Friday, August 12, 2011

DCU - The End? Part 1

The end of an era is upon us as the new DCU relaunch is a mere three weeks away.  I figured that since endings are one of the hardest things to do in comics, not to mention things that have a tendency to disappoint, that it would be interesting to see how all of the different DC books closed their doors.  Did they finish up their running stories?  Did they supply closure to the characters that we have come to love over the last 25 years?  Were they fillers?  Were they satisfying?  Or did they really just flounder and feel unnecessary to the point where you have to wonder why exactly this was the way for them to say, "That's it, folks?"  Well, without further ado, let's see what there is to see.

Batgril #24
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Pere Perez
Company: DC Comics
Cute.  Fun.  Entertaining.  Immensely enjoyable.  Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl series has been all of these things and more.  It has been that always tasty and always welcomed grilled cheese sandwich.  The known quantity that never goes bad.  It's been that way for 23 issues and really, it keeps its record that way for it's last.  Closure is accomplished with the story thread of who has been running the gang threatening Stephanie.  It comes full circle, really, while at the same time not forgetting that it's a part of the DCU and able to pull strings and objects from other books to add interest and intrigue.  Perez, as always, provides nice eye candy.  His style is not as flashy as some, but it's way above average.  It has a nice line and his storytelling, one of the biggest things to get right in artistry 101, is always clear and clean.  Nguyen's cover, which features every single character ever to appear in the book, is a nice bonus as well.  Miller just knows how to write a competent script and really does give Stephanie Brown the proper, upbeat, ending that she deserves.

Batman & Robin #26
Writer: David Hine
Artists: Greg Tocchini & Andrei Bressan
Company: DC Comics
A one shot that sees Batman and Robin fight the deadly escapees of the French equivalent to Arkham Asylum.  David (District X) Hine takes strange Morrisonian concepts, things that feel very much in line with Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood of Dada (referenced in the issue itself), and tries to roll with them.  The results are a mixed bag.  His mix of action and ideas isn't as cohesive as it could have been, but seeing Batman being split apart and Robin turned to glass does have a cool factor.  Tocchinni and Bressan's art is the major issue.  They are fine artists, and have proven that over the last few issues of the book, but a lot of the details of this very odd story go by in a blur of lines.  It's almost as if there's too much happening in every panel and little bits of storytelling is getting lost in the mayhem.  This being the "last" issue of Batman and Robin, it's strange that there's not a bigger statement to be said.  It's just another issue, one that can be picked up and read without any previous knowledge of what has been going on in the previous issues.

Birds of Prey #15
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Billy Tucci and Adriana Melo
Company: DC Comics
Well, as much as Marc Andreyko has wowed the comics world with his book Manhunter, this ending to the Birds of Prey that we all know and love didn't have the punch that I was expecting.  It is an ending, one to a story involving Canary's mother, the original Phantom Lady, and Zinda, all in the clutches of a Nazi scientist, but it's slightly unremarkable and feels pretty standard in most respects.  A lot of the yawn inducement had to do with the story, but Billy Tucci's artwork doesn't help things either.  It's been awhile since I've seen Tucci do interior work, but his line is so heavy that things look and feel very clunky in the panels.  These are lithe and powerful women, and they don't project that the way some of the other artists on this book have.  In the end, Andreyko pulls off a little of the charm and charisma that the team has, but there really seems to be something missing.

Detective Comics #881
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock & Francesco Francavilla
Company: DC Comics
Well okay, that was what you would call a natural, well defined ending.  Without a doubt, Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics has been one to remember.  Dark, moody, and focused on the strained and tight-rope inducing relationships that members of the Gordon and Wayne families have with one another, Snyder is the David Fincher of comics.  He weaves and jabs at you, striking that great sense of fright and exhilaration in a mystery that has been going on since he took over the book.  That paired with the extremely talented artist pair of Jock and Francavilla, and you really can't go wrong.  It seems weird that the split on art duties wouldn't have an adverse effect on the title, but it's the complete opposite.  Both artists deftly handle the brutal story and utilize their styles in ways that accentuate the scenes as they come.  Superbly executed, Snyder and co. have served Detective Comics quite well.  In other words, that was one hell of an ending.

Red Robin #26
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Marcus To
Company: DC Comics
The complete opposite of Batgirl and its more or less happy ending, Fabian Nicieza's Red Robin skews to the darkest of shadows.  How?  Tim Drake is looking for revenge against the person who murdered his father, Captain Boomerang.  Personally, the story felt a little like it came out of nowhere, but in Teen Titans history and a few other places, it's always been eluded to Tim having a darker path to tread.  This issue definitely takes up that banner, shows what Tim has truly become and leaves you with a heady thought that provokes a real response.  I give Nicieza props for that.  To, as always, does a great job of portraying the slick action on the page in a way that is exciting.  He has an easy on the eyes style, one who's lines are drawn with purpose.  It's very action oriented too, but he doesn't ignore the smaller things either, letting the world around the characters breathe a bit.  I'm a little torn on how this one ends, but I can't say that there wasn't a lot to like in this issue.

Secret Six #36
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: J. Calafiore
Company: DC Comics
Well, the fun had to end at some point, right?  It's sad, but over three years of crazy, dark, demented, horribly funny antics with this group of fun loving anti-heroes is pretty darn good.  And more importantly, they go out on top in a way that makes perfect sense for the group.  Simone gave this team so much life, so much character, and that doesn't stop merely because this is the final issue.  Seeing Bane orchestrate a hit on the members of Batman's family and friends is a very Bane thing to do, and it leads to some great scenes.  I still think the, "I'm a shark," bit from King Shark is getting old, but whatever.  There's too much here that's good.  I was never completely sold on Calafiore's art on the whole, but his work here and in the previous issues that he collaborated with Simone is growing on me.  He captures the depravity and sells the dark humor and the in-fighting so well.  I'll miss this book horribly, but it's a fitting end that speaks to its core being.  Sometimes, you can't ask for any more than that.

Superman #714
Writer: John Michael Straczynski & Chris Roberson
Artist: Allan Goldman & Eber Ferreira
Company: DC Comics
I still imagine that it's hard to follow the plots of someone else, but with this issue, Chris Roberson finishes up the "Grounded" storyline that has been going on in the Superman title for at least a year.  More to the point, it's a decent ending.  Not terribly exciting, but there are answers that make sense of some of the more nutty aspects of the story and Roberson gets across the core point of the character.  I wish there was something a bit more exciting, but the story runs the gamut of being action oriented and exposition heavy, which is never easy.  I will say that it was nice to see one of the crazy ideas from Grant Morrison's All Star Superman being referenced.  The art by Goldman and Ferreira is decent enough.  Some of the anatomy isn't as well rendered as I would have liked, but there's nothing egregious about any of it.  Really, Superman is traditionally one of the hardest characters to write, but Roberson ended the story well.

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