Judd Winnick Week is once again upon us. Is it all bad?
Plus: Huntress Year One, Barbara Gordon in the buff (no lie!), the new Batmobile, Tiny Titans disco fever and the Young Liars!
(Grant Morrison / Tony Daniel / Sandy Florea)
'Batman R.I.P.' part 1. This is the issue where Tony Daniel earns his stripes. Wildly cinematic and atmospheric, introducing the Danse Macabre (a darkly gothic set of bat-villains), firing up the new sleek Bat-mobile in a city-wide chicken-run/ car-chase, getting close and intimate with new flame (and my prime suspect for the hand inside the Black Glove) Jezebel Jet and finishing with the cruelest most disturbing sequence in Joker's history.
Cutting out his own lips to form a permanent scar tissue grin? Brrrrr
BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #17
(Fabian Nicieza / Kevin Maguire)
'The Cat & the Bat' part 1. It's Catwoman versus the original Barbara Gordon Batgirl!
A cat-chase across the Gotham city rooftops, a mid-air tussle, a full-on scratch-fight, and ultimately... a strip-down? Will Babs dare infiltrate a nudist club to catch her cat-thief? Oooooh, you betcha!
Barbara Gordon will always have that certain je-ne-sais-quoi sex/geek appeal to fanboys, and combined with this cheesecake writing and Maguire's unparalleled storytelling and character design? This is a definite can't miss. Too bad continuity dictates Catwoman has to be in her horrid grey full-body leotard instead of the kinky leathers...
BATMAN STRIKES #45
(Jay Nitz / Christopher Jones / Terry Beatty)
What's even better than Batgirl vs Catwoman? Batgirl vs Catwoman + Harley Quinn + Poison Ivy! Only, it's more of a team-up against a Super-Tobacco mutant plant, and we don't get the benefit of gorgeous Maguire art. Jones' Batgirl (based on the animated series designs I guess?) is the cutest yet, but the flop-eared Catwoman and Harley need some getting used to.
BOOSTER GOLD #9
(Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz / Dan Jurgens)
'Blue & Gold' part 4. Still stuck in the messed-up present where Max Lord has taken over the world (and it's all Booster's fault kids, for traveling back to save his best bud Blue Beetle's life. Just remember, changing the past never ever ever leads to anything good!).
Now it's time for the officially unofficial Justice League International reunion with Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, Mister Miracle, Martian Manhunter and the Bat himself! The team dynamic is still there and better than any other JL roster before or after. Why can't we get a monthly JLI book again?
As an added bonus, Johns works his continuity-fixing magic to make up for his previous blunder of retconning the super-cyborg Max Lord into a base human. All in a day's work!
GREEN ARROW / BLACK CANARY #8
(Judd Winnick / Mike Norton / Rodney Ramos)
'Haystack' part 3. Hey an issue of GA/BC where I have nothing significant to whine about. Boo :(
Sure there's lots of lame Brit-related jokes, Leicestershire is instantly referenced as 'hunting territory' (huh? wtf? it's full of towns and universities), a painfully transparent and forced romantic subplot is furthered, Ollie packs increasingly ridiculously specific arrows for each situation (an acid arrow that only dissolves plastic tires?) and the easily forgettable new bad boy Dodger is desperately promoted as lots of things he's not: a) interesting, b) sexy, and c) in any way reminiscent of James Bond.
It's not a bad issue, it's not a good issue. It's just there. (oh yeah, I forgot the plot recap: it's about the Arrow family flying into an English castle and dodging some bullets). It really should feel like more fun, but it's trying too hard and too clumsily.
(so I did end up whining about stuff... let's keep it between us)
HUNTRESS YEAR ONE #1
(Ivory Madison / Cliff Richards)
The Huntress hunts (I know! ingenious) and skins some wildlife, while reminiscing about her very Sopranos childhood. Not sure how much of this is canon and how much is ground-up reimagining. There's meat (nar nar) in the story; Huntress' narrative voice is staggering and chilling in places, coming from a darker time in her life before all the bat-familyness and girl-power bonding. In fact, the entire story makes no super-heroic or 'comic-booky' references whatsoever, instead being a passable mafia drama. Cliff Richards teeters from ultra-realistic to Buffy-bland from page to page, but when he's at it, he really does shine.
(Vito Del Sante / Julian Lopez / Bit)
A flashback fill-in issue with a lot of useless filler and a quaint Superman/Alan Scott Green Lantern team-up against Solomon Grundy.
Some worthwhile bonding moments between the two heroes are lost amidst the myriad subplots that don't go anywhere. Why set up the origin of Bizarro if you're only on for one issue? Julian Lopez saves the day proving he's soon to be the talk of town.
(Judd Winnick / Joe Benitez / Victor Llamas)
'Family Affair' part 1. Yes, so #1 was part two of a storyline, but #2 is part one of a new one (although it really continues from #1's cliffhanger). Go figure.
The story: Trigon's back (and looking like a used-up transvestite crack whore in a thong and high stockings: whyyyy) and he's targetting old Titan members, because you know they're apparently so much more threatening than Superman, Batman and the rest of the actual big guns. The reassembled Titans all show up to save the kidnapped Argent, while the Justice League take on the other kidnapping monsters one-on-one (goes back to our talk about threat levels).
The Titans don't really click well together; noone gets significant page time, and those who do seem to revert to whiny catty teenagers, talking over each other and being a headache to read; understandable on some deep psychological level, but c'mon, this is too annoying. Raven goes to meet her tranny daddy only to get transformed herself into a horrid bimbo (in both appearance and demeanor), where she learns the -OMG startling last splash page huge reveal everyone gasp now- news that Trigon has another kid. Wake me uuuup before you go go...
I could almost look over all that if there was some good art, but we're stuck with Joe Benitez (arguably THE worst artist on DC Comics this decade) while Ian Churchill recuperates from hand injury. All in all, this is setting the suckage bar too low for any other title to compete. (well, ok, maybe the New Warriors. maybe.)
TINY TITANS #4
Robin gets a robin infestation.
Wonder Girl babysits the lil' Tiny Titans.
Beast Boy goes to the dentist.
Starfire gets a perm.
Plus: Robin gets his disco groove on as Nightwing!
Cute and fun but ultimately a one minute read, since most pages are an extremely padded three-panel comic strip gag.
YOUNG LIARS #3
Sex, drugs, rock n roll. Lies, lies and more lies (the lies we tell others, the lies we tell ourselves) - and somewhere in the middle the ugly truth of the human condition. Lapham is brutally and cruelly honest with his characters, he shows them at their weakest, exposing their darkest recesses at every turn. The anorexic Annie X, the faux-high brow band-aid on her knees in the dressing room, the suicidal lead with his co-dependent crazy ultra-violent girlfriend, the pure-at-heart transvestite and his leeching trust-fund baby boyfriend.
Between this and Scalped, there's hope still for Vertigo.