Monthly Archives: October 2012
It’s a special review week this week, as we look at the latest DC “Earth One” graphic novel!
Superman: Earth One Volume 2
It seems like I was one of the only people on the internet who enjoyed the first volume of Superman: Earth One when it was first released two years ago. The start of a new line of graphic novels aimed at the bookstore market, the Earth One imprint has released only three titles since it’s announcement, the most recent release included. Season One, Marvel’s copycat imprint, has released about 7 titles in an even shorter time frame.
Despite the long gap between volumes, the second part of the “Earth One” version of Superman’s saga continues today, and it’s a fairly good Superman tale. Placing a bigger emphasis on Clark Kent and his struggles with leading a normal life, the second volume contains more familiar locations and characters for long time Superman fans, albeit trough the new “Earth One” prism. Some of these changes are good. I particularly enjoyed Clark’s new living establishment, complete with a brand new set of characters for him to interact with, including redhead neighbor Lisa Lasalle, who takes a not so subtle interest in the young farm boy from Kansas in the big city. Her moments with Clark were the best parts of the book, and showcased a moment from Clark’s youth that nearly made me tear up. There’s also a clever twist on a classic Superman villain at the end of the book that teases the next volume perfectly.
However, some of the other changes aren’t so great. Jimmy Olsen blogging for the Daily Planet? Eeeesh. Why can’t he still be a photographer? Plus the redesign of Parasite (the big bad in this volume) is very strange. He keeps the purple skin tone, but has these weird yellow orbs popping out of his skin and lips, which at times make it seem like he has giant beach balls attached to his body. The fights between himself and Superman are okay, but at the same time, I felt myself waiting for the moments when Clark would come back. Seeing Kent slowly try to figure out just what he should do with his powers is more fun for me than actually seeing him use them. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.
That’s not to say that every moment with Clark in costume is ho-hum. There’s a fantastic sequence early in this volume where Superman goes to help a foreign country in the grip of a tsunami. However, he’s cut short by the county’s tyrannical leader, who tells him that the people that are killed in the tsunami deserve their fate for rebelling against him. For every person Superman saves, the dictator will take a limb from one of his citizens, and it will all be on Superman’s head. Superman leaves, and the aftermath shows us a chilling account of what would happen if Superman decided to turn his powers against us, instead of for us (and don’t worry, Superman returns to get payback on the dictator).
I have to commend J. Michael Straczynski for once again providing an interesting light on Superman. Yes, he famously bailed on the “Grounded” storyline before the DC reboot (a storyline which wasn’t that great in my opinion), but with both this book and the previous installment he’s created a great angle on a character that everyone and their mother knows. It’s apparent how much Superman means to him, and volume 2 continues to focus more on Clark Kent than Superman, which is key to writing the character. There are numerous flashbacks to his life on the farm, including a hilarious scene in which Pa Kent does his best to teach his son about the “birds and the bees”, an already awkward task without being from another planet.
Shane Davis’ art is improved from the last volume. While still photo-realistic, this time it doesn’t look like he based every major character off of a well known celebrity. His action scenes are easy to follow, and do their best to punch up the somewhat lackluster fights between Supes and Parasite (although the final blow Superman deals to Parasite is pretty boss). I do wish that JMS and Davis had come up with a cooler design for the “Kryptonian warsuit” that Superman has to don to battle Parasite at the end of the book, though. I was expecting something cooler than clear crystal armor. However, the backstory on Parasite is pretty chilling, and once he’s all Superman-powered up, an excellent warning to Clark about the dangers of losing control.
Even if you weren’t a fan of the first volume of Superman: Earth One, you’d still find things to enjoy in this volume. It’s a marked improvement over the first, and has some very surprisingly touching moments. I’ve always liked the idea and story behind Superman, but never found him all that relatable until now. I’m eagerly waiting to see if what has been hinted at will come to fruition in volume three, I just hope I don’t have to wait two years to find out.
Halloween is this week, and it’s time to bust out the pumpkins, candy corn, and most importantly, comics! Speaking of comics, how about giving some out this year instead of candy? It’s a good way to clear up space in your collection, or to deal with that pesky issue of having multiple copies of books that you know won’t sell. Just be sure to not give them any of these comics, as they will most likely keep the kiddos (and yourself) up all night.
30 Days Of Night
Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 30 Days Of Night still freaks me out, and it’s “why didn’t I think of that” premise is the building block of a modern classic. During Barlow, Alaska’s “30 days of darkness”, a group of vampires descend upon the town, laying waste to the people who live there. Taking an animalistic spin on vampires, 30 Days of Night is a super bloody and creepy comic that makes you dread turning the next page, and like any good horror tale, there’s a crap ton of sequels ready for your consumption (including a crossover with the X-Files!).
Easily one of the creepiest comics on the stands, Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing never fails in giving me the heebie jeebies. Much of this has to do with Yanick Paquette’s awesomely horrific images (see issue 13 for some prime examples) that stay with you long into the night, not to mention the other artists who fill in from time to time. Alec Holland’s battle against Anton Arcane and the Rot is filled with genuine horror, and seeing the world now through The Rot’s lens in the “Rotworld: The Green Kingdom” storyline is the stuff of nightmares.
The unofficial companion book to Swamp Thing, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man ALSO has the horrors of the Rot, and some would say is even scarier than Snyder’s tales of Swampie. Focusing more on Buddy Baker and his family, the stakes are even higher as the Rot decides to take over Buddy’s daughter. Rotworld has also started in this book (with the surname “The Red Kingdom”), and promises more horrors within its pages in the coming months.
Venom: The Madness
Way back in the 90’s I picked up this storyline in a special “comic collector’s pack” at a dollar store. The cover for the first part, depicting Juggernaut’s reflection in Venom’s eye, blew me away, but if I had known what would transpire within them, I never would have bought it. Featuring art by the always-awesome Kelly Jones, Venom: The Madness finds Eddie Brock being submerged in toxic waste after a battle with Juggernaut. What follows is Brock’s horrifying descent into madness, as his “other” grows multiple heads and limbs, and even tries to absorb his then girlfriend in one of the most disturbing sequences I’ve ever seen in a comic. While not the most earth-shattering Venom story, it’s a dollar-bin gem for those looking for a good scare.
There is something seriously wrong with Scott Snyder. He seems like a nice guy, but between Swamp Thing, “Death Of The Family” in Batman, and his creator owned book, Severed, it’s clear that he’s got a dark side. Released last year (and now available in hardcover), Severed follows a young man travelling cross-country to find his biological father. Along the way he comes across a man that makes Hannibal Lecter look like Barney the dinosaur. The book starts off slow, building the tension, until the final few moments of the story, which build to such a horrific ending that at times it’s hard to stomach. The gorgeous art by Atilla Futaki only adds to the horror, and brings a wonder artistic view on some really horrible events.
The Walking Dead
You should already be reading The Walking Dead, but if you’re planning on catching up on the original series while watching the third season, you should be warned: the events with the Governor are some of the scariest and disturbing events in the entire series. Yes, we’re at some extremely tense moments now with Negan, but the Governor will always have a place in my brain as a warning to just how far some people will go at the end of the world.
Wolverine MAX #1
If there was ever a character that deserved a MAX title, it’s Wolverine. Since I was aware of Marvel’s “adults only” line of titles, I wondered why Logan was never given his own series, especially when you look at the violent nature of the character. The Punisher had a MAX line, Nick Fury got one next, and even Deadpool got TWO. When would Wolverine get the chance to do what he does best in an R-rated take?
Well, now my prayers have been answered, even if the end result wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Crime novelist Jason Starr has Logan being the sole survivor of a plane crash near Tokyo. After a pretty cool opening (in which Wolverine slices up a SHARK), Starr gives us some fever dream flashbacks of this interpretation of the character’s life, which is a little more “R rated” than the 616’s back story, if by “R rated” you mean “some violence but really just a regular Marvel book with F bombs”.
When it comes to the art, Roland Boschi’s modern pencils are great. He has some create character work, and the one action scene in the book he draws is pretty cool. Connor Willumsen, however, handles the flashback portions of this issue, and I have to say, he’s not my cup of tea. I’m not a big fan of the grotesque, Tyrion Lannister-esqe physique he gives Logan, and his depiction of Victor Creed looks too much like an old timey hobo for my liking.
Maybe I’m just spoiled by Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX or Robert Kirman’s Destroyer, but I found this first issue to be very disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were too high for a book called Wolverine MAX. There’s certainly a wealth of opportunity to be had with this character in this imprint, I just hope Starr hits on that soon. Unless I hear phenomenal things about future issues, I think I’m giving this guy a pass in the future.
Fresh off last month’s zero issue, Talon wastes no time with it’s first issue, giving us plenty of action and a solid hook for the series going forward. James Tynion IV scripts from a plot by Scott Snyder, and the plot moves along at a break-neck pace, barely letting you keep track of everything coming your way.
Picking up on Calvin Rose’s debut last month, this first issue finds Calvin returning to Gotham City to see if the rumors of the Court Of Owls being dismantled by Batman are true. Upon entering one of their strongholds, Calvin is attacked by one of the remaining Talons in a scene that is probably the best action scene this week. The fact that the Talons are virtually unkillable allows Snyder and Tynion IV to have Calvin defend himself in ways that Batman wouldn’t, and the way he takes down his attacker is particularly cool in this issue. Calvin is assisted by the mysterious Sebastian Clark, a man whose father was murdered for attempting to publish a book revealing the Court of Owls to the world. Knowing Calvin’s past with the Court, he offers to help him put an end to the mysterious group, who is already weakened following Batman’s battle with them. After a quick “suiting up” montage, Calvin emerges as Talon, and prepares to bring the fight to the Court head on.
If it isn’t apparent already, I really loved this book, and to be honest, I didn’t know if I would. I loved the “Court Of Owls” story in Snyder’s Batman run, but I was worried that this book would reveal too much about them. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this wasn’t the case, and that there is still plenty of mystery to be found with the Court.
Another pleasant surprise was Guillem March’s art. Oh man, I knew he was good, but with this book, he really stepped up his game. The action scene I previously mentioned would have been nothing if he wasn’t drawing it. The panels flowed brilliantly, and I especially loved his clever and unique way of highlighting the Talons’ healing capabilities. If March keeps up with the precedent he set with this issue, this could be the defining work of his career.
Talon is a stunning debut from two of comics’ best writers, and a fantastic artist. Those feeling burnt out by the Court of Owls should not pass this up, there’s still plenty to discover about the Court. Consider me definitely interested in this series.
This past week, I watched the pilot for Arrow, the new DC series on the CW (which is owned and operated by Warner Bros. the owners of DC Comics). Taking the character of Oliver Queen and moving him into his own series, Arrow is borrows heavily from the realistic tone of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, even going so far as to include a “no powers” rule on the show. This version of Oliver Queen is completely removed from the Green Arrow who teamed up with Clark Kent in Smallville, and I have to say. If there’s another hero besides Batman who benefits from a realistic tone, it’s Green Arrow.
Well, actually, it’s “Arrow” now. Or maybe not. Oliver Queen never names his alter ego, instead donning a green hood and slapping green face paint over his eyes, like war paint. As someone who is aware of Green Arrow’s origin but has only read a handful of stories involving the character, the pilot episode was very easy to follow, and sets up a ton of interesting plot points for later in the season, even if the narration by Stephen Amell is a little much at times.
Speaking of Amell, he’s arguably the standout, and if the show proves to be a hit, could be a big star. He’s charming when he puts on the Bruce Wayne-ish “aloof billionaire” act, and suitably badass as Green Arrow (I’m calling him that even if the show won’t). The action scenes were surprisingly brutal. Any comparisons between Queen and Bruce Wayne will end once viewers see Oliver snap the neck of an attacker, or shooting arrows into the vital organs of some henchmen. Oliver Queen is out to save his city, by any means necessary.
And that means killing people. A lot of people. Unlike Bruce Wayne, Oliver Queen has no qualms with cashin’ checks and snappin’ necks. Or hitting major organs with his arrows. Yes, the golden age Green Arrow is nowhere to be seen here, as Oliver Queen takes no prisoners in getting revenge on the people who have been ruling his city, particularly when he battles with some thieves who try to kidnap the newly returned Queen for ransom.
Speaking of “his city”, the monologue does get to be a little too Frank Miller at times, and there are a few times where the pseudo-Nolan take on the character gets to be a little too much. Plus, the show is CW all the way: all of the characters are ridiculously good looking, almost to the point where they are completely unbelievable. Seriously, there are points where you see the characters walking around the city that look like they’re pulled from an Abercrombie and Fitch bag.
While I’m not a huge Green Arrow fan, I am aware of his back-story and history. There are some weird liberties taken with this version of the character. Despite this, the pilot is extremely well done and much better than expected. The second episode definitely dipped in quality a little bit, however. Amell’s acting seemed a little stiffer here, leaving to some unintentionally humorous moments, and the introduction of the first villain, China White, left much to be desired. The fight scene between Arrow and White was cool though, even if it was over before it even started.
And yet, there’s something about this show that I found intriguing, despite my gripes about the second episode. Sure, it’s goofy that Queen somehow learned new languages while on the island, but those questions will presumably be answered throughout the season. As it stands right now, Arrow is a show that has a lot of potential, and is already doing a lot of fan service (episode three will feature Deadshot, and Deathstroke has already been teased for later in the season), but I hope the story doesn’t get overshadowed by the villain appearances. As of right now, Arrow hits the mark more than it misses, and is worth a view from DC fans.
Matt Murdock finally gets to the bottom of who’s been messing with him in the latest issue of Daredevil, and the answer is not who you would expect. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee continue their Eisner award winning series, and not to sound like a broken record, but the result is still one of the best comics on the shelves.
Following last month’s almost descent into madness, Daredevil continues trying to figure out how his world is seemingly falling apart all over again. He jumps off a roof and reaches for his billy clubs, and they’re not there. When he checks again, they are. He returns home to his apartment expecting his escaped from the asylum wife to be there, and she’s not (even though he left her there). More and more of these strange occurrences are happening, and when you’ve lived a life like Matt Murdock has, you can’t dispute the fact that you might be going off the deep end. After visiting with Hank Pym, Matt gets some answers in the form of his brain having strange spikes in radiation, but nothing that really helps. That is, until he stumbles into a trap for one of NYC’s top mob groups, and uncovers the real culprit behind his “madness”: The Coyote!
Now the Coyote is a character we’ve seen before in Waid’s run of Daredevil, and while I’m not completely sold on the new name for this villain, I really like the design of his new costume. It has a very “American Horror Story” feel to it, and Chris Samnee’s depiction of the way he uses his powers is pretty creepy at times. I especially like the way his arms are drawn with extremely long fingers, almost creating the feeling that Daredevil can’t escape his grasp. While I admit the final moments of the issue were a little hokey, Mark Waid has yet to disappoint me on Daredevil, so it’s nothing that I’ll drop the book over.
Justice League #13
Now that we’ve gotten that pesky #0 issue out of the way, it’s time to get back to the super-smoochin’! Yes, Geoff Johns’ Justice League starts up with the “kiss seen round the internet”, but it’s dealt with in a single page and ends on a note very similar to the last time Superman and Wonder Woman kissed:
They decide to not talk about it.
Instead, we jump forward five days and find Wonder Woman locked in battle with her nemesis Cheetah, who I believe is making her “New 52” debut with this issue. After getting knocked out, the other league members find Wonder Woman and bring her back to the Watchtower, where they offer her assistance, despite WW constantly telling them that she can handle Cheetah on her own. At the same time, Batman and Aquaman visit Steve Trevor to get more info on the mysterious artifact that Cheetah was talking about. We get some quick exposition explaining Cheetah’s origin (which may be new?), and then, after finally accepting the League’s help, Wonder Woman and co. head out to find Cheetah.
That’s about it. This was not one of the best issues of Justice League, and was kind of a disappointment after issue 12, which I really enjoyed. Much of this book seems like set up for the upcoming “Trinity War” storyline, and while I completely understand the need to set that up, it didn’t have to be this dull. Even the back up story written by Johns and Jeff Lemire is really just a set up for the upcoming Justice League Of America spin off book. Even though the story was a bit lacking, the art by Tony Daniel is superb in this issue, and good reminder of his talents with a pencil. So the issue’s not a complete loss. Plus the final cliffhanger image is hilarious.
The Cape: 1969 #4 (of 4)
IDW had a fantastic hit on their hands with last year’s The Cape mini-series, and the prequel has been just as good. Detailing the adventures of Eric’s father in Vietnam, the book shows us not only a first hand glimpse of the terrors he saw in the war, but also how the cape came to be. Armed with the mystical ability to fly (thanks to a magical spell placed on his badge), Captain Chase takes the fight to the soldiers who tried to kill him. After killing the son of the Vietcong Commander, both men take to the skies, showing us a first hand account of what would happen if a flying guy with a flamethrower faced off with a Vietnamese general in a helicopter. I’ll give you a hint: blood. And lots of it.
Jason Ciaramella’s script is tight and never lets up. You can feel the rage Chase is feeling, even when he admits to himself that he’s gone over the edge and never would’ve killed any of these people. The same goes for the final moments of the book, when we learn how Captain Chase’s badge is returned to the Chase family, and placed on Eric’s cape. Nelson Daniel’s art is the other piece of the puzzle that makes us take Chase’s side, and he absolutely nails everything in the issue, from the extreme violence that make up a majority of the book, to the heartbreaking ending when Eric’s mother reads the note from a soldier telling her her husband is gone. The Cape: 1969 was a fantastic tale of war, magic, and how darkness and revenge can corrupt a good man, and is a brilliant example of how to craft an excellent prequel.
It’s almost here. The Storyline I’ve been waiting for since it was announced months ago is so close I can taste it: The latest story arc by the amazing team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s phenomenal Batman run, “The Death Of the Family”, which features the return of my favorite villain of all time, The Joker. Batman and The Clown Prince Of Crime have long battled one another, and the Dark Knight has suffered numerous causalities in their long struggle. So, in honor of Joker’s return to the DC universe, lets look at some of his most heinous moments, shall we?
One of the best Joker tales didn’t even take place in a Batman title. A crossover amongst the main Superman title and it’s other common books; “Emperor Joker” has the Clown Prince Of Crime steal the reality alternating abilities of Mr. Mxyzptlk. Of course, Mr. J then turns the entire world into a sick joke based on his world view, including devouring the entire country of China, and killing (and resurrecting) Batman every day. Of course, he’s defeated, but it takes the might of the Man Of Steel to gather the necessary allies to defeat him.
Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker graphic novel is a step inside the life of a henchman in Gotham City, who have it pretty rough. But when said henchman finds himself working for the Joker? Let’s just say he probably should’ve rethought his life choices. Following Joker’s “accidental” release from Arkham Asylum, this real-world take on the world of Batman focuses on Joker’s ambitious plans to regain his hold on the Gotham underworld. Seen through the eyes of Johnny Frost, we get a first hand look at what it would be like to be working for Gotham’s most dangerous criminal, and it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Gotham Central, Volume Two: Jokers and Madmen
Gotham Central is one of the overlooked gems of the past ten years. Focusing on the men and women who make up the overworked Gotham Major Crimes Unit, the Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka penned series is one of the best examples of how effective comics can be as a medium, and also feature a Joker tale that more than earns its spot on this list. Sniping civilians and members of the Gotham City council, this story is on the list because it shows how much power Joker has over the citizens of Gotham. Hell, even some members of the police force ask for vacation time once they hear he might be a possible suspect. Add to the fact that Joker has planned this attack on Christmas, and you have a Joker tale worthy of adding to your bookshelf.
No Man’s Land
While “No Man’s Land” was a huge event showcasing all of the Bat-titles, the finale of the arc belongs to Mr. J. After kidnapping all of Gotham’s babies and holding them in the ruined old police building, James Gordon’s wife goes after him. Needless to say, things don’t go so well, and the Gordon family undergoes yet another horrific event thanks to the Joker. The final moments of the issue are deeply affecting, and one of the best closings to an event I’ve ever read.
Detective Comics #880
Smack dab in the middle of Scott Snyder’s excellent pre-reboot Detective Comics run, Dick Grayson Batman meets The Joker, who immediately knows that the Batman in front of him isn’t “his Batman”. Rummaging through the bowels of Old Gotham, Joker toys with Grayson with Glee, and Snyder’s fantastic take on Joker is one of the many reasons for why I’m so excited for “Death Of The Family”.
The Dark Knight
What is there to say about The Dark Knight that hasn’t already been said? Christopher Nolan’s 2008 follow-up to Batman Begins is a huge improvement off of an already stellar film, and a large part of that is due to Heath Ledger’s immortal performance as The Joker. While there are numerous moments that stand out, one that I always think of first is his interrogation of the imposter Batman: “look at me……LOOK AT ME!” It gives me chills every time.
Batman the Animated Series: “The Laughing Fish”
Mark Hamill will go down as the best Joker. Yes, Heath Ledger has the live action performance as a lock, but Hamill is hands down the best depiction of Mr. J we’ve ever seen. In my opinion, his greatest episode is “The Laughing Fish”. An adaptation of the classic tale by Steve Englehart, the episode finds Joker drugging a species of fish so they have his grin(“but they share my unique face!”), and then try and trademark them so he can profit off of them. When he’s told he can’t, things start to get ugly in an episode that showcases just how crazy and dangerous the Joker can be.
The Killing Joke
Arguably Joker’s most chilling act, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke features the infamous crippling of Barbara Gordon. Paired with flashbacks of one of the Joker’s possible origins, this tale has Joker putting his hypothesis of “all it takes is one bad day” to the extreme, forever altering the lives of James Gordon and many of the supporting cast of Batman’s world. Gordon’s dark voyage through Joker’s funhouse is the stuff of nightmares, and many times you believe that Gordon could snap. With Batgirl tying in with “Death Of the Family”, those who still haven’t read this tale would be wise to pick it up.
A Death In The Family
Joker’s ultimate strike against Batman is here, with the infamous death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Sure, Todd has since been resurrected, but the impact of the story still remains the same. Joker achieves what no other Batman rogue has with this story: he kills a Robin. And with that, forever changes the dynamic between himself and his archenemy. The “new 52” spin on this classic story hints at some very surprising revelations for Todd (who now goes by “Red Hood”), and much like Killing Joke, if you haven’t read this (or “Under The Hood”) you really, really should.
The Dark Knight Returns
If Batman comes out of retirement, one shouldn’t be surprised that the Joker would follow suit. Seeing news reports of Batman’s return, the catatonic Joker suddenly returns to the world, and seemingly has a new stance on life. While appearing on a David Letterman-esque talk show, Joker quickly starts gassing the studio audience, killing everyone inside. Batman leaps into action, and the two mortal enemies do battle one last time. Pushing batman to his breaking point, Joker ends up taking his own life, finally ending the long struggle that he and Batman have had for so many years.
Someone has been poisoning the backs of stamps with Joker venom. Of course, the entire city of Gotham believes it to be The Joker, except for one man: Batman. Now, with a case that could potentially put Joker in the electric chair, Batman has to race against time to find the person responsible for framing the Joker, a task that puts him at odds with even his closest allies.
What happens when The Joker gets a hold of the mask of Loki? Bad things. Bad, bad things. A smaller scale “Emperor Joker”, Joker/Mask is an extremely entertaining and unexpected crossover that you never expect to work, but does on every level.
Last night was the premiere of the third season of Walking Dead, and boy was it a doozy. However, as awesome as it was, THIS was even better:<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/51478787″>Jetpack Comcast Spotlight Ad</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user2212937″>Tom Bennett</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Yes, that’s a commercial for Jetpack Comics. And yes, that’s me as “Jetpack Man” (no copyright infringement here!) punching out one of my co-workers. The spot aired throughout the seacoast area of New Hampshire at around 9:45. Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think!
It’s here. It’s finally here. The storyline I’ve been waiting for nearly a year has finally started. For the past few months, I’ve gobbled up every snippet of news I could on Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s next Batman story “Death Of The Family”. I’ve read the interviews, drooled over the art, and did my best to avoid the spoilers. So now that the storyline that brings my favorite villain back to comics is out, did it live up to my expectations?
Yes. And then some.
I’m keeping this as spoiler free as possible, but let me say this: Joker is back, and he’s not messing around. From the chilling opening sequence we see how deadly the Joker is right now, as he casually walks into the Gotham Police Department and bends them all to his horrific will.What then turns into your typical Joker/Batman story suddenly has a dark and disturbing twist. The Joker has been gone for a year, and he’s determined to make up for lost time. Even Harley Quinn is afraid of him. “He’s not my Mr. J anymore” she says, and thanks to the work of Snyder and Capullo (“Snypullo” from here on out), you actually feel bad for her. And speaking of Harley, the back up story featuring her and Mr. J, also written by Snyder and James Tynion IV (with art by Jock), is just as good as the main feature, and drives home how messed up her relationship with Joker really is.
Snyder and Capullo already proved themselves as an excellent team on the “Court Of Owls” story arc that started Batman in the New 52. With this issue, they solidify themselves as one of the best Batman creative teams of all time, and while it’s too early to tell, we may have one of the best Joker stories from them as well. From the first pages to jaw dropping cliffhanger, Batman #13 does not let up the pace, and is the perfect jumping on point for readers who want to see what all the fuss is about. Get it soon, before Mr. J comes for you.
Uncanny Avengers #1
Marvel Now! begins…now with Rick Remender and John Cassaday’s Uncanny Avengers. Consisting of members of the X-Men and The Avengers, UA‘s first issue is a set up one, but is filled with enough great moments to make this worth a purchase.
Directly picking up from the events of Avengers vs. X-Men, the issue touches on Professor Xavier’s funeral, Cyclops in jail, and Captain America’s recent decision to make a larger effort in helping the mutants are the driving forces behind the issue. Of the three, I particularly liked Alex Summers’ seeing his brother in prison. The conversation between Cyclops and Havok really made the issue for me, and touched on some great themes that I’m sure a lot of long time Marvel fans were wondering while AvX was going on. After that, Captain America and Thor show up and we’re off to the races (after Thor expresses his love for lattes). What follows next is a mysterious attack from Avalanche, and a small skirmish between Scarlet Witch and Rogue, who for some reason is more pissed at Scarlet Witch for House Of M than for Cyclops killing Professor X, before being attacked by the oddest super villain team I’ve ever seen.
I have to commend Rick Remender for his script in this issue. While obviously working within the confines of the Marvel editorial, he still makes this one hell of an enjoyable read. Some of Cap’s dialogue was a little corny at times, but the plot Remender is hinting at has a lot of promise, and the last page definitely has my interest piqued for the next issue. And as for the art? It’s John Cassaday! OF COURSE the art is good! My only hope is that he can stay on for longer than 3 issues. Uncanny Avengers what makes comics awesome: a great writer + a great artist, sprinkled with a fantastic cliffhanger.
Punk Rock Jesus #4 (of 6)
Punk Rock Jesus continues to kick ass and take names with it’s fourth issue, in which we finally get some more background on Thomas, the badass IRA member head of security for Slate, as well as what became of Chris’ mother after last issue’s ending. We also finally see the reasoning behind the title of the story, and I honestly could not see it fit in any other way. Chris suffers the biggest loss of his entire life, which finally causes him to start questioning the world around him. Moving beyond the firewalls and doctored videos and texts provided by the company that “owns” him, the would be clone of Jesus Christ starts to make big decisions that start to change his beliefs, and those of the people who worship him. Before seeing how messed up the world really is, Chris takes shelter in the punk band “The Flak Jackets”, and eventually joins up with them. Now, armed with his own army of punk rockers, he starts a cause against everything he was brought up to believe.
Writer/artist/creator Sean Murphy has blown me away with Punk Rock Jesus, and this series is already going on my “Best of The Year” list. Murphy challenges a lot of preconceived notions about the government, music, and yes, faith in this series, and has made something truly unique on the comic stands. I cannot recommend Punk Rock Jesus enough. Books like these deserve more attention then they get, even if they make you feel a little uncomfortable with the topics they discuss.
One of the main focuses of the DC new 52 was to streamline the continuity of the DC books. Restarting from scratch and making the heroes of the DC universe exist for only the past five years has freed up a lot of major characters’ back-stories and history with one another. Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman have all been given new leases on life thanks to the DC relaunch. Except for one group: the Robins.
Placing Batman within the New 52 mandate of “everything happened within the last five years” has turned the origin and legacy of Batman’s sidekick Robin into a massive headache. Now, I try to not let continuity lord over my comic reading experiences, but at the same time, I feel that something needs to be said about the fact that Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damien Wayne have all been Robin in the past five years. I won’t even touch how Damien, a ten year-old, can exist within the five-year model if Bruce Wayne wasn’t Batman when he met Talia (or was he?). Either Bruce Wayne accepted everyone and anyone to be Robin for 6 month intervals, or all three of the kids who were Robin were incredibly fast learners.
I’m not angry by this mandate; I’m more annoyed by it than anything. It seems like DC higher-ups tried to have it both ways: they wanted to reboot their line to gain the mythical “new reader”, but also knew that fans of Tim Drake, Damien Wayne, and Dick Grayson would be pissed if they were all done away with in the reboot. So naturally, they decided to keep all of the previous Robins, but failed to come up with a reason behind their existence that actually made sense. I vaguely remember Dan DiDio saying that while the other superheroes of the DC universe have been around for 5 years, Batman had been working in secret for much longer. Sure, that makes a lot of sense, and ties in with Batman’s depiction of being a loner. HOWEVER, many of the “zero issues” released last month completely crap all over this claim. Scott Snyder’s Batman zero issue takes place six years in the past, as does Batman & Robin by Thomasi and Gleason. Nightwing, Red Hood and The Outlaws, and Teen Titans take place at varying times in the new 52 universe, and all seem to contradict one another. Not to mention the revelation that Tim Drake was never “technically” a Robin now.
While I commend DC for at least shining a light and trying to acknowledge how there can be so many Robins in a small amount of time, I still feel that they could’ve done a much, much better job of filling us in. Was there a communication breakdown somewhere in the Batman offices? Or is this part of a larger plan that silently reboots what we’ve already been told? In any event, I do wish we readers had been given a more concise reason and tighter plot in regards to these four different Robins. Hopefully DC rectifies this situation soon, and gives fans the explanation they deserve.
Avengers vs. X-Men #12 (of 12)
The latest Marvel mega-event has come to a close, and once again, the Marvel Universe will “never be the same”! For another year or so at least. Yes, Avengers vs. X-Men comes to a close with this issue. After all of the crossovers, hype, and fights, how does its conclusion stack up?
Pretty good when compared to other events.
The Avengers have finally come up with a plan to stop the Phoenix Five, which is now down to Cyclops. Involving Scarlet Witch and Hope, the plan is to essentially have the two characters team up against Dark Phoenixclops. Working under the assumption that the Phoenix force “created” Hope as a response to Wanda’s “no more mutants” declaration in House Of M, Tony Stark believes that by having Scarlet Witch and Hope launch a combo attack on the Phoenix that it could stand the chance of actually hurting the cosmic being.
And guess what? It does (oh yeah, SPOILERS, but I won’t spoil the rest of the issue). Yes, for those who couldn’t guess, the Phoenix is stopped, and the stage is set for the next “phase” for the Marvel stable of characters. For the most part, Jason Aaron’s script hits all of the right spots, regardless of the fact that this issue is pretty predictable, and many of the major developments were pretty much revealed by Marvel months ago. Even though Cyclops is painted like a villain towards the end of the issue, I really enjoyed the scene between him and Captain America. In a way it does make you come around to Cyclops’ side.
Adam Kubert’s art is awesome, yet gets a little rushed in spots. His double page spread that opens the battle between The Avengers and Dark Phonixclops is a sight to behold, event if there are some wonky scenes after that. The scenes between Cyclops and Cap that close out the issue have awesome emotional weight. While Avengers vs. X-Men may not have been the best of the Marvel events, it was still a pretty good ride, and miles ahead of Fear Itself. I just wish for once that Marvel would mix it up with these events. Or, you know, go a whole year without one.
Happy! #1 (of 4)
Note: this book was released LAST week!
Grant Morrison enters into the Image publishing world with a comic that I was actually able to understand on my first read through. Focusing on a grizzled and tired old hit man, Happy! is one of the strangest first issues I’ve read this year. Starting off as your standard (if extremely foul mouthed) crime comic, the book quickly takes a huge left turn a few pages before the end that makes this book like nothing else on the stands. Grant Morrison’s writing is completely different from his typical fare, and I give him a lot of credit for being able to completely mix up his style for this book.
On the flip side, Darick Robertson’s art hasn’t changed from his work on The Boys, and yes, that’s a compliment. In fact, his art has never looked better. He deftly handles the dark and dirty opening of the book, and by the time we get to the big reveal that will drive the plot of this miniseries I was stunned by how hilarious his art can be. Happy! was a book I picked up due to the hype I was hearing about it, and I’m glad I did. If you’re looking for something to mix up your typical cape and tights fare, snag this bad boy up.
Legends Of the Dark Knight #1
The classic anthology Legends of the Dark Knight returns to comic shops this month, and man am I happy to see it back. Featuring short tales by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and Tom Taylor, the three standalone Batman tales presented in this issue are all great for their own reasons. I was particularly pleased with Lindelof’s tale “The Butler Did It”, featuring art by Sweet Tooth creator Jeff Lemire. The other stories like Taylor’s “The Crime Never Committed”, in which Batman and Robin prevent an ex-aquarium worker from robbing his place of business, are just as good, and pack an awesome punch. Anyone looking for some good, continuity-free Batman tales would be a fool to pass this up.