Friday, July 15, 2011

CBW #9 - Part Two - Dollhouse: Epitaphs #1, The Canterbury Cricket, & Superman #713 Review

Comic Book Wednesday

Issue #9

Part Two

I'm back from Indiana, so I made it down to my local comic shop to pick up my books. This week, we've got Dollhouse: Epitaphs #1, which is the first Whedonverse comic I've reviewed in a loooooong time, Superman #713, and something that I kept putting off buying that I decided to just grab... The Canterbury Cricket.

For Part One, which features my review of Screamland #2, click here.

Dollhouse: Epitaphs #1
Story by Andrew Chambliss, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen
Written by Andrew Chambliss
Pencils by Cliff Richards
Dark Horse Comics

I spent a good part of the last four years doing what I'm about to do here. My Buffyverse Comic Reviews blog, which helped me in more ways than I can mention (not least of which was putting me in touch with the great folks at IDW, which eventually led to my story in Angel: Yearbook), was where I posted reviews for Whedonesque comics. I mainly covered IDW's ANGEL and Dark Horse's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON EIGHT books, but I tried to follow pretty much everything that Whedon and co. have done. Today, it looks like I'm picking up old habits. Here's my review for Dark Horse's first issue of their DOLLHOUSE: EPITAPHS miniseries.

There are a bunch of reasons why this issue shouldn't be good. Joss Whedon himself once said that he didn't want to do any DOLLHOUSE comics, as he felt the premise was more suited for television. The one-shot that takes place before this issue was, delicately put, not very good. The art in this comic from longtime BUFFY artist Cliff Richards is the worst its been, leaving Alpha (who was a horrific presence when played by Alan Tudyk on DOLLHOUSE, leaving me with chills that no villain had since Ledger's Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT) almost unrecognizable.

But the art is the only bad thing about this issue. It's way, way better than the one-shot prequel and it shows that Whedon was right to wait to bring DOLLHOUSE to comics; while the premise of the show isn't very comic booky, the world set-up in the flash-foward episodes (the finales of both seasons) is perfectly suited to the medium. The comic doesn't talk down to readers with pages of reintroductions and world building, but instead throws them into the post-apocalyptic world that the formerly murderous Alpha is trying to fight with various people imprinted with the Ivy persona (the best moment of the issue is when one Ivy catches two other Ivys about to have sex; "We have the same brain so you know exactly how ooged out I am right now."), and a little boy named Trevor whom Alpha and the Ivys have turned into a Techhead (the same sort of warrior Victor had become in the series finale).

I enjoyed the issue while I read it, but something was nagging at me the whole time. Isn't this supposed to explain why Alpha turned into a hero? was what I was wondering. I mean, it's a pretty big leap from being the Big Bad to the guy who everyone hugs when they see him. This issue takes place after Alpha has already been goodified, which I thought was lame until Page 20. When Trevor tells Alpha that he's unable to shoot at the Butchers (people imprinted with the desire to kill and destroy everything in sight) because they were once real people, Alpha tries to sympathize with him, but Trevor storms off and tells Alpha "Aren't there things you wish you could take out of your head?" As Trevor walks away, Alpha whispers "Lots of things" to himself, and that's just what I needed: confirmation that this series is going to deal with Alpha's redemption. I actually like that it isn't revealed in the first issue, giving the readers something to look forward to.

All in all, this was way, way better than I expected. If this issue is any indication, the Joss Whedon/Andrew Chambliss team might be able to redeem the BUFFY comics as well, come September.

The Canterbury Cricket- The Scoundrel's Tale
(Flashpoint tie-in. One-shot.)
Written by Mike Carlin
Art by Rags Morales
DC Comics

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur

Of which vertú engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye,

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

That might be my favorite passage in all of literature. The language is beautiful, the plot is laced with history, and it kicks off one of the greatest stories of all time... The Canterbury Tales. So when I saw this 0ne-shot, I knew I had to pick it up.

It's full of references to Chaucer, from the structure of the story (tale within a tale) to the quote from the man himself at the end, and that was enough to keep me entertaining. If you're looking for more than an introduction to the strange creature in FLASHPOINT #3 and a prequel to FLASHPOINT: LOIS LANE AND THE RESISTANCE, you will be disappointed, but if you're looking for something fun, different (read as: super weird), and quick (only 19 pages of story), THE CANTERBURY CRICKET is worth a shot, even with its jarringly abrupt end.

Superman #713
Plotted by J. Michale Stracynzski and Chris Roberson*
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert, Eddy Barrows, JP Mayer, Jamal Igle, and Jon Sibal (What.)
DC Comics

It feels like I've been waiting for ages, but I guess it's just been two months. Also, I read #707-#711 in one sitting, so that might be a reason. But anyway, the wait is over and Chris Roberson's epic tale of redemption for Superman (definitely as a series, and maybe a bit as a character too) continues in the penultimate issue of this long-running series.

Penultimate. God, I love that word.

The issue deals with Superman deciding to... well, not be Superman anymore. He tells Supergirl and Superboy that he's going to put away the costume and start to help people in secret, as he did before he put an S on his chest. He, as Clark Kent, begins writing an article for the Daily Planet titled "Must There Be a Superman?" when, in a supremely meta moment, Superman's biggest fan stops Clark and tries to show him why the idea of Superman being unnecessary is idiotic.

While the idea is solid, I'm not sure that I grasp Superman's logic. I get that that's kind of the point, that what he's gone through is interfering with his perception of his role as Superman, but I wish we got to see what made him decide that it isn't necessary to be Superman, especially after he saw the legacy that Superman leaves behind in #707 (the Superman Squad). As I wrote in my review of #707-711, "The Squad showed Superman that his actions on Earth influenced countless individuals of many difference species to wear the S and rise to the challenge—to fight for truth, justice, and the American way." What made Superman decide that that wasn't necessary? I'm concerned that it may have been addressed in Roberson's canceled #712.

The actual issue is good, but not as solid as Roberson's previous issues. While it's wonderful seeing people reaffirming the awesome factor of Superman, the book gets a bit repetitive, and by the end begins to feel like one of those commercials where someone explains the details of a product three times to ensure that the audience won't forget the details. While solid in concept, I wish the execution were as fun as the rest of the second half of GROUNDED has been.

The issue ends on a high note, though, with Superman flying off to face the villain that has been stalking him for the last few issues. It seems that the grand finale of this incredibly long running series will feature Superman doing what he does best... saving his lady.

* I'm a bit confused about the writing credits. When Roberson first took over, it was clear that he was creating his own story from JMS's plots, as he and JMS were both credited for plotting and Roberson was credited as writer. I assume that is still the case, but crediting the two of them as simply "writers" for the issues makes it a bit confusing.

That's it for this week! Next week, however, is going to be packed with comic book goodies. We start on Monday with a special entry that spotlights two webcomics by buddies of mine that I think you'll dig. On Tuesday, we've got that big interview with SUPERGIRL writer Kelly Sue DeConnick that I've been teasing for about a month, and then the following day the weekly COMIC BOOK WEDNESDAY post puts the spotlight on Supergirl #66. The penultimate (heh) issue.

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