- Batman Incorporated #0
This may not be “Exhibit A” of why DC’s rebranding strategy blows, though it is certainly C or D. I’m not begrudging them for what they’re trying to do with all this “New 52 Issue Zero” stuff, and I honestly think it will lead to their intended goal: attracting and keeping new readers. But in the words of many o’ Conservatives, the strategy will and does have a slew of “unintended consequences”. One is bothering people like me, who read very few mainstream DC books (umm… ONE); whether it crossed their minds or not, they’re risking the loyalty of their current readership to fish for new readership. Does the risk outweigh the consequences? But forget about numbers and market shares and all that shit and think about comics artistically for a minute. Is it good for a comic artistically to disrupt the flow of a story arc by shoving in an introductory single issue into the mix? What does it do for the comic? What does it take away? With a Grant Morrison book (especially this one), this takes away more than it gives. To be honest, it gives very little. What we see here are tropes, scenes, and iconic imagery from the entirety of Grant Morrison’s Batman opus: the Island of Doctor Mayhew, the bell and the open window, the funding from Wayne Enterprises, the recruiting. None of this is necessary. Part of the fun of getting into a Morrison comic is the wanting… the craving, to go back and re-read older issues. When you do this on your own, it’s rewarding. When someone points out all this stuff to you to get people to read what you’ve been reading for some 7, 8 years, it’s insulting. Granted, Morrison and the art team of Burnham/Irving do an admirable job with the task given. But no new revelations plus a hand-holding journey through the past just equals tediousness in the end, I’m afraid. Skip this, return with #4 (which really is #12 considering they already started into “#1″ earlier this year and not counting this #0 which isn’t really part of the run and…. see how confusing this shit is?) which promises to plow the story forward.
- Manhattan Projects #6
The title of this issue — “Star City” — refers to a sprawling metropolis of the former Soviet Union, the scientific and ideas mecca of the State. We have yet to cover any sort of Soviet ground beyond a vague propagandist notion of who they are and what they want via the Manhattan Projects leering eyes. Misunderstood by the Americans, perhaps… but they are not the good guys. This is made clear (though I find it interesting that they implore the Aldo Raine style of permanent Nazi branding; instead of a knife they opt for a cattle prod). The irony of Communist nations of the past is on full display here: even the greatest mind(s) of the State are subject to Big Brother compensation. Such is the case with Helmutt Grottrup. Grottrup, like many of the physicists and inventors in the book, was a real person. German, he worked for the Nazi’s during The War, developing the V-2 alongside Wernher von Braun (also a character in the book). After the War ended, he opted to work for the Soviets. He thought, mistakenly, that he would be his own master in The Union. That he would not be anyone’s underling, a less than desirable experience under von Braun. But things didn’t change. In the Soviet Union he worked under a man named Sergei Korolev, not so far a character. Korolev in the book might be replaced with a certain Dmitiry Ustinov. Ustinov was the Union’s Minister of Defense for years during the Cold War. Except in the book he’s represented as a brain in a jar with a large robotic body. Anyways, most of this issue involves Ustinov and Braun shoving Grottrup in corners to work and question nothing. Then there’s quite a twist at the end. I love how this book is simultaneously batshit crazy yet steeped in reality, and real people and projects.
- The Massive #4
At some point this comic will dip in quality. The interest it extracts from the reader will level off. And it will still be good, but not this good. Luckily, this peak still feels very far off on the horizon. That is because this world that Brian Wood has crafted with THE MASSIVE is so vibrant and alive the nooks and crannies to explore are next to endless. We’re still learning about “The Crash”; the series of cataclysmic natural disasters which led to a series of cataclysmic sociopolitical disasters. But forget all that for a moment. We also don’t know much about The Kapital or The Massive… the two ships of the (supposedly) pacifist conservatory non-profit Ninth Wave, or their crews. Not to mention Ninth Wave itself. Wood throws in a little taste this issue of the history of the organization and that of the main character, Callum Israel. Ninth Wave had apparently gotten itself on the shitlist of many governments when they used The Massive (the larger of their ships) to blockade oil tankers from exporting out of the Middle East. When 9/11 happened, their name was brought up vaguely, but not outright named. Ninth Wave went off grid. The organization stayed largely silent during a large chunk of the first decade of Century 21. All charges were dropped and their reputation was cleared though. So they resurfaced prior to The Crash. And now, in a post-Crash world their conservationist mission continues; as they see it as important as ever before. A post-Crash World where, as is shown in this issue, the rules and ethics of society have been swept aside. Callum knows this, and admirably (even with a gun pointed in his face in this issue) he sticks to his vow of non-violence. But he wasn’t always that way. We also get a good helping of Callum’s life pre-Crash. Very, very interesting. We learn of his history with a private military contractor (something all too familiar since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan). A glimpse at his former partner then and now reminds us that even with post/pre Crash Worlds, very different Worlds, some people never change. They only amplify. The biggest part of this issue that moves the story along is Cal getting supplies from a shady character, to say the least. The rest is backstory. But the backstory is so damn interesting, I’ll take issues like this all day long. This has got to be one of the best books on the stands right now.