Monday, 30 June 2014

X-Men Legacy Vol 3: Revenants (Marvel Now!) Review

X-Men Legacy Vol. 3: Revenants (Marvel NOW!)

For the record, they're called matroshka dolls,
Writer: Simon Spurrier

Artists: Tan Eng Haut, Paul Davidson and Khoi Pham

Collects: X-Men Legacy #13-18

Background Information:

So if you’ve never heard of Legion, he’s the son of Charles Xavier (better known as Professor X). Known normally as David Haller, he’s a schizophrenic with the personalities and powers of multiple high-powered mutants. Whenever he takes on that personality, he takes on that power.

Lately, though, he’s been able to control those powers. He’s taken it upon himself to take on mutophobia. He’s done it in some fairly… unorthodox ways.


The emptiest pub in the UK.
One of the great things about the X-Men franchise is that no matter what you are; if you feel somehow X-Men Legacy has really been at the forefront of this for the franchise; more about battling prejudice than other X-books, which have been more about battling the prejudiced. Revenants carries on this tradition in fine form, a little less delayed in its gratification than the previous volume, and more action-packed than the first, makes volume three one of the most enjoyable in the series.
discriminated against, you can find some version of you in X-Men. It’s one of those things that connects to every person that has been put down in some way.

So, Haller’s got a couple of plans in this volume; wipe out mutophobic England, and fight Cyclops when he’s done making his mother feel guilty.

Yep, that’s Legion for you.

Spurrier has led us on quite a bit in this series, not really letting us know what is going on until the very end of each story arc. Nothing changes here. At the start of both major story arcs, Haller appears to be close to being the new Magneto, but we never know quite what he’s thinking until the end. Spurrier’s ability to mislead the reader is what has made X-Men Legacy so enjoyable. I mean, sure, Haller’s still a stereotypical caricature of a Scotsman and the story still feels like it’s going nowhere, but it’s an enjoyable nowhere and an enjoyable caricature.  

Says the dude throwing the punch...
Spurrier injects a ton of character in his work. Each mutant- be they significant to the story, or not- has their own personality that becomes evident in their dialogue. Ruth’s “sorries” and “excuse mes” appear everywhere. English expressions are everywhere in the first story arc and Haller’s swear words are frequent and replaced with ambiguous “#@%!s”. It’s rare to see dialogue that is this much fun, even if Haller does come off as sorta an overdone Billy Conelly.

My major problem with this volume is the way it insists that Haller and Professor Xavier’s relationship is somehow a thing. Throughout three volumes Spurrier has brought us back to Haller’s daddy issues and it seems to have gotten nowhere. At the end of this volume, it finally seems to get somewhere, but it still feels like it’s too little too late. I’ll be honest; I. don’t. care. what happens between Haller and Xavier and this volume hasn’t changed my mind.

Art duties are shared between Tan Eng Haut, Paul Davidson and Khoi Pham. I’ve seen a fair bit of Pham’s art in Scarlet Spider, and honestly, there’s something I love about it. At the very least, it’s better than Haut’s art, which I loved earlier in the series, but grew to absolutely loathe in this volume. Haut use so much shading that Haller looks like a leper. I think he’s going for dark and brooding, but he just ends up with lifeless.
Revenants shows Haller’s mindset at its best, but poor art in the first half and an insistence on making us care about Haller’s father problems holds it back. It gets a three out of five lepers.


+ Great use of surprise.

+ Great Dialogue.

- Forcing Haller’s relationship with Xavier on us.

- Haut’s art is rubbish.

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men

The best X-book of Marvel NOW! You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t read it.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (DC) review

Batman Vol. 3: Death of The Family (The New 52)

Joker takes the worst selfies.
Writer: Scott Snyder

Artists: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

Background Information:

Do I need to explain the Joker?

No? Good.


This is actually the second Death of the Family tie-in that I’ve read. My first was Nightwing, which I wasn’t particularly impressed with. Batman’s foray into the crossover gave me a greater understanding of what was going on in Nightwing, but its best achievement seemed to be making me enjoy Dick Greyson’s story more.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a stellar story; but as with all stories that have been hyped to the nth degree, there’s been a fair bit of hyperbole that has infected a lot of the writing regarding the volume.

What? Oh yeah! The story. Sorry, this is a review, after all!

That awkward moment when...
The Joker is back in town and he has his eyes firmly set on destroying the Bat-family of Nightwing, Red
Hood, Red Robin, Robin and Batgirl. Joker’s of the mindset that Batman should only work alone, that he’s at his prime when he doesn’t have all of these darn kids to worry about!

The Joker here is many things, and it’s really the strong part of Snyder’s work. For starters, there’s a bit of Batman fanboy in the Joker. Go online and you’ll see plenty of comments about how the Robins/Batgirl are the weakest parts of the Bat franchise. How Batman’s always better as a loner. How having a partner just cheapens the effect of caped crusader. Snyder captures that attitude perfectly in the Joker’s character, and thankfully proves it wrong by the end, showing a Batman who becomes greater than ever for his ability to care for his Batkids.

Then there’s the idea of Joker being Batman’s court jester, with other Batman villains represent the “bat-kings” other court members. It’s here that Snyder really gets to the heart of things; why are these incredibly dangerous and terrifying villains after a man who, lacking any actual superpower, shouldn’t be seen as a threat at all? It’s not a question that we get to see answered, unfortunately, but at least Snyder doesn’t pretend that the question doesn’t exist.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, there’s the idea that Joker has a kind of “love” for Batman. This has been criticized by the Comic Book Journal as being reflective, and encouraging of, a perceived “gay scare”. The argument seems to be that because the Joker can be interpreted as being homo-erotic, the book seems to have some unwitting homophobic agenda behind it.

Because, apparently, the LGBT community must only be victims- THAT’S the sort of uninspired typecasting a forward-thinking man can get behind.

Sarcasm aside, I really don’t think that there’s much to these claims (shocking, I know). See, if we are to perceive homosexuality as normal and as present in all factors in our society, we must assume that it extends beyond misunderstood heroes. We must be ready for the idea that there are gay villains as well, and, supposing that we can really read Joker as a character with any sexuality at all (he even implies that he never found Harley Quinn attractive, which is by far one of the most poignant scenes in the volume), that a homosexual villain would express his sexuality as rampantly as heterosexual ones.

But I don’t think there is much of a sexual love in Jokers obsession with the Bat. To me, Snyder’s Joker takes the role of 50s television housewife, whose function seems to be less romantic, more domestic and motherly. Sure, he uses romantic terms like “darling” and even calls one action by Batman a sign of “love” (I won’t spoil it, though), but that seems to be a weapon more than anything- a tool to disgust Batman not because Joker’s another man, but because Joker’s a murderous psychopath. In this way, Joker’s romantic references are no different to say, Poison Ivy’s sexualisation of multiple dangerous scenarios. All up, though, it makes for a read that it truly terrifying.

Like I said in the beginning, though, the real value of this volume is that it makes me appreciate Nightwing’s crossover into it all that much more. There’s some substance to it now; substance that wasn’t there when I read the volume on its own, and that was greatly appreciated. The problem though is that I found myself liking Batman less here. He doesn’t develop at all in this volume and considering how the character grew in the first two volumes, that’s pretty disappointing.

That even awkwarder moment when your butler is
creepier than your nemesis.
Batman fans should be warned that the best scene in this volume, the emotional core of it, really doesn’t feature Batman at all, but rather focusses on Alfred and the rest of the family. I won’t give it away, because it’s a rather odd inspiring moment in a book that is otherwise chilling and terrifying, but will say that it places Alfred firmly as the bat-family’s “mother” figure. A scene where the whole family is picking itself up around the butler is evocative of a “family hug”. A great moment, but one that seems wired as the true hero of the book doesn’t seem to be its titular character.

That said, though, the family truly is dead by the end of this volume, or at least seems to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see many Batman family crossovers for a while. This is something that actually gets me excited for the few volumes of the bat-books.

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family gets a four out of five bouts of uninspired typecasting.


+ Joker is characterized brilliantly

+ Makes me appreciate Nightwing’s crossover more.

- I can’t say this book does much for Batman.

Alternate Option: The Joker: Death of the Family

All you really need to read are the Batman titles, but this one will definitely help you appreciate the impact of the story more.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (DC) Review

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)

Aquaman in the center of a JL picture...
Hell''s frozen over.
Writers: Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire

Artists: Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier and Tony S. Daniel

Collects: Justice League 13-17 and Aquaman 13-17

Background Information:

The biggest success story of the New 52 has to be Geoff Johns’ Aquaman. The reboot was just what the King of Atlantis needed to kick that “useless hero” stigma he’d been suffering from for years. Thanks to the rebooted character (and, Aquaman’s character in Injustice didn’t hurt him either), Aquaman has been kicked back into the A-list. It’s the reason the guy now has two books devoted to him.

Justice League, though, hasn’t had the same positive reception. The first volume was fine, but not well received due to its popcorn-munching simplicity. The second volume wasn’t worse, but not necessarily better. That’s a concern for a book that’s meant to be the central title for the New 52.


Three characters nobody cares aboout in this volume...
 and Aquaman
Not all crossovers work. More often than not, it’s a desperate cry for help from a series that’s failing, and their cause isn’t always helped by connecting it to a more popular title. Thankfully, connecting a lukewarm-running title like Justice League to an out-of-nowhere success like Aquaman has paid off in spades for DC, finally giving us a Justice League story that feels like a title that’s been going on for a year, instead of being perpetually in its first two months.

So, after a tough battle with the Cheetah, a Justice League-sized crisis has hit earth. Atlantis has invaded the surface world, and the surface world is ill-prepared for it. But who’s the mastermind behind the attack, and what have Atlantis or the surface world to gain from the battle?

This volume does a lot of things that fixes the problems from the last volume. For starters, the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship finally comes across as something natural. In the last volume, the relationship just seemed to be a matter of Wonder Woman finding the alpha male (and no, sorry, it isn’t Batman). Now there’s some meat to those previously shallow bones. Superman’s a nice guy now, and he actually looks like he deserves the affections of the Amazon princess. Likewise, Wonder Woman clearly has something to learn from Superman; creating a very Pretty Woman-style vibe to the relationship.
Then there’s the focus of the volume, a Aquaman-centred story this early in the New 52 is a stroke of genius, and Aquaman is at his best here, loaded with that well-developed character that Johns has been establishing in previous Aquaman stories. He’s been driving the story and it’s been great to see someone other than the trinity or Green Lantern heading a League story.

But by far the best thing about this volume is the fact that Johns has somehow sneaked quite a lot of character development into the last two volumes without anyone really noticing it. Batman and Aquaman are quarreling over leadership. Wonder Woman and Superman are dating. Green Lantern has left the league through a show of responsibility. Cyborg wonders if he is human anymore, but has Flash to be the nice uncle to him. It’s a status quo that you really never see happening, and it’s a great surprise when you find out that these characters has actually come a fair ways.

My only real problem with Throne of Atlantis is the fact that in a Justice League collection, the best titles are the Aquaman ones. It’s weird when you consider that the central New 52 title is kinda the forgotten kid brother of the title that everyone probably thought would fizzle out when announced.

Y'know, I still have no idea what the trident does....
The art duties are taken over by Ivan Reis, whose work is so close to Jim Lee's, that there doesn’t feel like there’s a lack of consistency in the series. What makes it better for this volume is that Reis just knows how to capture Aquaman perfectly. Considering that Aquaman is the central character here, that’s a very good thing. And it’s an excellent thing that Tony S. Daniel is sticking to art here; putting it lightly, it’s definitely putting his best foot forward (because the best example of Daniel’s writing is still like calling someone the friendliest Nazi).

Throne of Atlantis finally gave the Justice League the story they deserve. It gets a four and a half out of five friendly Nazis.

**** ½

+ Superman’s/Wonder Woman’s relationship finally makes sense

+ Aquaman at the centre of the story.

+ Where did this character development come from?

- Justice League issues play second fiddle to Aquaman ones.

Alternate Option: Aquaman: Throne of Atlantis

It’s the same story, just has a couple more Aquaman issues.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Flash Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution (The New 52) Review

The Flash Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution (The New 52)

The attack of Hairgirl, Glowstick-Man and
Fire Turtle!
Writers: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelato

Artists: Francis Manapul and Marcus To

Collects: The Flash #9-12, #0 and The Flash Annual #1

Background Information:

Okay, so last volume left us on a bit of a cliffhanger, but the short version is that after being trapped in the mystical energy known as the speed force, the Flash has found himself in a city populated by talking gorillas (yep!) led by one King Grodd. That’s bad for him, in case you weren’t aware. Gorilla Grodd is one of the more famous of Flash’s enemies so this is kinda significant. The last volume also saw Flash battling Captain Cold, another Flash iconic and leader of this title’s titular Rogues. While before the New 52, Cold used a freeze ray to ice anything around him, he now freezes things by willing it frozen. That’s important children, make sure you take note.


In its first volume, Move Forward, the New 52’s The Flash established itself as one of the most beautiful books of the reboot. Having writers and artists work together so closely- even having an artist as writer has resulted in a truly art-driven series that has really added flavor to the run. Rogues Revolution thankfully delivers a story that is just as good, but the drop in art quality hurts the book, and it honestly makes me worried for what’s going to happen to the series in future.

Flash tries unsuccessfully to blend in with the gorillas.
So Flash escapes Gorilla Grodd to return to a Central City that well and truly hates Flash. See, the Central City residents blame pretty much every bad thing that’s happened on the Flash, and even former friends like Dr. Elias are rallying protests against the Scarlet Speedster. What’s more, Captain Cold’s former crew, a group called the Rogues are back and they’re after Cold’s blood.

Okay, the best thing about this volume is really how much Flash’s supporting cast develops here. Dr. Elias is not the friend to Flash that he once thought he was, and actually seems to just do bad things just to see what happens. Flash’s former girlfriend Patty Spivot hate the Flash because she thinks him responsible for the death of Flash’s civilian identity, Barry Allen. Even Captain Cold, through flashbacks, has some great character progression, pushing the Rogues to their breaking points. I love it when a comic has a vibrant supporting cast and Manapul and Buccelato absolutely nail it.

The Flash himself develops well as a character too; but that’s mostly as a result of the development in everyone else. Here he drops the identity as Barry Allen- cop job and all- to work in Keystone City and keep an eye on the criminal types. Sure, the same thing happens in volume 2 of Superman-Action Comics, but here they don’t make such a big deal of it. Not to put down Grant Morrison’s work, but I really prefer it The Flash’s way, the story felt more like it was going somewhere and Flash’s new identity seemed more to be a part of a greater whole rather than the story in and of itself.

The main story arc of Rogues Revolution takes up issues 9-12 and Annual #1 and does an excellent job at explaining some elements . Like the last volume, it ends on a cliffhanger that is equal parts interesting and annoying. It centers on Gorilla Grodd again and sets up for some enormous things to happen in the next volume. But that’s probably my biggest problem with this volume. We’ve seen Manapul and Buccelato use Grodd for the next volume before, only to see it come to nothing. It’s a trick I’m only likely to fall for so many times. It had better pay off next volume.

So... much... activity... on... one...
The volume ends with what is possibly one of the best 0 issues I’ve read so far. This issue alone adds more like armour. At best, it’s overdesigned spandex, and that’s fine for someone who makes his career out of running fast.
layers to the Flash than anything before it in the New 52 had done- and that’s saying something. My only real problem with this issue is the fact that Barry Allen says that he needs to use armour instead of tights for his costume. I’m not an anti-armour, New 52-hater (I genuinely love, for example, Superman’s new look- collar and all), but the Flash’s suit looks nothing

The art in volume 1 was perfect throughout. Manapul’s washed-out colours and spectacular page design won the day easily. In Rogues Revolution, part of the art duties are taken by Marcus To and while he does an admirable job, To’s work is nothing compared to Manapul’s beautiful work.

Be that as it may, Rogues Revolution is an fun, though slightly flawed, continuation of the story begun in Move Forward. It gets a three and a half out of five anti-armour, New 52-haters.

*** 1/2

+ Solid character development

+ Manapul’s art is gorgeous as always.

+ 0 issue is near perfect.

- Marcus To just isn’t as good an artist

- Another Gorilla Grodd cliffhanger? C’MON!!!

Alternate Option: The Flash: Move Forward

Not really a book you can regret reading, start from the beginning of the New 52 run.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Can There Be Another Batman

If new super-heroes look like this, there's gonna be trouble

So, if you looked at Jesse Schedeen’s article on IGN from two days, you may find this article somewhat familiar. If you haven’t Schedeen basically asked if another character in pop culture could come around that could ever become as popular as Batman. Schedeen’s response was that if there was- it wouldn’t be a superhero character.

It's a tough question, and my first inclination is to simply answer "No." I'm not sure I can picture a new, original superhero coming along and usurping Batman's throne. Part of Batman's appeal is that he's so primal and fundamentally simple. A boy experiences terrible tragedy and devotes himself to ensuring that no other person will have to suffer like he did. That basic concept has proven very malleable over the years…. Batman was one of the first superheroes, and in many ways he's been a prototype for every costumed vigilante to follow.”

There’s a certain point to which I agree with this; new superheroes haven’t fared well, historically. Take, for example, this week’s review of Scarlet Spider. New heroes take a while to get respect. Even the newer superheroes that appear to work have a rough time at the start. Take Invincible, for example. In the book’s early stages, it was almost cancelled; people hated Invincible that much.

But I think there will be another Batman, or at least there can be. But it won’t just happen, there are conditions and methods that need to take place, just like when Batman was created.

Where we first learnt that nobody will
shoot you if you look cool enough.
The Batman Method

See, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics 27. That’s common knowledge, but the process for creating him wasn’t.

See, Batman was created when the company now known as DC comics realized that there was something to this superhero thing. They commission Bob Kane to design a new character for their future roster. Kane originally designed a character who looked somewhat superman-y with the addition of red tights, a domino mask and batlike wings. Bill Finger saw the design and wasn’t totally impressed. Between Kane and Finger, Batman was redesigned to become the exact opposite to Superman.

What did that mean? Superman had powers, Batman had none, but used his wits. Superman dressed in bright, primary colours, Batman was dressed only in black and grey. Key to Superman’s character was the fact that he stood for the ultimate in human character and compassion. Batman, on the other would watch a man die and call it “a fitting end for his kind”.

It would stand to reason, then, that the next great superhero would want to be completely different to every other hero that had come before- not just in terms of power, but in terms of basic character.

Real Diversity

Noble intentions, great characters, but still missing the point.
But let’s face it, there’s a lot more superheroes now than there ever has been. And there is not much more that can be done to be differently apart from add diversity to the man or woman behind the mask. Now, I’m gonna make this clear- I DON’T mean what the comics industry currently means when they say “diversity”. See, for the comics industry at the moment, diversity usually means black-skinned. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be more non-Caucasian heroes around (there certainly should), but simply picking up a different paint when the colourer is at work isn’t the same as getting truly diverse characters in the lineup.
So how would we get diversity that actually means something? One idea could be to get the hero out of America. Sure, an African-American may mean something in the US, but to the rest of the world, an American is an American. An American Muslim is still an American. A homosexual American is still an American.

How does superheroing look in China? What is it like in Russia? Do Australia and New Zealand have superheroes? American culture naturally permeates all American superheroes, so keeping them in America is naturally going to produce the same old stories with the same old characters but for skin colour and sexuality.
Batman has always been less like Superman,
more like this guy

Drawing from other sources

When Batman was finally created, Kane and Finger weren’t drawing from Superman anymore. They were drawing more from characters like Dick Tracey, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel. None of these are comic superheroes, in case you didn’t notice that very important point.
In the same way, a new Batman can’t draw on other superheroes. What if they were to draw on other popular pop culture characters? Indiana Jones? The Phantom of the Opera? Nathan Drake, even? By doing so, the new Batman would truly stand out from the rest.

Clearly, a new Batman is possible, but some truly creative things will need to happen. Me? I’m going to sit back and enjoy the next big thing as it comes.

So what do you think? Where is the next big thing coming from?

Scarlet Spider Vol. 4: Into The Grave (Review

Scarlet Spider Vol. 4: Into The Grave

World's greatest hunter can't spear
a guy who's a foot in front of him...
Writers: Chris Yost and Eric Burnham

Artists: David Baldeon and Carlo Barberi

Collecting: Scarlet Spider #21-25

Background Information:

Ever since Spider Island, Peter Parker’s formally evil clone, Kaine, has been on a mission of redemption. Cured of a genetic flaw that was slowly killing him, Kaine decided that he was going to live for something better. He’s been a fun character to follow; rejecting the notion that he’s a super-hero and trying his best to fight his demons. Those demons have won more than once and, the be fair, Kaine hasn’t exactly been successful at living a new life, but his devotion to protecting the hilarious Aracely (alias Hummingbird) and doing everything a spider can with a little more bloodlust than certain scientific web-heads we all know.


Let’s face it, it was never going to end well for Yost’s Scarlet Spider. It’s a pity that this series was seriously cut down in its prime, but when your previous volume features Wolverine as a guest star, your series is likely going to be cancelled. When your previous volume features Spider-Man (even the Superior Spider-Man), your series is likely going to be cancelled. When your previous volume features Wolverine and Spider-Man… You’d better start digging your grave.

And make it shallow- you won’t have time to dig a full six feet.

"Ha! Did you hear Scarlet Spider's book got cancelled?
What a loser.... He's right behind me, isn't he?"
That pretty much sums up my feelings on Into The Grave. Despite a very entertaining first three issues. This
is a cancelled series and Yost’s otherwise entertaining run on Kaine reads like a cancelled series. As such, it ends in a way that is both rushed and thoroughly unsatisfying.

Throughout the series, Yost has been teasing the involvement of Kraven the Hunter in Kaine’s troubles and here, Yost finally makes good on the set-up. Kraven and his demented daughter have captured everyone that means something to Kaine and the results are disasterous.

This story links into a Spider-Man story-arc from last decade called Grim Hunt. Reading Into The Grave, though, I was thankful that Yost hadn’t made reading Grim Hunt absolutely necessary. If you don’t know the story, don’t worry. Yost explains enough of the back story to bring you up to speed without making it feel out of place. The fight between Kaine and Kraven is thoroughly enjoyable, allowing us to see Kaine successfully fight off everything he’s been trying not to become and resist the urge to kill the hunter.

Aracelly is great as always in this volume, but she’s used less than she has been in other volumes and that feels like a wasted opportunity. She’s been the source of most of this series’ humour and also a source of mystery, so it’s sad to see her with less exposure than we’re used to seeing.
But what’s really disappointing is the second story arc in this trade. See, it’s about…




And things stop making sense right about... here!
Okay, I have no idea what it’s about, because it honestly tries to do too much in too short a time. In the last two issues collected, Yost tries to deal with the fallout of the first arc, introduce a monster that was hinted at in the first volume and finish the series. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this results in a final arc that feels rushed. The worst part, though, is that by the end of the series we still have no idea what Aracely’s deal is. She’s still hearing the “Mictlan rises” message and the fact that we know this isn’t going to be resolved doesn’t help anything.

The art here is fine. Artists change a fair bit here, so it’s not consistent artwork by any means, but the art here looks good, so that’s not a problem. The problem is that the art doesn’t compensate for the lackluster ending.

We know Yost is taking over New Warriors for Marvel NOW!, so it’s possible a lot of the abandoned plot strands will be taken up in the new series, but it’s still disappointing that Scarlet Spider fizzles out so much. Overall though, it’s still a volume you want to read, but only for that first arc. Into The Grave gets a three out of five shallow graves.


+ Great first arc.

+ Yost makes sure you don’t need to know Grim Hunt to understand what’s going on.

- Fizzled-out ending

Alternate Option: The other Scarlet Spider trades

It’s a good story, but I’d suggest reading the other three volumes.