scatters his trademark allusory references around, some of which are enjoyable, and some of which I’m just not in the mood for. Sometimes I just want a well told story and don’t feel like puzzling together all of the cryptic clues that sometimes lead places, but sometimes appear just for the sake of their own inclusion. Stewart’s figures are occasionally a little plump and cartoony, but for the most part the action sequences are fantastic. He manages to even squeeze in what looks to be a backpacking Morrison in one scene, and I really adored the level of coordination between Batman and Squire that drives the visuals. The Beefeater is a fitting nod and I enjoyed the mention of “Basement 101,” referencing the Orwellian "Room 101" from 1984. As Damian floats in a Hoth inspired Bacta Tank, I enjoyed the verbal interplay between Talia and Alfred. The lost (last?) Lazarus Pit is a likely plot device considering all of the players at play, and it will be interesting to see what exactly emerges, because I’m betting it ain’t gonna’ be Bruce Wayne given what we know about the Omega Effect. The mention of “the twice-daughter of something” is a nice nod to Batwoman and the Religion of Crime, but honestly her appearance feels quite random, and the switched word balloons between her and Dick don’t help matters much. What’s the blue crackling energy thing on Dick’s hand? It just… appeared. When you step back from this, the story feels kind of thin and I don’t really understand the greater significance in the mythos, but I am enjoying it at face value. I like the parts, from the clever writing to the clean visuals, but the whole just feels inexplicably sort of “eh.” Let’s call it a Grade B+.

Detective Comics #861 (DC): Like Philip Tan following Frank Quitely on Batman & Robin, Jock is put in the unenviable position of following JH Williams III on Detective Comics, and the results are somewhat mixed. He offers a more straightforward action oriented style than the introspective quality that imbued Williams’ panels with such strong underlying meaning. On the surface, it appears done well enough, but upon close inspection some things bothered me. The good news is that, at times, Jock reaches a level of Mignola influenced penciling, with blocky angular edges and thick inks lusciously drowning the page. On the down side, the art is wonky and disproportionate in spots, such as the reaction shots of the cops at one of the vics missing her lower jaw. The cops have weird looking distorted and elongated facial tics that reminded me of the Nazis melting when they opened The Ark of The Covenant. On top of that, sorry Greg Rucka, but you’d think Gotham cops would be used to things much worse than that by now. I don’t think it would be so shocking that they’d be left speechless with their mouths agape. These are hardened veteran detectives living in a town where The Joker has run wild for years. That said, the GCPD briefing room is a nice cheat to bring readers up to speed on the plot already in motion. I also liked the bit with the infrared imaging used to set up the dual threads running; we learn about “Cutter” in the guise of bringing the detectives up to speed, all while Batwoman is preparing to confront him directly. Kate appears to get stabbed twice, once in the neck, and then once in the shoulder. Both wounds look pretty bad, like they got through the body armor and drew blood, and then she just… walks away? Isn’t she wounded? Isn’t her blood all over the crime scene? Wouldn’t CSU run it and discover her identity? How did the killer escape? How did Captain Sawyer see Kate in the trees? I don’t know. I just kept feeling like I was getting bogged down in these annoying pragmatic details that hadn’t been thought through or explained away. Another irritating part was the portrayal of Bette Kane. I like that Rucka continues to include her, but in Frank Quitely’s run she was portrayed as a wealthy celebutante. Here she is suddenly a younger, more grounded, more responsible, college student, and the altered depiction feels suddenly incongruous. I like the notion of her being a potential target and it makes me wonder how clever Greg Rucka will be. I wonder if that meeting is all just a trap that Kate (with or without Bette’s knowledge) has set for “Cutter?” I’m hoping it’s that, otherwise the killer selecting her as a victim is just too convenient and coincidental to be believable. The big two page spread? Yeah, not as impressive as it thinks it is. It hammers a very simple plot point home in an over the top style, feeling like self-indulgent wasted space in the process. Instead of being the best Bat-book on the stands by miles, this is simply now one of the maybe kinda’ good-ish ones. How quickly we’ve fallen from a high Grade A to a very lackluster and middling Grade B.

I also picked up;

Afrodisiac HC (AdHouse Books)


At 7:37 PM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Are we gonna see a review for Afrodisiac?

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Short answer? I think so.

Originally, I would have said "hell yes!" but then I read it over the weekend and was a tad underwhelmed. In my memory, the shorts I'd seen in Project: Superior, etc. were HILARIOUS - but this go round it struck me as just kinda' mildly haha.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

The Project Superior tid-bits were the only ones I remember seeing...until this recent release. Too bad about the underwhelming nature of this new one.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Yeah, there was some stuff in Meathaus, Popgun, etc., but I always remember them being bust-a-gut funny. I still enjoyed it, but didn't laugh that often. Not sure if I'd built it up too much in my mind or what... The craft on display is still ridiculously good, but I wanted more funny.


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