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Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1 [Review]

injusticegodsamongusannual001The Hunt for Harley

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Xermanico, Jonas Trindade, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez Rodriguez
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Juan Jose
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Normally I’m not a huge fan of Lobo, though the character occasionally gets my interest. I had enough curiosity in September that I wound up snagging the Lobo Villains Month issue, and since I’m already following Injustice, there was no reason for me to avoid this issue arbitrarily.

The main thrust of this issue is that Lobo shows up to see if it’s worth trying to collect a bounty on Superman. When pointed out that Superman could just throw him into the sun, and there wouldn’t BE even a single drop of blood for Lobo to regenerate from, the big bad biker from space decides that nope, the bounty is not worth it. However, Superman makes his travel worth his time, and sics the bounty hunter on a thorn in his own side: Harley Quinn. So Lobo goes after her, to darkly comedic results, with a hint of Green Arrow and Black Canary thrown in.

This is by no means a written masterpiece…but I have to say that I enjoyed this issue and its story more than I have most comics lately! The story itself fits quite well within the established setting of the Injustice series and its parameters. I liked the longer singular story, compared to feeling more like I’m getting a couple of shorter stories and a random backup in some of the non-Annual issues.

I also enjoyed the visuals of the issue. Nothing glared out at me as weird or “off,” nothing took me out of the story as I turned the pages despite multiple artists; and I really like this version of Lobo.

While there’s a fair bit of context to be had, having read the series so far that makes this issue work, if you’re loosely familiar with Lobo and Harley (say, from the game itself or other media) and you know the premise of the game (superman’s taken over, the heroes are split and alliances are not what they used to be), you can probably enjoy this as a rather expensive (but at least thicker than a standard issue) once-shot story with nice art.

The overall saga of Injustice is not exactly advanced–this is a fairly “timeless” story within the setting and nothing stands out as “key,” though there are references grounding this in the continuity.

But this is still a good issue that I ultimately didn’t mind paying the $4.99 cover price quite as much as I would many others. If you come across this for a decent price (whatever you deem “decent”) it’s definitely worthwhile.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us #10 [Review]

injusticegodsamongus010Betrayals

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Tom Derenick, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorists: David Lopez, Santi Casas of Ikari Studio
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Mico Suayan
Cover Colors: David Lopez, Santi Casas
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Given the way I was drawn into this series, I almost hate to admit that it seems that even as things with the characters heat up, the series itself is cooling down for me. I have yet to get to play the game this is based on, so only have the story as this comic series to go on, and the premise is wearing a bit thin.

This issue gives us the next three chapters that were originally presented digitally…two dealing with the “main” story and one that’s really just a “side” story for “perspective.” In the main stuff, Superman’s group has learned that the Hawkgirl they were working with was actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise, while Batman’s group had taken out the original. In retaliation, Superman reveals Batman’s identity to the world. This doesn’t go over well with anyone–least of all Bruce–and prompts additional harsh action. Martian Manhunter confronts Superman and Wonder Woman, and uses his shape-shifting ability to threaten Wonder Woman’s life, prompting quick/deadly action from Superman. In the third part, we get a story of a kinder, gentler Superman of the past and how he went to extraordinary lengths to help a kid who fell off a bike.

Art-wise, no particular complaints. The art fits the stories the issue gives, and I never found myself trying to figure out what was going on due to confusing visuals. The “classic” Superman seemed slightly off, but I’m a lot more “forgiving” of that given this series is entirely its own thing…and I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of visual interpretations of the character that don’t quite fit “my” preferences.

Though the series is cooling off for me, the story isn’t bad. It’s a bit jarring to see these characters–especially Superman–take things as far as they do; and to see where there can be more drastic, shocking consequences since this isn’t the “main” continuity (characters can be killed, maimed, etc.). I’m finding Flash to be a bit more of a “voice of reason” and the most true-to-form of the various characters; certainly “vocally.”

By and large, this far in, the story is steeped in its own continuity so there’s not much of a jumping-on point, and it seems rather unlikely that anyone would be randomly jumping in at a 10th issue without context of the earlier issues; there’s no real recap–externally or within the story itself–which works for me, having read all the earlier issues…but it wouldn’t seem likely to truly “clue in” a new reader looking for context.

Superman allowing–even instigating–the revelation of Bruce’s identity, particularly as retaliation seems uncharacteristic of Superman, given likely ramifications. I’ll buy it for the sake of the story, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. My favorite part of the issue was the flashback which is a rather strong Superman story, period–Injustice and otherwise.

All in all, not a bad issue…certainly nothing to disgust me into dropping the book, but nothing that particularly drives me to recommend someone jump in on this issue, or even the series, without already being interested in the concept to begin with.

As the issue re-presents 3 chapters that were originally 99-cents each, I’m paying a $1 “premium” to get/read this in print. Yet given the page count, it’s in line with (or has more than) other $3.99 books, so no huge issue there.

Injustice: Gods Among Us #8 [Review]

injusticegodsamongus008Public Relations

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Mico Suayan with Santi Casas & David Lopez of Ikari Studio
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

While to my knowledge I’ve read the entire series so far, I feel like I’m missing a piece somewhere, like I lost a couple pages or something…or just outright forgot something where a history/”previously…” blurb would have been quite helpful.

Lex Luthor joins in on the debate between Hawkgirl, Superman, and the others, pointing out that they have to change the “image” the world now has of them…to get out in front and explain to the world what they’re doing, their intent–rather than the world being left to merely observe and draw wild conclusions. Meanwhile, word gets out even beyond Earth to Kalibak (Darkseid’s son) on Apokalips, who takes Superman’s intention of peace to mean soft weakness. With Darkseid’s permission he leads a worldwide invasion against Earth, which leaves the heroes to test recent changes in “strategy.”

Other than somehow not remembering Luthor entering things–perhaps a total brainfart, perhaps just not catching it last month–I’m quite enjoying this series, this story. It certainly helps that so far this series is entirely self-contained…it’s epic, “event”-level stuff, yet it’s just…”itself.” No legions of tie-ins and extra minis and specials to buy. Not even any double-shipping to make the $3.99 cover price an even harder “sell.” Just one issue per month on a regular basis…which leaves me actually looking forward to the upcoming Annual (and wondering if that will be simply some extra chapters to keep the digital chapters from being TOO far ahead of the print edition, or something else).

The characters aren’t exactly all that ‘deep’ or anything, but there’s not room for much depth given how many are involved. Still, the overall “feel” to the story, to the issue works for me, as I just kept on turning pages…I was so engrossed in the story that I failed to even consciously note that the art changed in the middle of the issue. I can see it, consciously looking for it, of course. But it’s extremely rare for me to keep breezing through an issue without being at least slightly thrown off by such a shift.

The art’s good, obviously. There’s that consistency throughout, and the fact that nothing was so jarring as to pull me out of “the story” the entire art team gets loads of credit from me. I like the costume designs here…they’re classic overall, with some modifications that seem partially New-52 influenced, partially just modifications likely from the designers of the game this is based on to have the characters look cooler on-screen.

I typically don’t care much for comics based on video games, but if I was “just” reading this and had no context that it’s based on a game, I’d simply take it as an Elseworlds type thing; an alternate universe.

I imagine one would enjoy this particularly if familiar with the game…yet, in my own experience it’s enjoyable simply for being an alternate take on the characters, centered around a crucial event in Superman’s life.

If you’re not reading Injustice yet, you can get it as single chapters through the Comixology app on app-supportive devices; single issues (about 3 chapters each) in print, or wait til November or so for the first hardcover collected volume (first 6 issues/about 18 chapters).

Unwritten #2 [Review]

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity: Chapter Two

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckry, Jeanne McGee
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Cover: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Vertigo / DC Comics

This issue continues to show us Tom Taylor and his quest for the truth–of himself, his dad, and what’s going on around him. He seeks out the woman his father had an affair with while he was a boy to ask her about his real mother. He’s referred to where his father was last seen, and heads there. The present-day story is interspersed with excerpts from the Tommy Taylor books, adding an extra layer to the story.

The art continues to work very well for the story, taking on the appropriate visual style for showing the ‘real world’ or the world within the Tommy Taylor books. No complaints from me there.

The story also continues to impress–there’s definite development of Tom, and forward movement to the story; between the pages showing excerpts from the books as well as “web activity” related to “current events” in the present-day part of the story, there’s a lot going on within these pages that help to make it feel like a longer read than it is–one cannot simply flip through the pages skimming the words as one can with some comics these days.

I’m not as blown away with this issue as I was with the first, having extremely high expectations after enjoying the premiere issue so thoroughly (plus, this issue managed to sneak out two weeks ago and I didn’t even notice it the week it was released).

While certainly not a done-in-one story, I do feel like I’m getting a decent value following this as single issues (for all two issues out so far)–I hope it continues that way, making the collected volume feel like less of a necessity for enjoyment of the story at hand.

If you can find that first issue still, I highly recommend snagging both issues–especially if you’re a fan of Harry Potter or have any interest (even academically) in the nature of the “phenomenon” surrounding the Harry Potter books.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

The Unwritten #1 [Review]

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckry
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Pornsak Pichetshote
Cover: Yuko Shimizu
Publisher: Vertigo / DC Comics

This issue opens with essentially a graphic novel representation of a popular kids’ book, one that I immediately compared to Harry Potter. The scene unfolds in a way that reminded me of the ending of Harry Potter, book 7…and at the conclusion of this scene, we move into a “real life” scene years after the Tommy Taylor book had seen print, and meet Tom Taylor. As the now-adult model for the fictional character, Tom has made a living cashing in on the fame thrust upon him–all the more as his father disappeared years earlier–some suspect murdered, but Tom just knows his father left him. At a TommyCon panel, Tom is asked by an audience member about his true past, revealing documents casting his identity into suspicion. As the suspicion makes the national news, Tom finds himself hated and hounded by the public.

I don’t have much to say about the art on this issue–it very much sets a certain tone, and conveys both a fantasy setting and “real world” settings very well. A number of small details capture the feel of the settings, while never making me feel like I was reading something trying to be anything other than a comic book. As a co-creator of the book, and this being the debut issue, there’s nothing prior to make much of a comparison to, but Gross’ work certainly sets a nice standard for a high level of visual quality on this.

The story, though, is what makes this issue. I found myself drawn in from the first page; familiarity with Harry Potter brought to mind, and curious what would set this apart from that. (Further reflection also has me reminded strongly of Abadazad.) We’re introduced to several in-story fictional characters, and then several characters meant to reflect the “real world” within this series. We’re not given a whole lot on any individual character, but we’re given enough to be interested in Tom and his life–who he really is, where he’s come from…what happened to his father, what inspired the Tommy Taylor stories, and a number of other questions. We have a realistic world built around the character–complete with news excerpts, web news articles, blog/chat excerpts, and even snippets of notes from the “author” of the Tommy Taylor books.

There is a lot at play here–I know just enough about writing that I can tell there’s loads of metatextual stuff to be found–that appeals on a number of levels. Wrap the multiple layers with the engaging story and believable characters that are familiar yet unknown enough to engage the reader.

This is one of the best reads I’ve found in comics in a long time…and certainly one of the best values in contemporary comics. We have an oversized issue with few ads priced at only $1; the story is very much a “pilot episode” of sorts, where there’s a story to be found just in this issue, while setting up plenty for the rest of the series to come. As a Vertigo book, I wouldn’t recommend this for the youngest readers, but with that in mind, I highly recommend this issue!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

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