Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's lesson: Buying comics is an expensive habit!

Yeah. I'm thinking about giving up comics and taking up cocaine again. Just kidding. I've never used cocaine. As far as you know. But today was payday, so I went to JJ's Comics & Cards, my local comic book store, looking specifically for comics featuring Cassandra Cain in her new costumed identity of Blackbat. Which means-- choke!-- I bought a few DC Bat-books! I even bought some I wasn't sure she was in just to make certain I didn't miss even a fleeting glimpse or hint!

But I spent close to 40 bucks. They had stuff there I didn't even know I wanted until I saw it on the shelves. Here's what I ended up buying:

Batman: Gates of Gotham #1: Cass in civilian clothes, towards the end of the issue, just as promised. The way artist Kyle Higgins draws Cass-- her anatomy, her clothing, her body language-- and the way writer Scott Snyder handles her mode of speech do nothing to define her as anything more than just another generic superhero person, which lead to something of an anti-climax. Here's hoping a closer reading proves me wrong.

Batman Incorporated #5: No discernible traces of Cass in civvies or otherwise, but lots of Batwoman. I like Yanick Paquette's art with these Michel Lacombe inks. Solid figurework, nice facial expressions.

Batman Incorporated #6: Chris Burnham's art combines the thin, scribbly lines of Frank Quitely with the deranged facial expressions of Ito Junji. I'm not sure I like Bruce Wayne looking kind of crazed, but there's Cass as Blackbat more than making up for it with a nearly silent action sequence. Leave it to Grant Morrison to give us Cass doing what she does best-- whomping on people and leaving no room for discussion. Liking the pointy little mask and cape, can't tell much else about her costume.

Conan: Road of Kings #5: I passed on King Conan to pick this up. No Cass whatsoever, just Conan in his warrior prime as written by Roy Thomas. Which reminds me-- I need to turn to the back for "The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob," the biographical Robert E. Howard strip by Jim & Ruthe Keegan. It's always excellent. Cass's appearance in this book cancelled due to licensing difficulties between Dark Horse, Time-Warner and Conan Properties International. Too bad. Thomas's take on her would have been interesting, to say the least.

Hellboy: Being Human: Mike Mignola script, Richard Corben art, complete story in one issue. Of course I bought this! No Cass appearance, Cass not referenced in dialogue.

John Byrne's Next Men #6: The return of one of my favorite-- yet somehow frustrating-- titles from years past. Byrne's telling a convoluted time travel mystery but the story feels somehow beefy. I get that same full-belled satisfaction from reading it I used to get from comics, rather than the sense I've eaten a single cookie a lot the flimsy, underwritten books give me these days. Not saying Next Men is gourmet fare so far, but it does hit the spot. Will I be able to keep it down? Cass appears briefly disguised as a Union soldier. Sure, the figure's tiny and consists of just a couple of ink swirls, but I'd recognize her anywhere.

New Mutants #25: "New Direction!" huh? How about A direction? This is a book I've stuck with because I like Dani and Xi'an so much, but it's been nothing but fragments of crossover stories, frequently with the New Mutants team barely appearing on the pages of their own book. And it got off to such a decent start before being consumed by the needs of modern epic storytelling. I'm not quite ready to give up on it yet, but if this book is just going to be a bump on the ass of the greater X-franchise with no stories to tell of its own, then I'll be bailing soon. Very soon. Rumors of Cass taking over as team leader in this issue prove unfounded.

Red Robin #23: Another false alarm. No Cass.

The Rocketeer Adventures #1: The lead story is all about Cass and explains how she came to choose "Blackbat" as her new super-name. Yeah. I didn't make that up. It's... really... I bought "cover 8," the Dave Stevens variant. I also hate multiple covers. But this one is a beauty. And inside there are stories by Mike Allred, John Cassaday and Kurt Busiek. Busiek's just happens to be illustrated by Michael Kaluta. Are there really people who have to collect each and every variant cover of a single issue? Do those kinds of stunts really help publishers? Or do readers just choose their favorite one and go with that? If it's the latter, I'm all for it because it's kind of interactive. If it's the former-- YUCK. But what a gorgeous book! John CASSaday, but no Cass Cain.

X23 #10: I've always hated this X23 character. Well, not the character, just the concept. To me, you need one Wolverine, one Batman, one Superman, one Wonder Woman, one Spider-Man. Not clones and extras. Which may sound strange coming from someone who bought a bunch of comics based on the erroneous assumption a former Batgirl would be in each and every one of them. And I've always been indifferent towards Jubilee. Then a funny thing happened. One day the comic store had nothing I particularly wanted so I picked up the first issue of the Wolverine and Jubilee miniseries. Jubilee as a vampire? DOUBLE YUCK. DOUBLE SURPRISE! It turned out to be a pretty compelling story, quite well-written by Kathryn Immonen and nicely drawn by Phil Noto. It made me care about Jubilee for the first time. So when I saw a comic featuring vampire Jubilee fighting X23 with art by Sana Takeda? I felt perfectly willing to climb off my high horse and--

Cassandra Cain is back in action!

I'm happy with all these purchases, and I'd openly shill for JJ's Comics & Cards because of the royal treatment the owners have always given me-- and they're just so nice-- but these books cost me around 36 dollars. Actually, if I want to keep up my comic book reading habit, I'm probably going to have to give up a lot of other little things. Like electricity, clothing and food. Or I may have to resolve once again to stick only to collections, trades and archives, and then only very selectively.

But there's that Cass factor. Yes, there is.


Nathaniel said...

I think it's too early to tell about her characterization in Gates of Gotham, but I thought she was at least pretty quiet, letting the others do most of the talking. And I appreciated that one of the scenes involving her that stirred up the most interest--the one where she looked back at Damian--involved only body language and no words at all.

Joel Bryan said...

When I first saw her, I didn't really think, "There's Cass!" Characters should be instantly recognizable whether they're in costume or not, and I don't particularly think of Cass as "slender, pretty li'l Asian lass with demure posture." The reveal panel was just unfortunately drawn. The others-- except perhaps the smiling one-- were an improvement.

It's not a deal-breaker because you're right-- she didn't talk much after the introductions, and it's too early to tell what kind of Cass we're getting this time. And I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with her next issue.

Joel Bryan said...

The Batman Incorporated appearance definitely had the Cass-flavor, though!

Nathaniel said...

Eh, I think the fact that she wasn't instantly recognizable was because the artist has put his own stylized flare on pretty much all the characters that appeared: I wouldn't have recognized Tim if there had been more teenage boy characters in the story.

I'm interested to see what they do with her now that she's back--I'm going to be real disappointed if they use "but she's in Hong Kong!" as an excuse for why she never shows up in any books. Also, I desperately need a Batgirl/Black Bat teamup.

Joel Bryan said...

I like that idea!