Bottom of the Pile #8: July 10, 2013

Back again, right in time for the next one.

Astro City 2

One of the hardest things to do in superhero comics is come up with an idea that deals with superheroes that people haven't seen before.  This difficulty gets exponentially worse when you decide not to just phone it in and do something involving the words "this is a more mature take" when you explain your story.  But yet again, Kurt Busiek succeeds, telling us the story of a young woman hired by a seemingly innocuous call center who actually discovers she's working for Astro City's premiere super team Honor Guard as a sort of 911 operator for superheroes.  

Few superhero series (or fantasy series, period) deal with the human component quite like Astro City, and its honestly amazing how he can keep you interested with what should be the most mundane parts of a world with Kirby-inspired alien technology and men and women with abilities far beyond mortal men.   It helps having Brent Anderson as Astro City's sole penciller who honestly seems to get better and better as the years go by at displaying his unique vision of this wonderous city.

While the last issue wrapped itself up (mostly neatly), this one ends on a cliffhanger, with the promise of a part two as we look at the fallout of what happens when you make a mistake doing what feels like a small job but actually has enormous consequences. 

Batgirl 22

Me and Batgirl have an interesting relationship.  See, I'm a fan of Gail Simone's stuff with the exception of her darker work, like Secret Six.  And so far, Batgirl has been written...a lot like Secret Six, in terms of the twisted, disturbing villains Gail has populated the book with.  From Barbara's brother to the new Ventriloquist, every issue I pretty much have to brace myself before I start reading.

But this issue...this one was different.  Dealing with the fallout of all of Batgirl's stories thus far, here we see Babs do something most superhero comics don't seem to be allowed to do anymore: go out on a date.  With a normal, regular guy.  Of course since its Gotham it doesn't quite end up being a regular date, but still.  It's a really heartwarming story, with a twist at the end (that I won't spoil) along with one hell of a shocking page (same) that kind of makes you numb when you finish the story.  And all of it drawn by some of my favorite artists, Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion--the ugliness of a twisted city like Gotham has rarely been so beautifully portrayed.

Daredevil 28

Going back into a hero's past can be kind of a mixed bag.  Sometimes you get something a little weird like Iron Man's current "Secret Origin", where the writer makes a ton of changes fans either disapprove of or are ambivalent towards.  Or it can be a good thing where a look back into a hero's past can be illuminating and offer the potential for a fantastic new story, and Daredevil 28 is definitely the second thing.

Introducing a bully from Matt's past who's in need of legal assistance, the issue's conflict this time is mostly internal (at least, until the end) as Matt struggles to recover from childhood trauma to help someone who's actually not a good person, purely because it's the right thing to do. It's a something we've seen a few times before, but its not so tired that I'm sick of it, and Waid gives us a fresh angle on it anyway.

The twist at the end definitely came out of left field, but props to Mark Waid for making me absolutely hype about reading the next issue. 

Justice League 22

So, let's talk about this.  Justice League 22 is the first issue of Trinity War, the long anticipated crossover for the DCU.  The too long anticipated.  The fact is, we first heard about this over a year ago during last year's Free Comic Book Day story, now it's fourteen months later (an eternity for comic book fans in the internet era) and the whole thing's been hyped to Oa and back and the base story has been explained at least once a month since the year started.  

Which is bad, since this issue on its own merits is actually pretty decent.  It covers the opening parts of the crossover, explaining the conflict and hinting at who the real antagonists are but not quite revealing them, and basically doing all the things you would expect an opening issue to do.  Only...if you're a fan, you're well aware of most of this information, so it all feels superfluous.

That doesn't mean Geoff Johns didn't do an excellent job of setting things up, nor does it mean Ivan Reis still isn't penciling the most beautiful Justice League I've seen in years.  What it DOES do is make this feel a little slow and plodding because it doesn't give us much in the way of new information.

While we're at it, let's cover that last page for a second: There's a rumor going around that this page was added at the very last minute to counter the potential fanboy rage at having Superman kill, especially in the light of Man of Steel.   I believe it.  Johns isn't the best writer in the world, but he's much better than that hackneyed bit of dialogue we got at the end of the issue, and up to that point nothing was written that poorly.  This is something that could've been thought up to at least lessen the blow a bit.

In any case, next week covers part 2 of this issue, with the week after covering part 3.  I'm looking forward to it, largely because I'm ready to get to what comes afterwards.

Nightwing 22

Since the move to Chicago and the artist switch, I've loved this comic book.  And while we have Will Conrad instead of Brett Booth for this issue, we end up with a very slick, frenetic art style both for Nightwing and the city of Chicago which works excellently.

The issue itself focuses on Nightwing's continued search for Tony least until the Trickster does the supervillain thing and suddenly takes the city of Chicago itself hostage, threatening the mayor to return money he's supposedly stolen from the people of Chicago or the city itself suffers.   Kyle Higgins has actually done a great job giving this city a personality with its political corruption and (presumably negative) history with masks, and there's a ton of good stories that could come out of Nightwing's stay here.  

The only (small) complaint here is that I think they just gave away the identity of the Trickster before they wanted to, but other than that this textbook good superhero comics, with an interesting main character, a decent supporting cast, and a city with personality complete with villains set to test our protagonist.

Superman Unchained continues being the book we should've gotten with issue #2, as we get to see Superman actually stressing about something in his superhero life (Snyder so far has been great at throwing huge threats at him), as well as get follow-up on the mysterious "original" Superman from issue 1 and learn a bit more about techno-terrorist organization "Ascension".   Overall it's a great book--Jim Lee's drawing better here than he ever did on Justice League, and I personally think Snyder has a better grasp on Superman than he does on Batman.  (There haven't been any obvious "Idiot Ball" moments with this series yet.)  That said...

You know what problem I have with this?  The idea that Superman is the biggest threat to the planet.  I get it, some people probably would have a problem with someone this powerful making his home on Earth but...give me a break.  This version of the DCU saw the Justice League forming because of Darkseid.  THERE'S your biggest threat to the Earth: a guy who beat the brakes off Superman, owns his OWN world (and thus has nearly unlimited resources), has technology far superseding anything on Earth, and has an army that is willing to die for his cause, down to a man, including lieutenants with extra-normal abilities.    But no, Superman is the biggest threat.   Ugh.
Still!  Points to Snyder for having the balls to introduce something as wacky as "black hole bullets" to the DCU proper.  Some people thought this was hokey, but honestly comics are supposed to be fun and not make sense, at least in terms of the physics involved and other stuff that's largely superficial to the story.  Here's hoping he keeps things going for the remaining 10 issues.

Young Avengers 7

Wooo!  Young Avengers week!  Nothing gets me happier than an issue of my favorite super-teens.  This issue sees Prodigy from last issue meet up with the rest of our heroes in order to track down Wiccan's kidnapped brother Speed.  Jamie McKelvie's back this issue as well, and so are his mind-bendingly awesome layouts.   Seriously, the amount of work that's poured into everything from the credits to the art and story to even the letters page (each letter answered by Kieron Gillen himself) actually makes me want to curl up into a ball and weep every time I think about writing my own stuff, but I love it.   

Things moved along at a pretty brisk pace this issue, getting us up to speed with everything that's happened since the last arc ended, showing us a few of their minor adventures, and sending our heroes on a quest through the multiverse at the end, leaving me at the edge of my seat wondering what worlds the team would end up exploring from here on.

If I had one problem with the book it'd be the blatant tumblr-bait that manages to sneak its way into every issue, but aside from that its pure perfection.  This is the way comics--all comics, not just superheroes, should be done. 


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