More to the point is Batman and the Monster Men #2 (by Matt Wagner), which also intends to use a large cast — including Hugo Strange, Boss Maroni, Julie Madison, and her father — but so far keeps better track of them. Wagner has always drawn a great-looking Batman, and here the minimalist “Year One” style isn’t far from his own. My one quibble is a familiar one, namely first-person narration from various perspectives. It’s not hard to tell who’s speaking, but there’s not a lot to differentiate the speakers when they switch.
Gotham Central #38 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Kano, inked by Stefano Gaudiano) starts what will probably be the book’s last arc. Despite the cover, and the rumors swirling around bad cop Jim Corrigan, there are no hints that he was the original Spectre or will be again. (Still, if a murdered do-gooder were to become the Spectre’s new host, like good cop Jim Corrigan did back in the day, one could make an argument for a candidate in this issue.) Better characterization of Montoya and Allen this issue, and I continue to be amazed with how consistent the look of the book has been.
Superman #224 (written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher) presents a compare-and-contrast story of Superman vs. Blackrock and Luthor vs. an OMAC which actually comes off fairly well. While I don’t want to say that there were no good “corporate Luthor” stories, in the old days he couldn’t just steal a plane and kill a pilot; and not having to get through those plot mechanics makes things go faster. The issue includes another switch-to-Superman moment, which I am noticing more and more in recent months, and which I applaud for purely sentimental reasons.
Superman Secret Files 2005 includes two stories, a kids’-eye view, a Lois-meets-Superman tale, and an odd Bizarro two-pager. The first story, written by Devin Grayson with art by Ariel Olivetti, is sweet, if a little mawkish. The Lois story, written by Jami Bernard with art by Renato Guedes, is fine, but I can’t decide if its slightly revisionist take on Lois’ early relationship to Supes puts her in a good light. It has an uncanny Christopher Reeve evocation on the last page. The Bizarro “origin,” written by Christine Boylan with art by Carlos Ferreira and Drew Geraci, starts out as a parody and ends up in pathos. None is absolutely essential, but then again, none are really the kinds of Superman stories the monthly books have been telling, so on balance it may be worth a look.
Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #2 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Billy Patton and Freddie Williams II, inked by Michael Bair) reveals more of the “disguised” New Gods, and I start getting confused. Not because I’m trying to fit this into a convoluted DC-mainstream timeline, or trying to decide whether this is “real” or an alternate universe, but because I’m looking for familiar faces and everybody is drawn as hulking bald men. Still, by the end Darkseid and DeSaad are revealed, and that helps things get creepier. Maybe the larger plot will turn out to be “Shilo Norman escapes from the alternate universe,” which would be OK but not very imaginative (considering I thought of it), so I hope Morrison ramps things up a little more and eases up on all the bald guys.
She-Hulk 2 #2 (written by Dan Slott, pencilled by Juan Bobillo, inked by Marcelo Sosa) features the big Return Of Hawkeye, sort of, and it may or may not be permanent. There are some funny bits, and a couple of heartfelt ones. However, the whole plot also revolves around a weird time paradox which exists for its own sake. Now, that’s fine, and I can accept it, but I’m still trying to work out the mechanics.
Finally — and I do mean “finally” — Spider-Man/Black Cat #4 (written by Kevin Smith, drawn by Terry & Rachel Dodson) is an extended set of conversations between BC and Matt Murdock and Matt and Peter Parker; and it ends with a Spidey/Daredevil/mystery villain fight. “Oh, a dialogue-driven Kevin Smith book,” you say,”how innovative.” Yeah, it’s like that, but it doesn’t seem as witty as Smith’s earlier Marvel work. (And when I say “earlier” … oh, it’s just too easy, isn’t it?) Moreover, Smith makes a big deal of not revealing Matt Murdock, when it’s patently obvious virtually from the cover. The other thing is, I’m not sure about the Daredevil timeline. I am not a real DD scholar, but I think it refers to events from the intervening years, and that seems like cheating to me.