Monday, September 19, 2016

Reviews of comics from Wednesday 9/14

Detective Comics #940
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, & Adriano Lucas

And so ends the first arc of the new Detective Comics, and what an ending it is. I've been singing the praises of this title since it returned with its new Rebirth era creative team, and this finale doesn't disappoint. There will be SPOILERS for the issue in this review, more than I usually would put in one, but frankly the ending of this issue has been all over all the major comic news sites since Wednesday, so I feel I can address it. I want to start by talking about thee aspect of the issue that hasn't been discussed all over the place, which is James Tynion's handling of Batwoman and her confrontation with her father, Colonel Jake Kane. Kane has been the primary antagonist of this arc, him and his para-military Colony organization, and to see Batwoman stand up to her father is a bravura moment for that character. This is the strong, take no prisoners hero that was introduced all those years ago in 52, the character who should have been a star and was shunted to the side until all the buzz around her had died down. Kate Kane is a woman of principal, who stands by what she believes in, even if it means her imprisoning her own father. And Kane remains just this side of sympathetic, a man who truly believes that what he's doing is right, which makes him all the more interesting as a foe. But now I have to touch on is Tim Drake, Red Robin, and his fate. On Friday, I wrote about what makes Tim Drake such a great character. And his final showdown with the drones that the Colony were sending to kill suspected agents of the League of Shadows is a perfect indicator of what makes Tim great: he went down a hero. He knew that his chances were slim, that he might be sacrificing his own life when he set himself as the drones only target, and when he knew he couldn't win? He stood his ground and went out a hero. It was a marvelous moment, and would have been an excellent death, if that's what it was. Instead, we see him taken by the mysterious Mr. Oz. There are interesting new hints to what exactly Mr. Oz is doing, and what his plans are, which are all good for the overall progress of the DC Universe and for Tim's future, but it's also great to see Tim, the one person who kept the faith when Batman "died" in Final Crisis and was sure Bruce was alive, still having faith that his friends will find him despite his own seeming death. Add in a perfect scene of Batman showing real and true sadness at the apparent death of one of his charges, and you have an issue that is as emotionally resonant as it was action packed, a perfect superhero comic.

Faith #3
Story: Jody Houser
Art: Pere Perez and Andrew Dalhouse & Marguerite Sauvage

In case you haven't read any of my previous reviews of her series or any articles about the character, Valiant's breakout hit character Faith is a fangirl. A major league fangirl. And that part of her character is part of her charm. So it's probably not the least bit surprising that Faith would spend a story arc going to a comic con. And she's bringing her boyfriend, Archer of Archer and Armstrong along for his first con. The two head out, in cosplay naturally, and because this is a superhero comic, pretty soon they're getting involved investigating thefts at the convention and the theft turns out to be way more than just a simple fan who wants to make off with stuff he couldn't afford. The appeal of this issue comes from the interactions between Faith and Archer. We saw their first date in a recent issue of A+A, but now we're seeing them more deeply into their relationship, and on Faith's home turf. The two are so perfect together, Archer so naive and Faith so confident in this setting. And the reasons why Faith is so determined to see that justice is done at the con, and what cons mean to her, is something that I think all of us who live in a world of fandom should read, because it's something that is easily forgotten: about how cons are places where we meet and greet those we admire and more how we get to share the things we love with others who love them, and how no one has a right to interfere with that. I love how positive Faith is, how she is always looking for the best in others, but how she's also always willing to stand up for herself and others. The art for the issue by Pere Perez is especially good, with all sorts of wonderful Easter Eggs in the con scenes, and a great design for Faith's cosplay, something that still evokes her costume while having a different, piratical air. Faith is one of the best comics from Valiant, a fun superhero comic that embraces fandom and fans, with a great hero; it's also a comic that is easy to jump on to at pretty much any point, and this issue is especially good as a jumping on point, as everything you need to know is right here. Oh, and not just everything you need to know about Faith; there are con going tips throughout the issue that are well worth taking note of, even if you're an old hand at it. I mean, who knows when you're going to be called on to fight evil at your next con?

And Dan Grote is here with a review of a... Batman comic!

All-Star Batman #2
Story: Scott Snyder
Art: John Romita Jr., Danny Miki and Dean White (main story); Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire (backup strip)

At the end of Season 2 of The Venture Bros., after the Sovereign has revealed himself as (a shapeshifter who takes the form of) David Bowie, Henchmen 21 and 24 remark on their favorite Bowie albums, and 21 harps on 24 for liking “ChangesOne” because “Changes is a best-of.”

All-Star Batman is, in many ways, a best-of. But it’s also something new.

Part of it is Batman barreling through a highlight reel of his enemies (roughly) two by two as he and Two-Face buddy-cop their way across the country. So we get appearances from requisite Bat-foes like the Penguin, Killer Croc and Victor Zsasz, in addition to deeper cuts like the KGBeast and Gentleman Ghost. We also get art from John Romita Jr., one of comics’ warmest blankets for more than 30 years.

But while Scott Snyder spent five years cementing himself as one of the all-time great Bat-writers, he’s not done leaving his mark.

Take, for example, his take on Two-Face. Snyder’s Two-Face is portrayed as much darker than in years past, explaining away his campier exploits as cries for help from the Harvey Dent side of his personality. This Two-Face isn’t just setting other villains on the Bat. Even allies like Jim Gordon have a vested interest in stopping Bruce from reaching the series’ MacGuffin, a purported cure for the Two-Face side of Dent. If successful, Two-Face has threatened to release the dirt he has on everyone in Gotham, and that’s a lot of dirt.

And yes, Bruce is training a new sidekick, but despite headlining a title called We Are Robin, Duke Thomas is not taking up the mantle, nor is he wearing the standard red, green and yellow. Just the yellow. The backup strips focus on Duke’s training, which isn’t so much about learning martial arts or how to win a melee fight but a study in psychology, both in Duke’s relationship with his psychotically altered parents and in learning how Batman’s never-ending parade of Arkham escapee foes thinks. Because let’s face it, working with Batman means exposing yourself to messed-up stuff every second of the day.

Oh, and Bats uses actual shark repellant against King Shark. Because if Grant Morrison’s Unified Theory of Batman has taught us anything, it’s that Batman done right should be grimdark and silly simultaneously.

So if Matt and I had the repartee of 21 and 24, he’d be doing his duty by calling me a poseur for liking the “ChangesOne” that is All-Star Batman. Also I’d be dead in a season. But whatever, my point is, as The Matt Signal’s resident “Not a DC guy” guy, I’m loving this book. And Bowie rules.

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