Two Potshots from Mozzle, pt. 1 (of 2)

June 4, 2009 at 1:57 pm (Comic Books, Morrison)

(note: scanner works: images in; post more comprehensible. Also, Pt 2 was a never finished ramble on Seaguy 2 as being intentionally boring and repetitive in order to reflect the current state of comics sequels and crossovers, but would end with the declaration that self consciousness of the current dissatisfying trends in comics does not save it from still propagating the system. No, it was Cameron Stewart’s art that saved it).

Man, I’m so glad no one (that I read regularly) has reviewed this, yet. All my comments will read like pristine nuggets of wisdom and insight plucked from a wonderfully intricate puzzle piece that simply appeared as a straight forward super hero action story!

I’m sure tomorrow won’t be so kind, but, without further introduction, the return of ME (oh, and Batman, and, and the two headed comics-creating behemoth Quitely-Mozzle).

Batman and Robin #1

First off, what a cover! The minimalist background with the cheesy yellow cover, the placement of Batman and Robin stressing the difference in height and eagerness of the two (Damian’s stepping forward from batman, closer to the camera” and still so short, both tied together into a single image, a misshapen U, by their shared vehicle, the Batmobile. This is visually compelling work. I only wish it did not have the shoddy logo and creator names forming the U into a lumpy O, framing unimportant yellowness instead of its clever composition. Yadda yadda Quitely even gets lighting on shiny Kevlar and shiny car right, making the former a bright pulses, the latter a huge splatter.

Hey, here’s something pretty close to the ideal cover:

Frank_Quitely_-_Batman__Robin_1

And onto content:

For all the faults of Morrison’s last run on Batman, he at least got the villains consistently villainous, expecially in visuals. Just looking at the cover to #681,

batman680

there are six villains with unique visual designs, a chubby antiquitated aquarian explorer monster, a metal hood with a  trenchcaot (okay, there’s a weak one of the bunch), a clown, a tuxedoed eminence grise, a Day of the Dead festival reject, and a silver swordswoman. If there’s one thing the series never lacked, it was an exciting influx of villains. Remember the ninja man-bats fighting in the Lichenstein museum? The comic may have been crap, but it never lacked a fresh villain. Heck, with the Black Glove and Damian, it’s one of the freshest runs on Batman in recent memory, not content to retell old stories with the hot artist of the month (although it did have Tony Daniels on art) , even if it became too content to tell its own story in tedious codification and frustrating reliance on red herrings.

The former is the Morrison we get with this comic, able to cast off characters as quickly as he ends a scene, and always with an eye on a larger scheme, and I couldn’t be more excited. Looking at his interview with (*sigh*) ign.com, a site which has to very strongly remind its readership that, yes, J.G. Jones is doing a variant cover of the buxom babes bat-book, don’t fret your frightened action figure, dear reader, Morrison has this to say when asked if creating villains is an important part of being a Batman writer:

Definitely. I think every writer who is on Batman for any amount of time should try and add a few new villains in there and see if any of them stick. It’s quite easy to create Batman villains. There are certain themes that they tend to follow, and it’s fun to play with and make them up. I’m trying to come up with a bunch of new ones, even if I’m sure some will be forgotten.

He definitely comes up with a lot this issue, and just with the small villains of the piece, he’s able to turn Gotham from a staid mansion of family drama into a bustling metropolis of villainy. The opening scene with Mr. Toad and random goons acting frightened under the spotlight? Goofy. The later scene with the Burning man abusing the police force’s generosity to light them on fire? Dreadful. This complete spectrum (not even talking about the final couple pages) renders Batman a hero of villains much more than a hero of internal struggle, and the book is much, much better for it. Mozzle’s desired tone, from the interview linked above, is a “psychedelic version of the Adam West show”, not to mention a “bad Lewis Carroll trip” (Moz is such a good interviewee), and with a toady henchman rendered in all its scaly grotesqueness next to a butcher with a platoon of masked henchmen, the psychadelic imagery rates as much attention as the action, and becomes its greatest feature.

It also helps that MozzleQ keeps things snappy, zipping from well composed panel to another well composed panel. Not too much dialogue is thrown around in the issue, and whenever it is, it either conveys plot points or acts as quick characterization, and never blocks up too much of Quitely’s beautiful linework, moving plots and characters right along to their next visually arresting scene, which Quitely is always able to lay out so well. Despite the visual inventiveness of the book’s villains, each panel is a thing of beauty, Alfred and Dick’s personal conversation interrupted by a panel of relatively unprecedented space and distance as Damian interjects.

.

Quitely even gets the small visual design elements right, like viewing a car speeding forward in a cluttered cityscape from the ground’s point of view, stressing the vehicle’s speed and importance amid smaller and fading buildings, eighteen-wheel trucks, and sports cars.

..

It must be said, however, that the book looks a little worse without Jamie Grant to provide digital inking and colors. While the lighter tones of ASS would seem out of place in B&R, and the book isn’t ugly by a far stretch, there are panels with an underbrush of sketchy lines instead of thick blacks, as well as a general weakness to Quitely’s linework that Jamie Grant only permitted at the tail end of the run, when tragedy and cancer had begun to take its toll on Superman and make him look drained. Here, the characters already look like they’ve been through hell.

Then again, the contrast between pools of shadow and cross-hatching, strong and sketchy lines, might spring from ulterior artistic motives. For a book that just begs to be compared to its creator’s prior collaborative work, there is another element usefully compared between the two. Look at the borders of the pages and compare them to All-Star Superman. Black instead of white! A subtle, but pervasive, representation of their storied dichotomy, or a simple printing fill-in that thematically coincides? I always assume the former with Morrison, but am a little persuaded to the complete composer idea by his recent authorial revision of New X-Men’s second-movement drag and unsatisfying finale as a demonstration of what writing the x-men will do to any comic scribe, because surely if any writer could endure Scott Summers and Logan without resorting to corporately paid drivel, it would not be Morrison!

(answer: in his earlier years, when corporately owned characters were delicious fresh starts instead of established opportunities for rebellion, I would whole heartedly agree with that statement, but after Animal Man becomes Cliff becomes Dane becomes Scott Summers becomes Scott Free as heroes whose own emotional baggage prevent their own enlightenment and/or slef-actualization every time, and whose rite of passage always leads to the vanquishing of enemies physical and philosophical, I can no longer say with infallible certitude that Morrison is always original. And this is before I talk about Seaguy a little later! But enough “God that failed” bile spoiling an otherwise pristine comic that cleverly demonstrates how to restart a franchise in twenty two pages).

This makes an eventual team-up between the two characters would be especially enticing, and already there are a lot of elements MozzleQ could play with, such as presenting the new superman as the all-star superman character to really throw continuity into the realm of individual stories instead of one grand, sustained narrative, possible an interplay between Lex and the Joker (which just has to be better than the embarrassed older brother Lex and giddy younger brother we got in Rock of Ages), or maybe even Batman can contract cancer, and the All-Star Superman from #12 with solar over-saturation can battle a diseased Batman, and we can have a hilarious parody of Miller’s battle between the two; and everything will be beautiful: and nothing will hurt.

Oh, and did I mention that the major villain of the piece, Pyg, besides being an absolutely horrific and conspiratorial villain with great visual design and villain schtick (don’t want to spoil anything, but in three pages he is already a monster), also happens to be named with both a pun and a classical reference?

I even love the last page, with snapshot panels of possible upcoming storylines. Damian getting into a fight with Dick? I’m surprised it didn’t happen this issue. Red Hood returning with a bad-ass new Quitely costume? And a female sidekick? Sounds fun. Dick battling Batgirl when Bruce Wayne arises from the Lazarus pit to make things really interesting! Sold!!! The Black Glove again? Or is that Echo from Loeb’s run? Boo, but at least they’re trying!

Yea, I have very little to do in this post besides slobber a lot through my typing fingers; which means you’re reading my spittle right now: Sorry if it’s messy!

And so, with every new beginning, there comes an ending: I’m going to post a review of Seaguy #3 pretty soon, maybe by the end of the night, maybe later tonight, depending on how eloquent this afternoon oil can burn.

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