Saturday, 23 May 2015

Avengers Vol. 3: Prelude to Infinity (Marvel NOW!) Review

Avengers Vol. 3: Prelude to Infinity (Marvel Now!)

Don't know who these are? Nope, you
sure don't.
Writers: Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer.

Artists: Mick Deodato and Stefano Caselli

Collects: Avengers #12-17

Background Information:

In the last two volumes of Avengers, Hickman introduced us to the Builders; the guys who... well, built the universe. Their minions, Ex Nihilo and Abyss, terraformed Mars and send devices to Earth to recreate it. That resulted in new races being born, and the coming of Starbrand and Nightmask.

Oh, and there also zebra skinned kids. Best remember that.

Review:

Marvel hates you.

And don't say "yeah, but movies...", Marvel unequivocally hates you.

I mean, why else would they put the two issues that aren't part of Infinity in book that is mostly part of Infinity?

Because... yes.
It's because Marvel, after draining completionists of upwards of fifty dollars, still expect you to pay Infinity trade, I was expecting maybe two or so issues of Infinity in Prelude to Infinity, but this felt ridiculous. And it's a shame, because it's actually an okay book.
twenty dollars for two issues you could get online for ten. As someone who bought the

So, in the first two issues, Hyperion has become a father of sorts to the zebrakids, and the High Evolutionary tries to kidnap them. So now Hyperion and a few Avengers have to get them back. I'm sure Hickman knew that he'd just be writing filler issues before Infinity started, but it's admittedly good filler. I like just how much he's trying to flesh out Hyperion's character beyond "meant to parody Superman", and his bromance with Thor somehow... works.

Then comes the part that bugs me. The main point of the story, which is the prelude to the Infinity event, sees some of the new races on earth attacking humans. After beating them, the Avengers decide that they need to get even bigger than what they already are, and they're pretty big.

YOU PUT HULK IN THROWAWAY VOLUME! SMASH!!!
Okay, gripes aside, there's some fun stuff here. The action is excellently done, which in this kind of story is what really matters, and the dialogue is witty. The problem is, though, is that both stories feel pointless. The battles are entertaining, but devoid of any sense of significance. I don't care what happens to the Avengers here, and that bodes poorly for Infinity.

This is pretty much the shortest review I've ever written, which is why Prelude to Infinity gets a two out of five zebra-children.

**

+ Hyperion is humanised.
- Marvel hates completionists.
- No reason to be invested in the action.

Alternate Option: Any X-Men book.

I'm really preferring the X-books to the A-books, and they need your support. All evidence considered, they haven't got Marvel's.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Transformers- Robots in Disguise Vol. 1 Review

Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 1
DARK-NESS!
NO PAR--
Sorry, wrong character.

Writer: John Barber

Artist: Andrew Griffith

Collects: Transformers- Robots in Disguise #1-5

Background Information:

There are really five things you need to understand before going into Transformers- Robots in Disguise.

1) This book bears no relation to the cartoon currently on air except for the fact that its focus is on Bumblebee.

2) This book is set after the Autobots have won the war and returned to Cybertron.

3) Optimus Prime and Megatron are "dead" (yeah, that'll TOTALLY be permanent), and Bumblebee now leads the Autobots.

4) In the meantime, Rodimus has taken a group of transformers and went off in search of the macguffin called the Knights of Cybertron. They've disappeared and everyone thinks their dead.

5) Michael Bay is evil. That's not something relevant to this book, but it needs to be said.

Review:

I know comics can deal with serious political issues. I know comics can make you think. I know deep characterisation can be achieved in just one issue.

I just didn't expect it from Transformers- Robots in Disguise.
When people say that Transformers comic aren't the "real thing".

So the war is over and the Autobot, led by Bumblebee are trying desperately to keep the very
unsteady peace in Cybertron. That's not easy; the Decepticons aren't happy with their lot, and are plotting revenge; Some Autobots are seriously doubting Bumblebee's leadership and a group of non-affiliated transformers- called by the racial slur of NAILS (non-affiliated indigenous lifeforms)- are coming back to Cybertron and are suspicious of what looks like a military regime.

I'm hesitant to say that anything is like Game of Thrones. These days, it seems like everything is like Game of Thrones. I'm not sure that we can use that as a measure of quality and I don't want to say that Robots in Disguise is even similar to Game of Thrones, but I don't think that there's any other way to say it. We've got different groups making bids for power, betrayals, assassinations and other such things that make for a great conspiracy story.

The book even gives entire issues over to telling the story from one character's perspective; something that you would only know is like Game of Thrones if you had read the book. Now, to be fair, some characters are better to read than others. Bumblebee, Prowl and Starscream are absolutely more interesting than Wheeljack and Ironhide, who almost feel like they shouldn't be there. It's a formula I like, though, and considering just how massive the Transformers cast is, it's possible we won't see the same perspective done twice, which is exciting.

But even for all the good I can say in this book, there is one problem that just grates on me. Even though lots happens in this book, there is seemingly zero plot progression. In series like Marvel's Moon Knight, that's okay. Their meant to be stand-alone and you can essentially jump in wherever you like. Not so for Robots in Disguise, which requires you to start at issue one, but doesn't really reward you for doing so. I'm willing to admit that this volume could be all about setting up the status quo, but for now, I don't know I feel rewarded for my time reading.

Man, this is awkward,
Art in Transformers books is usually great. You get to work with a range of body types and shapes just not possible with human figures, and you can see some of that in Robots in Disguise. By far this is best shown when Andrew Griffith draws the background characters. You can see panels where he's just gone "let's try this insect-like things," or "what if heads were drawn like this?" I mean, all the main characters look human (check your privilege, humans!), but it's nice to see Griffith acknowledge the possibilities amongst a robot race.

The best part about the art, though, is in Wheeljack. the guy has no mouth; just a faceplate and two eyes. As such, only a small part of his emotion is conveyed through the face. The rest is done through posing, and that's done cleverly. You don't realise how much skill is needed to do that until you see it in action, but I appreciate the effort made.

Robots in Disguise; it's complexity that, while enjoyable, goes nowhere. And for that, it gets four out of five thrones.

****

+ Great conspiracy story.
+ Great, weird art.
+ Bumblebee, Prowl and Starscream's issues are great.
- Ironhide and Wheeljack? Not so much.
- Not a lot of plot progression.

Alternate Option: Transformers- More Than Meets the Eye

The companion series to Robots in Disguise. Rodimus and other transformers are lost in space- er, I mean; IN SPAAAAAAAACCEEE!
-

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Caped Crusader; Black or Blue?

Okay folks, so a couple of days ago, I mentioned that I was working on a Batman fangame called The Caped Crusader. I need the help of the comic geniuses that view this site.

I've made two Batman sprites; one conventional black, one underappreciated-but-nostalgic blue. The background you see is the actual graphics in the game, but what I want to know is which version of the character should be the main Batman sprite. See below for a comparison pic.



There can be only one...
Let me know which you think looks better in the comments below. Keep in mind, I'm basing this mostly on the Court of Owls storyline, but am willing to shake it up a bit to make a more interesting product in the end.

Thanks.

Batman: Bruce Wayne- Fugitive (Pre-52) Review

Batman: Bruce Wayne- Fugitive
Believe it or not, finding a front cover of this book is
impossible on the internet.

Writers: Chuck Dixon and Ed Brubaker (amongst others)

Artists: Dave Ross, Sean Phillips and Scott McDaniel.

Collects: Birds of Prey #43, Batman 603-607, Detective Comics #771-775, Batgirl #29, 33, Gotham Knights 30-32 and Azreal #91-92.

Background Information:

Okay, people who have started reading with the New 52, there are a few characters you need to know about. Firstly, Azrael was a knight who took over for Batman after his back was broken. He's crazy. Cassandra Cain is Batgirl instead of Barbara Gordon (she's in a wheelchair and answers to Oracle). Finally, Sasha Bordeaux is Bruce's bodyguard. By night, she's joined Batman in a costume and mask of her own.

Oh, also, Batman was accused of killing his girlfriend Vesper Fairchild.

Review:

I keep hearing about how much better DC was before the New 52. Older fans than I keep talking about how the New 52 butchered characters, and made everything worse. The New 52 killed comics, they say; the New 52 betrayed "real fans" (see: those who don't like the New 52); the New 52 let the dogs out.

I love it that someone at DC thought;
"I don't think enough people know that
Batman's parents are dead. Let's remind
them of it."
If I only read the first ten issues of the eighteen-issue Bruce Wayne-Fugitive I might have believed them. In the early part of this collection, we get a great mystery story. But the book is let down severely by a lacklustre second half. At best, Bruce Wayne- Fugitive is proof that the Pre-52 definitely wasn't worse. But don't start getting all nostalgic just yet.

Bruce Wayne is officially on the run. In the meantime, Batman- who clearly has no connection to
Bruce whatsoever- is working to find out who really killed Vesper Fairchild. In the meantime, Sasha Bordeaux is sitting in jail, determined to take the fall for Bruce, but struggling with doubts about whether she's doing the right thing or not. In the other meantime, the Bat-family are searching through the evidence of the murder to try and find out if Bruce really killed Fairchild. In the other-OTHER meantime, Azrael is going crazy because... well... he's Azrael; does he really need a reason?

There's a lot going on in the first ten issues of this book, and normally that would make for something disjointed. Here, though, the team of writers somehow make this volume something surprisingly coherent. Everything feels like a part of the greater whole. The best part about it, though, is the interaction between the bat-family. New 52 readers have been deprived of that since Death of the Family, and though it's sad to see what we're missing out on in the aftermath, the way Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Oracle and Batman work together like a well-oiled machine is glorious. I want to see this more, and it's sad that I probably won't (if for no other reason than the fact that Nightwing doesn't actually exist anymore... damn you, Geoff Johns), but you can't help but love seeing it while it's happening.

Just say "assassin training", Dick.
These first ten issue are incredible, and well worth the price of the book. But that's the first ten. It's the following eight that let the whole thing down. It's essentially eight issues of aftermath. Picture reading a novel where the epilogue is almost the same length as all of the chapters preceding it. Can you see the problem here? At the end of a collection, I want to walk away with a sense of awe. I want to feel certain that I've read something incredible. Finishing Bruce Wayne- Fugitive, I just felt tired.

The art here is insanely dated. The cartoony style of the art teams humans is definitely jarring for those who got their feet wet with Jim Lee, Tony S. Daniel, and the ilk. That said, there's a charm to it. I couldn't help but smile at the bright faces, the bendy limbs and the minimalist backgrounds. It's nice to look at, and could have aged worse, but it looks nothing like what new fans are likely reading at the moment.

I wish this collection only covered the first ten issues, it would have been a far superior book if it had. But as it is, Bruce Wayne- Fugitive only gets a three out of five other meantimes.

***

+ First ten issues are stellar.
+ Art has a certain charm.
- Eight. issues. of. epilogue.

Alternate Option: Batman: Hush

If new fans want to dip their feet in the Pre-52, they'll have an easier time with this.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Green Lantern: Lights Out (The New 52) Review

Green Lantern: Lights out (The New 52)

Hal, Kyle and John get serious hurt, while
Guy takes the time to frolic.
Writers: Robert Venditti, Justin Jordan, Van Jensen and Charles Soule.

Artists: Bard Walker, Sean Chen, Rags Morales, Billy Tan, Bernard Chang and Alessandro Vitti.

Collects: Green Lantern 23.1: Relic, Green Lantern-New Guardians #22-23, Green Lantern #24, Green Lantern Corps #24, Red Lanterns #24 and Green Lantern Annual #2.

Background Information:

So, the Green Lantern event known as Rise of the Third Army/ Wrath of The First Lantern the Guardians of the Universe were killed, and the Green Lanterns are now under control of Hal Jorden. Guy Gardner has been sent to infiltrate the Red Lanterns, becoming their leader. John Stewart is busy training new recruits, and Kyle Rayner is the new White Lantern, and is leading the new Guardians of the Universe on a voyage of discovery.

And Simon Baz? Well, he's apparently disposable.

Review:

Unless you're writing Batman, which, let's face it, is pretty hard to totally mess up, it's hard to envy writers who have to take over a series; especially when you're taking over from writers like Geoff Johns, Tony Beddard and Peter J. Tomasi. Together, these men revived the Green Lantern franchise and made its universe one of the most fascinating within the DCU. Considering that, it's pretty astounding that Lights Out is as good as it is; but don't expect fireworks.
Who's my little guy?

In an alternate universe lived the Lightsmiths. They used and abused the emotional light spectrum. These lightsmiths were more than content to use the power of resolve, faith, terror, empathy, gluttony and fury, for their own selfish purposes. They mocked the scientist who dared to claim that the light was finite, calling him Relic for preaching ideas that were considered out of date.

But Relic was right, the light eventually ran out and his universe died.

Jumping over to our universe, and the Relic has appeared again. This time, he's after the light of this universe's Lanterns, and the various Lantern heroes need to stop him from doing so.

A concept as deep as that one suggests quite a few changes to the GL status quo. Venditti does that, but the road to it seems far longer than the book's seven issues would have us believe. And that's odd, because this book deals with the destruction of Oa, the farewell to the Lantern entities, and various other big changes to the GL franchise. Yet the road to all of this happening, is littered with themes and moments that have happened again and again under previous writers and as you read you can't help but wish that the four different writers here thought, at least once;

"Maybe not spend ages agonising over Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan's relationship, or lack thereof."

"Maybe not hammer the Blue Lanterns as a metaphor for hope leaving the universe."

"Maybe not have an entity possess someone."

"Maybe not have a story that brings in multiple Lantern Corps."

Yet, all of these things are here. I appreciate that Venditti is trying to carve his own path with this franchise, and there are some things he does that certainly suggests he has a plan for the series as a whole. I just wish I didn't feel like I was reading "Geoff Johns-lite" (geddit? lite and light... it's a pun... yeah... is this thing on?).

That said, the writers surrounding Venditti are doing some pretty good things. I didn't expect Charles Soule to blow me away with his work on Red Lanterns, yet here I am blown away by the Red Lanterns chapter of Lights Out. And, if you need any more evidence as to how impressive that really is, that's just one issue in the whole book.

I also liked the fact that even though Hal Jordan is in the front and centre of the book's cover, this really is Kyle Rayner's book. I see Hal and Kyle as equally interesting characters, and I was glad to see that DC let Kyle be the driving force behind this collection.

All the pretty colours...
I feel a little bit conflicted about the art in Lights Out, however. There are no really bad artists here; one of them, Rags Morales, is actually one of my favourites. That said, though, the art really suffers when it comes to depictions of Relic. In the beginning of the book, Relic appears to be about the same size as Galactus. By the final issues, however, we get one that looks about the same size as a Transformer (yep, I've used those as standards of measurement). It's confusing at best, at worst it's a sign that there was little to no correlation between artists and if DC are going to insist on crossing over every Lantern title every six months, they're going to want to be on top of that.

I think the trick to enjoying Lights Out is to treat it as a cog in a greater machine. I genuinely want to see what Venditti and crew do with the Lantern books next, but for now, I'm giving Lights Out a three out of five Lite-smiths (geddit... no? C'mon!)

***

+ A Kyle Rayner centred story
+ The Red Lanterns issue is brilliant.
+ Definitely sees changes coming for the GL franchise.
- Art seems unclear on how big Relic is.
- Relies on oft-repeated clich├ęs of GL.

Alternate Option: Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army/Wrath of the First Lantern

Wait? The Guardians are dead? Find out why with these two books.

Monday, 18 May 2015

So... I have a project...

Well, I made another blog. This might be the death of me, but I'm making a Batman fangame, and now, there's a blog if you want to follow it. Check this link to look at it. In the meantime, here's some screenshots to show you I'm somewhat serious;



 
Enjoy... hopefully.

The Flash Vol. 5: History Lessons (The New 52) Review

The Flash Vol. 5: History Lessons (The New 52)

Remember that issue where The Flash
fought Flubber?
Writer: Brian Buccellato

Artist: Patrick Zircher

Collects: The Flash #26-29 and The Flash Annual #2

Background Information:

In previous volumes, The Flash has been through all of the greatest villains in his mythos. He's taken on the Rogues, Gorilla Grodd, and Reverse Flash. He even tackled a new villain called Mob Rule (who I hope makes a return one day). The book was bolstered by the work of Francis Manapul, who doubled as excellent writer and artist, resulting in one of the best-looking books of the New 52.

Review:

Then Francis Manapul moved on, and we now have... this.

This...

Yep, that's what it is.

It's pretty clear that Manapul was the best part of The Flash. I expected that in History Lessons, I'd feel the void left by his artwork, but it's Manapul's writing that I've found making the biggest impact on the book, and Brian Buccelatto's work doesn't fill that void. Like, at all.

Please DC, PLEEAAASSEEE make this an ongoing!
History Lessons starts with an admittedly excellent Annual, telling the story of a great Flash/Green
Lantern team-up. The two get teleported to an arena world to fight a bunch of monsters. It's not a deep story, but I can't begin to tell you how much I want to see a Green Lantern/The Flash ongoing. It's an insanely fun tale; Hal and Barry bicker back and forth, there's dialogue that I was expecting to see more in a Marvel movie; not a DC comic. I can't help but love this issue.

But that's where the fun ends. What follows is an utterly forgettable story where Barry follows a string of murders to do battle with a ghost. Deadman makes an appearance here, but it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that there isn't point to the whole thing.


"Ladies, there's plenty of me to go
around!"
Okay, the story does tie into the fact that Barry has spent years trying to prove that his father didn't kill his mother, and there is some foreshadowing of what I hope will be a good reveal when Robert Venditti takes over, but that's not enough. There's no reason to care about what's going on here. I can't even remember how the Flash wins, or even what the ghost's name is. It's a story that feels pointless; the kind where any super hero could take Flash's place, and that makes for something unengaging at best. Overall, Buccellato's writing like he knows that he's done with The Flash, and that hurts.

Patrick Zircher isn't even a bad artist, he's just not as good as Manapul. There's none of that fast and furious panelling, those times when you just realise that the book was written to be drawn. What you get is some decent art that fails to live up to what went before.

If you haven't been reading The Flash until now, I recommend skipping History Lessons and waiting until volume 6 comes out; Robert Venditti is doing some controversial things with Barry and his supporting cast, but at least he's not writing to fill in time. History Lessons gets a two and a half out of five unnameable ghosts.

** 1/2

+ The Green Lantern/Flash issue.
- Everything else feels like a fall from grace.

Alternate Option: The Flash: Move Forward

Start at the beginning, when The Flash was far better.