Saturday, August 22, 2015

Superman: Fury at Worlds End (comics)

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Collects: Superman #0, 13-17

This volume is entirely pointless and its existence annoys the crap out of me. Fury At Worlds End is one of those volumes that collects a particular books issues of a crossover and nothing else. In this case, the Superman issues of H'el on Earth.

It's one of the most annoying practices comic companies pull and DC was especially guilty of it around the period this trade came out; see JL: The Grid and JLA: Worlds Most Dangerous, which had chapters of Trinity War. Sure, technically, you can fill in the blanks enough through basic logic to read this on its own, but most of the reasoning behind several plot points is stripped. Why is Supergirl so wrapped up in this guys bull? How did H'el get his hands on Superboy? How did H'el and Supergirl get control of the Fortress of Solitude? I don't know. You don't know. All of that happened in the Superboy and Supergirl issues of the crossover.

If you're interested in the story, basically someone names H'el shows up claiming to be a lost kryptonian and he's ready to wipe Earth off the map to bring Krypton back. He's convinced Supergirl to join him, I assume because she's got some serious PTSD over Kryptons destruction, so bringing it back appeals to her. Superman has to stop them. That's the long and the short of it. Most of the details are lost in the absence of the other two comics.

The writing is another throwback. The same problem previous volumes had. Reads like it belongs in another era, so on and so forth. This is clearly going to be an issue with Lobdells Superman going forward, so if that bugs you, it's probably safe to write off the New 52 Superman book for now, because Lobdells around for a while. I guess it doesn't bother me all that much - not like the characterization does, at any rate - but it can be tiresome.

Speaking of characterization, everyone in this book is an asshole. Superman is short with Superboy and barely seems to tolerate him at times. Kara's easily led by the nose and quick to distrust her cousin. Clark is a prick to Lois because she's moving in with her boyfriend and I guess she needs to run that by him first or something. No one is particularly likable. I really hope it's just a hiccup, because if this is the way everyone is going to be written going forward I'm not sure I'll continue with the book for long.

But hey, there are good things to be said! The artist is Kenneth Rocafort, an artist I'm rather fond of. I like his linework and style and the color is perfect. I assume he works with the same colorists every time? I checked and he's paired with Sunny Gho and Blond. I haven't checked before, so I'm not sure if they're the same colorists he always works with, but if so, he should definitely stick with them. The only problem here? I wish Rocafort were on a book I cared more about; so far, Superman has not been kind to me and I'm not super interested in Red Hood and the Outlaws.

The art is the only thing really worth praising, though. If you're going to read this, you should be reading the big, all encompassing volume titled, wait for it, "H'el on Earth"! It has every issue this one does, save #0. This is not a problem, because issue #0 has nothing to do with anything else in the Superman comic up through H'el on Earth. You don't have any other exclusive material like the Justice League books, so seriously, don't even bother with this.

For my part, I may read the trade collection that has the entire story at some point, but I'm beginning to lose patience with the New 52 Superman book. This is the third volume that has landed with a thud. Between the constant creative changeovers and the dated feel of the writing, this has been the weirdest comic launch I've seen and also the least interesting. I may give Lobdell another volume - Justice League pissed me off worse and my opinion on it took a major turn, so I feel like I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't give him another chance - but if that doesn't grab me I'm out until Gene Luen Yang takes over.

But seriously DC. Slapping the issues of a crossover together in a standalone volume? That's incredibly sleazy. Cut that shit out. Just title the next standalone story "volume three" if you have to.

My Opinion: Skip It

Monday, August 3, 2015

Batman and Robin: Dark Knight vs White Knight (comics)

Writers: Paul Cornell, Peter J. Tomasi, Judd Winick
Artists: Scott McDaniel, Patrick Gleason, Greg Tocchini
Collects: Batman and Robin #17-25

This, my friends, is what we call a holding pattern.

Grant Morrison had just finished up on this title - its part to play in his ongoing Batman Epic over - and despite the insistence it should be by armchair analysts who feel they know it all, it wasn't cancelled. In fact, they had a pretty exciting team lined up to take over. Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Well, turns out Flashpoint was just around the corner, so there's some time to kill; might as well get an arc out of the two with the old status quo, rotate some other teams in and start their actual run in earnest with the relaunch.

That's not to say Dark Knight vs White Knight is without merit. Of the three arcs collected, two are decent to good, with only one dropping to mediocre. Paul Cornell's story has an old flame of Bruce Waynes come back to haunt his sons, seemingly for Bruces negligence. Tomasi's arc concerns a new villain, the titular "White Knight"; the name is lame, but he has an interesting hook in that he aims to kill off the family lines of everyone in Arkham to stop the spread of their "evil".

Only Judd Winicks arc really falls below par. It concerns Jason Todd - a character Winick knows well - and while that's enough to get your interest it never really goes anywhere. It seems to exist mainly to undo the position Todd had been put in at the end of the second arc of Morrisons run on the title. Why? I don't know. The relaunch was right around the corner. I mean, we don't even find out the motives of the group that's after him; they're just there, seemingly for no other reason than to give the three sons of Batman someone to fight. It's competantly written and has a few fun scenes, but once you get to the end and nothing feels truly resolved, the whole thing feels like stalling.

For some reason I can't fathom, the last issue of Batman and Robin - issue #26 - is absent. Why? I haven't a damn clue. the trade was already nine issues. There's no good reason not to slip the last issue of the volume in, especially considering there is nowhere else it would fit and as such it went uncollected. No, it's fine, it's not like it was the issue I wanted to read the most out of the ten.

The art is, for the most part, pretty damn good. I'm not always the biggest fan of Scott McDaniels art, but there's no question it works for Batman. Patrick Gleason is just excellent and rightly goes on to be a steady hand in the Bat books from here on out. But it's the last arc that stumbles. The first issue of the three is a half and half job between Guillem March and Andre Bressan. That's not so bad; Bressan does a good enough job aping Marchs style. No, where things go sour is when we switch to Tocchini for the last two issues.

Now, I like Tocchini's artwork - his style reminds me a bit of Frazier Irving, though part of it comes down to the coloring - but stylistically it's the most jarring shift you could ever ask for mid-arc. Why? Hell if I know.

But hey. Two out of three ain't bad, right? Aside from the missing issue, which probably annoys me a hell of a lot more than it would you, this is a fairly solid volume. Not something you just gotta have, but for something coming out sandwiched between two long, acclaimed runs, you could do a lot worse.

My Opinion: Try It