Funnybook Babylon

November 26, 2008

Batman #681 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 6: Hearts in Darkness”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 4:47 pm
Batman #681

Batman #681

Yeah, yeah, I know I have shitty reactions sometimes. Full-on notes below the jump, although this issue is way more straightforward than normal.
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October 24, 2008

Minx Post Mortem: New York Four

Filed under: Blurbs,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 3:12 pm

You might be fooled if you come from out of town.
Snoop Dogg

9578_400x600Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
New York Four
Minx

New Yorkers born in the outer boroughs live in a city unfamiliar to newcomers (in my mind, newcomers are people who’ve lived here for less than thirty years) and most native Manhattanites. To some, it’s a lost dystopia, a place where risk and uncertainty have been replaced by bland commercialism. To others, it’s not a unified city at all, but a loose collection of insular neighborhood tribes. You’ll hear a lot of different visions of New York from natives, but the one you’re least likely to hear from them is the one presented by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly in their contribution to the defunct Minx line, The New York Four.

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October 23, 2008

Jamilti and Other Stories

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Pedro Tejeda @ 6:25 pm

Jamilti and Other Stories

Rutu Modan
Jamilti and Other Stories
Drawn and Quarterly

I walked away from Exit Wounds enjoying Modan’s dialogue, her coloring, and the expressiveness of her faces but feeling mixed about the overall story. Maybe I was too attached to her short form slice of life style from her New York Times work. These small stories were overflowing with aspects and ideas of family which felt sparse in the longer length of Exit Wounds.

It was my attachment to that blog work that made me pick up her current anthology from Drawn and Quarterly, Jamilti and Other Stories. Jamilti contains several of Modan’s short story work between ’98 to ’07, many occurring in modern Israel and based around families. Several use family photographs as ways to advance the plot.

I have to say even though nearly every one of the stories have some negative aspects to them, Modan’s other strengths were enough to make me enjoy each of them. One particular shortcoming in Modan’s earlier work is how ugly it can be. I love Modan’s current art style. Her backgrounds are quite strong and she is able to convey so many different emotions with simple line work. Her characters’ body shapes are quite fantastic, each character is drawn in a unique way that is more than age and sex appropriate but just natural. It makes it easier to realize them as actualized people instead of characters in a story.
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October 22, 2008

Final Crisis #4 – “Darkseid Says”

Quick Comments before the rundown:

1. Grant Morrison absolutely needs to take over Green Arrow/Black Canary, as all of his scenes with both of these characters throughout this series have been fantastic, especially any time Ollie even approaches a rant.

2. Make sure, if you got it, to read Submit before, not after, this issue. It’s a great book (albeit very straightforward and not especially begging to be annotated), and I know my experience (at least) was sort of lessened by reading #4 first.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the fourth issue of Final Crisis. Which is shockingly different from the original solicitation, now that I look at it, and I am really sad they did not actually go with the title “How to Murder the Earth,” because that rules.
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October 20, 2008

Re-Coloring Moebius

Filed under: Blurbs,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 2:58 pm

I saw this over at The Beat and was pretty disappointed. Les Humanoïdes Associeés have re-released all of Moebius & Jodorowski’s L’Incal with a completely new coloring style. Unfortunately, the new style removes much of what made Moebius’s line-work special.

Incal orginalIncal recolor
Colors by Yves Chaland                                        Colors by Valerie Beltran

Make sure you click on the images to see the large versions, at a glance thumbnails don’t tell the whole story.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Valerie Beltran’s digital color shading style used in these reprints; it’s a style that’s been used to good effect in plenty of books. The problem is that her colors obscure much of Moebius’s line work.

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October 2, 2008

Batman #680 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 5: The Thin White Duke of Death”

Batman #680

Batman #680

I dunno what kind of overview to give here other than “holy shit, this issue was incredible.”

So holy shit, this issue was incredible. Annotations below, and Tim Callahan‘s got his take up on his site as well. (more…)

August 28, 2008

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1Hh. Spoilers within. This is actually the first thirty pages of a sixty-page script; I imagine Morrison still did a bit of work to modify it, though, since it ends on a pretty satisfying cliffhanger (if that makes any sense). I assume the second issue won’t hit until at least December, either along with or in place of Final Crisis #7.

The 3-D “gimmick” isn’t really used for any particular narrative purpose just yet, it just looks cool (or distracting/annoying, depending on your outlook). Still, it does distinguish the extradimensional elements from the mundane ones.

After these annotations, I’ll include a few observations regarding FC: Rogues’ Revenge #2. In the absence of Granddaddy Wolk I don’t know if anyone will be covering this issue, but I really haven’t read Johns’s Flash run recently enough to do a full annotation. Last Will and Testament is out too, but it pretty much totally fails to match up in any way with Final Crisis and is really just a vehicle for Brad Meltzer to do his Meltzer Thing. Something else regarding that might be in the works, though…

Anyway.
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August 14, 2008

Batman #679 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 4: Miracle on Crime Alley”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:15 am

Oh hell yeah. This issue was incredible.

Batman #679

Batman #679

Page 1: Batman’s fully enveloped himself in his new persona. Note his weapon, the baseball bat, making him a literal bat-man. (I can’t believe I had to have this pointed out to me.)

Pages 2-3: The tailor doesn’t seem to be Paul Gambi, the Crime Tailor. As an aside, as I stated on Tony Daniel’s blog, I utterly adore Bat-Mite’s little cheering expression while Batman gets his interrogation on. Fantastic.

Page 4: This is where things, obviously, start getting weird. Batman’s always been associated with perching next to gargoyles; however, the rapport with the city here is new. Le Bossu’s gargoyle henchmen go along with his Hunchback of Notre Dame theme.

Page 5: “A machine designed to make Batman.” This is perfectly in standing with Morrison’s assertions about the nature of urbanism from The Invisibles, as well as the The Magus/The Game-inspired aspects of this whole arc. How deep does the rabbit hole go? Is the entire city of Gotham a playground designed to create such a wonderful human creature, or is Bruce Wayne fucked up and listened to his imaginary friends? The way Morrison’s managed to make it so it could really go either way is fantastic. (more…)

July 9, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 3 – From Here We Go Sublime

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:48 pm

Part one

Part two

Part three is HERE:

Batman #676

Batman #676

Batman #676 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 1: Midnight in the House of Hurt”

(art: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea & Guy Major)

Page 1: We shoot forward in time for a page. The background, with red skies and lightning, fairly definitely dates this page as being during or around Final Crisis. Batman and Robin’s identities are vague; Robin looks smaller, like Damian, and seems to have a white cape, while Batman is completely ambiguous (but, given Final Crisis itself, is likely Bruce).

Page 3: Hurt’s description of their coverup for Le Bossu’s murder sets a clear precedent for the Black Glove’s methodology, falsifying documents and destroying reputations. It’s certainly in line with the framing of Mangrove Pierce for Mayhew’s murder of his fifth wife, and the way they destroy Bruce Wayne.

Pages 4-5: We meet the rest of the Club of Villains – Charlie Caligula (Legionary), King Kraken (Wingman), El Sombrero (the real one this time – El Gaucho), Pierrot Lunaire (Musketeer), Scorpiana (El Gaucho) and Springheeled Jack (the Knight). Dark Ranger appears to be unrepresented by a nemesis in the group.

Pages 8-9: Finally we see the new Batmobile, under construction since #655. It’s shockingly functional.

Page 11: The hobo with the shopping cart is Honor Jackson, who plays a very important role in #678. The money Bruce gives him is used to buy heroin, which he overdoses on. The Green Vulture is yet to reappear, but may; he could simply be a representative of what Alfred calls on the next page “the American Idol era of equal opportunity supercrime.”

Page 13: “Miss St. Cloud” was Bruce’s love interest from the Englehart/Rogers Detective run; much like Jezebel, she was a smart lady who figured out who Bruce was, but ended up driven away. “Miss Bordeaux” is Sasha Bordeaux from Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics run, who similarly found out but got burned (by taking a murder rap) and ended up becoming the Black Queen of Checkmate after playing a huge role in 2005’s OMAC Project.

Page 14: Here, Alfred’s manner of speech becomes much more learned and curious – not subservient, but especially the “His is a mind like NO OTHER” speech seems to evoke Hurt’s scientific study of Batman.

Page 15: Note, also, how he practically goads Tim on to feeling insecure about Damian, sowing discord in the ranks of Batman’s trusted.

Page 17: Establishes the Black Glove as a group of “incredibly rich and mysterious people”, in line with Mayhew’s comment about how the wealthy are beyond law and morality.

Page 18: Arkham Asylum.

Page 19: This is all a creepy fantasy in Joker’s head.

Pages 20-21: Joker is utterly insane, surprise surprise. It’s shown this is his fantasy lookin gat a Rorschach blot held by an in-disguise Le Bossu, who’s apparently infiltrated Arkham (so this must take place a while after the opening scene ‘six months ago’ with Simon Hurt) and is inviting the Joker to work in the Glove’s plans.

Page 22: The blood on the Joker is a coloring error, according to Morrison; this is the real world, and the Joker hasn’t actually killed anybody. He’s still stuck in Arkham. Also notice his obsession with flowers, his instruments of death in #663.
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July 8, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 2 – The (Aunt) Agatha Christie Period

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:55 am

Going forward with part two!

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s part one as well.

Batman #667

Batman #667

Batman #667 – “The Island of Mister Mayhew”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

NOTE: Rather than recapitulate it here, I’d just like to point everyone towards J.H. Williams III’s commentary on the Club of Heroes and the particular artistic style associated with each one.

Page 1: The Black Glove, named for the first time. Note the roulette wheel, red and black, good and evil – it’s clear here that Mayhew, strung up, is making a bet. Judging by the actual wearing of black gloves, it seems clear this is the same character we saw at the end of 665. A friend of mine who for some reason wants to remain anonymous because this idea is fucking brilliant thinks that this might be a sort of retelling of the story of Job, with Hurt acting as Satan and Alfred as God, which fits in perfectly with the question raised by this bet – which is stronger, good or evil? It also fits in perfectly with Morrison’s use of the blind chessman figure in Invisibles.

Page 2-3: I just want to mention I love the look Tim gives Bruce for asking a question to which he himself is the answer.

Page 4: Tim mentions that Alfred is staying at home rebuilding Wayne Manor, which seems to place this after the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover – which is after this arc, so I have no idea how that works. Anyway, that’s his alibi for now.

Page 5: The Knight was last seen in JLA: Classified #1-3 by Grant Morrison & Ed McGuinness, and before that in Morrison’s JLA run.

Page 6: El Gaucho, respected crimefighter from Argentina; Legionary, past-his-prime Roman-themed crimefighter from Italy; the Musketeer, French crimefighter who, as he says here, just got out of prison; and Chief Man-of-Bats, the Batman of the reservation. All members of the Club of Heroes.

Page 7: More details about Mayhew’s life. Just as all of the Club of Heroes are alternate takes on where Batman may have gone, John Mayhew represents a directionless, unfulfilling life for Bruce Wayne without a cause and a mission. This is where we first see the poster for the Black Glove film, which comes into play later during R.I.P.; Mangrove Pierce and Marsha Lamarr are both names worth remembering, both within and after this arc. The group shot of the Club of Heroes is new, and lacks Superman, whom the original story (Detective #215) featured.

Page 8: The Native American vigilante is an alcoholic? Seriously, Grant?

Pages 14-15: Someone wearing Mayhew’s face, presumably taken off with the switchblade at the start of the issue. However, considering Mayhew shows up safe and sound later on, it seems likely this is simply a parlor trick (which raises the question of what the use of the blade was). “Place your bets” again digs in the gambling angle, and Morrison really loves to use the wearing-skin concept.

Page 16-17: We later find out the explosion originates from Wingman’s ship, where he planted the bomb as an accomplice to Mayhew and the Glove.

Page 20-21: Mayhew, wearing black gloves, kills Legionary.
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July 7, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 1 – This Is Your Brain On Drugs

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:01 pm

I’m seeing a whole hell of a lot of confusion about Batman R.I.P. out there, which is perfectly understandable – it’s a pretty damn opaque story, even more so than Final Crisis. In the interest of art appreciation, I’ve decided to try to go through Morrison’s recent Batman work and see if I can help shed some light on this fairly byzantine plot, as well as point out the myriad continuity references Morrison makes.

Also of considerable interest are Tim Callahan’s annotations and musings about this run – as always, this article is just one dude’s opinion. Apologies to the numerous people I’ve talked about this run with over time whose ideas and comments I’m probably about to partially steal, but thanks to you anyway, especially Chris Eckert.

This was originally going to be all in one go, but when I finished I realized I somehow wrote 8500 fucking words, and nobody in their right mind wants to read that. So I’ve split this up into the Kubert issues (655-658, 663-666), the Williams/Daniel issues (667-669, 672-674), and the R.I.P. issues (672-678) (which are jam fucking packed). I’ll have it serialized out throughout the week.

Before we begin, I just want to mention many of the recurring themes/phrases/ideas throughout this story, that you’ll see me pointing out:

  1. Hallucinogenic drugs/through isolation: Batman tripping balls is the overriding concept throughout this entire run, and the seed from which almost every other aspect and plot development takes place. Drugs, and their effect on the human psyche, especially in combination with living an iconic fantasy life, have brought Batman to a very fragile point. None of this is new, half of Batman’s enemies use hallucinogenic poisons (especially the Joker and Scarecrow), and he’s been poisoned or on drugs like every third Batman story since 1960.
  2. Nature vs. nurture: This is especially evident in the rivalry between Tim and Damian for the right to be Batman’s son, as well as the ruminations on Batman’s own upbringing. This theme generally extends more into the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover, which I won’t be discussing here since it seems to have little relevance to R.I.P., and I’ll also probably feel like an idiot when it becomes important and I have to do an appendix, but ah well.
  3. Red and black: These two colors show up everywhere representing good and evil, with special relevance to the colors on a roulette wheel.
  4. Zur en Arrh: self-explanatory after the latest issue, this is Batman’s implanted Manchurian Candidate codeword and the identity of a planet from Batman #113 that Bruce was abducted to (no wonder Morrison is referencing that story; he loves alien abductions) and on which he had the powers of Superman. The guy who summoned him was the “Batman of Zur en Arrh”, who had on that horrendously/hilariously ugly costume Tony Daniel reintroduced at the end of 678.

Throughout, I’ll also be taking a look at the various suspects for the identity of the Black Glove, whose identity Morrison calls “the most shocking Batman revelation in seventy years.” Taking a look, then, at the likely suspects:

  1. Bruce Wayne: Batman’s fucking with himself, a la Len Wein’s seminal Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries, where he got hurt in an explosion and started blacking out and being his own worst enemy, in a very personal and similar manner to the Black Glove. He’s supposedly cured by the end of the story, which was also a rather excellent round-up of his origin and life up to that time in continuity, and contained a lot of elements Morrison seems to be reusing (Thomas Wayne’s original Batman suit, for instance).
  2. Thomas Wayne: Batman’s father is alive, actually a con man, and out to reclaim Wayne Manor. I personally think this is actually going to be an issue four or five fakeout Morrison employs, a la Jason Todd in Hush, and it was hinted at in Batman #677. However, I just think this would be too crazy to stick, and would also harm Greg Rucka’s (in my opinion underrated and brilliant) Death and the Maidens, a story Morrison’s expressed fondness for.
  3. Dick Grayson: Pretty damn unlikely, considering recent events in R.I.P..
  4. Tim Drake: See above.
  5. Alfred Pennyworth/Beagle: Anyone who’s been reading my stuff on this site knows that this is who I think it is, and I’ll be pointing out instances of his absence and evidence of his guilt. I’ll be taking a look at the reasons against, too, but I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty damn sure this is the culprit and recent issues have only backed that up.

So. Let’s go.
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June 12, 2008

Pull List Analysis & Reviews for June 11, 2008

Filed under: Pull List Analysis,Reviews — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 11:00 pm

Hey, lots of things happened (Memorial Day, Travel for a Wedding, MOCCA) that conspired against a Pull List last week. I trust everyone got to the store okay anyway. This week I am late enough that I actually got to the store before posting this, so reviews will be intermixed! A friendly reminder to Those That Like Them, these should be on the shelves:

  • 100 Bullets #92 by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso
  • Booster Gold #10 by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz & Dan Jurgens
  • Local #12 by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly
  • Tiny Titans #5 by Balthazar & Franco
  • Young Liars #4 by David Lapham

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May 23, 2008

Pull List Reviews for 5/23/2008

Filed under: Reviews — David Uzumeri @ 11:56 am

Mighty Avengers #14 (Brian Michael Bendis/Khoi Pham/Danny Miki/Dean White)
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that, at least in this stage in the overall story, the Avengers tie-ins have been a more satisfying payoff for longtime readers than Secret Invasion itself. I don’t think this is a mistake; Secret Invasion is an ostensibly standalone story, and, for instance, New Avengers #40’s Jessica-Drew-is-the-Skrull-Empress reveal means very little to people picking up Secret Invasion as a standalone story and far more to those who’ve been following this big story since New Avengers #1. This is the Sentry issue, and it contains not only a large amount of interesting and intriguing flashback materal regarding the Skrull infiltration but also pushes Rob Reynolds’s personal story far forward as well. Also, Marvel, for God’s sake, stop putting Danny Miki on every penciller alive – look at the faces on the last page, show them to friends, and ask them what it looks like. I’ll tell you: the ugly, fucked-up inking on One More Day where every single pencil mark was inked rather than used as a rendering guide. This test has worked, like, four times in a blind test and they all say this. I’m serious.
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May 22, 2008

Reverse Jerusalem Syndrome, or Stories About The Land With the Broken Heart

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 5:44 pm

“In Israel, cats like me see the shadows of another choice.”
-Ta-Nehisi Coates

Cover

In my personal experience, discussions of Israel, particularly with people who have never visited it, rarely focus on the ordinary lives of the people who reside there. For some, Israel stands as a lonely bulwark of Western liberalism in a reactionary region, while for others, its very existence signifies the dark legacy of Western imperialism. There is a tendency to treat Israel as a metaphor, or as a vehicle for competing religious and cultural narratives, which does it a great disservice. Even though Israel is explicitly a project to construct a lasting Jewish state (with all of the conflict that entails), it is also a society and a culture that should not only be viewed through a geopolitical lens. But it’s really difficult to fully understand the true inner life of any culture without personally experiencing it.

As a result, it’s refreshing to read comics that detail the experiences and viewpoints of a person visiting Israel for the first time. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by Sarah Glidden is the story of a woman who travels to Israel on a Birthright: Israel trip. Glidden’s book is published in the form of two mini-comics.

The narrative of How to Understand Israel unfolds like a story told by an old college acquaintance. The protagonist (Glidden herself) is a Jewish American woman who has some fully formed opinions about Israel, but decides to go on a ‘birthright’ trip to the nation in order to see things with her own eyes. Taglit- Birthright: Israel is an organization that provides trips for young Jewish people (aged 8-26) to give them an educational experience in Israel, which is intended to strengthen Jewish identity. The first book serves as an introduction to the nation of Israel itself, full of societal tensions and paradoxes. Even the individuals operating the ‘birthright’ trip (designed to encourage Jewish immigration) have mixed emotions about Israel’s occupation of the territories and some of Israel’s more controversial security measures (i.e., the security fence). One gets the impression that Glidden originally intended to confront those with differing perspectives, but found it difficult to do so when she actually encountered Israelis who were living in the situation, especially in the first chapter. The reasons for this approach become clearer in the second chapter, in the debate the group has over a promotional video for the Golan Heights. Although the land originally belonged to Syria, one of the tourists points out that it was used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on kibbutzes. It was a vulnerability that Israel found unacceptable. On the other hand, after the Six Day War, innocent Syrian villagers were unable to return to their homes.

Now I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like a tedious Newsweek article. But to her credit, Glidden tells this story through anecdotes told in casual conversations between strangers on the tour. The book is filled with little moments of levity, ranging from the mock-trial convened in her mind over the comments made by one of the trip’s chaperones, to the ‘Jewish ZZTop”.

Despite those effort, the conversations between the characters often read like monologues, which makes the book a bit of a difficult read. At points, I felt as though I was reading a series of insightful blog posts on the topic of Israel. There are times when one thinks that Glidden’s book would work better as a set of essays than as a comic book. Glidden has real talent as a comic book storyteller, and her narrative may have been better served by a greater reliance on her art to tell her story. Glidden’s art style is simple, and she draws in a blurry, almost sketch like style, and her backgrounds are clear and evocative. The visual storytelling in the comic shows a great deal of promise, and I look forward to her future work.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less can be purchased from Sarah Glidden here.

May 1, 2008

DC Universe #0

Filed under: Reviews — David Uzumeri @ 3:27 am

Well, it’s out, and at least it was only fifty cents.

DC Universe #0Somewhere in the Illustrated Dictionary of Idioms, this issue’s cover is next to “The whole is less than the sum of its parts.” It’s cowritten by Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, two industry juggernauts whose talents should perfectly patch over each others’ faults. It’s got art by a laundry list of the best talents not on exclusive contract to Marvel Comics. It’s got a clear mandate and a fresh start, and should be an ideal introduction into the current status quo of the DC Universe mythology for new readers, while also acting as an informative and enthusing tease for the next year or so for existing readers. This was what they sold the book as, and what we got was impenetrable to the former camp and redundant to the latter.

That said, a lot of people might have some questions about it, so inspired by the inimitable Douglas Wolk I’m going to try to go through this page-by-page and outline the notable aspects and creative forces behind each segment through the lens of examining the major Manichaean theme behind the issue.

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