Monday, June 25, 2012

Comic Reviews: Batwoman: Hydrology & Batman: The Court of Owls

Batwoman: Hydrology

    OK, I’m not a completely lost babe in the wood when it comes to mainstream Marvel and DC characters.  But I’m pretty close.  Oh, sure, I’ve seen the movies.  I’ve watched the animated shows.  And I’ve lived around comic readers forever, so I’ve picked up some tidbits.  But I’m not well versed in the mythology.  So, while I’ve been aware that Batwoman was a character, that she existed in the greater DC universe, I didn’t know squat about her, her background, her villains, her whole deal.

    The first thing I noticed was the art, which while not necessarily my thing, is quite striking.  The stiles vary, sometimes feeling a bit like 80s Euro comics, sometimes more classic American, other times, there’s an almost painterly quality, though it all feels cohesive.  The layout is pretty wild.  I don’t even think I could put it into words.  I can’t say I like it (I’m very much a regular sized, squared panel, left to right progression kind of person; what can I say?), but it makes for some very interesting pages.

    The story is a weird, gothic mystery, feeling like some of the stranger Batman tales from the Animated Series.  Missing children, ghosts, mutants, and all kinds of crazy.  And there’s some kind of skull-faced dude running a government agency.  What’s up with that?  Kate Kane (Batwoman) is certainly a more interesting character than Wonder Woman, mostly because she seems to have a personality.  And her romantic foray is more real-world than the crazy porn-like tryst in the first issue of the new Catwoman, so there’s that.

    I’m certainly curious to see where they take the story.  What’s the deal with Medusa?  Where are those kids?  Who’s the skull guy?  And if these ‘New 52’ titles are all supposed to be weaving a larger story, what part does this Batwoman story play in things?

Batwoman: Hydrology
Authors: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artists: J.H. Williams III, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3465-2

Batman- The Court of Owls

    So, when DC’s New 52 started up, Brad and I picked up a bunch of #1s, read them, and passed them off to each other.  A couple were pretty good, a bunch were blah, and a few were really awful.  The first issue of Batman wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good.  It wasn’t interesting.  Basically, the same old Batman stuff.  Arkham Asylum, the Joker, Two-Face, and all the rest, doing all the usual brooding and such.  Meh.  A whole bunch of ‘I don’t care.’

    Imagine my surprise when Brad read the first trade and reported back that it was actually quite good.  I knew he likes Batman a heck of a lot more than I do, so I wasn’t convinced.  However, he started telling me how it explored Gotham’s background and was doing interesting things with DC history.  What the heck?  I gave it a read myself.

    And you know what?  After that first issue, it’s actually pretty darned good.  The first issue is the last we see of any of the standard old baddies, to be quickly replaced by new, mysterious forces who pose lots of troubling questions.  Something vast and dark is shifting beneath the surface of the city, and Batman is on the job. 

    Obviously, with a mystery, the less revealed the better, but let’s just say it’s a big one, and it ties into a lot of strange places, to a lot of strange folks.  The writing is pretty good.  Dark without being Goth.  The art is good (though Bruce’s chin is a bit crazy).  There’s a roughness to it that lends to the ugly underside of the city.  I’m wondering if this is going to be tied into the story in All Star Western, which has a similar vibe.  However, I only read the first issue, so I really don’t know where it went. 

    This is only the second Batman graphic novel I’ve read (yeah, I know it’s not technically a graphic novel, but I don’t care), and unlike the first (The Dark Knight Returns), this makes me want to read more.

Batman: Volume 1- The Court of Owls
Author: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3541-3


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