Friday, October 24, 2014

Batgirl v4: Wanted HC

I think there might be something wrong with Gail Simone. When I write, I can come up with depressing and dark stuff. But Gail Simone has done it for so long, and done it so well… let’s just say I’m glad I don’t live in her neighborhood!

This book picks up with the new Ventriloquist, and my goodness, she’s a sicko. She’s a sociopath who started murdering as a child and hasn’t really slowed down. She kills famous people in an attempt for fame, but she also kills lots of random folks just to do it. This is about as new 52-y as you could hope for, if you are into bloody violence and murder!

 I must absolutely point out that Batgirl always responds to the death and violence in a heroic, appropriate manner. This isn’t the darkening of a hero; this is a hero trying to maintain a light in the darkness, which is much easier to take.

I’m not saying it isn’t well done; it absolutely is, but man! Simone continues to have a wonderful voice for Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. Babs is experiencing some major doubt after seemingly killing her murderous brother in the last arc. Jim Gordon witnessed the whole thing, and now Batgirl is public enemy #1 as the commissioner unknowingly targets his daughter. 

Simone does a nice job balancing the interpersonal drama here, including some new love interests for Babs. I really like the idea of Barbara dating a guy who is a bit damaged, so the romance has a nice star-crossed lovers feel to it. The warmth of the guy’s family does a lot to make the whole interaction sweeter too.

The art from Fernando Pasarin and Daniel Sampere is so effective in its use of the DC House style that I’m not sure I can really even comment on it! All those buckles, cowls, and strange detail lines are ever present on Batgirl and the villains are dark, spooky, and blood spattered. You sort of know what you are getting here!

This is an OK Batgirl story. I didn’t love it, didn't hate it. But I’m happy that there is a book featuring a competent, heroic hero in the new 52! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nova v3: Nova Corpse TPB

Much to my surprise, I’m still enjoying the most recent take on Nova. Gerry Duggan isn’t reinventing the wheel here, but through a clever use of guest stars, decent villains, and snappy dialogue, the current Nova series is moving along nicely.

This trade focuses on Sam Alexander’s first extended space-mission as he travels the galaxy searching for other Novas. The problem is every one he finds is dead. Duggan has a nice, if obvious twist near the start of the arc, but it is a good way to bring in guest star Beta Ray Bill. Bill isn’t exactly an A-level star these days, but his presence still lends a sense of legitimacy to Sam in the suit.

The two of them are hunting down a cosmic slaver/weapons thief, so naturally the chase leads the two protagonists to Knowhere. I was pleased to see one of my favorite DnA-era Guardians show up. This character’s acceptance of Sam again adds legitimacy and permanence to Sam’s role as Nova. I won’t lie, I’m still desperate for Richard Rider to come back, but Sam is at the least tolerable.

One of the high points of the series is Duggan’s take on Sam’s youthful voice. Sam is irreverent, frequently overwhelmed, and wholly likable. This comic is one of my daughters’ favorites; I’ve said in the past how they call Sam “their Nova.” Well filling his word bubbles with amusing and self-depreciating comments only adds to their affection.

My favorite villains of the storyline are the dark space knights. Under the pencils of Paco Medina and David Baldeon, they truly look like evil ROMs. I’m not the biggest fan of Medina’s pencils, but he does put a great sense of energy in every page. I’ve always enjoyed Baldeon’s work, especially on teenaged characters. His Sam looks good, of course; I’m more impressed at how powerful and cool Beta Ray Bill looks.

This isn’t my favorite comic, but it is GOOD for what it is; a new-reader accessible character enjoying all-ages adventures in the cosmic Marvel U. (Now just bring back Richard Rider!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

She-Hulk v1: Law & Disorder TPB

On my first read, I don’t think I liked Charles Soule’s She-Hulk #1 enough. It was a decent enough issue, pitting She-Hulk against Iron Man in a legal conflict. I’d been hoping for a bit more fisticuffs, so while I liked it, I didn’t love the title at first.

Now I feel differently. Soule’s ear for dialogue is his greatest skill, with She-Hulk, Photon, Hellcat, and guests like Kristoff Vernard (Dr. Doom’s “son”) all having unique and interesting voices. Soule is in full-on “establish” mode here, making sure to include a fair amount of guest-stars to the proceedings. Matt Murdock, Hellcat, Tigra, Shocker, and more all show up when the focus switches to the “Blue File.”

Most impressively, minor footnotes from Marvel history show up too. I don’t remember anything else about Nightwatch other than that he looked like Spawn, but Soule does a good job making seem like an elder statesman. Nightwatch, people! Seriously, how many people even know who that is? Soule knows his comic book history!

This is She-Hulk’s book; as she’s probably my favorite Marvel heroine, I was worried the focus on her legal career would leave me cold. Instead, I love the workplace drama feel of Jennifer Walters and her employees. Shulkie has a great, scrappy partner (Hellcat) and a new, mysterious paralegal with a monkey pet that is clearly more than meets the eye. One of my favorite aspects of the title is that She-Hulk’s career as a super-hero is clearly the most successful part of her life. Her legal and professional struggles do wear her down, but man, she can still kick butt when she needs to (and that fact is brought to life by Kevin Walda’s excellent covers).

Javier Pulido’s cartoony art wouldn’t have been my first choice. He makes Jennifer look a bit plump, and his tendency to draw everyone with staring eyes might have been distracting. Now I know better and appreciate the unique look and the fact that the art makes the book different than the “super-hero” books next to this title on the stands. This is another book I now read with my daughters, and man, do they love it. I think this might be their #1 book these days. Pulido’s art gets a lot of that credit. They love his facial expressions on the lead and her best friends (although they are a tad weirded out by Hellcat’s eye-slits on her mask).

Ron Wimberly does pop in for an issue of guest-art, and man… I know a lot of folks really liked it, but that is too far out there for me. The fish-eye lens, the rubbery limbs, I fear this isn’t a great fit for the book. I understand it is courting Hawkeye readers and other folks looking for something different, but Wimberly’s art is just too out there.

This is an EXCELLENT comic featuring one of my favorite characters in solid action every month. Even with the focus on super-hero law, there is always some sort of action so we don’t forget She-Hulk is a superhero.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell HC

Let’s start off with the one negative for this book; it is too expensive for such little content. I got this from the library, but man, if I had paid $23 bucks for this, I’d have been TICKED. This can’t be much longer than a normal comic issue, with the page count padded by including the script and a ton of sketches. I love seeing sketches, but man, that’s a lot to pay for the privilege.

I get the feeling that Paul Dini really put this thing together to give Joe Quinones a chance to show off. The story is very slight. Canary and Zatanna team up to take down an evil thug who had some sorcerous powers. There are some twists and turns, but that’s not where the book shines. The main plot is strictly by-the-numbers as an excuse to put the ladies in some daring situations and show off a sensible amount of skin.

Quinones isn’t exactly a good-girl artist, it seems. He’s certainly good at drawing all the ladies involved in this story. The constant references to Power Girl made me wish for a chance to see his take on the character. Rather, Quinones seems to boast a cartoon-y version of the characters that makes them seem like everyone is having a good time. Green Arrow, the JLA, the Female Furies, they all show up and have a few pages to show off before Dini’s script whips the leads off to another interesting locale and costume change.

So this is slight, no doubt. But I still loved it because this comic featured the versions of the characters I know and love. This was the real JLA. This was the real Green Arrow. Best of all, this was the real Black Canary; the confident stalwart of the JLA. Zatanna hasn’t suffered quite as much in the new 52, but at least she’s in her correct costume here!

I can’t be the only person who relished this chance to see the REAL versions of these heroes in a GOOD, lightweight, enjoyable story! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wytches #1

So after reading Wytches #1 (along with other Image horror books like Revival and Outcast) I have to ask myself; do I only like super-hero comics? I don’t think that is the case, but none of these horror books have really captured my attention in a way that I must know more. Fatale has certainly been good, but in general, I seem to like my horror with a dash of super-heroics (like The Goon and Hellboy). Anyway, on to this particular issue.

Scott Snyder needs no introduction after turning the Batman title into a sales juggernaut. His work on Batman has been quite strong, but I didn’t find myself as drawn into the story in this issue. Our protagonist is Sailor Rook, a teenage girl whose family just moved after a bullying incident went very, very wrong. It certainly seems like Sailor is either a “wytch” herself, or at least strongly connected to them. Most of the set-up in this issue plays it as a family drama, with the Rooks struggling to find peace in their new setting. I absolutely love that the family seems to be fairly well-adjusted and supportive, and who wouldn’t love the playful father-daughter banter established early in the book?

There are absolutely some scary, horrifying moments in the book. From the cold open to the looming sense of impending danger that closes the book. But… what exactly is a wytch? Are they tree zombies? They have general magical powers? I’m not quite clear. Oh, the book is scary, but I like my monsters with rules, dangit! No Ring-ghosts just running around doing whatever they want! Gimme Draculas, Frankensteins, and Wolfmans any day of the week, at least they have rules!

JOCK nails the scene with moody, atmospheric art. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as he’s put out fantastic, unique work for years. From the “homey” character design of the rooks to the terrifying scenes in the woods, this is a nice-looking book.

So in the end, this is an AVERAGE comic for me, one that I’m willing to bet will read a lot better in trade format when we can see a bit more of the plot moving along. I’ll add it to the library list! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Batgirl #35

I might not love the content of this comic, but by the New Gods, I will fight for DC’s right to create it.

After months and months of the dire, dour Batgirl title that I couldn’t put anywhere near my daughters, I have been anxiously awaiting the “soft reboot” promised in this issue. Batgirl is one of the most popular characters for young, female comic fans, so is this finally an era of the comic my nine and six-year-olds can enjoy?

Turns out, probably not. 

The book is clearly aiming a bit older for their audience. Online dating services, stolen personal photos, random hookups, and drinking are all core themes of this debut issue from Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. There are literally so many new words for me in this issue I don’t know how many of the concepts laid out are new words for fake apps like “Hooq” and how many are just things I’ve never heard of! I always thought of myself as fairly tech-savvy, but half of the stuff the characters in this book talk about sounds like nonsense words to me. And there are hashtags in the dialogue! I’ve never felt so old!

The writers are playing a good mix here, with Barbara Gordon struggling with a quite a few things in her personal and professional life. That contrasts nicely with how effective and confident Babs is when she throws on the Batgirl costume. Once she’s in vigilante mode, she seems to have a pretty good handle on everything! I love that the new hipster Batgirl has a villain whose crimes are problems we’d see blowing up on Twitter and liberal news/media sites. This book is quite clear on who the target audience is; a very under-served market should feel quite pleased about this comic. 

One odd thing; with the sudden “de-aging” of Babs to a young college student (and one that could be mistaken for a much younger kid), it is very weird seeing Black Canary show up and crash on Batgirl’s couch. I mean, this is an adult coming to a kid for help! The soft reboot does a lot to open up options for the younger Barbara Gordon, but man, that relationship with Black Canary sure changes, doesn’t it?

Babs Tarr has gotten a lot of press for her more modern, emotive art style, and she deserves it. While her style isn’t my preferred for comics, I am certain my daughters would love it. That new costume is tremendous! I have read some reviews from other folks who really took pleasure noticing the clothes, the accessories, the makeup and other facets of the life of an almost-20 year old. This almost 40-year old missed all of that!

Much of the issue was way too “Scott Pilgrim” for me, but again, I’m thinking I’m not the target audience for this book anymore. I think Grant Morrison’s text-speak for The Gentry is as modern as I can handle at the moment. Hash tags in word bubbles? That’s a bit out of my element.

So for me, this was only FAIR, but I would assume that if you are between 12 and 20, this would probably be a pretty great comic. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1

I’m sort of conflicted on this one. There are a lot of good things about Rick Remender’s massive crossover, but there are some fairly glaring problems too.

First of all, this really feels like an epic Marvel crossover. This story clearly picks up after months of Uncanny Avengers issues, but I’d hope that the context is enough to catch everyone up on what is happening. (I read this with my 9-year old and she picked it up OK.) There are numerous great moments scattered through the book; from the use of Plantman (looking way more plant-y than I remember) all the way the surprise ending. Along the way, Remender has a great moment between the Summers brothers and a wonderful, timely arrival from the X-Men. Actually, that X-Men moment really struck me at how perfect that Uncanny line-up has always been. With Colossus, Storm, and especially Nightcrawler, man, that team just looks like it belongs front and center in the Marvel U.

I appreciate the use of Scarlet Witch and Rogue as such central characters, but man, having both them fail to fight off Red Onslaught’s power does make them seem a bit weak. Scarlet Witch in particular came off as too big of a threat to be walking around. After House of M and “No More Mutants,” maybe she shouldn’t just be walking around with her powers any more after all. Rogue comes off a tad better, especially after the talking up she gets from Professor X. I understand why Remender held off from explaining her current Wonder Man situation too; there were enough status quo changes in the book already!

Now for main problem. The smart-ass quipping. Remender does a great job with Iron Man. Iron Man is supposed to be clever, overconfident, and somewhat jokey. The character sounds like he could have Robert Downey Jr. inside that armor. And Hawkeye has always had that sarcastic tone too. But Vision? Odinson/Thor? The new Captain America? Every single one of them sounds the same, smarting off and being smart asses. It is hard to hear different voices for the Avengers when they are all this…sit-comy.

That said, I LOVED Red Onslaught’s dialogue. He used “scum” and “trash” enough to really have me hankering for a beat down. I can’t wait for him to get what he deserves! Remender also does a wonderful job with Magneto. Magneto calls someone a “cur,” instantly proving Mags’ superiority on the battlefield. Ahab gets some great smack talk in too. Remender is pretty great at getting the reader anxious to see the villains get served.

Adam Kubert has a big order here. There are a TON of heroes involved, and they all look pretty great. I mentioned how dynamic the X-Men looked, but the Avengers are just as nicely done. I’m a bit confused on a few things (doesn’t Thor have one arm?) but they are minor. I LOVE the look and feel of Red Onslaught. He dominates every page he appears on, as an event-central villain should. The design on the surprise foes at the close of the issue seem to have a nice, sleek look too. It’s too bad Kubert can’t do a book regularly any more.

This is a GOOD event that feels like the high-octane battles I remember from my youth. Remender has always channeled the 80’s in a good way, and he’s still doing so here.