Friday, September 23, 2011

Comics of the Week - Girls, Boys, etc.

I continue to call this a good time for comics. There's one more week left of DC #1's and for me, it seems to be winding down, but each week, I find something to be surprised by. Meanwhile, other books are coming out that are just as good. But I'll just focus on the DC books this time.

I've been singing the praises of Scott Snyder, particularly his work on Detective Comics, for months now. I was really looking forward to Batman #1 and his teaming up with Greg Capullo on art. I suspected this would be my favorite book of the relaunch. It was good, but I don't think it was my favorite. I may have over hyped myself on it. Snyder is still right on, bringing something new to Batman, this time, Bruce. But something is off. Capullo's art is fine, though, I prefer the Batman scenes. His Bruce Wayne comes off too much like a pretty boy to me. But I think the problem I have is not with either the writer or the artist. The Batbooks were on a roll for the past couple of years, and when the reboot was announced I was worried they'd ruin a good thing. Then we learned that the events of the past few years would still play into the continuity of the Bat Family. The problem is, in practice, that doesn't work. It's easy to say "well, don't think about it too much," and just take the stories for what they are. And I am. But, it's hard to get past the idea that these characters could have grown and become what they are now, and yet, Bruce is somehow younger. I just get the feeling, in the back of my obsessive nerd brain, that the timeline is about to get real muddy, real fast. I'm still reading though. As I said, Snyder is still on point, introducing a new mystery that is sure to unravel into another great story arc.

There are two reasons I read Blue Beetle #1. One is that I'm interested in seeing what is being put out there for younger readers and this is supposed to be a teen book. The other reason is that this a Hispanic character and as a Hispanic character myself, I am curious about DC's diversity initiative (my words). On the first point, I think the book pulls it off. As I was reading the opening scenes, I was reminded of Invincible. I think this has a lot of potential in attracting new, younger readers. The action is there (and beautifully so, with art by Ig Guara and Ruy Jose) and the teen age drama is there. Some of the story is a little convoluted, but I think it will clear up as the series goes along. As for the Hispanic thing, it's complicated. I appreciate that the book is written by Tony Bedard, who is Puerto Rican. And there is nothing to be offended by here. But, and this really comes to personal taste, I am not a fan of minority characters, in this case Hispanic, that are almost exclusively surrounded by more minority characters. Granted, this is one issue and we are only being introduced to the characters, but I wish there had been more diversity within the cast of characters Jaime Reyes hangs out with. Other than that, the Spanglish was kept to a respectable level, although I could live with never seeing a character use the word "Chica" again. I want to see this develop and see how Jaime is incorporated into the rest of the DCU.

The Internets are on fire this week (again), because Batman and Catwoman had graphic sex in Catwoman #1 written by Judd Winick with art by Guillem March. Well, there's more to what has people upset than that. Here we have Catwoman being introduced, half naked from the start, fumbling along, until Bruce shows up. I won't go into the whole representation of women issue here (maybe later), but I didn't really care for this issue because it came across as a cheap attempt at being titillating. Oh, look Batman and Catwoman are doing it, in costume, for several pages. It wasn't all that interesting, didn't tell us anything about the characters and really just stood out as being superhero porn. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, per se, but at the end of the day, it is boring. The rest of the DC books have ended in cliffhangers that make you want to pick up the next issue to see what happens next. Judging by the last panel of this issue, next month, we'll be treated to Batman taking a nap. Exciting stuff. Once you get beyond the sexy, there's really nothing else holding this together. Had this taken place in issue 4, after some actual character and plot had been developed, I would likely have a different opinion on the whole thing. As it is, although I am curious to see where this goes from here, there are way too many books out that are actually telling stories, so I'll likely just read about it than read the actual book.

Kyle Higgins does a good job re-introducing Dick Grayson as Nightwing in Nightwing #1. There is mention that he took on the role of Batman while Bruce was "away" and that's about all that you really need to know about it. In that sense, I think this book is the one that does the best at dealing with the muddy timeline I mentioned earlier. We're immediately off onto something new for Dick, and although it's related to his past with the circus, it doesn't feel like it's muddled by how much time has actually passed since his parents were murdered and he was taken in by Bruce. At its heart, this is just a story about Dick, and the continuity isn't the main focus. This could turn out to be one of the better surprises of the relaunch as time goes on, if it maintains its focus.

And this is the other book that has the Internets ablaze this week. For my money, the representation of Starfire in Red Hood and The Outlaws #1 is only one part of the problem, though. The whole issue is basically cheap one liners and over the top mayhem. I get that it's not for me. I understand the audience for this is likely 13 year old boys who want to see some badass dudes do badass things and have hot chics run around half naked while they do it. Catering to your target audience however is not the same as pandering to them. You can write something for 13 year old boys without writing it as if you were a 13 year old boy yourself. There is a lack of imagination in this book that I think will be apparent, even to most walking hormones, once they get over the hot orange lady who has sex on a whim. And about that. I'm a father and I'm pretty sure when my 2 year old girl is old enough, if she were to read comics, this would be a huge problem for her. Make no mistake about it, and I know there has been debate online, this is an example of women being objectified, not empowered. Luckily, I'm willing to bet the book won't last long.

A first issue should introduce you to a character, give you some background on them, set up the major conflict and get you interested in the next issue. If that's done well, more than likely, it's done through action more so than a lot of exposition. Supergirl #1, by Michale Green and Michael Johnson, with art by Mahmud Asrar delivers on all counts. From the opening page, there's momentum that continues to build. The inner monologue is minimal, but tells us all we need to know at the right moments. The more I think about this issue, the more I think it was my favorite this week. In a week where Catwoman and Starfire were put through the ringer, it's good to see a female character get introduced in such an impactful manner, without resorting to unnecessary sexualizing. I never read Supergirl before, but I'm on board with this series. I hope they keep it up.

I'm calling it, folks, this is the Wonder Woman series she's always needed. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are cooking something here that I'm confident will be considered legendary. Right off, we don't even see Diana until several pages in and rather than try to give us an origin or some grandiose exposition, they just show us who she is. Setting up the mythological aspects in more of a horror tone really brings the whole concept down to earth, too. I think in the long run, it will make her more relatable. Like many out there, I've wanted to like Wonder Woman for a long time, but there has not been a series that really allowed for her to reach her full potential as a character. This is the time for it, and this is the book. Wonder Woman should be graceful, elegant, adventurous, brave, protective and more. Although we only get a small glimpse of her in action here, she is all those things. The pants or no pants argument is completely moot, which goes to show that it's about how the character is written, not so much how they are drawn. Having said that though, Chiang totally captures her personality in his clean, simple style. This is just a good book with a good team on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment