Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #41 - Catwoman #21

Catwoman #21
DC Comics
$2.99, Color, 32 pgs.
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artists: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona

Every once in a while, I pick up a title that I normally don't read just to see if the publisher is providing a "new-reader friendly" experience.  Unfortunately, Catwoman #21, while still a decent book, does not qualify. 

I have not read Catwoman on any regular basis throughout her many incarnations, simply because I've never had any real interest in the character.  Although I've checked out a few issues from previous series, it's just never held my attention long enough to commit to a regular monthly title.  This issue is actually the first I've read since the current series premiered in the "New 52" DCU.

The issue does not offer any kind of recap or summary of the storyline for new readers.  DC Comics' website says the story is "following the events of the Catwoman Annual," but does not provide much detail beyond that.  However, it's fairly clear that Catwoman and The Penguin are in some kind of territory war over a section of Gotham City called "The Badlands."  On one side is the Penguin and his army of henchmen, which also includes the super villain Volt.  On the other side is Catwoman and a street gang called the Rat-Tails, who are trying to free themselves from the protection racket that the Penguin uses to keep the gang under his control. 

While the issue has some exciting moments and plenty of action, Ann Nocenti's dialogue reads a little too much like her Daredevil run from the early 1990's.  As for the art by Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona, I would have to agree with the comment made on the DC Comics website, which noted that the characters appeared to be walking around with their eyes closed.  There does appear to be a lot of squinting going on, which may not be the best strategy when The Penguin is trying to blow up your entire neighborhood.

One of the determining factors of a comic book being "new-reader friendly" is whether or not that reader will return for the next issue.  Unfortunately, this latest version of the character did not stoke my interest enough for me to pick up Catwoman #22. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #40 - Batman Incorporated #12

Batman Incorporated #12
DC Comics
$2.99, Color, 32 pgs.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham

In terms of "The New 52," Batman Incorporated has been (thankfully) one of the exceptions to the continuity reset button that has befallen most of the DC Universe.  Unlike other series like Action Comics and Justice League, this book has retained most of the continuity of Grant Morrison's past storylines, which go all the way back to the beginning of his Batman run in 2006.  There have been many memorable stories since that first issue was released almost seven years ago, including "Batman: R.I.P.," and "The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul."  After all these years, it's hard to believe Morrison is finally at the finish line, and it's been quite a ride.  During a recent interview on the Comic Book Resources website, Grant Morrison described his final story arc as "The Vengeance of Batman," and this issue makes good on that promise. 

Over the course of this series, Batman has been pushed beyond the breaking point.  His friends and allies have been injured or killed; Gotham City has been virtually held hostage and forced to turn against its protector; and the global enterprise that Batman put so much time, effort and money into has been brought to its knees.

And now the woman responsible for it all has brutally murdered his son Damian. 

In this issue The Dark Knight lives up to his namesake.  It's not so much about justice right now as it is about getting payback, and Batman is not the only cast member that wants revenge.  It starts with a brutal last stand against "The Heretic," a battle made even more horrific when Batman sees the face under the mask (nope, I'm not going to spoil it).  After yet another shocking moment, Morrison sets the stage for what promises to be next issue's final showdown with Talia Al Ghul, who has certainly moved up into the top five, if the not the #1 spot in Batman's Rogues Gallery.

Batman Incorporated #12

One interesting aspect of this issue is seeing Talia's true nature come out, especially during the scene when she yells out in protest at Batman's refusal to yield.  I found it interesting how Talia, while running an international crime syndicate, overpowering and imprisoning the mighty Ra's Al Ghul, and bringing Gotham City to its knees, is still at heart nothing more than a petulant child that wants her own way, and will stop at nothing to get it.

Batman #658: Talia's intentions were made clear early on in Morrison's epic run.

From the first page to the very last panel, this issue delivers in every possible way, and will leave readers breathless, and anticipating next issue's finale.  Chris Burnham's visceral art, which just keeps getting better with every issue, has been no small contributor to this title's success.  This book is firing on all cylinders, and the only bad news is that there is only one issue left to go.  I completely expect, however, that Morrison's finale will not leave anyone disappointed.