Batman #688 (DC Comics)
by Judd Winick, Mark Bagley & Rob Hunter
Judd Winick, once a star in DC’s stable of writers whose twinkle had faded in many readers’ eyes in recent years, redeems himself with some solid characterization and plotting as he contributes to the new direction for the Batman family of titles. He clearly connects better with Dick Grayson as a chief protagonist than Bruce Wayne, and it’s understandable. He’s has always been portrayed as more grounded than his mentor and more connected to others around him, so he’s much more relatable as a central character. His take on Dick’s transition is different from that offered by writer Grant Morrison in Batman and Robin. While both are logical and make for good reading, they’re not necessarily compatible, so the reader is better off putting one out of his mind while reading the other. His plot about a prominent Batman villain picking up almost immediately about the change in the man behind the mask is also a logical story to tell in the context of the “Batman Reborn” mode, and I’m pleased DC editorial didn’t long at all getting to it.
Those who followed Mark Bagley’s work for DC on the weekly Trinity series might be a little surprised with what they find in this comic book. Obviously, scheduling likely allowed the artist to take a bit more time with this story arc, and it shows with greater attention to detail. Of course, the greater levels of depth and texture might also be attributable to the fact that he’s teamed with a different inker on this project. Bagley’s more conventional approach to super-hero genre art suits the tone of Winick’s script, which is much less avant garde than Morrison’s approach to the same ideas. 7/10
Buck Rogers #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)
by Scott Beatty & Carlos Rafael
Dynamite continues to stand out as a home to solid adventure/genre titles that, while they don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel or offer anything particularly inventive, nevertheless deliver not only entertaining fare but some smart writing. That’s true of Buck Rogers as well. This may be the smartest bit of writing I’ve seen from Scott Beatty. He presents the science-fiction as science without losing the sense of wonder that makes it fun. He also drops a lot of hints as to the politics and sociology of the far-flung society in which the title character finds himself as well as the military conflict. Beatty also takes an interesting two-pronged approach to exploring the protagonist, both through his confusion and quick adaptability in the future and through flashbacks to the time from which Buck originally hails.
Carlos Rafael’s artwork reminds me quite a bit of Andrea (Nova) Di Vito’s work. Both boast styles obviously influenced by pop super-hero art, but both also handle space opera and sci-fi adventure adeptly. I really like the design work throughout the book; there’s a nice mix of more modern designs and a sense of pulp design that’s in keeping with the property’s origins from decades ago. 7/10
Captain America #601 (Marvel Comics)
by Ed Brubaker & Gene Colan
When I first realized that this issue of Cap would be yet another filler episode (the third in the row for the series), I was disappointed and wished for a fleeting moment that the title wasn’t on my pull list at my local comic shop. But then I remembered it was to feature art from Gene Colan, leading me to be curious about the result. Well, that the result is this: astounding. If at all possible, Colan’s skills in artistry have only improved even in his golden years. He brings a ghostly look to this World War II story, which is appropriate, given the nature of the enemies Cap and Bucky fight. It’s also fitting that Brubaker crafted a vampire story for Colan to illustrate, since the artist is so well known and hailed for his work on Tomb of Dracula for Marvel in the 1970s.
Brubaker’s plot is a fairly conventional one, far more ordinary than Cap readers have come to expect from him. Mind you, it’s an accessible story, one that casual readers or just Colan fans can pick up without worrying about needing to know what’s been going on in Cap continuity (save, perhaps, for the fact that there’s no explanation for new readers about how Bucky came to be alive and well in the 21st century). The more conventional nature of the writing is easy to forgive or ignore, as it’s clear that Brubaker is writing to the artist’s strengths here, ensuring the spotlight remains where it belongs: on Colan. 7/10
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Philip K. Dick & Tony Parker
Boom! Studios offers up an interesting experiment with this comics adaptation of the prose story that inspired the Blade Runner movie. Unlike other adaptations of prose for comics, this features the original text in full, adorning the comic art as word balloons and narrative captions. It makes for a dense read, and I suspect fans of this classic, popular science-fiction story will be pleased. The strength and relevance of Dick’s work shines through. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t necessarily make for good comics storytelling. Writing for comics and writing prose are two completely different beasts, and if anything makes that abundantly clear, it’s this experiment. The script wasn’t written with any kind of visual component in mind, and you can tell. Parker’s art is nicely detailed, which is important, as readers already have a realistic representation of these characters and plot points in mind thanks to the famous Harrison Ford/Rutger Hauer movie. His figures seem a bit stiff, and Parker doesn’t always capture the same emotions or moods mentioned in the narration. Overall, Do Androids Dream is competently illustrated, but again, the art is often in conflict with the script. The book is incredibly text heavy, and the art can get crowded out by the many captions.
The best part of this publication is the insight comics writer Warren Ellis shares on Dick’s life and writing. His admiration for the man jumps off the page, as does a little bit of pity, as Dick was apparently more than a little unstable. 6/10
Wednesday Comics #2 (DC Comics)
I didn’t think it was possible, but I enjoyed this second installment of Wednesday Comics even more than the debut issue last week. The features that were off to a slow start are really rolling now, and the stronger ones offer more of the same strength. I loved how some of the writers and artists changed their approach to the one-page features with their second episodes. Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred offer up a continuation of their Metamorpho piece that’s practically a splash page. Furthermore, I love the gag strip at the bottom of the page that suggests that Metamorpho lore is far more popular and prolific than it actually ever was. Meanwhile Kyle Baker, who employed just a few panels to achieve a widescreen effect with the Hawkman strip last week instead incorporates many more panels and shifts the narrative voice.
Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman strip offers a lot of story for a single page, and it’s a little easier to understand this week… but only a little. The layouts and visuals are still cramped and confusing. The story doesn’t flow all that well visually, and the darkness of the coloring job, combined with the miniscule size of some panels, makes it difficult to discern what’s happening. Perhaps the most distracting element in this issue was the terrible copy-editing job on the Titans feature. I spotted three mistakes in the narration captions.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I now have to triple-check this post for errors so as not to look the fool for voicing that last criticism. 8/10
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