HEROBEAR AND THE KID #4
The first thought to creep into my mind as I read the book this weekend is that I really wish I could draw hands like Mike Kunkel does. They're blocky and expressive and work well from any angle.
I also wish I could draw faces that were that expressive. I wish I had the mastery of body language that he does.
HEROBEAR is such a pretty book, and the kind of thing the rest of us could only ever hope to live up to. My infrequent doodling has a long way to go to catch up with this.
We should have more animation-trained people drawing comics. I can't think of one person to come out of animation to draw comics that I haven't liked. They spend so much time working on breathing life into flat two-dimensional images that doing a comic seems second nature.
I read issues #3 and #4 of the series back to back. #4 seems a little cramped by comparison to #3. I guess it's just the relative absence of Herobear and the action scenes. The more talking heads you put on the page, the more static things look. Still, Kunkel is delving nicely into the concept of a young boy with a penchant for daydreaming. Which one of us didn't do that at his age? (I never missed the school bus because of it, mind you, but day dreaming was not absent from my routine. ;-)
It also looks like Kunkel is about to begin explaining some of the title, which treads into dangerous territory. Too complicated or tedious an "origin" story threatens to suck the life out of the book, but I have faith that he'll keep it simple for the younger target audience of the book. But I'm overthinking things right now. I still love this book. Can't get enough.
Sadly, the lettering is still WhizBang crapola. It's always tough to get the lettering to look right on a book that's not pen and ink. If it's all-pencil or a painted book, the lettering inevitably will stick out a little bit more than usual. Here it's even worse because it's friggin' WhizBang! I'd cut Kunkel a check personally to pay for a decent font from someone, even one of those overused Comicraft ones. At least the lettering has gotten better since the first issue. The font size has shrunken down enough that it's not as annoying as it once was.
I just miss the day when lettering was considered part of proper cartooning. They still teach it to first year students at the Kubert School, you know. It's too bad that so few use it anymore.
BRUCE WAYNE: MURDERER?
…has had its ups and downs, but it's been an interesting read so far. I'm not terribly bothered by it, financially, since I'm already picking up all the comics that it crosses over into. Artistically, I'm a little concerned about the interruption in the on-going stories in the individual titles, especially Chuck Dixon's swan song issues of BIRDS OF PREY, ROBIN, and NIGHTWING.
With NIGHTWING #65 (part three of the crossover), Dixon shies away from the crossover as best he can. He hits the beats that the story, no doubt, needed to hit. He gets Dick Grayson into Gotham. For the most part, however, he skips it all in favor of telling a story about Grayson and the Bludhaven police department, with some Nightwing hijinks added as a bonus.
(I'm very surprised that it's not more common knowledge in the DC Universe that Dick Grayson is the ward/adopted son of Bruce Wayne.)
BIRDS OF PREY #39 (part five) ties in more tightly, but devotes nearly half of the issue to its own subplots along the way. This is Rick Leonardi's debut on the title and it's just as fabulous as I had hoped. His characters have a unique look, but definitely fit in with the continuity of the title.
DETECTIVE COMICS #766 (part one) is the highlight of the storyline so far, as Greg Rucka devotes the entirety of the issue to the initial crime scene investigation on the part of the Gotham P.D. The time flies as you read through the details of the procedural drama that Rucka lays out. Scott McDaniel draws the issue, and impresses me with a good performance that doesn't necessitate lots of his stylistic action sequences.
BATGIRL #24 (part two) is a little disappointing. While the title loses points for detracting from its on-going storyline for the crossover, it really stretches credulity with its specific events. Ths story tells us more about the events of the aforementioned issue of DETECTIVE COMICS, as seen through Batgirl's eyes. The problem with the issue, however, is that her ability to sneak around a mansion full of police is too fantastical. Nobody is that good. In broad daylight (or lamp light), she's standing two inches behind a cop who's talking to other cops who would be facing in the direction of Batgirl. Yet nobody ever sees her! If it were Batman hiding in the shadows next to the dark curtains in a room with the lights dimmed, I might buy it. I have problems with the way this one played out, though.
There is one major development for the character of Batgirl, though, that you'll want to pick up the issue for if you're a regular reader of the series. Trust me; it's big.
Devin Grayson gets major points for her chapter, GOTHAM KNIGHTS #25 (part four). It's another procedural story, this time taking place in the courtrooms. It's Bruce Wayne's bail hearing, and Grayson constructs some strong emotional points and Bat-family bickerings around it. It's very well done, and only enhanced by the unrelated but superb black and white back-up story by Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, and Mark Farmer.
A lot of the overall storyline is tap-dancing. The characters involved have to keep The Big Secret of Batman's dual identity. This complicates not just Bruce Wayne's job from behind bars, but the jobs of all the people around him. For example, Black Canary can't know the secret, but Oracle needs her to help the investigation.
The story is teeming with possibilities and the kinds of creators needed to pull them off. Hopefully, the crossover will help put a cap on some of the odd over-brooding characterization that Batman has had to deal with lately. Theoretically, the way this event will pull the Batman family together should shine as a light to Batman. With any luck, it'll pull the character out of the strange funk he's been in lately and help explain his behavior.
There's still a long way to go, though.
TELLOS ANOTHER ONE
Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo's TELLOS is my favorite fantasy comic book of recent years. It strikes me as exactly the book that the two creators were meant to do. It plays up to both of their strengths. Books they do separately never reach the same level of magic as this one does. Even books they've done together – which amounts to a black and white backup in DETECTIVE COMICS and a short run on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN – don't have the magic that this little book does. Everything clicks in it for me, from the inventive characters to the tricky names to the heart-tugging story.
Last week, Image released the second collection of stories from the series, titled TELLOS: KINDRED SPIRITS. It's the back half of the original series, collecting issues #6-10, plus the short story from SECTION ZERO #1. I never realized before I flipped this book open how natural a break point it was for the two trades to end the first after #5. The first ended in a climactic battle that's only eclipsed by the final god-like battle of this book. Then Dezago and Wieringo turn the story on its head and give it a whole new perspective. It's sharp storytelling and an enjoyable read.
It's $18 for the book, printed on heavy glossy paper to bring out Paul Mounts' great coloring. The coloring for the ninth issue is still a little dark, but the paper brings the art out a lot better than the original issue did. There's also a cover gallery in the back, a couple of miscellaneous pin-ups throughout, and a beautiful reproduction of a Wieringo pencil drawing on the inside front cover.
For those who get into the details of bookstore shelving and the link, you'll be happy to know that the cover fits well with the same design as the first trade. The spine indicates that this is the second volume of TELLOS material and does contain the categorization of "Fantasy/Adventure." All of this is good stuff.
LAST MINUTE REVIEWS
I'm still playing catchup from the holidays. Here are four short reviews that have been sitting in reserve:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1:The Turtles have returned to Mirage Publishing. I'm not steeped enough in Turtle continuity to tell you exactly how this new series fits in with the rest of the continuity. I'd hazard a guess that it ignores the entirety of the Image version of the book and skips ahead a bit into the future of the original Mirage series. Peter Laird is once again behind the series. Co-creator Kevin Eastman is the subject of the dedication, but otherwise has nothing to do with the book. Laird writes, letters, inks, and tones the book with classic Turtle artist Jim Lawson back on pencils. The result is a book that draws inspiration from the original series more so than anything else. I love the look of the book. It's very reminiscent of the late-80s black and white scene. It's not toned with Photoshop. It's all there on the page, including Zip-A-Tone. The only concession to modern technology is the computer lettering.
The story is easy to follow. While it does fall into the trap of setting up a million things without any payoffs, it's not overwhelming. I know it's got me excited for the Turtles for the first time in many years. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here and if Laird can keep the interest up. The thing about these returns is that the initial interest can fade very quickly. It's not enough to capitalize on nostalgia. TMNT has to build its own track record now all over again.
Batman: Gotham Adventures #45 is a disappointment for the title, which is ironic given that it was one of my first choices for my Top 10 Series of 2001 list. While the regular outstanding creative team of Scott Peterson, Tim Levins, Terry Beatty, Lee Loughridge, and Albert T. De Guzman handle the issue, it falls apart at Peterson's script. The ending is projected far too early in the issue. It's at about the halfway point where the ending is foretold. The rest is just a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy and anti-climactic. I wish Peterson had developed the general idea of the issue without making it obvious that it was the cause of the Arkham Asylum uprising. Then the reader would be a bit more surprised at the end without being broadsided by something out of left field.
Everything else about the issue is just as beautiful as ever, though.
Hopeless Savages is not a bad read, but it's not anything I can get terribly excited about, either. It's a cute four-part black and white mini-series from Oni. I can't get as excited about it as everyone else seems to get. I'm not big into punk rock type stuff, which eliminates half of Oni's output for me. I'm also not interesting in any more "big corporations are evil" vibes in stories. I think it's overdone. The mini-series works well as a "fish out of water returning to the water"-type story, but in the end just isn't my thing.
Christine Norrie's art is cute, though, with some really great pages here and there. Chynna Clugston-Major's artwork is so clean and polished that it's making me want to go back and give BLUE MONDAY another chance.
Lone Wolf and Cub #16 is a major turning point in the series. It's one that you could see coming from the past couple of volumes, but Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima really hit the nail on the head in this issue. I can't spoil it, but it does make you enjoy this series on a whole new level. I'm tempted to go back and reread them all so that I can see the story develop more clearly. Story structure-wise, it reminds me of BABYLON 5. There are all these nice standalone stories, but when you get the chance to look back at them from afar, you realize the arc that's been developing. Chris Claremont's classic UNCANNY X-MEN run was much the same way. This is the first volume of LW&C that energized me in a while. I've always enjoyed them, but this one really sets things out in a definite new direction. I can't believe there's less than a year left of these stories.
A couple of titles that I previewed here a few weeks ago reached the stands of your local comic shop last Wednesday. NOBLE CAUSES #1 and PVP #1 are both available for your consumption and come highly recommended.
Coming up on Friday: A look at some of the great single issues of the year 2001. This isn't a top ten list. I'm afraid I'm not going to be that presumptuous. This is just some recommended readings of books that still stay with me months after I read them.
More than 350 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 or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.