Report Card | ‘Boneyard’ to ‘Batgirl’ to ‘East of West’

by  in Comic News Comment
Report Card | ‘Boneyard’ to ‘Batgirl’ to ‘East of West’

Welcome to “Report Card,” our new week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read. The week before Comic-Con was a busy one for the industry, as all eyes look to San Diego.

Read on to find out what we thought of Batgirl, Eye of the Majestic Creature Vol. 2 and more.

Dragon*Con organizers bought out co-founder and accused child molester Ed Kramer for an undisclosed sum. Kramer, who’s in jail awaiting trial on child-molestation charges that date back 13 years, hasn’t been involved in the operation of the event since 2000, but continued to receive annual dividends because of his stake in the for-profit corporation.

Asa result of this move, author Nancy A. Collins, who asked professionals to boycott Dragon Con earlier this year due to their relationship with Kramer, has called off the boycott.

Amazon launched Jet City Comics, with plans to serialize comics for the Kindle, and then offer bundled digital editions and print collections. The first comic, Symposium, debuted this week. It’s by Christian Cameron and Dmitry Bondarenko, and is set in the “Foreworld” universe created by Neal Stephenson and others. The also plan to release comic adaptations of stories by George R.R. Martin and Hugh Howey’s dystopian novel Wool.

“While it’s fun to see books come to life as comics (I loved The Hedge Knight comic), this was somewhat of a disappointment,” Corey Blake wrote this week. “The level of imagination and creativity coming from comics today is just mind-boggling; there’s a healthy stream of insane ideas, rich world-building, fantastic characters and engrossing narratives — all of them original and formed whole cloth from the minds of comic creators. Comics are more than up to the task of providing original material. I’m sure the reasoning for this choice is that Jet City wants to have recognizable brands to get people’s attention, to pull from pre-established readers and audiences. That’s understandable. But not a single original comic in the initial line-up? Does Belle’s statement that the focus will be on adapting books mean that’s all Jet City will do? I sincerely hope not.”

BOOM! Studios announced that legendary artist George Perez has signed on as an exclusive artist with the company — a different kind of exclusive deal than is normally seen in the industry. Perez will start his contract as a staff artist with the company, beginning with work on current BOOM! titles and properties before branching out into brand-new original work.

“…while I have enjoyed considerable professional and personal success with both Marvel and DC, it was becoming all too evident that many of the books being produced by both companies seem to be getting more and more corporate driven. Many of the characters I grew up with were turning into strangers whose adventures were determined by factors that had less and less to do with what made a good comic story and more to do with how these properties can be exploited for other purposes. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but not something that I felt was particularly satisfying for me as a storyteller,” Perez told Comic Book Resources.

Batgirl #22

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
DC Comics

Batgirl #22 is probably the series’ best issue. It’s a standalone story which updates the reader naturally as it goes along, and which leads gradually and methodically from one emotional state to another. By the end of the issue, the status quo has changed, both in good ways and bad, and the stage is set for the next big arc.

Much of the issue involves Babs’ either scrambling to get ready for, or learning to relax during, her big date. The subtext is all about the aftermath of her battle with her serial-killer brother, but the mechanics of the date itself are really quite fun. Apart from a somewhat-predictable “mugged in street clothes” sequence, Simone, Pasarin, and company nimbly execute the issue’s romantic scenes. Put simply, it’s good to see Babs having fun after so much blood, madness, and death.

Two scenes with Commissioner Gordon (one with Babs, one with Batman) close out the issue, and both deal directly with James Jr.’s death. The first, when the Commissioner gives Babs a refresher course at the shooting range, plays suspensefully with Babs’ fears about what her dad might suspect; and the second may actually have some repercussions for the rest of the Bat-line. Batgirl’s ultimate fate might not be as dire as Damian Wayne’s, but I’m a little surprised DC hasn’t yet tried to turn this into another mini-event.

Perhaps that’s why I liked this issue so much. For much of her history prior to The Killing Joke, Babs/Batgirl was the most normal Bat-character. She didn’t struggle in Batman’s shadow like Dick/Robin, she had a regular job (okay, besides being elected to Congress), and she had a good relationship with her dad. For a while, Bat-writer Gerry Conway tried to call her “The Batgirl,” but that just seemed silly. Babs enjoyed her work, she was good at it, and she chose to give it up even before the Joker attacked her. Since then, though, she has grown into a much more complex character, and her return to the Batgirl role has been controversial. On top of all that, Simone has put her through a lot. Babs needed a break, and the readers did too. —Tom Bondurant

East of West #4

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Image Comics

There are some Image titles that I opt to wait for the trade. I cannot do that with East of West. I am fascinated by the core graphic design of the series. There is a balance to each issue where, to date, there are these stark pages of white with simple small elements of gray text countered by pages upon pages of relentless (and God help me, delightful) violence. At least two characters lose their heads in this issue, I do not mean metaphorically either.

Dragotta continues to challenge himself with each issue. In this round, I was astounded at a few pages, namely page 10, where he is able to work in 18 panels of varying sizes on page. Secondly on page 18, violence reaches new heights as the scene is played out in a series of panels as letters spelling out CHUNK!

What ties Hickman’s script and Dragotta’s art together is Frank Martin’s consistently stunning color work. After reading the issue, I flipped through it again to look at the undercurrent stream of green tones interrupted by floods of red running over many of the pages.

I respect Hickman’s ability to be minimal in his dialogue–as well as the power of his words, when used. By power, I mean the clear suggestions/directives he gives Rus Wooten to have character’s voices reduced at points (which Wooton opts to convey by making the font smaller, while keeping the dialogue balloon as large as it would need to be for normal text. Again, in a sense it is another way in which the team uses white space to bring more attention to something.

Bottom line: This is a creative team that works damn well together. As effective as Hickman’s Marvel work currently is, this represents his best ongoing series. If you are not reading East of West yet, you’re missing out and it is time for you to catch up already. —Tim O’Shea

Eye of the Majestic Creature Vol. 2

by Leslie Stein
Fantagraphics Books

This new trade paperback collects issues 5-7 of Stein’s self-published comic, detailing the daily low-key trials and triumphs of Larrybear, a young woman living in New York City with her anthropomorphic guitar and other musical instruments. And if that sound a tad too whimsical, well, while there is whimsy involved, Stein handles it with considerable restraint. The more fanciful (and sometimes downright goofy) elements of her comic don’t override the more somber and reflective parts but merely strengthen it to create a wholly original portrait not perhaps quite of what our lives are like in our twenties but how we wish it were, warts and all. Stein capture the aimlessness of youth (one of Larrybear’s hobbies is counting grains of sand — a metaphor for making comics if ever there was one) and the subsequent feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction young people often feel without delving into solipsism or whiny navel-gazing. A good part of that has to do with Stein’s art work; I love, for example, how Larrybear’s eyes resemble dinner plates more than actual eyeballs.

My favorite story here, however, is the last one, where Larrybear tags along with a friend (drawn here with a flower for a face) while he visits his ailing and horribly alcoholic father. There’s a poignancy here in her portrait of a somewhat charming man whose steadfast refusal to confront his addiction has nevertheless drastically harmed himself and, one suspects, her friend’s life. There’s no vicious tirades here or lengthy backstories or deep profundities on the human condition. Just a sharply observed portrait of a strained, awkward relationship between a father and son. Her comics are fun, charming and sad in exactly the right way and you should go check them out. —Chris Mautner

Boneyard: The Biggening

Story and art by Richard Moore
Antarctic Press

I’m a fan of Richard Moore’s monster-themed comedy series, Boneyard, so I don’t know how I missed that he had a one-shot coming out this week. It was a pleasant surprise to see it on the new releases shelf at the comic shop though, especially with the giant monster on the cover as we headed into Pacific Rim weekend. The story begins with the jealousy that Michael’s experiencing over some of the unbelievably awesome people Abbey’s dated in her 2000 years of being a vampire. Feeling insecure, he goes to the demon Glump for a potion that will help him compensate. Naturally it goes horribly, um… hugely… wrong.

Moore’s in top form, making the one-shot playfully naughty without degenerating into raunchiness. Abbey’s choosing to go commando on a date with Michael yields nothing more than a butt shot, for example, and some laughs. But even the jokes aren’t at Abbey’s expense – she’s far too confident to care who sees what – but come from the reactions of those around her. Moore also includes a running gag by cleverly having a bat fly in front of word balloons whenever the f-word is used, and then having the characters notice. The Biggening is exactly the blend of tame sex and humor that I expect from Moore and I hope it means that we’ll be seeing more Boneyard stories soon. —Michael May