Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paul's Picks! - April 18, 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 now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Another week has passed, and with it comes a whole new slew of comics to keep us here at Ancillary Characters busy with writing, thinking, podcasting and stuff. With a long list of incredible books to survey from Wednesday, April 19th, I'm here as usual to give you my well-founded (or so I think) opinion regarding my pick of the week! For those of you who have been following us here at AC for some time now, you may be pleased to hear that, thanks to Seth and my recent acquisition of an iPad, my weekly Marvel intake has greatly increased (not to mention the Image titles I'm reading monthly now. And so, both in my column and on the show, our topics will be branching out more so from the DC-heavy stuff we've been covering since the arrival of the New 52. And so, you can definitely expect to see titles from all over the spectrum of comic book publishers from now on. With that being said, I must confess that this week's pick was so fantastic that my desire to expand the column into broader horizons has been somewhat dwarfed by the sheer awesomeness of the absolute winner...

Batman #8 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

You show 'em, Bruce.
Alright, so I'm sure many of you saw this one coming, but I haven't awarded Snyder's incredible Batman series a pick since issue #6 (which incidentally shared the spot with Wonder Woman #6), and this one was just so... I don't know how to describe it. This issue for me was, in some ways, similar to the opening sequence of The Dark Knight at the midnight showing in 2008. I had been waiting for ages, anticipating this incredible event, and once it started all I could do was sit and watch in awe. As I was reading this issue, I literally found myself going back over each page a second time before moving on to the next. I was trying to be as careful as I could, ensuring that I didn't miss anything that Snyder and Capullo had put in there for me. I felt as if this issue was just that: all for me. The world building, the richness of the story concerning the Court of Owls, all leading up to this epic event that is about to unfold at our fingertips... It was almost more than I could handle. Typically when I go into an issue with so much hype as this one, I tread cautiously, afraid that it will let me down in the end. With Snyder's Batman, I have learned that this is an unnecessary fear, as he has delivered every month so far, and the launch issue to the Night of the Owls was no exception. SPOILER!! If you haven't read this issue yet, I suggest you go out and buy it, read it, then come back! I won't be revealing anything too spoiler-ific, but each moment deserves to be fresh for you in this one!

This issue opens up with a wounded, but healing Bruce Wayne. He is surveying a model of Gotham that he built, reflecting on his current state. There is a perfect metaphor that Bruce expresses to Alfred about him watching over the model city while the real city (and the Owls, of course) is watching over him. The tone and tension that flows throughout this book is unbelievable. Few times have I literally been driven to the edge of my seat by a comic, but I found myself leaning forward, barely hanging on to the corner of my seat as I poured over the action that Capullo brought to life before my eyes. Soon I was seeing signs of the owls all over the mansion, much like Bruce's ancestor Alan Wayne had preceding his death. Bruce becomes aware that there is an intruder (presumable one Talon), and he goes into defensive mode. However, he is without his cape and cowl, so in a way Batman is at his most vulnerable point yet. Bruce is about to fight for his life and his home, but make no mistake: this will be no easy feat.
Just try to tell me that's not creepy.

As I watched Alfred turn the hand on the clock to open the passageway into the Cave, I spotted two yellow dots in the shadows behind him. It is the subtlety of these aspects that make Greg Capullo stand out as an A-List artist. Sure, his action looks amazing, and I've said it many times before that he draws my favorite iteration of Bruce Wayne yet, but it is the life that his art brings to this story that will make him forever a name that brings automatic respect from yours truly. As Bruce's home is being overrun by some of his most formidable adversaries yet, we begin to see the desperation mixed with determination that is driving him beyond any point he's ever reached. Even Alfred shows his concern near the end, as we can see the sweat running down his face as he strives to call for help from the Bat family while he still can. This is not some simple attack of mindless foes, nor is it the insane rantings and antics of a madman. This is an organized, well-oiled machine that intends to bring Batman as well as the entire city of Gotham to its knees in one night. As a fan, I am inclined to believe that the Bat will prevail. But I'll admit, as I'm watching the Talons run rampant across Wayne Manor, there is more than a seed of doubt in my mind that this will all end well.

I don't think I've ever read after an author that is better at building tension and suspending my disbelief than Scott Snyder. Batman is one of the most beloved characters in existence, and his fans are easily some of the most judgmental in the world, but Snyder has proven time and time again that he understands the Bat on a level that few can match. He has taken the world that we all hold so sacred and created an entirely new aspect that feels so real and so deeply connected that I can't imagine a Bat-Universe where the Court of Owls does not exist. Much like Geoff Johns did years ago with Green Lantern: Rebirth and the spectrum of new Lantern Corp, Scott has brought something new out from the confines of Batman's past that will undoubtedly reverberate for many years to come.

This story has been a long time coming, but the Night of the Owls is finally here! I will most certainly be reading every story under the heading, although I doubt if any will surpass those that come directly from the dynamite team of Snyder and Capullo. We have seen Batman in situations more dire than I could have imagined over the last few months, and there were times when I couldn't see how the man would come out on top. But now, as the Night begins, I believe we will finally see the Dark Knight stand up and show these fools just why they call him Vengeance and the Night. If you're missing this, I feel sorry for you.

Come and Get it.

Come back by this weekend for the next episode of the Ancillary Characters Podcast! Check out all of our previous episodes on iTunes as well.

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