Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
“We took unremarkable men: usual bankers, run-of-the-mill priests, ordinary soldiers and statesmen and wives – and sacramentalized their mediocrity. We smoothed their noons with strings divisi! We pierced their nights with chittarini! We gave them processions for their strutting – serenades for their rutting – high horns for their hunting, and drums for their wars! Trumpets sounded when they entered the world, and trombones groaned when they left it! The savour of their days remains behind because of us, our music still remembered while their politics are long forgotten. Tell me, before you call us servants, who served whom? And who, I wonder, in your generation, will immortalize you?” (Antonio Salieri, from “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer)
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13 (“Batman Dies at Dawn!”) by Sholly Fisch (writer), Rick Burchett (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Carlos M. Mangual (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.
Usually, the issues of Batman: The Brave and the Bold are far better and tighter than your usual DC comic, and this is no exception, although it’s not quite as good as some others. The problem is that Fisch spends a lot of time with the set-up of this issue, so the resolution is kind of quick and lacking in drama. However, that doesn’t make it a bad issue, because the set-up is so excellent. Batman is shot while stopping a crime in Crime Alley that is very similar to the crime that turned him into Batman, and the Phantom Stranger places him in stasis so his condition doesn’t deteriorate. He calls together Robins from all time periods to get Batman to a Lazarus Pit so that he can be revived. He’s kind of vague why all these Robins can save Batman when he could call that Big Blue Boy Scout in Metropolis, who could get him in the Pit a lot easier, but who cares? This just means that Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Stephanie Brown, AND Carrie Kelley get to leap into battle, and yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds, from no one understanding Carrie’s patois to Damian realizing that the League of Assassins doesn’t know who he is because it’s before his time (it seems like this is when Jason was Robin, but perhaps not). It’s a clever issue with a lot of good characterization, and although it’s resolved a little too easily, that’s fine because the idea is so keen. Plus, the final page is pretty awesome, too.
As usual, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a fun comic. Why can’t more DC comics be like this? Beats me!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I love when Batwoman’s and Kate’s worlds mix, because we get the two different styles of artwork – the painted, smoother look of Batwoman, and the harder lines and brighter colors of Kate’s world. When Batwoman staggers back from her dunking and confrontation with the police and sees Bette, it’s a nice contrast not only in how the conversation plays out, but how Williams slowly turns Batwoman back into Kate. He does this really well, and it’s one of those things that not many artists even notice. The idea of superheroes having two separate identities isn’t new, of course, but the way Williams shows it visually is really nice.
The writing is getting stronger, too. Kate is definitely not portrayed like a perfect person, and the fact that she lashes out at Bette in this issue seems irrational, but that’s kind of the point. She’s unsure how to act and how to be a mentor and even how to be a hero, and Williams and Blackman are doing a good job with that. Yes, she might act horribly at times, but her outburst at Bette feels more real than many other instances of heroes snapping at their sidekicks, because it feels rawer and deeper and might not work out the way these things always do. I didn’t love the fact that Kate just cries a bit and Maggie lets her off the hook and they begin making out, but that just might be because I have a cold, black heart. It’s a cheap effect of fiction that the creators are allowed to make cuts wherever they want – in real life, the kiss would end at some point, and would Maggie then say, “Yes, that was nice and all, but you still need to tell me what’s going on”? I’m sure Williams and Blackman won’t drop this, but if the next time we see Kate and Maggie it’s post-coitus, I’m going to be disappointed. Still, the actual characterization of the two in that scene is well done, and that’s what I’m talking about with regard to the writing.
I hope that people aren’t getting bored with Williams’s magnificent layouts and pencil work. Yes, he does it every issue, but when you consider that he’s the only one doing stuff like this in mainstream comics (and most independent comics don’t look like this, either), it would be a shame if people became inured to it. It’s so amazing that even when I don’t mention it, it’s still superb.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Chris Brunner’s actual linework on Loose Ends is very good, but several pages in this are confusing because of the storytelling. Latour lets Brunner tell the story, and it’s clear that it’s basically Sonny and his girl (whose name escapes me) spending the day in Miami, but it’s still hard to get through. There’s a cameo by the Noid, of all things (really? the Noid?); there’s a homeless guy that seems to be a focus of attention but never appears again; there are flashbacks to issue #1 with no context; there’s a full-page drawing that’s almost completely black and shows Sonny and his girl embracing, and while the tone is sad because it’s clear that they’re remembering the incident from issue #1, it’s hard to even see what’s going on so the impact is lessened. Each drawing is well done and the layouts of the page are even interesting, but it’s still a bit confusing. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. I imagine the time between issues is making this more confusing than it really is. The art is still very good, and Brunner’s pencils and Renzi’s colors make this a gorgeous comic to look at, and I’m looking forward to the next issue.
Part of the problem is that Latour is taking his time with the story, which is a good idea but makes reading chapters somewhat frustrating. Add that to the delays between issues, and I’m having difficulty remembering what the plot of the book actually is, and there’s only one issue left! Obviously, that’s my problem, but I think Latour is being deliberately circuitous in telling the story, and while I think that will work when the entire series is done (if he sticks the landing, that is), it makes reading chunks of it frustrating. It’s like watching Memento 15 minutes at a time. How annoying would that be?
I hope the final issue comes out soon. This is an ambitious and fascinating comic, and I’m very keen to read the end of it. I’m sure it will all come together!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Operation: Broken Wings, 1936 #1 (of 3) by Herik Hanna (writer), Trevor Hairsine (artist), Sébastien Lamirand (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Deron Bennett (letterer). $3.99, 19 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.
For the second week in a row, it’s a European reprint from Boom! Studios, which is nice. This is a nifty little comic, as Hanna gives us a story about a German soldier in 1936 who is, apparently, somehow conspiring against the Nazi regime. This issue offers only a few hints about what he’s up to, but it’s clear that he has decided to change sides or perhaps simply leave the Nazi side. He kills an old German soldier and that soldier’s son at the beginning of the book, but Hanna does an interesting job not telling us that the victim was a long-time soldier until later in the issue. So we think that the major (he doesn’t get a name) is on a mission from his superiors, but then we aren’t sure, and it’s a good way to go. Hanna also flashes back to the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, where it appears that the protagonist saves Hitler’s life (it’s unclear), adding another interesting layer to the issue. Unfortunately, it’s only 19 pages, but it feels longer because there’s a lot going on.
Part of the reason I got this is because I’ve always liked Hairsine’s art, and he does a nice job. I don’t think he’s a great artist, but he has a nice style and I enjoy reading the comics he draws. He still has that scratchy, slightly rushed looking art, and Lamirand does a good job giving us muted colors that help make the Nazi regime seem oppressive because the brightness is leached out of the world. Hairsine is, I think, a good choice on the art, because his style makes things look sloppier and shows the Nazi regime as a seedy place, which isn’t a bad way to go. Hanna even gives Hairsine an excuse for the major’s shaggy hair and unshaven look, which seems out of place in 1936. So there’s that.
Operation: Broken Wings is a nice little comic. If you’re waiting for the trade, I can’t blame you, but it’s an entertaining and intriguing first issue.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
We learn a bit more about Felix’s past and how he was forged into a weapon, and I assume at some point Cosby and McCool will get around to why Felix chose to break from his upbringing. The plot continues to move along, as the team finds a senator in Colorado from whom they need to get a code. Of course, the senator is heavily protected by a security team and, of course, he’s banging some hot young thang, but that won’t stop the team! The one question I have about the plot is that Felix gets weapons and, apparently, kills the clerk at the gun store. Okay. But then, we find out that he’s loaded the weapons with tranquilizers so that the team doesn’t kill the security team. Did Felix kill the clerk? If so, why? If he did, why did he want to spare the security team? It seems like Cosby and McCool are showing that Felix is the “nice” guy who doesn’t want to be a killer, and that’s fine. So what happened in the gun store? Beats me. It’s an odd dichotomy within the issue itself – it’s not like one event happened a few issues ago and Cosby and McCool forgot about it. Or are we supposed to believe that Felix didn’t load the weapons? Oh, my head is spinning! Okay, there, it stopped.
Still, Pigs is on a nice track. I’m not completely sold on it, but it’s working so far!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Whenever anything comes out that has monsters and Japan in it, I think “What would this have looked like if Seth Fisher had drawn it?” This looks quite good, actually – Ponticelli does a nice job – but I think about what some of the double-page spreads would have looked like if Fisher drew it. And, given that it’s Layman writing, I imagine the script is pretty nuts (I haven’t read it yet), which would fit Fisher’s sensibilities. Man. People dying sucks.
Manga characters in the real world. It looks pretty terrific.
As some of you may know, I’m a Penn State alumnus, so this past week has been fairly yucky. I was writing about politics last week and the fact that everything happens so fast, and that’s what happened in this instance. I think Joe Paterno should have retired a few years ago, and I’m not that bugged by the fact that he was fired, but I am angry about the fact that the sanctimonious thundering from the media pulpit was basically what got him fired in the way he was. If you don’t know the facts of the case, I’m not going into it now (the .pdf of the grand jury’s report can be found here, in case you’re interested), but the fact that the media is focusing on the most famous person involved instead of the person who has been indicted for the crimes is ridiculous. One of the writers for the Penn State blog I read tweeted that Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with all these crimes, was working out at a gym on Wednesday morning, yet no member of the media was camped out there to bug him. As usual, the 24-hour news cycle needs talking heads, the more controversial the better, and so everyone rushes to judgment (this isn’t a new phenomenon, of course – just ask the Spanish in 1898). There’s a lot of blame to go around, and if it comes out that Paterno knew more than he’s telling, then I agree that he should be fired. But the self-righteousness of the media blowhards and their utter lack of knowledge about the legal process is awful. ESPN is the worst, but they’re not alone. Almost everyone at ESPN can go fuck themselves. I doubt very much if their on-air talent would remember that kids were raped if someone didn’t slip them a note occasionally.
In good news, Russell Pearce was shockingly voted out of office here in Arizona in a recall election. If you don’t know who Russell Pearce is, you may have heard of his baby, Senate Bill 1070, the anti-immigrant law which caused everyone to shit their shorts around the country a few years ago. SB 1070 still hasn’t been implemented, but it still proved that everyone in Arizona was a racist, knuckle-dragging mouth-breather who jerks off to pictures of Hitler, right? Is anyone going to point out that a lot of Arizonans don’t like Pearce and his xenophobic rhetoric and the fact that he’s been almost the de facto governor for the past few years because he threatened to withhold support for the actual governor unless she danced to his tune, and those Arizonans acted accordingly and got rid of him? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Calling an entire group of people something derogatory is a lot easier than saying that maybe some people have different ideas about complex issues. The guy who beat Pearce is a fairly conservative Republican who doesn’t think SB 1070 is a horrible idea, but at least he understands that maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to piss off a huge section of your constituency if you want to stay in office. I don’t care if Lewis (the winner) wants to work on immigration reform, but maybe he’ll realize that you can’t really go too far with it. I don’t know much about Lewis, but I do know that Pearce is a tool. So I’m glad he lost.
Moving on, let’s take a look at The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “I Want It All” – Queen (1989) “Just give me what I know is mine; people do you hear me just give me the sign”
2. “Memories Can’t Wait” – Living Colour (1988) “There’s a party in my mind and I hope it never stops”
3. “The Golden Age” – Beck (2002) “You gotta drive all night just to feel like you’re okay”
4. “S.I.M.P. (Squirrels In My Pants)” – 2 Guys N the Parque (2008) “How can I qualify for government grants?”
5. “Hey, Hey Helen” – ABBA (1975) “So you’re free, at last, and beginning to forget the past”
6. “River To My Soul” – Janet Speaks French (1994) “The world is flesh, and I am steel”
7. “Values” – Hamell on Trial (2006) “If you can’t make sense no more, take off your diaper, take a shit on the floor”
8. “Do You Recall” – Journey (1979) “You told me that you were leavin’, ’cause we can’t go on this way”
9. “Bridge” – Queensrÿche (1994) “Time has made you finally realize your
loneliness and your guilt inside”
10. “Hearts” – Yes (1983) “As we flow down life’s river, I see the stars glow one by one”
Finally, here is a Totally Random Movie Quote!
“What are you doing here?”
“Take it easy. I’m just a messenger. I brought you a drink.”
“I don’t want your drink. Why are you following me?”
“I’m not following you, I’m looking for you. There’s a big difference.”
Spooooooky!!!!! Anyway, have a nice day, everyone. I apologize for not buying more comics. It’s not that I don’t like them any more, it’s just that I really am trying to wait for the trades on things (like the Godzilla book!), so my weekly single issue purchases are going down. We’ll see where that leads us! For now, it means fewer books per week. Oh well!
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