Comic Treats and Lessons

17Apr12

“My” comic book store — House of Secrets in Burbank — celebrated it’s 21st Anniversary (or birthday… I don’t know which you’re supposed to call it) by giving 40% off any books in the store. For avid readers, this meant a great way to stock up on some pricey items. For cheap skates like me, it meant I could finally pull the trigger on a few monthlies I’ve been curious about. I picked up a few, leafed through a few others, but finally couldn’t see myself biting on too many (“Batwoman,” for example. I’ve heard it’s great, but I just don’t see myself mustering up interest). Plus they didn’t have “Animal Man #1,” so I settled on nostalgic choices. I can’t help it, and I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog to “Nostalgia Today.”

Let’s see what we got for just $11.00:

Batman & Robin, #1 and #2: Good stuff, though very talky. I’ve been thinking about how screenwriters are encouraged to introduce characters in action, and that’s something missing from almost every book I bought. Same goes for B&R. It starts with an action scene, I suppose, but Bruce and Damien are first shown just handgun’ in the manor.

HOWEVER, there is evidence here to “Batman & Robin” remaining my favorite monthly Bat-book, and that’s the revelation that Bruce is sort of moving on with his life, promising to stop mourning the death of his parents and to start celebrating their lives (in one of the clunkier lines in the book). Actually, most of Batman/Bruce’s lines sound a little odd. Not 100% out of character, and not always bad, but just out of sorts. This may have more to do with the relationship Bruce has with his son, which has the potential to get really weird if not for Bruce’s other revelation in #2, about being a good father. I have my fingers crossed that this line stays fairly self contained, if only for a few series. Lines about how “Batman will always need a Robin” have me hopeful.

FAVORITE PART: Batman not only blowing up the ceiling of a radiation fuel room — which happens to be the floor of a pool above — but also catching the swimmers with a net.

Action Comics #1: I’ve come to have a up-and-down relationship with Grant Morrison. He has certainly done great things, as my current love of “Batman & Robin” shows. I also loved “All-Star Superman,” but I was underwhelmed with (what I’ve read of) his run on “JLA.” Some people considered that to be some of his best work, and I considered it just as cluttered and fidgety as always. Nevertheless, my hopes and expectations were/are pretty high for his run on “Action Comics,” so I took a shot on it and it’s $3.99 price (I guess DC stopped drawing that line?).

And I’m mostly just underwhelmed. Granted (Morissoned), it took me a couple reads of “All-Star Superman” to see what he was playing with, and that payed off big time. So maybe I’ll need to keep checking this out for a while to see the whole story. He seems like a big-picture kind of writer. But I can’t get past my initial feeling of “…So?” Maybe this has more to do with my expectations coming into the New 52. I’d just read “Superman For All Seasons,” and maybe I’m just a nostalgic cretin who doesn’t like change. But I do like change when it gets some results. This just felt cluttered. I’m very surprised this has gotten as good a reviews as it has, and I feel that has more to do with the respect Morrison holds (and deserves) than the finished product. It feels interesting in a curiosity way, not a quality way.

The Flash #1: Never doubt lowered expectations. I’ve heard so-so things about this one, but my recent love-affair with the Speedster Family forced my sale-fueled hand to get this one, and I wasn’t let down at all. I can see how, compared with many of the others I’ve heard about and read here, that “The Flash” might seem a little light. It seems like it’s about one thing — exactly what they’re talking about — and lacks the layers and depth of a story about, say, a vigilante father taking responsibility for his trained-killer son. But it’s entertaining, and ends in a (I’m learning) typical Flash fashion (aka “Flashion”), which means something kind of crazy happens. And it looks great, which I’m not ashamed to say counts for 75% of my opinion of a comic book. Draw a good one, and I’m there. Write a great one… and it better have some good art.

FAVORITE PART: The cover. It’s gorgeous.

The Umbrella Academy #1: This is a bit of a cheat, since it’s a reissue of the first run, as part of DC’s “#1 for $1.00″ series. Again, friend recommendations pushed me here, and the chance to get it for only $.60 didn’t hurt. It’s worth more than $.60. Maybe even worth full price. Probably should have bought the TPB collection of this whole story. It seems like a “Hellboy”-esque brand of wacky humor and horror, but not over the top. At least not yet. It also seems to run on pure imagination, which is exciting since that seems to happen less and less often, “Axe Cop” notwithstanding. The difference between this and “Axe Cop” is that “Axe Cop” works because you know a kid is writing it, so you enjoy that bit of “performance” as it were. With “Umbrella Academy,” I have the book standing on its own merits, and stand it does. Very wonderful.

FAVORITE PART: “But we’re probably going to have to round up those paintings.”

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