Batman and Robin #34
Robin Rises Part 2
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
$2.99, 20 Pages
This review is going to be tough… Mainly because I’m a big fan of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason– especially when they work together. Their run on DC’s Green Lantern Corps is both legendary and awe-inspiring… And knowing how great the two of them can be side-by-side only made my disappointment with Batman and Robin #34 harder to swallow.
I chose to review this particular issue because I was curious to see how they were going to handle Damian Wayne’s inevitable rebirth. And if I’m brutally honest, the story did almost nothing for me. Last time I read this series a year and a half ago, Bruce Wayne was mourning the loss of his son and former Robin– and was attempting to bring him back to life. Guess what’s going on in this issue? Bruce Wayne is still mourning for his son and former Robin, and is attempting to bring him back to life. It’s been a year and a half and we’re still stuck on this? Maybe there was another story in-between (I don’t know because I’ve haven’t read those comics) but if the story has literally not moved in this long stretch of time, I feel really bad for regular readers.
I do have a few positive things to say about the story/writing: Tomasi does not ignore continuity and uses it to embellish his story. He takes advantage of the wonderful world that is the DCU and pulls in various elements of its rich history. There is also a good scene between Batman and Dick Grayson that encapsulates their close relationship and shows why they work so well together. In truth, it’s nice to see the Bat Family starting to reconcile a bit after what they went through with the Joker a year ago.
Sadly, everything else just falls flat. I know Jason Todd is a smartass, but his sarcastic remarks and “jokes” become way too much in a very short amount of time. Even worse, they aren’t that funny and the comedic timing seemed a bit off. Even Captain Marvel (Shazam) attempts to make a joke with– and pass a charming line at– Wonder Woman… Right after a fairly serious scene! Off-handed jokes can work in comics, of course– primarily to break tension– but they didn’t here, making me even more frustrated.
I should add it’s really kind of entertaining to see Batman go to such ridiculous lengths to try to bring his son back to life. (I know he’s really smart, but some of these ideas are way out there.) What’s even more crazy– Batman seems to think one of these nutty plans could actually work. You could argue Batman isn’t thinking rationally because he’s grieving, but I’m not sure even the Dark Knight would go as far as distracting his long-time friends in the Justice League… Just so they won’t attempt to stop him from traveling to Apokolips. What’s even stranger? Batman and Lex Luthor (now part of the League– a really stupid idea) actually seem to have a “buddy moment” towards the end of the book.
And while the story isn’t very good, at least the art is. I’ve always been a huge Patrick Gleason fan and his art still looks good to me– even if his style has morphed into something a bit looser and more cartoony. I’m not sure if this is inker Mick Gray’s fault or what, but Gleason’s line work just doesn’t seem as tight as it once was. The coloring is fine– nothing to go crazy over or criticize heavily. It works well with the art and is appropriately darker when everyone is assembled in the Batcave.
If you’ve been a fan of the Batman and Robin series thus far, chances are you might enjoy this issue. As a fan who’s just taking a peek, I wasn’t impressed. Whatever the problem is, I hope it’s fixed soon… I like these creators!
– Aaron Evans
Secret Avengers #7
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Michael Walsh
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
20 Pages, $3.99
Secret Avengers #7 is pretty weird. On one hand, it provides some fun with some effective jokes and lots of gags. On the other, this book is the epitome of storytelling decompression. Nothing much happens in twenty pages… So much so, I’m still rubbing my eyes after witnessing so much nothing!
Michael Walsh’s art shares the same ambivalence as Ales Kot’s story, displaying interesting breakdowns and cool panels, but being– all things considered– quite boring. At times, it even flirts with being on the mildly shitty side.
So overall, this is a so-so comic. Your mileage may vary, depending on whether or not you want your entertainment to be funny at the expense of zero story. This title is clearly all flash, no substance. I’m not a fan of such a mixture… But if I try to be unbiased, the book might deserve an average score.
But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) that’s not all. The more I think about it, the more I realize how uncomfortable this comic book makes me.
See, this issue contains an unhealthy dose of Deadpool breaking the fourth wall. From such a running gag ensues one-liners such as writer Kot dissing himself or Deadpool telling Hawkeye what the end of the story will contain. And these attempts at hilarity all feel kinda cheap. For instance, to Deadpool criticizing his script, Kot answers, “I’m on a tight deadline, shoot me.” Later on, when the Merc with a Mouth describes Secret Avengers as Kot’s attempt at ripping off Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye… I felt a distinct sense of uneasiness creeping in.
You might judge such self-derisory banter as a ballsy move from a writer. Shooting yourself in the foot in front of your entire readership can’t be simple, right? And sure, at times this silliness did raise a smile on my face, but more often than not I found it… hypocritically scornful. Because Ales Kot bashing himself brings a bad vibe… As if he is too awesome for us to believe a word of the mean remarks he uses while addressing his inadequacies. It doesn’t feel as if we’re sharing a joyful moment of camaraderie– peers tenderly mocking each other in a burst of joint laughter. This is just an inverted pedestal, a roundabout way for Kot to praise himself. His jests end up being selfish wankery– a failed attempt at looking hip and pop.
This comic is the first I’ve ever read by this scripter, and yet I’m already certain he has a very bloated ego– which drastically lowers the score I’m going to give this book. Because you know what, Kot? Deadpool’s right, your deadline was obviously way too tight for you to be any good here. So let me give you what the Merc couldn’t. Remember the very first word of my review? That’s the sound of me blasting away at your bullshit. - Simon J. O’Connor
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Todd Klein
40 Pages, $4.99
I made the mistake of coming across a review for this comic the morning after reading it. The review not only gave the issue a perfect score, but it talked it up as a long-awaited, drool-worthy comic book masterpiece. From the review, I gathered Multiversity is the coming together of several previous storylines and has been about five years in the making.
So what the hell did I just read?
Baffled, I lumbered through the whopping 40-page issue one more time. Though I came to see the story with a bit more clarity, I still find myself unimpressed and underwhelmed. From the beginning, Grant Morrison is trying to create a “fourth wall” where the reader is somehow responsible for the events unfolding. But comic books, in general, are just one piece of a larger story– and they can often depict multiple universes and different heroes. And while these fictional men and women generally don’t know of each others’ existence, long-time readers of Alternate Universe comic book stories often know their every exploit by heart. (Which leads to at least 3 instances of DC shameless self-promotion in this one story).
Okay, I suppose this is all some kind of fresh idea. Moving on…
My biggest ongoing beef with DC Comics has always been their narrow scope of characters– leading to an equally narrow scope of storylines… And it all seems like every other video game, TV series, comic and animated film on the market today– concepts that possess only one or two themes: Time Travel or Alternate Realities.
Though Multiversity strives to be creative and dive far out-of-the-box, it still has a ring of overplayed familiarity. The multitude of characters and realities gets to be a bit much, and its commendable attempt to introduce and integrate a new cast of DC characters fails to bring anything interesting to the table. It tries and tries to be different, featuring a reality where every famous DC character is black (and Superman is President)– as well as one where there are characters like a muscular bunny named Captain Carrot and an uniformed man with a large fin on his head, aptly named Dinocop. There’s even a monkey dressed like a pirate.
Oh boy. This was all obviously too much information to ask a fairly new comic fan to digest.
In a sea of dialogue that drifts in and out of levels of intelligence, paired with an occasionally interesting plot– the artwork is this comic’s only real saving grace. The artists clearly worked very hard to bring the characters and scenery to life, and succeed in doing so. There is great detail and dimension and little-to-no empty space to be found. It’s just a shame that the artwork could not save the story and its slew of ridiculous characters. - Danielle Young
Brain Boy The Men From G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #4
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Colorist: Jeremy Colwell
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
22 pages, $2.99
Brain Boy: The Men From G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #4 is the first Fred Van Lente comic book I’ve truly enjoyed. It reads a lot like a comic from the 80s– and for me that’s an advantage. (And yes, I understand “my advantage” is almost certainly someone else’s “weakness”.)
The entire book is basically one giant action sequence. But instead of a quick 2-minute read where I could easily flip through the pages because there isn’t much going on, this story is dense. In the end, I’m so glad I read this comic twice. It’s not confusing by any means, but there’s a ton of information to wade through. Normally this would cause problems with the flow of action and make the narrative extremely choppy, but Van Lente handles it all extraordinarily well.
There is a lot of exposition through the entire story. It’s almost like reading the action while seeing it– quite similar to how comics used to be written, but not as heavy-handed as some golden or silver-aged plots. The protagonist, Matt Price (a.k.a. Brain Boy), is the reason why all the info works so well (and doesn’t seem to bog down the story). By having a telepath narrate, almost everything happening seems to fit the character. And it all makes sense too… Brain Boy would’ve spent a lot of time mastering his psychic techniques, forcing him to constantly be in his own head.
The only issue I have with the script– though it’s almost a blessing in disguise– is how little time is spent understanding and exploring each character. This is the final issue of this story arc, so it makes sense Van Lente wouldn’t spend much time on character building… But the new villain at the end doesn’t quite get the payoff he deserves– mainly because I wasn’t familiar with the characters. So yeah… Obviously, this magazine is not new reader friendly.
I really enjoyed Freddie Williams II line work. It was clean, expressive, detailed and just a superb job all around. And Jeremy Colwell’s colours really sold the artistic side. There was so much work for him in this comic: Scenes dashed from dark and light, there were variations of solid and wispy psychic states, flashbacks, and some other effects– all helping push Williams’ pencils & inks over the top.
As much as I enjoyed the artistic collaboration, there was one glaring issue I couldn’t stop noticing: Whenever a scene transitioned to the character of Georgina, it appeared brighter and cleaner than the rest– and these panels just didn’t fit with the stellar work surrounding the rest of the art. (To be fair, Georgina’s panels weren’t poorly done, they simply felt out of place.)
In any case, the strengths of Brain Boy: The Men From G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #4 far outweigh the weaknesses. I hardly know anything about the series, but I know I want to read more. I’m going back to figure out Matt Price… And I expect the earlier comics to be just as fantastic. - Nick Furi