Well. This has certainly been a week, hasn’t it? There’s a lot to talk about on both sides of the equation, but as I’ve pretty much had my say on the matter, I’m just going to let shirtless Batman kicking Vandal Savage soothe my troubled soul:
Yes, it’s time for another round of the Internet’s Cheeriest Comics Reviews! Here’s a couple of the comics that made me smile and love the medium this week!
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1: Last night when we were recording Ajax, I was describing this issue to Euge, and right about the time that I got to a bare-chested Bruce Wayne fighting Vandal Savage during caveman days with his grappling hook, he stopped me and just said “This is like porn for you, isn’t it?”
And he was absolutely right.
I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone that I loved this comic, but I loved everything about it, from the way that it picks up directly after the events of Final Crisis to the fact that Batman’s just straight up kicking it in Caveman days with his shirt off like a boss. But beyond those big fist-pumping awesome moments–which include Superman showing up to drop one of those great “Batman is so awesome you guys” speeches that Morrison first had him drop way back in JLA #4, it’s just a really well-done comic.
My ComicsAlliance coworker David Uzumeri hit pretty much everything in his annotations to the issue, but I really don’t think you can say enough good things about how well it’s all put together: The symbolism of the white necklace that Vandal Savage takes from the deer tribe, the fact that Batman’s very presence inspires Robin-esque heroics from others. It’s astonishingly thoughtful for a book that, when you get right down to it, is ostensibly about Batman beating ass in Caveman days.
It’s not just Morrison that makes this issue great, though. Chris Sprouse is one of those artists that i can’t get enough of, and I’ve always wondered why he was never The Guy for Batman or Superman in the modern age. He and Karl Story always do good work, and here, under Guy Major’s coloring, it’s no exception. They take everything Morrison throws at them and pull it off beautifully, from the Steranko-esque hallucination sequence to the sheer ridiculousness of a guy dressing up in the skin of a gigantic bat to Bruce Wayne himself, with his… chiseled abs… broad shoulders… deep blue eyes you could lose yourself in for days…
Whuh?! Oh, sorry, lost myself there for a second. Point is, it’s a fantastic, exciting comic book that was just pure joy for me to read, much to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
Birds of Prey #1: I think I’ve mentioned it more this past week than I ever did during the actual run of the first series, but I was a long-time reader of the original run of Birds of Prey for over a hundred issues, and while it was never my favorite book, it was always pretty solid and entertaining. As such–and as weird as this was for me to realize as a guy who constantly rails about nostalgia being the poison that’s killing comics–Birds of Prey sort of represents my idealized DC Universe, way back in the distant time we call “the mid-to-late ’90s,” when anything was possible! Continuity and world-building were the tools for books like Chase, and second- and third-stringers roamed the land in their own titles, proud and free.
You can probably already tell it’s going to be a night where I go into a lot of weird tangents.
Anyway, getting back to what I was trying to say, I’m glad to have Birds of Prey back, and Gail Simone certainly didn’t disappoint. She hasn’t missed a step in the years since she last wrote the book, picking up with a classic “getting the band back together” type of plot. In fact, I think she actually used the phrase “get the band back together” in the script, but once I hit the Gotham City street gang composed entirely of evil cheerleaders, everything else just sort of faded to background noise.
Which isn’t to say that it’s perfect: There’s no power in Heaven or Earth that’ll make me care about Hawk and Dove, for instance. And artwise, while Ed Benes is certainly better here than he was on Justice League–especially in terms of storytelling and fight choreography–there are still places where he could improve. The faces, for instance, all look very similar, and while you can get away with women who all look the same in some places, a book about an all-female team requires a little more diversity. Plus, I would’ve liked to see him use the Huntress costume that Cully Hamner has her in in the Detective Comics backups (you know, the one that isn’t Daisy Dukes and an ab window), but that’s hardly an insurmountable flaw.
So yeah, it’s a solid issue, and even after almost ten years straight reading it, I’ve got to admit that Birds of Prey can still surprise me. I mean…
Who knew Dinah Lance was down with the 36 Chambers?
Flash #2: Every now and then, someone will come along and inform me that I have a grudge against someone I’ve never met. I’m pretty sure these are the same people were telling me I hated comics five years ago when I started the ISB, but it boils down to an insistence on their part that I can’t just dislike a work on its own merits or flaws, and that my vocal hatred is the by-product of some secret vendetta that I just won’t cop to, which ignores the fact that I tend to be vocal about things in general. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been told that specifically, I have boundless hate for Mark Millar (who, I will admit, has an ultra-huckster public persona that I find frequently laughable), and of course, Geoff Johns.
I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about it lately in regards to The Flash. If ever there was a book that was ready-made for me to go in to further my alleged crusade, it’d be this one. It embodies something I’ve written about hating a dozen times–the regression of a legacy character to an earlier state and the consequential invalidating and shunting-to-limbo of two decades of stories I love–and I’ve said more than once that outside of Tom vs. the Flash, my interest in Barry Allen is nil.
So if there’s any book my “grudge” should lead me to hate, it’s this one, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t initially go into it expecting to do just that. And yet, here we are at the second issue, and just like the first, I think it’s pretty darn enjoyable. I still think Barry Allen is a cipher who could be just about anyone at this point, but the plot’s engaging and entertaining, the speed tricks are fun and suitably heroic, and there’s even a scene–the little girl and her doll–that made me laugh out loud while I was reading it. Even with a scene that has all the subtlety of a brick wall (“No one will stop! They’re all too busy to help!”) it’s a good comic that shows just how fun a book Johns is capable of writing, and Francis Manapul’s art is not only great, but surprisingly stylized for something that’s clearly meant to be a top-tier book. It’s a chance that I wouldn’t have expected DC to take, but I’m glad they did.
The only thing I don’t like is the violence. This may just be me being a premature Cranky Old Man at 27 and indulging my own nostalgia for Mark Waid’s “bank robbers–not killers” characterization of the Rogues in his defining run on the title, but was it really necessary for Captain Boomerang to murder two cops by shattering their frozen bodies? It seems to me like… well, like something out of Batman as oposed to The Flash, and as crazy as that sounds, I think it’s a legitimate expectation for the guy in a bright red and yellow leotard to have a little brighter book than the dude who dresses like Dracula and only has adventures at night.
It’s probably not as bad as it seems, but it really stuck out to me; like Invincible, the violence is more noticeable when what’s surrounding it is so comparatively lighthearted, and having a guy named “Captain Boomerang” commit a double homicide and then get beaten to a pulp just seems… off. But again, it didn’t break the issue for me. I still thought it was a solid comic. I just wish I could get behind it a hundred percent, because contrary to what folks might think, I’d be perfectly happy to love every comic I read.
Well, except Anita Blake. There’s no fixing that one.
And that’s the week. As always, if there’s something that caught your eye in this week’s books–and I’m sure there is–feel free to leave a comment below.