OK, I’m a week behind in my comic reviews. I have two good reasons: I had a weak haul on 10/2 (as you will see) and I was in the field collecting a mammoth tusk. Look:
First, the two books I got on 10/2:
The Shadow Now #1, Liss, Worley, Steen, covers by Bradstreet and Worley. **
This book is on and off my list in one month. It has promise: the Shadow transported from his moody 1930’s venue to our modern era of machine-pistols and cell phones. Alas, but Liss et al. commit the cardinal sin of departing from the title character’s archetype to create drama. Understand that The Shadow’s main superpower is his ability to “Know the evil that lurks in the hearts of men.” That is, he sees peoples motivations, their consciences, and even their future actions more clearly than he sees their actual appearances. In this way, he can be a moral murderer, knowing exactly how many lives he saves as he dispatches criminal scum. In this context, then, it is impossible for a Shadow aficionado to accept a story line that hinges on corruption of the Shadow’s network of trusted accomplices, leading to the violent murder of all but one of his loyal agents. That can’t happen because the Shadow KNOWS what everyone around him is planning. So, this book fails from the outset. It gets two stars because the art is quite good, alas.
Batwing # 24, Palmiotti, Gray, Pansica, Ferreira, Mounts, Esposito, Cover by Cooke. ***
Batwing is trying to find its feet in the new Lucas-Fox era. The story here is tighter than it has been in previous months, tying up his fight with assassin Lady Vic by showing him learning to be a clever, rather than brute-force hero. In a surprise development, his ex-ish girlfriend’s father died unexpectedly, bringing them back together after last month’s breakup. This is the sort of event that is tragic in its unexpectedness in real life, but in a story of this kind leaves me pondering two possibilities: 1) the event is a ruse by an enemy to get close to Lucas. 2) The event is a bit of lazy storytelling to quickly resolve two difficult plots: romantic woes for our hero and disapproval by his family (see he’s out being a superhero saving them when they think he should be home saving them as a non-superhero… never mind). It’s sort of the opposite of Chekhov’s gun: if you don’t foreshadow the unexpected death, astute readers are left wondering what clues they missed. Suffice it to say, Batwing has survived on the bubble for another month. Oh, plus excellent cover by Darwyn Cooke.
OK, now for the six books I got this week:
Batman #24, Snyder, Capullo, Miki, Plascencia, Napolitano, Covers by Plascencia and March.*****
When I saw the price, $6.99, I thought that there better be about 1000 pages of quality material inside. I was close to correct: it’s 64 pages. I’m really satisfied with the combination of storytelling and action. This issue (and the Zero Year concept in general) have a tall order: the story has to lead to this place, the archetypal moment when the Red Hood falls into the ACE Chemicals vat and becomes… It’s a bit like re-telling the Odyssey, but, in the end the best comic books are that sort of archetypal hero narrative. Even though we all know where the story’s going, we stay tuned-in because it’s told in such a compelling way.
Deadpool #18, Posehn, Duggan, Shalvey, Bellaire, Sabino, Cover by Shalvey and Bellaire. ****
This issue is just as compelling as your typical Deadpool, but in a surprisingly touching way. The art is great, the story continues to build effectively, and the twist is unexpected and important for Posehn’s apparent agenda of humanizing Wade Wilson. (That’s Deadpools “secret” identity, for those who don’t know).
Batgirl #24, Simone, Pasarin, Glapion, Blond, Sienty, Cover by Garner. ***
This is a bit of a transition story, linking the ‘Wanted’ story line with the rogues gallery that Batgirl has built through her last two years. I can see where it’s leading, I think, but that’s not a problem: the hero’s quest is in full swing and she is reaching her nadir, but the quest holds my attention as it pulls the characters together and illuminates their motivations. I’m more concerned about the quality of the art in this issue, as some of the figure drawing seems rushed and awkward, particularly in the police stand-off at the beginning. I expect next month (or, rather, the following one after the Zero Year tie-in) to be much more compelling.
Nightwing #24, Higgins, Conrad, Pantazis, Mangual, Cover by Conrad and Dalhouse. **
The dramatic conclusion to both the Prankster and the Tony Zucco storylines leaves me uninspired. The character revelations here were again un-foreshadowed, leaving us no way to ponder the connections leading to the climactic battle. I’m done with Nightwing for a while.
World’s Finest # 16, Levitz, Silva, Weems, Wright, Mangual, Cover by Lupacchino and Wright. ***
Huntress and PG are back at it, with a new mysterious foe after surviving their run-in with Desaad in the last story arc. I’m having a hard time keeping by enthusiasm for this book, but maybe getting away from the Desaad story line and back to the basics of hero-stuff will re-ignite my interest. This issue is a very good workmanlike installment, introducing a new villain, providing some clues to her motivation and powers, and reminding all of us that PG’s powers are on the fritz now, so she’ll have to depend on Huntress sometimes, for a change. I’ll keep this book on my list for another month at least.
Red Sonja #4, Simone, Geovani, Lucas, Bowland, Covers by Frison, Doyle, and Buscema. *****
This issue is the other winner of the week. Great storytelling, with foreshadowing both in this issue and in previous issues. I like where Simone is taking Sonja here; my joy in the story here arises from the combination of brutal action and feminist character development. Sonja is clearly not a Smurfette or Vasquez: she guides her actions from her female viewpoint and that makes her important in the landscape of comic heroes. Keep up the good work, Team Sonja!
My biggest dissapointment of the week is that I got both of my Gail Simone books in the same week as the Scott Snyder book. That means the rest of the month will pale by comparison. First world problems, indeed.