Batman: Lost #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez & Jaime Mendoza
Even if I had no interest in the Metal crossover event giving rise to this one-shot, I would have been drawn to it just based on the artistic talent contributing to the visuals for this comic. Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza’s meticulous linework has the perfect kind of intensity to it, bringing an edge even to the seemingly wholesome vision of an elderly Bruce Wayne reading to his potential granddaughter. Jorge Jimenez’s exaggerated and stylized art has been a great deal of fun on Super Sons, so it was interesting to see it take on a harsher tone for this story. But the art I enjoyed the most in this book came from Yanick Paquette, who’s had a strong association with Batman during the Grant Morrison runs on various titles. Paquette’s take on the character never fails to put me in mind of the style of Kevin Nowlan. I also appreciated how he tweaked his style slightly to convey different time periods in which the Batman finds himself in this ever-flowing hellscape.
In some ways, Batman: Lost is the creative zenith of DC’s Metal event, delving deep into the mythos of the title character. What intrigued me the most about it was how much it was clearly inspired from Grant Morrison’s time writing the Batman in recent years. The writers explore much of Morrison’s concepts here, not just the notion of the Bat Tribe at the dawn of humanity, but also the notion that all Batman stories happened in continuity, in one way or another. When I saw that the writers were using the first Batman story, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” as a key component in tho the protagonist’s desperate journey through his own history, and I was hooked. I have to admit I’m enjoying the crossover concept that two warring factions — the Bats and the Birds — have shaped DC’s history. There are so many aspects of DC’s mythology that touch upon the bird symbolism, and it’s strikes me as ambitious that Scott Snyder and others at DC are working to connect those unintentionally placed dots.
As much as I enjoyed all of those other elements in this comic book, when I reached the end, I felt let down. I guess a selling point of the one-shot is that those reading Metal needn’t pick up this offshoot to get the whole story. Ultimately, this story is inconsequential. What unfolds here doesn’t make any difference in the larger plot. I found that really off-putting, as I wanted there to be a bit more weight to a story for which I shelled out five bucks (American, at that). 6/10
Fighting American #2 (Titan Comics)
by Gordon Rennie & Duke Mighten
I find it odd that a British comics publisher has picked up the rights to publish a Fighting American, but hey, an American comics publisher offers up the adventures of the best-known Canadian super-characters, so who am I to judge? In any case, this thoroughly accessible (thanks to an abundance of exposition) second issue sees a legendary American icon transported from 1954 to 2017; obviously writer Gordon Rennie is offering his spin on the familiar Captain America story as a fish out of water, and he offers a more exaggerated look at the notion. Fighting American and his sidekick, Speedboy, are definitely a product of their times, and they’re not nearly as quick to adapt to a futurescape that’s practically alien to them. Rennie also explores the story of a communist villain plucked out of the past as well, and he parallels the experiences of the hero and antagonist, both shown the worlds they fought to bring about haven’t come to pass. I was a bit unsettled by Fighting American being shown a cultural diverse New York neighborhood as evidence his mission ultimately failed. I can’t tell if the writer is suggesting the protagonist would wrongly view things as such, or if he’s actually arguing an inclusive America with a thriving array of races and religions is something that’s undesirable. I suspect the latter isn’t likely, as I can’t imagine the families of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who created the titular hero, would sign off on such an interpretation. In any case, the presentation of the parallels between the two time-displaced sides in the conflict is rather ham-fisted. The cartoonish, over-the-top face of a communist zealot from the past hardly seemed like the most balanced choice in the storytelling.
Where this comic truly falters, though, is with the art. The unlikely named “Duke Mighten” boasts a visual style that’s a terrible fit for this stab at the super-hero genre. I realize he’s trying to approximate a Kirby-like style, but he generally misses the mark. The distorted, horizontally elongated faces are distracting throughout the book. It actually reminded me of the art of Nick Pitarra on The Manhattan Projects. Such a bizarre style works well on a book such as that, but not with more traditional fare such as this. Mighten also struggles a bit with perspective, backgrounds and settings here. 4/10
Lazarus X+66 #4 (Image Comics)
by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann & Alitha Martinez
I’ve been a big fan of the work of writer Greg Rucka for years – of his mainstream super-hero stories, creator-owned projects and his novels. Speaking as someone who’s read the lion’s share of his stories, I have to say the world of his Lazarus comics is easily his most ambitious foray into world-building. He’s constructed a completely detailed and convincing dystopian mythology, and this spinoff series just goes to show how vast that mythology is. This fourth issue — focusing on the friendship and flirtations between two Lazari, one from South Africa and another from Israel, each of whom have been ordered the kill the other — is definitely my favorite of the six-part limited series thus far. Rucka and co-writer Eric Trautmann’s script holds up incredibly well as a standalone story, and an accessible one at that. I daresay one needn’t have read a single Lazarus comic before this one to appreciate the character-driven story here. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of the purity and innocence of the protagonist’ friendship here against the violence and deadly precision of their warrior skills.
Artist Alitha Martinez clearly endeavors to mirror the dark, gritty style that artist Michael Lark has established in the main Lazarus title, and she does an excellent job of it. At the same time, one can see this isn’t Lark’s work; there’s a different sensibility and eye for layout at play, so Martinez’s makes it her own to an extent. I especially appreciated her depiction of the “swarm” one of the Lazari employs in the plot. BUt most importantly, she humanizes these lethal warriors with the warm, carefree facial expressions they share between them. 9/10
Runaways v.5 #3 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Rainbow Rowell & Kris Anka
That this is the fifth incarnations of a Runaways title shows how much the Powers That Be at Marvel have faith in the characters and concept, and with a TV show based on the property just over the horizon, it completely makes sense that the publisher would want a current title out there at the moment. Of course, one of the problems Marvel has had is that subsequent stabs at this team of young heroes has never captured the originality and the heart of the original run by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Adrian Alphona. Until now. Runaways v.5 has fulfilled the promise of the original run. Writer Rainbow Rowell gets these characters and completely realizes the deep potential in the dynamics of this revived premise. She doesn’t just try to recapture the same magic as Vaughan. Instead, she explores how the characters have changed as they near adulthood. More importantly, she shows how uncomfortable and even traumatic it is for one of them not to have changed or grown at all, given she was plucked out of time and out of the jaws of death. Gert’s pain over being left behind and forgotten feels so genuine and real, and that’s amazing, given the impossible events that give rise to that pain. I love the contradiction of how these characters feel lost because they’re finding each other once again.
Runaways is proving to be the perfect project for artist Kris Anka. This is the best work I’ve ever seen from him. He conveys the youth of the characters so incredibly well, and more importantly, he delivers the nuance of their emotions effectively but not in an exaggerated fashion. There’s a softness in his linework that reinforces the grounded, character-driven nature of this story as well, and Matthew Wilson’s warm color palette reinforces that softness and humanity. There’s nary an instance of action in this issue, and I didn’t miss it at all; the human drama is more than enough to keep my attention. 10/10
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