Comixtime: “Taste JUSTICE, impostors!”
Well, I spent a while without doing these capsule reviews. But for a long time I was buying the same comics, with more or less the same rate of returns. But there’s enough variety in my comics this week to merit a new post.
J.H. Williams III (Co-writer/Artist), W. Haden Blackman (Co-writer), Dave Stewart (Colours), Todd Klein (Letters)
As this issue ends the first arc of Williams and Blackman’s relaunched Batwoman series, it’s as good a time to check back in as any. I’ve enjoyed the series; Williams is one of the best artists working in American superhero comics today, and his talent shines on every page. The writing is less great, but still serviceable. As a whole it’s a perfectly fine comic - which makes it stand out like gold dust against most of DC’s New 52 outpost.
I’ve had issues with the pacing, but Williams as the artist feels able to luxuriate in his process, as opposed to when writers like Morrison or Rucka cram as much story as possible into the few issues they have Williams for. But I like that hyper-compressed style, and the five issues of this series end in a glorified shuffling around of pieces. After a damp-squib showdown with the Weeping Woman, Batwoman and government agent Cameron Chase finally meet, setting up a new status quo for our hero and her supporting characters.
Williams’ art is predictably gorgeous, particularly the neat trick of adopting different styles for drawing Kate/Batwoman, Bette, Sawyer and Chase, which emphasises the feel of different storylines converging and colliding. And the panel borders featuring Batwoman facing off against the Weeping Woman, which change from jagged lines (Kate’s side) to fluid Art Nouveau-esque boundaries. But great art alone doesn’t make a comic a must-buy, particularly as Williams is taking a break from drawing the series after this issue. It’s good, y’know? I just wish it could be better.
Mudman #1 & #2
Paul Grist (Writer/Artist), Bill Crabtree (Colours)
Writer/artist Grist delivers an unashamedly British take on superheroes in the first two issues of this new series. It has a clean-cut “kids’ comics” sense of storytelling that manages to be more alive and enjoyable than the sex’n’gore “mature” cape books that make up a lot of current DC/Marvel output.
Grist’s deliberately basic art camouflages an excellent grasp of visual storytelling and panel composition. And the dialogue is very funny, whether doing a Grange Hill-style take on the schoolboy hero’s civilian life, or fleshing out two seemingly-disposable criminals in issue #2. It’s great fun, and I’m onboard for the duration.
Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi (Co-writers), Tonci Zonjic (Artist), Dave Stewart (Colours), Clem Robins (Letters)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Hellboy and the surrounding universe is kind of a blind spot for me, mostly because the main series and its spin-offs present such a daunting amount of comics to get stuck into. I picked this up on a whim after hearing about the ridiculously talented Tonci Zonjic on art. I wasn’t disappointed. The story’s set in the 1930s/40s, which gives Zonjic a chance to cut loose with his wonderful clear-line cartooning, while incorporating vintage pulp-noir stylings; guys in fedoras, dames in cloche hats.
The story itself is neither here nor there - you get a breif glimpse of Lobster Johnson, the ostensible “hero” of the piece, but the His Girl Friday-style female journalist gets central billing in this first issue. There’s definite potential for a decent story here, but right now I’m buying it as an art showcase, and Zonjic is more than up to the task.
Ed Brubaker (Writer), Sean Phillips (Artist), Dave Stewart (Colours)
Brubaker and Phillips’ latest series is billed as a departure from the regular crime-fiction fare. Not so much, from the latest issue; it’s a very noirish story so far, with some occasional horror flourishes to let us know it’s not a Criminal story. This first issue suffers in comparison to the excellent “Last Of The Innocent" Criminal arc, which was one of the best stories Brubaker/Phillips have ever done.
This drop-off is mostly due to the fact that this issue is split between two stories, a present-day prologue featuring one of Brubaker’s archetypal noir heroes and the mysterious titular femme fatale Josephine, and a 1950s crime story with Josephine involved with a crusading journalist and a corrupt detective.
The creative team work predictably well in tandem, matching Brubaker’s moody noir narration with Phillips’ shadowy art. Phillips doesn’t vary his style as much as on ”Last Of The Innocent”, but he still stages some excellent talky scenes and action sequences, equally at ease with 2010s and 1950s America. This first issue may not have set my world on fire, but there’s potential here. And I trust Brubaker/Phillips enough to stick with this series.