Batwoman #0 (DC Comics)
by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder
J.H. Williams III has been wowing comics readers for years with his inventive layouts and haunting, detailed style. Interest in his work spiked last year when he signed on as the regular artist on the Greg Rucka-penned, Batwoman-starring stint on Detective Comics. Here, the artist returns to the character, sharing not only the artistic duties but the writing chores as well. Again, he impresses with his novel layouts, splitting many pages with artist Amy Reeder. Each artist handles a different aspect of the script — Williams illustrates the Batwoman bits, and Reeder the Kate Kane segments — and despite their different styles, the end result is a surprisingly seamless exercise in storytelling.
DC missed a great opportunity to experiment with format. this zero issue contains only 16 pages of new story and art. The rest of the comic is filled out with preview art and a teaser from another Batman family comic. It’s a shame that DC didn’t just publish the 16 pages on their own and price this promotional/introductory issue at $1.99. Others have experimented with the format; Image Comics published Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell and Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s Casanova that way, and they were well received. DC has made an important step away from the $3.99 price point and format. A cheaper, 16-page comic might’ve been another step in the right direction. Oh, and the logo… definitely a misstep as well. 7/10
Hulk #27 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman/Parker, Mark Robinson & Terry Pallot
I lost interest in this title some time ago after the novelty of Jeph Loeb’s goofy Red Hulk concept, mystery and over-the-top romp through the Marvel Universe wore off. But when I learned that the Agents of Atlas creative team was taking over the book, I had to give it a second look. I’ve been enjoying Parker’s accessible scripts; one needn’t have read the Loeb stint on the book to follow the plot and action in this new direction. The premise is a solid one, keeping the Red Hulk and Bruce Banner in their own little corner of the Marvel Universe while still making use of the diverse array of characters the publisher has to offer. The only real problem with Parker’s stories for this book is that they’re become quite formulaic. Red Hulk is dispatched to deal with world-ending threat along with Marvel Icon X or Y or Z, but before they deal with the threat, they fight each other. It’s been entertaining, but it’s starting to get old. The plot needs to grow, but I suspect Parker knows that. Parker handles Namor’s appearance in this issue well, and he doesn’t tie things down by explaining his current role in the Marvel Universe as part of the X-Men.
I haven’t been as taken with the backup feature, spotlighting A-Bomb AKA Rick Jones, but I have to admit, this particular episode was a blast, as it takes the character to Monster Island. How can one help but smile and delight at a story that involves something called “Monster Island”? As fun and action-packed as the main story is, the A-Bomb feature is even more energetic. It’s irreverent but inconsequential. Actually, I guess I do enjoy the story, but the exaggerated, extreme art doesn’t quite work for me. Sure, it suits the tone of the protagonist and the monstrous threats he faces, but the storytelling isn’t clear. The artwork is frenetic and doesn’t flow well at all. 7/10
I Thought You Would Be Funnier trade paperback (Boom! Studios/Boom! Town imprint)
by Shannon Wheeler
Shannon Wheeler’s name, when mentioned in relation to comics, is usually right next to the term “creator of Too Much Coffee Man.” The cartoons collected in this 120-page book don’t resemble Wheeler’s work on the various Too Much Coffee Man comics, cartoons and merchandise at all. These one-panel cartoons were created with submission to The New Yorker in mind, and that’s apparent from the minimalist style Wheeler has adopted for these works. Apparently, these didn’t make the magazine’s cut, which is surprising. Wheeler offers up succinct but clever commentaries on a variety of topics, but for the most part, they’re quite grounded. Some are silly, some are social, and just about every one is amusing. His simple approach to the artwork demonstrates what a versatile artist he is. And the thought process behind these ‘toons also demonstrate that his ideas can be much more accessible than some of his better-recognized work.
Once again, Boom! Studios, through its indy-flavored imprint Boom! Town, demonstrates that it’s a much more diverse publisher than the industry perceives it to be. Maybe the fault is with the audience or the marketplace. Then again, the publisher’s promotional efforts always seem more pronounced for such genre fare as Cold Space, Irredeemable or Soldier Zero, for example. In any case, the false perception of Boom! as a genre-fiction publisher always makes these unusual projects a pleasant surprise. 7/10
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