Archive for February, 2013

By Alex Headley

SPOILERS ARE ON FOR THE REVIEW OF BATMAN INC. #8

This exchange is great, it’s the highlight of my comics week for sure. Property of DC Comics.

Batman Incorporated #8

Well, this is it, the end of Damian Wayne, at least for now. Grant Morrison prepares to wrap up his years long epic run on Batman and the end of his arc begins with the end of his brightest star, Damian Wayne. Morrison introduced us to Batman’s bratty, psychotic killer of a son way back in Batman #655 before the New 52 hit. Damian was not well received at first, either amongst fans or in the book itself. Raised by the League of Assassins and dropped off for Batman to deal with as a distraction, Damian quickly took to making the Bat-Family’s life a living hell. There’s not denying that he was a little brat but over the next few years Morrison and Peter Tomasi would make everyone love the little guy. We first got a glimpse of his potential after Bruce died in Final Crisis (also written by Morrison) and Dick Grayson took over as Batman, making Damian his Robin. That first volume of Batman & Robin, by Morrison and Frank Quitely, was fantastic and quickly established Damian as one of the best characters in the DCU. The new dynamic duo slowly bonded over fighting crime and Damian grew a conscience and a heart , eventually winning over the family while still being a bit of a thorn in their side. Volume two of Batman and Robin by Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have made the character even better, building him up over the last 17 issues into a well rounded and well loved character. I dare say that Tomasi wrote him better than Morrison but it’s ol’ Grant that gets the last word, killing the character on the last page of Batman Inc. #8 as he fights to save his father and the rest of Gotham from his rampaging mother.

This issue is great, but that’s not surprising at all because the whole series has been consistently excellent. And though, the New York Post’s interview with Morrison spoiled what would have otherwise been quite a shocking ending, it’s still heartbreaking to see Damian go out fighting against his mother’s twisted vision for what he should have been. His last words are especially rough because we finally see his bravado crack. Damian has had emotional moments before, especially with his father and Alfred over in Batman & Robin but in battle he is usually quite literally a cocky son of a bitch (Talia is downright ruthless these days). But as death approaches, he cracks, and so does the reader. Up until that last page or two, you really think that he can pull it off (if it weren’t for the spoiler at least) as he takes on wave after wave of bad guys and gets the upper hand against his evil twin early in the fight. But he goes down under a hail of arrows and a sword to the chest. Batman escapes his death trap just in time to see his son dead at the hands of Talia’s monstrous clone and breaks down. I’m not sure where Morrison is taking the story next, but there will surely be hell to pay in the coming months.

But enough about the death, the early bits of this issue are where the real quality lies. Robin gloriously charges into battle, proving every bit the warrior and vigilante his father is before teaming up with Grayson one last time in a sequence that is both hilarious and appropriate for what comes next. It’s a great playback to the first volume of Batman and Robin and it made me want to open up those back issue instantly. The classic dynamic duo double punch even makes a return, although its far less effective than it was before. We also get a great opening scene with Red Robin that makes me like the character again for the first time in years. Jason Masters handles the art for these pages and though I’m unfamilar with him as an artist, I have to say I really enjoyed his style. Chris Burnham takes over the rest of the issue and is fantastic as usual. His unusual layout approach is great for the Damian vs. Damian fight and I love the smoke cloud sound effects earlier in the big battle. But it’s no surprise at this point that Burnham does a great job.

Morrison always has a big game plan for his stories, so we’ll see if Damian’s death sticks or if his Al’ Ghul bloodline gets him out of it somehow. Regardless, we are in for a few months of the Batman Family experiencing their biggest loss since Jason Todd died at the hands of the Joker. Of course this time, it’s not an adoptive son for Bruce. It’s his own flesh and blood. The first glimpse of this will be Batman and Robin 18, an all silent issue as Bruce begins the grieving process.

The cover to Guardians of the Galaxy #1. Property of Marvel Comics.

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

Brian Bendis kicks off his run on the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe with a look at the origin of Peter Quill, aka Starlord. This is an interesting tale that puts a much more human, earth-centric spin on the character than we saw in the last volume of GoG and despite my misgivings about Bendis handling my favorite Marvel franchise, I enjoyed it. Much like Nova last week, I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, despite the lack of Rocket Racoon and Groot. Peter has an origin that is both very in line with Marvel Comics and a few classic sci-fi tropes. This story focuses mostly on Quill’s mother and her love affair with Spartoi spaceman, J’son. We get a fun little romance montage that artist Steve McNiven really knocks out of the park. It’s completely silent (a rarity in Bendis comics) and works very well. We also see early evidence of Peter’s heroic nature as he defends kids on the playground from bullies. Iron Man makes an appearance at the end and it looks like he will be full fledged member of the team, something I’m not crazy about but at least his new armor is cool and it’s interesting to see the character branching out a bit. I don’t have too much more to say about this issue, as it is a fairly standard setup story for bigger things to come but one thing I didn’t like is the new costumes for the team, specifically on Gamora and Starlord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Gamora finally has the sense to wear armor into combat but it lacks any personality. It’s the exact same thing that Peter is wearing and it’s just not memorable at all. It’s generic and feels like a bad sci-fi movie prop. I miss Starlord’s helmet and Gamora’s skull motif. Maybe the costumes will improve a bit down the road (Gamora is in her classic get-up in Nova) but for the moment I’m less than enthused. Drax, Groot and Rocket look fine, if still a bit lacking in classic comic style. The last couple of pages are a bit exposition heavy for my tastes as well but it serves its purpose well enough. Overall, I liked the book and I will definitely be back for more when the next issue hits.

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Batman Inc. has been Grant Morrison’s big Bat-Epic story for the last few years. It’s been great but it’s nearing the end.

So, did anyone peek at the Grant Morrison interview in the NY Post today? I’m sad to say I did. It spoils a major point in Batman Inc. 8. I hate spoilers in the news because unlike leaks or forums, I just can’t seem to resist reading them. I want spoil it for you guys but if you read Newsarama at all then chances are you figured it out thanks to their half dozen articles on it today. I have mixed feelings on the actual story development but I’m reserving final judgment for when I actually read the issue. Either way at least we know that this was probably Morrison’s plan all along.

This was a huge week in comics for me. My biggest pull  in quite some time. I’ll be splitting my reviews this week into two posts so check back later this week for my impression on Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Nightwing and Action Comics. Also, if you picked up any of the newly launched books this week (Nova, JLA) I would love to hear your opinion. Leave me a comment on the blog or on facebook or email us at comiccritiqueblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.

By Alex Headley

The new JLA as drawn by David Finch.

Justice League of America #1
This issue is pretty much exactly what you think it is, an introduction to the team. And that’s just fine because Geoff Johns and David Finch( who is at the top of his game here) do an excellent job setting it up and making each character interesting. This is especially true for Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Catwoman and Stargirl. The story is told through a conversation between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller and I quite liked their back and forth banter, even if skinny Waller tends to be much less intimidating than her previous incarnation.  Johns makes peripheral characters like Hawkman interesting for the first time in the New 52. The same goes for Catwoman ( even if I hate the low-cut bodysuit thing). Stargirl is brand new to the New 52 and though her introduction is short, I’m intrigued by Johns’ take on the character. I’m still not sold on Vibe though, even if hey have retooled his powers to actually be interesting. His introduction here is funny but doesn’t grab my attention to much beyond a quick chuckle. The most interesting story beat at work here though is the introduction of a Secret Society of Super-Villains. All we see in this issue is Professor Ivo but this is something that’s been building in the background of Justice League for a while now and I’m excited to see comics’ best group of villains return to comics. Every incarnation of the Secret Society has been different and so far we can guess that this one will include Black Manta, Ivo, Cheetah, Metallo and Ocean Master. Maybe other villains have been hinted at in books I’m not reading? Either way, I’m happy to see the possibility of a good old fashioned heroes vs. villains brawl before we get to the upcoming Trinity War event that seems to be pitting hero against hero. If you are on the fence on whether to pick this title up, hopefully my recommendation will push you to get it. It seems like it will have a much better opening act than Justice League proper did when the New 52 launch and seems like it will be home to some fan favorites that we don’t get to see much anywhere else in comics. I know I’ll be picking it up just for Martian Manhunter. Plus, Geoff Johns is a pretty safe bet.

Rocket and Gamora make an early appearance in Marvel NOW! ahead of the teammates.

Nova #1
Ok, so I’ve been skeptical of Sam Alexander, the new Nova, from the start. Where the hell is Richard Rider? How did the Nova Corps start up again? These are questions I desperately need the answer to. And yet, I really enjoyed the first issue of this new series. It has a great sense of adventure about it and kind of reminds me of a Pixar movie in tone and style. It’s very cinematic and instead of jumping into the thick of a cliched( though there are plenty of cliches to go around here) origin story, writer Jeph Loeb takes his time with this first issue and establishes this as a story about family above all else. Loeb makes Sam Alexander likable, mature and a bit of a brat at the same time. It’s hard not to be rooting for him from the get-go.  Also, Rocket Racoon makes an appearance and that is great. Really, that alone makes it worth the cover price. Marvel has a great cast of cosmic character that deserve just as much attention as the big name teams and it feels like that’s what Marvel is going for here. It looks like we will be bouncing back and forth between Earth and space quite a bit but if the family drama can deliver at home like this first issue, I don’t really mind. I was skeptical of artist Ed McGuiness initially as well, he ha a reputation for just being all style and no substance but he really knocks it out here. He gives the book a big, bold tone that finds a great balance between big sci-fi action and smaller, more emotional moments.
I enjoyed the book, but its not without flaws. Some of the early action sequences are scattered and a bit hard to follow and some of the dialogue is a little too hokey for my taste. Still, ill be picking the next couple of issues at least and I’m more excited than ever to check out Guardians of the Galaxy next month.

Injustice #6
The digital first series tie in to the upcoming Mortal Kombat style video game has made its way to the regular reviews. Issues 5 and 6 really won me over as writer Tom Taylor continues to pen an incredibly interesting elseworlds tale that doesn’t lose sight of what comics great. Issue 5 takes a step back from the overall story to pair Harley Quinn and Green Arrow for a pseudo buddy cop story that is absolutely charming and full of pathos and character. In short, I loved it even if the art fails the story at times.
Issue 6 swings the other way and gives us a look at just how Superman will go about building his regime that we will see in the game. The opening sequence is great and really sets the stage or what’s coming. Likewise, man of steel’s trip to Bialya to overthrow a dictator is reminiscent of one of my favorite scenes in the first Iron Man but with far more emotion on display. This is Superman on the edge, but he’s still Superman at the end of the day. But even in the middle of such a dramatic moment we get a great little gag that Taylor does a great job of balancing that  got a chuckle out if me.
Superman’s new found edginess and the suspense that comes along with it with our established understanding of the character. And while he did kill the Joker in a fit of rage back in issue 4, we already see him toning it back down. This is not a murdering, rampaging Superman, but a man with immense power that sees that he has fault the world and is out to rectify it. This also gives a glimpse into an always interesting concept for the Man of Steel and that’s the question of ‘why doesn’t he fix the whole world?’ Why just America, why only Metropolis? I like the idea of a global Superman and while its been played with before, we’ve never seen it on quite this level. Wonder Woman is subtlety great here too, although she appears only very briefly. She is both a voice of reason for Superman while also pushing him forward.
Although I liked this issue, I am disappointed that we don’t get to see Batman’s initial reaction to Superman murdering Joker. That’s a conversation I want to see so hopefully they will return to it.

Justice League 17
The finale to Throne of Atlantis is predictable enough but still makes for good comics. The big battle with the Atlanteans and the Trench if illustrated well and seeing Aquaman lead the charge and claim his title of badass is nice but the twist from the last chapter isn’t very interesting. Vulko is just not very compelling as a villain and Orm’s threat has been played out already in the rest of the event. I’ve like how this event played out, crossing over with just Aquaman and Justice League. It didn’t get out of hand or too big for itself or flood the market with needless tie-ins. That’s a step in the right direction and something I think DC has done quite well in the New 52. Ivan Reis is a perfect fit for this book and delivers some great action and dramatic staging. This feels like a big budget Hollywood blockbuster battle, which is the perfect tone for a Justice League book involving invading Atlanteans and flesh eating fish. The expanded reserves team gets a few fun moments as well. Firestorm sucks in a fight apparently and Zatanna has time to pull double duty as a JL:Dark team member and reserves for the big league it seems. Likewise, Black Canary seems to be joining the team despite her involvement with the Birds of Prey. The best part though is the surprise appearance of a new Atom. Or at least someone wearing a familiar red and blue suit and shrinking down to microscopic level. Here’s the catch though: it seems to be a woman in the costume! Who could it be? I’m excited for the return of the Atom, as every team should have a shrinking dude (or in this case, a dudette).

*Spoiler Warning*

The story ends with Orm in prison on the surface (where it seems the Secret Society will be making contact with him), Vulko in custsody of the Atlanteans and sees Arthur restored to his throne. But in a somewhat expected twist, this separates him from Mera, who is referred to as a convict by Orm in the big battle. She begs Aquaman to stay and says that she cannot go with him despite his urging for her to do so. I hope Mera doesn’t stay out of the picture long, she is one of the best things in that book and the pair are one of the few classic couples left in modern comics.

Avengers #6
Make that two in a row for the Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert. Much like last issue’s focus on Smasher, this issue takes some time to delve into the current Captain Universe and I gotta say that I liked it quite a bit. Though part of that may be Shang-Chi’s involvement in the story( I’m a fan). Shang-Chi meditates with the Universe to finally give us some answers about the mysterious character. Captain Universe is a complicated character but Hickman handles her pseudo origin quite well. It has hints of tragedy and hope all at once and gives us our biggest hint at Hickman’s overall thesis for his Avengers so far. Rebirth seems to be a big theme for the story, both in characters like Captain Universe host Tamarra, and the Superior Spider-Man’s and the direction the larger plot is taking as well. Ex Nihilo’s creation finally speaks in this issue and reveals not only his name, Nightmask( confirming that this is Hickman’s take on New Universal ideas and characters)  but also the next big threat for the Avengers, the White Event. This issue is almost all talk and no action but Kubert really delivers, especially in the early pages and with Tamarra’a flashbacks. There’s a great scene with Spider-Man and Cannonball as well that brings some much appreciated humor to the story while also giving us a glimpse into the daily lives of this new team, something that was a heavy focus of the Bendis era of Avengers. This book has dramatically improved since moving on from its first three issues and I hope the new threat introduced here doesn’t slow it back down. Hickman is at his best with thoughtful dialogue and big ideas, not necessarily in big action and I hope he can find a balance for that in the upcoming chapters.

By Alex Headley

The great cover to Batman & Robin 17. Property of DC Comics.

Batman & Robin 17

By now its well documented that I love one-shot stories that focus on character. That’s exactly what Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason deliver in B&R 17. This tale of dreams within dreams is charming, horrifying and cuts to the core of what’s great about the current dynamic duo. Tomasi has regularly delivered heartfelt father/son tales in this series and I’ve enjoyed just about every week. Standout scenes this time include Damian’s fun race through the Wayne Mansion on the back of his dog Titus and three great dream sequences for the little bat-family at the mansion. Alfred’s Joker induced nightmare is both chilling and hilarious and appropriately gives us some closure on Alfred’s little journey with the Clown Prince of Crime in Death of the Family. Meanwhile, Batman’s nightmare sequence pays homage to Batman and Robin #1 with a return to the paper boat and the exorcising of the darkness. Bruce really has made great strides towards happiness in this series and Tomasi takes time to reflect on that in a fun way in this issue. Damian’s dreams reference Frank Miller’s classic Year One story in a great scene at the beginning of the book. Pat Gleason delivers some truly surreal visuals here and it’s great fun to see him play with camera angles and unconventional character designs (Joker whale!) Gleason is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, he has an instantly recognizable style but also offers a wide range of talents, showcasing action just as well as emotion and tension. He and Greg Capullo have really defined the look of the current Batman titles and probably for a few years to come too. Seriously, anyone looking for a great Batman title, look no further than Batman and Robin.

 

Batgirl 17

Gail Simone takes a two issue hiatus starting with issue 17. Most of you are probably aware that this hiatus is a result of Simon’s very temporary ‘firing’ from the book and the resulting fan outcry that got her reinstated. If you aren’t familiar with this incredibly amusing story, you can check it out here. Anyway, Ray Fawkes, the current co-writer on Justice League Dark with Jeff Lemire, takes over here with a tale about James Gordon Jr and does a more than adequate job. The narration is off-kilter a bit, it just doesn’t quite work at times, but the rest of the issue is quite enjoyable. The back and forth banter between Barbara and her brother and Comissioner Gordon’s absolutely hard assed approach to apprehending his son are good moments. James Gordon Jr. is a creepy, creepy dude and that doesn’t change here under Fawkes’ pen. It’s nice to see James finally playing his hand instead of skulking in the shadows, he’s been built up in the book for several months now. While I’m not sure his plot here will be better than, or even rival, his excellent story found in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run before the New 52 I do think it will be a worthwhile read. Slightly less interesting is the new villain in the story, Firebug. He seems to be just like the old bat-villain Firefly but without the jetpack. Maybe we can get a better read on him next issue but as it stands I just feel like he is cluttering up a story that already has a villain and plenty of goons to punch. Those aforementioned goons are Joker’s henchman from his plot in Death of the Family and there presence in this story is the only indication that those events took place. Unfortunately, this feeds my disappointment with that event’s lack of consequences . It just doesn’t seem like there will be much fallout at all. This issue also features a new artist, Daniel Sampere, who I quite like. The lighting of the flames in particular is good, but best of all, his characters show some real emotion and the action scenes have a good sense of motion to them. It’s not the best art in the world by any means but it serves the story well.

The cover to Fantastic Four #4 features more aliens than the interior. More of the Thing too. Property of Marvel Comics.

Fantastic Four 4

This was not my favorite issue of this series so far, not by a long-shot. That distinction lies firmly with issue 1. In fact, issue 4 is probably my least favorite stand alone so far as it struggles with its narrative a bit, bouncing back and forth between lighthearted memories and present troubles a little too quickly. I feel like The Thing is really getting the shaft here too, he’s played almost exclusively for laughs and catchphrases and its getting a bit old. It was charming and funny early in this series (Susie, how do ya take somethin off tha internet?) but here it feels like a rehash of every story about Ben Grimm that’s ever been told. He and Johnny both fall into their stereotypical roles and just haven’t done much so far, which is a shame. This issue is all about Reed and Sue and Reed’s love for his wife. It’s touching for the most part, but at the same time, Reed comes off as more than a little on the creepy side, what with altering an alien races’ culture and all. Said aliens are then brushed to the side for the remainder of the issue to focus on family drama and some flashbacks. The flashback scenes are nice and the family drama is appropriate, especially the callback to Franklin’s nightmares in issue 1 and Sue’s motherhood skills. Mark Bagley is doing a fine job in the art department ant although he doesn’t get to draw any action this time around, he still does a great job with the ‘acting’ on the page. Sue and the kids stand out once again. I’m still really enjoying this title, but I hope things get to moving a little faster with the next issue. FF is delivering more story for this book than anything else and still managing to be more fun too. Matt Fraction clearly has a favorite of the two.

The cover to Batman 17 is great. Greg Capullo really nails the atmosphere and tone for the event. Property of DC Comics.

By Alex Headley

Note: Spoilers are on for this week’s review of Batman 17.
Batman 17
This is it! The end of Death of the Family and the final chapter is… Kind of a mixed bag. It’s not bad though, Snyder still delivers great dialogue and Capullo’s art is still stunning (seriously, this guy may be my favorite Bat-artist ever). It’s just that the events don’t really live up to the hype. Nobody dies, nobody is horribly disfigured or even hurt for any period of time. And that’s fine, death and dismemberment is kind of useless in comics these days but DC promised a shocking twist and a brave new status quo. It’s just not there. Yes, there’s a bit of a wedge driven between the Bat-Family, but its nothing shocking or monumental in scope. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the event over the last couple of months and I still think its one if the best Joker stories since A Killing Joke but the big ending just doesn’t deliver. It really falls prey to the hype machine surrounding modern comics ( which I guess this blog contributes to a bit. Interesting.)

And of course there’s the big payoff, the death of the family. Yes, the group is a little more mistrusting of Bruce and seem to want to distance themselves a bit, but how much we’re they really interacting anyway? Batgirl has crossed paths with Bruce once in the New 52 and Batman has had barely anything at all to do with Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The same goes for Tim and his adventures in Teen Titans and Dick in Nightwing. And Alfred is just fine by the end of the story. The only one strongly tied to Bruce at the moment is Damian and because we know he has some big things happening over in Batman Inc. I think he will be okay. In fact, we see in Batman and Robin 17 (spoilers: it’s great), also out this week, that Bruce, Damian and Alfred are getting along just fine.

What does work though is the Joker. This event fails to really redefine Batman and friends in any meaningful way, but it casts the Joker in an incredibly interesting new light. Joker’s always been a complicated villain but here its taken to another level. The whole Bat-King and the Jester angle really nails the dynamic between the two and the Joker’s innuendo towards Bruce is both disturbing and appropriately funny. Joker’s complete obsession with Batman and complete disinterest in anything else makes him so much more personal and terrifying and I’m glad that DC’s premier villain is back in the picture and very excited to see what he does next. Joker’s return and new attitude is the real gem in Death of the Family and in many ways, he is also the character that suffers the most. He rejects Harley early on in the story, essentially leaving her for Batman. But Batman, his true love, completely scorns him, choosing his family instead. It’s interesting to see the Joker so clouded by sentiment, something we never associate with such a horrifying villain, that he chokes up on his big plan. It’s that sentiment that keeps him from defeating Batman and it seems like, in his current mental state at least, he’ll never be able to. The flashback seen late in this issue offers tons of interesting insight into the Joker’s psychosis and will likely be a point that is used in future stories to great effect.

Disappointing  though is the resolution of Joker and Batman’s fight in the cave. The whole ‘villain falling off a cliff and the body is never found’ gag is the oldest trick in the book and really comes off as lazy.  It’s just a little too cliche and familiar to be interesting.
There are a couple of interesting bits here in the ending though, such as Joker’s little black book being empty or the Hahnium element in the toxin used on the Bat Family that delivers a great final page. Overall, I think Death of the Family has been a great little event and a brilliant look into the dynamic between two of comics’ most iconic and powerful characters.  Batman 17 just isn’t the story’s strongest chapter.

By Alex Headley

The cover to issue 5 is my favorite so far. It just has a lot of personality. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers 5
This issue marks a tremendous improvement for this book. Everything the last two issues was lacking, this one has in spades. Intimate character moments, interesting new characters, big space battles and entertaining dialogue between Avengers. Finally, this feels like the book it’s supposed to be. Smasher is an instantly likable character and an excellent addition the Avengers roster. Her origin story, told in this issue, is born moving and original. This is a complete 180 degree turn from Hyperion’s mediocre origin tale last issue. Lets hope Hickman can keep this up because this was a hell of a ride. Of course any comic featuring Gladiator is sure to be a hit with me. I would to see more cosmic stuff take a central role in this title, the cast calls for it really and it looks like we might get that soon thanks to some interesting images found in New Avengers this week.

This is the kind of cosmic scale conflict that Avengers promised and even though this new plot interrupts the A.I.M./Garden sites story, its okay because it’s so intriguing and frankly last issue’s exploration of the Garden sites was kind of dull. Adam Kubert performs a great deal better this time around too, rendering the small moments on the farm just as well as the big battle in Shi’Ar space. This story feels a bit like new ground for Hickman, who is always focused on big casts and big moments. Slowing down his epic story to focus on Isabel for so long gives her a higher level of importance than some of the other new additions. And that’s okay. More than anything I feel like this epic story needs a point of view character to keep it grounded. Isabel can serve that function perfectly. This is a character I definitely want to see more of in the future and who feels like a proper addition to the Avengers cast.

New Avengers 3
Wow. This issue is intense. Just one punch is thrown here and only two pages break up the talking heads but Hickman not only makes it work but also makes it tense, touching and epic in scope. The introduction of Beast to the team is great, even if Epting seams to be sticking with the previous Beast appearance and ignoring his new mutation. Do you think that was intentional or just a continuity blunder? That little detail and Cap still wearing his old costume really begs the question as to when this story takes place. Writers should never be a slave to continuity but a little consistency is appreciated too. At least with his own books.

Beast’s introduction gives us a great window into the state of the Marvel U and how Xavier’s death has changed the world. The Illuminati is pretty shaken up by the end of this issue.  Beast is probably my favorite mutant so his addition and Hickman’s obviously deep understanding of the characters make for some great moments. Cap’s absolute refusal to budge on morality is exactly in character. Likewise the pragmatism of the rest of the cast is appropriate, even Black Panther was a bit of a dick about it.
Steve Epting continues to impress me more than ever on this book. He does a great job with body language and facial expressions and I think he is largely the reason this issue works so well. I’m not sure anyone else could pull it off but the lighting and layout really make this comic easy to read and understand. Reed, T’Challa and Cap all have great moments in his issue. I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Black Swan  and the call back to it later in the issue, Hickman did it last issue too to great effect. But it’s the return of the infinity gauntlet that’s the biggest news here and it’s telling that Marvel just released a teaser for a Hickman penned free comic book day special titles Infinity. Looks like more than Age of Ultron is brewing on the horizon.

The covers to Animal Man 17 and Swamp Thing 17 form a cohesive image. Property of DC Comics.

Rotworld Finale 1&2
*this review contains mild spoilers*
The end is nigh and Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have teamed up to send the event off in style. Here at the end, things are just as fun, gross and over the top as the rest of the event has been. There are some really cool moments here, especially in Animal Man 17(Green Lantern Frankenstein!) and the battle at Arcane’s castle is big, bad and ugly. It seems like all might be lost on several occasions but the heroes manage to always find another option, just before a new threat beats them down again. The battle has an excellent ebb and flow, takin time to highlight all the combatants and give us more rotling cameos to spot in the carnage. Beast Boy, Batgirl, Frankenstein and of course Animal Man and Swamp Thing all get their moment in the spotlight before the plot moves on to Anton. And that’s where things suffer a bit. We all knew from the beginning that this little ‘What If?’ Tale would be reversed somehow and that is a blessing and a curse. It lets Snynder and Lemire have plenty of fun with the established characters but also doesn’t allow for much of a lasting impact. And so the fates of Buddy and Alec’s loved ones just doesn’t have the proper impact. Especially once the time travel solution is revealed. Although I do like that the Rot is instrumental in saving the day after all the damage done by Arcane.
Animal Man is definitely the better of the two this time around. And that’s almost entirely due to the art in Swamp Thing. It’s not bad, heck I might even like the style in a different comic, but it is not the right style for this dark tale. It’s far too cartoony and bright and lacks the depth and moody atmosphere needed for this story. And it comes at absolutely the worst moment. Swamp Thing is by far the more emotional of the two stories here, Animal Man mostly featured bad-ass fights,  and the art completely fails to convey that. This is especially tragic in the handling of Buddy’s breakdown after his fight with Maxine. It’s weightless, it no impact whatsoever for me and I’m a pretty invested reader at this point. This is an example of how art can hurt a comic book, especially a change in artist. Yanick Paquette is very sorely missed here.

The print cover to the comic is identical to the game’s US box art.

This post will avoid spoilers for the Injustice story as best as I can but if you guys are interested in a more in depth breakdown of the story, let me know and we can get a discussion going in a later post. I will be reviewing the game once it hits on April 16 as well so look out for that too.
By Alex Headley
I wrote last week that I had mixed feelings on the tie-in comic to Netherrealm Studios upcoming DC brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us. I’m not a huge fan of stories being ‘dark and gritty’ just for the hell of it but when you put the team responsible for the ultra-violent(and super fun) Mortal Kombat at the reins of a Superman story that’s what your going to get. And you know what? It works. Injustice offers us a great ‘What If?’ tale that, so far at least, is both entertaining and thought provoking. This story could never be done in the main DCU, it holds nothing back and in the span of three issues has totally changed the course of these character’s world. These heroes are trying to be the best humanity has to offer but seem to fall short when faced with the ugliness and insanity that also exists on their world.

Here’s a trailer for the game’s story mode: http://youtu.be/l27-3NJqpiA

If all that sounds a little heavy for a video game tie-in book, rest easy in knowing that this is also a story in which The Flash gives Batman a piggyback ride and Harley Quinn names a submarine Gunter. There are some genuinely heartwarming moments too and some fun dialogue between Batman and Superman before the shit hits the fan.Tom Taylor, whom I haven’t heard of before this book, does a great job at balancing out the light and the dark here, especially considering that this is a story mostly crafted by the game staff and it has to end at a certain point. Taylor clearly has a good handle on the characters and I would like to see more of his work. The art is less impressive, its not bad at all, its even good at some points but its just not very memorable and the costumes designed for the game are not great. They embody everything that is wrong with the New 52 costumes but lack any real charm. Superman with shoulder pads is not a good look. On the bright side though, Wonder Woman gets pants! In the end, I think this is a title worth picking up for fans of the characters, and especially so if they plan on picking up the game in April, which if your interests crossover from fighters into comics is a must buy. The last Mortal Kombat was stellar and it looks like the team is really pulling out all the stops on this one. Not too mention that’s the only way we get to see the rest of the story play out. Imagine that, a fighter with a story worth paying attention to. What a concept! So brush up on your fighting skills and prepare to duke it out with the Justice League.

What do you think of the story so far? Too dark or an interesting take on iconic characters? If you are picking the game up, who are you most excited to play(all of them!)? What characters do you hope make it into the game that haven’t been announced yet (Aquaman!)?

The new reserve members get some significant screen time here. Also, Black Lightning! Property of DC Comics.

Aquaman 16
Throne of Atlantis continues here and takes some time to mend the relationship between Aquaman and the League. We get some more great stuff with Cyborg too and a few scenes with the reserve league called in at the end of Justice League 15. It’s a solid, entertaining book. I like that Batman is unhappy with Cyborg’s decision to call in the reserve league but at the same time very concerned about Victor in general. Batman has always been a character that cares about kids and its nice to see that extends beyond the various Robins of the DCU. Of course this is Aquaman’s book and so much of the issue is dedicated to him and some of the history of Atlantis in general. I’m glad to see the Trench return as it gives Aquaman a legitimately bad ass threat to deal with, and the plot revelation that comes along with their return is fun and intriguing if just a little on the predictable side. But predictable is to be expected in a big cross over event and at least with Throne of Atlantis meaningful things are happening. The DCU is expanding and it feels exciting. A new team is a big deal in this universe now as is the introduction of new threats. Throne of Atlantis is exactly why the New 52 was a good idea. Arthur has really been fleshed out as a character with the New 52 and I’m glad to see that development extend to the rest of DCU and benefit the line as a whole. I wish the same would happen with Wonder Woman, maybe after Trinity War.

Justice League Dark 16
Honest Constantine is funny stuff. The stuff with Tim Hunter and Zatanna is a little exposition heavy but the fight with the anti-magic cop keeps things fun. Deadman has a couple of great moments too as he gets to actually punch something for a change. It looks like Ray Fawkes is being groomed to replace Lemire in the near future and if things continue as they are I think that will be okay. The current arc is certainly fun and new and if he contributed to any of that we are in good shape. DC seems committed to making the fantasy/magic genre work in mainstream comics and this title is taking big steps toward bring more and more sci-fi/fantasy elements into the universe. Wizards, trolls, fairies and other mystical creatures send this straight into D&D levels of fantasy. Add in some fancy science cops and you have a fun clash of three genres all at once. With characters like Frankenstein appearing so prominently too, it’s really just a literary/mythological mish-mash of ideas that is just a joy to read. I’m very interested to see where it all goes and how it affects the New 52 in a larger capacity.

The cover to Flash 16. Property of DC Comics.

Flash 16
Flash is still a beautiful book and 16 finally moves the story forward in a big way. But I’m still ready for this monkey business to be done with. I don’t have much to say about Flash that I haven’t said in the last couple of months. I really hope that the title gets back on track when we are done with Grodd. The Rogues are genuinely interesting as is the potential love triangle between Patty, Barry and Iris. But none of that gets a lot of attention, instead the proceedings here feel a bit hollow, the big moment teased in the last issue is a non-issue and results in nothing more than a change of scenery. I want to care about what’s happening here but the emotional core just isn’t there and the storyline isn’t weighted at all. Things just kind of happen and then other things happen and that’s a shame because the big debut of Gorilla Grodd to the New 52 should have been bigger, meaner and lots more fun. The same goes for the new and improved Rogues and Barry’s new connection to the speed force. Instead, it all gets mushed together into an unsatisfying narrative. But hey, at least it’s pretty.