Wednesday, Comics #18
WHAT I BOUGHT
-Captain America #607
-Green Lantern #55
-The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1
-Secret Avengers #2
BOOK OF THE WEEK
This is kind of a cheat, but damn the rules when the book is this good. Batwoman: Elegy collects seven outstanding issues in a gorgeous oversized hardcover, and is worth every penny to anyone even marginally serious about comics. A bold statement, sure, but the book succeeds brilliantly on every level of production; JH Williams’ amazing artwork creates a tangible world for writer Greg Rucka’s realistic characters to inhabit. It’s hard to even quantify the book in any normal sense, hard to tell whether it is Rucka’s writing or Williams’ artwork that separates it from the rest of the comics on an already crowded rack. This touches on the problem of judging the finished product in separate measures of art and writing when they work so incredibly together.
Batwoman is what the medium is about, collaboration on the Bendis/Maleev, Brubaker/Phillips level, where the art and writing merge together into a synthesized, unique whole.
But enough of the pandering intellectualism that only an English major could manage. The best part about the collected edition is the elegant simplicity of the story. Rucka doesn’t throw a diabolically complex plot at the reader, preferring a more straightforward narrative that undergirds his outstanding character work. The characters determine everything in the book from the stakes of the superhero fistfights to the outstanding drama of the family conflict at the center of the story. Stakes come up a lot here, rightfully so, because without discernable stakes, the characters are unable to drive the story. For example, if the relationship between Batwoman and her father is not established early in the first issue, his kidnapping at the end of the first story arc has no dramatic weight to it and Batwoman’s attempt to rescue him (and Gotham) feels incredibly hollow. Rucka’s characterization is absolutely masterful.
Rucka’s characters in the hands of a great artist like JH Williams makes the collection that much more of a treat. It’s obvious from his work here that he’s one of the best artists in the medium, using continuously inventive panel design and adopting various styles in order to tell his story. The more current elements of the story are told in more contemporary styles, resembling—and surpassing—the work of Alex Ross, for example. Alternatively, sequences that take place in Batwoman’s past, specifically her origin story, look more like the work of Batman: Year One artist David Mazzuchielli, something that ties Batwoman and Batman’s histories together in content as well as aesthetics. While it’s not that enjoyable to listen to me explain it to you without the visuals to back it up, but believe me when I say that it’s a joy to read.
Finishing the collection is bittersweet, though, because it’s the last Batwoman story Rucka will write. He’ll continue to produce amazing comics, certainly, but seeing Batwoman go on without his guidance is somewhat depressing. He’s just scratched the surface of what would have probably been a massive story, if the hints given in this volume were picked up for subsequent arcs. This collection presents seven outstanding issues. Sometimes, you just need to be thankful for what you’re given. Thanks you show by prominently displaying Batwoman: Elegy on your bookshelf.
Captain America #607 – I love the story Brubaker is telling here, and while the fill-in art is somewhat distracting, the book still looks good. The back-up, however, continues to be terrible. The biggest problem is that it feels shoddily tacked onto the book. But worse than that, it just doesn’t work. The art is a downshift in quality—it looks downright amateurish—and the tone doesn’t match Brubaker’s headlining Captain America story. What is a Disney-Channel-esque teen drama doing behind a long-form, adult story? Come on, I’ll pay five bucks to get my un-back-uped Captain America back instead of paying four for this.
Green Lantern #55 – I’m really digging Doug Mahnke’s art on this book. The story is building nicely, with Hal Jordan getting the Lantern band back together, but the art is what I’m relishing the book for. Everything looks great, especially a fight between the Lanterns and the intergalactic bounty hunter, Lobo. Better still is the back-up about Dex-Starr, the cat Red Lantern. In six pages it shows not only that Geoff Johns has a great sense of humor, but also that he can do a lot with so few pages. Take note, Captain America, this is how you do a proper back-up.
The Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 – Stuff like this is why Matt Fraction is one of my favorite writers. He takes a brilliant premise and crafts something unique from it. This massive issue—you get a lot of bang for five dollars, here—is essentially the reintroduction of The Mandarin, Iron Man’s nemesis. It’s a character study, character deconstruction on an epic level as Fraction tells the tale of a kidnapped filmmaker tasked with directing a film about The Mandarin’s life. The director then has to sift through the lies that The Mandarin is telling him in order to make a movie that isn’t completely ridiculous. It’s a book about art, but with an entertaining slant. Fascinating, in a word.
Secret Avengers #2 – This is a slick book. I love the team Brubaker has picked, and his take on top-cop Steve Rogers is awesome. The book is just warming up, and Brubaker is moving his pieces very carefully to make the first arc memorable. There’s a lot of mystery going on here, stuff that it will take a couple of issues to truly flesh out. The Avengers are on Mars, poking around. It’s more interesting than I’m making it out to be, with thanks due to Mike Deodato’s excellent, moody artwork. The book is shaping up to be a standalone, unique Avengers book, which is hard considering that there are four of them coming out every month. Well done.
BACK UP MATERIAL
(I don’t really care that much, as long as the story is good)
I’m not sure what to make of Marvel’s new TV Division…
This is a really nice column that highlights some stuff that I wouldn’t normally buy.