With so many comics coming out each week, it can be difficult to know what to buy and what to drop. Luckily, you have The Comics Beat to show you the way. Each week, I will review a new series’ first issue and the latest issue of something that’s been on the market a little longer. It’s the perfect opportunity to find a new love or reignite an old flame. Let’s dive into this week’s titles.
Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Caitlin Rose Boyle Colorist: Mickey Quinn
Letterer: Corey Breen Publisher: Boom!
Over the last year, Boom!’s Box imprint has been making waves in the all ages market, bringing a slew of new content to an oft neglected section of the comics audience. Kate Leth’s and Matt Cummings’ Power Up! was a great humorous reading experience, so when I saw Jonesy #1 on the shelf this week I hoped that writer Sam Humphries and artist Caitlin Rose Boyle would be able to provide an equal amount of humor and heart as well as an equally gripping story.
I guess two out of three isn’t bad, right?
First off, let’s get this out of the way: Jonesy #1 is a very funny comic. I’m not the type of person to laugh out loud while reading, but I’ll be damned if I don’t say that I laughed several times throughout Jonesy #1. The story centers around a young Latino teenager, the eponymous Jonesy, navigating her way through high school on the most dreaded day for a young single person: Valentine’s Day. Her high school has a tradition where students give flowers to their crushes, and Jonesy puts up a typical teenage front of not caring while actually caring quite a lot. At one point, she gets so riled up that her emotions come out in the shape of burning skull, angry cat, bloody chainsaw, and skewered heart emojis. She ships potential couples so hard in animes that she thinks she’s received superpowers by doing so. It’s clearly not universally recognizable humor, and is geared towards the post-smartphone generation, but hey, I guess that’s me.
Caitlin Rose Boyle’s layouts are standout throughout this comic. She maximizes the use of full page spreads and wide open layouts. At one point, when Jonesy feels low, she runs out of the classroom and is positioned in the background of a long and empty hall, emphasizing her feelings of loneliness and desertion on a day where love is so particularly cherished. Later on, when one of her classmates, Susan, is literally being buried in flowers thanks to a curse Jonesy may-or-may-not have put on her, flowers dominate the page while jeering classmates rise up like angry spirits behind the overwhelmed Susan. It’s a great visual composition in a book full of them.
Unfortunately, while Jonesy is visually gripping, humorous, and has some great ideas, the script never comes together to form a coherent story. For most the comic, Jonesy is monologuing to herself or the reader. To Humphries’ credit as a script writer, this does give us a good sense of who Jonesy is, and several sitcom-esque cutaways to her family saying ridiculous things like “EAT ALL WHO OPPOSE YOU” provide us with a humorously intimate look at her family background. That said, all that narration, internal dialogue, and reader asides leave little time to develop anyone but Jonesy. We never get a solid sense of any of the characters around her. There’s an attempt to cast a boy named Michael as the school “hot guy.” Jonesy tries to hypnotize him into falling for her in order to push Susan’s buttons. However, we don’t get a read on why that would bother Susan as it was never expressed that Susan was into Michael or even knew him.
his has a hugely negative impact on the story near the first issue’s end, as Susan is given a character defining moment that should feel revelatory but comes off as flat without being given any sense of her character prior to this point. The dynamic between Jonesy the “weirdo” outcast and Susan the popular girl with a soul, is one we’ve seen many times before, and while there’s nothing wrong with using a trope, it doesn’t make for an astounding issue climax.
Worse yet, while we know who Jonesy is, her motivations remain unclear. Several times throughout the story Humphries seems to waffle back and forth about whether or not Jonesy has mysterious superpowers. By the end of the first issue, it’s apparent she does, but how they work or what they are, exactly, remain unclear. She can manipulate people into loving things like Susan or Ferrets, but what she plans on doing with these abilities are pretty ambiguous. She wants to teach the world a lesson about what love really is, but that doesn’t provide her with a solid goal or any kind of nemesis.
Jonesy #1 definitely tries. It tries very hard to get you to love it, and it really is enamoring in the way you’d expect it to be– humorous cutaways, ferret jokes, and emoji dialogue abound. Unfortunately, meme-able art will only take a book so far. I think Jonesy #1 will have an audience, but even though its humor is definitely in my wheelhouse, the disjointed plotting and loose characterization is not.
Verdict: I’d buy this for a kid/tween getting into comics, as this is definitely the target niche and services that audience well enough. Outside of that though, I think Prez does something similar to what Jonesy does with more nuance, a more interesting message, and stronger characterization.
Writer: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV Artist: Yanick Paquette Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Steve Wands Publisher: DC Comics
Well that was unexpected.
The end of an era is coming faster than anyone could have expected. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been writing Batman as long as I’ve been seriously reading comics on a regular basis, and over the course of five years they’ve crafted an epic narrative. While I certainly have my issues with their run, the peaks of their take on the Dark Knight are much more memorable than the valleys. They’ll be leaving Batman after issue #51 releases in April, which means there are only two issues of Snyder/Capullo Batman left. Thus, it is a strange fact that the wonder duo did not collaborate on one of the last issues of their run.
In this issue of Batman, the penultimate issue of the “Superheavy” arc that began last year with the DC YOU campaign, Snyder shares writing credit with James Tynion IV, writer of Memetic and The Woods. Yanick Paquette subs in for Greg Capullo on art. Initially, the change comes off as jarring. Snyder’s writing style is distinct in its affect, and it’s always clear when someone else, even Tynion IV, who broke into the industry under Snyder’s tutelage, is writing alongside him. Paquette’s art style, though beautiful, is smoother than Capullo’s rough and tumble approach to Batman. When you read a series for long enough, you begin to have expectations, and it’s often hard to decipher one’s feelings when those expectations are subverted as they have been here.
Ultimately though, I am pleased to report that I think the decision to use Tynion IV and Paquette, no matter the reason, paid off in the end. This issue focuses on Bruce Wayne’s return to the cowl and primarily takes place inside of his mind. Outside, Gotham has fallen into chaos. Jim Gordon, who has assumed the role of Batman for the last year, has been crushed by Mr. Bloom, a plant-based villain who seeks to raze Gotham to the ground, as Batman villains do. Bruce Wayne finally has the normal life his butler and surrogate father, Alfred, always wanted for him, but Bruce can no longer deny the demons inside of him. He and Alfred verbally spar, and for the first time Snyder and Tynion IV’s script gives us a good look at how much Alfred resents the Batman. To him, Batman is a monster who stole Bruce’s future away, and he’d do anything, including sabotage the Batman’s resurrection, to keep Bruce Wayne in the light.
For me, the standout element of this issue is Paquette’s layouts. They’re far more ornate than Capullo’s, and page after page of this issue is built around concentric circles that each provide a glimpse into an alternate universe in Bruce’s mind– a different world where he is Batman working with the Court of Owls, or working with a redeemed Joe Chill, or even donning a bright white and gold Batman suit to do battle with a beast of lava after kissing his young son goodbye. These glimpses into alternate imagined worlds provide a solid narrative basis for the shift in artistic style, and really maximize the usage of Paquette, making his art feel like an integral part of the storyline rather than just a sub in for an overworked Capullo. His take on Alfred, though a strangely blobby looking at times, truly captures the full range of emotions the butler goes through as he is forced to watch his Bruce die so the Batman can live.
I take issue with the way that Snyder and Tynion re-characterize Bruce and Alfred’s relationship in this issue. Alfred explicitly refers to Bruce as son and “my boy” several times throughout the issue, and it comes off as unnatural and somewhat overwrought. While the paternal nature of Alfred’s relationship with Bruce is a steadfast part of the Batman mythos, rarely is this relationship ever made explicit in dialogue. The reason why this doesn’t happen is because Thomas Wayne is as much a part of Bruce/Batman’s life as Alfred is. Thomas, in the end, is the reason why Batman is Batman. He fights so no one has to lose their loved ones– their mothers and fathers– the way he lost his. Having Alfred call Bruce son or Bruce call Alfred father minimizes Thomas in a dangerous way.
Ultimately, I think Batman #49 does what everyone wanted it to. It gets Bruce Wayne back in the cowl. It’s an emotionally striking and visually powerful issue that is aided by its guest artist in a way that comics rarely are. The script leaves something to be desired, and challenges the reader’s understanding of the Batman mythos in a strange way, but is serviceable and has its strong moments. We’ve paved a path to the fireworks of Batman #50.
Now let’s watch them blow.
Verdict: Weirdly enough, I think this issue actually works fine even if you haven’t been reading Superheavy. It doesn’t require extensive knowledge of Batman or even the rest of this arc. Go ahead and give it a shot.