Comic Review – Batman And Robin #02, Gravel #12, Crossed #06 and The Boys #32
Batman And Robin #02
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Patrick Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
In a nutshell: this sequel to Morrison’s horrendous run on Batman is just as forgettable, with annoying characters and a tone that feels too much like “All-Star Superman” instead of a Dark Knight story.
I was prepared to give Morrison another chance to shine writing anything related to Batman, even though this story contains something I consider a flaw in the character: Robin. Batman as a loner is much more interesting and coherent than having a brightly-coloured kid as a partner.
And when Morrison’s Robin is the most annoying kid in the recent history of comics, you cannot make me like this fucking book.
The story is… well, after not acting according to plan while trying to stop an attack on a police station performed by tipically Morrison-esque characters (a guy with his head on fire, a hugely fat lady and… clones), Robin decides he won’t be Robin anymore. No, there’s nothing to distinguish this from all the million other similar plots in any narrative medium you care to name. And this isn’t even motivated by a good reason, just by Robin’s immense arrogance that keeps making me wish he gets in the way of a wrecking ball. And meanwhile Nightwing/The New Batman keeps moping about how he sucks as Batman and blah-blah-blah. Of all the ways this story could have been handled, this is the most predictable and generic.
Not to mention Morrison still can’t decide on the tone — this Batman feels more like Silver Age Batman, not the Batman that should exist today — the one seen on mature, complex pieces of work like Azzarello’s “Joker”. And Morrison’s eccentric dialogue and characters just contribute to make this book look as far as possible from the dark, gothic Gotham City I’ve come to love and that has always held great appeal for me. And yet another problem Morrison hasn’t bothered to fix: Batman and Robin continue to show super-human strength, like the moment where Robin is thrown against a wall and cracks it with ridiculous force, instead of the wall cracking his spine.
And the usually reliable Frank Quitely provides a sketchy, confusing artwork that is especially flawed in the unclear action scenes. None of the beautiful clean lines and great narrative seen on “All-Star Superman”, just muddled, lacklustre work. All of which is made even worse by Alex Sinclair’s coloring, which invests in a varied, bright palette that has nothing to do at all with Batman or Gotham City — but, well, when the writer himself is doing his best to get away from that as much as possible, can I blame the colourist for following his lead?
I guess not. This book’s problem really is Morrison, which just proves to me every month he’s the most overrated comic writer in the industry. And this book, on its second issue, is turning out to be even worse than the pathetic run that originated it.
Story by Warren Ellis
Written by Warren Ellis and Mike Wolfer
Art by Mike Wolfer
Colours by Juanmar
Lettering by Avatar Press
Published by Avatar Press
In a nutshell: even though it’s clearly following a formula since issue one, it’s still an entertaining and occasionally creative read.
The first seven issues consisted in William Gravel murdering the members of the Minor Seven, usually one per issue. And as the formula for a first, opening arc, that was more than acceptable, especially since it was written with wit, charm and Gravel’s typical anti-hero charisma. But now, on this second arc, Gravel is once again murdering someone per issue, in this case, members of the MAJOR Seven — while recruiting people for his own team of magicians, which is a welcome addition to a plot that is quickly wearing out.
With Avatar Press, Warren Ellis has done the exact opposite of what Garth Ennis has done — instead of using the publisher’s exceptional creative freedom to develop his ideas as much as possible, his stories for Avatar have been more like half-developed, if enjoyable, ideas. Only “Doktor Sleepless” shows more depth, since “Wolfskin”, “Blackgas” and “Black Summer” present some good concepts that are never explored to their full potential.
And William Gravel is a great character who hasn’t yet reached his climax. He’s smart, tough and a bastard, but still not fully-rounded as a character, possibly to keep him unpredictable — which also keeps him distant from the reader. He’s intriguing to follow, but his decisions rarely, if ever, impact on me.
Mike Wolfer, however, does his best to add whatever depth he can to the protagonist, and in this issue he succeeds via a conversation he has with one of the Major Seven, who outwits Gravel using only words and no violence. And while this conversation was planned by Warren Ellis, since he developed the story, the details are likely Wolfer’s, and his dialogue is interesting without trying to be too witty — a problem Ellis has and that constantly deprives his dialogue of character voice, although this has been much less present in his recent work.
As the artist, Wolfer delivers the same solid, consistent artwork I’ve come to expect from him, always narratively clear, elegant and with an immediately recognizable style. I especially like the one with the snakes. And Juanmar’s colours complete his work well, getting the color palette and the overall tone right.
What “Gravel” needs is a more complex, interesting story that goes beyond one guy per issue getting killed. This is a formula that has gotten old but that, for now, is still kept alive by Wolfer’s writing and some of Ellis’ concepts.
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Jacen Burrows
Colours by Juanmar
Lettering by Avatar Press
Published by Avatar Press
In a nutshell: like the last issue, Ennis continues to add depth to his characters, now that the horrendous world that was left after the Crossed came has already been established emphatically. Another brilliant issue.
The previous episode was disarming, but to me probably less than most people, since I have been reading Garth Ennis for years and can already see there’s much more subtlety and depth to him as a writer than at first glance. Focusing on the way nature goes on despite humanity going down the shitter, the last issue was interesting and brilliant in showing how oblivious the world is to human suffering — and the spread with the wolves was beautiful and yet melancholic in symbolizing exactly that. Ennis also took the opportunity to start adding more depth to his characters, something he was doing to a smaller degree as he portrayed the world overrun by the Crossed — and now that we’re past half of this series’ duration (nine issues), Ennis replaces our morbid curiosity in watching the apocalypse with a genuine concern regarding the main characters — something I already felt, but it’s stronger now.
Elegantly telling the backstories of two characters while moving the plot forward, Ennis resumes the violence from previous issues for the narrative’s sake, as he tells what happened to Kittrick and Geoff. And while Kittrick’s story is simply traumatic, Geoff’s verges on comedy as he reveals something about himself that came unexpectedly. But mind you, it VERGES on comedy, something Ennis never allows unintentionally, and it comes as a good narrative surprise in reminding us the existence of the Crossed does not make all the other humans saints.
Jacen Burrows’ art is as beautiful as ever, with brilliant perspective, characterization and some lighting work that Burrows doesn’t usually use but doesn’t disappoint when it’s required. Juanmar’s colours are moody and appropriate, establishing the tone well, resulting in a comic that excels both narratively and visually.
And it promises a ferocious climax. Knowing Ennis, he’ll make us care about the characters as much as possible before showing us their merciless fates.
The Boys #32
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Carlos Ezquerra
Inks by Hector Ezquerra
Colours by Tony Avina
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
In a nutshell: an intense, explosive issue that, unlike previous ones, is focused on action and shows “The Boys” in a moment of extreme vulnerability, starting to explore the careful build-up from the previous thirty-one episodes. Ezquerra, however, isn’t up to the task.
In a complete turn of events, the member of The Boys I least expected to get beaten half to death got beaten half to death. With The Female in a hospital, the rest of the team goes to see her and find out they’re not in a hospital — she was taken to a place that could be turned into a trap. And meanwhile, Starlight deals with her new “uniform”, which is small enough to be easily stuffed in your pocket.
But Starlight is just Ennis balancing the progression of the plot, since the obvious focus is The Boys falling into a trap. It’s ironic that Ennis dislikes superheroes so much and yet can write amazing action scenes with them — a shining example being the moment the windows explode due to a sonic boom, which builds up to the following page where the fight starts.
But the real focus of this issue is truly Billy Butcher, whose dangerous nature is portrayed as strongly as ever. While Hughie is becoming less and less capable of dealing with all the violence of the world he’s gotten into, Butcher is growing angrier at the people around him and, especially, at his targets. And it’s made clear that while he’s a super-human, his killing methods are still very much human, as exemplified by the use of a belt. The action scene that dominates most of this issue is brilliantly written and shocking due to being unexpected.
However, the efficient Carlos Ezquerra (inked by Hector Ezquerra) is not efficient enough for something like this. He’s a poor artist regarding action scenes, and while he does try hard here, he doesn’t come even close to the sense of impact and danger that Darick Robertson would be capable of conveying with his artwork. However, the scenes are clear and Ennis’ writing makes up for Ezquerra’s artistic shortcomings — except on the panel where we see Butcher using the belt, which needed much more power and less action lines. But the panel showing Butcher taking off the belt in order to use it deserves credit for its good use of shadows. If there’s one artist who should be replacing Robertson, that would be Steve Dillon. Avina’s colours, fortunately, haven’t lost any of their usual quality, doing their best to enrich the artist’s work, and Simon Bowland’s lettering is noticeably more intense than normal, as can be seen on the moment Starlight yells at two guys.
Tense and impactful, “The Boys #32″ is a brilliant way to start the second half of this exceptional ongoing. It’s a shame Robertson can’t keep up, since this episode would have hugely benefited from his artwork.