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From the Archives: Batman – Streets of Gotham #1

batman_streets_of_gotham_0001Ignition!

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

This may be only the first issue of a new series…but it feels like something I’ve been reading for ages–and I mean that in a good way!
We open with Gotham’s police responding to an alarm to find Harley Quinn in civilian guise on the scene. Batman steps in, and we see Dick’s interaction with her (as well as an amusing bit from the new Robin, displaying his personality quite well). As the issue moves on, we’re introduced to Firefly and his latest scheme, as well as the interaction Batman has at present with Gordon and his police.

In some ways, this is a typical Batman comic. Then again, typical as it might be, there’s a whole lotta "new" under the top layer, as we have a new Batman, a new Robin, and with them whole new dynamics with existing characters (particularly Jim Gordon and the Gotham City police).

The writing is great stuff–Dini certainly knows his characters. I’ve enjoyed his issues of Detective Comics that I’ve read; and brought the expectation of that sort of enjoyment to this book. Thankfully, he delivers. Though not a focal point for the issue as a whole, the scene with Harley made the issue for me–I heard the character’s voice from the animated series in every word she spoke here, and it was a blast to read. She’s one of very few characters created for a tv show that I think works perfectly integrated into a comics universe afterward.

Nguyen on art is also a blast from the past–and still quite enjoyable. Some of the linework and shadows seem just a bit strange and over the top–but on the whole, a specific gritty, darker-but-not-too-dark tone is established that works really well for the book. The visuals are a bit stylized, and won’t appeal to everyone, though.

This series seems set to focus more on Gotham City and the things going on in the city and her people moreso than on Batman and Robin. That the two are the primary protectors of the city necessitate their appearance, but it seems we’ll get more of the GCPD in here, with Batman and Robin serving more of a well-noticed supporting role. While it’s no Gotham Central, this issue ges off to a good start, and has me interested in seeing more of the character interactions–almost more than finding out what happens after the cliffhanger.

Manhunter

Story Title: Strange Bedfellows
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Karl Story
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Colors: Nick Filardi
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts

Manhunter/Kate Spencer moves to Gotham to take a new job. While we see her interacting with her new surroundings, we get flashbacks showing us what brought her to this point, giving context to the new status quo for the character.
Overall, I’m unfamiliar with the character, but for whatI’ve seen of her, this segment does not seem out of place. I’m not sure if the story here sums up what happened in the end of the ongoing singular-titled series or not, or if this story is simply the bridge from that series to the new status quo we’ll get as the co-feature in this title. Either way, the story’s simple, to-the-point, and not bad.

The art’s good, too. It’s not spectacular, but it is solid stuff and gets the story across with no trouble.

Whether the character was moved to Gotham because of the move to a co-feature in a title such as this I don’t know–but it works for me. All the more because we’ll get to see even MORE of Gotham through this character and her corner of things. The primary drawback is that with just under half a standard issue’s page-count, there’s less room to really get into the story–just as it gets moving, the segement concludes.
It’ll definitely be interesting to see the writer play with pacing given the page-count and whether or not–or how–it affects the story.

Like Blue Beetle in Booster Gold, this is another co-feature that actually feels worthwhile to me–I’ll probably never be thrilled paying $3.99 for a comic, but for the main story and the co-feature…this is a combo I can definitely handle for now.

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Legends of Tomorrow #1 [Review]

legendsoftomorrow0001Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti with Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $7.99

I hadn’t paid attention to this originally when I saw it solicited…I noticed the “title” and chalked it up as yet another soon-to-be-failed tv-tie-in of near-zero consequence, at least to me and my following the “regular” continuity of DC stuff. I’m not sure if the tv show had premiered yet or was just about to, but I had no interest in yet another digital-first thing seeing print, and thus ignored it. Then recently there was an ad for it that caught my attention, and left me curious. I was a bit put off learning the thing would be $7.99…even for a double-length issue, being frustrated with $3.99 price points, essentially $8 seemed a bit MUCH for just one issue of something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Still, I resolved to wait and see, not swearing to avoid the book but not intending absolutely to buy it, either. When it came out last week, it was a small week for me, so the $8 wasn’t terribly steep…plus the issue’s squarebound with the title on the spine, so it can actually go on a shelf like a mini tpb, and not simply disappear into a box.

While I’d expected a “lead” story and the others to essentially be “backup” features…if I counted correctly, we have 4 20-page stories in this issue, giving the thing excellent “value” for the content, if one is interested in or doesn’t mind what’s included (vs. say, wishing it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern content).

Firestorm – United We Fall part 1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Rob Hunter
Letterer: Corey Breen
Editor: Jessica Chen

I remember checking out Firestorm: The Nuclear Men title at the launch of the New 52, and it didn’t hold me enough to stick with it past a few months. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but I’d been loosely aware of the character at points–though mostly it was after the introduction of Jason as the new Firestorm and the apparent demise of Ronnie in Identity Crisis that the character was fully on my radar; and then the Deathstorm stuff around Blackest Night. Now there’s been a fair bit on the Flash tv show and Legends of Tomorrow, so this “lead” story was a good enticement for me to buy the issue.

We open on Ronnie and Jason testing their powers, with something going on with them, and then the two split, and we get a glimpse into their personal lives–individually, and at school with a mutual friend. We also have the introduction of a new/old villain, and come to see that there is something up with Jason, and with the Firestorm Matrix in general, which leads to a cliffhanger promising imminent destruction.

In addition to the above preamble, I think another draw to THIS take on Firestorm is that it’s written by the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway…with the added element that I’ve attended a panel where he spoke several years ago, so there’s that quasi-personal-ish connection for me.

I like that the Jason/Ronnie mix has not been scrapped, and that along with both of them we also still have Professor Stein…indicating, for my limited experience with the character, a certain mix of original/classic and newer character elements and an observance of history for the characters. Yet, this also reads as a first issue, showing us bits of stuff with Firestorm and that it requires two people, and there’s this “matrix” thing that allows them to join AS (a) Firestorm; We’re “introduced to” Ronnie and Jason and see a bit about them–Ronnie’s into sports, Jason’s more into academics; We see a bit of “supporting cast” in Stein as well as the boys’ mutual friend; as well as a bit of rivalry between them. I’m familiar enough to simply enjoy the re-introduction/”confirmation” of stuff I figured I knew, and I’m interested in where this story goes.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen Pansica‘s art before or not…but I had no real expectation going into this. I was not disappointed by the art…it’s good, and worked for the story, avoiding random weirdness that’d put me off or have me wondering at anatomy and such; and I was never left trying to figure out WHAT happened or was going on. It’s a good match for the story itself.

I’m not sure exactly how this would rate for me as a first issue wholly on its own…though I probably would not have bought a Firestorm #1. But this was only the first quarter of the issue purchased…

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Convergence – Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 [Review]

convergence_batmanshadowofthebat002Home is the Sailor

Words: Larry Hama
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Elmer Santos
Lettering: Steve Wands
Cover: Philip Tan, Elmer Santos
Assistant Editors: Holzherr & Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Batman and Azbats…er…Azrael, vs. Wetworks, for the fate of the city? Yeah, but I don’t even know WHICH city they’re in from this. The previous issue was several weeks ago and this one lacks anything to bring one up to speed. Sure, it’s ONLY the 2nd issue of two, but…really? So the Batmen fight Wetworks while befriending a woman and her son as the notion of getting the Wetworks team to slow down long enough for a teamup to be proposed, to endeavor to save BOTH cities. And while both cities are still around at the end of the issue, there’s no truly definitive ending.

We get the "conclusion" of a story that is NOT a conclusion. At best it’s the first act in a larger arc…but there’s no To Be Continued note, no "continued in Convergence #7," no "for the final fate of BOTH CITIES, check out Convergence #8 on sale in TWO WEEKS!" note, just some ridiculous, cliché stopping point because we’re out of pages.

And I really feel like I should have gone with my initial instinct and left this thing on the shelf. But in a fairly rare instance of it happening, the cover sold me, just by its weird coloring, and the title logo…and the strength of the previous issue’s cover (which I liked SO MUCH that I made it my phone’s lock screen, so have been seeing it several times a day for the past month or so).

I was further sold, again, by Hama‘s name on the cover…though sadly, that (and the interior credits) are the only place I have anything to truly suggest to me that Hama‘s even involved. Nothing about this "feels" like some kind of GI Joe thing, nothing reminds me of 1993-ish Wolverine, and nothing about this otherwise screams "I’m by Larry Hama!" to me.

I blame that not on Hama, but on the lack of room for anything to truly develop. And having soured CONSIDERABLY on Convergence in general since its start, having allowed myself some general enjoyment of Marvel’s version of stuff in Secret Wars, this just pales all the more as an issue.

This felt paced to be the opening of a larger story, and if this were a six-issue arc, it would seem on track to be a good story overall, having spent the first issue (re)introducing us to Zero Hour-era Batman and Azrael and setting up the Wetworks fight; this issue gave us the actual fight and leaves us with the two groups seeming about to team up; leaving several issues to show them interacting and preparing a plan; putting the plan into action and the plan going awry; an issue to refocus or have some significant change to the Batmen at least, and lead into some cataclysmic or miraculous event for one/both of the cities and a possible lead-back into some core event series.

So in a way, this is like a 6-issue mini getting canned after only 2 issues; or checking out a couple episodes of some tv show, being somewhat interested, but then told "oh, no, they just never put any more episodes out" or some such.

I’m irked at the length (technically, the lack thereof); irked at the Deathstroke "preview," that I don’t care about especially for not caring about the title or character, I’m irked at the $3.99 cover price vs. $2.99; and I’m irked that I bought this thing at all as a single issue.

This totally feels like it’s something destined for bargain bins; whether dollar bins or cheaper I don’t know. The entirety of Convergence does, for that matter. I’d bought the Superman #2 issue last week and now this; I’m wrestling with OCD on the STEEL issue as well as the handful of other #2s still pending. Consciously I know I should wait for the bargain bin appearances, but there’s part of me that just HAS TO "experience" what’s happening real-time with some of these ‘key’ issues, that is not content to just sit back and get it second-hand.

As long as you’re not feeling that way, I’d say this issue is totally skippable and inconsequential…to whatever the main story has gotten to and in general. There’s no #3 and no new #1 for Batman: Shadow of the Bat that I am aware of; no new pending title debuting starring Jean-Paul Valley, any incarnation of Azrael, or a Zero Hour era Batman, so…if the cover doesn’t suck you in or some other sentimentality grab you, wait for the bargain bins or an attractive collected volume that includes this.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #4 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: From Beyond

Dox’s team is coming together, and the villain is revealed!

REBELS Cv4 dsWriter: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Claude St. Aubin
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Ed Benes and Rob Hunter
Publisher: DC Comics

Dox’s team is coming together, and we as readers find out a bit more about what’s set current events into motion, and who it was that took over LEGION.

The story feels like it’s loaded with potential, particularly on the cosmic side of the DCU; drawing from older characters and concepts but placing them well within current events of continuity and whatnot. However, even four issues in, I’m not really feeling like I have much to care about with these characters nor their situations. The "main villain" for this arc is one of my least-favorite in the DCU, and even being revamped a bit visually still doesn’t interest me. I’m not familiar enough with these characters to know how their depiction here works with prior versions of them, but they do seem consistent within this series, at least. We’re only four issues in, so hopefully a lot of this is simply foundation-laying, building toward some solid payoff in the near future.

The visuals maintain a nice consistency from earlier issues (even with a different artist). Visually, I can’t help but feel that this is to "cosmic DC" what the earlier issues of the 2003-launched Outsiders series was to the more traditional DCU. The art may not be for everyone, but as what it is, it certainly works for this book and gives it a style that sets it apart from a lotta other books.

Bedard seems to have a good grasp of the cosmic stuff, and if you’re a fan of his stories or of the old LEGION characters, this book’s probably right up your alley. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like anything terribly essential as yet.

Ratings:

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

R.E.B.E.L.S. #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: OK
Story Title: A World of Hurt

Dox continues to assemble his grouping of individuals to assist reclamation of his former organization…with little regard for his methods, focusing on the end result.

rebels003Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue continues to show Dox as he acts on the information he’s been given, but doesn’t really let anyone else in on it. He’s building a new team, focused on the final result and apparently not all that concerned about what steps he’s gotta take to achieve it. After changing someone into an energy-being, Dox heads off with her to see some old allies and recruit them–after explaining that he did not orchestrate the attacks on them that they recently survived. Ultimately, they find that they face quite a formidable foe.

The art on this is quite good, and very consistent with the earlier issues. Its style fits the story, while adding its own "flavor" to the overall product. There’s a sort of dirtiness to it that contributes to the atmosphere, setting this apart from other books visually.

You could do much worse than this book, but then, I’m also finding myself quickly losing interest. While the nostalgia factor prompted my initial interest in the book, I’m not finding these characters to be familiar to me (other than by name/concept), and really not connecting or engaging with ’em. Something about this story feels like it will be much better when read as a complete arc, but on the issue by issue basis, I’m just not feelin’ it.

I suppose if you’re enough of a fan of the writer or artist this’d be worthwhile; ditto if you’re particularly interested in or informed as far as the characters go. As a casual reader, this doesn’t really seem to be anything essential.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

R.E.B.E.L.S. #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: The First Recruit

Vril Dox and Supergirl take on the mercenaries, while Dox finds out more about his benefactor and what he’s expected to do moving forward.

rebels002Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Andy Clarke
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Swands
Asst. Editors: Rex Ogle
Editors: Marts & Cunningham
Cover: Andy Clarke
Publisher: DC Comics

Resuming where the first issue left off, we find Vril Dox and Supergirl fighting the mercenaries that are trying to capture Dox. Dox finds himself faced with a message from the future intended to help him, but opts to use his own methods to go about attaining his goals. Making for Starhaven, Dox’s recruitment drive is in full effect, as we see that this is not a character we’re meant to like overall–he’s a real jerk (to put it mildly).

The story itself isn’t bad, though I’m not all that familiar with most of the characters overall (except Supergirl). Though I recognize Dox and a couple others, I don’t recognize most of the characters, and so am not all that interested. The writing seems solid so far–there’s enough foreshadowing that at least for this arc, it seems there’s a build toward some decent payoff–though I’d prefer to be more engaged in the story.

The art’s not bad, though it’s a bit different than what I’m used to, particularly on the Superman family of books and their depiction of Supergirl. Clarke’s art does bring just enough grittiness to make this seem like a book that doesn’t just fit in general into a generic DCU, but has an edge that reminds me of the earlier issues of Outsiders from 2003 to Infinite Crisis.

All in all, a decent book. Unfortunately, as it’s failed so far to really engage me, I suspect I wouldn’t miss it much (if at all) if I simply skipped it. If you’re interested in the cosmic stuff, you’ll probably enjoy this a bit more; ditto if you’re more familiar with Vril Dox as a character.

Ratings:

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

Faces of Evil: Prometheus #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: The Man who Murdered Prometheus

The true Prometheus finds himself free, and seeks revenge on the man who has used his name during his imprisonment.

facesofevilprometheus001Writer: Sterling Gates
Art & Color: Federico Dallocchio
Letterer: Swands
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza
Cover: Mauro Cascioli
Publisher: DC Comics

Opening with a fairly "classic" "one punch takeout" by Batman, we see the original Prometheus dealt with by Batman and Martian Manhunter in a flashback. Moving to the present, we find that Prometheus has been imprisoned for a couple years (comic time), and isn’t seen as much of a threat by the guards assigned him. Prometheus recalls his own origin (a simple story device/excuse to fill readers in on it). When he finds himself let loose of the Martian Manhunter’s control (J’onn’s death in Final Crisis #1 / Final Crisis: Requiem), he sets out to continue his mission of revenge against agents of justice as well as against the imposter using his name of late.

I was interested in this issue by its title alone: I vaguely recalled Prometheus from a couple of issues fairly early in the Morrison JLA run over a decade back, and thought it’d be interesting to see where the character is–or would be brought–in the present. Story wise, I was not disappointed. The plot is a bit cliched, but works for me as a one-shot though I doubt it’d work for me as a longer story. We have a reconciliation of sorts of the character (I never knew that someone other than one character has used the name "Prometheus" in DC’s continuity) that sets him up to be a big player in future issues.

Offhand I am not at all familiar with the artist’s name, but with art like that in this issue, I certainly hope to become familiar. There’s a gritty realism to the art that fits quite well with the story. I’m not a huge fan of the Prometheus costume–can’t quite put my finger on it, except it just looks…weird. I don’t have any old issues to reference to see how similar or different it is to the original, but hey…whatever.

I haven’t found the Faces of Evil bit all that engaging in most of the other DC titles (particularly Booster Gold, Green Lantern Corps, and Action Comics) so far. However, this issue seems to be exactly what Faces of Evil is all about, giving a solid, full story about a villain with insight into the villain him/herself. With quality like this, I’d even be somewhat interested in a regular series of spotlights on various villains if it kept to this price point.

This is a good one-shot–though it’s not an entirely new character, one can certainly see how this’ll be a launching point for a dangerous DC villain that hasn’t had much play time the last few years. If you can find it for cover price, this is well worth a look-see.

Ratings:

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

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