Sunday, February 20, 2005

One, two, Quick Comic Reviews!

Batman: The Man Who Laughs
A nice re-telling of the Joker's first appearance and encounter with the Dark Knight way back in 1940's Batman #1, revved up for a gory modern sensibility. I always liked the Joker's very dark first appearance, where he appears from nowhere and starts announcing he'll kill various prominent Gotham City people at midnight. What struck me about that story is that the Joker was truly scary, and didn't even smile in every panel. This isn't quite as classic as that golden oldie, but writer Ed Brubaker puts a good spin on it with great art by Doug Mahnke. It nicely captures Batman's horror at his first real encounter with utter evil, and the Joker's mass murdering malice is well portrayed. Gruesome as heck at parts, and a nice addition to "young Batman" type tales. Yet it doesn't really add anything new to the characters, like the obvious inspiration of Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke." Strip away the modern trappings and it's the same story as Batman #1 was. A decent read, but at $6.95, though, a little inflated for the price, methinks. I still wonder at the end of it, though, considering how many people the Joker has killed in the comics over the years, why didn't Batman just toss him off a cliff and be done with him? Grade: B-

Doom Patrol #9
Why am I still buying this book? Am I the only one? I must be a masochist, and an enormous Doom Patrol fanboy, because it really just ain't very good. It did get a little better after the abysmal first few issues featuring Super-Gay Vampire Man from the JLA storyline introducing the "new" Patrol, but, really, this is more of John Byrne's played-out comic reinventions. I liked the "battle-bots" parody last issue and do enjoy Byrne's penchant for mutilating Robotman in hideous fashions each issue, but this is probably my last issue. It features a guest appearance by Metamorpho, but of course the Doom Patrol here is so stupid it takes them the entire issue to figure out that's who it is. Must break the habit. Grade: C-

Essential Luke Cage, Power Man Volume 1
Hah ha, I had to buy another hefty "Essential" phone book this week. But who can pass up 500 pages of vintage 1970s blacks-ploitation superhero comics starring Luke Cage, suckah? Truth be told, I'm only 10 issues into this book collecting the first 27 issues of "Hero For Hire"/"Power Man," but it's "good bad comics" so far, if that makes any sense. All swagger and guts, Luke Cage is a great character, even if he's written into some godawful sub-"Scooby Doo" type mystery and detective stories here. He also manages to get his shirt torn off in pretty much every single story. The two-issue storyline featuring Dr. Doom (!) vs. Luke Cage is nearly worth the $15 this hefty tome will set you back, if only to see Cage calling Doom a "sucka!" There's some wildly uneven art so far and like I said, not much in the way of great plots or villains (unless you count D-list losers like "Senor Muerte," a man who actually wears a roulette wheel on his chest, or "Black Mariah," who looks like Martin Lawrence in "Big Momma's House"), but gosh darn it, Cage is a fun dude. These "Essential" books are like potato chips for comics fans, I guess. Not very nutritious, but heck, they do the job. (Some truly awesome vintage Luke Cage comics covers can be seen over here at writer Steve Englehart's Web site.)

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