Batman, Batman and Red Robin, Batman Incorporated, Brad Simpson, Brian K. Vaughn, DC Comics, Eyes Wide Shut, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks, Grant Morrison, Joe Casey, Pat Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, Piotr Kowalski, Prince Robot IV, Saga, Scott Snyder, Sex, Stanley Kubrick
Saga #12: Well, wouldn’t you know, some silly willy–some sucker–rolled out the red carpet of controversy for this issue–and Prince Robot IV relishes the impromptu marketing moment: he stomps fiercely: from his blog-busting fantasy-in-a-dream sequence, which jerks things–I mean, kicks things–off, to his arrogantly ironic prediction. (Phew, that’s a mouthful!) The glorious Inglorious Basterds comes to mind as the Prince works over Heist, a principled cyclops, an author who is more than meets the eye and the screen: he’s Vaughn, telling it like it is, isn’t he? And how about the final page? Getting there was a treat, even if the turn was as expected as a sunset. While not as remarkable as #11, this issue still stands as an example of what Vaughn and Staples are capable of: uncompromisingly taut storytelling that swallows certain homogeneous conventions while spitting out a fabulously fresh narrative. I’m not ashamed to say I raced out to buy this book; nor am I ashamed to say its clearly Book of the Week.
Sex #2: After a month-long refractory period, Joe Casey’s Sex returns without a bang. It’s no surprise, really: Casey’s erecting something here, and it’s apparent that he’s going to take his time; I mean, why wouldn’t he, right? (Makes this whole exercise–two issues in, at least–a tad more masturbatory than congressional, no?) Problem is, seems as if Casey’s going to take more time than I’m willing to endure. And the Batman analog? The Millaresque villain? Turn offs each. Overall, the darn thing doesn’t come off as sex at all. Let’s be honest: there’s nothing particularly penetrating here; hell, the story’s about as sexy as Kubrick’s castratingly antierotic Eyes Wide Shut. It’s not even foreplay, for goodness sake. If anything, it’s flirting–uncomfortable, unrequited flirting. So, to save myself from possible–more so, probable–regret, I’m going to do the responsible thing: I’m going to say, flatly and forcefully, “No!” to Mr. Casey–I’m going to pass on issue #3.
Batman and Red Robin #19: OK, so, I bought the book primarily to see what Peter Tomasi was going to do with Carrie Kelley, she of DK2 fame–or infamy, which is more like it, I suppose. Yes: this is further evidence of what I’ve become: I’m a shameless comic book john, looking for cheap thrills under colorful covers every Wednesday afternoon. Well, as it turns out, the insinuation of the Frank Miller creation was more novelty than anything else: her wearing the Robin costume–in the context of a superhero-themed costume party–was equal parts fun and frivolous, leaving me with the smile of one who knows he’s been worked over. As it turns, however, that story–as unsubstantial as it may be–acts eagerly as a matted frame for another, much more vital and relevant story–an adventure, for sure–in which Batman goes Batmad. Tomasi has taken the tack, has made the wise choice, of having Batman become a darker knight in response to Grant Morrison’s unflinchingly fatal and much ballyhooed move over on Batman Incorporated, one that immediately placed Scott Snyder–the crowned king of the colony of Bat books–and his impotent gesture (see: “Death of the Family”) in checkmate. This Batman is focused; he’s desperate: he’s “a man racked with pain [looking] for light in a world gone dark”; and he does so by, quite literally, tearing an ally apart at the seams. Poor Frankenstein! Now, it’s true: Batman promises Red Robin that he has “every intention of putting [the monster] back together”; but that isn’t nearly enough of a salve to heal over the image of Batman as Dr. Mengele using violent science to, in this case, “find a way to bring Robin back.” That’s right: this isn’t Snyder’s brooding Batman–one who, in Batman #19, seems like a calculated and arrogant protest against Morrison’s competing plot line; this is a father–an understandably rabid Batman–who’ll do anything for his son. And this is a comic that cannot be judged by its gimmicky cover alone: it has to be held to the ear in order to hear the fierce beat of its broken heart. Hold it closely enough and you just might hear your own heart keeping the same fractured time.