Rude Chapbooks 11.08.10 | Attack of the Killer Bs

From among a swarm of comics released during the past week, Berlin #17 warrants the biggest buzz. Also in this latest column, Batman and Robin #16 gets waxed, and the one-shot Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money earns a bit o’ honey.

What? Wait—ya mean a certain Gotham City playboy has risen from the dead or, more precisely, recuperated from an über-zotz of the always über-undefined (and thus always über-handy) Omega Effect from über-baddie Darkseid? How? After all, DC hasn’t yet published the sixth and final issue of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne from über-Batscribe Grant Morrison. Yet in Batman and Robin #16—Morrison’s valedictory on this title before launching Batman Incorporated, his next exercise in über-coolness, in just two weeks—the B.W. Batman abruptly joins the Dick Grayson Batman and the Damian Wayne Robin the Crank Wonder to defeat dozens of forgettable villains and the Joker. (Typically, Mistah J gets the only really memorable fillip. “The Joker fights crime!” he muses to himself late in this mishmash. “When there’s no Batman…the gravediggin’ clown gets to be the good guy.”) If this had made my head ache an iota more, I would’ve neglected to mention, strictly out of politeness, that Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham, and Frazer Irving provide the art here, tra-la. Avoid it.
Fanboy Confidential: Howard Chaykin has long numbered among my favorite writer/artists for his work on American Flagg! (um, duh!), the Shadow miniseries Blood & Judgment, the two woefully neglected Time² graphic albums, and the gloriously, unapologetically perverse Black Kiss. Indeed, chatting with him for the first time at a St. Louis County convention in September made me feel daffier than a certain Warner Bros. duck. It thus pleases me to endorse his Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money #1. Although this lightweight 44-page DC singleton scarcely approaches the quality of the works previously cited, it has its felixities…er, felicities. Despite a premise all but guaranteed to spark a double WTF from anyone with even five minutes’ training in accountancy, for instance, Chaykin’s romp doesn’t require hapless readers to tolerate DC’s ongoing emphasis of the con in continuity. Moreover, the art looks quite nice, with the exceptions of an utterly illogical scene involving a Dumpster (page 11, panel one) and a shot of Catwoman suggesting that the character needs rhinoplasty stat (page 30, panel two).
He neither rants nor raves. No mad-dog spittle flecks his lips. No genocidal fire lights his eyes. In short, one of the most evil individuals in history behaves quite out of character, at least in a comic book context, in Berlin #17. Yes: Jason Lutes’ panoramic re-creation of the German metropolis during the Weimar Republic features an appearance by Adolf Hitler in its latest issue, and the restraint of the portrayal may confuse readers schooled to expect (say) stock Invaders villainy. Then again, as writer and artist alike, Lutes has always conducted himself with nonpareil grace on the Drawn and Quarterly title. In addition to commencing a new chapter in the saga—all of whose prior issues are compiled in the indispensable Berlin: City of Stones and Berlin: City of Smoke—this issue partially reintroduces the series’ small army of characters, among them heartbroken journalist Kurt Severing and his erstwhile lover, artist Marthe Müller. An absolutely magisterial work, Berlin operates at a level of significance to which few if any other contemporary comics can aspire.
A few pages into Marvel’s Generation Hope #1, the latest outbreak of X-Meningitis, the new Ukrainian hero Teon—whose customary response to all situations of “fight,” “flight,” or “mate” makes Wolverine look like Einstein in spandex and suggests that Teon’s mutant power involves impersonating a particularly dim chow—takes a whiz on a teammate’s feet. Swell. Almost half a century since Professor Charles Xavier’s wheelchair first squeaked onto the comics scene and 35 years since Giant-Size X-Men #1 turned the mainstream topsy-turvy, things have degenerated from treasure to tomfoolery: instead of “X marks the spot,” “Spot marks the X.” It reflects badly on the industry, if not the medium, that such triviality originates from writer Kieron Gillen (here paired with moderately interesting artist Salvador Espin). With artist Jamie McKelvie, of course, Gillen, at Image, has released two of the sharpest miniseries of the past five years under the Phonogram rubric: Rue Britannia and The Singles Club. Do importune your retailer for them instead of this nonsense.
On the splash page of Image’s GØDLAND #33, an alien like Azrael—the Hebraic and Islamic angel of death, not the DC antihero—battles a gigantic robot controlled by a green skull afloat in an attached, fluid-filled tank recalling nothing so much as a glass hemorrhoid. Beneath them, a tangerine butterfly is aiding the maybe-he’s-not-really-a-villain Friedrich Nickelhead in “having an origin” (pace Dave Sim’s Moonroach), and Nickelhead drops the phrase “psychotropic hangover.” Acceptable. Since its debut five or so years ago, writer Joe Casey and artist Tom Scioli’s cosmic caper has read like the comic on which William S. Burroughs and Roy Lichtenstein might have collaborated. Scioli channels ’60s–’70s Jack Kirby in a fashion that, at a glance, looks juvenile and perhaps even (to use a multiply pejorative adjective) primitivistic—yet somehow it works. Casey’s scripts, meanwhile, unfold like grand assemblages of non sequiturs; unlike far too many mainstream scriptwriters down through the decades, though, Casey appears to be assembling his non sequiturs not by accident but by design. Wonderfully puckish, sui generis work. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

Click here for a preview of Batman & Robin #16, courtesy of DC Comics.

Click here for a preview of Generation Hope #1, courtesy of PLAYBACK:stl.
Click here for a preview of GØDLAND #33, courtesy of PLAYBACK:stl.


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