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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

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Superman/Batman #76 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

Wonder Woman #600 [Review]

This is the third “mega-anniversary” issue from DC in a month’s time (Batman #700 and Superman #700 preceded this) and for me, these are 3-for-3 in terms of being disappointments. Huge numbers, sure…and at least Batman and Superman got to theirs “legitimately.” Last month, Wonder Woman was on issue # 44…so it seems kinda fishy to arbitrarily skip 556 numbers just because issue #45 would be the 600th issue if you strung all the previous series combined in one continuing run.

But that’s a complaint to go into detail on another time.

This issue–even after reading the whole thing–is virtually forgettable. Less than 2 days after initially reading the issue, I couldn’t tell you what the “lead story” even was. I remembered the short with Power Girl’s cat, because it was a cat-story and combined with the Origin of Dex-Starr in Green Lantern #55, they stuck out as significant for hitting me close to the heart, having recently lost a cat I’d had for 18 years. The other story in the issue was setup for when Straczynski takes over the title, and showed a Diana Prince in a costume quite a bit different from the recent “traditional” version (and works extremely well in the story, despite all the buzz in the media..more on that later). There are also a number of “pinup pages” where other artistic teams had a chance to display their take on the character for this anniversary issue.

We open with an “introduction” by Lynda Carter–the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the old tv live-action series…I hardly remember the last time I saw a collected edition with an introduction, and now here we have one for a single-issue comic…I understand there’s big-time significance to a female character having so many issues published, but it still seems strange.

Valedictorian
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cuningham

The first story then begins, with Wonder Woman leading most of the well-known (and some less-so-well-known) female characters into battle, before rushing to a graduation ceremony where she’s glad to have arrived in time to see a girl graduate. We find out this is a girl who was part of the supporting cast, apparently, back when the Wonder Woman title was relaunched in the late 1980s after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story here–at least to this male reader–as fairly generic. It’s cool to see the follow up on a character who has since her first appearance grown up, which lends some real history to the Wonder Woman tale as a whole…but it’s still–structurally–not all that interesting. The art by Perez is awesome, though, and I can overlook a boring story for the beautiful art, the detailed portrayal of the various characters. Plus, there’s that little tidbit of info older readers know: it was Perez who relaunched the character back in the 1980s, so seeing his return to contribute to a story all these years later–as the artist, and by indication in the credits, as an “inspiration” for the story.

Fuzzy Logic
Writer & Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Next up, Wonder Woman teams up with Power Girl to defeat “Egg Fu,” and then retire to Power Girl’s office, where they discuss the way Power Girl’s cat has been acting, and Power Girl realizes she needs a place away from the office, where she and the cat can be away from the day-to-day business of things. The art is so-so…nothing spectacular; it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel it’d be anough to carry a boring story. But it works for this story, and doesn’t put me off. The cat seems a bit stocky/bulky…but in terms of a fictitious comic-book cat, I really shouldn’t complain…he’s a cute little thing without being overly-cutesy.

Firepower
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

The story that follows is a short that basically pit Superman and Wonder Woman against Aegeus, who has stolen lightning bolts from Zeus. The character apparently is Olympian–I’m not familiar with this version of the character, but the name and visuals seem somewhat familiar, suggesting I’m not entirely unfamiliar–whether in DC‘s comics or simply in reading of Greek mythology. As Superman is vulnerable to magic, he’s more the “backup” in this tale, as Wonder Woman takes the lead in bringing the villain down. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to this story in and of itself outside this issue…it’s just a tale to show Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up, though giving Wonder Woman the starring role and relegating Superman to an almost second-tier status (as a guest-star, that’s how it goes, though)! The visuals are ok, but again…don’t stand out as significant (whereas the opening story with Perez’ art I recognized it and knew without looking at the credits that it was Perez’ work).

The Sensational Wonder Woman
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Coloris: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

The next story reeks largely of being little more than metatextual. Wonder Woman is shown in battle, while narration boxes discuss her journey, and leads to what symbolically indicates the character rushing into an unknown future, from an established past…almost feeling like a vague series or season finale where the makers aren’t sure if they’ll get to do anything else with the story.

Odyssey – Prologue: Couture Shock
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Michael Babinski
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Finally, we have the prologue to Staczynski‘s story, where we find a young Diana Prince in a new, unfamiliar (but with touches of familiarity) costume, seeking an oracle, and referencing a dead mother recently brought back…after having been dead for a few years. We come to see that this new, “current” Wonder Woman is the result of something screwing with the timeline, and she’s going to have to put things back to rights, to exist in the mainstream current DCU again.

We then close with a preview of Action Comics #890 with no cover image to differentiate it from any of the other stories in the issue.

Between stories, we get some “iconic” Wonder Woman pinup pages. While on the one hand they seem a bit like filler material, I am (as I was with Batman #700) very, VERY glad to see these on the INTERIOR of the book, rather than as variant covers!

There’s a two-page spread showing the classic/traditional-costumed Wonder Woman striking a pose in the foreground, with slightly dimmed-out images surrounding as the background, displaying many of the main DC heroes she’s worked with, the villains, and they seem grouped by time-frame, from the different periods of the character’s life, at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue

These are all decent stories, though the issue as a whole feels more like it should be some sort of Annual rather than a (renumbering aside) regularly-numbered issue in the midst of the ongoing series. If this were a half-half split with an epilogue from the previous writer and a prologue from the incoming writer, with pinup pages to lend to the anniversary feel, it wouldn’t seem so out of sorts. As is, it’s an issue with a whole bunch of stuff crammed in, apparently to give a LOT of people some way to say they “got to work on” this anniversary issue.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, this could be a bit iffy. The opening story hardly seems worth a $5 price for its nature just to wrap up Simone‘s run on the book. For newer fans, the final segment is the same way…not worth the $5 just to get such a short prologue to the upcoming run, nor is it worth the price just to get the “debut” of the “new costume” that seems to be THE buzz of late.

This issue seems like it’s more well-suited for the random person who is familiar with the character in American popular culture, but virtually entirely UNaware of current continuity. The stories are so short and lacking in ongoing plot elements that one mostly needn’t know anything of the character or stories…there’s a little more flash than substance here.

Despite the hype…this issue isn’t really worth it unless you specifically want this sort of anthology book. It’s not going to give much to summarize the last several years’ stories, and there’s little more than “previewing the premise” in the prologue to the upcoming arc.

I don’t particularly recommend the issue…but on the whole it’s not something I recommend against, either. Ratings below based on the whole issue and not just any single segment.

Story: 5.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Adventure Comics #10 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Adventure Comics #8 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Green Lantern #50 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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