Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paul's Picks, Double Feature! (Part 1) - Feb. 15, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And in celebration of this weekly, well, celebration, Paul is here to give you his favorite book of the week.

Double Feature, Part 1:

Hey there guys! A week of comic book goodness has come and gone, and now it's time for the next installment of Paul's Picks! As you have probably noticed, there hasn't been a much coming out of Ancillary Characters this week, since my partner-in-crime Seth Breedlove has left his usual stomping ground and gone down to Orlando with family. But never fear! I'm here to supply your weekly AC fix with not just one, but TWO picks for this week! You heard it, TWO PICKS!!

Okay, so maybe it's not all that exciting, but we comic readers have something to be super excited about! There has been plenty of buzz surrounding the New 52 since last August, both good and bad. But this week, the fans were provided with two issues that are both noteworthy and praiseworthy. Over the next two days, I will put up reviews for my two picks, so that all of you avid readers out there will have enough of our particular brand of charm to get you by. And so tonight, I'm going to begin with my first pick (and I'm sure many of you saw this coming): Batman #6 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

That's just plain terrifying...
Whenever I consider the greatest Batman stories ever told, my mind automatically goes to the classics: The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Hush... You know, the usuals. Of course, Morrison's run on Batman and Robin deserves a spot up there in my book, but the point is, we're not talking about small stories here. These stories are the ones that step outside of what we're used to from the Batman and into the realm of the unknown. These are books that often take the Bat out of his element, putting him in situations that we're not sure he can handle. In Dark Knight Returns, he's much older, in a world where he may not be welcome. Year One is just the opposite, where his life as the Caped Crusader is only beginning, and he isn't the seasoned and capable hero that we all know and love. Hush challenges him to face his past, and The Long Halloween teaches him lessons about companionship and the corruption that Gotham can bring. These series have challenged those of us that love the character to see him in a different light than we are typically accustomed to. Long after we finish reading them, they follow with us, making us not only consider the life of Bruce Wayne, but also of ourselves and of good and evil as a whole. It is tales such as these that prove that this medium can go far beyond the stereotypical superhero book, and into the realm of authentic, meaningful literature.

Over the past few months, Mr. Scott Snyder has been weaving together a story that, in my own opinion, will soon find itself among the ranks of any of these I mentioned before. The events of this tale have brought Bruce Wayne to the very depths of his soul, forcing him to face a darkness that goes beyond anything that he's dealt with before now. If there were a checklist for everything that needs to be present in order to create the perfect Batman comic, this arc would be nothing but checks, all the way down. Incredibly creepy and powerful villains? Check. A deep mythology that reverberates throughout Gotham city? Check. Batman at the top of his game, even when you think he's down for the count? Check again. Snyder's writing has all the mystery you could expect from a Morrison series to the kick-butt one-liners you'd see in a Bat book by Geoff Johns. Sometimes, my brain hurts when I'm watching this unfold, but it is masterfully told.
Those white faces scare the crap outta me.

Of course, none of those epic tales would have been nearly as powerful without the hands that brought them to life on the page. Tim Sale, Jim Lee, Frank Quitely, these are the men that we all know and trust with the man in the suit. Each one brought something special to the Dark Knight. Stepping up to the plate with some of the industries biggest hitters could be daunting to some, but Greg Capullo has shown all of us that he can swing with the best of them. If the first 4 issues weren't enough to prove that, issues 5 and 6 have surely proven that this book is something special. I can see the fear and panic in Batman's eyes as the white-masked Court of Owls looks down on him, and I feel the fear and tension building myself. It's amazing what he manages to convey with only a glance at Bruce's face, or a close up on his eye with pupil's adjusting to the light. Greg is pulling out all the stops for this story, and he has deservingly made his way onto my list of favorite artists, especially when it comes to Batman and Gotham City.

After the masterpiece that was issue #5, these creators had a real challenge on their hands to ensure that the following installment was as enthralling and mind blowing as its predecessor. Let me be the first to say that they rose to the occasion without a doubt. This issue has begun what I've been waiting for over the past few months: Batman finally had his fill. The man has been beaten up, stabbed, in close proximity to explosions, thrown through the window of a sky scraper, driven mad deep beneath the city in a maze constructed by a mysterious Court of Owls, and finally stabbed through the back by their assassin, the Talon. After going through all of that, any other man would certainly be finished. But then again, this isn't just any man: this is the Batman. When he finally comes to himself in this issue, we see him rise above his own weakness and madness, never giving in. Sure, he's been outmatched and he's certainly not himself, but Batman never succumbs to defeat.

If you haven't read this yet, I have only one question for you: why not? Are you waiting on trade? Are you broke? Order it online! Buy it in digital form! If you're even tangentially a fan of Batman, you can't miss out on this story. Odds are, the world will never receive a Nolan-esque form of this tale delivered through Hollywood. The only way you're going to find this level of experience is by going out there and doing what you know you're dying to do: find this, buy it, and read it. Trust me when I say this is sort of thing doesn't happen more than once in a lifetime, and it feels amazing to be right here on the boat while it's coming.

Go check out Batman #6, and check back with us tomorrow to find out about my second pick of the week! Also, if you haven't downloaded our podcast from last week, check us out on iTunes, it's a blast!

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