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Batman and Robin #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good!
Story Title: Batman Reborn Part One: Domino Effect

The new Batman and Robin make their debut, with new villains, a new ride, and a lot of potential.

batmanandrobin001Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

The cover has a certain iconic look to it…though there’s also every chance that’s partially because it’s one of the images that’s been around for awhile now for this month’s new status quo amidst the Bat-books. Batman has a confident, amused look about him, with a Robin who looks like he’s itchin’ for action…and this is the image that initially convinced me that I would actually like to see Damian as Robin. There’s something to the potential dynamic here that really interests me.

We open the issue on a new villain (a Mr. Toad? They wouldn’t give us a character too similar to the X-Men villain The Toad, would they?) being pursued by Batman and Robin…who have a flying Batmobile (which seems just like Morrison to throw in there). Outlandish though it is, when it comes to the DCU and the Bat-corner and whatnot…I suppose a flying car isn’t so far out there as to be entirely unbelievable. We get a few pages of them interacting with Alfred (where we see both Dick’s and Damian’s personalities come through a bit, especially in the way they talk to Alfred…this also shows how different the two are).

We get the obligatory scene with Gordon and his officers, the obligatory here’s-what-the-villains-are-up-to-since-they’ve-not-yet-been-found-out-by-Batman scene…and as has become fairly standard for new books and new directions with DC, we even get the obligatory page with several panels "previewing" what is to come over the next year in the book.

The story feels like a Morrison book…but this time, in a good way…at least for this issue. We see the main characters in action; there’s no question of who they are. We get the "updated"/current takes on other classic elements associated with Batman; we get a new villain–several, actually–who could be sorta interesting if only for an arc. However, unlike the last Batman arc I read by Morrison, I don’t feel like I’m "lost" going in; if there’s more than the surface story, then hey–that’s cool; but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on some in-joke here.

The art is pretty good overall–I enjoy the visual style on the whole. I just don’t like the way the faces come across–it seems like everyone is "lumpy" in a not-so-good sorta way, almost for the sake of having that kinda detail on the faces. In addition to the cover as I mentioned at the start of this review, there’s also a page of the title duo disembarking from their flying vehicle that I would love to have as a poster, and that is loaded with potential (it remains to be seen what the reaction to them is, if we even see it next issue).

Honestly, I feel like this is what that All-Star book should’ve been…and with a simple sentence like "Bruce is gone, Dick has taken over" one wouldn’t even have needed to slog through the last year or so of stuff to get to this status quo.

I like it. There’s loads of potential here–especially if this book keeps to its own sandbox while sharing the status quo with the other books for the "general DCU" stuff. This won’t be for everyone, but as first issues go, as really debuting the new Batman status quo, and all that kinda stuff….this is an issue well worth checking out…the bigger question will be whether it can live up to its potential and expectation.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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All-Star Superman #8 [Review]

Quick Rating: Average
Story Title: Us Do Opposite

Superman and Zibarro on the Bizarro World as said world sinks into the Underverse.

allstarsuperman008Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Digitally Inked & Colored by: Jamie Grant
Letters: Phil Balsman
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover Art: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics

Perhaps it’s the timing, or zeitgeist, patience wearing thin or just plain change-of-tastes…this issue is the first that I’ve really felt outright let-down by.

The issue continues from the previous one (which was itself a "To Be Continued…"), picking up with Superman on the Bizarro world with some guy called Zibarro, an imperfect imperfect (read: "perfect") duplicate of Supes. (At least, that’s the impression I got contextually–whether this issue is on-time (bimonthly) or not, it feels like it’s been awhile since the previous issue, and I didn’t recall much detail from that.) The Bizarro world is sinking into the "underverse," and while Superman has gotten the Bizarros off Earth, he himself is trapped on their world, and rapidly losing his powers (the further into the Underverse they get, the more the sunlight is changed to red sunlight, which of course means no more yellow/power for Supes). This forces Superman and Zibarro to get creative for a solution to their problem. Meanwhile, on Earth, Lois and others compare notes on the situation as a whole, leading Lois to a particular revelation that’s been a long-time coming.

Yes, I was let-down by this issue. For one thing, I had wrongly assumed it would conclude the Bizarro story from the previous issue. I’d figured a 2-parter wouldn’t be bad, but I rather like the one-off nature of earlier issues, where you could pick up a single issue and enjoy it start to finish, without needing context of the previous issue(s). That this is also a "To Be Continued…" issue is a disappointment. The "Bizarro-speak" gets extremely frustrating very quickly…I found myself trying to sort it out/logically comprehend it, but quickly gave up, and relied more on tone and visuals to figure out what was going on, as well as context from Supes and Zibarro speaking normally.

I’m also not a fan of the Bizarro concept as a whole…and while I’m sure this story has some nice homage to silver age stories (much as this series as a whole seems to be a modern-age sensibilities / homage to the silver age), it lacks the charm of earlier stories presented in this series, and simply fails to engage me.

The art is good, as usual, for the story…Quitely provides a that distinct, almost simplistic visual style that has defined this series visually so far, taking apparent cues from Superman: For All Seasons without outright mimicking it. The art fits the story, shows what is going on, and in general works quite well; I really have no complaints with it.

With no real recapping, this issue doesn’t seem like the best point for a new reader to jump on-board. While you do get a story of Superman on the Bizarro world, it’s missing much of the context and the "why" presented by the previous issue. If you’ve read the previous issue, you’ll probably want to read this for the obvious story continuation. And if you’re a general Bizarro fan or fan of silver-age type stories in and of themselves, you may just enjoy this, context-be-darned.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

All-Star Superman #7 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Being Bizarro (part 1 of a 2-part adventure)

Bizarre creatures descend on the Earth, duplicating those they come into contact with, while a square world heads toward Earth…

allstarsuperman007Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Digitally Inked & Colored By: Jamie Grant
Letters: Phil Balsman
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover Art: Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics

This title continues to be a sort of "modern update" to silver-age stories, with similar elements that seem very familiar from those classic stories, while adding or incorporating a modern twist. Morrison and Quitely deliver another tale that fits well within the continuity established for this title–though it seems almost as if the idea of Supes having been poisoned has been left to the side, with not a mention of it here, nor of the events from the previous issue–in fact, we are plunged directly into the action at this issue’s open.

The issue opens with a P.R.O.J.E.C.T. mission gone bad that may hint at story elements to come, and then we find Superman in space dealing with some unearthly behing before being ambushed by some clay-looking creatures, and witnessing the appearance of a cube planet. Cut to Earth–Metropolis–where more of these creatures crash-land, bringing destruction and chos with them. Upon touching anyone, the creatures take their shapes, and the vocabulary generally recognized as being that of Bizarro. Another one appears, with the costume of Superman, and the battle is on–Superman versus his bizarre duplicate, as well as that for survival amidst the Planet’s staff.

Up-front, this is probably my least-favorite issue of this series–probably largely due to the fact that it’s a 2-parter, so we’ve only got half a story and a decent wait between issues means it’ll be awhile til I get to read the next part.

As stated above, this issue continues very much in line with the previous issues–maintaining both the visual and the written continuity/feel. The story takes the classic Bizarro concept and gives it a mild shove, that seems at once over-familiar and yet inspired. However, I’m not particularly impressed overall. This isn’t bad, but it’s not blowing anything to a new level for me or giving particular "insight" to a character, metatextually or otherwise.

Quitely‘s art keeps the feel I’ve gotten used to for this title, and while I wouldn’t be enthused about seeing it for the "regular" Superman, for this title it works very well; I have no real complaint with it. I was even amused at one panel that made me think "Niiiice…Zombie-Superman!" for a moment.

Unless you’re specifically turned off by Morrison or Quitely and previous issues, you’ll probably find this–like I did–to be another solid (if somewhat disappointing compared to the previous issue) entry in the series. If you’ve not checked the title out before, this may seem a bit more "out-there" than much else, but it IS the start of a new story, so not a terrible point to jump on.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Favorites of Walt: The Comic Shops #4 – Sports ‘n More

I believe it would have been 1995 or 1996 when friends and I discovered Sports ‘n More. It was another case of happening to notice the store while being driven to Capp’s Comics.

Initially, the place dealt mainly in sports cards with a few collectible card games, as well as a small selection of comics.

Eventually it passed to new management, the store was rearranged, and became more of a comic-centric store. One of the greatest things–to me–about this store was their “membership” deal. For $10/year, one got a membership card, and a 20% discount off all new comics…a discount that “paid for itself” within a month.

This store never had the selection of new comics, nor back issues, that Capp’s had…but that discount became a pretty big deal for awhile.

When Capp’s moved to its new location, and then closed up…Sports ‘n More became–because of the membership discount–the main comic shop that I’d visit for a time, even while starting as a grad student in Kent, until gas prices started to skyrocket.

The shop remains open to this day, as far as I know—though it’s been awhile since I’ve made it in. I don’t get there enough to justify to myself the $10 membership now, but occasionally I’ll stop in when looking for a random comic that no one else seems to have.

This has never been a store that I’ve looked to for back issues, per se–though they keep a number of months’ worth of issues “on the rack” at a given time, so if the issues haven’t sold, sometimes there might be 6-7 of the most recent issues available for cover price.

Though I don’t believe I was ever formally introduced, the store proprietors know me on sight, and vice versa…and I must admit to a bit of guiltiness on not visiting lately. Generally I at least make it out on Free Comic Day…and they remain one of the most “active” stores I’m aware of when it comes to participating in some of the larger “event” things with comics. They were the only store I was aware of that participated in the big release party for the first Dark Tower comic, and they always have banners and stuff out for the annual Free Comic Book Day.

Even though I don’t make it there all that often…the store remains a fixture, and it’ll be a big part of my “comics’ past” when or if they ever close down.

NEXT WEEK: Comic Heaven.

Earlier Installments:

  • #3 – Fun Stuff Cards & Comics
  • #2 – Comics & Collectibles
  • #1 – Capp’s Comics
  • #0 – Introduction
  • All-Star Superman #6 [Review]

    Quick Rating: Very Good
    Story Title: Funeral in Smallville

    Superman deals with the appearance of doppelgangers, and a certain loss…

    allstarsuperman006Writer: Grant Morrison
    Pencils: Frank Quitely
    Digitally Inked & Colored: Jamie Grant
    Letters: Phil Balsman
    Editorial Assists: Brandon Montclare
    Editor: Bob Schreck
    Cover Art: Quitely
    Publisher: DC Comics

    This particular issue doesn’t seem to have the ongoing continuity thread of the earlier issues (as far as Supes being sun-poisoned and dying). It certainly holds up on the "presents a self-contained/issue story" end, though.

    Superman/Clark hangs out with his parents, and while it’d be second nature to him to deal with the harvest using his powers, Pa insists on hiring help to get it done the old-fashioned way. This "help" proves to be more than they let on, leading to a rather cliched super-battle that somehow doesn’t come off in THAT bad a way.

    Morrison‘s writing here is good, and while the cover pretty much gives away what happens, it’s easy to be occupied with the action, until what happens does. In that way, we see a Superman that is seemingly much younger than the "main continuity" version, as well as almost more realistic. The story itself is nothing new, but it’s the specific presentation that makes it worthwhile: in THIS continuity, for THIS Superman; and in a way it seems to draw from several versions of the character, providing a sort of "merged" handling of the elder Kent. Morrison seems to enjoy dipping toes into a number of swimming pools, giving us glimpses of different ideas or ways to take certain characters: before I’d even read the identity of one future character, I recognized the symbol from that story from 1998 (seems that was a million years ago, doesn’t it?).

    Quitely‘s art is good, and just works well with the writing; the style (at least for the moment, coming down off a cold) reminds me of Tim Sale‘s style, particularly from Superman: For All Seasons. (To some degree, the story itself almost seems like it could be fit with that, though it’s been years since I last read it).

    As infrequent as this book is, it’s not a favorite exactly, but it’s certainly enjoyable, and well-done. This is the Superman to introduce people to who aren’t terribly familiar with the character and uninterested in a monthly commitment; it gets at some core elements popularly known with the character, without relying heavily on or being expected to use heavy continuity. If you pick up no other Superman book, this would be the one that’s worth getting.

    Ratings:

    Story: 4/5
    Art: 4/5
    Overall: 4/5

    All-Star Superman #5 [Review]

    Quick Rating: Good
    Story Title: The Gospel According to Lex Luthor

    Clark Kent interviews an imprisoned Lex Luthor…

    allstarsuperman005Writer: Grant Morrison
    Pencils: Frank Quitely
    Digitally Inked & Colored: Jamie Grant
    Letters: Phil Balsman
    Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
    Editor: Bob Schreck
    Cover Art: Frank Quitely
    Publisher: DC Comics

    Superman doesn’t show up in this issue. Instead, this is a more character-centric piece looking in on the "All-Star Universe" Lex Luthor, as interviewed by–and interacting with–Clark Kent (who, of course, is actually Superman, but Luthor doesn’t know this.)

    Visually, this issue seems–without my having the prior 4 open before me–on-par with those issues. Quitely‘s art seems to capture at once a simplicity often lost to comics, while managing to convey a subtle complexity. That’s not to say this is the most detailed art, nor is it the most simplistic–it’s an interesting blend of both, and for a standalone-continuity incarnation of Superman and the supporting cast, I think it works very nicely.

    The story here–Clark Kent interviewing Lex Luthor, encountering The Parasite, and Luthor apparently keeping Kent alive (under his "protection") within the prison)–is, as in previous issues, reminiscent of a silver-age sensibility. However, there’s a complexity going on in Morrison‘s writing that shows those silver-age things in contemporary light. In short, the story can look and feel a bit silver-age, but that’s like a side-effect from a story that is still well-written.

    As with the previous issue, this issue includes something between a cameo and a full-blown appearance of an established (in the regular DC Universe) villain, but in a way that isn’t quite the same-old, same-old. The appearance makes good sense given the setting, and provides a bit of impetus in moving the story forward–and perhaps (possibly) setting some stuff up for down the road (especially if we’re to believe Luthor to be quite the smart cookie).

    If Superman interests you but you don’t want to get bogged down in years of continuity; or you’re just a fan of Quitely or Morrison, this issue should be a pleaser. The story focus is on the characters, and Superman doesn’t appear in-costume. While disappointing to some, I’m sure…it works for me, given the story.

    Ratings:

    Story: 3.5/5
    Art: 3.5/5
    Overall: 3.5/5

    All-Star Superman #4 [Review]

    Quick Rating: Very Good
    Title: The Superman/Olsen War!

    On this particular day in the life of Jimmy Olsen, the kid’s got his hands full with an evil Superman and a plan to save the world…question is, what will it cost him?

    allstarsuperman004Writer: Grant Morrison
    Pencils: Frank Quitely
    Digitally Inked & Colored by: Jamie Grant
    Letters: Phil Balsman
    Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
    Editor: Bob Schreck
    Cover Art: Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant
    Publisher: DC Comics

    I hardly even remember the previous issue, offhand. Thankfully, due to the nature of this series, one doesn’t really have to remember that issue to "get" and enjoy THIS one.

    Jimmy Olsen here is working on a series of "For a Day" columns, in which he takes on certain jobs for a day, following them with a column about his experiences. The focal role he takes on in this issue is as Director of "P.R.O.J.E.C.T."

    Of course, Jimmy being Jimmy, trouble ensues, resulting in the summoning of Superman to the scene, to bail everyone outta said trouble…though this, predictably, only leads to more trouble–and ultimately, a certain ‘friction’ between Superman and Jimmy.

    The conflict becomes physical, and as the issue’s story-title suggests, we get to see Superman and Jimmy really go at it–while providing a semi-unique interpretation of yet another character, working it into the "All-Star" version of things in such a way that doesn’t interrupt status quo, and is left open to return later.

    This issue is yet another example of how both Morrison and Quitely present a Superman comic that greatly differs from the current/ongoing main titles…and yet "gets" a certain essential aspect of the characters, telling stories that are possibly more fun and entertaining than those main titles. This may not be THE Superman that everyone seeks…but this version of Superman should be recognizable by anyone.

    The art is clear and distinct–conveying exactly what needs to be conveyed. The visuals may not be "photorealistic," but they don’t need to be–they have a style all their own, that works very well for this issue–and the series as a whole.

    While I am personally a fan of "continuity," this issue is argument in itself showing what can be done outside the bounds of "continuity."

    Long-time Superman fan or newer reader, this issue–and the earlier issues of the series, as well–are very much worth picking up. If you don’t care for the main Superman books, this series is far enough removed that you needn’t worry about some infinite crossover or anything. Being approximately bi-monthly, the series puts less strain on the wallet, and each issue having a self-contained story, while carrying certain threads from one to another makes for a rewarding, satisfying reading experience.

    Ratings:

    Story: 4.5/5
    Art: 4/5
    Overall: 4.5/5

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