Friday, December 30, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The September 7 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #6:  At the end of the last issue, it retroactively seemed like this first arc was about introducing Gotham Girl as a major player.  The focus was initially on Gotham and shifting it to Gotham Girl was clever.  It was a send-up of the traditionally male-oriented focus of comics (where men's pain is the only pain that matters à la "Women in Refrigerators") as well as a re-interpretation of Bruce's origin story itself (with Claire having a more direct role in her parents' murder than Bruce did).  However, I got a little worried when King implied this next arc was essentially going to be "Gotham Girl:  Year One," with the end result being Bruce dying...again.

But, it feels like King must've read all the outraged blog posts about that prospect, because in this issue he appears to be telling us he was just kidding.  Instead, it seems the narrative that closed issue #5 was really just part of Claire's delusional state, caused by Psycho-Pirate's attack on her as well as the trauma of losing her entire family.  Bruce reveals his identity and story at the end of this issue to save her, since her one-woman war on crime means she's rapidly draining her life energy.  Although emotional, it's a weirdly anti-climactic epilogue.

King seems almost to apologize for this misdirection by setting up an even better arc:  Amanda Waller reveals the entire ordeal was Bane's fault, since he just wanted to get his hands on Psycho-Pirate.  Now, I'm not saying it makes much sense.  Waller says Strange created the disasters in Gotham to attract Psycho-Pirate without explaining why they would attract him.  (For his part, Strange apparently received a lot of venom from Bane in exchange for Psycho-Pirate.)  It's been a while since I read issue #5, but it seems King is saying Gotham and Gotham Girl just happened to become superheroes at the wrong time; Strange and Psycho-Pirate's actions never really had anything to do with them.  Unfortunately, King doesn't elaborate on why Bane needed Strange to get Psycho-Pirate.  After all, it seems like he could've been captured without Strange's elaborate plan to destroy part of Gotham to attract him.  But, regardless of how convoluted it is, it does set up Bruce's upcoming invasion of Santa Prisca, so I'm not complaining.  (Well, too much).

Justice League #4:  I have no fucking idea what's happening here.  We're got the Kindred who seem to want to end the world to save it and the Purge who want to convert humanity into cyborgs.  Maybe?  It's also unclear if the three bombs in the Earth's crust were planted by the Kindred, the Purge, or someone else.  Possibly?  Again, I really have no idea.  All anyone does is talk in riddles, like it's a Jonathan Hickman comic.

Also Read:  All-New, All-Different Avengers #14; Moon Knight #6; Nightwing #4; Spidey #10; Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #6

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 31 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Amazing Spider-Man #17:  This series is a lot better now that we have an actual plot and not constant shenanigans related to Peter trying to balance his role as Spider-Man with his responsibilities at Parker Industries.  Slott imbues this issue with legitimate suspense as Peter has Hobie spy on the Jackal and his crew.  (Can I just say how thrilled I am to see Hobie every time he appears?)  Plus, Slott adds intrigue as he fills in another piece of the puzzle:  the people he resurrects need to take a pill every day only he can provide.  It explains why anyone he's resurrected (or anyone whose loved one he resurrected) is beholden to him.  But, Slott doesn't make it that simple.  The Jackal keeps insisting he's the good guy here.  It's not his usual paranoid schemes of destruction.  He resurrects Hobie after the new Electro accidentally kills him, and Hobie is seemingly convinced of the Jackal's bona fides after the Jackal shows him his grand plan.  Is Hobie really convinced the Jackal is building a better world?  Or, does he have to say he is to keep the pills coming?  Only time will tell, I guess.  At any rate, for the first time in a while, I'm legitimately intrigued where Slott is going with this series.  It feels like a Spider-Man story and not a reductive Iron Man one.  Color me a happy camper (for now).

Ms. Marvel #10:  Given the backlog I'm currently trying to address, I've trying to identify books I can drop.  Since "Ms. Marvel" is one of my newer series, it's always on the list, since we don't have as much of a history.  Then, I read an issue like this one, where Bruno's injuries provide Kamala her Uncle Ben moment, and I realize this series isn't going anywhere.  The best moment of the issue is when Kamala realizes everything before Bruno getting hurt felt like make-believe, as if she was just playing hero.  It's a sentiment to which we can all relate.  We've all had the moment when it's time to put on our big-boy pants.  It's particularly profound when it happens because you can no longer listen to a person you admired or trusted (as Kamala experiences with Carol here).  At some point, you have to find your own way, and Wilson does an amazing job of showing us Kamala getting to that point here.

Spider-Gwen #11:  The problem with this series right now is we're still dealing with the hangover of "Spider-Women."  Despite having read this series from the beginning, I have no idea who some of the characters we see here are.  Reed Richards knows Gwen's secret identity and designs her tech, but we're not given any insight into how she met him.  Did they go to high school together?  It seems that way, but it's unclear.  We also have Jesse Drew the spy.  I vaguely recognize him from previous issues, but I don't really care enough to research it.  The unfortunate part is that these questions distract from the larger story, namely Frank Castle's pursuit of Spider-Woman.  Latour has infused this plot with all sorts of drama, from the fact that Castle isn't wrong about his suspicions about Spider-Woman and Captain Stacy to the difficult position Jeanne DeWolff faces as a result of Castle's dogged pursuit of Gwen and her father.  But, "Spider-Women" keeps getting in the way, and I hope we can put behind the "powerless" shtick and resume the great story Latour was telling.

Spider-Man 2099 #14:  During his long run on "X-Factor," David proved to me over and over again to trust him.  Every time we seemed to get far from where I thought we were going, we wound up getting there brilliantly.  This issue is no different.  Since Marvel brought back Miguel, I've wondered whether an already complicated timeline would be further complicated to the point of absurdity.  However, David has made it clear that we're beyond that concern now.  I can't count how many timelines we've already seen since Miguel has returned -- I think we're on our fourth, after the "original" one, the Maestro one, the "Secret Wars 2099" one, and the current reality.  But, David seems to be ready to use "Civil War II" to create a definitive one.  Similar to what DC did with "Flashpoint," it's not going to matter what came before.  He'll be able to take the better parts of the previous series -- like bringing back great supporting characters we haven't seen in a while  -- and ditch the worse parts -- like ignoring the disastrous developments of "2099World of Tomorrow" and "Manifest Destiny."  For example, great characters like Ghost Rider 2099, Hulk 2099, and Punisher 2099 are returned to us (after, I believe, they were all killed in "2099:  World of Tomorrow").  In other words, David is using the unintended consequences of time travel to correct the editorial mistakes of the past.  Moreover, the story at hand is just as interesting -- if not more -- than the larger continuity developments.  Alchemax and its fellow corporations have used an Anti-Powers Act to neuter the heroes, an homage to the original "Civil War" event.  In a way, I can see these tie-in issues feeling more genuinely like the continuation of "Civil War" than "Civil War II" does.  Leave it to Peter David to accomplish that.

Tokyo Ghost #10:  This series has been, without a doubt, one of the best I've ever read.  It's the one I keep telling people who don't read comics to read.  I've been struggling with its core message of unplugging -- from the Internet, from negativity -- since the election, and I'm glad I wound up reading this issue after it.  I really do wonder if it'll take someone like Debbie to save us, to unplug us forcibly, because no matter how much I say I want to get off Facebook or stop obsessively reading the news I just can't do it.  Davey Trauma is always there, lurking.  Debbie is the hero we need, but, as someone mentions in the letters page, we may never really get her.

Also Read:  Bloodshot Reborn #17; Spider-Man #7; Star Wars:  Han Solo #3; Uncanny Avengers #13

Monday, December 26, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 24 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batgirl #2:  OK, I admit, it's exciting to see Babs on the road.  Larson has thrown the deck of cards into the air and we'll see where they land.  Babs is in a sort of controlled free-fall; she's never been an erratic "On the Road" type, but here she is.  She leaves Kai in this issue less because she's worried he's trouble (and he clearly is), but more because she doesn't want to be tied down.  Meanwhile, she's trying to improve her skills as a fighter, but she's still Barbara.  Her eidetic memory provides her clues about the identity of the villain who attacked Kai last issue, whether she likes it or not.  It's tweaking the Batgirl formula, where Barbara is recognizable if different.  I'm hoping Larson can keep us in this place as long as possible, after Fletcher and Stewart struggled to do so in the previous iteration of this series.

Captain America:  Steve Rogers #4:  This issue is not a smooth read.  I'm OK with Spencer entertaining the idea of Steve as a sleeper agent for HYDRA, since it's pretty clear it's going to end with him being returned to normal.  After all, Spencer isn't going all Slott and claiming he's going to remain a HYDRA agent forever.  But, the hook isn't enough to keep us going here.  Steve sounds hypnotized as Spencer is forced to drag out his dialogue to get it to work as a framing device.  But, he stretches it too far.  He uses it to cover everything, from Maria's fight with the S.H.I.E.L.D. governors to Sharon's presentation to Congress to Kobik's interactions with the Thunderbolts.  Throw in there flashbacks to Steve's new childhood and Rick Jones joining Free Spirit at a bedside vigil over Jack Flag and it's just too much.  We also have an example of pet peeve #2, since Steve isn't even in the same room as Carol and Tony, let alone putting himself in the middle of one of their arguments (as shown on the cover).  In other words, it's not Cap as a HYDRA agent that's a problem -- it's Cap as a boring expository device that's the problem.

Star Wars #22:  This issue really fulfills the promise of this series, as Han, Leia, and Luke steal an imperial Star Destroyer.  It's the sort of amazing untold story you expected to be out there, and it's one only a comic book could tell.

Titans #2:  On one level, I'm glad "Titans" is the front-line series exploring the impact Dr. Manhattan had on the DCU, because I'm at least moderately interested in the answer.  On the other hand, it could get old fast.  When Kadabra isn't sending the Titans against clones of their younger selves for convoluted super-villain reasons, he's pondering how Dr. Manhattan was involved in breaking time.  This part gets confusing, as all time-travel stories -- good or bad -- do.  In Kadabra's time, Linda and Wally haven't met yet, but it's difficult to see how that would happen.  Sure, in the original DCU, Linda and Wally would've already met.  But, in the current DCnU, Wally didn't exist.  Kadabra is implying Wally existed in his time, so is Kadabra from a third U?  I guess it's also possible he's from the future, but it doesn't seem to be the case.  I guess we'll see.  I just hope it's five or six issues from now, not 50 or 60 issues.

Also Read:  Detective Comics #939; Dungeons and Dragons #4; Extraordinary X-Men #13; New Avengers #15

Friday, December 23, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 17 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #5:  The twist here isn't the death of Gotham, since comic-book rules require that a hero-gone-bad has to die.  It isn't even that Gotham Girl is the one to do it or that their powers are based on depleting their life energy.  It's that Gotham Girl will one day kill Batman to save him and/or Gotham (the city or the person).  In presenting us with this revelation, King refers to a point in the future where Gotham Girl has married Duke, so it's unclear to me if DC intends for Gotham Girl to be a permanent character.  It all feels a little "Elseworlds"-y to me.  Either way, I really hope we don't spend too much time on a dead Bruce story, since, by Rao, we've had enough of them.  (I will throw in a nod here for King in having Alfred comment on the ridiculousness of Thomas Wayne taking his bepearled wife and precocious son through Crime Alley at night.  Seriously, talk about an idiot.)

Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man #3:  This issue is solid.  Harry does a great job of laying out the ways Peter has helped Clayton and foreshadows Clayton not being able to stop himself from screwing up his latest chance to change.  His need to be special is his addiction, and Gage frequently compares it to alcoholism to drive home the point.  When Spidey makes it clear Clayton has to give up the vehicle for his addiction -- his sonics -- for Peter to save him, it's finally too much for Clayton.  As sad as this turn of events is, it feels true, a testament to how carefully Gage has constructed the story.  Gage isn't just tearing down Clayton; his experiences and personality lead him  to this point, like Cyclops' lead him down the path he chose.  That said, I'm still wondering how Peter emerges from this experience convinced Carol is correct.  It seems to me the obvious lesson is that acting on Ulysses' visions can cause events to happen instead of preventing them.

Captain America:  Sam Wilson #12:  Reading this issue after the election, I have to think Spencer deserves an award for being the only pundit to predict the results.  Using John Walker as the agent of the shadowy group of conservative leaders seeking to take the shield from Sam is brilliant.  Spencer tries to treat them fairly, though it's clear they're the villains of the story -- the Charles Koch, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeff Sessions of the Marvel Universe.  But, after all the ink spilled on this election season, it's still probably some of the most insightful commentary I've read about our differing perspectives.  As I've said previously, this series is the best one on the stands now.

Nightwing #3:  I'm still not buying this idea of Raptor as Nightwing's mentor.  Even if you buy the idea Bruce didn't teach Dick everything he needed to know because their moral codes didn't align (with Dick hewing more Robin Hood than Bruce), it ignores the years Dick spent on his own as Nightwing.  I don't understand why Raptor just can't be his partner.  Along those lines, I also don't buy this idea of Raptor wanting to betray the Parliament of Owls, but Seeley is hopefully going somewhere with this revelation.  At least, I hope he is, because it's all feeling like a mess right now.

Uncanny Avengers #12:  This arc was heading for a pretty solid conclusion.  Although Duggan seemed to skip a few steps in getting Ultron onto the Quinjet that the Avengers plan on sending into the sun, he compensates by giving us a pretty stellar (heh) battle royale. The Avengers' plan goes pear-shaped pretty quickly as Ultron manages to trap Rogue, Torch, Voodoo, and Wasp on the Quinjet with Vision, upping the drama.  Even though it seemed unlikely Duggan would kill five of the more prominent members of the Marvel Universe, he does a good job of showing the Avengers struggle with their plan now that they're directly confronted with its goal.  In other words, it's a lot harder to kill someone who sounds like your friend when you actually have to hear him begging for mercy.  Moreover, Duggan changes the stakes at the last minute:  we learn Ultron has murdered billions of people throughout the galaxy, keeping alive enough people so they could hear him blame it on the Avengers each time.  It's the perfect beyond-the-grave revenge.  But, it's cheapened when Duggan saves Ultron at the last minute, hiding him in a neutrino.  (Yeah, I have no idea either.)  I thought Duggan was going to give Ultron the greatest gift possible - a legacy of generations of victims visiting their revenge on Earth.  Instead, it's just another Ultron story, with him yet again magically avoiding death.  The only log Duggan added to this fire was the most nonsensical save in a long history of nonsensical saves.  But, I guess now Ultron can return at the right moment so the Avengers can make it clear he acted on his own.  Do we even have to go through the story if we know how it's going to end?

Also Read:  Civil War II:  X-Men #3; Mighty Thor #10; Star Wars:  Poe Dameron #5

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 10 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

All-New X-Men #12: For the most part, this issue is a solid look into Laura's psyche as she goes on a bunch of solo missions Cyclops original meant for himself.  He can't do them since he's still recovering from his encounter with Toad, and she can't relieve her boredom by playing video games.  However, she's frustrated to learn someone else has made his way through the hit list before her, and it's no surprise when she learns it was Warren.  Hopeless also provides us insight into Warren's thoughts, as we learn the powers he got from the Black Vortex are slowly consuming him.  Laura understands this need to engage in violence, and their shared bloodlust brings them together again.  Warren also apologizes for making her feel bad about said lust, explaining the "fire" is messing with his head.  This part is the only area where I raised an eyebrow.  Hopeless is essentially trying to make it seem like Warren was more scared by what he recognized of himself in Laura than by Laura herself.  It makes sense, but I also can't help but feel like it's a ret-con, like Hopeless hadn't originally intended to go this route.  We never really got a hint that Warren was motivated by anything other than his inability to be in a relationship with someone who he watched essentially get murdered every day or so.  If we had seen those hints, it would've been easier to accept what Hopeless does here.  But, since this issue is pretty much the first time we've mentioned Warren's new powers in this series, it feels like an overly convenient device to get them together, for whatever reason.  That said, I am glad to see them together again, so I shouldn't complain too much.

All-New, All-Different Avengers #13
:  Whoa, I did not see that coming.  I figured Vision would learn a lesson about free will, recognizing his own struggles
with emotion and logic and leaving Kang to live his life the way he saw fit, an enemy to face in his prime.  But, we do not get that ending here.  Instead, the wraith-like figure we've seen assisting Vision throughout his journey into Kang's past whispers a secret to him, leading Vision to kidnap an infant Kang and, presumably, put him in the wraith's care.  Waid makes it clear with this cliffhanger that he's playing a very long game here.  It's the type of story we used to see in the '80s and '90s, where we got hints of threats lurking in the background as the Avengers confronted more immediate problems.  It's more proof to me that Waid is going back to basics in this title.  Everything feels like the good ol' days, before Bendis made the title feel like a TV show written for people with ADHD or Hickman turned it into an art project.  On a side note, Waid gets ahead of the main series a bit when he reveals that Black Panther and Spider-Man both join Carol's side.  I'm not surprised about T'Challa, but Peter surprises me, particularly given the developments so far in "Civil War II:  Amazing Spider-Man."  I guess we'll see.

All-Star Batman #1:  If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm not a fan of Scott Snyder's Bruce Wayne.  I love his Dick Grayson.  But, his Bruce Wayne is not someone I recognize.  He's an arrogant yet incompetent sociopath.  He seems to be motivated more by defeating his foes than by saving innocent civilians.  But, I'm glad to say Snyder seems to be taking a different tack here.  This Bruce seems to have learned a lesson or two.  (Given his failures over the last few months, it's about time.)

The premise of this series is Bruce is taking Harvey Dent to a "house" to cure him of his Two-Face persona.  Harvey goes willingly, but Two-Face puts up a fight.  Here, Snyder alludes to an information network Dent had as a District Attorney that allowed Two-Face to defeat his foes in the underworld.  This network is at the center of the carrot/stick approach Two-Face takes here in motivating people to help him.  First, he pledges to release all the secrets he knows if Batman isn't stopped.  Snyder makes it clear how good Harvey's network is when a scared Alfred takes down the Batplane.  But, Two-Face goes on step further:  he offers the fortunes of the wealthiest mobsters in Gotham to anyone who stops Batman.  Even the denizens of a truck stop -- near where the Batplane crashes -- are motivated to take down the Bat for the money.

It's here where Snyder shows the sort of genius we saw in the "Black Mirror" in "Detective Comics."  Although we still don't know anything about this "house" or how it can cure Harvey after all these years, Snyder sets up a "Cannonball Run" that makes sense in the context of the characters.  It's clear why it's going to be a challenge for Bruce to cross the finish line.  Moreover, we're treated to a back-up story of Bruce starting Duke's training.  If the primary story shows Bruce as caring more about saving Harvey than he does about defeating Two-Face, this story shows him having learned a lesson.  He's going to put Duke through the Cursed Wheel, a condensed composite of all the lessons Bruce learned in his adolescent travels.  But, he realizes Duke isn't a Robin:  the need to dominate him like he did the other Robins is absent.  We also get a hint that a villain not named Jason has gone through the Wheel.  This story doesn't obviously connect to the main story right now, but it's clear it will, so I'm intrigued to see where we're going with it.  Overall, it's a solid start that gives me hope I'm going to like where we're going.

Amazing Spider-Man #16:  [Sigh.]  I'm really, really trying to keep an open mind.  After all, the revelation that the Jackal (or, at least, someone calling himself the Jackal) resurrected the loved ones of Spidey's rogues gallery makes sense.  Peter becomes aware of this technology when one of the Jackal's scientists -- representing "New U Technologies" -- approaches him, JJJ, Jr., and May about using it to cure Jay of his mysterious hereditary disease.  (Side-bar:  Jay apparently didn't tell JJJ, Jr. about said disease, despite the fact it appears early intervention can help.  That seems...dickish to me, but I'm trying to stay positive.)  Peter asks to vet the technology and excitedly declares to Anna Marie that he can basically cure death with it, since it regrows organs without any flaws an accident or disease might have caused.  It's here where the story (once again) goes off the rails for me, because it shouldn't take Anna Marie to warn Peter about the ethical issues this technology would cause.  But, Peter doesn't care, calling New U to use it on an employee hurt in an industrial accident.  The Jackal mentions to his minions it's not "part of his plan," making it clear that using it on Jay was part of the plan.  But, he does it anyway, in part to build up Peter's belief in the technology.  But, Peter realizes something might be wrong when the employee sparks his Spider-Sense.  Ruh-roh!  Maybe moved a little too fast there, huh, Parker?  At any rate, the stakes go up even further when the Jackal's scientist reveals to JJJ, Jr. that they've resurrected Marla.  Also, it's pretty clear that Doc Ock is going to use the technology to resurrect himself.  [Sigh.]  At least the letters page announces they're launching a "Renew Your Vows" series.  Can I just read that instead?

Black Panther #5:  The brilliance of what Coates is doing here is clear when you realize you pretty much agree with everyone but T'Challa.  When he interrogates the boy turned terrorist, I was totally on the side of the "terrorist" as he spat back T'Challa's indignation.  After all, T'Challa was gallivanting with the Avengers as Namor drowned his village and the Black Order made his brother beg for death.   The "evil men" behind the revolution are offering him something T'Challa is not:  security.  Similarly, when T'Challa looks down on the "counter-revolutionary" masterminds, I rolled my eyes as they did.  Again, T'Challa clearly thinks he can be feared and loved simply because he demands to be, while the masterminds remind him he actually has to provide the aforementioned security to be feared and loved.  T'Challa thinks that he can just dismiss the revolutionaries as dishonorable and be done with it, but it's not that simple, as I'm sure he's going to learn.

Darth Vader #24:  We learn two conflicting lessons in this issue.  First, Darth Vader is more man than machine, contrary to Cylo's comment at the end of last issue, as he uses the Force to will his body into motion, killing Cylo and reactivating the machine parts of his body.  But, that "man" isn't Anakin Skywalker, as we learn through a series of hallucinations where he not only kills Anakin but Padme.  He truly is Darth Vader.  We end the issue with Vader going after one loose end (Cylo-VI?) and Aphra appearing before the Emperor to tell him she knows some stuff he needs to know.  I have no idea where we're going from here, but it's going to be good.

Detective Comics #938:  This issue is solid, though I had to read it twice to follow all the twists and turns.  Tynion starts the issue by showing us the Colonel's motivation to join the Colony, pledging to a young Kate at her mother's gravesite that he'll do everything he can to ensure no other family has to endure what they have.  (He's actually already agreed to join the Colony when this conversation happens.)  Frankly, it's a pretty solid motivation.  In the present, a now-freed Bruce sends Tim to hack into the Colony's servers to get more information about the Gothamites the Colony is targeting.  In so doing, Tim encounters Ulysses, hopefully kindling a new arch-nemesis for him.  He also realizes the military has no idea how far beyond its remit the Colony has gone.  Once Tim has the information they need, the team flees.  Realizing the military will shut down the Colony once Bruce shares with them what it's done, Ulysses convinces the Colonel to unleash drones he built (against the Colonel's orders) on the intended targets.  The problem is they're not 100 percent sure of the intel that they have; as such, the Colonel is authorizing the murder of innocent civilians.  It's...dark.  One question going forward is how right Bruce is in his insistence the League of Shadows is really a myth.  After all, Tynion worked with Snyder during the era, where this level of confidence from Bruce usually meant that he was wrong, like how he was sure that the Court of Owls didn't exist or the Joker didn't enter the Batcave.  Will it be more of the same here?  If it's not, then you have to wonder why the Colony still believes the League to exist, given the time and resources they've had to get to the truth.

Spider-Man 2099 #13:  Due to my move, I stopped reading comics the week I started this review; it's now December, not August.  As such, my recall of previous issues is a little...dim.  David is telling a fairly complicated story at this point, with numerous timelines in play, and I admit the delay in reading this issue left me fairly confused at parts.  After all, we're dealing with at least the third iteration of the 2099 Universe in just this run.  But, David seems to be implying this iteration of the 2099 Universe is close enough to Miguel's* that he has a shot of actual reconstructing his timeline.  Of course, he can't do that if he's in an Alchemax prison, where he seems to be headed after the Punisher quickly disposes of him.  (I added the asterisk here as a reminder that even the baseline timeline that Miguel is trying to resurrect is different from the one we saw in the original run.  But, you're all probably tired of me mentioning that, so I'll just stop here.)

Also Read:  All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not-Very-Deep Thoughts: The August 3 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batgirl:  Rebirth #1:  OK, I'm in.  I initially loved Fletcher and Stewart's run on "Batgirl," with its focus on Babs putting the Bat-family behind her and instead getting her Ph.D. and becoming Burnside's defender.  But, almost immediately, they deviated from this vision.  Babs seemed to have a new supporting cast and raison d'être every four or five issues.  Over the course of 18 issues, we went from Jeremy, Nadimah, and Qadir to Liam to Dinah, Frankie, and Luke.  We went from her trying to create a program capable of predicting crime as her Ph.D. thesis to her running a large corporation based on an idea she essentially stole.  Moreover, the characters' personalities changed to fit the story the authors wanted to tell.  Jeremy went from a hapless but endearing graduate student to a sullen and depressed criminal accessory.  Alysia went from an activist bartender with aspirations of becoming a professional chef to running Babs' corporation.  I could continue, but, like Babs, it's time to focus on the future, not the past.

Larson and Albuquerque make a great team as they re-imagine Babs as a woman backpacking through Asia on a journey of self-discovery.  Albuquerque is known for his darker themes, but he adopts this comic's unique visual style, embracing a manga sensibility for the characters.  (It's fitting since Babs starts her tour of Asia in Japan.)  Larson makes it clear that she's trying to separate Babs from her immediate past as quickly as possible.  We make a quick call to Alysia for an update, she tells Babs everything is going fine, and we're done.  I'm guessing we won't hear anything more about the company or the former supporting cast for a while.  It's a brutal yet needed transition.

In Japan, Babs' goal is to track down Fruit Bat, a Japanese heroine from the 1930s.  Upon arrival in Japan, she discovers her roommate at the hostel is Kai, a handsome but troubled childhood friend who draws the attention of a super-villain.  In other words, Larson makes us quickly forget about the past and excited about the future.   Rebirth, indeed.

Batman #4:  We'd been doing really well, but I have to admit I'm confused now.

First, Batman goes to see Amanda Waller after Gotham -- under Psycho-Pirate's influence -- kills 27 of her soldiers.  He's able to find her after Duke adds up the serial numbers on the soldiers' dog tags and they sum to 24 -- the corresponding letter of the alphabet is "X," for Task Force X, i.e., Suicide Squad.  Wait, what?  Why would Waller do that?  Was it a backdoor to make sure Batman found her in case something went wrong?  If not, it's way too comic book-y of a solution.  At any rate, we learn Hugo Strange used Gotham to kill the soldiers because Waller sent them to keep on eye on Strange.

Unfortunately for Gotham, one of the soldiers apparently survived.  He took a picture of Gotham's face after he took off his mask (a rookie mistake), ran it through Task Force X's database, and then killed Gotham's parents.  I get King is making Gotham even more of an analogue of Batman, but it's a little messy.  First, it's unclear what the time frame is of these events are.  It seems like this guy went immediately from the scene of the crime to Task Force X's base, ran the photo, and then bolted to the Clover's to kill them.  Didn't he have at least some sort of debriefing?  I know Waller doesn't care about people's mental states, but even she should recognize it's probably dangerous to the sole survivor of a massacre running around town.  Of course, based on a comment she makes to Batman, maybe she wanted Gotham to go crazy.  Did she send the guard herself?  I'm not sure we're going to get that answer.  It's also weird killing Gotham's parents is his first thought.  Is that the standard DCU response to having a beef with someone?  At any rate, Gotham kills the soldier in front of Bruce and resolves -- again, under the influence of Psycho-Pirate -- to raze Gotham before it hurts someone else again.

It's unclear to me how aware of his actions Gotham is.  When Bruce confronts him over the 27 dead soldiers, he actually recognizes that the body count should've been 28.  He puts two and two together and immediately flees the scene to make sure his parents are OK.  (Again, though, it's weird it's everyone's first response.  "Someone has a beef with me; I have to check on my folks!")  However, we also see Gotham reconstructing the bridge that the mysterious agents blew up last issue, so he still believes himself to be something of a hero.  I think we're supposed to believe Strange is screwing with him, making him alternate between heroic and terrible actions to maximize the psychological damage.  From a narrative perspective, it's hard to follow and it somewhat dulls the emotional impact of the story.  You're so busy trying to figure out which Gotham is talking that you skip past the empathy we're supposed to have for him.

Moon Knight #5:  Lemire is using Marc's increasingly weak grip on reality to full effect here, as Marc is forced to cycle through his various personae -- Jake Lockley, Steve Grant, and Moon Knight himself -- as he flees the mental-institution orderlies.  He eventually encounters Seth, realizing Khonshu wasn't telling him the truth when he said Seth was responsible for his plight.  Seth encourages Marc to face his enemy, and it's revealed to be Khonshu himself.

It was all a test, because Khonshu wants Marc to take the final step:  his body is dying, and he wants Marc to surrender his body and mind to him.  Khonshu plays it as a blessing, an opportunity for Marc to be at peace from his fractured mind.  Marc seems to consider it, acknowledging his mind is indeed broken.  At the end, though, Marc rejects Khonshu, hurling himself from the pyramid where their confrontation occurred.  We see him bleeding in the sand...and then awakening as Steve Grant in New York.  He sheds a tear, happy to be there.  But, Lemire isn't revealing what we're actually seeing here.  Is Marc Spector no more?  Is Moon Knight no more?  We'll have to see.

A lot of the energy in this issue comes from the team of artists.  That phrase is usually not associated with excellence, but the editors use them brilliantly to show the different personae fighting for dominance.  I still like Smallwood's renderings the best, for they're gritty realism, but I also appreciate the use of art to drive home the different visions of the world Marc and his personalities have.  I'm definitely excited to see where we go from here.

Nightwing #2:  Although I like where Seeley is going, I can't help but feel like he's rushing to get us there.  Case in point, Raptor goes from an amoral hired gun to edgy good guy over the course of just a few panels.  Last issue, he was basically the second coming of R'as al Ghul, but in this issue he's suddenly Batman if he were a little closer to Chaotic Evil than Chaotic Good.  That said, he does seem like a fun and intriguing new character.  He shares Dick's sense of humor, even if it's a little darker; I loved his devotion to branding, marketing, and advertising as the three irresistible forces of the Universe.  He's also clearly got a back story, since he also seems to be working against the Parliament in the long run, for reasons that I assume Seeley will eventually reveal.

But, again, it feels rushed.  Seeley essentially demotes Dick to sidekick again, seemingly ignoring the fact we're talking about a guy who led the Titans, served as Batman, and was a super-spy.  It's hard to square this circle, that a previously unknown costumed hero (villain?) could so easily school DickMoreover, Raptor immediately decides to trust Dick as a partner and as a confidante.  It's one thing to believe that Dick will make sure you don't get killed on a mission, but it's another thing to confide in him that you're working to take down an organization like the Parliament of Owls.  It seems ill advised moment of trust for a morally ambiguous mercenary.  It would've been better if Raptor spent a few issues taking Dick's measure and then trusting him, as a partner first and then as a confidante.

The good news, though, is I still like where we're going.  Dick never really got his hands too dirty while he was working for Spyral, but Raptor makes clear they're going to have to accept doing the Parliament's dirty work (and hurting people) in the short run to defeat them in the long run.  It'll be interesting to see where Dick draws his lines in the sand tested, particularly since, as we see when he skips a date with Babs, he'll be doing it on his own again.

Spidey #9:  Nope, I totally didn't tear up at the end.  Nope.  Not at all.

Also Read:  Justice League #2; Tokyo Ghost #9