I keep forgetting to post these, so I’ve got a bunch to cover at once:
Batman: 11 issues from 2003-2004
Writers: Brian Azzarello (6 issues), Judd Winick (5 issues)
The “Broken City” arc: Meh. Art sucks. Writing is trying too hard to be edgy. There are intermittent good ideas but it’s mostly boring. Way too much running around and monologuing for a relatively simple mystery. And the ending is a random unrelated Joker cameo and yet another retcon about what Bruce was doing right before his parents took him to the movie. Oh, and this follows immediately after Hush in the same series, but Killer Croc is completely different.
The early bit of Winick’s run is… huh. Scarecrow becomes the Hulk? That’s the plot? (I mean, some credit for the slight variation on the obvious twist of it being his lab assistant instead of him.)
Superman: 7 issues from 2004
Writer: Brian Azzarello
So this is the beginning of the “For Tomorrow” arc, and… Oh dear. This arc threatened to be good for a little bit, but meh. It’s got lots of important-sounding but ambiguous dialogue that’s mostly just confusing. I was willing to write it off as building suspense early on, but as this thing drags along, I have less and less patience for it. And while I can barely tell what’s going on, I think Batman and Wonder Woman are out of character? Or Superman is?
I mean, this thing clearly wants to be Superman’s Hush, what with the Jim Lee art and the first cover being a mirror of a Batman one. But whatever its… eccentricities, Hush was much better written just from moment to moment. Both stories are mysteries, but in mysteries even more than other kinds of stories, it is very important to be clear so the audience can distinguish between things they don’t know because you haven’t told them and things they don’t know because you’re being obtuse for no reason.
Wonder Woman: 13 issues from 2004(-2005 because I accidentally read the January issue)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Backup stories in #200: Robert Rodi (Golden Age throwback), Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir (Silver Age throwback)
OK, I… have some issues. Which I have managed to wrangle down to a somewhat smaller wordcount than my previous draft,
so I hope you appreciate me.
Wonder Woman is in an oddly small amount of this run; we get as much of random embassy staff talking her up as we do of her actually doing anything. And when she does do things, she’s a lot more impulsive and easily deceived (Did she not notice Ares’ oddly specific phrasing when she lasso’d him? She’s got to be used to that trick by now.) than all of the talking about her would have us believe. And for that matter, there’s this big mystery that winds up being solved by Batman. I obviously like Batman, but if the best Wonder Woman can do about the main plot of her own book is call him to solve it for her, that’s just sad. It should almost be a Batman arc.
Veronica Cale is the real main character and I don’t think I like her all that much. Her backstory and motivations almost make sense, and she actually raises a few decent points, but nothing that comes close to justifying this elaborate homicidal conspiracy. Stuff like the one-upping of older villains and, frankly, all the fanservice shots feels like it’s trying to sell us on her. I just don’t really like sales jobs, especially not for completely new characters.
There’s also a lot of awkward tapdancing around how “extreme” or “radical” the stuff in Wonder Woman’s book is, but, in keeping with the “Wonder Woman doesn’t do things” theme, she doesn’t actually say very much. What we hear about second-hand also sounds… vaguely liberal but nothing people wouldn’t have heard a million times even in 2004. I disliked the forest fire scene when I read it (it was from a 2003 issue so this was a while back), but I think I was misreading it as saying something more like the out-of-context soundbite that comes up later. Doubling back to reread it, it’s actually a good effort at having her be genuinely weird and controversial, but the scene comes out of nowhere and it’s the only real example.
And I generally don’t like excessive political grandstanding, but this story is ultimately a political thriller. If the nature of the main character’s politics is a plot point, they should be laid out and they should support that plot point.
I’d read the Medusa arc out of context before, and I was fine with it because it’s more focused on standard superhero action. Comparing it to the initial plotlines, though, I sort of respect those more for trying to do something more original. That said, to the extent that “Get into a fight with a monster” is also a valid plot concept, it’s one that I think is executed more competently than the earlier stuff.
On an entirely separate note, also in the Medusa arc, what’s with the President? Shouldn’t this still be Lex Luthor’s term? Or if something happened to him in another book (Maybe Superman/Batman or one of the Superbooks that isn’t digitized?), maybe Pete Ross?
(My favorite part, though, is the pseudo-Golden Age story in #200, it’s hilarious)