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It really was a kitten, after all: Douglas vs. 9/23

Douglas Wolk

DETECTIVE COMICS #857: The Batwoman serial is my favorite thing happening in superhero comics at the moment, and it keeps getting more luxuriously inventive with each installment. I actually went back and reread all four parts after reading this one, and there are a handful of earlier scenes that open up in the light of later ones. One of those later cues is Alice’s final line of dialogue this issue–I believe it may be the only thing she’s said in four issues that isn’t a quotation from Lewis Carroll’s Alice–which sure makes Kate’s hallucination in #855 a lot more interesting. The Question backups still aren’t clicking at all: I suspect an eight-page story needs to be much more densely packed to work as a serial. But the Batwoman stuff is so far ahead of the pack in terms of immersive storytelling, layout and composition, color-as-content, you name it–I really hope other mainstream comics creators take it as a call to step up their own game. EXCELLENT.

SPIDER-WOMAN #1: I know this series has been in the works forever, but it feels very strange to be picking up a high-profile Marvel title this month and have the plot revolve around ferreting out hidden Skrulls–that one got beaten into the dust a while back, and at a moment when the Marvel universe is almost all driving toward the end of the Norman Osborn plot, it feels positively retrograde. There’s also a lot of telling-not-showing going on this issue, maybe because only three characters have significant speaking parts; there’s some other wobbly writing, too, as when Abigail Brand gives Jessica Drew what she says isn’t a “Skrull detector watch” but is functionally exactly that (it’s drawn, in that panel only, as Jessica’s iPhone, for some reason), or when Jessica’s narrative voice reads exactly like Jessica Jones’s used to in Alias. I admire the fact that Alex Maleev is crediting Jolynn Carpenter as his model for Jessica Drew, although I wish he’d just made up a way to draw her face without photo-ref instead; I always enjoy Maleev’s chemistry with Bendis, and even though not a lot actually happens this issue, it works well as a mood piece. If this had come out the week after Secret Invasion ended, it’d probably seem better than just OKAY. But it didn’t, and it doesn’t.

WEDNESDAY COMICS #12: I loved this series in theory, and God knows it was pretty to look at. But this issue augmented the problem it’s had all along–that writers who are used to the rhythm of 22-page stories can get whiplash when they try to write for a single big page–with the problem that Sunday-paper adventure serial strips aren’t really designed to wrap up neatly. Only a few strips manage to avoid the “…yeah, okay, we’re done now” effect, especially the two that were the most pleasant surprises of this series: Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman ends in a totally appropriate way, and the Kerschl/Fletcher Flash serial was so good and so clever that I really want to see what they do next. GOOD, and I’m looking forward to Wednesday II or whatever it ends up being called.

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