Recent Dorkiness

Batawangs and Other Things: NSFW Edition!

So the biggest funnybook news of last week was that we saw Batman’s pee-pee. And since that’s the case, I figured we might as well get that out of the way first, before I give in to the temptation to sell that book for some outrageous price on the interwebs…

Batman: Damned
by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo 

I’ve dutifully shared the cover of this book, as per usual, but let’s just cut to the chase and get to the image that’s got everybody talking:

Yep.

It’s a penis.

Or rather, the shadowy outline of a penis (apparently, much like its owner, it prefers to lurk in the dark).

Oh, look! Here it is again.

Yep.

Still a penis. A ding-dong. A willy. A wang. Renowned in story and song!

So no big deal, right? I mean, the “man” part of Batman’s name pretty much clued everybody in that he had one. Or at least, everybody over the age of… what? Six? Younger, if you’re male. Which I have to think the vast majority of this book’s audience is (or was, before the ladies found out it might contain something they’d like). The only thing we learned from these images is that Batman dresses to the right.

So why are people upset? I know it’s not usual to see such things in public. You’d most likely be arrested, in fact, if you were to walk around with your own Bat-Pole hanging out. But this is hardly a public spectacle. It’s a drawing. The fictional cock of a fictional character, appearing in the shadows in a book that’s specifically labeled on the cover as being for grown-ups. Much like when you see an R-rated movie, you didn’t walk into this without knowing that you might see something that would be deemed unsuitable for innocent young eyes. And it’s not like he’s running around with a raging hard-on or anything, either. He’s just walking around the Batcave naked, and… while that’s a little weird… there’s no sexual context to the scene whatsoever.

It’s just anatomy.

Grow up!

So, now that we’ve got the controversy out of the way, we can focus on the important question here: Is the comic any good?

Mmmmm… Yeah. It’s okay, I guess. It’s a supernatural Batman story, and I always like those. It’s got a good premise, too: Batman wakes up in an ambulance, disoriented and suffering from multiple stab wounds. Then he finds out that the Joker is dead, apparently having been thrown off a bridge. And he doesn’t remember where he’s been for the last few hours.

So that’s pretty juicy, right there. Bats gets some unsolicited help from John Constantine and Deadman (both of whom I like), Zatanna shows up as a street magician (I like her, too), and there’s some confused goth apparition that’s been haunting Bruce Wayne since childhood…

…who I feel like I should maybe recognize, as well. It’s like she’s half Death, half… I dunno… Some magic character I’ve seen somewhere before, but don’t remember. Which may be the point of her? Unless I’ve just forgotten who she is?

Anyway. The constituent parts of this book are stuff I would normally enjoy. And I do. It’s the execution that leaves me a bit cold. This is my usual problem with Brian Azzarello’s work: I love his ideas, but not what he does with them. Constantine narrates the story, for instance, but the narration doesn’t flow the way I’d like for it to. And, worse, it doesn’t sound like him. I had the same problem with Azzarello’s Hellblazer run, to be honest. This is a character whose voice was established by Alan Moore and set in stone by Garth Ennis, both of whom have a good ear for dialogue. So anything that strays too far from their work falls flat. And, for me, Azzarello falls flat.

Not only does that not sound like Constantine, it doesn’t even flow very well. That’s the sort of thing we’re dealing with all the way through this book, and it’s a real detriment to my enjoyment.

Beyond that… I dunno. There was something I found off-putting about Thomas Wayne’s extra-marital affair, too. We see that in flashback, and… It’s not so much that I object to Batman’s dad having had an affair as that I have a hard time with the idea that he’d expose his young son to that affair. But there’s Bruce, hanging out on a bridge with Thomas and the other woman, while they discuss their relationship. That doesn’t jibe with what we know of Thomas Wayne, to me. It’s too callous, too uncaring. Too sloppy, ultimately.

It’s a small thing, but that’s where the book falls apart for me: in the details. No single one of them is enough to put me off the story, but add them all together and they drag it down. I want this book to be better than it is, and that just… disappoints me.

I don’t know if I’ll come back for more on this one or not. I do like the story, as I said, and lord knows Lee Bermejo makes it pretty to look at. But do I like it enough to spend seven dollars a month on it? Even as a mini-series? Ehhh… Time will tell.

And, hey! As long as we’re talking Batman…

Batman 55
by Tom King, Tony Daniel, and Danny Miki

Just last week, I was enthusing about how much I had enjoyed the last four issues of Tom King’s Batman, and how I was going to keep reading it until the larger Bane story arc strangled all the fun out of it again.

I just didn’t think that was going to happen so soon.

This issue follows two threads: Batman and Nightwing on patrol together, and an expressionless foreigner entering Gotham City. The Batman side of that equation is wacky fun, with Nightwing making an endless series of puns, trying once again to cheer Bruce up. It’s cheery to an annoying degree. The other side is relentlessly drab, as this nameless figure, obviously an assassin, calmly sets himself up to make a hit, even taking time out for lunch.

(Nutrition being a very important part of any assassination.)

Now, to be fair, that scene is setting up something important later in the issue, so I’m giving it more crap than it really deserves. But, still. You know the two sides of the story will meet by the end, the drab efficiency of the one wiping out the chirpy good cheer of the other. I’m pretty sure the tension is supposed to mount as things progress. Who’s he going to shoot? Batman? Nightwing? Commissioner Gordon? Will Batman stop him? Or will someone he loves be taken from him, right before his eyes? AGAIN?! Oh, the humanity!

But it doesn’t quite work like that. Because the story weight tells you exactly who’s going to get shot. It’s Nightwing. He’s too happy, making too many jokes, enjoying his super hero life too much. And, much as I might have enjoyed having somebody shut him up, I don’t feel any dread over his inevitable fate. Because I’ve seen this kind of thing before. As the story goes on, and it becomes more and more obvious how it’s going to end, I just get…

Bored.

Bored, and angry.

Not angry because somebody’s shooting Nightwing. That’s just storytelling. I know they’re not killing Dick Grayson. Last time they floated that idea, the reaction was so negative that they backed off immediately. Even if they do something colossally stupid here, somebody will eventually fix whatever ill-advised crap they do to him. He’ll be okay in the long run. That’s just how these things work. So that’s not why I got angry. I got angry because I was sitting there watching Drab Man eat a sandwich, when I could have been reading about the Phantom Pharaoh!

And who the hell is the Phantom Pharaoh? Glad you asked! The Phantom Pharaoh is this issue’s throw-away joke villain, joining the ranks of Colonel Blimp, Crazyquilt, and Captain Stingaree in Tom King’s ever-growing legion of weird old bad guys he trots out to make fun of. Except that the Phantom Pharaoh is new, created by King just so Nightwing can make bad jokes about him. Here’s the thing, though:

That cover doesn’t feature Our Heroes in the sights of a killer. It doesn’t show us Drab Man doing some laundry, or whatever the hell else he gets up to while he’s waiting around to shoot the best kid sidekick ever. It shows us Batman and Nightwing beating up mummies.

BEATING! UP! MUMMIES!

I paid my four bucks to see a mummy fight, dammit, so the funnybook inside had better deliver! But how many pages of mummy fighting are there? THREE. A single two-page spread and a splash of Batman punching out the Phantom Pharaoh, followed by a fourth page of denouement where they reveal the villain’s name, and Nightwing makes his bad joke.

Pathetic.

I mean, I get it. King is juxtaposing the ridiculous and the serious. It’s just that he’s presenting the serious at the expense of the ridiculous, and it comes off as kinda smug. Because, you know… You can have both. You don’t have to make the whacked-out super-heroics look silly just to make the dreadful reality look good. Or, I dunno. Maybe in this case, he felt like he had to. Because, like I said, I’ve seen stories that go back and forth between a killer and his prey before, and while that can be a very dramatic plot device, King doesn’t do anything new with it here. I knew where it was going pretty much from the outset, and nothing along the way surprised me or gave me any special insights into anything. And meanwhile, I’ve been promised some crazy shit with mummies, only to be told that what I paid my money for is just a stupid throw-away joke.

So this book can just piss right off.

But, hey! As long as we’re talking about Tom King…

Mister Miracle 10 & 11
by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

So with these issues, it looks like I was right: this story’s not really happening. It’s a figment. A test. It’s Scott Free learning to escape the bounds of life and death.

Or something.

Honestly, I’m not sure that’s what we learn at all. It might be a double-blind. The revelation comes too early. And I notice that Metron’s got those digital glitches around him that have been my primary signals that something’s not right. So this may be a trap. Or a final test. Or…

Something.

I do notice how much Metron looks like Grant Morrison, though…

…and that’s REALLY interesting.

So we’ll see what King has up his sleeve in the final issue. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed for something good. Or at least something better than, “Surprise! All your suffering was just a test to see if you were worthy of entering the ALL NEW DC UNIVERSE, as it exists after GEOFF JOHNS’ mega-crossover-event-extravaganza DOOMSDAY CLOCK!”

Because, holy shit. You only THOUGHT that Batman comic pissed me off…

And, hey! As long as we’re being cynical and unhappy about funnybooks…

Fantastic Four 2
by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli

Nope.

I’m done.

This book is too cute for its own good, and I won’t be reading any more of it.

I mean… Look. On the one hand, it’s fine. Other than one amazingly poor choice that I’ll get to in a minute, there’s nothing exceptionally wrong with it. The dialogue is snappy, there are charming family moments, the bad guy explains who she is and what she does in a barrage of clever dialogue, and it ends in a big surprise cliffhanger that promises lots of serious super hero ass-whipping in the next issue. If you like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you’ll like.

But for me, it all feels a little too… rehearsed? The snappy dialogue is TOO snappy, and there’s too much of it. Even the not-clever characters are having clever conversations. The bad guy exposition goes on too long, and is so clever-cute that I want to strangle the person responsible for making me read it (which is me, of course, but I’ll pass that urge on to the writer out of a sense of self-preservation). The charming family moments are designed with a hunter-killer efficiency that leaves them sterile. There’s nothing organic here, nothing genuine. It feels like a product designed to elicit a response, and as such, I don’t care about it.

But that’s me, and my taste in fiction. I am, in spite of my usual enthusiasm here on the nerd farm, pretty demanding of my entertainment. Most popular genre stuff is being written like this these days, though, and while I personally can’t stand it, I know that a lot of people love it. So your mileage may vary. It may vary WILDLY, in fact. So keep that in mind.

Though as I said, there is one major blunder in this issue that, regardless of your taste in entertainment, really does kind of scuttle the comic. Slott spends so much time on all that stuff I talked about above that the actual reunion of the Fantastic Four… the moment we’ve all been waiting for… the one moment of genuine emotion this book has earned simply by virtue of the team being kept apart for so long… is relegated to a single panel.

Seriously. That’s it. That’s all we get. It’s not even staged dramatically! It just kinda happens, and then the bad guy interrupts and it’s off to the races. I’m sure we’ll get touching moments and hugs all around after the fighting’s over, but that’s gonna be too little, too late. The team was reunited HERE, and Slott did absolutely nothing with it.

So, yeah. I’m done.

Whoosh! That’s a lot of negativity I’m tossing around here! And we’re running long, too. But let’s see if we can’t end on a higher note with some quick capsule reviews…

Ether: The Copper Golems 5
by Matt Kindt and David Rubin

This second Ether series has felt kind of lightweight to me. It’s been fun enough, but the story’s been a little loose, and I haven’t gotten into it as much as the first. Then this issue happened, and holy crap it punched me right in the gut. I don’t want to spoil anything, and it would take too long to go into detail anyway, but whoosh. I mean, just look at that cover! That portrays some portion of the anguish this issue inspired. I think I may be more involved with this series now than ever before. And, as this was the finale of Copper Golems, I’m going to have to wait a while before I get more. Now, THAT’S how you get your audience to come back for more!

Immortal Hulk 5 & 6
by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett

I’m enjoying this book. It’s not god’s gift to comics or anything, but it’s fun. Al Ewing’s been telling some cool little super-horror stories here, slowly revealing the new Hulk status quo and tying it into the supernatural. Now there’s some dark something lurking inside the Hulk the way the Hulk lurks inside Banner. We don’t quite know what it is yet, but it’s taking the face of Banner’s abusive father, and that’s not making either of them very happy. It’s all been dark and claustrophobic, even as the action has slowly escalated. But in issue 6, Ewing opens it up to the larger Marvel Universe, and manages not to lose the tone. We’ve got new Hulk Busters out there, Alpha Flight’s investigating, and by the time it’s over, the freaking Avengers have shown up. I wasn’t sure about all that at first, but I found myself really enjoying it, in a way I don’t often enjoy a corporate hero book anymore.

Like I said, it’s not amazing. But it’s cool and it’s fun. And sometimes, that’s enough.

Pearl 2
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

This issue, we get a little background on Pearl, her parents, and how she came to be a mob-connected tattoo artist. It’s a good read, but the thing that really makes it is the art of Michael Gaydos. This is a beautiful comic, drawn in two or three different styles depending on what’s happening. The the present-day drama is photo-realism with over-saturated colors…

…the flashbacks are minimalist, as befits the hazy nature of memory…

…and the action is impressionist and design-heavy, with sound effects playing a big part in the look of the page.

Gaydos is freaking brilliant on this book, and I can’t recommend his work enough.

Oh, and… Bendis does okay, too.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom 4 & 5
by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston

Jeff Lemire’s super hero homage rolls on, and in these issues, he pulls the trigger on something I never thought he’d deal with so soon. The secret of the Farm has been revealed, it’s even stranger than I thought it would be, and now… Now, I have no idea at all where this book is headed next.

Wheee!

She Could Fly 1-3
by Christopher Cantwell and Martin Morazzo

This book is part of Karen Berger’s “Berger Books” line of comics, and it’s the one that feels the most like something she’d have published when she was editor-in-chief at Vertigo. It’s the story of a teenage girl suffering from an undiagnosed case of “Pure O,” Primarily Obsessional Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She sees things, hears voices in her head telling her to do horrible things, and is convinced that she’s a secret psycho, waiting to explode. Her parents don’t know how troubled she is, her guidance counselor is starting to suspect, and her grandmother isn’t helping matters much, showing up unannounced after years in a monastery, possibly suffering from dementia, or possibly some kind of ghost. Into her life comes a flying woman, a paranoid engineer, his hooker girlfriend, and a whole raft of government agents and corporate black ops killers.

It’s one part psychodrama, one part espionage thriller, and one part absurdist comedy. It’s weird and charming and painful, and I like it a lot. It’ll also be over after one more issue. So if you’re thinking about checking it out, do so in a hurry. Or wait for the trade. At least, I’m assuming this sold well enough to get a trade. I hope so, anyway…

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses 37 & 38
by David Lapham

Is this my current favorite on-going series? Y’know, I think it probably is. And these two issues are a nice demonstration of why. Issue 37 deals with the relationship at the heart of Sunshine and Roses: Beth and Orson. Beth proves she that loves the poor schmuck at last, with a rare honest moment in which she tells him that she’s poison, and that he should get as far away from her as he can before she destroys him. Of course, we saw how their relationship ends a long time ago, and it turns out she’s right. But as this issue’s cover implies, things get a bit prickly even before then.

Lapham follows this in issue 38 with another Lil’ B story. These are dreams Beth had when she was in a coma as a child, and they tend to reveal things about her character while serving up fun anarchic nonsense. How Amy Racecar makes an appearance in these dreams is anybody’s guess, since Amy is a character created by Ginny Applejack (Stray Bullets‘ other major protagonist), long before she ever met Beth, and long after Beth’s childhood coma. Beth and Ginny are very similar in some ways, though, so… Maybe Amy’s a spirit animal to them both.

Anyway. Issue 38’s Lil’ B story is different from the others, because Beth keeps fading in and out of it as she struggles her way to consciousness in the real world. Slowly, you realize that this dream is happening in the present, and that Beth’s in some serious trouble (as the previous issue’s cover might imply). The whole thing ends with a sudden surprise appearance that ties a recent, seemingly only tangentially connected, story to the main plot. And I am once again really impressed with David Lapham’s storytelling ability, in addition to his way with characters.

Good stuff, as always. Also as always, I encourage you to read some Stray Bullets for yourself. It’s the real deal.

Alright, that’s it. I’ve worked out those negative vibes, but now we’ve gone on far too long, and have run out of time. Next week… God only knows…

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About Mark Brett (482 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/.

3 Comments on Batawangs and Other Things: NSFW Edition!

  1. Yeah I don’t get the big fuss over the Bat-pole saying hi either, but I guess that’s the world we live in these days; someone’s got to complain about something, no matter how trivial due to a false sense of entitlement that’s run rampant in today’s society.
    The nude scene in Sean Murphy’s White Knight caused the same “outrage.”

    Someone on the Bleedingcool.com comments’ section said they though the girl was supposed to be a young Enchantress from the Suicide Squad, albeit the movie version.
    I think it just might be, unless proven otherwise.

    I think the Phantom Pharaoh name/idea sounds pretty cool in a Silver Age-y sort of way. If King was going to use an Egyptian-themed villain to make fun of, why not just use King Tut from the 60’s Batman show then?

    As for Dick, well at least Didio has backed off on his hard on to kill him off……for now. About time the KGBeast was used effectively rather than as a joke, despite being a tool for the bigger villain in this story, namely Bane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit: I didn’t get that was the KGBeast. Granted, the last time I saw that character was when Batman sealed him in underground, so I wasn’t even aware that he was still alive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dale Bagwell // September 28, 2018 at 12:49 pm //

        Oh yeah, after all that he survived. I think Wolfman or whoever took over after Starlin later explained that KGBeast survived. Of course after that he was jobbed out to every superhero he ever ran across, even being personally beaten and humbled by a Venom-less Bane at one point. It was pointed out to me via a comments’ section that the assassin was KGBeast, which makes sense. Although after his ass beating by Bane, I wonder why he’d still work for him.

        Liked by 1 person

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