Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Comic book reviews for the week of December 22nd in six sentences (or less)

Guts and gore and…unpleasant sexual situations in this week’s Six Sentences (or less). Just the kind of thing you really want to delve into right before the holidays. Ho ho ho and all that. So upsize your egg nog as we present you with the holiday edition of Toronto’s favourite comic book mini-reviews.

Batman Incorporated #2
Bruce Wayne throws down with the Japanese super-villian, Lord Death Man, on his first stop around the world recruiting potential new Batmen to fight crime under the Batman Inc. brand. Surprisingly its a completely straightforward issue, full of almost none of the ticks and tricks that Grant Morrison loves to employ. Instead Morrison appears to be riffing on the essential elements on some of the core Batman mythos, only eerily devoid of the dark bleakness that’s inhabited the character for years. We have glimpses into Bruce the master-detective, the Kyle\Wayne forbidden love angle and some of the good ol’ hand on hand Batman ultra-violence. From any other author I’d say this is a solid Batman story by the numbers, from Grant Morrison I need more.

DC Universe: Legacies #8
DC’s illustrated history of the world continues. This issue deals with one of the darkest chapters of comic publishing, we call it the mid 90s. That’s when DC tried to reboot, revamp and otherwise rethink the basic tenants behind many of their core characters. Superman got a new haircut, Batman got his back broken, Green Lantern became a bad guy and a lot of other characters got otherwise replaced or shuffled off into the sidelines. The grand experiment lasted a couple years before, almost without exception, every single one was returned to their roots and the embarrassing saga was swept under the rug to be jeered at mockingly by sarcastic fanboys for years to come. Len Wein does a good job synthesizing the events of the time period into a single issue, but the real treat is a back up story drawn by Frank Quitely about DC’s Kirby era creations. Quitely is my all time favourite penciller and he’s able to make even a mediocre story imminently readable. Throw Kirby characters at him and I start to suffer Pavlovian responses by drooling uncontrollably on the page.

Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1
Of all the new characters introduced by Geoff Johns as part of the zombie epic BLACKEST NIGHT I think Larfleeze is easily the most popular. Of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make that deduction, considering that Larfleeze is the only character in the entire DCU to get his own Christmas book. Which is pretty good for a guy who’s only claim to fame is being a supporting character in the GREEN LANTERN expanded universe. When Larfleeze first burst on the scene he was portrayed as an aloof alien with a dark, malicious streak. Since then, he’s undergone a slight personality shift and now he comes across as a mix between the Grinch and a spoiled child. Now Larfleeze is played more for comic relief rather than any kind of serious threat.

Anyway, in this issue Larfleeze goes on a rampage in search of Santa Claus after he determines the big guy has neglected to give him any of the Christmas presents he asked for. Which means it’s up to Green Lantern to help show Larfleeze the true meaning of Christmas.

I think Larfleeze is a fun character and it’s always been amusing to see his more anarchistic and irreverent side. But unfortunately, from a plot point of view, this is a pretty thin issue when you get right down to it. Writer Geoff Johns is clearly playing this whole thing just for laughs and by doing so he’s in danger of cementing Larfleeze as a one note character – more so than he already is. There’s a small pay off at the end, setting up a future story arc in GREEN LANTERN I’m sure, but its material that’s already been hinted at in other places. In the end, another good but not a great issue.

Invincible #76
While Invincible might not deal with material as explicit as Neonomicon it is, in its own way, just as stomach turning. Penciller Ryan Ottley seems to have developed a knack for breaking, mutilating and otherwise disfiguring the human body. I’ve never seen near as many graphic disembowelments as I have before I started reading this comic. Eye gouging, decapitation and exposed internal organs are the new norm in these pages. The reason why the violence is so notable is that, at times, Invincible has the air of an all ages family style comic book. Blame the bright colours and teenage protagonists I guess.

Neonomicon #3
I think its important to step outside of your comfort zone once in awhile. If you don’t expose yourself to new stories and new ideas you end up slowly constructing a very safe little box for you to inhabit, where nothing ever challenges you. I think comic book readers often lock themselves inside those little boxes. Too many people get hooked on the capes and tights genre and they never look back. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’ve found something that works for you, then by all means enjoy it. You’re under no obligation to try something else.
But having said all that, Neonomicon pushes my tolerance levels for ‘something different’ right into the red zone. If you can get past the surface story about the extended rape scene and digest some of the unsettling implications of what appears to be the lead character’s acceptance of those events then you might be able to enjoy the deeper story that writer Alan Moore is trying to tell. But, to be honest, I’m getting hung up on the subject matter and I can’t look very far beyond that.

Superior #3
Otherwise known as the Superman who swears. Writer Mark Millar continues to put his Superman-analogue through his origin story paces. There’s not much to the issue in the way of story. We’re introduced to a super-sexed Lois stand in and treated to a few standard rescue scenes. But Leinil Yu makes the whole thing look so good that its easy to forget you’re watching something you’ve seen a hundred times before.

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