Review: Catwoman #5

Catwoman #5, Cover by Guillem March

Catwoman #1 was not an easy book to support.  The cheesecake was excessive, the sex was gratuitous, and the take on Selina seemed, at first, to be incredibly reductive and simplistic.  But I enjoyed it anyway.  The pacing was propulsive, the action was non-stop, and there was a wit, a sense of fun, that many books in the New 52 lacked.  Those were the qualities that kept me interested in the book, and I’m glad I stuck by it: though Winick and March’s Catwoman is still fairly flawed, it’s also a ceaselessly exciting read, a hyper-active take on a classic character that magnifies all her best and worst traits to a cartoonish degree and then sets her loose to wreak havoc in DC’s grimmest city.

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Review: Batwing #1

Note: This is the preliminary cover, not the final one.

Batwing is brought to us by legendary writer Judd Winick and artist Ben Oliver. And by “legendary,” I really mean “extremely hit-or-miss.” Winick is one of those guys that comes along and writes a very thought provoking story – the resurrection of Jason Todd and his new mission to cause as much grief as he possibly can to his old mentor – and then rides the waves of that story’s success for most of his career. I can’t really say that Red Hood: The Lost Days was particular awe inspiring, nor was his take on Grant Morrison’s take of the Red Hood in Batman and Robin #23-25 (he somehow managed to avoid everything that Morrison did to reinvent the Red Hood as a villain and brought him back to being a guy who trolls Batman). When asked about his Catwoman series for the New 52, he said “sexy” so many times I forgot what the story was about to begin with. So, Batwing did not look to be very inspiring.

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What to Expect: Week 1 of the Relaunch

While lebeau continues to give you a fantastic title-by-title breakdown of the upcoming relaunch, I’m going to take a slightly different take on things.    With the full solicits revealed, release dates included, we now have a slightly better idea of what to expect come September.  So I’m going to break down the solicits by release date, talk a little bit about what I’m going to get – and what I’m going to skip – and why, so you’ll have an idea of what some of the books that will definitely see coverage here will be… and which of your favorites you can heartily mock me for skipping.

So, with that brief introduction, on to week one of the solicits, otherwise known as… September 7th.

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Review: The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius

Ween

Judd Winick is now a fairly controversial creator in comics, joining Loeb, Liefeld, Land and a few others that have camps of admirers nearly as fervent as their camps of detractors.  But while Loeb, Liefeld and Land all enjoyed a great deal of mainstream popularity that built them up a lot of goodwill over the years, the two books that got Winick recognized were small indie comics written and drawn by him.  The first and most famous, Pedro & Me is a heartfelt look back on one of Winick’s dead friends, Pedro Zamora.  The other is far more of a cult success… and a far stronger book altogether.  That was his run on the four-volume The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, now collected by Oni Press into a single massive volume.

Barry Ween is a young genius in the vein of Dexter from Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory, except inched slightly closer to our world and rated a hard R.  The Adventures of Barry Ween followed the titular character, a pre-teen super-genius that could make Reed Richards look like an idiot and Dr. Doom seem downright benevolent at times, through a series of random, hilarious story arcs that flesh out Ween’s mad world.

Though the humor is indescribably juvenile, the emotion behind it is anything but.  As the series goes on, you begin to notice the little things about Barry – his loyalty to his friends, his conviction in ultimately doing what’s right, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to help others, to name a few.  These small moments build up into a heart-breaking climax that raises the book above being a slight, fun book into a great comedy with surprising honesty.

Grade: A

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Bruce Castle Archives: Batman Under the Hood Vol 2

SPOILERS!!!

So this is the second trade from Winick and crew dealing with Jason Todd’s return. So you get an issue giving a flashback showing you who Jason Todd was. Batman understands now that it is Jason Todd he’s dealing with. He’s investigating his coffin and he determines that no one has ever been in it.

Red Hood is still haunting Black Mask. He even shoots a rocket at his office. Deathsroke says that he and his society can get rid of Red Hood for him.

So, when Red Hood next tries to screw with Black Mask’s men, Hyena, Captain Nazi, and Count Vertigo show up to kill him (Wow! The society sent their A-list!). Batman shows up and we get Red Hood and Batman teaming up to fight the bad ass villains, ok maybe not. They beat the baddies but Red Hood kills Captain Nazi getting Batman to scream “NOOO!”. I didn’t know that Batman and Captain Nazi were such good pals.

Black Mask kills his own men to get on the good side of Red Hood. What?! Oh it was just a trick. Black Mask and Red Hood get in a fight. Black Mask stabs Red Hood with his own dagger. Batman arrives just in time to see Red Hood die. Wow! They brought a character back from the dead after 17 years just to have Black Mask kill him?!

Oh good, it’s not Jason Todd under the mask. The real Jason is over at Joker’s pad. We see Jason Todd dealing with a very oddly written Joker. Batman deals with Black Mask in a very peaceful manner. Isn’t this the guy that tortured and ended up killing Stephanie Brown? I thought Batman would be a bit madder at him but oh well. The issue ends with Batman and Jason Todd watching as Chemo drops on Bludhaven. Oh no is Nightwing dead? “One son returns from the grave as another enters it”.

So they fight back to where Jason is keeping the Joker. Hey has anyone else noticed that Joker has been a whipping boy lately? He gets severely beaten in this a few times. He gets shot in the face in Grant Morrison’s run. Then he gets beaten and I think shot again later in Morrison’s run. What’s up with that? Anyway, so Jason Todd gives Batman the whole why didn’t you kill him thing. Batman of course brings up that it would be too easy. He even goes into this whole thing about how he thinks constantly about torturing Joker and slowly killing him and stuff. That is a bit too sadistic for a hero that the kids love isn’t it? The arc ends with little resolution. The place blows up with Batman, Joker, and Jason Todd in it and all we see is Batman yelling Jason. Hmm, that is kind of weak.

Also included with this issue is the annual that talks more about Jason. We get a few more flashbacks about Jason’s life. We then learn that the whole reason why Jason is back is because of Superboy-Prime. When he broke out of that place he was in it changed history. You then see Jason waking up in his coffin. Didn’t Batman say earlier that no one had been in the coffin? So Jason breaks out of the coffin that he was never in and wanders around for a while. He then gets picked up by Talia and later gets tossed in the Lazarus pit to jog his memory. So Jason figures out that Joker still hasn’t been killed and gets pissed. We then learn that it was really him in Hush but he switched with Clayface mid fight. So then the issue ends with the narrative saying make no mistake it is Jason Todd.

So first, I’m going to talk about characters returning from the dead. I’m not a big fan of it. It detracts from the story that they got killed in, there are already plenty of DC characters why do we need Jason Todd back, and also if characters keep coming back from the dead what’s the point of killing them? I personally liked A Death in the Family. I thought it was too bad fans voted Jason dead but at least we got a good story out of it and it also gave Batman something to haunt him. What was the point of bringing him back?

Now, if this story was written well, it may have answered my question. I’m not a big fan of Bucky coming back from the dead, but at least his return was written extremely well. Brubaker wrote that story so well that it started to actually make sense how he was back and why he was back. I read a quote from Judd Winick somewhere and he said that he didn’t care how the character came back, just what affect it would have on Batman. That’s fine for you Judd, but what about the rest of us? Personally I felt the reason for Jason coming back was extremely weak, who cares about the whole Superboy-Prime thing anyway?

The concept of why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker is an interesting one, but it could have been done much better and has been. Even if you forget about all the resurrection stuff, which is hard to do, I still don’t think this was a very good story. I’m not a big Judd Winick fan anyway and this again just seems like a lot of lazy writing. It seems like one day he just thought, hey I’ll bring Jason Todd back! And the next day he just through something together and handed it to DC. I wish Jason would have stayed dead and if he had to come back I wish he would have been brought back in a much better way.

1 and a half star

Bruce Castle Archives: Batman Under the Hood Vol 1

Under The Hood Vol. 1

SPOILERS!!!

Well, here it is the story that brought Jason Todd back from the dead. Seventeen years after the Robin had been brutally killed by fans, he comes back to us. I’ll talk more about comic resurrection in my review of vol. 2.

The story opens with Batman and the Red Hood battling on a rooftop. The battle hits the ground and Batman’s mask comes off. So does Red Hood’s and Batman says “oh, god”. The rest of the story is told in flashback. Bruce Wayne loses some money and Red Hood takes down some goons and tells them to stop dealing to kids. The new bad ass Black Skull deals with this by hiring Mr. Freeze.

Batman and Nightwing hang out and punch bad guys. They run into Amazo. We then get an Amazo, Batman, NIghtwing battle issue which I have to admit was a hell of a lot of fun. Even if you hate this trade, you’ve got to love that fight. Black Mask is dealing with a temperamental Mr. Freeze and Red Hood steals a big crate of Kryptonite from him. Black Mask is certainly having troubles.

Black Mask sends Mr. Freeze to deal with Red Hood and of course Batman and Nightwing are there too. They fight and the baddies run away. Um, I guess Batman gets the kryptonite? Something else for his cave maybe? Red Hood then tracks down Joker and of course beats him nearly to death. Oh the irony! Oh and it is revealed that Red Hood is Jason Todd!

Red Hood continues to screw with Black Mask. Batman begins to suspect who he is dealing with and begins to question, how do comic characters come back to life? Batman has an angry moment with Zatanna and a lazarus pit. Batman then questions Jason Blood. We see some crappy good guy vigilante come into the picture, Onyx I guess. Batman questions Green Arrow and then Superman.

Onyx and Red Hood end up on the same side taking down some goons. We begin to understand that Red Hood is trying to be Batman, only you know, kill people. Batman arrives to save Onyx which leads to the fight we saw in the beginning of the trade. It ends on an anti-climactic note with the fight ending and Jason Todd giving Batman the evidence he needs to prove that it is Jason Todd.

It’s been about two years since I last read this. I was much less impressed with it than I was the last time I read it. I’m not a Judd Winick fan at all and most of what he writes is bad, this is probably his best story though. What I did like is that this is a Batman we don’t usually see, he is very old. He is obsessed with mortality and he constantly reminisces. As I stated earlier, I loved the fight with Amazo, that was a lot of fun. On the down side, a lot of this is very silly. Mr. Freeze is prominently featured in about three issues which concludes with about three pages of him fighting and then he runs. The kryptonite crate is introduced and then is not resolved. It just seems like a lot of lazy writing. The art isn’t that great either. It looks very cartoony which doesn’t fit at all with the subject matter. Even the Amazo fight, which was my favorite part in the trade, really didn’t have anything to do with anything other than to give Batman someone to fight.

2 and a half stars out of 4

This is probably too generous of a rating, but I have to recommend the trade a little for its importance to the Batman mythos and that Amazo fight.

Review/RANT: Titans #1

This book is just shameful. Everyone that took a paycheck for this dreck should be ashamed of themselves. Dear Judd Winick, I hate you. You are a bad, bad writer. You used to be decent, I used to like you! Now, you just litter your books with stupid things. Stupid things like:

• Nightwing breaks his fall with a batarang. Lameness ensues.
• Nightwing protects his anus from silly S&M villains.

Gratuitous nudity. Why. Does the plot. Call f
or. This?
• Note to Ian Chruchill: Learn to draw new faces.
• Not every superhero’s bike needs side mounted missiles.
• Beast Boy can turn into pretty much any animal and this is the best you can come up with?
• This page is just WRONG. The Number one reason not to “wack it” in the shower.
• Wally gets weird orange goo but Donna gets tentacle porn?
• Is this really what Robin thinks about? His team’s mission statement?
• Note to Batman:
Trim your cape. It’s embarrassing.
Powerboy is dead? Wait, this one should go in the “pro” column. Sorry.

Can it get worse? Yeah, I’m already pre-ordered on the first three issues, I think. The one downside to ordering two months in advance, you usually have nothing to go by but the writer or artist’s reputation and the purposefully vague advanced solicits. To be honest, I did know about the silly Starfire nude scenes before I ordered, but I was hoping it was just one of those lame first issue stunts that writers pull to get people on board. I was hoping the rest of the issue would make up for it. I was hoping Winick’s writing had improved. I should have been hoping for a re-solicit due to lateness so I could cancel my orders. BLARGH.