Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New-ish Comics (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batgirl #23:  Ugh.  My heart dropped at the last page.  I'm not really sure where we go from here.  Barbara killed James, Jr. and Commissioner Gordon killed Ricky.  They're both taking people from each other, but it's even more complicated than that.  Simone leaves us with two questions that will drive the rest of this story.

First, did Commissioner Gordon kill Ricky not in self-defense but because he didn't want Barbara to be with him?  (Gordon had discovered a photo of Ricky and Barbara in Ricky's apartment and, I have to say, I think that it's probably unrealistic that Ricky had such a photo given that they had been on one date.  But, I'm willing to give Simone a pass, since time has to pass quickly in comics; otherwise, a several month relationship would take a decade.)  Gordon seemed to be a little bit more disturbed by shooting Ricky than a cop with his experience would otherwise be.  Plus, Ricky wasn't exactly aiming at him; the gun was pointed to the ground.

Second, does Gordon's badge really give him the authority to kill a suspect not directly threatening him, whereas Batgirl isn't allowed to save someone's life from a murderer if it means killing the murder?  After all, Barbara killed James, Jr. to save her mother.  Even McKenna raises the possibility that she might not have had a choice in the matter.

Simone's making it clear that Gordon's blinded by his emotions to these questions and it makes you wonder if we're really heading to a confrontation where he discovers Barbara's identity.  It seems like that confrontation would be the only thing to make him confront the answers to those questions, though I imagine everything'll go to Hell in a hand basket from there.

Batman and Robin #23:  My love-hate relationship with Tomasi goes back several years at this point and, on some level, I feel bad dropping a book that produced two issues that I consider candidates for "Issue of the Year" this year.  But, I've felt like these five issues depicting Bruce's grief over Damian's loss have been a real low for this series, an unorganized tour of some of Bruce's worst traits.  They contributed little to my understanding of the character or his emotions, despite the fact that they were clearly intended to do just that.  Moreover, this contemplation of Damian's loss made the title feel increasingly marginalized from the Bat-family continuity, with Damian already having faded to a distant memory in "Batman" and "Detective Comics" (after having been barely mentioned in "Batgirl" and "Nightwing").  It seems a good time to make my break, particularly since I'm not really sure how Tomasi's going to keep going when half the duo that gave its name to this title is no longer with us.  So, thanks, Tomasi, for some really spectacular issues that got to the heart of Bruce Wayne in a way that few other authors have managed to accomplish. 

Batman #23:  You know, I'm not really sure why Snyder decided that he had to change the nature of Bruce deciding to become Batman.  But, if he was going to do it, he could've at least had it make sense.  I don't really understand what happens here.  The gem that Bruce opens seems to magically transform a room of the Manor into a cave.  Is Bruce seeing things because of his concussion(s)?  If so, Snyder probably needed to make that a bit more clear.  Otherwise, we're left to believe that Thomas willed him a gem that magically transforms rooms into caves.  I'm guessing that's not the case.  That said, I did appreciate the idea that Joker was inspired by Bruce's parents' death, since it made him realize how random and violent the world was.  It fits, particularly in keeping with the theme that Batman and Joker are flip-sides of the same coin, both children of Gotham who learned the opposite (though violent) lessons from the Waynes' death:  Bruce tries to force some order onto Gotham, Joker embraces the chaos that clearly rules Gotham.  I can't say that "Year Zero" is setting my world on fire, but I think it would be getting closer if Snyder spent more time providing original insights like the one just mentioned and not focusing on changing the details of the established story to leave his mark. 

Nightwing #23:  OK, color me intrigued.  Zucco seems to know who the Prankster is and that knowledge leads him to believe that things are going to get even worse for Chicago.  It definitely deepens the mystery, making you wonder what exactly Mayor Cole did to the Prankster to make "him" hate Cole so much that "he" wants to take down the city.  I have to say, I'm excited to see how it all comes to a head.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2:  Man, I forgot how beautiful Checchetto's work is.  Truthfully, the various "Scarlet Spider" pencilers rarely depict Kaine as a brawnier version of Peter; if you didn't know he was Peter's clone, I don't think that you'd read an issue of "Scarlet Spider" and think, "Hey, he looks a lot like Peter Parker."  But, Checchetto manages to achieve that "brawnier version of Peter" effect here.  Moreover, he does an amazing job with conveying emotions through facial expressions, such as Kaine's look of confused pain as "Peter" unexpectedly attacks him in his apartment.  With twice the handsome and twice the feeling, this issue is really all about Checchetto.

I say that, because Yost is surprisingly a little thin on the plot.  It's unclear why Kaine comes to visit Peter.  We're left to assume that it's to see what's gotten into him, but Yost doesn't actually make that point.  (I recall from one of the Spider-Man titles a flash of Kaine watching coverage of the newly aggressive Spider-Man, but nothing more than that.)  We also don't know how Jackal knows that Kaine's in town, why he decided to attack the Spider-Men when he did, or why he's re-activated the Stacy clones.  Has he been tracking Kaine and waiting to bring the Stacy clones on him and Peter for when they're together?  We never really discover the plan here.

But, perhaps most importantly, this Otto is more reckless than he's been, even lately.  He forgets completely that he's not Otto when he's seized with the need for revenge against the man that killed him.  It's only seeing Kaine's face and hearing his voice that remind him that he's Peter now.  We're left to wonder if his behavior is going to lead Kaine to realize that he's not dealing with Peter, adding to the choir of voices (Carlie, MJ, etc.) who suspect something is amiss.  But, we have to wait for confirmation of that next issue.  It's entirely possible that Kaine will just leave disappointed in his frayed (if not ruined) relationship with Peter, something too sad to contemplate.

Scarlet Spider #20:  As opposed to "Nightwing," color me concerned.  This title is at its best when it serves as a meditation on a man seeking redemption.  It's why the most poignant part of this issue is the last page, when Kaine reels not only from Peter's unexplained loss of faith in him but also from the return of his degenerative disorder.  It seems to be proof to him that he can't escape his past, throwing into doubt the progress that he's made so far.  The good news is that this title generally uses Kaine's supporting cast to help remind him of that progress and to stay on the path to redemption.  Yost seems to be setting up a story that'll give them a real run for their money.

However, this title is at its worst when it wallows too much in the details of that past.  Using the return of the degenerative disorder is one thing, particularly since it's essentially a visual gimmick that underlines how Kaine views himself.  Bringing back the Jackal, Carrion, the Gwen Stacy clone, and "Spidercide 2.0," all at the same time?  It's just too much.  (I'm not even going to mention the whole Other/"I've already got a monster living in my head" debacle.)  Kaine has done nothing but mediate on his past for this entire title.  Even if you didn't read the "Clone Saga," you know the basic contours of Kaine's past at this point.  We really, really don't need to relive the 1990s for Yost to make the point.  I just don't see how throwing the entire kitchen sink at us, particularly this early in the run, is going to leave us with any interesting insights into Kaine that we already haven't been given not only in this title already but also ad nauseum in the "Clone Saga" itself.  Let him remember who he was to understand where he is now; don't make us relive it all again.  We get it.  We've gotten it for 20 years.

In terms of Spider-Man, this issue is also troubling, because Otto continues to be a total nutjob.  Yost does a good job of reminding us that Otto no longer has Pete's memories, but it's hard to believe that Kaine could leave this encounter with Peter and not be seriously worried about his mental health.  After all, Otto kept screaming about getting revenge for what Kaine did to him.  Since Kaine never really did anything to Peter, he never really once stopped to think, "WTF is Peter talking about?"  I just wonder how long I'm going to be asked to believe that Peter could be this obviously unhinged and NO ONE, other than possibly Carlie, is going to wonder why.  However long it is, I can tell you already that it's been too long.

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