Friday Favorite: Damian

Small, mighty, and mouthy. Art by Minuiko.

No, I’m not kidding.

It’s no secret that I’m a Robin(s) fan, but perhaps even more than Jason Todd, Damian Wayne is controversial among the Bat-faithful. There’s no middle ground with him, and the readers who loathe him really loathe him. I understand that because, let’s be honest; Damian is — to borrow a word from our British friends — a little sod. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Three’s Company

If a picture says a thousand words, the World’s Finest covers of yore are entire novels. Faulkner novels. As in, engrossing and deeply troubling.  While this storied title was innocent, action-packed fun for generations of comic book-loving kids, things look very different when viewed from an adult perspective. It’s like when you look at H.R. Pufnstuf clips on YouTube and realize that it’s one big LSD endorsement. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: Titans, Together!

Teen Titans #88
Writer: J.T. Krul
Art: Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood (ink), Jason Wright (color), Adam Hughes (variant cover)
Letters: Sal Cipriano

Adam Hughes variant cover

When I got back into comics several years ago, I fell hard for Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans. I’d enjoyed the Wolfman/Perez stuff back in the day, and it seemed to me that Johns’ modern incarnation struck all the right notes. There was real chemistry among the characters, a good mix of the funny and the serious, and Johns never tried too hard to write “youth” dialogue. Mike McKone’s artwork? Wonderful.

I think you see where this is going. After a great run, the comic’s script quality dipped a few notches, and then, partly because of things taking place elsewhere in the DCU, it went over a cliff, exploded upon impact, and left a football field-sized patch of scorched earth in its wake. OK; that’s an exaggeration, but not a terribly big one. Suffice to say that many Teen Titans fans — me included — dropped it and never looked back.

Until now. DC has enlisted a new creative team, writer J.T. Krul and illustrator Nicola Scott, to pump new life into Teen Titans, beginning with issue #88. While this comic didn’t rock my world, it is solidly good and taps into the things that made TT work in the Johns era: an interesting team dynamic, witty banter, heavy action and boy-girl drama. They are teenagers, after all. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

Krul deserves a great deal of credit for making Cassie/Wonder Girl a less grating and more credible team leader. She seems to have really stepped up in Tim/Red Robin’s absence, and Scott, one of my favorite artists, draws her with an understated beauty and authority. Actually, that’s the way she draws everything in this book. There’s a lovely moment between Cassie and Conner/Superboy where she’s sitting on her bed, slumped forward with worry. And bless Scott for drawing heroines who look healthy and strong, not like blowup dolls.

But it wouldn’t be a party without Rose/Ravager, who is one kick-ass chick and the consummate antagonist. You want her on your team because she can take suckers down hard — but she also might take your man. I loved the panel where, after a workout, she throws her sweaty towel at Superboy and says, “I got a lot of energy.” All together now: Daaaaaamn!

There are a couple of nifty plot threads going on, too. The world’s sketchiest high school biology teacher has plans for a socially isolated student, and they’re not good. (Note to kids: Do not go into the darkened basement of an adult you barely know. But if you do, and you happen to see a gurney and mutants in cages, run like hell.) Dick/Batman 2 also decides that Damian needs to make some friends, and I’m a little nervous about adding him to the Titans community. He’s a tricky character to write, and casting him as a one-note jerk or a merry brat would be a mistake. Don’t do it, J.T.!

If you’ve missed the Titans, and I certainly have, issue #88 is a good excuse for a reunion. Don’t bust out the confetti just yet, but do keep a bag handy. Verdict: Well played.

Comic Judgment: Bat-a-Palooza!

My pull list was full of Bat-related comics this week, but there were also some sparkling shenanigans from the Welcome to Tranquility crew, plus an adorable Tiny Titans-Little Archies meetup. In no particular order:

Knight and Squire #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Jimmy Broxton
Covers: Yanick Paquette and Billy Tucci
Knight and Squire are British analogs of Batman and Robin, but they’re hardly carbon copies in this oh-so entertaining first issue. This book hums with humor and bubbly, candy-colored art, and despite the Yankee-confounding language in the opening pages, it’s thoroughly accessible. It’s the very British-ness of Knight and Squire that makes it such an entertaining and thought-provoking read. All the action takes place in a London pub that’s crawling with good guys, bad guys and sketchy blokes in between, and it’s a perfect introductory setting. Sure, there are some dustups, but I liked the talky aspect — the discussion of English class structure and the Americans’ more aggressive, can-do approach to heroism and villainy. The characters, including the Joker’s less ambitious counterpart, the Jester, and Double Entendre are a hoot. And since I’m such a huge Beatles fan, the references to the Fab Four and Paul McCartney’s subsequent band, Wings, were, well, fab. Verdict: Brilliant!

Tiny Titans/Little Archie #1
Writers: Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
Art and cover: Art Baltazar
Tiny Titans obliterated the “just for kids” label almost right out of the gate, and it continues to be a joy to read. As someone who spent many a childhood afternoon with the little Archies, I think including the Riverdale gang was a stroke of utter genius. This issue is undiluted fun, revolving around a Robin-Archie mixup. Art Baltazar has this amazing ability to capture the essence of characters with deceptively simple pencil work — Betty’s wide-eyed goodness, Reggie’s smirky troublemaker thing and Jughead’s future stoner vibe. The jokes about Archie’s classic tic-tac-toe hairdo, as well as the relationship between Mrs. Grundy and Solomon Grundy, were delightful. Let’s put it this way: I read this before my children did. Verdict: Aw yeah!

Bruce Wayne, the Road Home/Red Robin One-Shot
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Ramon Bachs and John Lucas
Cover: Shane Davis
File this under “Filler.” It’s not a bad issue, but it doesn’t do much to move the Bruce Wayne Returns saga forward. The story restates what readers of this title already know: Tim/Red Robin has become an even better detective and combatant since adopting his new persona, and his challenge is to balance the light with the dark. (Sounds like a “Clone Wars” episode.) Bruce seems a tad  insecure about the power shift, because as much as Tim wanted his mentor back, does he really need him? And what’s with the Robocop suit? The fact that Red Robin is sexually terrified of the bald assassin Prudence did make me giggle, though. This isn’t the first time a tough lady has more or less invited him to a handcuff/headboard party (See: Ravager). Must be the cape. Verdict: 90-percent pointless.


Bruce Wayne, the Road Home/Batman and Robin One-Shot
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Cliff Richards
Cover: Shane Davis
This one-shot fares a little better, perhaps because it delves a little more into Bruce’s thoughts about returning to the Bat-fold. His inner critic is on full display here: On the one hand, he admires Dick’s ability to ingratiate and intimidate as Batman 2.0, and he’s clearly impressed by the way he’s handled the toughest job of all: reigning Damian in. On the other hand, he seems to think Dick is a little too easygoing in the role, and it came across — perhaps intentionally — as ever-so-slight hating. But considering that the dude just willed himself back through time, let’s cut him some slack. He’s been under some stress. Overall, I like the way Nicieza lays out Bruce’s inner monologue, and the art is fine. Vicki Vale, one of my favorite comics journalists/muckrakers, is a significant supporting character. Verdict: Not bad.


Welcome to Tranquility #4
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Horacio Domingues
Cover: Neil Googe and Rench
It is officially on and popping in Tranquility. There are villains and there are villains, but is there anything worse than having a kid who grows up to be a sadistic murderer? I’m going to go with no. But that’s what former Mayor Alex Fury and Pink Bunny are up against in this issue as their son, Derek, rumored to be dead, returns home and starts tearing stuff up. This guy isn’t just evil, but gleeful about blazing a trail of mayhem. If you’re a parent, you can’t help but imagine the shock and shame Fury and Bunny are dealing with. Meanwhile, Sheriff Lindo has to protect her town while trying to save her sister Seresa, whom Derek has gravely wounded. The best part of issue #4 is seeing Minxy Minerva prove that she’s still a hero to be reckoned with. I wish I had liked the artwork a little more, as I tend to prefer a lighter touch. But man, I can’t wait to see how this plays out. Verdict: All kinds of good.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Ryan Sook, Pere Perez and Nick Gray
Covers: Andy Kubert and Ryan Sook
The world’s greatest detective as a P.I. in a noir setting? Perfect. This crime, bullets and dames-themed chapter of Bruce’s time-traveling journey is another gripping issue from the merry mind of Grant Morrison. The words “epic event” are overused, but taken together, the five issues in this series have earned the title. We’ve seen different sides of Bruce Wayne in each era, and yet, he’s still essentially the Batman we all know — even with a wicked case of amnesia. This time, a hospitalized Bruce is recruited by a sultry actress who claims to be a friend of the recently murdered Martha Wayne. The accusations against Thomas Wayne as having led a sordid double life figure prominently in this issue. And the more I learn about the Black Glove, the more I feel the need to take a shower. It’s trippy to see Bruce questioning his own grandmother about his mother’s demise, though he’s unaware of the connection. And that ending? Whoa. Verdict: Holy must read, Batman!

When Comics Make You Say, ‘WTF?’

Ever have those moments when you’re getting your geek on as usual, and then something so ridiculous/inexplicable appears that you can only scratch your head and say, “What the fuck?” Yep; that’s what we thought. It happens to us all the time, so in the spirit of sharing, Girls Gone Geek is launching a new feature we like to call WTF Wednesday. Yeah, we know it’s Tuesday, but V. and I had such a giggle fit over our gallery of entries that we couldn’t contain ourselves until mid-week. Continue reading

G3 Review: Batman-Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood
Rating: PG-13
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Judd Winick
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs

If you’ve been a geek for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered your Scott and Jean — a comic book topic that makes you so angry that you can’t discuss it without going completely off. I’m not talking casual disdain, but full, frightening-the-children rage. As someone who was deeply affected by Batman: A Death in the Family when it was originally published, I’d long considered Jason Todd’s return from the grave to be my Scott and Jean. Especially since said return has often amounted to little more than violent douchery. (Big spoilers ahead.)

While I eventually reached a sort of Zen acceptance about Jason’s resurrection, I had no intention of watching, let alone enjoying, the animated film adaptation of Judd Winick’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. My husband ordered it On Demand, and after a long day, I simply didn’t have the will to get off the couch. The bottom line: Jason’s presence remains problematic in a bigger sense, but it works surprisingly well in a self-contained story. And despite the inherent cheapness of bringing characters back from the dead, Under the Red Hood has some truly gripping moments that evoke the raw sadness of A Death in the Family.

Nothing annoys Bruce Wayne like a fellow vigilante, particularly one who has no problem capping criminals. So when a nouveau Red Hood shows up in Gotham City and starts blowing shit up, Bruce and Dick Grayson (still Nightwing in this context) go after him. Even if you’re not familiar with the Judd Winick-penned comics the movie is based on, it doesn’t take much to figure out Mr. Hood’s identity. After all, the story is punctuated with flashbacks of Bruce and Jason’s time together as Batman and Robin, including the latter’s sickening death at the Joker’s hand. That scene alone is worthy of a PG-13 rating, so make no mistake: Under the Red Hood is not appropriate for small or sensitive children.

Speaking of the Joker, John DiMaggio’s voice work as the cackling menace to society is excellent. His delivery is alternately ha-ha funny and ha-ha-now-he’s-freaking-me-out creepy. Bruce Greenwood is a solid Batman, and you can never go wrong with Neil Patrick Harris, who gives voice to Nightwing. Jensen Ackles is fine, if not memorable, as Jason Todd. The animation is well executed, and it’s more fluid than some of the earlier DC direct-to-DVD offerings.

Under the Red Hood is sure to rekindle the conversation about Batman’s no-killing code, particularly where the Joker is concerned. As the Red Hood himself puts it, we’re not talking about Penguin or Harvey Dent (Two-Face), but a serial, gleeful murderer who beat an adolescent to death and put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. Seriously; go back and look at those panels of the Joker clubbing Jason with a crowbar and tell me that guy doesn’t deserve far worse than a presidential suite at Arkham. (Gee, maybe THIS is my Scott and Jean.) I get Bruce’s concern about tumbling into the abyss, but somehow, I think he’d be OK. And this being DC, it’d only be a matter of time before the Joker came back to life!

My non-geek spouse, who completely dug this movie, had the advantage of being able to view it without the continuity baggage. We both agreed that the final scene is real heart-tugger, but it also reminded me of what an awkward position Jason Todd now occupies within the DC Universe. Considering all he’s been through — including the readers’ decision to off him in the first place — I can’t help but think he deserves more than a gold Crazy Medal.

Friday Favorite: Tim Drake Wayne

Despite the fact that they all run around in silly costumes, some caped characters get more respect than others. If you say you’re a Batman fan, even his harshest geek critics won’t make fun of you, at least to your face. But saying that Robin is one of your favorites leads to snickering and the occasional joke about inappropriate pixie boot fetishes.

Um, ew. And whatever. Tim Drake Wayne  —Robin III and the current Red Robin — is my ace, and I’m totally OK with that. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: A Pull List Overview

Cover art by Frank Quitely

I read a bunch of comics this week. Here’s how they stack up, from best to worst:

1. Batman and Robin #10
During its short run, this title has ranged from brilliant to odd to plain inscrutable — in other words, classic Grant Morrison. Fortunately, things are back on the upswing with Andy Clarke’s wonderful art and a storyline pitting Damian Wayne (Robin) against Dick Grayson (Batman). Actually, it’s not Damian who’s gunning for Dick so much as his mama, Talia al-Ghul, who wants her son back at her side. Damian may be an arrogant little sod, but there are signs that he’s grown to respect Dick and even enjoy their partnership. As they search Wayne family portraits for signs that Bruce is alive, Damian seems genuinely glum about the end of his crime-fighting relationship with Dick: “If my father returns, we can’t be Batman and Robin anymore, can we?” Things get even more interesting with the appearance of the mysterious Oberon Sexton, and I’ll be very interested to see how these plot threads tie in with Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne saga.

2. Secret Six #19
Black Alice develops a big, honking crush on Ragdoll. If that doesn’t move you, turn in your longboxes immediately.

3. Ultimate Spider-Man #8
This has long been one of my favorite comics, and the recent focus on Peter Parker’s crowded home life — new girlfriend Gwen Stacey, Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde — plays to Brian Michael Bendis’ strengths as a writer. This issue is full of the usual crackling dialogue, but I just wasn’t that into Peter’s neighbor, Rick Jones, who spends roughly half of the book complaining about his new found superpowers as Nova. Being chosen by an alien to help save mankind is heavy stuff for a 16-year-old, but Jones’ extensive, why-me tantrum made me want to smack him. Come to think of it, Johnny Storm wanted to do the same thing. But even on the rare occasion when Ultimate Spidey doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it’s still a good read.

4. Red Robin #10
I love me some Tim Drake, but I didn’t really connect with this book until the last couple of issues. However, #7-9 were downright delightful, illustrating Tim’s considerable ass-whipping/detective skills while introducing a perfect potential girlfriend: button-cute Tam Fox, daughter of Wayne confidante Lucius Fox. Since I’m already way too invested in the Tim/Tam flirtation, Stephanie Brown’s appearance was a serious buzzkill. On the other hand, it was fun to see Stephanie’s Batgirl beat the snot out of a particularly annoying member of the League of Assassins. And I’m still giggling over Alfred’s withering reply to reporter Vicki Vale, who shows up at Wayne Manor looking for Tim: “Master Timothy is far too young for you.” Hee!

5. Justice League Rise and Fall Special
Despite our well-documented loathing of the Black Canary/Green Arrow relationship, there’s no denying that Oliver Queen’s sketchy personal life is good plot fodder. But this one-shot, which takes place immediately after Green Arrow offs Prometheus in Cry for Justice, isn’t about action so much as brooding: Ollie brooding about his maimed son and dead granddaughter; Ollie brooding about hunting down The Electrocutioner; Dinah brooding about Ollie’s fragile state of mind; Justice League members brooding about Ollie’s slide toward the dark side. I’ve generally enjoyed J.T. Krul’s work, but this issue is pretty stagnant. And like V., I’m way over Black Canary following her angry husband around like a wounded groupie. However, there are a few noteworthy moments, like Ollie’s ice-cold rejection of Dick Grayson’s assistance in Star City (It’s my city, “Batman.” Ouch!)  and Barry Allen getting all Judgy McJudgypants when Green Arrow’s lethal act comes to light. But for $3.99, I’d have liked a little more than panels of glowering and fretting.

What did you like this week?