Why You Should Be Reading
I imagine that Dustin Nguyen’s cute, chibi-style drawings of the Batman cast in Batman: Li’l Gotham will weed out the segment of comics readers who truly don’t care for that kind of art. For those who like the style, though – or those who, like me, don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about it – the first issue of Li’l Gotham kicks off what promises to be a great all-ages series.
There’s a scarcity of DC and Marvel comics that are appropriate for kids, so I’m all for whatever new thing those companies want to try. Nguyen’s character designs for Li’l Gotham are so adorable though that when I first saw them, I expected a super-sweet tone that I wasn’t sure I’d respond to. I want comics that kids can enjoy, but I don’t want them to be slight or to change the characters’ personalities beyond all recognition. If Li’l Gotham was just going to be Batman’s Precious Moments, I wouldn’t be able to stay interested. But that’s not at all what it is.
Despite his shortened body and enlarged head, Li’l Gotham’s Batman is my Batman: overly serious and unswervingly dedicated to fighting crime. But his rogues gallery isn’t as homicidal or destructive as the current, canonized versions of those villains, so Batman’s able to be a little more relaxed about how he takes them down. They’re still lawbreakers, just not especially deadly ones. For example, Nguyen and co-writer Derek Fridolfs are able to get them together at an Italian restaurant for Halloween without murdering each other.
Things got a little unmanageable with the Hulk comics for a while: We had two Hulks running around, each with his own series (plus Son of Hulk) and I started losing track of the She-Hulks when Jennifer Walters was joined not only by Red She-Hulk, but also Thundra She-Hulk. It was too much and I checked out, even though Jeff Parker was writing some of those comics — and Jeff Parker comics are among my favorites.
In a roundabout way, his writing is why you should be reading Red She-Hulk (not that the gorgeous art by Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves and Val Staples should be ignored), but I’m going to get more specific than that. My point is that I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes at Red She-Hulk’s having her own series when the real She-Hulk doesn’t (not outside of FF anyway). I don’t think Parker would either, though. From the way Red She-Hulk is presented in the early issues of the series, it appears that Parker knows he has some work to do in making her a character that readers want to spend time with.
This is something that Red She-Hulk shares with Geoff Johns’ Aquaman, but Johns went meta with his story and all but included cameos of himself looking directly at the reader and screaming, “Aquaman doesn’t suck!” Parker uses more art. Specifically, he uses Machine Man, aka the Reason You Should Be Reading Red She-Hulk. Stay with me here, because I know Machine Man’s not usually much more of a draw than Red She-Hulk is.
Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik had a great idea when they came up with Lookouts. If youth scouting existed in fantasy worlds, earning badges would be a lot more dangerous than just making fires and spotting raccoon tracks. It’s a clever concept that includes an ensemble cast of diverse characters and an endless supply of situations in which our heroes can find themselves. Getting Ben McCool to join the writing team is also a good thing. But the reason I most look forward to a new issue of Lookouts is the art by Robb Mommaerts and colorist Rainer Petter.
Mommaerts does several things exceedingly well, and he (and Lookouts as a whole) deserve to be talked about more than they are. First are the creature designs. Lookouts puts more thought into creatures than just sticking in a dragon or unicorn every once in a while, and even when the monsters are familiar, their looks are new and refreshing. Take, for instance, the sphinx that serves as the antagonist for most of the first story.
A few months ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying Jamie S. Rich and Mike Norton’s It Girl and the Atomics. I dinged it on characterization, but now that I’ve had a couple of more issues with the characters, I need to walk that back a little. I still want to know more about It Girl, but Rich and Norton are working on that each month. I was hasty in wanting to know everything about her in the first four issues. Guess that’s just how much I dig her.
I’m not here to talk about character development, though; I’m here to talk about fill-in issues, specifically It Girl #6. Fill-in issues are a fact of life with monthly comics, especially these days as artists work more meticulously than they used to. But even back in the day you’d run into an issue where the regular story would take a break while the editor ran something out of his rainy-day files. Now, fill-ins are better planned. And if they’re planned well enough, they’re just as enjoyable as the main series.
I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to It Girl #6. My impatience with getting to know the characters was showing and I didn’t want to zoom out into space to see what was up with the drummer of Madman’s space band. I wanted the next It Girl adventure, damn it, and Rich and guest-artist Chynna Clugston Flores were going to have to convince me that they weren’t wasting my time. If you read the title of this post, you know that they weren’t. I loved the issue and here’s why.
It’s rare that a completely new character is my main reason for reading a comic, but here we are. I was hooked from the moment Matt Fraction and Mike Allred’s FF team was announced. I haven’t traditionally cared so much about Ant-Man, but She-Hulk has always been one of my favorite characters, and Medusa’s powers are so kooky I can’t help but dig her. What pushed the comic into my pre-order list, though, was the idea of a woman wearing a Thing costume and calling herself “Miss Thing.” And now that I know something about her, I love her even more.
Darla Deering is a pop superstar and Johnny Storm’s latest girlfriend. All you really have to know is the last half of that description, because that’s how she accidentally ends up a member of the Fantastic Four. In FF #1, the real team is headed out on a journey beyond time and space. and needs stand-ins to oversee the Future Foundation for the four minutes of Earth time they’ll be gone. Or longer, if something goes wrong. Reed picks Ant-Man, Sue picks Medusa, and Ben picks She-Hulk. Johnny, of course, completely forgets about the whole thing.