Friday, July 8, 2011

Comics of the Week

I loved 100 Bullets. I didn't understand all of it, but I think part of what made it brilliant was its shear complexity. The other thing that made it brilliant was its all out grittiness. It was a book that was never easy on the violence, and that violence was never gratuitous. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso strike again with Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #2. It would be one thing for them to write a Batman story, which they have, but here they give us a different Batman altogether, in a world that is not held to the same rules we're used to. This may be the best Elseworlds Batman story ever told.

In the Flashpoint world, it was Bruce that was murdered in Crime Alley, setting his father, Thomas on a path to become a different kind of Batman. But this Gotham is also much grittier than the Gotham we're used to, if that's possible. Here, the line separating good guys from bad is so blurred that Thomas Wayne employs both Jim Gordon and Oswald Cobblepot. By the end of this issue, we see exactly how blurred those lines are. It's a moment that you almost see coming, but is still shocking because of just how far the brutality went just before it. Azzarello and Risso never pull their punches.

As expected, this book's biggest strength is that it ultimately has nothing to do with the main Flashpoint story. This is about the world of this Batman, and it's a world that is rich in detail. While we see familiar characters show up in unexpected ways, it's clear there is depth behind each one. It isn't a spot the characters situation and instead leaves you genuinely wondering what brought them to where they are. And it's because of this depth that I have one problem with this book: that it will end. I can only hope in the months after the reboot that they come back and do further stories in this continuity.

Meanwhile, in the main Flashpoint book, we finally see what Kal El is like in this world. I like the fact that it is such a different take on the character. I don't doubt that before the series is over he'll wind up being much closer to the Superman we all know, but for now, it's a fresh take. I've always said the best Superman stories are the Elseworlds versions, and while this isn't as great as the Batman book, it could still lead to some interesting developments, particularly in exploring the relationship between the two characters. Ultimately, though, the Flashpoint book is mainly just good concepts, with mediocre execution. What it does have going for it is that the main points of the event take place in the main book.

Fear Itself #4 was much better than the last 3 issues, with more of a sense of things happening in the pages of the book itself. Particularly, the return of Steve Rogers as Captain America. However, for events to actually matter after 4 issues might be too late. I'm still not sure what the event is actually about, and I'm not sure that would be different if I were reading all the tie ins. Yes, this mysterious Serpent character from Odin's past has unleashed a bunch of hammers on the world and now several characters are running around, possessed, causing chaos with said hammers. But that's a just a set up. Four issues in, I should understand the stakes and what it's all really all about. So far, it doesn't come across any different than any other time someone has wreaked havoc on the Marvel U. Not helping matters is an X-Men tie in Uncanny X-Men #540 that not only did not tell me anything about Fear Itself, it brought the X-Men story to a grinding halt. Absolutely nothing happened in this book, which is a real shame since I was getting into the world of the X-Men for the past couple of issues. Now, I'm not so sure I need to pick up the next one. At least not until Fear Itself is done.

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