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R.E.B.E.L.S. #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: The Future is Now

Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) arrives on Earth with pursuers on his tail, and seeks out Supergirl for a special purpose even he doesn’t know.

rebels001Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editors: Siegel & Ogle
Editors: Marts & Cunningham
Covers: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

This is the second time offhand that I have bought a R.E.B.E.L.S. #1. The last time I did so was way back around September 1994. L.E.G.I.O.N. was rebooted during Zero Hour as R.E.B.E.L.S., and was one of the series I’d decided to jump on to check it out from the very beginning. Fourteen-and-one-half years later, this new incarnation of the title had my curiosity, if only for nostalgic value.

This issue opens with a bit of a cliche–people going about normal life, talking about something that then sorta comes true with the arrival of an alien or whatever (in this case, Vril Dox), who asks for something rather simple that I for one normally wouldn’t expect an alien to ask: "Where’s the nearest restroom?" We quickly find out that Dox is being pursued, that his own organization has been taken from him and is now being used against him. Being rather cool and calculating (or rather, not-so-compassionate) he is prepared to see numerous human lives lost to attain his goal. Once Supergirl enters the fray, a couple secrets come out, and we find that there is a good deal at play, just waiting to be revealed.

Overall, I like Clarke’s visuals in this issue. There’s a certain level of detail and a style that seems to fit the story very well. The main complaint I have is that Supergirl looks a little "off," but characters I presume will be main/starring characters for this title have a good look about them that does NOT seem "off." One of the aliens reminds me a bit of both the Aliens as well as Arkillo from the GL books, and yet still has enough of a unique look to be its own thing, while evoking those others–regardless of the intentionality of the similarity.

The story is fairly basic, dealing with a bit of cliche–at least on the surface. Cliche or otherwise, there are some hints dropped as to stuff-to-come, and at least one bombshell drawn from existing continuity that casts characters in a new light. I’ve not read much of Bedard’s work, but recall liking what I have read. This issue really–aside from Supergirl–is playing in its own sandbox away from other DCU books. That sets it apart for me as it is not directly involved in other current stories that I’m following and thus has room to develop and build a bit.

There’s not enough here in this issue to convince me that this’ll be a great title nor that I’ll want to be in for the long haul, but there’s just enough of something to it that I’ll probably give it a couple more issues to pan out and really hook me. In the meantime, it’s a debut issue of a new series and it’s still within my $3 general threshold.

Worth checking out if you’re curious, but doesn’t seem an essential read.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Batman and Robin #5 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Wonderful
Story Title: Revenge of the Red Hood part two: Scarlet

Batman and Robin vs. Red Hood and Scarlet.

batmanandrobin005Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Philip Tan
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Frank Quitely and Philip Tan
Publisher: DC Comics

I really enjoyed the first issue of this series. It had a sense of excitement and freshness, and just that great sense of things being new and much better than the recent past. However, at this point, even some of what I liked in that first issue is wearing thin…and the "honeymoon" is definitely over.

This issue picks up with Red Hood and Scarlett confronting Batman and Robin. Red Hood’s determined to kill all of Gotham’s criminals and doing so while replacing the "Batman brand" with his own "brand." Scarlet–a girl the duo tried to save earlier in this series–has been manipulated into playing Jason Todd’s game, serving as his "sidekick." We continue to see the Gotham populace react to the bloody vigilantism as well as a more specific reaction from Jim Gordon.

I don’t know what it is, exactly–perhaps Morrison‘s writing style–but this story feels like it got rather convoluted in a hurry. I’ve never liked Jason Todd…I always thought the best story with him was the one in which he "died." The character seemed so much more effective in that tragic role. Now, it seems the character is little more than a bloodthirsty psycho.

Not liking the character, and not feeling much "connect" to the story, this story’s quickly growing stale for me.

The art for this issue doesn’t really do it for me, either. It’s not bad, but it’s somehow just not to my liking, at least not in this issue. It does a good enough job overall of getting things across, but other points I find myself doubling back to try to figure something out. Though I’m not caring for the style lately, Tan does do quite a good job of keeping a visual style similar to Quitely‘s opening arc. There’s a different look and it’s easy to tell that it’s not Quitely…but the style is not some huge departure visually.

All in all…if you like Morrison‘s denser writing style, if the art appeals to you, and/or you like seeing Jason Todd as portrayed of late…this issue’ll be well worth it. If not…you’ll probably enjoy one of the other Bat-books more.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Batman and Robin #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Solid
Story Title: Batman Reborn Part Three: Mommy Made of Nails

Batman and Robin vs. Professor Pyg as the new dynamic duo solidifies as a team.

batmanandrobin003Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Frank Quitely and Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Batman interrogating a lackey in typical Batman fashion–though it turns out he was "allowed" access to the suspect by Commissioner Gordon himself. The two clash over methods, but ultimately part ways still allies (which is a nice change from what could otherwise be a cliched story element). Batman’s trying to find the captured Robin, who we find about to be tortured by "Professor Pyg." Battle ensues as Batman and Robin vow to be an actual team after recent solo play, and though their opponents (doll people) are fairly creepy–especially as rendered by Quitely–they seem to fit quite well into a rogues gallery that includes the likes of Clayface, Two-Face, Mr. Zsasz, and others. After dealing with the villain at hand, the heroes locate someone they’ve been seeking–a man familiar to readers of Morrison‘s past Batman issues who was instrumental in Batman: RIP. We have a full-page panel that is silent here, though if one’s read RIP, the dialogue is known from the opening page of that arc.

All in all, another solid issue. While I can appreciate adding to a fairly limited rogues gallery, I’m not particularly interested in the new villains–at least not yet. I enjoyed the fact that I’ve not been left half a year before seeing any costumed crazies taken down by the new Batman and Robin; I’ve also enjoyed the way we can really see what an abrasive kid Damian is ("Whose neck do I break first?" upon coming back to consciousness) which seems to further the need for guidance–that Dick can provide. It’s also refreshing to read a story from this writer that I can actually follow–that at least is entertaining on face value even if I’m picking up nothing in the way of background references. (If there are a lot of subtle things to be teased out of the story by multiple readings and lengthy analysis…cool. But I enjoyed this read just fine without ’em).

The art feels rather lumpy…it gives the characters a strange sort of appearance. Nothing quite disfiguring, but far from the smooth lines I’m used to seeing the characters with in other titles. Still, for the style, it’s consistent and gets everything across I’d expect it to, so no huge issue for me there…though there are a few other artists whose work would probably make this feel absolutely top-notch.

As is…a good issue, and worth picking up if you’ve been giving the title a try. I’m not sure if this is truly the final issue of the arc, but it feels like it is, so the next issue will likely make another good jumping-on point; if you can find the first couple issues to give you all three, it’s definitely a very worthwhile read.

Ratings:

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

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

Faces of Evil: Deathstroke #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Faces of Evil: Deathstroke

After suffering a humiliating defeat, Deathstroke takes stock of his life and makes plans for moving forward.

facesofevildeathstroke001 Writer: David Hine
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: Jo Smith
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Michael Marts
Cover: Ladronn
Publisher: DC Comics

Last I recall seeing Deathstroke was in the Last Will and Testament special last Fall, when Deathstroke was defeated in combat by Geoforce. After that humiliating defeat, Deathstroke has had some time to recover, and to take stock of his life. This issue opens with him in the hospital–where those attending to him marvel at his very survival. Once he’s awake, Deathstroke arranges a meeting with his daughter, and the two deal with "family issues" they have with one another. Finally, we see Deathstroke beginning to set up what may be his new status quo.

Hine seems to get this character quite well. The story here is believeable and well within what I’d expect of the character despite my limited exposure to him. We have a man who’s been pushed to his limit and forced to reassess what he is going to do with his life. We get to see him contemplative and in action, see what makes him very dangerous.

The art is solid, too. No complaints here–everything’s nice and clear, with no problems following the action. There’s a slight change in the coloring for a flashback scene that sets that sequence apart from the rest of the issue–gives it a bit of a surreal effect without going hokey or cheesey on us.

Next to Meltzer‘s writing of this character in Identity Crisis and Last Will, this has to be the best depiction I’ve seen of Deathstroke. This issue is–at standard cover price, even!–well worth snagging if you’ve any interest in Deathstroke. And if you’ve never dealt with the character before, you could probably still quite enjoy this issue, as it deals with the here-and-now of the title character as he prepares for what he is going to do moving forward from here.

Ratings:

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

Red Robin #9 [Review]

Quick Rating: Solid
Story Title: Collision (part one of four)

Beginning with apprehending a Killer Moth, Tim reacquaints himself with Gotham before retribution from Ra’s al Ghul begins…

redrobin009 Writer: Christopher Yost
Penciller: Marcus To
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: To & McCarthy
Published by: DC Comics

I’ve long been a fan of Tim Drake, and until the One Year Later break and price hike several years ago had followed the character since long before he even had his own series. And though I read a handful of issues toward the end of that series, and the previous 8 in this series…Red Robin #9 is maybe the first issue that has felt like there’s still that same character to be read that was in Robin.

We begin a new 4-parter in this issue. Tim reacquaints himself with Gotham, takes down someone in a Firefly costume (as the costume and person behind the name changes so much), has a moment with Connor (Superboy), catches up with new love-interest Tam Fox, and we see Vicki Vale prying into "Bruce"’s life. When Ra’s al Ghul ruins Tim’s good moment, Tim puts everything else aside to turn for help–pride be darned–and finds someone in the Batcave he had not at all expected.

The art for the issue’s good…my main complaint is that I still don’t like the Red Robin cowl–but I do like the way Tim himself is depicted. The visuals actually look like I’d expect for a comic, which is a definite plus; nothing that’ll blow one away with awesomeness, but significantly better than a lot of art in comics out there.

The story is decent–something about it leaves me wondering how firm a direction there is for this book. In a way, we have Tim–less than a year in–feeling much like the star of the 180-some issue Robin series, and quite unlike the dark, brooding character that began this current Red Robin series…almost like the primary difference is the costume instead of an attitude or specific story/character direction.

At the same time, it’s refreshing to see that a story doesn’t have to be exactly stretched or compressed to six issues for a "graphic novel" collected format–four-parters are ok, too. What’s rather frustrating, is that the four-parter this issue begins appears to continue directly into Batgirl #8…which is, for me, an entirely unplanned-for purchase, to say nothing of the fact that Batgirl #7 isn’t even out yet, I’m told. The cover has zero indication of any crossover…just a fairly "generic" or "iconic" shot of Red Robin, where I would expect a story continuing into another title would have something on the cover to indicate the crossover.

While one would not have the context of the "Eurotrip" and the setup of things from Tim getting on the bad side of Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Assassins, this isn’t the most horrible point to jump on the title. Still, the issue’s fairly standard, and not much here to truly draw someone in outta nowhere if they’ve not already been "on the fence."

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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