Contained herein are capsule reviews of Batman and the Signal #1, Hawkman: Found #1, Jessica Jones #15 and Void Trip #2.
Batman and the Signal #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, Tony Patrick & Cully Hamner
I was on the line as to whether I’d pick up yet another Batman spinoff book, even if Scott Snyder had a hand in it, but then I saw Cully Hamner was handling the art chores, and I was in. Hamner is an incredibly adept super-hero artist, and he’s been a rock-solid performer for years. I think I first noticed his work on Malibu’s Firearm, and his style has only grown more striking over the years. I like how he conveys the youth of the main characters in this story nicely, and his thick linework nevertheless captures the dynamic action sequences of the story incredibly well. Laura Martin’s colors really pop within those black boundaries Hamner set out for her. I really love the design for Detective Alex Aisa; Hamner instills drive and intellect in her, but she’s also so unique, so unlike what one would expect to find in a Gotham City detective. Hamner’s depiction of Commissioner Gordon is impressive as well, especially given his choice to instill some age back in the character.
I must also note that the bold simplicity of the cover logo is a nice piece of design work. It catches the eye and clearly delineates the link to the Batman Family, but it’s quite unlike what we’ve seen before for such titles.
The notion that Duke is becoming the Batman’s agent in the dayside of Gotham is an interesting one, as it the choice of Duke’s new codename: the Signal. It’s an unconventional but logical progression in the Bat-nomenclature. I like the effort to set up a new status quo for Duke, a new mission and a new base of operations. Where the book goes awry is in the explanation of Duke’s powers and those of other Gotham teens whom he’s trying to confront and help. I have no idea where this notion of Duke’s powers are coming from (I assume it will be explained in Dark Nights: Metal, given the tie-in branding on the cover), but it’s not explained well here at all. It’s thoroughly confusing, and since emerging powers in other new characters is a lynchpin of the plot, I was at a loss most of the time. 6/10
Hawkman: Found #1 (DC Comics)
by Jeff Lemire, Bryan Hitch & Kevin Nowlan
Bryan Hitch pencils with Kevin Nowlan inks? Are you frikkin’ kidding me? That pairing alone is worth the price of admission here. Nowlan’s distinct style comes through here, pretty clearly but also pretty subtly as well, as it doesn’t overpower or eclipse Hitch’s signature style. His detail and keen eye for anatomy are as strong as ever. He’s an excellent artist to convey the stature and presence of Hawkman as a character, as he’s portrayed as larger than life here. However, his interpretation of the classic Silver Age Manhawks lacks the sort of macabre look for the unusual Hawk foes, and I would have liked to have seen more detail for the crowds depicting past incarnations of Hawkman.
As good as the book looks overall, it reads terribly. There’s hardly any exposition, not from Dark Nights: Metal or other context needed to appreciate the story or visuals. I have been reading Metal and am quite familiar with Silver Age and more recent Hawkman stories, and even I found the plot to be a little on the disorienting side. We don’t get a sense of this interpretation of Carter Hall beyond his determination to escape his plight, but the greatest sin committed by Lemire and others on the Metal steering committee is that this comic book really contributes very little to the overall story. It doesn’t seem that missing out on Hawkman: Found would have much of an effect on one’s appreciation or understanding of the larger event plot. 5/10
Jessica Jones #15 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos
While I’m keenly interested to see what writer Brian Michael Bendis will accomplish with his move to DC Comics, I have to admit that I really wish he’d still be guiding this comic book. He and artist Michael Gaydos co-created Jessica Jones with Alias in the early 2000s, and no other writer knows her voice as well as Bendis does. I find the flawed character and her reluctant journey toward bettering herself to be fascinating, but in this issue, it’s not so much Jessica’s character that’s grabbed my attention, but the Purple Man. Bendis offers up a vision of a sociopath, completely self-absorbed, who’s trying his best to emulate a reasonable person who’s trying to mend fences. His dialogue is thoroughly creepy, because we’re aware of what he’s done. He knows it too, but somehow thinks the woman he’s victimized the most in the world and whom he continues to victimize should see the light as he thinks he has. It makes Jessica’s anger and desperation all the more understandable and even relatable. I think the only real misstep in this issue is how Bendis incorporates the other characters. Captain Marvel in plainclothes could be confusing for those not as familiar with her friendship with Jessica, and Kraven’s appearance seems unnecessary, as the adjacent Nick Fury Jr. would undoubtedly have the required skill set to fulfill the same role.
Gaydos does his usual solid job of reinforcing reality in the unreal world of the Marvel Universe, or at least this small, dingy corner of it. What’s most impressive with his work on this issue is his ability to convey the sudden chaos of the crowd scene later in the issue. The throng appears so suddenly, it’s easy to understand Jessica’s confusion at the overwhelming development. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth contributes significantly to the tension, as always. The dark, dirty palette he employs to capture the setting and characters is impressive, and I like the subtle use of color to communicate the title character’s shiner. But it’s the disproportionately intense purple of the villain’s form and the manifestation of his mind-control powers that’s truly unsettling. The unnatural look of it shows he doesn’t belong in the world, that he’s an aberration and blight on it. 8/10
Void Trip #2 (Image Comics)
by Ryan O’Sullivan & Plaid Klaus
I raved about the first issue of this unusual series, and the second is just as weird and challenging. It’s also not as strong as the debut, as there’s a disjointed quality in the middle of the book. Thanks to the mind-bending plot elements that are integral to the book, O’Sullivan really needed to craft a better segue between the Froot-using protagonists being stranded and the resumption of their journey with a perilous stopover. Ana’s drug-induced self-discovery is quite intriguing, and it brings a depth to the slacker character that keeps her from being too off-putting. The faceless mystery man who hunts Ana and Gabe is thoroughly creepy and intense, and he’s clearly meant to represent life without whimsy or occasional intoxication. Sure, the Froot-users go too far in indulging themselves, but this figure devoid of color represents the other extreme.
Ana looks a bit off in this issue; artist Plaid Klaus seems to take a more androgynous approach to many of her depictions in this second issue. I’m not looking for her to be transformed into a sexual object, but she seemed so devoid of femininity here, I wasn’t sure I was reading about the same character as I did in the first issue. That passes, fortunately, and I continue to appreciate how the “Froot trips” are depicted in the book, especially when it comes to the more muted color palette employed for the psychedelic elements. And given how weird the ”real world” looks in Void Trip Klaus deserves credit for many the drug-induced hallucinations actually seem weirder. I also think the artist instills a thoroughly intense and intimidating quality into the antagonist despite him being a blank canvas when it comes to expressiveness. 6/10