Sunday, March 31, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Nightwing #18 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #18

It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted stuff, and I'll take a moment to apologize for that. It's certainly been an eventful last few weeks with March Madness, and that has occupied much of my time.

More to the point, after my rage against Gene Yang's little "What a twist!" homage in the latest Avatar: TLA graphic novel, I kind of hit a wall in terms of writing or even being coherent.

As such, I don't expect to be very long in my reviews here. I've got a lot of books to review, so I'll just do brief rundowns in my blogs as I rattle them off in hopes of catching up in time for the new Detective Comics to come out.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18

All right, full disclosure here: I will probably be reviewing this title significantly less frequently from here on in. With Scott Lobdell being switched out for James Tynion IV, I'm seeing this as a jump-off point until I know the quality of the successor. Not that I don't trust Tynion's work (which is solid), but this book's tone definitely only works a few ways and this could go really wrong really quickly.

I'll still review issues when I can read in the shop/in trade form, but Lobdell did finish off a storyline here quite nicely, so I'm satisfied where the 1.5-year run ended.

Actually, this is probably Lobdell's best issue in the series, and if you can find copies still, it's worth your time. The artwork isn't as great and it's actually a sign of how much I'm going to miss Kenneth Rocafort, but the story is a great piece that shows where Jason exists in the Bat-family.

He's hallucinating through most of this book, but the sequences intertwined with Bruce's scenes combine to make a compelling story all the way through.

I came out of this book feeling really good about the place Jason is in, even though his situation sucks. It's clear he's growing as a character and I'm glad to say he's finally found a niche in the DCU I can get behind.

There's no Arsenal or Starfire in this one, but it sounds like Tynion wants to take on storylines for them soon, so good luck on that front.

Overall, I really liked this one, and I'd like to thank Lobdell for a year and a half of solid stories and wish him the best of luck with the Superman title. (Your Teen Titans is still a mess, though.)

Nightwing #18

Maybe it's just me, but did anyone feel like the art in the "Requiem" titles were all really screwy? (Besides B&R, I mean?) Everything felt really gritty and this book in particular felt off.

There were some nice flashbacks with Damian that Kyle Higgins wrote, but I couldn't get fully immersed because Damian looked like a grown freaking man in all the panels!

The storyline here was a nice one, as it sets up the new status quo for Nightwing after all these crossovers. Sonia Branch is becoming a unique and compelling part of Dick's supporting cast and I'm hoping she'll still be present while Nightwing begins his trek into the new city.

There's a good set of scenes with Batman and Nightwing that really captures the emotions DIck is experiencing, but again, all my praise for the writing is lost on the fact that I couldn't make myself as interested due to some really wonky artwork, specifically in the penciling and coloring.

If this thing gets novelized, great, but don't pay for what I can only assume to be guest artwork. The emotions are lost there and it's clear Higgins needs someone who won't act like they're drawing something so dark. It completely contrasts with Nightwing's character and even in a dark storyline, the art should reflect what Nightwing represents.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Search Part 1 review

I said in my 100th blog post, my Batman: Earth One review a few weeks back, that I don't inherently hate any and all changes to continuity.

So long as the core of iconic characters is left alone, I have no problem with changes like Alfred being part of security detail for the Royal Family, or Superman landing in the Ukraine instead of Kansas as seen in Superman: Red Son.

But note that when I say that, it's usually in regard to Alternate Universe, or Elseworld, stories. One of the biggest complaints people had to the end of Scott Snyder's excellent "City of Owls" arc was that it ended on an ambiguous note as to whether Bruce Wayne's brother was both alive and the main villain.

The complaints about that development were mostly because Snyder did this in the main DC Universe where Bruce has always been alone. I didn't hate on it too much because 1) The universe rebooted. 2) It wasn't made clear if it was his brother. And 3) Bruce being an only child isn't THAT much of an iconic detail about him.

I'm sure those who have made it to this point are wondering why I bothered to go on this Batman rant in the middle of what should be an Avatar: The Last Airbender trade paperback review. And the answer is simple: Gene Yang has decided to end the first part of his latest ATLA trilogy by teasing quite possibly the worst possible break from canon he could find in what is supposed to be a continuation of the MAIN, CANON AVATAR UNIVERSE.

I once read a fanfiction for the Potterverse where Harry Potter is born to Lily Evans and Severus Snape, and it takes you through his life with those two. As an AU fanfiction, that's not a bad idea, but imagine if that was the plot twist in Snape's memories in Deathly Hallows. You all would have freaking lost it.

I'm warning you right now, I can't do this without spoilers, so go to a comic store or a Barnes & Noble and read this thing before you go beyond the line below. Note I said 'read.' I'm sure what happened is a red herring, but until I know for sure, you may be happier not giving this wirter a share of your $11.


Ok, so now that the non-spoiler crowd should be gone, let's go over this whole "Zuko wasn't really Ozai's son" thing.

Yeah. Bet you all weren't ready for that one!

It's funny. I actually had a whole bit of humor lined up regarding the early flashbacks where Ursa is engaged to New Character #116 (Ikem) only to be arranged into a marriage with Ozai. I was ready to call out how Gene Yang just ripped Yue and Pakku's storylines for Ursa and how Ikem could now join the "Severus Snape House of Men Rejected for Plot" (hence why I had Snape in my head earlier), but I lost a lot of steam for that when this came up.

Let's be honest with ourselves here: This teaser is probably going to turn out to be total crap. Heck, I think we could all peg the plot resolution off the top of our heads! Zuko will meet his mom (or faux-Dad), he or she will say she meant 'our' as in Ozai and Ursa, and Zuko will be disappointed and emo about nearly being free of the royal bloodline's insanity.

Even THIS guy knew not to mess
with this origin story!
BUT... let's say for a second that Gene Yang was able to convince Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko that the supposed 'inconsequential detail' they left out of their story should be a really big deal. Let's say that this madness turns out to be legit. And let's say that Jinora in the premiere of Legend of Korra had to ask Katara about this story because this scandalous situation would somehow have never made it into the history books.

This revelation is BAD. It's a fanfiction, elseworld plot twist that can't work in the main universe because it drastically alters the entire dynamic of who Zuko is as a character. The whole driving point of his character for two years was to regain his honor and, as GanXingba put it, "Make Daddy love him." In the final season, Iroh used his ancestry as a byproduct of Sozin and Roku to explain how restoring balance to the world was as much his fight as Aang's.

What this plot twist is basically saying is, "Yeah, all that was a waste of your time. Turns out Zuko is the son of the Blue Spirit!" (Oh yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what we're supposed to take from Ikem's little Come to Jesus moment with the giant wolf. Really gives that mask a whole new bizarre dynamic, doesn't it?)

And let's not forget what Azula's motivation appears to be here. She knows that if she can prove Zuko isn't of Ozai's bloodline, he would be stripped of the title of Fire Lord, and she could begin her own personal reign of terror. How you working around that one, Gene?

Haha! I talk to you because you're my REAL child!
But you know what, the most unforgivable thing that this story does with this revelation is something that can't be undone even if this turns out to be a red herring: It's made clear that regardless of how truthful it is, Ozai believed it to be the truth.

That means that any time Ozai and Zuko interacted, whether it be the performance for Azulon, the war meeting, the agni kai or any of their 'moments' in the first half of Book Three, THIS was in his mind. He was acting on the assumption that Zuko was not his son.

Do you see the gaping flaw here? This is a retcon as egregious as the Justice League mind-wiping Batman and Dr. Light in Identity Crisis, or Terra and Cassandra Cain being brainwashed by Deathstroke. Every motivation in the series is now tainted by this Jerry Springer-esque plot twist thrown in for shock value and a few extra buys.

I jokingly tweeted that this was Ozai's face when reading this crazy letter, but after a few moments of reflection, I think it was mine as well:

So let's see, what else should I touch on? Honestly, nothing is anywhere near my passion of the previous development, but there are some thoughts I can go through.

First off, Giruhiru's art is still really strong and Michael Heisler does a nice job as letterer. Everything flowed well and had it not been for the script, they'd be getting far more credit in my view.

The alternating flashback/real-time scenes were also a nice idea and again, I really want to give more praise to this.

As to the plot itself, the leaders of Avatar Earth are in a classroom hearing a professor talking about theories of government in Earth Kingdom history. I'd say that this development in regard to how to solve the problems proposed in "The Promise" is surreal, but it makes some sense and it led to some of the actually good comedy in the book.

I almost forgot to mention this, but I have no idea where this creative team is going with these Zuko-Suki dialogues. I feel like he's trying to tease a romantic paradigm shift, but until Toph's at an age where Sokka is not a weird proposition, this is just pointless nonsense that does nothing for anybody besides the obscure 'shippers.

The scenes with paranoid Azula were all awesome. I really wish she'd gone crazy earlier in the series so that the animation crew could have had more fun with it. I'm not sure what her logic is doing, but the fact that she thinks her mother is responsible for her crappy life because of mind control is absolutely awesome.

... Unless that actually becomes a thing. Oh God, that's going to become a thing, isn't it?

I like the logic as to how Azula gets to travel without restraints. When I saw the previews, I thought it would be more honor stuff, so this was a welcome twist.

That said, the writing in that scene was BAD. I felt like I was reading caricatures of the main cast talking to each other. Only Iroh felt like he was written in proper character, and his reign as interim Fire Lord looks like a good comic relief plot.

The stuff with the Blue Spirit wolf controlling Aang's face was just bizarre and I don't feel like it bodes well in terms of plot development. That said, the wolf fighting Appa was freaking badass.

Had it not been for the stupidity that was the last page, Sokka and Zuko had another really nice serious moment about sibling rivalry and the love that lies behind it, so that was nice. It's weird how the emo character and the comic character work so well, but I always enjoy Sokka and Zuko's exchanges.

If I judged scene by scene, there were some really good ones. Had it not been for the whole Zuko's mother plot, I'd say that this was another fairly solid entry in the Avatar legend from this crew.

Unfortunately, the whole point of "The Search" is to tell a narrative about finding Zuko's mother, so this TPB is botching it's entire reason for existing.

Gene Yang, I appreciate you took a risk, and if it means anything, this would be one of the better AU fanfictions for this universe if I had come across it online.

But it's not, and your increasing insanity sickens me. Even Frank Miller's crazy sequels to his Dark Knight Returns universe knew to stay out of the real canon.

You stole three years of character motivations, you stole what should have been "quite the story" as Katara put it on the Korra premiere, and you stole fizzy lifting drinks! You besmirched the name of Avatar, which now has to be washed and sterilized so you get NOTHING! YOU LOSE!


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & Robin #18

Show. Don't tell.

One of the key rules of a visual medium is that you need to make your background and characters' actions impact the story as much as the dialogue itself.

It's a key difference between comic books and actual books. With books, the backstory, motivations, character evolutions, emotions, scene, etc. are all described through words. It is the job of the narrator to paint a clear picture using only words.

Comics have the ability to do the opposite. They can use the art of the panels and layouts to convey emotion in scenes to the point that the words aren't necessary - or at the very least only exist to push the plot forward.

Batman and Robin #18 epitomizes visual storytelling in a manner I've never seen from a comic before. There is not one word of dialogue in this book. Not one.

The only time you're actually reading is when you are reading notes some characters left behind, and those don't advance any plot. They merely exist as scenery.

For those who didn't hear last month, Damian Wayne, the fourth Robin of the current canon, died in battle. What follows in this issue is Bruce, Alfred, and Titus (Damian's dog) reacting to his departure.

This is without a doubt some of the most emotional stuff you will find in a comic, and it is Patrick Gleason's masterpiece. I've been so impressed with Peter Tomasi's writing on this title that I sometimes forget how much of a badass Gleason is as an artist, but the amount of detail he meticulously puts into every panel - every Easter egg, every little emotional token - is inserted perfectly.

I won't give away all the details, but there is a scene where Alfred cries in front of the family portrait from B&R #10, which was the painting where the Robins fought with each other and the painter had to stop ... after only painting Damian's head and not getting to his torso. Bruce walks in and sees what he's looking at as well. It's just one of the many gut-wrenching emotional moments in this.

I'd actually say this needs to be read before Batman #18, as I think the rampage he is on in that book starts in this silent book.

There are only two written out pieces in this book. One is a note from Clark Kent for Damian that lists some movie recommendations for him. (By the way, To Kill a Mockingbird is on the list. Nice!) The other... I'm not spoiling. I swear you will be fighting yourself not to cry when you read it.

There have been some goofy stories in this title, but never anything outright bad, and I'd say that over the last few issues, B&R has become the best written thing in the DCU. This is probably my second favorite issue in the title, and the other was the Annual, so it's actually top of the numbered issues.

I'm still undecided as to whether I'll continue reading this title next month simply because I bought the book to see Batman and Robin, not Batman and [Insert Bat-family member here]. But with Tomasi's killer writing, Gleason's unreal art and the fact that I could definitely imagine Harper Row becoming Robin, it's hard for me to say I wouldn't pay to see where this story goes next.

I sincerely doubt you can get your hands on a copy this week because the damn thing was sold out before I got to the comic store a mere two hours after it opened. (Thank you, Maximum Comics Pull Box service!) But the good news is that second prints are being sent out and almost definitely a third print after that, so you've got a few chances.

Every comic reviewer I've read has given this thing a perfect 10, and I'm no different. While a few panels require you to look twice to see exactly what is happening, you can get by without dialogue just fine, and there's better emotion here than in anything you'll read from either major publication this week.

RIP Damian Wayne (Publication History: Batman: Son of the Demon/Batman & Son - Batman Incorporated Vol. 2, No. 8)

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Comic Book Reviews: Batman #18 and Batgirl #18

The death of Damian Wayne made an impact on the Bat-titles this week, and while I wasn't initially going to read Batgirl this month, the "Requiem" initiative this month has forced my hand.

But first off, let's talk about Batman.

Batman #18

The first issue following major arcs in Scott Snyder's world appear to be Harper Row issues, as we once again get to check in with the girl who is becoming one of my favorite DC characters.

Harper and her brother, Cullen, are seen visiting Blackgate prison in this book because their father has been caught and sent there. Her dad seems to believe that Batman is the cause of his imprisonment (leading me to wonder whether his beatdown was in an earlier book or not) and he proceeds to prove himself to be a complete a**hole.

Once the touching visit ends, Harper dons a catsuit far more practical than anything Catwoman wears and continues her weeks-long stalking of Batman, who she has noticed is becoming more careless and weaker as of late.

What really makes this issue strong is the emotional exchanges between Harper and Batman/Bruce that make up the last few scenes.

I'll admit, the first few scenes are a mixed bag. Not that they're poorly done; just very long-winded and lacking in humor. The Batman scenes are heavy enough without a second depressing storyline mixed in without energy.

Overall, though, there is a hopeful message in the story and I love how Harper manages to finally get through to the Bat.

The art is a little weak. Greg Capullo really is missed here. The artist for the back-up's space was a little better, but since the back-up is just a continuation of the main story, all that happened for me was a feeling of being jarred at the sudden style change.

As a book, this isn't anywhere near Snyder's best work, but it's still a solid story. And I enjoy seeing Harper whenever possible.

I've said I want her to be the new Robin or Oracle, and I think we're moving toward that. Let's hope she does well in John Layman's arc in Detective this summer, whatever her role is.

Batgirl #18

I will definitely admit that Ray Fawkes' work on this issue is miles ahead of his effort last month. It's still not that great, but it's a step up and has set Gail Simone up nicely.

The focus of the story is Jim Gordon Jr. once again narrating the story as he sets up a showdown with Batgirl. I like the unique perspective but REALLY don't like how it seems like he knows everything that's freaking happening in the story.

Jim Jr. is not some brilliant observer of the human condition, nor is he omniscient, as we clearly see in the scene where he goes looking for his mother. That being the case, how the hell is he this knowledgeable about Barbara's mental state and why is he so damn wordy?

The scenes that really sell the book are the ones where Batman informs Jim Gordon Sr. of Robin's death and his subsequent emotional phone call with Barbara. It's just a great father-daughter moment and one that does a good job of conveying Barbara's emotional response to the news.

Those pages alone sell the book, which is good because this book otherwise isn't worth a buy. Hell, even with these pages it's probably not worth a buy. You could run through the pages in one minute at the comic store and then just read the last scene to set yourself up for next month.

Those pages are important to read, though, as there is a good setup at the end of the book for the coming finale of the Jim Jr. arc.

I will say, though, that I'm thrilled Gail Simone will be taking the final chapter on herself. This book has been a chore the last two months and it needs a writer who can actually write Barbara's thoughts into her own book.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Detective Comics #18 and Damian Wayne thoughts

I would be the first to freely admit that I completely forgot Batman Inc. was still a thing.

I haven't read very much of Grant Morrison's run, mostly because the thing is about as easy to follow as Lost if you don't start from the beginning. But what I have read is very clearly quality work.

That said, I was against his Batman Inc. story being a New 52 canon book. It doesn't work in either direction.

It doesn't work for Morrison's story because characters like Cass Cain and Steph Brown get cut out after using them in key parts of the story. And it doesn't work for the main continuity because while everyone else has to acknowledge his ultra-complex story, he's not acknowledging anyone else's.

Thus we have a book that is operating seemingly outside any rational DC Comics timeline (seriously, when the hell is Batman finding time to do all this?!) and yet is somehow affecting everything.

The point of this rant is that this month's Batman books pretty much now have to deal with fallout because Damian Wayne died in Batman Inc. #8 last month.

First off, when Batman and Robin #18 comes out on Wednesday, I'm very interested to see how the book deals with the backlash more than any other. The character that made the book worth buying is gone and I really need to see how Peter Tomasi handles the loss of his Robin.

In terms of Morrison's story, I get why Damian Wayne had to die. I've read enough of it to understand his logic, but it's a shame that it's happening in the main continuity where all these books will have to deal with the backlash.

Detective Comics #18 is the first book to try to deal with it, and in all honesty it's only casually touched on. It's clear that Batman is fighting angrier and there is a nice two-page spread where he grieves over Damian's grave, but John Layman pretty much keeps things on his Emperor Penguin storyline.

I notice that a lot of people are hating on this story because they think Emperor Penguin sucks as a name. While it definitely does, it's not as bad as people make it out to be and this story has been incredibly well executed.

The scene where Cobblepot realizes what Ogilvy has done is both hilarious and badass. Ogilvy has made quite the name for himself here and I hope that he eventually grows out of the Emperor Penguin moniker and becomes a unique rogue all his own.

The biggest issue with this book is that it calls back to like five different comics outside of its own title. It makes the story feel like it's missing a big part of itself. Then again, if this is supposed to be the flagship title of the DCU (DC does stand for Detective Comics, after all), then it should feel like where the action centers.

This is where Layman's "mesh various plotlines together into a coherent, long-running story" style actually works well. He's not going to create an epic like Scott Snyder does, but you're guaranteed a good read each time you pick up his work.

I'd firmly recommend this one. The story flows well and the twist at the end is finally going to open the Bat-books to a threat so far unseen in the New 52 (if Batman Inc. isn't considered).

Oh, and before I go, the back-up story with Victor Zsasz was a nice way to give his New 52 backstory. I usually don't care about Zsasz, but this was nice.

I'll see you all Wednesday for Batman and Robin (which is really the most important book in the DCU next week), the return of Harper Row in Batman (who NEEDS more print time, by the way) and Ray Fawkes' (hopefully) final guest appearance in Batgirl.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

100th Blog Post Celebration! Batman: Earth One review

Happy 100th blog post everybody!

Hard to believe, but this blog has really gotten on a roll in the last 14 months, especially in the comic book review department. As such, I feel like I should review a comic for this blog. And not just any story, but a Batman story. And not just any Batman story, but the best Batman story to come out since I started this blog.

Today, I go over the graphic novel, Batman: Earth One. However, before I do, let me talk briefly about my thoughts on changes to the established continuity of characters in stories.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't let comic continuity irk my story enjoyment.

Now don't get me wrong here. Continuity within a narrative is important. I do get irritated when the rules of a world change without reason.

If the main DC Universe wants to make a change to a villain's origin, there had better be a freaking good explanation as to how the story has changed.

That's why I don't like how wrestling writer Vince Russo says he finds it funny how people get irritated by booking decisions that contradict rules that were in place, say, one year beforehand. It's still a narrative you're producing; Moby Dick doesn't change species every time he surfaces. YOU CAN'T SAY YOUR WORLD WORKS ONE WAY AND THEN CONTRADICT IT WITHOUT EXPLANATION.

But that's a discussion for my wrestling blog. When it comes to superheroes and major characters, I'm fine with some details being changed so long as the narrative produced is solid... to an extent. I do believe that some characters become so intertwined with certain characteristics that altering them is an affront to the character regardless of its purpose.

Examples: You can change a Superman story to give him limited or unlimited powers based on sunlight. You cannot change it so that he was a byproduct of eugenics instead of being a Kryptonian.

OR... You can change vampires so that they can be seen in mirrors or transform into bats. You CANNOT change the fact that daylight kills them so that they can sparkle instead.

The reason I am on this long rant is because today's story is an alternate universe's Batman. The "Earth One" line of graphic novels are periodically released as a modern take on classic heroes, similar to Marvel's Ultimate Universe but released in a large book at various intervals instead of in monthly comic form.

I'll probably get into my thoughts on Superman: Earth One at some point, but for now, let's focus on Batman's story.

The biggest change you'll probably notice is that Batman is still really new at his job. He's trying awesome stuff, but his gadgets break on him and he makes costly mistakes the usual Batman wouldn't ever commit.

Also notable is the way Batman is portrayed. It's long been asked whether Bruce Wayne or Batman is the true persona of the man. I've generally said that the modern Batman has been a young Bruce deep down, but while both personas connect to him, his heart is in the Batman role, and the Bruce he puts out to the public is a facade.

That is not true in this book.

From the get-go, it is clear that this Batman is really Bruce Wayne, and he's merely in this suit to attain a goal, which in this case is getting revenge for his parents.

It's easy to tell that that's the way it's going. Bruce doesn't stop a store robbery because he doesn't see it as his business. In a scene truly indicative of Batman's good nature, it's shown that he keeps money in a pouch to give to people down on their luck.

And most importantly, you can see Batman's eyes here. No white covers to bury his identity. You see right into Bruce's facial expressions, and it's always clear that what he's doing is merely an extension of who he is - not his entire being.

Also changed in this continuity is Alfred, who is much younger than normally and served as a bodyguard in the past. It appears that he and Thomas Wayne have history together on that front. How he winds up Bruce's "butler" is actually a really interesting story in itself.

Even better than just that adjustment is how these changes affect Alfred, who is a gun-toting badass in this continuity and capable of pushing Bruce to his limits.

Alfred's a badass here.
The basic origin story is still in effect but with some changes. In this continuity, Thomas Wayne is running for mayor of Gotham City, Martha is descended from the Arkham family, and Bruce is a stereotypical rich kid – a self-entitled, obnoxious little sh** – until his parents' murder.

Some people will find his motivations for becoming Batman (which are significantly more vengeful here and a clear attempt to absolve his own responsibility) not as fun, but I disagree. While it certainly can't be the mainstream continuity, if a story wants to tie itself more into a realistic psychology, this makes much more sense. It even blows the door off of Christopher Nolan in terms of grounding itself.

Another character who has a welcome alteration made to his character is Harvey Bullock. One of my biggest complaints about the usual Bullock is that people spend so much time portraying him as a brash, unthinking, drunken blowhard that it's forgotten that he is a good cop with a similar moral compass to Jim Gordon.

That's not missed here. Bullock is thin, clean and fresh off of five years of being a celebrity cop with LAPD. While he is certainly motivated by fame and success, he wastes no time trying to stop a shakedown and proves to be more than competent. Heck, he even gives Gordon a lashing for not being tough on crime.

This brings me to a character who unfortunately comes off weaker here: Gordon. He comes across as a broken policeman who isn't corrupt but certainly isn't active in fixing the process. His concern for protecting Barbara is touching, but it's odd to see such a fighter come off as so hopeless for most of the story.

The story is very much a story of how Gordon got reinvigorated as much as it is about Batman seeking more information about his parents' deaths. I'm not sure why it is that writers insist on making Gordon come across as a heavily flawed man (see Miller, Frank, Year One) but it's one of the few alterations I'm always on the fence about. It's done well here, but I really don't know what else to say there.

The story has two real villains: Penguin as the main and book-exclusive Birthday Boy as the secondary. Both are played as real threats (though the scene with Cobblepot eating the bird with his bare hands was more disgusting than anything else) and I would LOVE it if Birthday Boy became a villain in the main DCU for at least one storyline.

There is so much plot in this story that it has massive reread value and I honestly can't go through it all on one blog without giving away what makes it great in the first place. I will say, however, that the villain teased for Volume 2 is my personal favorite, and I am looking forward to Bruce's inevitable attempt to woo his old flame, who is related to another future rogue in this continuity.

As I've probably tipped off, the art here is immaculate. Gary Frank draws the mood so well here that the dialogue almost isn't necessary. And hell, in some scenes the dialogue doesn't exist. It's just Frank being allowed to own it.

I've said I don't think Geoff Johns should have the chokehold on universe-wide decisions that he does, but there is no denying that when it comes to his writing, he's the best in the business today. He took a character who has been portrayed in so many different ways and has somehow found one more incarnation that is must-read.

I'll tell you: I sold this book for someone. At a comic store, one guy was looking at the racks of graphic novels and asked about it and I put this book so over that he bought it immediately. There aren't many books I'd do that for, but this one deserves it.

Is it the definitive greatest Batman story ever? I can't say that. It's not that it couldn't contend, but what makes this story good is how it tells a Batman story outside of the traditional Batman format, which makes it hard for me to say it defines Batman.

I'd compare it to the way Superman: Red Son is in the Superman mythos. It's an incredibly well-told story, but what makes it interesting is how it diverges from what Superman truly is, so it's hard to call it Supes' best story.

That said, I do think this may be Batman's equivalent of Red Son and it's a must-read for any Batman fans.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Comic Book Review: Emily and the Strangers #1

I very, VERY rarely look beyond superhero comics. I mean if I'm honest with myself, even my voyages into independent books are superheroes like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Green Hornet.

That said, every once in a while I come across something in the shop that I really feel deserves attention. And Emily and the Strangers #1 is that kind of book.

For those who don't know the character, Emily the Strange is a character Rob Reger created as an advertising mascot. She became so popular that she's had her own publications for years. While this particular variation is pinned as a three-issue mini-series, given how much the TPB collections usually are, buying the issues as they happen really are not that bad an idea. For only about a dollar more, you get the original issues.

And boy, if issue #1 is an indicator, you will get much enjoyment from this series and will hope this thing gets picked up as an ongoing series.

The story focuses on Emily, a brilliant scientist/music aficionado with an attraction to the bizarre of this world.

When she has the chance to win a haunted guitar in a contest, she produces a song and goes to borderline extreme lengths to get it sent down to the radio station. But in order to win, she has to make an alliance with a station assistant who wants to get his band into the foreground through Emily's song.

And thus they become Emily and the Strangers.

While this plot is incredibly simple and I'm fairly sure I've seen multiple shows do this, it's the fun narration of Emily and her conversations with cats that really bring the story to life in a unique way.

I also have to compliment the art, as the layout is unique while still being easy to follow. The first panel taking place inside Emily's hair was nicely done, and for the first time I've seen, Emily has actual drawn eyes with a white background (and not those old-fashioned, 30s style eye designs that date the comic to the point of distraction).

If you don't buy limited series except in trade form, keep an eye out in a few months. But I'd say this is one of Dark Horse's best things going, and I certainly would say this is the best independent book to buy that has nothing to do with TNMT, Green Hornet or Avatar: TLA.

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