Friday, 17 November 2017

Comic Reviews

This week one Batman finds a sense of humour whilst another watches some pretty intense polyamory negotiations; some very circuitous Clone Saga nostalgia hits all over the Spider-Man books; Doctor Aphra is just the most adorable hostage taker; and, the mad genius of the Bombshells universe resurrects the best Bat-family member that no one ever wanted to write for.

Dark Knights: The Batman Who Laughs one-shot

This was certainly a fun one. Okay, not overburdened with answers and very much like the other Dark Knights one-shots that preceded it but it felt like a fitting conclusion to the run of evil Batman origin stories. It was a fun detail that the art used the DCAU version of the Joker because, to my generation at least, he's not just the definitive version of the character but one of the most evil. Okay, part of that was that we were kids at the time and had pretty simple definitions of evil but... well, its just nice to see that version get his due as the Joker of the worst version of Batman's life.

On the character side the issue, even after everything we've seen from the other Dark Knights, works as a pretty good manifesto for why this Batman is the leader of the group and what he's capable of.

Its also another good example of why this crossover is hitting the spot for me a lot more than the sprawling events Marvel has been inflicting on its audience the last couple of years. This is one of two issues of the event this week. Just two and that's the norm. Yes, it has intruded on some of my regular reading and not always in ways that benefit those series (Green Arrow interrupting the storyline that's been running since Rebirth is a particular low point for me) but it isn't interrupting everything I'm reading from DC. Its also a lot more cohesive as a story because there's just fewer individual writers stirring the same pot. It has focus and that's very clearly to its benefit.

Amazing Spider-Man #791
Fall of Parker part 3

Okay, very specific nostalgia moment here. I know that putting Peter back at the Daily Bugle is meant to be one of those all-time classic status quos but particular details remind me of a time in the series that probably only I'm actually nostalgic for.

That said, they've got Peter David writing a Ben Reilly ongoing so maybe not.

Anyway, back during the bad old days of the Clone Saga there was a time when Peter was a staff writer at the Daily Bugle, a young professional with a full-time job. Dan Slott's big idea is that Robbie Robertson has brought Peter on as the Bugle's new science editor which, again, has that young professional thing going on that makes it feel less like the character is backsliding (which actually gets a lampshade put on it by Aunt May of all characters).

Peter and Mockingbird's relationship continues to be fun and interesting in a “waiting for the future trainwreck” sort of way. I really don't see it lasting and I think Slott is on my side on this which I'm glad of because even by Spider-Man standards this seems like a poor dynamic. I mean, its not the worst days of Peter and MJ but its close.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #297
Most Wanted part 1

I have questions. For instance, why not launch this title with its Legacy numbering like they did with Captain America if they were going to switch the numbering all of seven issues in? Why is this marketed as the beginning of a new storyline when it so clearly isn't? Okay, these aren't Earth-shattering questions but since basic marketing seems to be a blindspot for Marvel these days they bear expressing.

Such minor irritations aside this was probably my favourite issue of the series so far with the sort of “issue as episode” structure that I'm always praising Tom King's Batman for. Peter returns to his apartment to find Teresa gone (btw, I really, really want it to turn out she's really Peter's sister, I would love that) and promptly gets ambushed by a small army of mercenary types who can shut off his spider-sense. Unwilling to compromise his identity, Peter spends most of the issue out of costume and unable to use his gadgets so there's an extra element of thinking through the problem as he flees from the mercenaries that really works for the character.

There also continues to be some fantastic payoff for last issue's conversation with Jonah and I hope that situation doesn't get reverse or retconned down the line. Again, nostalgia for the way the cast worked in the Clone Saga days but I've always prefered Jonah as a genuinely decent and principled journalist with a few very bad blindspots which seems to be how Zdarsky wants to portray him.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #14
Remaster part 1

This issue was adorable, not just in plot but in new artist Emilio Laiso's rendition of both Aphra and her developing nemesis Lt. (formerly Captain, until she last met Aphra) Magna Tolvan. The main meat of the issue is Aphra and some new friends raiding a backwater Imperial outpost with Aphra on getaway driver duty. In this role she takes over an Imperial flyer that Tolvan was getting in to for the purposes of shooting Aphra's new colleagues. What follows is an issue of Aphra flirting with Tolvan and Tolvan being very, very sad and needing a hug (but, obviously, getting a stun blast instead).

Its all leading to a twist ending that's all over the internet by now but that I won't spoil here. Suffice to say that I was worried some of this series' entertainment value was on the way out after The Enormous Profit but that the new status quo more than makes up for the changes to the supporting cast.

And for the record, I officially ship Aphra/Tolvan a hell of a lot more than Aphra/Sana. The chemistry is just palpable.

Bombshells United #12
World Tour part 2

A lot of stuff happens in this issue but, to be frank, the only thing I care about (and I recognise the massive disservice I am doing to this, perhaps the best series DC is putting out right now) is that Cass Cain has finally made her Bombshells debut and she's done it as the Black Bat.

The fact that DC made her the Black Bat, Batman Incorporated's assigned agent for Hong Kong, and then did almost nothing with her right up until the New 52, is a very old grudge of mine of which the latest manifestation is continuing resentment towards the Orphan identity she currently wears in Detective Comics for not being the Black Bat.

Trust the great Marguerite Bennett to come in and fix yet another longstanding DC editorial fuck up. Here's hoping Cass gets a decent length arc to name sometime soon.

Batman #35
The Rules of Engagement part 3

This issue was hilarious and touching all at the same time. For once in modern comics the cover tells not one lie: the main event is a big old sword fight between Selina and Talia (and, yes, I stand by my characterisation of that fight as “polyamory negotiation”). Its a great character study because, not unnaturally, Talia's position is that Selina is not Bruce's equal and she has all the old lines about how “the Detective” is the only man on Earth who has a chance of being her equal and that's why they are destined blah blah blah.

And Selina? Selina ain't having none of it. Selina is very clearly, very explicitly going into this whole engagement situation with no illusions about where she ranks in Bruce's priorities and how damaged the poor guy is. Frankly, he spent four months of pillow talk describing how he almost murdered a guy, this truth should be self-evident but its commendable that Tom King wants us to know Selina has a sense of reality about the whole thing. She knows Bruce isn't going to stop being Batman or put her above the mission, its not who he is and its based on profound childhood trauma he's never fully processed, perhaps now never can, not fully.

Oh, and we break periodically for comic relief courtesy of Dick and Damian who are as delightful as ever. Of particular note is Dick's diagnosis for why Batman chose to go on a suicide mission to face his ex before mentioning his engagement to his gaggle of sons which cuts right to the heart of the very same issues Selina's outlining to Talia which reinforces the fact that they're right and that Selina is capable of understanding Bruce on a level with one of the only people who has known him longer and more personally than she has. Good stuff. 

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