Starting A Very Short Review (Comics)

I’ve been posting Very Short Reviews of comic books on Usenet for some time now — they show up on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe. So it seems natural to post them here too.

The basics: I do not pretend to read all comics, nor even all DC comics. I read what I read, and only review the few worthy of mention. Brevity is key. The original idea was to get the entire thing onto one screen; obviously this is not so important in a blog but I still vow to keep it short. I am incurably plot-centric and character-focused, as most writers are; you cannot blind me with gorgeous art although vile art is never a plus. And I get bored, oh! so rapidly, which is actually a virtue. Because who wants to be bored by a comic? If I am bored, I tell you, and you can save money by not buying a boring issue. I will therefore try to keep these as current as possible, as a shopping aid.

So to start us off, here is a Very Short Review of Detective Comics #850, just out last week.

Batman’s current arc, about the past 5 or 6 issues, has been depressing and uninspiring. The storyline was cruelly handicapped with the dullest and least interesting member of Batman’s rogue gallery, Hush. Let’s face it, a comic book villain with no especial costume, no particular powers, and an unknown motivation is a recipe for ennui. And the emotional plot engine (is Batman/Bruce going to open up emotionally?) is a conundrum of such antiquity, we might as well be trekking with Allan Quatermain looking for the lost tomb of the kings of the Kukuanas. Batman has been doing this for at least twenty years — either resolve it or give it a rest!

However. This is the final issue in the arc, which means that it really is the best of the bunch. Comic book creators know to start an arc off with a bang, to hook readers, and to conclude it properly, lest there be rioting int he streets. (The hope is that the fascinating premise will keep you hooked through the saggy middle issues.) The art in this issue is especially beautiful — they should chain artist Dustin Nguyen to his desk by the ankle. Any story with a tyrannosaurus rex stomping through the Batcave has a gold star in my book. And if God is merciful, developments with Selina (aka Catwoman) will actually develop instead of dropping into the usual comic book limbo. The mention of a followup arc in January is a good augury for this.

Brenda Clough



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Starting A Very Short Review (Comics) — 2 Comments

  1. I haven’t been reading comics much in recent years, but I recently got a collection of what is essentially the first half of season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I miss my weekly Buffy fix.) It was excellent; of course, Joss Whedon did a lot of the writing.

    However, it did add more evidence to my growing thesis that the right medium for a story varies with the story. The comic was good, but it made me hunger for the television version, which would have been better. That story was designed for television and any other way of telling it pales by comparison. (I don’t think a movie would work as well, either.)

    On the other hand, some of the graphic novels I’ve read — Fun Home and Persepolis come to mind — tell what is essentially memoir better than any conventional book would have.

    I’m sure there is great work being done in comics these days — stories being told that would be annoying as movies or novels — and I look forward to your recommendations, so that I can avoid the boring ones!

  2. Someone is running around on the net with a list of the 100 best graphic novels, which are a fine place to begin. (Have you looked at MAUS, which won the Pulitzer?) The graphic novel is actually where the action is, artistically and financially. The old-fashioned comic books are now merely the embryo form of the GN to come. This is bad for the comic book form, because any individual issue you pick up is likely to be one of a six-part serial. Gone are the days when you would have a complete story in one comic book.

    The larger canvas does in theory allow for a more complex and deeper story. What you often get instead is a story that really would be suited to two, maybe three issues, scraped and stretched out over six comic books so as to appear in a GN a year from now. No mercy should be shown to such travesties. It is a hopeless campaign, but Don Quixote here is never going to quit.