Trades for 8-29: Batwoman, American Vampire, Usagi Yojimbo

Batwoman: Elegy collects Batwoman's starting takeover of Detective Comics, from #'s 854-860. And it's only kind of a hoot. Greg Rucka carries over Batwoman's story from DC's year-long 52 epic. If you didn't catch it, I highly recommend it, but here's Batwoman's part: the crime cult in Gotham attempts to fulfill a prophecy in the Crime Bible by murdering Batwoman. They fail, and their leader dies, and a new lady takes over in Elegy. What follows is Batwoman's struggle with this new leader, who speaks only in Lewis Carroll quotes and is ridiculously cryptic. It was really hard for me to take Batwoman as a main character until the last few issues, which detail her life as a military brat, following her parents wherever they're stationed. On the art side, J.H. Williams is freakin' brilliant you guys. The layouts alone are worth a look and distinguish Batwoman from her caped comrades. The latter issues somewhat redeem the main story, but the main story is mediocre at best.

Usagi Yojimbo Book 1: The Ronin collects ten stories of Usagi Yojimbo, the masterless rabbit samurai! And it is certainly a hoot. Usagi wanders across Japan amidst political intrigue, treacherous bandits with a code to help the people he runs into. My two favorites are "Horse Thief," where Usagi chases off a bandit raid, finding a free horse left behind. When he goes into a village, the magistrate claims that Usagi was one of the bandits who stole his horse, so Usagi takes off, giving the horse to a poor farmer who needs to tow his crops. As it turns out, the magistrate stole the horse from the farmer to begin with! making a satisfying karmic loop. Another of my favorites is "Blind Swords-Pig," in which Usagi meets an talented swords-pig who senses his opponents through smell. Short-form stories need to rely on lots of color in supporting characters, and Stan Sakai has that in spades. Looking forward to vol. 2.

The first collected edition of American Vampire contains the first five issues of the Vertigo series, from Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King. The stories detail the rise of both the American film industry and the American vampire in 1920s Los Angeles. These vampires are different from the burn-in-the-sun, Bram Stoker vampires, and they're hungrier too. Rafa draws the heck out of every page, and he's an excellent storyteller. Check it out for Rafael Albuquerque alone. I just one gripe: the collection is issue-by-issue, and the singles came out with a main story and a side story. They really should've chunked the main story together, followed by the side story. If I wanted to read it like the singles, I would've bought them as singles!

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