Monday, March 18, 2013

Funny Pages

Starting today we'll be posting weekliy comic reviews from resident comic book officionado Nick Ardill.  Enjoy! ~m

Batman and Robin 18

Batman and Robin 18 is one of those rare comics that does everything right. A perfect blend of writing, art, and coloring. Dealing with the fallout of last month's Batman Inc. that saw the brutal death of ten year old Robin at the hands of his homicidal rapidly-aged clone (don't ask). This issue finds a broken Bruce and Alfred as they mourn. One silently the other not so much.

Writer Peter J. Tomasi manages to do in a completely silent issue what most writers fail with a fully scripted book. Giving us insight to what made the 10 year old who he was. Through Batman's eye's we see Damian's love of his of bat-hound Titus (gotta love the golden age references), his artistic side and the sketches of his grandparents that he never met, and his connections to the greater DCU with a list of movie recommendations by Superman (On the Waterfront, and Rebel Without a Cause topping the list. But really Clark, would it kill you to toss in a Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles?). Batman relives small moments of their day to day lives as the Dynamic Duo, from sliding down the batpole to swinging through the spires of Gotham City. Ultimately the Dark Knight finds himself alone with nothing but his rage and sadness as a father who lost his son.

The art in this book is brilliant. Penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz captured magic. I can't compliment them enough. Be it Gleason's pencils or Kalisz's color's everything just works.

When Damian Wayne debuted 7 years ago in Grant Morrison's Batman run he was a spoiled, entitled, sociopath vying for the cape and cowl that he felt was his birthright. But Peter Tomasi took the young Robin and turned him into a character you cared for and mourned. A little boy who only wanted his approval and really to have a place in the world. Given the current state of death in comics and the character's family's history with Lazarus Pits it remains to be seen whether this death will be a lasting one. For now we mourn the death of the Boy Wonder.


Wolverine and the X-Men 26

It's The Logan boys at it again. Nothing like a good ol' brother vs. brother smack down (sorry Matt).  Wolverine against his half-brother Dog Logan.

Through some time traveling shenanigans Wolverine's older brother finds himself in the 21st century, and it really isn't a happy reunion. Building on threads he started in his Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine writer Jason Aaron shows us what Dog has been up to in between the Origin mini-series and now. We see why Dog hates his little brother so much and the lengths he's willing to go to put Wolverine in his place. We see nothing of Logan’s student who as of last issue were having a bit of trouble fighting of some seriously cheesed of dinosaurs, and instead see Dog’s life as he has no place in his world and no real purpose. I mean the poor guy is named Dog and he can't even fit into an actual pack of dogs. I mean that's just gotta sit wrong. It isn't until he finds some diamonds that allow him to jump forward and backwards through time (really just go read Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, it's absolutely worth it) does Dog Logan really learn what it is to have purpose. Granted that purpose is to kick the crap out of his brother and steal all of his students. But we've all been there, right? (Again, sorry Matt)

Really a 19th century time traveling fur trader fighting a metal clawed mutant in a land of dinosaurs would be silly to most but Aaron makes it work. The book constantly juggles the dark and serious with the silly and absurd. Wolverine and the X-Men is one of those books that is consistently good. Hardly in its 26 issues has there been a bad issue (with the exception of the Frankenstein circus of the Damned storyline. But Aaron gets a pass due to his level of work beforehand). I've been on this book since the beginning, every month anticipating what Aaron is going to do Wolverine and his group of offbeat students. Rarely do I see what's coming next, and that's rare in a mainstream comic book.


Sledgehammer 44 1

I have to preface this review with a bit of a disclaimer: I am a Mike Mignola apologist. I'm a huge Mignola-verse fan. Be it Hellboy, BPRD, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, Baltimore (which may or may not fall in the Mignola universe depending on who you ask. I lean towards the no side) love them all. Now we get Sledgehammer, Mike Mignola's Iron Man-esque World War II Nazi Smasher. Co-written by John Arcudi and illustrated by John Arcudi this book delivers little explanation of who Sledgehammer is or where he's from and choose to drop the reader right in the thick of it. The book focuses more on the soldiers who are there to support Sledgehammer in his mission rather than the metal hero himself.

Artist Jason Latour pulls double duty between this book and Marvel's Winter Soldier but the art never suffers between the two. Latour gives this book a raw dirty feel that looks almost like TinTin if it were drawn in a bomb shelter during the Blitz. His use of sound effects integrated with the art itself is a tough trick to pull off, many artists have a difficult time with it, but Latour does it masterfully.
This book has a lot of the things that I find makes a comic awesome. Crazy supernatural super science. World War II. Giant Nazi Robots.

If there is one downside about the book is that it like most Mignola books it works better in trade than it does in single issue. I tend to double dip when it comes to Hellboy and the gang, single issues then trade (and on the rare occasion triple dip. Have you seen those amazing oversized Hellboy hardcovers?!?). This story feels like it will be phenomenal when it's collected in one volume. Until then we’ll just have to take it bit by bit.

Now some Mignola-philes will recognize Sledgehammer's armor as the vril armor from Lobster Johnson Iron Prometheus so it will be interesting to see how the armor went from that series to this. I do really hope Sledgehammer gets a Lobster Johnson “the claw” like catchphrase... “look out Hitler. I'm a about to put the Hammer down”... Maybe not... Maybe not so good.


~ Nick

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