SPOILERS for like all the stories in this issue
Arkham City game is just around the corner, so I thought I’d pick up the recently collected trade version of the comic series Batman: Arkham City. For those who don’t know, it’s the tie in between the first game and the upcoming game and of course, beware of SPOILERS!
Twenty-two pages fills up fast. There’s no denying that. Action sequences often eat up huge chunks of a book, and you can only fit so much dialogue on the page before it becomes cluttered, not to mention how much of the probably excellent art you’ll be covering up by doing so. So, understandably, most writers will have their stories run in arcs, often using well over 100 pages to let it unfold. It’s not hard to see why, but the tendency to keep expanding the story is part of what makes it so rewarding when you come across a single issue that manages to not only exemplify what it is you so love about that particular book, or even comics in general, but that manages to do so with an impressive economy of storytelling. One Shot is meant to take a close look at why those issues work as well as they do, the way they do.
Minor Spoilers Continue reading
There were a lot of honorable mentions this month – June 2009 was one of the best months for comics in a good long while. From Gail Simone’s always fun Secret Six to the sleeper hit of the month for me, Rucka’s Action Comics Annual #12 – and, spoiler alert, tomorrow’s review of Kathryn Immonen rock-solid first issue on Marvel’s Runaways – June made this a pretty damn hard call to make. I’ve given out a few pretty bad grades this month, but for the most part, the average was high – there were more A-‘s than B’s for the first time in my reviewing history on the site!
To my surprise, as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Batman as a character or as a mythos terribly much, three of the best books I read this month were newly-launched Bat-books/arcs. Also a first? Two different Marvel books were edging in on the top 5. Any other month, Runaways #11 or Captain Britain and MI:13 #14 would’ve had a strong shot at prime placement.
Edit: Since I hadn’t put the review up yet, I forgot, but a Marvel title actually did make the Top 5. Sorry, Paul Dini.
#5 Incognito #4
There hasn’t been a bad issue yet of the Brubaker/Phillips collaboration Incognito. I don’t yet know if it’ll be able to match Sleeper or Criminal – two absolutely stellar works in a similar vein… and yes, they have one or two other things in common with this book – but this issue kept the story moving along faster than I could believe and with a great deal of style and a sense of pulp adventure. Incognito is a blast to read, without a doubt.
#4 Batman and Robin #1
Splashy, gorgeous art? Check. Interesting new villain? Check. Rousing adventure? Check. Batman and Robin #1 has all that along with great panelling and the coolest sound effects you can imagine. Morrison and Quitely make quite a team, as they’ve illustrated numerous times in the past, and this looks to be no exception.
#3 The Unwritten #2
Carey and Gross continue on with a second issue every bit as good as their first in one of the strongest Vertigo launches I’ve seen in awhile. There are so many small touches that go into making this book great that I can hardly list them, but this is definitely a title to be on the lookout for. If you aren’t picking it up monthly, be sure to be on the lookout for the trades.
#2: Detective Comics #854
Together, J.H. Williams III and Greg Rucka delivered a stellar opening issue to Batwoman’s stint on Detective Comics… and that’s before you add the talented Cully Hamner into the mix with his and Rucka’s The Question backup. The book was fast-paced and exciting while still introducing a supporting cast, a new villain, and a personality in the formerly personalitiless Kate Kane. It did a whole lot in a tiny space, and left me eagerly awaiting more.
#1: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3
God, what a strange, strange book. Wonderful, though. As a surreal adventure books, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye is a satisfying book with a sharp edge of humor and a knack for innovation. As a meta-commentary on super-hero comics, it was cutting, clever and fun. As the finale of a three–issue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.
– Cal Cleary
I hadn’t planned to pick this up, based on the previews, but after Dini’s fantastic Batman: Streets of Gotham and following his great run on Detective Comics, I though the book deserved a chance. Gotham City Sirens operates as a team-up book between Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy in the extremely chaotic new Gotham City. Alongside the recent Batman & Robin #1, Detective Comics #854, Batman #687, and Red Robin #1 (and, of course, Dini’s other title, Streets), Sirens is also about the efforts of a number of former supporting characters trying to carve out their own piece of the City, in one way or another. But how does it work?
Despite some quality work, both from writer Paul Dini and artist Guillem March, though, the answer for the book is largely ‘no’. It’s a slight, breezy read, and Dini does a better job than I thought he would in introducing Catwoman into the beloved Harlvey/Ivy mix, but where it ultimately fails is in the art. March and Dini appear to have taken the theory “Give them what they want” to rather extreme lengths – the amount of cheesecake in the book is absurd.
Which is unfortunate. When March isn’t concerned with arching backs just enough to highlight both the breasts and the butts of the anti-heroines in every panel they’re in, he draws some genuinely dynamic fight scenes that were a pleasure to watch. His style is a little too cartoonish for the book at times – it seems like he’s trying to go for funny through exaggerated and never quite gets there – but his work is far from bad, it just isn’t used as well as it could be.
I’m also glad that Dini is following up on what happened to Catwoman in Heart of Hush, even if what happened to Catwoman in Heart of Hush was absolutely ridiculous (in a bad way). Dini provides the core of an interesting book here – Catwoman recovering from a recent trauma with two people she absolutely can’t trust… but the last she heard, Bruce was dead, Tim was seriously wounded, and the guy dressed as Batman beat the tar out of her, so her circle of ‘friends’ is diminishing quickly.
All that could be very, very interesting, played the right way. But instead, Dini and March seem to have opted to play it Charlie’s Angels style, a concept that may not exactly have staying power when you consider the fact that two of the three of them are two of Gotham’s most hardcore villainesses. And, to be entirely frank, I’m not sure I’d miss it if it were gone.