There was a split second between pages in Batman and Robin #8 when I was expecting to see a horrible replay of the final scene that dare not not be named from Star Wars: Episode III. What happened instead felt much more like Batman, as did this entire issue, and I’m pleased to report back to any doubters who may have dropped this book during issue #’s 4-6 that the Grant Morrison series this should have become from the beginning has arrived, and Cameron Stewart may be to Batman and Robin what Frank Quitely was to New X-Men, even if his issues are few in number. I enjoy how Morrison can play with your expectations and still manage to surprise by offering scenes and moments that just plain resonate well with their characters and backstories.
There are numerous cliches in this issue, from the Lazarus Pit emergence to the twin-costumed hero fight in an instant of ambiguity and even Batwoman’s injuries. Morrison can pull you to the brink of groaning with disgust over a stale plot device and then jar the winged placental mammals out of you, though, both with humor and terror. Furthermore, the density of plot-relevant sequences this week almost made up for the entire last story arc that stretched awkwardly over its issues. And meanwhile you have the whole “Batman never fights to kill!” question hanging like a guillotine over the entire mythos, which is surely only for effect, but it does add another level of tension.
If every chapter of Batman and Robin produced these kinds of results, I’d be convinced we were looking at a game-changing classic, but instead it feels like the book is just now waking up. It was super-strong, but if I have one place to pick bones with it, it’s the weak, weak supporting cast, who all seem like rather bland placeholders who are British — and that’s about it. I’m not saying I need flashbacks or over-exposition in wordy asides, but they just seem hollow and reduced as people, which comes up short in terms of the expectations I have for a Morrison event comic. They have room to grow, though, and even if they don’t this series is standing on solid ground going into #9.
Rene Engström’s Anders Loves Maria is filled with language, nudity, and indecent everyday situations that are bound to offend many people, and it has soured the words of critics whose blogging I have read. It is also a hybrid work of English infused with occasional Swedish that has been an odyssey in of itself to follow, and its concoction of honestly confronted human confusion tinged with with just enough landmarks and words to designate Sweden as the locale made this a comic more or less targeted at me. Most importantly, however, Anders Loves Maria can now upon its ending count itself among a small but growing smattering of true graphic novels that have originated on the web, been created for the web, and are unique products of the webcomic creative process.
Over the course of a three-and-a-half-year history, the artwork has evolved, stuttered, and modulated with Engström’s own abilities, experimentations and biographical blogging, which is a dimension of the storytelling process that just doesn’t exist in the same way outside of webcomics. Seeing her bring the project and story to its planned point of completion felt like it reached a destination at the close of an extended transit period, and by those metrics of success I can’t see how anyone could regret investing themselves in Anders Loves Maria‘s ongoing drama and miniature comedies surrounding two young lovers and a pregnancy neither of them were ready to deal with.
The character relationships twist and gnarl at a degree comparable to most Wes Anderson movies (even if motivations and eccentricities aren’t always as overtly stated), and Engström’s ability to ratchet them into such uncomfortable yet compelling places is commendable. Her ultimate accomplishment, though, comes in pulling them through to the narrative’s close with a few years of discernible aging. I don’t want to spoil anything on this one for people who haven’t read the ending, but it elicits the sensation of your heart turning into a medicine ball and falling about six stories.
• You don’t need to speak Swedish to be able to appreciate this video of Dolph Lundgren singing, beating the tar out of some drums and breaking things with his bare fist. (via @nerdcityonline)
• According to The New York Times, it is not uncommon to be killed in the Philippines for singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” on karaoke nights.
• Rene Engström’s webcomic Anders Loves Maria concluded, and I can’t remember another webcomic whose conclusion kicked me in the heart this hard.
• In honor of the Super Bowl yesterday I indulged in the hospitality of my good friend and neighbor, yelled, and wrote a list for MTV’s Splash Page blog of the best comic book-related Super Bowl ads.
• I just got home from guesting on the Episode #78 of the Nerd City podcast. It not posted just yet. Nor will I be as entertaining as Chris Burnham was in Episode #77, but I had a spectacular time, and I hope Ben, Max and Crowley did too.
Any message board trolls who have ever doubted the talents of Darick Robertson should take a long hard look at this one-shot that came out from Dark Horse in January. Conan the Cimmerian: The Weight of the Crown is a 40-page self-contained tale both written and drawn by the Transmetropolitan and Boys artist, and his ability to depict brutality with the force, motion and mass of a Jackson Pollock canvas painted in ink and blood is impressive enough. What’s even more apparent about this release, though, is how well this story works as a Conan short.
The morality and typical fable attributes of a fantasy tale don’t apply to the Conan universe, and in a way it’s like a prehistoric noir tale in that after Conan slays a corrupt king and confronts the surviving prince after receiving the crown to the kingdom, he ponders over a period of time what the violence and leadership role actually mean. I don’t want to spoil the conclusion for anyone, but the book ends without any tidied-up soul-mending moments of resolution. No one makes any discoveries that alter their lives. The prince may, in the end, but that’s doubtful given his character. Rather, the purpose of the story is mostly to get inside what drives Conan and where he searches for fulfillment.
I appreciate it when a book doesn’t try to moralize, but presents a character dilemma in the terms of its culture, and this one places a lot of trust in the reader to make judgments and assessments about where a compass of right and wrong points between its covers.
From the time I first saw a Yellow Lantern ring try to latch itself onto Batman, I knew Geoff Johns would come the point where rings began flying around and causing apocalyptically colorful fights with scenes like Hal Jordan thwacking a giant green hammer through a zombie Spectre’s lower jaw. That one wins my favorite hit of 2010 so far, and there are reams of other memorable moments littered throughout Green Lantern #50.
For a landmark 50th issue it was suitably epic, though I can’t imagine that anyone who hasn’t been reading the “Blackest Night” books would have any clue as to what’s going on. Luckily, that doesn’t matter. This book is one long GWAR guitar solo of a comic book smackfest. Reading through it, you almost get the feeling that Johns could have spent the last decade putting his ducks in a row so that he could one day tell Doug Mahnke to draw Mera vomiting bloodfire all over her zombie son and zombie Aquaman with extreme prejudice. The same could be said of the contents of any number of other panels inside. It’s fan-service of the highest order, but for the same reasons I love to crank “Saddam A Go-Go” on boring Saturday afternoons, I would read Green Lantern #50 again, and inside I may pump a fist or two.
• Surely if you read webcomics at all this week, the existence of Axe Cop has been made known to you.
• My new favorite Tumblr user to follow is Rob Huebel, who introduced me to the pint-sized reggaeton stylings of Mini Daddy.
• Most of those questions I had about the iPad last week did not receive positive answers, and the lack of Flash support kind of pushed me back another few steps from considering it, but Kiel Phegley got some answers over on ComicBookResources.com regarding comics plans for the device.
• Heidi MacDonald’s blog The Beat is moving over ComicsBeat.com away from Publishers Weekly, so if you haven’t adjusted your bookmarks yet, get on that.
• I never knew that Tommy, the Green Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, fought in an MMA event until I read this post over at The Cool Kids Table.
“You little men in your little suits. That is all you ever do. It makes no difference whether you craft them from iron or steel or uru…There is no metal in your hearts.”
Kieron Gillen’s Thor writing can really make your heart thump, and that little exchange he had with Dr. Doom in Thor #606 set the tone for the issue, which proved how far one good hammer swing can go to make 24 pages worthwhile. The confrontation with Doom in his Destroyer armor from Thor #605 did seem anticlimactic by the time all was said and done, but as a prelude to Siege, this arc justified itself.
Loki, Balder and Doom were definitely the stars of the issue. As was even more the case in #605, Thor was a supporting cast member to the story playing out, but given all the characters with threads in motion leading up to Siege, that’s more or less how this issue was intended to function.
Billy Tan remains an ideal match to the Asgardian fight scenes here. He handles big-torso’d figures with remarkably fluid ease, and they feel massive to the eyes, which is off course how Asgardians should be be perceived. The sequence with Balder uncovering Doom’s lab experiments likewise benefited from Tan’s sense of scale and versatile imagination applied human forms.
I’d tell a Thor fan who planned on reading Siege to pick #606 up for sure. For a Thor fan who wasn’t interested in Siege, I’d probably tell them to wait out the storm and resume this series when it’s over, and I look forward to seeing where the thunder god ends up when the dust of this year’s crossover event settles.