Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly reviews roundup
The Flintstones #2 (DC Comics)
(W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh, (C) Chris Chuckry, (L) Dave Sharpe
To be completely honest, I had no intention to pick up The Flintstones #2 this week. I thought the first issue was “okay” at best, to which I was not alone. However, with the recent announcement that DC will not be reviving Prez for a second miniseries to the chagrin of many, I felt compelled to toss some money in the direction of a Mark Russell project, and this fit the bill. I’m glad I did.
Russell uses The Flintstones to highlight the flaws in everyday life, proposing that religion is an arbitrary means for those in power to control the masses – a notion that has been floated around by many from academics to comedians. There’s also the idea that consumerism is instituted and promoted by those in power to distract people from important issues, which serves as the primary focus of the issue.
Russell does not craft this topic into a farcical satire as he has done in the past, instead striving to strike the readers’ emotional chords. Fred, in his own insecurity, attempts selling vitamins door-to-door as a means to better provide for his family. Bedrock has become obsessed with buying stuff that serves no purpose, or as the book refers to it, “crap.” Fred’s mounting self-pressure to enable his family’s indulgences brings the book to a more somber, introspective place than one might expect from a Flintstones comic. Ultimately, the resolution is rather cheesy, and cynical minds may see it as a tired cliche of sitcoms from years past,
Though Russell uses The Flintstones #2 to push his critiques of modern Western culture, He does not forget that this is a comic starring the modern Stone-Age family. Yes, there are some changes, such as Pebbles’ depiction as an apathetic, modern teenager. However, the main cast are still recognizable to fans of the cartoon thanks in large part to the art of Steve Pugh. He and colorist Chris Chuckry have recreated Bedrock as a world that is recognizable despite a realistic makeover. Though it’s still a little weird to see Fred looking more like John Hamm than John Goodman, there are visual gags aplenty to make up for it. From the “Powergoat” to the a “We Sell Neanderdolls” sign, Pugh’s art contains as much commentary on its own as Russell’s script. And those moments which see the characters expressing themselves feel genuine, from a heart-to-heart between Fred and Wilma to the last page reveal of a Flintstones staple.
The Flintstones may not reach the heights of the unjustly unfinished Prez (no animosity in my tone there), but Russell and Pugh are carving out a spot in the publishing lineup for a charged and socially aware satire book. Perhaps if the higher ups at DC can exercise patience, The Flintstones can develop into something really special.
Superwoman #1 (DC Comics)
(W) Phil Jiminez (A) Phil Jiminez and Matt Santorelli (C) Stephen Downer (L) Rob Leigh
Earlier this week I wrote about how All-Star Batman #1 managed to both embrace the superhero genre without stumbling over too-familiar tropes, managing to somehow feel fresh and familiar. It is a best case scenario for a DC Rebirth comic in many ways. Superwoman #1 is an example of the worst. While technically proficient, Superwoman #1 manages to offer nothing of note or interest and sells itself entirely on its title.
That is not to say Superwoman is without potential. The characters, plot machinations, and action set pieces all have the faint whiff of being new, but read like a million other Superman comics. Writer Jiminez relies on tropes that are not only familiar but already being hammered in other comics across the Rebirth Superman line. Distrust of Lex Luthor, mixed feelings on a new superhero, and what Superman means are all there in the most expectable fashion. The big twist of a cliffhanger in Superwoman #1 may provide fodder for rumors sites, but it’s hardly notable in presentation or meaning. It’s a cheap spin to give readers any reason to return for #2.
All of this story is packed into dense pages, but the layouts do not support that density in a visually pleasing manner. While every page is readable with clear work from letterer Rob Leigh, action is rarely exciting. Much of Superwoman #1 is dedicated to large swaths of expository dialogue that packs in pages with nine or ten panels. When planes begin to fall and the story speeds up, these same small, disjointed panel provide plenty of moments that fail to land.
The one moment where Superwoman #1 really soars comes in a heroic teamup to rescue a ship. Rather than homaging Superman, it discovers a moment that feels unique and makes the heroes of the comic soar. But it is an exception to a field of mediocrity. While dialogue, layouts, and plotting may all be deemed proficient, that may be a worse curse than inadequacy. As it stands Superwoman #1 is just another superhero comic in a field filled with more interesting work that is only memorable so long as it is directly in front of you.
Detective Comics #938 (DC Comics)
(W) James Tynion IV (A) Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Al Barrionuevo (C) Brad Anderson and Adriano Lucas (L) Marilyn Patrizio
The Batman line under editor Mark Doyle is setting the bar for DC Comics under the Rebirth initiative and Detective Comics is its premiere team book. The story so far has been building to a final showdown between a militarized group of Batmen and Batman’s own team of aspiring heroes. In Detective Comics #938 that build reaches a climax and it is one that reveals the promise of this title as an ongoing series.
There are plenty of climaxes in this issue that pay off well, but the action itself serves as the weak link. It’s regularly difficult to understand how actions connect between panels with bodies moving so far in space as to suggest five or more seconds have elapsed in what should be quick beat-to-beat moments. Not much attention is paid to setting or antagonists as the Bat-army rolls across panels like the ocean with no continuity. There is a much greater focus on individual moments that look cool, but never add up to a real sense of momentum. Even the details in these moments take away from the joy of speeding ahead in a comic like this as bullet holes magically disappear around Orphan rather than just barely missing her.
Most of the moments themselves do function though. Each character on the team is given a triumph that fits with their personality. The payoff for Orphan going “upstairs” is a great splash panel and Clayface is able to let loose in a really delightful series of images. This team is diverse enough that each character could be someone’s favorite (while Batman remains a stick in the mud) and Detective Comics #938 gives them all their due. It also continues a strong trend of building stakes and tensions. The final moments turn a victory into an entirely new battle that could be far worse; it provides a reason to keep reading without robbing this issue of its own import.
There is nothing being done in Detective Comics that has not been done before or better, but it is delivering an entertaining combination of elements. The mix of characters, regular delivery of exciting moments, and inclusion of sympathetic villains provides plenty to chew on. This isn’t a comic that soars, but it does fulfill its promise as a Batman-team-up comic.
Civil War II: The Accused #1 (Marvel Comics)
(W) Marc Guggenheim (A) Ramon Bachs and Garry Brown (C) Ruth Redmond (L) VC’s Clayton Cowles
The Civil War series does not come up short on the kick-ass action sequences. This issue is toned down on action, but not on the drama. Tensions run high when Hawkeye (Clint Barton) shoots a teammate dead, and is put on trial for his murder. Who better to work the case than lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil? But alas, he was not hired to defend Barton, but to be the prosecutor.
These story arcs have been catalysts for discussions and arguments of subjects that may not be real, but involve basic real world ethics. This issue keeps the reader asking very important questions that parallel to reality. A comic that goes beyond the obvious content of its pages is always commendable. Hawkeye said he had a good reason, but could have been acting on instinct.
Any comic that notes how awesome Hawkeye is will always catch my attention. While there are folks with otherworldly powers, the woman who hired Matt Murdock said he can’t take the contents of his briefcase with him to see Barton because he can weaponize basically anything. Never underestimate the value of Hawkeye.
Writer Marc Guggenheim stayed true to the characters of Barton and Murdock. Hawkeye doesn’t instigate trouble, but tries to deal with what is presented to him based on his morals. Daredevil does the same, but more proactively. Murdock takes his day job very seriously. Even as prosecutor, he always believes in a fair trial, and that’s where Daredevil comes in to do some digging and make sure justice prevails. The combination of Bach and Brown’s loose, but detailed penmanship with Redmond’s use of color gives the comic a serious, grungy feel that is appropriate for the subject. The panels showing Barton in the interrogation room and Daredevil investigating during the evening show excellent use of shadow that remind us we are dealing with some pretty dark stuff. There are even panels with nothing but a black background and someone’s bleak expression outlined in red. It really gives the chilly feeling of how rough the war has affected these guys.
This issue is a one-shot and gives a decent amount of background about the preceding events, so reading the previous issues isn’t necessary to enjoy this comic, but highly recommended to feel the flow of the new Civil War. This comic, along with Civil War II: The Fallen, focuses on the aftermath of the death of the long-running superhero, so while expectations are high, it does not disappoint.