Saturday, 19 December 2015

Animal Man Vol. 2: Animal Vs Man

Like the last volume, Animal Man does
indeed wear a shirt in this one- just less so.
Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II

Collects: Animal Man # 7-11, #0 and Annual #1

Background Information:

For five years, Buddy Baker was convinced that aliens gave him the power to adopt the abilities of any animal close to him. In the last volume, Buddy found out that his powers actually come from extra-dimensional force controlling animal life known as The Red. This force is trying desperately to restore the balance between them, the plant life-force known as The Green and the force controlling death and decay called The Rot.

The Rot is gaining power, and has been hunting Buddy and his daughter Maxine- the Avatar of The Red. In the previous volume, Buddy fought one of the Hunters Three- soldiers of The Rot. He and Maxine survived, but only just.

Review:

It's a weird thing to say that a book about going to another dimension made up of flesh and bone while a demon inhabits the heroes body feels like a natural next step, yet that is exactly what Animal Vs Man is. Where most second volumes from DC have felt forced and self-compromising, Jeff Lemire's second collection of Animal Man issues builds on an already-solid first volume.
See? Not just a shirt; a whole costume!

So, the monsters of The Rot have not stopped chasing Buddy and his family and now the Hunter that
we thought Buddy had defeated last volume has taken Buddy's body for his own. Instead of using it to eat all the ice cream he can possibly handle, the Hunter uses Buddy's body to attack the Baker family. In the meantime, Buddy finds himself in The Red's own version of the afterlife, complete with goat/man guide. Buddy, naturally, wants his body back and The Red is the only thing that can give it back to him.

To be totally honest, this is a less scary volume than the previous. Whereas Volume 1 nailed the inherent creepiness involved in telling what is essentially a zombie story (and, might I add, it did it better than the first volume of The Walking Dead ever did), this one just can't build the tension right. The elements of fantasy and horror are still there- and they're still strong; they're just unbalanced. You either see lots of the fantasy with nil horror, or the exact same horror you did in the last volume with very little fantasy. It leads to a volume that falls just short of its predecessor and it's a shame.

But it only falls just short as this volumes true purpose shines through very clearly. See, this isn't really a story about Animal Man fighting The Rot. It's a story about how The Red operates and how Buddy upsets their way of doing things. Here, Buddy openly goes against everything The Red sees as proper- he makes demands, defies orders and refuses to go down as the disappointment.

I'm seriously worried that DC thinks aiming for a female
audience means "less shirts on buff dudes",
And it's here that Lemire does something that only few can do; he tells a deeply political story without showing his political bias. After reading this volume, I couldn't honestly tell whether Lemire was left or right-leaning. That's something that few writers can achieve (I'm looking at you, Mark Waid, Jason Aaron, Brian Michael-Bendis and Chuck Dixon) and it's a talent that deserves to be celebrated.

The art here is just as great as what we saw in The Hunt. Bright colours undercut the dirty, gritty lines and makes the darker twists generally unexpected. Where artist Travel Foreman shines, however, is in his depictions of Buddy's new connection to animal life. Animal Man's body now changes to resemble any animal he adapts the power of. Now we see him with an ape-like head, bulging arms and literal crows feet. It's weird and wonderful and I'm desperate to see more.

Animal Vs. Man is less scary than the first volume, but SO much better at mythos-building. It gets a four out of five literal crows feet.

****

Monday, 7 December 2015

Spider-Man 2099 Vol. 1: Out of Time (Marvel NOW!) Review

Starring the time period that definitely
ISN'T on the cover.
Writer: Peter David

Artists: Rick Leonardi and William Sliney

Collects: Spider Man 2099 #1-5 and Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2099 excerpt).

Background Information:

The Spider-Man of 2099 is a creation of the 90s- one of the few to remain unhated since the era passed. The story goes that in 2099, Miguel O'Hara got his genes spliced with that of a spider, and became that era's Spidey.

With us so far?

Good, because in Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man, Miguel was transported back to our time because some truly whacky things were happening with the space-time continuum. During that time, he became stranded there and found himself having to protect his great-grandfather, Tiberius Stone.

Review:

Not knowing where a series is going is often a good thing. Not knowing if the series really wants to go anywhere? Not so much.

That's the feeling I get when reading Out of Time; a book that shows plenty of potential for the series- but doesn't convince you that writer Peter David even cares about capitalising on it.

Is it just me, or would all the Spider-characters make awesome
ballerinas?
So Miguel is now working at Alchemax- a relatively young company now that will become an evil
monopoly by 2099- and hasn't he just achieved every millenial's dream?! He's entered the company on an executive level and done so just by showing up. After a futuristic cop tries to kill Miguel; forcing him to take him on as Spider-Man, Alechemax boss Liz Allen figures out that her out-of-the-blue worker and the Spidey with a skull on his chest are one and the same. She comes with a proposition: work for Alchemax as Spidey, or get outed as the same.

Have a guess which one Miguel choses.

To be fair; this is a good status-quo. Liz is clearly in control here, and Miguel has no choice but to follow suite. It leads him, for example, to follow Tiberius into what is either the Middle East or South America for the express purpose of selling Spider-Slayers. It also allows him to see the other super-types that Alchemax has under their employ. Here's a clue: they're bad people.

David has also written a great supporting cast here. He's been wise to keep the supporting cast relatively small. We're introduced to Tempest, a landlord who's been diagnosed with leukaemia and therefore doesn't let others get close to her. We're also re-introduced to Lyla- Miguel's wrist-mounted Siri-like hologram. It's her interjections and take-everything-literally mistakes that bring some of the more sunny moments to this book.

This could all work into a situation like what we have in DC's Grayson, where the title character is now working within the evil group to bring it down, but we don't get that here. David created the original Spidey 2099 character in the 90s, and presumably knows Miguel's relationship with Alchemax isn't great. It feels like a lost opportunity.

Spider-Slayers take tag seriously.
And I don't think David is likely to take advantage of this. The series is set to be re-numbered after volume 2 (which is based more around the Spider-Verse crossover) and bring Miguel back into the future. I don't think one volume is enough to really capitalise on the really intriguing status-quo that David has set-up. I know it's unfair to judge one volume on what comes next, but when you get invested in a series, you want a guarantee that your investment is going to result in a fully-realised story and it doesn't look like it will be.

The art is fine, but unmemorable. There's nothing particularly ugly here, but I couldn't tell this artwork from the myriad of other art styles out there. It thankfully doesn't get in the way of David's writing, though and even allows it to be as witty or engaging as you can. Here, you're reading a story more than looking at pictures.

It's a rare moment when I have a five-star love for a book but know that there are legitimate flaws. As much as I love Out of Time, I still have to give it a three out of five wrist-mounted Siris.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Nightwing Vol. 2: Rough Justice (Pre-52) Review

Are the 90s... when everything- and I
mean everything bulged.
Nightwing Volume 2: Rough Justice

Writers: Chuck Dixon and Devin Grayson

Artists: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, Greg Land and Bob McLoed.

Collects: Nightwing 9-18, Nightwing Annual #1

Background Information:

When bodies washed up in Gotham's harbour, Nightwing moved down to Bludhaven to find out how those bodies got there. He found out that the whole thing was connected to a man known as the Blockbuster. He also developed a shaky alliance with corrupt detective Dudley Soames.

So, he lives in Bludhaven now. It's a thing.

Review:

Nighwing's second volume, Rough Justice, is the comic equivalent of eating pizza for every meal; you can only take so much of it before it gets bad for you. Rough Justice stops just before that happens, but damn if it doesn't cut it fine.

So now that Nightwing knows who's responsible for all the problems in Bludhaven. Of course, now that Blockbuster knows that Nightwing's there, the battle between them is heating up. In the midst of all this, who should show up but Batman to remind us that Nightwing is a
Batman character and since Batman is a Batman character who happens to also be Batman, this book has to have an appearance by Batman.

Okay, so there's an actual context given to Batman's appearance and his insistence that he be Batman. Turns out Bruce is there to check on Nightwing and that makes Dick think that he doesn't trust him to do anything right. A large amount of the this volume ends up being given to Dick simultaneously saying "I hope you approve" and "Go the hell away!" It's a good look into the character and helps the whole series feel that little bit more "coming-of-age-y".

Writer Chuck Dixon should be congratulated also for the way he continually makes sure that Nightwing is different in every way to Batman. There's hints early on in the volume that Nightwing will be geting a sidekick that gets totally dashed the very next panel, he gets himself a car that is nothing like a Batmobile and his lair is his apartment. It's these differences that really help to set Dick apart from the rest of the Bat-Family.

The book ends with Dick chasing down the Man-Bat before Deathstroke can capture him for a filmmaker. I had expected the appearance of Deathstroke to be a big deal; a high-stakes fight between a hero and best-known adversary.

Contrary to the look on his face, he's actually a pretty jovial
guy.
It wasn't. And it wasn't for a number of reasons- not the least of which being Deathstroke's ridiculous 90s costume. Firstly, the story around Man-Bat gave me no reason to care for what happens to anyone- the stakes aren't high in the least and Deathstroke's talents seem wasted on what is really more appropriate for an issue of Batman '66. Then there's the ending; it's WAY too abrupt and fails to cash in on what should have been the emotional core of the story. It's a disappointing pair of filler issues, but that's not the worst part of this volume.

That awards goes to the Annual issue. It's written by Devin Greyson and is about Dick faking a wedding to catch a killer. It's boring as hell, ugly to look at, and completely pointless in the grand scheme of things. I shudder to think of what future volumes are under Devin Greyson's pen, because the current evidence suggests that things will be truly atrocious.

Rough Justice is a book for Nightwing fans... and just about nobody else. It gets a three out of five Batmen being Batmen because Nightwing is a Batman character.

***

+ Effective as "coming-of-age" story.
+ Continues to differentiate Nightwing from Batman.
- Deathstroke/Man-Bat story falls flat.
- That Annual...

Alternate Option: Nightwing: Bludhaven

The better of the two Pre-52 Nightwing books.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Hawkeye Vol. 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel NOW!) Review

Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman

Hawk-not-guy!
Writer: Matt Fraction

Artists: Annie Wu and Javier Pulido

Collects: Hawkeye #14, #16, #18, #20 and Annual #1

Background Information:

For the past two volumes, Clint Barton (AKA Hawkeye), has been defending his aparment complex from a gang of Russians dressed in tracksuits. At the end of the last volume, however, Clint decided he was going to "bail" as young Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, puts it. Kate didn't like that, so she up and left to L.A, taking the pizza dog Lucky with her.

Review:

You hear a lot of calls for female-led books in the comic industry. You hear a lot of calls for more light-hearted fun in comics. If there was ever a solid argument for both, though, it's L.A. Woman.

Hawk-not-guy on computers!
So upon entering L.A., Kate is promplty robbed and left broke. Only having her skills as an archer/superhero at hand, she sets herself up as a hero for hire. All the while, Madam Masque lurks in every mission she takes. I think what I love about this particular format of storytelling is that it tells a complete story like the previous volume, without sacrificing the done-in-one episodic format that made me love the first Hawkeye volume. Each mission feels like it's own thing, but somehow it links back to Madam Masque. It allows for a light-hearted comic where the stakes feel high. That's a difficult thing to accomplish, and massive kudos goes to Matt Fraction for pulling it off.

Kate's character has always been well-written by Fraction, but gving her a chance to shine in what could easily classify as her own solo book is golden. Kate's got a very different voice to Clint. She feels younger and more energetic. Fraction even gives Kate her own slang; with liberal use of the word "futzing" and he catchprase "Momma like" being the standouts.

It's actually amazing how "un-Clint" this book feels withot feeling like a seperate series altogether. The basic elements of the Hawkeye comic up til now are retained; a gang of bellboys suitably replaces the tracksuit draculas, a scruffy-looking man with a dark past fills the void left by the redhead in previous volumes better than she initially filled it, and the ground-level, almost trivial threats are basically retained. Unlike other series that have made major changes (here's looking at you, Batgirl), this change feels natural. It's masterful.

This is the first time I've had to talk about art using two paragraphs, but here goes. Most issues here
are drawn by Annie Wu and while I miss the rough pencils of David Aja, Wu  makes a decent, albeit not equal substitute. She captures Kate's body language brilliantly. With the costume that Kate wears for most of the book, it would also be tempting for writers to draw the character so that the holes in her costume were emphasised. Thankfully, that's not a temptation that Wu succombs to. The holes at her waist, rather than being the focus, seem to just be there to break up the solid purple that otherwise dominates her costume. That's appreciated, and it's something that I want to see more of in the next volume.

Hawk-not-guy in a comic... somewhere...
Javier Pulido's art is another matter. Puido draws the art in the Annual and for a large chunk of the book, it feels like the guy wasn't all that interested in actually drawing anything. Black silouettes take up places where characters shold be in many panels and while this would be clever and nice-looking in small doses, Pulido spams pages with it. Eventually you just want to shake the book and yell "FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! ACTUALLY DRAW SOMETHING, WILL YA?". He partially makes up for it, though, by putting Kate's facial expression in text boxes. That was a nice touch and something I was sad to see absent in other issues.

L.A. Woman is a near-perfect book. It gets a four and a half out of five silloute costume holes.

**** 1/2

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Caped Crusader Update: Ha, Ho, Ha Ha..

As some of you know, I've been working on a Batman fangame called The Caped Crusader, a Zelda-meets-Arkham game based primarily on the Court of Owls story arc.

Yes, there is still a stuff going on with the game. Never, of course, as much as I'd like (damn day job), but there is stuff happening. I'm adding a picture of an area, today. ACE Chemical, where Batman encounters... the Joker?




I wasn't particularly fond of this area until I added the graffiti. I think it adds something and makes the game feel more "Batman".

Anywho, enjoy. And check out the game's official blog for more.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Top 10 DC/Marvel Characters That I Hate, But Everyone Loves


I've been wanting to do this post for a while but here's the honest truth: my least favourite characters are ones that every keeps telling me are so awesome. I can better handle DC trying to push Joker's Daughter down my throat than a fanboy wailing about how terrible it is that the MCU Spider-Man isn't Miles Morales.

So what follows is my list of characters that so many people seem to love, but I can't stand. This is gonna be interesting...
Nope, that ain't even Damien... or Jason.



10: Tim Drake

Like most of these characters, my problem isn't so much the personality of Tim; it's the pedestal he's put on. Fans constantly insist that Tim is the best Robin. He's the genius, apparently- ignoring the fact that Dick, Damien and Jason have plenty of intellectual props. This one is a soft "hate," but I'm sick of the idea that Tim is godlike.



HULK ASSUME STANDARD HULK POSE! SMASH PUNY
ORIGINALITY!
9: The Hulk

The Hulk is angry. And that's about his whole character. I know, his stories are generally about the conflict between man and monster, but neither the man nor the monster is parituclarly interesting. You say the Hulk is a great fighter? I say he generally has two poses. One is squatting while slamming the ground with both fists, the other is clapping his hands to make sonic booms. It's not fun to see and it's bland to read.

I admit, I was excited when I heard rumours that Iron Fist was going to become the new Hulk, because how awesome would Hulk with kung fu be? But, no, post Secret Wars, we're getting Ammadeus Cho. So we're going to see the same two poses for the next year, at least. *Sigh*

8: John Stewart
Yep, that's John in a nutshell.

You thought Man of Steel Superman was mopey? Get a load of John Stewart. Yeah, that Green Lantern that you have fond memories of from the Justice League cartoon had one real storyline- and that's all about how sad he is. Boo hoo, he killed a Green Lantern before the New 52. Boo Hoo, he killed a Green Lantern during the New 52. One guess what his major story arc is going to be about in DCYou...

John's entire character is based around him feeling guilty and sad. Seriously the DCCU needs Hal Jordan to balance out the morose Superman, which plenty have voiced their hatred for; yet everyone seems intent on dropping even more sad John into the franchise... the what?



Something to never happen in a comic... ever.
7: Star Lord

I know, Guardians of the Galaxy is a sacred cow in the MCU; a franchise nobody cared about until Chris Pratt played Star Lord. But here's the thing. That movie, from what I can tell, did not have Star Lord. It had Chris Pratt in space. The real Star Lord is considerably less funny.

And now we all need to think he is. Star Lord's writers don't have to make him funny at all (please note; funny and pathetic are not the same thing) and we have to claim he's funny as hell because he was in a movie.

This is one of the reasons I'm annoyed at Marvel.





Such noble! So hero!

6: Captan America

Yep, looking through this list, it should be pretty clear that I'm not impressed with the MCU. It's heavily influenced the Marvel Comic Universe and that is all kinds of wrong (Avengers beat up the X-Men, Wolverine can die "permanently", but Steve Rogers can hang around and sure, cancel the Fantastic Four but Guardians of the Galaxy should not only keep going but spin off into a billion titles!).

But Captain America gets me annoyed because he's consistently viewed as the "leader" of the Marvel Universe when I'm not sure he should be. He's a "goody-two-shoes" character that for some reason, doesn't get dismissed the way Superman does, even though he probably should be.

Seriously, what is her
personality?
5: Batwoman

Hey! This character is a lesbian. That's all we kn-- DID YOU KNOW SHE'S A LESBIAN? Yeah, but that's all there is to h-- SHE'S TOTALLY A LESBIAN! But there needs to be more to her chara-- BATWOMAN- LESBIAN... IS ONE!

Take note, DC; "lesbian" isn't a character. And that's all I've heard about her. When that's what's advertised over personality, it couldn't have been a surprise when her comic was cancelled.





Sorry, who are you and why should I care?

4: Thor

His movies were horrible. His comics, at least these days, are average. WHY IS HE A STAPLE OF
THE MARVEL UNIVERSE? I'm not even going to go further on that. Thor can go to hell (or whatever hell's called in Norse mythology... I really couldn't care less).



There are two types of people:
people who hate Guy and liars.

3: Guy Gardner

You know those people you want to punch in the face just by seeing them?  That's Guy Gardner for me. His brand of arrogance is irritating beyond belief and the result of some fist prints in my three volumes of Green Lantern Corps. His insistence on being the best is entirely unfounded and I can't for the life of me, figure out what makes him so endearing. Every time I read an issue of Green Lantern Corps or whatever he's involved in, I just hope that Hal, Kyle, hell, even John or Simon use their rings to close his mouth for good. He's not an Alpha male, he's a child.




2: Wally West

Wally fails at his A Streetcar named Desire audition
Yes, fine, my two most hated DC characters are gingers, but I swear it's got nothing to do with their
hair colour. No, the reason I hate Wally is different. It's not his personality, or his looks, or even that he isn't "my Flash".

It's his fans.

If I have to hear Wally West fans complain about Wally not being the Flash  anymore - if one more person refers to the current and longest-serving Flash as "boring Barry" one more time, I'm not going to be held accountable for who dies tonight. Wally West has a cult- and it's more spiteful than any other cult on earth. I can't bring myself to like this cult's leader- fictional or no.

That said, I've read nothing about Wally, so he may be okay despite his insane fandom. There is one character from the big two, though, that takes the cake for people to hate. And that character is...

1: Iron Man

Urgh....
Admittedly, I've only really been reading much in the way of comics since 2013. But here's what I've learned about Iron Man.

He's alcohlic.

He's a womaniser.

He only has one story, and it's primarily about extremis, because Disney want to sell Iron Man 3 blu-rays and they sure aren't gonna do that based on the merit of the film.

Every fight he's in involves his armour being better than whatever else is around.

His comics in the past few years have been boring the comic community to death. Nobody has praised Iron Man at least since 2013 (and I'm counting Superior Iron Man in this as well). By all accounts, this comic should be cancelled. Every comic fan should decide that his drivel isn't worth buying.

But they don't, because MCU.

I don't care how well Robert Downey Jr plays Tony Stark. I'm paraphrasing, but the saying goes that fecal matter cannot be effectively polished. Robert Downer Jr is doing a good job at playig a terrible character, but that doesn't make him a good character. If there was one overrated character in comics, it's this guy. His personality is cringeworthy, his stories are bland and he has no place in a universe that is supposed to be about heroics and wonder.

So... that was fun. What are your least favourites?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth (The New 52) Review

Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth (The New 52)

She's almost dressed...
Writer: Adam Glass

Artists: Federico Dallocchio, Clayton Henry, Ransom Getty, Andrei Bressan and Cliff Richards

Background Information:

Who are the Suicide Squad?

Long story short, they're B-list DC villains who have been co-opted by the government to work near-hopeless missions for them. If they try to run away, then a small bomb goes off in the back of their neck.

That's all there is to it.

Review:

Okay, so I've been defending the New 52 to my dying breath. And I'm not ashamed of that. I've liked a lot of New 52 books and hated many that came before. I've been tempted to see the New 52 as infallible.

I'd like to apologise for that.

After reading Kicked in the Teeth, I now fully understand why people don't like the reboot. This is a volume that is poorly written, badly drawn and utterly boring. Indeed Kicked in the Teeth is not a description of the book's title; it's a description of how Suicide Squad fans must feel after reading this trash.

So when the Squad conduct a gone-awry mission, they desperately try to return to their boss, Amanda Waller. Leader Deadshot finds himself having to deal with a mismatched team comprising of King Shark, El Diablo Black Spider and Harley Quinn.

Oh, Harley Quinn...

Another day in high school.
Shockingly, she's a large part of what's wrong with this book. When written right, Harley's a funny, flirty, yet deep character. Adam Glass writes her as attempting-but-failing at being funny, aggressively sexual and shallow. I cannot think of one line that was actually funny from Harley in this volume. Her flirtatious attitude is replaced by her aggressively jumping Deadshot for sex (along with a bizarre and kinda gross joke about clown cars). Although there is a two-issue arc in this volume showing her cut up over Joker's apparent "death", this isn't really character development and just puts her back in the villain role that we see everywhere else - and considering that Suicide Squad is supposed to be about following villains as though they were heroes, that's a problem.

It's not like the other characters are well written; Deadshot is a typical "tough as nails" dudebro, and the rest are instantly forgettable. All the same, when the New 52 launched, Suicide Squad was treated as a book where Harley was the meant to be the drawcard- for evidence, see how nearly every cover features her prominently- and it's not done successfully.

The plot itself is also uninteresting. The squad complete one mission after another in succession. If you're going to do a story about a suicide mission, you'd better raise tension like it was going out of fashion. Glass doesn't do that. He jumps from one mission to another without letting us savour the intensity of missions that should, really, be all about looking hopeless.

Sure Harley. The unzipped coat is definitely going to keep
you warm.
There's been a lot of criticism that DC went "too dark" with the New 52. The strange part about Kicked in the Teeth is that, really, the book doesn't dark enough. We're talking about a group of killers and yet, there's not much of a sense of moral ambiguity. No morally questionable actions. Even Superman in the New 52 has made some not-so-heroic choices. Why the hell are the bad guys being so... good?

The art in this book is unspecial in some places, awful in others. There is literally nothing interesting to say about it. The one, and I mean, one good thing about the art is the flashback scenes into Harley Quinn's origins. We see Joker in the early days of the New 52 and... he looks a lot like Edward Cullen from Twilight and that is somewhat perfect, since Harley has a Twi-hard attitude toward the Joker.

But that isn't enough to save what is good reason to hate the New 52. Kicked in the Teeth gets only half a sparkly Joker out of five.

1/2

+ Joker looks like Edward Cullen... yep, that's a plus.
- Everything else.

Alternate Option: Anything Else.

Seriously, pick a comic and read it instead. It will likely be more entertaining.