Random Thoughts and Space Girls – My Week in Comics Oct. 31–Nov. 6

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This week: Some quick bits of nothingness you should probably ignore, a really cool-looking all-ages book you definitely shouldn’t ignore, and the things I didn’t ignore this week, because I read them.


FOUR THOUGHTS TO START NOVEMBER

NOT A LOT caught my attention this week. It’s possible I wasn’t paying attention. I don’t have a lot to add to the thing about Kate Beaton not liking it when guys sexually harass her.

So, here are some short, random thoughts in lieu of real thoughts:

  • I hope part of Batman Inc. is all the bat characters getting business cards. I think more superheroes should have business cards.
  • Please, let’s have a moratorium on referring to non-comics readers as “civilians.” Who the hell do you think you are, a soldier? You’re just being patronizing.
  • I really don’t think numbering a comic #654.1 (and sticking it between #654 & #655) makes it seem new-reader friendly. It’s actually kinda confusing.
  • Wait, Strontium Dog isn’t a dog?

ANTICIPATION: ZITA THE SPACEGIRL

OKAY, one longer bit for the week.

I never browsed the Previews catalog before I worked at Dark Horse, but now that I get a copy at work I like getting to keep up with what’s in there, and this month Zita the Spacegirl jumped out at me. It’s published by First Second, which is one of my favorite newer publishers, with a great mix of international, lit and all-ages/kids’ comics. As is surely obvious from the cover, Zita the Spacegirl falls into that last category, and it looks like a great entry into it.

The first thing that caught my eye was the perfect, simple design of Zita’s outfit. I love how her collar and belt connect to make the “Z,” and the green cape offsets the gray and white costume nicely. The Previews blurb directed me to the book’s website, where creator Ben Hatke has an animated trailer, production blog and, most importantly, four Zita webcomics that moved me from interested to sold. Hatke’s blog also includes a link to the first chapter of the graphic novel on First Second’s website. It’s a well-paced intro, but the humor of the shorter pieces are what really grabbed me.

From the webcomics and book chapter, Zita is clearly an adventure story with a plucky heroine and clean, appealing cartooning style—I’d expect as much from a Flight alum like Hatke—but just as importantly, it’s funny, and in a way that makes me believe in the character of Zita. The comics feature an amusing approach to the culture shock of dealing with a variety of alien species. It looks confusing in a real and funny way that I don’t feel like I’ve seen a lot before. There are also plenty of visual gags beautifully taking advantage of the comics form and subverting expectations—Hatke’s unorthodox use of word balloons with heart icons in the first strip is a favorite. The many kinds of aliens themselves are simply designed but appealing.

Like I said, the book is in this month’s Previews, so there’s still time to ask your local comics shop to order it. For some reason, Previews only has the softcover edition ($10.99, or $6.04 at my online retailer of choice, Discount Comic Book Service), but the hardcover edition ($17.99) is available through Amazon.com and other retailers. Both editions come out in the beginning of February. Meantime, check out the webcomics and preview, and bug your retailer.

READ THIS WEEK:

  • 20th Century Boys vol. 11 by Naoki Urasawa
    Still feels like if Grant Morrison were a manga writer. The mysteries within mysteries continue to grab me, and the inherent silliness of how this plot to take over the world is based on a group of kids’ fantasy (which, really, is the only place where “plots to take over the world” make real sense) plays so well against the very real emotional stakes for each character in the huge cast. No explicit references to Osamu Tezuka like the last volume, but you have to love a character actually getting past a bunch of heavily armed guards by holding the villainous Friend’s “most treasure menko” (playing cards) hostage.
  • Action Comics #894 by Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Nick Spencer & RB Silva
    As only a moderate fan of Sandman, I though Death of the Endless was handled well here, and while the story overall hasn’t had a ton of momentum, enough clues to its import are creeping in around the edges to keep me interested, and single-issue character showcases like this are good enough once a month. I liked the Jimmy Olson backup better this month than last, though the weird art where everyone looks sculpted from marble instead of alive doesn’t do much for me.
  • Adventure Comics #519 by Paul Levitz, Eduardo Pansica, Eber Ferreira, Jeff Lemire, Mahmud Asrar & John Dell
  • Batman and Robin #16 by Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart, Frazier Irving & Chris Burnham
    Don’t usually mind spoilers a lot, but I think that the ending of this issue would have hit me better if it hadn’t been the headline on Newsarama and other sites prior to my reading the issue—hell, I’m on the West Coast, so prior to my store even being open. I mean, really, the headline that you see on the main page? Fuck that.
  • Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money by Howard Chaykin
    And then in a huge contrast with Morrison’s multiyear bat epic, Howard Chaykin’s new one-shot is a fast-paced romp featuring Batman and Catwoman tracking down Wayne Enterprises’ stolen pension fund. It’s kind of like a Batman version of Oliver Stone’s gloriously outsized Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, though things never get too earnest, with the inclusion of over-the-top villain the Cavalier allowing for three different takes on whether dressing up and jumping around rooftops is serious business or great fun.

      In sort of funny timing, Batman is worried that an investigation into Wayne Enterprises’ accounts will reveal all the equipment he’s bought as Batman, just as Batman and Robin #16 had him announce publicly that W.E. funds Batman, but that’s just one of those things that happens when a single character appears in multiple titles. It does lead to a nifty bit of ethics-bending that doesn’t feel forced and shows just how laughably Batman compartmentalizes his fight for justice and status as a criminal.

      As always, the book looks unmistakably like Chaykin, with a classic, barrel-chested Batman, dominatrix Catwoman, and a series of parallel page layouts to introduce or draw connections between characters and situations. There are several nice visual touches, from the weird cover composition in which a dour Batman is pushed out of the image by a cheerful Catwoman, to the panel of Batman and Catwoman working on computer in cubicles, ID’ed only by their shadows.

  • Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #4 by Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid & Joe Staton
    So it turns out there have been two Elseworlds Batman comics recasting the Bat universe into a Citizen Kane analogue, not just the more recent Bendis-written one (was that his only DC comic?). Bendis’s, drawn by his Alias collaborator Michael Gaydos, is fun, but it’s short enough that the gimmick is all it really has time for. This one’s a bit less faithful to the structure and final reveal of Welles’s masterpiece is than Bendis and Gaydos’s, but it’s entertaining in its craziness and actually has an interesting dual-mystery that puts more at stake than simply who is Batman. The art is a perfect fit for the story and brings a lot of energy to a lot of scenes of exposition. I did figure out who the mystery investigator was pretty early, though. (In a funny coincidence, Follow the Money namechecks Kane as well.)
  • Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson
  • Chobits Omnibus vol. 2 by CLAMP
  • Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Three by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, et al.
    As good as ever, now in hardcover.
  • Sweet Tooth #15 by Jeff Lemire
    With Gus and the other animal kids on the run and weird revelations about his father’s new religion and possible culpability in the plague, Sweet Tooth only barely resembles the series that it started out as, but the transition from kid lost in the woods to where we are now has felt very natural, and Lemire’s constant experimentation with storytelling and page layouts has kept everything visually arresting.

Images of Batman, Inc. & Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money © DC Comics. Images of Zita the Spacegirl © Ben Hatke.

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