Monday, January 23, 2012

The Week in Review – Jan 18

I wish Lee didn’t have the title what I read this week as I would totally change my weekly column title to that at this point. My move to Florida is coming soon and I will miss some things about my life in Maryland, but I have lived in multiple states so it is just this time I have lived in Maryland for over 15 years and grown perhaps too comfortable. Okay enough maudlin whiny crap let’s hit the comics.

Nothing new in comic books right, oh you are so wrong my friend, so very, very wrong. Wow was Batman #5 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion a revelation. Not only was this an excellent issue showing Batman being defeated by the Court of Owls but the design and layout of the book was genius. Every time I think Snyder has shown us just how amazing of a writer he ups the ante to a whole new level. Scott has ripped the cover off his potential with this performance. This book was so unbelievably well done that it has to be read to be fully enjoyed. Scott after being the pretty much consensus writer of the year has written one of the best single issues of a comic book. Batman is trapped in a maze created by the Court of Owls and has been lost in the maze for days. He is being drugged and slowly he is losing his mind. Bruce is very strong so you know he is fighting against this with ever ounce and fiber of his being. As the story progresses the panel layouts change and we are forced to turn the book this way and that and actually have to read from right to left for two pages. It is disorienting and just when we are as disoriented as Batman, Bruce has a sword rammed through him by Talon, the Owl Court’s man. The reader being as lost as Batman makes the sudden attack even more jarring than ever. An absolutely brilliant piece of comic book work done to perfection. Hats off to Scott, Greg and Jonathan for producing a stellar single issue that stands on its own and yet adds to the continuing story.  If all episodic comic books were this good no sales gimmicks would ever be needed. 

Now the other three books I want to comment on are also DC and I have to thank Jim Shooter’s blog for making me re-think how I look at a lot of comics. Jim did a review of Wonder Woman #4 and has done some other reviews and he brings a critical editor’s eye to each book. Often his criticism is very tough and I think that at times maybe too harsh, but he is not wrong. Way too many books are not doing a great job in depicting action logically or even telling stories. My criticism of the New 52 can be seen at WCS and I think there is some real weakness in how stories are being told and what is being depicted on the printed page. It reminds me too much of the 90’s where it was all about cool moments and less about the ability to actually tell a story. 

This week Catwoman #5 was thought by some people to be a good book, I would disagree. The story starts from last issue’s cliff hanger where she is thrown a nearly half a mile up in the air. She is dropping down from the sky and page one has pointless flashback scene, side by side with shots of Selina as she is rapidly falling to the earth. Panel 4 is a totally unnecessary shot of Catwoman’s cleavage that the artist could say was showing her pulling out her whip.  The whip remarks, cleavage shot; what is it I am reading a good story or an arrested development male schoolboy fantasy? From there Catwoman saves herself and then goes onto fight the bad guy. Page 6 has the battle, which last for page 6. I won’t even comment on the transition from page 5 to this page because it doesn’t exist. The girl she is fighting was floating away from the building before this shot and now Selina is doing an impressive kick to the girl’s head to knock her out. The sequence has the cool shot, but nothing else makes sense. Look at the page and tell me is it is choreographed or not. Believe it or not the logic of the story goes down here from there. A policeman who is hot on Catwoman’s trail of crime overhears his boss get upset because Catwoman has stolen the bad cops money. She goes off to get a naked massage and spend her money and of course the police find out and come after her. We are on issue #5 and while the action has never stopped we also have never built up who Catwoman is or what is what is her world. She has been de-aged, oversexed and seems to be in hyper drive at all times. It is poor storytelling, poor page layout and poorly choreographed fight scenes that feel rushed. This is not a good comic book, it may have some glitz to it and on the surface looks okay, but any examination of it has to tell you it is a poor example of how to make a comic. I blame Scott Snyder for producing great work and Jim Shooter for making me re-look comics with an even more critical eye for ruining my enjoyment of such utter trash as Catwoman (yes add heavy sarcasm, except Catwoman #5 was garbage).

So far we have one super great book and one total piece of tripe this week. The other two books I want to comment on I will keep short and sweet as today is a big day for football and by the time this is posted either Lee or I will be happy, but not both of us, since we root for the Patriots and the Ravens and we can’t both win. Supergirl #5 and Nightwing #5 are the final books and that will keep us in an all DC commentary mode. 

Supergirl is the quickest read and while as fast paced as Catwoman the story has been moving forward in a straight line and the action is depicted in a manner that you can follow and makes sense. Even without the quiet moments we have learned that she is a young woman total lost as to what has happened to her and she is desperately trying to make sense of her life. While I think being into issue #5 and having never slowed down is a little much, all in all this has been one of the books I have been happier with in new DCU. 

Nightwing #5 on the other hand is on issue #5 and the story is barely making any sense. This issue we have an almost useless adventure with a demon and some of the worst designed pages I have seen since Catwoman #5. Check out this page and explain to me what the point of this layout. Panel one he is climbing down the side of the train. Panel two he is now upside down, why? Panel three I have no clue. Panel 4, 5,6 & 7 we see him go into his room with panels dealt out like playing cards. This was a simple information page that became overly complex for no reason. Again like many of the new DCU we are five issues into a book with no end in sight for the story and almost no setup to give us a clue of what the heck is even going on. I know we learned his childhood friends are all against him, but why are they against him, why hasn’t Dick utilized his resources as a detective to find out anything? It is disappointing to say the least. 

Final point scores Batman #5 – A +, Supergirl #5, B minus, Nightwing #5 C minus, and Catwoman #5 – F.

Next week’s list is All Star Western, American Vampire, Aquaman, Batman Dark Knight, Flash, GL New Guardians, Hawkman Omnibus (that I now regret ordering as my opinion of Johns has dropped), I Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Superman, Teen Titans, Unwritten, Voodoo, Fantastic Four, FF, Secret Avengers, Ultimates, Walking Dead, BPRD, Manara Volume 2, Stuff of Legend Jester’s Tale, Vampirella and Warlord Fall of Barsoom

Come back next week for more fun.

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