Sep 28 2012

Graphic Bits: Happy, Talon, Batman Inc and Debris

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 (27 September 2012), the march of the DC Comics Zero Month continues as we look at Batman Incorporated #0 and the spin-off series Talon #0. Grant Morrison appears for a second time with his new mini-series for Image called Happy, and this is one you’ll be sad to miss out on. Finally, we catch up with the third issue of Debris to see if it is still as strong as its launch issues.

Don’t forget to listen to Behind the Panels, our comic book podcast, as well.

Batman Incorporated #0DC ComicsGrant Morrison (writer), Frazer Irving (artist)

DC Comics - #0 Zero Issue - Batman IncorporatedOne of the stranger aspects of this line-wide series of zero issues is that they have been applied universally. Even those series that are wrapping up, or in the case of Batman Incorporated have only been around for three issues, are getting the origin treatment. Before the New 52, Batman Incorporated only had 8 issues and a one-shot, so this retelling of the origin of Batman Incorporated is somewhat bizarre. As a result, this issue frustratingly puts the forward momentum of the current series on hold to go back and (re)tell the origin of the global network of Bat-people. This doesn’t mean this is a bad issue in any sense, but a prime example of company mandate dictating the flow of a fast-paced series. Indeed, Morrison has said that he has consciously paced this often off-the-wall Bat-book as a series of short, tight arcs, and this issue just as rapidly will bring new readers up to date with the reasons behind the move. There’s some nice moments in the Wayne Industries boardroom, and it is great to see some of these characters such as Knight and Squire back on board. No sign of Batwing, but that can only be a good thing. We only hope the main Batwing title can be as discreet and quietly disappear for us. Frazer Irving fills in for Chris Burnham, and provides a similarly pleasing light take on these dark characters, while losing none of their edge. Now hurry up October, so we can get back to our regular programming.

Bits Rating: ★★★★

Debris #3 (of 4)  Image, Kurtis J. Weibe (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist)

Debris #3 coverHave we mentioned how much we love this book? Yes, repeatedly and it’s a shame this is only a mini-series, for Weibe has created such a rich a deep world in only a handful of issues. What’s particularly impressive is that he’s done it with a minimum of dialogue, all the while keeping it grounded as much as possible within this sci-fi/post-apocalyptic world. From the opening pages in which we see an Umbra on the attack, through to the surprising conclusion, Weibe’s script holds us firmly glued in place, demanding the maximum of our attention. We learn that her goal of Athabasca is not only a real thing, but it is filled with things that she could not possibly understand. One of the worst things you can say about this book is that it’s the penultimate chapter, which means there’s unfortunately only one to go. As such, some things feel a little rushed in the last half of the book, especially given the first half is partly occupied with an exposition filled flashback sequence (nicely tinged blue by artist Riley Rossmo). Yet Rossmo’s art here ensures that every square inch of the page is filled with enough detail to adequately convey the wonders Maya is seeing for the first time. From the majestic rolling hills of green, to the roasting rabbit on a spit (something Maya is unable to identify), we view the familiar through the eyes of someone who is effectively a newborn in a strange land. One of the most compelling new titles of 2012, we just don’t want this one to end.

Bits Rating: ★★★★

Happy #1 (of 4)  – ImageGrant Morrison (writer), Derek Robertson (artist)

Happy #1 CoverThe first word in Grant Morrison’s Image Comics debut is “Unreal” and this is perhaps the best place to start for a book that drops in a “cunt” not once, not twice, but thrice in the first page. The gritty realism of the mob-led world that Morrison leads us through in the first half of this issue is full of surprises, not least of which is a woman fellating a man in a roach costume. “Now I’ve seen everything,” our protagonist Nick Sax wryly observes, but he (and by extension we) ain’t seen nothing yet. Following a self-ordered hit that goes understandably wrong, Sax wakes up in a mob hospital a little unsure on how to proceed, especially given the appearance of the book’s second revelation: a small blue winged pony called Happy Horse, who apparently only Sax can see. Drawn in buck-toothed, cartoony glory, the character sits in stark contrast to the bloodbath realism that surrounds it, but Morrison and artist Robertson somehow manage to balance these contradictory elements into something not just readable, but compelling. Just as Harvest did a great job of building a tangibly sticky world before pulling the rug out from under us, so too does Morrison in this fully realised creation that is sure to keep us on our toes in the coming months. We really have no choice but to listen to the horse.

Bits Rating: ★★★★½

Talon #0DC Comics, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder (writers), Guillem March (artist)

DC Comics - #0 Zero Issue - TalonWhen we eventually look back at the best comic arcs of 2012, Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls story in Batman and the introduction of the Talon will be close to the top of the list. Crossing over the entire Bat-line of books, DC breathed new life into Gotham City with a very old group of assassins. With this issue #0, one of four books not tied directly to an existing series in the Newish 52, we get to revisit that world through the eyes of a new characters. Tynion, co-plotting with Snyder in a flip on their Batman partnership, gives his character of Calvin Rose a terrific first outing. Abused and abandoned as a boy, the former escape artist taken in by the Court of Owls from a young age, but when we meet him he has had enough of that life and strikes out on his own. Cleverly weaving Hayley’s Circus into the narrative, extensively explored in the recent issues of Nightwing, this is easily one of the best new titles from the whole New 52 and a great example of how to spin-off a series from a hugely popular title. Guillem March, who copped some flak over his Catwoman #0 cover, is perfect in this world, bringing the right level of seedy Gotham and action framing necessary to propel this series further. We look forward to next month’s debut of the new series, even if it does mean adding a 13th title to the bulging Bat Universe. When they are this good, it hardly matters.

Bits Rating: ★★★★½