Monday, June 07, 2010

The To Read Stack Gets Whittled Down

And yet, I've hardly made a dent. I keep wondering if it's worth posting reviews for old books. Anyway, here goes.

Detective 864
No Batwoman; no doubt she's busy getting ready for her new book. The Batman story was just creepy, though well told. The Question story was okay. I've never been a big Vandal Savage fan.

Batgirl 10
This is getting better and better. Steph and Babs make a great team and I'd love for Gail to use Steph as a guest star in BoP. The Calculator, meanwhile, is just getting weirder and creepier, and ever more dangerous. Gotta love that! ;)

Streets of Gotham 11-12
Damian front and center in 11. That kid is a fun Robin. And in 12, the Carpenter is a cool character I'd like to see more of. The Manhunter second feature is also good and I can't wait for the conclusion. Ramsey is a cool kid, but he needs Kate to sit him down for a long talk.

Gotham City Sirens 11-12
Two concurrent storylines in each. In 11, Harley hyenas cut down the neighborhood's dog population and Ivy starts her new job. In 12, Selina's sister demonstrates how unhinged she really is and Ivy's cover ID is blown. This book has been much more than I'd dared hope for. The odd friendship of these 3 characters makes for pure fun.

Power Girl 12
Ah, the end of a delightful run was a most delightful read. I can't say how much I will miss Palmiotti, Gray, and Conner on this book. I'll give the new team a chance, but if Terra isn't a part of it, I won't likely be reading for long. PG's friendship with her has been a highlight of this book, along with the sheer goodnaturedness that infused each story. PG is no pushover here, but she gets to show her human side, something that she rarely has gotten to do elsewhere. Kudos all around.

Wonder Woman 44
A solid end to this intriguing tale that reaffirms all that the Amazons are and mean to humanity. Gail Simone spent her run on this book exploring who Diana is and what it means to be an Amazon. The thought that the next writer will be doing the same, according to the solicits, has me wondering why? Why can't we just get stories about Wonder Woman? Why do we have to keep going back to the well and redefining an iconic character? Sure, Batman's scribes and Superman's scribes have often put their touches on those heroes' origins, but not every 12-24 issues. Sheesh. All that usually happens is that each WW writer reinvents the Amazons and their history grows more and more complex and confused to the point that I don't know which end is up. Gail set up what I consider the best WW scenario in a long time, bringing back Etta and Steve in a fresh, satisfying way, and brought in other DC characters for guest roles that solidified Diana's place in the DCU. Going forward from her does not mean going back to her roots yet again. It means going forward. And I'd like that going forward to include what is currently in place.

The Rise of Arsenal 3
This book has me in a quandary. Roy Harper, for those new to this blog, is my favorite comic book character, going back to the '60s. Okay, I was a teen and had a crush on him, if you must know. There was Roy and Dick Grayson and Element Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Those were my three favorite guys. And on the female side, it was the original Supergirl, Wonder Girl, and Lois Lane. I will always have a fondness for those characters, which is why I'm so happy to see the current SG back on track as the original's replacement. But, as I so often, do, I digress.

Roy Harper. I'll read pretty much anything with him in it, regardless of quality, unless he's being done a disservice. And in this book, well... I can't decide.

The book is based on events prior to its first issue: the death of his daughter and the loss of his arm. That's the reality we the readers and Roy the character have to deal with. I hate that reality, but I can't ignore it.  J.T. Krul is a competent writer who often shows a deft touch with characterization and emotion. Many of his scenes are elevated from solid if ordinary storytelling, packing a real emotional punch. And yet...

I can't put my finger on where exactly this book is failing, because it really isn't failing overall. All the right notes are being hit. Roy's grief, his anger, his lashing out, and his hiding in drugs. Yes, I would've liked Roy to be stronger than that, but I can't argue with the characterization. Roy is flawed. Roy has abandonment issues that have never been fully resolved. Roy is emotionally weak. And I'm trusting Krul enough to wait to the end of the story to see where Roy ends up before I judge the story overall.

The scene with Cheshire was a strong one. Roy might now deny he loved her, but his feelings for her in the Titans book(s) was fairly well established, even though he knew he shouldn't feel that way. Her lashing out at Roy fits with her grief, too. And the scene with Dick is powerful. The fight echoed the one after Roy got shot (and that shooting and the scars to go with it, seem as forgotten as Roy's Navaho tattoo). These two men are not so much friends as "brothers." They have a powerful emotional bond.

So, all should be good, right? Not really. Because underneath all this emotion is something flat. Krul clearly wants to write an emotional journey for Roy, and unlike Wonder Woman, whose psyche gets explored with each new writer on her book, Roy has not gotten this treatment for a while. I'm happy to have him front and center of a book that bears his name, even if he's Arsenal again instead of Red Arrow (which connected him too much to Green Arrow and made him seem less independent, anyway), and even if it's because his daughter was killed (ruthlessly by the PTB). And I am feeling the emotion of the tale.

But I can't shake the feeling that Krul read a book on grief, swallowed it whole, and is regurgitating it on the page. It fits, but perhaps too well. It isn't messy. It isn't surprising. Yes, that's what's missing here. The element of surprise. I'm not reading and getting the sense of wonder, of being bowled over by brilliance. I wanted brilliance. I craved the unexpected. I longed for an emotional wringer that came from more than the starting point of an unbelievably sad situation, the death of a child. Damn it, J.T. Krul. I wanted more. I hope I might still get it.

Finally, the art. I can appreciate the phone book list of artists was to make a deadline, which I can appreciate and I'm happy to get the book on time. But the art of the last pages was not up to the quality of the first and middle, and that was disappointing.


  1. I like Roy, but I do have to say that I don't particularly like the way that he's being depicted. In spite of all of his problems, Roy at least had a swashbuckling side to him, that certainly seems to be lacking. He's being written as a jerk...and an unLIKEable jerk.

    I certainly don't mind jerks (I AM a Guy Gardner fan after all) but there has to be some redeeming features to them. I keep hoping that someone will remember that poor Roy is actually a hero.

  2. I don't think Roy's acting like a jerk. He's grieving. For his young daughter. And he's acting perfectly within normal behavior according to the stages of grief. And he is a past abuser who often has lashed out in anger and self-destruction. It's just a bit too textbook.

    I think the idea is to have him fall to the depths so he can climb up and be redeemed, remade, be better than before. And I'm fine with that. I just would like it to be more exciting, surprising, interesting. I don't want it to be so predictable.

  3. I agree with you completely, that it seems to be just a bit too clinical...too textbook, as you say. Even in the worst of times, there are SOME moments of brightness, but this has been a bit too dreary.

  4. Right, Sally.

    I'm still hoping the ending brings some surprises, along with redemption.