Don’t have time for full reviews of comics? Then check out Graphic Bits: bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts.
This week (10 April 2013), Scott Snyder takes a side-step in Batman #19 (DC Comics), while the dude in the cowl continues to work out his demons in Batman and Robin #19 (DC Comics). It’s aliens and humans versus zombies in Colonized #1 (IDW), a little slice of awesome in Hawkeye #9 (Marvel), a controversial issue of Saga #12 (Image Comics) and it’s time to talk about Sex #2 (Image Comics). This is Graphic Bits.
The latest issue of a so far outstanding title is something of an oddity, albeit an engaging and entertaining one. Rather than launching straight into another massive arc following last month’s sublime single issue featuring Harper Row, Snyder releases the first of a two-part punch. While the cover would have us exclaim “WTF?” and believe Bruce Wayne has gone rogue, the truth is never that simple. Actually, what is surprising about this story is how straightforward it is, Snyder pulling out a far more traditional take on a classic villain. The opening pages depict Bruce Wayne holding a victim hostage after a robbery gone wrong, leaving readers with a sense of mystery from the get-go. While the reveal of the villain may not be a complete surprise, there are enough teasing questions here to bring us back for a second issue next month. It also does a good job of whetting the appetite for the “Zero Year” event hyped for June, thanks to some well-placed dialogue from Jim Gordon in the first chapter. Even more intriguing is the first part of a back-up story by the very talented James Tynion IV entitled “Ghost Lights”, in which Superman and Batman team-up for a supernatural adventures that brings the Man of Steel to his knees. The artwork from Alex Maleev ensures that this is a gritty and frightening tale, the kind of horror story that would fit in nicely in a desperately needed horror anthology. Of the two stories, perhaps this is the one that we are most looking forward to seeing continued next month, although Snyder’s seeds will undoubtedly pay off in months to come once sewn.
Last month’s silent issue was “as close to a perfect single issue as any you might find”, so following that up was a tough gig. DC’s “WTF?” moment is quite a prominent one in this outing, but it isn’t the only point that made us sit up and check we were still reading a Bat-book. We are, of course, talking about the appearance of Carrie Kelly not only on the cover, but in full Robin costume several pages in. Carrie has only previously appeared in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s dystopian Elseworlds classic. Her appearance here is as a high school student who had been tutoring the late Damien Wayne unbeknownst to Bruce. Whether this signals a post-Flashpoint introduction of the Earth-31 character into the Bat-world is still unclear, but we suspect more of these red herrings in the lead-up to the revelation of whoever the new Robin is going to be. Far more interesting was the direction Tomasi took Bruce Wayne himself, pushing Batman past the point of good sense and literally sending him to the poles of the Earth to find Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Batman is beyond rational in looking for a way to resurrect Damien, dissecting the recently cancelled character in an attempt to find out what makes his undead flesh tick. The estranged Red Robin, still smarting from the events of “Death of the Family”, puts a stop to this but doesn’t do his relationship with Batman any favours. As strange as this all sounds, it actually works for the most part, although readers may start to question how far Batman’s grief will believably take him. Gleason’s art is spot-on for this issue, balancing the insane darker moments with the levity of the fun-loving Carrie. A spread that shows a series of panels stitch together as though it were Frankenstein’s flesh is a wonderful touch. Next month will team Batman with Red Hood, so it’s dead Robins all round!
The Colonized #1 – IDW, Chris Ryall (writer), Drew Moss (artist)
IDW head honcho and writer Chris Ryall is no stranger to mashing up genres, with previous credits including Zombies vs. Robots, adaptations of Shaun of the Dead and the unlikely Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons. So his latest venture, a book that wears its “zombies vs aliens” tag on its sleeve, is a kind of romp in the tradition of Mars Attacks. A group of aliens have difficult navigating in Earth’s atmosphere due to the pollution, and inadvertently pull aboard a ravenous zombie from the surface. Meanwhile, in the town of Carbon Falls, Montana, a secessionist group of militiamen buries a dearly departed leader. Named for their quest to reduce their carbon footprint to zero, a convenient front for their other activities, this soon becomes sidelined when the crashed alien vessel is discovered and zombies begin to attack everyone. There’s no faulting this debut for a lack of ambition, not to mention its environmentally conscious leanings, tackling at least three subgenres before the page count is done. Humour is broad, but consistent, with the aliens perhaps more rustic than the militiamen. Likewise, these aren’t just a group of hillbilly gun nuts, but rather a tight knit community. The art from Drew Moss (Sidekickin’ Hero) is often disarming, his aliens stepping out of Marvel cartoon and his human from The Walking Dead. Ryall is full of ideas, and it will be interesting to see if these can be sustained over the course of a series, and be more than the single note joke it could potentially become.
“Clint Barton, Clint Barton. What have you been up to?” When a title is as consistently good as this, one rapidly begins to run out of hyperbole when reviewing it on a monthly basis. The strength of this series has always been Fraction’s ability to treat Clint Barton as a human first, and a superhero as a distant second. His worlds intersect here, with his female Avengers colleagues, ex and current lovers all trying to find out why Clint has been implicated in some very bad deeds after a mysterious redhead shows up. Following on from the inspired issue last month, which actually used a motif of comic book covers to further the plot, the telling is more straightforward this month, but no less powerful. One can’t help but feel for poor Mr. Barton, who really is being put through the wars at the moment. Battered and pursued by bad guys and good girls alike, one of the most poignant moments is actually an ultimate tragic exchange between Clint and a neighbour on a rooftop barbeque. Clint keeps calling him Grills (his name is Gil), while Gil calls him “Hawguy” as a nice inside curve ball to fans. David Aja’s artwork is again the real costumed hero of the day, and coupled with Matt Hollingsworth’s understated colours, conjures up a New York of the late 1960s or early 1970s. As if Martin Scorsese had climbed inside the panels and begun filming a documentary about the saddest superhero in New York. Indeed, even the women are all accordingly dressed in retro attire. If you aren’t already reading this book every damn month, then go check your head and jump aboard the Hawkguy wagon. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
With all of the controversy surrounding this issue, it’s easy to forget that there’s one of the most consistently entertaining epics sitting behind it. After the events of the last few issues, this chapter concentrates on Prince Robot IV. In many ways, issue 12 could be seen as a “filler” piece between one arc and the next, except it is so much more than that. Like Vaughan did on Y: The Last Man, he is now taking the opportunity to spend a little time uncorking the back-story of the major players, and following individual narratives that ultimately intertwine with the main storyline. In this case, IV is still hunting down Alana and Marko based on a hunch they have headed to the planetary retreat of a novelist Alana is fond of. Most of the issue is the conversation between IV and a slightly ‘older Hemingway’. Between this and flashbacks to IV’s wartime experiences, we get a sense of what might motivate the literally hard to read character. Staples doesn’t get to play with as many crazy characters in what is essentially a two-hander, although the little seal creature is incredibly cute. Yet she still manages to infuse this outing with the same grounded insanity that we’ve come to know and love. Another book that should forever remain on the must-read pile on a monthly basis.
Speaking of controversy, the second issue of Joe Casey’s journey through the erotic side of capes and costumes quietly slips into stores this week. While perhaps not having quite the same charge as the debut issue last month, Casey continues his world-building in a city that seems to almost run on an economy of sex. We get a few more glimpses of the former life of Simon Cooke, retired and repressed superhero, with the extended introduction of former Catwoman-like femme fatale Annabelle Lagravenese. Pushing the concept of noir even further, if the first issue was the live show, then this is an orgy of extended foreplay, dazzling us with the possibilities of sex in the city before unceremoniously (and quite literally) dumping us unfulfilled in a back alley. Cooke doesn’t bat an eyelid, making him even more of a curiosity in this sticky world. Concurrent stories of Keenan Wade, a mysterious dishwasher on the run, and the powerful Old Man. “Hey, I’m not god,” he says while violently shagging an anonymous blonde. “I’m just doing his job for him”. Kowalski skilfully handles the glorious and ugly side of nudes, an impressive action sequence and the nuances of character expression in this second issue. Like the deed itself, Sex seems outwardly straightforward but promises a wealth of exciting complications down the track.
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