The short road home begins here, with the first part of a conversation between Noah Berlatsky and Tucker Stone. If you missed any previous installments in the Cowardly & The Castrated, you can catch up using the following numerical structure: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six. Stay here, read this. Then Eight.
Tucker: First up: was the Black Canary issue all you'd hoped for? That was the cover story you were excited about, right?
Noah: I don't remember for sure if I was especially excited by it, to tell you the truth. I thought it and the Green Arrow one were kind of disappointing, actually. More or less of a piece with the Wonder Woman one in the previous issue (105). Basic adventures, not all that goofy...just, eh.
Tucker: The Two-Face/Green Arrow story was a bit pointless--more of a Two-Face/Batman story with GA along for the ride. I liked some of the dialog though, and that moment when Batman was screeching at the plane taking off...Green Arrow calling him "a fool" and saving his crazy ass...that was pretty classic. But the ending was terrible. The Black Canary one was worse, although it started off pretty great. I loved the hostage scenario. But when it turned into a Wild West chase scene, I thought it was pretty tired, generic stuff. Could've done with an actual gun battle too--was disappointed when the main villains killed each other off stage.
Noah: I mean, there were fun bits in both, don't get me wrong. I especially liked in the GA one that nooooobody believes Batman when he suggests that there's a murderer running around killing potential investors. Commissioner Gordon is like..."no! Murder! Never! Why, that's a much more preposterous idea than...oh, I don't know, evil ghost Mormons returning to claim the city." Or how about someone running around murdering investors...which just happened, like, five issues ago in the Metamorpho cross-over!?
Tucker: The Sgt. Rock story was probably my biggest disappointment--I think the interview set my expectations too high, and then it had that great set-up, where Batman falls in the well and "sells his soul" to get free...only to immediately say "Hey, that was just crazy talk, I didn't mean to sell my soul to Adolf Hitler." It reminded me of when Bart sold his soul to Milhouse. But then it just went sideways, with the entire issue going into the Great Train Robbery. There was some magic over-the-top stuff that could've happened, and the non-stop Bat-whining was excellent, real fodder-for-making-fun, but the overall meat of the story--bit of a letdown.
Definitely nothing tops the Deadman story, I feel like that goes almost without saying.
I wonder if Green Arrow "felt sorry" enough for Two-Face to give the money to that plastic surgery clinic? If not, that means that Batman & Green Arrow fought the forces of charity to make sure Oliver Queen gets another ten million dollars. Which would be sort of in line with the way Haney writes him...not so much the Denny O' Neill, "bleeding heart liberal" thing.
Noah: Oh, yeah...I also wanted to point out that Haney decided for some reason that he just damn well was not going to use the Canary's sonic scream. There's that one panel where Batman says "don't use it in the plane or you'll depressurize the cabin," and she responds by saying, "yeah, well that sonic scream doesn't work well anyway, even though the last time I teamed up with you I used it hurl us on my motorcycle over a dangerous obstacle.” I'm surprised though that you weren't that into the Rock story. I thought it was far superior to the other two. Yeah, the plot sort of disintegrates towards the end...but the whole thing never quite manages to take off. And the Adolf Hitler as the Devil thing...that kills me.
Tucker: Canary's Sonic Scream: yeah, that didn't make a whole lot of sense. After they were out of the plane, it seemed like that could resolve everything immediately.
Noah: Well, that's why he tried to explain it away obviously. He thought up this plot, but if anyone had a real super-power, the thing wouldn't work. So he just conveniently shelved it. Which, by the way, is a lot cooler than having some bargain-basement slasher villain kidnap her, rape her, and slash her throat so that she loses her powers.... Fucking Mike Grell. .......Anyway, on the anticlimax point...it seems like that's really a staple part of most Haney stories, isn't it? In the GA one...the villainous two-face's evil plan was...just to cure himself. I mean, why not ask Batman for the dough? Or in the Canary one, the villain's shooting themselves off panel...or, yeah, Hitler-Devil just escapes. I kind of like that about him; he's not afraid to just run out of space and throw up his hands. Though, obviously, in the best ones, there's more of a sense of closure.
Tucker: Well, the Teen Titans stories have closure, but they're still not very good. Then again, the first Sgt. Rock one does, and it works like a charm. I think what really disappointed me about the Sgt. Rock one was that it had this sense of ambition to it, like it really wanted to get wet in the deep end--the Soul nonsense, Batman basically scaring a guy to death--there was this sort of weird otherworldly thing going on, and then it was just abandoned for a not-super-exciting train invasion. The last page was pretty great, with the big bold "No End" lettering--but those last pages really failed to meet the hope I had for it. (Which is obviously on me.)
I'd wonder how much he shot for the anti-climax though? It doesn't strike me that conclusions were something Haney was always "giving up" on. The Mormon story, sure, or the Black Canary one--but the Batman-Two-Face story pretty much played out like a lot of Batman stories do.
Noah: Fair enough. It's hard not to love a story in which you've got Batman in the bottom of a well, screaming and reverting to third-person in best Stan-Lee-super-villain form "I don't want to die! Batman wants to live!"
Noah: You're second point gets at the intentionality thing again. It's awfully hard to know what Haney saw himself as doing. I think he generally did want the plots to work out in a somewhat traditional fashion. On the other hand, he's clearly more focused on other stuff in some sense. The Rock story...the opening is extremely dark and weird. First some stupid guy with a shotgun just basically outthinks Batman, shoots him, and dumps him in a well; then he's screaming about how he doesn't want to die; then, yeah, he chases some innocent guy and gets him killed in a traffic accident; and the whole weird Jungian thing on the train where somehow being led to think he's killed Sgt. Rock is supposed to lead Batman to turn evil...there's a fascination with making Batman behave like a fool and an idiot, and with the whole Hitler/Devil juxtaposition -- but then he's got to finish up by making it all work out in the end, and that entails basically ignoring the setup. The Deadman one was so perfect because he figured out a way to work the bleak vision through all the way to the end, while still reaching, at least on the surface, that requisite ending where virtue triumphs.
Tucker: That's a pretty interesting way to take it...I can't really disagree with any of that. The only thing I'd add to that is that the Deadman story has a really solid action sequence to hang its hat on--that panel you pulled for Hooded, as well as the following page--that was (probably?) the best action in the entire collection. The Rock/Batman team-up that I first reviewed had some pretty good stuff as well, but I thought the entire train sequence could've been better handled. As nice as that one panel was where Batman jumps for the caboose, it was relegated to such a small portion of the page. That could've been really iconic stuff, if there'd been more room to deal with it. The second part as well, where Batman is tricked into telling the Nazis to shoot at Rock's jeep. That should have been extended, instead of just thrown away.
Of course, it did help to make Batman look like a fool--failing to trust Rock, again, almost immediately.
Noah: Yeah; I think the rushed pacing and the lame action may in part be a result of the overall weakness of plot. The best action sequence in that Rock one is right at the beginning, where Batman decides to rush the guy by coming through the window rather than the door...but the guy anticipates him and shoots him. That opening splash page, with the split panel, and Batman and Dorn (that's his name!) yelling at each other through the door; that's a really nicely done page, and then the sequence with Batman coming through the window; and especially that totally horror comic sequence with Dorn dragging Batman under the moon, and then we see Dorn pushing him into the well from basically the level of the opening, with Batman's upside down foot and a little of the cape all that we see as he falls; then Bats shouting up from the bottom of the well...it's a fabulous sequence. I guess there is a bit of chicken-or-the-egg question here; is the visual pacing good because Haney had a better story to tell, or is the story better because of the visual pacing? I think it's clear, anyway, that Aparo needs more of a hook to hang his hat on than, say, Nick Cardy does. The great things about Cardy's art tend to be only tangentially related to the script; that awesome first Black Canary story, for example...it didn't really matter what Haney wrote, Carey was going to draw some sexy Dinah Lance, damn it. Whereas, Aparo...what's great about him has a lot more to do with how he tells the story, in terms of tricky angles, nifty power displays, or whatever. The fact that he and Haney are more simpatico in some ways means that there isn't as much of a buffer, almost...
Tucker: I'd actually found some really cheap Metamorpho yesterday in this weird out-of-NY comic shop, and while I'm looking forward to it, the main thing this little adventure has left me with is a desire to hunt down more Jim Aparo stuff. I've got a huge amount of his straight Bat-work, but I'd really like to see him on other characters. As much as some of the Cardy stuff here was really interesting to look at, the more action-heavy portions of Aparo were really fantastic. On a side-note, I think any script would've been blessed to have that panel where Dorn drags Batman through that clearing. It's not as kinetic as the Bat jumps a car with machine gun panel, but it's classic EC stuff.
Noah: Yeah; Nick Cardy has been the revelation for me...mostly because I knew about Aparo. He is something else
Tucker: And the panel where Batman brings his palm down on Dorn's neck? That was great, really, really brutal stuff. It looked like Aparo took the time to figure out exactly what parts of the human arm would be stressed by the movement, and then added in the neck stiffening to make it clear that Batman is really hurting the guy.
The conversation, and this little fiesta, concludes over at The Hooded Utilitarian! (Apologies for the quality of scanned images.)
Issues dealt with in this two-part conversation include Brave & The Bold # 106-108. Art probably belongs to DC Comics, all the characters certainly do. But everything above was drawn by Jim Aparo and written by Bob Haney, which means that God is currently patting their backs. Somebody else handles the welcoming committee for corporate overlords.