Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 3/12/14

round upLook, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Drew and Patrick discuss Batman: Li’l Gotham 12, Batwoman 29, Secret Avengers 1, Green Lantern Corps 29, Manifest Destiny 5, and Daredevil: Road Warrior Infinite Comic 3.

slim-banner4Drew: In the face of increasingly daunting comic canons, I’ve become a pretty big proponent of “fanon” — a personal canon each reader cultivates to suit their own tastes. I hate to suggest that continuity and quality are mutually exclusive, but it’s hard to argue with the allure of Batman: Li’l Gotham, which has found the heart of the Batman universe without sweating the details. Then again, this week’s final collection reveals just how precise those details are. Effectively taking place in what the Timmverse would be if it had been created to reflect the pre-reboot continuity, writers Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen, treat their final installment as a retrospective on a universe that DC isn’t publishing anywhere else, revealing just how much potential it has. Also, every panel is somehow more adorable than the last. It’s more of the same, for sure, but when that same is this charming, I’ll gladly take all I can get (and hope for more down the line).

Batgirl 29, on the other hand offers a change of pace that is a little wearying. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the delusional vampire-hunter thread from last month, and this issue oddly double’s down on those delusions, making the villain see the light only to reveal that he was actually kind of right all along. It’s a nonsense ending that Babs and Strix both acknowledge was bizarre by vowing to never tackle a case like this again, which feels about right. This issue found Babs missing all of the things she would normally be doing, which only made me more impatient with this issue. Were you able to get more out of this detour, Patrick?

Patrick: Yeah, it felt like the end of Burn After Reading, the knowing nod how utterly out of our protagonists’ control the whole conflict was. “What did we learn?” “I guess we learned not to do it again. I’m fucked if I know what we did.” That’s charming enough, but while it’s fun to see CIA agents admitting that the beaurocracy had gotten away from them, it’s less fun to see Babs and Mary admitting that they’re out of their league. If anything, this issue is an intriguing look into Batgirl’s role in the greater DC Universe — there’s that C word: continuity. I think there’s a place for Andrew Bennett, and maybe “weird cameo in an issue of Batgirl” isn’t the best application of the dude, it’s still nice to see him. Plus, while I don’t much care for the way Fernando Pasarin draws faces (how can they be thin and fat at the same time!) his designs of what Stryx and Batgirl look like to Silver are kinda neat.

Batgirl and Stryx as vampire-ladies

You guys, remember how much we liked those three issues of Suicide Squad that Ales Kot wrote? And also remember his brilliantly brooding future-spy drama Zero? Well he brings all of that bad-assery, and mixes in an impressive amount of levity for Secret Avengers 1. The story follows the Spider-Woman and Black Widow as they’re called into action on their day off to assist Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. They’re battling an alien in a space station because why not? A.I.M., M.O.D.O.K., Hawkeye and Director Maria Hill are all in the mix, as is a S.H.I.E.L.D double agent gunning for Hill. It’s a hilariously overstuffed issue, capped off with a sense of gleeful exuberance that’s come to characterize Marvel’s most successful series. Come to think of it, this feels a lot like Thunderbolts, just with a lot more devilish sense of humor. One of the ways Natasha and Jessica are spending their day off is getting massages, followed by some heavy firing range action. That’s therapeutic for them and funny for us — one of the weapons in their arsenal is a pair of Hulk hands. My favorite darkly humorous gag comes at the end of the issue, when Director Hill raises her hand to defend herself against her would-be-assassin, only to get a nice solid blown through it.

Maria Hill gets a hole blown in her hand

The Green Lantern war with the Khund and Durlans continues in Green Lantern Corps 29. There are so many layers of subterfuge here that it’s starting to get a little dizzying. Not only are one of our principal antagonists shapeshifters, but it’s not totally clear where Von Daggle’s loyalties lie. He runs off with the Durlans, but John seems to be holding out hope for a double-double-double cross or something. Plus, the end of the issue teases that there’s another Durlan in the mix, only this one is capable of wielding a ring! Which is all well and good, but I feel like I’ve seen these kinds of shapeshifter shenanigans too many times to be properly effected by it. It’s like any time Mystique is in a comic book — you just learn pretty quickly not to trust anyone’s behavior ever. And that’s a bummer of a place to be coming from as a reader. Drew, I know you don’t know all the GLs like I do, but I loved the sequence of Jruk and Hannu wrestling. They’re both big dumb warriors who think they’re tuff enuff without using their rings: they’re just the same type from different generations of GLC. Van Jensen is smart to just give us that fight up front, and maybe even smarter to tip his cap to the long-term GL fans, and give the victory to Hannu.

Drew: There’s a lot that’s great about that scene — Hannu and Jruk are able to bond while fighting, headstrong Jruk is put in his place, Hannu gets to bring up his conscientious objector status in a natural enough way– but my favorite thing about it is that it unfolds in the background while Kilowog is unloading some exposition to Arisa. It’s a great way to deliver necessary information without bogging down the lighter tone Jensen has set for this series, and is emblematic of this issue, which is packed to the gills with fun action AND important plot points. This issue features three separate story lines, and each one finds space to develop. I may be a big enough fan of dinner party murder mysteries (you know, the kind where everyone is a suspect) to forgive some of the clunkiness of having yet another Durlan to worry about.

Hey, speaking of more monsters to worry about, Manifest Destiny 5 finds the team heading out of the frying pan and into the fire — only, the frying pan was already cooling down. After making very short work Floyd and escaping safely to the boat, Lewis and Clark inexplicably insist on heading back into the forest. There’s a small power struggle over whether Sacajawea (who it turns out speaks english just fine, thank you very much) can come, but mostly, this issue is about leading our heroes into the den of the beast. That they feel an obligation to destroy all monsters they encounter is noble (if entirely misguided), but as I mentioned last month, I’m already kind of bored with the plant zombies. Writer Chris Dingess has set up a pretty epic battle, but I’m more interested in seeing some new monsters, which made me just as disappointed with Lewis and Clark’s decision as the rest of the men (albeit for different reasons). I don’t know, Patrick, am I just being impatient?

Patrick: I think you might be being impatient, but that impatience is born out of expectations that the series set up for you in the first issue (and then carried over into the second). It’s interesting: I too though that the break-neck pace of mythological introductions in the first two issues was setting a standard for the series, but I now realize that the Minotaurs and the Stargate thing must be larger underlying mythology, while the plant zombies are simply the substance of the first story arc.

But plant zombies are actually doing a pretty good job of standing in for the natural obstacles faced by the real Lewis and Clark. Particularly, their proposed solution — just burn everything to the ground and be done with it — calls to mind a very early-American approach to exploration. Something we don’t understand and are scared of? Burn that shit. Also, check it out: they’re packing wooden stakes, and I can only assume they’re not for camping. Maybe we can take some comfort in the fact that Lewis is expecting to encounter vampires at some point on this expedition.

Mark Waid and Peter Krause continue to craft a story that’s tailor made for the Infinite Comic medium in Daredevil: Road Warrior 3. Our heartbeatless fugitive turns out to be a shapeshifting robot with the power to mimic aptitude and equipment. So you know what that means: WE GET TO SEE TWO DAREDEVILS. The cool little twist is that the robot also loses his sense of self when he turns in to other people, and he doesn’t much care for it. So Matt’s able to remind his Doppelgänger of his own identity by proving to him that he can see. It’s maybe a cheap trick — it’s the less dramatic version of presenting a robot with a logical paradox to make his head explode — but it’s still a smart move on Matt’s part. I know I was just bitching about shapeshifters a few paragraphs earlier, but I love seeing them applied to the Infinite form, where in-panel transformations are both possible and exciting. There’s one sequence in particular (that I can’t post here because it’s not a static image) that starts with an image of the Councilman the robot had taken the form of. It’s the first of three panels, and the second panel changes as you read, showing us the robot’s tranformation from one human being into another. Finally, the last panel shows the robot as Frank Senic, but even at the end that first panel remains. It’s just super-cool!

slim-banner4The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

6 comments on “Weekly Round-Up: Comics Released 3/12/14

  1. Patrick, I think you’re right about my expectations here being a bit out-of-whack in Manifest Destiny. The first episode of LOST introduces both the Smoke Monster and the Polar Bears, which could have implied there was going to be a new monster every episode. That show was ultimately still pretty good at constantly introducing new mysteries, but even they couldn’t have kept up the pace of a monster-a-week. I need to cool it.

    • Have we compared Manifest Destiny to LOST yet? If only MD could buckle down a little more concisely on its characters, I think it’d really be a much stronger series. This last issue especially seemed mostly about the concept in it and not the characters. There’s a hint of who Sacagawea is, but not nearly enough to learn anything substantive about her.

  2. Manifest Destiny has pleasantly exceeded my expectations every month. It took me about 3 months to read the first two issues (just couldn’t dive in) and now I can’t get enough of it. Love the art and colors and the story of weird exploration appeals to me in ways that Fantastic Four should be doesn’t.

    Invincible and Invincible Universe have come out the last couple weeks and are really now moving at full steam. The last three issues of Invincible have been outstanding. Mind blowing, super cool, I can’t wait to see what else happens chock full of awesomeness. There had been hints to the betrayal (not hard to find out who, look at the next cover), but it took me completely by surprise.

  3. I’m gonna miss Lil’ Gotham so much. The first story was pretty standard but that retrospective was amazing. I’m glad Nguyen finally got to throw in the Spoiler cameo he’s been trying for the entire run of the series (even if it is probably only because they’re bringing the character back in main continuity now), and Alfred is a worthy partner to throw jokes and insults back and forth with Damian. I love that he legitimately convinced Damian that Bruce was born in a cave.

    That Batgirl was….definitely bizarre. I already knew the ending had a “twist” before reading, so I spent a while thinking “wait are they really gonna make that little girl a vampire?” and sure enough, man, they did. It’s…weird. I can’t tell if I like it or not. I suppose it’s interesting to play with the idea that since vampires actually exist in the DC Universe, Silver’s probably at least a little right to be worried about them even if he’s absolutely delusional about the Bat-Family being vampires. I did love the stuff with Strix and I think Silver’s an interesting concept for a villain but I’d be fine if I never saw him again.

    • The Batgirl twist totally robs the arc of any kind of thematic clarity. Was Silver actually tapped into some higher truth, or totally delusional and this is just a coincidence? He’s somehow both right and wrong, which is more annoying than interesting.

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