G3 Year in Review: Honorable Mention

It was a tough task to make a list of the “BEST” comics for 2013 because inevitably some books have to get left off. Some really great books.

What does one do?

She makes another list.

Sometimes they were flubbed by crossover confusion. Sometimes Grant Morrison didn’t make any sense, again. Sometimes the writer got caught up in a sexual harassment scandal. But no matter what the obstacle, these titles still managed tear-jerking, character-defining, cuteness-overloaded, chaotically magic moments.  Here are their honorable mentions. Continue reading

V. reviews Batman Inc finale, L. reviews Akaneiro & Adventure Time

Aside

Seven years is a long time for a character’s story to last under one writer, but that is how long Grant Morrison has been building up to his final chapter for Batman. I have read his entire run including Final Crisis and 52, and his Batman is the only Batman I currently like. I know. I know. Some love Snyder’s Bat, and I hear Layman does a stand up job on ‘Tec.

The truth is, I don’t like Batman as a character. He doesn’t interest me. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: Batman Incorporated #2

Batman Incorporated #2
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Patrick Brosseau

Batman Incorporated is a story about a father and son, but issue #2 is devoted to the woman who casts a long shadow over the child in the equation. Writer Grant Morrison’s pen agrees with Talia al Ghul, mother of Damian, presented here in all her ruthless, unblinking glory. Every villain has an origin story, and Talia’s is as colorful as you’d expect from someone with her lineage.

Though there are some very familiar moments in Batman Incorporated #2, Morrison’s character sketch of Talia from childhood to present day adds to the narrative and gives the reader a fuller understanding of who she is. What kind of person would add “assassin” to the list of required life skills for her child? One who was cut off from her mother and raised by Ra’s al Ghul. But before a sword was put in her tiny hands, Talia was just a kid who wanted her father’s love and attention. It’s a little heartbreaking to see her briefly as a tot drawing cute pictures of Ra’s, knowing all the while that she’ll develop a deadly cold-heartedness to rival her father’s.

In a single issue, Morrison conveys Talia’s drive and massive sense of entitlement as a woman who has been given almost every tangible thing she’s ever wanted. Continue reading

G3 Review: Action Comics #5

Action Comics #5
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang, Brad Anderson, and Patrick Brosseau

It’s the “New 52,” and the new Action Comics, and inevitably we revisit fall of Krypton. But how many ways can Krypton be annihilated? In Grant Morrison’s take on Supes’ origin, he makes subtle tweaks to how it all went down in the House of El. With minor adjustments to previous continuity, Morrison paves the road for a plethora of possibilities for future stories. We press pause on the events of issue #4 and focus on baby Kal-El making it to a planet with a yellow sun and less gravity, so he will be super. Superman’s chunky, little baby self is escorted in a rocket powered by an artificial intelligence Jor-El calls Brainiac. It is Brainiac who narrates this issue, entitled, “Rocket Song.” Continue reading

A Window To Another Universe

Quote

“The comics medium is a very specialized area of the Arts; home to many rare and talented blooms and flowering imaginations and it breaks my heart to see so many of our best and brightest bowing down to the same market pressures which drive lowest common-denominator blockbuster movies and television cop shows. Let’s see if we can call time on this trend by demanding and creating big, wild comics which stretch our imaginations. Let’s make living, breathing, sprawling adventures filled with mind-blowing images of things unseen on Earth. Let’s make artifacts that are not faux-games or movies but something other, something so rare and strange it might as well be a window into another universe because that’s what it is.”  – Grant Morrison, 2004

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

All-Star Appreciation

Many, many others have written about the genius of the original All-Star Superman, so the series doesn’t need my late stamp of approval. But while I fully expected to enjoy the story, I didn’t anticipate just how much more I would appreciate Superman as a character after finishing them.

I recently purchased the trades in a mad rush to catch up before watching the direct-to-DVD film that was released last week. Several times, I’d flipped through the All-Star Superman collection in a bookstore, shrugged and put it back. Again, I assumed that it was good, but I was convinced there were no more truly interesting stories about the Man of Steel. Even the gushing cover blurbs couldn’t win me over.

My bad. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Neigh, I Say!

Like the song says: Don't ride the white horse.

DC fans like to joke about how Grant Morrison’s mind-bending stories often seem influenced by, shall we say, exotic substances. But Morrison’s got nothing on the Silver Age scribes who were responsible for some of the nuttiest comic book stories ever printed. One of the best examples? Comet the freakin’ Super-Horse. Continue reading

Bruce … Is It Really You?

Bruce Wayne as Batman by David Finch

Bruce Wayne as Batman is by far the most iconic figure in the DCU, and certainly a mega fan-favorite. I have to admit that I am not a fan of Batman. Part of the reason is that so many marketing resources are spent on him, and him alone, when there are many other characters deserving of some attention. Also, he pissed me off when he judged Diana for killing Max Lord. For someone who wasn’t really feeling you in the first place, then you get all high and mighty on a one-time goddess? Bitch, please.

Fast forward to Final Crisis. I love Final Crisis. I know it got all smooshed and convoluted at the end, but the layers and implications of that story were fascinating to me. We all now know what happened there, and have lived an entire year without Bruce Wayne. True, I’ve had The Return of Bruce Wayne to chew on for the past six months, but it gave me sort of an odd feeling. It was Bruce, but it was him through time; Bruce doing the genius things that he does, but not quite the same as him being in the present DCU. Continue reading

Five Reasons You Should Be Reading Batman and Robin

Hands down, Batman and Robin #14 is one of the best comics I’ve read this year. This book hasn’t been without its flaws (the Red Hood storyline comes to mind), but on the whole, Grant Morrison is writing one of the most consistently interesting comics on the DC shelf at present. I’m in a proselytizing mood, so if you’re not already reading Batman and Robin, here are five reasons you should be.

Li'l Wayne is a handful.

1. Damian Wayne: He’s arrogant, polarizing and often unlikable, but he’s never dull. Over the run of this comic, Morrison has shown us hints of Damian’s vulnerability through confrontations with his mother, Talia al-Ghul, and his growing attachment to the Robin role. In less capable hands, Damian would be simply a violent brat. Morrison has shaped him into a complex, unpredictable and even sympathetic would-be hero.

Cameron Stewart's Batman and Robin #7 cover

2. The artists: Batman and Robin has benefitted from the work of some top-notch artists, including Frank Quitely, Andy Clarke and Cameron Stewart. A great deal of issue #14’s impact is attributable to Frazer Irving’s dreamy, fluid illustrations, which are fitting for Morrison’s almost hallucinogenic storyline. The level of detail, including a two-panel sequence of Dick Grayson’s Batman demonstrating his acrobatic fighting style, is crazy. It isn’t just a generic combat scene, but a thoughtfully crafted one that demonstrates Irving’s understanding of a specific character.

3. Morrison: What I appreciate about Morrison, even when I don’t quite get it, is that he’s making an effort to do something beyond the usual. I like an old-fashioned, straightforward story as much as the next fangirl, but it seems to me that Morrison writes comic books for people who read things other than comics. He brings an indie spirit to mainstream characters — a certain fearlessness and a much-needed element of surprise. And since comics are a legitimate form of literature, what’s wrong with having to work for it every now and then? I’m not saying that Morrison’s writing always clicks for me, but I like the fact that he’s essentially telling the reader, “You’re smart enough to figure this out, so I’m not going to insult your intelligence.”

Professor Pyg makes it rain!

4. The Oh, Snap! Factor: As in, “Did Damian just smash the Joker’s face with a crowbar?” and “Is Professor Pyg dropping it like it’s hot?” and “What in Gotham’s name just climbed out of the Lazarus Pit?” If you’re not reading Batman and Robin, you’re missing some of the most jaw-dropping moments in comics right now.

5. The Freak Show: One criticism of this book has bugged me, namely, the opinion that Batman and Robin is too grim. This is certainly a dark book, but isn’t Gotham the ultimate scary city? In order to justify the existence of a hero like Batman, you need some serious villainy, and there is plenty of it here. As I pointed out in my Newsarama review of issue #14, Pyg is one of the most twisted characters I’ve ever seen in a comic, anywhere. Upon seeing the good professor in an … unusual situation, one character says, “This whole thing stinks of some low rent torture porno.” When you’re dealing with Black Hand, the Joker and Pyg in one place, well, yeah. But it also heightens the drama without seeming gratuitous (See: Batman, the G-ddamn).

A book with a strong point of view is sure to elicit strong opinions, and Batman and Robin is bound to grate some readers. But it sure won’t bore them.

Comic Judgment: Highs and Lows

The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 6)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frazier Irving
Covers: Andy Kubert and Frazier Irving

Is there any reason DC can’t reboot the Dark Knight as a swashbuckling time-traveler with a case of amnesia? In this second installment of Grant Morrison’s series, Bruce Wayne is edgier, sexier and more mysterious in a 17th Century Puritan getup than in his modern-day cowl. The caveman-themed first issue was fine, but all of Morrison’s Weird Epic flourishes are finally in full effect here. Casting Bruce as a detective in witch trials-era Gotham City is a brilliant move, and from the very first panel, Frazier Irving’s gorgeous art gives the whole thing an appropriately cinematic feel. (Spoilers ahead.)

Known to the pre-colonial Gotham dwellers as Brother Mordecai, Bruce rankles the local witch-hunters by using logic to solve crimes instead of superstition. After a widow blames her husband’s demise on the devil, Bruce quickly concludes that the woman dispatched her spouse with a iron soup ladle. He also later blasts the locals for labeling the woman a witch, and using that as an excuse for water torture. It’s a powerful sequence, one that ends with Bruce going off on his chief critic, Brother Malleus: “I save my fire for foes who’ve earned it. Not widow-women who were most likely beaten by their good Christian husbands until they could bear no more.”

This does not go over well. It doesn’t help that Bruce is involved with Annie, a ferret-loving free spirit who is suspected of practicing witchcraft. Meanwhile, Superman, Booster Gold (feat. Skeets), Green Lantern and Rip Hunter are trying to follow Bruce’s trail through time. I’m not going to pretend that I understand anything that happens in this part of the comic, which involves an encounter with a 64th-Century “biorganic archivist” with a heck of a secret identity. He’s all “anti-entropy aegis” this and “cosmic loom” that. Whatever. I love the way Irving illustrates the four heroes, particularly his vaguely emo take on Superman. Thumbs way up, gentlemen.

Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3
Writer: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Geraldo Borges, Kevin Sharpe and Sergio Arino
Inks: Mario Alquiza and John Dell
Cover: Greg Horn

So much for the "rise" of Arsenal!

How do you know a book is bad? When your LCS owner — the dude who makes a living selling people comics — says, “After you read this, go ahead and send me an e-mail and tell me you’re canceling it.”

Three issues in, The Rise of Arsenal has gone from being bad in a somewhat amusing way to bad in an “I’m pissed that I spent $3.99 on this shit” way. It has taken a potentially poignant story — hero loses a child, a limb and his purpose — and turned it into a series of mind-numbing cliches. First, we see Red Arrow and Cheshire working through their anger over their daughter’s death by body-slamming each other. Despite being armed with only a stapler(!) and an extension cord, Roy manages to best his former squeeze, who is only a freaking trained assassin. No sooner than you can say, “Surely, this won’t lead to grief sex,” they’re up against a wall. Yes, for real. Only Roy can’t perform because he’s, you know, grieving.

Our hero ends up in rehab after a reunion with heroin, but I defy you to care after the onslaught of nonsense and unappealing art. Greg Horn’s cover sure is nice, but that’s all I’ve got.

Roy, I think we’re done here.

Crisis of Infinite Books

I read a lot — so much that all my books are subject to the 100-page rule: If I don’t care what’s happening by the 100th page, then I’m done. Life is short, and I’d like to get to the good shit before my vision goes. Obviously, comic books make up a massive portion of my literary diet. To deepen my knowledge and beef up my continuity chops, I often read trade volumes of classic stories that my fellow geeks recommend.

Enter Crisis on Infinite Earths. I am on page 102, and I’m bored. I don’t give a damn what happens next, and I am certain I could find a WAY more amusing summation on somebody’s blog. But the Geek Posse has spoken. They say that I should plow through my apathy and finish the friggin’ book. Some think it’s a great story, but I don’t share their affinity for retro-fitted fan whoring.

Perhaps I just have general Crisis Fatigue, or maybe the story is so convoluted and shallow that my brain is insulted. The obsessive part of me wants to read it because I feel I should. As a fangirl who primarily reads DC comics and now writes about them, it’s like my duty or something. Maybe it would help me make sense of Grant Morrison’s reference rodeos. Frankly, that’s my only motivation to finish.

So here’s the question: Do I spend precious moments of my life on the next 250 pages of this classic book, or do I move on to one of the many other trades waiting for me?