Monday, February 05, 2007

Stripping Down #13 - The 'Lost' CI Reviews Part 1

Comics International's absence from the newsstands for the past few months, due to it's change of ownership, has meant that several issues' worth of my reviews will now never see print. Rather than consign them to the dustbin of history, I'm publishing some of the reviews here, either in their original or expanded form, as part of my regular Stripping Down feature. Consequently, several of these issues are no longer available on the newsstand but you should be able to pick them up on eBay...

Batman Legends (vol 2) #1-2 (Titan Magazines)
“All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder” by Frank Miller & Jim Lee (All Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder #1-2)
“Batman & Son” by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert (Batman #655-656)
“Worlds Finest” by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness (Batman/Superman #1-2)

Sensibly not wishing to mess with a winning formula, Titan’s relaunch of Batman Legends largely follows the Panini blueprint: US-size, 76 page format with slick card covers, reprinting 3 stories every 4 weeks. Even Jim Lee’s front cover harks back to the one used for Panini’s premiere issue. Inside, the editorial is crowded by the inclusion of an exhaustive Titan Magazines roll call that takes up a third of the page. Credit where credit’s due and all that, but it does make for a rather bland opening. Whether this has also influenced the decision to use ‘framing shoulders’ for each of the three stories splash pages, but it’s a bad move which craps the art and looks quite dated. It’s obviously too soon for a letters page, but there appears to be a regular Bat Signals section which, unsurprisingly, is an opportunity for Titan to tout their Batman-related wares and reprint some mini-interviews with Frank Miller (#1) and Jim Lee (#2). The interviews are a poor relation to the previous volume’s features, mostly written by Comics International’s Mike Conroy and always an informative and insightful read. So what of the comic strips themselves? Apart from Sin City, I haven’t read much of Frank Miller’s work since his work on Daredevil and Batman. However, if I was expecting something on the scale of Batman: Year One, I could only be disappointed. This even makes Jeph Loeb’s Hush seem like a classic, with ill-defined central characters and some excruciating lines (“There’s something rotten in Gotham City. It wears a badge.”) As with Hush, Jim Lee’s art provides plenty of T&A (in this case reporter Vicki Vale) but little to really spark the limp script into life. If anything, the second chapter is even more of a narrative mess, particularly as Alfred and Vicki Vale seem to have been involved in a car smash between chapters. Batman & Son, picks up the regular series a year or so on from the Panini Batman Legends run, which is annoying. The gap summed up with the throwaway editorial line “Batman has finally cleared all the super criminals out of Gotham” – wha huh?! The story also seemingly kicks off with the resolution to the previous (US) issue’s cliffhanger as The Joker poisons Commissioner Gordon and murders Batman’s doppelganger before the real thing defeats him. So, it’s only the second half that concentrates on setting up the current storyline, which it does quite well. Bruce Wayne, superficial socialite, reappears after a long absence and Morrison handles this well, with a scene as Alfred teaches Wayne to relearn his pseudo characteristics and mannerisms. Talia Al Ghul’s plot to transform her League of Assassins into an army of Man Bats intrigues, not to mention her relationship to the titular child. All of these threads develop satisfyingly in the second instalment. Andy Kubert’s art, whilst not his very best, makes the most of a strong script and his depiction of the ninja Man Bats is especially exciting. Despite a highly unimpressive showing in the previous volume, the Superman/Batman storyline (which, confusingly, precedes the Panini run) isn’t as bad as I thought. The writing, particularly the split narration from the lead characters, doesn’t work as well as Jeph Loeb evidently thinks it does and suddenly finding Lex Luthor as President of the USA is a bit hard to swallow. That said, it’s a reasonable story with a good cliffhanger in the opening chapter and an interesting clash between Superman and his future self in the next. Better still, Ed McGuinness art is a big improvement on Michael Turner (who illustrates the aforementioned subsequent story arc). McGuinness’ bold lines and clear storytelling more than make up for the shortfalls in the script. It’s impossible to avoid constant comparison with the Panini’s previous incarnation of Batman Legends, but Titan’s effort is pretty woeful so far. Hopefully, better choice of comic strips including an archive section will improve this comic’s fortunes but it needs to happen sooner rather than later. At present, the best thing about this title is that it’s compiled and printed in the UK, which at least means a minor boost to industry and the economy but isn’t really the point of buying a comic. Hopefully, Titan’s Superman Legends title will be less of a disappointment when it hits the newsstands in March…

Titan Magazines' Batman Legends page

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ya K!

i also collect the batman legends comics, ok, ok, i might be a die hard marvelite but i just wanted to kill curiosity, anyway, i saw the first issue on shelf in the local bookstore and was like "y not? batman begins was wikid" so i got the copy and i have to admit i liked it, maybe it's because it was different to the uk marvel comic title, Avengers (5/5), marvel legends (5/5), astonishing (4/5), w&d(4/5), MWOM(erh... 1/5?). however it's still early days so hopefully the stories will be better, it was a ahame though that they (titans) didin't continue where Panini stopped on the title where redhood was revealed as r**i*!!!! gasp!!!

ah, Jim-my Lee!!! i can call him jimmy? his artwork is amazing... i read some fantastic four story that he illustrated and Sue... Sue was... drop dead fine!!! his work is spectactular!!! i almost fell for viki 2!!

i really like the batman superman joint team effort storylines is give atwo different perspective on a situation, the naivety of clark and the paranoia/untrusting nature of Bats... can really bring stories to life... like that a lot.
can you imagine a team effort like superman and Shazam? they'll just play all day or green lantern and animal-man, anyone have any good team-up in DC universe?... and where the heck is the green arrow anyway?

well that's it from me, till marvel decide to own the rights to jim lee's work, do me a DC.

MAXX... out

1:19 pm  
Blogger Khayem said...

Thanks for your comments, Maxx

Jimmy Lee? Well, can't say he's on my list of favourite artists but you probably guessed that from my review. Hope you enjoyed #4 as, thanks to the All Star title falling so far behind schedule in the US, that's the last we'll see of it for a while.

What do you think of Superman Legends?

7:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey ya k!

Maxx here again, being a "superman-hater" (not a big fan on the character himself as he's almost a god in his own right and can practically do everything... i wasn't too thrilled to hear about the ineivitable apperance on uk soil via the medium of comic... however i did get the first ever issue of superman legends and i have o say that i really enjoyed it... although the all-atar superman story wasn't that great and the art done by the same guy that did a run in the essential x-men title a while back (can't remember his name, with Prof X sister running rampage in the institue and the whole 'rave' situation) his art gives me the creeps... however the best story would have to be in the later part of the comic where the ultimate DC duo head for the white house in a bid to confront the US President, Lex!!!!? (how can the public be sooo niave) i loved the 'castling', had to applaud the book for a minute whislt reading.

and what was that kiss about with the slightly weighty lady? strange... anyway i'd give the comic 3/5, 4/5 if the all star story was better... common a 'dying super-man' story? not gonna sit with me. even though i wish he really did.

i am also anticipating the JLA title as well, my brother is gonna like that loads!!

well cheers for the space and time... till superman manages to biuld resistance to kryptonite by sipping molten lead every day with as part of his five a day. DoMeADC

1:13 pm  

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