RandoMonday: Titans #4

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Titans 4

Titans #4 by Dan Abnett, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Andrew Dalhouse, Carlos M. Mangual, Brittany Holzherr, Alex Antone, and Booth/Rapmund/Dalhouse (cover)

“The Return of Wally West, part 4: Now You See Her…”

No sooner is the pre-Flashpoint Wally West back in the post-New 52 DC universe and back with his old pals, the Titans, Abra Kadabra shows up to enact revenge by kidnapping the New 52 Linda Park, threatening to kill her to defeat Wally. Meanwhile, the Titans fight magically conjured doppelgangers as they search for Linda. In the end, Kadabra places everyone in peril, forcing Wally to race off to try and save them all.

sigh DC’s Rebirth had such promise, but this train wreck of a title was a slap in the face to Titans fans. Who said Dan Abnett was a good writer? The opening story, of which this issue is a part, is derivative and unimaginative. The Booth art (he has never been a favorite of mine) is same ol’, same ol’, and his slanted panels get annoying. It’s Dalhouse’s colors that make this issue more than just a waste of my time and money.

I recommend you avoid this run of Titans altogether, but if you insist,it’s available on the DC Universe app and at Comixology.

RandoMonday: Clean Room #15

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Clean Room 15

Clean Room #15 by Gail Simone, Sanya Anwar, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Maggie Howell, Molly Mahan, and Jenny Frison (cover)

“All the Pretty Edges”

Clean Room was a wonderful series that began in 2015 but ended all too quickly. This issue is an interlude from the main story, but it’s still a wonderful tale of loss, grief, and the lies we tell each other and ourselves. But first, a bit about the series from DC Comics’ website:

Astrid Mueller is the enigmatic and compelling guru of a giant self-help organization—a devastatingly powerful figure in the industry between psychology and religion. Journalist Chloe Pierce’s fiancé decided to pick up Astrid’s book, and within three months he was dead. Something in Astrid Mueller’s book made Philip blow his brains out all over Chloe’s new kitchen.

Now Chloe is on a mission to find out who Astrid Mueller really is. What is this Clean Room she’s been hearing about where your deepest fear and worst moments are revealed? Chloe intends to immerse herself in the Clean Room and wreak havoc on Astrid’s empire.

In this issue, the story is told from the point of view of one of Astrid’s converts, Mary Carmody. She lost her husband in a suicide pact that she didn’t complete, and later she thinks she’s going crazy because she keeps seeing her husband’s broken and bloody corpse. This leads her to the An Honest World organization and Astrid herself. After she learns the truth about why she is there, she reaches a breaking point. Astrid helps her by having Mary relive her “bereft day” (think Star Trek‘s holodeck) and gifting Mary a final goodbye to her husband, apparently leading her down the path of recovery.

Putting the haunting aspect aside, this story is about grief and acceptance, and the storytelling team do a good job at conveying those facets — I feel I know this woman and what she’s going through. I could quibble about the art not being “spooky” enough, but I like that the somewhat “cartoony” style sufficiently navigates between the horror and  slice of life elements. The one thing artistically that doesn’t fit as well to me is the Frison cover. While well done, it doesn’t really have much to do with either the story or Mary’s journey.

Clean Room was one of my favorite Vertigo titles of the last several years, and I hope I see an eventual return of the book. There was a trade released that contains this issue, but it would be easier to it and the entire series on Comixology.

RandoMonday: Xombi #1

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Xombi #1 by John Rozum, Frazer Irving, Dave Sharpe, and Rachel Gluckstern

“The Ninth Stronghold, Part One: Prison of Industry”

I’ve written about Xombi before, but it was such a great series that I’ll let this duplication of a sort pass. Plus, how does this issue hold up after almost 10 years? But first, some plot!

Xombi is David Kim, a man infected (imbued?) with nanomachines that help keep him in peak physical condition and can rearrange the molecular structure of things he touches (in this case, paper to popcorn). David gets a tip from an associate to go to the Prison of Industry and prevent a prisoner from escaping. When David arrives, he is greeted by some rather extraordinary (superpowered) nuns. They investigate the prison, which is located on a long table because the prison is shrunk down to model size, but the prisoner David came to see is not there. The group is then attacked by snow angels and the issue ends with evil spirit-possessed children coming to (presumably) kill them all.

So, how does this issue fair after all these years? Quite well, it turns out. Frazer Irving’s art is the standout (I had, at that time, encountered his work first in Batman and Robin, shortly before this series debuted), but Rozum’s ideas (at least, I assume they were Rozum’s — was any of the wacky stuff from the Milestone edition of Xombi?) are pretty on par. It’s rare for me to find a comic book whose writing/plot/ideas mesh so well with the art/presentation, and Xombi was one of those books. It’s a real pity that Xombi did not continue as part of the New 52 relaunch in 2011.

There was a trade released in 2012, but is now out of print. However, it is available on Comixology and on the DC Universe app. If you’re looking for something quirky and intelligent, try Xombi.

RandoMonday: Batman and Robin #23

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

BatmanandRobin23

Batman and Robin #23 by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, John Kalisz, Carlos M. Mangual, Darren Shan, and Rachel Cluckstern

“Acceptance”. *sigh* This issue came six months (!) after Damian Wayne/Robin was murdered by his clone in the epic battle between Talia Al Ghul and Batman (as seen in Batman, Incorporated, specifically issue 8). In this issue, for the past three days, Batman is using virtual technology to prove he could have saved his son, so Alfred calls Dick Grayson in to talk his mentor out of this futile exercise. But because Dick knows Bruce so well (and in many ways, better than anybody), he doesn’t talk Bruce out of it, he joins him. Together, Batman and the former Robin are able to save Damian, allowing Bruce to reach a form of acceptance. But there is another man who’s needs to reach that stage of grief: Alfred. He runs a simulation where he prevented Damian from leaving Wayne Manor in the first place, thus preventing his death. Bruce then tells Alfred he is sorry, “I was too selfish to realize we both lost a son.” Reading that again after six years still gets to me.

This volume of Batman and Robin is one of the best Batman series ever. Gleason, Tomasi, and the others paint a haunting portrait of a man who lost a son and cannot really move past it. Yes, in this issue, Bruce does come to a form of acceptance, but it is a only a step that allows him to move to a different obsessive stage, setting up the next story arc.

The art in this issue is spectacular. We see some events of Batman, Incorporated #8 retold in ways that make the story even more poignant and personal for Batman. The one panel of Batman on the ground, unable to save his son as we hear the sickening sound effect of “SHUNNK” and the look on his face, especially his one exposed eye, is SO DAMN GOOD. It’s a feint, because Nightwing is the one stabbing Robin’s killer, saving the boy in this simulation, but I also read this as Bruce’s reaction to Nightwing killing to save his son. Imagine how Batman must feel to see his first son kill to save his younger son? It’s a part of the story that goes unexplored, but only serves to highlight how good of a comic book series this is to me.

If you have not read this volume, I highly recommend it.

 

RandoMonday: Alpha Flight #27

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

alpha flight 27

 

Alpha Flight #27 by John Byrne, Keith Williams, Andy Yanchus, Rick, Parker, and Dennis O’Neil

The first 2+ years of Alpha Flight volume 1 was sooo good. It had great characters, stories, art, and superhero angst, which this issue delivered. We have already learned that that the just returned Guardian, whom we thought dead for the last year, is in fact Delphine Courtney, an android intent on destroying Alpha Flight. In the ruckus, “Guardian” takes Shaman’s medicine pouch and turns it inside out, unleashing the mysterious void inside. Nearly all of Alpha Flight is trapped inside, and it is up to Shaman and Talisman to save them. But tragedy strikes when Shaman is unable to help his daughter escape the void before it returns to the pouch, trapping his daughter inside.

Say what you will about Byrne as a person, he did a great job of producing comic books. This issue is very wordy, yet Byrne’s draftsmanship doesn’t make the pages feel overly crowded and the art doesn’t suffer for it either. His depiction of the void as it unleashed in our dimension is simple but interesting visually. Also, the look on Shaman’s face at the very end is soap operatic, but I still feel for the guy (and knowing what comes later makes it even more distressful). I stopped collecting this series with issue 30, so I don’t know if the book’s quality was maintained after Byrne left. Let me know if I should read more!

What do you think of this issue?