Trinity is Matt Wagner’s story about a possible version of the first time Batman and Superman met Wonder Woman. They fight crime! It has Ra’s al-Ghul, Bizarro and Artemis as the villains. There’s a scheme. A couple of misunderstandings. Punching. It’s fine as far as it goes, but is pretty standard superhero stuff and nothing to go out of your way for.
Batman and the Monster Men is Matt Wagner’s story of a young Batman and his first case with Doctor Strange. It’s kind of a follow-up to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, and Batman is still kind of figuring out his role. It’s a similar kind of story arc to the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. He has a girlfriend and has been fighting Sal Maroni’s gangsters, not full on supervillains, but Dr. Strange is doing genetic experimentation and creating huge troll-like creatures to deal with the loan sharks he’s been borrowing from.
It’s a decent book, and you can tell it’s by the same guy writing Sandman Mystery Theatre. Very noirish, but the art in this is much better. It’s probably a bit more pulp than noir (especially with that title) but a good Batman story that doesn’t shake anything up too terribly.
I have a friend who loves the Sandman Mystery Theater series. He’s the one who first told me about the excellent crime stories Matt Wagner was making with these books. I read one volume, liked it and then never really followed up till last week. The Face and the Brute is volume two, and has two stories about Wesley Dodds, the wealthy detective who dresses up in a gasmask to follow up on the dreams he has about crimes.
The comic is most interesting in how it deals with its setting, New York in the 1930s. The racism against Asians is front and centre (not in Wesley, but in the secondary characters). Dian Belmont is dating an Asian man and grisly murders are happening in Chinatown. Everyone is scared for her safety and encourages her to leave that terrible foreign world alone. But she won’t. The dealing with class issues is done very well, in that the issues actually show up in the writing.
They’re good stories, but I’m not a huge fan of the artwork. It’s all just a bit garish for what I like in my noir comics.
I picked up Matt Wagner’s Grendel: Devil’s Reign from the library having only read Grendel: Black White and Red before. I remembered liking it but not a lot of details. This book might not have been the best place to take up the series again.
It’s the 26th century and the plague of vampires has fractured North America. Orion I, who apparently used to be Grendel is brought in to unify the nation and [SPOILER ALERT] eventually takes over the world by blowing the nefarious Japanese off the planet. And then he’s the king of the world, has a baby boy and dies an old man.
So that’s the main story, and it’s told with the detached air of a biography. The form is very interesting: 8 panels per page and about half of them filled with text and many more as propaganda images. It’s very dense and wordy, but detached detached detached. There’s no sense of urgency to anything. Maybe I would care more if I’d read more of the previous run of the comic, or later ones to see what the aftermath of all this was, but as it was it felt like reading a biased history of a crudely stereotyped alternate world.
The other story is about the vampires who’re banished to the prison of VEGAS for the amount of history covered in the book. Because this is done in a more traditional comicbook style, it’s much less dense and more actiony than the main story. In fact I think they probably take up the same number of pages, but the density of text makes this story feel like a backup. Again, I feel like I would care more if I’d come at this book with more investment in the series.
It wasn’t bad, just not very compelling for someone reading it without previous knowledge. I wish there’d been some indication on the cover to say what volume in the series this was.