Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Pull List - Comic Reviews for 8/8/2012

- Batgirl #12
- Batman #12
- Batman and Robin #12
- Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #2
- Demon Knights #12

SPOILERS beyond this point.

Batgirl #12

There's a lot of reasons to really like Simone's writing. While her story arcs may not be the most complex or masterful, she really knows how to make everything interesting and she typically manages to do this very subtly.

Take this current issue as an example.

The story is fairly straightforward. Batgirl finds out about a young woman who, along with other former convicts, has taken it upon themselves to act as judge/jury/executioner for Gotham's criminals. They have found friends in high places that have pulled the right strings to let them do this (including Batwoman) and Batgirl is aiming to stop them. It's nothing we haven't really seen before. Superheroes always fight vigilantes who aren't afraid of killing. Hell, Batman does it every other month. But it's Gail Simone's subtlety that makes this issue special.

First of all, she never discards Barbara's physical injury. Every conflict adds weight because we know that Batgirl doesn't just shake off wounds. Her fatigue and previous injuries influence her combat decisions and each fight is like a game of chess.

Second of all, the big bad in this story arc, the young woman with the former convicts as henchmen, is named Knightfall. While this name obviously means nothing to the characters in the story, it is a pretty obvious reference to the story arc where Batman got his back broken by Bane and was temporarily replaced by Azrael, who eventually grew brutal and was not afraid to kill criminals. In the context of the story, it also implies that Knightfall sees the Bat-family as a relic whose time is over. "There's not going to be any more revolving doors for criminals in Gotham," one of her henchmen says.

That brings us to the henchmen themselves. They all have common traits. They all went to prison, not just for committing crimes, but for committing crimes with good intentions. One killed a suspected pedophile, one brought a toxic nerve gas to school to show that they were ill-equipped to deal with biological threats, and the last one brutally killed the man who killed her daughters in a hit-and-run. Simone not only gave the henchmen interesting backstories that inform their characters and motivation, it also outlines the theme of the story. These people are all probably pissed that they had to go to prison while the REAL criminals walk freely. It's an interesting subject to approach.

The Batwoman crossover is fine, but it didn't really feel necessary. Then again, I don't read "Batwoman", so I don't know if this is the culmination of one of her story arcs or something.

I'm a little annoyed that the last panel is a cliffhanger that we'll need to wait two months to get resolved due to the #0 issues coming out next month, but this is the case for all the DC comics this month so far.

Anyway, yeah, I still highly recommend "Batgirl".

Batman #12

Batman isn't in this issue much. Rather, this issue focuses on a character we met very briefly in issue #7, Harper Row, presumably named after the publishing company (for... some reason). When she briefly appeared in that issue, I could tell right away that I would love her. Sometimes you can just tell.

I was not wrong.

Harper is probably one of my new favorite characters. She's cool, tough, fearless, proud, intelligent, has kind of a goth thing going on, and she's a fucking masterful electrician. On top of that, her relationship with her brother is really heartfelt and really grounds her character.

Scott Snyder's run on "Batman" has been great overall, but it does one thing exceptionally well that really elevates it in my mind. He focuses on the smallest picture of Gotham so that we can feel a connection to the story. He explores the history or architecture of a simple building so that when Batman flies out of a window, we feel the glass break. It's fantastic.

He does the same thing with Harper. We start off slow, exploring her relationship with her brother. Her brother is gay (and it's implied that she is as well) and he's being violently harassed by a gang in the Narrows (the ass-crack of Gotham), so the first part is about her trying to stand up for him and get the gang to leave them alone. We learn just about everything we need to know about these seemingly insignificant characters so that when Batman shows up to beat the crap out of the gang members, we understand why Harper becomes obsessed with returning the favor.

I'm not sure what Snyder's intentions are with Harper, but I hope we see more of her. She's really cool.

Batman and Robin #12

This issue resolves the two arcs involving Damian facing off against the other former Robins and this other plot involving this dude called Terminus. I'm not going to lie, these two plots don't mesh terribly well. I feel like they COULD have if they played up the idea of Batman's legacy being both a blessing and a curse, not just for Gotham but for the Robins, but they really don't. It's more or less one big action scene against yet another villain with an axe to grind and a plan that's rather easy to disrupt.

It's not a BAD issue, but it kind of went out on a whimper for me. The stakes never felt real. There was a nice moment where Nightwing resolved Damian's whole inferiority/superiority complex rather simply, and another cool panel with the Robins posing together.

All in all though, it's not amazing. I still like the series well enough, but this was the first arc that really left me underwhelmed.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #2

Goddammit. This series is actually getting GOOD.

Don't get me wrong, I still have major issues with it, primarily with the battle scenes. Sorry, Deadpool wouldn't be able to kill Spider-Man just by pulling a gun on him. He has Spider-Sense, remember? He would have seen the gun coming. A giant explosion wouldn't be enough to kill Wolverine. He's survived incineration before. Using Pym Particles to make Mjolnir enormous is clever, but it's not clear how Deadpool also reversed its direction and why Thor couldn't control it.

But as much as I hate to admit it, this series is doing pretty much exactly what I hoped it would do. While the thing that set Deadpool off is still bullshit, this issue establishes that the red box is something that has always been there, the implication being that his other voices have always been drowning it out. This issue also does more to establish his motives for killing everyone.

This story is definitely starting to move in a more promising direction, so I'll likely see it through until the end. The big question is, now that we've raised these rather weighty implications, how will it all END?

Demon Knights #12

Not much to say about this issue. Morgaine Le Fey. Evil plans. Fall of Camelot. Etrigan loses his shit in the obligatory cliffhanger. It's a fun ride, but if you aren't already reading this series (which you totally should be doing, by the way), it doesn't really offer anything new that I can dangle in front of your nose to entice you.

Though there IS one bit that implies that the Horsewoman is connected to the Red in some way. She doesn't refer to it by name, but it certainly sounds like that's where her power comes from. 

I'll just be over here waiting for the Animal Man/Horsewoman crossover issue, thanks.