Friday, August 17, 2012

Saga #5 and Batman #12

Saga #5
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
With the opening page of a royal robot on the toilet, it's going to hit you that this is something out of the ordinary. Yet, if you're five issues into Saga and you haven't figured out that out, you might want to check up on your observation skills. Saga continues to push the boundaries on story developments and this issue gets downright gruesome.
If there's one thing Brian K. Vaughan knows how to do, it's engaging the reader into wanting to come back for more. At the end of the last issue, it looked like Marko, Alana, and little Hazel were about to be in for a fight. That fight turns into a slaughter. You want to root for Marko defending his family, and it's rough to see him like this, especially when he's taken a vow of peace. Another cool concept is Vaughan still fleshing out the notorious freelance assassin The Will. Having to escape with a child sex slave he freed was more problematic than he had thought. Of course, in addition to that subplot, his counterpart The Stalk — who also has one of the most badass designs in a comic I've seen in a while — ends up in her own sticky situation, with the last splash page leaving her fate uncertain. It looks like this might be it, but with this book you never can be assured of anything.
Now on to Fiona Staples laying out some serious stuff. The rage of Marko is shown violently, but paced in a way that gives it just enough time to show what he's capable of without slowing down the overall issue. She is terrific at displaying emotion through body language, and that has to come in handy when you're working with a character whose head looks like a TV monitor. She even gives Hazel the perfect baby smile and Lying Cat some of the best expressions you'll find on non-humanoids. She's stuck to a really solid color palette that gives the right amount of detail and just goes crazy with it. The backgrounds are kept to a minimum, unlike last issue, but are still nothing sneeze at.
I am not sure how many times I can express how good Saga is without overly gushing about it. It's completely enchanted me and to wait for the next installments are always a chore, but it's one of the best books on the market and one of the most original I've read in a long, long time. Saga sports some solid storytelling, great characters and visuals that stay with you.


Batman #12
Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke, Sandu Florea, and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Published by DC
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Talk about a palate cleanser.
No Court. No owls. Hardly any Batman, much less Bruce Wayne. No,Batman #12 is something quite different from the year-long struggle Batman has had with the Court of Owls. Back in issue #7, Harper Row was shown briefly helping Batman the best she could, and there was a hint of history between the two. Now, we see what started it all and how Harper tried helping Batman the first time around.
The main thing going into this issue was the knowledge that Harper would be the central viewpoint. It would be about her world and how she came about assisting Batman. Life hasn't been the best for Harper and her brother, Cullen, but they make the best of things out of what they have.
It's always interesting to see how Batman is seen through different Gothamites and after he saves Harper and Cullen from a group of thugs, she wants to find out more. Harper's Bat-obsession is what you might expect out of somebody that has seen this urban legend of Gotham up close and personal. Neither Scott Snyder nor James Tynion IV dumb Harper or Cullen down while making sure they aren't too juvenile.
However, you can definitely see a difference between the two writers on how they approach the character. It's odd to see Snyder not writing a majority of Batman here as Tynion handles the confrontation at the end between Harper and Bats. Tynion doesn't use Snyder's approach of heavy narration, and is more of a "show, don't tell" kind of writer. He lets Andy Clarke do a lot of the visual storytelling and does a decent enough job presenting the end of the story, even if they only have seven pages to deal with.
Speaking of, that's one thing I found difficult to get past. The book has been hyped as Becky Cloonan's debut in the bat-verse, but she only has art duties on a little over half the issue. Then Andy Clarke comes in and finishes it off. The two styles definitely clash and it's almost disjointing. It's like taking a bite out of an apple and it end up tasting like a taco.
That said, neither artists are off their game by any means. I'd love to see either take on a full issue of work in this universe, but the two together just doesn't mesh well. Cloonan has smoother lines, which certainly adds to Harper's femininity, while Clarke's rendering and crosshatching layers on a more serious tone. With Clarke's work reminding of a mix of Brian Bolland and Joe Kubert, it works out where the two teams are almost the opposite of one another. To be honest, it really threw me off.
Issues like this are important in long runs like Snyder's and the rest of Team Batman. It gives a nice moment to get some air and enjoy a change of pace. Snyder has assured we'll see more of Harper, and hopefully that will happen soon. She's a great character to have around and was fun to read. I just can't wrap my head around the conflicting art contributions.