Sunday, June 22, 2014

Batman: Death by Design

Written by Chip Kidd
Art by Dave Taylor

Having given up on the monthly (or weekly) grind of Bat-books does not take away the desire to read a well-constructed and plotted Batman story from time to time, and so I was quite happy to dive into Batman: Death by Design, an original graphic novel that is as (or more) concerned with visual aesthetic than character.

Chip Kidd is known for his design work, and so it makes sense that the Batman story he writes would be about architectural intrigue.  The story is set in a Gotham where people care about buildings and what they signify.  Bruce Wayne is in the process of replacing the Wayne Central Station, a hulking and beautiful building that was built with every possible corner cut, making it a danger to the commuters and tourists intended to pass through it.  Even though tearing the building down would involve erasing part of his father's legacy for the city, Bruce sees the value in building a new station, one that he can place a secret transit hub for his alter ego beneath.

There are protests, and the demolition work is sabotaged, which leads to the Bat-Man having to investigate (I love when his name is spelled like this).  Soon, we begin to come across a character named Exacto, who is always around when something bad is going to happen, such as the collapse of The Ceiling, a new nightclub perched high atop Gotham's streets (designed by Kem Roomhaus, which made me laugh).  Soon enough, we have a story with greedy union bosses, and even the Joker playing a role.

Dave Taylor provides the art for this book, and things look great.  His action sequences may appear a little stiff at times, but his eye for architectural detail is stunning, and his character work very nice.

I found that I really got into this book, although I don't like the over-reliance on a 'stasis field' device to keep Bat-Man safe.  It was a little too convenient.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Red Light Properties

by Dan Goldman

Dan Goldman's Shooting War really impressed me a couple of years back, so I decided to take a chance on picking up his new book, Red Light Properties, when I saw Goldman at TCAF this year.

The book is about a very unique real estate company in Miami, and is set at the height of the housing crisis of a few years ago.  Red Light Properties investigates and clears up dead housing stock that can't be sold because its haunted.  Jude, their in-house exorcist, takes some drugs and communes with the spirits in the house, helping them to move on, while his assistant, Zoya, takes photographs that actually show the supernatural presence.  The actual real estate side of the business is run by Jude's wife Cecilia.

It's an interesting set up, but Goldman doesn't really get into the ghostly side of things for a very long time, preferring to make this a book about Jude and Cecilia's faltering marriage.  He's recently been dumped to a basement apartment, as the couple plans of separating, due to Jude's on-line activities.  He's portrayed as a bit of a screw-up, but is also having a very hard time managing the stress that his job places on him.

Cecilia is a bit of a piece of work, and suspects that something is going on between Jude and Zoya.  Stuff happens, and the family suffers through these issues and financial pressure, all of which grounds the stranger side of the high concept.

Goldman is an interesting artist.  He uses a lot of photos for his background, and then photoshops in visual elements he's drawn on the computer, like the family car.  The figures themselves are drawn on top of all of this, which sometimes looks really cool, and sometimes feels incredibly stiff.  The landscape format of the book leads to a few awkward panel lay-outs, as well as makes the book a little unwieldy to read.

I enjoyed this comic, and would definitely come back for the second volume, but at the same time, hope that the book is edited a little more rigorously, as there are a few places where speech balloons point to the wrong person, or where the dialogue feels very stiff.