Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rant-Reviews--Two New Image Books, Howard the Duck, and a Weird Issue of Batman

A Strange Assortment
For this smattering of Rant-Reviews I thought I would share my thoughts on two new Image books that came out this week, the newest launch of a Howard the Duck comic, and the 39th issue of Batman, with the series having gotten really strange lately.

The Reviews
The Surface #1
I am a fan of Ales Kot, so almost anything he writes is bound to be something I like. The Surface is his newest release with stellar and surreal art by Langdon Foss, and it reads like how people in the past might have predicted our comics in the future would read. It randomly bounces around between our main story and faux-articles about technology or interviews with some mysterious artist. It focuses on a world where we are so obsessed with our computers we let them share all our lives, and in the process lose any privacy (sound at all familiar to today), and some young hackers desire to fix this by finding a mysterious space called, "The Surface," which may or may  not prove all of our existence is a hologram

The comic clearly draws influences from Warren Ellis' famous "Transmetropolitian" comic with its satire of our society, and proudly wears such an influence on its sleeve, with one newsfeed we see flutter by in the comic mentioning a, "Spider Jerusalem" as a graffiti tag. The comic is also pretty humorous and a bit sad in the manner "Transmet" was but is clearly its own strange beast too. Foss' artwork has a realism to it that makes its ability to also look exaggerated and cartoonish even more impressive.  I'm not quite certain where Kot is going with this title, but I bet it will be pretty weird. In case you weren't sure, that is a good thing.
4 out of 5 stars.

Southern Cross #1
I like Becky Cloonan, and her writing for this comic set in the future (also like fellow image comic, "The Surface", go figure) carries a relaxed and down-to-earth tone with our main character, something that serves as a good counter to the fantastic space-elements as Alex Braith goes to the moon of Titan to recover her sister's body from a sleazy corporation that mines the planet--and one which Braith suspects might have had a hand in her sister's death. We don't actually learn this issue what happened to Braith's sister, but I am sure as the story continues more will be revealed. A solid start for the series, even if that weird last-page reveal is more confusing than anything else.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Howard the Duck #1
I have seen it discussed how doing a "Howard the Duck" comic without the late Steve Gerber feels wrong, for a variety of reasons ranging to how he and Marvel quarreled about the character to how no one else seemed to write the character as well as Gerber did. I will agree there is some discomfort to such a comic appearing, but after the surprise cameo by Howard in last year's, "Guardians of the Galaxy," (Um, spoiler-alert for the one person who still hasn't seen it)" and the roaring response that got should we really be surprised if Marvel/Disney sees a chance to make money they take such a chance and run as fast to the bank with it as they can?

That said, it really helps that Chip Zdarsky (normally known for his art on "Sex Criminals") turns in some superb writing, giving us a comic full of gags and self-aware humor--even acknowledging Howard's at-times painful past with cinema (George Lucas, anyone?). Between making fun of everything from Spider-Man's obsession with Uncle Ben dying to She-Hulk pointing out Howard has an office straight out of the 1960's, Zdarsky writes a truly laugh-out-loud title. Joe Quinones supplies art that matches the tone perfectly, with a bright and poppy appearance hearkening back to Howard's old days while simultaneously fitting-in with today's era. It may feel sacrilegious to have Howard without Gerber, but even if we can't have that ever again at least this is a superb first issue.
5 out of 5 stars.

Batman #39
"Batman" has been quite strange as of late. Snyder wrapped up "Zero Year" to take us to events set after "Batman: Eternal" with the Joker causing utter mayhem. Joker has always had a variety of origins,  and the previous issue added another wrinkle claiming that some strange chemical has kept him alive for centuries, always being a troublemaker--as I said, kinda weird. Whether the story is true or pure nonsense may not really matter--as even the back-up story makes clear with the argument that the Joker is everything to everyone who needs some sort of boogeyman. That said, I've always been quite partial to the Alan Moore argument made in "The Killing Joke" that the Joker was simply a normal man who had a terrible day, with just the right elements leading him to crack. Whatever the case, writer Scott Snyder has made it clear that the Joker is done playing around, knows exactly who Batman really is in his public life, and wants to utterly destroy city.

The thing that makes this all a bit more interesting than any other time Joker had almost destroyed Gotham is the element of how the Court of Owls (characters Snyder introduced in this title's debut arc) may tie in with their chemicals that keep people alive, along with the interesting addition at the climax of this issue where Batman enlists the help of some of his other foes who despise him but also realize that if Joker obliterates Gotham they are out of luck too. Capullo also continues to supply art at an amazing level that makes you wonder where he was all these years before doing "Batman"--and the answer is that he was trapped in the hell of doing "Spawn" comics, a fate that can befall many a good artist, with even the phenomenal Ashley Wood once stuck illustrating a "Spawn" mini-series that was decent, but still "Spawn".

Snyder and Capullo have consistently made "Batman" a comic that is fascinating; whether is it good, bad, weird, or whatever else they choose it manages to consistently surprise me, something that I enjoy having occur.
4 out of 5 stars. 

Some good comics have been coming out lately, and whether on their debut issue or further along I found each of these at least pretty entertaining. That's always a good thing, you know?

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