Batman and Robin #3
This is a gorgeous comic book – Frank Quitely provides that dirty edge to his beautiful-looking people that’s amazing. The first panel alone is great. When Robin escapes from Professor Pyg (‘You just redefined “wrong”.’) and the fight scene begins, the action just leaps off the page – dynamic and exhilarating, but dirty and real yet comic booky at the same time. Grant Morrison provides Quitely with a great tale but also putting some of his trademark weirdness into it, something which feels very at home in the world of Batman (even if it is actually Dick Grayson). Really good comics.
Detective Comics #856
From one corner of the Bat-universe to another, and there is another connection: the writer was the initial draw in both books (as well as the artists) but the art is the dazzling element in each. JH Williams is on simply stunning form here – from the different styles to distinguish between Batwoman and Kate Kane, to the brilliant design of the action and the panel layout (the double-page spread in the middle, with the musical notes across the top, a panel across both pages to set the scene, bookended by angels, then the dialogue panels underneath, is just great, followed soon after by the double-page spread of Kate dancing with Maggie Sawyer, which is equally amazing). He really is taking it to another level. In the Second Feature, the Question story is turning into a good noir tale, but has the only sour note so far – Greg Rucka has Renee captured but she isn’t just killed by a bullet in the head; no, she’s put into the boot of a car that is dumped in a river. That’s just weak; you don’t believe in tough guys who do the equivalent of 1960s Batman deathtrap. The only irritating part for me.
Now that we’ve got past the orgies and silliness of the first three issues, we can get down to the entire reason for Herogasm to act as a mini-series outside of The Boys: we learn about how Vought-American made their move via Vice President Vic on the days of the attacks, from an agent who was guarding Vic but didn’t like what he saw or had to do. Garth Ennis reminds you what a good writer he is, telling his story through dialogue but not explaining everything so you, the reader, have to pay attention. For some reason, the art (by ‘John McCrea and Keith Burns’ – I can’t tell the difference on the pages) doesn’t seem up to the tone of the book; I don’t know if it’s the style or the colour, but it takes an edge off the intensity of the drama unfolding.
Usagi Yojimbo #122
And, finally, something completely different in tone and texture: Stan Sakai brings yet another excellent instalment in the adventures of everybody’s (well, the few of us who have the good taste to buy the books) favourite rabbit ronin. And he even includes a picture puzzle on the back cover for extra entertainment value. The story is classic Usagi – after being attacked by a gang out to avenge their boss’s death at Usagi’s hand, he falls off a cliff but is taken in by a poor family and tended too by the daughter. The parents don’t want him to stay, but the girl nurses him back to health. The parents visit the town to sell their wares, but learn of the danger of having Usagi in their home, so return to cast him out. He leaves, but returns when the gang arrives to get him, killing them because he owed them a debt for looking after him (but taking no pleasure in what he does). Sakai tells these tales with such precision and economy of art and dialogue – he’s had plenty of experience with his 25 years of telling Usagi stories – but it’s still a joy every time.