Recent Dorkiness

The Funnybooks of December

So we took a bit of an unplanned holiday break here on the nerd farm. Our apologies. These things happen. But we're back now in the new year, with a load of stuff to catch up on. We've got a massive Best Funnybooks of 2011 list coming up, and we haven't forgotten about the second part of our look at the work of Rafael Grampa, either. But for tonight, it's time to play a little catch-up on all the funnybooks we haven't reviewed in the last month. And that means it's time for some Quickies... Batman Inc: Leviathan Strikes!, by Grant Morrison, Cam Stewart, and Chris Burnham They could have just as easily called this issue “Hey! I Was Reading That!” It does, after all, collect the final two issues of Batman Inc. Season One, which would have seen print before now if DC hadn't decided to put the series on hold in favor of the DC Reboot. Considering that I'm reading this, but not any of the bat-books that have come about because of that reboot, I'm sure you can understand my annoyance. Still, it's here now, so I suppose I can't complain too bitterly. The first issue collected here is a fine done-in-one featuring Batgirl Stephanie Brown secretly infiltrating an evil English girl's school being run by Leviathan. Accented with some very nice art from Cameron Stewart, it reminded me a bit of an episode of the Avengers, and I dug it the most. Of course, it's only a warm-up. Because the rest of the book is devoted to what was supposed to be the double-sized finale to Season One, the labyrinthine mind-fuck that is Batman's final encounter with aging Nazi super-spy Otto Netz, aka Doctor Dedalus. Luckily for Bats, he brings along all three of his sons... ...and they save his ass when he's dosed with a drug that mimics the mental deterioration of Alzheimer's. It's a nice showcase for all the Robins, too. In the picture above, you'll note Dick (in the older Batman suit) identifying the meaning of the doors (puzzles having always been his thing). Later on, it's Tim Drake (dressed as Red Robin) who displays his supreme detective skills by figuring out the real identity of Leviathan before Batman himself does. And Damian... Well... ...Damian lets his father down by putting Dedalus' own Nazi blade through the old man's head. This is a pretty big moment in the character's history, I think, taking a life after vowing not to and feeling genuine remorse for it. It's a far cry from his first outing as Robin, when he cut off the Spook's head and gleefully brought it home to the Batcave as proof that he deserved the red tunic more than Drake. And at the end, of course, Leviathan's true identity is revealed. While Morrison played entirely fair on this one, I must admit that I don't feel at all bad about guessing wrong. My candidate was Jezebel Jet, and the class issues Leviathan is capitalizing on to build its army are the same ones Jet used to break down Bruce Wayne's resolve for the Black Glove. Thematically, she was a perfect fit. Of course, so is the actual person revealed as Leviathan, so like I said... I can't complain. Grade: A And that's far more than I intended to write here. We've got too much ground to cover for me to go on and on about one book like this. Gotta do better from here on out...

Action Comics #4, by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales

This isn’t something I’ve seen pointed out very much, but in this issue Superman fights a giant robot with a tank for a head.

I mean, it’s another fine issue of Action: super-compressed storytelling, some nice character work, Metropolis under glass, and the debut of Steel (which places him, oddly, at the dawn of the super hero in the new DC timeline). It could have used a few more pages if they’re gonna charge four bucks for it, and the back-up story featuring the fight between Steel and Metallo was fucking unreadable. But, still. TANK. For a HEAD. Heh.

Grade: A-

Batwoman #4, by JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

Another superb and visually-exciting issue. I don’t have time to examine everything Williams does here, but wow. This issue features a sex scene that’s both tasteful and genuinely erotic, as Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer finally go to bed together. Doubly impressive is the way this sequence plays out, literally achieving climax at the same moment that Flamebird bleeds out in an alleyway after fighting a losing battle against a freaky sickle-handed Frankenstein. It’s a kind of juxtaposition we’ve seen before, of course, both in comics and in film, but this is so well-done that I frankly don’t care. This is the best issue yet of the new Batwoman solo series, and one that begins to raise the quality of the writing above the spandex herd. It’s still the art that makes it special, mind you, but the story’s coming right along now, too.

Grade: A

Defenders #1, by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson

This new Defenders book is loose, funny and weird, the closest any of Fraction’s mainstream Marvel writing has come to the easy fun of Casanova. It’s not as good as Casanova, mind you. But that rollicking surface, at least, is fully operational, and I had a lot of fun reading this first issue. It’s completely disposable stuff, of course, the kind of thing I’d normally be picking up digitally these days. Only two things have me buying print copies, as a matter of fact: the four dollar price tag, and the pure nostalgic joy of seeing the return of the little bottom-of-page trailer ads Marvel used to run in the 70s. I mean, I could give a rat’s ass that X23 is joining the Avengers Academy, but it’s cool being told about it nonetheless. I don’t think I’d want them in every book, but their light, airy tone fits this one like a glove.

Grade: B+

Thor #9, by Matt Fraction and Pascual Ferry

More fun corporate spandex work from Matt Fraction. In the wake of Fear Itself, this book has unexpectedly become a rollicking great story of villainous intrigue, funny in an “I can’t believe they’re going here” kind of way. Lotsa fun, refreshingly free of angst, and nicely-illustrated by Pascual Ferry.

Grade: A-

Iron Man #511, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Still Fraction’s smartest corporate work, but with a slight lifting of the dark cloud that’s hung over it from launch. This is becoming a fast-paced, media-savvy little book with a great collection of villains. My favorite bit for the last couple of issues: the Mandarin is tailoring himself to look as much like Tony Stark as possible. Literally. Right down to wearing the same suits. Some panels, I have to do a double-take. It’s a nice visual continuation of the character’s obsession with Stark, which is the kind of thing that’s kept me reading for so very long.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #4, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

An improvement over last issue’s comically petulant response to Diana finding out that she wasn’t really made of clay, but of eggs and sperm like everyone else. I mean, it’s equally funny this issue to find out that Wonder Woman is a heavy metal fan, but in a less ridiculous, mocking way. Also, she admits that she was being stupid last issue, which ameliorates things a bit. I’m digging Azzarello’s take on Ares, as well. At least, I assume that’s Ares. Apollo simply calls him “War,” which… would pretty much make him Ares in this context. At any rate, I like this manifestation of him as a cynical, drunken old man with bare bloody feet. It brings the book even closer to Eddie Campbell’s take on these gods, without feeling like a rip-off, and that’s a good thing.

Grade: A-

Spaceman #2&3, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Azzarello and Risso’s dystopian sci-fi social satire rolls on in these two issues, with more future-slang, Martian flashbacks, and a bit of the old ultra-violence. I really don’t have much to say about these issues in the short-form. They were enjoyable, though, and I’ll keep reading.

Grade: B+

Butcher #6, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

The secret origin of Billy Butcher draws to a close this issue, and while I think the series as a whole has been worthwhile, this final issue felt like more of a fill-in-the-blanks inevitability than a shocking conclusion. I suppose that if you read Butcher as a stand-alone story, it works better. But reading it as part of the larger storyline of The Boys, I really felt like there was nothing in this finale that I couldn’t have happily assumed from context. I mean, it’s good. It’s got the mixture of callous humor, shocking violence, and honest character drama that makes me love its parent book so very much. I guess I was just… hoping there’d be more. A little surprise that brought Butcher into even sharper focus than we already had on him. But such was not to be.

Grade: B+

Fantastic Four #601, by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting FF #12&13, by Jonathan Hickman and Juan Bobilo

Fantastic Four continues following the Kree attack on Earth and return of Johnny Storm, while FF goes off to Latveria with the Richards children and their Future Foundation pals. Hickman’s split the series’ many on-going plot threads up rather wisely here, I think, though the two books really can’t be read separately at this point. If you’ve been reading the series,though, the new split book is ultimately more of the same.

Grade: B

The Ultimates #4&5, by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic, and Brandon Peterson

Still enjoying this more sci-fi take on the series. The book suffers a bit when Brandon Peterson fills in for Esad Ribic on art in issue five, but it’s still solidly entertaining stuff.

Grade: B

Animal Man #4, by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

Travel Foreman’s visceral, meaty visuals continue to be the primary draw for me on this series. Lemire’s story is good super-horror stuff, mind you, but without such grippingly appropriate artwork I’m not so sure it would continue to grab me. Even as it is, I’m considering switching to digital for it; I doubt I’ll ever want to re-read this book, so I might as well…

Grade: B

Sweet Tooth #28, by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt

The “secret origin” of the plague concludes in fine form this issue, raising just as many questions as it answers. Is Eskimo mysticism really the reason all this is happening? I’m sure there’s more, and I can’t wait to find it out. In the meantime, though, this period tale of arctic adventure has been top-notch stuff. Probably my favorite story in the series to date.

Grade: B+

Kick-Ass 2 #6, by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Big dumb bloody fun that shouldn’t be as entertaining as it is.

Grade: B+

Secret Avengers #20, by Warren Ellis and Alex Maleev

Another great high-concept issue, as Ellis is joined by Alex Maleev to produce a slick, time-jumping super-spy epic. The Modesty Blaise style comic strip section doesn’t work quite as well as it might, but the issue’s so good overall that I don’t really care.

Grade: A-

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About Mark Brett (419 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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