What Are You Reading? | ‘Batman: Killing Time’ and ‘Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel to Be Kin’

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our look at what the Smash Pages crew has been checking off their “to read” list lately. Today’s edition includes thoughts on Batman: Killing Time and a new Shaolin Cowboy miniseries coming this week.

Let us know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments or on social media.

Carla Hoffman

I fully support judging comic books by their cover.  A poor way to judge character, for comics the cover is an essential part of the value of the little pamphlet you hold in your hand at the stands.  Covers should entice, promise wonders inside and (hopefully) match the contents inside.  DC is doing a great job of balancing the fine line between valuable cover art and those who just want to get inside the book to see what Batman’s up to this week.  Their Cover A (regular) and Cover B (full cardstock cover art) is a rather ingenius way to make sure that covers can really pop off the shelves, but there’s still a cheaper opton in case the window dressing does nothing for you.

With this in mind, I was entranced by Batman: Killing Time #2 and a rather lovely 1:25 variant at my local comic shop (Metro Entertainment – Santa Barbara’s best one stop shop for comics, games, toys and more!).  Thanks to The Batman film now in theaters, interest in the Riddler is pretty high for once and the Prince of Puzzles getting his own painted cover by Ben Oliver got my attention.  Would he be <i>in</i> the book or was this just some flash to lure me into a Riddler-less story?  I didn’t mind going into a book on an issue #2; often first issues spend far too much time setting up basic info that most die hard readers can kind of glean from a comic book cover (“Peter Parker is going to struggle between his social life and being a superhero? Who knew?”).  Tom King is a polarizing writer, especially on the Bat-books, and David Marquez is not an artist I’m familiar with so this cover is working overtime to get me invested.

And there is a decent story in here: Riddler (yes, in the comic!) and Catwoman have taken something from Batman on a tip from the Joker and are planning to sell it to someone with deep pockets.  Batman has to Batman his way through Gotham, flunkies and other rogues to find out where they are and what they’re up to.  Classic stuff, truely a ‘detective comic’ so to speak.  It’s the manner by which it’s told that upsets me!  King must think himself oh so clever for pulling a Tarintino and telling the story out of order via little yellow text boxes that practically narrate the story for you instead of using the very classic and ‘Andy Kubert’-ian style of Marquez.  A seven panel page does not have to tell me a woman walks down a hallway, gets to her door, puts her key in the lock and goes inside – that’s literally what the art is for!  For some reason, this story is told in chronological reference to the Greek myth of King Pentheus and the Maenaids; maybe it’s to show how a man can be killed by those he loved most, maybe it’s a reference to the lunatics of his Rogue’s Gallery being like frenzied Dionysian followers, maybe he read it in a book and it sounds cool.  The framing device does nothing for the story, whatever its intention is supposed to be and and just made me feel like a needed a corkboard and some red string to follow what was going on.

Still, I can’t say the story was “bad;” I will pick up the next issue whether or not Edward Nygma is on the cover and hopefully the heavy stylism of the storytelling can calm down a bit and just get me into what’s actually happening in the book.

JK Parkin

Geof Darrow and longtime collaborator/colorist Dave Stewart return later this week with a new Shaolin Cowboy series, “Cruel to Be Kin.” Dark Horse sent over a preview copy of the first issue, along with a funny yet completely untrue description of the first issue:

The latest installment in the Eisner-Award-winning Shaolin Cowboy series is set in Phase 4 of the SCU, where the Shaolin Cowboy finds his parenting skills being tested when he is forced to homeschool during a pandemic of unparalleled violence, in a story torn from yesterday’s viral twitter feeds.

Well, I shouldn’t say it’s completely untrue, as there is a young gila monster who is central to the story that Shaolin Cowboy adopts — or, rather, who adopts him, and serves as the narrator of the story. Now, if you’ve read any of Darrow’s previous volumes of SC, you know what to expect — there’s gonna be ultra-detailed sequences where it looks like Darrow spent 10 years drawing them but in reality he didn’t because he’s just that damn good. There’s also typically not a lot of plot getting in the way of the violence — there’s gonna be fighting and lots of it, and maybe there’s a reason for it and maybe you’ll find out why, but usually not. (Kind of like Elden Ring, which I’m playing now — why is this knight trying to kill me? No idea, but let’s fight!) And you’re going to get a glimpse at the weird, whimsical world that Darrow has created, which is part fairy tale and part post-apocalyptic wasteland, where you might find giant monsters or zombies or babymen who ride on top of flying jellyfish. But this time around you also get a little more story, even if it’s about the hard life of a baby gila monster in the SCU. I hope he’s around in future issues.

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