Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup. This week sees a pair of debuts out of Image Comics, as well as the start of the much anticipated DC crossover, “The Button.”
Batman #21 (DC Comics)
(W) Tom King, (A) Jason Fabok, (C) Brad Anderson
Well, here it is. Almost one year from the release of DC Universe Rebirth #1 comes “The Button” which looks to pick up on that generally well-received (except here) story. Much speculation has been made regarding the integration of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen into the DCU proper, and readers are rewarded for their patience with… a lot (and I mean A LOT) of punching and decompression, an inverse to the minimal action and dense narrative structure of Watchmen.
The book opens in Arkham, with the inmates (including a character from DC Universe Rebirth #1) watching some playoff hockey where a fight breaks out. As any fan of the sport can attest, this is not uncommon in the heat of playoff competition. However, this sets the stage for what readers can expect throughout the issue, which is a pages and pages of two characters beating the piss out of each other. In one corner is Batman, no explanation needed. The other is Eobard Thawne, probably the most dickish character in comics. Their fight is no doubt entertaining, and the 9-panel structure is a nice tip of the hat to Watchmen, but it hides the fact that not much of note happens until the final couple pages.
That is not to say that nothing happens. In fact, there is a moment early in their scrap that is genuinely upsetting, provided you’ve read Flashpoint (you know, that story from 6 years ago). The “I saw God” moment is easily the most memorable thing to happen. And the art by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson is simply fantastic. But in the end, this issue raises more questions than it answers. Batman #21 is a solid comic book, but it not the game-changer readers were expecting.
Plastic #1 (Image Comics)
(W) Doug Wagner, (A) Daniel Hillyard, (C) Laura Martin
Victor is a former government agent with a particular set of skills traveling the country with his girlfriend, Virginia. Oh, and she’s an inflatable doll. That is the bizarre-yet-believable premise behind Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard’s Plastic. Unfortunately, this title does not know what kind of story it wants to tell. With the right focus, this could be either a comedy, an action-oriented thriller, or dramatic thinkpiece. There are flashes of all three throughout the issue, but none of them rises to the top. What we are left with is a smorgasbord of half-baked ideas.
The artwork from Daniel Hillyard and Laura Martin is overall solid. However, they are just as implicit in the issue’s uneven tone as Wagner. To begin, Hillyard renders Virginia with terrifying realism, with only a few creases on her wrists and ankles to indicate that she isn’t a real person. Perhaps it’s meant to evoke Victor’s (apparent) mental illness, but given other’s reaction to it that is unlikely. Meanwhile, Laura Martin dour and washed out colors give the issue a grimy look that adds to the confusion. It is as if these collaborators didn’t communicate throughout the creative process.
The series does have the potential to say something meaningful, or at least be entertaining, if the creators can figure out what they actually want this book to be. However, if the debut issue is any indication, Plastic is not worth sticking with for the long haul.
Redneck #1 (Image Comics)
(W) Donny Cates, (A) Lisandro Etherren, (C) Dee Cunniffe
Written by rising star Donny Cates (God Country, Heavy Metal Magazine), and with art from Lisandro Etherren and Dee Cunniffe, Redneck #1 is a remarkable addition to the horror revival across pop culture in recent years. While the premise is likely to draw comparisons to Vertigo’s American Vampire, Cates’ narrative is a different beast altogether.
While yes, we are still dealing with vampires in the southwestern United States (specifically, Texas), Cates’ narrative is more intimate in scope with a focus on two rival families. One is comprised of vampires, the other isn’t. The smaller scope enables readers to attach emotionally to these characters despite them being, on the surface, fairly unlikable. That is a testament to both Cates’ ability as a writer, but also that of artist Lisandro Etherren. This is not a clean-cut world of good and evil, and Etherren’s scratchy, jagged linework is reflective of that. Thanks to fantastic world-building, Redneck #1 is a book to keep an eye on.