Thursday, October 20, 2011

Books I read: Batgirl, Batwoman, Frankenstein, Shade, Batman, Wonder Woman

I know I promised to feature some non-DC/Marve comics on this blog this month, but you know how it is. Life gets in the way. But I will get to them eventually. Aside from my regular pull list, I've also gotten a few graphic novels of interest lately: Nate Powell's Any Empire, Craig Thompson's Habibi, and Daniel Clowes' Death-Ray. I hope to write about all of them, so thanks for your patience.

Meanwhile, here are some very quick thoughts on the DC books I read the past couple of weeks.

Batgirl #2
Written by Gail Simone, pencils by Ardian Syaf, inks by Vincente Cifuentes; colours by Ulises Arreola; DC.

I find myself disliking the art in this book a lot more than I ever expected to. Ardian Syaf's action scenes are confusing and his faces are inconsistent and weird. And the colours by Ulises Arreola are positively garish. Storywise, we find out what the villain's deal is and it's a bit more complicated than what I was expecting. I'm not really sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I feel like it's too soon for me to really care about this villain's backstory and I wish Gail Simone had waited a bit longer before giving us that information. Meanwhile, she continues to tease about the "miraculous" way Barbara was cured, which is fine for now, but I hope it doesn't drag on for too much longer. Bottom line is I'm still very curious about where all this is going, but not completely sold on it either. I want to give Gail Simone a fair chance, though, so that's as far as I'll go with my analysis for now.

Batwoman #1 and 2
Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman; art by J. H. Williams III; colours by Dave Stewart; DC.

The first issue sold out before I could get my hands on it last month, so I grabbed the second printing last week along with the second issue. J.H. Williams doesn't disappoint. He delivers exactly the kind of spectacular art that everyone was expecting, with incredibly complex and ultra-stylized layouts. As impressive and beautiful as it is, though, I find it a little bit exhausting. I'm a big fan of simple, elegant design and grid layouts, and sometimes I find myself wishing that J.H. Williams would show a little bit more restraint. I'm a little bit sick of those double-page spread layouts with the panels forming a giant bat symbol, which we've seen him use in Elegy as well as in the Batman stuff he did with Grant Morrison. I feel like there's only so many times you can pull that off before it starts to feel like a gimmick, and Williams is getting awfully close to that limit. I've also read at least a couple of comments from people saying they're finding the unexplained whiteness of Kate Kane's skin kind of distracting, and I tend to agree. It was fine as a stylistic choice at first, but now I keep asking myself what is wrong with that woman's skin and why doesn't she spend more time in the sun?

Still, I'm being critical here, but that doesn't mean I don't get any pleasure out of this beautiful art. Besides, all these pretty pictures would feel more superfluous if we didn't get some good stories to support them, and so far I'm liking what Williams and Blackman are doing with the characters. It might not be on the level of Greg Rucka's excellent and defining run writing the character, but it's good enough to keep my interest. Also, the fact that Amy Reeder is going to be drawing the next arc gives me something to look forward to. It's going to be a nice change of pace.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #2
Written by Jeff Lemire; art by Alberto Ponticelli; colours by Jose Villarubia; DC.

I enjoyed this issue a whole lot more than the first one, and I think this title might turn out to be one of my favourites of the New 52 after all. Lotta fun, good art, good colours. What's not to like?

The Shade #1
Written by James Robinson; art by Cully Hamner; colours by Dave McCraig; DC.

This is going to be a 12-issue mini-series, with each arc by a different artist. If you've read James Robinson's seminal Starman run (or even just part of it, as I have), then you know how awesome this character can be. I really enjoyed this first issue, despite the appearance of one of my all-time least favourite villains in the last few pages. And Cully Hamner's art - wow! This just made me want to rush out and buy more of his books. (PS: What do you recommend?)

Batman #2
Written by Scott Snyder; pencils by Greg Capullo; inks by Jonathan Glapion; colours by FCO; DC.

This is good. Of course it's good. What else would you expect from a Batman comic written by Scott Snyder? There isn't really anything about the story that's blowing my mind yet, but I can tell that Snyder is slowly putting all the pieces in place and when the shit hits the fan, our minds are going to suitably blown. Greg Capullo's art, which I wasn't all that thrilled with at first, is starting to grow on me. It still kind of seems like a weird fit for this book, but it's good.

Wonder Woman #2
Written by Brian Azzarello; art by Cliff Chiang; colours by Matthew Wilson; DC.

And this is my favourite book of the batch this time around. As unconvinced as I am about the idea of Zeus being Wonder Woman's father, I have to admit that so far it definitely looks like Brian Azzarello knows what he's doing and he's got a good story to tell, so let's wait and see what he does with it. Cliff Chiang's art is juts phenomenal. I don't know what else to say. This book is just full of awesome, and right now it's competing with Swamp Thing for the #1 spot in my heart out of this relaunch.


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