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Detective Comics #965 [Review]

detective_comics_0965A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 1

Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Covr: Barrows, Ferreira, Lucas
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Chris Conroy
With Gratitude to: Marv Wolfman, George Perez, and Jim Aparo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

I’ve gotten woefully behind in actually reading Detective Comics, though it seems it should be one of my favorite titles. But I was a bit put off by the supposed ‘death’ of Tim Drake early in the new run last year, and wasn’t in a big hurry to follow anything "long-term" with that for a number of reasons. And time passed.

Recently, I was quite excited by a familiar-looking image, in an ad for the then-upcoming (now here) Detective Comics story A Lonely Place of Living. For the cover alone, standard or variant (in an extremely rare bit of sentiment) I was going to get the issue ASAP: it’s a callback to my own earliest days "in comics." My first-ever issue of Batman was #439–the closing chapter of Year Three; my second issue was #440…the opening chapter of A Lonely Place of Dying, which is where this story gets its title (sorta like the recent The Lazarus Contract‘s title playing off the classic The Judas Contract).

So for nostalgia alone I was gonna get this issue. But given continuity things of the last six years, I didn’t know exactly what the story itself would yield, outside of the story title and the cover playing off the classic.

We open on a flashback–Tim confronting Dick as he visits the circus he grew up with, showing him photos of Batman going off the deep end and explaining that he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and that he–Dick–is Nightwing, formerly Robin. In the present, we find Tim being questioned by Mr. Oz–recently revealed to be (a?) Jor-El, father of Kal-El (Superman). We’re treated to brief flashbacks to the events of A Lonely Place of Dying, and then the beginning of the original Robin mini-series as Tim dons the duds and officially becomes Robin. Jor-El reveals his "truth" to Tim even as Tim exerts some control of the situation. He soon finds himself in contact with Batman…only it’s not the Batman he expects…rather, it’s a Batman he swore would never exist. Before much can come of that, the two find themselves facing possibly the most dangerous creature Oz had captured, which leaves us waiting for the next issue.

I would have to actually go back to the original issues or one of the collected editions on my shelves to confirm, but the dialogue in the flashbacks hit pretty darned CLOSE to my memory of the exchanges between the characters, and honestly gave me a slight chill at the way the flashbacked-scenes brought up memories for me.

As of reading this issue, I already knew the "big reveal" of Oz’s identity (though I’m still not sure if or how I’ll accept it–I’m still waiting for some other swerve and imagine it’ll be quite a long time before I’d accept it as the canon it’s being presented as and not just another plot point on the way to something else). I definitely dug Tim’s ingenuity, seeing that despite his time as a prisoner, he’s continued working on a way to escape (and after another earlier escape that we saw in Superman Reborn).

I was not prepared for/expecting the older Bat-Tim to show up or be any part of this at all…I honestly initially saw him as "just another character" of no significance; some swerve to this story or some trap for Tim or some such; it was seeing someone’s comment about the Titans of Tomorrow story that jogged my memory and contextualized the character…making this all the more cool as a story.

I’m not particularly familiar with Tim’s story or origins from 2011-onward; really since before 2009 as I’d lapsed as a reader early in the Red Robin run, and got right back out of the New 52 iteration of Teen Titans that I’d tried at the start. But at least for this opening chapter of A Lonely Place of Living, I feel like I’ve got "my" Robin back, "my" Tim Drake.

Which is a rather personal thing for me as the character debuted AS I got into comics…

Story, art…all in all, this is an excellent issue, certainly for playing on my nostalgia. The story is strongly rooted in continuity, in history…and the art just looks good, with nothing taking me out of the story. This issue just is.

If you’re a fan of Robin, or Tim Drake, or the current run of Detective Comics, I highly recommend this. Really, even if you aren’t a fan of them…this feels like something big, and all the moreso to me personally. Only this first chapter in and I already know I am absolutely looking forward to the inevitable double-dipping of getting the collected volume, and wondering what form that might take–as well as whether or not we’ll get any new version of a collected volume of the original A Lonely Place of Dying story!

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Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

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Superman (2016) #18 [Review]

superman_0018Superman: Reborn Part 1

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Please note that I will spoil the issue a bit, so stop reading now and come back AFTER you’ve read the issue yourself, if you do not want to encounter spoilers! ]

I buy each new week’s Superman book pretty much as an extremely welcome again (after some 6 or so years away) "habit"–and have since about this time last year. That said, the covers rarely "grab" me–I recognize them, the issue gets paid for and taken home, and read. THIS issue, though, really jumped out at me for its coloring/color-scheme, the visual design, and somehow being rather unexpected to me. It also seems like it’s a small piece of a singular image that I can imagine being spread out across at least 3 more chapters of this story (though I’ll be highly annoyed–to say the least–if such a thing would merely be VARIANTS for this single issue. I’ll hold to my notion until at least next week, though, and give the publisher the benefit of the doubt for now).

This is the opening issue of a fairly "hyped" storyline that I’ve been looking forward to despite some disappointment at how the Clark Kent story seemed to "end" over in Action Comics last week. (Though I’ll give it credit for playing into continuity and this feeling largely like "just" the next issue in sequence OF an ongoing thing).

We open on a brief scene of someone–presumably this Mr. Oz–musing on time/space blah blah blah, and then seeing multiple individuals in his "collection" acting out–reacting to the fact that SOMEONE (we aren’t told who) got out. Looking to the empty cell, we see graffiti indicating an extreme hope in Superman…before shifting to Hamilton County and the main part of the issue.

[ Spoilers to follow ]

Clark, Lois, and Jon are celebrating the couple’s anniversary when there’s a knock at the door. The "other" Clark Kent seems to have left something for the family (and majorly spooks Krypto!).  They find that it’s a scrapbook with photos that no one on this Earth–let alone reality–"should" have. Its images shouldn’t even exist, they were wiped out with Clark and Lois’ Earth. Before they can dig all that deeply, they notice their house is on fire…but quickly realize it’s not so much on fire as being ERASED. Then to make it WORSE…Jon’s being erased. Superman leaps into action to save his son, as any father would. And we see the maddening, helpless desperation of our hero and his wife as they see everything they know and love…erased.

Talk about a setup and leaving one hanging! I’ve loved only having to wait two weeks between issues for Superman and Action Comics since last spring…but this would be flat-out frustrating to have to wait an entire two weeks…I’m anxious for the next chapter, in next week’s Action Comics…by the time of this post, a "mere" 5 days, and that seems too long!

There’s plenty to be found within this issue and its story. We have stuff pointing to the larger DC Universe as it now stands. We have stuff rooted firmly within the Superman books, and specifically this title. We have reference to earlier issues, and we have references to pre-Flashpoint elements. So it seems that we’re getting some major payoff about to really kick into gear after most of a year of building. Still more, we have a story that seems like it’s pretty self-contained to the Super-titles, not some line-wide must-buy-them-all crossover or such. I believe some of the events of this book might trickle out and be reflected in other titles, but in this issue we’re only directed to Action Comics, next.

This may not be the BEST issue for a new reader to start with…but it’s not horrible, and I also think a lapsed reader could probably do pretty well here, just knowing that this is pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark; that they have a son, and there’s been some other Clark Kent around.

Visually, I have very mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand, I like the cover, and most of the interiors are ok. There are a couple panels–one with Tim Drake (Robin/Red Robin) and one of Jon–that just look really off to me. While Tim’s appearance can be chalked up to his imprisonment, the first large panel of Jon just looks too cartoony to me, overly manga-styled for what is NOT a manga volume. I suppose comparison could be drawn as well to Ed McGuinness‘ art (I’m thinking around 2000 or so), but in the moment, it just threw me off and had me feeling a lot more nitpicky about the issue. The cover, though, is pretty darned good, and would make an excellent print for hanging…and if this indeed is part of a multi-part image, I dare say it’ll likely make a fantastic poster.

All in all, even if you’re not "up" on the various Superman titles, if you’ve a passing familiarity, I’d definitely recommend this issue. It’s well worth its $2.99 cover price, and does a nice job of setting stuff up for what ever is to come, while providing its own major chunk of story and key event for things. I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter, and to see where things go in general with this story, and the Super-books in general!

Superman/Wonder Woman #29 [Review]

supermanwonderwoman0029The Final Days of Superman part 7: Fire Line

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Karl Kerschl
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

This is it–the penultimate chapter of The Final Days of Superman, and of the New 52 Superman’s story, period, it would seem, at least as he’s been given to readers since September 2011.

We have Solar Flare Superman facing New 52 Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, Convergence/pre-Flashpoint Superman gets his wife and son to the fortress he’s kept secret from them, and he and his Lois have a ‘discussion’ over the matter. While Batman gets New 52 Lois away from Solar Flare, New 52 Superman and New 52 Wonder Woman do a number on Solar Flare Superman, before the Flare entity gains the upper hand. Learning of the ongoing battle, Supergirl leaves the DEO only partially-powered to join the fray, and we leave off with New 52 Superman in the clutches of Solar Flare.

Which is all a slightly obtuse, quasi-intentional way of expanding on the fact that not much of anything really HAPPENS here, except some pieces are moved around the board, marking time for the concluding chapter yet to come as we head into Rebirth itself as well next week…and to emphasize the fact that we have three different Supermen in play in this issue alone, as well as two Loises who don’t even meet.

Story-wise, this isn’t BAD at all–that’s not what I’m saying. But we basically have a big fight scene punctuated by accounting for several “subplots” (as much as such things actually exist in 2016 DC comics). Being well aware of this being chapter 7 of 8, and of what’s about to happen, and expecting it to unfold in the final chapter of this story and spill into the big Rebirth issue next week, I can’t truly fault the writing for not being able to DO much in this issue except move pieces around the board.

Visually I’m not enamored…while everyone’s quite recognizable, the linework just makes everyone look a bit “off” to me…and that is something firmly accentuated with the addition of color effects, to say nothing of just not caring for–or being used to–a Superman in any sort of armor, whatever its backstory/reason/necessity (or lack thereof). I also don’t care for the layouts…though they vary page to page, many pages seem to have too-big panels with too few words…and whether that’s art expanding to fill a lack of script or a script allowing an expansion of art, I’m not sure…but it makes $3.99 feel that much more expensive for the quick read this issue is as a whole (particularly compared against comics read this week from 1996, 20 years ago, purchased for 20 cents each!).

Finally, the cover isn’t all that appealing…I’ve not gone back to check out later printings of earlier chapters, though I saw a couple in passing and this one seems to fit those. The cover copy “Burning Love!” seems ill-placed as well, and the entire image is a bit misleading as Supergirl is not involved in the core action of this issue.

All in all…this issue is for those following the entirety of The Final Days of Superman, or completing a run of this particular title. If you’re just looking for the apparent death of the New 52 Superman, that should be next week; and if you’re not already following stuff, this chapter does not give enough to justify itself in and of itself for anyone to try to “jump in” just for this particular issue as any sort of “random” purchase.

Legends of Tomorrow #1 [Review]

legendsoftomorrow0001Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti with Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $7.99

I hadn’t paid attention to this originally when I saw it solicited…I noticed the “title” and chalked it up as yet another soon-to-be-failed tv-tie-in of near-zero consequence, at least to me and my following the “regular” continuity of DC stuff. I’m not sure if the tv show had premiered yet or was just about to, but I had no interest in yet another digital-first thing seeing print, and thus ignored it. Then recently there was an ad for it that caught my attention, and left me curious. I was a bit put off learning the thing would be $7.99…even for a double-length issue, being frustrated with $3.99 price points, essentially $8 seemed a bit MUCH for just one issue of something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Still, I resolved to wait and see, not swearing to avoid the book but not intending absolutely to buy it, either. When it came out last week, it was a small week for me, so the $8 wasn’t terribly steep…plus the issue’s squarebound with the title on the spine, so it can actually go on a shelf like a mini tpb, and not simply disappear into a box.

While I’d expected a “lead” story and the others to essentially be “backup” features…if I counted correctly, we have 4 20-page stories in this issue, giving the thing excellent “value” for the content, if one is interested in or doesn’t mind what’s included (vs. say, wishing it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern content).

Firestorm – United We Fall part 1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Rob Hunter
Letterer: Corey Breen
Editor: Jessica Chen

I remember checking out Firestorm: The Nuclear Men title at the launch of the New 52, and it didn’t hold me enough to stick with it past a few months. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but I’d been loosely aware of the character at points–though mostly it was after the introduction of Jason as the new Firestorm and the apparent demise of Ronnie in Identity Crisis that the character was fully on my radar; and then the Deathstorm stuff around Blackest Night. Now there’s been a fair bit on the Flash tv show and Legends of Tomorrow, so this “lead” story was a good enticement for me to buy the issue.

We open on Ronnie and Jason testing their powers, with something going on with them, and then the two split, and we get a glimpse into their personal lives–individually, and at school with a mutual friend. We also have the introduction of a new/old villain, and come to see that there is something up with Jason, and with the Firestorm Matrix in general, which leads to a cliffhanger promising imminent destruction.

In addition to the above preamble, I think another draw to THIS take on Firestorm is that it’s written by the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway…with the added element that I’ve attended a panel where he spoke several years ago, so there’s that quasi-personal-ish connection for me.

I like that the Jason/Ronnie mix has not been scrapped, and that along with both of them we also still have Professor Stein…indicating, for my limited experience with the character, a certain mix of original/classic and newer character elements and an observance of history for the characters. Yet, this also reads as a first issue, showing us bits of stuff with Firestorm and that it requires two people, and there’s this “matrix” thing that allows them to join AS (a) Firestorm; We’re “introduced to” Ronnie and Jason and see a bit about them–Ronnie’s into sports, Jason’s more into academics; We see a bit of “supporting cast” in Stein as well as the boys’ mutual friend; as well as a bit of rivalry between them. I’m familiar enough to simply enjoy the re-introduction/”confirmation” of stuff I figured I knew, and I’m interested in where this story goes.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen Pansica‘s art before or not…but I had no real expectation going into this. I was not disappointed by the art…it’s good, and worked for the story, avoiding random weirdness that’d put me off or have me wondering at anatomy and such; and I was never left trying to figure out WHAT happened or was going on. It’s a good match for the story itself.

I’m not sure exactly how this would rate for me as a first issue wholly on its own…though I probably would not have bought a Firestorm #1. But this was only the first quarter of the issue purchased…

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