By Miles Baker and Owen K. CraigEach week we use random.org’s random integer generator to create two random numbers. They then count down on the release list until they find out their RANDOM COMIC OF THE WEEK! No matter what the publisher, what the issue, what the arc, we will be there reviewing things with little or no context.
Gotham Underground #3 (of 9)
Written by Frank Tieri
Art by J. Calafiore
DC Comics, 2007
I’m going to do the impossible: I’m going to recommend a DC comic. It feels strange and unnatural, but Gotham Underground was pretty good. The writing was competent, the characters all sounded like they should, and the art was serviceable to the story.
I think it’s fair to say that probably one of the reasons why people like Batman so much is that he has some of the best villains in all of history. They are clever, colourful (literally and figuratively), and have fantastic hooks. I think his villains could support an entire ongoing series about them and people would buy it. This isn’t quite that, but the villains do spend a fair amount of time in the spotlight — except the Riddler who is pictured on the cover but isn’t even in a single panel (and yes, I know this cover combines with the eight others to make a super Voltron-like cover, but were I a kid looking to pick up a book about Riddler this cover would lead me to believe he might be in the comic. But I’d be disappointed. Hardcore disappointed).
My only real complaint is that DC doesn’t do “Previously in…” pages. It would have helped some small details in this issue. For example, as a fan of Batman, I know that if there is a guy with moustache that is two isosceles triangles that that man is Matches Malone, Batman’s undercover alter ego (alter alter ego?), but if I didn’t know that I would say, “who is the guy with the funny moustache?” I’m not the only one who has this complaint, and I don’t know why DC stubbornly makes thier books so inaccessible to new fans. As it stands, I have no idea why Matches is stuck in prison and, unless I pick up two other comics, I never will.
But otherwise, Tieri has a knack for handing up dialogue that is both expository and emotionally valid, and not stilted or awkward. There is a great exchange between Robin and Oracle where they talk around Oracle’s falling out with Batman. It lets me know that it happened, that it’s kinda mended, but that she still feels a little awkward around Batman. That’s great. It lets me know something that I missed not reading Birds of Prey or Infinite Crossovers, but still rings true and gives me a nice little human moment for Oracle.
And Spoiler seems to come back from the dead. I don’t really care one way or the other, I just didn’t miss her awkward and silly code name. But at least it probably isn’t as stupid as what happened over in Amazing Spider-man this week. But that’s another story.
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencillers by Tony Daniel
DC Comics, 2007
Grant Morrison and I have a love/hate relationship. Not that he feels either of those things about me (that I’m aware of). No, I constantly feel both of those things about him. His Animal Man run remains one of my favourite runs on any book ever and I love Batman: Arkham Asylum, but just as often as I love his work I often find myself confused and kind of irritated (see: The Filth). That said, when he’s good he’s very, VERY good, and it’s usually worth your while to see if it all comes together in the end to become a magnificent piece of work (yes, I was one of the ones who loved his X-Men run).
After a brief and boring tangent into the Ra’s Al Ghul crossover we’re back with of what Morrison was working on originally: a story of Batmen gone bad. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together and I’m definitely intrigued. Not only that, but Morrison is fleshing out the Bruce Wayne side of the character, which is always welcome.
Tony Daniels pencils are…well…to be honest, they’re not great. The characters look fine, sure, but Daniels has much to learn about sequential storytelling. Many transitions are unclear and some sequences take multiple reads to figure out (a scene in which — I think — Bruce changes into his Batman outfit mid-skydive should have been badass but is instead abrupt and disorienting).
This issue seems like it could be a turning point, the classic moment in a Morrison run where you realize that it isn’t just gibberish but actually a wonderful story. Bat-Mite’s appearance at the end fills me with hope.