Monday, October 3, 2011

Comic Quickies: Welcome to the DCnU Part 3

Batman #1: Between this and Detective Comics,I've had a higher level of anticipation for the Batman title mostly because Scott Snyder is the writer.  I first came across the guy in the pages of American Vampire, which was a solid comic, but suffered from the fact that it is, well, about vampires, and I'm sick of those fuckers.  

Since then, Snyder's star has been on the rise as he's garnered some high praise for, what I've heard, was a wonderful run on Detective Comics (pre-relaunch).  Now, with the big shake up, he's manning Batman.

Confused?  Good.  Moving on.

So how does this first issue turn out?  Overall, pretty decent stuff here.  It starts out with a riot in Arkham prison, and Batman, with help from an unlikely source, puts a hurtin' on pretty much everyone in the rouge gallery.  From there, Snyder introduces the readers to some new bat-gadgetry which serves the purpose of one,  being cool and two, helping to introduce a dumb out of touch reader like me to the current bat-world.  With the help of a fancy facial recognition device, Bruce Wayne chats it up with his proteges, (there's been three different Robins apparently), and rubs elbows with Gotham's ultra-rich elite.

While Bruce is announcing his plan to fix Gotham through imaginative rebuilding, he is cut short, as duty calls and Batman is dragged into a murder investigation.  After some fun Bat-tective work, he discovers Bruce Wayne is the next target for Gotham's latest crazed killer.  That's pretty much the whole issue in a nutshell, but there's more intricacy to the plot than I've laid out, and there's a great cliff hanger ending that has me excited for the next issue.

After reading both this and Detective Comics, I would say Batman is the sure front runner of the two main bat-titles after one issue.  The writing and plotting is just much more solid here, and didn't seem to be just recovering ground that has already been covered over and over.

That said, I was not a fan of Greg Capullo's art.  No, his art is not bad, it is fine, I just really disliked how 90's it looked.  Every page gave me flashbacks to my comic reading experiences as a kid, and as an adult, I expect better. There was nothing special or interesting or new feeling about that art, and that was ultimately pretty depressing.  Maybe I'll grow accustomed to Capullo's style, but I'd rather have a better artist, who has a unique style, working this title.

In the end, this was a great comic, brought down by mediocre art.

All Star Western #1:  Wanna hear the craziest thing about the DC relaunch?  They took Jonah Hex out of the wild west, and plunked him down in...Gotham City!
Ok, maybe not the craziest thing, but still pretty nutty.

Gone are the wide open spaces, and sparse landscapes of the frontier.  This issue opens with a sweeping shot of a Gotham train station and the be-smogulated brackish city-scape in the background.  Enter Jonah Hex, the bad-ass, tough as nails, bounty hunter with the freakish mug and penchant for dealing out steel justice. He's been called to Gotham by none other than Doctor Amadeus Arkham to help investigate a series of murders.

Hex and Arkham make for a weird pairing, but Hex's straight forward, no-fuckin'-nonsense approach to bounty hunting seems to be working.  Some clever detective work, which mostly consists of Hex cracking skulls and forcing the otherwise silent to talk -all while Arkham looks on in abject terror- leads the unlikely duo to be on the trail of a man called the "Gotham Butcher", who is going around killing prostitutes, and is more than likely part of a secret society of Gotham elite.  

Sounds like a pretty cool plot right?  Well, it would be if that didn't also happen to be extreeeeemly similar to the plot of Alan Moore's From Hell, which I also happen to be reading right now.  Yeah, that's a little disheartening, but Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are definitely not idiots, and are almost certainly playing into the reader's expectation that this is gonna be a variation on the good ol' Jack the Ripper story.  My money's on a big-ass twist in the next issue that sends this plot in new directions.  Fingers crossed.  Please don't re-write From Hell.  Please.

A good reason to pick up this book is that, (hey-oh!), there's actually a good fucking artist, who has his own unique style, working on it.  That artist is none other than the singly named Moritat.  Moritat makes the early-industrial era Gotham every bit a character as Jonah Hex or Amadeus Arkham.  The city looks great, as do the folks who populate it.  And populated it is!  The city has a dirty, over-crowded, claustrophobic look and feel to it that gives the city a personality.

Moritat also does this interesting thing where the primary characters of a given panel are inked with a thicker line than the rest of the panel.  This makes the important people stand out, and seem more in focus than the rest of the art.  It makes the comic have a more cinematic feel, as there is a definite focus on particular people and places while the background, though exquisitely drawn and detailed, seems to be out of focus.   Like it or not, and I lean towards liking it, it is an interesting way to ink a page.

My biggest complaint with the comic is that the coloring is pretty damn lackluster.  The color palate for the issue seems to be varying shades of gray with a bit of sepia tone added in.  This makes everything look pretty flat, and doesn't do justice to the art.

Despite a plot that is remarkably unoriginal, and some weak coloring, I liked this issue way more than I thought I would.  It was a lot of fun, and nice to look at.  Hopefully there'll be a big twist in the plot next issue so I can carry on with reading this this title.

Ok, since I like lists a lot, I'm gonna rank and grade the 7 DCnU titles I've read from worst to best.

7. Animal Man: D
6. Detective Comics: C-
5. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: C
4. Batman: B-
3. All Star Western: B-
2. Action Comics: B
1. Batwoman: B+

Ok, now let's head across the seas to Marvel and see what they've been doing with Daredevil...

Here Comes Daredevil #1:  Last weekend I went to the Jet City Comic Show here in Seattle.  Bearing almost no resemblance to the much larger and much more epic Emerald City Comicon, the Jet City Comic Show is a much more humble and sparsely attended affair.  Nonetheless, there's plenty of great comic creating talent on hand.

The coolest thing is, since the attendance is pretty low, there's no lines or rush to talk to folks and you can more or less hang out and chat it up to your heart's content (or until they are clearly sick of you) with a variety of comic creators.  One question I got asked a lot was the ol' "what comics are you reading?".  To which I name a few of the titles in my pull-box and say that I mostly read creator-owned stuff, and mostly stay away from the "big two".  However, on multiple and separate occasions, I was told that I should check out the new Daredevil comic, because it is, to paraphrase, really good.

Figuring such high praise from folks in the industry was too much to ignore, I grabbed the first few issues and lo and behold! Here Comes Daredevil is really good.  The comic takes sort of a back to basics approach to Daredevil, and eschews the dark and gritty approach that has been the norm for the book for a long time.  There's nothing wrong with the dark and gritty Daredevil of yore, but I like the new Daredevil.

It opens with Daredevil stylishly thwarting a kidnapping at a mob wedding, then moves on to Matt Murdoch's personal life as a lawyer,  where his career is in jeopardy due to the fact that there's a big media blitz going on because it somehow slipped that Matt Murdoch is Daredevil.  Though his cover is solid, the media is persistent, and like real life, does a better job of wrecking the poor guy's life than it does of telling a compelling story.

After being thrown off his current trial by the judge, it is up to Daredevil to find a link between his client and greater conspiracies.

As great, and compelling as the story is, the art, handled oh so well by Paolo Rivera, is great.  Rivera excels at making Daredevil's movements seem fluid, graceful and flawless.  There's real energy to his art which is a wonderful thing.  I haven't seen the likes in any other super hero comic, and for that reason alone, this is a special book.

I never thought I'd be recommending a Daredevil comic, but here I am.  Here Comes Daredevil is definitely worth a read.   There's four issues out so far, so check 'em out!

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