Detective Comics #802
by David Lapham, Ramon Bachs & Nathan Massengill
Last issue saw Lapham placing his stamp on the series, giving us an overview of his vision of Gotham as a methaphorically disease infested "City of Crime" and of Batman as the immune agent. While that issue set the foundation and brushed over many stories, this second issue focuses down on one, starting with a harrowing building fire that leads to the discovery of an illegal baby ring. This is Batman as noir, with a detective fighting against a corrupt system that allows the city's sickness to fester, and slowly realizing that the problem may be even deeper than it first appeared. It's not all unrelenting darkness though, as Lapham brings in Robin, who, though named Tim Drake, seems to be more in character with a young Dick Grayson. This final scene, with Batman meeting the mother of a victim he had come to know personally, shows us a Batman who can be dark and brooding yet still human, unlike the asshole Batman that seems to be in vogue in the other Bat-titles. If you like your Batman grim and gritty, Lapham shows the proper way to do it.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Marvel Team-Up #4
by Robert Kirkman & Scott Kolins
After the enjoyable first three issues, the series heads off the rails with this installment. The cover promises a team-up between Iron Man and The Hulk, but the Green Goliath barely appears, and the 'Iron Man' in question is some sort of alternate-reailty Tony Stark as a Dr. Doom analogue; there's just as much of the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange in this story as there is of the two top-billed characters. It would be okay if there was a point, but this issue just seems to be filler for the inevitable trade collection. The art by Kolins is just as good as ever though, with its dynamism matching well with the action-packed story.
Rating: 2 (of 5)
Concrete: The Human Dilema #1
by Paul Chadwick
Back in the late 80s, Paul Chadwick's Concrete was one of the first 'independent' (i.e. non-big two) comics I read regularly. The teeneger I was identified well with Concrete's literal alienation and constant introspection, and it was somewhat unique to encounter a comic that contained an element of adventure yet dealt with real-worl concerns. Reading The Human Dilema takes me back to those days, as Chadwick's Concrete has remained pretty much the same. Still focusing on environmental issues, Concrete is approached by a pizza magnate who wants Concrete to be the spokesperson for his radical population control campaign. Meanwhile, his assistant Larry pops the questio to his girlfriend, and while all seems to be well on that front, since this is Larry you just know that it's going to head in a bad direction.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)