Rude Chapbooks 11.15.10 | Master Bruce—You’re Still Alive?

This week’s column beats a dead…er, not-quite-dead horse in reviewing Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6, but also retails suspiciously positive comments about Thor #617, Green Hornet #9, and two other new panelological steeds.

Presumably, it would have been too much to hope that (a) Steve Rogers and Gotham City’s preeminent playboy crossed paths in limbo and (b) in a moment of profound “call the lawyers now” copyright and trademark confusion, the former reappeared in a cape and cowl, while the latter exited limbo hefting a circular, starred shield. Oh, well—maybe next time. That jape aside, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 marks the de–Billy Pilgrimization of DC’s ur–Dark Night, kinda. Technically, that is, Wayne and his chiropteran alter ego came un-unstuck in time in last week’s Batman and Robin #16. Give writer Grant Morrison credit for consistency, at least; he resurrected Batman with a smug incoherence rivaling that with which he “killed” the character. (Figuratively, both narratives suggest a single serving of spaghetti slung across multiple plates.) Abetting Morrison on this anticlimax are pencillers Lee Garbett and Pere Perez and inkers Alejandro Sicat and Walden Wong, who visualize the “soon to be an action figure” Parliament-Funkadelic Batman. Save those shekels now, Batfans!
Why does this even exist? Far too many comic books beg that question, of course. The post-Cerebus vehicle for writer/artist Dave Sim’s lovely madness prompts a subtler inquiry: What audience is this title targeting, with its oil-and-water focus? Oh, wait. Dave Sim. “Asked and answered,” as lawyers sometimes remark. Glamourpuss #16, the latest issue of this singularly strange series from Aardvark-Vanaheim, advances Sim’s amalgam of lampoons of women’s magazines and biographical musings on comic strip giants of the past century. More specifically, it features hilariously snarky excerpts from a faux questionnaire on landing a supermodel as an inamorata and pillories Lindsay Lohan—yeah, fish in a barrel, but what the hell—and also reconstructs and deconstructs a meeting between Alex Raymond (the titan behind Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, and other strips) and Stan Drake (The Heart of Juliet Jones). Not for everyone? Absolutely. Still, Sim, for good or for ill, has never, ever done anything by halves, and in that regard, this harper’s bizarrerie ranks as one of the medium’s most engrossing works.
From childhood, I vaguely recall the Van Williams/Bruce Lee TV version, and in what passed for young adulthood, I bought the Now Comics incarnation from spinner racks in rural Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. In short, though it doesn’t quite date from the Fran Striker era, my enthusiasm for the title character of Green Hornet #9 certainly reflects a measure of devotion, albeit one perhaps disproportionate to that fedora-topped hero’s peek-a-boo history. In consequence, when Dynamite Entertainment announced this series—scheduled to start with cinematic enfant terrible Kevin Smith adapting to comics his own unfilmed Green Hornet screenplay—the company basically had me from go. Happily enough, the series has largely satisfied the ol’ fanboy jones. This issue, Smith’s penultimate, opens with the new emerald-clad ace and his female sidekick, Kato, escaping from a blissfully absurdist death trap set by the villainous Black Hornet and otherwise brims with old-school comic book action, all ably visualized by Phil Hester (breakdowns), Jonathan Lau (pencils), and Ivan Nunes (colors). At the risk of mixing insects, neato-mosquito.
Call it Bifrost. Call it Asbrú. Call it what you will, but once upon a time, in comics, a rainbow bridged the cosmic chasm between our workaday world and a far more stately place, a way-upscale enclave called Asgard. Over time, alas, the old nabe all but succumbed to mondo urban blight. Of late, though, writer Matt Fraction and artists Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth have been gentrifying with a vengeance, and Marvel’s Thor #617, their third issue, extends that laudable enterprise. In it, the latest Big Bad draws ever nearer, a certain Golden Avenger (whose series Fraction also writes) cameos, the title character briefly goes adventuring both in Paris and in mufti, and one longtime member of the cast makes a surprising and suggestive return. Moreover, newbie quantum cosmologist Eric Solvang continues his pleasantly dorky quest to alert our heroes to the coming crisis, and the Thunderer’s old squeeze, nurse-turned-doctor Jane Foster, looks foxier than she ever has in this series’ storied history. Finally and astonishingly, Thor smiles. In a word? Marvelous!
As The Unwritten #19 demonstrates, the sly genius of writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross’ Vertigo series derives (at least in part) from its near-preternatural skill at fusing mimetic extremes; like the spunky younger sibling of Neil Gaiman’s landmark Sandman, it regularly marries metafictional conceits—by and large, the series’ raison d’être—and mad cliffhangers. This issue, for instance, protagonists Tom/Tommy Taylor, Lizzie the Walking Enigma, and journalist Richie Savoy visit the farm where Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick—not exactly a premise from Comic Book Storytelling 101—and poor, hangdog Savoy undergoes a distressingly reflective moment, even as the über-creepy Pullman and the Cabal, the millennia-spanning conspiracy guiding civilization as we know it, seek to silence Tom. Easily one of the finest titles now being published by the mainstream, The Unwritten ranks as instantly addictive and compels a hilarious level of obsession; in this issue of the dark fantasy, for example, aficionados almost assuredly will squint at the titles in some bookcases shown in the backgrounds of two or three panels. Highly recommended. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6, courtesy of DC Comics.
Click here for a preview of Green Hornet #9, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Thor #617, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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