Deadshirt is Reading: Rugrats and Batman!

Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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David Lebovitz is reading…

Rugrats #1

Written by Box Brown
Illustrated by Lisa DuBois
Colors by Eleonora Bruni
Letters by Jim Campbell
BOOM! Studios

“Lil says parents have eyes in the back of their heads, but I don’t see ’em.”
“They’re behind their hair, silly.”

2017 is the year of the Nickelodeon revival. We’re finally getting the finale to Hey Arnold! we always wanted in The Jungle Movie, coming out this November. Rocko’s Modern Life is getting a TV special in 2018. Now, Rugrats is back with a comic series from BOOM! and it’s a fitting revival of the series. Written by Ignatz winner Box Brown, the story tells a brand new Rugrats tale with all the characters we remember. I’ve personally seldom felt the need to revisit properties from my childhood (he says, with a shelf of Super Nintendo games he bought in the past five years) but a Rugrats comic intrigued me.

The story follows the babies dealing with new forms of surveillance from their parents—Tommy realizes he’s being watched by a camera inside a toy pig, and Chuckie is dealing with a drone in his backyard while Chas digs up the yard to plant a garden. The babies’ concerns about being watched all the time are mirrored with the parents texting about how much all this technology makes their lives easier. At first it was a bit bizarre seeing all these characters we knew in the 90s playing with smartphones, but it quickly makes sense. Besides the fact that every mom I know is currently on Facebook a suspicious amount of the time, it’s 100% plausible that Stu Pickels would spring for the newest gadgets.

The art by DuBois and colors by Bruni do a solid job of resembling the old Rugrats style without outright imitating it. It’s a bit sleeker looking, more modern, but still fully recognizable. They even use the occasional pastels and squiggly lines so prevalent in the original series.

I must question the wisdom of making this a multi-issue arc. If they count children among their target audience, I have a hard time seeing them having the patience to wait for a new issue. Adults might be willing to follow along – I’m curious – but I feel like short stories in the vein of the show would have been more appropriate, especially for a first issue. For established properties where we already know the characters, it’s fine to keep things short.

It’s a cute story with a decent amount of text and substance. The references are still kid friendly while being fully recognizable to adults. (I, for one, popped big for Tommy being a wrestler for “Monday Night Rattle.”) In that sense, it very much caries on the tradition of the original series and will appeal to old fans looking get a bit of that nostalgia kick and might give a new generation some new heroes. We’re towards the tail end of the generation that knew All Grown Up! better than Rugrats, and they deserve an apology. This will do just fine.

David Uzumeri is reading…

Batman #33

Written by Tom King
Art by Joelle Jones
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles

“Okay. Don’t panic. This is happening. That’s a tear.”
“We’re all dead.”

Tom King’s Batman run is somehow 33 entire issues in, and I’m still not exactly sure what he’s getting at with it. It’s easily his longest-form work so far; outside of Grayson, which was co-written with Tim Seeley, pretty much all of his comics output has been self-contained twelve-issue series (Omega Men, Vision, Sheriff of Babylon, Mister Miracle). Batman is his one and only long-running ongoing, and after a year and a half he definitely seems to be flying this one by the seat of his pants more than he did in his other work.

After the epic flashback arc “War of Jokes and Riddles” that featured a gritty Johnsian Literalist reimagining of Kite Man, the further crazy-murderer-ization of the Riddler, and Catwoman accepting Batman’s marriage proposal, artist Joelle Jones accompanies her longtime creative partner Jamie S. Rich’s ascension as Bat-editor to draw the living shit out of a Batman comic. Jones has been an A-level talent for years but never really got a high-profile gig; combined with Jordie Bellaire’s always-excellent art, this is a really fucking beautiful comic. It’s heavy on character interaction and humor and Jones nails all of it, while drawing some hunky boys and slinky girls along the way. It’s good shit.

Meanwhile, after the heavy-handed avalanche of human terror that was the vast majority of “Jokes and Riddles,” it’s nice to see King get back to some lighthearted moments with the Bat-boys (which have honestly been the highlight of his run so far—see the Burger King scene back at the beginning of the “I Am Bane” arc) and more of Engaged Batman, who is off with his feline fiancee traversing the desert in search of… something or someone I won’t spoil, but it makes a large amount of sense. (Although I admit I’m somewhat tired of villains having a huge bed full of men and women they were just in an orgy with—the implied correlation between bisexuality, greediness, and villainy is pretty uncomfortable.)

Still, Batman In Love is a new and rare direction, especially for a mainline Batman comic; Batman in love while being emotionally open and honest, even more so. King’s not at full power on this title, and it doesn’t have the raw forward momentum of Snyder and Capullo’s run, but it’s interesting and new and looks amazing. Excited to see where this arc goes.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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