Thursday, January 10, 2013

Death of the Family Part 11: Detective Comics #16 (and Superior Spider-Man #1)

It's kind of hard to believe, but I really can't wait for Death of the Family to finish up.

Not because of Scott Snyder's work on the main Batman title; that's been excellent work that should make for an excellent trade paperback. I'm more aggravated by the abundance of tie-ins that have put half a dozen stories on hold.

Joker's plans for the rest of the Bat-family have been completely irrelevant to the plot and I seriously wonder what I'm supposed to take from them other than the fact that Joker has WAY too much time on his hands, as he has managed to kidnap every Bat-family member while he also stages a wedding, a roller-skating date, a coronation, and a freaking zombie/cannibal apocalypse.

Batgirl and Nightwing have been the only two books that have allowed the Joker to actually affect the universe and give the tie-ins some stakes. Robin's tie-in with Batman and Robin is the only one that's executed the cookie-cutter "Joker ties up X, monologues half the book then has a twist ending" format in an interesting manner. And while Red Hood and the Outlaws SHOULD have stakes, but it tied itself into the garbage that is Teen Titans and created an incomprehensible mess.

Oh, and the quicker I can remove Catwoman and Suicide Squad's tie-ins from my memories entirely, the better.

So bearing all of this mess of a crossover in mind, I have one thing to say about Detective Comics #16 (and #15 last month): THANK YOU JOHN LAYMAN!!!

I have never been happier that a writer chose to not include the Joker in his book physically. The angle taken here is that Detective will explore Gotham's more insane reactions to Joker's presence.  That means hoards of copycat gangs that Batman has to shut down.

Incredibly, this calls back to the gang of Joker sympathizers who protested in Detective #5. I honestly thought Tony Daniel's run was going to be thrown out, but I love how Snyder and Layman are both taking elements from the earlier stories to build their narratives.

There are some weaker dialogue moments, such as when he tells a gang of copycats to disperse. He sounds very little like Batman here, but then again, he said these are a gang of goofballs who announce their crimes via tweet, so maybe he figures authoritative warnings are enough to scare them straight.

The main gang Batman is trying to find is called the League of Smiles, who are led by an interesting new villain who is revealed in the final page of the main story. One of the new members of the gang provides a unique look at how someone inspired to madness by Joker can be the way that they are.

Honestly, though, what made this book buy-worthy for everyone, I'd say, is the backup story, which features Ignatius Ogilvy, now known as the Emperor Penguin, seizing control of Cobblepots gang of criminal allies (who were also part of a bizarre Tony Daniel story).

This piece gives a read into how he came into power and showed that he is very different from Cobblepot in how he handles situations. Emperor Penguin has a level of self-preservation and sees no reason not to destroy someone expendable without warning or hesitation.

I really can't wait for this storyline to move back into the forefront because if Layman can advance a plot and make it this compelling through a surrounding narrative (I love how the backup actually ties into the main story event though their plots through details that really didn't get much focus in Snyder's story, by the way), then I'm truly excited to see where he can take this thing.

Just PLEASE don't make it a crossover event.

Superior Spider-Man #1

I felt like I was obligated to skim through this in the comic store after following Spidey's last arc in Amazing Spider-Man #698-700.

For those uninitiated, the final arc of "Amazing" involved Peter Parker's body being taken over by Doc Ock while Ock's body died. So naturally, "Superior" begins with Ock-in-Peter mourning his old discarded corpse and the soul he supplanted.

One problem that immediately jumps out here is that Ock's mentality has shifted heavily from last issue. While it makes sense that he'd be upset all his future accomplishments will be done in Peter Parker's name and not his own, he shows none of the effects Peter's soul supposedly had on him.

Over the course of a few fights, Spidey runs from a fight when it's clear he'll have to take some lumps to win and nearly uses lethal force more than once.

The question is how much 'wrong'
you'll take to undo 'One More Day.'
The only humor in it are the scenes where Ock tries and fails to make Peter-esque jokes (though his quick about D-list villains calling themselves Sinister Six was an actual great line), and where Ock acts like a weird perv in front of Mary Jane.

My only hope for this storyline is that this somehow breaks the deal with Mephisto and the writers at Marvel actually make an attempt to write a 20-something Spider-Man who doesn't whine and complain like he's still a high-schooler.

Much of the character growth I think we're supposed to see with Ock has been thrown out with this new writer and it's not for the better. Oh, and the last few panels pretty much confirm something we already knew would be the case, so thanks Marvel for already establishing from Issue #1 that you have no intention of taking this storyline seriously.

At least with the VERY flawed clone saga, you actually had a new status quo that theoretically could have stuck. Here, you've pretty much given your story a shelf life from the beginning and made it clear that I should keep no emotional investment in your current title character, because he's leaving, most likely only serving to alienate Parker's body from his allies and setting the character (again) back to square one.

Thank you, Marvel, for making my purchasing decisions VERY easy for the foreseeable future.

If you want some Marvel recommendations: Indestructible Hulk, All-New X-Men, and Avengers in that order. If you want one to avoid purchasing, I think I just found you one!

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