|By Zach Patterson||Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010|
After disappearing into a quantum wormhole for the past month, mig and Zach return for to talk some comics. Read on for Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne and The Road Home miniseries, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, and RASL.
Impressions: I held off talking about this until it was over because it quite frankly was confusing the fuck out of me for most of the miniseries. Now, after reading the finale, I have to say I’m not sure I really dug this. It wasn’t incredibly exciting to read, simply. Like Andrew, I was all for it because Morrison is a celebrated writer and it was a chance to see Batman in silly costumes in a bunch of different time periods. I just didn’t count on it being so dependent on having read pretty much every other part of Morrison’s stuff lately, be it RIP, Final Crisis, 52, or other parts of his Batman run. The end result is a highly self-referential tale that is often hard to follow, especially if you are just looking for a fun book. These are dense books with tons of symbolism and references and assumptions on the part of the reader.
I will say that the final 2 issues were pretty cool, and the last issue was a total mindstack that kinda was over my head, but it was a nice conclusion. The best issue is probably either the caveman issue at #1 or the pilgrim issue at #2. Both had great art and kept you wondering where the story would go next.
However, aside from it being kinda neat to see Batman play detective and hero in several time periods and wondering what would happen when he returned to the present, this is a hard book to recommend to anyone but people who have kept up with their Batman and wider DC universe lately. Otherwise, it’s simply too far down the rabbit hole to pick up cold. - Zach
Verdict: I expected more action and more fun, frankly, and they were just ok. Beginning and end had their moments but it really dragged in the middle and even though I keep up with the Bats, I was frequently unsure of the meaning of things or what just happened. Thank God for annotations. I’d skip it. All you need to know is that Batman got launched back in time and now he’s back.
Impressions: When I heard about this little in between project, I was kind of interested in seeing what would come of it, since it seemed to be a nice little way of checking in on a bunch of the Bat-family and how Bruce Wayne’s return affects them. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on it being a project that was all connected by a lame substory that requires you to have all the issues to understand. I also didn’t count on Bruce taking a lame cyber-ninja persona called The Insider and just watching all his Bat-friends from afar and talking about how much they’ve grown and they truly can stand apart from him now and blahbity blah blah. In truth, this entire series of one-shots is just a money grab that is completely unnecessary for any of the upcoming Batman events.
The main idea behind the plot, aside from Bruce spying on everyone, is that reporter Vicki Vale is gonna reveal all the identities of the main Bat-family and when word leaks of this, every villain is out to get her and get the info. She’s not especially likable and we’re not given any reason to hope she doesn’t die. Meanwhile Bruce ends up challenging or plain fucking with all the Bat-heroes in one way or another and then has some bland spiel about how he knew they could stand up and be better than they were and seems to take responsibility for most of it. He kinda comes across as a cocky control freak and frankly, I really didn’t care for how he was portrayed in any of this.
Also, the quality of the series is all over the place due to different creative teams on every book trying to tell 3 different stories at once with a rotating cast. So overall, the event is a bust. But are any of them worth having on their own merits? Well, I guess you can argue that. The Batman & Robin issue is decent, and writer Fabian Nicieza handles the repoire between Dick and Damian pretty well. The Commissioner Gordon issue is surprisingly strong, thanks to a nice standalone story (for the most part) and pretty fantastic art. I was amazed how good the art was for a Gordon one-shot. The Batgirl issue is also written and drawn by the monthly creative team, so its not an oddball like the rest and actually fits in with that series (though Bruce taking credit for Steph taking the Batgirl mantle is a pretty lame plot development). Also, the Catwoman issue wasn’t anything special, but one of my favorites Dustin Nguyen did the art so I enjoyed that one too. The rest of them are either mediocre (Oracle, Ras Al Ghul), bad (Red Robin), or flat out awful (Outsiders…this one was absolutely terrible. Bad story, bad art, and though I’ve never read it, the Outsiders seem like a really shitty team from this).
Also, final gripe…there is no way to tell from the outside that this is all one connected story, and you only know the proper reading order from checking the last page of each issue for which issue the story continues in. Not only that, but some of them were released out of order, so this event seemed haphazardly planned, at best. - Zach
Verdict: Skip the entire thing. The Gordon, Batgirl, and B&R issues are worth looking at if you are fans of those series or characters, though. Unfortunately, the connected nature of the issues limits the enjoyment of the single issues somewhat.
Impressions: A follow-up mega-crossover to the Infinity Gauntlet, Wars explores Adam Warlock’s dark half in his journey to take over the universe. When Warlock became owner of the Infinity Gauntlet he ridded himself of good and evil in order to become a truly rational and neutral possessor of the ultimate power. His evil side, The Magus, hatches his plan for dominance by creating scary dopplegangers of all the Marvel heroes, manipulating major players like Galactus and Eternity into allowing the Infinity Gauntlet to have power once again (after The Living Tribunal forbade it), collecting cosmic containment units to fuel his biddings, and being an all around scumbag.
Once our heroes (and villains) catch wind of this nefarious plot, they spring into action to save their precious universe. This brings out several major, minor, and laughably irrelevant (oh heavily pushed but ultimately failed early 90s characters…) into the fold as they follow the lead of Thanos in his plan for victory. Like most 90s crossovers, its just a device to stuff together everyone’s favorite characters into a big series, but in the end they all just die off and really have nothing to do with the overall plot. This includes a ridiculous subplot of Dr. Doom and Kang the Conqueror sidequesting to try and steal the source of power of the Magus. If this crossover was concentrated only to the necessary cosmic characters and plots it would be less than half as long and about 99% more interesting.
In the end it turns out Magus never had the fully-powered Gauntlet because Thanos was holding onto one of the Infinity Gems. Magus loses his shit and Warlock traps him in the Soul World inside of the Soul Gem. After that everyone is living happily ever after, but the question of what happened to the almighty cosmic containment units arises…. - mig
Verdict: Pretty weak overall, but could have been so much better had it been a focused story on the necessary cosmic players. It was cool to get some more insight on some of the cosmic events that are unfolding now, but overall very subpar.
Impressions: Turns out those cosmic containment units were gathered up by Adam Warlock’s benevolent side, The Goddess! Holy moly! Time for another crossover!
This time the big plan for dominance is to eradicate all evil in the universe and create a utopia. How could one possibly make this happen? Why, by taking a bunch of religious and near-death-experience-surviving Marvel superheroes and brainwashing them into subservience, of course! Fortunately this time the superheroes actually factor much more into the overall plot and action, so the crossover element makes a bit more sense. There are still plenty of forced moments (2 on 2 fights with characters announcing each other’s names), but it works fairly well.
The Goddess’ plan of wiping out all life on the universe in order to create a more perfect and good one actually plays out, but is then revealed to have only been an illusion brought by the team-up of Thanos, Warlock, and a catatonic Professor X (with the Mad Titan utilizing the prof’s mind powers). It then gets a little preachy and oddly meta by showing everyone going back to their normal lives, feeling that the vision of overarching destruction they felt was mere fantasy; even you, the reader of the comic have no clue as to what has really taken place! Once this is sewn up the Goddess gets sent to Soul World to commiserate with Magus.
The very end of the comic has Thanos fucking over Mephisto over a previous deal they had struck, then the purple one delivers a soliloquy about how he will never rely on anyone but himself and his inner darkness because he is an ultimate badass. - mig
Verdict: While my previously stated thoughts on this crossover most likely make it seem the opposite, I actually really enjoyed this. Some of the religious themes get a little darker and deeper than I would have expected, the character tie-ins make more sense than most 90s crossovers I’ve read as of late, and Thanos is portrayed extremely well throughout the story. This was quite a refreshing follow-up to the Infinity War, and I would almost recommend reading War if only to enjoy the contrast of Crusade that much more.
Impressions: RASL is Jeff Smith’s latest project (who many remember from his acclaimed series, Bone). I collected Bone for many years and always quite enjoyed the different nature of the book, but for whatever reason I felt it lost steam 3/4 of the way through and I stopped reading. However, I recently was looking through the issues again in a collected edition and forgot how good it was, so I decided to give RASL a try.
RASL is a much different project than Bone, that’s for sure. It’s much more adult and contemporary, and is based around a rather mindstacking premise. In short, it centers on a main character named Robert (or RASL, for reasons unknown) who has a device that allows him to travel to parallel dimensions that are incredibly similar to our own, but always have a few defining differences (for example, in the one universe, he thinks it is the real one until he notices that an album in the jukebox by Bob Dylan isn’t actually by Bob Dylan in this universe).
It is revealed early that RASL steals valuable paintings from other dimensions to make a profit in the real world, while also living off the grid and on the run from something he did in the past. As the story arc progresses, we meet a creepy Joe Camel Lizardman stalker mercenary who is seemingly able to jump dimensions too and is systematically murdering the girl RASL cares about in all parallel dimensions.
Overall, Smith takes his time to develop the story and at times even seems a bit slow. However, it really gets good once you are a couple issues in this is series I can see myself sticking with. There’s all kinds of little mysteries weirdness to keep me interested, as well as great dialog and characterization. And Smith’s artwork is strong as usual in the cartoony realism he excels at. Can’t wait to see what’s next. - Zach