DC Round-Up Comics Released 10/21/15

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How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Batman and Robin Eternal 3, Bizarro 5, Black Canary 5, Justice League 45, and Martian Manhunter 5.

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Batman and Robin Eternal 3

Batman and Robin Eternal 3Patrick: One of the running themes of Scott Snyder’s take on Batman is the idea that Bruce never really had as much of a handle on Gotham’s history as he thought he did. That’s evident from the Court of Owls, through Batman Eternal, and in Bruce’s questions about Joker’s identity. It’s an idea that Grant Morrison toyed with as well: Gotham was infiltrated by Talia’s goons on every level of government and business. I always found that to be a weird suspension of disbelief: are we supposed to believe that he’s the World’s Greatest Detective or aren’t we? It turns out that these kind of “AND THEY WERE HERE THE WHOLE TIME” mysteries play out a more naturally when our heroes are a bunch of dopey Robins.

And yes, I know: Tim’s a great detective in his own right and Dick is a high-ranking superspy, but the fact that the Mother mystery would be so elusive to them makes so much more sense than if this was one that Bruce had to solve. In fact, Batman’s implicit involvement in… whatever Mother is… makes the whole thing that much more intriguing. And for every piece of insight that one character brings to the table, there’s always another to reflexively panic, and make everything so much worse. Dick and Helena can do some sleuthing to determine that Mother was into trafficking genetically designed people, but it takes Jason’s cynicism to drive home the possible personal connection to Batman.

Jason has a point

For me, Red Hood was the standout of this issue. It’s so liberating to read a take on Jason Todd that embraces his sense of humor. Tim Seeley is like a Jason Todd-whisperer, painting him as young, but not too young, and experienced, but not too experienced. His surprise at discovering that Cheap Trick recorded a new album — and then realizing that “new” meant six years ago — had me laughing out loud. The art isn’t quite so neat, as there are two pencilers and three inkers credited on this one. Everyone’s appears to be doing their best Paul Pelletier impression, but that’s so close to the Jim Lee-esque DC house style that there ends up being very little personality to the way this thing looks. Also, on the subject of Red Hood, I’m not at all clear on how his mask works. Is it like Iron Man? Or does it all come off at once?

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Bizarro 5

Bizarro 5Michael: If you’re a regular reader of our DC Round-Up, then you know that I typically melt in adoration when I write about Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte’s Bizarro mini-series. I think that’s largely to do with the fact that making a humorous “superhero book” is no simple task. In Bizarro 5, Corson’s script continues to make great use of the wealth of characters and stories that reside within the halls of DC. Road tripping buddies Bizarro, Jimmy Olsen and Chastity Hex find themselves breaking into Area 51 to retrieve alien tech for A.R.G.U.S. After taking the bribe of a $50K trip to Vegas, the trio is locked up in Area 51 as planned. The “alien prison movie” that Corson and Duarte provide is too similar the Guardians of the Galaxy movie however, and pales in comparison because of that. Corson has fun with an inmate who says that he is Green Lantern Kilowog’s cousin. He throws around various uses of Kilowog’s trademark “poozer” to much amusement; I’m gonna repress my continuity nerd and assume that Corson knows that Kilowog is the only surviving member of his race…but hey! Maybe that’s part of the story here.

Bizarro is on a hot streak at the blackjack table and before we can fully process the potential Rain Man analogies, Duarte gives us a full page of our heroes descending an escalator wearing brand new suits. Bizarro seems to have a lot of fun with Duarte’s visual gags. One of my favorite jokes of the book was what I’ll call the “Lois ex machina.”

clark

She threatens to blow the whistle on Area 51 if her father doesn’t let her friends go, poking fun at how she outed Clark Kent’s identity in the pages of Superman. I think that Corson chose the flashback/Ocean’s Eleven narrative since Bizarro 5 was essentially a heist story. Those types of temporal edits are fine if they are done for a reason – I just didn’t feel like it was completely necessary here. One more issue to go – if they could keep the quality of this book as consistent as it has been I would love to see an ongoing series for Bizarro and Jimmy.

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Black Canary 5

Black Canary 5Spencer: When Black Canary first launched, Dinah had become a singer in a band mainly to make enough money to start another dojo. Five issues later, though, she’s finding herself surprisingly comfortable in her new role, and unafraid to show it. Her issue-opening declaration of admiration and devotion for her bandmates is absolutely genuine, and helps cement the bonds between these four women. The evolution of their relationship makes their downtime much more enjoyable to watch, and my favorite scene of the issue might just be when the band rests around the campfire, bouncing ideas off each other and working together to figure out just what kind of predicament they’re caught up in.

The campfire scene is also an excellent vehicle for delivering exposition, but not all of the issue’s table-setting is as natural. Kurt voices his concerns about Dinah putting the band in danger several times throughout the issue, basically repeating himself and coming across like a nag; likewise, the fact that Paloma is avoiding her family is repeated to the point where writer Brenden Fletcher might as well be beating me over the head with it. Much more interesting are the moments where Fletcher and artist Pia Guerra keep their foreshadowing a bit more subtle. Take, for example, these two scenes:

Martial arts

as dance moves

Guerra and Fletcher draw a clear parallel between the ninja’s martial arts moves and Maeve’s dance moves. On the surface, this serves to help Dinah realize how she can incorporate her training into her stage presence, but there seems to be more to it. After all, Maeve and the assassin’s skills are eerily similar; the assassin stole some of Dinah’s blood; the assassin seems to be a carbon copy of Dinah; Maeve’s new Sonic Scream is likewise a copy of Dinah’s; Dinah herself is hinted to have received her scream in the first place from Ditto. There’s an awful lot that connects these women to each other, and I’m eager to see what these connections mean and how far they truly go.

Guerra also puts in strong work throughout the issue. I’m not sure how much longer she’s going to be working on Black Canary, but if she keeps putting Ditto in exponentially more adorable outfits in each issue, I’d be fine for her to stay on forever.

the wonderful thing about Dittos

Seriously, she’s so adorable that I can’t even stand it.

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Justice League 45

Justice League 45Mark: After such a promising introduction, it’s sad to see Scot Free continue to be so thoroughly sidelined in this arc of Justice League. Perhaps he has a larger role to play down the line, but with Darkseid dead and Geoff Johns handing out God duties left and right this issue, I’ve been hoping to see Scot with a little more to do. And, yes, the exact why of events happening this issue are unclear to me, but I’m not going to complain too much about Flash fusing with Black Racer to become the new God of Death or Batman being the God of Knowledge. And Super Angry Superman beating the crap out of Lex Luthor, leaving Luthor to rot on Apokolips, then having Luthor be captured and turned into the new God of Apokolips? Sure! Why not? And then I got to the last page and saw that Justice League is being treated like it’s own small event comic, with spin-off titles galore, and it all makes a little more sense.

Francis Manapul is on art duties this month, and with an assist from Brian Buccellato on coloring they’re a hard team to beat. Even when I didn’t love the narrative of their Detective Comics run, the bright intensity of their color choices (with pinks and greens and purples) always gives their work a distinctive look. I wish more DC titles would follow their lead.

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Martian Manhunter 5

Martian Manhunter 5Mark: How much you enjoy Martian Manhunter is really coming down to how much you like Mr. Biscuits. He’s by far the most interesting aspect of what is sometimes a needlessly confusing book, and that’s true once again in Martian Manhunter 5. The comedy of airport errors as Mr. Biscuits and his entourage attempt to board their flight (to where? Is it stated?) is the best part of the issue. A lot of that comes down to the fact that every other character so far is incredibly ill-defined. Who is Leo? Who is Daryl Wessel? Who is the old dude in a makeshift vigilante costume? They’re not written like mysteries— there are no reveals teased— they’re just blank slates, and at this point I’m not sure what’s going to change.

My big beef with the issue comes from Mr. Biscuits leaving Alicia behind at the airport where she is of course immediately abducted by Martians. Why would he choose to leave this little girl by herself? You could argue that it’s because Mr. Biscuits is an alien being and doesn’t understand his actions, but the text argues against that when he shares a tearful goodbye with Alicia. It’s clear he knows what he’s doing. And why doesn’t anyone else, say Wessel, have an opinion on the matter? I’ve been overlooking a lot of narrative faults with this book, but for some reason this one really stuck out as a sore point.

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

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16 comments on “DC Round-Up Comics Released 10/21/15

  1. I’m digging B&R Eternal so much it’s not even funny. One question: there’s a panel where Cassandra sums up each Robin in one gesture. She taps Tim’s head to indicate his intelligence and Jason’s heart to indicate his passion (another great bit of characterization for Jason on Seeley’s behalf; Jason isn’t cynical, if anything, he takes the extreme measures he does because he cares too much), but then she taps Dick in the center of his chest, and I’m not sure what that’s indicating. That he’s the center of the Bat-Family? Or something about his chest? I’m not sure

    (at least she didn’t point to his butt instead, which I wouldn’t put past the Grayson creative team haha)

    The colors on Justice League are beyond incredible. I love Manapul and Buccellato so much and I’m so happy to see them working together on something again. This just concretes it for me; I’ll read anything they draw, I don’t even care about the story.

    • I believe Cassandra was supposed to be pointing to Jason’s fist, and therefore pointing to Dick’s heart. The art doesn’t do the best job at showing it, probably because the composition means that Jason’s arm is just randomly at his chest so that each panel has the same basic look. So Jason is fist (representing his passion), Tim is head (representing intelligence) and Dick is heart (representing his… well, the best word here would be heart).

  2. The coloring on Justice League! Booch seemed to indicate on twitter that Manapul was coloring some of those pages by himself (and I know Manapul does a lot of inkwashing to create texture), so it’s not totally clear who I should be worshiping here. Their combined efforts are fucking amazing and it totally elevates Justice League from “another Geoff Johns epic” to an artful expression of that epic.

    Actually this issue of Justice League is like the logical combination of the poppiness of Manapul and Buccellato’s Flash, and the inky moodiness of their Detective Comics. Visually, it’s almost exactly what I want from a comic – strong, not-hyper-literal, kinetic and brimming with personality. Love love love the art in this issue (I changed the background on my phone to that panel of Luthor getting doused in Red Son energy – it’s just that beautiful).

  3. I am looking forward to seeing some of the other Batman and Robin Eternal writers in action (I haven’t read Midnighter, so can’t say much about Steve Orlando starting this week except that people really seem to be enjoying Midnighter, but as a really big fan of the sadly concluding Genevieve Valentine run of Catwoman,can’t wait for what she does), but I have to say, going to miss seeing Seely write the Robins together. He is doing an amazing job.

    On the art of Batman and Robin Eternal, I honestly find the art style they are going for really disappointing. If you think of the art on Batman, Grayson, Batgirl, Catwoman, Gotham Academy, Black Canary and We are Robin (Damn, I love Mark Doyle’s editing of the Batman line), they all ignore the house style and push their own unique looks. It is one of many reasons why the current Gotham landscape is so amazing.

    Considering that not only is Batman and Robin Eternal being released in today’s Batman line, but is certainly a product of it. The focus on the idea of Robin, the use of characters like Bluebird and Spoiler, and the very line ‘Kiss me, sexy Batman’ are all examples of Batman and Robin playing in the same space as the comics I listed above, unlike the more traditional Detective Comics (from what I’ve seen, not being interested enough in it to buy). So why try and ape the house style? Why not something more unique?

    I guess a house style helps with artistic consistency, but Batman Eternal wasn’t consistent, and frequently featured very unique styles (mostly for the better). And considering Batman and Robin Eternal so far, it should be trying to push away from the house style even further

    • I think part of the problem may be the way they’re pushing Tony Daniel as a major contributor to B&R Eternal, where with the first Eternal there was no real lead artist and each contributor was free to give the book their own style. If they’re pushing Daniel as being an important part of this book’s DNA, then they’re going to try to find artists with similar styles to handle Daniel’s off weeks. I wish they wouldn’t.

      • I mean, we’re three issues in at this point. I’d be willing to wager that we see a few issues that really fuck with our expectations of what to expect visually from Batman and Robin Eternal. Like, I get Spencer’s point about Daniel being kind of a boring template to emulate, but I don’t even really think Pelletier et al. are even doing that. This issue has a lot less personality than the previous two, presumably because Daniel is big enough that he can let his own style shine through the Jim Lee standard.

        That being said, I don’t know why they don’t ever try to build up a style guide for something like this that would have more personality. I’m not suggesting that the editors try to get 10 different artists to all draw like Capullo or Sorrentino, but I do think it’d be neat to see some visual consistency in a weekly comic. Even if it’s a number of superficial choices that the artists could all agree on, I think it’d go a long way toward making a weekly look like one comic and not, y’know, a dozen.

        • Yeah, with three issues in, there is plenty of time to get someone out there for an issue. But I also think the fact that we are three issues makes it clear the type of art to expect in general

          Honestly, the way I would do it if I was theoretically running a weekly would be to split the overall story into mini arcs (I mean, Batman and Robin Eternal is supposed to be an international story, so the Gotham stuff at the start could be the first ‘arc’, and when the plot moves onto where ever it goes next, that is the second arc), and then have a single artist per arc. Therefore, each mini arc has its own visual language, before moving to a different visual language as the story moves to the next arc of the overall story. It would mean the scripts need to be written even further in advance, so the artists have enough time to draw all four comics or so of the comics in their arc, but it would work. And while that would have required a longer break between Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal, you could do the same thing for Gotham Eternal quite quickly, as the writers, having finished the scripts so early, would be able to spend a good portion of Batman and Robin Eternal planning Gotham Eternal. Still need a break, but a shorter break similar to the one we actually got.

          I think with Batman and Robin Eternal, the pushing of Daniel seems to be the problem. Daniel is a very good artist, but he is very similar to the standard, which leads to other artists like Pelletier doing what they are doing. But the problem with Daniel is that he has the wrong sort of style for Batman and Robin Eternal. I understand that the pressures of a weekly mean that it is harder to always have good art, but to me, so far, the biggest problem with Batman and Robin Eternal is that we are getting the wrong sort of art. Maybe it makes consistency easier, I just wish there was a way for Batman and Robin Eternal to be consistent and have the sort of art I expect from Mark Doyle’s Gotham

        • Man, this is a fascinating conversation and I may want to revive our Chat Cave feature to have kind of a dream pitch session for how we would run a weekly book. I think there’s a million different ways to do it — and the “different artists in solid blocks for solid arcs” approach is definitely a good one. The current model seems to be “have Daniel do two issues, panic and get whomever to finish the rest,” which is just the least intentional model I can think of. And maybe that’s just the nature of the beast — that these things have to be so plotty and they’re necessarily more writer-driven — but I keep thinking about something like Wonder Woman. If Azzarello, Chiang and company had a 2 year headstart, that bad-boy could have been a bitching weekly, and be largely artist-driven (even with all that plottiness).

        • If you revive Chat Cave, I certainly won’t complain. I’m enjoying this conversation just as much as you.

          I honestly think there is a lot of potential in weeklies. That there are things you can do by virtue of telling a story in 52 issues of one year, instead of 52 issues over 4 years. So would love to see what ideas over people have. I like my idea, naturally, though I can see there being financial issues associated with it (from my understanding, I believe artist’s pay is connected to sales, which makes me have to ask the cost associated with an artist spending a month working on an issue that won’t be released for 4 months), and there are many other ways that I could see it working.

          The current weeklies are certainly very writer focused, which is the result of having a core team of writers and Tony Daniel. I think the writer will always play an important role in a big, involved story like the weeklies we get at the moment. A single, 26-52 issue story needs to be strongly writer driven. To be strongly artist driven as well requires a more complicated set of circumstances. My strategy would certainly allow an artist to make their mark on specific arcs of the overall story, while your suggestion with Wonder Woman would be even better, with a single writer and a single artist’s strong vision throughout, but would require an even longer period of producing content that won’t be released until the very end.

          But what you could do is a weekly with lots of ‘filler’ stories that don’t advance the overarching plot, but do advance emotional plotlines. Have Snyder and Tynion in their usual place as showrunner, but find a writer and artist and say ‘in the previous story, Batman got in a fight with the rest of the family. We want you to write a story about how powerless Batman is without the rest of the Batfamily’ and let them do whatever they want, as a true collaboration. Even as the story is a small part of a greater whole, it is also a general enough brief and a self contained enough story that the team can make their own unique mark, even as they advance Snyder and Tynion’s overall vision. I think a character like Spider-man, actually, would be perfect for this sort of weekly, as the fundamental DNA of Spider-man is less about the villains he fights and more about how fighting all these villains makes it even harder to juggle every other element of his life

        • Slott wasn’t too far from putting out weekly Amazing Spider-Man for a while. He was pretty consistently nailing 3 issues a month with a variety of artists.

        • Yup, the same was true of Superior. And while Gage was also part of that writing / art team, it’s amazing how consistent Slott’s Spider-Man ends up looking. It is also pretty writer-driven, but definitely has more personality than the Eternal books.

        • Thought Slott was just two a month. But yeah, I just read a trade every so often, and decide that Slott’s Spider-man still isn’t for me. Unsurprising that it has so much personality, considering it is basically just Slott. Wasn’t he writing nothing but Spider-man for a time, until he did Silver Surfer? Meanwhile the Eternal team all have other projects.

          Still, the point was more a general thing in that as cool as using weeklies to do big, massive epics are, I’d also like to see weeklies be used on characters who naturally gravitate towards more soap opera style story telling. Quite simply, I am really interested to see how people push the idea of ‘new issue every week’ to tell stories that are much harder to tell at the slower pace of release of a monthly

    • Having Orlando and Valentine in this writing bullpen is fucking aces. I generally liked the writing team on BE, but I think their inclusion (and maybe the non-inclusion of Higgins here) should make B&RE that much stronger.

  4. Was Doctor Fate this week or last week? I read it. I’m not even a completionist, but I was hoping the story would end. It didn’t. Hopefully issue 6 does the trick. They have me for $2.40 until the damn thing ends.

    • I feel you. We kind of had to force ourselves to drop it, because as much as we all adored Sonny Liew’s art, it was getting to be a real drag reading, and then complaining about, the story and dialogue every month.

      I hope Liew gets to move onto a better, more high-profile book whenever he’s done with Fate.

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