Motor Crush 4 (March 2017)

Motor Crush #4

You know what happens to Motor Crush when Babs Tarr doesn’t get a lot to draw? It plods. This issue plods almost the entire way though, with Domino confronting her dad about her past and her dad storming off. She then pushes away the ex-girlfriend before robbing a rival gang of their speed drug. There’s a chase scene, but it’s complicated by Domino ripping off the drugs. The weak characterizations and scenes–and lack of Tarr dynamism–make this one a snoozer.

CREDITS

Writers, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart; artist, Babs Tarr; colorist, Heather Danforth; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

Motor Crush 3 (February 2017)

Motor Crush #3

Motor Crush is starting to lose me a little. Fletcher and Stewart aren’t doing a lot with the characters, instead focusing on the melodrama. It’s early, so if they do rebound with some character development and not just cliffhanger mysteries, the book can easily recover. Tarr’s art is strong, with some ambitious composition layouts too.

CREDITS

Writers, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart; artist, Babs Tarr; colorist, Heather Danforth; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

Motor Crush 1 (October 2016)

Motor Crush #1

Well. Motor Crush is absolutely awesome. It’s got a phenomenal pace, lots of action–Babs Tarr’s art is fantastic–and just the right amount of drama. Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher actually do a whole three act story this issue, all while doing a first issue. It’s very cool, with a great cliffhanger. And the lead just gets more appealing the more time you spend with her.

CREDITS

Writers, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart; artist, Babs Tarr; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Image Comics.

Batgirl 40 (May 2015)

Batgirl #40

This issue of Batgirl is a little weird. Stewart and Fletcher sort of do an adaptation of… Captain America 2. Satellite going to shoot people from space because they’re bad or might someday be bad. Big plot point in that movie. In the previews, I believe. Just a few years ago.

Yet, here it is in Batgirl. Not the most original suspense plot.

The rest of the comic–except the way Stewart and Fletcher refer back to Killing Joke–is pretty good. Stewart and Tarr’s art has a lot of energy, with Tarr’s details giving the comic a distinct style of its own, not quite Stewart, not quite not.

The epilogue sort of reestablishes Batgirl again, which is way too many times, but it’s a reasonable setup for whatever comes next. Barbara’s still not a character, Dinah’s still not a character, but the writers are getting there. Just too gradually.

CREDITS

Ghost in the Cowl; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batgirl 39 (April 2015)

Batgirl #39

There’s a shocking amount of this comic book I don’t care about in the least. I’ve been tiring of Stewart and Fletcher’s somewhat incompetent Barbara, but at least they acknowledge her here. Sure, they make too many leaps of logic to get there, but they finally get to something.

The problem with Batgirl has been too much style over any substance. The creators are soft-relaunching a character (who’d just been soft-relaunched), integrating a whole bunch of difficult to mesh history, and trying to make the character younger. And they didn’t want to spend any time on Barbara. She had all the personality of a romantic lead in a gum commercial.

Do they give her a bunch more personality here? No. But Stewart and Fletcher do show they might be going somewhere and not somewhere defined by the comic’s pseudo-Brooklyn hipster thing. They’re working on their story.

Finally.

CREDITS

Batgirl vs. Burnside; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batgirl 38 (March 2015)

Batgirl #38

Something happens this issue of Batgirl. The gimmick starts to get a little old. Barbara using Batgirl to be popular on social media, Barbara going after a reality TV bad boy, Barbara dating a cop who thinks Batgirl is a menace. All of a sudden–and having Dinah point out all Barbara’s inconsistent behaviors doesn’t help–all of a sudden, Stewart and Fletcher seem like they’ve gone too far.

They’ve lost Barbara Gordon. Their new Barbara isn’t so much a soft reboot as an entirely new character. One who isn’t very bright, who’s kind of shallow, who’s not a particularly good protagonist. The reader is supposed to be second guessing her throughout the entire issue. Why read a comic where you’re not supposed to worry about the protagonist but about her being dumb?

There’s still some charm thanks to Tarr’s artwork, but the story apparently is stuck on loop play.

CREDITS

Likeable; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batgirl 37 (February 2015)

Batgirl #37

There’s a somewhat pointless plot twist at the end of this issue. It’s sensational, when the writers haven’t actually set up a point for it. They aren’t asking profound questions or making profound statements, they’re actually just making fun of their villain.

Which is, to some degree, a Batgirl thing to do.

Until that point, the issue is pretty good. There’s too little interaction between Barbara and Dinah though. Stewart and Fletcher use Dinah–to good effect–for comic relief, but they don’t have her functioning as a real character, which hurts this issue. Especially at the end when she pops in just because they need snark.

There’s some rather nice art from Stewart and Tarr during Batgirl’s action sequences too. Lots of foreground and background information important to the panel; they’re a good team.

It’s a rather well-executed comic, with lots of great moments… and a weak conclusion.

CREDITS

Double Exposure; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batgirl 36 (January 2015)

Batgirl #36

It’s another solid issue, with Babs stumbling onto a crime on campus. Stewart and Fletcher also introduce a few more supporting cast members–the issue ends with a sitcom-like tag with all of them, sans Dinah, who’s clearly a guest star. It gives Batgirl a nice feel, though the more impressive stuff comes just before.

Babs’s investigation leads her to a showdown with the bad guys, which is the second action scene in the comic. Between two action scenes and a lot of character stuff for Babs–not to mention Batgirl investigating–it’s a full comic book. The plotting is fantastic.

And, slowly, it’s starting to come together. Stewart, Fletcher and artist Tarr are trying really hard to establish Batgirl as a hip, yet incredibly competent comic book. Unfortunately, Babs is the single aspect of the book without a lot of character yet. She’s indistinct; getting better, but indistinct.

B 

CREDITS

Tomorrow Cries Danger; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batgirl 35 (December 2014)

Batgirl #35

It's the all-new Batgirl, which is mostly just a “Veronica Mars” in college where Babs solves hip crimes–the supervillain this issue is hacking phones and putting the embarrassing private information online. Why? Because he's a bad guy. And he's got a cybernetic brain and can hold his own with Batgirl in a fight.

Writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher write a painfully hip comic for hip comic reading college girls, but they do so with fervor and a real understanding of how to tell a story. For all the visual, modern gimmicks, this issue of Batgirl is just seventies DC Comics updated. The dressing is just a little different.

Babs Tarr's art is fine–Stewart handles the page layouts. Stewart and Fletcher do it like an episode of “Sherlock” how Babs sees the world with her photographic memory.

It feels a little too like Kate Bishop Hawkeye but it's successful enough.

CREDITS

Burned; writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher; pencillers, Stewart and Babs Tarr; inker, Tarr; colorist, Maris Wicks; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes 1 (February 2012)

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Famously (or infamously), the Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes special burned off the remaining Inc. issues from before the “New 52.” It’s less a cohesive big issue than just two issues packaged as one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Actually, the big reveal in the second story–Leviathan’s identity–isn’t a bad reveal. Morrison even jokes at the obviousness of it all; he just did a good job distracting with all his busy work. He keeps up that busy work for the second story and, though Burnham’s art is excellent, the payoff’s lackluster.

The first story, with Cameron Stewart art, which involves Stephanie Brown going undercover at a girl’s school of assassins is a lot of fun. Stewart’s art is slick and Morrison’s script is fun. He writes Stephanie better than anyone else in Inc., except maybe Selina.

Instead of writing the best story, Morrison’s too concentrated on seeming smart.

CREDITS

Chapter 1: The School of Night; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Cameron Stewart. Chapter 2: Leviathan Strikes!; writer, Morrison; artist, Chris Burnham. Colorist, Nathan Fairbairn; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Katie Kubert, Rickey Purdin and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Deadenders 16 (June 2001)

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Well, at least Brubaker goes whole hog when it comes to unresolved endings. He overwrites the final issue of Deadenders to an exceptional degree and still manages to get away with some of it. His writing skills–his short comic subject, like from Dark Horse Presents or Lowlife–come through and he writes some rather decent scenes.

It’s utter tripe overall. I’d have thrown this issue across the room if I were reading it on its release Wednesday, but he’s got a lot of competent moments.

The art helps. Maybe Pleece and Stewart were slacking the last few issues because they knew Brubaker was going to go crazy with different styles here.

Deadenders started, partially, as a Love and Rockets homage. It finishes a Love and Rockets homage too, a bad one. Brubaker’s narrative intentions are strong, his storytelling is just bad.

Maybe it’s the abbreviated run, maybe it isn’t.

Deadenders 15 (May 2001)

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Reading this issue, I do think Brubaker is just abbreviating his plans for how Deadenders would eventually turn out. It’s the only explanation for why he’d string together the issue’s awkward little “chapters.”

Even with the dumb dialogue and terrible new characters, the worst thing about the comic is the art. Pleece and Cameron have completely checked out. A couple of the characters–Beezer and another of the original Deadenders–still look like themselves. One of the other characters from the first arc looks different enough I was confused about his identity.

As for the big reveal Brubaker’s been sitting on a few issues? Boring. He can’t even plot out a dramatic scene, not with the terrible third person narration.

Deadenders isn’t going out with a whimper, it’s crashing to the floor and shattering. Brubaker’s managing to remove every good memory of its early issues with this terrible hurried conclusion.

Deadenders 14 (April 2001)

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I guess Brubaker just found out Deadenders was headed for the chopping block because he kicks off a rapid-fire close-up arc this issue.

Instead of going out with some dignity, he’s trying to answer all of the Deadenders‘s questions, whether they’re important in the context of the previous issues or not.

In order to get things going fast enough, for the first time in the series, he adopts an omnipotent third person narrator. He jumps headfirst into all the regular traps–characters act strange, Brubaker reveals ludicrous secrets about them

Reading this issue, I couldn’t even remember the series’s heights. I get it, Brubaker and company (the art’s fine, though there’s not much for them to do) need to sell comics but forcibly reinventing a series every few issues is a terrible move.

As for the big reveal this issue… has Brubaker read (or seen) Frankenstein Unbound?

Deadenders 13 (March 2001)

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Well, there’s a disappointment. It’s like Brubaker forgot all the build-up he’d been doing towards the race and its location. He had a chance for a sublime issue and instead he used it as background for getting Anna back to Beezer’s home sector.

He also continues the villain arc, which seems like an incredible misstep so far. As Brubaker gets further and further away from Deadenders‘s best moments, it seems unlikely he’s going to return to that quality. He’s definitely moving forward, he just doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go.

I can’t remember the last issue where something consequential played out in scene. All the events in this issue and the previous couple could be related in a paragraph of well-written conversation without losing anything.

Showing as opposed to telling only works if there’s something to show.

The writing’s okay, the art’s good, but Deadenders is floundering.

Deadenders 12 (February 2001)

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It’s hard to tell where Brubaker’s going with the series at this point… besides the inevitable moped race.

He’s revealed some more about the big terrible event, but not exactly. He’s hinted there’s more to the story. At the same time, he’s finally established the girl enough I can remember her name–Anna (though I swear it was something else)–and he’s introduced yet another mystery from the past.

The mystery from the past moment is actually the best thing in this issue, just because Pleece and Campbell illustrate it like a teen comic “gee whiz” moment. That moment gives the issue some character, while the rest of it (Beezer and Anna going through a futuristic hospital) is sterile and boring.

Brubaker’s problem seems to be with maintaining his interest in his protagonist. The moped race preparation scenes are a lot more animated than anything else in his writing here.

Deadenders 11 (January 2001)

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Besides a little framing scene at the beginning of the issue, Brubaker manages to stick with Beezer (his protagonist) for the entire issue. Brubaker layers the narrative a lot with a flashback catching the reader up to the environment suit girl being out of her environment suit.

There’s a real lack of drama–she and Beezer meet another psychic or visionary or whatever they’re called (or aren’t called), but the scene’s short and somewhat pointless. Brubaker’s shifting his focus to the girl, which would be fine–he’s already established Deadenders shifts that focus–except she’s so poorly defined.

Maybe he’s got a better story in mind for her, but he’s holding it back way too much. There are a lot of good possibilities in the issue and he doesn’t explore any of them.

It’s sort of a bridging issue, sort of a treading water issue. Still, it’s fairly good stuff.

Deadenders 10 (December 2000)

Beezer gets a nemesis this issue. Instead of seeing things in an idyllic, pre-disaster light, this guy sees them the other way. Bleeding eye sockets, end times sort of thing.

I assume Brubaker has a point to the juxtaposition but it doesn’t really matter. The nemesis angle is a lot less interesting than it should be. It overshadows–complete with a soft, ominous cliffhanger–the story developing between Beezer and the environment suit girl.

She has a name, I’m sure, but use has to wear an environment suit around all the time and everyone talks about it so her name doesn’t make much impression.

Brubaker sets about half the story back in the regular setting, the outer sector, and it’s a mistake. The story feels too artificial. He had a great chance to stick with Beezer on this strange quest and, instead, he drags all the comic’s baggage along.

Deadenders 9 (November 2000)

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Cameron Stewart joins as inker this issue, which Brubaker splits between the present action of Beezer exploring the nicer sectors and flashbacks to his departure.

The way Brubaker layers the narrative is sort of nice. He’s doing it to keep Deadenders more compelling, which he might not need–Case and Stewart’s vision of the perfect future from the ground up is compelling enough. The flashbacks, which don’t have much (if any) conflict, make the issue hostile to new readers. A look between characters only means something if one has read the previous issues; Brubaker still needs a character map at the start of each issue.

Brubaker refocuses around Beezer this issue. He’s not a side character in his own book anymore. It’s unclear what it means for all the subplots….

It’s excellent writing, full of humor and subtle emotion. The comic’s all of a sudden about undefinable longing.

Great stuff.

Batman and Robin 9 (April 2010)

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Morrison recovers pretty well for the conclusion. With Batwoman, Batman (Dick Grayson), Damian and Alfred all fighting a zombified Batman… I wish I could say Stewart’s art finally fulfilled the promise his name brings. But it doesn’t. It’s this mainstream, glossy Cameron Stewart. Maybe it’s the colors… but I don’t think so. I think it’s Stewart trying to “appeal” to a wide audience.

Speaking of wide audiences, I forgot where the Knight and the Squire are from (besides being generally from some Morrison story), but I was fine with them. Having to know Tim Drake thinks Bruce Wayne’s alive somewhere… that information isn’t something contained in this comic book. Or even this series, I’m pretty sure. I would have thought Morrison would go more for accessibility.

But this issue makes it painfully clear–Batman and Robin succeeds because of Robin. Without Damian along, Dick Grayson is a painfully boring Batman.

CREDITS

Blackest Knight, Part Three: Broken; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Cameron Stewart; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman and Robin 8 (April 2010)

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Oh, ok, so this arc is a forerunner to The Return of Bruce Wayne, where it’s explained Darkseid really cloned Batman or something.

And then Batwoman dies in Dick’s arms so he can resurrect her in the Lazarus pit.

There’s also a big fight between Batman and the clone–insane–Batman. Dick seems like he’s going to win, but then the leprechaun who’s the villain–or something–sets off explosives.

At least Damian’s back for a bit. He gets snooty and he gets snotty and it’s fun.

The rest of the comic is a bit of a bore. It feels… it feels like something Marvel would do, holding back on a very important piece of information for a year only to reveal it right before it’s needed again.

Also, when someone brings up Superman, it feels wrong. This title hasn’t been a DC Universe Batman title; the mention alone jars.

CREDITS

Blackest Knight, Part Two: Batman vs. Batman; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Cameron Stewart; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman and Robin 7 (March 2010)

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I think Morrison likes to be intentionally opaque. It makes him seem mysterious and thoughtful. It’s a shame because he’s a good enough writer he doesn’t need to try so hard to impress. Personally, I imagine it’s an inferiority complex to Alan Moore. No matter how much lauding Morrison gets from the comics’ crowd, it’s nothing compared to Moore’s more mainstream supporters.

Anyway.

This issue is beautifully paced. I’m not as in love with the Cameron Stewart artwork as I thought I’d be… his Batman looks funny, too Adam West.

There’s a lot of talking and a lot of unexplained action sequences, but basically Dick’s gone to London to try to resurrect Bruce in a just found Lazarus pit. For some reason Batwoman shows up at the end of the comic.

Damian’s out of commission and definitely missed–Dick without Damian seems like a poorly written Bruce Wayne.

Big shrug.

CREDITS

Blackest Knight, Part One: Pearly and the Pit; writer, Grant Morrison; artist, Cameron Stewart; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Janelle Siegel and Mike Marts; publisher, DC Comics.

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