Sunday, February 15, 2009

Comics Roundup 15/2/2008

Incognito #2, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

As you will recall, this title is about a former supervillain who has given evidence against his former boss and is now in a federal witness protection programme. After discovering that his powers had come back, he does what any sensible guy would do, and goes out punching people's faces in (only this time he is dishing it out to street thugs and petty criminals, on the basis that people will ask less questions about their jaws being broken). Unfortunately for him, his former boss (locked away in the sort of super high security hole that supervillains are guaranteed to escape from sooner or later) now knows he is active again, and has in consequence twigged who sold him down the river.

Brubaker and Phillips produce the noir-influenced crime title Criminal. Incognito is essentially a version of that, only with superpowers. This is a good thing, really. The storyline is following the same kind of trajectory – morally shady main character finds himself getting into ever deeper hot water thanks to unwise initial course of action, with no obvious sign of a way out. The one thing that might be a bit more problematic is Incognito's noir-lady character – she seems a bit too much like all the icy women characters that have graced the pages of Criminal. You could say perhaps that in portraying her (and her kind) so two-dimensionally that the creators of this title are just conforming to the forms of the genre, but that only draws attention to the genre's limitations.

For all that, I like this title a lot and can hardly wait for the next issue. I should also mention that this issue comes with an essay by Jess Nevins on the pulp character Doc Savage. I only really know Doc Savage from the knock-off version of him that appeared in Planetary, so it will be interesting to read more on this character

Batman #686, by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert, with Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair

So Neil Gaiman… in the early to mid 1990s he was one of the giants of the comics world, with his Sandman title one of the most widely read comics of the era, especially popular with goths and moody types who like to dress in black. Then he largely gave up comics writing, to focus instead on the far more lucrative world of fantasy novels. This is one of his occasionally forays back into the world of comics writing.

You may recall my writing about the increasingly confusing Batman RIP story that Grant Morrison wrote last year. Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter-ego is still dead, and DC are having to fill in time while they decide whether to appoint someone else as the new Batman or to just suddenly reveal that Wayne is not actually dead after all (or has been resurrected, or cloned, or was able to bring a duplicate of himself in from a parallel universe, etc.). In this issue a load of Batman characters (good and bad) are turning up to pay their respects at an open casket funeral for the caped crusader (there in costume, not as Bruce Wayne). I got a sinking feeling once I twigged the basic premise – could this be something as turgid and unreadably bad as the last Sandman book*?

Fortunately, this is a bit lighter in tone. There are two basically two stories in this, one featuring the Catwoman and another Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred. They tell contradictory revisionist stories about the Dark Knight Detective. Alfred's story is the more striking, as in it he claims basically to have faked all of Batman's supervillain enemies as a way of keeping the troubled Bruce Wayne sane by giving him fellow costumed nutters to spar against.

So it's all alright, but I am not sure if I will bother with the second part of this story when it appears in Detective Comics #853.

*in which a succession of sadface characters pay their respects to the dead Lord of Dreams in a frankly embarrassing manner

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