Best Shots Extra: DETECTIVE COMICS, BATWOMAN, CONAN

Best Shots Extra: DETECTIVE COMICS, More

 

Detective Comics #871

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Jock, David Baron and Francesco Francavilla

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Scott Snyder opens up his first issue of Detective Comics by having Dick Grayson recall his circus upbringing — that the bigger the venue, the bigger the risks his parents would take with their acrobatic feats.

And Gotham City? "No holds barred," Dick recalls. "Pull out all the stops. Bring down the house."

You can't help but see the coincidence here — after all, this is Scott Snyder's big debut for the DCU, a heavily-promoted first issue for the newly-exclusive writer of . And in many ways, bringing this relatively new voice together with the hyper-stylized artwork of Jock is a big, if calculated, risk in and of itself. And while I don't know if the execution is as show-stopping as the Flying Graysons were in their prime, Snyder definitely shows he's got some tricks up his sleeve in the first chapter of this super-powered detective story.

Where Snyder succeeds most in this story has to be some with the character beats, particularly with Dick Grayson and Commissioner Gordon. Little touches, like Dick saying that the Commissioner can call him by his first name — "You drove me to my high school prom" — are nice little nods to continuity that help give our hero a little bit of humanity, a little bit of vulnerability. And it's apparent just from the writing that Snyder the badass attitude of Batman himself: As Dick explores a brownstone filled with high-end weaponry, he catalogues everything by sight, including some state-of-the-art equipment used by Special Forces. "In other words ... compared to mine?" Dick says. "Kid stuff."

Something I think will be a hit for some and a miss for others is going to be the artwork from Jock. For me, he's something of an acquired taste — the sharp lines he uses on people can quickly move from the theatrical to interfering with visual continuity and expressiveness. That said, you have to take his style for exactly that: It's a , not some sort of newbie accident. And I will say that Jock's ultra-chiseled shadows work wonders for Batman himself — when you first see the Caped Crusader looming over a terrified butler, that man becomes a force of nature, with his cape whipping through the rainy night.

There are some things in this book, however, that don't work as well. I know Snyder has made a big deal thus far about the new Wayne Enterprises crime lab, a fixture that should be fitting within the pages of Detective Comics. But there's a bit of a disconnect between the idea and the finished art — Jock's architecture feels a bit flat, a bit nondescript, and that lack of a tactile or design feeling for the forensics lab makes you wonder why Bruce couldn't have built the lab on site with the GCPD. And the nature of the detective plot also feels a little off, although that's because it's deeper — ordinarily, a Mad Hatter patch is the end of the mystery, and he's the immediate suspect. The fact that he isn't feels like a little bit of a swerve, but ultimately, I think it could result in a deeper, more satisfying detective story.

Now, the second feature? Wowza. If you haven't been introduced to Francesco Francavilla from his ComicTwart posts, get ready to meet a true talent — pencils, inks, colors, Francavilla isn't just a beast, he's a one-man band, and his riff on the Mazzucchelli "Year One" style looks as lush as it is moody. I love the emotion and expressiveness that Francavilla gives his characters, and his use of color — particularly Gordon's blood red apartment against a cool blue sky — is masterful. I may even like this second feature more than the main story — Snyder manages to get to the heart of Jim Gordon on the very first page, and the fact that he tackles an often-forgotten relic of Jim's past makes this eight-pager have some serious weight.

If this first issue of Detective Comics shows anything, it's that Scott Snyder is determined to deliver a product that fits the name of the book. This is definitely a more down-to-earth read than the high-concept spectacle of Grant Morrison, and for a lot of readers, that's going to be a welcome change of pace. And while sometimes the story slows down, I feel like this first issue is a little bit of warm-up, an appetizer for the real meal. There's some fun character work to Detective Comics, and as Snyder and Jock put their foot on the gas, they've got some real potential to bring the house down.

 

Batwoman #0

Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

Art by J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Todd Klein

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Issue #0s always interests me, mainly because, too often, publishers treat those issues like they would a #1. That means, typically, that there's an unsatisfying, half-written introduction for the people who show up, and a maddening catch-up for those who just stick with the #1.

Is it a surprise that Batwoman conquers the Issue #0 syndrome? After all, in many ways, her legacy has been the artistic bar for DC Comics and its potential for more than a year — and if you missed out on last year's tour-de-force reintroduction, this is the comic that'll help you get in on the ground floor for the character.

That's because J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman don't make this story driven by plot, but by . Even if you've never read Williams' and Greg Rucka's stunning arc where they reinvigorated Kate Kane, Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman illustrate just about everything you need to know about Kate. Looking at her from the perspective of Bruce Wayne himself, it's admittedly just as much "telling" as it is "showing," but again, this is Issue #0 — so it's a little bit of action, a little bit of recap, and the execution here feels like a easy window for new and old readers alike.

But what sets this book apart is the artwork. Williams and his co-artist Amy Reeder employ an interesting split-screen effect during the majority of this book, showing off both sides of Kate Kane's life. In certain ways, it does take a little bit of the wind out of Williams' sails — after all, part of the thrill came from knowing it was one man juggling all these crazy styles — but that's also due to reallocating creative resources. Williams still knows how to make a fantastic page, even when he's using unorthodox panel compositions. There's a sequence where Kate is squaring off against a cyborg that ends with fire and a smile that'll stick with you long after you finish the book.

Amy Reeder, meanwhile, has a bit more of a traditional, if cartoony style, that sometimes you'll think isn't necessarily a strong fit. After all, while Williams is going crazy with panels-within-panels, and elements jumping all across the page, Reeder represents a little bit more of a calm streak, with not too much craziness outside of meshing with Williams' more jagged pages. But by the end of the book, you learn that Reeder has her own wild side to her, with an action beat that proves to be one of the more explosive images in the entire book.

For those expecting a pedal-to-the-metal, explosive introduction, you'll likely be surprised by this smaller-scale — dare I say, intimate? — reintroduction to the character. Is it as good as "Elegy"? Well, even Batwoman has a high bar to meet in that regard. But as far as an Issue #0, this is a great entree for people who didn't jump on the bandwagon the last go-round. With some serious creative chops behind this enterprise, this issue toes the line between "too much" and "just enough" — and just shows that when it comes to Batwoman, it looks like the best is yet to come.

 

Conan the Cimmerian #25

Written by Timothy Truman

Art by Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia

Lettering by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

Published by Dark Horse

Review by David Pepose

It may be gloriously old school, but don't think that Conan the Cimmerian can't knock your socks off. While far from an introspective read, this final issue does what barbarians do best — it is some beautifully rendered, non-stop action that'll get your blood pumping through pure pulp.

To say that Tomas Giorello is anything less than the real deal is doing him a disservice. In the era of widescreen comics storytelling, you can see the care that Giorello brings to his panel composition from the very first page alone: Conan is dwarfed by a silver ape, a woman gasps in terror, and the two combatants eye each other with nerves of steel. Think of Andy Kubert spliced with the lushness of the Dodsons — or even Michael Golden — and you get a sense of the combat here. And the fact that Giorello gets to draw supernatural combat — even if it doesn't even really affect the story — is still a testament to his range. In his eyes, everything's got a little bit of horror to it, and I think that gives this story some real momentum.

That said, you can't discount Timothy Truman. Truman has that sort of gung-ho enthusiasm of yesteryear with his narration: "In truth, this seemed less a battle between man and beast than a war between two untamed creatures of the wild, one as savage and merciless as the other!" Almost everything ends in an exclamation point, and you know what? That's because everything's so damn . Even if you haven't read any previous issues, the story is simple, due mainly to the sorts of tropes we've seen in actioners ranging from to — Conan is about to get his stabbity on against a big freakin' ape, and then he's going to take the spoils. When you've got concepts like that, you don't need exposition.

But I think a lot of that voice of Truman's should be attributed to the unsung hero of this book: Letterer supreme Richard Starkings. I absolutely, positively the letterwork in this book. Seeing the slight bend to all the captions gives that medieval tone to everything — and there's just something about the way Starkings attacks these captions that really hooks you, visually: Sometimes, you glaze over once a panel hits more than 15 words or so, but Starkings stretches things out as required to make sure you read every little bit of Truman's prose. Yet if there's one spot that I think is a little "off," it's the colorwork. That's not to say that Jose Villarrubia isn't extremely deliberate with the tone he's setting here — clearly he's evoking a classic dark adventure — but I would argue that the cool colors steal some of the energy here. That's not to say that you can't have a comic that's dark, but there's nothing that pops off the page.

Still, there's something to be said about the simplicity of Conan the Cimmerian — it's got an old-school obsession with action, but when the fighting is drawn this beautifully, well, a little bit of bloodshed is all right. Considering this is the last issue of the series, you've got nothing to lose by checking this book out — and believe me, it comes highly recommended. Even a newcomer to the Conan franchise should read this book, just based on pure appreciation of the art.

Have you gotten a chance to read any new comics yet today?

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