Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Few even think to ask The Question
So, if you purchased the amazingly drawn and sharply written Detective Comics #854 - a.k.a. my second favorite book to come out last week* - you may have been too stunned by J. H. Williams III's stellar art and Greg Rucka's crisp storytelling to notice the equally engaging back-up feature, in which Renee Montoya returns as The Question. About a billion people have already talked about how great the first feature focusing on Batwoman is, so I'll try to focus on The Question instead. The two tales stand out in contrast to each other in several ways but neither seems greater than the other, in my opinion. It's a testament to Greg Rucka's talent that reading both tales by him is like getting an apple with your orange and making delicious fruit salad.**
Drawn in a hard-edged, realistic style by the deeply talented Cully Hamner, Rucka's second story is a very Equalizer-esque street-level tale of The Question trying to find a young man's missing sister whose current status is implied to be deeply, deeply vile. The more "real-world", noir tale of Montoya hunting down human traffickers stands out in contrast to the highly stylized, extremely "Gotham City"-esque story of Batwoman versus Alice, the colorful new Lewis Carroll-loving head of the Church of Crime.*** This isn't to say The Question back-up lacks fun or whimsy. There's still humor there, just more subdued (a Monty Python joke, no less, for us nerds in the audience - which is all of us because, c'mon, you're reading a blog about comic books).
Oh, and The Question totally teaches a vicious guard dog about personal boundaries with her knuckles, so there's that - assuming you like things that are totally bad-ass, that is.
And before I forget, let's talk about two people who deserve massive props but may get lost in the shuffle of everyone discussing Rucka and Williams III - Dave Stewart and Laura Martin, the colorists for the Batwoman and Question portions respectively. I have to take a moment to lavish obscene amounts of praise on both of these talented colorists for making their stories shine like diamonds. Dave Stewart, whom I first noticed on Joss Whedon's Fray series, is nothing short of a revelation on Batwoman. Let's face it, without the blood-red hair, chalk-white skin and every other stand-out color rendered in loving detail, I don't think the entire book would work nearly as well as it does. As for Laura Martin, well, I've been a fan of Laura Martin's brilliant shading and subdued work since reading Warren Ellis' "occasionally so gorgeous it makes your jaw drop" series Planetary. As a result, it comes as no shock that she makes Rucka's Question series a perfectly lit somber noir piece with primary shades of blue, brown and orange. I love being able to look at one panel and know exactly what time of day or night it is. She's just that good.
One last thing - a very clever hook of The Question back-up series is that, rather than patrol rooftops, she's put up a website all over cities as graffiti and responds in person to the most vital questions she receives from random, desperate people. Her website is cleverly called Ask The Question - and as if you couldn't tell from the html formatting color, it is now a "real" site.
Go ahead and ask The Question a question - I know I did.****
*The award for "My Favorite Book From Last Week" has to go to Adam Warren's brilliant, heartbreaking and tender Empowered, Vol. 5. Yes, the GN that comes in shrinkwrap with the "Mature Readers" label. FYI, doubters, there's just as many lesbians in the book as Detective Comics #854 but roughly ten times more heartbreak, comedy and pathos. Believe me, I've got a loooooooooong blogpost brewing about Empowered Vol, 5 coming up.
**Please understand that I am not making some lame reference to both of them being lesbians with the "fruit salad" line. I think we've all had more than enough terrible, cheesy and generally shoehorned comic book references/"jokes" about their sexuality. I just like fruit salad. And metaphors.
**And also, props must be given to Rucka for having the huevos to create another Lewis Carroll-themed villain in a town that has The Mad Hatter in it. I'm interested in finding out what makes Alice stand out in contrast to the mind-controlling doctor, other than only speaking in lines from Through The Looking Glass and not being a creepy pedophile (presumably).
***No, I won't tell you my question. Much like letters to Santa, I do not reveal my conversations with fictional people for fear they won't come true. :P And gracias to The Nerdy Bird for hipping me to the site's existence.