Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 08/17/11

It's that time of week again.  I'd like to welcome you all back to that wonderful little feature we like to call the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  Three comics on deck this time around, so let's stop all this yammering and get to those reviews!


Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Steve Scott, Daniel Sampere & Andrei Bressan

For whatever reason, DC brass decided that, instead of letting Tony Daniel finish his run on Batman, they would give the last issue to Fabian Nicieza and let him cap things off with a retrospective issue.  As I mentioned in my previews, I was excited for this book because I don't much care for Daniel's writing and I usually enjoy these look back issues.  However, though the comic certainly spends its fair share of time in the past, it all falls a little flat.

The issue is structured with an unseen narrator telling the story of Batman and Robin (or more accurately Batmen and Robins) to an unseen audience.  It's not a bad way to organize the story, but it also has some serious shortcomings.  The main problem is that the story encompasses way too much.  It goes from Bruce Wayne becoming Batman all the way to his return and the current status quo.  No matter how much you gloss in such a narrative, it's just too much to shove into one twenty-page comic, and the story suffers for it.  It also makes for a pretty predictable read, since most everyone knows the basics of the Batman story, which is all there is time to tell.  I also saw the decision of a single narrator as a missed opportunity, because it meant that there was only one point of view offered for these flashbacks, while part of the fun of retrospective issues is seeing multiple characters remembering things together and how their perspectives can differ.

Speaking of differences (or lack thereof), another missed opportunity is that the art styles are virtually identical throughout the entire issue.  Normally visual continuity is important to a comic book, and with three different artists (and four different inkers), it's impressive that they managed to keep things so similar, but in an issue so grounded in the past, I would argue that visual continuity is a negative thing.  Comics are a visual medium (shocking, I know), and I've always enjoyed when tales of this nature mimic the art style of the era being depicted.  Unfortunately, that trick is mostly absent here, which is a shame because emphasizing the differences between the artists and the time periods would have better served the narrative.  As it stands, most of the differentiation comes from the colour work of Ian Hannin, who seems to have a better grasp of what can be achieved with these types of books.

I must also pause momentarily to decry the poor handling of the revelation of the narrator's identity towards the end of the issue.  The switch to the speaker and his listeners from the flashback scenes is a little jarring, and the art in this sequence is a little sloppy.  I was initially unclear as to who the speaker was, with the answer only becoming entirely clear when another character directly referred to them by name.  The entire sequence took me out of the story just when I should have been the most engaged, another shame.

For all these complaints, there are some better moments in the issue.  The narrator explicitly reveals some cute personal details, although these were mostly things that readers would have gathered from the implications of earlier stories.  There's nothing inherently wrong with the narrative, but as mentioned, it is rather predictable.  The book's highlight would probably be the members of the McNulty family that appear throughout the story. They have a nice development and the payoff at the end is good, but I feel that even this could have been handled better.

Verdict - Skip It. As the solicitation promised, this was an issue filled with reminiscence and retrospection, but something was definitely missing.  One gets the impression that things ended up being a little rushed, resulting in a story that is content to hit its paces and then finish.  While it would make for a decent primer on current-Batman continuity, it is a rather forgettable and mediocre affair.

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paolo Rivera

I had nothing but good things to say about the first issue of this latest Daredevil ongoing, and things continue along in much the same manner in issue #2.  Waid puts in another solid script, Rivera draws some stunning art, and their combined efforts make for a comic that should be in any comic reader's pull list.

The writing and art in this book are so well-connected that it can be difficult to talk about one without mentioning the other.  The last issue left us with Daredevil being attacked by Captain America for reasons unknown, and Daredevil #2 picks up right where we left off, opening with a great scene between the two.  Nearly half the comic focuses on these two characters' interactions, and it is stunning.  Rivera is really flexing his artistic muscles here, drawing the heck out of each and every panel.  His comic book senses are on full display, always picking the right moment to show and showing it perfectly.  Daredevil and Captain America have an intense fight, an intimate talk, and exchange a few pleasantries (at least Daredevil does), and Rivera switches from one moment to the next without any difficulty.  The entire sequence is absolutely gorgeous.

Waid's writing is also pretty solid, but it suffers a bit in comparison to just how strong Rivera's art truly is.  The actual reason for the conflict between Daredevil and Captain America is a little odd, but that oversight is acceptable because it lets us see Rivera run wild on the page.  However, the dialogue gets a little too cute for its own good, throwing out legalese wordplay at such a quick clip that it strains the believability of the characters' words.  Waid handles himself much better in the later half of the issue, shining especially bright in the two page interaction between Foggy Nelson and Kirstin McDuffie.  Their quick back and forth is more in line with the writing of the first issue and is a welcome change after the Daredevil and Cap moments.  Unsurprisingly, Rivera handles the scene with ease.

The latter half of the issue is focused on Matt Murdoch's investigation into the mystery behind the Jabrani case, and it is also some pretty fine stuff.  I could go on and on about how great Rivera is, but suffice it to say that he nails all of his scenes.  Waid also picks up his game here, with some quality dialogue and plot progression. Daredevil's investigation into the store that Jabrani had to close down is really well done and is portrayed with lots of mood and tension.  Klaw's sound constructs were a neat addition, especially from Daredevil's own perspective, but I felt like something was missing from it all.  I believe it is a matter of expectations, as the solicitation had led me to believe that Klaw would play a big role in this issue, but I feel like his appearance would have benefited from not being announced, which would have made the scene far more intense.  As it was, I spent the last part of the issue waiting for Klaw, the Master of Sound, to reveal himself, which isn't what the comic was going to deliver.  I think it would have been better to leave his inclusion as a surprise and mention it for next issue, but that's solicits for you, I guess.

Verdict - Buy It. I feel like I'm coming off as a little harsh against Waid's writing, but my nitpicks are based more on the fact that his work seemed much tighter in the first issue.  He's still great here, only suffering in comparison to himself.  Rivera, on the other hand, continues to knock my socks off.  I used to think of myself as reading comics mostly for the writing, but part of the reason I like this book so much is the incredibly quality of Rivera's art.  The issue suffers a bit in its pacing, but it is still head and shoulders above a lot of other comics out there.  I will most definitely be back for the next part of this great story.

Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Hendry Prasetya

Power Girl is one of the most convoluted characters in DC's large stable of convoluted characters.  Originally the Earth-2 counterpart to Supergirl, she was rolled into main DC continuity with the events of Crisis on Infinite Earth.  The various crises since then have continued to fiddle with her background, but she has become known more for her large bust than for her superheroics.  Happily, this most recent volume of Power Girl has gone a long way towards changing that, presenting a strong, intelligent woman who wants to do what's best for the world, but who doesn't have to take herself too seriously.

This final issue manages to capture those aspects of the character through the clever plot device of some villains setting up three life-threatening situations for Power Girl to resolve and only giving her sixty seconds to do so.  What follows is a twenty-page comic that, temporally, takes place over the span of those sixty seconds.  A neat idea, it could have come off poorly in lesser hands, but Sturges and Prasetya use it to great effect throughout the issue, with the countdown appearing at the top of each page.

Sturges, who also wrote the somewhat underwhelming previous issue of the series, makes a far better showing of himself this time around.  I've already complimented the story's overarching conceit, but most every part of the issues works.  Power Girl has a lot more personality here, showing her ingenuity, attitude, and wit at various points over the course of the narrative. Indeed, every character reads quite well, with each one having some individual idiosyncrasies coming through, no matter how brief their appearance.  As well, Sturges infuses a lot of humour into the book, whether it's character comments, actions, or quips repeated throughout, and it adds a lot to the reading experience.

On the art side of things, Prasetya has had some big shoes to fill, following Amanda Conners and Sami Basri's work on this title, both of whom absolutely killed it on art.  Fortunately, Prasetya manages to live up to those great expectations.  While his style is different from Conners and Basri, there are elements that recall those previous artists' work on the book.  That being said, Prasetya doesn't simply follow in their footsteps, he makes the book his own, putting a unique spin on the characters.  I really enjoy it, as it is a fluid and playful style that reinforces the tone of the book.

Verdict - Check It. If you are looking for a fun, done-in-one issue that requires little to no prior knowledge, this book is for you.  It's maybe not much of a conclusion for the Power Girl series, but it does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the book, which is worthwhile nonetheless.

And with that, we find ourselves at the end of this week's round of reviews.  How did the week treat you?  Any books you particularly enjoyed?  Or perhaps some books that you particularly reviled?  Hit up the comments below and let me know!

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Daredevil by far one of the best books this weeks despite its flaws. Its being written well.

Klaw is an excellent villain for DD to fae bc he is made of sound. I can't wait to see how DD beats Klaw.
DDKlaw beats all.

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