Halloween Scene: Batman By Doug Moench & Kelley Jones Part 2

I’ve been having a great time watching connected films and a variety of horror books this season, but it’s very possible that re-visiting the Batman run by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones has been one of my favorite experiences so far. As I mentioned in the first part, these post-KnightFall books were bedrock-forming for my knowledge of not just the Dark Knight, but also the imagery of horror as put through Jones’ incredibly capable lens. As good as the Batman developments are in these issues as he regains his life after the Bane and Azrael incidents, it’s equally exciting to see these two creators work their magic on a variety of villains and co-stars.

Enter, if you dare…

Trade Post: Batwoman Elegy

BATWOMAN: ELEGY (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by J.H. Williams III
Collects Detective Comics #854-860

As far as I’m concerned, one of DC Comics’ biggest blunders in recent memory was not taking better advantage of 52 and the bevy of characters hinted at and featured therein, specifically Batwoman. The character got all kinds of press for being a lesbian (big deal, Rainmaker was out a decade before in Gen 13 and she wasn’t even the first) and yet didn’t get her own book. The last issue of 52 came out in July of 2007. Batwoman appeared sparingly but only took over Detective Comics in August of 2009, nearly two years later. That’s a great way to kill buzz. Anyway, with Batman RIPing, DC needed someone to take over Detective Comics and Batwoman turned out to be a pretty good choice.

Fantastic, actually. I had read most or at least some of these issues when I still worked for ToyFare and had access to all kinds of comics. This one was super popular though, so I didn’t really have the chance to stare at the pages as much as I would have liked. That’s something I really relished this time around. J.H. Williams III is truly a unique voice in the din of same-old-same-old comic aritsts. The things he does with layouts and panel set-ups is just amazing. I even had fun looking at his panels-within-panels to try and figure out what the shapes were supposed to be. Oh, duh, they’re BATS!

In addition to spending more time with the artwork, I also got to live in the story a little bit more which was more layered than I remembered. Even though I got to take my time, I still couldn’t help but read the book in two sittings. Greg Rucka wove a story–two actually, broken up into four issue arcs–that’s not only exciting and interesting on its own as a standalone story, but also absorbing for fans of the character’s minimal appearances. The first directly rolls out of 52 with Batwoman dealing with Alice, the new head of the cult that tried to kill her in the weekly series. The second story focuses on Kate Kane’s past from her early childhood to her time in the military to her training to become Batwoman. Not since Batman Begins have I seen an origin story so well done and make this much sense (within the world of superheroes at least).

Rucka didn’t shy away from potentially hot button issues like Kane’s sexuality and in fact embraces it. He even makes a fantastic argument against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell through Kate when she tells her superior that she can’t lie about being gay because that would go against the cadet code. That rigid honesty is something that should be lauded in the military and not an excuse to get rid of somebody. (I know DADT got repealed recently, but this book came out before that). Even though she slips at times she still shows her true character and retains the moral code she learned from her military father that serves herself and helps her become a hero.

All in all, I think Batwoman: Elegy is a pretty fantastic stand alone trade for anyone to pick up. There’s some in medias res stuff going on, but I think the basics are explained pretty well, even if you don’t get all the deets until the end of the second arc. I actually own the soft cover version (not the deluxe seen in the picture above) and got it thanks to a great deal on Thwipster a few weeks back. I highly recommend keeping an eye on that site either via email or Twitter or whatnot because there’s something for everyone on there. My only complaint is that the collection–which has a great Intro by Rachel Maddow–doesn’t include the following three issues which Rucka wrote, Jock drew and featured Batwoman teaming up with Batman. Would it have been such a big deal to include three more issues and charge a little more for a more robust collection? But hey, those are minor complaints for a book I not only greatly enjoyed, but also actually purchased (that doesn’t happen much) and will be keeping in the collection (which happens even less).

Trade Post: Jonah Hex Bullets Don’t Lie & Hack/Slash Vol. 2

With all the Halloween Scene goodness throughout October and my recent unemployment/attempt to make it as a freelance writer has limited the number of trades I’m reading. To try and put a dent into the two longboxes of trades taking up way too much space in my closet, I started just grabbing blindly and came up with these two trades, both of which I liked, but didn’t necessarily love. Hit the jump for both reviews!

JONAH HEX: BULLETS DON’T LIE (DC)
Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, drawn by Paulo Siqueira, Jordi Bernet, Darwyn Cooke, Mark Sparacio, J.H. Williams III & Rafa Garres
I am a huge fan of the Jonah Hex comic. I got into it while at Wizard, went back and read all the back issues and trades. There are three big reasons why I keep coming back to Hex and his crazy western adventures (this is my first Western label!). One, Hex is just a badass. I’m not a big fan of westerns, but Gray and Palmiotti have such a handle on Hex’s badassness that he feels really consistent, even when he helps some kids and doesn’t help others. The second reason is that I love the (mostly) one-off format that the book is written in. Right now, we’re being treated to the book’s first 6-issue story which brings a lot of past stories back around to bite Hex in the ass. In a comics world where you have to remember one storyline for a minimum of six months, it’s very refreshing to only have to remember “Hex is a bad ass killer,” instead of “Wait, how many Avengers teams are there?” The third reason is the staggering amount of fantastic artists this book pulls in. This trade boasts J.H. Williams and Darwyn Cooke, two fine artists, but it was the work of guys like Jordi Bernet and Rafa Garres that really blew me away.

Now on to this trade in particular which covers issues 31-36. One of the problems with the series is that it can tend towards incredibly wordy, as is the case with the Darwyn Cooke issue. It’s about a kid whose dad dies up in Canada and Hex comes around and saves him for a bit before abandoning him. It’s a pretty simple story, but one that definitely has an emotional center. The thing that might turn new readers off, though, come in the form of these huge, dense blocks of text both in narration boxes and dialogue from the boy’s dad before he dies. It was an issue like this that actually put me off the Hex bandwagon for a short period of time. Normally, I’d say you can hand anyone any of the collections of Jonah Hex and they’d be fine, but I would suggest maybe not giving them Bullets Don’t Lie for the reason that it can be a bit dense. THOUGH, if they’re big art fans, you can’t go wrong with this trade, so just know your noobie reader.

HACK/SLASH VOL. 2 DEATH BY SEQUEL (Devil’s Due)
Written by Tim Seeley, drawn by a ton of people
Hack/Slash is the kind of comic book that seems like it should be right up my alley. It’s about a cute chick and a big lumbering monster going around killing slashers and other horror movie villains. My experience with the book has been scatter shot at best, and as it turns out, is mostly collected in this volume (which collects The Land Of Lost Toys, Trailers and Slice Hard minis and one-shots). The Land of Lost Toys story is pretty interesting, with a spoiled demon kid killing other people in their sleep with dreams of their favorite toys. As a big toy guy, it was cool to see slightly altered versions of some of my favorite 80s toys like He-Man and Thundercats. Trailers was a one-shot consisting of several few-page stories that act as trailers for Hack/Slash movies with different artists. Then Slice Hard involves a cosmetic company who captured a number of slashers to figure out how they stay so young/come back from the dead. Of course that goes wrong.

I enjoyed the stories as a whole, though I had already most of them and remembered most of the bits and that cosmetic company thing is a brilliant idea. My problem with this volume is that the art is so incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes it looks stellar (and I’m not talking about the Trailers stuff, which was all pretty solid, just the regular issues) and then you’ll turn the page and it’s just bad. Figures don’t look in-scale with their surroundings or just look very rough. It’s really disappointing and takes me out of the story.

There’s been word for years about Hack/Slash becoming a movie. In fact, the version of the trade I have (which differs from the image above) has an above-the-logo line that says “Slated to be a major motion picture from Rogue Pictures.” That came out in 2007. I have no idea what the deal with the movie is, but I hope they get a good writer and director on it and really knock the hell out of this concept. It kind of reminds me of Scott Pilgrim, a book that I like, but felt like the first volume had a TON of pacing problems. When I heard Edgar Wright would be working on it, I was really jazzed because I figured he would improve on the source material while also bringing all the elements that make the book awesome to the screen. I’d like to see Trick r Treat writer and director Michael Dougherty get his hands on it.

I don’t know if I would recommend this second volume to someone who hasn’t read the first volume (like me). I’ve got the 3rd volume in my aforementioned longbox-filled closet, but still haven’t gotten my hands on the first. I definitely want to check more of it out though. I can’t say this is a must for horror fans, but you’ll probably dig it.