It’s a pretty laid back week for us here at Nerdophiles as far as comics go. Don’t worry, though. Things are going to be picking up soon as some new, awesome series hit the shelves in the next couple of months. Hopefully your New Comic Book Day hauls were bigger than ours. What did you read this past week? What are you looking forward to next week?
Check out our reviews below and let us know in the comments!
Author(s): Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
For a full length issue surprisingly little actually happened. Not that this was a bad issue. It was just as cute and enjoyable as any other. But it didn’t really seem that eventful. There were some important moments but a lot of it just felt like filler. Necessary filler, I’m sure, since it’s unlikely they could have rushed the conclusion of this arc into this issue. But still.
Seafarin’ Karen, the girls, and the selkies get sucked through the whirlpool into the same world that Molly is exploring with the Bear Woman. Molly is super excited about just about everything in this world and about closing off the portals between worlds. She get so excited that she forgets about Ripley and the others briefly and feels super bad about it. The Bear Woman is a bit disappointed and hints at some grand future for Molly – potentially taking the Bear Woman’s place down the line? Who knows. But that’s really all that happens besides Ripley and Bubbles running off to chase a giant moth.
On the plus side, despite the lack of anything major happening, we did get a sneak peek at one of BOOM!’s upcoming series, Goldie Vance. It looks adorable and it reads kinda like Veronica Mars meets the Suite Life of Zach and Cody but in the like 1960s. I’m really looking forward to it hitting stands in April!
Superman American Alien #4 of 7
Author: Max Landis
Artist: Jae Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
There’s always been a push-pull when it comes to just how much foreshadowing and winking writers and creators should do to the future when writing an origin story. This becomes trickier the more iconic your character is and just how memorable and beloved the side characters are. Both Batman Year One and Batman Begins end up giving lip service to the Joker. The first episode of Arrow spends an inordinate amount of time trying to hide that Laurel’s real name is Dinah Lance. At this point, hardly an episode of Flash goes by without someone nudging you in the ribs to remind you that Cisco really loves the word “vibe.” Ultimately, there’s a danger though of this being distracting. It often ends up taking away from the story being told, ending up doing little more than laying out a trail of breadcrumbs for obsessives.
Max Landis frequently falls on the wrong side of this divide in his comics work but Superman: American Alien may as well be the ultimate example of this problem. The fourth issue of the miniseries sees Clark on a journalism fellowship at the Daily Planet with an opportunity to interview three of the world’s richest men. Landis frames the issue around these conversations with Oliver Queen, Lex Luther, and Bruce Wayne, conducted via the young Dick Grayson and later with Batman, and it’s as unnecessarily self-indulgent as you’d imagine a conversation between these young iconic characters would be.
I’ll say this, at least it’s a better script than last month’s issue, which revolved entirely around a series of coincidences that lead to the world thinking Clark Kent was actually Bruce Wayne. This is still just bad writing, particularly the conversation with Lex. Landis has a solid feel for Lex’s motivation, that he’s a man desperate to be recognized for the power he wields, but he’s gilding the metaphorical lily until it’s far too heavy to stand. Lines like “Everyone’s running around like they’ve got a big S on their chest for ‘special,’” or “whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?” aren’t clever, witty or knowing; they’re thunderously obvious, plugged in to a script with all the subtlety of poop in a punch bowl.
The best thing here is the art. Jae Lee often requires a particularly moody script for his wispy, ethereal pencils to establish a mood but he does a marvelous job here bathing characters in sunlight. He frequently frames Clark in the background of scenes, emphasizing his ability to blend in when not being Superman as well as his role as a journalist in a compelling way. The introduction of Lois Lane is also inspired, even when her dialogue and writing feels untrue to the character. There’s some not particularly effective panels, namely a splash page of Lex riding an elevator that’s clearly meant to emphasize his ego but instead looks flat and lifeless, but on the whole, it’s one of his best issues in years.
Landis’ saving grace on American Alien has been his artistic collaborators and now more than ever, it’s clear that he needs to emphasize the top talent this project has attracted. Panels are still bogged down in dialogue that’s at best distracting and much more frequently, ruinous to the story that’s being told. When he gets out of his own way, tries not to get into a long box measuring contest with the readers, or show off his perceived nerd bonafides, these comics are fine, but his fussiness and flourishes are actively distracting from the story he assumedly wants to tell and the character he claims to focus on.
Robin: Son of Batman #9
Author: Patrick Gleason
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Since coming back to life in the Robin Rising event, Damian Wayne’s life has been one minor tragedy after another and it’s strange how little the comics focused on it. After finding out his mentor and best friend was dead, he soon found out that both his mother was dead, his grandfather had resumed his terrorist activities, and then his father dying and returning to life only to forget his son entirely. There’s the potential for a real character defining tragedy there, something that could show who Damian is without the people who shaped his life and it’s one that Robin: Son of Batman #9 begins to wrestle with.
There’s a pervading sense of jealousy, regret and really profound sadness to the issue and so much of that is in seeing Damian, a character defined by violence, watch those closest to him choose the peaceful path. A scene where he watches an amnesiac Bruce Wayne playing with children in the re-purposed trophies of the BatCave is heartbreaking for so many reasons and seeing Damian wrestle with that sadness by embracing his most violent impulses is powerful. It shows off both his connection to his father and his mother, who both were undone by their singular focus on violence and gives him a chance to consider his future.
Driving home his connection to another character who was able to escape her family’s devotion to violence, Maya, is smart storytelling and it’s interesting to see one option for his future that allows Damian to escape the eternal war that defines his parents. Damian’s fight with two people who want to drag Maya back into being Nobody is cartoonish but intense, an underwater brawl in the remains of Ducard’s former ship that brings things all the way back to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Batman and Robin in a way that really succeeds in connecting Damian’s future with his past.
So much of the success of this comic comes down to Gleason who now has had years of practice drawing Damian that’s clearly informed how he writes the character as well. He’s always done an amazing job emphasizing Damian’s youthful innocence, that despite being a pre-teen with all the emotions that entails, he’s a killer with a life defined by the sins he’s committed and Robin: Son of Batman has really focused on that contrast between innocence lost and youthful, childlike impetuousness. As his role in DC’s future after May’s Rebirth event is in question, I can only hope that future creative teams can capture this same spark that defines Damian Wayne.