ménage à trois: 1/26/05

[One Marvel, one DC, both published the previous Wednesday, plus a random indie from whenever I feel like it, each reviewed quickie-style: 1 Minute=bad, 10 Minutes=good. Connections, if any at all, may be forced purely for the experience.]

There’s a saying in Hollywood about the difficulties of working with kids and animals, and with good reason. As a father of two and past owner of several pets of various species, I completely understand! It’s with that in mind that Robin #134, Araña: The Heart of the Spider #1 and We3 #3 come together for this week’s animal kingdom of four-color fun.

Post-War Games, all of DC’s Batbooks are getting fresh starts and of them all, Robin is probably the most in need of one. In the past year, Tim Drake has quit being Robin only to be replaced by his girlfriend, who gets fired shortly after and then gets killed during the War Games crossover! Meanwhile, in Identity Crisis, his father gets killed, and in Teen Titans, a trip to the future shows him replacing Batman, but with a Punisher-like edge. When it’s all said and done, he leaves Gotham City for Blüdhaven, which Nightwing, the original Robin, has abandoned due to the injuries he suffered in War Games. That’s a lot for a kid still in high school to handle, not to mention a new reader to digest! Appropriately, this issue is entitled “Always Starting Over,” and Bill Willingham takes the opportunity to summarize all that’s happened, including a quick flashback to how Tim Drake became Robin in the first place, but he does it pretty smoothly without making it feel like a recap, moving the story forward in the process. From Tim’s first day at his new school, to Bruce Wayne’s surprise offer to legally adopt him, to the stunning last page that teases “Why is it the only famous poem concerning a robin is about a dead one?” – Willingham sets the stage nicely for Robin’s new adventures, while offering a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. Damion Scott and Sandra Hope’s artwork, though, is squarely in the love or hate it camp. While I love the energy they bring to it, like small breasts and big hips, it’s a matter of personal taste: 7.5 Minutes

Over in the Marvel Universe, high schooler Anya Corazon gets her own fresh start, spinning off from her debut in Amazing Fantasy to star in her own, clumsily-titled series, Araña: The Heart of the Spider, as part of the Marvel Next line. As one of the higher-profile comic debuts in recent years, Anya’s received a lot mainstream press for being a Latina heroine, even being named one of Latina Magazine‘s Women of the Year! (Considering my low opinion of that magazine, I’ll not wonder aloud whether she’d still have been honored as such if she were a couple of shades darker…) One of the benefits of her being introduced in the Amazing Fantasy arc is that we’re spared an extended origin tale here as writer Fiona Avery jumps right into the action with Araña taking on a group of thugs while fighting a cold that inhibits her full control of her powers. Her partner, Miguel, the Mage to her Hunter – and, in some ways, Batman to her Peter Parker – has a great bit where he convinces a reluctant informant to talk by telling him she drinks the blood of her victims. Roger Cruz and Victor Olazaba do a nice job with the slightly-mangafied but nicely-detailed artwork, capturing Anya’s youthful energy which is really the driving force of the story. In these days of decompressed stories dragging out a couple of issues longer than necessary, Avery does a good job of delivering a complete story while [re]introducing the main cast – including a couple of sidekicks and Anya’s father, an investigative reporter – and laying the foundation for the larger tale. Like getting to 2nd base on the first official date with a friend: 7.5 Minutes

At the risk of having my Comic Book Geek Card pulled, I have to admit to not getting the hype surrounding Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s We3 mini-series from Vertigo. It is without question beautifully drawn, as one would expect from Quitely, but the story just didn’t move me the way it seems to have so many others. Three animals – a dog, cat, and rabbit – escape from a secret military experiment where they’ve been enhanced into killing machines but have been slated for termination, tearing across the country ripping people and other animals to shreds in search of “home.” In this final issue, they’re seemingly trapped, and the military releases an even more deadly version, an even bigger dog, that they inevitably lose control of also. People die, things blow up, and there’s a bittersweet ending. Told mostly from the animals’ perspective, with the kind of minimalist script most comics get blasted for, Quitely absolutely outdoes himself, humanizing the animals and adding some depth to the gimmick, almost making it worth the $2.95. Morrison’s story, though, is not only predictable, it ultimately has no real point to make. It’s like Jerry Bruckheimer hooked up with Pixar to make a political satire, but forgot the satire: 5 Minutes

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Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, one-time poet, still opinionated. Reading, writing, running, gaming, soccer, beer.

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