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Doomsday Clock #1 [Review]

doomsday_clock_0001_supermanThat Annihilated Place

Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson (Lenticular based on existing art by Dave Gibbons)
Associate Editor: Amedeo Turturro
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2018
Cover Price: $4.99 ($5.99 Lenticular variant)

It’s been a long time, offhand, since I read a comic quite so dense as Doomsday Clock #1. And I use the word dense as a good thing overall–in this age of $4.99 comics that hardly take any longer to read than a $3.99 or $2.99 comic, where everything is written to flow seamlessly as a 4 or 5 or 6-issue "graphic novel," it’s great to have a comic that just wants to be a single issue.

I was rather frustrated to learn that the image I’ve seen MOST USED in association with this issue (the Gary Frank Superman cover pictured above) is actually a VARIANT and not the "main" cover. The main cover seems to be a generic "The End is Here" cover (that leads into the issue itself as the classic Watchmen covers did!). In keeping with my usual, though, wanting the cover I’ve most seen advertised and such with an issue, I managed to get the Superman cover. Of course, then I saw a lenticular variant, one I had probably heard of/read about, but not paid attention to (again: VARIANT)…but it being lenticular, and "cover price" (albeit $1 more than the standard issue to account for the lenticular-ness) and me really getting a kick outta the design–Rorschach’s face goes from just the blobs to the symbols of "the trinity" (Superman/Batman/Woder Woman), I went ahead and got that one as well. It’s certainly no worse than having bought a Marvel lenticular, where the lenticulars were entirely different images from their "regular" covers.

I don’t know what I expected from this issue. Being that it’s an obvious follow-up to Watchmen, and apparently integrating those characters into DCU canon (if not continuity, then perhaps affecting continuity from the outside), and seems to have been "timed" to release at the 25th anniversary of Superman’s death (real-world, that is–November 17-20ish 1992), and stuff previewed or "leaked" online indicated an in-issue reference to that date…I had extremely high expectations for this issue. It’s honestly been a long time since I feel like I actually was taken in by "the hype," usually seeing the hype entirely for what it is and maybe "choosing" to "give in," say, on actually getting a variant cover, or actually getting an issue of something I don’t normally get, or diving into an event I’d intended to stay away from. Here, it’s more of an emotional hype…one that left me feeling rather let down.

As said above–this is a dense story–one that would take a long time to really summarize, and for my own reading experience, get well beyond the initial reading I tend to do for reviews. Essentially, we meet a new Rorschach, who is piecing stuff together, much as the original did, starting out the original series. We get glimpses of this current world–late 1992, about seven years after the original’s 1985 setting, as we meet various characters and are re-exposed to older/originals. We also learn that Ozymandias has a sort of countdown clock of his own going this time, but in a much different way than before. Finally, the last several pages give us a glimpse into a non-Watchmen DCU, and an extremely familiar-looking take on the Kents…which makes sense, given Frank was the artist on Superman: Secret Origin, that laid out a particular vision for the characters.

While this has a lot as a single issue, and certainly many layers with stuff that’d be picked up after a second or third or FIFTH reading, still more to be picked up on STUDYING the art beyond the words, and even more on top of that to be noticed after subsequent issues come out and shed more light on stuff…on my single-read-through I hit the end and thought "Wait…that’s IT?" and was starkly reminded of similar disappointment with Grant Morrison‘s Final Crisis.

This is not a "casual" issue, apparently. Picking it up and reading it "cold," even if you’ve read Watchmen, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to it. It’s a first issue, and world-building or re-world-building. It’s surely a strong foundation on which the rest of the issues will draw. But for me, in just picking it up, after all the months of hype, I just did not enjoy it or get much out of it. And I’m steeped in comics history, especially DC, and even more specifically Superman.

Visually, it’s a very good issue–I’m quite a fan of Gary Frank. I felt like there was a lot that was recognizable and familiar here, despite Frank not being Gibbons, and outside of not seeing a Superman costume or a Batman costume or a Wonder Woman costume–really, it felt like there was virtually nothing actually DC in this issue–I felt like this was set in the world I recalled from reading the original Watchmen all those years ago. There’s also a LOT crammed into this issue: it seems to me that the lowest panel-count on any given story-page was five…which is a far cry from the all-too-often-used "cheats" of full or DOUBLE-page splashes with barely a word to go with the art. I welcome the "grid" layouts of the pages, the actual panels and "traditional" gutters–both for squeezing in more content as well as mimicking the style of the original.

Basically, this seems like a really slow start to something, and that it was vastly overhyped, as well as being quite "confusing" as far as the covers go–once again, a major problem with doing variants AT ALL. The $4.99 cover price is rather steep, even with 30 pages of story (if a 20-page issue is $2.99, another 50% would be only $4.50!) but I suppose it’s a bit offset by some of DC‘s issues being $3.99 (the 1-per-month books) so this actually fits that rate.

I wanted more–I wanted something brighter and splashier out the gate than what I got here–but I’m still looking forward to the next issue, looking forward to see how things build, though I suspect this will be a far more impressive story in larger chunks or as a whole rather than as a single-issue-at-a-time monthly (or less-frequent) journey.

doomsday_clock_0001_blogtrailer

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!

tec965_batman441

TMNT/Usagi Yojimbo (2017) One-Shot [Review]

tmnt_usagiyojimbo_oneshot_2017Story, Art, and Letters by: Stan Sakai
Colors by: Tom Luth
Collection Design by: Shawn Lee
Edited by: Bobby Curnow, Philip R. Simon, Megan Walker
Published by: IDW/Dark Horse
Cover Date: July 2017
Cover Price: $7.99

I’ve looked forward to this since it was announced, whenever that was–a couple or a few months ago, perhaps. "Knowing" this was going to be a more expensive issue, I just naturally "assumed" it would be a "prestige format" book–squarebound and such–like the two annuals or the big 50th issue! Instead, for the steep $7.99 price point, we get a slightly-thicker-than-usual standard-feeling issue, staples and all. So that was an immediate bit of disappointment format-wise, and a bit of a shock.

Another initial, pre-story immediate complaint I have is one that’s usual for me: there are TOO MANY DARNED COVERS! Instead of having UMPTEEN different covers, all for the same single one-shot single-issue, why not have a "gallery" included in the issue as a true, actual, real BONUS to those buying the comic, with extra pages by whatever artist(s) showing the characters involved? Instead, we have a number of variants and "exclusives" that are REALLY getting very "old" and extremely off-putting to me as a guy who just wants the entire content-story and iconic, singular covers, not generic incentive chase covers all the darned time!

The story of the issue is fairly basic: increased earthquake activity rocks the land, and we come to find out that everything could be destroyed if a piece of rock isn’t replaced from where it was broken off. Because of the rock’s brokenness, a giant catfish named Namazu is no longer properly held, and HIS movement underground will tear the land apart. Usagi meets Kakera-Sensei and knows what must be done. He gathers four turtles at the river, and Kakera-Sensei works his magic, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are summoned–into or replacing or in place of the four regular turtles. Usagi immediately recognizes them all…but they fail to recognize him. The group sets off, with Kakera-Sensei explaining the situation as they go. Despite a terrible battle with Jei and the forces he’s rounded up, they all manage to save the day. The Ninja Turtles are sent home and the regular turtles returned, and Usagi and Kakera-Sensei go their own ways.

The most noticeable thing for me about this issue–beyond the price and umpteen covers–is the art. This is Stan Sakai working on both his own long-running character (introduced roughly the same time as the TMNT themselves, back in 1984!) and the TMNT for the first time in quite a number of years. At first, the visual style was a little bit off-putting for being different–notably the turtles’ teeth–from what I’m used to of late on the main/ongoing TMNT comic. But after just a few pages, I settled right in and enjoyed the art. I loved some of the "symbolic"-ness of art, showing where someone’s killed on-panel, but it’s far from gratuitous violence and such, and more fact-of-the-matter without being graphically so or gory, etc.

Story-wise, though I had expected this was to be more a story with Sakai‘s Miyamoto Usagi being brought to the Turtles’ world, it was the other way around with the turtles brought to Usagi’s. As I realized this, the art grew on me even more, for being that much more "authentic," given Sakai‘s continued involvement on the main Usagi Yojimbo title. That this felt like what I expect such a story would feel like with just that title, the inclusion of the turtles is like a bonus. The story is rather timeless–at least as far as the turtles–and though it can be pretty safely "assumed" that these are "our" turtles, the current IDW turtles–there’s no particular reference or anchoring point to the current TMNT continuity to bind this to any particular point. There also did not seem to be anything overtly binding this to any fixed point for the Usagi Yojimbo title, either. As such, this would seem like a prime sort of special for fans of either property without needing any particular familiarity with the other…and also one that fans of either could get in on without having to worry about being "up" on any of the other comics of the last few years.

The main hurdle, perhaps, would be that pesky, premium price point. For me, personally, I ultimately will give TMNT stuff a "pass," of sorts that I won’t any other series/property, carried over from the Mirage days, and this would be little exception. That the crossing-over of TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo has been essentially a "tradition" dating back to the earliest days of the properties, of which this is (hopefully) "just" the latest iteration makes this issue that much more of a special thing, worthy in its way of the higher price point.

In the end, if you can get past the price point and the variant covers, I’d highly recommend this to fans of Usagi Yojimbo, fans of the TMNT, fans of both properties/series, and even to "lapsed" fans of either. I’d also recommend it to anyone with any interest in either property, looking for a truly one-shot experience. There’s no "continued FROM" for this, there’s no "To Be Continued," this is just truly a done-in-one, singular stand-alone issue…and a mighty fine one at that.

tmnt_usagiyojimbo_oneshot_2017_blogtrailer

All New Fathom #1 [Review]

all_new_fathom_0001All New Fathom Part 1 of 8

Writer: Blake Northcott
Pencils: Marco Renna
Digital Inks: Mark Roslan
Colors: John Starr
Letters: Zen
Editors: Vince Hernandez, Gabe Carrasco
Design & Production: Mark Roslan, Peter Steigerwald, Gabe Carrasco
Cover: Marco Renna, John Starr
Cover Date: February 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

I don’t usually go for comics like this. I’m not a fan of these scantily-clad female leads, running around in bathing suits and–from the outside looking in–seeming to be more flash than substance. But, having followed the writer on social media for a number of years, I’d decided when it was announced that she’d be writing a new iteration of the series, I’d at least check it out…all the more as a female such character in this case being written BY a female, and not just another book to be lumped together, written by a guy about some visual/eye candy.

I then managed to forget the thing was due out this week, until–via social media–I saw her post about it being out, which brought it back to my attention…and I was ok with paying out $3.99 for the issue, as it’s at least NOT DC or Marvel and all that.

So what did I wind up with, for that $3.99?

For one thing, I felt like this was a lengthy read. I did not feel like I just turned a couple pages and was at some to-be-continued or like the issue was too short.

I had no idea what to expect, really…having never (That I can recall) read an entire issue of Fathom or Soulfire or such. The opening page puts us right into the heart of the action, as our heroine–Aspen–is mega-uppercut-punched out of the ocean into the coastal city and does battle with the guy doing the punching. While she fights him–and his mysterious weapon, trying to keep any civilians from being killed–we learn that the narration is from AFTER the battle (so she won), telling her friend about the fight. Finally, she reveals what she’s learned about the mysterious weapon that had been used against her, and how that plays into stuff going forward.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the cover, as I’m not really familiar with even the title character, let alone any supporting cast (new OR long-since-established). The main cover’s not bad, but seems rather generic to me (as opposed to indicating the battle that took place in the issue).

Visually, the issue felt like what I would expect from "an Aspen book" even if I can’t quite quantify what that is, exactly…except that I suppose this looks like it belongs with or fits right in with prior books from the publisher, and so does not look like an oddball or out of place piece that happens to be published by Aspen. The characters all look quite believable, and as much as is possible for a woman basically in a bathing suit, I felt like the issue avoided unnecessary or overly-gratuitous imagery…I didn’t feel "dirty" paging through the issue! I was also reminded a bit of Witchblade, and will be interested to see how coincidental (or not, or far off) that works out to be in coming issues.

Story-wise, I enjoyed how down-to-earth this felt. I figured as a #1 issue, new series and new story, this would feel like just some opening chapter, and just throw a bunch of introductory stuff at me and leave me not really knowing what the heck was going on. However, I found that I got a complete story, really, even as stuff is thrown wide open for subsequent issues! We’re introduced to the title character, her situation, others involved with her, a bit about her background/where she comes from, while seeing the character in action and interacting with her friend. There’s a healthy dose of real-world commentary…particularly in "seeing" how the character is reacted to across various media.

Ultimately, I just enjoyed this issue, and I’m quite glad that I bought it. I checked it out solely based on the writer, and I’m left with an honest interest in getting the next issue to see how things play out.

While it by no means gets into over a decade of "history" with the title character and such, this is still an excellent jumping on point, and one of the stronger, most complete and worthwhile first issues I’ve read in quite awhile.

If you’re a fan of Blake Northcott‘s writing, or Aspen (the character), or the publisher or such, I suspect this will be a fitting bit of enjoyment as well. I’m looking forward to the next issue, and seeing how stuff advances and continues to play out!

REBIRTH WEEK 2: Action, Detective, Flash, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman

This week gave us three new Rebirth issues–serving as starting point, prologue, and #0s for newly-relaunching ongoing books…as well as the first issues of two ongoing series: Action Comics and Detective Comics, doing the opposite of expectation and instead of a fresh #1 for either title, leap back to their “legacy” numbering–adding their past 52 issues onto their last pre-Flashpoint issue, bringing the books current as if they’d never been renumbered.

And while it may not be the best technical term, my overall feelings after reading the week’s issues lead me simply to the sentence “Holy crap! DC‘s comics are awesome again!”

ACTION COMICS #957

actioncomics0934I couldn’t contain myself to just a few basic comments…I absolutely loved Action Comics #957 and wrote up a bunch of thoughts on it separately.

Like…I thoroughly enjoyed the issue.

It’s the best single-issue Superman comic of one of the ongoing titles I can consciously recall as of this typing.

It’s like re-united with an old friend not seen in years, and realizing that even though life has gone on, we’ve grown and changed, what we had is still there.

Fantastic story.

Fantastic art.

A mere twenty pages for “only” $2.99, and just this issue alone made me smile, and feel like a kid again, and I really, truly am looking forward to the next issue. I walked away for four years. With an issue like this, such a strong start like this, it sucks that I have no choice but to WAIT two weeks for the next issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #934

detective_comics_934I think I was originally intending to ignore this issue, this series. Unlike with the Superman books, I’ve been a lot more flexible in my overall Batman collecting, with a much more punctuated “history” with the character and books. Then I was “only” going to get this because of deciding to throw in for the start of the Rebirth initiative, just diving in with “everything” for a few weeks, to really give it a chance. And for the first time since I can remember, I thoroughly enjoyed an issue of this title.

I have never cared for this Batwoman character, but here, as presented in this issue, I’m cool with it. I didn’t read the whole Gordon-as-Batman-and-then-Bruce’s-Return stuff nor any recent Justice League stuff, so I’m certainly missing a bit. I don’t much care for the black-bat-outlined-in-gold chest-logo, but I can accept it as the current, knowing that it’s a lot more cyclical than say, Superman’s S-shield.

I love that I get Tim Drake here, seeming very much like the character I’ve loved and appreciated nearly my entire time with comics. And as he started out without a solo title, appearing in the Bat-books…so here he’s “just” another character in a book with several characters. And while he has a double-R logo now–Red Robin instead of “just” Robin–it’s a great melding of new and old, and I’m happy with it at least for the moment. The use of Clayface and Spoiler as well lend interest for me, and I think I’m around for the next several issues at least…doing as a single issue should, I’m quite entertained and felt my purchase was worthwhile, and I’m actively looking forward to the next issue.

THE FLASH: REBIRTH #1

flash_rebirth_0001This is the first of these issues to really, directly reference and involve stuff that went down in the Rebirth one-shot, weaving stuff from that into the flow of this story, giving us even more on the return of Wally and setting his journey and Barry’s own as we head into coming books. While the art was a bit off-putting, seeming a bit more “artsy” than I’d prefer, it worked well enough in conveying the story, and I was never left wondering what’d happened in a panel or scene. It’s just not a visual style I tend to prefer (even if it LOOKS very New 52 Flash to me at a glance).

We have Barry, and get Wally, and get some real, direct expansion on stuff from Rebirth. This issue makes me really look forward to The Flash and Barry in coming Flash issues, as well as Wally’s own journey, and seeing how things go with Batman as well. I never used to think of Batman and Flash as being a good pair, but this issue shows me how that definitely works, beyond contrivances with an alternate universe story I’d had little idea would mean what it did half a decade ago.

Though this is a single issue and not a 6-issue mini-series, like its predecessor, I’m more interested in Barry than I was before reading, and am definitely looking forward to continuing adventures of the character.

AQUAMAN: REBIRTH #1

aquaman_rebirth_0001I’ve never been much of an Aquaman fan. I’ve been aware of the character, read plenty of issues of varying quality involving the character, dabbled in reading iterations of ongoing series with the character, but despite “potential” several times, just never got into the character. As such, by rights, I shouldn’t care to check this out, or to enjoy this issue all that much…but I checked it out, and enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more development.

That said, this is (for me) probably the weakest of all the Rebirth issues so far. It’s NOT bad, and the art is fantastic, and there’s a heckuva lot of potential for the series. But this one issue doesn’t do a lot for me…doesn’t change my take on the character, doesn’t infuse me with excitement and interest for the next issue…it’s just an issue serving as prologue to the initial arc on the officially-ongoing series (making this very much a #0 issue). Particularly when stacked up against the likes of Action Comics #957, the one-shot Rebirth issue itself, and my excitement toward several other launching-soon titles, this didn’t have much chance.

Another way to put it, though, I think would be this: Aquaman sits amidst some phenomenally enjoyable comics that are collectively serving as a breath of fresh air after years of really just flat-out NOT REALLY CARING, PERIOD about DC comics in general, and finding refuge in bargain-bin back issues. This issue is solid, introducing/re-introducing characters, status quo, motivation(s), and setting up what’s to come. I’m not disappointed at buying it. I just find the thought rather interesting that weighing the various issues out so far, if I had to “cut” any from purchasing, this would likely be the first. Still, I’m onboard for now, and it’s great to see the character in action and in a relationship, and coming off as a serious character, while there’s acknowledgement of the rap the character gets.

WONDER WOMAN: REBIRTH #1

wonder_woman_rebirth_0001Rucka on Wonder Woman again… yeah, that’s definitely a positive selling point for me. That this issue addresses and begins in its own way to ADDRESS discrepancies in the character’s origin and backstory, moving the story forward while not disregarding or throwing anything out goes a long way in making me want to read more. There’s a familiarity to the character in this issue that I really enjoyed, both narratively and visually. I recognize the character as one I’ve seen here and there and even read a bit in the Superman/Wonder Woman book for the New 52…but I also see something of prior iterations of the character as well–Rucka‘s run from around Infinite Crisis as well as stuff going back to Byrne, and even back to the beginning of the post-CoIE run with Perez.

While I’m “aware OF” something with Wonder Woman and her being the God(dess) of War now (from reading Superman/Wonder Woman), other than that, in my own reading experience, the character has felt largely defined as “finally” being Superman’s girlfriend…I’ve not followed the solo series, and so have only really seen much with the character when it’s involved Superman.

Here we get a character that’s very much her own, in an issue whose story is strong in how it shows the character and in acknowledging mixed versions of her origin and backstory. The art is solid and I like it overall…despite the way the character could easily be conveyed, I feel like the character radiated independent strength that leaves me wanting to read more and see more, without it being tied to how she looks.

The familiarity from having Rucka back on the character’s title is another positive, and a key factor for me to just stick around, trusting from the past that this is gonna be a great ride.


Three weeks in…and still enjoying stuff, still greatly enjoying the fact that for the first time in years, the DC Unierse feels like “home” again, that I’m as interested in the “universe” as I am individual characters or a couple individual titles.

I know the quality won’t hold–I can’t imagine any line could–but this whole push is just SO refreshing that I’m enjoying it, and “on the hook” for at least the next seven or so weeks and ready to add another 4 to that!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160608a

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.

Aliens: Defiance #1 [Review]

aliensdefiance0001Episode One: Derelict

Script: Brian Wood
Art: Tristan Jones
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimon Carnevale
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Editor: Spencer Cushing
Designer: Cindy Calcerez-Sprague
Digital Art Technitian: Conley Smith
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Date: April 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

My earliest exposure to Aliens was the final battle with the Queen at the end of the 1986 film, that I saw accidentally, wandering out one time to where Dad had fallen asleep watching it or whatever preceded it. Several years later, I came across and read the novelization of Alien3, which led to me seeing that film (my first-ever R-rated film sought out!), and in turn led to “backtracking” to the others. I also recall at some point realizing I had read the novelization of the first film at some point without ever realizing when I read it that it had anything to do with any movie. I also came across the novels that expanded the Aliens universe, and which I eventually came to learn were themselves based on comics. It would be a few more years before I ever got around to getting to read those original comics–particularly the first ‘trilogy’. While I’ve “lapsed” over the years, the last few years I have been quite interested to learn of any Aliens comic series, and occasionally lament that it’s not a truly ongoing property (while realizing that it works better with finite stories). As a gamer, I’m pretty lax, and have not played the recent game with Ripley’s daughter, though I’ve been told a fair bit of the story (sadly, not consciously retained). But hey…comics, right?

So here I am…brand new long-form Aliens story kicking off, its cover putting me a bit in mind of a/the video game, and intrigued at what I BELIEVE to be at least a 12-issue saga–perhaps the longest single Aliens story I’ve been a part of as a fan (not getting into the comics until about a decade ago). I know Brian Wood‘s name from some prior stuff I’ve read/sampled–Northlanders, DMZ, The Massive–and been aware of his name on stuff like Star Wars more recently…so that’s a welcome factor for a new Aliens series. Icing on the cake is art by Tristan Jones, who I became aware of with his work on the Tales of the TMNT title from original TMNT publisher Mirage a few years back, and have loved seeing his work on various other projects since…and whose visual style seems a perfect fit to me for the Aliens property.

This issue is a first issue, giving us basically a brief paragraph of context/setup before we’re launched into the thick of things. We meet Zula Hendricks, a private involved in a mission to a derelict spacecraft. She and her fellow marines encounter Xenomorphs, and the situation does not go well. She and a synthetic survive, though she quickly learns that the synthetic is acting against programming, and her own world is changing as a result.

The story is good, for what it is. Which is not meant to be a negative statement…but this is only the first chapter of a multi-issue arc, that I believe is a year-long, so this is hardly going to be a full story in and of itself, nor is it giving everything away. And a single issue isn’t really enough space to re-introduce readers to a property, introduce new characters and detail their history, recent past, and present while also showing the scope of the property and of space and the horrors of the Xenomorphs. But we do get a fair bit packed into this, with Zula’s introduction and some flashbacks, a cameo of Amanda Ripley (which I believe thusly situates this time-wise somewhere between the first and second films), the synthetic Davis, some context for Zula and her place in things, and the final-page reveal of what seems to be the “mission” of this particular series…piquing my interest such that I almost wish this was a weekly series, because waiting another month for the next tidbit seems far too long. It’s not a cliffhanger in and of itself, but more a concept that promises a lot of great stuff, and I want to see it developed and played out, and be along for the ride.

Jones’ visuals are a great fit for this story, providing a great overall feel for this issue. His style is–as said above–very well suited for this property, and gives a gritty, dark, creepy look to the Xenomorphs and their brand of violence. The humans/humanoids come across as I would expect, while exuding whatever it is that just FEELS like they’re in an Aliens story. The linework and layouts are impressive, giving a sort of cinematic flow to the issue…and I’m pleased at the lack of full or double-page spreads, which often feel like cheats and wastes of space when they’re the bulk of an issue. Only one page is a single/full-page image, and that’s the ending of the issue, where after all those pages crammed full of panels, it provides a stark contrast, and really drives home the importance of the “moment” that it conveys.

The cover is also a fantastic piece of art, and for me quite iconic and recognizeable. It’s also all the more impressive to me as it’s the only cover image I’ve seen for this, allowing it to stand as itself and not be just one in a sea of variant covers diluting the thing. While there may be a variant or two out there specific to someone, I don’t believe there are any alternate covers from Dark Horse in and of itself as a push.

Plenty of questions are opened up here, and the apparent premise of this series now holds a great deal of potential. I look forward to learning more of Zula as well as Davis, and seeing what sort of interactions the two have. I’m interested in how their ‘mission’ will play out, and play into the larger scope of the Aliens universe. While we get the cameo of Amanda Ripley, I believe her story is told in the videogame, and more of an “Easter egg” tossed in for fans as well as being an indicator of the time this is set in. I look forward to seeing and learning more about the Aliens, and seeing these characters grow in their own knowledge and understanding of same.

It will be interesting to see how this is paced, overall as a series…but I almost wish this was already a completed work. As a first issue, this works well overall. I don’t know that this is something that in and of itself right now as a singular issue will pull anyone “new” into Aliens or be necessarily the greatest introduction to the property…but whether long-time fan of the Aliens comics or just now checking them out being familiar with the films and/or video game, I think this is a great start into the comics side of things.

I’m not particularly enamored with the cover price, but will suck it up, given this is Aliens . I’m definitely on board for this series, and definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve any interest already in the property.

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