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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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52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

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

52 Week #48 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Asked and Answered

The race to find Kate Kane and rescue her is on!

52week48Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Art: Darick Robertson
Pencils – Origin: Nicola Scott
Inker – Origin: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: David Baron, (Origin – Alex Sinclair)
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens with several days’ worth of action, in a rather cool way: multiple characters across multiple panels across multiple days, asking one key question to kick the main story into motion. The bulk of the issue centers on Nightwing, Montoya & co. as they seek out Mannheim and Batwoman, to foil the plans of Intergang and their crime bible. There’s a lot of action as we see the characters fighting increasingly-high-level underlings, working their way up to Mannheim himself and a dark ceremony that promises to unleash hell-on-Earth, starting with Gotham City.

The ending of the fight has a bit of surprise and bucks the norm a bit–a welcome feat in contemporary comics.

To a degree, there’s little be said about the writing. It’s good. It’s solid. It’s consistent. Same as it’s been. The story flows, and we get to see characters acting in-character and reflecting (particularly in Montoya’s case) growth from the past 11 months.

The art this week–by Darick Robertson–fit really well. There’s a sort of thick darkness about it that sets the tone without being overly bold nor overly light. No complaints here in that department.

The origin backup stars the Birds of Prey, and like the other backups, condenses years of history into just a couple pages of the bare-bones basics. Par for the course, really…gave me a clearer vision of the history, and not atrocious to look at so fills its duty; nothing stand-out astonishing or anything, though.

48 issues in…if you’re not on-board, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you; and if you’ve stuck it out this far even disliking it, you might as well finish.

I found this to be another solid issue of what’s really come to be a favorite series.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #44 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Deaths in the Family

Last issue’s bloody conclusion sets the stage for this week, as the Black Marvels face the Horsemen of the Apokalips…

52week44Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, Eddy Barrows
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot to be said about this issue, and it certainly marks a clear turning point both for the series, as well as the Black Marvels. What we’ve seen over the course of the last 30+ issues in particular, and series as a whole brings several plots together in a collision point that paves the way for the upcoming World War III week.

After last week’s rather sudden betrayal by Sobek and devouring of a member of the Black Marvel family, the remaining Black Marvels have it out with the Horsemen of the Apokalips. The bulk of the issue depicts this battle, with the conclusion leading back to Montoya’s story even as she spends time in Nanda Parbat, and kicks her story forward a bit, too.

Thankfully, this issue has a full complement of pages, allowing just an extra couple pages of story, rather than an origin backup.
All in all, this issue packs quite the punch, and continues to offer the payoff that was lacking in the earliest issues of the series.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the craftsmanship of the story itself at this point that’s not been said before–it’s fully solid, as has come to be standard for the book, with its core writing team. 44 issues in, there’s a consistency that just flows, and took me quickly through this issue without any pause for any visible story glitches.

Visually, the art team tackles some harsh material, and depicts some rather gory stuff, making this one of the darker, bloodier issues to date (even beginning at the cover as we see the reflection of Isis in a pool of spilled blood). To a small degree, Black Adam in particular seems just a bit "off" visually from prior appearances–that I’d notice or care says a lot about the last couple years of the character’s presence on my comic-reading-radar. While this is noticeable, it really doesn’t detract from the issue’s story–the characters are clear and fairly emotive, and other than a general lack of familiarity with the individual Horsemen, it’s not hard to tell who’s supposed to be who. The only "complaint" I really have is the visual similarity between Richard Dragon and Ralph Dibny, as I’m not particularly familiar with the former, and the latter has sported a similar appearance throughout this series.

After this issue, there are a mere 8 chapters left…it’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 months since the story kicked off, and it’s already rushing at breakneck speed toward its conclusion. While some smaller bits of continuity will almost certainly be lost on a newer reader, and there’s no real "catch-up" mechanism (such as a "last issue" or "story thus far" page), this wouldn’t be an absurd point to jump back into the series if you gave it up due to the relatively slow start. At the same time, it doesn’t seem overly likely that anyone’s going to be really pulled in this far in if one hasn’t already been following the story.

Another very good issue of what I suspect may–for me–go down as a favorite run, period.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #40 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Man Ain’t Nothing But a Man

Steel vs. Lex Luthor (and a teaser on what’s up in Kahndaq)…

52week40Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Rodney Ramos & Dan Green
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost entirely focused on Steel, and his fight with Lex Luthor. Only the final two pages deal with anything else–Kahndaq and the worsening situation there (that likely will be picked up and run with before too long as the final quarter of this series kicks into high gear).

John Irons–Steel–arrives at the LexCorp building to confront Luthor over his role in the New Year deaths of thousands, as well as to rescue his neice from the evil businessman’s clutches. He’s got some help, though they split off to deal with various threats, ultimately paving the way for Steel’s personal confrontation with Luthor.

At face value, this is just one big fight-scene, though there are a few moments scattered throughout for characterization–particularly via characters’ interactions. This fight has been building for months…since the beginning of the series, really.

I for one really enjoyed this issue. I’m pretty sure the last time (in-continuity) that I really saw Steel in action–the John Henry Irons Steel, that is–was the end of the Superman: Man of Steel series or the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokalips Now 4-5 years ago. I only recall seeing him become a literal "man of steel" in the earlier issues of this series, not actually using the armor he created for himself. As such, seeing the character suit up and dive into battle here was very, very welcome.

The writing’s about normal for this series…being a big fight-scene, there don’t seem to be any deep or nuanced bits of dialogue to dissect, just two men throwing down after building hard feelings over a course of the last 10 months or so.

However, whether intentional or just my reading too much into it, I’m reminded of one of the closing chapters of The Return of Superman where the characters are battling their way into the heart of Engine City to confront the Cyborg and have to face their own individual battles en route, while fighting for the larger single goal.

The art for this issue is quite good–I have no complaints with it, and actually enjoyed it. There’s a full-page shot of Steel that would make a great poster, and is the best I recall seeing the character since some of his earliest appearances in the 90s. I don’t recall offhand if I knew Batista‘s art prior to this series, but the name sticks now, and I certainly enjoy his art.

This issue’s story takes the full allotment of pages, leaving no room for an origin backup, which is more than fine by me. In that sense, we get a full "normal" issue’s-length on the Steel/Luthor story, with the Kahndaq sequence replacing the backup, keeping this issue as a whole from being "just" some wrongly-titled issue of Steel.

If you’ve not been along for much of the ride, not much to sell you on here; if you’re a fan of Steel, though, this is a great issue, if only to see him in-armor and in action. Otherwise, this is an issue for those in for the long haul with the singles.

We’re well past the half-way point, squeaking past the 3/4 point…and I’m strapping in for the final section of this particular roller-coaster ride.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #36 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: How to Win a War in Space

The space heroes confront Lady Styx, Montoya’s spurred to action, and Supernova’s in a spot of trouble…

52week36Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Jamal Igle
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot going on in this issue. We pick up with Lobo delivering the space-heroes to Lady Styx, and betrayal mounts. As the heroes face the threat posed by Styx, one of them falls, delivering on the expected death. On earth, Montoya comes to a decision on what to do about her friend, rather than sit around waiting for him to die without his dignity in the Gotham hospital. Finally, as promised on the cover’s ticker, we get to see Rip Hunter’s ‘secret location’ as well as glean a bit more information on Supernova.

I remember with earlier reviews of this series, talking about the slow build and hoping there’d be payoff later on; that establishment of a foundation was a necessary evil (well, they may not have been my exact words then, but they are now.) We get a fair amount of payoff in this issue, as well as some forward movement (if not outright teasing) of what’s to come in the near future.

I for one have quit looking for individual voices in scenes, content to know that the writers are all contributing in one form or another, maintaining a consistency from issue-to-issue. On that note of consistency, we get to see a logical progression of Lobo’s character, maintaining both what has been established of him in this series over the last 4 months or so as well as much earlier in the character’s existence, with a nice nod to a couple specials, even. There even seems to be some room to question some translation–I for one derived a bit of twisted amusement contemplating the authenticity versus some other motivation.

Montoya’s scene seems to straddle a nice line between the real and the fiction that is comic books–her frustration/desperation and sadness at what seems to be a foregone conclusion is blended with the supernatural that is commonplace in the comic book world, allowing a glimmer of hope that may not be realistic in terms of our real world…but it seems to fit very well into the universe we know of through this series.

Supernova and Rip Hunter are shown briefly–and for the moment weigh as the weakest part of the series for me at present. While I expect some cool payoff later on, right now I find that I’m just not that interested in Supernova as a character–I don’t feel anything’s really known about him, and other than "teases" as to identity (and I for one have not picked up on clues that apparently have been dropped here and there, nor "gotten" any that I’ve spotted) there seems to be very little TO the character as yet. It certainly doesn’t help when so few pages have been afforded the character thus far.

The art stays fairly subtle–it’s there, but doesn’t overstep its bounds; it serves the story without offending the eye. My one gripe visually would be the panel when Lady Styx first strikes Lobo–I can figure it out based on context, but without context it’s hard to clearly make out exactly what is happening there. Still, the complaint’s one panel of many, and may just be my own eyes.

Overall, this is another very good issue of the series, and reminds me that I do indeed enjoy the story and format, and look forward to next week’s issue.

The Origin of Power Girl
Writer: Mark Waid
Art & Color: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain

Another standard-ish origin. Pretty much a simplified version of the telling of what I’d already figured out from pre/during Infinite Crisis stories. Still not a big fan of these, though that DOES seem to be tempered in part on whether or not I’m (personally) familiar with the character. Visually, may be a treat for certain folks, but doesn’t appeal to me. Still, it’s two pages…hardly enough to "break" an issue…and it certainly beats the pages being used for ads.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #32 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Seven Days in Nanda Parbat

Ralph and snow don’t necessarily mix; Black Adam Junior and Sobek meet the Teen Titans; and the space heroes buckle down.

52week32Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Drew Geraci
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Stephen Wacker & Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue doesn’t bring anything new to the table format-wise. It’s like a prime-time TV series…you get some intro, you check in on various characters in their present situations, the credits roll, and you’re off. If you’ve been following the series, this should be quite familiar to you; if you’ve not been following the series, you’re probably not gonna find anything here to change your mind.

At this point–six weeks over the "hump" with 20 left to go, I think it’s a safe bet that most anyone who’s going to follow the series in its serialized nature is onboard for the run, while those who aren’t going to jump in haven’t and won’t. So reading this, you’re in for the long haul, whether an issue/"episode" is slow OR fast-paced.

The familiar elements of the book are here: for this reader at least, the names in the credits are all recognizable, be it from earlier issues of this series or just seeing them as credits for other series. The cover dress is normal, the style of the credits is normal, the few pages here and there to "check in" on some subplots while one or another gets the most pages is there.

Is it GOOD, though? Yeah–Though I’m not familiar with Nanda Parbat, Rama Kushna, and so on, aside from seeing the names mentioned in the past, and any prior appearance of ’em in this series.

We get–as the focus of this issue–more development of the Ralph storyline as he and the helmet of Fate spend some time in Nanda Parbat, and Ralph seems to find some information he’s been seeking. We get to see the first(?) meeting of Black Adam Junior and Sobek with the Teen Titans, which in itself seems to further solidify the characters into the DCU as a whole and see that prior actions–"sins of the father," if you will–indeed have consequences. We also get to check in on the space heroes as they continue to realize the seriousness of their situation and what they’re going to have to face.

So the story advances on at least these three long-running plotlines, and by the series’ format, the whole story moves forward as a result.

Visually, I can’t complain about the art. I’m not terribly familiar with Olliffe or Geraci, though I’m sure I’ve seen the names before. Regardless, the art seems solid; everyone looks consistent and the visuals enhance the story.

As a whole, the whole package comes together as another solid issue of this title; nothing to spur one to drop it in itself, but nothing to convince a new reader to jump on based on this issue alone.

The Origin of Blue Beetle
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Ed.: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Ed.: Jeanine Schaefer
Editors: Wacker & Siglain

I actually learned some new information from this 2-pager. In and of itself, the art’s fine, and the writing’s fine. I’d still rather get a couple extra pages of story, but that’s a personal preference. Though BB’s not playing any major role in this series, this origin seems to sum up the main points of what I assume is the unfolding story in the character’s own new title, which ever so slightly piques the interest in this reader.

Ratings:

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

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