Friday, September 18, 2009

I Bought Comics: September 16, 2009

[Less reviews than reflections, rants, random thoughts...]

Batman and Robin #4: So, Greg Burgas has thrown down the gauntlet and I am picking it up to smack him in the face with it. If you've seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights, you'll know that getting smacked in the face with a gauntlet hurts like a sonuvabitch. The issue: Philip Tan's art, which I don't really like. Some say that Morrison writes for Tan's strengths here and (this is actually an idea I want to explore in greater detail at some point -- just warning you), having read work by writers who do gear their writing at artists (like Warren Ellis), he doesn't here. Nothing about the way that this issue is written suggests to me that Morrison changed a single thing for Tan since the pacing, the scenes, everything is much too similar to the first three issues... to Morrison's work with Tony Daniel and Andy Kubert... And Tan isn't really any better than Daniel was... Want examples? Well, let's examine the opening scene of this issue, shall we?

Page 1, panel 2: Odd perspective problems where it looks like Lightning Bug's hand/gun are closer to the man than the man's own hand... despite the first panel clearly establishing that Lightning Bug is standing up straight, a couple of feet from the man on the ground.

Pages 2 and 3: Bravo to the ambition to depiction this frantic chase/running away in a layout that highlights just how frantic it is... but Tan's skills aren't at a level to pull it off. Take the bird bit, which I nearly missed the first time I read it because the panels are practically buried or that the upper left-hand corern of page three could have been used better to give the other panels more breathing room. Never mind the spatial issues on the second page where Lightning Bug goes from the ground to atop a building... when it looked like he was just hopping a wall?

Pages 4 and 5: Scarlet's movement at the bottom of page 4 is done awkwardly and terribly. Lightning Bug's face is the sort of graphic ugliness that has personified DC's output for a while now... and is just ugly. Not in a good way, just in an ugly way.

Ugh... I don't have the energy for this. Look at the party pages and tell me this guy has any storytelling skills involving people. Look at Gordon's awkward wave and facial expression...

Is this the absolute piece of crap art we all feared? Nah, but it's not far off. It's Tony Daniel-esque work, which we all can live with but would rather not. Tan surpassed/met expectations by not churning out pages that I could draw better, but the bar was set pretty damn low... clearing it isn't much of an accomplishment when you consider that this is a Big Selling Flagship DC book. Especially when he doesn't clear it by a whole lot.

I could tell what was going on for most of this book. Most. Not all.

The colouring also reminds me of the colouring during Daniel's tenure on the book. The highlighting of red, white, and black -- especially at the end. Morrison's writing is good, but doesn't sing because of the art limitations. Which is a shame, because Morrison's script places a lot of onus on visual nuance and people's expressions here and Tan doesn't pull those off. At all. Ever.

So, there, you go, Greg. Happy?

Edit (I said this to Greg in the comments of his post): Like I said, I think this issue relied on subtle nuane between characters at times... which is a flaw in Morrison's writing as I'm not sure he knows exactly what he wants either. How are we to take Grayson's body language in the party scene? I couldn't tell what Morrison and Tan were going for really -- in the art or writing, honestly. I liked Morrison's dialogue in the Red Hood/Scarlet scene, but Tan's art (his choice of angles a lot of the time) brought it down.

Captain America Reborn #3: Say what you will about this book, it contains 31 pages of story, so there's not to be any bitching about the extra buck charged. Nine more pages for a buck means that this comic costs 12.87 cents per page compared to a 22-page comic at $2.99, which comes to 13.59 cents per page. Not that any of those figures matter one fucking bit to me, but it does to some of you morons, so schtum! What matters is content and it's decent. Some action, some plot movement, albeit not that much. Sharon Carter continues to behave like an idiot, but what else is new. I liked last issue's cover more -- and had no problems with Captain America choking out Hitler from behind. Not heroic? PFT! More like most heroic act ever! You make that fucker tap out and then go to town on him. Hitch's art in this issue is a bit rougher than usual and his Namor is grotesque -- in a good way. I love how the gutters in the past are black, but are white in the present. Nice subtle indication to let you know what timeframe you're in. I'm digging this book.

Dark Avengers #9: Bendis handles the Ares/Nick Fury confrontation well, playing off some of the groundwork he's laid over the past few years. Did we get a subtle indication that Ares can make himself invisible/unseen? I love that Ares is the one thing that the god of fear is afraid of... The end of this issue is the first time that Bendis has approached the level of creepiness/fucked-up-ness of Ellis's Thunderbolts. And Mike Deodato is just so perfect for this book, although some of his layouts are a little too out there in places.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #5: Speaking of 'out there layouts'... or, more properly, speaking of the lack of out there layouts, I miss Marco Rudy on this book. Cliff Richards does a fine, steady job. His figure work and drawing ability isn't that much worse than Rudy's, but Rudy did some fantastic layouts in the first three issues that really added to the mood of scenes... and Richards's layouts are boring in comparison. The writing on this series is still obtuse, but quite interesting. Tom keeps going back in time to discover the truth about Electric City and to test his limitations... I am looking forward to next issue, so I can reread all six issues in a single sitting and see what to make of this series. Ambitious and experimental... we'll see if Ivan Brandon can bring it home in the end.