Comic Book Reviews: DC Comics Round Up Week 08-10-2016
Scott Snyder is back on Batman in an "all –star" way! (see what I did there?) as he teams up with two fantastic artist in Veteran John Romita Jr. and upcoming superstar Declan Shalvey. How does it hold up to his previous Batman NEW 52 run? Well read on to see! Also we get the return of the deadliest man in the world -- Deathstroke -- which was penned by the super talented Christopher Priest.
ACTION COMICS #961
STORY: Dan Jurgens ART: Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert
Review: Typically I don’t like it when a series keeps changing artist issue to issue, but honestly each illustrator that’s jumped on to ACTION COMICS with Dan Jurgens has been top notch! I’m a huge fan of Tyler Kirkham and Patrick Bircher, and equally a huge fan of Stephen Segovia! And, to be fair, a book like ACTION COMICS deserves to constantly have the best working on it. It’s why I’m glad Jurgens is back on Superman duty as he truly gets this character and helped write so many fantastic stories in the pre-52 era. In this issue, the battle with Doomsday continues with seemingly no end in sight, and Lex is trying to do what he can to help battle-ravaged Metropolis with the seemingly non-super Clark Kent. We even get a very small cameo from Superwoman (debuting in her own series-review further down). The big twist is it seems the mystery man watching all this unfold on monitors has a bigger organization and plan, a plan which seems to involve capturing Doomsday. It has been an absolutely blast seeing these Doomsday and Superman fight again, with the added part of Superman remembering their old battle. Jurgens keeps the action going but I gotta wonder once the dust settles what will come next?!
ALL-STAR BATMAN #1
STORY: Scott Snyder ART: John Romita Jr. Danny Miki, Declan Shalvey COLORS: Dean White, Jordie Bellaire
Review: Snyder is back! And he’s traded up Greg Capullo for the duo of JrJr and Declan Shalvey which isn’t too shabby at all! Snyder has made Batman the #1 most wanted man in Gotham! Well, kind of. Really it’s Two-Face who’s responsible, and the reason being he’s got dirt on almost everyone. What’s Dent gonna do with the secrets of Gotham’s citizens? Well he’s going to reveal it all unless someone stops Batman from taking Two-Face to a secure location, which apparently will prove the end of the Two-Face persona! It’s an interesting concept, sort of merging stories we’ve seen before. In the DARK KNIGHT movie Joker plans to show Batman how twisted Gotham really is by pitting citizens against one another, somewhat similar to what Dent is doing here. The second story is the age old classic of Harvey Dent trying to finally get the Two-Face persona to go away. It’s been done before and failed, as often Dent ends up scarring his face up all over again. Still, in Snyder I trust and so far the story is moving along at an awesome pace (considering it’s only a portion of this issue). So we'll keep tuning in to see how Batman resolves this and travels all those miles! The backup story by Shalvey and Jordie on art duty is a bit more on the character Duke, who’s being set up as Batman’s new Partner (it’s emphasized he’s not a sidekick)? It seems Duke isn’t going to be part of DETECTIVE COMICS' little Bat Army, so I guess he gets special training from Batman himself. What does the training entail? Well, a wheel of PAIN!! Not really, it seems to be some sort of “condensed” training program based on all the knowledge Bruce has learned -- oh and it's color-coded, which is for some reason why all of Batman’s allies (who apparently have all gone through this training) have the color schemes they do. It’s a bit of a hokey story and plot, but Declan is drawing the hell out of it so I’m all good for now since it’s just a back up story. $4.99 is a bit of a steep pricing point on this book, so I’d say if you weren’t a fan of Snyder’s Batman run, then definitely don’t shell out the money here, however if you want a cool Two-Face story and some JrJr art, by all means check this one out!
DEATHSTROKE: REBIRTH #1
STORY: Christopher Priest ART: Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz COLORS: Jeromy Cox
Review: The Terminator is back! I really wish they’d keep that in the title still. Not only is Deathstroke back but we got Christopher Priest on writing duty, so you know this is gonna get dark and serious! We start off with Slade somewhere in Africa helping a local warlord (I’m guessing here based on the scene) dealing with his own enemies in exchange for access to a target Deathstroke is after, who is currently being protected by the same warlord (ah, the life of a merc!) Priest does a little LOST-style storytelling as we get flashbacks to the days of Slade as a dad taking his kids Grant and Joey (Still uncertain if their fates in NEW 52 have remained the same or will be slightly altered) on a hunting trip in the only way dysfunctional family like the Wilsons can. Priest has a good handle on Slade and can quite possibly make him the true anti-hero he needs to be, and the reintroduction of a classic Deathstroke figure long thought dead adds a new element of intrigue! Making Deathstroke look like a badass terminator is Caro Pagulayan who, along with Jason Paz and Jeromy Cox, is simply killing it in this issue. Death stroke's attacks look brutal yet precise, and the use of warm colors really helps pop the action sequences. I’m hoping this is not a team that gets too mixed up and twisted (See Deathstroke's NEW 52 intro with the awesome Kyle Higgins and how bad that went) but actually gets to complete a full arc, and then some!
DETECTIVE COMICS #938
STORY: James Tynion IV ART: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez COLORS: Brad Anderson
Review: The Bat Crew to the rescue! For a team of “newbz” needing training, they sure do a great job handling an ARMY of soldiers trained to fight and think like Batman. So, ya know maybe these kids aren’t such scrubs after all. It’s a silly concept Tynion IV has here, where he wants us to believe all these characters are just “barely” getting by, but then he has scene after scene where they just kick so much ass. It makes you have to think “what’s the point of this training?” Especially when a character like Duke over in the other Batman comics (who really is a completely untrained individual) is essentially teaming up with Batman and getting on-the-job training and respect. It just feels odd. That all being said, Tynion IV does an awesome job capturing the overall vibe of these characters, giving each of them a moment to shine, while presenting enough of Jacob Kane’s side of things to see why he’s done all of this. The real question will be, is the League of Shadows real? And if so, will we be getting some League of Assassins action at some point? My hope is the MONSTER MEN crossover doesn’t interfere too much with what is going on in DETECTIVE, as that story line feels completely disconnected from what’s going on here, and it will feel very forced bringing in the crossover. Either way, Martinez and Fernandez do an excellent job making Tynion IV’s badass scenes look exactly that! From Clayface becoming a living bridge to Tim’s techno wiz skills, all the characters really look great here. So I’ll be sticking it out, even if this is the “weaker” of the amazing Batman series out right now (which is still pretty damn high on the totem pole of DC Comics), with hopes that things will settle a little more soon.
STORY: Josh Williamson ART: Neil Googe
Review: Another art change to a series. While I appreciate DC doing all they can to make sure the books arrive on time, how about we just keep some consistent artist on a book? I mean it’s not even the first story arc, and we still keep switching it up. This time around Neil, Googe takes up art duties alongside series consistent writer Josh Williamson. Googe does a good job here, he’s got a very clean and simple style that allows to showcase a lot of the Flash (and subsequent citizen speedsters) unique abilities. We’ll see who comes on board next, but I’d rather have just Francis Manapul return for art and stay on the book. Story-wise, Williamson continues with his city of speedsters, adding a twist to the whole plot in that the longer two speedsters are next to each other, the more one of them will draw away the speed force from the other. Kind of think like Highlander except with speedsters/speedforce. So Godspeed is taking away speed forces from others to fuel himself. Sound familiar? It should because that was essentially the plot of THE FLASH Season 2, except replace Godspeed with Zoom. Still, there are enough creative differences here that the story stands well enough on its own. I’m a bit confused on Wally West (Not the one currently in Titans), as it seems he has the speed force and is trying to learn to use it (except only now decides to turn to the Flash/Star Labs for help), but I was under the impression during the previous FLASh series (NEW 52 run) this Wally was already using his speed. Regardless, I’m all for a “Speed Corps,” as I’m sure when this storyline winds down it’s going to result in select few speedsters as oppose to a whole army. Hopefully Williamson stays on board long enough to finish his vision, and we don’t get any more big creative shakeups.
HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #2
STORY: Robert Venditti ART: Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona
Review: Here’s the thing with GREEN LANTERN: it seems the book is completely devoid of having the follow the rules almost any other series does in the DC Universe. What I mean is, when the “old” DC Universe changed due to Flashpoint, Green Lantern and The GL Corps books essentially remained unaffected. Their Issue 1 might as well have just been a continuation from the previous issue before Flashpoint. The same is happening here, as was hinted from the REBIRTH issue. The story did a very generic poor job in filling in any new readers (myself included) as to what is going on in the world of the Green Lanterns. All I knew was that Hal was a fugitive (from his solo series before REBIRTH) and the Green Lanterns had all disappeared, and somehow were replaced by Yellow Lanterns. No discussion on how or what happened or anything to fill in a new readers. What made it more confusing was that in GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH, it was established that Hal (not wearing the Kronus gear as seen in Hal and the GL REBIRTH #1) Stewart and Guy were all leaving earth to meet up with other GLs to investigate a disturbing force (I presumed incorrectly it would tie in to Dr. Manhattan and the whole Rebirth concept). So, here we are with the GLs returning from some mission that isn’t explained (but I’m guessing a success semi, with almost all of the GL Corps dead) and Jordan in search of them seemingly unaware that A) The GLs went someplace, and B) why the Yellow Lanterns are ruling. All of this might be explained if I feel like going back and reading Green Lantern’s NEW 52 run, but my understanding of REBIRTH is supposed to help new readers easily jump on board (like so many other Rebirth/Revamped series have done). So for this reason, writer Robert Venditti has failed. Yeah, you can pick up this series and just start reading, and still enjoy the story for what it is, but you’re gonna have questions, questions that seemingly can only be answered if you want to go back and read and older series. Keep that mind if you’re new to GL and worried about getting lost in “the history,” you probably will. A more positive note though is Rafa Sandoval’s artwork as his GL constructs are amazing. He also really knows how to put a “punctuation” on a big action moment. The art truly is selling this book, but man do I miss Geoff Johns or Tomasi writing a GL series.
NEW SUPER-MAN #2
STORY: Gene Luen Yang ART: Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend COLORS: Hi-Fi
Review: This is a fun series! Gene Luen Yang is crafting a very cool and different type of superhero story. It only adds to it that the concept of “Superman” and the Justice League are added in. He’s got lead character Kenan Kong reacting to super powers as any young teenage might, especially when that teenager is kind of a douche. Just to backtrack a bit, Kenan Kong is a normal every day teen in china that’s kind of an A-hole, but has his reasons for being angry (His mom is dead, father is kind of absent, not much going on his life). He committed an act of random heroism, and got the attention of a secret organization that seemingly-grants powers. They’ve chosen him to be China’s Superman (literally, like the powers are exactly the same) and want him to be a part of China’s Justice League! Also literally, like they have a Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of China, and probably others on the way. Kenan isn’t down with all that, he just wants to cut loose and do whatever he feels like. Problem is, this mystery organization has a way to keep him in check, and seemingly Kenan’s powers aren’t quite stable. With his unstable powers, and reluctantly teaming up with Chinese Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman to save an important political figure, all the ingredients for disaster are here! Making the story come to life is fantastic artist Viktor Bogdanovic and his team of Richard Friend and Hi-Fi. The creative group really shines as the pages burst with colorful characters and images. Everything seems big and exciting, even the small moments like Kenan doing his best to soothe a crying little girl (spoiler: He hilariously sucks at it). For a second outing, everything here is really spot-on and well put together. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend picking up and this Issue 1 to jump on board the NEW SUPER-MAN train!
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1
STORY: Scott Lobdell ART: Dexter Soy
Review: I feel like Scott Lobdell has bi-polar disorder when it comes to his writing. Within a single issue, he pumps out some great dialogue, and very cool moments, and then other times it all sort of feels lame. Case in point, we get a really cool flashback sequences to the training days of Jason with Bruce, including a sting in a boys home that goes all sorts of wrong. Then we know Red Hood wants to find out what Black Mask is planning for Gotham so he can stop it. Here is my issue: once Red Hood has Black Mask in his sights, why not just capture him and call it a day? Yeah, okay, you might not find out the end game (unless ya know, you interrogate him) but regardless, it only involves Black Mask. It’s not like Black Mask is taking orders from someone higher. It's been pretty self-evident that he wants to take over all the other crime families and consolidate them under one true crime lord (because that plan always goes so well for criminals) So, just capture him. There, problem solved. Black Mask plan can’t go further, because there is no Black Mask to push it further. You take him off the board, the thugs and lackeys disperse to pursue other criminal endeavors as they do, and move on to the next target. There really isn’t a good reason for Jason to stick around undercover working for Black Mask unless he wanted to get closer to someone else (no one else to get closer too). Not to mention, there is another former Robin who’s currently pretending to be a bad guy undercover so he can get closer to a big bad evil group (Hint: His name is Nightwing). So we already have this story line. The potential twist and way for the story to go a different route is the sudden introduction of Artemis at the end of the issue. So guess we will get a Red Hood vs. Artemis miscommunication fight-turned-team-up story next time around. So Lobdell just isn’t impressing me anymore with his storytelling. Maybe he’s out of ideas, just rehashing old ones (he did a Red Hood and Outlaws storyline already, which, hey, surprise involved a super powered female –- Starfire -- and comedic side partner, Arsenal). I’ll keep with the story because I really like the concept of Red Hood and the potential here, but I’ve got a very low bar on expectation. Where the book DOES excel is in the artwork of Dexter Soy! These are some really awesome pages, and Red Hood looks so good in action. I haven’t seen Red Hood looking this good since Rocafort, or maybe in DEATHSTROKE by Tyler Kirkham. Dexter is the man to draw Jason, it’s just maybe Scott isn’t quite the writer anymore.
STORY: Phil Jimenez ART: Phil Jimenez, Matt Santorelli
Review: I often discuss how I’m not a big fan when artists do double-duty as a writer. This is another example. I think, unlike a lot of other cases, while Jimenez is a decent writer, he’s just so much better as an artist. In SUPERWOMAN, we get the introduction of super-powered Lois Lane (the NEW 52 version, NOT the one currently with Superman over in his series) and super-powered Lana Lang (also NEW 52 version). Both seemingly obtained their powers upon the death of NEW 52 Superman. Lois gained all the normal powers of Superman, while Lana seemed to exhibit the powers of the Energy Superman (Remember that character from pre-NEW 52? He had a blue and red energy version, and everyone hated the concept and made fun of it. Yeah, it’s back). Apparently Superwoman (Lois Lane) is loved by the superhero community (Really? Because this is the first issue I’ve heard her mentioned at all, excluding the blur cameo in ACTION COMICS this week). Jimenez's story flops around between time as we get some flashback action of Lois and Lana meeting with Lois ,wanting Lana to teach her to be Superwoman the way Lana helped Clark become Superman, and current day Metropolis post-recent Doomsday attack (see ACTION COMICS). That means we get SuperLex trying to show off how awesome his armor is and his fancy new warship. Things suddenly and mysteriously go bad (as they do), and now Lois has to save the day as Superwoman, while Lana needs to also go full energy to help out! Just when things seem to be handled, it all goes FUBAR and one of the Superwomen, well….they just aren’t so super anymore. An interesting end to an otherwise by-the-numbers story, hopefully setting up a new interesting series.
WONDER WOMAN #4
STORY: Greg Rucka ART: Nicola Scott
Review: So I guess Greg Rucka was thinking “screw everything that’s come before” when working on his duo storylines for Wonder Woman. He’s got the even-numbered issues working on the “history” or ZERO YEAR for Wonder Woman, and the odd-numbered issues focusing a future storyline that I can only assume is much past anything that’s happened in the NEW 52 continuity, or even the REBIRTH events. Rucka is reworking and retconning Wonder Woman yet again, but since I find him to be THE Wonder Woman writer, I’m ok with it. He can do whatever he wants, and have Nicola Scott or whoever is doing art that issue draw Wonder Woman however they want (let’s forget that outfit Cliff Chang created). Maybe some of those stories will somehow still be some continuity, but it doesn’t appear like Rucka cares. He’s got a Wonder Woman story he wants to tell and he’s gonna tell it! This issue focuses on the first meeting between Diana and Trevor, along with the events that cause Diana to be the Amazon who must travel to the world of “men.” It’s simple, well plotted, and Nicola Scott draws everything beautifully! It’s an awesome story and due to my utter disconnect from the NEW 52 Wonder Woman series, I’m completely ok with this revamped origin. I definitely believe this storyline is much more interesting than the “future” one with Diana trying to re-find Themyscira.
That’s it for this week’s DC Rebirth reviews! If there’s a series you’re curious about and want a review and thoughts on, sound off in the comments below!
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