AICN COMICS REVIEWS: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK! HARBINGER! ROCKETEER/SPIRIT! LIBERATOR! COLLIDER! & MORE!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: THE LIBERATOR #2
HAWKEYE ANNUAL #1
NEW CRUSADERS: LEGACY VOL. 1 TPB
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #22
ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT #1
HARBINGER #14/BLOODSHOT #13
WARLORD OF MARS #27
Advance Review: COLLIDER #1
Advance Review: In stores today!
THE LIBERATOR #2Writer: Matt Miner
Art: Javier Sanchez Aranda
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Comics with a message are tricky. Give the character too much of a speech and it feels preachy. Matt Miner seems to be too smart for that with his comic LIBERATOR, which takes a clear stance on the issue of animal abuse, but lets the actions of those abusing the animals say it all instead of making his characters all soap boxy.
What makes LIBERATOR so much fun to read is that the characters are likable and the cause is just plain right. Seeing the two protagonists, Damon & Jeannette, take part in nighttime liberation of animal testing sites may be against the law, but seeing rabbits blinded with bleach and other animals like monkeys and beagles tested for all kinds of unnecessary product limitations makes you understand the bending of the rules. It’s not hard to root for these two kids who seem to be way in over their head by the end of this issue. The fact that Damon and Jeanette are somewhat new at this makes it all the more entertaining to watch, and all the more enthralling as they toss themselves into dire situations.
Javier Sanchez Aranda’s art is solid throughout this book. His style is pretty straightforward and low frill, but he does what he needs to do to communicate this story. He also does a great job drawing sympathetic animals, a must for this type of tale. Seeing his panels of rabbits and other test animals is heartbreaking.
As an animal lover myself, I’m thankful that a book like LIBERATOR exists. The book gives voice to a new kind of vigilante. Unlike The Punisher, who kills his enemies wantonly and with little remorse, the Liberators in this issue save lives and that’s a hero I feel I can get behind. LIBERATOR does a thoroughly entertaining job of bringing a real life problem into a fantasy-based medium relying on solid storytelling rather than preaching.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
HAWKEYE ANNUAL #1Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Javier Pulido
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Recently I was presented with a line (I don’t know where from, honestly--probably a Patton Oswalt blog or something that dastardly Chris Hardwick said) that basically went “I wish I could go back and apologize to everyone I knew before I turned 30,” and I had one of those “my god, they’re right” moments. Now, I did not immediately begin lamenting impetuous years where time after time I thought I had life “figured out” and was most likely an insufferable prick to all those around me that didn’t have it together like I believed myself to have, but I definitely had a nice little jolt of “yeah, I probably was a bit of a prick” self-chastising. If this run of HAWKEYE by Matt Fraction and his bevy of super-talented artists has been anything – and this comic book is many a thing – it has been a launching pad for both the characters that go by that titular codename to do the proverbial finding of themselves. The shocking part has been from the Kate Bishop side of the pairing--shocking in both my kind of not expecting her to really be a part of this book when I first saw it solicited (because, y’know, MOVIE HYPE EVERYONE!!) and her prevalence in these pages and also because of just how much I enjoy watching her go to work in them. So obviously I am a pretty big fan of this issue with a lead in like that.
What has really struck me about these Kate-centric issues is how the tone rolls about. The way Fraction has been writing her and the stories around her has this sway to it, where Kate herself and her actions have this bit of aloofness and eccentricity to them for the most part, but then will move into a seriousness that plays into the adult she’s secretly pining to become. It’s really a great dichotomy between the two Hawkeyes, given Clint Barton’s adult-ass problems and continual push to act juvenilely and Kate playing at the inverse. And this particular issue really takes it home for the latter of those two, as Kate takes a West Coast adventure in the wake of her being cut off financially by her father.
How Fraction is taking these two characters and molding them is obviously at the forefront. I really do not even know how to describe what it is about the dialogue, the internal monologues, essentially all that shit where people are speaking is striking me, but what is has is it this snappiness to it that really drives the pace of the book. Maybe it just shows that, like Clint and Kate are growing, I need to grow as a critic and not suck at what I do, but all these HAWKEYE issues so far, and this Annual especially, are in this league of their own when it comes to style and when it comes to how words and actions flow from these characters. Fraction, via Kate’s mouth and brainspace in the internal monologue blocks, really brings it with the snap this time around too, from her verbal jousting with her cradle rockee stepmom to her internal turmoil as she wrestles with her self-confidence, then on to more verbal sparring with Madame Masque as they play one of the more surreal games of cat and mouse I’ve seen in pretty much any piece of fiction, and on and on and on. Honestly, there’s barely any action in this comic and I noticed not a bit of this, as I was way too involved in picking up what Fraction was throwing down from a verbal standpoint. It’s a fun and exciting journey of self-realization for a character that has become peculiar - in the most positive way to use that term - at the hands of Fraction and his cohorts.
As I mentioned earlier, the penciling collaborators that Fraction has been working with on this HAWKEYE run are nothing short of spectacular and this issue confirms that accusation. Pulido’s style particularly, I think, is a great accommodation for this issue. There’s something about the soft lines that really exaggerates the expressions and aloof tone I described early, and they absolutely scream “gitchy” with the retro feel, which is another one of those random terms I feel actually describes this book well. I especially love Madame Masque’s look under his vision, and I love the profile shots of Kate as she’s going back in forth in her skull. It’s a great storyteller’s touch to what Fraction is bringing with his words and really enhances the cartoonishness with which this book plays.
When I reviewed one of the opening issues of this series, I made a thrust at the premise that I love it when highly creative crews take on somewhat lower tier characters because they are more viable for the – and I believe this is the technical term – “going fucking bonkers with.” Because the fact of the matter is, even with an appearance in something like the Avengers movie, you can take more creative license with these characters that don’t carry four books a month and you can explore them more and build them how you want. Not only have Fraction and company done that with Clint Barton a solid bit, but also here they’ve gone above and beyond with Kate as an added bonus. Peter Parker Spider-Man “finding himself” rings more and more hollow the more frequently it happens. Kate ditching her current life and relationships to head out west with $60 or whatever to her name and winding up cat sitting for some old hippie ladies means something, because it’s an actual breakthrough for the character I can identify with given how it’s reminiscent with how I’ve felt the past couple years since I hit the big three-zero. Combine these revelatory moments with the skill in writing, dialogue, and visuals I’ve spent the past few paragraphs raving about and it’s brutally obvious why myself and all the comic book community that reads this title each month (seriously, who bothers to NOT buy this book?) holds it in the esteem that they do.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
BATGIRL #22Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Fernando Pasarin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I normally don’t review books this long in the tooth, but despite Babs’ two weeks on the shelves already I have not seen a lot of love for an issue that exudes the concept on every page. Gail not only gets this character, she seems to covet and protect Babs’ future with the ferocity of a mother lion tending her cubs.
I won’t say this title is insular; it certainly has been and continues to be affected by the happenings in other Bat titles, but by the same token it lives on an island of separate story goodness much the way Peter David’s X-FACTOR has delicately danced with the mutie titles. It’s the mark of a good writer to be able to allude to other events without letting them suffocate your own character’s progression – it’s a feat Ms. Simone has been accomplishing in leaps and bounds since the start of the New 52.
I don’t hold the “wheelie” cool Babs as a sacred calf, so it’s very easy me for me to kiss Oracle goodbye in favor Barbara getting back her giddy-up sticks. I call minor amounts of bullshit on the KILLING JOKE still being part of canon, but that’s only because I’m old – there’s no fault here on Simone’s part. Honestly, Simone made lemonade out of the “some things stay – some things go” lemons of the New 52 by giving Barbara as intense of a reason to hate guns as Bruce does. There’s also another quintessential element to Batgirl’s allure – she actually has a life beyond the cowl. So much of that Bat family has been steeped in brooding, especially since Damian fell on the sword, Bab’s breaths of joy over the past few months are extremely refreshing.
This issue is basically date night for Babs, but I wouldn’t call this a one-off by any stretch of the imagination. The consequences of James Jr.’s murder still weigh heavily, Barbara’s own misgivings about remaining Batgirl still weigh heavily on her mind, but at least for a few panels Barbara and her car thief beau can actually be real people while letting the inner monologue carry the prerequisite morose moment quota one needs to live in Gotham.
Honesty permeates every moment of this book. I’ve been in the friend zone with enough women and have enough gay man sensibilities that I laughed out loud as Barbara and her transgender roomie tear apart her closet for the big night (while the poor bastard beau waits outside with flowers in hand – been there as well). Ladies, you all need a gay man or a straight guy with no strings attached for this purpose. The lines between modest and prude and slutty and sexy are fine ones, and only guys can really tell you what will get the lizard brain excited without throwing us into full caveman bash over the head mode. When her roomie told her “go with the boots, guys love boots” I laughed out loud. Why? Because boots coupled with a minidress do drive us wild. I’m also going to give high points on this date night to Pasarin for remembering the cardinal rule of “cleavage or legs, not both” unless your name is Courtney Stodden or whore (/redundant Optimous off).
Pasaran also made Babs beautiful from the neck up. Even though the date is interrupted by some gang members looking for a pound of flesh from her date because of his bad boy brother, the smiles that came after that moment were exquisite. Whether dancing the night fantastic or eating a home cooked meal, Babs’ warmth was so genuine it heated my lap as I was reading. OK, I probably could have said that better, but you know what I mean.
If all this wasn’t enough, Simone drives home a sucker punch ending with a literal fist-to-cuffs between Jim Sr. and Batman – and it’s ironically because Batman is protecting Jim from trying to prosecute his own daughter for the death of his son.
Make me care, make me laugh and make me grip the edge of my seat and you have pretty much crafted the perfect comic experience. Ms. Simone, I salute your perfection.
Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.
NEW CRUSADERS: LEGACY VOL.1 TPBFraming Sequence Writer: Ian Flynn
Framing Sequence Pencils: Jerry Gaylord
Publisher: Archie Comics/Red Circle
One of the surprise hits of last year was Archie Comics’ foray back into the world of superheroes with NEW CRUSADERS. The origin of the next generation of such classic heroes as The Comet, Jaguar and The Fly captured the same blend of action, humor and drama that characterized the best of Marvel’s stories of the late 1970s and early ‘80s, and led to this reviewer naming the series as his favorite title of 2012. In addition to the aforementioned attributes, NEW CRUSADERS’ success was also due to the fact that the creators of the series chose to eschew the start-from-scratch reboot route—a decision made in the team’s previous incarnations by then-publisher DC—and make this new group of young heroes the inheritors of the earlier generation’s mantle. In short, NEW CRUSADERS embraced the legacy of the Archie heroes throughout their long publishing history. NEW CRUSADERS: LEGACY is a showcase of just a sampling of some of those classic stories from the past, as the young heroes learn more about the adventures of their predecessors.
The first thing that struck me about these reprinted stories is the list of famous names attached to them. When Archie published the Crusaders stories in the 1980s (all the strips in this collection date from that decade of Reaganomics and New Coke), they managed to accumulate a wealth of artistic talent from their bigger-name competitors. Rich Buckler is here, the typical Kirby-esque elements of his work toned down somewhat but still dynamic. Carmine Infantino, so instrumental in revitalizing The Flash in the 1960s, draws a retelling of the origin of The Comet. One of my favorite underappreciated artists, Eduardo Barreto, illustrates a tale of Steel Sterling. Alex Toth applies his clean and appealing style to a story of The Fox. And even Spider-Man’s co-creator Steve Ditko is here! Ditko’s drawing style is somewhat muted under another artist’s inks, but his hand is easy to see in his page breakdowns. Though these earlier comics may not have had the mass appeal enjoyed by Marvel and DC at the time, they clearly were right up there with their competitors in terms of artistic quality.
As for the quality of the writing, that’s where the older Crusaders comics were a decidedly mixed bag. Some of the stories reprinted here are actually quite good—the origin of The Comet that actually acknowledges the fact that the Golden Age version of the character was a cold-blooded killer of criminals, the story of The Shield wherein he confronts the dilemma of being a man out of his time (much in the way his similarly-clad competitor over at Marvel did), the tale of an obsessive fan stalking Fly Girl—but there are also some of the more embarrassing examples of clichéd superhero adventures represented here. In a postmodern moment, the young heroes of the New Crusaders poke fun at their predecessors’ exploits, as well as their costumes. And rightfully so—why the hell did The Comet change his spandex outfit for a stripey pith helmet and a Snidely Whiplash mustache?
The reprints themselves also vary in print quality. I’m guessing the reason for this is because most of the material here had to be scanned and printed from the original Archie comic books rather than the original artwork. The linework of some of the stories is crisp, while other segments have a grainier look to them. I’m also not sure I like how some of the reprinted material was recolored with modern computer coloring, complete with gradients and color holds. When I’m looking at reprinted comics, I like to see how the comic would have looked when originally published, not an old comic dressed up to look newer. Nevertheless, the overall look of the reprints is fairly sharp.
You don’t necessarily need a full working knowledge of the team’s history to enjoy NEW CRUSADERS—series writer Ian Flynn is savvy enough to know when to drop a tidbit of information to connect the dots between points in the superhero timeline. But the reprinted stories in NEW CRUSADERS: LEGACY add an extra layer to this multigenerational superhero epic, as well as provide a fun look into a line of comics that the average reader (such as myself) may have missed the first time around.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #22Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
So now we have made it to the halfway point of the Trinity War, and as of yet there has been no war of whoever the trinity are. Kind of like how Ultron never appeared in AGE OF ULTRON until the final issue, but all his agents were busting stuff up the whole time. But seriously, who are the trinity? As far as I can tell we have seven players here--JL, JLA, JLD, Pandora, The Question, Phantom Stranger and the Secret Society of Super-Villains--and the only true war seem to be the Secret Society of Super-Villains vs. everybody. I suppose I should stop looking for the answer in the story and just look to the marketing of the story: it's a story featuring the JL, JLA and the JLD and there is no war.
Concept (goal, point) aside, this has been a fairly decent superhero story; unfortunately, I've gotten extra surly this week because this is the weakest issue so far, mainly because the plot (whatever it truly is) doesn't move forward at all in the sense of “do we know more about anything?” No, we don't know any more about the Society, Pandora, or what happened to Superman than we did in issue 2 (i.e. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #6). Even though Jeff Lemire penned this issue, I put the blame on Geoff Johns (the head writer), who most likely gave Lemire an outline of what he wanted to happen and Lemire just made it happen. So this series is really falling into step with other big stories by Johns, INFINITE CRISIS and BRIGHTEST DAY, in which the plot of the story wasn't revealed until the last issue. So any chance of you getting involved in the story beyond asking “what the hell is going on?” is impossible.
Ok, spoiler time: let's break down what did happen. The villain talked about how he has already won--shades of FINAL CRISIS. The Question and Superman team up to see if it's the Society that has been messing with him. Weight Watchers Amanda Waller isn't hip to that, but the rest of the JLA sides with Superman, resulting in a bunch of soldiers getting punched out. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman recruits the JLD to help her investigate Pandora. Batman, on the other hand, is ready to punch Wonder Woman out based on what the Phantom Stranger and Steve Trevor say. Again, are these superheroes all morons? Does Batman really distrust Wonder Woman so much (despite the fact they have been teammates for years) and go with a guy he never met before, and Steve Trevor who helped build the JLA to take the JL down!? Thankfully there is no fight, but still, it's no wonder DC doesn't put the “World Greatest Superheroes” banner on the JUSTICE LEAGUE, because clearly they are not.
The bright spot, as you might guess, is Mikel Janin's artwork. His background details are very impressive, and his characters have a very naturalist feel to them while still feeling like superheroes. Occasionally I do find his storytelling off, cramping up some panels while leaving tons of dead space in others, but that's nit-picky. Overall it's a great looking book. The panel of the pissed-off Superman is really nice, though I do feel he really makes Supes’ new costume/armor/whatever really look like onesie pajamas.
After untold months of planning you'd think this series would be more impressive than it is at the halfway point. I mean heck, they even managed to tie the TEAM SEVEN mini-series in to it! On some level I feel this was supposed to be the New 52's pay off, but I feel like I should just start asking for a refund. Still, I am reviewing a story in slow motion as it is, so maybe I'll eat these words next month.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND and CAPTAIN ROCKET at www.Toonocity.com
THE ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT: PULP FRICTION #1Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paul Smith
Publisher: IDW Publishing/DC Comics
Reviewer: Corey Michael Dalton
My interest in The Rocketeer and my interest in The Spirit have taken opposite trajectories. I first discovered The Rocketeer through the movie, which I loved. I then sought out Dave Stevens' original comics, devouring them all, mainly for the beautiful art. I first discovered The Spirit through collections of Will Eisner's stories, which I intermittently enjoyed. Then the movie came along and left such a bad taste in my mouth that the character has been kind of toxic for me since. Can a crossover miniseries with The Rocketeer reignite my interest in the Spirit? Based on the excellent writing of Mark Waid and the gorgeous art by the legendary Paul Smith in this debut issue, the answer is a resounding yes! This was one of the best first issues I've read in years and has me salivating for the second.
The issue does get off to a bit of a rocky start. The first couple of pages—which involve a man identified as Alderman Cunningham engaging in a governmental argument about the Radio Act of 1927, exclusive licenses, broadcast regulations, and other procedural issues—are a little talky and don't exactly start things off with a bang. The scene reminded me of the opening scroll from The Phantom Menace. Thankfully, Waid doesn't drag things out long before the Central City alderman's dead body shows up on the other side of the continent only 8 hours later, and then the comic's off to the races and doesn't slow down.
In Los Angeles, Betty (pin-up model and girlfriend of Cliff Secord, aka The Rocketeer) discovers the alderman's body at a photo shoot, which sends Denny Colt (aka The Spirit), Central City Police Commissioner Eustace Dolan, and Commissioner Dolan's daughter/Central City Mayor/The Spirit's love interest Ellen Dolan winging their way to the left coast. Because they are pursuing Betty, Cliff tries to stop them, which leads to a dynamic mid-air fist fight between The Rocketeer and The Spirit. The storyline is fairly straightforward, which is a good thing when you have such a large cast to introduce. The mystery of the alderman's murder provides the perfect excuse for the two casts of characters to meet up and go on an adventure together. The plot flowed naturally from one event to the next, inevitably bringing the characters together without seeming forced. I especially enjoyed how Waid tied together the two father figures, Commissioner Dolan and Peevy, by making them old war buddies. Their friendship diffused the initial misunderstanding relatively quickly, helping to cut the "heroes fight" part of the crossover to a minimum. Now they can work together for the rest of the miniseries to solve the mystery.
My one criticism of the writing is a problem that I often have with Waid: he sometimes sacrifices in-character, believable dialogue to shoehorn in a joke. If the joke hits (Betty's "I found a man!", for example), that's OK, but if the joke's a clunker (The Rocketeer's "Go limp. But then, you probably don't need to be told.") or seems too out of place (Commissioner Dolan's "You're going to shoot the Martian with a Buck Rogers gun?"), then it pulls me right out of the story. Most of the jokes in this issue did land for me, though, so I only rolled my eyes a couple of times. And, hey, I'd rather have Waid try and make the dialogue sparkle and not always succeed than to just write banal expository lines for the characters! By and large, the characters seem spot on, completely compatible with other stories I've read about them; Cliff is kind of a lovable jerk who speaks in exaggerated 1930s slang, The Spirit is surprisingly good-natured and light-hearted, Ellen is always flirting with The Spirit, and so on.
The art by Paul Smith is predictably amazing. I've loved his art since his days on UNCANNY X-MEN, and he has only gotten better over the years. I didn't know how he'd be able to pull off combining characters from two such distinct, influential artists, but Smith manages it with seeming ease. He doesn't ape either artist, but his interpretations are still close enough to the originals to be instantly recognizable while also being enough of his own style that all of the characters seem to fit in the same world visually. Of course, Betty is constantly lying around in sexy poses wearing revealing clothes. Dave Stevens wouldn't have wanted it any other way!
All in all, this issue carries on the heroic legacy of both of these characters with aplomb. I think Will Eisner and Dave Stevens would be pleased. Now when does issue two come out, again?
Corey Michael Dalton (A href=http://www.cmdalton.com/ target=_blank>cmdalton.com) has written and/or edited trade books, magazine articles, short stories, novels, comics, plays, reviews, websites, blogs, and more. You name it, he's probably written it. Except religious scriptures. He hasn't gotten around to those just yet.
HARBINGER #14 /BLOODSHOT #13Writers: Joshua Dysart & Duane Swierczynski
Artists: Khari Evans & Barry Kitson
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I was surprised to see the “Harbinger Wars” moniker on this week’s Valiant offerings. After all, HARBINGER WARS #4, the final piece of connective tissue melding these two titles, dropped last week. It was a very neat and tidy ending, too, as the hydra that is Project Rising Spirit sprouted a new head with the help of Uncle Sam’s smoking gun. The Psiots went their merry ways (some), and all was wrong with the world, as it should be.
These issues are definitive epilogues, with one being a deeper insight, but the other (as much as I hate to say it) a title that should have let sleeping crossovers lie. Neither book was bad; I’ve just gotten used to every Valiant book carrying weight and moving both the book and the universe forward. Filler issues are fine--we’ve been subjected to them for years in the Big 2 verse (softball anyone)--but they just come as a surprise when a new universe throws one in.
I refer to BLOODSHOT as this week’s less than necessary offering. It simply had more repeat pages than I cared for from the series’ main action. I can only watch Bloodshot and the PRS Psiots drive down the Vegas strip so many times. I get what the book was trying to do as we traverse Bloodshot’s implanted memories of a normal life with a hot wife that wants constant sex (and yeah, as most married men will attest to, that was the tipoff for Bloodshot the memory was fabrication versus reality). But again, we’ve seen these moments before as well; it was actually how the book got started. Sure, the context is different now--less a game of “what’s real and what’s not” and more “these memories have a purpose to sedate BLOODSHOT and they are fucking evil in their pre-programmed ways”--but it still felt like much sameness with a slightly new backdrop. Now on the art side, two moments of glory stood out: the sketchy black and white showgirl cover was original and weirdly engaging, and the beatdown that puts Bloodhsot in the hands of Harada was brutally beautiful.
Now HARBINGER was just the goods. It had a nice handicap, though, in that two stories were happening in this title during the crossover, so we were able to leave behind Vegas to focus solely on 1969 with the final confrontation between Harada and the gigantic split head of PRS. Apparently when you try to activate Psiots with science over genetic prowess, the results are effective but horrific. We also get to meet the Bleeding Monk for the first time, who is hilariously doing his bleeding into a kiddie pool. And last, but not least, we see Harada defeated. Well, sorta...let’s just say he retreats as a defensive mechanism into lost memories and hippie culture so he can rise again in the super groovy 70’s. I’d like to see more of these “this is your life, Toyo” moments – hint hint.
I know I’m being unnecessarily harsh on BLOODSHOT, but that’s only because I hold Valiant and this crossover in such high regard. Any other company and my words would be heralding a complete improvement in quality. Criticisms, like all things in life, are relative, so getting a 90 instead of a 95 doesn’t knock a book off of Valiant’s otherworldly plane of awesometopia.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #2Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Jae Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Chris Massari, AKATheKidMarvel on Twitter
BATMAN/SUPERMAN was originally a book I was pretty excited for, but within two issues that excitement has diminished quite a bit. I haven’t completely jumped off the book’s bandwagon yet while still holding onto some slight bit of hope for the series. But after two issues I’ve become more confused than interested in it. I actually had to go online after reading the first issue in order to clarify what exactly I was reading, because otherwise I was completely lost. Issue two slightly clarified things, adding together some missing puzzle pieces, but it still leaves me out of the loop overall, basically making me feel the same way as Batman and Superman are themselves in the story. While this is an interesting writing tool, letting the story develop for the reader as it develops for the characters, it something difficult to grasp at the present moment. It’s an element that I know will seem really cool by the end of the arc; however, for the moment, I find it frustrating and causing me to lose interest. With that little intro, let me move onto a slight recap of the second issue of BATMAN/SUPERMAN.
The story begins with DC’s NEW 52 Batman piecing together where exactly he’s at and what just happened to him, even within the walls of what he first believes to be his own Batcave. NEW 52 Batman is met by Earth 2’s Catwoman, whom he believes at first is his own world’s Catwoman. Still unsure of why he was teleported to his own Batcave or how someone would know to do so in this first place, Batman even questions if Catwoman has developed teleporting abilities of her own. New 52 Batman then begins fighting Earth 2 Catwoman, thinking she’s behind everything. Once New 52 Batman sees a marriage photo of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, he realizes he may not be on his own world. The same type of confusion is happening to New 52 Superman, who is met by a still living Ma and Pa Kent after beating Earth 2’s Batman’s face in. New 52 Clark is then met by a very angry Earth 2 Superman, who has come to help his world’s Batman. The story then goes back to New 52 Batman and Earth 2 Catwoman, when Earth 2 Batman enters the story. The two different Batmen then go at it until they both realize they aren’t each other’s enemies. The same kind of realization happens to the Supermen, thanks to Ma Kent, before both sides of the Earth 2 and New 52 superheroes realize they both need to get to the bottom of the situation and some interesting developments take place.
Overall, BATMAN/SUPERMAN has not been what I expected in the least. I feel like the book is trying to be something artsy and intellectual, but, not artsy and intellectual in the way that makes it enjoyable. It comes off as the artsy intellectual way that feels slightly forced, which results in the story coming off as unappealing and confusing. The way Greg Pak has written BATMAN/SUPERMAN, he makes things jump around too much, making elements of the book unclear on what’s happening. It’s been hard for me to keep track with so much bouncing back and forth within the story, a lot of times taking me out of the story itself. As I stated before, once the arc is completed it could end up being more entertaining than it was originally. However, I’m not sure if it’s the best way to start off the first two issues of the book. There’s also the elephant in the room of Superman and Batman’s first meeting in New 52 supposedly being in the JUSTICE LEAGUE revamp, so most likely no matter what happens this will all turn into some kind of memory loss of the two heroes (I’m guessing).
My second big issue with BATMAN/SUPERMAN is the lack of character that the characters themselves display. I’m a huge believer in interesting characters and their interactions being the plot devices to push story. While BATMAN/SUPERMAN gives me, the reader, little to no connection to what I’m reading, there is little dialogue within the story, mostly focusing on short lines of character thoughts. Pak just confuses rather than create interest in his characters.
Lastly, I hate Jae Lee’s art in this series. I like abstract art; it can make for some awesome stories when done correctly. However, the way BATMAN/SUPERMAN has been drawn, it takes away from the action rather than enhance it. Lee’s style just isn’t working for me in this. For this type of abstract art, I believe it would work better animated, rather than still action art. Lee is definitely a talented artist, but I can’t stand the particular artwork in BATMAN/SUPERMAN.
With a combination of story art I don’t like and confusing storywriting, within two issues BATMAN/SUPERMAN has lost basically all of the excitement I originally had for the series. I think the story could pick up once the entire arc is completed, making more sense and creating a broad overall timeline of the story. However, in the meantime I’m just left with confusion and disappointment for the book.
WARLORD OF MARS #27Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Leandro Oliveira
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Leaving the book adaptions behind, Arvid Nelson has plunged headlong into a six issue arc all his own, “Savages of Mars”. To a degree I'm looking forward to what Nelson can do with John Carter without Burroughs to back him up. Barsoom is such a crazy mythic place, just ripe for some high adventure--something that I think is missing in most comic books these days.
First off, Nelson has set up a United Nations of Mars, if you will, with John Carter presiding over the four different races of Mars, who are trying to come together. But in the vein of most planetary romance stories, something strange is afoot and the hero has to investigate--this being bands of Green Martians (the big guys with four arms) getting uppity and raiding the other races. Clues lead to the North, where the Yellow Martians live, so John and his best bud Tars Tarkas have come to look around. Things, of course, do not go smoothly.
Now into the second issue and Nelson is doing a fine job. It's nice to see Nelson building on what happened previously during his adaptions, as we have returned to the Yellow Martians’ land and their new leader Talu. Along with some good intrigue and the required action, there have been some good character moments for John and Talu. Talu is loyal to John, but his staff (mostly made up of the old tyrant’s men) are not. Talu also seems not cut out for the leader of a nation job, though he was a great rebel leader. Tars has been getting some nice moments in too, as whatever may be affecting the Green Martian raiders may be affecting him too, so his interest in this matter is becoming more personal. The pacing has improved since the last adaption, something I expect since Nelson no longer has to fit one of Burroughs’ books into a comic.
One thing nice about this series is that Arvid Nelson has remained the writer. It's been his lone voice that has brought John Carter out of the novels and into the future here. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the artists. It's like musical chairs here. Thankfully there hasn't been a really bad artist on the book, but some consistency would help sell this series more. Oliveira stops by this issue, his first after failing to complete the Warlord of Mars story arc (four out of five issues). As before, he does a fine job of it, but some pages are just too painfully not inked. Oliveira and the last artist, Everton Sousa, are not quite what I'd call prime-time artists, but with some more time on a series they could be. Often an artist grows while on a series, and a good run of 12 issues might do that for them, and make us readers happier campers too. Whatever the case may be, I hope Dynamite can get a real team together on this book (I suppose they probably do, too).
So if you need a break from the overly complex and written world of modern superheroes comics (where everyone is trying to be the next Alan Moore) but still want a healthy dose of action, then check out Dynamite's WARLORD OF MARS. They have been quietly putting out a high quality book that won't disappoint you.
Advance Review: In stores today!
COLLIDER #1Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Fans of my musings over the past seven years know my love of sci fi runs deeper and stronger than a wormhole. You’ll also know I lean more “Star Trek” than “Star Wars”, wanting some extrapolations of true science versus the “it just is”-isms of science fantasy (and no, I did not ask for the force to be explained with miti-bullshit-ians; once you go one way or the other, stick with it). I like to make this distinction as I talk about the dense pull of COLLIDER because my respect and joy that stems from this story of physics gone awry is a 10 degree, as opposed to a 180 degree, eschewing of reality. Also, this is going to be a quick review since I’m already past deadline and the penance involves being locked in a closed room with Ambush Bug, Sleazy, a game of Twister and Enya music.
We don’t get a lot of answers in this first issue to the question of why the known laws of physics have abandoned this universe--merely that they have. But as humans often tend to do, we survived when this phenomenon struck 25-plus years ago and we slapped bureaucracy in place faster than you can say Einstein-Rosenberg.
Instead, Oliver chooses to show how this change of…well, everything since man dropped his first rock on his toe has affected everyday life. Our guide is a member of the Federal Bureau of Physics, Adam Hardy. Don’t let the agent title fool you; there are more grunts in this bureau than thinkers, and Adam falls squarely in the “roll up your sleeves” category. Repairing rips in gravitational pull is the 21st century equivalent of being a coal miner. Aside from being a generally nice guy who helps little old ladies fix their cars, Adam also carries the seeds of destiny. His father was a discoverer of and first victim to the strokes physics are undergoing around us.
Most of the book is truly focused on making the point that repairing anomalies in reality is a pretty mundane job, akin to welding. As we watch Adam making reparations inside a local high school courtyard, he laments his job, boss, co-workers and the fact he couldn’t stay longer with the fiery redhead dumped in his lap when he was helping that aforementioned little old lady. Adam is a regular dude trying to satiate basic human desires inside a world that would make any of us weep like scared toddlers if it were happening to us.
There’s a realness to this book, despite the abandoning of known fact and leaps of faith into the FBPs techno-babble speak (which was garnished in just the right amounts, making this book palatable to Hickman haters). Rodriguez’ art helps on this front, a style that’s crossed between Jeff Lemiere and Fabio Moon. Nothing is pretty in this book, but I will say the sketchiness was also a deterrent when gravity’s shit hit the fan at the courtyard. I was confused as to whether the accident transformed Hardy. The distortions that occurred we’ve all seen before, but they are not readily apparent on first glance.
I would also caution Oliver on too many plotlines out of the gate. The crooked partner felt like it tipped the scale to information overload for a first issue, and I can only hope that Hardy’s partner and his Samuel Clemens-looking benefactor reveal their plans in short order.
I’m in for COLLIDER because it’s a great piece of sci fi comic booking we’ve been needing for quite some time. Also, I have to find out if I’m right about the title having any connection to the Big Bang chemistry set sitting under Europe.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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