Comics from DC and Grant.

*52 Dept: I guess the main problem with this issue is that it doesn’t make any sense when it needs to. From Montoya’s ‘rat poison, rat poison… oh my land, suicide bombings!’ line of deduction, to the utter lack of any sort of crowd, security, or Black Adam reaction following a kid getting shot to death at a major public function after she’s already been spotted brandishing a weapon that could annihilate hundreds of people, to the utterly jumbled temporal positioning of the wedding itself (so, did Isis just somehow not know of a pre-planned wedding until the night before despite visitors like Montoya knowing ahead of time, or did Montoya have a psychic premonition of an unplanned event, or were the first two pages of the story some haplessly mislabled attempt at a flashback, or is there just a lack of segment-to-segment communication between the 52 writers? the first and the last seem most likely to me), this issue is about on par with the Ralph epic from a few weeks back in feeling like it was hammered into script form without the time necessary to sweat the details.

And unlike the ballad of poor Ralph, there wasn’t even any tantalizing Crazy! to divert my attention. Hey, I don’t really mind that Captain Marvel has maybe gotten a handle on his overwhelming duties in the last month (or maybe he just feels better farther away from the cave), but there’s no doubt in my head that having Batshit Insane Captain Marvel officiate the blessed solemnization would have made the comic 300% more fun. And then Ralph could have burst in, dragging his scarecrow lover and demanding a double ceremony!

Instead, we have Montoya and the Question running around looking for a bomb, complete with a forehead-slapping last-second moral conflict for Our Heroine to overcome. Oh the horrors of conflict! It was all so intense that Renee and the bomber served up individual prayers at their mutual moment of action; the ties that bind! And that’s before the Kahndaq Public Beautification Committee gets to soak in the symbolism of washing the blood (of children!!) off the streets during Adam and Isis’ night of passion. The only way this could have gotten any riper is if there were cute children and a… garden… ah.

Some ok suspense pacing, though, and I liked the return of the big red sticks of explosive matter worn around bombers' bodies from way back in Week 1. Makes me think Elmer Fudd is going to wander in and get his arm ripped off at any moment. Also: two big pages of Escape From Planet TERROR! I hope they’re the ones who run into Lobo.

Batman #656

Well, this is a bit better.

At Newsarama today, writer Grant Morrison detailed his grand 15-issue scheme for Batman - a later extension of the run is already likely - and expounded on everything from Bruce Wayne’s sex drive to plans for reintroducing Ace the Bat-Hound. And he bashed Frank Miller too. There’s nothing quite like a Morrison interview to get you simultaneously excited over whatever he’s talking about and wary of whether or not the comic is really going to match the chat. Morrison chats are almost always entertaining, but the prior issue of this book had me lukewarm.

It gets more entertaining in chapter 2, essentially an issue-length fight scene with the Dark Knight fighting down a whole army of Man-Bats against the backdrop of a comics-themed art exhibition. Yes, if you happened to be wondering what in blazes those panel blow-ups were doing on the walls last issue, the answer seems to be: aesthetics. “All this comic book stuff is way too highbrow for me” remarks Bruce before the action begins, and Morrison is more than happy to oblige him with an extended sequence of giggly surface appeal - virtually every panel of the big fight features a background canvas goofing on the action, from an artificial city backdrop accompanying Batman as he swoops down, to dialogue bubbles and stylized faces offering commentary on the punches and crashes, to garish sound effects unwittingly providing a service they sometimes don't in actual superhero comics anymore. At least not with such aplomb.

The meaning's as clear in this one as that bit with the Joker going in the trash last issue (only less invasive to the 'reality' of Batman - I liked that Joker part, but it is kind of odd for Batman to just toss the guy's body around): we don’t need to keep the foolish and the antic tucked away under the veneer of gallery art - it wants to get free! Cutesy, but Morrison’s attempt to literally join the sealed-away past with the muscular present resonates well with his Newsarama comments on approaching the world in his work through symbol and metaphor, which don’t have to be solemn things for solemn comics any more than camp artifacts need to be slathered with detached ‘appreciation.’

The sequence also offers a series of guideposts for penciller Andy Kubert in keeping the action clear - there’s still a few jarring choices in perspective, but nothing that stops the action in its tracks like last issue. A few poses still look stiff and awkward, especially with some of the terrified women. But Kubert actually manages to sell some of the book’s humor fairly well: I loved the sight of his carved-from-marble Batman embracing Talia in the nude, save for the cowl, which apparently always remains on. It’s so seriously rendered yet so inherently ridiculous, why it’s almost like something Jim Lee would have cooked up with… Frank Miller.

Morrison’s a funnier writer though, tossing in little things like Batman’s mind drifting away to Thanksgiving dinner during the obligatory inner monologue that nonetheless seem utterly perfect in the context of a big fight scene. This Batman’s a born improviser as much as the preeminent planner seen in Morrison’s JLA, prone to using what’s around him with cunning logic and a not bottomless pool of luck to draw from. Character work like that makes massive fight issues worth more than they’d usually be. Maybe I'm just feeling generous after going through that interview - but then, there's also some fun dialogue, and a great little ending encounter with a new cast member. It seems meaty, even if it's a lean cut.

If there’s one thing I hate… it’s art with no content.”

Hey, even if you don't want too much content, this is a decent selection. Good stuff on several levels. A strong step up from last time.