Saturday, 30 May 2015

Green Arrow Vol. 4: Kill Machine (The New 52) Review

Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine

Fire? What Fire?
Writer: Jeff Lemire.

Artist: Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo

Collects: Green Arrow #17-24 and #23.1

Background Information:

When DC rebooted its entire line in 2011, Green Arrow, written by Dan Jurgens, was fairly ordinary. It wasn't awful, but wasn't going to carry character to greatness. DC didn't like that, so they gave the line to Ann Nocenti.

And it got worse. So bad that none would have been surprised if it was cancelled. The series needed a shot in the arm, and it needed it badly. Who could possibly do that, though?

Review:

It turns out that DC got just the right people on the job. The new team not only revived the series, but gave it extra depth, and a greater expanded mythos that is engaging and entertainnig as anything.

Who is this creative team? Well, the writer is Jeff Lemire, who worked on books like the New 52 Animal Man; a run that completely redifined the character and recieved critical praise the whole way through. He's a writer who knows how to change title characters in compelling ways, and add lore to their stories that turns the status quo on its head while remaining true to the history of the character.
How to escape a boring conversation: Method
One.

In The Kill Machine, Lemire reinvents Green Arrow by adding an extra layer to his origin story. The Kill Machine  starts with Green Arrow/Oliver Queen mad as hell that he has lost him company, Q-Tech to another firm. While he's growling at Emerson, the man running the whole joint, he is attacked and Emerson is killed. After fighting the killer, an archer named Komodo, he saved by eyeless dude, Magus. Magus reveals something about Oliver's past that he never thought possible: that he was never meant to leave the island.

What follows is a fact-finding mission that sees Oliver go across America, then across the world. Why wasn't Oliver meant to leave and how does Komodo factor into this? Looking at individual events, this story is pretty unremarkable. What is does really, really well, however, is drag you into this world of secret societies, politial intrigue and mysticism. And does it ever suck you in?! You find yourself wanting to know more about this world, and learn every secret it's holding.

Lemire also gives us a new status quo. By the end of the first issue, all but one of Lemire's old supporting cast is dead, and the replacements? Well, we have Henry Fyff, who is one of Oliver's new "build stuff and give info" team along with still-surviving Naomi. Even more surprising, though, is the appearance of John Diggle; Diggle was a character introduced in the Arrow TV show and ended up being well-loved. This is hardly the first time a character from another medium has found their way into comics (see Harley Quinn, Jimmy Olsen and nearly every Transformer ever), but it's nice to see a great character get recognised. I can only hope, though, that Green Arrow doesn't become an alternate season of Arrow, though; I like it when TV and comics properties feel like their own thing.

How it feels to read this book.
As good as the new set-up is, though, what really holds this book up is the art by Sorentino. She has this ability to convey speed and accuracy neccessary to Green Arrow's action with aplomb. Every arrow strike gets its own sub-panel that's mono-coloured to stand out, every action feels quick and punchy. Add that to some truly surreal moments drawn in a way that messes with your head like nothing else. Colours by Maiolo only serve to emphasise the great art here, making this without a doubt the best-looking New 52 book on the shelves.

If there's one thing I can fault The Kill Machine with, it's Lemire's treatment of Count Vertigo. The Count's a central villain in the Green Arrow mythos and deserves to be treated well. Lemire makes an honest effort to reinvent the character, but the reinvention falls short, resulting in the least entertaining issues in the book.

But that's a small complaint for The Kill Machine, which gets a highly deserving four and a half out of five shots in the arm.

**** 1/2

+ Lemire adds excellent substance to the mythos.
+ New status quo is very interesting.
+ Best New 52 art- bar none.
- Count Vertigo doesn't make the book great.

Alternate Option: Green Arrow: The Midas Touch

An inferior book, really, but you could do worse for the New 52's Green Arrow.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Indestructible Hul Vol. 1: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D (Marvel NOW!) Review

Indestructible Hulk Vol. 1: Agent of Shield (Marvel NOW!)
Everything you need to know about
this book is one the cover.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

Background information:

Firstly guys, Marvel NOW! was not done as some answer to the New 52.

Nope. Not at all.

Sure wasn't.

Sarcasm aside, the Marvel NOW! initiative was an interesting idea to say the least. Take familiar characters and put them in unfamiliar situations. When the initiative worked, we got great books like All-New X-Men, Superior Spider-Man, Captain America and Hawkeye. When it didn't, we got Uncanny Avengers, Avengers, Cable and the X-Force and Iron man.

What's that, I haven't mentioned the Hulk at all? That's because he's an overrated character who is the superhero equivalent to watching paint dry.

Review:

Yep, I called someone from the Avengers movie a boring character. I take no shame in that. Personally, I've always seen the Avengers as being greater than the sum of their parts. As a team, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk are amazing. When they go off on their own? Not so much.

Sadly, Indestructible Hulk does very little to change my mind about that. It's storyless, lacks character development, and fails to help me like the Hulk, or even his alter-ego Bruce Banner.

... There's nothing witty to say here.
And that's a pity, because the premise is pretty interesting. For years, Bruce has been trying to contain
the Hulk; to try and eliminate it. To him, the Hulk has been a bomb. But what if it wasn't? What if, in the right hands, the Hulk could be a cannon- something far more controllable. So Banner joins up with S.H.I.E.L.D, and in return for lab equipment and staff, S.H.I.E.L.D director Maria Hill gets the Hulk to go on missions where more firepower is needed.

That premise gets fully fleshed out in the first issue. After that, there's a whole lot of nothing; a bunch of stories that absolutely fail to grab attention; Bruce fights Iron Man to what has to be the most boring standstill ever, he trades places with a kidnapped scientist and he fights baddies under the sea. None of these stories are particularly engaging and there is, I think, one real reason for this;

Indestructible Hulk had a real opportunity to investigate power struggles between Bruce and S.H.I.E.L.D. We could have had an excellent political drama on our hands. Instead, what we get is scene after scene of Hulk smashing. It would be fine if it were particularly inventive smashing, but it isn't. Everything that gets smashed is made of metal, it's always the bad guys' stuff (just once, I would have liked to see this idea turn ugly for S.H.I.E.L.D.) and it's always at the height of battle. I get that the Hulk has his own set of tropes, and that writers need to fit within those tropes. But seriously, would it kill them to have Bruce Banner at the height of action instead? Show that he's just as important to the dynamic as the green dude is?

See? He smashes! This is a Hulk book, everybody!
The book's saving graces are the visuals. Yu's pencils have this great way of drawing Hulk transformations that genuinely feel different each time. It would be tempting to spam the same transformation to the nth degree and I'm glad that didn't happen here. Kudos also needs to go to the colourist for scenes that really just pop. Considering how bland a story we have here, it takes a monumental effort to make it look interesting and the art team here absolutely deliver.

Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D is one of the reasons that Marvel studios hasn't pursued another Hulk movie and honestly, I don't blame them. This book gets two and a half out of five buckets of paint to watch dry.

** 1/2

+ Artwok is wonderful.
- So many missed opportunities.
- Despite the new status-quo, it's the same old Hulk.

Alternate Option: Ummm...

Is there a good Hulk series? I mean, I know there's Planet Hulk, but is there anything that's like this, but good?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Batman: Earth One Review

Batman: Earth One
Because it's not a Batman book if we
don't talk about dead parents.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Gary Frank

Background Information:

So, DC released a graphic novel called Superman: Earth One a few years ago. It was a critical trainwreck, but sold enough copies to justify two sequels and now it seems to be Batman's turn for a Earth One story.

In other news, I'm making a Batman game. Did you know I'm making a Batman game? Totally making a Batman game.

Review:

It's tough to keep tabs on what exactly Earth One's pitch is. For Superman, it was all about putting Superman in the real world, but Batman is about as real world as it gets in DC. What currency could DC possibly be trading with here?

Like all Earth One first volumes, Batman's is a origin story. Spoilers: Bruce's parents get killed, so he puts on a bat-like suit and fights crime. It's the same kind of story you've seen in Batman Begins, Year One, and the more recent Zero Year.

Anyone who doesn't respect Alfred is someone
I don't care for as a person.
Remember how I asked what DC was trading with in Batman: Earth One? The answer seems to be aZero Year and Batman Begins, Batman: Earth One isn't beholden to anything done in Year One. Alfred isn't the doting butler, but an ex-soldier. Thomas Wayne is less doctor, more political candidate, and Harvey Bullock is young and enthusiastic.
level of originality not seen in any Batman origin you've seen before. See, unlike both

Batman takes to the streets not to stop crime, but to bring the down Mayor Oswald Cobblepot; the man Bruce believes the murderer of his parents. In the meantime, young women have been getting abducted and killed by psycho hulk called the Birthday Boy. As all this is being investigated by grizzled, Harvey Bullock and his new partner, the disillusioned Jim Gordon.

Like I said, this is a very different story and that's the most enjoyable part of Batman: Earth One. Even Bruce is different here. As a kid, it was his selfishness that ultimately killed his parents, and he feels the guilt of being responsible for it. That's interesting and an excellent way to build character, but it's hardly the best thing about the book.

No, that award is saved for just how inexperienced this Batman is. The book starts with Batman failing to catch a criminal and we later see Batman get punched.

Hard.
Yep, this is what a beginning superhero
looks like.

By bad guys who aren't supervillains.

So many writers pain Batman as invincible and it's kinda tiring. Much of this story is actually held up by Batman's mistakes. He's not the world's greatest detective here. He's not even that much of a fighter, and rather than ruining the character of Batman, this actually raises the stakes in a significant way.

All of it is held up well by Gary Frank's art. It's dark, realistic and completely in keeping with the Earth One atmosphere. Sure, Batman's costume could use more detail- the body suit in particular looks too monochrome, but this is a genuinely good-looking book nonetheless.

I can't really fault anything in Batman: Earth One, and as such, it gets a perfect five out of five Batman games.

Seriously, I'm making one.

*****

+ Plays on expectations.
+ Humanises Batman and raises the stakes doing so.

Alternate Option: Batman: Year One

Okay, if it's that important to you, have Year One. Personally, I hate it, but each to his own.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Caped Crusader: Villains reveal

Well, comic fans, The Caped Crusader's villains are now sprited. They will be subject to fixing, so this isn't the final product. But excluding the final boss, here we are:

Guess who?
 
We'll leave you to guess who these are (some, I assume, will be easier than others), but while you're thinking, I'll distract you with one more reveal

I'm leaving on a Batplane,
I dunno if I'll be back again...

Yep, the Batwing as interpreted by myself.


Now, as usual, Awesomnistic 2K3 has all the news on The Caped Crusader, so be sure to stop by there to get all the screens and reveals.

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.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol.1: Power Couple (The New 52) Review

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple (The New 52)

Ewww... kissing!
Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Tony S. Daniel

Collects: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-7

Background Information:

For years Superman and Wonder Woman had their own love interests; Superman pined for, kissed and even married Lois Lane, while Wonder Woman and Colonel Steve Trevor have been a pairing ever since she appeared in Sensation Comics. 

Then the New 52 started. Lois and Supes left each other over creative differences at the Daily Planet and Wonder Woman decided she wasn't interested in Steve after all. The second Justice League volume featured the two sharing a passionate kiss at the end, and they've been a "thing" ever since.

Review:

So, for better or for worse, that's the status quo. Although I can credit Justice League writer Geoff Johns for trying to make this relationship work, it always came off as forced, and Trinity War did nothing to make the paring believable.

That's where Charles Soule comes in. His work in  Power Couple becomes a legitimising tool for the Wondersupes relationship, and ends up being a great tribute to everything there is to like about the New 52 versions of both characters.
Phew... they do superhero stuff, too.
So, Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship is now public. People are freaking out that the two
most powerful in the world are together and what this might mean for everyone else, and that's getting Wonder Woman and Superman concerned. In the meantime, Zod has appeared in the New 52 universe for the first time along with his beloved Faora. It's a great choice of villain for the new couple; as it shows just destructive this kind of couple can be, and that's one of the driving themes in this book.

Whereas Marvel is about average Joes in non-average situations (science nerd get spider powers, weakling gets the super serum, total narcissist wears armour to become hero), DC has always been about, to borrow from Injustice, gods among us. Larger than life characters and the real world's reaction to them has always been the crux of DCs line. Power Couple catches that crux perfectly; Wonder Woman and Superman are the subject of celebrity. We regularly see people referring two Wondersupes as attractive, their relationship trumps any hoopla created by any Hollywood scoop, and there's a certain level of secrecy to the whole thing.

That said, this is less of a love story and more of a relationship story. Superman and Wonder Woman are already together, and this story becomes more about what happens after the kiss at the end of every rom-com you have ever seen. The question, thankfully, isn't one of "will they/won't they", but "how will they make it work now that they have?" The result is a great humanising of both characters; the kind that we haven't seen in most of their books.

I know, far be it for Superman to wear makeup, still...
I've stopped commenting on art in DC. I'm suspicious that Jim Lee is drawing everything under
different names. That said, Tony S. Daniel's art deserves some mention. It won't stand out to anyone as particularly diverse, but if you're familiar with his work, then you know you're in for a book that is going to feature some pretty brutal panels. It near-perfectly balances the romance with hard-hitting action scenes and reminds you that this is, in fact, a superhero comic.

Somehow, even though I have nothing bad to say, I didn't love this book. Something, I don't know what, felt missing- maybe it was that love is meant to feel fun. I would have loved to see Wonder Woman and Superman tease each other good-naturedly, or laugh at an awkward situation, but it just wasn't there. Power Couple, therefore, gets only a four and a half out of five rom-coms.

**** 1/4

+ Works as a relationship story.
+ Plays on the "gods among us" theme.
+ Brutal, entertaining art.
- Wondersupes' love didn't feel too serious.

Alternate Option: Justice League: Villains' Journey

Wonder Woman and Superman are together? When did that happen? Find out here.

Justice League: Trinity War (The New 52) Review

Justice League: Trinity War (The New 52)

All the things that the book isn't named
for.
Writers: Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes

Artists: Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke and Mikel Janin

Collects: Justice League #22-23, Justice League Dark #22-23, Justice League of America #6-7, Pandora #1-3, Constantine #5, Phantom Stranger #11 and Free Comic Book Day Special 2012.

Background Information:

Since the beginning of the New 52, DC has been teasing an event centring on the character of Pandora. She's appeared in the background of every New 52 first issue in 2012 (in classic Where's Wally/Waldo style) and was the focus of DC's FCBD offering. Since then, the Justice League-titled books have been building up to something. The Justice League formed, the Justice League of America formed because they don't trust the Justice League and the Justice League dark formed because John Constantine is a cruel, petty-minded man.

Review:

I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

Is he talking about the DCCU?
Being a trade-waiter, a paperback waiter in particular, I got this story a lot later than everyone else. I got to read some of the reviews going around about it. In short, the response wasn't good. When I hear reviews that say something is the best or the worst of something, I go in with certain expectations. In the case of Trinity War, I expected to have cancer immediately after reading. I was expecting my IQ to drop several thousand, I expected to suddenly be in favour of capital punishment for comic writers. Then I read the book, and none of that happened, I actually found myself pleasantly surprised.

I had the opposite experience with The Avengers movie.

But let's get to the story; A run-in between the Justice League and the Justice League of America result in Superman unwittingly killing Dr. Light. This causes disruption throughout all three Justice Leagues and they each go out to look for the real reason someone like Superman could ever kill someone.

Okay, so let's get the bad stuff out of the way, because no doubt it's there. The book commits the unforgivable sin of being an event whose only purpose is to introduce the next event. It also suffers from making it completely unclear why it's called Trinity War; at first you think it's because of the Trinity of Sin... but it's not. Then you think it's because of DC's Justice League trinity... but it's not. Then you think it's because of the focus on DC's trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman... but it's not. When the answer finally comes, it feels like a last-minute thought at best, a betrayal at worst. It does hurt the story, and it hurts the story badly.

That said, the story itself feels solid otherwise. Kudos to Johns and team for, for the most part, keeping off making this DC's answer to Civil War. Only in the end do the hero teams fight each other. For the most part, this is a pretty finely-crafted mystery. Team politics find their way into the book continually, and no character here feels under-utilised.

Right... this is awkward...
This book also made me realise that I really want a DCU where the Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman lead their own Justice Leagues. Somehow, Batman working with Deadman and Katana works. Wonder Woman working with John Constantine works. Superman working with Steve Trevor works. I really wish that this became the new status quo for the New 52, because it made the teams feel fresher than they've ever been.

Good moments sprinkle this book as well. My favourite has to be the issue featuring Constantine and Shazam. It's simply funny seeing both characters switch powers momentarily, and fitting with the new Constantine's personality. Equally funny is Shazam's reaction to punching out Superman, there's this look of disbelieving pride that comes over his face when it happens, and I couldn't help but smile.

Is Trinity War perfect? Not by a longshot. But between a compelling mystery and a status quo that I can only blame for being short-lived, it gets a three and a half out of five Where's Wally/Waldo books.

*** 1/2

+ Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman leading their own teams.
+ Shazam switching powers with Constantine
+ Not DC's Civil War
- Exists solely to introduce another event.
- The reason for the title? Don't ask.

Alternate Option: Marvel's Civil War

If you're that desperate for a heroes vs heroes story, here's what you get.

The Death of Wolverine (Marvel) Review

The Death of Wolverine
DOUBLE WOLVERINE!!!
Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Steve McNiven

Collects: Death of Wolverine #1-4

Background information:

Wolverine has always been a killer. The adjective that has described his stories over the years has almost always been "stabby". The "snikt" sound when his made-for-stabbing claws come out is iconic. He's grim, he's angry, and most importantly; he's violent.

He's always gotten away with this, though, because his healing factor makes him virtually unstoppable. Or, at least, it did until Marvel NOW! hit the shelves. Wolverine found himself stripped of his healing powers and what followed was one of the best studies of the character we've had since Old Man Logan. Wolverine decided that he was going to really enjoy life; the fact that life was finite now made it worth something. It was strange to see a Wolverine book that felt so positive, and it was fantastic.

Review:

... And now, Marvel is killing him off.

One side of me says "fair enough." Wolverine has been in upwards of all of Marvel's books to date. It has been getting to the point where Marvel only had two options; kill Wolverine or put him in a DC book, because that's the only place he hasn't been.

Everything the world thinks about Canada vs. everything the
world thinks about America.
Another side of me rolls my eyes and grits my teeth. Since the MCU finally became popular, MarvelThe Filthy Stinkin' Muties.
has been trying as hard as possible to pretend that the X-Men don't exist; replacing them with the Inhumans, retconning Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's origins so they have nothing to do with Mutants and doing everything but changing the name of every X-Men book to

So Death of Wolverine seems to fix both perceived "problems". Someone has put a hit out on Wolverine, and now the guy has to stab everything and everyone; Viper, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Ogun and a muscled skinhead with the American flag tattooed on his face.

Okay, the first thing to note about this one is that it's a characteristically violent book. There's lots of blood, exploding hands, removed layers of skin and everything designed to make you feel slightly ill. That's not a bad thing though, you don't read a Wolverine book to see Logan talk about his feelings. It's also great to see Wolverine go through a gauntlet of old foes, each one that little bit different from the other.

Soule also does a great job at giving us real character moments. Wolverine does a lot of pondering here. That would seem out of place normally, but somehow, this introspection gets pretty even  balanced with Wolverine's thoughts of sheer savagery. Dialogue full of Wolverine's human nature get juxtaposed against prose boxes showing one to four word thoughts. On the exterior, Wolverine's getting deep and meaningful about how he doesn't want to die, but on the inside, we see that he's really just an animal who pretends at humanity. That's about as deep an assessment of Wolverine's character as we're every likely to get.

But these two points are fairly moot, because they're wrapped up in this plot that's just, well, lame.

The entire story structure in each issue is summed up by saying "go here, fight this enemy from your past, find a reason to go somewhere else." It looses it's appeal in a much shorter time than it takes for you to read that summary. What's worse, though, is that there's no feeling of raising tension here. It doesn't invest you in what happens next. I would have been happier just reading one issue than I think I would have been reading the whole book.

The best scene in the book, and it's only in issue 2.
Then there's the ending. Which by all accounts, should have been highly climatic. The reveal is a big enough surprise, but somehow Soule writes it as though he doesn't actually care. By the time that Wolverine has died, instead of thinking "there goes one of the greatest characters in the Marvel universe," what you're more likely to say is "oh... that's it... okay then."

When you kill off a character, there should be a sense of remorse. You should find yourself thinking about how great a hero he/she is. Death of Wolverine doesn't do that, and therefore only earns a two and a half out of five filthy stinkin' muties.

** 1/2

+ Nice comparison of man vs. animal.
+ About as violent as you'd want a Wolverine book to be.
- Plot structure endorses apathy.
- Ending fails to inspire.

Alternate Option: Wolverine: Three Months to Die, Book 1 and 2

More likely to inspire awe in the character, while acknowledging that Logan's going to die.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Batman: The Black Glove Deluxe Edition (DC) review

Batman: The Black Glove Deluxe Edition
Because I'm poorly-plotted!
Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, Tony S. Daniel, Ryan Benjamin, John Van Fleet, Jesse Delperdang, Jonathan Clapion, Mark Irwin, Sandu Florea and Aleem Crawford.

Collects: Batman 655-658, 663-669 and 672-675.

Background Information

Batman's had a lot of girlfriends in his time; and he hasn't exactly believed in saving himself for marriage, either. Most of the time this has resulted in said girlfriend dying... often... in very disturbing ways... because dead parents aren't motivation enough. There have only really been three Batman girls that, to my knowledge, have survived him. The first is Vicki Vale, who is allowed to hang around to be the nice girl in comparison to the second, Catwoman; who gets to be known as the sleazy girlfriend (seriously, I'm picturing a "six types" video about this, College Humor). But probably the most significant to recent Batman stories has been Tahlia Al Ghul, daughter of League of Assassins boss Ra's Al Ghul, and guano-crazy girlfriend (geddit, because bats... it's called guano... and this is a Batman story...).

Anyway, Bruce was intimate with her once while under the influence of.... something. That's all you need to know here.

Review:

Y'know how the New 52 is awful, right?

Like, seriously bad?

And how the pre-52 stuff is so much objectively better?

Nope, he looks like Bane. Is he Bane?
Yeah, The Black Glove is no proof of that. It's long, it's convoluted and the entire deluxe edition seems to have no continuous plot at all.

But of course I'm going to try to explain it anyway. Batman's most regrettable one-night-stand comes back and dumps a child in his lap. That child is Damien Wayne; Bruce's son and future Robin. From there we get visions of demons in bat costumes, actual people committing murder in bat costumes and a bunch of international superheroes wearing bat costumes. In case you haven't figured it out yet, there are a lot of bat costumes in this book. There's no cohesion to this collection. It really feels like you aren't reading a single story at all, and for this kind of book to be considered worthy of a deluxe edition feels... wrong.

The only thing that connects the entirely unconnected stories (aside from the bat costumes) is Bruce's relationship with Jezebel Jet, who has to be the least African-looking woman in the whole of Africa. I'm not saying the woman needs to borrow all of her lines from The Lion King, but her skin tone looks less African more... like Starfire. In some panels, she actually looks Caucasian. I seriously hope people got upset over that because it feels ridiculous. What's worse is that she has no real point to be in the story. She points out that Bruce can't handle a relationship because of his superhero identity; and thank goodness Morrison wrote that in because otherwise it would have only been insanely overdone. Here, it becomes insanely, stupidly overdone.


Noo! THEY KILLED... wait, who is that? Y'know
what? Don't care.
Now, I'm willing to accept that Morrison's writing a much longer story arc than even the deluxe edition of The Black Glove can contain. Morrison definitely writes that way. But standing on its own, this volumes fails in the story department. It's a shame because the book is peppered with some moments that are good to read. There was Joker's declaration that he's killed someone who he thinks is Batman in front of a bunch of kids, he intends to do the same to Santa Claus. That made that sadistic maniac inside me laugh a little bit. Damien is a little brat, but he's the perfect little brat. And the imitation Batman look brilliantly creepy in their own ways. Problem is that these are moments they're not stories, and simply don't make the book entertaining.

Despite the art being handled by SO many people, I didn't notice many differences in The Black Glove's visuals (aside from Jezebel's skin suddenly turning white). It looks good enough; all artists are able to draw characters who get brutalised in gut-wrenching fashions, and that pain leaps off the page. There's even a great little nod to the silver age of comics where flashbacks are done in that four-colour style. Panelling is also a winner here, with odd shapes dominating the pages. It's a good-looking book, and it's just a shame that we're being let down by such an average plot.

The Black Glove, I assume, should never be read by someone who hasn't read all of Grant Morrison's Batman run. I haven't and as such, I give it a three out of five kilos of Guano.

***

+ Awesome Art
+ Nice moments, but...
- Plot is weak overall.
- Jezebel Jet's character is uncompelling and pointless.

Alternate Option: Batman: Hush

If you want a pre-52 Batman, this is a better one.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Infinity (Marvel) Review

Infinity
The subject of only HALF the book.

Writer: Jonathon Hickman and Nick Spencer

Artists: (Breathe in) Mike Deodato, Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy, Marco Checchetto, Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver, Dustin Weaver and Lenil Francis Yu.

Background Information:

Infinity takes in the Marvel NOW! Avengers and New Avengers. In New Avengers, are crashing together. In Avengers, the team has expanded to a roster of twenty-something in response to an attack on earth by the builders of the universe. They've discovered "new" heroes Starbrand and Nightmask, who represent parts of a universal "system". That system is broken and... okay, your eyes are glazing over.

Review:

If a book can't be good, it helps that there's at least a lot of it. That seems to be the thinking behind Infinity, because while a mammoth twenty-four issues sounds tempting to someone who wants a good long yarn; there's absolutely no reason for this book to be a single volume.

There's no reason for it to be a crossover, for that matter. There are two stories going on here; the adjectiveless Avengers have taken to space to fight the builders, while the New Avengers are staying on earth to fight Thanos who is looking for his illegitimate son.

How to overdo the "Avengers Assemble" thing.
On their own, these stories are quite good. In fact, two separate volumes for both stories would have been far better than what we got. Instead of two stand-alone stories, Jonathon Hickman tries to trick us into thinking that they have anything more than a rudimentary connection; Thanos is attacking earth now because the Avengers are all in space, the Avengers come back from space to beat Thanos, Hickman uses the "meanwhile" trick like it's the word "and". I call them tricks, but they're really fooling nobody. These stories don't belong together and it feels like Marvel is only publishing this as one event to charge you $50 for the paperback version.

And that's a shame, because the stories contained here a pretty decent. Thanos' Cull Obsidian get their due here in ways that I'm suspicious the MCU will never do, and I found these villains to be the best ones in the book. Seeing Captain America lead an intergalactic war team is fantastic; it's nice to see the Captain actually... captain-ing. And the new additions to the adjectiveless Avengers get more entertaining each time.

What I especially like about the Avengers issues is that Hickman, however unintentionally, gives us a decent jumping-off point. Even though Hickman has announced that his runs on books are generally one big arc that really won't end until Secret Wars, if that, this book gave me a point where I could move on to other things without wondering what happens next.

Cap's new Avengers team is a little off the beaten path...
I can't say the same for the New Avengers, though. This volume seems to accomplish only two things; it gives us a whole six issues in which the story doesn't progress (world incursions are still happening) and that, but for the "death" of Black Bolt, doesn't change the characters (they're all still pretty dodgy). In fact, the only thing that the New Avengers seems to accomplish is setting up for the next Inhumanity event. And, for the record, the only thing wrong with setting up a series solely to replace the X-Men because they can't be in the MCU is... everything.

The art here.. sigh... it's looks very nice and suits the cinematic storylines, but Marvel is known for their diverse artwork. Every artist on this long list of talent draws exactly the same way. Plus; it look consistent. Minus; it looks consistently same-old-same-old.

I actually liked Infinity, but can't recommend it to anyone. The length is perfect for a long plane trip, but the book has so many flaws. It gets a two and a half out of five captains captain-ing.

** 1/2

+ Avengers storyline feels like a great jumping-off point.

+ Stories are actually pretty decent.

- New Avengers storyline feels like it goes nowhere.

- Book shouldn't have been one volume.

- Good art looks the same as all good art

Alternate Option: Hickman's individual Avengers books.

Sometimes, Hickman, less is more.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Aquaman: Death of a King (The New 52) Review


Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King (The New 52)

ANGRY!!!
Writer: Goeff Johns

Artists: Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons and Rod Reis.

Collects: Aquaman #17-19 and #21-25

Background information:

If there’s a way to justify the New 52, it’s Aquaman. DC creative chief and resident god, Geoff Johns injected new life into the character the same way that he did to Green Lantern. This time, he took Aquaman out of the water; proving that the king of the seas can hold his own when out of water.

And after three volumes, Johns put him back in the water.

*sigh* here goes…

Review:

A good final volume in an author’s run should tie up all elements of the arc he/she has written. It should remind us of everything that we enjoyed about the previous volumes and hype the intensity up to the max. Death of a King does these things, but a rushed ending leaves Johns’ run feeling like it lost steam.

Now, where's the Jamaican crab?
So Aquaman, Arthur Curry is the official king of Atlantis. And it’s everything he thought it would be. The surface world doesn’t trust him, the Atlantians follow him only because they have to, and now Atlantian weapons are popping up all over the surface. In the meantime, the former king of Atlantis has risen and is looking to take back his throne.

The whole story absolutely smacks of Johns trying to write a cross between Game of Thrones and The Little Mermaid. To a certain point, it works. Characters have their own agendas. There’s dissention in the ranks. Love triangles are even a part of the story, and it all results in an underwater world that feels fleshed out. There’s a hint of fantasy/sci-fi to this weird world existing parallel to our own and I can only credit Johns for letting readers figure it out rather than having to have their hands held the whole way through. It’s nice when writers assume you’re smart, and that just what Johns has done with this world.

The book introduces a bunch of new characters. We have the Atlantian version of a US Marine; Murk, Tula; the sister of Orm and Swatt; an Atlantian who can’t breathe underwater and loves surface world stuff. Under a new writer, these guys would feel very hard to get used to and would be a bad choice for a last volume, but Johns writes them in a way that you’re surprised they haven’t been part of the series the whole time.

Nyawwww...
The art remains as strong as it always has been. I’ve complained before about the DC house style looking too much like Jim Lee’s work, but it does make a change in artist less daunting. And Aquaman is one of those books that kinda needs that Jim Lee, cinematic, ohmygoodnesslookatthatseasmonster kind of impact.

None of that, however, goes to rectify the biggest problem in Death of a King, and that’s that there’s way too much going on. Like John’s end of his Green Lantern run, the final issue in particular feels like a mad dash to the finish line, when a scenic stroll would have been more appropriate. We jump forward six months to when Atlantis is overrun by villains, but never get the full extent of why that’s so bad for the Atlantians, because Johns gives himself too much to do in only a few issues.

Still, it’s a fine end to a great series, so Death of a King gets a four out of five little mermaids.

****

+ Well-developed world.

+ Some genuinely intriguing characters.

+ Art has plenty of impact.

- Story is rushed toward the end.

Alternate Option: Aquaman: The Trench

Like DC keeps telling you to do, start at the beginning.

Friday, 8 May 2015

The Superior Spider-Man Vol. 6: Goblin Nation (Marvel NOW!) Review


The Superior Spider-Man Vol. 6: Goblin Nation (Marvel NOW!)

Somewhere, someone's arachnophobia is
going into overdrive.
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage

Artists: Guiseppe Camuncoli                                          

Collecting: The Superior Spider-Man #27-31 and Annual #2

Background information:

There are plenty of people who hated Superior Spider-Man. From arguments that I never saw coming (apparently, Otto Octavius sexually abused Peter Parker and attempted rape of Mary Jane… maybe I’m just too young and innocent, but I never saw that), to ones that make a bit more sense (Otto never became a hero- which, technically, he didn’t). No matter what your take on Superior one thing is certain, nothing like this had happened in a Spider-Man book before. Otto has executed enemies, watched New York like a dictator, and deceived his friends and foes alike. Unbeknownst to him, the Green Goblin has been amassing an army of all of New York’s gangs.

Review:

What makes someone superior?

That question has been central to The Superior Spider-Man, and it’s one that has been investigated again and again. Sure, Otto Octavius has done amazing things in Peter Parker’s body- things Peter wouldn’t have dreamed of- and on the surface, he’s seemed effective, but does that make him the superior Spider-Man? In Goblin Nation this question comes to a head and we get a story that is not only a great tribute to Otto, but a reminder that in the end, only Peter can truly be Spider-Man.
Go ahead and ju-ump!
'might as well jump, JUMP!
Go ahead and ju-ump!

The Green Goblin now owns New York. And he’s taken it right from under Otto’s nose. To make things worse, the Goblin knows that it’s Otto under the mask and is set on destroying both him and New York. Otto needs to use both the few allies he still has, and his increasingly inadequate resources to take the Goblin nation down.

Volumes 1-3 of Superior Spider-Man dealt with making us think that Otto was Peter’s superior in every way. Volumes 4-6, however, are more about debunking that idea, and challenging Otto’s perceptions. Goblin Nation is Otto as his most broken. He’s realised just how futile his actions have been and is now suffering from a crisis of massive ego meeting massive failure. For those who have hated Otto the whole way through, this volume feel instantly vindicating; confirming their belief that only Peter can or even should be Spider-Man. For those who loved Otto as Spidey, this is a volume that will pull at heartstrings as Otto suffers more than we’ve ever seen him do. Either way you look at it, this volume will likely have something for you.


You have now seen the coolest part
of this volume!
But probably the greatest part of this volume is that it shows just how central Peter Parker is to the 616 version of Spider-Man. Goblin Nation shows Peter’s triumphant return to the webbed suit, and it is glorious. We get reminded of the kind of person that Peter is. More importantly, where Otto obtained Peter’s body through trickery, Peter gets it back by being the hero we all know he is. He is worthy of the role in every way and Dan Slott makes it very clear that even though Otto was a fun diversion, Peter is the true superior Spider-Man.


That said, for such an important moment in the Superior series, Goblin Nation reads like it should have been something more. Don’t ask me what more it could have been, I don’t actually know; but by the end, certain parts of the story feel like missed opportunities. In an odd way, I almost wanted this volume to milk emotions more than it did; that’s a big request for a series that both brings back Peter from the dead and says a permanent goodbye to Otto, but the return of Parker seems to matter to nobody but the reader. Mary Jane, Carlie Cooper, everyone who is in on Otto’s secret seem to react to Peter’s return with little more than a “oh, that’s nice, but we still don’t like you.” Yep, Superior Spider-Man ends with Dan Slott’s own version of “cool story, bro.”

It’s a fitting and very deserving end of the series, but Goblin Nation certainly could have been more and therefore gets four out of five cool stories… bro.

****

+ Great farewell to Otto.

+ True tribute to Peter.

- Story feels like it should have been more

Alternate Option: Scarlet Spider: Life After Death

Want more dark and gritty Spidey? Scarlet Spider is an appropriate source of this.