Archive for November, 2012

by Phil Gibson

Alex got his comics reviewed earlier, now it’s my turn. This week I’m looking at a trio of second issues from the Marvel NOW! imprint: Thor: God of Thunder #2, Uncanny Avengers #2, and All-New X-men #2. Be ye warned, there may be SPOILERS ahead.

Thor: God of Thunder #2

Well, he did ask...Property of Marvel Comics

Well, he did ask… Property of Marvel Comics

I read this issue twice, because the first time I didn’t really like it. It seemed a bit superficial, especially since most of the issue is spent on one fight with very few words exchanged.

The second time through, however, I enjoyed this issue tremendously. Esad Ibic is doing a phenomenal job on the art for this series, so everything is beautiful to look at.

I wasn’t sure I like Aaron’s approach in this issue initially. Something I liked a lot about issue #1 was the juxtaposition of young, current, and old Thors’ encounters with the God Butcher.  There was little to none of that in this issue, just a young Thor with an axe fighting off a would-be God Murderer. The end of the issue, however, manages to remind the reader just different this Thor is. The God Butcher has no idea what a God of Thunder is until Thor hits him with a bolt of lightning, and it would not be the least bit surprising if that moment solidified that identity. This Thor cannot lift Mjolnir yet, and he is trying desperately to prove his worth. It’s an interesting study in the life of an immortal.

What really makes the issue interesting, however, is the readers’ lack of knowledge about the God Butcher’s motives. Thor implies that he may know what would drive a being to murder immortals, and the Butcher obviously despises the gods, but the reader is left out of the loop for now. I finished the issue wanting to know more, which may be Aaron’s entire goal since he is stuck trying to push out two issues a month. I expect #3 to be full of more story than is present here, but #2 does a good enough job to keep me reading.

Uncanny Avengers #2

Remender is killing it with this series. From the opening issue the scribe is doing what he does best, which is giving us a look behind the motives and misgivings of people drawn to a single cause. Here we start with a distraught Wolverine at the brink of giving up on Xavier’s dream, who is even more hacked off when he finds out Captain America is making a mutant team with Cyclops’ brother instead of him. Meanwhile, the incident from issue #1 ends up proving Cap’s point, that Alex Summers may be one of the only mutants who can build a bridge with the human race.

On a side note, one of the common gripes about issue #1 was that no one knew why Thor is on this team. Remender deals with that complaint in efficient fashion here, as the god of thunder at once points out the scale of the mutant-human conflict and the tragedy that the two races haven’t been able to work things out on their own. A god should not have to intervene to resolve differences between people that should not exist, and it is kind of pathetic on our part that he has to.

Scarlet Witch shows why she is more than just a mutantProperty of Marvel Comics

Scarlet Witch shows why she is more than just a mutant Property of Marvel Comics

We also get a great insight into Rogue and Scarlet Witch. With Rogue, issue #2 starts to explain why she is a great fit for this team. In addition to being incredibly resourceful with her powers, Rogue has a unique experience with being a mutant villain who became a mutant hero, while Scarlet Witch is trying to redeem herself for decimating the mutant community. Rogue’s anger at Scarlet Witch is juxtaposed against her on struggles to be accepted by the X-Men.

Speaking of the Scarlet Witch, Remender manages to cast Wanda into a light that I haven’t really seen her in before – as a mutant. She’s been an Avenger so long that you forget whose daughter she is and what race she belongs to, especially since she is responsible to decimating the mutant race. But here she is a mutant who is a little more than a mutant, as she points out. Rogue can steal her mutant abilities, but she’ll never know how to use magic, a balance that captures the Scarlet Witches’ nature perfectly.

By the way, Red Skull is scary as hell in this series. I wasn’t sold on using him as the villain in this series initially, but now, he’s the worst possible thing that could happen to the mutant community at this time –  a genocidal, maniacal bigot with the power to persuade huge groups of people to his side. The Uncanny Avengers will have their hands full in this series, and I’m absolutely thrilled about it.

All-New X-men #2

Things start to get a little nuts in All-New X-men #2
Property of Marvel Comics

I wasn’t thrilled with issue #1 of this series, but Bendis is starting to sway me a little bit more with this outing. The dialogue is still forced in certain places, and there is too much exposition, but the characters don’t take themselves quite as seriously as they did in the first issue, which is funny considering how much Beast’s little time-travelling stunt immediately results in potentially catastrophic happenings. Within the first 5 pages, young Beast finds out old Beast is probably dying, young Jean Grey knows she is dead, young Cyclops is going through an identity crisis, and young Angel doesn’t even want to know what happened to him (good call Warren). The only person not going through a total crisis is Iceman, whose future self is pretty much the same with a different coat of paint.

Most of this issue is spent with the characters in a state of chaos, which suits Bendis better than a linear events. Potentially cataclysmic events are getting made very quickly, with the present day X-Men scratching their heads to figure out what they are supposed to do.

There are some cool fanboy moments here, such as when Wolverine sees the young Jean Grey for the first time. In additional, Stuart Immonen is the perfect artist for this series. One thing I can say for Marvel NOW! is that the publishers did an excellent job matching artists with titles. I have yet to see a book with bad art (that may be because I only buy good books, but whatever).

I am growing more optimistic about this series. Hopefully Bendis doesn’t end up using some ridiculous gimmick to fix everything at the end of this arc, because I am really enjoying seeing things spin out of control.

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By Alex Headley

Marvel Now! FF #1 cover. Property of Marvel Comics.

FF #1

FF manages to keep all the charm of Fraction’s sister series, Fantastic Four. The two books are so intertwined it’s almost the same story. Like Fantastic Four before it, FF is mostly set up for what’s to come but it has a lot of heart and humor. The real star of the show is Scott Lang, the Ant-Man as Reed convinced him to lead the Future Foundation in his absence. Marvel’s first family is taking a four minute vacation out of known space and time. It’s just four minutes (supposedly) but hey, this is the Marvel U and some whacky things can happen in four minutes. So Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa and Johnny Storm’s girlfriend will protect the universe while Reed and the gang are away. This issue introduces to the new FF and to the children of the Future Foundation. The set up is fast and fun and should provide a working knowledge of the characters for anyone that is unfamiliar. The little interactions between characters are just great. Ben and She-Hulk sparring, Medusa and Sue Storm sharing a drink over New York, Reed and Scott talking about science and big Marvel goings-on and Johnny generally Johnny with his pink haired girlfriend. Everyone’s personality really shines through in a big way. Fraction’s dialogue is a big part of that but what really hits home is in Mike Allred’s pencils and his wife Laura Allred’s colors. The art in this book is just fantastic. It feels at once fresh and classic with a big of a Jack Kirby appeal to it. The colors are vibrant and full of life and there is a real sense of motion and emotion in every panel. I could go on and on about the Allred’s work here but to keep things short; it just works and I think it will become an iconic style for comics. I can’t wait to pick up issue 2 of FF next month and see just how much can happen in four minutes.

Batman Incorporated #5

The cover to Batman Inc. #5 starring Damian Wayne as Batman. Property of DC Comics

Grant Morrison has done some crazy stuff with Batman over the last several years but I think his biggest impact on the character has been Damian Wayne and Batman Inc. #5 is all about Damian. We’ve glimpsed the dark and gritty future of Damian Batman before in Batman #666 before the New 52 hit. Things are even gloomier this time around as the Joker has infected the entirety of Gotham with a maddening disease. Somehow, Batman Inc. must stop this future from ever coming to pass and if you read last issue, you know Damian isn’t so happy about that. Damian has really come to be a great character both in Morrison’s work on Batman Inc. and the first volume of Batman and Robin and in the current volume of Batman and Robin with Tomasi. He’s a bit of a brat but when written well is a very sympathetic character. Batman Inc. itself continues to be a fun concept and although we don’t see much of the supporting cast in this issue, last month’s all out brawl with Leviathan forces in Gotham gave us a glimpse of each one. This week’s cliffhanger puts much of that cast, including my favorites Knight and Squire, in a great deal of danger. Chris Burnham continues to do an excellent job with the art in the series. This one is more straight forward than most of his work but the action is exciting and the scenery is beautiful. But his biggest accomplishment here is the creepy factor. The Joker zombies present in this book are terrifying and the little things in each panel really drive that home. Burnham doesn’t spell it all out for you but lets the atmosphere really sink in.  A couple panels with a future Barbara Gordon are particularly chilling. Morrison obviously has big things planned for Batman Inc. before his departure from mainstream comics and I couldn’t be more excited for it.

 

Justice League Dark #14

Justice League Dark has become an important book. Magic is a big part of the new DCU and Constantine, the team’s leader, seems to be at the center of it all. There is one panel in this issue that has some big clues for what is coming up in the next year or so of comics. Jeff Lemire’s wrapped up his first big story arc in last month’s Justice League Dark Annual #1 and this week we get a little time to breathe and meet some of the more obscure cast. The focus here is largely on Black Orchid, Amethyst and Frankenstein as they explore the House of Mysteries. Lemire obviously had fun with the idea as we are treating to room after room in the haunted place of power that Constantine calls home. I love Frankenstein in the DCU and I’m happy he seems to be getting a new home in JLD after his book is cancelled. Lemire was writing his series before so it seems like a natural shift for the character, even if that means getting less of the crazy fun of S.H.A.D.E. This is mostly a one and done story, but it’s also building to the next arc titled “The Death of Magic”. The JLD readies to track down Zatanna and Timothy Hunter-both of which mysteriously disappeared in last month’s issue-but when the Phantom Stranger shows up, you know something is going to go wrong. It looks like Justice League Dark will play a huge role in the upcoming Trinity War crossover. I’m looking forward to what happens next.

 

Aquaman #14

Aquaman #14 is one of the slowest entries in the series so far as it’s mostly set up for the next issue of Justice League. The Throne of Atlantis even starts in Justice League 15 and promises a full scale invasion of the surface world by an Atlantean army. We do get a glimpse of some important stuff here. In true Geoff Johns fashion, there are lots of secrets and hints about what’s to come in this issue. Black Manta’ use of the word ‘we’ and his totally badass encounter with Amanda Waller. Aquaman’s conversation with his brother Orm, the current king of Atlantis and some more history on the underwater kingdom are all tantalizing. Hopefully it will all play out in a satisfying way next month. I’m glad Aquaman is getting an event crossing over with the rest of the DCU. The last arc, while great, was a little isolated and I think Arthur should be a big player. The series current artist, Pete Woods, does a decent job of mimicking regular penciller Ivan Reis. The art is good but I’m just not a fan of using a back up artist to mimic a more famous guys’ style. If you have to replace the artist at least let the new guy stand on his own. The figure work is a little loose here but the atmosphere and backdrops are gorgeous. The stormy sea and the depths of the ocean look great but Aquaman himself looks a little off and Orm, whose face is perpetually bathed in shadow, just blends in with the scenery. Still, this is a good entry in a great series leading into what will hopefully be a big, fun event.

 

Flash #14

Pages like this one make the Flash on of the most visually appealing books on the market. Property of DC Comics.

Flash #14 continues the struggle with Grodd and his army of Gorillas. I’ve mentioned before that there is just a bit too much going on at once in the book right now and this issue doesn’t change that. I had almost forgotten that Iris West and some civilians were still trapped in the Speed Force. The introduction of Solovar only muddies things further here. Still the core conflict, Flash’s fight with Grodd and the Rogue’s attempt to repel the Gorillas is exciting. As always, Francis Manapul and Brain Buccellato’s art is a thing of beauty. The Flash has never looked so good. The lightning when he and Grodd run, the wind when Turbine does his thing and the ice when Captain Cold gets busy bring a lot of dynamic visuals to the proceedings, each with a distinct feel and personality. The scenes with the Rogues are especially great. The team has used scenery to title the story in every issue of the series and looking for that “DC Comics Presents The Flash” in the background has become a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s written in ice, sometimes in fire or lighting but it’s always cool to see. Flash is a truly innovative book when it comes to the graphic side of things and an example of using the same guy for story and art can work to a book’s advantage.

 

The cover to the latest issue of Justice League Beyond.
Property of DC Comics

By Alex Headley
DC’s digital first series bring the DC Animated Universe to comics on a monthly basis.  The three books, Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond are available digitally for $.99 an issue. That’s a great price for any comic, especially so when it brings back a little of Bruce Timm’s Justice League series. I loved that cartoon series almost as much as Batman: The Animated Series (which is responsible for my love of comics). Although I didn’t watch it much when it was on the air, Batman Beyond was pretty good and some of its better ideas are on display here. I haven’t been following all three series but Justice League Beyond brings back a lot of that animated DC style. One of the arcs even flashes back in time to the romance between John Stewart Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, managing to finish up some dangling plots from the series. The book’s first major arc includes big time action with threats like Darkseid and a giant world destroying. The new cast is interesting and includes Big Barda, Superman, Micron (a new Atom), Aquagirl (Aquaman’s daughter), Batman, a new Green Lantern and Warhawk (a thanagarian warrior). Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne make appearances as well. The emphasis on the cosmic side of things is great. DC doesn’t focus on its sci-fi enough, not since the Rann/Thanagar War miniseries have we got this much of a glimpse into the cosmic side of the DCU. I’m very much looking forward to learning more of the cast’s origins.
Dustin Ngyuen and Derek Fridolfs take on writing and art duties for the book and do a great job of giving it an animated feel that is appropriate for the series.
The series is more than worth the ticket price. Check out the first 15 issues on Comixology if you are looking for some fun stories. You can also pick up physical copies at your local comic shop. I believe there is even a print bundle of all three series for $6.99.

Comic Critique is back! I hope you missed us. Here are my reviews from last week. Let us know what you think. Enjoy!
By Alex Headley

Indestructible Hulk #1
Property of Marvel Comics.

Indestructible Hulk 1
Hulk’s Marvel Now! debut lives up to the hype. Mark Waid and Leinil Yu really knock it out of the park with issue 1, delivering a new status quo with a fresh take on the Hulk/Banner dynamic. It feels
like a natural development for the character and gives Hulk a context for membership in the Avengers and for any future team-ups. Banner and Hulk feel like they live in the Marvel U more than ever. Everything feels very connected and intertwined. At the same time, Waid keeps it approachable, this issue could almost take place in the Marvel Movie Universe. Coulson and Maria Hill are there and SHIELD has the everepresent quality established in the films. The Bruce Banner on display here reminds me of Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal in the Avengers as well. Reserved, caring, and wildly intelligent with just a bit of an edge. An anger ready to spill over at any moment. Yu’s use of the ticking clock is a great way to illustrate the tension and fear that Banner’s presence brings into a room. It’s very cinematic. The issue is primarily setup and exposition but Waid’s dialogue makes it work and Yu does a great job selling the tension and emotions on display. It’s probably his best work at Marvel. When the action does pick up, it doesn’t disappoint. Hulk does indeed get to smash and we get a fun look at an underused villain that helps drive another theme. The classic science gone bad tale is a classic in Marvel. It’s what started the Hulk and now it seems that’s exactly what the Hulk and Bruce will find themselves combating with the help of SHIELD.

Justice League 14
The current Justice League story arc is intriguing. Establishing villains and a dynamic to the team is a good direction for the title. And the emergence of classic villains like Cheetah is good. The character is more interesting than ever here, her ties to magic making her very dangerous in a DCU that is increasingly defined by mystical forces (a point driven home by the backup feature starring Black Adam ). Overall, this was a great issue. I particularly like how the team catches the Cheetah( Aquaman!). Where things fall a little flat is the art. Tony Daniel does great when the fists and fur are flying but his style is less interesting in the quiet moments. Clark and Diana’s relationship is developing organically and I genuinely enjoyed the back and forth dialogue between the two but Daniel just doesn’t sell it for me. His panel composition, the colors, the framing is all great but the emotion just isn’t there. But that doesn’t ruin a good story and I’m happy to follow the Justice League into their first big event “Throne of Atlantis” next month.

Wonder Woman and Batwoman prepare to take on Medusa in Batwoman 14.
Property of DC Comics.

Batwoman 14
Batwoman continues to be one of the best books in the New 52. The current arc sees Kate Kane teaming up with Wonder Woman to take on a mythical army. Everything about this issue is great. The art is as beautiful as ever and the characters really shine here. I love the interplay between the two heroines. Watching them react to each other is a delight.
Wonder Woman’s respect for Batwoman helps elevate a previously isolated character. Likewise, Batwoman’s awe and admiration for Diana is believable and funny. That bit of fun is welcome in a book that is dripping with menace and darkness. A meditation on the pains of immortality and the difficult choices faced by the pair. J. H Willaims and Haden Blackman share writing and artistic credit and both continue to impress. This is a gorgeous book with intelligent layouts that take full advantage of the medium. These guys understand that comics allow for some unique visual effects and use that to move the story forward and provide depth to the proceedings. This series has been great from number 1 and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Nightwing 14
Lots of exposition, bad pacing, poor dialogue and a lame introduction to a classic villain do not make a good comic. Nightwing 14 hits all those points and more, failing to entertain. The return of Lady Shiva should have been interesting but this encounter lacked any tension or drama. This issue really seemed to be going through the motions. Part of the problem is the rush to tie into Death of the Family- events have a way of ruining in progress stories- but surely this could have been done better. The Shiva story could have been pushed back to accommodate instead of squeezing everything in like this. Still, some of the subplots are interesting and I’m interested to see what the Joker has planned for Dick. Hopefully the quality will pick up for Nightwing because he is definitely one of my favorite characters in comics and one of DC’s higher profile books.

Wonder Woman 14
Brian Azarello has me excited about what’s coming. The tease p the New Gods in this issue is great and really gives the ongoing story new weight. But the meat of the book is Wonder Woman’s interaction with her sister Siracca. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is at once kind and powerful. Her attitudes feel very classic and I am loving the new cast introduced throughout the series so far. This book is a major success story for a character that has failed to find an audience for decades. The emphasis on mythology and the addition of a static supporting cast and world finally gives Diana her own little family on par with Superman or Batman. My only issue with 14 is the sharing of art duties. Cliff Chiang has been incredible on this series and the back up artist, fails to impress. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t hold up to Chiang’s pages and it breaks the mood a bit. Art swapping aside, Wonder Woman continues to excite. I’m ready for the return of the New Gods and the continuing conflict between Zeus’s many children.

Thanksgiving Break

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Editorial Not

No post today, taking time off for the holidays. Sorry guys. I’ll be back Monday with reviews from this week’s comics. Until then, feel free to listen to the first Comic Critique Blog Podcast here. You can also download it on iTunes by following the link. We’ve built a bit of an archive for you to read through as well so if you missed our earlier posts, please check them out.
Thanks for reading!

Comic Gaming will be a semi-regular feature on Comic Critique. In each post I’ll talk a little about my favorite video games starring comic characters or concepts and review any new games that come out.

By Alex Headley


I’m a sucker for a good fighting game. Probably because my dad worked in an arcade when I was young and I cut my gaming teeth on Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II.
But my favorite has always been the Marvel vs. Capcom series which pits Marvel heroes and villains against the likes of Mega Man, Ryu and Chun Li. Most of the games in the series let you create a team of three characters from either roster. You can tag characters in and out to string combos together or call in an assist to do a quick attack and then leave the screen. This 3v3 combat style makes the game unique and really lets you customize your playstyle. The  latest iteration in the series is Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It’s also the easiest to handle, which is good because despite my love for the genre, I am not a great fighter. I thought I was good because I usually come out on top when I play with family or friends. But UMVC3’s online component put me in my place awfully fast. I’ve won a couple of games but many more matches were complete blowouts. I really only stood a chance with Hulk thanks to his easy combos, high damage and armor. But he’s slow so a fighter like Zero (from Mega Man X) can tear him up pretty easy. To cover his approach i use two projectile assists like Dr. Doom and Iron Man. Both of which have some fun combos of their own.

The game has a huge roster to choose from.

Being a comic fan, most of my teams are all Marvel; Dr. Strange, Hawkey, Nova, Super-Skrull and Rocket Raccoon (yes, you can shoot people in the face with the coolest raccoon of all time) are some of my favorites. I like the Capcom roster too, namely Ryu (a classic), Haggar( Final Fight),  Arthur (Ghosts and Goblins), the aforementioned Zero and the Nemesis ( Resident Evil). Character combinations are the heart if the series and experimenting with the roster is the best part. Playing Arcade mode on varying difficulties is a great time but Ultimate really shines in Heroes and Heralds mode. This lets you expand on the base game with the addition of action cards that alter your abilities in some way. Some may take away your ability to block for a huge damage boost or let your health recharge faster at the cost of your special meter. Some of the effects get kind of crazy, letting you play three of the same character or enter a power up phase that pushes your character over the edge. The best ones let you siphon health from your enemies or have an endless special meter to perform lots of Hyper Combos. The mode adds a lot of playability when your friends aren’t around and you can’t hang with the professionals online. Capcom fighters have a huge community and tournaments often have cash prizes. Fighters are a regular part of the E-sports trend and all the big guys use the online mode to train. But even if you will never win a million dollars for a well times shoryuken, MVC has a lot to offer gamers and comic fans alike. Nothing beats having friends over for a friendly round robin tournament to see who comes out on top. The game is highly technical so I recommend you spend some time in the training mode and mission rooms for the characters you like.

Comics and fighting games will collide again in early 2013 when the creators of Mortal Kombat release Injustice: Gods among us. It pits all the biggest DC comics characters in epic one on one battles. It’s a must buy for me so ill review for you guys when it hits. I’ll do a write-up for the Marvel Heroes action MMO when it finally hits as well.

Batman Heroclix introduces Prime dials

Posted: November 17, 2012 in DC, Games
Tags: ,

By Alex Headley


The Batman Heroclix set adds a lot of new things to game. Vehicles are the most prominent addition but the possibly more impactful addition is that of prime dials. Prime dials are rarer than normal dials and as a result the pieces are more powerful. The trade off is that only one prime character can be on your force for a game. Prime characters are denoted by a green ring on the dial. Here’s the thing, prime pieces are numbered differently, instead of having their own number in the set, and each prime is just a rarer version of the normal piece. For instance, Catwoman is number 007 in the main set. Her prime counterpart is 007b. Both are common pieces but the chance of getting the prime Selina Kyle is much lower. Selina is also a much improved figure over regular ol’ Catwoman, sporting better powers and values for fewer points. This is a great way to add more valuable ‘chase’ pieces for collectors. However it also leads to the slippery slope known as power creep. Prime figures will dramatically outclass older pieces (or even pieces in the same set) thus making the less powerful figure irrelevant. This is already the case with super rare and chase figures that are in each set, but those typically come with a high point cost to off set the power. They are also different characters or takes on popular characters. Game designers can get around this hurdle with intelligent game design and giving popular pieces varied point values. keyword and special powers to break up the game. That’s the case in the Batman set.

 

The aforementioned Catwoman and prime Selina Kyle are capable of different things. Kyle is the perfect thief, able to swipe special items and relics from opponents and staying in the shadows to keep safe. Catwoman played it stealthy too but is more of a team player with a fun support special power and picking up better defenses with a teammate nearby. The two are uncomfortably close in point values though, with Kyle clicking in at 69 and Catwoman coming in at 71. Kyle has significantly better combat numbers as well. There are prime figures at every rarity in this set. Catwoman/Selina Kyle at common, Sasha Bourdeax/Black Queen at uncommon, Hush/Bruce Wayne at rare and Batman/The Caped Crusader at super rare. The best part is that these are extra figures in the set. They don’t take up a slot that would otherwise be occupied by a new, possibly inclined character like Batwing or El Gaucho.

The batman set vehicles are no less complicated. Unfortunately, the cards for the vehicles include a lot of text and extra rules that makes playing them a bit of a chore. Still the fun of ramming your enemies with the Batmobile makes up for it in my book. The dials are very long and since the pieces are bigger can make great tie up pieces, and mobile blocking terrain to hide behind. They can fight too but take damage for doing so. Their ability to carry several figures across the battlefield at once is invaluable. Especially on teams without fliers, like Gotham City and Police themes. Plus, when they are destroyed, they become ultra heavy objects that super strength pieces can use in combat. Standouts include the Blue Beetle’s Bug for its hypersonic speed and ability to avoid or heal damage and the Batwing’s ability to drop its passengers in its flight path.

So, clixers, what do you think of prime dials? Are you happy with the Batman set? Will you be fielding the new vehicles? Let me know in the comments.

Bonus! Here are five of my favorite pieces from the set. Go check out their dials in the HCRealms units section. Here’s a link: http://www.hcrealms.com/index.php?page=units

Runner-Up

BM 207 The Joker

The counter top display Joker is my preferred clown in this set. Both Jokers in the set are good, but this one has indomitable, trait probability control on your turn and a fun trait that lets him get revenge on anyone dealing damage to a friendly Harley Quinn. Throwing a Harley around as bait is great fun when the Joker comes dashing in with a free close combat attack. Lots of keywords make him a versatile piece and I love to play theme teams.
5. BM 010 Blackbat
This is an obvious choice. Cassie Cain will be swing lots of competitive play. Charge in with an incapacitating quake to deal damage and knock back to multiple opponents then use a free smoke cloud to get back stealth. If that doesn’t work she is plenty capable if holding her own with combat reflexes and super senses, outwit, exploit weakness and close combat expert keep her useful. Batman Incorporated keyword cinches it.

4. BM 031 Alfred Pennyworth
This butler means business. Opening click perplex is nice but the second click onward is where Alfi shines. Super Support with a range of 4 and  perplex is a winning combo. Just like in the comics, Pennyworth keeps the Batman Family safe and healthy for cheap. And indomitable lets him keep it up and make sure he is in the best position to take care of your team. All that for just 42 points.

3. BM 019 & 005 Beast Boy
The morph mechanic returns! In DC75 Beast Boy could morph into several different animal forms. Batman adds two more options a dolphin and a pterodactyl. The pterodactyl is my favorite here because it can carry multiple pieces and still packs some offensive power with charge and exploit weakness. The dolphin has some fun water bonuses but water is too rare to really make use of it. The best part is that these animals are packing the teen titans keyword, meaning you can start with one on your force instead of the lackluster human form offered in DC75.

2. BM 032 R Big Barda
I’m a fan of the New Gods and especially Barda. Which is why I voted for her inclusion in the set in WizKids first big fan vote. I was very pleased that she won and even more pleased with her dial. She bring more to the table than the typical brick piece thanks to her Boom Tube trait. It allows her to incredibly mobile and position to where she can forge most damage. Her second trait gives her extra defense for each action token, encouraging pushing and constant offense. Very character accurate for the aggressive New God.

1. BM 048 SR Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze puts the often overlooked power Barrier to good use. Barrier shenanigans are fun and Freeze uses it well, making 9 range close combat incapacitate attacks against anyone adjacent to his barrier. His three targets are escape finally useful as he can target multiple character with his special engaged combat expert power and thanks to his trait gets a bonus to his attack for each character targeted. It’s a fun dial for one of my favorite batman villains.

by Phil Gibson

You saw Alex’s round-up earlier today, where he treaded into Marvel NOW! waters with the relaunch of the Fantastic Four.

My pull list had just two books on it; Brian Bendis’s All-New X-Men #1 and Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder #1.

All-New X-Men #1

I am not a huge Bendis fan. Let’s get that out of the way before I say anything else. My impression of his Avengers work is that it was ambitious but not nearly as profound as he might make it out to be.

All-New X-Men #1
Property of Marvel Comics

That being said, his take on the X-Men shows some promise. Bendis introduces several subplots before getting into the actual meat of the “time-travelling first class of X-men” idea that has been at the center of discussion for this book. Beast in particular gets a lot of productive screen time as he is seemingly racing against time to leave a positive legacy on the world. Bendis does a good job with Hank McCoy, and I’m looking for his storyline to be one of the more intriguing as this book gets rolling.

On the other hand, Iceman is little more than a plot device thus far in the book. This is where my knocks on Bendis’ storytelling come in. Iceman repeatedly points out throughout the book how ashamed their younger versions would be of what is going on now (seeing as Cyclops has essentially taken on the role of Magneto at this point). It’s as if Bendis is saying “Look, right here, I’m foreshadowing that the original X-Men are going to show up and be shocked at what they see! Here, right here, there;s a plot twist!” The dialogue could be a little more subtle, and Bendis could trust his reader to pick up on what is going on without constantly spelling it out.

All in all, this issue could be a setup for a great story arc. There is plenty of room for things to get very interesting. For example, I’m really hoping there will be some excellent back and forth between past Iceman and present Iceman about his lack of progress into adulthood. That would do a lot for Bobby Drake’s character development. Unfortunately, this issue simply sets the scene for what we already know is coming. That’s not a bad thing, but it also means that readers are unlikely to gain a lot of information they didn’t already have from this issue.

Stuart Immonen’s art is fantastic in this issue. This is one of the best looking X-titles I’ve seen in a while. It’s right up there with Jerome Opena’s work on Uncanny X-Force, which is huge praise coming from me. The issue is looking at for this reason alone.

I’m hesitantly optimistic about this series. The X-men have been in need of a good central story for a while, and the outcome of the Schism storyline didn’t quite deliver that. Coming out of AvX, I’m hoping this title can establish itself as the central X-title.So far, it looks like that might be the case, but with a hoard of other X-books still hanging around it is hard to tell right now.

Thor: God of Thunder #1

Being from Alabama, I love Jason Aaron. He’s the best thing to come out of Jasper since, well, probably ever. If I am skeptical of Bendis simply because he is Bendis, I’m just the opposite when it comes to Aaron.

That being said, Thor is a weird fit for Aaron’s writing style. He tends to write characters a little campier than most, and I was a bit afraid that his Thor would come off as too over the top as a result. Boy, was I wrong.

Thor: God of Thunder #1
Property of Marvel Comics

Thor: God of Thunder carves out a whole different niche for Thor as a character. The God Butcher storyline alone takes us far away from the goings-on of the Marvel Universe proper, and this is a good thing. Aaron makes it clear from the opening page that this story is about all things mythological and otherworldly.

It has been known for a while that God of Thunder would look at Thor in the past as a young god, in the present as a major god, and in the future as the rule of Asgard. That being said, I was still surprised at how these different timelines are handled. Thor is in very different places in each age, but facing the same problem of gods being mysteriously slaughtered. However, the scale of this problem is obviously growing throughout time, from a minor background mystery early on to an apocalyptic level catastrophe near the end.

The timeline switches serves a very important purpose in this book. It shows how relative the idea of time is when a character is immortal. The God Butcher has been killing gods for millenia, but the incidents in the first issue don’t feel that far apart chronologically. This makes it clear that Thor’s place in the universe is unique compared to his fellow Avengers. In the grand scheme of things,The Avengers’ problems are a blip in time for Thor, while problems like the God Butcher are lifelong issues in a very real sense. The affairs of gods are indeed very different than those of mere mortals, and Aaron does an excellent job of establishing this.

It helps that the art in this book screams epic. Esad Ribic’s and Dean White’s pencils and colors fit with the mythical feel of the book, so much so that it doesn’t feel quite like a comic book. This might not work that well for some, but it is incredibly appealing to someone like me, who is interested in what art does thematically to advance the story.

I’m really excited about this book for two reasons. First, I think Aaron is writing a different Thor story than we have ever seen, and brings him back to his roots as a god of legend. Second, this book can be read without ever thinking about the rest of the Marvel universe. I love not having to worry about finding tie-ins to a story, and this book fits that bill perfectly. If you are interested in reading comics without getting tied down to a massive number of titles, Thor: God of Thunder is a book for you.

The Review Round-Up will be a regular installment here at Comic Critique. Phil and I will be taking a look at our pull lists each week and reviewing the new issues of our favorite books. If you enjoy our thoughts, leave suggestions on future books for us to review.
By Alex Headley
It is a FANTASTIC week in comics for me. Only three books on my pull list (all bat-titles!) this week so I decided to take a chance and pick up Fantastic Four #1. I am very glad that I did. The start of Marvel NOW! and the next chapter in the Bat-Event Death of the Family made for some great comic book stories.

Batman #14.
Property of DC Comics

Batman #14
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continue to blow me away each week. Their work on Batman is just brilliant. Their reintroduction of the Joker is chilling and brutal. This is a frightening Joker and everything about the comic hammers that home. While nothing in this issue tops the creepiness of Batman #13’s first couple of pages, the atmosphere is still dripping with tension. The lettering does a fantastic job. You can practically hear Heath Ledger’s performance as he speaks. The way his voice rises and falls, first full of laughter and what could almost be described as glee and then immediately switching to a more menacing, threatening tone that gives you chills. It’s rare for a comic to give such a visceral voice to a character but Snyder delivers on every page. I particularly enjoyed Bruce and Dick’s discussion on the roof of the hospital. Things do not look good for the Bat-Family as Joker targets each of them one by one. Alfred was the target last week in the event’s opener and this week Jim Gordon is in danger. But it’s the final pages of the book that really make this stand out as a soon to be classic Joker tale. His monologue on the bridge is pitch-perfect and really does a great job of setting up what’s coming.

Batgirl 14
Property of DC Comics

Batgirl #14
Batgirl immediately delivers on the promises of Death of the Family. The book has been strong since it’s start thanks to Gail Simone’s excellent understanding of Barbara Gordon. Death of the Family is especially poignant for Babs because Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke is still in continuity. The Joker shot and paralyzed her in that 1988 story, forcing her to retire as Batgirl and take up the mantle of Oracle for the next decade or two. The New 52 cured her paralysis (though we still aren’t sure how that happened) and put her back on the streets fighting crime. Babs is typically an optimistic, upbeat character but events change that in issue 14. Batgirl is teetering on an edge that many heroes find themselves in at one point or another, especially those in the Batman Family. Can she lead any kind of normal life, where is the line between heroism and vigilantism? Should heroes kill dangerous villains? These are questions she hasn’t had to wrestle with very much before (In the New 52, she only operated as Batgirl for a year before being shot and hasn’t been back in the picture for long) and it will be interesting to see how she resolves these big questions. Especially since her family is so heavily involved in goings-on around Gotham City. The recent return of her estranged mother and the danger she finds herself in now-not to mention her sort of villainous brother James-really cuts to heart of an event that is all about family in the first place.

Batman & Robin #14
While this issue barely ties into Death of the Family and involves a plot that falls flat it’s the relationship between Bruce and Damian that saves it. Tomasi has put a lot of work into developing Damian Wayne over the last year and it’s finally starting to pay off. The little brat has grown a sense of compassion and it’s on display here more than ever, even if he still is a bit of a know-it-all. The story here, part two in a two-part arc, feels like background noise. Robin fights a cult of cannibals, Batman does some detective work, there’s some fun fight scenes. But all that just serves as a vehicle to bring father and son a little closer together. That’s been the typical MO for the book so far and while it worked best in the Nobody story arc, it still has some meat left to it. The book looks to tie in a little more with Death of the Family in it’s next issue, hopefully Robin’s interactions with the Joker will be just as interesting as everyone else’s despite having much less history. Batman & Robin was not the best book on my pull list this week but it was still a fun read.

Marvel NOW! Fantastic Four #1
Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four #1
I picked this up on a bit of a whim this week. I’ve been more interested in Fantastic Four’s sister book, FF, since the beginning largely due to the quirky characters involved and Mike Allred’s art. But I have to say, Fraction really knocked it out of the park with Fantastic Four #1. No easy feat considering Jonathan Hickman’s run on the series is already the stuff of legend. I heaped a lot of praise on Matt Fraction last week, and he doesn’t disappoint me here. I’m not the biggest Fantastic Four fan but the characters are the very definition of iconic and Fraction proves that he is more than capable of writing and understanding these characters. While, the Thing is a little too catchphrase dependent for my taste, his interactions are still fun and full of humor. Fraction’s Reed Richards is a little more likable than recent incarnations, even if he does still love to keep secrets. Johnny Storm’s date in the Negative Zone gave him just enough character development to make me like the guy again. The Human Torch is often played for laughs or portrayed as a reckless loser. While he is indeed reckless and narcissistic, Fraction manages to give him just a hint of underlying sweetness and legitimate charisma to keep him from being a caricature. Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman is the perfect mother figure in the Marvel Universe and that comes through here as she checks on each member of the team and the kids of the Future Foundation before going to bed herself. The Fantastic Four is about family first and foremost and Fraction does well to establish that in his debut. Also, the concept going forward for the book is exciting and true to the team. A year’s trip through the space-time continuum is exactly the kind of thing the Fantastic Four should be doing in their book. I’m sure the title will deliver big action, high science fiction concepts and a family dynamic that can’t beat in comics. It’s definitely earned a spot on my pull list.

That’s it for me this week. Check back later to read Phil’s thoughts on his pull list for the week, including All New X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder.

Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The opening splash page for All-Star Superman.
Property of DC Comics.

Grant Morrison is a polarizing figure in comics. I admit, sometimes his stories can be a little too far out (Final Crisis) and more confusing than they should be (New X-Men) but when his style comes together, it really works. His run on JLA is my favorite iteration of the team despite the lack of Hal Jordan (I’m not a fan of Kyle Rayner) and the inclusion of electric blue Superman. His run on Batman has been a wild ride, especially Batman and Robin and Batman Inc. But it’s his take on Superman that is his greatest contribution to mainstream comics. Morrison’s Kal-El is a powerful, virtuous, iconic character that lives up the legend. All-Star Superman showcases this better than anything. Without being confined to continuity or worrying about keeping the series running, Morrison manages to tell the definitive Superman tale. Supporting characters help make heroes what they are and Morrison hits all the nails on the head: the charm and fun of Jimmy Olsen, the determination and curiosity of Lois Lane, the greed and narcissism of Lex Luthor and the compassion and intelligence of Superman. It’s that intelligence that really sells the character for me. Supes is a smart guy interested in far more than just punching atomic robots and catching falling ladies. Morrison’s Superman tends a galactic garden, cares for monstrous creatures and solves conflicts with wit before resorting to violence. He even stops his superheroing to care for a young woman in need of some encouragement.

Property of DC Comics.

It’s the busy as a bee attitude that Superman takes on that leads to some great moments. I won’t spoil the whole story for you but the basic idea is that Superman only has so much time left and must complete 12 challenges before overexposure to the Earth’s yellow sun kills him. The story takes on the aspect of a Greek tragedy and that use of mythological imagery works. There is an element of science fiction at work here too, and that melding of science and myth is a recipe for good comics.   Morrison is a big believer in the idea that superheroes are a modern pantheon and his treatment of Superman has always had that element to it. Superman is a constant, driving force of nature and a paragon of virtue. It is what Superman does with his power that defines him, not his power in and of itself. I really can’t say enough about the series, it is without a doubt my favorite Superman story. It made me love the character again after years of being jaded about his relevancy. Morrison makes Superman relevant by staying true to the character of Superman. He doesn’t try to make him edgy or cool. Superman is a little cheesy, a little too good. But maybe we need a character like that. If superheroes can’t be superheroes in superhero comics then what’s the point? Dark and gritty has a place in comics, it really works for Daredevil for instance, but Superman is the bright spot of optimism and I hope it stays that way. The New 52 Action Comics has done an excellent job keeping this tradition running. I just hope Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel and continue to capture the essence of the character when they take over the title at issue 18. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a small dose of All-Star’s brilliance every month while Morrison has been on the flagship Superman title.

The New 52 Action Comics explores Superman before he becomes the world’s top superhero.
Property of DC Comics

I almost forgot to mention the art. I’m a fan of Frank Quitely’s work. It gives the book a very classic feel. His costumes are particularly fun. And the underworld full of bizarros has some great sight gags. The action scenes are well laid out and give Superman a real sense of weight and power. Likewise, his Lex Luthor always looks to be up to something (because he totally is) and  his Jimmy Olsen looks like the happiest guy in the world. His Lois Lane isn’t the best though, she just doesn’t look as iconic as the characters surrounding her.

The direct to DVD animated movie adaptation is pretty good to, even if some of my favorite scenes were left out. DC animation has a proven track record, check out their take on All-Star and any of their other animated features if you get a chance. Wonder Woman is especially good.