Batman: The Man Who Laughs (Ed Brubaker/Doug Mahnke, DC)
Not the kind of thing I'd normally pick up, but it came in my latest DC press pack, and it was in time for this week, so I figured I'd give it a short review. I'm fairly indifferent to Batman and, honestly, to most of Brubaker's writing (even Sleeper doesn't do much for me), and I'd never pay $6.95 for this, but given that it was free, it was a decent enough read. It reminds in some ways of the plot of the 1989 Batman movie, with the Joker first coming on the scene and killing people by turning them into smiling, white-skinned, green-haired corpses. Some have complained online that this gives too definitive an origin for the Joker, whose origin has always been shrouded in mystery. It still seems pretty ambiguous to me; my biggest problem with it is that it seems to be going over old ground, and doesn't tell me anything new or interesting about the Batman/Joker relationship. Not bad if you're a Batman fan, but otherwise easily skipped.
Captain America and the Falcon #12 (Christopher Priest/Greg Tocchini, Marvel)
I guess my expressed hope in my review of the last issue that this would bring a resolution to the storyline was in vain, since this book is cancelled with issue 14 and Priest seems to be doing an uber-storyline running through every issue. Which is fine, and maybe when it's over I'll sit down and read it all and it will make more sense than it has month to month. This issue is easier to follow than the last, and behind the confusing plotting Priest is doing something interesting with the Falcon character. I already miss Joe Bennett's art, as Tocchini is mostly competent but some of his faces look sort of deformed. It's still better than the crap Bart Sears churned out in the first few issues. I'm looking forward to the coming resolution, but I won't really be that sad to see this book go as long as Marvel gives Priest something else to work on.
Fables #34 (Bill Willingham/David Hahn, DC/Vertigo)
This is the beginning of one of Willingham's short side stories, like the Bigby in World War II story, this one about Jack in Hollywood. It's amusing enough, but I miss both the focus on the ongoing story and Mark Buckingham's art, which has really become an integral part of the book. At least they do fill-ins when the story takes a break as well, and Hahn is perfectly good. His art is rougher than Buckingham's, but it tells the story well enough. I'm more intrigued to see where this is going than I was with the WWII story, but I'm still glad it only lasts two issues before we get back to the main tale.
Ojo #5 (Sam Kieth with Chris Wisnia, Oni)
The mini-series wraps up in a fairly predictable fashion, with Annie coming to terms with her mother's death as represented by letting go of little Ojo. Kieth is an old hand at this sort of symbolism, and it just feels a little too obvious. Maybe if this was the first time he'd done it it'd be fresher, but we've seen strange creatures and/or powers as symbols for repressed emotions in The Maxx, Zero Girl and Scratch, and I just couldn't get invested enough in Annie as a person to care. I still think Kieth is a great talent, but this wasn't his best work.
Vimanarama #1 (Grant Morrison/Philip Bond, DC/Vertigo)
After loving We3 so much, I was really looking forward to this, and while it's very different from We3, it's still a great read. Morrison takes on Indian culture and the way it integrates with the West, while telling a totally wacked-out supernatural tale as well. The protagonist, Ali, is a good balance of Westernized and traditional, willing to marry his arranged bride but openly praying she won't be ugly or boring. Bond's art captures the mystical and the everyday equally well, and the humor works both visually and in the dialogue. Not as mind-blowingly original and powerful as We3, but looks to be a fun ride.
Young Avengers #1 (Allan Heinberg/Jim Cheung, Marvel)
Much-maligned before it even arrived thanks to its connection to the whole Avengers Disassembled deal, but I've never been an Avengers reader (and I'm still not), so I came at this just looking for a good, fun teen superhero book, and that's exactly what I got. Heinberg's got a great ear for dialogue thanks to his time on Sex and the City and The O.C., and the character interaction works well here. Yes, the opening sequence with the cast of The Pulse is a little drawn-out, but Heinberg wrote a more interesting version of The Pulse than the actual last two issues of that book. And I like that he's tying things in to the Marvel universe, both the new Bendis stuff and the history of the Avengers. This isn't groundbreaking or shocking, but it's good, solid, fun superhero storytelling with great art, and that gets me on board for the next issue.