Friday, October 31, 2014

Multiversity: The Just #1

For Halloween, let’s review a comic that really scared me! Grant Morrison’s Multiversity: The Just #1 scared the heck out of me because it reminded me how OLD I am!

Whatever else the new 52 has done, it really made me forget about a lot of my old favorites. I’m in the generation that had Wally West as Flash, Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern, and Connor Hawke as Green Arrow. Alpha Centurion was a rival to Superman. There are dozens of cameos of characters that I like more than their counterparts in the New 52. Max Mercury. Steel. Argus.Tempest. Heck, even Artemis as Wonder Woman is OK by me!

So yeah, this book made me feel really old because it made me miss characters and versions of characters I know we’ll never see again. Sure, it also has Chris Kent and Damian Wayne as the new Super-Sons, and Alexis Luthor mixing things up, and they aren’t flashes from my past like the rest, but they fit in well with the story. I know the Super-Sons are the protagonists of the story, but I would have liked a tad more time with some of the other old-timers from the ‘90s.

The actual plot continues in the same vein as the other Multiversity titles. A haunted comic book has interrupted the idyllic world of Earth-Me. In a world where Superman’s robots keep the peace, having powers is more about staying busy and being entertained than it is about saving the world. When the awesomely named Megamorpho commits suicide, it throws the entire super-community into a tailspin. Our first window in is the fantastically titled “Sister Miracle.” Morrison makes it look so dang easy to do these great legacy names!

The haunted comic book is influencing the world, causing villains to do bad things and heroes to doubt themselves even more than usual. There is barely any conflict in the issue, unless you want to count middle-aged heroes struggling with ennui and younger ones struggling with fame. Each of the Multiversity titles has left me wanting more, but this one… man, when the Superman robots are unleashed on the world, do the heroes have a chance? Are we to assume that the Gentry’s haunted comic book has destroyed this world? Or can the struggling heroes maybe stand up for themselves (I certainly hope so).

Ben Oliver’s art excels in some areas, but lacks in others. His figure work is great, but the facial expressions are unbelievably good. In a medium where facial features are hard to do right, Oliver nails it, giving different ages, outlooks, and personalities different facial structures, expressions, and body types. Just top-notch stuff. The backgrounds are lacking, which could be by design. Instead of a fully-realized alternate world like in Society of Super-Heroes, this feels a lot more dreamlike. The lack of backgrounds and extensive use of color makes this issue sort of flow by in a haze. Perhaps that was the intent, but I would have liked a bit more of a glimpse into this alternate world.

This is another GOOD comic in a string of them for the Multiversity series. I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Justice League: The Grid HC

This was a bit confusing to me. The name of the collection is “The Grid,” but this sure reads like the Justice League/Trinity War I remember taking place in the many JL books last year. I dipped my toe back into the DCU with the Trinity War books, and I wrote reviews of those books at the time, so I won’t focus on those here (feel free to click on the Justice League keyword at the close of this review.) I’ll focus on the new (to me) aspects of the trade.

Geoff Johns leads off with a fun “try-out” issue, the kind that team comics have gotten miles of for years now. We see a quick snapshot of the DCU, both in Geoff Johns’ pet characters for later arcs (like Platinum of the Metal Men), characters getting “pushed” during that month (like Blue Devil and Black Lightning), and actual new members like Firestorm, Element Woman, and the new Atom.

Johns really had a wonderful take on the Firestorm character back before the reboot, and that new merging of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch still works. I love the jock/nerd archetypes forced to work together, especially with the more intelligent Jason forced to try and maneuver simple Ronnie through complicated chemical compositions. (I will admit I miss the more good-hearted Ronnie of the Fury of Firestorm).

Element Woman is mighty weird. Her voice is described as amazingly high, and combined with her sunny personality; she’s a character where a little goes a long way. I still like her though, in the dreary DCU, it is nice to have such a positive character popping up.

The new Atom… well, she’s got her secrets, as we find out by the close of the collection. I don’t want to ruin it, but having a new, younger Atom who loves playing World of Warcraft is a pretty fun combo. I think she probably could have used a bit better taste in her friends, though.

The high point for me? Despero. Despero shows up and smashes his way around the Justice League satellite. There is no one around who can possibly stop him, and even better, the current league knows it. Having the Atom narrate the hopelessness of the overwhelming foe is a brilliant choice, especially when she realizes that the only reason the JL won in their first battle is thanks to the Martian Manhunter. It is clear that Johns must have affection for J’onn J’onnz; the guy does more than cast a heavy shadow here. I had a big grin watching the Despero battle play out in such an unexpected way.

The art on DC’s flagship title continues to set the standard for the DC house style. That said, Ivan Reis’ shows off some spectacular battle scenes and Jesus Saiz gets some quieter moments. Both artists do a great job with their pages; this is an attractive, exciting book. And man, that sequence on the satellite with Despero… SO good!

When the story doesn’t focus on the abbreviated history of the New 52, I find myself quite enjoying this title. It is a GOOD comic with some great heroes and classic villains. I just wish we didn’t have to pretend the villains and guest-stars were making their first appearances!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sledgehammer '44 TPB

Now this is interesting. With Mike Mignola’s monster-bashing hero Hellboy in a mighty strange place, I like seeing Mignola and John Arcudi bring in another working-class hero to bash Nazi’s and smash monsters. The visuals between Sledgehammer and Hellboy are mighty similar, with the baggy pants, bulky bodies, and thrashing fists.

But while the visuals are similar, the leads’ personalities are very different. Hellboy is a working class guy doing his best with a simple approach. Sledgehammer is more of a sad-sack barely willing himself into heroics. Its’ actually a tad more complicated than that, as there are multiple guys using the Sledgehammer name and powers in the first trade. Neither of the two driving personalities are very dynamic, although the second is at least determined once he gets moving.

The first few issues follow Sledgehammer’s initial deployment in the theaters of World War II. It’s a fun story, focusing more on the “support” team backing ‘Hammer up. The idea of the soldiers as backup is driven home in the dialogue, making it a lot more shocking when the soldiers end up having to carry the load. There are some fun, straight-up war sequences in the first limited series, totally devoid of any horror or supernatural elements.

The second arc gives ‘Hammer a super-villain to fight; the Black Flame. I can’t remember what we’ve seen the Flame do before, but in this he’s zooming through the sky and blasting into the ground like a comet. He’s much more of a superman than I remember, but he does make for an intimidating opponent. Sledgehammer does OK against him, but man, the Flame seems to have him outclassed. Again, keeping the story grounded with lots of soldiers and low-powered protagonists keeps the book grounded.

Jason LaTour and Laurence Campbell have different styles, with LaTour’s faces on the American soldiers almost looking like the Sunday funnies. This doesn’t take away from the drama in the story, but the look gives the opening arc a very different feel than normal BPRD titles. He does a crackerjack job on the Nazi super-robots, though!

Laurence Campbell has a grittier, tighter style that really works for the Black Flame. There are two or three sequences of mid-air combat that really impressed me. Setting the super-fight in the clouds surrounded by bombers and thunderheads makes for a hell of a dramatic and cinematic sequence. This is good-looking stuff.

This is still a GOOD comic, but it isn’t as good as BPRD and Hellboy. Those other books have had years to establish themselves, so I have hope for Sledgehammer. But for now, this is very far behind the other titles in the Mignola-universe. 

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. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Arrow Season 2

Minor Spoilers ahead!

I made it! It was dang close, but I actually finished Season 2 before Season 3 started! Yes!

A lot of folks I know love Arrow, and every single one of them said the same thing when I finished watching Season 1: “Just wait. Season 2 is better.” I must have smart friends, because they were absolutely right.

I really enjoyed Season 1 of Arrow, but there were still a few things that bothered me. The casual way the vigilante took lives. The lack of a mask on most of the characters made the show seem afraid of its comic-book roots. The deliberate “Dark Knighting” of most powers to make them fit in to the real world rather than a fantastic one. And a big one: I can’t stand that they call him “the vigilante” or the “the hood.” I can happily tell you that each and every one of these concerns is directly addressed in Season 2.

One absolutely huge factor in my increased enjoyment in S2 is the introduction of (Black) Canary. Katie Cassidy improves a LOT in Season 2, I found myself much more invested in the Laurel Lance’s journey as a character as she dealt with the adversity in her life. But the introduction of Sara Lance, Laurel’s sister, really gives the show some momentum. Caity Lotz is small, but still sells all of her stunts and fighting extremely well. I guess she’s a former stuntwoman, which would explain why they actually show her doing the salmon ladder that so dominates most viewers’ thoughts while they watch this show. Canary’s costume looks almost exactly like the one from the comics, with only the fishnet lacking. My biggest concern for Season 3 is that I get more of Lotz as the Canary; I find her chemistry with most of the other principal characters to be very moving and her action scenes are thrilling.  

I can’t overstate how well Stephen Amell has improved between seasons. He is actually acting now, not reciting lines. Amell is so comfortable in the role; he is eminently believable as both Oliver Queen and as a costumed hero. He switches voices constantly, even using one voice while dressed like another. I love that he refers to himself in the third person. Amell doesn’t get most of the funny lines, but his tough guy talk and the physicality he brings to the role is tremendous. He moves his arms when he talks, even! I think Amell’s greatest acting is actually during the flashbacks on the island, where he has to be even more gradual and nuanced as he shows the maturation and toughening up of Ollie Queen into the hard man we met in the pilot.

Team Arrow? What can I say, but I love them. I’ve stated how much I love Canary, and believe it or not, I actually found Roy Harper tolerable by the end of the season. Harper has a bit of a “skill” jump towards the finale, but I’ll just assume he leveled up and put all his points in archery. Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity is still the nerd boy’s dream, and her awkward attraction to Oliver gets some great development. Her jealously over Canary’s scars is certainly a character trait I didn’t expect. And that scene in the finale? An emotional killer, man. I think I actually voiced an “oh man” as I watched the scene play out! (Although I think it is essential to keep the will they/won’t they alive for as long as possible.)

I’m not going to spoil the fantastic developments with David Ramsey’s Diggle and his ex-wife Lyla (played by one of my favorites from The Unit; Audrey Marie Anderson). I’ll just say that people who enjoy teams with questionable morals and short life expectancies? You might want to check this out. Ramsey continues to share the best lines with Paul Blackthorne’s Officer Lance, and they trade off having the best lines in each episode.

Now for my favorite thing in the season. The villains. Deathstroke the Terminator/Slade Wilson is wonderful when brought to life by a scenery-chewing Manu Bennett. This guy LOVES being a villain, and it shows. He is awful, cruel, and dangerous. His meticulous plan is actually worse than the undertaking in Season 1. I hate to say that the reason for his revenge quest is a bit weak, but Bennett actually makes it not matter; that’s how super-charged his performance is. Bennett actually wears his Deathstroke gear, too!

I’m avoiding some huge spoilers involving other characters, but suffice to say I found myself genuinely moved by some of the plot choices and developments for Ollie Queen. This is a show that is reveling in its comic book roots. The guest-stars are allowed to stretch their wings and swing for the fences as both heroes and villains. The rapidly expanding DCU-TV is a delight for comic fans and I recommend it highly for anyone who likes action, buddy shows, or teen dramas. This GOOD show scratches all three boxes.

SPOILERS for those who still need to be sold on watching:

Some of the DCU developments: The Count, Bronze Tiger, Ra’s Al Ghul, Nissa Al Ghul, ARGUS, Amanda Waller, Shrapnel, Harley Quinn, Professor Ivo, Amazo, KGBeast, Clock King, the Flash, and the hinted-above SUICIDE SQUAD! And more! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Uncanny Avengers #25

No sooner are we done with Jason Aaron’s Original Sin than we find ourselves on the March to Axis with Rick Remender. The focus has been pretty tight in these last few issues as Axis approaches. Havok (complete with scarred face), Rogue (complete with Wonder Man power-set) and Scarlet Witch team up with Magneto to take on the Red Skull and his S-Men in a mutant concentration camp. Ahab, a holdover from the big Kang arc sticks around too; relishing the chance to enslave mutants all over again (Ahab hails from a future where he has tortured and enslaved mutantkind.)

Man, the Red Skull is such an awful person; it is so easy to hate him. This issue is mostly from Scarlet Witch’s point of view, as she tries to work through her complicated feelings towards her father, Magneto. I get that Remender is putting us in her head, but some of the tension of the action sequences gets bogged down by all the narration boxes. I would have liked a tad more of Wonder Man in these issues too. If he’s going to live on only in Rogue’s head, maybe he could get a bit more dialogue? Rogue is truly best with this power set; the super strength and durability just work so well for her. Watching her slap around the S-Men then recover after the Skull’s final attack is just plain exciting.

I’m sorry, Remender, but I’m just not feeling Havok these days. The guy is just too generic of a hero for me to buy into this hero’s journey too much. The scarred face, the forced romance with Wasp, it just isn’t making enough of a difference. Havok works best as part of a big team, and setting him on this mission with such a small team is not gonna do it for me. I think Alex Summers works best when dealing with overbearing alpha males, so without Cyclops or Captain America to rage against, Havok seems sort of lost.

Magneto plays a tremendously important part here. I loved the scene where he turns things around on the Skull, and he has some fantastic monologues and quotes while taking down the S-Men. It also seems like Magneto might be responsible for creating the new Red Onslaught (the Red Skull/Onslaught hybrid starring in Axis). I’m not sure I understand how that transformation happened; hopefully Axis 1 will explain it.

Daniel Acuna is one of my top 5 artists, perhaps top 3. I love seeing him draw Rogue busting heads and Magneto tossing around metallic projectiles. When Magneto delivers his fists-only beating to the Skull, Acuna does a great job showing the destruction of the skull mask. I do wonder if the art or coloring was changed on that big splash in the Skull’s camp. I think mutants were hooked up to something, but I’m not sure what. Maybe some art changes were necessary to keep this appropriate for teens?

So Axis is coming next week. This “March” has me interested, but not tremendously excited. Red Onslaught doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and the Skull is going to need to explain his sudden boost in power if he’s anchoring a mega-crossover on his own. The lead-in is GOOD, but I’m worried about 8 more issues Red Skull-based conflict. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Booster Gold: Future's End #1

OK, DC Comics has got to stop teasing me here. Just like in Future’s End Batman, this FE one-shot has nothing to do with any greater storyline in the rest of the September specials. (A good thing, since I haven’t read any others.) This issue follows Booster Gold as he hops around through different dimensions, seeing examples of heroes and villains from other Earths. It is unclear if he’s just bouncing from city to city or if he is truly bouncing from multiple Earth to Earth.

If Booster is just hopping cities, then I’ll assume that the upcoming and teased “Blood Moon” is going to involve a new Brainiac who steals cities from different realities. I’m, of course, hoping that Booster is actually hopping through alternate Earths, implying that all those worlds we catch glimpses of here are actually out there. Some of the high points include a Victorian Batman, Charlton-hero Earth, Kamandi’s post-apocalyptic animal world, and an Earth that seems remarkably close to the “old DCU.”

It is worth noting that there are two Boosters at the heart of the story, one is captured and being interrogated about Rip Hunter, while the other is bouncing through all these dimensions. Dan Jurgens has written the character long enough that Booster’s voice sounds pretty dead on through all the oddball situations. That said, Booster isn’t doing much more than narrating his world-bouncing, so the dialogue and interaction never become very complicated.

I did enjoy seeing the artistic switches for each world. The high point, of course, is Ron Frenz’ take on Kamandi and the animals of the war-torn future. Fortunately, Booster’s costume is dynamic enough that just about every take on it is going to look pretty good.

If there is even a remote chance that “old” versions of characters are going to show up, well man, I sure need to keep an eye out. If Marvel has published the Ultimate line for all these years, surely there is room on the stands for a few books featuring the old DCU? If that is the case, then this is GOOD. If it is just a one-off that tried to dodge a true plot? Then it will be EVIL. Only time will tell!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Green Arrow #35

This should tell you how Arrow-crazy I am right now. I’m desperate enough to give Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokolowski a chance to sell me on a new 52 title. This is the first issue from some of the writers of the hit CW show, and it shows. While I’ve read a few of the other new 52 trades for Green Arrow, none of them felt this much like the TV show.

Ollie carries himself just as he does in the show. Starling City is replaced by Seattle, but we still have Queen Consolidated (sometimes called Queen Industries?), the Glades, and Diggle. Has Diggle been in the comic for awhile now? I don’t remember seeing him in the older trades. The writers behind the show might be writing the same characters, but the voices aren’t exactly right. Diggle never sounds like himself, and the interaction between he and Ollie never has the same sense of camaraderie and loyalty found in the show. I’m sure the surprise appearance of another Arrow stalwart at the end of the issue will work itself out, but it is too bad that it has to.

This book is still firmly planted in the new 52. There is talk of a world of villains (the Forever Evil crossover, I believe) along with a very long conversation with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor. Reading it, the whole scene feels sort of weird. Bruce is awfully chummy with the longtime villain. I’ve seen enough covers to know that Lex Luthor recently joined the Justice League, but man, this feels weird.

There aren’t really too many hints of a long-standing plot yet. The book opens with Green Arrow taking out some thugs; he gets stitched up, and then has a short meeting with Lex and Bruce. There is something going on with Mia Dearden (I had to google her to remember who she was, that’s how out of the DC lore I am). Has Mia appeared in the new 52? Was she still Speedy?

Daniel Sampere’s art is OK, I guess. The characters don’t look a ton like their TV counterparts, but neither do they have a tremendously defined look for the comic either. I had a hard time in a few points during the conversation with Bruce and Ollie where I couldn’t tell them apart if their hair wasn’t visible. They both looked like angry young hunks.

So it wasn’t great, it wasn’t awful. It does feel a lot like the TV show, but not quite enough to get me to stick around. I think at this point, I want either a good “old” Green Arrow as I always knew him, or a good “CW” Arrow as a know him now. This FAIR new 52 version tries to split the difference.