Sleeper, book 3: A Crooked Line
by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Reprinting the first half of the second 'season,' this collection finds the title character Holden Carver caught between the machinations of his boss, the international criminal TAO, and his former boss, the newly revived John Lynch. Realizing that he's but a pawn in whatever twisted machinations these two are pulling, Holden is looking to make sense of his place in this grey world, and somehow to find his way out. Brubaker has specialized of late in writing about the gritty side of super-powered worlds, and Sleeper ranks up there with Gotham Central in playing to his strengths as a writer. Phillips is the perfect artist for this type of book. His inky, hard-edged realism fits the main thrust of the story to a tee, but when a banana-headed alien needs to make an appearance, he can handle that just as well. Book four is due out in September, and I'm looking forward to reading the endgame of this highly entertaining series.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Batman: Death and the Maidens
by Greg Rucka & Klaus Janson
Let's talk about the art first, because according to the front- and endnotes that's where the genesis of this comic lies: in the desire of Klaus Janson to do a Batman story. Janson is best known as an inker, particularly for his work over Frank Miller on Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns. But he's also an accomplished penciller, as his work here illustrates. The layouts are exciting and dynamic, without being overly flashy. This is a good looking Batman comic--helped by the effective colors of Steve Buccellato--and that alone would probably be enough to recommend it. But in addition, Janson's writer of choice, Greg Rucka, turns in a fine story as well. The notes also make clear that the genesis of the story wasn't easy--this book went through several format changes, from a hardcover OGN to a four-issue prestige series to its final configuration as a nine-part mini-series--but the end result is a well-told self-contained Batman story that also manages to fit into the larger Batman myth. Rucka takes the opportunity to push forward the long-stagnating saga of Ra's al Ghul, introducing a previously unknown immortal daughter of Ra's and putting Batman in the crossfire of their ongoing conflict. Rucka also allows batman to explore his own psychology, examining why exactly after all these years Bruce Wayne sees it as his mission to be a vigilante instead of having undertaken a more productive role in mainstream society. For fans of Ra's al Ghul this is a must-read addition to the saga; for everyone else it will serve as a good looking, well-written chunk of Batman comics.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)