Sunday, September 18, 2011

Comic Quickies: Welcome to the DCnU part 2.

Batwoman #1: After reading Batwoman: Elegy, I had the feeling that Batwoman would be one of, if not the only, sure-fire hits for me in the DCnU.  It is hard to go wrong with J.H. Williams III on art, and his writing efforts, teamed up with co-writer W. Haden Blackman are pretty solid here too.

This comic begins by setting up a creepy new supernatural villain who is stealing children in Gotham City.  Given Batwoman's past, this seems like a great villain for her to square off against.  This issue also sets a few other interesting balls rolling for the series.  Detective Sawyer, the officer who is investigating the missing children, looks to be a little love-interest in the making for Kate Kane.  In other action, Batwoman also appears to be training herself a side-kick.  This prospective hero is none other than Kate's cousin, Bette Kane, who was formerly Flamebird in the Teen Titans.  This section of the issue was slightly confusing for me, as my knowledge of any DC heroes not Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman is terrible, and I felt like I was missing something.

The best part of this comic came when Kate has a confrontation with her estranged father.  This sequence, told over a double page spread, displays three important things:  JH3's ability to visually tell a story better than any other, the writing team's ability to script and deliver some tense, yet succinct writing, and an amazing montage recap of what went down in the Elegy story.

All told, this was a very strong issue, and for my money, the best of the DCnU relaunch comics so far.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1: Jeff Lemire is writing two comics for the relaunch. While Animal Man is a serious story with some family drama, and horror elements, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is balls out action.

This one starts out with a little walk-through of S.H.A.D.E.'s new HQ, which is a three inch indestructible ball, which is currently hovering 2,000 miles above NYC.  In order to visit said three inch ball one must get shrunk, then teleported aboard this mite-sized base...and that crazy kind of shit is exactly why I think this is going to be an awesome comic.

That's just the beginning of the zaniness too.

From the looks of things, S.H.A.D.E. is run by none other than...Father Time, who is using the body of a uniformed school-girl to act as his host.  Then, there's a small town in rural Washington that is overrun by a host of ugly-ass monsters.  S.H.A.D.E. has sent in their best agent, the four-armed, gun toting Bride of Frankenstein.  Her efforts aren't enough to contain such a massive threat, so Frank, and his newly assembled team of monsters are sent in to do some damage.  The team includes a werewolf, vampire (neither are sparkly), a mummy and the creature from the black lagoon.

So far, this is pretty much exactly what I want this comic to be: classic monsters fighting monsters, with a lot of weirdness and tons of action.  Lemire's writing is decent, and the art, by Alberto Ponticelli is pretty great too.  There were a couple times his work looked a little sloppy, but most of the time it looked solid.  He seems to excel at drawing lots and lots of monsters.

From the looks of things, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is shaping up to be pretty nutty, yet entertaining as hell at the same time.  Looking forward to what comes next.

Meanwhile (Graphic Novel):  Up last is a non DC title.  Conceived, written, and illustrated by Jason Shiga, Meanwhile is a choose your own adventure style graphic novel with over 3,500 different possibilities and it all begins with one simple (or is it?) decision: chocolate or vanilla.  Depending on your choice of ice cream, you are launched into a story filled with mad scientists, insane inventions and the fate of the world in the palm of your hands.

Meanwhile is a pretty unique piece of comic creation.  Instead of reading the panels left to right, you have to follow these colored tubes that lead you up, down and all over the page.  When it comes time to make a decision, you follow the tubes to tabs, and flip to that page, and carry on.  A careful read of the text, and a sharp eye for detail is brilliantly rewarded as there are a few hidden codes throughout the comic that will aid you in your quest.  Some of these codes were easier to unlock than others.

Aside from code breaking, and decision making, there's also a coin-toss scene that felt about as realistic and chancy as a real coin-toss, as well as some cool inventions (time travel anyone?) that, when you have to choose which invention to investigate, makes for some tough decisions...As tempting as the doomsday device was, I ultimately chose time travel as my initial adventure.

I spent a good chunk of a day trying to max out as many story possibilities as I could, and I think I came pretty damn close.  By the time I felt like I'd covered most of the options, I did what any good choose your own adventure reader does, and cheated.  After flipping though each and every page of the book I found only two pages I hadn't been to; One was an easter egg for cheaters like me, and could only be found by, well, cheating, and another that I still haven't been able to work my way to yet.  Still, there is a lot of material here, and Meanwhile is a pretty amazing feat of choose your own adventure style story telling.

I consider Meanwhile a must have for any fan of this style of story, and a must read for anyone who loves to have fun.  Hopefully Shiga will dip back into this style of comic again in the future.  Great stuff.

Grade: A

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