|Issue #||Release Date:||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
BATMAN INC. #0
I, VAMPIRE #0
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #0
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #0
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #0
TEEN TITANS #0
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #0
ALL STAR WESTERN #0
RED LANTERNS #0
BATMAN INCORPORATED #0Writers: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
Artist: Frazer Irving
Reviewer: Matt Adler
BATMAN INCORPORATED has probably been my favorite series of the New 52. I love the light-hearted approach it takes to the Batman mythos in contrast to the relentlessly grim tone of the other Bat-books. I’ve said as much in our podcasts, but some of my fellow podcasters take issue with the very concept of the book, and dislike the notion of a team of international Batmen. I’ve countered by saying that isn’t really the focus of the book, and that it’s really more of a continuation of Morrison’s BATMAN AND ROBIN than anything else.
Well, I can’t make that argument with this issue. It focuses pretty much exclusively on how Batman recruited the various members of Batman Incorporated, giving particular attention to Australia’s Dark Ranger and the UK’s Knight and Squire. The theme of the story is that even Batman needs help, and the threat of Leviathan, Talia Al Ghul’s secret organization, is the reason. Unfortunately, none of these international Batmen have much personality; a few of them even descend into stereotypes. Even Dark Ranger never rises above the cliché of the reluctant hero who’s hung up his costume because his partner got killed.
Frazer Irving’s art is gorgeous, of course, and he apparently handles everything from pencils to colors, but it’s a radical departure from Chris Burnham’s frenetic pop style, with its murky tones and painterly feel. There were moments in this issue that I enjoyed, such as Bruce’s none too subtle threat to his Board of Directors, which he uses to coerce them into supporting his crazy Batman Incorporated venture. But unlike most of the issues in the series thus far, it never really comes together to provide you with a feeling of excitement, or wanting to know what comes next. A rare miss for Morrison.
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
THE FLASH #0Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul (art), Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring (colors)
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
My dearest Wally West,
It breaks my heart that you and I had to go our separate ways. I know that it wasn't something you wanted, and I'm damn sure it wasn't something I wanted, or was even prepared to deal with. Even though at first, I wasn't sure I even wanted to be with you, eventually you wormed your snide and spoiled way into my heart. I thought people might look at us funny, drawn to each other just because of the sameness of our hair color. But damn them all, we are Firecrotches for life, bound by our burning Dark Phoenix short & curlies. Besides, after a while, I just stopped caring. I became proud to carry you with me. Let the people on the buses and subways gawk all they wanted, you and I were meant to be together, my most Scarlet of Speedsters.
Over the course of our relationship, you and I both grew up from (if you'll excuse the phrase) impulse kids into responsible adults, but still living in the shadow of others. We fought for ourselves, you and I, and we persevered. But then I watched helplessly as you ruined your life with terrible, terrible children. Oh, how I wanted to go back in time and ret-con them into a sloppy mess on the dirty concrete of a back-alley abortion clinic. Not just for ME, my love, but for you as well! You were changing, I could feel it. No longer was our connection as boundless as it had once seemed. And then, I could see lightning on the horizon in the guise of Geoff Johns. He had done right by you previously, and oh the times we had, the three of us. He got you just as much as I did. Good lord, as the memories wash over me, so to do the tears of regret.
Just as you were letting him go and racing from under his shadow, Johns used dark magicks to bring back your Uncle Barry.
But that wasn't enough. As time went by and you faded out of the spotlight, Barry took center stage. My heart couldn't handle it. I composed many a suicide note while struggling to remain interested in that blonde-haired bow-tie wearing bollocks-licker. Not even Geoff Johns, who had worked miracles on you before, could make me love this re-youth-enated bastard. Don't look for a dictionary, my love…it isn't a word.
Once the New 52 started, I tried again to give a good gosh darn about Barry, but holy cats was he a dry character. I loved some of the things that the new writer/artist had done with Barry's powers. The running on the rotating blades of a helicopter? The super-quick thinking that allowed him to foresee every possibility? Hell, my favorite scene was when Barry got so tied up concentrating on possibilities that he got shot in the head! Brilliant! But alas, having interesting things happen to a character doesn't make him interesting, and I fell behind. I've missed the past 7 or 8 issues of the book, a title that used to give me such glee when it was just you and me.
And that brings us to this newest issue. It's a retelling of that blonde bastard's origin, and I was prepared to hate it. To show DC the hate that it showed me, by squashing our love, my dear Wallace. Squashed it like a bug on the face shield of that unforgivably bad Jay Garrick costume we've had to look at in Earth 2.
But, I didn't hate it. I realized, after I started to let my mile-high emotional walls down, that maybe there was something interesting about Barry after all. We harkened back the obligatory five years, and I got to watch the classic scene in which Barry received his powers. The same one that he would eventually and irresponsibly recreate, allowing you to become a Flash as well. But the moment's fire is dramatically fueled by the fact that Barry is in the middle of throwing his equipment through a window when he is touched by the speed-giving light. He's frustrated, you see. Emotional, even. A state that I'm not used to seeing from ol’ Crew-Cut. He's been trying for years to uncover the mystery behind his mother's death, and hopefully get his supposedly framed father out of prison. I was then taken on a whirlwind of flashbacks as Barry lay in a coma. It seems that he's Lt. Frye's "golden boy" because Frye is like a father to Barry. Well, you know…a "not in prison for the murder of his mother" type of father. We also see the origin of Barry's lame-ass bow tie. I don't care what the Dr. Who fan-shirt says: Bow Ties are NOT cool. So sayeth the geek with the GI Joe tattoo! It also seems that Barry's mother and father were on the brink of divorce because of another man, who I'm going to assume is the aforementioned Lt. Frye.
Another interesting point that I noticed about Barry's upbringing is that his doting and loving mother was always telling him to slow down, to take his time and think things through, and then his father would come in and literally hurry the boy up. "We've gotta go." "Be back before dinner". There's an interesting dichotomy at work here, a pushing and pulling within Barry that I hope is explored further, but at least it adds an interesting layer the character.
I also love the scene where Barry first employs his superspeed. In the original, um…origin, Barry was running to get a cab and runs past it. This scene is far more personal, as he was in his coma, dreaming when it happened. In the dream, he was coming home to find his mother had been killed and was trying to run past the cops to his mother's body when he apparently went sleep-running. He awoke to find that he had run to East Africa by accident. A far cooler scene, if you ask me.
And that's the thing, Wally. This origin story is filled to the brim with emotional beats that invested me in the character in a way that I wasn't expecting. Now, I do remember that some of this is ground already worn down by Geoff Johns, the mother-murder story. It turned out that his mom was killed by Reverse-Flash, and that Barry's attempts at saving her created the Flashpoint Universe, and in turn created the entire New 52. I'm curious to see if Manapul will be using that same villain as the cause, or if this is going to start heading in the direction of a true mystery, not one that I'm just re-reading for the sake of it. Either way, for the first time, I think I'm actually interested in finding out.
I hope this doesn't hurt you to read, my red-headed rapscallion. But as much as I love you, and will love you…I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a brighter future ahead. I know you'll be back someday; of course you will. I have undying hope. Just as Barry returned, so shall you.
I'll be waiting for you, one bated breath at a time. But until then, I hope you don't mind if I hang out with Barry awhile. He might be a pretty cool dude.
Yours in the speed-force,
P.S. I still wear those Flash underoos you gave me, and think of you fondly when I do.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on Party934.com alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.
I, VAMPIRE #0Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Andrea Sorrentino
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
As we reach the end of zero month, or as some have dubbed it “New 52 Course Correction,” two clear categories of books have arisen: there’s definitive prequels and what I have cynically dubbed issues 13.
My mortal perception of linear time made it hard to grapple with the fact not all zeroes must precede the events of issue one. I hit some books with reviewer abuse because of this prejudice. But as we now reach the end of this event, I had an epiphany or moment of forgiveness to see the merits in both approaches in moving the New DCU into Year 2. Which is honestly all DC ever promised; prequel was a badge stitched on by fans.
Or at least I did before reading I, VAMPIRE…
I, VAMPIRE is a case where I really wanted to see an issue 13, but instead it clearly fits into the prequel category of my zero month taxonomy. Make no mistake, Fialkov and Sorrentino deliver the goods in this story of Andrew Bennett before he became the world’s nicest vampire, but I don’t know if I discovered enough surprises to say I absolutely needed this story.
In a time when manly men could wear lace and women were still wenches, Lord Bennett lives in the shadows of a love that must not be named. No, not bestiality. Well…maybe bestiality if you consider banging the help the same as schtupping a golden retriever. I know some blue bloods do, so I won’t judge. That’s right, folks, the blood lust Mary, who is soooo superior with her belief that vampires are a leg up on humanity, was once a common little cinder girl and Andrew her Lord in waiting. Mary and Andrew’s love has been forever doomed, which has been one of the most compelling elements of this series to date. In modern times it is ideology that separates them, while in this time of yore it was class.
I guess my beef with this zero offering (if you can call it that) is that I kind of guessed what was going to happen. Once I realized we were in elder days, when Bennett rode into the night to get some Mary play in a stable or broom closet (wherever you go to bang the help), I wasn’t exactly shocked to see his run-in with Cain, his maker and the original vampire.
Mary is basically a non-entity in this issue, which is a shame. I have found her to be a compelling antagonist and would have liked some of her life thoughts before she entered the unlife.
Again, Fialkov made the verbal parlay engaging. Bennett never cowers, and Cain shows admiration for Bennett’s courage, much the same way I find it cute when our live lobsters try to escape the sink. And Sorrentino, good God can Sorrentino draw. His talent has been one of the biggest surprises of the New 52, and I can’t wait to see more work thrown his way.
Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #0Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Lee Garbett
Reviewer: Matt Adler
John Constantine is one of those characters who’s a very distinctive archetype, but can wear on you pretty quickly when he’s written as nothing more than a sum of clichés. I tried JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK when Peter Milligan was writing it, and it didn’t work for me, for that among other reasons. Jeff Lemire took over the book with issue #9, and this is the first issue of his run that I’ve tried. Would his take warm me up to the series?
The book starts off with John Constantine arriving in New York “some time ago”; Constantine’s style of dress (which I got a kick out of) suggests the late ‘70s/early ‘80s punk rock era, but that probably doesn’t fit with current DC continuity. He’s an ambitious young turk, already having gleaned all he can about magic in his home country, and eager to move to the next level, which he believes he will find in NYC.
We’re introduced to Nick Necro, “New York City’s greatest mage”, who seems certainly marked for death given that he doesn’t seem to be around in the present time. Zatanna is introduced at the same time, and Constantine’s love at first sight reaction to her is pretty amusing given his usually cynical portrayal.
The issue serves as a good intro into the DC’s occult world, and explains succinctly the mission that Constantine and Zatanna will find themselves on as part of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. As I said, it’s no surprise that Nick Necro, who becomes a mentor in the ways of magic to both Constantine and Zatanna, bites the dust, but the how and why is the interesting thing.
But perhaps the most compelling aspect of this issue is what it reveals about Constantine. Although we’re at first led to believe the issue intends to show us a softer, gentler side under that cynical exterior, what’s really revealed is an even darker side; someone who knows what he wants and is willing to do just about anything to get it. What that will mean for this series going forward is something I’m eager to find out.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #0Writer: Rob Liefeld (plot/script) & Mark Poulton (script)
Art: Joe Bennett
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Call me crazy, but I didn’t hate this Liefeld-penned issue of HAWKMAN, which looks to be shedding some light on the clouded history of our amnesiac winged hero of the DCU. I don’t regularly follow this book, though I am an admirer of Geoff Johns’ run on the book. Hawkman seems to be a character that is interesting to look at but hard to write other than a lost love story that Johns did so well. Here, Liefeld and Poulton try to simplify the story, tossing out the reincarnation stuff and focusing on the intergalactic righter of wrongs pastiche.
I’m not going to call this the most original story. It’s a bit reminiscent of space operas such as FLASH GORDON, mixed with some Camelot and surprisingly DEXTER (specifically the last season) as Carter and Shayera appear to be adopted siblings. For a character who has had such a problem in the past for having so many continuity glitches, one would think a concerted effort to really solidify an origin would be taken with this new 52 re-launch/boot/tread. Here, though, with Carter being adopted, things are left unclear if he is Thanagarian or something else (possibly from Earth? Who knows?).
What I do know is that looking at Joe Bennett’s panels is a treat. He’s such a talented artist and makes one almost look past all of the missed and glossed over opportunities for action that this issue is riddled with.
As much as some of the other DC 0 books, I feel Hawkman’s origin should be so much bigger than a single issue. Here it seems cramped with huge important chunks missing. Still, it’s not an awful book and at least offers enough interesting story fodder up for other writers to elaborate on.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
AQUAMAN #0Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
Reviewer: Matt Adler
AQUAMAN is not a series I have been following. My problem with Aquaman is not with his character, but with his setting. When I checked out the first issue, it was set almost entirely on dry land, in our mundane world. If I’m going to read a series about a superhero from a fabled underwater realm, I want that underwater realm to be as much of a character in the story as he is. I want to see lost royal houses, magic, medieval intrigue, the whole works. Otherwise, he’s just another superhero.
This zero issue starts off yet again in our world, six years prior, with a young Arthur Curry coming to terms with the media discovering his Atlantean heritage. That just doesn’t interest me.
However, it does pick up towards the end, when Arthur meets a refugee from Atlantis living among the humans, who convinces him to return to Atlantis and claim his birthright. Atlantis itself only turns up on the last page, but it’s an exciting sight to behold. If that is what the series’ focus has turned to, I may have to check it out again.
SUPERMAN #0Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rockafort
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
My favorite part of this issue was when Starfire came out of the water, dropped to all fours, and became an alien finger-cuff for Clark and Jimmy…oh, wait, wrong book. Hopefully, though, I pissed off at least three Mommy bloggers by invoking the sacred Starfire name.
H8Rs are going to hate. I could claim that this rendition of SUPERMAN was handed down to us by the ghost hands of Siegel, Shuster and Donner. That it completely retells the Man of Steel’s origin in a way never conceived and there would STILL be a collective yawn from the cynical comic cavalcade out there. So you know what, I’m not even going to try.
Some stories are simply timeless…like Superman, Batman, Jesus and Jeffrey Dahmer. And no matter how many times I read them, I always appreciate a fresh voice delivering the expected outcome. So it was with great gusto I ripped into this issue of SUPERMAN with a familiar, but wholly new, Kryptonian costumed figure bursting out of the cover.
I’ll also admit this creative team lives outside “50 Shades of Gray” in the comic community. People either love or hate these guys, no middle ground. Personally, I love them. RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS is one of my top five in the new DCU, and I couldn’t wait to read their unique take on a title that, let’s be honest, has been anything but stellar since relaunch.
Did they deliver? Absolutely! LobRocster take us to the days before the destruction of Krypton. But gone are the cool scientific minds of yore, where everyone on the Big K had a rod up their ass and spoke like they taught Elizabethan poetry. Yes, Krypton is more scientifically advanced, but at the same time they retain a level of,dare I say, humanity that has been absent in almost every past iteration of the planet that was.
Jor-El is a wunderkind scientist, but has a rebellious streak that feels truly edgy. Like Cartman he “does what he wants” all with a wink, nod and middle finger aimed at the authoriti of Krypton. In past iterations the Kryptonian science council treated Jor’s sky is falling (or, to be more accurate, the planet is exploding) findings as the ravings of a madman. In the world of zero the council no longer dismisses Jor-El’s words, but rather does everything in their power to get him to shut the fuck up. It’s a cloak and dagger reflection of real world politics and authority figures that all comics should strive for, regardless of canon from 100 years ago.
This hunt leads me seamlessly to Lara-El, Supes’ mom. BEST RENDITION EVER. She was always so January Jones in past iterations, basically window dressing with tits. In place simply because the writer HAD to have a vagina to get the story going. No more: Lobdell gives her a sense of purpose, a kick ass Ying to Jor’s scientific Yang. She’s also a scientist, but learned her craft at the Kryptonian Military Academy. To see Jor and Lar work in concert with her as the muscle and his Ozymandias-like foresight of enemy movements was a role reversal I find in many more couples these days – The Optimous house included.
As much as I loved the post ‘WORLD OF” titles that followed CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Lobdell has given these two more personality in one issue than the entire WORLD OF KRYPTON series. The beautiful dichotomy he presents as the two fight the science council and prepare for Armageddon has given a layer to SUPERMAN’S biological parents never seen.
I was honestly pissed this issue ended so quickly, I only hope and pray that issue 13 builds off this zero instead of zipping us back to the current continuity mess Kal has been suffering for the last 12 issues.
Regardless of my wishes or where the title goes tomorrow, and regardless of your personal feelings on LobRocster as a creative team, they WILL bring something different to the tale and for that all comic fans should be grateful.
VOODOO #0Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Sami Basri
Reviewer: Matt Adler
You know those little character blurbs in comics that are supposedly to briefly sum up and introduce you to the character? Like Superman’s might be, “Sent as an infant from a doomed planet, Clark Kent was raised by a kindly Midwestern couple, and now fights for Truth, Justice, and the American Way as…. SUPERMAN!” Well, when your character’s blurb contains, as Voodoo does, the phrase “…the hybrid clone of the human Priscilla Kitaen is a human-alien shapeshifter…” you may want to stop and consider if you’re on the right track.
Another New 52 series that is apparently heavily tied into the Wildstorm mythos, but to no interesting effect. There’s also echoes of SUPERBOY #0 here, with the protagonist trapped in a tank by monstrous beings intent on using our hero for their own evil ends. But Superboy showed us some personality, some sense of where they were taking him as a character, which is what made that book interesting. The girl who escapes from the tank here is a complete cipher, and then it’s revealed the book isn’t even about her, it’s about her CLONE, who is naturally assigned the cover identity of a stripper by her alien masters.
Sami Basri does a nice job on the art, but it can’t save what is ultimately a boring and cliché story.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #0Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Art: Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp (pencils), Vincente Cifuentes & Sonia Oback (ink)
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I’ve been skipping this book because I felt it to be pretty unnecessary. It seems David Finch wanted to do his own book and dammit if DC didn’t need to hit that magic 52 number, so they said what the hell. Problem is, keeping up with a monthly schedule is often difficult for an artist as detailed as Finch and though I don’t know for sure, it appears that he at least is taking a break this month (if not off the book completely), which allows MOON KNIGHT writer Gregg Hurwitz to slide in.
The story isn’t groundbreaking. A young and angry Bruce Wayne sets out to track down his parent’s killer convinced they are at the heart of a conspiracy reaching the highest levels of government and the lowest levels of crime. Hurwitz does a good job with a little space in showing us a determined but green Wayne who leapt to conclusions because of his emotional involvement. This makes for an interesting slice of life story in the day in the life of Bruce Wayne before donning the cowl.
What makes this issue stand out is the art provided by Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp. Both artists offer up a textured and dense style of artistry, mastering shape and form and presenting them in interesting ways. Though I find Finch’s artwork to be somewhat Jim Lee-esque, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT has established itself as a series featuring top talent artists doing Batman stories that may not be the most dense, but look good. This issue continues the tradition with a stronger tale than what I have sampled from this series. Though I still think this book is a prime example of a need to trim the fat from the Batman books, this was a decent one due to a sound story and some exemplary artwork.
TEEN TITANS #0Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Tyler Kirkham
Reviewer: Matt Adler
The cover lists Brett Booth as the penciller, but it’s actually Tyler Kirkham. I don’t know if this was a last minute change or not, but Kirkham does an excellent job on this issue, with dynamic layouts, detailed illustrations, and a great rendition of Batman. This was a pleasant surprise, as I had not been as enamored with his art when I checked out an issue of GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS. Maybe the more down-to-earth stuff is a better fit for him.
Anyway, as you can probably guess by the inclusion of Batman, this is more of a Red Robin story than a Teen Titans story. Which is OK, because Tim Drake’s role in the Robin pantheon has really needed some straightening out since the New 52 began. To sum up, he was Batman’s partner, briefly, but he was not technically a Robin since he chose to be known as Red Robin.
If you find technicalities like that irritating, well, I sympathize. For me, it doesn’t really solve the problem that has Batman going through four young boys in the span of five years. It’s just plain weird, especially given how much is made in this issue of Batman’s reluctance to put these kids in harm’s way. Personally, I think they should have just bitten the bullet and eliminated both Jason Todd and Tim Drake from continuity. That way you’ve got one Robin who’s graduated in Dick Grayson, and then the current Robin in Damian. I know this would piss off a lot of people, particularly Tim Drake fans, but if you’re going to reboot your continuity to make it simpler, you’ve got to break a few eggs.
Given what he’s got to work with here, Lobdell makes it work as best as possible. He captures Tim’s detective skills excellently, showing him just on the verge of discovering Batman’s secret identity, and causing Batman all sorts of hassles, necessitating Batman to step in and try to slow him down. How he actually winds up becoming Batman’s partner may be controversial for some; Tim’s efforts to get Batman’s attention have him running afoul of the Penguin, which leads to his parents being placed in witness protection and Batman adopting him.
Is it a stretch? I guess, yeah, but as I said, I think the whole “4 Robins in 5 years” scenario is a stretch, so some contortions to make it fit are understandable. Continuity issues aside, this was a fast paced and enjoyable read, which is more than you can say for a lot of comics these days.
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #0Writer: Joe Harris
Art: Yildray Cinar (pencils), Marlo Alquiza (inks)
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
It’s déjà vu all over again. As I flipped through this book, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had read this story before. Turns out, upon excavating the first issue of FURY OF FIRESTORM released one year ago, that feeling was solidified when I realized this is pretty much the exact same story Gail Simone told with issue #1.
Basically, the issue establishes that stuff has happened in the last year of this title I don’t normally follow, but none of it happens here. A threat shows up just as Jason Rusch and his opposite number Ronnie Raymond trade insults to one another for being the typical high school stereotype: Rusch being the science nerd, Raymond being the athlete. Both don’t get along, though their relationship is somewhat closer. Still, a lot of time establishing their differences is made and then a big bad shows up, forcing the two to discard their differences in order to work together to face down the menace.
Which is exactly what happened in issue one of FURY OF FIRESTORM last year!
Somewhere along the way, I think an editor should have noticed that this book has the same story structure as the first issue and said something. But alas, that didn’t happen. So if you liked the first issue of FURY OF FIRESTORM last year and want more of the same, get issue #0 and see how little things change in twelve months.
TALON #0Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Reviewer: Matt Adler
I’m the rare person who hasn’t been following Scott Snyder’s acclaimed Court of Owls saga, which stretches back to before the New 52. I’ve dipped in here and there, but for some reason I just wasn’t drawn in. So it seemed like an interesting to challenge to see if Talon, a new book spun off from that storyline, could succeed in capturing my attention where the main storyline didn’t.
I think one of the problems I had with the Court of Owls issues I’d read was that I felt I was on mystery overload. I never got a real sense of who these people were and what their motivation was. TALON #0 solves that by taking us behind the scenes into the Court of Owls’ recruitment process from the point of view of Calvin Rose, a Talon who has gone renegade and tried to escape his former life. Calvin is an escape artist by trade (maybe someone should introduce him to Mister Miracle?) who as a child escaped an abusive home to join Haley’s Circus, the same outfit that Dick Grayson was once a part of, where he is discovered by the Court of Owls and drawn into their fold. The bio page at the back of this issue suggests that Haley’s Circus is the main recruiting ground for the Court of Owls; if that’s so, I find that curious—a circus may be a good place to find escape artists, which seems to be the talent the Court most wants Calvin for, but it’s a strange place to look for assassins, who make up the bulk of the Owls’ Talon army.
In any event, Calvin does join, but soon has compunctions about the dirty deeds the Owls wish him to perform. While we’ve certainly seen the tale of a protagonist who turns against his evil masters and joins the side of the angels before, the connections to a conspiracy involving the larger Batman mythos, and the escape artist angle, give this take an added flavoring, and Calvin Rose is an interesting and sympathetic character. After a couple of years with the Court of Owls being portrayed as an untouchable, mysterious organization masterminding the chaos in Batman’s world with impunity, it’s interesting now to see a series where there is an element they clearly DON’T have under control. That, more than anything, is what has grabbed my attention.
ALL STAR WESTERN #0Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
Hellfire and tarnation, what is it that keeps me from reading this book? I've heard whispers and exclamations that this book is rad, from those I respect, and yet I can't seem to get off my duff and read this book more often. Is it that I don't have the money? Hell no, I work in a comic shop and can read them for free! Is it that I just hate Westerns? 10 years ago, I would have said yes. But my journey from Asian cinema into Akira Kurosawa into Spaghetti Westerns has left me a fan of the broken leather and sand-modded, haggard faces of the old west heroes. Just not enough hours in the day, is what it boils down to. Well, it looks like I'm going to just have to create more, because this books seems well worth it.
Now I'll admit that while I've enjoyed the occasional Hexposition (thangyewvurrymuch), I was slightly bored by the first couple issues of the New 52 ASW. I wasn't feeling Hex's new Chatty-Cathy partner, or his time in Gotham city. I suppose I felt that, like the almighty Pee Wee Herman, Hex was "a loner, Dottie...a rebel". But that was just me being a sullen amber-stuck grouch, fearing the changes brought by the updated landscape of the New Five-Two.
That doesn't apply here though. I can't say that my previously stated views on the subject were worn down and given new light through this issue, because none of that is IN this issue. This does what the Zero issues SHOULD be doing, going back and telling the origin of the book and its characters.
No Chatty-Katherine or Gotham City here (ok except for the last vignette). Herein, we have a tale worthy of any western film. In fact...something like this SHOULD have been given to us in place of the terrible Jonah Hex movie that we got in 2010. (Holy hell on a horse saddle, that was only two years ago? That wretched thing felt like forever ago. Anyhoo.) This story is not THAT. We are witness to Woodson Hex, being totally bad-ass and protecting his wife as she gives birth to their scarless baby boy, Jonah. (Ok...so he wasn't born like that. Got it). But the bad-ass Woodson deteriorates from the drink over the years into a wife-throttling coward and things do not go well for the family, as you would expect.
We are then taken on a journey as Jonah endures hardship after hardship after hardship. Abused. Betrayed. Abandoned, time and time again. Even sustaining some terrible scarring, but even THAT is not enough. We then are slogged through even more Hexcessive tribulations until he is outcast from his adoptive family and into his face is finally burned The Mark Of The Demon. Man, insult to injury for this fella. It just ain't right.
But as painful as it was to experience along with ole Hex, it was a damnably pleasurable ride.
Saddle-sores and all, this book is gravel, grit, n'guts and it's holding me at gun-point to read some more.
RED LANTERNS #0Writer: Pete Milligan
Art: Ardian Syaf
Reviewer: Matt Adler
This book takes a lot of flak, and reading it now, I can see why. It’s certainly not that Peter Milligan is a bad writer, and Ardian Syaf does a capable job on the art. No, the problem is in the concept itself. The Red Lanterns are fine as villains for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps; some of the most interesting villains are the obsessive, single-minded types that define the raging Red Lanterns. But why on Earth anyone thought that concept was enough to support its own series is beyond me.
To make matters worse, this is an origin issue for Atrocitus, and we already know what we need to know about the character. His whole planet got killed because of some poor choices by the Guardians, and now he wants revennnnnnge! Nevertheless, we are treated to an extended rendition of his origin, complete with scenes of his ridiculously human-like family getting slaughtered, and him hooking up with the demonic Five Inversions.
Sometimes, oftentimes, less is more. The Five Inversions were interesting when Alan Moore first tossed the idea out because he didn’t tell us everything about them. He didn’t even show us all five. He just suggested certain things, and left it up to our imaginations to fill in the blanks, which made the idea all the creepier. But now that DC has decided to strip mine every last detail of that back-up story written 30 years ago, all the mystery is gone. They still look cool, but they’re demystified, and we’re even treated to the ridiculous spectacle of Atrocitus MATING with one of them.
I guess this is the nature of company-owned comics; anything worth doing is worth beating to death. Anyway, all it amounts to is a tedious and pointless exercise in continuity mining, and in the end, it forgets to give us a reason to follow a book about a bunch of angry aliens who go around killing everyone.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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