DC REVIEWS OF THE WEEK
BATMAN GOTHAM ADVENTURES #35 may just be Scott Peterson's best-written issue yet. The high concept is Twelve Angry Men starring Bruce Wayne. What happens when a criminal that Batman picked up stands trial with a jury that includes Bruce Wayne? And what does Wayne do when he stands alone on the verdict? It's nice little mystery piece that also has a good moral to it. The only weakness to the story is that Peterson tends to hammer the moral home at the end a little too heavily.
Tim Levins does his usual great job here. There's not that much costumed crime-fighting action going on here. The story bounces back and forth between Batman and Robin discussing the case while out on patrol and the courtroom goings-on. Levins gets to show off a little bit his "normal human" character work, stuff he hasn't shown off this much since the glory days of THE COPYBOOK TALES.
One last thing: The cover (drawn by Bob Smith and Terry Beatty) gets the award for most gratuitous use of lens flare. Why is the tip of Batman's finger glowing? Is it an exposed steel-tip finger of his glove?!? Only Nathan Eyring, the colorist, knows for sure…
The Flash is back. I read about its first in the Comic Wire last week. Geoff Johns and crew have brought THE FLASH through a startling creative shift, starting with the most recent issue, #170. Curious, I picked up the issue. You won't get any guff from me. Not only is the tone of the series different than what it used to be, but the whole package has changed the way it looks.
It's just not enough these days to patch together a creative team like a jigsaw puzzle. Swapping in one inker for another can't fix all the problems. More and more, creative teams are becoming inseparable, and for good reason. Alan Davis' pencils don't look nearly so good as when Mark Farmer inks them. Rob Haynes artwork (currently seen in DAREDEVIL NINJA) needs the coloring sense of David Self. Heck, even Jeph Loeb's writing looks different without a Comicraft letterer.
Creative teams are beginning to emphasize the "team" part. All the separate parts of the whole communicate a lot more. In creator-owned comics, it's often a team of friends. That's the feeling you get from POWERS, for example. These are all people who like each other and talk to each other about the work. Even Erik Larsen keeps everything running in THE SAVAGE DRAGON. Nothing else he does anywhere else looks exactly the same, because he's not inking it, or Reuben Rude isn't coloring it. (Chris Eliopoulos just about always follows behind with his Ames lettering guide. And you are reading DESPERATE TIMES, aren't you?)
It's not just the team, either. It's a matter of top-down design work. The colors match the art, the art matches the story, the cover matches the content, the logo matches the theme, etc. etc. You get that with ASTRO CITY, for example, and you're also now getting that with THE FLASH.
Geoff Johns is officially the regular writer of the series, and is joined by new (to THE FLASH, at least) artist Scott Kolins, with Doug Hazlewood on inks, and James Sinclair with the colors. What you get is Johns recasting the town of Keystone City as a blue-collar haven, complete with unions, union bosses, factories, and disgruntled workers trying to work their way out of the mean streets. It's a bit of a dingier city now, with an earthy look, and plain colors. Sinclair has matched his colors to that. The city is completely brown and gray. The sun doesn't look like it comes out all that often. The superheroes and -villains tend to stand out a lot against the backdrop, but not by much. Even the Flash's red costume is toned down a notch in the red department. There's a certain palette being used, and it's limited nicely to give the book a definite overall feel. The cover is a little bit brighter, but it serves a different purpose – it still has to jump out at your eyes on the stand. Getting Brian Bolland to draw the thing certainly helps.
I've seen Scott Kolins' art on one or two other things before this, and wasn't all that impressed. His style didn't grab me at all. Here, he's rethought it. It's now a lot more detailed. He's not afraid to draw in madly detailed backgrounds for a monthly superhero title. The architecture of the city is very important to him. He seems to be borrowing a page from the aforementioned Haynes' playbook – there are no spotted black areas here. He lets the colorist handle all the shadows and darker colors.
Then there's Johns' work. The story in here will really get under your skin, in the best possible way. With just a few pages, he really makes you care for not just Wally, but the entire cast. We're introduced to an ex-girlfriend of Wally's here who is currently on the police force. She's hiding one of those shocking secrets that pulls the rug out from under you at the end of the issue. THEN the floorboard gives way. It's an excellent ending that will surprise you, I think, and leave you wanting the next issue.
On a personal note: I haven't been reading THE FLASH since Mark Waid left, so this is a return to the character for me. The ironic part is that the first issue of THE FLASH I ever read was #80, which also guest-starred Magenta as the villain de jour. (The cover artists back then were Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. Mike Wieringo was the regular artist.) And so the cycle begins again.
USER #1 is the first of three parts from Vertigo. Each issue is a Prestige format book with painted art by John Bolton and Sean "Wildcats" Phillips. Devin Grayson writes. It's a story of a young women whose life stinks so much that she quickly adopts a fantasy role playing game to the detriment of his real world life. Bolton paints the RPG sections of the story in full color, while Phillips uses a monotone look – just gray tones, really – to depict the dreary real world that the lead character lives in.
It's definitely a mature readers tale. This one is not an easy book to read. There are some pretty heavy themes (not the least of which is the sexual abuse) and a couple of moments of mature happenings going on. Yes, there's some language, too. But this first issue is interesting enough to warrant reading the second and third issues.
My only problem with the book is that Megan, the lead character, gets sucked into this fantasy world too easily and too quickly, to the point where it distracts her from the people around her and her job, as a whole. Her real world is depressing enough and she's so desperate for a happy ending that I can see her falling pretty fast. It's a matter of taste. I would have liked to have seen a more gradual decline, but matters of space and pacing probably came into play here. I won't fault Grayson's storytelling tactics for it.
Comicraft does a terrific job in lettering this, too. They use about four different fonts in here, including a special one for Megan's thoughts, a couple for the fantasy world, and a regular one for real world dialogue that has lopsided word balloons.
If you're an RPG type of person, or are looking for something in the way of virtual reality in comics, this one should work for you.
YOUNG JUSTICE #30 just came out and it's a splendid little tale of the Spoiler and Secret fighting it out over the affections of Robin. Good stuff for this title.
But it's YOUNG JUSTICE #29 I'd prefer to spotlight this week. I just read it this week, as well. It's written by Peter David and drawn by the usual pairing of Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker. It's also the most drop-dead hilarious story that I've ever read in this title. PAD and Co. really knocked themselves out on this one. It reads like it should be a Keith Giffen plot for the JUSTICE LEAGUE of ten years ago. Secret befriends Darkseid. The Forever People's cycle and the YJ Super-cycle go nuts. Girls from both teams share shampoo secrets. Lobo fights gratuitously. (The caption even tells us so.) Then all heck breaks loose. It's a laugh a minute, but set against the backdrop of some truly wild and crazy action. The humor descends from the characters and their interactions, so nothing seems forced.
Best of all, you can pick this one up at random and understand most everything that's going on. Yes, there are a few interpersonal conflicts going on that longtime readers will probably only be adept at understanding, but it's not difficult to make out. Substitute Guy Gardner for Lobo, and Empress for Black Canary and you can see the first year JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL there.
Just in case you haven't heard enough of my ramblings about that era of JUSTICE LEAGUE, Friday's Pipeline2 column will be a review of the first year of that title. I had a lot of fun rereading them in light of last week's failed JUSTICE LEAGUES event.
You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board. In fact, please stop there, anyway. I'm running a poll. I'm very curious about your Pipeline reading habits. Stop by and check in.
Close to 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR. I can't believe Pipeline is entering its fifth year in a few short months…
I will definitely be in attendance at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego), and the Pittsburgh Comicon, which requires no parenthetical.
Finally, I write DVD movie reviews for the gang over at DVD Channel News. If you're into DVD, check out my stuff there.