Batman #21 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo & Rafael Albuquerque
Because apparently, I’ve created the impression I pan Marvel and DC super-hero comics so I can impress “hipsters”, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this new story arc in DC’s main Batman title. I was quite disappointed in Superman Unchained, not only due to the art, but surprisingly due to being let down by Snyder’s plot. Fortunately, it appears that was an aberration, because his new take on Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the Batman here is fantastic. As he did with the Court of Owls, Snyder is building a new mythology and history for Gotham City, and he’s doing so by incorporating and reinventing some familiar characters and concepts. In Batman: Earth One, writer Geoff Johns explored the maternal branches of Bruce Wayne’s family tree by transforming Martha Wayne into a member of the Arkham clan. Here, Snyder does something similar, making her maiden name Kane and giving some of those tree limbs a bit of rot. The opening scene, set six months ahead of the main action, just after Bruce took on the Batman persona, hints at an ambitious story arc, one that promises to be much more over-the-top and tumultuous than what we’ve seen before. I look forward to it. The backup story is solidly executed. It should appeal to the Fast and the Furious fans out there, but peppered in the high-octane, high-speed action is a clever and peppy script that barrels ahead as quickly as the car the protagonist is driving throughout the sequence.
Capullo’s exaggerated style continues to suit the property quite well, but I have to admit I was a little more impressed with his performance on this particular issue. The reason: there’s little Batman for him to illustrate and mainly just a lot of Bruce. He appropriately instills a more youthful look in this vision of Bruce Wayne from six years ago. I was also impressed with how bright Gotham seems to be here. Bruce seems to walk through the dayside of the city, whereas he’ll later embrace the night. I like the creepy intensity Capullo brings to Edward Nygma and the monstrous quality that quietly lurks in the Red Hood’s misaligned teeth. Rafael Albuquerque’s lithe figures and blurred lines bring the high-speed chase in the backup story to life incredibly well. His style is such a marked departure from Capullo’s, it brings an added sense of artistic diversity to the book, while the plot boasts a natural link to the main story. 8/10
Six-Gun Gorilla #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Simon Spurrier & Jeff Stokely
I would have thought the gun-toting simian on the cover and from which this title derives its name would serve as the greatest and most fun aspect of this comic book, but in this inaugural issue, he really doesn’t play that big a role. Instead, the “star” of the show is Simon Spurrier’s weird vision of the future based on an alternate history in which the Civil War never ended. Though initially the futuristic elements aren’t apparent, it only takes a few pages before the reader realizes this isn’t a typical Civil War story, and the main clues are provided in the modern tone of the dialogue, not the revelation of technology. With the war being fought on an other-dimensional landscape and used as reality-TV fodder for the masses, Spurrier manages to explore the truly ugly nature of armed conflict while combining it with a pointed commentary on the intellectually and physically sedentary nature of society today. All the while, he spices things up with a playfully morbid sense of fun. When the title character finally reveals himself, it’s as bombastic and splashy as it should be.
Jeff Stokely’s artwork is something quite unique but wholly effective and entertaining. His style looks a bit like a cross between the weird but simple approach of Jeff (Sweet Tooth) Lemire or Scott (Ancient Joe) Morse, and the kinetic, elongated lines of Rafael (American Vampire) Albuquerque’s work. The designs for the sci-fi elements — from the giant tortoises making their way across a barren landscape to the steampunk weaponry — are striking and inventive, but more importantly, especially given the nature of the title character, Stokely conveys an over-the-top sense of action and motion. Despite its colorful title and protagonist, this comic book is likely to be overlooked by many, and it’s definitely worth a look. 9/10
Thor: God of Thunder #9 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic
It’s no coincidence Marvel’s stronger comics are those untouched by crossover events or its expansive continuity, and Thor: God of Thunder is proof of that. This title holds up well even if one views it as being unrelated to Marvel’s larger universe in any way; it might even be stronger out of that context. Aaron’s exploration of Thor at three different points in his life, all existing simultaneously, makes for some interesting character work and interplay, though the concept is simple: everyone becomes a different person as he or she ages. I don’t usually care for the lofty, battle-driven nature of the thunder God, finding it hard to relate to him, but his various incarnations’ views of the others somehow makes it easier to connect with him/them. Gorr continues to stand out as an interesting villain, as he’s driven by grief and anger toward God (well, “gods” in this case), and that’s something with which everyone can identify. The best villains are those who see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, and Gorr definitely falls into that category.
Esad Ribic’s artwork, boasting a rich, painted, textured style, works incredibly well to reinforce the mythic and even timeless nature of the story and characters. He handles the science-fiction side of the story quite well while bringing a classic, even historic look to the strong Norse current running throughout this issue and the series in general. Ive Svorcina’s colors go a long way to reinforce the painted, detailed but moody look of Ribic’s line art, adding even more maturity and dark intensity to this plot about a war on and by divinity. The double-page splash early in the issue is not only lovely, but it captures the weird and dark shadow powers of Gorr incredibly well. I love how his inky dogs of war flow from his cloak, while the heroes are backlit by cosmic thunderclouds bursting with angry energy. 8/10
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