Monday, February 16, 2009

Teen Titans and Batman

As a kid I was a bit too young to fully appreciate theDennis O'Neil/Neal Adams era at DC Comics and so, by the time that I was buying comics on a serious, monthly basis at the age of 11 or 12, DC Comics was a bit of a joke. Marvel was hip and popular and had the quality goods: The Uncanny X-Men was about to flourish, The Avengers had George Perez, the Fantastic Four had also experienced the Perez touch and were about to get the John Byrne treatment; there really was no reason to pick up a DC comic in the late 1970's.

Now, that all changed when George Perez started to draw The New Teen Titans for DC Comics in the very early 1980's. One title made me reconsider DC.

Yes, the title was derivative of Chris Claremont's similar revival of The Uncanny X-Men, but, over time, the title became a favorite of many fans. New characters and updates on earlier characters made this The New Teen Titans quite popular. And simply for George Perez fans, it was a pleasure to watch his style progress from his first run on Marvel's The Avengers.

Which is a long way of introducing Judd Winick's recent update on the same characters, now called simply Titans, in Titans: Old Friends. Being one of those fans who can't keep up with DC Universe continuity even while trying, I was happy to not feel frustrated this time when picking up a title I hadn't touched in a while; the book works as simply a spin on an origin story, with the new team being reassembled by Cyborg.

I picked up the book because of Ian Churchill's art and Judd Winnick's writing -- he worked on recent Green Arrow stories including the lead-up to the Black Canary/Green Arrow wedding which I enjoyed immensely.

I have to say that, while I will always hold the artwork of George Perez in high esteem -- particularly the way he drew Starfire -- he is given a run for his money by the way Ian Churchill draws the same character sunbathing.

And that's not to slight Joe Benitez either; he has a nice style even if he makes Donna Troy look like one of the Beverly Hills Teens.

A nice beginning to future greatness with the reappearance of Trigon, one of the great Titans villains and Raven's father.

Both artists managed to make Nightwing look cool; sorry, Dick Grayson should be Robin in my book.

Which leads to this mini-series from Batman, Batman: Rules of Engagement, which pits The Dark Knight against Lex Luthor in an interesting spin across familiar ground.

I quite liked the way Andy Diggle envisioned the Green Arrow origin story, so I was more than happy to buy this Batman story which takes place about one year after Batman has taken up crimefighting.

Artist Whilce Portacio has a lively style that is similar to Rags Morales, for lack of a better comparison, and is not as cartoony as some artists who've worked on Batman, nor as dark and gloomy; it feels bright even in the dark scenes.

And while the story did lose some steam for me near the end, there are some nice touches -- the scene where Batman reprograms Luthor's robots made this hater of George Bush and his policies a happy reader.

I am still an artist guy but I'm beginning to think that Andy Diggle is a writer I should read more often.