The Doomino Effect – Oct 8, 2008

It’s Tuesday review time, and leading off the pack is Detective Comics #849. It’s part 4 of “Heart of Hush,” and Batman is trying to find the bandaged Mr. Elliot. He starts by beating the snot out of Jonathan Crane, while a goofy (and un-scarred) Joker watches.

We see more flashbacks of Tommy hating his mother and hooking up with the dame who would be Scarface. Batman ends up finding Hush and walks right into a trap. That’s two “Part 4″ Batman R.I.P. issues this month that involve Batman walking into a poisonous gas created by the combination of two deadly compounds. Batman needs to just stop voluntarily walking or breaking into rooms that villains either escort or lead him to.

But my advice has come too late, as Batman get knocked out but retains consciousness long enough to see how Tommy Elliot now has Bruce Wayne’s face (or at least I think that’s what we’re supposed to take away from that visual, greatly aided by the “Welcome to the other side of the mirror, Bruce” line).

Tommy’s got Bruce in quite a pickle — he plans on killing Bruce, dumping him in the harbor, keeping Catwoman’s heart long enough to cut off her life support, and using his new face to gain himself enough access to kill Alfred, Tim and Dick.

Dini’s characterization of Batman has been fantastic ever since he took over the series, even in its weaker issues. Little moments like Mr. Terrific attempting to carry on a personal phone conversation long after Batman has hung up are only enhanced by the fact that Dr. Mid-Nite knows, simply by knowing Batman, that he’s ended the call. So not only are the nuances of the character well-defined for the readers, they’re well-defined among the other characters too. And it’s fun seeing the way in which Batman sneaks up on Hush in the hospital. I’m also enjoying Dustin Nguyen’s art, falling somewhere between Mike Mignola and an early-90s Jae Lee.

Greg Hatcher’s column last week got me thinking about fun but mature superhero comics — where “mature” denotes a respect to a critically thinking audience moreso than a fondness for sex, gore and profanity — and Detective under Dini would be near my favorites in terms of balancing fun and credibility. Sure, there is some heavy stuff going on, but it’s justified by the story and hardly gratuitous unlike what happened this month in Nightwing to earn the scorn of Hatcher’s teammate Greg Burgas.

But speaking of the heavy comics, that leads me to Final Crisis: Revelations #3 of 5, which actually makes me think I might be right with my May prediction, or at least not any more convinced that I’m wrong. There’s a big battle between the Spectre and Vandal “Cain” Savage brewing, and all signs seem to point to the Spectre losing.

Grant Morrison has said the events of Batman R.I.P. take place before Final Crisis, and that Final Crisis will reveal the final fate of Batman. I’m thinking DC needed to get Crispus Allen out of the green robe, and Greg Rucka’s taking five issues to make it happen.

Other than, I really don’t have any more to say about this issue. Rucka is getting the heels over bigtime, but I get pretty bored with the “God this / God that / God loves / God sucks” back and forth. It’s almost like “If the anti-life zombies eat your brains, will you shut up already?”

Speaking of zombies though, that leads me to The Goon #29. I’ve been up and down on The Goon for the past few years (mainly down, with only a very recent resurgence) so much that I’m not even going to bother linking to things. This issue isn’t my latest “THE GOON IS BACK!” to come one issue after “THE GOON SUCKS!” (usually to repeat a few times) but it’s close.

The humor in The Goon was one of the things I loved about it at first, but there was a stretch there where it was just feeling forced and totally falling flat to the point where it was hurting the overall story. At the same time, the series was starting to feel directionless.

I think what I liked more about this issue is that there wasn’t such a disconnect between the humor and the drama, and there is definitely a progression. The drama has definitely increased lately, as Powell has done a great job of letting readers know that something big and bad is coming. It’s been the best steering of the serious since the initial Labrazio story arc. But the humor didn’t seem to express a need to constantly remind you that you’re reading a funny book, and instead just drew from the natural tendencies of the supporting cast.

I would say this is four-fifths of the way to the Goon being great again, and I am basing that fraction on nothing but a gut reaction. As always, no matter how bad anything written or plotted is, the art just keeps getting more and more beautiful.

Speaking of villains from origin stories, that leads me to Green Lantern #35, one of this week’s two Book of Doom entries. I don’t have anything to add I didn’t cover there, but in our other Book of Doom, Action Comics #870, I do want to mention that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank did a great job of making Supergirl seem like and especially look like a teenager.

One of the creepiest things about superhero comics is the way in which all females are instantly sex objects — particularly creepy when they’re teenagers. I dropped Supergirl quite a while back when it seemed like every issue included an excuse to show her naked or topless with a carefully placed wisp of shower steam, but she’s supposed to be a kid. So it is with much pleasure that I say I was glad to see this small-breasted, youthful looking, almost boyishly built Supergirl flying off to save the day. Sure, she’s still cute, and she’s still wearing tight clothes, which is to be expected in comics. But she looks like a kid in a totally non-creepy way, and it was a nice touch. I say this with the full awareness of the fact I’m writing about the hand-drawn breasts of a fictional character and applauding it for being “not creepy;” the irony isn’t lost, but hopefully the point isn’t either.