Comics: Nicola’s New Releases

Published On August 23, 2012 | By Nicola Love | Comics, New arrivals, Reviews

Last week, I wrote to this blog for the very first time. The premise was simple: I pick my favourite releases of the week and write about them. Admittedly, I was a little nervous – out of everyone who posts to this wonderful blog, I have the least experience of writing about comics. When I submitted my post, I was told that I shouldn’t be afraid of sounding confident. Slightly bemused that my shyness had managed to shine through my writing, I was determined to banish it by my second week – if you don’t count the fact that I’ve actually brought my shyness to your attention by mentioning in here. Anyway, moving on!

This week has been a blur of days at work and half-finished DIY work in my flat. As a result, I only have three picks for you this week: ‘Batman Incorporated’, ‘Adventure Time’ and ‘Before Watchmen: Dr Manhattan’ – all of which are utterly brilliant, all for totally different reasons. As it turns out, carpet shopping doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading comics or writing about them. Regardless, here it is – my second review. May it be the written equivalent of good eye contact and a firm handshake (for the record, I actually have a fantastic handshake). See you next week.

Batman Incorporated #3
DC / Teen / $2.99
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham

The third issue of ‘Batman Incorporated’ finally hits the shelves today. Following the tragic shootings at a screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in Aurora, DC considered some of the content in Batman Incorporated and opted to delay the release – a fair decision on their part. However, as many of the issues had shipped already, content leaked its way online anyway. Some cynics simply thought the issue was running late (it wasn’t, I’ve been sitting on this issue for a month now). Now, two months after being left hanging, readers can finally get their hands on the much-awaited third issue.

Full disclosure here: I am a huge fan of Grant Morrison. I loved the first series of Batman Incorporated and I’m really enjoying this one. Nobody writes Batman quite like Grant Morrison and, despite revealing that this run of ‘Batman Incorporated’ will be his last ever Batman series (I think we’ve heard that one before), I can only hope that it’s not. While I’m not quite a Leviathan-brainwashing level of biased, admittedly, I went into this issue expecting to love it. Which I did.

One of my favourite aspects of ‘Batman Incorporated’ is the love/hate relationship readers have with Damien Wayne. Many Batman – and, indeed, Morrison fans – hated the character. With this series, Morrison finally called their bluff. Sure enough, shortly after Damian was shot in the head, comic fans exploded: “Did he really just kill Damien Wayne?” Well, no, he didn’t. Not yet anyway. Instead, it turns out, Bruce has grounded Robin as a means of protecting him against the big fight that lies ahead. Suitably sullen and unimpressed by this decision, Damien is still every inch the bratty kid that we know and love – or, if you’re that way inclined, hate.

Issue three also promised the return of Matches Malone, which is delivers – complete with realistic moustache, phony gangster accent and a penchant for saving damsels in distress. Assumed dead, Malone shows up in a seedy nightclub (“Do I look dead to you?”). Incase you are unfamiliar with the character of Matches Malone or his sophisticated disguise had you fooled: Malone is Bruce Wayne. Wayne poses undercover as Malone, which allows him to rub shoulders with the criminals of Gotham and gain information. Batman then plans accordingly.

Undercover to gain knowledge of Leviathan, Malone notices the club’s attractive singer being manhandled by a couple of brainless muscle-y types. He confronts them, using his own brainless muscle-y types as back-up. Maybe this is a significant plot point which will come back to haunt him, maybe it won’t (it will). Before we’ve had time to consider this, Batman shows up (wait, didn’t I just say that Matches Malone is Batman?) and Malone leaves the club unscathed. For now.

It isn’t until Malone responds to a distress call from the singing damsel that he rescued earlier that trouble strikes. He is captured, leaving Dick Grayson (bet Batman’s appearance is starting to make more sense now) to find him. Damien Wayne, however, has other ideas and hatches his own plan to save his father.

The whole issue is incredibly clever. Malone is a ridiculous character, embodying every awful mobster stereotype you can think of – but is a great way to tell the story of Gotham’s villains from the inside. Burnham provides smaller touches, for instance, the reflection of a lit match in Malone’s glasses bears close resemblance to a particular bat-shaped vigilante. The pacing of this book is spot on and continues to wind up what promises to be an explosive end to the ‘Batman Incorporated’ series.

Robin is dead. Long live Red Bird.

Adventure Time #7
Kaboom / All Ages /$3.99
Writer: Ryan North
Artists: Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb

My first encounter with ‘Adventure Time’ was on the train home after a long day. Crammed into a carriage other grumpy passengers, bad weather had caused flooding (I live in Glasgow, for those of you who don’t know) and we were at a complete standstill. I decided to get a head start on my comic reading and ‘Adventure Time’ was the first title that I pulled out of my bag. If anything, I was looking for another excuse to be grumpy. Instead, I found myself shamelessly laughing and making the elderly Daily Mail reader next to me increasingly uncomfortable.

Since then, ‘Adventure Time’ has become my “go to” comic for a bit of light relief. It’s too quick-witted and clever to be considered a guilty pleasure – although it’s cartoon nature and bright colours make it the perfect escape from reality. It also makes me giggle like a teenage girl (for the record, I am a teenage girl – just). It’s an easy laugh, but it’s never a cheap one. I’ve said this before – and I’ll say it again because I think it’s an important aspect of this comic – it never laughs at anyone’s expense. The jokes are carefree and harmless and, actually, I’m hard-pushed to find that sort of humour anywhere anymore.

Let’s bring you up to speed in the world of ‘Adventure Time’. In the last issue Princess Bubblegum had invented a time machine. Unsurprisingly, Finn and Jake used it to make mischief, despite the Princess’ warnings not to. Angry at Finn and Jake, she destroys the time machine so that they can never use it again… or did she? Unbeknown to her, Finn takes the time machine with the intention to repair it. That takes us to the beginning of issue seven.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you. I’ve read it, I think you should read it but, if I tell you what happens, what incentive do you have to pick it up? Finn and Jake set out to use the time machine one last time. They throw a “Party All You Want – I’m a Fix This” bash, with the pair planning to hit ‘undo’ after the party’s over, reversing time so that the party never happened. You’re pretty smart (I assume), so I’m sure you’ve already pre-empted that this plan backfires. It does, with hilarious results.

The best part of ‘Adventure Time’ comics are the little extras. Writer Ryan North provides a personal and downright ridiculous commentary at the bottom of each page. “Time Waits for No One” is a great additional mini-story of the time-machine’s invention at the end of the issue. It is these small touches that make the comic worth picking up.

So swallow your scepticism and give Adventure Time a go. At the very least, I promise you it’ll make that nightmare commute home from work a little more bearable – at best, like me, you will become an Adventure Time convert. If you don’t like it, I’ll personally build a time machine and we’ll overwrite this review with one of a comic that doesn’t revolve around time machines or bubblegum princesses.

Before Watchmen: Dr Manhattan #1 (of 4)
DC / Mature / $3.99
Writer: J. Michael Staczynski
Artist: Adam Hughes

Dr Manhattan is the last ‘Before Watchmen’ title to be released. You could argue that DC have saved the best until last and, honestly, I would be inclined to agree. Last week, Rorschach was my favourite book of the series so far – closely followed by Silk Spectre. Dr Manhattan, however, has exceeded my already high expectations. This book strays away from the original Watchmen story more than the others, but I’m so intrigued by it that it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

“What’s in the Box?” begins with a re-telling of of “Schrodinger’s Cat”. While my understanding of the theory is limited (I’ll put my hands up right now and say that my most in-depth explanation of Schrodinger came from ‘The Big Bang Theory’. I know I’m not the only one), I’ll give you the gist. Using a cat in a box, Schrodinger believed that the status of the cat – alive or dead – could not be determined until the box was opened. If the box was closed, the cat could be considered both alive and dead – whichever you chose to perceive was the reality of the situation… until you opened the box.

Being the only Watchmen with superpowers, Dr Manhattan is equipped to absorb and consider the possible outcome of every situation. The possibilities are endless and that’s the point. The aforementioned box theory manifests itself right from the beginning of the story; with a coffin, a nine year old Jon Osterman’s birthday present and the very room where Osterman’s accident seemingly occurred.

Allow me to pause and say that Adam Hughes’ artwork carries this book beautifully. I find myself guilty of championing the writing in comics and taking great artwork for granted. I didn’t want to make that mistake this time. He succeeds in portraying emotion in Doctor Manhattan and creating a visible distinction between the time periods. The book centres around Osterman repairing Janey’s watch – his fixation on precision and control being an apt theme as readers constantly dart back and forth throughout his life and Dr Manhattan’s existence

With the accident, we return to Schrodinger’s theory. The best way to explain this is through the characters of the story themselves. After the accident, Janey remains with Dr Manhattan as if he is Osterman, while the father believes his son to be dead. Despite opening the chamber, the outcome of the accident cannot be clearly defined – so both perceptions of reality have to be true. If Osterman was trapped in the chamber before the accident and, after the accident, only Dr Manhattan emerged – it makes sense that Osterman is Dr Manhattan. But, if Osterman was not trapped in the chamber, who is Dr Manhattan? That is the question that this first book poses, and one you hope will be answered in the issues that follow.

DC have produced a fantastic series and an exciting and refreshing insight into the Watchmen. If you try and find fault with these books, you will – that’s up to you. If you go into these books with an open mind, you will enjoy them. Each are fantastic stories in their own right and boast stunning artwork to match. Doctor Manhattan is the most thought-provoking book so far, proving to readers that this series is a far deeper insight into the Watchmen than cyberspace cynics would have you believe.

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About The Author

Nicola Love
Nicola Love is a journalism undergraduate based in Glasgow. When she's not in lectures, she works behind the counter at FPI Glasgow. Nicola also blogs for Edinburgh Book Festival's 'Stripped'. She enjoys shouting about local talent and re-reading Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run"

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