Here are past reviews originally posted on the old site – all migrated here to this one convenient post.
July 2011 comic reviews:
Batman and Robin #25
Detective Comics #880
Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #2
Movie Reviews –
Captain America: The First Avenger
August 2011 comic reviews:
Detective Comics #881
Flashpoint – Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3
Justice League #1
Red Skull #1 (Incarnate)
September 2011 comic reviews:
Action Comics #1
All-Star Western #1
Batman and Robin #1
Demon Knights #1
Detective Comics #1
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
Green Lantern #1
Legion Lost #1
Mister Terrific #1
Red Lanterns #1
Resurrection Man #1
Suicide Squad #1
Swamp Thing #1
Detective Comics #880 –
Writer: Scott Snyder
Scott Snyder has had a damn good run on Detective Comics so far, it will definitely be a sad day when he passes the reigns off during the musical chair madness of the upcoming DCnU reboot thingamajig… but let’s not dwell on future sufferings, let’s focus on the good things we’ve got in the here and now (Besides, he’s taking over the big one: BATMAN!).
And what good things we have; the immensely intriguing “Hungry City” arc ended with the return of sweet little James Gordon, bursting back onto the scene with an unnerving and subtle despair about him which, inevitably, led to the shockingly violent last panel in ‘Tec #878. Things, it seems, are definitely not so cheery in young James’ head these days. James is playing a disturbingly sick game and weaving his long-suffering family into a bizarre mystery, involving the Joker as a misdirect – which I strongly suspect, old Joker won’t appreciate too much and will most probably have something to say about in the next (last?!?) issue.
The story Snyder is telling here, through bits of “Hungry City” and starting proper in “Skeleton Key” and continuing on here in “My Dark Architect” is doing what most Batman writers shy away from; putting Batman in a supporting role. This is really a story about and driven by the Gordon family. It’s quite a task for an author to create a compelling Batman tale with so little Batman – few have been successful with such an endeavor in the past, yet Snyder makes it feel effortless here. We, as readers, are drawn into the hopeless world of Gotham as experienced through the Gordon Family. Jim’s lamentations about the city he think he knows, about the architecture, the streets, the buildings and alleys as physical manifestations of its’ demons is a theme echoed throughout most of Snyder’s past work with Dick Grayson as The Batman. Where his character was inevitably forced to compare and contrast his perceptions against the looming, dominant figure of an absentee Bruce, Gordon is, on the other hand, able to frame the story into a wholly unique perspective for us, which is precisely why a Batman book with so little Batman is working so well: We’re being provided a fresh perspective and as much as we all love Bats, every now and then it helps the overall understanding of a larger work to stand back a bit and view it from a different angle.
Gotham is a town inhabited by damaged ghosts and there are few, truly empathetic people gracing its streets. The lack of the familiar anchor of Batman running the book requires us to understand Gordon’s frustration, his hopelessness, his fears… everything is slipping away from him: his job, his family, his perception of the city he has spent a lifetime fighting to protect and pull out of the shit and the mud. Jim even makes special mention of the city’s bedrock, the bricks, the stones; a “malformed heart” beating below in a some form of literal hell that could only be responsible for facilitating terror, pain and death.
We are witness to this man, this city, this entire series (to get a bit meta here for a second) as we’ve come to know it for the past seventy plus years, on the verge of complete, final and utter collapse. This allows us a strikingly unique vantage point from which to experience the writing of Mr. Snyder. Perhaps I’m being a bit too hyperbolic and grandiose here, but I’ve never been afraid to take some poetic license. This seems to me, a series of desperate gasps for air, from every corner of the fictional world of Gotham and The Batman. This seems to me a deliberate and measured move on Scott Snyder’s part, perhaps it is merely subconscious, but I like to think he’s grinning maniacally, knowing he’s the last one left with the keys to the building and he can leave it however he wants inside, i.e., he’s playing for keeps. Snyder seems to be putting his all into these stories and doesn’t seem to be dispassionate in the least or saving his ‘a’ game for a book that will continue on after next month. Good job, always give your best – even if it will be undone and not exist in a month! That’s the sort of tenacity we need more of in the Comics world.
The portrayal of the Joker in this book is fittingly confounding. The character, which ostensibly, personifies chaos, is written in this issue as much farther gone than he’s been in recent memory. A chaotic, seemingly incongruous portrayal; first as a Hannibal Lector like figure, astute in his raving lunacy, psychologically baiting his doctor to precisely enact his latest plan – yet the next time we see him he’s crumpled on the floor in a dark sewer, speaking in fits and starts to Dick – not the suave portrayal we were first introduced to at the start of our story. However, he is lucid enough to recognize that Dick is not Bruce… so I’m willing to give Snyder the benefit of the doubt here when it comes to the Joker, I’ve learned to never underestimate the character in the hands of a good writer, and Snyder has definitely proven himself as one – so count me as very eager to discover what the Joker’s real intentions are and the role he will ultimately play in the conclusion of this tale.
Visually, the book is also an immense treat; full of visceral and aggressive line work – and that cover, oh, that cover. Bravo, Jock.
Standouts include the shot of Barbara in the bathtub; it is enormously distressing, perfectly conveying the import and horror of the case the characters find themselves entangled in.
Jock has an immensely satisfying visual take on the Joker as well; his jagged teeth and raw, open-wound grin has never looked more appropriate than here in these pages. His spindly, gaunt form slinks across the pages like a poisonous snake.
Also, the long shot the story utilizes as its final panel is simply, yet incredibly effective in leaving us with a great, suspenseful hook for the next issue.
Overall, a great book which I can’t find a single fault in. This is as good as Detective Comics gets, so cherish it while you can.
Detective Comics #880 go buy it now.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Snap Judgment Reviews:
Knight of Vengeance #2 –
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Tons of little WTF moments in this issue and three really big OMGWTF? moments that are, honestly, starting to read a bit like silly fan-fiction to me. But still, tons of fun and worth reading if for nothing else but the sheer audacity and willingness of the writers to pretty much turn everything they possibly can on its head.
I’ll admit I’ve not been keeping up or reading most of the Flashpoint event, so I’m not sure how or if this stuff is tying in at all to a larger story or if it is just simply gratuitous fun. For my money, I’ll consider it gratuitous fun and be happy.
Definitely my recommendation as far as Bat-centric books go this week.
Batman and Robin #25 –
- Writer: Judd Winick
- Artists: Greg Tocchini, Andy Smith
Uuuuuggghhhh, boring. Really. It seems as though this book is done and now exists solely to set things up for the DCU re-boot, preparing the stage for “Red Hood and the Outsiders”. I found this issue to merely be a fleeting distraction and not even a fun one at that. I’m officially sick of Jason Todd due to the fact that every writer since his return has treated him as a one-trick pony with a tired old schtick. It wasn’t that great to begin with and now it’s just really grating on me. This issue seemed really aimless, anti-climactic and contrived, a necessary evil to explain away and give a context to his coming solo book.
Captain America: The First Avenger –
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
I’ll start off by saying that I thought the performances were pretty strong across the board, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones were fantastic in particular, and Stan Lee’s cameo was probably his best yet; besting even the Hulk cameo where he drinks the Banner-blood soda. I was one of the people firmly entrenched in the pro-Evans camp during the production and marketing of the film; i.e., I wasn’t worried about Chris Evans in the titular role. I had enjoyed him as Johnny Storm and I thought he certainly looked the part of Steve Rogers, that was enough for me; this isn’t Hamlet he’s playing. Lo and behold it turns out Evans did do a fine job, no complaints from me here (I even like the updated costume!). So really, apart from some truly atrocious dialog that these actors were condemned to deliver, they all did admirable jobs in the face of their vernacular adversity. On the other hand – and let me just say that I’m usually a big fan of Hugo Weaving – the faux German accent Red skull employed pretty loosely throughout the film was definitely the low point as far as performances go. Not terrible mind you, but in a movie where I thought the performances were the strong suit, it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb.
So with that out of the way, let’s really get into the bits I didn’t exactly enjoy. But wait, there’s a twist: there actually wasn’t much bad, per se, in the film… it was all just so utterly mediocre I can’t necessarily call most of it “good”. Some of it is comic-nerd nitpicking and to be honest and I don’t fault these films for subverting some of the subject material to suit the medium, it’s just stuff that bugs me, not stuff that necessarily makes it a bad film… but I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, here are some things I could conceivably consider bad.
Chief among my disappointments is a good amount of the CGI. For example, the first scene where Cap tests out his newly acquired powers; the on-foot chase scene where he hurdles chain link fences and runs as fast as the cars, etc., just didn’t play well for me; the stiff, unrealistic animations jarred me out of the scene more than once. Same goes for Skinny Steve; sometimes it worked well, yet other times it would fall into some distractingly strange uncanny valley. Also, the scene where Cap and a few of the commandos are zip-lining onto the top of the moving train sticks out as particularly sloppy CGI work… it all looked so incredibly false, that again, it took me right out of the scene. For a film so synonymous with American initiative it simply made me wish America would grow some balls back and start doing actual live stunts in Hollywood films again. But I don’t hold that against the film either necessarily; it is simply a product of its’ environment.
The next sticking point in the film for me was most of the non-CGI action scenes (or at least the one’s that weren’t bad because of bad CGI). They almost seemed to be deliberately cut solely to produce perfect clips for the trailers. Slow motion shield throwing, slow motion shield thrusting, slow motion jumping in front of fiery backgrounds, ad nauseam. Add to this the fact that a big portion of the main ‘action’ in the plot was presented in freaking montages and you have yourself some seriously boring and unengaged set-pieces. Even the action presented in proper, linear scenes was a bit… meh. Spatial orientation within the frame seems to be something that directors have forgotten how to integrate into their action films. The character of Captain America is supposedly one of the best hand to hand fighters in the Marvel universe, so why didn’t we get some amazingly choreographed fight scenes, shot medium/long to really show off how good of a fighter Cap is? There were some genuinely great moments of action that were presented well, make no mistake, it just seemed to me that the majority of them weren’t.
The story (besides all the unfortunate, cliched exposition that all big-budget, summer films require) was okay, there’s really not too much wiggle room in the origin films to drastically change things up without enraging the entire geek community, so they played it safe by making a few small, and sometimes seemingly arbitrary, changes. Still, silly plot contrivances aside, (thanks for writing all the names of the cities on the bombs that they are headed for, Hydra!) it was serviceable enough to keep me from throwing popcorn at the screen. However the last dialog scene between Cap and Peggy was so full of trite emotional manipulation that I almost lost it and broke down into tears for all the wrong reasons. But hey, audiences want that sort of thing, right?
Now, as far as my nerd-rage complaints go, it’s really all down to a few characterizations. I mean, Howard Stark was just downright goofy, he didn’t seem to jibe at all with the character as I’ve known him, especially in this Marvel film-universe continuity. He’s makes amusingly faulty gadgets and cracks one-liners? Hmmm… seems odd to me… but okayyyyy…
Then there’s Arnim Zola… why was he portrayed so compassionately? I mean, sure, he was still an evil Nazi scientist and all, but the film seemed to distance him from the evil of the Red Skull by constantly making him act reticent to go along with Red Skull’s plans. Why? He’s a crazy super villain in his own right, don’t make the audience think he’s got some sort of humane conscience. I want to see him in his crazy robot suit trying to kill mofos in The Avengers, not whimpering in a jail cell and dropping dimes on Red Skull because he thinks he’s gone off the deep end. Speaking of Zola though; man, does Truman Capote’s face look perfect for that suit which he’ll hopefully don in the future!
My only other character complaint: I want Baron Zemo! God help me if he’s not in the sequel!
Otherwise, good stuff. I thought Bucky was played right, I just hope they stick with the comics and haven’t really killed him off- Cap had enough motivation to bring down Red Skull without Bucky’s martyrdom so I hope it wasn’t simply a lazy screenwriter scene… the future is unknown here, so don’t count that as a complaint just yet.
I know it seems like I’ve been shitting all over the film – and to a certain extent, perhaps I have… but trust me when I say, I still enjoyed the film. I read a lot of Captain America comics growing up, so he has a special place in my heart, I can’t bring myself to hate him in any form – but I can certainly be very tough and discerning when it comes to critiquing the character’s portrayal. All in all, I honestly did enjoy the movie, believe it or not. I really did. I’ll buy the damn thing on Blu-ray and watch it again, maybe I’ll enjoy it more at that point, maybe less – but for now I’m sticking with my determination that I liked it well enough.
The odd thing is, I’ve read maybe three Thor comics in my life – but I honestly enjoyed the Thor film more than this one. Perhaps that is because I’m not as personally invested in the character and thus can much more easily divorce my personal proclivities for the property enough to let my guard down and not be so demanding of the material.
Who knows – In the end I’m just happy Marvel is making these films, honestly, I squeal with delight every time one comes out – even when it fails to live up to my grandiose expectations, simply because I would have killed for these things to exist when I was a kid. Nostalgia’s a bitch.
– 3.5 out of 5 –
BATMAN #713 –
Written by FABIAN NICIEZA
Art by STEVE SCOTT and RYAN WINN
I cannot hide my utter disdain for this issue. So, fair warning: this is going to be brutal.
First, let us take a long hard gander at the official solicitation for Batman #713:
Over the years, Dick Grayson has worn several guises: First, he was Robin the Boy Wonder, then Nightwing, and finally Batman. But now that Bruce Wayne has donned the cape and cowl once again, Dick finds himself at an identity crossroads.
On sale AUGUST 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Sounds great right? This is the grand finale, the poignant wrap-up to one of the greatest comic book series of all time – BATMAN! SO – read that solicitation for Batman #713 one more time and tell me that’s even remotely close to what we received. Now, I know that solicits are often wrong/changed – but this particular issue had a certain degree of import and special expectation behind it, did it not? Being the last issue of one of the longest running and most high-profile solo books in history deserves a bit better than a middling and banal retreading of things all the “long term” fans already know inside and out. The “New 52” is supposed to be the jumping on point for new readers, so why waste our time (the long term readers) with a half-assed character recapitulation?
I want my money back, DC. This was a terrible, irrelevant and sloppy issue with no merit, no substance and no real plot to speak of. This issue is not only terribly written and conceived on its own merits, but it is a complete slap in the face to fans expecting any sort of care or consideration for the last issue of a (if not THE) flagship DC title. DC obviously does not possess a modicum of reverence for the history of this book based on what they have delivered with this last, ill-conceived and boring issue which contains absolutely nothing interesting or intriguing at all. This was the final issue of BATMAN for fuck sakes – a comic that has been running continuously since 1940! One of the most popular, beloved and recognizable books in all of comics and they not only didn’t give it any sort of grand send off with a definitive conclusion- they didn’t even give it a rudimentary send off or, really, a conclusion at all! There was nothing in this issue that would relay the fact to anyone reading that this was some sort of planned, final issue. Seriously, we end the issue with nothing changed; Dick and Damian are simply off to fight some more crime. WTF?
The easter eggs and in-jokes (for instance, the forced and incredibly lame joke about sliding down a pole to change into costumes – yeah, that’s as smart as the book gets folks and let me tell you – that’s pretty fucking stupid) were limp and obvious and the only twist to the “story” was evident from the beginning. What a complete and utter waste of space. For shame, DC, for shame…
Where is the transition of Dick back to Nightwing? It is ridiculous to think that the final Flashpoint issue will somehow be the “real” wrap-up for the Batman book, as some fans have been predicting across the web. There is no real way they’re going to manage to pull off tying up all the Batman loose ends coherently, not to mention simultaneously tying up the myriad of other DCU books’ loose ends in 20 pages. Ridiculous. Even worse is to think that Scott Snyder is going to be tasked with covering the transition in Batman vol. II #1 – however, if that does indeed turn out to be the case for some reason then it begs the question: WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE RENUMBERING?
I thought the main goal of the reboot was to create a fresh start for new readers to jump in without having to know anything about what’s been going on… so the idea that they’ll be dealing with the wrap up and transition from books before the re-boot contradicts the whole purpose of the re-boot.
I don’t want to seem I’m blaming the writer (even though I personally found the writing to be lackluster in the issue) – I undoubtedly view this by and large as an editorial gaffe and I really have lost faith that DiDio and company have any real method to their madness here. I think it is all based on some avaricious desire for the short term gains of “#1” sales and has, unfortunately compromised many a fine book and artist’s vision in the process. As I said, it seems they have no reverence or respect for the material they control anymore.
Take, for instance, this month’s issue of Batman and Robin, (which I think is probably the best Bat book of the month, actually) the original intent of the story was butchered all in the name of the re-boot fever. It’s amazing – and a real testament to the creative team – that it worked as a one-off issue, but I still can’t help being incredibly depressed thinking how grand it could have been given the proper amount of space and time to tell its story that it was originally created to have. Therein lies my greatest fear about the current editorial side of DC; they seem to have decided that end of the year sales numbering going up and short-term notoriety is more important than telling great stories.
I hope I’m wrong, I sincerely do, but it is hard to keep the faith when witnessing issues such as Batman # 713.
Thankfully, all is not lost, as they still have some brilliant authors in their stable, toiling away on “new 52” books – let’s just hope they afford them the respect and allow them the artistic freedom they deserve.
Final score: 1 out of 5
Detective Comics #881
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock, Francesco Francavilla
I don’t follow or even watch football, but I’m going to use a football analogy:
Scott Snyder caught and good pass and right out of the gate, started on a brilliant run, gaining momentum and heading straight for the end zone with gusto and determination, then, within mere feet of the goal… he completely fumbled the ball.
I’ve read near-universal praise for how Snyder has wrapped up his Detective Comics run – and therein, the current run of Detective Comics in general since this is the last issue before the mighty re-boot next month. Yet, if I’m honest, I cannot help but be let down – the story was building to a wonderful conclusion and it falls utterly flat here, a missed opportunity that seems rushed and contrived.
We start with a long opening wherein this arc’s main villain, a young and wonderfully unhinged James Gordon, monologues to a captured Barbara gordon and soon, to an en route Dick Garyson/Batman. Dick is frantically searching out James’ location before it is too late and James is able to kill Babs. How will he kill Babs you ask? Well, in a somewhat clever and seemingly, unavoidably fatal way: he has stuck a knife into each of her thighs, both severing, and plugging her femoral arteries, he then does us the favor of explaining it will kill her within a matter of minutes if either knife is removed… this turns out… to not really be the case at all I guess, because when one is ultimately removed Babs has time to listen to Dick and James’ phone conversation, find a hiding place, attack James and then wait for Dick to come in, get a few punches of his own in and only then receive some medical attention, which amounts to Dick cauterizing her wounds with a bat gadget – but if it was an internal artery that was severed, then what good will cauterizing her wound do? But I digress because I’m willing to suspend my disbelief enough to assume Batman has a cauterizing kit that can go inside and cauterize an entire wound through (even though the artery would still be fucked as it wouldn’t be connected anymore! But let’s ignore that!)… because the real sticking point of this whole situation is that Dick – who had seemingly no hope of pinpointing James’ location, shows up immediately after they finish their phone conversation. How did he find James so damn quickly? Dues ex machina folks… Yes, as it turns out in an incredibly contrived bit of flashback re-plotting, Dick reveals that he “…injected a subdermal tracer into his palm, works on a cellular platform.” And thankfully, exactly when it was needed “…the signal kicked in moments ago.” Wow – that is incredibly coincidental and very useful for wrapping up this story in no time at all.
Now – let’s quickly discuss the character of James Gordon and his arc through this particular issue: First off, his long conversations with Barbara and Dick at the start of the book is quite nice, especially when he starts delving into his personal psychology, his lack of empathy and how he sees it as an evolutionary leap. Good, solid writing of a character with tons of potential. However, quickly thereafter he becomes a walking cliché. Babs even mentions how he’s just like the rest of the villains she’s seen, so perhaps this is a stylistic, narrative choice and is done purposefully – or maybe Snyder added this line in just to deflect the quick, downward spiral of an interesting personality into mediocre and middling character tropes – either way it is a disappointment to this reader. James even makes mention of the famous “Killing Joke” – implying he had a hand in planting the idea of attacking Barbara into the Joker’s head during a stay in Arkham when he was young. But no – he was just kidding, okay that was arbitrary then I guess – but hey – they referenced the Killing Joke! But the arbitrary events don’t end there, because soon Barabara stabs a knife into his eye socket. What does James do then? Nothing, absolutely nothing, he acts as if it’s a scrape. Excuse me – but you have a fucking knife stabbed into your eye. Isn’t your brain back there? Sure maybe the blade was too short to do any real damage, but I’m sure that kind of wound at least remotely slows down even the most crazed killers. This is then where Dick arrives as mentioned above.
The insanity doesn’t stop there though – because James flees as his dad arrives on the scene; good old Jim Gordon pumps a few bullets into his son then saves him from falling to his death. As he grasps his hand, pulling him to safety he recites this banality: “I’m not letting you go. Never again.” eesh, I cringed… the writing seems so far below Snyder’s usual level that I honestly feel like this whole issue was him just taking the piss; giving in and hastily wrapping things up in a rush to move on to the big Batbook waiting for him in the wings.
This was supposed to be the grand finale, the “bring down the house” issue that gave us the closure to all the character’s stories as far as this version of Detective Comics goes, but really it didn’t even seem to successfully wrap up the character’s stories from this single arc, let alone the book as a whole.
For instance, where do we leave Dick? He’s staying in Gotham because he has a big office building he probably won’t be able to sell. Okay…
Where do we leave Gordon? In the exact same place he was in before the story started. Okay…
Where do we leave Babs? Who knows, we never heard from her again after her thighs got cauterized. Okay…
Plotting wise, we’re simply left with a vague threat of James’ baby-poisoning scheme coming to fruition in a few decades.
But the biggest piss take of them all is where we leave James Gordon: in police custody, yet with the full knowledge that Dick and Bruce are Batmen. No danger in that right? It’s not like he’d tell anyone or expose the biggest secret in Gotham to anyone, I mean it’s not like he has anything against Batman, right? For fuck sakes…this is silly.
We do get the nice reveal that Jim knows Dick is/was Batman, so I’m sure that means, in turn he knows Bruce’s role as well and by association, Tim and Damian’s as well. About damn time there, I guess… but still is that enough of a bone? Not for me. Especially since that bit of intriguing and character defining continuity will most likely be erased completely by next issue’s re-boot.
The art in the book was great, per usual. I really enjoy Jock’s work and Francesco Francavilla’s contributions were very nice as well. Jock does make Dick look kind of odd and long in the face in certain panels when he is depicted sans cowl, but that’s a nitpick, because on a whole I find his work incredible… so there are no real complaints here, this was the one part of the book that still held up the high standard that the run started with.
In closing let me just say that I feel bad after spewing all that vitriol above – but honestly I like Snyder’s usual work and I am definitely more than excited to see him on the main Batman title – I will buy the shit out of the upcoming issues. This should all be seen as polite, respectful and constructive criticism in the end, despite my sometimes raucous tone above. I loved his run on ‘Tec as a whole and would still recommend it as a must read to anyone, it’s just that since he set such a standard, I decided to hold him to it until the very end. Unfortunately in my opinion the end didn’t live up to the rest of the run.
Keep in mind, I rated the last issue, #880, a perfect score of 5 out of 5 – so I had incredibly, perhaps, ridiculously high standards coming into this issue… but at the end of the day, regardless of what I was expecting the writing just had too many holes in it for me to enjoy on anything other than a very light level.
Final score: 2 out of 5
Scott Snyder is a helluva guy; he just reached out to me to tell me he was sorry it fell flat for me and thanked me for reading anyway. Just thought I’d add that tidbit. He’s one of the good ones, so don’t think my review is a knock on his overall skill or character in any way! I’ll say it again: I’ll be buying his upcoming Batman books without question because even when he misses he’s still better than a lot of the other writers out there!
Flashpoint #5 –
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Andy Kubert
You’ve lost me DC. Really, you have. If it weren’t for Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder, I’d be giving up on you completely. This is ludicrous. You’re taking the piss, right? This entire event, this massive, over-blown clusterfuck isn’t really a totally capricious second thought… is it? The complete and total failure to create any book in this whole Flashpoint nonsense (besides the Batman tie-in, I’ll give you that one, but that could have been a one shot Elseworlds book and still be just as good, probably better!) that was even half decent – the sloppy, rushed, truncated junk (the final issues of some of the longest running comic series in the history of comics!) you’ve put out in the month leading up to this non-re-boot re-boot – the limp dick, poorly written first issue of Justice League (the premiere, first impression to the “new” readers you’re attempting to bring in) – and now, NOW this ridiculously arbitrary final issue of the main Flashpoint storyline, Flashpoint #5. I mean, please tell us, in all sincerity, that this isn’t simply you making a cynically avaricious and disgusting money grab for a temporary boost in sales followed closely by the insane, deluded hope that these new readers will stick around and want to continue reading your books when you present them with drek such as this, thus keeping those #1 sales numbers going. Please.
But wait – this is supposed to be a review of Flashpoint #5 – so for the time being, let’s put those raving questions to bed and focus more on the task at hand. Shall we?
Here’s the in-depth review this book deserves:
A war we’ve been told (through twenty thousand different shitty tie-ins) is some huge, world changing event is swept under the rug without any fanfare whatsoever. It didn’t mater one iota. Okay, fine. After all, what this story is really about is BARRY ALLEN BEING SAD THAT HIS MOM DIED AND THEN RUNNING REALLY FAST.
Running really fast to cause and solve all the problems of this massive summer event. How intriguing, do tell, the Flash runs really fast and things happen… oooo, how interesting, how novel! But no, we’re not even given much in the way of explanation FOR THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE EVENT. It is all presented as throwaway lines and inconsequential happenstance. Barry didn’t want his mom to die, he cries, runs fast and suddenly everything is fixed.
We finally get to see this over hyped splash page and it simply consists of some mystery woman telling Flash that timelines have been shattered, but he can fix them – at a cost. What cost? Who knows (stupid new costumes and shitty plot lines from the 90’s it seems), who would ever wrap up the loose ends in a major cross-over event in the last chapter of the event? I mean, really – the new books are for new readers that don’t need to know anything about the universe to feel at home – SO LET’S WRAP UP THIS CLUSTERFUCK IN THE NEW BOOKS?!?! I cannot believe it, seriously, DC, you are being run by insane, mentally incompetent sadists, aren’t you? Why did this ever seem like a good, logical business plan?
Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things… perhaps my nerdrage has reached dangerous and silly levels of vitriol. But maybe not – because you know what this book will, probably, really be remembered for? It will be remembered as the comic that ended with BATMAN CRYING. Yes, he gets an amazingly touching letter from his long dead father, that says – oh fuck it, let’s not bother to actually have to think about or, god forbid, write the fucking thing! The point is; it makes Batman cry. End of story… and by the way, everything is fixed, yet different, but you don’t need to know exactly how SO WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS?
I’m in shock. Maybe that’s it. I cannot believe they are actually showing their faces in public after pulling shit like this. They ended Action Comics, Detective Comics, Batman, etc. for this – and not only did they end them, they seemed like they didn’t even give a shit that they were ending them, turning in some truly awful, uninspired and throwaway issues for their historic finales. That weren’t even finales – there was no closure or irrevocability to any of the books they’ve ended… so I guess it should come as no surprise that they couldn’t really be bothered give a satisfactory conclusion to the event that was the impetus for it all. Maybe, just maybe, this is some brilliant meta-event and next summer we’ll find out that the re-boot itself was some elaborate tie-in and things will suddenly go back to normal and we’ll pick back up with the old books and numbering where we left off. Oh god, that’s ridiculous- I’m definitely in shock.
Also, I must ask: if Flash meets up with Bruce at the end to give him the note – and they obviously know each other – and this is Barry’s first errand he runs when being in the “new” timeline – then why/how do they know each other and have a history? I thought Justice Leauge took place “at the beginning” and none of the “super-humans” knew each other.
I feel like Daniel Plainview, sitting, out of breath, in a puddle of blood, bewildered and finally overtaken by long simmering rage. I’m finished.
Final Score: (a brand new #)1 out of 5
Flashpoint – Batman Knight Of Vengeance #3 –
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
Well. That was one strange trip. I’ve enjoyed this short series mostly due to the balls-out, cavalier and carte blanche nature inherent to things such as this, which I guess, can be considered an Elseworlds tale. I have not been reading the rest of Flashpoint, so I’m not sure how exactly this fits into the larger whole contextually – but Thomas Wayne does make a clear statement in this issue about how he has a chance to (very specifically) change things, so I’m assuming he is in the know about their story existing in an alternate reality outside of the main DCU continuity. Regardless, I still found myself engaged with the story which has been woven throughout the three issues of this mini.
Last issue we discovered that Martha Wayne was in fact, the Joker in this reality. It was a nice twist and was pleasantly surprising to see her in some female joker garb. Cosplayers are very happy about this, I’m sure. This issue picks up with Thomas Wayne (Batman) confronting her at the scene of a crime, the scene: Wayne Manor. She had seemingly killed two children and Commissioner Gordon last issue, but obviously the writers back-peddled on the kid killing and we find only Gordon actually bit the big one.
The remainder of the issue plays out with Martha and Thomas knocking each other around while prompting emotional, expository flashbacks showing us poor little Bruce being gunned down and Martha’s mind snapping and leading her to the inevitable here and now of being a female Joker. Yeaaaahhh… I’ve said it before, but I guess I’ll say it again – it reads to me like fan-fic a lot of the time; things thrown in and oddly juxtaposed just for the hell of it (especially since there were so many, seemingly arbitrary bits thrown in throughout the last few issues that went nowhere and served no real purpose other than being “hey, weird!” – I’m looking at you, quadriplegic Selina Kyle!) – but still, one cannot deny the emotional punch of the story told here, contrived as it may seem. There are some genuine moments that will make even the most cynical Bat-fans get a little misty, seeing the inevitably doomed Wayne family unable to escape death, despair and vengeance no matter which reality they exist in is potent stuff when done right. Also, for all the grim scenarios playing out, it is still, honestly, a lot of fun to see this reality. So bully for the creative team, they pulled it off.
I’d recommend that anyone who has yet to pick this go ahead and do so, with a scant three issues it’s a cheap, fun and compelling read.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Justice League #1 –
It is finally here. The crisis on infinite re-boots is now at hand and what are we gracious fans presented with during the first salvo? Justice League #1 written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Jim Lee.
We’ve all seen the first 7 or 8 pages, but I’ll recap them here anyway:
“There was a time when the world didn’t call them its greatest super-heroes.” “There was a time when the world didn’t know what a super-hero was.” That time is now. “Five years ago”. Yeah, they took that out, which is good, because I always found starting off on page one with a huge cliché was probably a bad move. They just decided to cut it down to a page four cliché; Batman’s dialog of “What were you doing at the docks” – of course, the docks… it’s a wonder legitimate water commerce has survived this long, there is always so much nefarious activity at so many of the world’s “docks”… but I digress, I must suspend my disbelief.
Batman chases a mutant transformer while simultaneously being chased by the GCPD, who are firing fully automatic weapons willy-nilly into their city below in the hopes of hitting one masked man running along its rooftops. Face palm. But I digress! Suspension of disbelief, I’m being too hard on this comic so far. Anyway, Green Lantern drives a fucking FIRE TRUCK onto the mutant transformer’s face (subtle) and starts up the main theme of this book: Green Lantern and Batman talking to each other.
The two commiserate about haters hating on them for being “super-heroes” and meanwhile Mr. mutant transformer breathes fiery death at the police choppers, so Lantern creates giants green bats to fly all the exploding wreckage to safety (apropos?). He then spews “new reader exposition”, informing us that he’s part of the space police and eventually starts grilling Bats about what he does… what are your powers, he asks. He’s incredulous to discover Batman is just a regular guy in a Bat costume which sets up the best part of the book for me; Geoff Johns writing a (conscious?) homage to Frank Miller as Green Lantern gets his ring lifted right off his damn finger without noticing. Seriously, I was waiting for the Goddamned Batman to crush Lantern’s windpipe then give him a tracheotomy while laughing maniacally. Sadly, this does not occur… instead, Batman deduces that it must ‘work off concentration” – then Lantern simply takes it back, but their makeup kiss is interrupted by mutant transformer planting a bomb, screaming “FOR DARKSEID!” and blowing the shit out of himself all jihad style. Don’t worry though; Green Lantern creates a giant green safe to protect himself and Batman from the explosion… what is with the constructs he’s coming up with in this book so far? Why not just a force field, why make a safe? Oh fuck it, I digress… suspension of disbelief. Batman and Green Lantern decide that the “alien from Metropolis” must know what’s going on, since this bomb was alien technology, so they scoot off to said city, post haste.
We now take a nice break to watch the end of a high school football game. “There’s nothing Vic Stone loves more than football.” Okay, thanks for letting us know. Vic Stone is badass at football and he is sad that his dad doesn’t come to see him play. A big, glowing green jet flies over the school and we find out Vic’s dad is probably busy “studying” super-humans, but he doesn’t tell Vic any juicy gossip about them. SO – moving on then.
Hal Jordan – sorry new readers, Hal Jordan is actually Green Lantern/Ryan Reynold’s secret identity. So, Hal Jordan brags about how awesome his ring is some more before Superman shows up, knocks the hell out of Jordan and steps up toe to toe with the Batman.
That’s it, that’s issue one of the brand spanking new Justice League.
So really, what did I think? Meh. Really, really, meh. The story is flat, the characterizations are hackneyed and to be honest, the whole book is a bit generic and banal; it is really just a bunch of expositional banter between Green Lantern and Batman. Not exactly a mind-blowing opening for one of DC’s flagship titles. If I were a new reader I’m not so sure I’d come back for seconds. The art is nice, sure… but I’m not certain it’s enough to carry the whole dynasty; all cylinders must be firing in unison to really make a great book – and sadly, for all the hype, this is most definitely not a great book.
Herein lies the rub DC: you did this re-boot to bring in these new readers but you’re first offering is utterly mediocre… long time readers, such as myself, will probably find these stories trite and downright boring, so it seems that, if anything, you’re simply alienating the readers you already did have and not really bringing in any new, long-term ones. Sure Justice League #1 “sold out” – but it’s a #1 issue, there will no doubt be a nice bump in sales for the first few months of this whole re-boot, the trick is now turning that into a sustainable advantage. Don’t forget us and don’t bore new readers. This book has been in the oven for quite a while now and it still doesn’t really rise to the occasion, so I am honestly a bit worried here. Get your shit together.
Also – who in the hell wrote the copy for the “sketchbook” section? Some brilliant gems: “This would not be your dad’s Justice League” Hahahahaha, you’re kidding right?
“Here’s an earlier, far more complicated version of the suit that was rejected earlier on.” Seriously, who edits these things, earlier on, of course?
“A more crustacean-looking armor was considered but ultimately deemed to be too detailed and “crusty” a look for the regal, majestic King of the Seven Seas”. Oh, dear…
Did they just write and throw this together the day they were going to print? How in holy hell does this sit around for months without anyone saying, ‘this is utter crap, perhaps we should tighten some of this copy up’?
Final Score: a generous 2 out of 5
Red Skull #1 –
Writer: David Aja
Artist: Mirko Colak
I must admit, I was eagerly awaiting this book, really for two silly reasons: 1. The beautiful, faux propaganda poster art cover by David Aja had me sold on its wonderful aesthetic alone. and 2. I’m kind of excited for the upcoming Cap. film, so I’m a bit hungry for some good stories involving the character’s world.
However, those semantic reasons aside, I have to say, even if the cover was different and the film was not ready for release, I would still be devouring this book for a fourth time and singing its praises from the mountaintops.
This is a serious book; one that takes the context of decimated, post World War 1 Germany and uses this transitional period of the national zeitgeist making desperate attempts to find coherence and semblance in their shattered society the context for not only the coming evil on a political level; but to frame the growth of some of the characters helplessly trapped within its larger machinations.
This reminds me of the Michael Haneke film “The White Ribbon” the film, like this book, posits a series of circumstances framed within the simple idea that a new, intellectual sickness is thrust upon the psyches of otherwise normal citizens, and how a frenzied uncertainty can distort even the most normal of people into lashing out and attempting to sublimate their grand fears through small and increasingly grotesque acts of violent aggression upon those which surround them, upon the very community which they live within.
A surprisingly elegant and subtle character study, which, even when it presents themes and situations that would come off as heavy handed or gratuitous in another story, fit into this world perfectly. When placed within the context of the fragile, war-torn world we find ourselves within – and within the context of the fragile little boy’s mind who is at the cusp of being forced into an ugly and horrific adult world of fascist ideals, the themes become pertinent and absolutely necessary.
The art in this book is likewise, restrained yet used to great effect, even when things get ugly. Mirko Colak’s pencils go a long way on selling the little boy lost who we know will become the monster known as Red Skull; a child born in the wrong place at the wrong time who is doomed to have his innocence destroyed and perverted beyond repair simply by the functions of the world around him which now exists in a constant, mad fervor. He has no hope here. The muted colors and the beautiful reds that jump off the pages at all the right times and which seem to represent the deeper anger, blood and torment of this world are used to great effect. Overall a beautiful book to look at.
Geg Pak has really created something phenomenal here, a truly adult story told through a medium instantly accessible to all ages. This is an important book telling an important story. Red Skull #1 should have been a slap-dash movie tie-in; thinly veiled marketing at best, but what it turned out to be is one of the absolute best books I’ve read yet this year from the house of Marvel.
Final Score: 5 out of 5
Severed #1 –
Writers: Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Beautifully drawn and inked by Attila Futaki.
Now this is the Scott Snyder book of the month! With Detective Comics #881 receiving almost universal praise and hogging all the attention, I sincerely hope plenty of people are still paying attention to this release and snatch it up as well.
I am very impressed with this first issue. We’re given a few amazing hooks, and some likeable and interesting characters. The story is mostly relayed to us through very subtle and naturalistic first-person, exposition voice over. We’re presented with our main character who sets up an engagingly odd mystery for us within the first two pages: this is great writing; an economy of sharp and succinct dialog that can convey an engaging mystery in such a short amount of space is a hallmark of a book that’s going to have a well thought out and very precise story to tell. The ‘two Scott’s’ are giving the medium of comics the respect it deserves here, through of all things, the horror genre. They’re rigorously creating their world with surgical levels of precision within the sometimes limiting confines of the format to deliver a work that is very thoughtfully designed around the format, something that, unfortunately, many comic writers today don’t seem to do. I’ve seen many a good story ruined by cramming it into six panels per page, etc. This is not one of those stories, it is expertly paced – I can definitely tell one of the authors is a filmmaker, not only by the composition of some of the panels, but by the way that so little exposition is needed in the truly frightening or tense scenes to properly tell the story; there is a strong visual acuity presented here. Needless to say, I’m a believer that these gentlemen are not only good writers, but smart writers as well.
However even the best writing can be let down by middling and confusing artwork, but Atilla Futaki steps up to the plate and stands toe to toe with the other creators here, creating beautiful, distinct and clear images that effortlessly work in concert with the script to bolster their unassumingly elegiac power. Futaki draws gorgeous landscapes and imbues the characters with realistic movement and weight– simply fantastic work all around.
Severed #1 makes me imagine that if Ed Brubaker and a young Stephen King wrote a comic book together, than this would be it; it bears many of those author’s hallmarks: taut pacing, a frighteningly disturbed killer and the innocence of children destroyed while circumstances of the mad, adult world they’re born into cause them to tumble through a nightmarish rabbit hole. This book contains all those things and many more, in other words, it has plenty of its’ own tricks to play on readers. This is all anchored against a backdrop of the rustic and spookily banal realism of a 1916 America. If the writers continue on the brilliant path they’ve laid out for us here in the inaugural issue, then this could end up being one of the best series of the year, without question.
If you have any passing interest in genre books you’ll do well to give this one a read or two or three. GO BUY IT NOW!
Final Score: 5 out of 5
SEPTEMBER 2011 –
All-Star Western #1 –
Written by JUSTIN GRAY (@JVGray) and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art and cover by MORITAT
Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham team up to stop a serial killer? Sold.
This book was a pleasant surprise – and hey, 29 pages! That’s pretty nice and well worth the extra dollar tacked onto the cover price. Perhaps those extra pages afforded this book something a lot of the other New 52 #1’s have been missing; time to breathe, space to plot things more coherently.
In my opinion DC should have allowed all the New 52 #1’s to run 29 pages, then once the second issues roll around they could go back to whatever their normal page number would be. It would have helped the creative teams working on the books, allowing them to tell more effecting tales in their first issue manifestos. But I digress, it is what it is.
The real matter at hand is All-Star Western.
Most of the characterization is done smartly, by having Jonah Hex teamed with a criminal psychologist him we’re privy to Dr. Arkham’s diagnostic notes; Arkham psychoanalyzes Hex for his own edification and as such, we’re spared much, what would have probably been, oddly unnatural expositional dialog. The device of having Arkham’s notes accompany and narrate Jonah’s actions makes the book feel approachable to new readers, grounding them in all the defining tics of the character, without feeling so forced as to alienate long time readers who already know all this. It’s a practical device; a doctor’s analysis – and it remains interesting and engaging throughout.
The mystery at the center of the story here is old hat, sure… but it is done well and delivered in such a way that it remains effective; a conspiracy laden serial killer thriller replete with secret societies and just a hint of government cover-up. The serial killer (or killers as it may be) is a fine proxy for Jack the Ripper and the M.O. of leaving the word “Fear” written at each crime scene, in blood, and in multiple languages, is an intriguing hook that gets the mind jumping around all sorts of possibilities. We are in Gotham City after all, a city synonymous with “fear” in many guises.
There are a lot of fun easter egg type connections throughout this book as well; We get to re-visit the social structure and the players that Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins introduced us to in “Gates of Gotham” – this time viewing things from different angels and different points in time. We also get a lot of nice little nods to Amadeus’ odd life, which long-term reader will get the most enjoyment out of because we know the horrifically disturbing and tragic shape his life will ultimately take.
Not only do we get to see him drinking a lot of Absinthe, we also get to see him in his house, talking with his mother and her telling him of “scratching” sounds in the walls; a great little reference to Grant Morrison’s brilliant “A Serious House on Serious Earth” graphic novel.
The art, by Moritat is suitably bucolic, dusty and raw. There is a frenetic energy in his fight scenes and the architecture and landscapes on display hit all the right notes bordering on realistic and utilitarian representations of the time period. The use of a dark, crimson red for all the blood spilled helps things seem rooted in a rustic realism; a static, comic vérité, if you will, when seen in context against the flat, almost mono-chromatic palette of the issue it manages to draw your eye to the messy horror contained in the acts which caused this crimson to seep onto the page.
All in all a great first issue; smartly plotted, well written dialog, wonderful art and an intriguing mystery propelled forward through a world full of unique personalities. This is one “New 52” that I’ll definitely keep on my pull list.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5
Batman #1 –
Written by Scott Snyder
Pencils by Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder’s Batman #1 is finally here. This is the book that most have been hyping to be the crown jewel in Dc’s “New 52”, so does it deliver, does it deserve to be placed up with the likes of Animal Man, Frankenstein…, Action Comics and Snyder’s own Swamp Thing? Well the short answer is a resounding YES… the long answer is:
Scott Snyder’s Batman opens with a bang – how does Batman, taking control of a riot in Arkham Asylum like a boss sound?
Beating up a good selection of his rogue’s gallery (Professor Pyg cameo FTW!) and even, seemingly, working with The Joker to do so?
That’s how you open a #1 issue! Sure, it’s sound and fury, basically signifying nothing – but who doesn’t like to see Bats knock a few teeth out? Good solid fun and no complaints here!
Our story really revolves around Bruce returning full-time to Gotham to reclaim the mantle of the Batman after Dick Grayson so graciously took up the job in his stead. Bruce returns re-invigorated it seems and he has a new plan to help Gotham grow out of, or at least better disguise, its decay. His plan as Bruce Wayne, philanthropist, is to gentrify the areas of Gotham he thinks need it most.
This is odd to me, chiefly because I thought Grant Morrison had just recently made the comics world realize that when a rich white man (Batman) fights low-level street crime it amounts to so much ill-informed class-warfare, and that this was something Batman should definitely not represent. Now, to be fair, in Snyder’s Batman this isn’t so much a case of him simply beating up common drug users down on the streets – yet when he proposes this plan for gentrification via his Bruce Wayne personality, it seems to take on the dour guise of Capitalist commodification, which in the end, altruistic as it may be coming from the mind of Snyder to the lips of his fictional Bruce, is still basically the same idea Morrison was so interested in (and ultimately opposed to representing): the class distinction (aristocrat ≠ proletariat) informed by his stature as a member of the upper 1% – and his responsibility to the lower classes to utilize his stature in an inert and benign socio-economic way. Of course, Bruce supplements these issues by donning the cape and cowl and truly working for the betterment of society as a whole, I’m just curious as to how cognizant Snyder’s character is of the social impact and the subtle implications which are intrinsically linked, part and parcel, to things he does through the Bruce side of his personality. I’m not saying Snyder is doing anything gauche or wrong here, the Bruce moments in this book just bring up these questions to me and I’m interested to see where the “Bruce Wayne” side of the story goes. To be honest I’m glad these questions are popping up in my head, because as good as Snyder’s Detective Comics run was I haven’t thought this much about an issue of Batman outside of Grant Morrison’s interpretation. So, on that score, good work Mr. Snyder, purposefully or not, you’re succeeding in making this a thinking man’s character again – at least in some sense.
As boring as this may all sound and as silly as it may be to think about these thing when reading a Batman comic book – it is honestly something I’d be very interested in seeing tackled in future characterizations of Bruce Wayne. We need more, deliberate social commentary on important, large issues in “mainstream” media such as comic books, in my opinion.
Anyway – if there is anyone left reading out there, let’s get back to the normal comic book stuff, shall we?
We now get to see good ol’ Vicki Vale who is here to introduce Bruce to “Lincoln March”. This scene seemed a little too on the nose. To me it read like an obvious give away that he’s going to end up involved in the insidious plot against Batman or possibly, even be the “owl killer” himself. I mean come on, a brand new character with a direct one on one interaction with Bruce, who is eager to meet again and talk further with him – and his physique is even more Dionysian than Bruce’s, this man is built… plus he’s a politician! You just know he’s a no good, dirty…
Then In a scene straight out of Burton ’89 Bruce listens in on Gordon’s conversation about a fresh crime-scene. Instead of reviewing it over CCTV though, Bruce is now able to use some very high-tech contact lenses, which are linked to the Batcomputer, to simply tune in, read his lips and amplify the conversation he is having.
Now, how this is supposed to work is anyone’s guess; I’m not sure if there are microphones and speakers somehow built into these magical lenses, but Bruce uses voice commands to control the computer and can hear the computer’s responses to him somehow. I know – It’s a comic book and it’s a cool gadget! I shouldn’t be so nit-picky, it’s just I’ve never really been a big fan of the gimmicky, gadgetry laden Batman. I’m firmly in the mind/body camp: I like my Batman to be the shamanistic Sherlock Holmes, the ninja-warrior-monk who utilizes will-power, training and deductive reasoning. I’ve never fully embraced the billionaire James Bond characterizations that some people have written the character as. To be fair though, Snyder, through Tim Drake, does give Bruce some shit for using the contact lenses, calling him out for his seemingly lazy detective work, so at least Snyder is self-aware of this plot device disguised as a piece of hi-tech gadgetry.
Back in the narrative, Bruce excuses himself from the marvelous shindig and goes out hunting. We’re then witness to a pleasant rapport between he and Bullock while they saunter onto the crime scene Gordon unknowingly tipped Bats off to. Inside it’s a grisly scene and Snyder continue to sell it with his pitch perfect dialog.
I was almost immediately struck by the notion that this mysterious Owl killer must have been a big fan of horror/thriller films from 1995. To wit: the titular “knife trick” of the title is borrowed from 1995’s Lord of Illusions, written and directed by none other than Clive Barker – and of course, the ‘invisible message behind a painting’ is straight out of David Fincher’s Seven. Now, I’m not complaining, these points work and don’t seem forced or “wink wink, nod nod” awkward, it’s just strange that Mr. Snyder seems to be immediately recycling morbidity in the book he’s been eager to write for so long. In context these additions work well enough and they’re not so distracting as to rip me out of the narrative, so, no harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned. Batman gathers some forensic evidence from the scene and what we’re ultimately left with is a tantalizing hook that’s definitely going to bring quite a few folks back for issue #2.
Well deserved, will these return readers be too, because for all my apparent gripes, this is actually quite a good Batman book. The pacing is fantastic, the dialog seems natural and effortless and despite the odd familiarity of many of the story beats, it still manages to tell an engrossing and fun tale.
Greg Capullo’s art has been called too “cartoony” by some – which in and of itself is a ridiculous thing to complain about when we’re talking about Batman – people really need to give up on the stubborn idea that the only acceptable and “true” aesthetic for the character is one which is “dark”, “realistic” and “gritty”. It is an absurd stance to take, because after all, we’re talking about Batman; this guy:
For my money Capullo’s art is fantastic. I can definitely tell he’s drawn Spawn though (and I’m not sure exactly how I know this, because I haven’t looked at an issue of Spawn since 1992! #5 to be exact…). In any event, I enjoy the art; the line work is fluid and assured and the inks are nice and tight, helping the images to ‘pop’ a bit when combined with the slightly muted and washed out earth tones which dominate the book’s color palette. Also – bonus points for Capullo drawing what is, in my opinion, the best rendition of the new Batsuit I’ve seen yet. It seems less awkward and less armored than it does in other “New 52” books.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed the ride Scott Snyder and team prepared for us here. I’m looking forward to seeing him have some time and space to really delve into the characters and the world. Snyder’s obsession with making Gotham City itself a character, almost sentient in certain senses, is still present here and I’m eager to see him make good use of this interesting premise throughout future issues.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Quick and dirty reviews of most of the New 52 #1’s –
Action Comics #1 –
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales
This is a good start. Morrison’s new Superman is intriguing, without a doubt, a bit hard to get a bead on in just one issue, but the basics seem to be nailed down. It is a refreshing and interesting take on the mythology, tweaking without really breaking anything and it has me sold enough to pick up issue #2. Supposedly Morrison has the first 16 issues plotted out, so this is the start of a big story arc and I have enough faith in his writing to to trust that it’s just as deliberately paced as his other work for good reason. Consider me on board.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf
This is my pick for weakest ink of the week. I’ll admit it; I’ve never read a Gale Simone book regularly, so I’m not sure how to judge what’s she’s doing here in a context of her writing and story telling style. But for my money, just coming in cold, this issue falls very flat. Illogical and confusing in multiple parts I honestly found this book to be a complete mess. Ardian Syaf’s art is very inconsistent as well; continuity errors abound and also what is probably the most awkward and odd case of foreshortening on Barbara’s leg in her initial, big splash page reveal. Muddled, messy and disappointing, to say the least.
Final Score: 2 out of 5
Batman and Robin #1 –
Written by PETER J. TOMASI Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
This one pleased me. The last few issues of B&R vol. I (except for the final issue #26, that one was great!) were really dragging and the quality had fallen off a cliff since Morrison left. Now though, Peter Tomasi is breathing new life into the book. I was engaged again, the fun mood of this book (compared to Detective comics, at least) is a refreshing change of pace – and Bruce’s determination to no longer mourn death, but venerate life is the most intriguing development for the character since he “returned” in my opinion. The relationship between Bruce and Damian is central here and Tomasi is nailing it. Cool villain, good dialog and so far, interesting plotting. Final Score 4.5 out of 5
Batwoman #1 –
Written by J.H. WILLIAMS III and W. HADEN BLACKMAN Art and cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
Fantastic! AMAZING art here, seriously, I’d buy it just for that. But as an added bonus, J.H. Williams III is, so far, telling a very compelling tale here. This one will definitely remain on my pull list. Batwoman is the one member of the Bat Family I’ve never regularly read in the past, so I’m very excited to get into the character – from what I can tell she’s dynamic and deep enough to broach some large, abstract issues without getting lost under the weight of it all. Final Score 4.5 out of 5
Deathstroke #1 –
Written by KYLE HIGGINS Art by JOE BENNETT and ART THIBERT
Interesting, I can’t say that I’ve ever read a solo Deathstroke story before. Basically, he’s The Punisher… not bad if you like the ultra-testosterone shoot-shoot-shoot stuff, but for my tastes it is a little thin. Grizzled, action movie fun though – so it works as a diversion from the traditional superhero fare at the very least… not terrible, but not great. Middle of the road tailor made hyper-violence for the ‘Gears of War’ crowd. Final Score 3 out of 5
Demon Knights #1 –
Written by PAUL CORNELL Art by DIOGENES NEVES and OCLAIR ALBERT
This was pretty decent, I guess. I’m not much of a fan of fantasy, so I may not be quite fair in my assessment here, but it seemed serviceable enough; swords and sorcery that is well drawn and competently written. Beyond that I’m at a loss.
Where did Etrigan’s rhyming go? Please, do tell, I must know.
Good, just not really my cup of tea. Final Score 3 out of 5
Detective Comics #1 –
Writer and Artist: Tony Daniel
This was a pleasant surprise, actually. I was expecting something mediocre here and was actually pretty blown away by the level Tony Daniel has opened on. The story, the art and the dialog is all working great here. Definitely a must read and has one of the best final panels we’re likely to see in this whole new 52 lot.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 –
Written by JEFF LEMIRE Art by ALBERTO PONTICELLI
I actually enjoyed this much more than I imagined I would. This is literally my first exposure to the DC version of this character, so I’m going in completely cold. I’m a fan of the old Universal films so perhaps I’m biased, but I thought it was fun, frenetic and well written. Monsters fighting: simple yet surprisingly good, the sleeper hit of the week as far as I’m concerned. Final Score 3.5 out of 5
Green Lantern #1 –
Written by GEOFF JOHNS Art by DOUG MAHNKE and CHRISTIAN ALAMY
This surprised me. I was disappointed with Johns’ writing on the whole FlashPoint and new Justice League – but I must admit, he’s got me hooked here. The book opens with Sinestro in chains and being given back a green ring, re-instated into the Lantern Corps. It’s Intriguing as hell trying to figure out what their move is here. Also – the best depiction of Hal Jordan I’ve ever seen outside of “The New Frontier”. He’s not an instantly unlikable jackass, so I’m back on board with GL now… good work, Geoff. Final Score 4 out of 5
Grifter #1 –
Written by NATHAN EDMONDSON Art and cover by CAFU
This one really didn’t hook me. it seemed like a recycled script from a bad 80’s action film. Full of cliché and ridiculous genre tropes, it fell flat for me all the way through, on all fronts. The art is weak, the script is weak and the character just isn’t very likeable or interesting. No thanks on a #2 for this series. Final Score 2 out of 5
Legion Lost #1 –
Written by FABIAN NICIEZA Art and cover by PETE WOODS
Wow. This. Is. Terrible. I understand this is geared towards the younger readers, but good god, man. I was at a loss to find anything at all in this book that I enjoyed. Legion Lost contains the unholy tri-fecta: terrible writing, banal, generic characters and mediocre, jumbled art. Avoid! Final Score 0.5 out of 5
Mister Terrific #1 –
Written by ERIC WALLACE Art by GIANLUCA GUGLIOTTA
Right up there with Legion Lost, this book is an embarrassment. Horribly awkward and stiff dialog, littered with inane stereotyping and forced character descriptions, all haphazardly and tenuously linked with a confusing mess of a plot. The character of Mr. Terrific is just not up to to me taste; he flies around on little balls and uses them as weapons? O…k… whatever. The art here is mediocre at best and as stilted as the lifeless and unnatural dialog at worst. Seriously, avoid this one at all costs. Final Score 0.5 out of 5
Red Lanterns #1 –
Written by PETER MILLIGAN Art and cover by ED BENES and ROB HUNTER
I know next to nothing about the Red Lanterns, so the endless exposition and origin story recapping which dominates the bulk of this book is fine by me. The characters are intriguing and the art is visceral and engaging. So far I’m in for #2. Final score 3.5 out of 5
Resurrection Man #1 –
Written by DAN ABNETT and ANDY LANNING Art by FERNANDO DAGNINO
This is an odd one. At turns it’s engaging and rather compelling, however it is just as often floundering its way through a good idea. It reads like a Vertigo book in places and the art is interesting enough that I’ll give it another go with #2 just to really wrap my head around it. I’m just not sure exactly how I feel about this one yet, but there is definitely potential here. Final Score 3 out of 5
Suicide Squad #1 –
Written by ADAM GLASS Art by MARCO RUDY
Meh. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, I’ll give it that. I’m at turns intrigued and bored to death by the “edginess” of this book. But it has a good overall premise and there is definitely room for potential fun here, so I’ll stick around, at least for a few issues, and see if they creative team can pull it off. As long as Amanda Waller goes on an eating binge and gains at least 150 lbs., that is ;) Final Score 3 out of 5
Superboy #1 –
Written by SCOTT LOBDELL Art by RB SILVA and ROB LEAN
I have never read a Superboy comic before. There, I said it. I have no idea what is different pre/post reboot – but what is here is… boring. Really boring. I’ve seen this story hundreds of times before and it is tired and brings nothing new or exciting to the table. Even though I’m not intrigued enough to see where the story goes, I must admit the art was nice and consistent. Final Score 2 out of 5
Swamp Thing#1 –
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
I haven’t read a Swamp Thing Comic since the 80’s so this being a new 52 seemed like it would be very welcoming to new readers (that’s the whole point, right DC?), however I was confused as hell on many points while reading this. Snyder does a good job of contextualizing and using natural exposition, but still some things are totally lost on me. That being said, what is here to understand for readers such as myself, is quite good and enjoyable. The art is a bit of a mixed bag; some of it looks good, but more often than not it was distracting and confounding – a few images of Superman were downright ugly, actually. Sad to see, but perhaps it was a rush job to hit a deadline. Who knows, hopefully Yanick Paquette steps it up from here on out though. Overall though, this was mighty enjoyable and a good set-up that will most definitely bring me back for round #2.
Final Score: 4 out of 5