From a wedding crasher to a child gnasher, from a masked murderer to a multiplying man, I’ve covered another eclectic mix of comics in this roundup of capsule reviews.
by Tim Seeley & Sami Basri
Though this should have been a five-issue limited series rather than a bunch of linked one-shots, DC’s decision to spotlight how the various members of the Batman family and his rogues gallery would react to the news of his impending marriage to Catwoman makes some sense from a storytelling perspective (and much more from a marketing standpoint). This final of the five one-shots is one of the more interesting ones, mainly because instead of focusing on the wedding, it dwells on the abusive past relationship between the Joker and his one-time sidekick. Seeley offers a solid take on the broken dynamic, and Harley really comes off as empowered — which makes the predictable but absolutely required ending here a bit of a downer. Seeley really conveys Harley as truly brilliant, though, and I enjoyed the portrayal.
Sami Basri’s artwork is quite sharp and polished here. It’s in keeping with the recent depiction of these characters by Clay Mann and Mikel Janin, but the overall look is most reminiscent of the style of Clayton Henry. But in that respect, it looks a little too… clean throughout, and occasionally cartoony. And that’s not entirely in keeping with the more mature themes Seeley explores here. Don’t get me wrong, the artwork is quite attractive, and I look forward to future work from Basri. It seems like it could have used a little more of an edge. 7/10
by Nick Keller & Conor Nolan
The plot behind Bedtime Games has as its foundation a classic horror-genre convention, the creepy creature set loose by reckless teens that preys on children; comparison to It and other such horror flicks and books will be unavoidable. And writer Nick Keller handles the familiar elements adeptly; there’s definitely an unsettling vibe to the storytelling. But what really caught my attention was his exploration of the three protagonists’ dark backgrounds, notably Avery. Keller blends personal tragedy, racism and emotional abuse to transform Avery into a truly compelling figure, and the notion that she’s able to function normally at all makes her even more admirable. The characterization is definitely the book’s greatest strength, and I was far more drawn in by those subplots.
Conor Nolan’s simple artwork is nevertheless effective. It strikes me as something of a cross between the styles of Troy (Black Sinister) Nixey and Faith Erin (Friends with Boys) Hicks, and there’s a Kelley Jones influence at play there as well. The only issue I take with the linework is the inconsistency in how the three main characters are depicted. Their age appears too fluid; at times, they look like the teenagers they are, but at others, they seem far younger, as young, even as Owen’s kid brother. 8/10
by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Brubaker and Phillips bring their latest opus to a satisfying conclusion, and what emerges more than anything else with this finale is how Kill or Be Killed has been a subtle (though not-so-subtle) commentary on super-heroes and vigilantism, and how it’s been something of an experiment in storytelling, especially from the perspective of narration. Dylan’s narrative voice throughout this series has been quite strong and personal, and it engaged the reader directly, investing the audience in his story of mental illness and a sense of extreme justice. The former has always been the more interesting aspect of the book, and this final chapter is immerse in the latter. But Brubaker grounds the story by suggesting that a continued story of a violent (and sanctioned) crusade is a complete fantasy, that Dylan’s story could only end one way. I also appreciated how much this final issue thrusts the female characters – Detective Sharpe and Kira – in the spotlight, showing us how vital they are to the plot.
Appropriately, I think it’s Phillips’ depiction of the women here that are the most convincing and visually interesting. In many ways, Dylan looks almost boyish here, and that fits, since his reverie after being shot is a simplistic power fantasy, a child’s wish. It’s Sharpe and Kira that seems more mature, and that’s reflected in their visual portrayals. I also appreciated Elizabeth Breitweister’s colors and computer effects, notably the airy color of Kira’s hair and the blurring effects of an ugly world that tries to force itself into her head as she walks through New York City. 9/10
by Matt Rosenberg & Andy MacDonald
There’s a lot of potential in Jamie Madrox as a character, as writer Peter David demonstrated years ago, so it’s not surprising Marvel would opt to revisit the character with a new series with a new creative. But, potential isn’t the only thing the property has in spades: there’s a lot of history, and Matt Rosenberg touches upon a lot of it here. It makes for an inaccessible read, as there’s so much backstory that comes into play here, and not just Madrox’s, but the various X-teams as well. There’s a playful tone to the story, which plays fast and loose with tropes of the super-hero genre. Mind you, what was happening in the tumultuous, climactic scene was fairly obvious, which made the various characters’ obliviousness to it a bit off-putting. MacDonald’s artwork is fairly clear, but his designs for the alt-Jamies at the end were far from subtle, and I found his depiction of the character looked too young most of the time. 5/10