Friday, 10 February 2017

Comic Reviews

This week: a long forgotten design disaster makes its return to DC continuity, Star Wars goes gentler on paternity than usual; Brian Michael Bendis treads water; and, the Outsiders cosplay as the Justice League.

Detective Comics #950
League of Shadows prologue

As much as I like having on-cover titles to tell me when a new story starts, calling this issue the “League of Shadows prologue” is just plain terrible advertising. This is an anthology issue, plain and simple, catching us up with focus stories for various members of Batman's crew.

The issue opens with an introspective piece about Cassandra Cain and her ballet obsession. Have I mentioned how much I love that idea? It seems so perfect and yet no one thought of it before Batman & Robin Eternal. This short really goes into the psychology of Cass and the feelings she has but can't express because of her limited verbal skills. There's also a moment that is absolutely meant to be platonic but just makes me ship Cass/Harper because I've been starved of adorable hero cuddling since Tim got himself blowed up.

Speaking of, a Tim flashback story ends the issue. Not as personal or revealing as Cass' story as its more a tease for future events and a recap of where the various Robins are headed in their own titles but there are some nice moments including, of all things, the return of Robin's car from waaaaaay back in the Chuck Dixon days.

It still looks bloody awful.

Between the these two stories there's a two-hander between Batwing and Azrael, the two newest members of the team and, personally, the two I know the least. I've only experienced Batwing as an occasional love interest in Batgirl and this version of Azrael has clearly been slightly rebooted since Batman & Robin Eternal. By and large its a science versus faith story, which I normally don't have much time for, but for a change neither side is portrayed as unreasonable or irrational and we get more background on the Order Of St. Dumas who could stand to have a comeback sometime soon.

Non-prologue status notwithstanding, a fine oversized anniversary issue.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #4
Book I, Part IV

As fun as this was, it was hard to ignore the feeling that not much happened. Most of the issue was Aphra and company running from last issue's cliffhanger and arriving at the next one. We're teased with a moment where it seems Aphra and her father are about to have the big row they've been headed for since he turned up but then it turns out she's too tired.

Still, Kev Walker keeps up the impressive visuals including an interesting riff on the standard template Imperial officer and no one ever accused Gillen of failing to deliver the character moments. Given price and infrequency, there are few creative I'll give a pass for a slow issue but this is one of them.

Guardians of the Galaxy

On the other hand...

Now, I like Bendis but I can't help but feel this arc is just marking time until the end of the run. This issue isn't as egregious as the one where Ben Grimm shuffles through set-up for his role in Infamous Iron Man but its close. Plus, the next issue is going to be about Angela, a character who left the team ages ago to go be a lesbian space angel in her own series.

I'll probably see the series through to the end in case the character cliffhangers actually amount to something though I'm not counting on it.

Justice League of America: Rebirth one-shot

Or, as I think of it, “The Outsiders relaunch” because that is blatantly what this series is. I also feel pretty vindicated at having skipped three of the four prologue one-shots (I only read the Atom one because I always liked Ryan Choi) since this is a pretty good done in one getting the team together story. I missed three quarters of the series set-up, missed the Justice League vs Suicide Squad series that I'm pretty sure Batman is talking about when he references Killer Frost's face turn and I'm none the worse for it.

This is either good brand management or terrible, I'm not sure which.

Anyway, its the Outsiders with a JLA lick of paint! Batman assembling a team of his own to do... well, that's not entirely clear. This issue is long on introducing characters but not so much on situation. In many ways that's more important, especially considering that someone who paid more attention than me probably knows what this series is about and so what most are spending money on here is the question of whether they'll like these takes on the characters.

I do, as it happens. I like how earnest and open Ryan Choi is; I like that we're back to grubby 90s biker dude Lobo and that Canary hates him; I like that the League has second string rookies again in the form of Ryan and the Ray; and, I like literally everything about Rebirth era Vixen as being a Bruce Wayne that everyone knows is a rich superhero.

Now I just have to pick up the actual #1 and find out if I like the series' direction as much as I like these characters. 

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