Detective Comics 510 (January 1982)

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There are two Mad Hatters? I’m now incredibly confused. According to this issue, there was an original Mad Hatter and then a replacement and then the original came back. At least in the eighties.

The Mad Hatter story–which gets the cover–is sort of a fake A plot, since the issue mostly concentrates on the Gotham City mayoral race. Conway starts the issue with it and he ends the issue with it. The Hatter stuff in the middle is just to provide a fight scene or two (and a supervillain for the cover).

The Colan and Janson art is nice–but I still don’t think Janson is a good inker for Colan. Colan’s figures are lithe, Janson’s inks aren’t. So, while playing to neither artist’s strength, it’s still a very interesting looking, well illustrated book.

The Batgirl backup mostly continues Barbara’s whining about not being Supergirl. But not terrible.

CREDITS

Head-Hunt By a Mad Hatter; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker and colorist, Klaus Janson; letterer, Ben Oda. Bride of Destruction!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, John Costanza. Editors, Dave Manak and Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

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Batman 343 (January 1982)

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Yuck. Conway’s Detective is so good and his Batman is so bad. And he’s even got Gene Colan and Klaus Janson on the art here. With Janson’s inks, Colan doesn’t exactly look like himself. Everything’s a lot sharper, a lot more defined. It’s a good looking issue, but I don’t know if there’s a single panel I’d point out as Colan. On the other hand, I’d have easily been able to guess Janson worked on it.

The story’s atrocious–Batman versus some moronic new villain. The bad part isn’t even the plot, it’s Conway’s writing of the character. He’s got Batman talking to himself for a few pages, explaining everything for the reader… but not discovering some clue, it’s Batman describing swinging from a rope.

On the other hand, the Robin backup is well-executed. None of Conway’s problems in the feature show up in the backup. Maybe he’s overextended.

C- 

CREDITS

A Dagger So Deadly…; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. Odyssey’s End; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, P. Bernard R. Editors, Dave Manak and Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Criminal 3 (April 2008)

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I’d like to say Brubaker has some kind of magic where he’s able to escape all the traps of a guy writing female narration. But he doesn’t.

It’s still a really good issue and Brubaker doesn’t make the frequent mistakes of female narration–he’s got a really good plot and he sticks to the events and his protagonist’s observations of them. Where it’s wrong is the texture… he never gets inside the character’s head. It’s no more personal a narration than someone giving a speech. There’s not one personal thing in it, other than the events she finds herself experiencing.

This finishes the informal arc of the second series of Criminal and it’s a depressing ending. The protagonist was seen dead in the first issue and seen murdered in the second. Brubaker’s revelations of the story behind her actions is problematic. He’s definitely seen The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

CREDITS

The Female of the Species; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon.

Criminal 2 (March 2008)

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What Brubaker does here–a sort of prequel to the second arc of Criminal and a concurrent, companion story to the previous issue–is even better than the previous issue… which I didn’t think Brubaker could do.

Brubaker had a hard time working out the setting for Criminal in the first arc and wisely left it mostly alone in the second. But here, instead of dealing with the physical setting, he’s dealing with temporal one and he’s doing a lovely job. The protagonist of this issue is the father of the protagonist from the second arc. There are parallels between how the two men end up, but Brubaker doesn’t draw any attention to it. I don’t even think he refers to the protagonist’s sons by name, even though they were just the focus of their own arc.

This issue finally shows Criminal’s full potential as a narrative engine.

Utter perfection.

CREDITS

A Wolf Among Wolves; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon.

Criminal 1 (February 2008)

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Such a good issue….

Brubaker’s able to get more content in because he’s got an increased page count but also because he’s concentrating on doing a standalone story. It turns out it’s not exactly standalone, but the issue has a beginning, middle and end. There’s no messing around with being deceptive in the narrative, to find something to reveal.

As much as I like Brubaker’s work, his staple of revealing a hidden truth about something in the past gets old. Just having him write a story–a continuous narrative stroke, maybe flashing back to reveal information to the reader but not the protagonist–is nice.

At the core of this issue is the relationship between the characters. The dialogue in their conversations is some of Brubaker’s best; he establishes the characters, their history, their relationship, all in one issue.

The great Phillips art is just a bonus.

An excellent comic.

CREDITS

Second Chance in Hell; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Val Staples; publisher, Icon.

Detective Comics 509 (December 1981)

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Conway really lays on the melodrama for his resolution to Bruce and Selina’s romance–Catwoman’s still too much in the picture for her to be able to stick it out–but it still works somehow.

The major part of the story is Catman coming back for revenge on Batman and Catwoman. This issue might be the first Catman story I’ve read as an adult (certainly in memory) and he comes off as an annoying whiner. Still, I’ll agree he’s dangerous–but so’s Catwoman, right? Conway plays her like a damsel in distress here, like Selina Kyle is only Catwoman when she’s in costume.

Still, with Newton and Adkins and Conway’s earnest (if occasionally saccharine) writing for Bruce and Selina, it works.

The Batgirl backup, teaming her up with Supergirl, is lame as far as the evil, big-headed villain goes. But, Batgirl’s jealousy of Supergirl makes it a worthwhile read.

CREDITS

Nine Lives Has the Cat…; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dan Adkins; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. The Fires of Destruction!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Editors, Dave Manak and Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 508 (November 1981)

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I’ve been trudging through Conway’s Batman comics the last few days–maybe the Irv Novick art on Batman is getting me down–so it’s nice this issue of Detective Comics is fantastic. It’s a completely absurd story about one of Bruce Wayne’s egyptologist friends going nuts and kidnapping Selina Kyle because he thinks they’re reincarnated Ancient Egyptians and he’s going to send them to the afterworld together.

So, clearly, it’s up to Bruce to figure it all out and save Selina.

Conway’s got Don Newton and Dan Adkins on the art and it’s just fantastic. What Conway brings special is the humanizing of Bruce Wayne–Batman’s a tool of Bruce’s here–and it’s Bruce whose desires are paramount. Specifically, Bruce has got it bad for Selina.

It’s too bad the Batman series isn’t on par with Detective.

The Batgirl versus a mad scientist backup is silly; Delbo’s art doesn’t help.

CREDITS

Secret of the Sphinx Sinister!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dan Adkins; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. The Attack of the Annihilator!; writers, Wendy Beraud and Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza. Editors, Dave Manak and Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – N-Vector 4 (November 2000)

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Jeter runs out of space here a little. He’s got an exciting conclusion, but then he’s also got a big special effects conclusion (Cypress is disastrous as rendering it, unfortunately) and some more talking heads stuff.

Also–and here’s why I was confused last issue. He’s got the station commander–Major Kira (you can’t refer to “Deep Space Nine” characters and expect non-Star Trek aficionados to know them)–using the exact same dialogue the evil guy used when he was possessing people. But it’s apparently not done to raise suspicion. It’s like Jeter copied and pasted dialogue and didn’t think about the context. The editor should have caught it.

This issue is probably the least successful for the above pacing and art reasons. It also ends on a humorous note, mimicking how a television episode would end. But it doesn’t work because it’s way too slight.

The series should have run five issues.

CREDITS

Writer, K.W. Jeter; penciller, Toby Cypress; inker, Jason Martin and Mark Irwin; colorist, Bad @ss ; letterer, Naghmeh Zand; editor, Jeff Mariotte; publisher, Wildstorm.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – N-Vector 3 (October 2000)

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This issue is the all action issue. Or close to it.

I think N-Vector is most useful–not to discount its success as an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” it’s a fine episode of that television program–as an example of how television pacing can be adapted to comic books. The problem, of course, is the length and pricing. It takes four issues to get a single episode. All together, it would have been ten dollars for, basically, something one watches for free on television.

Also, this issue requires the reader be familiar with the show and the relationships between its principal characters. I couldn’t tell if people were acting out of character or if I’d missed something since I hadn’t seen the show or if the evil space entity had possessed them.

Jeter’s good at plotting out the dramatic moments; still a fine licensed comic read.

CREDITS

Writer, K.W. Jeter; penciller, Toby Cypress; inker, Jason Martin and Mark Irwin; colorist, Bad @ss ; letterer, Naghmeh Zand; editor, Jeff Mariotte; publisher, Wildstorm.

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