The last two weeks of DC's comic releases have had some highs and some lows for me and Ed. The highs being things like Action Comics and Animal Man. The lows being the depiction of women in things like Catwoman and Starfire in the Red Hood book. There's been a lot of discussion about the audience for cheesecake in comics, and how female readers don't need to be excluded from that audience share, but are being pushed out by awful, objectifying fantasies. Normally, I would use this blog as a forum for that, but I'm saving my thoughts on the issue for another time ... largely because Laura Hudson over at CBR's blog spot already does an amazing job laying out why exactly female cheesecake is so awful, socially and artistically for women.
Also, Ed and I need to finish our last sets of comic reviews. But rest assured, I'll be watching as the round of number 2s comes out and will be back to back up Laura Hudson and numerous other bloggers, should the need arise -- aka, when my thoughts on American culture's involvement with gross nudity solidify. Anyway, controversy with Catwoman aside, here are our thoughts on this week's issues and last week's issues ...
Sarah's Thoughts ...
While I'm not enamored of the pairing of Bruce Wayne and his biological son Damian as Batman and Robin, I have to admit that Peter Tomasi sets up an interesting dynamic in this first issue, taking Batman out of his wallowing in death, and making his quest for vengeance more about moving on with his life. How convinced I am that he'll actually move on is another story, given the violence inherent in this issue, as well as the grimness of its art work.
That being said, I like that Tomasi spends time having Bruce and Damian (a sociopathic child assassin raised by former flame Talia Al Ghul) debate the nature of reprisal. Damian sees marking his grandparents' death as a waste of time; Bruce sees it as an honor, though it's one he'll be forgoing after noting the anniversary one last time, with Damian. Bruce wants to live a better life. Damian just wants to kick ass. And he's pretty cavalier about it. So, we're left with the question of whether or not Bruce's life will be more or less complicated, as he steps into the role of father here. The best moment of the issue involves Bruce making and launching an origami boat out of the Zorro movie flyer he kept from the night of his parents' deaths. Damian remarks, "You can't just build a boat and hope darkness magically sails away in it." To which Bruce replies, "Why not? It's my boat. "
As intriguing a statement as that is, Batman and Robin is populated by two dark characters. Damian works for me when he's played off the more humorous characters in the Bat-universe, like happy-go-lucky acrobat Dick Grayson or big sister-type Stephanie Brown. Because there's not much difference between Bruce and Damian, in terms of fatalistic outlooks (much as Bruce is trying to let go of his), I wonder if I'll come back to this book month after month. A general problem I have with Batman is that he stopped being fun a long time ago (unless written by Grant Morrison), and I don't know that philosophical musings between two tortured souls is going to hold me over, month to month. Just my two cents, if Bruce's new hope doesn't stick. (And who knows, with a company this fickle in some plot aspects/character traits of its reboot, maybe it will, or maybe it won't.)
Ed's Response ...
I liked the sort of "It's my goddamn boat" shot at Frank Miller. I like the dynamic of Bruce and Damian, but I still rather enjoyed the sort of "We're both trying to prove ourselves to each other" dynamic Dick and Damian had. I mostly enjoyed this, but it didn't run away with my imagination like some of the other comics we've read.
Sarah's Thoughts ...
Six months after when it was initially supposed to be released, we finally have Batwoman 1!!! And while that's super-exciting, I wonder where this series is going to lead. Sure, it doesn't have much going on that the reboot affects; Kate Kane is still a Batwoman born into her mission because she was kicked out of the military for being gay; she's still suffering from (SPOILER!) probably having killed her twin sister, who she thought died long ago. She's still pining for old flame, Renee Montoya, even as she starts courting Detective Maggie Sawyer. All that seems to have changed here is that she's got a new sidekick in her cousin Bette, and Jim Gordon has red hair instead of white.
So what's my beef? I think it's that J.H. Williams and company aren't letting me know where we're headed. This is an exposition-heavy issue that still doesn't bother to explain why Kate is taking on a sidekick. It also features two (non-sexy) changing in and out of costumes scenes, which lets me know there's not much plot here to speak of. And frankly, any book that ends with Batman telling our heroine that they need to talk leaves me a little cold. I want this book to be Kate's. She deserves it, and honestly, she's a far more interesting character, going up against far more interesting circumstances than Batman is currently (given the fact that her tragedy is still fresh) -- and because Greg Rucka's original run on her (with Williams as the artists) was phenomenal.
But while Batman and Robin felt psychological and static in its artwork to me, Williams does not disappoint. He is one of the most brilliant layout artists I've ever seen. He transitions styles from Kate's night job to her day wanderings, and it never feels forced or confusing. Not to mention how crazy-great and kooky and involving his action sequences become, like acid trips on paper.
Overall, I'm hoping that the story gets stronger as this run goes on. I absolutely love Kate, and I want her series to define itself with an electric first storyline.
Ed's Response ...
Ehhhh to this. It was pretty but didn't go anywhere. Dunno why Kate needs a sidekick? I actually don't even know who she is.
Editor's Note: Kate's sidekick is her cousin Bette, who became a superhero sometime during the period of Superman's absence back in James Robinson's run on the Big Blue Boy Scout. I have no clue how this happened (Williams ain't telling); I just know that it did.
Sarah's Thoughts ...
I can go either way on Brian Azarello. His run on Superman made zero sense because he left important information out of his reader's grasp. So when plot twists started happening, we had no reason to care about them -- because we had no context for them prior to their reveal. But in this first issue of Wonder Woman, the lack of context works in his favor; honestly, Apollo using a self-made set of oracles in order to figure out what Zeus plans to do, and how that involves Wonder Woman makes for a rollicking read, buoyed by the primal art work provided by Cliff Chang. We don't know much of anything about Wondie by the end of this issue, but we do know she kicks butt (and apparently sleeps naked; I see this far too often in her book, frankly).
Case in point: At some point, Wonder Woman may kill a god and take their place, the oracles insinuate before Apollo fries them. Because it's Azarello, this implication is a little unclear, but it seems to be where he's headed. And Diana's also gotta take care of a girl Zeus impregnated. That's a lot to set up in a first issue, and the art team fills the pages with both gruesome and awesome action sequences. This is a book I'm really looking forward to picking up next month, despite the fact that I'm not nuts about Azarello and I really just wish a woman could write this character.
Ed's Response ...
I actually dug this. More weirdness, more horror. I don't really care for Azaello generally, since he seems to be mean to be shocking or edgy or whatever, but this was exciting, and mostly free of nonsense, though agreed that diana sleeping in the nude is ... pretty dumb.
Batman and Robin #1: Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; Moose Bauman, Colorist.
Batwoman #1: J.H. Williams, Cover Artist.
Wonder Woman #1: Cliff Chiang, Cover Artist.
Swamp Thing #1: Yanick Paquette, Cover Artist.
Action Comics #1: Rags Morales, Cover Artist.