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Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing [Review]

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing

Writer: Jonathan Vankin
Pencils: Marco Castiello
Inks: Vincenzo Acunzo
Art (Issue #2): Renato Arlem
Colors: Barb Ciardo
Letters: Sal Cipriano, (Issue #3) Dave Sharpe
Cover: Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics

I haven’t finished Brightest Day yet, but I know that the big hubbub over the final issue was the return of Swamp Thing and John Constantine–after a lengthy absence–to the mainstream DCU. And waiting for the collected volumes of Brightest Day, I opted to pass on this series. But this weekend, I found myself looking for something “extra” to pick up, and the comic shop I was at had all three issues, so I decided that rather than spend only $3.99 for a one-shot, at “only” $2.99/issue, I’d snag this entire 3-issue mini.

John Constantine finds himself the butt of his pal Chaz’s jokes for having bought a newspaper–though this particular newspaper had literally called out to him, the Swamp Thing’s attempt to make contact with him through the plant fibers in the paper. The trouble apparently caused by the Swamp Thing draws Constantine into a quest for his old acquaintance. After all, John saw the Swamp Thing through a couple other major events, so only fitting to be part of whatever this latest go-round is. Constantine makes contact with Batman to enlist the detective’s aid. When this doesn’t go as planned, he finds himself in Metropolis seeking the Man of Steel’s brand of assistance. Upon realizing what may actually be going on, John finds himself on a path that neither Superman nor Batman can condone as he seeks to set things right in a way that only he–John Constantine–can do.

It’s been ages since I’ve read any Hellblazer stuff–at least a year and a half, maybe 2+ years–so this was a welcome reading experience. Vankin has a good feel for the character, I felt like I was reading Hellblazer…except this is set within the DCU, with John interacting once more with a world that includes Superman, Batman, and other super-powered people, unlike the world the character’s Vertigo counterpart inhabits. This version of Constantine is younger, though still quite recognizeable as the character he is. There’s plenty of reference to the past to establish the character’s roots, to remind those familiar with the characters past of what they are. And if one is unfamiliar, it serves to establish that this character has a past in the DCU, though he’s not cropped up in a DCU book in quite a few years.

Though the series’ title emphasizes the Swamp Thing, this feels fully like a DCU-based John Constantine/Hellblazer story, and does so far more than I’d anticipated, expecting there to be a lot more focus on Swamp Thing (especially with Swamp Thing being one of the “New 52” in DC’s relaunch in September). Of course, I’ve long been more a fan of Constantine than Swamp Thing, so this focus didn’t bother me and I think my enjoyment of this series was higher than it would have been if it actually did focus more on Swamp Thing).

The story itself felt pretty basic, and even a bit choppy, almost as if it should have been stretched to at least another issue. Given its timing at the very end of this version of the DCU, though, there seems to have been a need to compress it into only three issues. The first two issues had a nice build, reintroducing us to Constantine, as well as putting him back on the map for Batman and Superman. The third issue held a good bit of promise to it, but after 2 1/2 issues’ build, the end seemed to be anticlimactic, almost negating the purpose of having this series to begin with. This could change depending on the status quo in the new Swamp Thing ongoing, but that would almost make this series seem a prologue and worthy of an altered title.

The art was a sort of mixed experience going through the three issues. Offhand, I’m not familiar with the art team(s) behind this series. The style was not unattractive, and seemed to fit the characters involved. Batman and Superman, if only for the amount of Vertigo Hellblazer that I’ve read seemed a bit out of place by existing, though the artists had a good blend that allowed them to visually work with Constantine and Swamp Thing (or vice-versa). Though the second issue had a different artist, the style’s similar enough to the first and third that I honestly didn’t even notice until pulling the credits to write this review.

As I have not yet finished reading Brightest Day, this doesn’t honestly seem or feel connected to that, except that it would sort of explain an apparent resurrection that lies at the core of this story (even as it reminds me a bit of The Spectre’s character shortly after Green Lantern: Rebirth). If this ties to the new Swamp Thing series as I think it might, I’d hope to see this collected either as a Swamp Thing vol. 1 or 0, or somehow simply not as just a Brightest Day companion volume. If you’re a fan of Hellblazer, this series presents a chance to see a younger Constantine interacting with the DC Universe he came from, and get away from the intricate mythology that’s built up over the last 200+ issues of Hellblazer. If you’re interested in Swamp Thing, this wouldn’t seem a horrible story, but Swamp Thing seems a bit player at best, though you’ll find plenty with Constantine, a character with some key ties to Swamp Thing’s past.

Recommended.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Booster Gold #14 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part 2

Booster and a questionable ally seek the point in time at which to stop the Starro infestation before the whole of Time can be infected…a feat that may have a large cost to accomplish.

boostergold014Writer: Rick Remender
Penciller: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Chris Batista and Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue begins with a Booster Gold trapped in a sea of malevolent starfish intent upon taking control of the hero. Showing some smarts some don’t credit him with, Booster quickly escapes, but finds that his challenge might just be insurmountable–Starro has (through Rip Hunter) gained access to the Timestream itself and is taking over, eradicating from existence anything and anyone who might be able to stop him. Finding an unexpected ally, striking a (figurative) deal with a lesser of the two evils, and utilizing access to the Timestream, Booster fights back, risking not only his life but the whole of free-thinking reality to try to save Rip Hunter and set time right.

While certainly not my favorite Booster story, this issue certainly wades in deep with the sort of adventure the "All-New" (as opposed to "Pre-Infinite Crisis") Booster Gold is meant for. The story has some decent moments, characters are believable (even if I didn’t know before who a certain villain was prior), and shows that while maintaining an ongoing story it is very possible to have stories done in less than six chapters. This is a solid story, and well worthwhile for Booster Gold fans (or fans of Starro).

The art is of strong quality. I have no real complaint with it, as characters are all unrecognizable and distinct, there’s a good amount of detail (especially if you look closely at points), and the story comes across nothing but enhanced by the visuals. A panel on the last page in particular–while perhaps not entirely true to that character–almost made me laugh as my mind fills in the blanks from what we’re shown.

I’m sure you could find issues better than this within this series and others. But honestly? You could do so much worse than this issue. If you can find the previous issue to go with this, I recommend snaggin’ both for a good, simple two-issue read.

Ratings:

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

Booster Gold #13 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part I

Booster & Michelle vs. Starro-Rip in a battle with huge consequences.

boostergold013Written by: Rick Remender
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Chris Batista & Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

We open this issue with an image of Superman being punched to the ground, as Booster and his sister move in to save a life Superman (would have been) unable to save. Booster explains why they can’t just save everybody, and the two return to Rip’s lab, only to find Hunter with a starfish…er…Starro Spore hugging his face. The possessed Rip heads into the timestream, and it quickly becomes apparent that Starro has taken over Everything. Booster and Michelle head into the timestream themselves, set on preventing Starro’s takeover. The two find out how the Starro Spore came into contact with Rip, as well as just what it means to face a world that Starro has conquered…and Starro reveals something rather personal to Booster.

This feels like a pretty "standard" sort of issue for this title. The story fits the characters: we have an opening that showcases Booster & Michelle in action doing their time-travel set-things-right-one-life-at-a-time thing. We’re then introduced to the beginning of the primary story, and thrown into the action. This is what Booster’s supposed to be doing, at least as the premise of this title as set up over a year ago, so no problems there. On the whole, this feels like an issue of Booster Gold, the Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of.

The art’s good, as well–no real complaint there. It’s not quite a match for Jurgens‘ art…but it’s darned close, and having had a few weeks since reading my last issue and not thinking about it going in, the difference was not particularly noticeable–which I feel is a good thing. Visually, this book certainly holds its own in terms of definite quality. I also have to give it credit for consistency, as I did not once think to myself anything or anyone looked funny or out of the ordinary.

On the whole, though, this feels like a so-so issue. It’s good, don’t get me wrong–but it’s not quite up to what I’ve come to expect of this title. There weren’t any scenes that made me smile, or wax nostalgic, or any of those things that have made so many of the other issues such great reads. Though I’m familiar with the existence of Starro, the character is not a character I’m all that familiar with in particular. Nor am I at all interested in the character. Having such a character as the villain of the piece lessens my emotional investment in the story–as does knowing that this is only a two or three part story, and then I believe Jurgens returns to do both story and art…which leaves me very confident not much of consequence will happen in this story (except perhaps Booster figuring out what was revealed to the readers at the close of Johns‘ tenure on the book).

I certainly will not recommend against this issue…but it’s not an example of what’s made me so enjoy the previous issues thus far.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Booster Gold #12 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Vicious Cycle

Booster & Michelle continue to “fix” time…

boostergold012Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencil Art by: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Jurgens & Rapmund
Publisher: DC Comics

This second chapter picks up with Booster and his sister in the Batcave, at the mercy of Alfred–Batman’s butler…who intends the heroes stay put until his master returns, and holds a shotgun to back up his words. With a little help from Skeets, the two manage to abscond with some necessary (and perhaps not-so-necessary) resources, and continue their mission. Of course, though simple enough conceptually, their plan’s execution is a bit wanting, resulting in some further complications.

Dixon‘s writing portrays the characters quite well, and seems a perfect fit for a brief excursion into the Bat-corner of the DCU for this tale. Everyone seems to be in-character, and we’re provided with a number of cool “moments” and some fun nods to longtime fans (I assume plenty of people can identify with Booster in some of his comments about The Car, for one).

Jurgens & Rapmund continue to keep me impressed on the visuals. I really can’t find anything about the art that doesn’t work for me. From the opening page to the closing cameo panels…everyone looks spot-on, and that leaves me to simply enjoy the pretty art with a fun story.

All in all, another good issue of this series. While perhaps “just” a fill-in story between major creative lineups, the issue doesn’t feel like filler–it continues the basic premise of the series, and even sets things up for potential stories down the road a bit should anyone choose to follow up on certain points.

As the 2nd chapter of a 2-part story, this isn’t the best single issue to jump in on…but if you can find #11, the story makes a nice, fun point to jump on-board, and get a done-in-two story without needing to jump in for 6-some issues.

Recommended.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
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

Booster Gold #20 [Review]

Quick Rating: So-so

Story Title: 1952 Pick-Up
Booster goes to 1952 to kill some time while Rip fixes the stalled Time Sphere.

boostergold020 Guest Writer: Keith Giffen
Guest Penciller: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Artist (Bookend Sequence): Dan Jurgens
Finished Inks (Bookend Sequence): Rodney Ramos
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Jurgens & Rapmund
Publisher: DC Comics

While on the one hand it’s kinda cool seeing Giffen (if only as a "guest writer") back on this character…this issue feels entirely like some "filler issue." It doesn’t seem to tie to the previous arc, nor really begin anything new…and even on the art, is "bookended" by one art team with the bulk of the issue another.

Rip’s time-bubble has stalled out, and he’s quickly annoyed by an impatient Booster. Booster decides to "time dive" into the early 1950s, where he gets swept up in a quick adventure apparently involving the original "Suicide Squad." He also gets a chance to see at more length the time period of "The Fonz," who he finally realizes is not real, but still enjoys none the less.

As a generic "Booster Gold, the greatest hero you’ve never heard of" story, this isn’t bad…but it really doesn’t advance the ongoing plot any, doesn’t deal with ramifications of recent goings-on, and as such just doesn’t feel like it matters–all the more if the reader isn’t familiar with Suicide Squad history in detail. I finished the issue, and was simply left wondering "That’s it? That’s all this issue is?"

The visuals are decent–I still very much enjoy Jurgens’ pencils. Not so thrilled with the main part of this issue, especially having Jurgens‘ art side-by-side with Olliffe‘s. Ollife‘s work is not bad by any means…it’s just not Jurgens‘, and not what I associate with my ideal visual style for this book.

As an ongoing thing, this issue feels like you could pass on it without missing out on anything essential to the ongoing chronicle of Booster. As a one-off, it’s a decent issue to pick up just for a quick read of a story dealing with the character. (Then again, what seemed a throw-away two-parter earlier in the series sparked a 5-issue arc several issues after).

This issue could be a lot better…but ultimately, it doesn’t begin to be as bad as it "could" be.

Ratings:

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

Booster Gold #31 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Black Lantern Green Arrow #30 [Review]

Lying to Myself

Writer: J.T. Krul
Pencils: Diogenes Neves
Inks: Ruy Jose, Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Chuck Pires
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Greg Horn
Editor: Adam Schlagman
Published by: DC Comics

This is yet another issue where we get to see one of the Nekron/Black-Ring-posessed heroes fighting against what their outward body has become. In this case, Green Arrow as a Black Lantern, trapped inside his own body, watching it do and say horrible stuff to those he loves. While Ollie recalls key parts of his life and how certain people were there for him, how much they mean to him…his body is busy trying to kill those people, while he hopes they will have the strength to take him down.

I don’t think I was are of Krul before Blackest Night. What I’ve read of his throughout this event, though, leaves me quite interested in what he has to offer in general. In this case, I enjoyed the one-shot nature of this issue, as its context fills one in on the things they need to know about the character, while presenting some of those “deep” moments as a Black Lantern does horrible stuff to someone with strong emotional ties to the deceased (even if Ollie is something else, not dead but not alive, while possessed by one of the Black Rings). The moments touched on throughout this issue are both familiar and unfamiliar. It was particularly touching to see that a moment I remember being so moving to me back in 1994’s Zero Hour was a key moment to the character even here, 15 years later.

The entire art team did a great job on this issue, really capturing a surreal tone that really enhanced the story. The effect of having what’s at the forefront of Ollie’s perception in normal color, while other things that were going on around his body but not part of the memories he was going through inside lent a great effect to things. The visuals in general were very good here. I’m not familiar offhand with Neves‘ art, but this issue felt familiar, and I think Neves‘ style is similar to Ivan Reis‘; at least, this didn’t feel like something that was all that different from the core Blackest Night series.

Though I haven’t read an issue of Green Arrow since before Infinite Crisis, I didn’t feel lost reading this. There may be subtle stuff I’m not picking up on that’ll mean more to others who have followed the ongoing stuff. But on the whole, this seems quite accessible to those following Blackest Night in general, or who know at least the broad strokes of Green Arrow’s place in the DCU.

The cover is a nice homage to that silver age Neal Adams cover; here, reversing the image, with Ollie “charging” a ring and Hal shattering the lantern, mid-oath. It speaks volumes on its own, conveying a sense of history for those familiar with the history, but still serves as a fairly symbolic image of this issue in itself.

While I’ve been down on a couple other recent issues with this sort of theme/set-up (Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2, Adventure Comics #7, etc), this one actually works for me in a way those other issues did not. Perhaps it’s because of the way this ends, differently than I expected it to; or that I have more interest and “history” with Green Arrow than I do Wonder Woman…perhaps it’s simply my lack of context with this Green Arrow series, and so enjoying this “random” issue.

Accessible for newer readers, and presumably deeper meaning for longtime readers. This issue is very much rooted within Blackest Night…other than remembered past events for characters, this issue doesn’t seem tied to previous issues, and this issue leads back to Blackest Night itself (as opposed to the characters walking through a Blackest Night tie-in to go back to the normal/continuing story next issue virtually unscathed).

Recommended.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Booster Gold #29 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Booster Gold
Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5

Blue Beetle
Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Red Robin #9 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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