Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 10/10/12


Early to bed and early to rise, it's time for your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  And while the former doesn't really apply to me, the latter is certainly true, so here be my thoughts on a couple of this week's book.  Hit the jump to see what I thought about Batman #13 and Stumptown #2!



BATMAN #13
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Backup Story Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Backup Story Art by Jock

Wow.

Just wow.

With Batman #13, Scott Snyder shows beyond a shadow of a doubt why DC has given him the keys to the Batman Kingdom.  The Joker is easily one of the greatest villains to grace the comic book page, and I genuinely wonder if I've seen him used as effectively as Snyder writes him here.  Which is crazy when you consider that we barely see the Joker at all over the course of the entire issue.

But that's not to say he isn't present throughout the book.  The exact opposite is true.  Even when he's absent, his presence can be felt everywhere.  The book opens with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock talking about the relative strangeness that's been going on in recent weeks in Gotham, going into a bit of a laundry list of the different unsettling events.  Considering that the Joker's return begins shortly after this exchange, it could come off as a little heavy-handed, but Snyder handles it so well that it feels as if it couldn't have happened any other way.  As if it were fate, perhaps.

I bring it up because the Joker feels like a true force of nature in this issue, uncontrollable and unknowable.  While he rarely appears on-panel, he is often nearby, just out of view.  But while we can't see him, we sure as heck can hear him.  His words and actions – like his presence – are omnipresent throughout this issue.  And that's definitely a good thing, because Snyder writes the hell out of him.  I loved Snyder's take on the Joker back during his Detective Comics run, but that was nothing compared to this.  The Joker's dialogue is genuinely creepy and always feels appropriate to the situation, no matter how disturbing his words are (some of his threats to Gordon come to mind).

I'd like to take another moment here to emphasize how well-done the Joker's presence / absence is handled in this issue.  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's work here is insanely good.  They offer glimpses of the Clown Prince of Crime, but he is seemingly always just out of sight, just out of reach.  It's brilliantly done, leaving his most depraved actions up to the reader's imagination, an sinpired choice that could not possibly be more effective.

I also have to reiterate how impressed I am with DC as a whole here.  The decision to take Joker out of all of their books for an entire year was actually quite bold, and Batman #13 uses that real time apart from the character to its full effect.  I seriously cannot think of a comic when I've been this affected by the contents.

On top of all this, there's also an amazing backup story by Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jock that is every bit as good as the main piece.  Jock's art alone is terrifying, and the writing is just as good.  The best part of this backup is that it is directly related to the main narrative, offering additional insight to part of the story after-the-fact.  It's a nice choice that makes this excellent story that much better and more relevant.

Verdict – Must Read.  It's called Batman #13, but this is the Joker's book through and through.  Scott Snyder and friends are bringing a meaner, scarier Joker to the Batbooks, and the time without the character actually makes this feel different from your average Joker story.  The sakes feel higher.  I know it's easy to complain about how the status quo never changes in mainstream comics, but after this issue, I feel like anything's possible.

STUMPTOWN VOL 2. #2
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

So I have not been approaching this book on the right terms.

When I reviewed the first issue of the second volume of Stumptown, I wrote at length about how the issue was on a bit of a slow burn, building up to the same level of action and violence that we saw in volume one.

That proverbial other shoe might not be dropping as soon as I thought.  Or at all for that matter.

I mean, it could still happen in forthcoming issues, but issue #2 seems pretty clear that this isn't going to be that kind of story.  Instead of an action romp with some nifty detective work thrown in, it looks like we're getting some far niftier detective work with some action thrown in.  And that's not a bad thing.

The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case quickly goes from a headscratcher to a complete mindbender, as the D.E.A.'s interest in the missing guitar from last issue is revealed to be but the tip of the iceberg in this increasingly complex mystery.  Before the issue ends, we get some additional input from Mim's bandmate, David Mayes, Mim possibly hiding something from Dex (an activity that hasn't gone well for her clients in the past), some initials theories on the guitar's disappearance, and a twist at the end that manages to somehow raise even further questions.

The whole issue is really just three or four extended scenes of conversation, and it's a testament to Greg Rucka's writing that the entire thing is so engrossing.  Especially considering that this story revolves around a missing guitar, which on paper may not be the most thrilling concept around, but somehow ends up being a real page turner under Rucka's pen.

Rucka also manages to develop Dex's characterization throughout these scenes of conversation, which was nice to see.  It was equally nice to see room given for the new secondary characters to grow, as both David and MIM got some time in the spotlight.  I'm also happy to report that both Ansel and Grey make appearances in this issue, and chances are good that they will have a role to play in this tale, which should please fans of the series.

I wasn't quite as impressed on the art side of things as I was last issue, because Matthew Southworth's pages have a sketchy, incomplete feel that I'm not always over the moon about.  For a lot of the book he absolutely kills it – this is especially true of establishing or outdoor shots – but some of his character work comes up a little short this time around.  There are a few panels where character's faces are little more than a couple of dots and a squiggly line.  It's not every page, but when it happened, I found it to be distracting enough to take me out of the story.  At the same time, he has panels that just knocks your socks off with how emotive they are.  It's the inconsistency between the two that becomes frustrating.

Verdict – Check It. This second volume of Stumptown is really a whole other beast from the first.  But again, that's not a bad thing.  Greg Rucka and company are bringing a different vibe to the continuing adventures of Dex Parios, and it's a welcome change.  We're getting bits and pieces of a much bigger puzzle here, so each chapter feels like it imparts a little more information for us to understand the mystery, which makes the reading experience that much richer.


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2 comments:

Klep said...

Batman was really good, but I don't think the big reveal of the Joker's new look was worth it. I still don't see a good reason for why he had his face cut off. It made for an unsettling moment with Harley, but it's not exactly difficult to create such moments under "normal" circumstances, so it definitely wasn't a necessary factor. I hope that Snyder is able to give us a good justification at some point.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet my collection that Joker's present "disfigurement" is just another trick on his part. I believe it was cut off but I can't imagine that he's been walking around for a year with no skin.

I think he's had his face altered to look like someone Bruce Wayne, maybe...?

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