Thursday, May 17, 2012

Comic of the Week!


I'm a dork.  But you knew that.  Every Wednesday is comic book day, or for ye laypersons, the day that new comic books are released for sale (they actually arrive on Tuesday, but cannot be legally sold until the following day).  Comic books are a long misunderstood storytelling medium.  They don't have the stodgy legitimacy of actual books (love me some literature, but it the cheese need not stand alone), and they lack the immediate spectacle of a motion picture ("movie" to ye laypersons), yet comic books are an incredible way of telling strong, compelling stories over the course of time.  Some are episodic, others are serial.  Some unfold a deep and meaningful story over a span of months or years, while others are pure candy and are meant to be devoured and enjoyed in and of themselves.
If you have always regarded comics as "kid's stuff" you have missed out on a lot of great stories.  Thanks to blockbusters like The Avengers, comic books and their subject matter are getting more cultural attention than ever, but that doesn't mean that all comics are great, nor does it mean you are always going to stumble into your local comic shop and pick a winner.  That's where I come in.  I spend a portion (far less than you might expect) of my modest income on comic books each Wednesday.  With the economy in the state it is in, every comic dollar is precious and there is no reason to waste your hard earned money on bad comics.  Each week, I will pick up my comics, read them, and then clue you in on the best comic I bought that week.  I'll tell you why it was so great and I'll tell you anything you might need to know to jump on board (if your curiosity is piqued). I'll also clue you in if I make a mistake and pick up a clunker, or if a comic that had previously been great has started to lose it's panache.  If you are already a comics fan, I would love to hear what you are reading, especially if I am missing out on something great, or if you disagree with my take on a certain book.
So I hope you'll join me each week as we take stroll down comics lane.  Oh the places we will go!

Comic of the Week 5.16.12
Wonder Woman #9 
DC Comics

I know very very little about Wonder Woman.  What I do know is a synthesis of Linda Carter and Super Friends.  So when it comes to WW comics I am a clean slate, and perhaps easily impressed, however when DC relaunched all of its titles last year I saw a clear opportunity to delve into the world of the Amazon with the golden sexist lasso.
Part of the DC New 52 relaunch involved pairing top creators with DC's powerhouse characters to breathe new life into their comics.  The much heralded Brian Azzarello drew the Wonder Woman straw.  Azzarello is the creator of the explosive comic 100 Bullets which set fans on fire during the first decade of the 21st century.  When it comes to popular writers, Azzarello is white hot.
Personally, I never got into 100 Bullets, but people went nuts for Azzarello's penchant for writing violent and thought-provoking stories and the comic won many awards.  Thus, the draw of having Azzarello as the writer did not necessarily sell me on the book.
Instead, my experience with WW has had the opposite effect.  Azzarello does such an incredible job with Diana and her literal pantheon of characters, that I now understand what all of the buzz is about.  Wonder Woman has made me an Azzarello fan.

The story is as epic as the cast.  Diana is charged with protecting the latest mortal bride of Zeus against the scores of gods, demi-gods, and other legendary figures bent to her destruction.  This task has required her to wage war against Poseidon, battle the armies of Hera and Hippolyta, and enlist the aid of Hephaestus.  Her most recent adventure, chronicled in this month's CotW, follows Diana as she prepares to marry Hades in order to keep her mortal charge out of harm's way. 

Azzarello does an incredible job of crafting this story. He handles the characters extremely well and manages to tell an epic tale, but rarely loses sight of the fact that he is telling single issue stories.  This is the challenge of the modern comic writer and Azzarello manages the task fairly well.  This month's issue is a perfect example of his powerful storytelling ability.  Diana is trapped in Hell.  Her mind clouded (maybe) by a shot from Cupid's gun, she seems unable to resist or escape.  While Diana marches, literally, toward her fate her cohorts Hermes, Hephaestus, and Cupid plot her liberation in the form of a spectacular wedding crash.  The story builds as the time of the impending nuptials draws near.  For fear of Diana's betrayal, Hades' enlists the aid of Strife to ensnare the Amazon in a plot that will lead either to her death or her ultimate submission to his will. 

It's truly great stuff.  I have no idea if this is what Wonder Woman fans would be into, but it has made a Wonder Woman fan out of me.  If you are not reading Wonder Woman, you should be!

On the flip side...
Loser of the Week
(or, the comic I'm about to drop because it has started to suck)

DC Comics

I started reading Batwoman at the same time and for the same reasons I picked up Wonder Woman.  For six issues Batwoman was a gripping crime drama with tons of suspense, great mystery, and compelling characters.  The art was moody and set the tone for a great read.  Then, something really bad happened.  The storytelling completely changed and the art took a turn for the worst.  Instead of telling a fairly linear crime drama based on single issue increments, Batwoman veered way off the beaten path and attempted to tell a chronologically dysfunctional tale with no clear plot or direction.  The story jumps time and place across the span of past weeks and days to the present moment with no real rhyme or reason.  To complicate matters further, the story jumps from character to character as well as temporally and it becomes impossible to make heads or tails of what is going on or when it is happening.  This kind of storytelling works great in a graphic novel where we get the entire story at once and the device is used to punctuate moments in the narrative.  In an episodic comic book, where parts of the story are doled out in thirty day increments, it is very difficult to make this kind of device work at all. When it does succeed it is usually a masterpiece.  Batwoman is not a masterpiece, it is a mess.

It is sad to see a good book go bad, but I fear this is a classic case of a creator who could not keep up with the demands of a monthly schedule and thus, after the first arc, elements of the comic got delegated to lesser talents and the overall effect killed any magic the comic had to begin with.  To be honest, at this point I'm only sticking around for the occasional lesbian action.  And for that reason, Batwoman must go.

What comics are you into these days?  Am I missing something great?  Did I just trash your favorite book?  As always, we at EF would love to hear from you!

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