Batman vol. 6: Graveyard Shift

May 31, 2015

The Snyder/Capullo run on this title has been marked primarily by big event storylines:  “The Court of/City of the Owls,” “Death of the Family,” and “Zero Year.”  It hasn’t left much room for shorter stories, but this volume collects all of the miscellany that has accumulated between these arcs.  Worth noting right up front is that even though Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s names are on the cover, they’re only directly responsible for three of the issues collected here.  “Bright New Yesterday” acts as a prologue to “Zero Year” as we witness Bruce Wayne’s attempt to infiltrate the Red Hood Gang and his first encounter with Commissioner Gordon.  It adds some nice context, and further establishes the villainous credentials of the Gang’s leader, but is hardly essential reading to enjoy the rest of the storyline.  “Nowhere Man” has the creators putting their own spin on another of Batman’s more noteworthy villains as Bruce Wayne apparently embarks on a crime spree in broad daylight.  Still struggling with the death of his son Damian, Batman has to work through his grief to figure out what’s going on here.  It’s a fun action caper that hits all the right notes for a “Batman” story while making the sentiment towards Damian’s passing feel particularly heartfelt…  Even if the character is back now.  With superpowers!

Everything else in this volume is a mix of various writers and artists, with Snyder at least having a story credit in most of them.  There’s another story about how Batman responds to Damian’s death with impressive art by Andy Kubert and Alex Maleev.  Maleev also illustrates a story from James Tynion IV featuring a Batman/Superman team up against a demonic foe.  Tynion also gives us stories about what the three original Robins were up to prior to meeting Batman, and a tie-in to the “Gotham Eternal” series that may come off as a little confusing to anyone who hasn’t read at least the first volume of that title.  A couple of Rick Remender’s favored collaborators, “Deadly Class’” Wes Craig and “Black Science’s” Matteo Scalera, illustrate stories about Batman encountering a scientific nightmare as he volunteers to test Arkham’s security, and his efforts to stop a serial killer targeting Gotham’s forgotten inhabitants.  Those two come to us from Marguerite Bennett and Gerry Duggan, respectively, and a par for the course in this volume.  Enjoyable yet unexceptional.  Even if this volume is “one for the completists,” the odds are they’ll still be satisfied by the stories being told here and the wide variety of artistic styles to appreciate as well.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Rat Queens vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth

May 30, 2015

The good news is that this volume addresses a lot of the issues I had with the previous one.  It’s clear now that the gimmicky descriptions given to the core cast members were just that, and the Queens themselves are quickly becoming their own characters.  Now it remains to be seen if writer Kurtis Wiebe can deliver a story that’s worthy of them.

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Moon Knight vol. 2: Dead Will Rise (by Wood and Smallwood)

May 29, 2015

The first volume of this title was entertaining enough, even if its lasting contribution was underlining just how much Warren Ellis’ dialogue is starting to irritate me with its familiarity.  That’s not an issue I have with new writer Brian Wood’s style.  Granted, his dialogue is not that distinct at all, but I don’t read his comics to see how his characters are saying their words.  He’s great with pacing, action, and presenting socially conscious ideas in an accessible and entertaining way -- and this volume is a great showcase for his abilities.  Wood even manages to find an engaging way to riff on the single-issue storytelling Ellis laid out for the first volume.  While each issue tells a complete story, they’re all discrete parts of a larger story of revenge.  It kicks off when General Alimar Lor, of the fictional nation of Akima, is set to address the U.N. and winds up being targeted for assassination.  As he’s a night traveler at this instance, the general finds himself under Moon Knight’s protection.  The superhero himself, however, finds that this plot has a close personal connection that will put his ties to the Egyptian god Khonshu in jeopardy.

A nighttime attack with a subsequent citywide blackout.  An assault on building being held by a man with a grudge and a point to make.  Revisiting past atrocities through hypnosis.  Trying to escape a secure facility where enemies of the state are held.  These are just some of the scenarios Moon Knight (a.k.a. Marc Spector, a.k.a. Steven Grant…) encounters in this volume.  They’re all well-executed action setpieces accompanied by some genuine cleverness.  The best of them is the building assault which is told entirely through the perspective of cameras associated with the action.  It may sound like an awkward way to tell a story, but artist Greg Smallwood makes the unique perspectives work thanks to his layouts that keep the story flowing in a natural way.  It’s also clear that the writer and artist work well together as it takes a certain amount of trust between the two to make the many fifteen-panel-grid pages in this series work as well as they do here.  I wouldn’t say the art here is as relentlessly experimental as the first volumes’, but it’s always interesting to look at and does an excellent job of drawing you into the story.

It’s too bad this second volume didn’t arrive with the same amount of buzz the first one had as it’s the better of the two.  If you were onboard with vol. 1 because of Ellis/Shalvey, then don’t skip this one simply because they’ve moved on.  Wood/Smallwood may not have the same ring to it, but this team delivers.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Black Lagoon vol. 10

May 28, 2015

How do you make the wait between volumes of a series not seem interminable?  Make sure that the last volume has a significant amount of closure to it.  Vol. 9 of “Black Lagoon” wrapped up the title’s longest-running arc in explosive fashion with the kind of energy that you usually see reserved for series finales.  There was no official word that this was going to be the final volume of the title, and you had this big hint that there was more to Dutch’s past than he was letting on to give you the indication that we’d be seeing more of Lagoon Company in the future.  Still, the first nine volumes made a pretty complete story on their own.  If mangaka Rei Hiroe decided to give us more, excellent!  If not, then the title’s legacy is at least secure.

Now, almost five years after vol. 9, vol. 10 has finally reached our shores.  As Hiroe explains at the end of the volume, he meant to have this out sooner but things got complicated.  Eh, at least he gave us an explanation even if it isn’t all that detailed.  The good news is that “Black Lagoon” is back and ready to kick more ass!  Right?  Not really, if this volume is any indication.  Rock, Revy, and company’s return is more “Gunsmith Cats:  Burst” than “Battle Angel Alita:  Last Order.”  The tone is right and there are some good ideas and entertaining moments, but things just aren’t firing on all cylinders here.

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Comic Picks #185: Buried Garbage of Manga — Wounded Man

May 27, 2015

My friend Steve joins us as we discuss this XTREEEM Japanese male power fantasy, which has not been license-rescued for some reason...

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Fanime: ARRRRGH! IT’S OVER AGAIN!

May 26, 2015

Out of all (three) conventions I go to each year, this is the only one that leaves me wanting more.  WonderCon gets one day so that I can raid the half-off bins and catch a panel or two.  I’m not going there to gorge myself, that’s what Comic Con is for.  Yet after four days (and a preview night) of that, I’m ready to head home and decompress from it all.  Fanime offers lots of panels run by fans on a wide variety of subjects, plenty of anime to watch, and a dealer’s hall/artist’s alley that offer lots of interesting stuff to buy.  More than those other cons, it offers me the chance to get away from it all as I actually have to fly out to San Jose.  By the time I have to head to the airport on Monday, I’m wishing that the con lasted an extra day.  So while this con is over with (and now the wait begins for next year’s), here are some highlights from the 2015 edition of Fanime:

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DC Previews Picks: August 2015

May 25, 2015

(Yeah, about that trend I have going for Monday’s posts:  I just got back from Fanime and am completely wiped out.  This is the last post I have in the bank, so it’s going up now.  Expect a review of “Black Lagoon vol. 10” to make up for this oversight later in the week.)

I’ve been thinking about the Joker’s new look in “Suicide Squad” and I think I know how to make that dumb “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead actually work in the film.  Because make no mistake, regardless of what you think about his other tattoos this one is so on-the-nose that it just becomes laughable.  Yet that’s the solution here:  Have the character embrace its obviousness.  Make one of his team members, preferably Rick Flag or Deadshot, come up to him and ask what’s up with the whole “Damaged” tat?  Then have the Joker respond in perfect deadpan fashion, “How else would they know?” and then he starts laughing (of course).  I don’t know if that tattoo will actually make it into the film or if they’ll just edit it out.  But you can have this idea for free if you want it, DC.

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Image Previews Picks: August 2015

May 24, 2015

It turns out that Image will be doing away with retailer-exclusive variants for single issues of their comics.  Apparently they don’t do much for a title’s long-term health and only serve to feed the speculator market.  Instead, they’ll be offering retailer-exclusive trade paperback editions instead.

This may seem like it’d be more up my alley, but it’s just a cover.  I could not care less.  For a retailer-exclusive stunt that actually did get me to order a collection through my local comic store, you have to go back to Vertical’s release of Tezuka’s “Black Jack” manga.  In order to boost sales of the first three volumes, they were offering them in hardcover with an EXCLUSIVE STORY that wouldn’t be in the paperback edition.  Yes, it was a huge markup from the paperback edition, but… EXCLUSIVE STORY!  I’m a sucker for additional content like that, and Vertical even provided commentary as to why the stories in question haven’t even been reprinted in the Japanese editions.  So to anyone at Image who is reading this:  Now you know what you have to do in order to get me to buy any of these retailer-exclusive trade paperbacks you’ll be offering in the future.

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Marvel Previews Picks: August 2015

May 23, 2015

So, “Age of Ultron:”  Thoroughly entertaining and a worthy sequel to “Avengers.”  No, the story itself and the title villain’s scheme weren’t all that impressive, but the film was filled with plenty of entertaining details and situations to compensate.  The featured-in-previews scene where everyone had a go at picking up Thor’s hammer played great on the screen, Vision’s brief role actually got me to care about him (as opposed to how I feel about him in the comics), James Spader’s relaxed villainy as Ultron was immensely satisfying, and Hawkeye gets the “most improved” award thanks to his secret family life and “Mind control.  Tried it, didn’t like it,” rejoinder.  Really, there were so many moving parts in this film and while you could tell a lot of it was setup -- is anyone not expecting Andy Serkis to be back as Ulysses Klaw in the upcoming “Black Panther” movie -- it felt rather effortless and not very plot-grind-y.  By the end of the film, I still felt energized for the current direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And in “Bendis Delay” news, “Uncanny X-Men #600” has been delayed until October.  Not because it isn’t done, but because Marvel editorial apparently feels it makes more sense to do it that way.  As I write this, Marvel editorial has yet to offer an explanation as to why it makes sense.  It should be noted that we’re currently scheduled to get two new issues each of Bendis’ long-delayed creator-owned projects -- “Brilliant” and “Scarlet” -- before “Uncanny X-Men #600” ships.  Anyone want to take any bets as to whether or not that’ll actually happen?

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Dark Horse Previews Picks: August 2015

May 21, 2015

We’re being told that “The Impossible Will Happen” in the issues of “Hellboy in Hell,” “B.P.R.D.” and “Abe Sapien” advertised in these solicitations.  I, for one, believe this particular strain of hype.  Mainly because we’re getting a new issue of “Hellboy in Hell” here, and the fact that it’s coming out sounds like the impossible is happening to me! *rimshot*  More seriously, Dark Horse editor and co-writer of “Abe Sapien,” Scott Allie, has said that the overall story of the Mignolaverse has reached a point where some of the crazier story ideas the writers have come up with can now start to play out.  While cynicism is easy here, Mignola and company have earned a lot of goodwill with me so the possibility that the upcoming developments in these series will make for great reading is quite real.  Once they’re all collected sometime next year, of course.

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