5.12.10 Reviews (Part 1)
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (DC): For me, artist Chris Sprouse and long time inker Karl Story are the real draw here. They deliver an outstanding performance that seems to be informed by early Joe Kubert work. The overall aesthetic is strong and hard-edged, yet still full of vibrant emotion. The dialogue is fueled by interesting speech patterns; the story is told from the perspective of prehistoric men, so Bruce’s “foreign” speech is almost indecipherable to them. Simultaneously, there’s just enough for the audience to parse; it’s done in a very clever fashion, so that a slurred statement like “thayawlmannsted” is able to be deconstructed phonetically to arrive at “the ol’ man’s dead.” There are interesting ideas at play, the tale firmly entrenched in Bronze Age DC properties, the emergence of a prehistoric “Robin” archetype, Justice Leaguers tracking Bruce through time with ominous overtones, and an interesting notion of Bruce’s rebirth in the DCU rippling through time. Simply put, the art is fantastic, but I’m not sure if I love the Grant Morrison story. I do really appreciate that it’s very different, making it unique and interesting enough to come back for more. I thought it was a nice package holistically, with a Tom Strong preview, and even an ad for the impending oversized hardcover version of Wednesday Comics. Grade B+.
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis (Marvel): I really didn’t want to buy this Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews book just on principle, since it’s been 5 months since the regular Astonishing X-Men book stalled mid-arc, but I just needed something to read on a plane flight home from a business trip. The issue starts in a ludicrous fashion, with a goofy ass cover including Emma’s awkward contorted pose, the lumpy contour of her rump, Wolverine’s comical hair, Storm’s under-boobs, and overall unnatural poses that appear slammed together in mismatched fashion like collaged People Magazine clippings that a high schooler would do of Edward and Bella. The interior art ranges from pleasant enough (with strong background environments), to very off-putting (as the weird anatomy continues). There are sideways pointing boobs, impossibly thin waists, frail wrists, Emma’s clothes changing back and forth, and weird dialogue during the delivery scene about re-used 20 year old condoms. It’s gross and disturbing, not in an entertaining way. It’s just creepy. Large portions of the dialogue are in high exposition mode, mostly whenever T’Challa or Scott are talking. The story revolves around something about possible mutant babies being born in Africa, but it’s really not very good. There is mismatched dialogue, and a really weird panel composition on the double page spread. There’s a close up of landing gear, the Blackbird in flight, and the team walking “dramatically” toward the reader, all merged into one impossible image. The African political views are a little too transparent, ringing with a grandstanding authorial voice instead of coming organically from the characters or the story. If you really want to learn about the history of modern strife in various African countries, you’d be better off reading The Unknown Soldier over at Vertigo. It’s done much better, more responsibly, and it isn’t masquerading as an X-Men book. This issue is basically: T’Challa talks to Storm, the X-Men bicker and then fly to Africa, the end. That said, why would I be interested in script pages in the back of such a poorly crafted issue? This might be the lowest grade I’ve ever given a Warren Ellis book. Grade C-.