Saturday, February 24, 2007

Comic musings for 2/21

It's that time of the week again; I've finished reading the comics and I'm here to talk about them.

Spoilers ho!

Brave and the Bold 1 -- So DC has decided to restart one of their franchise titles. I don't think their other team-up comic, Superman/Batman is doing all that well, as I have chronicled here. But here is an opportunity for DC to make up for the failure in what should have been a signature title. And on paper, it looks like the book has a great deal of promise; Mark Waid, a fan favorite, is taking the writing chores. There are few people outside Kurt Busiek wand Geoff Johns who might know more about the DC Universe, and his stories are almost always compelling. George Perez, another fan favorite, has the art chores. And DC has learned from its past by getting Perez ahead in his work, given his history in getting bogged down in the details of the story he is working on.

And the first issue begins to deliver on the promise of all these factors added together. The first team-up features Batman and Hal Jordan solving perhaps the most enigmatic of locked-room mysteries. At last, we seem to have gotten through the Batman distrusts everybody stage of his career, as evidenced by Batman accepting Green Lantern as an experienced ally with his own fields of expertise after years of their relationship being represented as one of mistrust. Waid has fun with the characters, evventually bringing them to Las Vegas where we can see their alter egos at play, jetsetter billionaire Bruce Wayne and gad-about Hal Jordan in an exclusive club playing Blackjack.

I was tempted to describe Perez's work as utilitarian, but I flipped back through the book again and I realize that Perez may be damned by his constantly excellent work. While the art in this issue is typical Perez--that is, clean, vibrant and incredibly detailed--it is better than 95% of the art in comics today. And Perez remains a master of panel layout.

All in all, this is fine issue that promises good things for the future of the series. Breaking away from the Brave and Bold tradition, the team-up will not feature Batman each week and, more like the old DC Comics Presents, each team-up will continue an ongoing storyline. This comic was fun and bodes well for the new direction of DC if they can all combine this appreciation of what has been past with an eye towards the future as this issue does.

Robin 159 -- So Robin has decided to try the dating scene once again with his erstwhile tutor, Zoanne. In order to impress his date, Tim takes her to one of those "top of the tower" restaurants and the two of them share a meal and the opening conversations of the first date. But of equal interest (and not really lurking in the background) is the growing relationship between Tim and Bruce Wayne. In fact, the entire story is about tensions between couples--Tim and Zoanne, Tim and Bruce, and finally Tim and Robin.

Batman keeps showing up at or near the restaurant as he attempts to capture the new villain Jitter (with a thoughtful wink to old-timer Vibe). Tim must constantly choose between going to Batman's aid and putting himself first, to have a successful date. It is no help that Batman and Jitter end up inside the restaurant itself, and Tim is able to assist in the capture without donning his costume.

The last few panels tie up the ongoing decisions neatly--Tim and Zoanne share their first kiss, Tim succeeds both as Robin and Tim, and a far more sensitive Batman than we would have seen prior to One Year Later expresses concern about interrupting Tim's date and asks how it went.

I also want to mention the art of Freddie Williams II. The panels contain the same frenetic style of Scott McDaniel, who seems to get a lot more recognition. But Williams doesn't use the tilting camera effect that so often makes McDaniel's work almost nauseating in its spinning effects. It remains stylish though and quite appropriate for one of DC's comics aimed more at a younger audience. I just feel like it needs to be appreciated as Robin seems to be starting in a new(ish) direction.

All in all, this is a fine issue and a good leaping-on point for anyone not currently reading Robin.

Superman 659 -- After Arion telling Superman that he is going to bethe cuase for the end of human civilization, this issue concerns Superman reflecting on what that means and how he can continue to be a hero under such a dire prediction. He asks himself, "Does my presence warp mankind's destiny?" and flashes back to a story that has relevance.

Busiek goes on to tell a story we've seen a number of times in the past decade of Superman--how Superman's value is much more than that of a savior, but also that of an inspiration. Everyday people are inspired by Superman to be more heroic themselves. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the story, which is fine in its own right if not fairly predictable.

No, the reason I have chosen to talk about this issue is to praise the art of relative newcomer, Peter Vale. A quick check of reveals only three other places where his art has appeared before, and a quick Google finds only a small sample of his art here: To be honest, I was blown away by this art, seeming to me to be a happy combination of the realism of Ordway with the detail-driven lushness of Perez. Busiek's story is lifted to something much greater than where it started out by Vale's deft touches throughout. Carlos Pacheco provides a couple of framing pages of art that facilitate a comparison between what is vogue right now and Vale's own work, which I find to be transcendant. It is almost disappointing to finish Vale's flashback sequence and go back to Pacheco's art, which up til now I have had no issue with.

DC, if you are listening, make this man an exclusive and give him more work, as quickly as possible. How about in an ongoing Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters?

Note: Speaking of which, good news wends its way out of New York City and the NYC Comic Convention. In the DC Nation panel, Dan Didio announced yesterday that Manhunter has once again been saved from cancellation. This is good news for those who enjoy good comics, especially those that are grounded so wonderfully in the history of the DC universe. Thank you for listening to our pleas. You can read about it at

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