Monday, August 19, 2013


Some online commentator described Christine Woodward’s Rogue Touch
[Hyperion; $14.99] as “chick lit meets super-heroes” or something
like that.  My apologies for not naming the commentator - I didn’t
think to make a note of it at the time - or if I’m misquoting the
description.  I wasn’t exactly sure what makes a book “chick lit,”
so I looked up the definition and got this:

noun Slang: Sometimes Offensive. literature that appeals to women,
usually having a romantic or sentimental theme.

Rogue Touch is too square a peg to fit into that round hole, so I
guess I’m on my own here.

Anna Marie is 20 and on the run.  Her newly-emerged mutant power,
though she doesn’t realize that’s what it is until well into this
novel, put her boyfriend into a coma as she drained his abilities
and memories.  She didn’t mean to do this.  It was just bad fortune
all around that her power manifested itself at what should’ve been
a wonderful first kiss.

Anna Marie is, of course, Rogue, though she isn’t given that name
until well into this novel.  A whole bunch of stuff doesn’t happen
until well into this novel, which made it tough going for me.  It’s
an interesting take on Rogue, but it loses something by not having
any real connection to the Marvel Universe.  I didn’t need Woodward
to include guest appearances by Marvel characters, but some brief
mentions of them would have given more depth to the world of this
novel.  Why slap “Marvel” on the cover if you’re going to totally
ignore what “Marvel” stands for?

Anna Marie knows she can’t have actual skin-to-skin contact with
anyone.  She dresses accordingly and takes a job as a night baker
to minimize the chance of such contact.  Things start going wrong
when James, a mysterious stranger, enters her world.  Things start
going weird when it becomes obvious that James isn’t from anywhere
around “here” and that he has reasons of his own for staying well
below the radar.  Two unusual young people living on the outskirts
of society.  Of course, they fall in love.

Woodward definitely faced a challenge in writing a science-fiction
romance about a protagonist who can’t touch or be touched without
dire consequences.  Most of the romantic scenes drag and the action
sequences never quite come alive either.  Those action scenes are
there to add some action, some mystery, some suspense, and, “well
into the novel,” give readers some answers about James and what he
is running from.

Chris Claremont found Rouge Touch to be “an interesting take on
Mike Carey said it was “told with elegance and conviction
and attention to detail”
and deemed it “really entertaining.”  I’m
afraid I found it merely workman-like.

Some readers will certainly enjoy Rogue Touch more than I did.  If
they were intrigued by my comments here, they should read the book
and make their own determination of its worth.  In the meantime, I
am about 150 pages into The She-Hulk Diaries and finding that book
to be much better-written and a lot more fun.  Look for my review
of that second Marvel “chick lit” book tomorrow.

ISBN 978-1-4013-1102-5


Batman was once my favorite comic-book hero...until DC Comics went
into psycho-babble mode and turned him inhuman, insane, vicious and
seemingly omnipotent unless it was inconvenient to the story.  It
started with editor Dennis O’Neil - I liked him just fine when he
was writing Batman stories for Julius Schwartz - and just got worse
and worse and worse.  Too many of today’s comic-book executives and
editors and writers are uncomfortable with heroism in general.  So,
like the straw men in Steve Ditko screeds, they labor to diminish
that which they can never be.  Their hearts are too small and their
envy too large.

When I come across a Batman story that breaks that ridiculous mold,
I rejoice.  Thus I applaud Batman: Death by Design by Chip Kidd and
Dave Taylor [DC; $24.99]. This 2012 black-and-white graphic novel
embraces the heroic natures of Batman and Bruce Wayne while using
architecture as its backdrop and raison d’etre.

Set early in the Batman’s career, the story has Wayne attempting to
tear down and replace the aging Wayne Central Station meant to
be part of his father’s legacy to Gotham.  The place is rundown and
a danger, which doesn’t stop some Gotham residents from protesting
its coming demolition.  There is villainy afoot, of course, born of
corruption and madness and revenge.  Kidd balances the action with
more human stories.  A crusading architectural critic is a delight,
rising uncomfortable from his sedentary beat to become a courageous
investigative reporter.

Death by Design delivers a satisfying story and conclusion and it
has absolutely gorgeous art and storytelling.  If you yearn from a
Batman who is heroic and sane, you’ll love this graphic novel.  I
recommend it most highly.

ISBN 978-1-4012-3453-9


I’m not quite finished dumping on DC’s inane version of the Batman
today.  Let’s take a very quick look at Batman #11 [$3.99] with a
title blurb proclaiming “The Epic Finale of the Court of Owls” and
an interior story that is no such thing.

Okay, apparently, a great many readers bought into the premise that
a mysterious organization has been operating in Gotham City without
Batman knowing about it...because his standard omnipotence would be
ever so inconvenient for this storyline.

The Owls have an army of - yawn - undead zombie warriors in spooky
costumes and have sent them out to kill dozens of prominent Gotham
City movers and shakers.  Gosh, all that secrecy had them ready to
burst if they didn’t do something.

One of the warriors is allegedly the previously unheard-of brother
of Bruce Wayne.  Who died in the womb or who was so brain-damaged
he was thrown into a asylum or who maybe isn’t really Bruce Wayne’s
brother.  Yawn, yawn, and yawn.

Yes, the Court of Owls know Bruce Wayne is Batman.  All by itself,
that should have been enough for them to take him out.  Because, as
previously noted, he’s not omnipotent for this story.

This epic finale? Well, it ends with Batman and his allies failing
to save a whole bunch of people.  It ends with some court members
dead, but the clear indication that others are still out there and
will be weaving new plans.  It ends with the body of the supposed
brother disappearing from where said brother dies in battle.  Which
prevents Batman from testing the guy’s DNA.  No body, no DNA, gee,
do you suppose he’ll return to menace Batman again?

If you thought this “Court of Owls” story was good, you’re wrong.
I can’t even try to make you feel better about it.  You’re wrong.
Better luck next time.


One more jab at DC. I read Nightwing #10 [$2.99] and didn’t enjoy
it, save for the notion of Dick Grayson wanting to rebuild Gotham
City’s Amusement Mile.  That could be interesting, but, as I know
there’s another huge Batman crossover event in the title’s future,
I bet it got derailed by that event.  If I liked the Batman books,
I’d make more of an effort to get current with them.

Here’s what bugged me most of all.  The captions are first-person
narration, which doesn’t bug me because it’s as valid a technique
as any.  What does bug me is that the first first-person narration
caption of every page gets stamped with Nightwing’s chest insignia.
Which made it hard to read the words in that first caption.  It’s
a spectacularly dumb affectation.

That’s all I have for you today, my friends.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Early on in the Owls storyline, Batman is trying to prove a point about Nightwing's relationship to the organization. To prove that he had a false tooth implanted with their information, Batman does what? Yes, he PUNCHES that tooth out of Nightwing's mouth. At that point, Batman was irretrievably lost to me.

  2. I began reading BATMAN again, pre-52, because of Scott Snyder. I loved what he was doing with AMERICAN VAMPIRE and was curious what his take on the Dark Knight would be. It was fine until the whole 'Court of Owls' storyline began dragging on and then required me to start picking up related issues. That was my goodbye to Batman before Flashpoint and the whole sad reboot.