Batroc The Leaper is a joke. A character designed in full French stereotype, but one as a criminal with honour who will play the game. But as likely to turn tail if the rules change against his own code of honour. A buffoon, a clown, he has been mocked more than celebrated.
And now we have Captain America And Batroc The Leaper. How will such stereotypes be overturned in a less xenophobic, more understanding age? And when written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Reneto Arlem no less?
Kieron has gained rather the reputation for overturning jokes. His World War Hulks two parter the other year was rather well received, considering the very low expectations had for the series, and considering Kieron wrote them when drunk. Batroc The Leaper doesn't have that feel at all, this is written sober or, at least, after one or two small drinks. And both explores and defeats the old French stereotypes.
Of course it has stereotypes, or at least tropes of its own. This is Paris, therefore there must be Le Parkour. Young ethnic Parisienes taking to the architecture and performing mind bending journeys across the city's higher echelons. Perfect territory for Batroc The Leaper, but it would have had a greater impact if not employed in so similar a fashion in Batman with Nightrunner.
But for that, this is an essay on the role of a supervillain in a world populated by superheroes. Rather than seeking revenge or trying to take over the world, it's about knowing ones limits and being comfortable with them, being used as a buffer by thieves, their own pet supervillain employed to take on the superhero so as to make their escape. It's a pragmatic solution, a Villain For Hire and used as any other weapon would be, and portrayed using models to ground this comic in reality as much as possible, even when portraying colourful costumed buffoons. People have wondered if there will be real life supervillains in the wake of the likes of Phoenix Jones. If so, it could well be in this model.
Hmm, you know, Villains For Hire might be worth a pitch, don't you think?
Over in Hellblazer #277 from Peter Milligan and Guiseppe Camuncoli, John Constantine is dealing with the vagaries of married life. Such as when your spouse throws an eppy over your ugly bulbous non-thumb. The natural way to deal with this kind of thing may be surgery, or using a prosthetic. In John Constantine's case it means praying to the gods of car crashes to find another thumb to use for the job in a particularly callous fashion. And how the previous missing thumb is causing all sorts of havoc with the laws of coincidence and causality. Almost as if it is trying to be reunited with its owner, and building up to a towering collapse of events in the future, all over Constantine and his friends. Because, this is always a book about consequences of actions, however unseen, and there are plenty growing in the shadows.
The book continues to convince that Epiphany is a perfect married Ms Constantine and I am really hoping this becomes the status quo for the character, no more able to drop his marriage than he can his trenchcoat. Put it this way, if he does a deal with Mephisto to save his dead aunt, I'm dropping the book.
Guiseppe continues to give us a convincing Constantine, both in his late fifties and also a convincing action figure, even as he lurches from scene to scene, glaring down demons and hospital porters alike.His cartoony dark penline is somewhere between Duncan Fegredo and Paul Grist and it's highly addictive.
This is rapidly becoming a golden age for the book, if you haven't hopped on yet, do so.
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London. See their podcast interview with Dave Elliott about his new Image stuff, and what is actually going on with Miracle/Marvelman…