Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Comics Out May 16 2007

Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #5.

I just finished my revision of an essay for a BenBella book on Batman that argues that Miller's All Star Batman is brilliant. You can read how I got from hating the first three issues to loving the series by clicking on the Frank Miller tab at the bottom of this post (which will also bring up me on Miller's Spawn/Batman and DKSA). This issue continues in the vein I described in that post: insane, but fun if you can see it at the right angle. If you can learn to love the absurd first line of dialogue in this issue, as I love it, you can learn to love Miller's All Star Batman. Go with the crazy. Live in the crazy. Trust Frank Miller's crazy. And leave gender politics at the door, cause Miller learned his from Micky Spilane.

Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates #13. Gatefold insanity. This series wrapped up a lot like the last one -- a few issues ago I lost interest, having seen it before. They go for big, but the gatefold is the only thing that stays with me, and even that is just a gimmick.

Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes Justice League of America #9. Monkeys riding on dinosaurs. Awesome. An an allusion from the visitors from the 31st century to having just arrived after the "Middle Crisis" is audacious, and I admire audacity. Red Arrow has a nice moment standing in for the audience, who expect the inevitable conflict, and in the last page, we get what I think is a nice swerve from expectations. But basically I do not know who these people are. The bad guys are revealed in such a way that I am supposed to recognize who they are but I don't. I could not figure out what happened with the girl with the wings -- she had them? or didn't? and then it turned out to be someone else maybe? and then the real one showed up? or something? I don't know who they are saving. It is sort of fun -- I feel like I did when I first got into comics and had no idea who anyone was, but I could use some footnotes or a who's who.

Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's Batman #665. Morrison continues to invoke the (almost literally) ghosts of Batmen past -- Miller's Batman being the main antagonist (the hookers are out of Sin City). Morrison is trying to demonstrate that his Batman is the one true Batman. It ain't really workin.

Hey, and my comic book store was giving away free flash drives with the LuthorCorp logo on them. This is my new flash drive.

Plus: Something big is coming Thursday or Friday. Stay tuned.

Review, recommend, and discuss this weeks comic books and comic book news.


Roger said...

I guess I just have problems with Meltzer's method of storytelling--which seems to be something he learned from his novels but doesn't translate so well (for me) into comics. I can't handle all the characters, moving from one situation to another at breakneck speed and having to read two conversations (or more) simultaneously.

BUT, I think I can help you with some of your questions--maybe.

The three badguys who were "revealed" were (I think) Despero, Per Degaton, and the Ultra-Humanite. I could be wrong, because Despero looks like he was ripped out of the silver age--despite the fact that his last appearance in the JLA Crisis of Conscience arc had him all bulked out and with his fin angled vertically rather than horizontally. Per Degaton is a time-travelling JSA villain, and the Ultra-Humanite is an early Superman villain from the 40s who transferred his brain into several different bodies (a woman, and an ape, and something else).

I also don't know how the LSH is saving--I mean, I have no idea unless it is Superman but I thought that they were going to bring someone back. The weird thing with this series is that the LSH being depicted is the one from my childhood and not the current LSH being written by Waid and Kitson.

It also seems that you are annoyed at Morrison's Batman run to the point of actually validating Miller's violent power fantasy. Miller's work was celebrated in the late 80s because people thought that showing the dark reality of superheroes (ala Morrison's Arkham Asylum or Moore's Killing Joke) was the way to go. For the most part, I like Morrison's take on Batman. I like the idea of a Batman who acts like a Samurai and has trained his emotions much like he has trained his body. But I haven't read your article, so I'll check it out.

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff - I've meant to ask before but didn't: do the people who put together the BenBella books (and like collections) solicit you or is there a CFP somewhere that I can respond to?

Geoff Klock said...

Roger: thanks for the help. It is not the power fantasy that I like about Miller -- it is that Miller's Batman is always Miller's Batman and no one elses.

neil: they solicited me -- and they have a pool of people they go back to again and again -- but they also have a CFP somewhere on the website.

Thacher said...

I just could not get behind ASBRTBW, and not just because that's a ridiculous acronym. In Miller's psycho "ante-upping" everyone is a lunatic. Well, except for Green Lantern, who's apparently a wuss. Raging Bull Alfred? Really? It just seemed so gratuitous. I'm usually *great* at leaving the gender politics at the door, but this was a little much. This issue made me want to re-read Dark Knight Returns and try to figure out what was there that I liked, and what's different, because this does seem different. I can't place it yet, but while you're right, Miller's Batman has always been his own, and he's always given him a unique voice, there's been something in this series that is just off of that, for me. Then again, I hated his Batman in Spawn/Batman, so who knows. Maybe, for me, Dark Knight won't hold up. It has been a couple of years since I've read it.

I really like JLofA, but I did find myself feeling a bit lost in this one, especially when it came to the Dawnstar "Is she/isn't she" game. I'm usually cool with his multi-caption narration, but in this issue it bothered me. Maybe it's the artist and the sense of claustrophobia you get when you're not leaving enough room for all those captions. "Middle Crisis" piqued my curiosity as well. Makes me want the year to come to an end and have Countdown over

I liked Batman (which is funny: we've switched our Batmen). While the Black Notebook does seem a little odd for someone to have once they join the Justice League (aliens all over the place, wizards, etc), I'd love to hear more about it. I like how the crazy gun Batman is tied to this new one, and that it gives us an overall sense of purpose for the whole arc, not to mention the future one we'll be seeing next issue. I was, however, disappointed that we didn't get the revelations about the Nanda Pabrat cave and Bruce's encounter in the desert I could've sworn we were teased about in the solicit. I would say also, in re the whole "Morrison's Batman is the only Batman," that I don't think it's "Morrison's Batman" he's trying to put forth (I get more of that feeling from Frank Miller, who tried to Millerize *everyone*), but to continue to address the loss of focus the whole Batman line and character had pre-IC. Of the big three, I feel like they did the most disservice to his character in the years leading up to this, and that this is a way of clearing the decks a bit. Both here and in Dini's Detective as well. I just don't see the ego as playing a part in it.

david brothers said...

The new ASBAR hit me like a ton of bricks. It's easily the best issue yet. I had to put it down a few times just so I could stop laughing.

Batman intentionally giving the thug arthritis? Golden.

Anonymous said...

The woman was a Thanagarian, apparently someone Dawnstar was staying with during her time on Thanagar.

And it looks to me like we're about to get something connected somehow to the story where the legion brought the dead Lightning Lad back to life, given everyone's now armed with a lightning rod.

Ultimate Matt said...

The new Batman was actually my favorite of Morrison's run thus far (contrasted to the last one, which was my least favorite single issue by Morrison, ever). This is the first issue that actually made me feel like he's heading somewhere with this stuff.

Mitch said...

I agree David and Geoff. This is the issue of ASBRBW I'll point people to, because it consolidates the brilliant elements spread out overthe first four issues into one bite-size bit.

samj said...

Thank god for some mature, sensible comment: a veritable island of calm, thoughtful, reasoned, humility within a sea of reactionary, juvenile hysteria that seeks to reduce mature, talented men to mechanical support pillars of corporate mediocrity, while preserving the childhood dreams of boymen who refuse to grow up. Boymen who demand that their fixed, narrow perspectives of characters that are by the very nature of their being, and the creative process which births them, open to interpretation and reinvention.

Or perhaps I’m wrong and grown, talented men when assigned the contracts by DC should also waive all rights to think, examine, play, mould, shape, and create. Perhaps this waver should prevent adults from applying their knowledge, opinions, erasing all personal feeling and political viewpoints and just produce easily digestible monthly fodder that is unerringly simple in concept and delivery, that can be consumed by 13 year old boys without ever challenging their 13 year environment, sensibilities or awareness: No wait. We have that. We have J. Loeb. We have the Batman adventures. We have a host of hacks that churn out pap in any number of inoffensive, safe Spiderman or Superman titles. The likes of Gaiman and Moore have huge –deservedly so- reputations, but the only comic artist who has managed to work within this most conservative of mediums and actually play, morph and these moribund culture icons into something contemporary and immediate and now, is Frank Miller: His much lauded, historical achievement with DKS feat- of delivering an authentic high-speed comic ride, while simultaneously critiquing the entire Reagan-neo con era - a prescient act that outranks another pilloried work- Spike Lee's "do The Right Thing”, is only exceeded in brilliance and forethought by the visionary excoriation within DK2 of the ties that bind between an authoritarian government and muted, satiated, meek populace, accurately foreshadowing the post September 11- middle eastern invasion era that was to come. This bold work received contempt and abuse from the boymen for not delivering- after Sept 11- a simple minded, vainglorious paean to Americana. Four years into the botched invasion- Miller's evocation of a government driven by corrupt, power hungry con men, who use fear and terror to promote their purposes is retains its resonance and accuracy, while the hysterical counter reaction and demand for heroes that threatened to drown out the work, appears insipid, hasty, infantile, nationalistic and territorial.

So with all the flowers and praise to Alan Moore and a nod to the likes of P.Milligan who have publicly accused Miller of being a one trick pony, I ask, in all seriousness, how weighty is a publication such as “Tom Strong” , the inward looking fantasy of “Sandman”, the flaccid, corporate garbage such s “1602”, actually compare to the “Millerverse”. Perhaps Miller is the one who overstretched: he has always rejected the term Graphic novel artist”. perhaps the most masturbatory, self-justifying phrase invented within the last 20 years of the pop-cuturalsphere; and self-consciously defined himself as a cartoonist, a definition that was write large within the visual representation of DK2, clearly homaging the historical war propaganda epistemology of the medium/character, and claming that call to arms didactic within the ongoing narrative of DK2 through the- I luv how you put it- “the will to power”. Something the American media and public is only just waking up to.

So as a political cartoonist Miller provides work that makes people think, as opposed to those who want to satiate themselves on perpetual repetitions of the Human Torch flaming on, or Spidey slinging a web through New York city, without anything like, oh, I don’t know - Iraq, Scooter Libby, the repeal of Wade vs Woe, institutional governent backed anti- gay leglisation, a return to school segregation- and on and on. No, I must stop. The boys read the coloured frames to get away from all of that. They demand from the web site and blogs that owners artists and printers should only churn produce work that allows them to ignore their children, tune out their girlfriends, ignore the demands of their bosses, and let them pretend they are actually flying through the cosmos about to save an intergalactic civilization from an exploding sun, so that we might place an American flag on their home world and introduce them to the sanguine prose of the founding fathers. How dare the likes of Miller and Lee do anything but use their hard earned sills to give the children anything but bright colours, tight pants heads being thrown through walls. Action that compete with the x-box or playstation, sure, but no more than that. For the children luv these characters. They know them better than the creators themselves. If they could- and this is their secret, secret super-power- they'd write better than Noman Mailer. If they could draw, they'd take commissions away from Michaelangelo.

I am tired of the children on silver bullets this and Millar world that, promoting themselves as self-appointed gate-keepers, and well-intentioned guardians of the unsanctified character who they will determine, control and shape for our enjoyment and protection. A little modesty would go a long way in my opinion, to say nothing of a sharp, injection of reality, as well as a small awareness that the comic reading market is not composed of individuals who share , echo and endorse their pathetic, insular, Peter Pan, hallowed days of yore, mentality.

Lastly, I wait to see where this present “All star” run will go. I’m excited by the originality. The cheek. The boldness. The sheer “let’s throw this baby up in the air and see where it lands” balls. I’m not interested in whether I fully embrace the project: It’s the ride tat matters. Seeing whether these two great artists can actually pull this daring vision off. I’m giving them the chance. And if they fail, so what? No one will die. I congratulate DC for allowing such well-known creations to be put under the knife and opened up. Why on earth do the infants continue to act like character such as Batman can be damaged, killed of, or irretrievably hurt by such publications: These cartoon characters, - and I know the nappy suckers are kicking over their potty’s after reading this simple truth- are immortal. Stronger than a speeding bullet. More durable than a 12 issue run from even the combined genius of the present writer/artist team.

I hope that people with free minds continue to buy the comic and enjoy it for what it is, and I have a feeling, despite the inane, overblown on-line chatter from the newly born, though irretrievably brained damaged conservative rabble, that the present successful sales - and I have no doubt that the trade paperbacks will break records - will reflect the power and market value of JL and FM. And isn’t that the whole point. For good or bad, this is Frank Miller’s Batman. You know what you’ll get. If you don’t like it, don’t waste time or print, go buy the latest issue of Teen Titans on your way to pick up your monthly order of diapers, and leave those who actually like to open a comic and be challenged, stimulated, appalled, repelled, enthused, energized, excited, intrigued - surprised even; to be just that.

Matt Brady said...

Holy crap, Samj, that was either the best piece of satirical writing I've read in a long time, or way too much energy expended on the subject. Well done, I think.

Ultimate Matt said...

Geoff, you might be interested in this post (he also quotes/references you in it).

Geoff Klock said...

Thacher -- what buggs me about the Black Casebook is that it is the X-Files. And it is lame to steal the core concept from the Xfiles after that show ended badly a while ago.

david: yeah, golden

Anon: thanks

Samj: awesome, thanks for posting all that. You are welcome here anytime. One word of warning on Miller, though. Miller got credit for making fun of Regan Era politics, but for whatever reason, it at least looks like at this point he basically believes in them . I still love Miller, and agree with much of what you are saying.

Umatt: yeah, I know that guy. I may be writing a thing for him on Legion.