May 16, 2009

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Single Issue Saturday: Gaiman's Batman, Power Girl 1, Jonah Hex 43 and the Fin Fang Four

I wasn't going to buy the single issues of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" but since they decided to put together a hodgepodge of Gaiman Batman stories for the collection, I figured I'd go this route instead.

From all the reading that I did in the comics blog world, this two-issue set was more polarizing than a presidential election. Some writers, who love all things Gaiman, raved about how good they were. Others, like my wife, feel that Gaiman is a bit of a one-trick pony and that this story once again covers the same ground we've seen Gaiman tread before.

I can see where both sides are coming from, but I think this story, while certainly familiar, is one of Gaiman's successes. It works for me on two levels, the first being a nod to Batman's long history and the other ackowledging the complicated world of life and death for a creation that, like Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and others before him, will never truly die along long as someone has a creative idea for them.

Gaiman and Kubert show off their knowledge of all things Batman, with little winks and nods to almost every incarnation (Kubert drawing Kelly Jones Batman with ears hanging out of the coffin was my personal favorite), right down to a panel straight out of Sienkiewicz. I'm not sure I'd have spent so much time on some of the stories, but otherwise, it's a great idea.

As far as the much-mentioned ending, I rather liked how Gaiman handled getting asked to write a final Bruce Wayne Batman story when we all know that's not going to happen. Those seeking finality from Gaiman were apparently not reading his other books.

I'd say it's definitely worth picking up for those who like Bats and/or Gaiman. If nothing else, the Kubert art is stunning.

I read Jimmy Palmiotti's blog posts, and people were talking about how Jonah Hex is great fun but not doing so well on sales. So I figured I'd give it a ride for a bit and see what I thought.

This first issue for me was interesting enough for me to put it on my pull list, but I didn't think it was amazing. I like westerns and western themes but for whatever reason, I just don't find it as compelling when it's in comic book form.

Hex is a fun character, being apparently (based on this issue) so chaotic that no one knows how to handle him. That intrigued me, and that's why I'll stick around for a bit.

In this issue, Hex goes into a hotel filled with hooligans and tries to save the day. When things don't go quite as planned, the folks who asked him in the first place try to welch. That's a really bad idea. Paul Gulacy's artwork on this series is quite good, though I hear he's not the regular.

Overall, I'd say give this a try if you grew up on John Wayne and Clint Eastwood like I did.

Palmiotti and his writing partner Justin Gray also had another book out when I stopped by, Power Girl. The nicely chested alternate reality member of the Superman Family gets her own series with art by the quite talented Amanda Conner.

Conner manages, as few have lately, to draw Power Girl in such a way that her cleavage doesn't look out of place on the rest of her body. Personally, I think people should buy this comic for that fact alone.

The story inside is a bit text-heavy, but that's okay for a first issue. It features the typical Gray/Palmiotti combination of humor and absolute horror that was on display in Heroes for Hire. Here, however, it works a bit better becuse I think they have a better feel for what they're trying to do.

Power Girl is trying to reset her life, and we get to see that on the ground floor. However, an old villain wants to upset the apple cart and is willing to kill all of the Big Apple to do it. One thing I do hate about not trade-waiting--this issue ends on a cliff hanger and I have to wait a month to learn the answers!

I liked this one a lot and would definitely recommend it to people who like good stories about superheroes without (for now at least) all the crossover drama.

Last but certainly not least is the Fin Fang Four, a hysterical one shot by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge. Four of Marvel's monsters are shrunk down to size and trying to cope in the modern world, with the help of Doc Samson.

Fin Fang Foom is the focus of the book, and he gets two stories, both of which are excellent. He works at a restaurant and manages to cure hair loss in his spare time. But he also thwarts supervillains, apparently more out of annoyance than anything else.

Meanwhile, Googam tries a scheme to get out of his menial job that involves playing on the emotions of a rich baby collector and ends up looking like a German child from the Frankenstein movies and Gorgilla gets curious with time travel and his idol, Abraham Lincoln.

But probably the best story is Elektro getting mistaken for Electro, and forced to wear Max Dillon's old suit and sit in jail with a veritable who's who of Spider-Man villains who only showed up once. Bet you your MMMS pin you can't name all the cameos, either!

There's several really nifty moments in those stories I don't want to spoil, but let's just say if you liked the Bwa-ha-ha Justice League, you HAVE to grab this.