Thursday, May 21, 2009

Buy Pile Report

And so, the Cape and Cowl have been passed on and we are ... underwhelmed. Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 highlights this week's books, if only for it's status, because as I said, the book is underwhelming. While I'm not looking to spoil anything for anybody, I'll just say that there was no twists on the consensus predicted new Batman, the consensus predicted new Robin and the likely identity of Red Robin.

But that's not the underwhelming part. While I appreciate a good story twist as much as the next guy, in cases such as these, replacing an iconic hero, the right choice should be valued over the surprising one. If you remember back a couple of years, it was the same path we walked with Ed Brubaker while anointing Bucky Barnes the new Captain America. The underwhelming part was ultimately the execution. The first issue basically restated all we already knew. The second issue was a huge fight between Tim Drake and Jason Todd, while Dick hemmed and hawed. The third issue? You got it, a huge fight between Dick and Jason. Add in some looks at the effect Black Mask was having on Gotham's stability (or lack thereof) and you have yourself a full mini-series.

Only it left me feeling like the whole thing could have been done much more organically, and I think that is because of Brubaker's aforementioned tale. While Brubaker slowly moved Bucky through a series of events explaining to us exactly why Bucky was the perfect choice to carry on Steve Rogers' legacy (and along the way explained it to us), it seemed DC simply could not wait to put someone into Batman's shoes.

Overall, between the main "Battle for the Cowl" mini and the one shots, there were about 10 issues of space with which Dick Grayson could have grown into his new responsibility. Instead, Dick rejects the Cowl in one issue, then watches Tim Drake take on the responsibility and it suddenly clicks that he needs to take on the job. Not exactly a heartfelt journey 'ole Dick took us on, huh? And while this certainly hasn't been a horrible three-issue mini -- we've seen some nice fighting, after all -- it all just felt like one big extended foregone conclusion. I bet DC could have just skipped this whole "Battle for the Cowl" and just opened a new chapter in the Batman legacy with a quick "six weeks later" tag in front of Dick Grayson's first issue as Batman. But wait, that would have cost DC those big event-comics dollars, huh?

Speaking of Captain America -- and, for that matter, speaking of underwhelming -- Captain America #50 was Marvel's most-anticipated book of the week. It's Bucky's birthday, and as such, the new Cap is in a nostalgic mood. The only problem is, for a change, Brubaker uncovers no new information for us here. One of the things I've really appreciated over the last 10 issues or so of this series is Brubaker's ability to subtly inject thoughts and feelings into brief scenes, making the most of his space while still managing to let the story breathe. However, he re-covers all of that same ground here.

Bucky still worships how awesome Steve Rogers was? Check. The last time Bucky felt true camaraderie was in World War II? Check. Bucky still regrets his Winter Soldier days and is doing what he can to make amends? Check. Bucky has the support of good friends helping him through his guilt, even if he sometimes feels he doesn't deserve it? Check. They're all great story beats, but I was expecting much more here, not simply a book that may be looked at as a jumping on point. (Which, by the way, this was a great jumping on point for new readers).

I'm ready for the next phase of Bucky's story, and this was not it. Oh well, it could have been worse...

It could have been the next installment of the comic fading faster than Marty McFly's family: Uncanny X-Men #510! I don't know where to start here -- and I haven't looked in my archives, but I think this is very much what I had to say about last issue. The characterizations were ATROCIOUS. From Hisako suddenly being a frightened child (she did fight aliens on an unknown world, you know), to the Cuckoos looking to get into a 4-way with Josh Foley (What the hell was the point of this?!?), Matt Fraction again reflected a complete lack of understanding for who his characters are.

The storyline was not much better. Last issue, the "Sisterhood" attacked the X-Men's San Francisco home. This issue they concluded the onslaught, and we found out why at the end. Apparently, Wolverine kept a lock of Jean Grey's hair and they wanted it. You're trying to tell me all this fighting was so they could get a lock of hair? And, setting aside the fact that they could have likely snuck their way in and out of the place much easier than they did, that was the only way to get Jean's DNA? What a practice in meaningless writing.

But, nothing Fraction bumbled up was anywhere close to being as bad as the art. For one, this issue featured about 12 different women, and they ALL LOOKED THE SAME! I couldn't tell who was fighting who! For another thing, none of the action was anywhere close to being intelligible, except for when Land went way over the top with needless splash pages. If he were a better artist, maybe he wouldn't need to splash so much, huh? I can honestly say I've never been so confused while reading a comic. Between the red-lit panels and the shifts to the psychic plane with no explanation, to that part where Wolverine was fighting Psylocke, then was suddenly confronting the Red Queen, then was suddenly back to fighting Psylocke, Greg Land's art was HORRENDOUS!

Even the rare good ideas in this book -- and by my count there was exactly one -- was ruined by a lack of description. I'm willing to bet most readers missed exactly why that image was Cyclops' "hell" -- every person who was in that room died on his watch. I like the idea, but there was no explanation or bridge to or from the idea. Anyone who gives this issue anything more than a failing grade does not deserve to read comic books anymore.

Everytime I try to write about this series lately I get too mad to go on. That's it, I'm done. Wanted more? Well, blame Marvel. Boosh.

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