Thursday, May 30, 2013

Earth 2 Annual #1 Review

(w) James Robinson
(p) Cafu and Julius Gopez
(i) Cafu and Cam Smith

What should have been a knock out of the park for James Robinson turned out to be a rather wishy-washy issue with very little connecting the various elements. Earth 2 Annual #1 was advertised in a big way because it would include the first appearance from Earth 2's brand-new Batman. And that's pretty much the only element of the issue promoted. Which is unfortunate because the new Batman bit was easily the weakest part of the issue. 

I like that Robinson has the freedom to do almost whatever he wants on this title (which makes his recent departure announcement all the more frustrating), and creating a whole new Batman is interesting for this world. What I don't like is how little we know. We get to see the new Bats in the field. We see him helping other wonders from the shadows. We ever get some of his thoughts. But that's it. There's nothing explaining his motives, who he is, how he became to agile and strong, where he got a Batman suit and what his expectations are for being a masked vigilante. I wouldn't have a problem with all of these unanswered questions if the new Bats wasn't plastered on the cover like it's all about him.

The World Army aspect of Earth 2 hasn't been focused on much, simply because Robinson was playing with Green Lantern, Flash, and Hawkgirl. Earth 2 Annual #1 goes more in-depth with the WA's going-ons, and even introduces a brand new wonder that's sure to be part of the Justice Society whenever that gets around to forming.

The real problem with Earth 2 Annual #1 is how disjointed it feels. Yes, it's supposed to act as an "interlude" in between arcs here, but the drastic shift of focus from the pre-JSA to the wonders employed by the World Army is too abrupt with absolutely no transition. Usually, this isn't a big problem. Here, though, since Robinson is building the entire world, he's got to make the world more cohesive. Right now, we have a lot of different elements that may or may not fit together.

I like Earth 2 Annual #1. It's a fun read. Regular readers of the series will appreciate how much James Robinson is pouring into Earth 2 from all angles. That being said, it's really only for regular readers.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spotlight: X-Men #1

(w) Brian Wood
(p/i) Olivier Coipel
(i) Mark Morales

I don't know what I was expecting.


I had absolutely no idea how to feel about Brian Wood's all-female relaunch of X-Men. Well, I had one. I felt (and still feel) that it should be titled X-Women. But that's beside the point.

X-Men #1 is a surprisingly awesome book. It starts out slow, and unless your generally familiar with the X-Men lore as of late...and into the 1990s, you might have a harder time jumping on. But that's to be expected in this modern age of continuity and time travel travesties. Wood has assembled all the most bad-ass female X-Men for a squad whose mission is to stop the destruction of all life in the universe.

While it doesn't sound like a terribly original plot, the threat itself that really drives this title. John Sublime was created by Grant Morrison during his run on New X-Men. He's the embodiment of a sentient bacteria that's been infecting living things since the beginning of life on Earth. Though he became somewhat buried amongst Morrison's numerous high-concept ideas for the X-Men at the time, Sublime represented a deep-seeded fear of someone or something having control over us as humans. He was a powerful character, not only literally, but also literarily.

**SPOILERS, HOOOOO!!!!!!!!!**

And now we learn Sublime has a sister.

Unfortunately, she's not like her terrestrial brother who chose to nurture life on Earth. Sublime reveals that their ancient, bacteria-level, primordial war resulted in his choosing Earth and casting his sister out into space to fend for herself and hope for evolution. And now she's all grown up and angry as hell.

Wood's focus on family comes through with this brother/sister relationship, as well as through Jubilation Lee's return to Westchester County to seek help from the X-Men. Though I detest narration boxes, Wood employs them well here with Jubilee, keeping it light and fast-moving to avoid lingering on something too long and sounding corny.

Jubilee has been out of the picture long enough for Wood to bring her back without having to do much by the way of quick character development. It's not like she's Wolverine and Wood's got to establish that this is, in fact, Wolverine by making him say "Bub" and look menacing while discussing an ethically impossible scenario. This is Jubilee, a character whose been out of rotation for a long time and needs to be treated accordingly. Fortunately, Wood does this by keeping her panel time relatively small. Though the infant she carries is the focal point of the issue, we don't get an intimate look at Jubilee. She's been away for a reason and now, she's wary of returning.

I LOVE Olivier Coipel's artwork. There's not much more to say there.

These days, I find myself enjoying stuff I often scoff at when reading solicitations. It's a bad habit I'm trying to drop, but it's also a testament to how early previews sometimes skew opinions before the book has a chance to really make it's own case. I made a choice to invest myself in #1's when I got back into comics with the 'New 52' and Avengers vs. X-Men. I did this so the comic could prove itself without my preconceived notions getting in the way. X-Men #1 makes my case.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Week in Revue (May 29-June 4, 2013)

It's a fifth week, so things are a bit slow. I'll only be covering three issues here on The Comic Book Revue this week, as I've started splitting my time between this blog, my work for Pop Matters, and reviews for DC Comics News, which is a BRAND NEW site dedicated to all things DC Comics.

Also, make sure to check out The Comic Book Revue later this week for a...drumroll please...A PODCAST! That's right: I'll be taking the plunge and recording my first ever podcast about various comics, news, and happenings. More information will come as I figure it out :/

------- Spotlight
X-Men #1
(w) Brian Wood
(a) Olivier Coipel


------- DC Reviews
Earth 2 Annual #1
(w) James Robinson
(a) Yildiray Cinar, CAFU, and Julius Gopez


------- Marvel Reviews
Captain America #7
(w) Rick Remender
(w) John Romita Jr.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Justice League Dark #20

(w) Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
(a) Mikel Janin and Vicente Cifuentes


Last month's "WTF" edict demanded that each title in the 'New 52' drop some big revelation or surprise somewhere in their April issue. For the most part, writers were able to organically integrate this concept into their current narrative. But for some, it felt very forced. Like Earth 2 #11's inclusion of Mister Miracle even though he wasn't actually part of the story at all. Or how the revelation that Eclipso was behind the scheme to destroy House Amethyst in Sword of Sorcery #7 was a surprise to no one who actually read the series. 

Justice League Dark #19 guest starred not only Swamp Thing -- which made sense, as Swampy is a Dark-themed character -- but also The Flash. Unfortunately, it was all of a one-page spread. This was an instance where the "WTF" moment felt very forced, like editorial knew Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes were gearing up to use Flash in Justice League Dark #20, and just wanted to make #19 all the more attention-grabbing, just for sales. But that's all just my own beef with DC higher management.

Justice League Dark #20 is a fantastic issue. I wasn't expecting it not to be, as Lemire and Fawkes have been delivering amazing issue after amazing issue for months now. I'm always just a bit skeptical of guest appearances that seem too good to be true; like Flash working with the JLD.

Barry Allen is unique in the 'New 52' as one of the only characters who is written so consistently across every title he's featured in -- the Flash is always his good-natured, generous, laid-back self, whichever book you're reading. That's rare these days as many writers simply use guest appearances as a plot device instead of deriving real character relationships from the experience. Barry isn't there just to be fast: He provides a significantly different perspective on how to be a hero. Even after John Constantine berates him in front of everyone else, he still stands up for the surly mage when his compatriots turn against him.

If you're not reading Justice League Dark, you should be. I know that's a cliche thing to say in comic book reviews, but hear me out. It checks off a lot of boxes on the "who would like this?" list. It's a supernatural series (1). It includes well-known heroes like Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna (2). It's consistently one of the best titles DC publishes each month (3). It's an integral part of this summer's "Trinity War" crossover (4). Mikel Janin's artwork is superb (5). That's five good reasons to read this book.


Teen Titans #20

Where does one find such a stylish bucket to wear?
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Eddy Barrows and Patrick Zircher

Scott Lobdell never ceases to confound me.

Why is Red Robin on the cover wearing a weird bucket helmet and acting like a super villain? Maybe it would make sense if RR was acting out of character for more than a single panel per issue. I think Lobdell truly believes that the readers of Teen Titans understand what's going on from issue to issue, so he doesn't feel the need to actually explain things like Red Robin being an enemy on the cover. Or why Psimon is around at all

Now, the cover being a total misdirect is somewhat forgivable because that's simply an industry-wide problem, not specifically a Lobdell one. But the cover conveys the idea that Red Robin is not himself, that there's someone or something pulling the strings of his mind and, thus, manipulating the Titans in some way. As I mentioned earlier, prior issues have reduced this confusing (yet seemingly important) plot string to a single panel, hoping readers wont forget very forgettable events. Teen Titans #20, however, features Red Robin on the cover, standing over a defeated team of Titans, and sporting some retro-looking, glowing red eyes.

Is there any insight to this change in RR? At all?



About one third of the way in, Lobdell decides it's time we all learned about Trigon and his family of demons by way of a shoehorned history lesson from Trigon himself...talking to his sons. Doesn't sound too odd, does it? Except that why would Trigon be explaining his life and intentions to his OWN CHILDREN!?!?!?!?! There's no reason for ol' six-eyes to wax poetic to his own kin because they already know who he is. I feel like I shouldn't even need to say these things, like Lobdell is purposely going out of his way to make this comic book series nigh unreadable.

Teen Titans #20 is a joke. It's just another issue in this series that depresses me. I think back to the days when Geoff Johns wrote Teen Titans, and I wonder what that Superboy and Wonder Girl would think of their aimless 'New 52' counterparts. Lobdell has eroded almost anything that made these characters likable, sacrificing any modicum of relatability in the name of ridiculous plot advancement.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Young Avengers #5

(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Jamie McKelvie

Origin stories tend to either be very, very cool, or very, very lame. I don't know why, nor do I pretend to understand why. It just seems to happen that way.

Even before this conclusion issue, it was evident that Kieron Gillen's team of Young Avengers was a whole different beast from Alan Heinberg's from back in the day. And I was prepared for that. I was ready for my favorite franchise to look and feel completely unique from what I'd come to love. But I'd read Phonogram so again, I knew I was in for something different. I wasn't, however, ready for just how awesome it could be. 

Gillen's opening arc for the second volume of Young Avengers is one of the most intriguing and interesting takes on the "getting the band together" comic book trope I've ever read. These characters are teenagers and they act like it. What kids are voluntarily putting their lives on the line instead of being glued to their cell phones and tablets? Well, if any would, it would be the ones who are superheroes. Gillen understands that normal teenage behavior doesn't go away when the superheroics kick in. These kids are always thinking about who they are and what they want, just like any other normal kid, The difference is that the Young Avengers have to juggle interdimensional monstrosities.


These kids don't want to be a team. This simple fact is what makes this vision of the Young Avengers so appealing -- by the end of Young Avengers #5, the only reason they all decide to stay together is to physically prevent an otherworldly invasion. It's not because they all necessarily like each other. In fact, everyone hates Loki mostly, and Miss America doesn't trust anyone else. Just like normal teenagers, their relationships are complicated. And just like eighteen-year-olds in real life, they have to recognize when to grow and step up to the challenge. This is as good at time as any.


Spotlight: The Green Team - Teen Trillionaires #1

(w) Art Baltazar and Franco     (a) Ig Guara and JP Mayer

When DC announced The Movement and The Green Team as two sides of the socioeconomic coin it was intriguing, but also felt forced and dependent on the current economic climate. Dating yourself to a certain timeframe is never a good idea. I'm sure you can go back through DC issues in the early 90s and find all sorts of examples of how that's true. Fortunately, these two titles seem less invested in the economic instability so much as they're focused on how social hierarchy affects the superhero community.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #1 gives readers a well-paced and detailed look at just what this campy, small concept from the 1970s has evolved into now that it's set in the inflated 21st century. I did not imagine I would enjoy this series at all.

The Movement was alright, but had a messy first issue, and while I'm not some Robin Hood character, I just could not see myself getting into a book like The Green Team that glorified extreme wealth to such a degree. Fortunately, Art Baltazar and Franco deliver a story that's about character development, creating a solid premise, and showing skeptics like me why this might just be the next great DC title.

Reader proxy characters are meant to mirror the audience's own lack of knowledge while reading a comic book. Prince Mohammed Qahtanii fills that role pretty blatantly, but it's clumsy because the whole situation is clumsy. Mo -- as he's referred to throughout the issue, and, I'm guessing, going forward -- is reaching out. He's trying to make a name for himself outside his father's considerable shadow by attending a Green Team PoxPo (Pop-Up Expo) to find the next best technology to take home and prove he's worthy to follow in his father's steps and rule. 

Most of us aren't royalty with our paternal relationships on the line, but any new reader is just like Mo in that we're reaching out. For Mo, it's to the PoxPo, for readers, it's The Green Team #1. We're taking a chance on something that sounds ridiculous and extravagant at first glance, but becomes more enticing and interesting the more we learn. Prince Mo as a metaphor for the reader works because he asks all the right questions and has the same flaws as any other kid his age; he likes to tweet. Not all readers of The Green Team #1 are going to be teenage social media machines, but it still grounds Mo as an organic character who I'm genuinely interested in reading about.


The basic concept is that the Green Team, led by mega-trillionaire Commodore Murphy, is a group of young, super-rich teenagers from all walks of wealth who come together to find the most advanced and cutting-edge technology available, buy it, fund it, and reap the rewards. Seems simple, right?

But it's not this premise, per se, that makes The Green Team #1 work so well. More, it's how Baltazar and Franco find the effects of such a concept and how it affects those involved. Murphy and his other Team are in a unique position that requires unique ways of thinking about how they live their lives (not ethically, but logistically). In fact, all of these mega-wealthy teenagers are forced to find new ways to be the Green Team all the time because they are what is desirable: youth and wealth. The Team is the extremity of this trope.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #1 is an awesome issue. It's fun, it's intriguing, it's solid. Baltazar and Franco have found an amazing way to tell this story without every single character sounding completely pretentious, which is a feat. Ig Guara's artwork is a welcome addition after his brief absence after the cancellation of Blue Beetle. This is a buy. Never thought I'd say it, but it's a buy.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Week in Revue (May 22-28, 2013)

------- Spotlight
The Green Team #1
(w) Art Baltazar and Franco     (a) Ig Guara

------- DC Reviews
Justice League Dark #20
(w) Jeff Lemire     (a) Mikel Janin

Teen Titans #20
(w) Scott Lobdell     (a) Eddy Barrows)

------- Marvel Reviews
Uncanny Avengers #8AU
(w) Rick Remender     (a) Andy Kubert

Young Avengers #5
(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Jaime McKelvie

Friday, May 17, 2013

Iron Man #10

(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Dale Eaglesham

Kieron Gillen is no stranger to long-form narrative. Just take a look at his run on Journey Into Mystery and how each arc grew from the last and influenced the next, like a novel with it's many chapters. One would think this is how most comic books are written, but it tends to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Iron Man didn't start out as strong as everyone hoped it would, but six issues in, Gillen upped the ante by sending Tony Stark into deep space where he faced the consequences of his attempt at destroying the Phoenix Force in Avengers vs. X-Men.

"The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" doesn't aim to retell Iron Man's origins. Quite the contrary, in fact. Working inside the strict parameters of comic book universe continuity seems to be Gillen's inspirational constraint. It's one of the elements of the comic book industry that makes it so amazing, that a creator 40 years removed from the character's origin can still add something to said origin, have it make sense, and make it totally awesome.


Iron Man #10 plays out like a 60s spy thriller as Howard Stark assembles a team to steal the one thing all his power, money, resources, connections, and intelligence can't get him: hope for his already dying prenatal child. If it seems a bit dark, then Gillen has done his job. Tony's always had a medically spotty history, but this pushes that concept to a whole new level. The fact that alien technology plays a part in this plan means Tony's life was influenced by technology before he ever left his mother's womb. I really like the team Howard assembles, but I wonder just how Gillen plans on using them as the story moves forward.

Overall, I found Iron Man #10 to be intriguing. It's the first official part of "Secret Origin", and it reveals quite a bit about the story leading up to Tony's birth, but nothing is intersecting yet. It's like one of those new puzzles without edges that are just that much harder to start piecing together, but are so much more satisfying when completed.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nightwing #20

(w) Kyle Higgins     (a) Brett Booth

Last month, I gushed about how much I enjoyed the new direction for Nightwing. Moving Dick Grayson away from the Bat family was a stroke of genius so simple, it's a wonder it hasn't been done before (I'm not counting Bludhaven, which was right next door to Gotham). Nightwing #20 extrapolates on all the plot lines set up in the last issue.

One of the best parts about Dick moving to Chicago is that he's no longer being bankrolled by Bruce Wayne. It always bugged me that Nightwing so badly wanted to be his own hero -- with a separate name, sister city, the works -- yet he continued to accept financial support from Batman. I understand the logistical reasoning behind the decision, but it belied the concept of independence Dick was going for. Here, Kyle Higgins truly throws Nightwing out on his own. He's subletting a room in an apartment whose normal resident decides to stick around, a situation many people are all too familiar with. It's story elements like this that make Nightwing #20 a treat; Dick's civilian life needs just as much focus right now as his superhero side.

On the Nightwing side of things, Dick finally comes mask to mask with the Prankster, who is a far more menacing villain that I originally anticipated. Cyber crime and pranks don't sound too intimidating, but when it's paired with social responsibility, there's a charm to the Prankster's criminal tendencies. I really do like how Higgins is framing the Prankster as a champion of the disenfranchised, not because those kind of 'villains' don't exist, but because he's presenting it in a much more original fashion. The Prankster isn't some mercenary street general looking for a revolution. He's a sophisticated analyst who sees weaknesses and exploits them one at a time, bringing down his enemies through computer hacking and blackmail designed to cause emotional and professional damage.

Nightwing is getting better and better the more it's not focused on Bat family issues. Kyle Higgins is proving that Dick Grayson can stand as his own hero without having to live in Batman's proverbial shadow. He's an anomalous character because, unlike Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damian Wayne, Dick was able to properly process Bruce's teachings and heroic lifestyle. While the other three Robins mostly retained the darkness and bitterness, Dick stayed positive and is still the most optimistic member of the Bat family.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spotlight: Age of Ultron #8

(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) Brandon Peterson


As of this issue, we should really change the name of this series from Age of Ultron to the more fitting Brian Michael Bendis' Tale of Time Travelling TrepidationLast issue, we got a good look at the world as it is now that Wolverine murdered Hank Pym in the 1960s. Ultron never came to be, the Defenders are Earth's primary defense force, and Tony Stark apparently runs the damn world. But at least everyone's alive, right?


The true tragedy of Age of Ultron is how the end of all things can push us to places we never believed possible. If faced with the hypothetical question, "Would you eat another human if you were about to starve to death?", most people will explain that there's no way they could ever be persuaded to eat a person, no matter the circumstances. While not necessarily a lie, per se, this is a misconception we tell ourselves is true because the fact is that we have no idea what we would do in the most dire of situations. Wolverine and Sue Storm knew what they were doing when they travelled back in time against the wishes of the rest of the Ultron survivors. Unfortunately, it was a most dire situation, and they felt pressured to do something most dire in response.

Age of Ultron #8 gives a ton of insight into how much the Marvel universe was screwed up by Wolverine and Sue Storm's actions. Recently, Bendis posted a long explanation of exactly how things would be different as a result of Pym's death. The list is astoundingly long, and all from just one character. Everyone is alive, but their lives are significantly worse. Tony Stark runs the planet, but it's not a prestigious job. In fact it's a curse because this new timeline is still in a state of constant paranoia after the Skrull 'Secret Invasion', and before that, a loosing war against the supreme magic of Morgan Le Fey. The Avengers broke up in their infancy. Captain America is only a violent shadow of his former self. Thor is dead. The world is in a police state. 

Wolverine believed anything would be better than the apocalypse he left and only succeeded in betraying the legacy of everyone he ever loved. By killing Pym and changing the course of history, Wolverine and Sue Storm nullified everything they and their friends and families have ever worked to achieve. Any victory, any success, any happiness was eliminated and replaced with a new lifetime of struggle, fear, and hopelessness. In their attempt to save the lives of everyone they knew, Logan and Sue cheapened all of their existences.

On the surface, Age of Ultron feels like Brian Michael Bendis just going through the time travel motions and jacking up the action level to compensate for the level of timey whimey talk. But under the initial layer of fun time-space disruption, there's a message about the cost of rewriting history when the going gets rough.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Week In Revue (May 15-21, 2013) (update)

------- Spotlight
Age of Ultron #8 of 10
(w) Brian Michael Bendis     (a) Brandon Peterson

------- DC Reviews
Nightwing #20
(w) Kyle Higgins     (a) Brett Booth

Wonder Woman #20
(w) Brian Azzarello     (a) Cliff Chiang

------- Marvel Reviews
Avengers: The Enemy Within #1
(w) Kelly Sue DeConnick     (a) Joe Quinones

Iron Man #10
(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Dale Eaglesham

------- Other Reviews
X-O Manowar #13
(w) Robert Vendetti     (a) Cary Nord

Monday, May 13, 2013

Batman #20

(w) Scott Snyder     (a) Greg Capullo

"Nowhere Man" -- Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's homage to Batman: The Animated Series -- wraps up this month in the pages of Batman #20. It's been nice to see a shorter tale from Snyder, whose epic stories have, for the most part, outlined Batman's overall narrative in the 'New 52'.

It's hard not to like this issue if you were a fan of Batman: TAS in the late 90s. The series was good for presenting excellent fight scenes and highlighting that fact that Batman and Bruce Wayne were always at odds. "Nowhere Man" hits all the right beats that the show would, it included a generous amount of panel time for James Gordon and Lucius Fox, and keeps with the idea that Batman has a more adventurous side that's not always shown.


Then there's the Batman Beyond suit.

I'm gonna nerd out for a moment. Bear with me.

Snyder and Capullo like to play head games with readers, but this bit of fan service is not only another great nod to the DC animated universe, but also just really damn awesome. And it's 20 years away from being financially viable? That fits (generally) into the timeline of the animated Batman Beyond. Also, the suit shown in Batman #20 is far more robotic and encapsulating than the one worn by Terry McGuinness in Batman Beyond, suggesting that even though it's 20 years from being viable, it would be at least 50 before it could be slimmed down to body-fitting size.

Nerd-out over.

Thus, Batman #20 isn't the most memorable issue of the series, but it's still a great comic book. And really, that's what ongoing series are all about. Even when the story isn't world-shattering or life-changing, it can still be high quality and have meaning beyond it's plot. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo understand this and work the principle into "Nowhere Man" seamlessly.


Superboy #20

(w) Justin Jordan     (a) RB Silva, Rob Lean, Kenneth Rocafort, and ChrisCross

There exists, in the comic book industry today, a debate over systematic ageism. Jerry Ordway’s now infamous rant detailing his experience of being a comic book writer after his prime has become a sort-of galvanizing point to those who believe middle-aged and older writers are being pushed to the side to make way for younger talent. Ordway waxed poetic about ideas he’s yet to see happen, that he still has a lot to offer story-wise, and that he isn’t ready to be pigeonholed as a commission artist at conventions. On the intimate level Ordway is trying to reach his fans upon, his talking points sound fair and legitimate. Why take a risk on inexperienced, young writers when there’s a gamut of veterans waiting for a call from the Big Two?

What Ordway seems to forget is that it was his generation of ‘Young Turks’ who blew onto the scene in the mid-80s and ‘stole’ work opportunities from creators who carried DC and Marvel through the Silver Age of comic books. The reasoning behind this was simple: comic books were changing, readers were changing, and the industry was changing. Established writers from the 60s and 70s were having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the then-current pop culture zeitgeist, which prompted companies to find writers that understood how to connect to current readers.

It's no different today, yet DC has fallen behind in this way while Marvel has been stacking their talent pool with a diverse group of younger writers whose voices have raised up the company's marketshare and earned critical accolades. DC still has Bob Harras, who likes to hire his friends who all happen to be middle-aged, worked at Marvel in the mid-90s under Harras, and who now produce only echoes of their most popular work.


Scott Lobdell spent 20 issues of Superboy trying to make the character's concept new and exciting, and only succeeding in driving the Boy of Steel into the ground. Nothing was the same, and that was a problem. This new Superboy shares no similarities to the pre-relaunch one other than his Kryptonian DNA harvested from Superman, and the title of 'Superboy'. Quite frankly, it was maddening, and if you look back at old entries I've written on issues of Superboy, you'll find a consisten pattern of frustration and anger.

Justin Jordan takes over with Superboy #20, and even though he's inherited yet another ridiculously convoluted Scott Lobdell excuse-for-a-plot, this is the best issue of the series to date, hands down. And it's because Jordan moves away from what made Lobdell's runs o frustrating: valuing action and lore over character and organic plot flow. Even though he's appeared in two issues prior to this, I really had no concept of who Dr. Psycho was until this month. Perhaps it was designed that way, but history shows that Lobdell tended to forget what he started or tried to mask the fact that he didn't have an ending by awkwardly segueing into some new story.

Superboy #20 is great because it feels natural. I wasn't a fan of Jordan's work on Team 7, but that was less about his style and more about the series' base premise being somewhat underwhelming. Here, Jordan finds a voice for Kon-El that makes him come across as a real person and not just a prop in an ongoing narrative that feigns a greater purpose, yet never delivers. A line like "Now I'm pissed. I don't have enough clothes to waste them like this." is so much better than a character thinking this sentiment within the ever-constraining thought balloon.

Scott Lobdell often fails at writing good comic books because he's trying to hard to make everything accessible/easy to read/pick-upable. It attempting to cater to everyone, he caters to no one because how he writers is condescending to readers. Justin Jordan's style is a breath of fresh air and a welcome change for Superboy, who still has one of the foggiest and least-memorable origins of any 'New 52' character. Now, I actually want to read Superboy.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Justice League of America #3

(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

I want to like Justice League of America more than I do. The first issue was fun in as much as a set-up issue can be, and the second issue was build-up for the teams first mission. There hasn't been a lot of time to develop the team dynamic, and it's starting to hurt the series as a whole. It's surprising because Geoff Johns is usually spot-on when it comes to character development and team books.

Before I get into the issue proper, I want to address something that's been bothering me since the first issue. WHERE IS SIMON BAZ? He was completely absent from the first two issues -- his dossier introduction aside -- and in Justice League of America #3, he appears in all of two panels, and they're both panorama shots so he's barely visible. Simon's inclusion on the team is a big reason why I was interested in the title in the first place, and he's still nowhere to be seen three issues in. A lot of people had the same issue with Justice League when it first began, but those first six issues were a complete origin story where all the Leaguers meet for the first time. The JLA is established and has yet to have a full-team mission.

Alright. Moving on.


Justice League of America #3 opens with a scene between Stargirl and Amanda Waller. While their conversation starts off innocently enough, it quickly takes a sharp left turn when Waller takes a hard stance against Stargirl's wish to be a more active member of the team. The comic book trope of the youngest superhero of the bunch feeling left out drives the sequence, but Waller's ugly attitude shows just how sketchy this team is at it's most basic level. Courtney Whitmore -- as Waller reveals her name to be -- joined the team as a bright-eyed, optimistic do-gooder who is now being blackmailed into running PR for this government-sanctioned superhero team. It's all very intriguing. And David Finch's facial work really characterizes Waller's ugly nature.

Vibe feels like a 'deus ex machina' to get the team and himself out of almost any technological quandary. Oh, there's a security camera? Vibe can't be photographed and neither can those around of this issue. Not in his own series; only in this issue of Justice League of America. Also, I really don't like Katana. I've never read any of her pre-New 52 material, and the first issue of Katana was so hideous I just put it down and screamed into a pillow for a few minutes. She just seems like such a ridiculous Japanese stereotype that I just can't understand why people stomach her.

Green Arrow's faux pas during an orchestrated arrest of Catwoman fantastically well done, and Ollie's subsequent use of the privileged information about Catwoman's true allegiances to garner a place on the team is eloquent and hilarious.

Speaking of Catwoman, I read Catwoman #19 after Justice League of America #3 because it's supposed to be a look at Selina's 48 hours inside Arkham Asylum before she escapes at the end of JLA #3. I wouldn't recommend doing the same unless you're interested in reading a story that has nothing to do with anything at all. The whole plan was for Catwoman to get info about the Secret Society whilst inside Arkham. Instead, she antagonizes everyone and really doesn't get much in the process. 


Total Side Note:
Within the pages of Catwoman #19, Ann Nocenti took it upon herself to explain that Arkham Asylum isn't actually a historic mansion turned into a hospital, but rather a fully modern facility employing holographic technology to make it look like a historic mansion. 

Two reasons why I hate this so much.

1.) It totally and completely destroys the idea that Arkham is a genuinely frightening place. The facility's presence is juxtaposed to it's primary function which is what made it such a compelling part of the Batman mythos. If this holds across other titles, it will mean that Arkham is just another loony bin, no different than your average high-tech insane asylum.

2.) If Dr. Arkham has the money to spend on holographic infrastructure for an entire facility, why can't he spend more on security, overall structural integrity, and pooling of resources to achieve real results? It makes absolutely no sense. If Dr. Arkham is some weirdo who only runs the asylum to play around with the criminally insane, why does Batman trust him? And if he truly does think he's doing the best he can, why does Batman suffer such a fool?

Spotlight: Batman and Red Hood #20

(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Patrick Gleason and Cliff Richards


It's becoming more and more apparent that the Batman and Robin title rebranding is the planned fallout of "Death of the Family" and the death of Damian Wayne all along. Scott Snyder did little to close out his Joker-centric story in the pages of Batman, and while there was a slew of "Requiem" issues dedicated to the memory of Damian Wayne, many of them only included a passing mention of that horrific event before focusing on their own respective plots. Thus, Batman and... not only serves as a look at Bruce Wayne's ongoing struggle with the death of his son, but also pairs Batman with his other allies just after he's betrayed all their trust, at a time when he needs them more than ever.

Batman and Red Hood #20 is split into two distinct narratives. The first deals with Carrie Kelley, the redheaded girl who was giving Damian acting lessons unbeknownst to either Bruce or Alfred, while the second pairs Batman with Red Hood to go after the assassins who took the $500,000 bounty placed on Damian by his mother, Talia al Ghul. Each of these segments is designed to convey both Bruce and Batman's processing of Damian's death.

Introducing Carrie Kelley was a bold move by Peter J. Tomasi. She's an iconic figure in one of the most revered Batman stories of all time. A lesser writer would have screwed the pooch and gone more high-concept. Instead, Tomasi gives Carrie the same sense of independence as her Dark Knight Returns source material did and makes the character a believable part of the DC universe backdrop within the span of two issues. Bruce's icy attitude belies his assertions that Damian is fine and his sudden disappearance is of no concern. Having Carrie as a foil to that mood is not only narratively brilliant, but also a breath of fresh air from Bruce's constant melodrama. I call it melodrama because there's only so much one man can brood.

Similarly, Tomasi takes another gambit by turning Batman into a giant, huge, massive asshole. Since the end of "Death of the Family", Batman has been trying to reestablish the relationships he had with his various allies. It hasn't worked out so well. In Batman and Red Hood #20, it seems that Batman has finally accepted that communication is the best route to trust by laying his cards on the table when he asks Jason Todd for help -- he's angry and needs to be violent. 

Things take a turn when Batman's ulterior motives come out; forcing Jason to return to the site of his death to relive that moment in hopes of finding a way to bring back Damian. It's a sick and twisted thing to do, and Red Hood points it out, plainly. The frustrating part of this whole sequence is that Batman's counterargument is weak and plagued by paternal emotion. Batman is grasping at straws in his horrific depression and is now dragging down his allies.

The past two issues of Batman and... have been designed to show how both personas of Bruce Wayne and Batman are coming apart at the seams. His family is crumbling around him into the pit where Damian used to be, and his borderline-psychotic actions are doing nothing to help the situation. I understand why Tomasi is doing this, and he's doing a fantastic job writing it, but he's also slowly turning Batman into an emotionless obsessive whose singular mindset will be his own downfall. Honestly, I don't know how to feel about it and that excites me.


The Week in Revue (May 8-14, 2013) (update)

------- Spotlight
Batman and Red Hood #20
(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Patrick Gleason

------- DC Reviews
Batman #20
(w) Scott Snyder     (a) Greg Capullo

Justice League of America #3
(w) Geoff Johns     (a) David Finch

Superboy #20
(w) Justin Jordan     (a) Brett Booth

------- Marvel Reviews
Uncanny Avengers #8
(w) Rick Remender     (a) Daniel Acuna

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Iron Man #9

(w) Kieron Gillen     (a) Dale Eaglesham

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a comic book is done.

From beginning to end, Iron Man #9 is one of the best single issues I've read in quite a while. It's a fantastic 'jumping on' point that really does the phrase justice, the artwork is leaps and bounds better than the previous eight issues under Greg Land's airbrushing hands, and Death's Head might just be one of my new favorite tertiary characters.

Though this issue is technically a prologue to "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark", Kieron Gillen does an amazing job summarizing the last arc through Tony's conversation with Death's Head, a freelance bounty hunter whose written to sound like he's from the Old Country. It's a tactile way to rehash past events, and it doesn't come off as an overbearing information dump. Gillen's organic dialogue feels way more fluid than what most other writers in the industry are producing today. Basically, Iron Man #9 is an extended conversation between Tony and Death's Head that takes three huge turns in the very last pages that beautifully set up the forthcoming look back at Tony's origin.

I first took notice of Dale Eaglesham when he illustrated Villains United for DC as part of the "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" event. Since then, I've only come to enjoy his work more. The pages of Iron Man #9 are a testament to the man's talent and some of the best work I've ever seen from him. There's a subtle depth to his facial expressions as well as backgrounds and crowd scenes. All around, Eaglesham knocks this one out of the park.

Simply put, Iron Man #9 is a triumph. Rarely does a single issue so intuitively cater to both the dedicated fan and the new reader. We need more writing like this in the comic book industry. Sure, it's still about Iron Man zipping around the galaxy with a giant robotic bounty hunter looking for another robot who orchestrated genocide, but somehow, it feels incredibly relatable and down to earth.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Earth 2 #12

(w) James Robinson     (a) Nicola and Trevor Scott


I really like Earth 2. It's a refreshing change of pace from the normal 'New 52', and James Robinson's uncanny character development has made this title one of the best DC publishes each month. Earth 2 isn't solely about the Justice Society, which gives Robinson the freedom to play around with his own , separate pocket of the multiverse. This series is about an alternate version of history where superheroes didn't become the norm, like on Earth 1 (the main 'New 52' universe).

For all it's good, Robinson's been dropping the ball, as of late, in terms of pacing. While the first seven issues moved at a deliberate and meaningful pace, these most recent ones felt overly decompressed. Then, with this month's Earth 2 #12, Robinson has gone the opposite direction and packed as much story as he could into this conclusion issue. I'm not saying this wasn't a good issue because it was a great issue. It's just that it was preceded by three mediocre issues. In a way, previous shortcomings now really highlight all the good things about Earth 2 #12.

Robinson's handling of the multiple plot lines in Earth 2 #12 show that he's got specific directions for each character; Green Lantern is still trying to uncover the mystery behind his fiance's death, and gets Hawkgirl to help out, a pairing I wouldn't have pegged a few months ago. Fortunately, Robinson's excellent interpersonal dialogue makes their working relationship feel more than just organic: it feels like it needed to happen.

Keeping Jay Garrick's mom around was a good decision. Having one element that's more grounded and relatable is arguably essential to superhero comics, yet the technique is employed far less than it should be. Superman has Lois Lane, Batman has Alfred, even Green Lantern Hal Jordan had Carol Ferris before she became a Star Sapphire. The point is, Mrs. Garrick gives these new superheroes perspective they may not have had yet.

One of the best aspects of Earth 2 is the how easy James Robinson makes creating a world look. This isn't just a team book -- this title is about an entire separate universe. The changes and differences between the main DCnU and Earth 2 are important because they are there and the moer Robinson shows us, the better this series becomes.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spotlight: The Movement #1

(w) Gail Simone     (a) Freddy Williams II


That's the main descriptor of Gail Simone and Freddy Williams II's The Movement #1. While there are moments of real and gritty excitement, a lot of what Simone is attempting to convey gets lost in the chaotic nature of this debut issue. There are so many plot elements and so many new characters all being introduced in 22 pages that it's difficult to process what exactly you just read by the time you're done.


The opening sequence focuses on the ethically challenged police force that exists in Coral City and their meeting with the Movement. It's really weird -- and out of character for her style -- but Simone's dialogue is rather clunky throughout these pages. It feels like the offhanded style is supposed to reflect a more natural conversation, but it mostly sounds unclear. I found myself reading the first page three times over before moving on because I wasn't sure who was saying what to whom. 

But the real flaw of The Movement #1 is how forced everything feels. The dirty cops, the neighborhood grassroots campaign, the heroes being young -- it's all supposed to be a cohesive concept wherein all the parts play off each other to create a thematic mood. Unfortunately, the jumpy writing style and distractingly messy art style cause this concept to fall flat. I have no idea why the rat-controlling kid, Mouse, popped up in the church while the possessed kid was raging out.

I want to stress that I'm going to stick with The Movement. Per my interest in Young Avengers on the Marvel side of things, I enjoy teenaged superheroes sticking it to the man, and that's basically what's going on in this series. It's just unfortunate that The Movement #1 is so frazzled. I feel like it's going to be an excellent series going forward because Gail Simone writes incredible team books, and her experience on Batgirl gives The Movement a darkness that's befitting to the theme.