Tuesday, July 31, 2012

UPCOMING REVIEWS (AUG 1-7)

Action Comics #12
(Morrison, Bryant)
- With Grant Morrison's announcement that he'll be leaving AC after issue 16, we now know that his sprawling, revamped origin for good old Superman actually will have a conclusion! This month, Morrison continues his tale of "The Forgotten Superman" as well as another back-up - this time featuring Perry White - that will again add more depth to Superman's world.

Animal Man #12
(Lemire, Pugh)
- Now that Buddy Baker and Alex Holland are finally teamed up, it's time to dive into the realm of the Rot. Unfortunately, this "Rotworld: Prologue" will mostly be a recap of the last year's events in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

Avengers vs. X-Men #9 of 12
(Someone, Kubert)
- As we enter Act III of Avengers vs. X-Men, the Phoenix Five's weakness has been revealed and Namor is down for the count! How will the the Scarlet Witch use her newfound ability to excise the Phoenix to turn the tides for the Avengers? I know this is completely out of left field, but as a Young Avengers fan, I want to see some Patriot, Wiccan, Hulkling, Stature, Speed, and Hawkeye II! Hey, a guy can dream.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2 of 4
(Straczynski, Kubert)
- Last month, Nite Owl saw the first meeting of the group that would become the Watchmen, including the first team-up between Nite Owl and Rorschach. This month continues Dan Dreiberg's journey to prove to himself that he's worthy of the Nite Owl mantle.

Earth 2 #4
(Robinson, Scott)
- Now that we've been properly introduced, it's time to see Earth 2 Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl in action! Also, the Atom of Earth 2 makes his debut, along with more insight to the Grey and this universe's Solomon Grundy. James Robinson has stated that he intends to build up this world before putting the JSA together, and he's doing a fantastic job so far.

Justice League International #12
(Jurgens, Lopresti)
- It's the "Funeral of Rocket Red" as the team deals with the fallout of their adventures thus far. Seeing as this is the last 'official' issue in the run - not counting the Annual issue later this month - Dan Jurgens will be pulling out all the punches to send out this fantastic series in style.

Swamp Thing #12
(Snyder, Paquette)
- All DC has released for press info is that this issue "continues from Animal Man #12" which is just a recap. Hopefully, we'll get to see some actual action happen here. If both issues turn out to be a recap, a single review will be written for both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

4-Sentence Reviews
- Dial H #4
- First X-Men #1 of 5
- Hawkeye #1
- World's Finest #4

Monday, July 30, 2012

4-SENTENCE REVIEWS (JULY 25-31)

Batman: The Dark Knight #11
(Hurwitz, Finch)

After a mediocre initial story arc, and a "Night of the Owls" chapter that didn't actually feature Red Robin fighting a Talon at all - like the cover of the issue promises - Greg Hurwitz has stepped in to bring Scarecrow into the 'New 52' with style, and he does so in spades. Unlike the increasingly doom-and-gloomy Scarecrow pre-reboot, Hurwitz's take on Jonathan Crane is rooted in pure insanity - he gleefully kidnaps children and exposes them to his fear gas, mimicking his own father's tactics years prior. The eighth page is a striking and apt example of the feeling Hurwitz achieves, in this case mostly because of David Finch's artwork: (in three panels) a child is on a teeter-totter, then Scarecrow can be seen in the bushes, and finally, the child is gone. It's a subtle, yet explosive point in the issue that leads to even more ridiculousness - Scarecrow's hyperbolic needle gloves really push the crazy point across - culminating in the best issue of Batman: TDK to date.

GRADE: A+



The Flash #11
(Manapul, Buccellato, To, McCarthy)

11 months into the 'New 52', and The Flash is finally getting a little less convoluted and little more character-driven. While Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been having fun putting Barry Allen through the revamp ringer - he's in a relationship with Patty Spivot instead of Iris West, the Rogues have been retooled as much more deadly foes, The Flash is blamed for a mass power outage in the Gem Cities, etc. - the series thus far has been somewhat light on real character development. Sure, we get to see Barry trying to balance his civilian life and his career as the Flash, but it always felt somewhat dry until this issue. A candid conversation between Captain Cold and Barry - as he has started a new life as "Al", a bartender at a Rogues bar in Keystone City - makes each character much more relatable than they've been in previous issues, a welcome breathe of fresh air from a series that's been stuck in a single gear for a while.

GRADE: B+


Green Lantern: New Guardians #11
(Bedard, Kirkham, Batt)

In an era of comic books that demands larger, more comprehensive arcs, it's sometimes hard to make an individual issue stand on it's own feet, especially considering it's placement in the arc as a whole - Green Lantern: New Guardians #11 suffers from this "filler issue" syndrome, wherein most of the events that take place in the issue are either a continuation from last issue, or a set-up for the events of next issue. Filler episodes of TV shows are some of the most boring, and even thought the New Guardians take on Larfleeze this issue and Sayd the Guardian reveals that is was she who stole the multicolored rings and manipulated the New Guardians into existence, this issue fails to really be engaging. The most interesting moment of the issue is when Larfleeze destroys the corporeal construct of Glomulus, the rotund alien that's been traveling with the NG's since the first issue and developed a friendship with Kyle Rayner. And sure, Glommy was a character that's been around a while, but he wasn't all that important, and the fact that a major fight between members of every Lantern Corps - as well as B-story panels of Invictus destroying the planet Aello in the Vega system - doesn't incite more excitement is a problem.


GRADE: C-

Justice League Dark #11
(Lemire, Janin)

Jeff Lemire continues his fantastic run on Justice League Dark this month with big revelations, cool magic stuffs, more John Constantine. Felix Faust and his Demons Three have been giving the JLD a hard time for a few issues now, so Constantine barters his way into the Black Room to retrieve a few items to help them stop the mad wizard before he can gain access to the room himself. Lemire is taking his time with this story, as it's poised to set up some major changes for magic in the 'New 52', including the appearance of Timothy Hunter, a character created by Neil Gaiman who hase the potential to become "the greatest mage the world had ever known", as well as the inevitable moment when the Black Room becomes a toy store for DC's magical villains. Usually, plot-driven arcs get under my skin due to the lack of true character development, but "The Black Room"s purpose as a prelude of sorts to upcoming events gives it a pass in light of future potentials.

GRADE: B




National Comics: Eternity
(Lemire, Hammer, Donovan)

For it's 'New 52' reboot, DC endeavored to include more titles grounded in realism, including Blackhawks, Men of War (and it's subsequent replacement, G.I. Combat), and James Robinson's "Savage" run on DC Universe Presents. With National Comics: Eternity, writer Jeff Lemire presents a tale of Chris Freeman, a police coroner with the power to bring recently deceased persons back as ghosts for 24 hours in order to solve their own murders, allowing them to find closure and move on in the afterlife. While the origin and basic set-up remain the same, Lemire puts his own, dark spin on Kid Eternity, bringing him into the 21st century with a story about Darby Quinn, a seemingly innocent murder victim who is revealed to have been shot in self-defense by his young female tenant. Lemire's use of modern criminal procedure style to bring Kid Eternity back into the fold is genius, and while the twist with Quinn's innocence is somewhat expected, the resulting meeting between Chris and a mysterious man who knows about Chris' abilities is completely captivating and leaves me only wanting more (why is this only a One-Shot?!?!?)


GRADE: A

Saturday, July 28, 2012

BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN #2 of 6

STORY: Brian Azzarello
ART: JG Jones


Again with the silly cover! What is that trail of blood on a sandy path?
I mean...river.
With it's rag-tag artwork, silly period piece dialogue, and obtuse symbolism, Comedian #1 is my least favorite issue of Before Watchmen, by far. That being said, this month's issue in Eddie Blake's life is better. Of course, this just means it isn't god-awfully terrible. Instead, Brian Azzarello pens an issue that's just feels unnecessary and boring.


Comedian #2 takes place exclusively in Vietnam, a fact that becomes more and more grating each time  Azzarello's characters feel the need to spell out the controversial nature of the war, which happens roughly every other page. Yes, we readers know that the Vietnam "conflict"was a terrible, horrible situation - this information doesn't need to be beaten into our heads because we already understand. It's as if Azzarello doesn't know that students learn about the Vietnam War (however sparsely) at least once during their education.

Overall, this issue just seems like filler. A lot of talking goes on, and Blake kills a Vietnamese soldier with no regard for decency. I'm a pacifist, so it's hard to watch a psychotic killer like Eddie Blake murder a (somewhat) defenseless man in cold blood. The fact that this scene churned by insides proves that, at least a little, Azzarello's attempts to convey the mood and temper of the Vietnamese jungle are paying off. Azzarello also hits on the drug trade that was supposedly operational in order to fund a war that wasn't actually a war. In excrutiating detail, a handful of officers discusses the full scope of the situation and how to better raise money by getting more American citizens hooked on drugs. It's a very odd conversation, one that feels too 'matter of fact' to have actually taken place in real life. I'm sure it did, and I hope the actual talk didn't sound as redundant or condescending as this one does.

One of the biggest complaints I had last month was that Azzarello was trying to make Eddie Black relatable - a majority of the issue was dedicated to showing how Blake became a strong family friend for the Kennedys. The biggest improvement in Comedian #2 is how much of a douche bag Eddie has become. He talks about war like it's a pissing contest, and he slaughters without remorse. There's still that opening scene with Eddie and Bobby Kennedy at a Muhammed Ali fight, but even there, Blake is a stoic asshole who only sees things in black and white. America = Good. Vietnam = Bad.

While this shift in Eddie's behavior definitely gives this issue a whole lot more credence than the previous, Azzarello still can't figure out how to fix this series biggest problem: it's necessity. Did anyone really want a six-issue series detailing the horrid actions of the Comedian during the 1960s and 70s? Wasn't it enough to know he was a huge dick? Wasn't that part of what made the character so great? If Azzarello continues to change retcon - like he did last month when it was 'revealed' that Eddie never shot JFK - and take us down a path of pointless darkness and machination, this series is going to burn out much faster than it's release schedule.

GRADE
C+

Thursday, July 26, 2012

TEEN TITANS #11

STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

It seems that my issues with Teen Titans and Superboy in the first nine months of DC's 'New 52' had a lot more to do with the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. arc than I realized. While I still feel that Scott Lobdell's scripts are a bit long in the tooth for a pair of series about teenagers, I've been enjoying both titles loads more since the end of "The Culling". A big part of this change of heart comes from more character development, something Lobdell neglected in favor of a convoluted, painfully intertwined plot.

Teen Titans #11 kicks off with a bang, as Kid Flash, Bunker, and Solstice come under attack by Loose Canon, a surly blue fellow who can feed on energy then weaponize it (similar to, say, Cable or Ms. Captain Marvel). It's actually a fun little fight scene that ends when Cassie stops moping in her room and over-charges Canon, causing him to burn out. The actual fight really isn't all that important, while the reason for the fight boils down to Bunker's mistake. After hearing of Red Robin's intention to disband the Titans - in last month's issue - most of the team disagreed with Tim's course of action. Bunker takes things into his own hands and puts out an ad on Craigslist to recruit new members. Obviously, things don't turn out well, but the entire episode does a great deal to bolster Bunker's personality. Unlike Red Robin, Superboy, and Wonder Girl - who have all been revamped - Bunker is a brand new character, a fact Lobdell has been taking advantage of in Teen Titans, as well as in Superboy, where the gay Mexican guest-starred earlier this month (what a weird sentence to type).

Lobdell has been deftly building up Miguel Jose Barragan as the team's heart and soul. Red Robin is too buys brooding, Kid Flash never takes things seriously, Superboy isn't an actual member of the team yet, Cassie is a total basket case, Solstice is still trying to figure out how to lead a normal life, and Skitter is barely even seen these days. Bunker gets to be the straight man - the most normal character of the bunch - who has to deal with his teammates craziness. And to be honest, the whole Craigslist idea isn't that bad in today's modern age of technological communication.

Side note that really has nothing to do with the rest of the issue/this review: Superboy looks like he flew out of 1994. It's 2012, Scott - wearing shades at night, black tank tops, and motorcycle gloves went out of style with Culture Club and Clear Pepsi.

The main focus of Teen Titans this month comes down to Wonder Girl and the mysterious Silent Armor she wears. After quickly defeating Loose Canon, Cassie seems to lose all control over the ancient armor "forged in the heart of the Sun..." Without much wanring, Wonder Girl attacks and defeats Solstice, Kid Flash, and Bunker before Red Robin and Superboy show up to find Cassie begging for death before she takes another life. Brett Booth makes the right decision to withhold showing the readers the full power of the Silent Armor until the final panel. Instead of revealing the blood-thirsty version of Wonder Girl mid-issue, Booth keeps her off-panel while using the Titans' reactions to convey the horror of their friend taken by a godly power.

GRADE
B

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

AQUAMAN #11

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Jonathan Glapion, and Andy Lanning

While he gets out all of the cosmic-level threats and crossover bonanzas with Green Lantern, Geoff Johns saves the scandal and intrigue for Aquaman, a series that has been one of the 'New 52's best titles, not only for it's fantastic arcs and high-caliber artwork, but also because this is a character who has never really been treated right, so Johns is doing everything he can to right that wrong. "The Others" started off rather vague, only sparingly giving readers small amounts of information regarding the team Arthur was on before the Justice League. Most of this arc has been about Aquaman's relationship with his arch-nemesis Black Manta and how it differentiates from old DCU canon, even on a metafictional level. So it's nice that in Aquaman #11, Johns gives us a little more character development for some of the...well...other members of the Others.

"The Others" is starting to feel like 'Arthur Curry's Asshole Hour' because he just can't seem to be nice to any of his former teammates. While the King of Atlantis may have shown some compassion to some persons during the run of "The Trench", all of that seems to have been washed away in favor of a far more pig-headed version of Arthur that wont listen to anyone else and makes rash, impulsive decisions that hurt him and those around him. And while I'm confident this is all part of Johns' plan for Aquaman, it's a bit disconcerting to see the character so violently shaken from his generally stoic presence. Then again, having to deal with a vengeful criminal who happens to be a genius super villain can push a man.

If the Justice League is supposed to be the cool kids club, then the Others is definitely the nerd table. Aquaman himself straddles the line between mainstream and alternative, while the four other remaining members all have some quirk that keeps them from enjoying an actual life outside their powers. Prisoner is haunted by the memories of his military squad and their families - he constantly feels the pain of having lost his surrogate brothers, while simultaneously feeling empty because he had no real family of his own. The Operative - whom we discovered is an elderly gentleman last issue - assumes the thankless mantle of the "nameless agent working for every side..." then using those relationships to garner support when need be. As evidenced by his age, the Operative seems to believe his actions are necessary to keep the world spinning, so to speak.

Vostok quickly becomes the most interesting of the team after his quick tale of growing up in a Russian isolation chamber (with literally no human contact at all) in preparation to be the nation's greatest Cosmonaut, a dream that faded when the program was cancelled and Vostok was released, left to wander a world full of creatures and things he have never seen. Vostok admits to the team that he's been on the moon for two years, "waiting for you to contact me." Even on a team of misfits, Vostok is 'out there'. All of the Others are outsiders who don't fit into normal society, and they came together because of this fact.


"The Others" continues to be dynamite. Johns is weaving an intricate melodrama that's less about the sinking of Atlantis and more about Arthur Curry's relationship with his past. While Black Manta represents the worst of Aquaman's history, the Others represent the best of his younger days. Unfortunately, Arthur is only focused on defeating Black Manta, forsaking the help of his allies and opting to rush in by himself. Black Manta's big find at issue's end also promises big things for the next issue.


GRADE:
A

GREEN LANTERN #11

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, and Tom Nguyen

With Geoff Johns and Green Lantern, there's never really a down moment. That's not to say 'there's never a dull moment', because frankly, there are from time to time."Secret of the Indigo Tribe" was one such instance where Johns' perspective as GL-series team leader led him to overestimate how interesting the narrative was as it's own arc. Fortunately, this month kicks off "The Revenge of Black Hand" that was teased last month when William Hand committed suicide to escape the imprisoning nature of the Indigo Tribe, only to be resurrected by a brand new Black Lantern ring.


Black Hand gets a good reintroduction in these pages as one of the DC universe's most twisted, sadistic, evil villains. As depicted back at the beginning of the Blackest Night event in 2009, William Hand's family life was less than perfect, leading William to murder his entire family which put him on the path to be the avatar for the Black Lanterns. His power now restored, Hand travels back to Earth and resurrects his entire family as the beginning of his personal army of the dead. Even without the Blackest Night connection, this scene is super, super creepy; Hand has a conversation with the corpses of his family members while they all sit around a dinner table watching William eat. BN was really the last time Johns got to cut loose with the 'misery and death' talk, yet he comes back to it with a passion - Hand pledges, "I'm going to kill as many people as I can in as many ways as I can. And then I'm going to raise them from the ground and they're going to do the same thing." In two speech bubbles, Johns successfully gets the major focal point of the story arc across to readers as well as making any reader squirm in their seat just a little bit. Some villains take an entire six-issue run to get to their point, and more often than not, these characters still feel underwhelming. Black Hand under Johns' guidance has always been frightening, but now he's downright sickening (and not in the drag queen sense).


Hal & Sinestro's side of things is a bit more boring until they get their hands of the Book of Black once again. The duo heads to Korugar to fetch the Book of Black, giving Johns yet another chance to remind readers just how hated Sinestro is on his home planet. Normally, this kind of redundant fact inclusion grates on me, but Johns has used it sparingly since the "Sinestro" arc, and for new readers, it can be helpful to remember that Sinestro was once one of the most hated criminals in the universe. The real meat of their journey to Korugar this issue comes when they open the Book of Black to see what else they can learn about the Guardians' plan to eradicate the Green Lantern Corps, a conspiracy that's been building across the four Green Lantern titles for some time now and will come to a front his October in "Rise of the Third Army".


Here's what Hal and Sinestro's vision tells us:
--> There's a new Green Lantern coming (the Arab GL that's been in teasers and appears on the cover of Green Lantern #0).
--> The Guardians will get their hands on John Stewart to torture and/or kill him.
--> Kyle Rayner is destined to become a Red Lantern (*snore*...DC already did this with Guy Gardner).
--> Guy Gardner is in jail.
--> Atrocitus has command of the Manhunter robots.


Couples with what Sinestro saw in his original vision back in Green Lantern #6:
--> The Guardians will murder the entire Green Lantern Corps (to make way for the Third Army)
--> Sinestro will be taken as a member of the Indigo Tribe (done and done)
--> The Guardians will somehow use the White Lantern rings to execute their plans.


There seems to be a lot (like, a lot) of prophecy and premonitions floating around with not a whole lot of story advancement to back it up. Sure, these revelations are pretty cool (save for Kyle going Red, which is just a silly retread), but one page of awesome images from future events isn't enough to save Hal and Sinestro's lacking narrative. Even their banter feels hollow and flat this issue.


One of Geoff Johns' strongest points as a writer is his ability to create huge, cosmic events that change the landscape of the world he molds. Unfortunately, DC seems to be shying away from imprint-wide events, sticking to family series crossovers (like Batman's "Night of the Owls", or Young Justice's "The Culling") in order to make each part of DC's line stronger on it's own before deconstructing it down the road, which we all know is a question of 'when?' rather than 'if'. The teaser promo for "Rise of the Third Army" doesn't include Hal or Sinestro anywhere in the image, a startling fact seeing as both Hal Jordan and Thaal Sinestro are two of the franchise's most recognizable characters. I'm sure Black Hand will fit into the scheme of things somehow, which will Bring Hal and Sinestro into the fight as well.


GRADE
B-

UPCOMING REVIEWS (JULY 25-31)

Aquaman #11
(Johns, Reis)
- "The Others" continues as we learn if the team ever actually can work as a...team. This is one of DC's best series out right now, and still people aren't reading it as much as they should!


Before Watchmen: Comedian #2 of 6
(Azzarello, Jones)
- Last issue, Brian Azzarello pretty much totally missed the point of Before Watchmen, opting to make Eddy Blake seem like a good guy who just happened to be implicated with the Kennedy murders! Uh-oh!


The Flash #11
(Manapul, Buccalleto)
- The last few months has seen Flash meeting a number of his Rogues through a seemingly connected series of events. The Flash #11 introduces Heatwave to the 'New 52' in Manapul's steely art style!


Green Lantern #11
(Johns, Mahnke)
- With the Indigo Tribe down, it's time for Geoff Johns to turn his sights on resolving the loose end of Black Hand and his BRAND NEW BLACK LANTERN RING! But without the Anitmonitor powering the Black Lantern (and Necron...dead?...), how will William Hand get his revenge against Hal Jordan and the Indigo Tribe?


Justice League Dark #11
(Lemire, Janin)
- "The Black Room" continues as the JLD finds its way deeper into ARGUS and in a rematch with the Demons Three! Plus, John Constantine finds something interesting.


Teen Titans #11
(Lobdell, Booth)
- Wonder Girl's origin! Plus, the secret of her armor that's slowly killing her. Hopefully, Scott Lobdell will find some space to give the other kids a bit more character development as well.


4-Sentence Reviews
- Batman: The Dark Knight #11
- Green Lantern: New Guardians #11
- National Comics: Eternity #1
- Superman #11

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

4-SENTENCE REVIEWS (JULY 18-24)

Avengers vs. X-Men #8 of 12
(Bendis, Kubert, Dell)

Avengers vs. X-Men #8 makes the series feel like its stuck in a rut, while simultaneously breathing a whole new life into Marvel's mega event for 2012. King Namor has gone a bit nuts - but who didn't see that coming - and proceeds to decimate Wakanda in the ongoing search for Hope Summers, something the Avengers don't take very kindly to at all. Because a hefty majority of the issue is spent fleshing out the battle in Wakanda - as Earth's Mightiest attack Namor one after another, only to be swiftly brushed aside - there isn't a whole lot of actual plot development, which is why this issue fell a little flat for me. Of course, Bendis packs a big punch at the end when Scarlet Witch basically disarms Namor, causing his fifth of the Phoenix Force to fuse with the remaining four, a twist that is sure to make things a bit harder for the X-Men going forward.

GRADE: B-





Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2 of 4
(Cooke, Conner)

While Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner's first issue following the young life of Laurie Juspeczyk reminisced about the high school days of the 1960s - their innocence, simplicity, and comfort - Silk Spectre #2 explores the more groovy side of the era of peace, love, and rock 'n roll. Laurie and her high school sweetheart, Greg, ran off with a few hippies at the end of last issue, and a quick letter home to her "Uncle" Hollis Mason gives Cooke the chance to abridge Laurie's new life in San Francisco for the reader, similar to a film montage. Much like Cooke's neo-retro style is perfect for Minutemen, Conner's subtle, yet fully-featured, artwork is incredible for a series about what it was like being young and free in the 60s (and the fact that it resembles Archie doesn't hurt it one bit). Cooke's moving this series at a deliberate pace that's slowly bringing a world of corruption crashing into Laurie's life, forcing her to do what she knows is right and take up the Silk Spectre mantle.

GRADE: A



Captain Marvel #1
(DeConnick, Soy)

I've always been a really, really big fan of Ms. Marvel - Carol Danvers is the kind of female superhero that's far more realistic than, say, Wonder Woman or Supergirl, and is way more interesting because he problems are more grounded. With Captain Marvel, Kelly Sue DeConnick throws away the 'Ms' and brings Captain America in a for a guest spot to give Carol his blessing to take the mantle of Captain that should have been hers years ago. While Steve Rogers' inclusion was touching in it's narrative reason, I feel split on why Marvel felt it had to include one of it's most iconic male characters in the first issue of a new series that's supposed to be focused on an awesome female character. On top of that, it feels like DeConnick doesn't really know who Carol Danvers is yet, which is something the writer will have to move past if she hopes to give Carol any sort of redeeming qualities in future issues.

GRADE: B-





Green Lantern Corps #11
(Tomasi, Pasarin, Hanna)

As much as I love Green Lantern, Peter J. Tomasi is taking Green Lantern Corps down a path that I'm not quite sure I'm all that invested in following."Alpha War" continues this month, but that name can be a bit misleading: the "war" is more of an Alpha Lantern hissy-fit that's gotten a bit too out of control, causing the Alphas to lock up all the Lanterns they can while Guy and John escape to the depths of Oa. What comes next is kind of silly, as John and Guy find the vast storage facility containing all the old decommissioned Manhunters, as well as a host of other biological experiments the Guardians partook in through the eons. While I'm sure having Guy and John reprogram these monstrosities to eliminate the Alpha Lanterns sounded good on paper, but it just comes off as pandering.

GRADE: D+



Nightwing #11
(Higgins, Guinaldo, Irwin)

While some critics have drawn comparisons between the "Court of Owls" storyline and the new arc from Kyle Higgins on Nightwing, stating that giving Dick Grayson his own "who rules the city?" situation is happening too close to the Batman's. This month, Higgins gives readers a bit more insight into Paragon's underworld army - and those in it who start to question their leader's sanity - as well as Detective Nie, one of Nightwing's more adement detractors over the course of the series. While Paragon struggles to retain supporters for his "righteous" cause, Nie reveals to Commissioner Gordon and Deputy Mayor Kavanaugh that one of the patrolmen supposedly murdered by Nightwing (see all the way back to Nightwing #1 for details) was his lover. Higgins uses this element to bring Nie and Paragon together at the end of the issue, but to what devices is still to be seen.

GRADE: B





Supergirl #11
(Green, Johnson, Asrar)

After ten issues of non-stop action, Michael Green and Mike Johnson take a break from throwing every conceivable threat Kara's way this issue and focus on the Supergirl's acclimation to Earth. After some beautifully drawn landscapes from around the world - as Kara learns more and more about her adopted world - Siobhan insists that her brother Tom take Kara out into the city and enjoy being a normal person for a while. Of course, what would a superhero comic be without a villain, so the nanosuited fellow from the end of last issue pops up to deal out some pain before Kara combines her x-ray and heat vision to basically lobotomize the man inside the suit. This fight with the unnamed assailant is less about introducing a new villain or plot, and more just another point in Green and Johnson's story about Kara's alien nature and how she fits into the human world.

GRADE: A

Monday, July 23, 2012

BLUE BEETLE #11

STORY: Tony Bedard
ART: Ig Guara and JP Mayer


One constant throughout Blue Beetle thus far has been the misunderstanding concerning the scarab attached to Jaime Reyes' back and whether he presents a threat to the human race. it doesn't help that the scarab is, in fact, a tool of an warmongering intergalactic cult known as the Reach, or that a few questionable pictures pinning Jaime as a violent menace have received worldwide media coverage. Add to that a piece of scarab getting lodged in Jaime's friend Paco - turning him into a bloodthirsty Reach solider - and you get one hell of a story about a kid just trying to understand what's happening to him.

If Jaime's predicaments sound familiar, they are. Much of how Tony Bedard tells Beetle's story is symbolic of normal, regular, everyday teenage issues. Now a part of his body, the Reach armor continues to surprise Jaime with new and unusual abilities, an element of this narrative that parallels the changing bodies of teenagers, however uncomfortable that is to type. Similarly, the pictures and video of Blue Beetle lashing out at innocent people has turned Jaime into an enemy of the state purely because of miscommunication and out-of-context situations, both sentiments of which almost any teenager has had to endure from their parents, school administrators, police, and adults in general. Lastly, the constant scarab "voice" in Jaime's head is representative of the many new elements of a teenager's life that influence his/her decisions and actions. There are a lot of other examples, too: no one wants to listen to Jaime, only control him; strained relationships with his friends due to his new responsibilities; the search for a mentor; and even running away from home. While some of these are more subtle than others, Bedard uses all the ammo he can to show how becoming a superhero isn't that different from being an awkward teenager.

This month brings the long-awaited (by me, at least) reunion of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle! While the Silver Age Beetle doesn't seem to be active in the 'New 52' (at least not yet), this team-up hearkens back to the days when Michael John Carter and Ted Kord would bumble around town, tripping over each other just trying to do good deeds and be remembered for them. Of course, DC's relaunch has been about reintroducing characters and relationships in a new way. For Blue Beetle, that means making Booster Gold at-odds with Jaime from the get-go. Booster gets the spotlight for the first few pages, appearing on a talk show where he chides the more conservative guest over bullying Beetle without hearing the boy's side of the story. And actually, their meeting starts out innocently enough; Jaime introduces himself and goes on about being grateful for Booster's desired friendship. That's all before Booster sucker punches him across the bay.

Booster reveals that he knows about the Reach, giving a little more credence to his violent outburst. But like most adults in this series, he basically refuses to listen to Jaime, opting instead to shoot first and ask questions later. Their fighting takes them across the city and into Washington Square Park where the citizens of New York City watch in horror as Booster Gold beats the Blue Beetle down. A pause in the fist-throwing lets Beetle attempt to explain his unorthodox situation to Booster while the people in the park listen in and start to see that a there's a scared, confused kid trapped in a suit of armor being framed for crimes he didn't commit or couldn't control.


Booster Gold knows about the Reach and is convinced Jaime is under it's control, yet is forced to stand down when the surrounding crowd, and Jaime's grandmother in particular, starts chastising the adult hero for beating up a kid. Lying through his teeth, Booster covers his tracks by claiming it was all a test to be a member of the JLI and giving Jaime a more open-minded chance to prove himself.


GRADE
B+

Sunday, July 22, 2012

SAGA #5

STORY: Brian K. Vaughan
ART: Fiona Staples

Science Fiction is a fickle mistress. With a fan base firmly entrenched in decades and decades of their favorite stories, it's often difficult for writers to come up with something truly original. In fact, most of the sci-fi books I've been reading recently are simply based on TV or film properties (see Space 1999, and Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2). Albeit, I'm making my own choices here, but before the debut of Saga, the last time I was truly surprised and "wow"ed by a sci-fi story was when I binge-read all the currently released Invincible trade paperbacks. Robert Kirkman has an affinity for 'alt sci-fi', and Brian K, Vaughan has been following suit with Saga.

While Vaughan spends an understandably large amount of time in this series focused on the Romeo and Juliet scenario between Marko and Alana, he also endeavors - especially in this and last issue - to focus on the tertiary characters he's introduced since issue one. Last month, the Will actually got more panel space with a trip to Sextillion and his subsequent liberation of a nine year old girl sex slave. This month, he's got to actually get off the planet, while Prince Robot IV gets the news that his wife is pregnant back home, and the Stalk gets caught between a rock and a hard spot.

Let's start with the Will. Last month, his stoic attitude was suddenly shaken when he was confronted with the option to take a child to bed and do whatever he wanted. It was a subtle nuance Vaughan had granted the Will - a character so ingrained in his work that he'd almost lost sight of his humanity. In a fit of rage, he murdered the secretary (pimp) who offers him the small girl before offering said girl her freedom. It was a touching and emotional moment that really gave the Will a lot more credence as a character going forth. Up until then, he could have left the narrative never to be seen again. In Saga #5, however, that nuance in the Will's personality morphs into a panicked, desperate fop-sweat when he's confronted by the girl's actual owner, who will only relinquish the child for the price of the remainder of her contract: $650,000 (or the equivalent to dollars in his universe). It's interesting how Vaughan has been building the Will up as this hardened bad ass, who's now breaking down - calling the Stalk for money, of all things - over the wellbeing of a small girl he just met. It shows how much Vaughan is invested in this series; how much he plans to shake things up as he goes.

Similarly, we get to see a new side of both Prince Robot IV and Marko this issue, as they each deal with marital and paternal issues that challenge them in different ways. IV gets a call from home from his wife, the Princess, who informs him that she's pregnant. It's a joyous moment that's sadly cut short by the Princess' reminder that the Robot King will not let IV return home until he kills the baby born of traitors. Whether or not Vaughan may have been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender a lot aside, IV's been a pretty big dick since the beginning, so it's nice to see that it's mainly because his father's an even bigger dick. Also interesting to point out is his enthusiasm when Princess reveals she's with child - an odd reaction for one with such deep-seeded father issues.

Marko and Alana are confronted by Landfall troops who initially attempt to take them prisoner before receiving termination orders. One quick shot at Alana and Marko rages out on them all. This is where Fiona Staples' art really, really shines. The fight sequence is breathtaking - Marko's motions are extremely fluid and the violence is stylized, but not gratuitous. Eventually, Marko's violent instincts take over and he starts muttering about killing all the Landfall soldiers. Before he can seal the deal, Alana shoots her husband, bringing him back to reality - much to his appreciation. When pushed to the edge, Marko breaks and the result is haunting. It feels like this might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Marko, or Wreathians in general.

It's not entirely clear how all of these plot lines will eventually intersect. The most obvious confrontation will be Marko and Alana's meeting with Robot IV somewhere down the line. The Will started off as a clear-cut enough character who's slowly changing into the wild card that doesn't really have a horse in this race yet, per se. However things pan out, it's sure to be amazing.

GRADE
A+

Friday, July 20, 2012

DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #11

STORY: James Robinson
ART: Bernard Chang

While the spotlight remains on his work over on Earth 2, James Robinson has assembled a fantastic trilogy of issues that focuses on Vandal Savage, one of DC's most brilliant and deadly villains. Mirroring the structure of Silence of the Lambs - not unlike many contemporary thriller stories involving serial killers - Robinson introduces Savage's daughter and hard-ass, Kassidy Sage, as a detective trying to take down a murderer imitating a killing spree her own father went on years earlier. While the narrative structure might be familiar, Robinson's style gives the relationship between Savage and Kass a thick tension that never really lets up.

In this final issue of the arc, the killer is revealed to be Steven Ward, the son of the detective to tracked down and arrested Vandal Savage all those years ago. Adam Ward was celebrated as a criminal justice mastermind, able to decrypt Savage's ancient methods and inhuman motives. For reasons unexplained - because it really isn't that important, Ward became physically deformed after Savage murders his father, developing bleach white skin and grotesque bird-like talons where hands should be. He blames Savage not only for the murder of his father, but also for the string of murders Ward himself was "forced" to commit in order to orchestrate Savage's leave from his prison cell. Ward's belief in his righteous cause blinds him to the truth of his situation - he's become a homicidal maniac.

Robinson's characterization of Kassidy Sage is nothing short of devoted. At the beginning of this arc, the reader is introduced to a strong female character that was suddenly faced with a situation that could have shattered her confidence and made her question her own morality. Instead, Robinson gives Kass an unyielding personality with stoicism that never breaks. Kassidy Sage is who Jodi Foster wishes she had been. It doesn't take a genius to see how popular forensic criminal science has become over the past decade (CSI, Cold Case, Law & Order, NCIS, etc.), and Robinson takes advantage of this fad, presenting traditional DC characters in a more familiar and attention-grabbing role that's sure to win over a few crime procedural fans.

DC Universe Presents exists to give lesser-known characters a bigger spotlight. And though Vandal Savage is hardly "lesser known", beyond this arc, he's only featured in the pages of Demon Knights, a title set centuries in the past. Robinson's fun romp into the arena of psychological thriller is just fun. It's not too original, hardly unique in it's narrative structure, and Savage is presented as a stereotypically remorseless killer (who believes he's been) gifted with immortality. Really, it comes down to Robinson's handling of each character and the relationships between them that really sell "Savage" as an excellent part of DC's 'New 52' universe.

GRADE
B+

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

JUSTICE LEAGUE #11

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Jonathan Glapion

The problem with writing for an ensemble is making each character interesting and a part of the story. This is hard enough to accomplish in film, TV, or even books, and it's even harder to do in a comic book such as Justice League. Not only does Geoff Johns feature each member of the League - at least a little bit - in nearly every issue, he's also been doing a fantastic job conveying each character's personality through their behavior while part of a team dynamic. Ever since DC relaunched it's entire line, a big complaint from many critics and fans alike has been Hal Jordan's brash and jerky behavior as opposed to his traditional 'All-American' personality that defined him for so many years. I'd like to argue that Hal Jordan was getting boring, and Johns has finally given Earth's preeminent Green Lantern a reason to be interested in him, even if that means loving to hate his asshole tendencies.

A big part of what makes Justice League so interesting to read, whether you think it's a good book or not, is that it presents each hero in circumstances out of their comfort zone. For Diana, it means working with others and compromising when it makes logical sense. Steve Trevor is hostage to Graves, and Diana wants to go after them alone, while Hal tried to talk her into sticking with the League and tracking down Graves together. Hal and Diana's face-off is great and gives a great deal more meaning to their working relationship. Us readers haven't seen much of the time between Darkseid's attack and this current Graves situation, which leaves a lot of room open for Johns to play around with each members' relationship with the others. "You've been dying for this, haven't you?" asks Hal to Diana, obviously rhetorically. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman apparently have some built-up tension that finally manages to break their respective patiences and they proceed to get into a fist fight that Graves somehow manages to broadcast across the globe. Of course, Hal's only the first one to stop Diana from making a mistake by going off alone, and soon, Superman is on the ground, too. Cyborg finally teleports the entire team north to David Graves' writing cabin, where they hope to find Graves himself as well as poor Steve Trevor. 



At the beginning of the issue, Graves goes to torment Tracy Trevor, Steve's sister, for some unexplained reason. Honestly, there doesn't seem to be any actual motive for Graves' visit other than to tell Tracy that he's going to kill her brother and that she should be grateful that she wont have to witness it. The League follows Graves' only to be berated by Tracy about their irresponsibility with her brother, not only professionally, but also intimately. While I understand that this scene facilitates Wonder Woman's eventual lashing-out at the other Leaguers, it really feels clumsy, like this scene came together at the last moment and inconsistencies - like the villain's reason for his actions? - were simply overlooked.



The problem with writing for an ensemble is making each character interesting and a part of the story. This is hard enough to accomplish in film, TV, or even books, and it's even harder to do in a comic book such as Justice League. Not only does Geoff Johns feature each member of the League - at least a little bit - in nearly every issue, he's also been doing a fantastic job conveying each character's personality through their behavior while part of a team dynamic. Ever since DC relaunched it's entire line, a big complaint from many critics and fans alike has been Hal Jordan's brash and jerky behavior as opposed to his traditional 'All-American' personality that defined him for so many years. I'd like to argue that Hal Jordan was getting boring, and Johns has finally given Earth's preeminent Green Lantern a reason to be interested in him, even if that means loving to hate his asshole tendencies.


A big part of what makes Justice League so interesting to read, whether you think it's a good book or not, is that it presents each hero in circumstances out of their comfort zone. For Diana, it means working with others and compromising when it makes logical sense. Steve Trevor is hostage to Graves, and Diana wants to go after them alone, while Hal tried to talk her into sticking with the League and tracking down Graves together. Hal and Diana's face-off is great and gives a great deal more meaning to their working relationship. Us readers haven't seen much of the time between Darkseid's attack and this current Graves situation, which leaves a lot of room open for Johns to play around with each members' relationship with the others. "You've been dying for this, haven't you?" asks Hal to Diana, obviously rhetorically. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman apparently have some built-up tension that finally manages to break their respective patiences and they proceed to get into a fist fight that Graves somehow manages to broadcast across the globe. Of course, Hal's only the first one to stop Diana from making a mistake by going off alone, and soon, Superman is on the ground, too. Cyborg finally teleports the entire team north to David Graves' writing cabin, where they hope to find Graves himself as well as poor Steve Trevor. 


Not even Graves can describe himself in a simple way...
At the beginning of the issue, Graves goes to torment Tracy Trevor, Steve's sister, for some unexplained reason. Honestly, there doesn't seem to be any actual motive for Graves' visit other than to (again, inexplicably) give Tracy his abridged life story and power set origin, then tell her that he's going to kill her brother and that she should be grateful that she wont have to witness it...What?  The League follows Graves only to be berated by Tracy about their irresponsibility with her brother professionally and also intimately. While I understand that this scene facilitates Wonder Woman's eventual lashing-out at the other Leaguers, it really feels clumsy, like this scene came together at the last moment, so  inconsistencies - like the villain's reason for his actions? - were simply overlooked.


On top of that, Johns takes even more time - later in the issue - to finish giving us Grave's origin story. At the end of it all, Graves just feels like a villain that's too forced for his own good. Darkseid: evil alien warlord whose search for the anti-life equation leads him to become an intergalactic conqueror. See? One sentence to describe one of the most iconic Superman villains of all time. Graves: author whose family died as an indirect result of a Justice League-related battle, so he seeks out haunted gods who will  fuse him with the spirits of his dead family, thus giving him a weird, alien-lizard look...and he can use his powers(?) to make people see their dead family members, and take away their energy, I guess. If that sentence was as painful to read as it was to write, you'll understand how silly of a character Graves really seems.


I like Justice League. You get to see a different side of your favorite heroes and, more often than not, it's exciting and fun to read, which is the real goal of all comic books. "The Villain's Journey" started out strong, with a path that had the potential to produce an awesome new nemesis for the League. Instead, we got Graves, a whiney writer who has deluded himself into believing the Justice League is responsible for his family's eventual death.

SCORE
7.7/10

UPCOMING REVIEWS (JULY 18-24)

Avengers vs. X-Men #8 of 12
(Somebody, Somebody Else)
- Apparently, Namor goes apeshit crazy on Wakanda in the X-Men's search for Hope. Andy Kubert steps in for pencils on this issue, which is great because it's Andy Kubert, but also a shame because Olivier Coipel's work has been so magnificent over the past few issues.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #2 of 4
(Cooke, Conner)
- Darwyn Cooke's biggest effort right now is Minutemen, but that doesn't mean he's slacking off with Silk Spectre, a series that started off with a pretty great sense of nostalgia and teenage wanderlust that encompassed the 1960s so well. Now that our young heroine is on the run, it's San Francisco or bust.

Blue Beetle #11
(Bedard, Guara)
- Booster Gold and Blue Beetle team up again...for the first time! In their official 'New 52' team-up, Booster comes to the aid of poor Jaime Reyes, who has been labeled a menace to society by the media at large!

DC Universe Presents #11
(Robinson, Chang)
- It's the exciting conclusion to "Savage"! Kassidy Sage's reinforcements are dead, Vandal Savage is (technically) a fugitive again, and the serial killer is out for blood! James Robinson has done a fantastic job giving Vandal Savage his 'New 52' remake.

Justice League #11
(Johns, Lee)
- Graves has the Justice League at his mercy, and there doesn't seem to be any way out! "The Villain's Journey" continues as the League tries to defeat the man with nothing to lose. Geoff Johns' "Shazam" back-up also promises to get a bit meatier this month with the debut of Black Adam!

Nightwing #11
(Higgins, Barrows)
- "The Republic of Tomorrow, Today" continues as Nightwing faces off against Paragon, yet another whack-job claiming to be Gotham City's true son. When will these silly villains learn?

Saga #5
(Vaughan, Staples)
- Brian K. Vaughan's epic sci-fi opera keeps getting better and after last month's horrifying visit to planet Sextillion, this issue spotlights the robot Prince, which should be a nice change of pace.

Supergirl #11
(Green, Johnson, Asrar)
- Michael Green and Mike Johnson just wont leave poor Kara alone! Supergirl finally starts fitting in a bit and she's attacked by yet another villain. And she gets new powers! This is still one of the better series DC currently offers. So if you're not reading it, you definitely should be.

4-Sentence Reviews
- Captain Marvel #1
- Green Lantern Corps #11
- Wonder Woman #11

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

4-SENTENCE REVIEWS (JULY 11-17)

AvX: VS #4 of 6
(Remender, Andrews, Peterson)

Last month's lackluster issue of AvX:VS really made me want to stop picking up this series - Marvel's penchant for pitting oddly-matched characters against one another has led to a lot of ridiculous panels that don't have a lot of substance behind them, even for this skimpy series. AvX: VS #4 tries to right this path by giving readers one obscure match-up, between Daredevil and Psylocke, and one 'big league' bout; Thor vs. Emma Frost. Daredevil and Psylocke's fight makes for a lot of cool ninja action and dour, speechless panels that are actually somewhat indicative of how these two people fight, while the Emma Frost/Thor match, on the other hand, feels like a demigod slapping fit that's not even drawn very well. The worst part of the issue is the panel that's angled behind Emma as she delivers a high kick to Thor and giving the entire audience a very clear shot of her lady section.

GRADE: C+






Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2 of 6
(Cooke)

Darwyn Cooke's fantastic Minutemen series has been leading the pack of Before Watchmen titles, combining amazing retro art with a phenomenal story that simultaneously gives readers some clean-cut history of these characters as well as intimate plot details that flesh out a group of heroes that was barely covered in the original 12-issue run of Watchmen. Disagreement over the team's focus becomes the focal point of Minutemen #2, with half the team dedicated to their cause, while the other half just wants to bask in the limelight. Silhouette, Nite Owl, and Mothamn track down a serial child molester, while Captain Metropolis and Hood Justice's sadistic homosexual relationship is highlighted, all while Comedian gets in an argument with Dollar Bill over the morality of making one's way in the world, no matter what the costs. While the decision to intercut a homosexual relationship (with dark, dark overtones) with half the team's search for a sick, twisted child molester might have been a bit half-baked, Cooke's masterful development of Minutemen keeps it at the top of the pile, making me want to come back each month for more.

GRADE: A


New Avengers #28
(Bendis, Deodato, Beredo)

While New Avengers has technically been crossing over with Marvel's "Avengers vs. X-Men" series since April, the last three issues have been set centuries in the past, recounting a time when the Phoenix took an Iron Fist as it's host. Since all that wrapped up last month, Brian Michael Bendis brings New Avengers into the present and focuses on the incarceration of Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye, characters who have all had a major impact on their respective teams. The three Avengers are being held on Utopia when Hawkeye uses his dinner plate to break out, free Luke and Jessica, then mount a daring escape that sees them take down three of the Phoenix Five before they hijack a nearby speedboat. The revelation that their escape was simply a virtual reality simulation created by Danger is chilling and shows just how far Cyclops and the other Phoenix's are willing to go to break the spirits of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

GRADE: B+



Spider-Men #3 of 5
(Bendis, Pichelli)

If last month's issue of Spider-Men was a whole lotta hardcore fan service, Spider-Men #3 is all about catering to the grander audience with the inclusion of Spider-Man's rogues gallery all appearing at once. Mysterio's abilities seem to have grown, and now his 'hallucinations' actually pack a punch, much to the chagrin of Peter Parker and Miles Morales. While much of the issue is dedicated to this brawl, the real meat of the issue comes when the battle ends and Peter strikes out on his own, hoping to find some vestige of personal familiarity in this oddly similar world. Of course, Peter finally makes his way to Ultimate Peter Parker's house in Queens to find his Aunt May, a scene that couldn't be more touching if Brian Michael Bendis wanted it to be.

GRADE: A

Monday, July 16, 2012

RESURRECTION MAN #11

STORY: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
ART: Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina

If you keep up with "The Endless Reel", you know how much I adore Resurrection Man. In a universe full of interconnecting narratives and convoluted history, Mitch Shelley's adventures represent what comics used to be - a rip-roaring good time full of superpowers, good vs. evil, and a damn fine mystery to solve. That being said, the past couple of issues have floundered somewhat, unable to make any significant progress in uncovering Shelley's mysterious past at all. Of course, Shelley's rotating power set is also a draw to the book, but he's had the same shadow powers for those same few issues, so it's starting to get a bit stale. Resurrection Man #11 comes back around and brings some resolution to at least a one ongoing plotline dealing with the Transhuman, an old villain looking to help Shelley figure out his past.


It's nice to see a character experiencing a relatable form of amnesia; it seems Mitch's memory loss came from more normal circumstances. He begins to remember more about his former life the more he experiences in familiar territory. Too often, amnesia in comic books is caused by magic or super powers, meaning the solution to reversing the memory loss comes from said magic or super powers. In Shelley's case, it may have just been a bump on the head.


Kim Rebecki has been an ally to Shelley for some time, using her empathic powers to understand how things and people work simply through touch. This month, her power reveals a giant skyscraper hidden in plain sight at the Soder Cola factory in Viceroy, South Carolina - Mitch's hometown. With cloaking technology in place, the skyscraper appears invisible to the citizens of Viceroy, allowing the organization that turned Mitch into the Resurrection Man to operate in secret while using the Soder factory as a cover.


A large portion of the issue is devoted to Mitch and Kim fending off an attack by Director Hooker, the man responsible for Mitch's arrest warrant. After locating the Transhuman, Mitch and Kim attempt to free the old man before he reveals his betrayal - his is a super villain, after all. Honestly, it's a bit of a let down, as much of Resurrection Man's run has been dedicated to Mitch and Kim tracking down the Transhuman, someone they believed to be a friend. Of course, it's not out of the ordinary for Mitch to have such bad luck. Mitch is killed this issue, bringing an end to the 'shadow master' powers and introducing his 'eye laser' ability - similar to that of Cyclops' optic blasts, but more lightning-esque and less controlled.


What started out as one of my favorite series in DC's 'New 52' has quickly become stale, possibly a reason for it's cancellation. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have fantastic storytelling ability, but it feels like they don't know what to do with Mitch Shelley. There seemed to be a focus for the first six issues, but recent months have yielded a lot of fighting without much substance. And while nothing's wrong with a fight sequences every once in a while to break up the narrative, using confrontations as a means of plot advancement doesn't work if they don't advance anything!


GRADE
C

BATMAN AND ROBIN #11

STORY: Peter J. Tomasi
ART: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Keith Champagne, and Dustin Nguyen

This week at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Scott Lobdell revealed that Tim Drake went straight from a regular kid - with a knack for detective work - to Red Robin, without actually spending any time as Batman's official sidekick. This change sent waves through the comic book community, most of them negative. Tim Drake is definitely as popular - if not more so - as Dick Grayson, so it's odd that DC would so easily let Lobdell change continuity all willy-nilly. The reason I bring up this revamp is that Tim is still included in Peter J. Tomasi's "War of the Robins" story that's been the best part of Batman and Robin the past two months, even though he (now!) was never technically a Robin.

Damian takes his fight to Red Hood this issue, and DC has labeled it in promotional materials as the beginning of the newest Robin's quest to defeat all the former ones, even though he technically did beat Tim Drake last month in a battle of morality and ethical dilemmas. Perhaps this is DC's attempt to clean up the Robin retcon by saying Tim's encounter with Damian wasn't an actual fight that falls under the classification of "War of the Robins". But that seems a bit silly.

Nonetheless, Red Hood's turn is here. Jason Todd returns to his Gotham apartment, exhausted, only to find himself ambushed by Damian. Batman's son truly is a great character. What could have simply been a new Robin content to live a life of servitude under his father's wing has become a complex ten-year-old child leading a life of someone thrice his age. This facet of Damian was explored throughout the first eight issues of Batman and Robin, as Tomasi looked to show that Robin has problems and issues more akin to weathered assassins than his peers playing in schoolyards. Of course, Damin is 10 years old, so he's still got some insecurities that come with that age. One of which happens to be an inferiority complex when it comes to his mantle as Robin.


Damian Wayne is Bruce's only biological son, but the man has two other sons who he feels more connected with. Damian's dilemma isn't an uncommon one for children raised by a single parent - he's figuring out how to manage a relationship with the absent parent. And in this case, Damian feels that in order to prove himself to his father, he must defeat Bruce's former surrogate children.


Unlike last month, Tomasi spends a majority of this issue focused on Terminus. This slowly decaying villain has sent out a cadre of super-powered thugs to brand as many Gotham citizens as possible with Batman's symbol. Terminus has managed to turn the city's symbol of hope (no matter how dark and twisted that hope may be) into one of fear...again. At one point, Batman's just standing in a plaza, surrounded by buildings all triggered to explode at the same time. "Leave my city ALONE!" screams Batman as he has a hundred million times before. Tomasi is taking the easy way out, making Gotham the scapegoat in this pissing match riled up by Terminus for reasons unapparent so far. Sure, Tomasi threw us a bone last month with some cryptic flashbacks into Terminus' life, but they did little to give meaning to this villain's actions. All we know is that Termy sees himself as Gotham's true son and seeks to knock Batman off his high-and-mighty pedestal.


With two plot lines running simultaneously, Tomasi should be focusing on "War of the Robins", a narrative that actually has a purpose and can give real insight to Batman's various sidekicks throughout the years - it's a character-driven plot that has a lot more potential. Terminus' plot to make the city his own is one that has been done to death for the last sixty years of Batman's history, and it feels like more of a support story that's getting too much limelight.


GRADE
C+

Thursday, July 12, 2012

COMIC-CON!

Hey there!

Here's a post about COMIC-CON!

Because this is a comic book related site!

This post is pretty much mandatory.

The thing is, I run "The Endless Reel" by myself, and I couldn't go to Comic-Con this year.

And there's sooooo much information flying out of that convention center, I'd be writing a new article every few hours, and honestly, I have other things to do today and tomorrow. Like work.

That being said, I have read some stuff that looks interesting.

I've been at work all day and honestly can't think of the cool stuff I just read 20 minutes ago.

More than likely, I'll post an article or two near the end of the week listing some highlights as well as some of my favorite moments from Comic-Con 2012. If I had more resources, I would totally have done some more comprehensive Comic-Con coverage, cuties...(I did it for the alliteration of it all!)

I'll be continuing my regular coverage as the week goes on, so stay tuned!


- Jay

SUPERBOY #11

STORY: Scott Lobdell (Plot) and Tom DeFalco (Scripts)
ART: R.B. Silva and Rob Lean

I don't know why Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco are so intent on making Superboy such a difficult character to write. Not only did they take Kon-El's original clone backstory and make it so convoluted that it's mostly just a blur of 'super secret organization' gobbledygook, they're moving forward with a characterization that makes Superboy sound (and act) like a HUGE dick. That being said, Superboy #11 continues an upward trend of overall quality that started last month, which is interesting seeing as Lobdell penned last issue all by himself, while DeFalco is back to scripting duties this month.

Apparently, some time has passed since the Titans were transported to New York City by Danny the Alley, and Superboy has his own penthouse now, complete with weird, random antiques and art pieces that make him look like some rich, foppish trust fund baby with too much time on his hands. This seems like a missed opportunity for DeFalco - glossing over an major part of Superboy's very young life like meeting a regular person person for the first time. Kon-El takes some time to tell his visiting guest, Bunker, all about his new landlord and how he robbed (ahem, borrowed from) a bank for personal funds. It's scenes like these that make me want to ask Lobdell and DeFalco how they plan to compensate for the errors in their narrative. If Superboy is supposed to have collective knowledge that was pumped into his head since he was created, how was it never explained that robbing banks is wrong? If Superboy knows that messenger bags are fashionable, he's got to know that bank robberies are faux pas.

It seems like DeFalco often uses Kon-El's origins as a clone to explain his misunderstanding of the real world. Unfortunately, scenes from early issues will prove that, even though their endgame was to make Superboy a weapon, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. attempted to give their clone a bit of real-world experience through psychological manipulation.  In so facto, basic ideals of right and wrong must have been ingrained, otherwise he could never have known that hurting people was wrong. "Money's a thing - you can't hurt it," says Superboy like it's no big thing. What's supposed to sound naive just sounds pretentious and snooty.

Superboy #11 also brings about the dreaded 'S' tattoo that whining fans got their panties in a bunch over when the 'New 52' started last year. At the time, Kon-El was wearing a black tank top with a pencilled Superman logo duct-taped to his back, which may have made the tattoo seem all the more ridiculous. Now, it doesn't feel so forced. In actuality, Bunker and Superboy's visit to the tattoo parlor is one of the more grounded parts of the issue. Bunker explains that Kon needs to feel a connection with his symbol, the only thing that is part of him now. It sounds sappy when I write it (and it very well might be a lot sappier than I'm interpreting), but the friendship between Bunker and Superboy feels more natural and organic than almost any interactions in the first nine issues of Superboy.


Superboy's relative age becomes more and more apparent when new villain Detritus starts attacking the city. Kon feels like he's being taken advantage of - as the team's powerhouse player - whenever a "big bad" attacks. All he wants is a more normal life, something Bunker explains is "boring!" While this sentiment of normality might work for Peter Parker or Jaime Reyes, nothing up to this point has given readers the impression that Superboy wants to live a normal life. Why would he? He's a super-powerful telekinetic clone of Superman. Why be normal?

GRADE
B-

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BATMAN #11

STORY: Scott Snyder
ART: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

This month, Scott Snyder wraps up "City of Owls", the mega-arc that has spanned all eleven current issues of Batman as well as all the other Bat-books during the "Night of the Owls" crossover in May. It's difficult to explain just how significant the Cour of Owls has become in less than a year. While (pretty much) every other book is showcasing character history, new threats, or reimagined ideas, Snyder has built a new entity in the DC universe akin - in narrative scope - to the Green Lantern Corps or the Legion of Superheroes. The Court is now a major player in the going-ons of more than just Batman, and that's a remarkable achievement. DC is so invested in the Court affecting the future, that it's debuting Talon - a new ongoing series based on the Court of Owls - as part of the "Third Wave" of titles slated for a September premier. Along with last month's revelation about Bruce Wayne's younger brother, Snyder has truly made a significant impact on the DC universe.


Batman #11 is split into to distinct acts: Batman vs. Owlman, and Bruce's epilogue-y lament about the Court. While Snyder's inter-character dynamic has been phenomenal thus far, he slips a bit here with Owlman's monologue. The first 15 pages are dedicated to Lincoln March (I'm going to call him that because it sounds cooler than Thomas Wayne Jr.) and his issues with Bruce, his father, and Gotham City at-large. After a few pages, March's angry rant starts sounding whiney and pathetic. The whole speech is supposedly meant to give the readers a sense of how sad March's life has been. Unfortunately, condensing this aspect of the arc to a single issue makes it come across as a little disingenuous. March has spent years and years hating Bruce, so having a few choice words for his older brother wouldn't be that abnormal, but to seemingly have an entire speech memorized - one that has an ascending and descending flow - whilst dragging another person through the sky is a bit far-fetched, even for Batman.

Which brings me to my second big gripe with their battle. March's Owlman suit gives him flight abilities, so he jets around Gotham with Bruce flailing behind him connected to some tether. At one point, March shoots into the sky and dangled Bruce in front of a passenger plane turbine engine. It's a dramatically drawn scene, but the reality of having a conversation only inches away from a furiously spinning plane engine is that it couldn't possibly happen. The sheer noise emitted from the engine would drown out anything else. While this might seem trivial on some level, it's a sloppy mistake that should have been changed. There wasn't any meaningful reason why March decides to use a plane as a torture device, so there's no reason why the scene couldn't have been made to be more realistic. Fortunately, Act II fares a lot better than the Owlman fight.


Bruised and (mostly) broken, Bruce is visited by Dick Grayson. Their awkward conversation stems from their last meeting, in which Bruce bitch-slapped a Court of Owls gold tooth cap out of Dick's mouth. Dick has a vivid memory of this, while Bruce tries to breeze right past this subject and into his feelings about the Court. While I normally don't condone pages filled with speech bubbles, it's nice to see Bruce out of the suit and a little more relaxed than usual. Snyder recognizes that he's been putting old Bats through the ringer for some time now, and that a little downtime is needed. That being said, Batman's downtime is all about debriefing. Bruce understands that Gotham isn't his - or Batman's, for that matter - and that he can't know everything about the city he thought was familiar - "Part of me was doing [the Gotham expansion initiative] to have more lookouts. More bases for Batman rather than the city itself. But I see now that I was wrong." Snyder deftly handles this scene, giving an honest portrayal of a man finally understands his place in his own world.


The Court of Owls is poised to be a major part of the DC universe moving forward. Scott Snyder has done what many writers only dream of doing - making a significant impact on a character and their universe. If all comic books were this good, there would be a whole new mainstream appreciation for this form.


GRADE
 A-