Really, who needs titles?

*Very Short Reviews Dept: Because comics can be very short.

- So, I noticed there were two Frazer Irving comics out this week, which was kind of a trip; Irving’s a unique enough stylist that seeing him pop up in multiple places at the same time is enough to make you question whether you’re awake. I didn’t want to buy both, and I anticipated that I’d already have my fill of Civil War for the week from Frank Castle, so I opted for Robin #158. It’s is the conclusion of a story that began last issue, featuring Klarion the Witch Boy (which Irving drew in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers project), and both halves essentially balance each other out by being imbalanced in complimentary ways. Issue #157 was mostly Robin dealing with Klarion’s cat Teekl and the story building up to Klarion’s appearance on the final page, whereas this issue, aside from four pages devoted to what I presume are continuing Robin subplots, is a straight-up Klarion story with special guest star Robin.

It’s also instructive as to what the revamped character might be like in the hands of a different writer (here Adam Beechen) - insert-when-needed magical solutions to villainous threats that come crawling out of the character’s background, heretofore unrevealed sections from the Book of Shadows, and a basic contrast between the character’s self-centered exploratory nature and more wicked ambitions. Simple enough, missing both Morrison’s edge of menace and gift with the character’s dialogue, but that’s to be expected. The story flows fine, and looks nice (and I bought it for the art, so I guess I’m satisfied on that primal level), and comes off as inoffensive enough a piffle. But it can’t be particularly good that Robin comes off as such a paint-by-numbers quippy nonentity in his own book, even in #157, where the focus is allegedly on him, and heaven knows what regular readers will make of all this background-heavy focus on a character that doesn’t even have his own book, or even a regular supporting role in another book.

- Meanwhile, I did indeed have quite enough of Civil War with Punisher War Journal #3, the last of the Civil War tie-ins. It’s about time - as useful a vehicle the Event was to relaunch the book with a fresh premise and direction, this issue demonstrates more than ever how much the book needs to be freed from the confines of connecting to a larger series, since writer Matt Fraction seems to be itching to do more sequences like Clarke frantically escaping (love Ariel Olivetti’s tendency to vary the realism of his art depending on the story - Clarke’s pose in the elevator looks like Richard Corben, and the incidental characters were great), or Frank taking on the Rhino, while the Captain America bits this issue just seem to drag on and on, ultimately providing little more than some very unnecessary tone to Cap’s virtuous internal gritty-teeth suffering, while going nowhere but in circles with the main character. I’m sure this extended launch has helped sales, but all involved seem extremely eager to have their own story now after three issues, and I’m entirely with them.

- And finally, 52 #38 pulls its now-familiar stunt of doling out a big revelation while spinning its wheels on every other front. That said, the Oolong Island stuff was great as ever, neatly tying at least three semi-connected plot threads into a tight whole, with lots of fun character work surrounding notions of science vs. religion and unfettered imagination vs. personal restraint, giant talking eggs reciting passages from the Crime Bible while mad scientists huff at irrationality of it all (the Bible, not the talking egg) and claim credit for which bits of their designs made it in. Maybe the design-by-committee jokes come from an insider's view, given the makeup of the series - which writer designed the death lens? Actually, the Montoya wheel-spinning was better than average too, spending its page allotment recasting Nanda Parbat and the surrounding snow as a metaphor for Montoya’s cloudy state of mind, the destination appearing only when she’s found the right question.