04th Jun2015

Comical Thoughts – Batman, and Archie, and Jem! Oh, My!

by Will

comical

So, I did something that I haven’t done in a LONG time – I actually read all of my Wednesday comics on release day. For the past few months, I’ve been visiting the shop religiously, but really only keeping up with Miles MoralesUltimate Spider-Man and Letter 44. Everything else was just stacking up in a pile. Well, I’ve done some reading, and I’ve got thoughts!

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First up, I finally read the “Endgame” storyline that was recently running in the Batman series. I had actually read the first 3 issues as they were released, and then I just sort of stopped caring. So, I had to reread those issues before jumping into the second half of the storyline.

In case you’re not familiar with it, The Joker comes back to Gotham and wages what’s supposed to be his final fight against Batman. It starts out with so much promise, as a battle-suited Batman is forced to fight his Jokerized Justice League teammates. That battle takes all of 1.5 issues, and then it’s done away with. Sure, we’ve seen Batman vs. The Justice League battles before – most notably in JLA‘s “Tower of Babel” storyline, but this one just seemed like it was wrapped up too quickly. In fact, that’s the main problem with the entire story: pacing. It feels like so much happens and so little happens all at once. Certain story aspects were wrapped up too quicky (like the JL fight), while the story itself felt like it was too long at 6 issues. On top of those 6 issues, the Batman family titles also had “Endgame” specials that were tangentially related to the main storyline.

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The story starts in a weird place because it’s leading out of the yearlong, weekly Batman Eternal series that only the most die-hard Batman fans even kept up with. I was not one of those fans. So, you’re left with a ton of questions as things open up: Why are they in a Bat base? What happened to the manor? Alfred has a daughter? And she’s Black?! SO MANY QUESTIONS! Before anything is answered, the fight with the Justice League starts. That’s the first issue, but we’re even cheated out of that, as we never get to see attacks from Green Lantern or Cyborg. It’s almost like “footage” was cut for time or space concerns.

As the story rolls along at a breakneck pace, a ton of stuff happens. The city gets Jokerized. We meet up with Duke Thomas – a character introduced during the horrid “Zero Year” story – who we’ve seen may become Robin in the future (due to the Future’s End one-shot). We find out that The Joker might be immortal. Then, bad stuff happens to Alfred. And then Batman needs the help of his villains to take down The Joker. Then, they fight. I won’t spoil the ending, but I thought it sucked. Then again, I’m just not a fan of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on this book. I feel like I’m alone in this, as everyone else acts like this is the definitive run on Batman, while I just find it to be kinda meh. Snyder has one trick, and it’s “dancing between the raindrops of continuity”. It’s all “I bet you didn’t know this happened!” And he’s been doing it since the beginning. Bruce Wayne has a secret brother. Dick Grayson was enlisted by the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls has been running Gotham for hundreds of years. He even dialed back the clock with Zero Year to create an entire storyline during a period that’s not even supposed to *exist* based on the standard Batman timeline. I mean, what the Hell is a “zero year” anyway?

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On top of being disappointed by Snyder, I really don’t think Capullo’s a great artist. This may sound like sacrilege to some, but I feel like Tony Daniel was a better artist, even though his style just evolved into a Jim Lee clone. Capullo is not good with action scenes, as was proven by the fights in Endgame On top of that, he brings nothing to the table in terms of distinguishing the characters out of their suits. There’s a scene with Dick Grayson that might as well have been with Jason Todd or Tim Drake because there is nothing special about how he’s drawn. I noticed this back during “Court of Owls”, as there was a scene with all the Robins in their civilian garb, and it just looked like the same white guy, wearing the same tux, at three different heights. No distinction between any of them. Maybe it was meant to emphasize the fact that Bruce recruits the same type of kid for his Robins, but I don’t think it really accomplished that. Instead, it just looked lazy. I liked what Capullo brought to other series, like Image’s Haunt, but I’ve just found his Batman work has left me wanting.

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Now that it’s been revealed that Commissioner Gordon is the new Batman, I’m just waiting to be disappointed again. Sure, I could stop buying, but I’m a Batman fan, and I keep hoping it’ll get better. One thing I wish Snyder would realize is that not every Batman story need to be an “event”. Just have him solve some shit. Francis Manapul over on Detective Comics seems to understand this, as he’s cranking out some good mysteries. Meanwhile, everything Snyder does is like he wants to reinvent the wheel. I once read an interview with him where he said that you never know how long you have to write Batman, so you have to get out all of your ideas while you have the chance. I kinda understand that, but I need him to really get to the core of the character, which is something I don’t think he’s ever really done. He uses Batman as a prop in his stories, rather than as an actual character.

Speaking of upcoming DC stories, DC has launched an initiative called DC You, implying that there’s something for everyone in their new mix of books coming out. They even released a trailer of the new storylines, which was very Marvel of them. That said, I’m more curious about the books that they’re just glossing over. Sure, they’re telling us about Starfire and Cyborg, but they’re saying nothing about Red Hood/Arsenal or Martian Manhunter. They’re boosting Batman Beyond and even Deathstroke, but there’s nothing about Dr. Fate or Green Lantern: The Lost Army. Are these the dogs of the bunch? Should we start taking bets on their cancellation already?

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Since I mentioned Batman Beyond, let me just say that I HATE the new direction they’re going in with that character. If you’re not in the know, Batman Beyond followed Terry McGinnis who becomes Batman roughly 35 years in the future. He wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s initial choice as a successor, as Terry stole the Batsuit in order to bring his father’s murderer to justice. There was a whole 3-season cartoon about it. Well, a few years back, DC decided to bring Terry into comic continuity, though his adventures roughly followed what had been laid out in the cartoon. In the recent Future’s End series, however, they unceremoniously killed Terry and gave his suit to former Batman sidekick, Tim Drake. So now Tim is 35 years in the future, trying to carry the Batman mantle. However, due to the events of Future’s End, the future timeline isn’t what it was when Terry was there. So, in one fell swoop, DC wiped out Terry, wiped out most of his supporting cast, and apparently his rogues. See all those familiar folks in that cover image? Yeah, they’re not in the book. The future that Tim experiences isn’t the same as Terry’s world, as characters have been changed in drastic ways. On top of that, the entire plotline was basically lifted from Power Rangers: RPM, as an evil computer virus has taken over the whole world except for Gotham, which is somehow shielded from detection. I’ll keep reading for now, as I’m curious to see if anything is left of the old Batman Beyond world, but I feel this move is a slap in the face to the fans who had come to love Terry’s Gotham. Just the changes to Superman and Barbara Gordon alone are angering, as both characters had experienced a lot of growth in that world. Now, it’s like it just never happened. Due to the events of Convergence, I’d like to think that Terry’s world is still out there somewhere, but it doesn’t really matter if no one’s writing stories about it.

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One book I read last night was Archie #666, which is the final issue of the long-running series. In July, it’ll be relaunched with a new #1 and an updated look. I haven’t really read Archie books since I first got into comics, but I felt like this was a great series finale. It’s somewhat brief, but it gets to the heart of what Archie’s all about: he’s a good-natured kid who really cares about his friends. As I’ve seen previews of the upcoming series, I’m curious to see if this spirit will still exist in the new books. They say that the “familiar” style will still exist in digest form (ya know, the kind you buy at the supermarket), but the New Look is the main comic going forward. I trust Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, so I’ll definitely be checking it out. I’m just glad it had a fitting final issue, especially after the travesty that’s the current Archie vs. Predator miniseries.

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Not all cartoon characters can have great comics, however. A few weeks ago, children of the 80s had a fit when they saw the trailer of the upcoming Jem and the Holograms movie. What they saw bore no resemblance to the cartoon they watched as children. There were no Misfits, seemingly no powers, and it was just a teenybopper movie about a girl “trying to find her voice”. Meanwhile, IDW recently began publishing a Jem comic book, and I feel like it’s no more comforting than that trailer. At least the book involves hologram technology, and there are Misfits, but it seems like it’s just gearing up to be a battle of the bands. Now, I don’t remember a whole lot about Jem, but I felt like there was a lot more at stake than a simple battle of the bands, right? Was that what the cartoon was about? I mean, it’s been so long, and it’s not like I was a religious viewer anyway. I’m only 2 issues into the series (I still need to read the third), but this isn’t shaping up to be the exciting to me. Maybe it’s just not for me, and that’s OK.

Now for some quick shots-

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1- This felt like a What If? comic. I mean, I guess all of the Secret Wars tie-in books kinda feel that way, but this really felt like one. It was interesting to see the modern storylines they allude to, such as the Rykers outbreak that caused the formation of the New Avengers, as well as the idea of MJ and Peter moving into Avengers Mansion. Still, despite those modern references, something about it felt very 90s. Oh, and Andy Kubert really phoned in that art. There’s a panel of Peter where he looks like a caveman. This really looked like a rush job.

Groot #1 – This was a cute read. Not something I’d normally pick up, but I was kinda speculating. I remember that Rocket Raccoon #1 became a sought after book, so I figured the same might be true of his partner in crime’s book. I might just wait until this is collected, as I’d like to see where it goes, but I don’t know if I wanna spend $3.99 a month on it.

Years of Future Past #1 – I had to choose between this and the X-Tinction Agenda book. Since I never read the original X-Tinction Agenda, I figured this was the safer bet. It’s an interesting premise: Colossus and Kitty have a teenage daughter, and we’re back in the somewhat familiar Days of Future Past reality (or a version of it), while incorporating the idea of assassinating President Kelly. It was interesting, but I’m not sure I’m gonna stick with it. There are simply too many Secret Wars tie-in books and, frankly, some of them look more exciting to me.

Secret Wars #3 – Well, this was much more interesting than #2. We got to meet God, as well as see a few familiar faces from before the final incursion. I’m really engaged by this story, and everything I learn just keeps me wanting more. I thought it was important that Doctor Strange pointed out that they had basically perfected how to get folks to acknowledge the merged timelines. I feel like this will be important for when they reshape things into the new Marvel Universe. Still, I can’t helped but feel like I’m missing out on certain characters’ motivations because I skipped Hickman’s runs on Avengers and New Avengers. And we find out that 8 years have passed since the Doom reshaped the world. I tend to hate time jumps, as they are a cop-out. Rarely are those missing time periods ever explained, but I guess enough time needed to have passed in order for the societies to be as stable as they are. Still, I hope we get some insight into those 8 years, as I’m already dreading the reported 8 month time jump that the characters will have experienced once Secret Wars is over.

So, that’s me. What did you all read this week?

3 Responses to “Comical Thoughts – Batman, and Archie, and Jem! Oh, My!”

  • Enjoyed your explanation for why you don’t like the Snyder/Capullo team on Batman. I do like Capullo’s art, but your points on Snyder just filling in gaps was something I hadn’t noticed before. Agree on his arc’s being events, but that’s why there are books like Detective, which can tell those more personal stories of him solving crimes. That scene from issue one of all the Robins has always been funny to me too.

    I also agree on killing off Terry McGinnis. Plus readers need to be reminded that this isn’t present-day Tim Drake 35 years in the future. But a future version of Tim, 35 years in future. Confusing enough?

    Will read Renew Your Vows today, but Andy Kubert’s art has looked really bad recently. At least I think its Andy. Either him or Adam has looked rough.

    Read X-Tinction Agenda, but not Years of Future Past. Will give it a read.

    And no final thoughts on All-New, All-Different Marvel?? :-p

  • Will

    @Tim – glad to know you see where I’m coming from on the Snyder/Capullo team. You’re right that Detective is more about those personal stories, and that’s probably why I’ve been enjoying that book more.

    Yeah, that Tim Drake thing is REALLY confusing. So, it’s Tim from 5 years in the future, who’s been transported 35 years into the future (30 years for Tim). Plus, I guess current Tim will still be around in Teen Titans? It just seems unnecessary.

    I didn’t have All-New All-Different Marvel thoughts ’cause I wrote this at about 1 AM this morning, and that image hadn’t hit yet. May have thoughts tomorrow.

  • Yup, from what I can recall of Jem, the Battle of the Bands was pretty much the entire focus of the cartoon. The winner gets a recording contract, which is funny considering that both The Holograms and The Misfits were churning out several hits while engaged in this series-long competition. Oh, and I think they filmed a movie at some point in Season 2. Cut me some slack, I was 10 and was more into Inhumanoids…

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