Weekly Round-Up (Incl. DC!): Comics Released 12/9/15

round up

Look, 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, we discuss Batman and Robin Eternal 10, Constantine The Hellblazer 7, Starfire 7, Slash and Burn 2 and Trees 13.

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Batman and Robin Eternal 10

Batman and Robin Eternal 10Patrick: After the explosive mini-finale in Prague two weeks ago, Batman and Robin Eternal has been in pivot-mode, re-orienting it’s narrative to focus on Jason and Tim’s exploits on Santa Prisca and whatever they can turn up there. Jackson Lanzging and Collin Kelley’s script is largely expository, as one Robin reads their findings aloud while the other fights Azreal’s cyber-monk-ninjas. Lanzing and Kelley are incredibly fast and dense with their dialogue, but they’re almost never efficient – jokes and call backs and latin phrases and literary and historical references abound, but it’s hard to say that they add up to anything meaningful. In fact, I feel like the joke is too often that someone like Jason Todd is being written by writers that are so smart and self-aware. There’s a joke where Jason points out that it’s been a while since he shot someone, which plays like the writers selling out their character, rather than playing him honestly.

It’s also tricky issue because the team is introducing Jean-Paul Valley to the Batman mythos. Or, some Mother’s Child version of Jean-Paul, anyway. The moment is clearly meaningful to the creators and to the readers, but the very idea that the character would even have a name doesn’t make sense in this moment, right? We don’t get to know The Orphan’s name, why should we know Jean-Paul’s? I trust that information is just there to preemptively answer to message board question of “Valley or Lane?”

While there’s a pretty cool trippy sequence of Azrael peering into Red Robin’s soul, dripping with surreal detail, most of the issue is presented very minimally. Red Robin and Red Hood run down black hallways, and fight in rooms with large, featureless blue walls. Their final fight with Azrael appears to take place in some kind of non-space, so any of the weight or thrill of motion that should come with these three titans of the Bat-family doing battle melts away into a nondescript blue puddle.

where are they fighting

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Constantine The Hellblazer 7

Constantine The Hellblazer 7Michael: I just laid James Tynion IV out to dry in my Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 write-up so I’ll try to give him a break here. Constantine: The Hellblazer 7 continues to prove that Tynion and Ming Doyle know their superhero books and their superhero tropes. Basic comic book rule: get romantically involved with the hero and one way or another you get burned. John Constantine has been trying to avoid pretty boy Oliver for a while now – he doesn’t want another person to get caught up in the mystical maelstrom of his life. Unfortunately for John, Oliver is a man who makes his own individual choices, hell-damning consequences be damned. Constantine: The Hellblazer 7 ends Oliver in the clutches of Papa Midnite; because yes, Oliver was foolish enough to get involved with the magical mad man that is John Constantine.

swamp

This issue also features the first appearance of Swamp Thing in this series. Though they can clearly fair well on their own, Swamp Thing and Constantine are the odd couple of the mystical corner of the DCU. Speaking of which, there’s something perfectly sit-commy of Swamp Thing showing up in Constantine’s bathroom just as Oliver is about to shower; in another world you could hear the laugh track. Despite the plant life/Nymph conflict in Central Park, this was a big John/Oliver relationship issue for me. If you can judge a person’s character by the company they keep, then it’s pretty telling for Oliver when a giant plant monster sprouts out of John’s bathtub. I’m not sure I completely buy this, but even Swamp Thing knows that John’s new beau will be the one who ends up suffering for their relationship.

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Starfire 7

Starfire 7Spencer: In Starfire 7, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti attempt to pick-up Kori and Dick Grayson’s relationship where it left off, but that’s confounded by the fact that their relationship — at least within the confines of the New 52 — has taken place entirely off panel. While that gives Conner and Palmiotti a lot of fresh ground to explore, it does leave the emotional turmoil between them feeling awfully hollow; it’s hard to understand the pain Kori felt over Dick’s “death” when we’ve barely seen them exchange five words in the past five years. Moreover, for the first time, Conner and Palmiotti’s decision to play Starfire as someone almost entirely new to Earth backfires; it’s hard to buy that they were ever partners watching how poorly they work together throughout this mission.

The first half of Starfire 7, which focuses on Kori and Sol’s first date, fares much better. There’s some legitimate chemistry between these two, and Kori’s beginning to gain an understanding of Sol that she doesn’t really have for anything else on Earth, adding dimensions to their relationship and Kori’s characterization. It’s almost a shame that Dick’s come along to muss things up, but as a long-time, die-hard Dick and Kori shipper, I can’t say my heart didn’t flutter a bit when they kissed at the issue’s end. I’m still legitimately excited about how Conner and Palmiotti will handle the pairing in future issues; I just think that spending so much time mourning a relationship we have no context for was an ineffective way to kick-off their reunion.

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Slash and Burn 2

Slash and Burn 2Drew: Common wisdom suggests to at least finish the first chapter before deciding if a book isn’t for you, but I might argue that the second chapter is where the writer really lays it out on the line. Not because of any structural necessities, but because narratives are about trajectory, so a second point is necessary to plot it. What seems promising in the first chapter may be squandered in the second. Case in point: Slash and Burn 2, which finds a bit of fun, but almost entirely ignores whatever redemptive qualities issue 1 contained. The primary loss is Rosheen’s poetic descriptions of fires, here reduced to a Holmsian after-the-fact explanation that makes arson look like the easiest crime in the world to solve.

Instead, this issue doubles down on the mystery of Rosheen’s childhood friend, but continues to hold back too much information to make it intriguing. Neither Rosheen nor her backstory get closer to any answers, and her friend suddenly blowing up before she can talk to him comes off less shocking than laughable. The biggest problem, though, is that artist Max Dunbar can’t quite draw children’s faces right, which leaves them looking like tiny adults, rendering an important half of the issue with an unintended eeriness that distracts the story.

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Trees 13

Trees 13Ryan D: Ah, Trees, we meet again. Last issue excited both myself and Drew with the possibility that there may be black poppies growing at the base of the Orkney Keys’ Tree, surely setting in motion a frenetic and exciting sequence in which the audience would learn a great deal about the nature of the titular reticent alien pillars. Instead, the Ellis reveals that that black flowers are not nefarious poppies as all, they are pansies and red herrings. Creasy and Greenaway share more illuminating theoretical exposition regarding the rhyme and reason of the Trees, but again I feel as if this comes across as more promises of how sick it’s going to be when Ellis catalyzes some of the numerous situations dangling in this comic’s world, many of which hold a tremendous amount of potential kinetic energy.

The second half of the issue focuses on ACTION!! It seems that our Mayor-Elect in NYC, Vince, holds a capacity for ruthlessness which thus far remained dormant as he has played mostly a victim of his circumstances and office. His small power-grab is rendered by Howard in eight pages featuring one or less speech bubbles, and some lovely composition:

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The structure of this page offers two wonderful, vertical journeys for the reader’s eye, with warm colors counter-pointing each other. My only question is: are the sinking NYPD officers who turn into poppies strictly parallelism with Creasy’s unceremonious helicopter crash, or a more literal depiction of events to come in Manhattan?

Who knows? I am beginning to think that Ellis and Howard have an idea, again. Hopefully, the next two issues will provide some concrete actions and answers, or the second trade paperback of this series will remain wholly forgettable and an anticlimactic chapter of what was a thrilling new series.
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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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13 comments on “Weekly Round-Up (Incl. DC!): Comics Released 12/9/15

  1. The only thing I read on my list that fits here is The Walking Dead, and you guys don’t seem to be following it. It took a long time for me to get into it, but I’m not happy with it every month. It’s usually a quick read, it’s very well created and thought out, and it’s worth going back every six issues to read them all grouped together in what would be a trade paperback.

    But I don’t know if anyone here is involved in it. I’m not super passionate about it. It’s a pretty quality monthly pull for me, however.

    • I’ve never read The Walking Dead, but what I have read of Kirkman (namely the first few volumes of Invincible) certainly seemed like it was best read in trade form, so I’m sure you’re right on the money in that respect.

      And while I’m sure it’s a well crafted comic, I really just don’t have any interest in The Walking Dead. It’s essentially a story that punishes both the characters and the readers for having any kind of hope whatsoever, and that’s not for me.

      • I tried reading some Walking Dead, and honestly, it quickly gets repetitive and meaningless. The best Walking Dead experience is the first season of the Walking Dead video game. The rest can safely be avoided

        • I will say this about The Walking Dead comic – after 148 issues, the danger isn’t the zombies, it’s the people. It was repetitive for a while in the 50 – 90 range I’d say, but when it became village vs village and growth and change, I found it interesting. It’s not must reading, but I think it’s an innovative approach to a horror comic.

          (I only comment because I think the statement that anything other than the video game can be safely avoided is exaggerating the worthlessness of the comic. The main story right now is about merciful justice. What do you do with your enemies that you have beaten? What if they’re useful? It’s not a terrible book, and I think it’s actually got some pretty decent ideas.)

        • The people are the real horror is a classic part of horror, especially zombie horror. The village v village stuff sounds interesting, as does the merciful justice stuff, but I think that most of the comic has been distinctly average and I don’t trust that it has improved enough to try and see how they handle those themes. It isn’t TV show bad. But quite simply, you could pick up any other Image comic and likely get a better comic.

        • “But quite simply, you could pick up any other Image comic and likely get a better comic.”

          I just don’t agree with this. And I’m not going to lie, I can’t think of a polite or non-sarcastic way of saying, “and it seems you haven’t read the issues I’m talking about, so I’m not sure I trust your judgment on this.” So, in a polite, non-sarcastic, non-confrontational manner, I don’t think you’re correct about the current, post All Out War run of The Walking Dead, but I also don’t think it’s worth the effort to read 130 issues of something you already have said you don’t like to get to the parts that I’ve really found enjoyable.

          (I’m trying to be polite today as my fiance was a little mad at me last night for telling a guy, “You honestly don’t seem to know the difference between being results oriented or decision oriented, so I honestly don’t give a soggy sack of dicks about your opinion.” Which was true. Here, I *do* give a soggy sack of dicks about your opinion, I just think in this case it’s wrong! (If I did emoticons, here I’d give a smiley one or a winkey one))

        • I haven’t read the recent stuff, so that is certainly a problem. How easy is it to enter the story in the middle? Because if it requires you to read everything else, I think my line still stands, as ‘it gets good 100 issues in’ is not a compliment, but I can certainly see the possibility of the recent stuff being up there with the standard of some of the other great stuff Image is doing.

          I’ll happily amend my statement to ‘If you were going to pick up any Image title to read from the start, even when cost isn’t important, you’d be better picking up anything else’. And tak eyour recommendation about reading the newest stuff under advisement, and read it if I ever get a chance

        • I believe TWD #127 was supposed to be the jumping on point for new readers. There was a multi-year time jump from All Out War and it was intended to combat the problem you are describing. I started reading it then and only about 5 months ago went back and read the series from the beginning, then picked it back up. I didn’t find it new reader friendly at that point, but others (including Kirkman and Image) disagree.

          I also don’t think Injection or Descender or Autumnlands or any other number of Image books are any easier to figure out what is what and who is who if you picked up a current issue and didn’t read it from the start. Read issue 11 or whatever the Fade Out is on and try to make a lot of sense of it without knowing the previous story – same issue.

        • Yeah, something like Injection is hard to get into the middle, which is why I specified starting from the beginning. I may try #127 and see if it is a good start for me. If not, we’ll see. I have so much stuff I want to read at the moment, and part of that reading time needs to be spent reading classic Daredevil, Catwoman, Gotham Central, Jessica Jones and Powers in preparation for a very cool project

      • Yeah, Walking Dead is one of those comics that, for me, is just 100+ issues in and has no regard for someone jumping in in the middle, so I’ve let it go. I’ve read the first couple trades and they do seem like they’re well-crafted and would probably be exciting, but it just feels like a train I missed, you know?

        Man, I wish I would have been hip to WD in college. Drew and I were so into zombies that we would have gobbled it up. One of the first things Drew and I did together creatively was developing a zombie TV show (all hypothetical, of course). This was way before the Walking Dead TV show – 2007 maybe? It was going to be the best TV show ever – someday I think we should have it produced as a comic. Only, y’know, it’ll be compared to Walking Dead, which is the most successful indie comic since Spawn.

        • I felt the same way (and it is very unfriendly to new readers). However, as people who know me know that I like comics and kept asking me about it and I am a huge Invincible fan, I felt slightly obligated to get involved into the Walking Dead world. So I went to the library and dove in. The first couple of trades are the weakest I think. The introduction of Negan brought a new and interesting villain, all out war dragged on too long, and I’ve liked the stuff put out the past two years.

          Again, not my favorite thing, but it’s so many of my students’ gateway into comics (and it helps if I have comics knowledge that relates to theirs), I dove in. I liked it fine, my fiance didn’t. I think Kirkman is a good writer (even though after 5 or 7 issues I found Outcast unreadable).

  2. I have the same opinion of Batman and Robin Eternal as I did last week. Quite simply, bring on the next writers

    For some reason, I read the latest Catwoman. After Valentine’s mob boss run, this is going back to basics, Catwoman as a thief, stealing a highly expensive jewel. Her recent history as a Calabresse is mentioned, but ultimately all plot points from Valentine’s run is ignored (and instead, Batgirl of all things is picking up Valentine’s plots. Couldn’t say I saw that coming). This is exactly what I expected, and no criticism there.

    The comic is alright. Goes through all the familiar of this sort of story, exactly to the point of cliche, But the art is really good, with imaginative layouts and bold colours. But it got me thinking, for all the wrong reasons.

    I did a speech at Toastmasters recently where I explored some of my favourite superheroes, and broke them down to their ideals to show why they appealed to me, and one of them was Catwoman, and I stand by my love for her. As flawed as Dark Knight Rises is, she is fantastic, while Batman Returns’ highly different Catwoman is also amazing. In the comics, Brubaker and Valentine have done some truly amazing work with her. Yet when approaching an issue like this, I find myself at a disconnect.

    Catwoman is a character generally defined by standing on the borders. Morally, she is fully in the grey, and her relationship with Batman is built on the idea that she doesn’t fit in his good guy/bad guy paradigm. She is both a rich and high class socialite, and a poor woman of the streets (I enjoyed Selina eating pizza with a knife and fork in this issue, for how it demonstrated this particular contradiction of her). You can say, basically, that Catwoman is a character constantly trapped navigating the world she is from and the world she wants. This stuff has been with her for the longest time. Or at lest, I think it is. Because sometimes I wonder if I’m wrong.

    The Brubaker/Stewart run of Catwoman is a classic. Not just a classic Catwoman run, but a classic story in total. No look at the greats of the early 2000s is complete without looking at Brubaker’s Gotham Central and Catwoman. And that is where a lot of my love of Catwoman came from. And yet it ins’t traditional Catwoman. This is Catwoman as the protector of the East End. It has all the great border stuff I mentioned, is a fantastic noir story, but built on the idea that Catwoman decides to stand up and protect people. She’s still morally ambiguous, and never a clear hero. And that’s what made her compelling. Valentine’s run is the other great Catwoman run. We are too close to it to say whether it comes anywhere close to Brubaker/Stewart, but it is utterly fantastic, and will at the very least, be a high point. And it is also a followup to Brubaker’s Catwoman. Selina as a morally ambiguous hero, just a mob boss instead of a vigilante.

    Which creates this weird thing where Catwoman’s great, character defining runs are also the runs defined by Catwoman leaving her status quo. And I don’t think anyone has worked out what Catwoman is when isn’t trying her hand at being a hero. Because what we get is something like this. There is a general family element, with Selina caring about her fence, just like she cares about Holly, or her Calabresse cousins. But primarily, Selina’s motivation is greed and thrill. None of what makes Brubaker and Valentine’s Catwoman so amazing. So is that who Catwoman is, when she isn’t a hero?

    I think the Dark Knight Rises comes closest to answering this, giving us a Catwoman who is ultimately doing the best to protect herself and her friend (who is surprisingly not Holly, but I’m going to call her Holly anyway). A Catwoman with the moral code to fight Bane and to protect a young child who stole an apple, but one whose goals for the first half of the movie is entirely about the protection of herself and Holly. Steals to support herself, and not yet rich enough that she doesn’t need to. And whose ultimate goal is escape. The chance to truly leave her life. But this can never be the Catwoman of the comics, as in the Comics, Catwoman has stolen a fortune. Once Catwoman has money and escape, this Catwoman only makes sense if there is some other sort of threat against her family. Ultimately, transpose this Catwoman into the comics, and what you get is Brubaker’s Catwoman.

    Maybe the traditional Catwoman is just a greedy thrillseeker? But we have never had a comic explore that well enough to truly ground her, and nor does that version of her reconcile with elements like her relationship with Batman. Is Catwoman just a character that is lost adrift, when she isn’t being pushed into the Antihero direction?

    Every so often, a Brubaker or a Valentine is going to return her to the Anti Hero well I love so much, but it will never be permanent. She will always return to this, and if this is Catwoman, do I like Catwoman?

    The idea of the Brubaker Catwoman has been an idea that is close to my heart. I have called Catwoman one of my favourites because of Brubaker, and Valentine managed to deepen that love of Catwoman. So it is kind of hard to deal with this contradiction. I’m a firm believer of following the creator, and this belief has meant I’ve cared about characters I never thought I would, like the Vision. And yet, we do attach to characters, and following a character isn’t intrinsically bad. Each character has their own ideals or events that can resonate with you, which makes them worth following.

    Yet with Catwoman, I find myself in a struggle. The Catwoman I love just isn’t there half the time. And it is actually kind of hard to admit

    • I think it’s perfectly fine to have a character that you love in the abstract but have a hard time finding versions of the character to read on the reg. Catwoman is a pretty solid example of this – I do think there’s a little impulsiveness, and a little self-destructiveness, that I like to see in the character that’s not brewed into the DKR version of her, but I’m right there with you on the Batman Returns version (especially within the tone and context of that movie).

      But my go-to example for this sort of thing is Scooby Doo and the gang. I love those characters and think they’re just amazingly well-designed and conceived. PLUS THEY HUNT GHOSTS. But there’s literally not a single Scooby Doo show, movie or comic that I like even a little bit. They’re a group of characters that I’m thrilled to have a wikipedia-relationship with. Would I like to see them in something good? Probably, I’ll let you know when I see it.

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