Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hello and Welcome

Hello there Surfers of the Super Highway,

I've been invited by the 4th Man himself to provide another view on today's comic book world! Currently I'm reading 21 series from DC's new 52 and I will give a glance how I rate them and hopefully give you all a new book to read off of my suggestions. I also read Marvel and indie comics and will provide the same for them too.

I want to jump right into a few quick reviews here. Yesterday, Dec 7, Powerhouse Comics in Appleton, Wisconsin opened at noon and I was waiting outside the door. I picked up my box of awaiting comics and also a few ones that tried to fall through the cracks on me.

Marvel: The Defenders #1
- Here we go! Marvel has been advertising this comic like crazy and I'm hoping it won't disappoint. Breaker of Worlds; Part One: I Hate Myself and Want to Die. First things first, I love the Nirvana reference here and if you haven't heard Nirvana's IHM&WTD then download it or go by the Beavis and Butthead Do America soundtrack. It's an A+ song, with heavy riffs and wailing feedback it's everything Kurt Cobain stood for.

So The Defenders started on a high note and faltered HARD from there. I've heard Matt Fraction (Casanova) is a good writer, but he leaves no proof of it here. My favorite character leaves us on page 3 after she slept with Dr. Strange without even getting help on her thesis paper! Then on page 5, I nearly put the book down entirely. HULK (green) actually asked for help. I can't believe it. Hulk was scared. Imagine, "What if HULK... had a HULK? (pg 7)" So the first antagonist is some sort of HULK squared named NUL: the breaker of worlds and he scares the HULK. This is such a farce that it makes me not want to continue reading this comic honestly. The HULK I know and love can't be scared because being scared is weak and the HULK is the strongest thing in the world. If something was stronger than HULK than it would rest SOLELY on HULK's shoulders to stop it. He wouldn't need to recruit a team like the would-be Defenders to help him.

I give this comic a F, because like Netflix my rating can't go any lower. Honestly, a F! I didn't finish even reading the book because none of the ways the characters were used interested me. Iron Fist is a waste of space, the Silver Surfer doesn't even get enough coverage to validate his presence on the team. I won't buy The Defenders #2 and it doesn't bother me at all to say that.

IDW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Micro Series: Raphael
- BUY this book! Buy all the rebooted Turtles books! Kevin Eastman is writing the Turtles again and it's great great stuff. If you are already reading them, good job, this comic picks up with Raphael having being implemented back into his family, but he still goes on runs with Casey Jones every Wednesday. Nothing like some good asskicking with Jones.

Brian Lynch writes and the art is done by Franco Urru with colors by Fabio Mantovani. The writing is superb and the art is very a cartoonish gritty. Here we are introduced to ALOPEX. A new mutant in the TMNT world and she is a speedster/trickster. She reminds me of Sly Cooper: Thievius Raccoonus in a good way. The back pages have design sketches from Kevin Eastman of Alopex.

But is Alopex a goodie or a baddie? Read and find out. Raphael does his best to discover her true motives. Also, in this issue we are hinted at Shredder for the first time and also hinted at the future of Bebop and Rocksteady. I mean hell, Bebop is even wearing the same out-of-date shades and it's awesome.

-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 is an A+. Buy it, love it, cherish it. READ IT/REREAD IT.
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Micro-series Raphael #1 is an A. I don't know why it isn't an A+, other than I wish I saw more of the other Turtles. I can't give everything an A+ can I? Although with these restarted Turtle's books, I just might. Amazing book/amazing reads.

DC Comics: Batwing #4
- I wanted to review Batwing specifically because 4th Man gave it such a big thumbs down, but I will give it a thumbs up. If Batwing disappeared I would notice! Especially after reading and starting to be interested in the character David Zavimbe. At first I thought he was gonna be just a black batman, but it's more than that. I'm very intrigued by Africa and the turmoil of the countries found there, especially in Northern Africa.

Issue #4 gives us the 'secret origin' of Batwing. It's not so secret anymore, but it is a very ideal and easy to believe backstory. David Zavimbe was a child soldier, whom with his brother, killed, stole, and did everything most child soldiers are trained to do. But he has morals enough to not want to kill children and women, and he stands by those morals. Enough so that he losses someone close to him because of it.

Tired of seeing all the death around him, David vows to never kill again. He instead wants justice and reform for his country. Now as David takes the mantle of Batwing, he returns to his battle against an enemy named Massacre. If you are looking for a slaughterfest, then Massacre is your guy. He kills on a whim and is extremely happy to kill anything and anyone.

Also, I found the first few pages very hard to believe that they took place in Africa. The victorian designed house and the firefighters and police looked very modern American. As if they came out of middle america to fight a fire that supposedly took place in Africa. I don't expect tiki huts, but I don't expect two story victorian houses either.

Batwing #4 gets a C. It focuses too much on backstory for my liking. It's a good backstory, but predictable.

DC Comics: Batwing #3
- The look on the 'Dragonflies' faces on page one is worth picking this comic off the shelf and opening to the first page alone. These child soldiers of Africa are such an oddity in today's world. I can't even find the words to describe how awesome/horrible I think it all is to be honest. I'm sure there is a German word to describe it though. Intriguing and repulsive at the same time. This comic gave enough backstory and enough current story to satisfy me.

Massacre, the main antagonist thus far is going around and murdering super heroes of Africa named 'The Kingdom'. The best part of the story is that his murders seem justified and in issue 3 we hear his motives. The action with Batwing/Thunder Fall vs. Massacre is crisp and believable here. It's a great fight and I love good fights in Comics.

-Batwing #3 gets an A.
-Batwing #2, lets just say if you like machetes then this issue is an A+. But I'll give a B, because with the second issue of a new series I want to see more of the main character. Batwing isn't present due to what the story dictates, and that's okay and mostly believable. I do love the character of Thunder Fall, who is introduced here. Fun fight between Massacre and Thunder Fall contained within!
-Batwing #1 introduces you to 'The Kingdom' and Massacre and of course Batwing. It also gives you an idea of what Batwing wishes to implement in his country of 'Tinasha'. A honest and not corrupt African police force. But it'll be hard with guys like Massacre around. One of the New 52's greatest first issue twist endings. The art is just splendid and the story is a quick an fun read. Easy to rate this issue an A, because it makes you want to read more. I'll give it a jaded B+ though, because Batwing just keeps getting better. On the standard of issue 3, the first issue isn't an A.

-The Defenders #1 : F

-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rafael #1 : A
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 : A+

-Batwing #1 : B+
-Batwing #2 : B
-Batwing #3 : A
-Batwing #4 : C

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The New 52: Some quick hits

Batwoman #1 ~ I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it. I won't notice if the title dies, but it wasn't a book I'll avoid either. Another Bat title looking for its own niche in the lead character. The art made me think of somebody who really wants me to take acid before I read. 'B-'.

Birds Of Prey #1 ~ Another book I don't have strong feelings on, except to note that I had strong feelings on the old B.o.P. It's a decent opening salvo, and maybe it will build into something more. 'B'

Blackhawks #1 ~ I was enormously indifferent to this book.It sets up a number of storylines right off the bat, but none of them really engaged me. Felt like filler for a comic line that had other options. 'C+'

Captain Atom #1 ~ Krul gets a lot of rope from some people, given his status as a real 'comer' at DC, but I'm not one of those people (*yet.) I didn't find anything in this book to make me care, and I felt like there was too much 'Dr. Manhattan' to the new Captain Atom. I'll only spend time reading this book when I've read everything else. 'B-'

Catwoman #1 ~ Winnick on the other hand usually gets a little bump and a little patience when it comes to me. The book was fine, and I'll admit that I didn't object to anything deeply as I was reading it, unless it's the hyper sexualization of Selina. Then again, in the Year One story by Miller she was a prostitute, so sexuality has always been deeply linked to the character. In the end, it's an alright book, but nothing special. 'B'

Deathstroke #1 ~ The author clearly wants me to remember that Deathstroke is a bad, bad man. I get it. But couldn't he have added a little more depth to the story? Couldn't he have made me care, or given me some sense that he'd offer me more in coming issues? He'd better find something to draw me in and show that he knows more about Deathstroke than that's he bad. Otherwise this book is doomed. 'C+'

That's all for now...

The New 52: Wonder Woman #1

Brian Azzarello brings us the completely relaunched Wonder Woman and I think I should just open by saying; FINALLY! Somebody who understands the point of a relaunch. True, Brian didn't drag us back to Diana's birth and give us a story heavy with history and the resetting of continuity, but what he did do was wipe the slate clean and get started on something new.

Or old.

Maybe the best part of this comic was the way that it got back to the basics with Diana, drawing deeply on her roots and ties to Greek mythology. Diana has always been at her best in stories that recognize her value stems from the ability to weave her into the grandiose machinations of the Gods themselves.

The art is a little different, but it works so wonderfully that after noticing it immediately, I stopped noticing it and simply sank into the story.

This one gets a solid 'A'.

Read it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The New 52: Batwing #1

Let's get right to the thick of it.


The last thing I need is another Bat title, about a character I'm not even remotely interested in. I read the first two issues, just to be sure that I wasn't underselling Winnick's work, and I'm not. It's fine. It presents a passable story, that I don't find myself caring about at all, with basically no hook that I could find. It's not terrible, but there's nothing special about it. It stinks of having another Bat book just for the sake of having one.

Also, add it to the list of books that doesn't read well for the admitted target audience of the New 52. If you don't know you're Batman Inc history, this doesn't make any sense at all. Strange for a refreshed universe to demand so much back story knowledge. In the end, I'm really only left with one honest question:

If DC cancelled this book, would anyone even really notice?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Read the back pages...

Action Comics #2 has an interesting interview with the author and writer of the newly revamped comic series on its back pages. Read it and tell me what you think of it.

I thought that it was unbelievably arrogant, but as somebody pointed out.....should I be surprised? Not given who was speaking I shouldn't.

BTW - I don't buy Action Comics to read about the modern day equivalent of Hercules. I buy it to read about SUPERMAN. After two issues I stand by my position that it's a good, fun's just not a Superman story, regardless of what the characters are called.

The Golden Age Forgotten?

How quickly has Marvel forgotten The Golden Age?

The 'big theme' that was supposed to remind us all of brighter days was swept away pretty quickly by anticipation for the next 'big event.' Fear Itself is a dark story of the breaking of heroes and of worlds. People died. Other died before it (Johnny Storm - although we all know that won't last!) Where has this Golden Age gone?

Didn't we deserve something slightly brighter, for some time slightly longer than this? Wasn't that the inherent promise of The Golden Age?

I'm not condemning Fear Itself, which thus far has been decent (I've only read the first five issues) and looks like it might break the trend of all-hype no climax Marvel moments, but I am wondering why we have to race from event to event, without any time to just revel in the growth and development of our favorite character(s).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The New 52: Batman #1

Scott Snyder's appointment to the main Batman title (in my mind you don't get a bigger Batman book than.....well.....BATMAN) is something that I was very pleased to see when I reviewed the new creative teams for the New 52. Previously I had been following his work in Detective, and I was really starting to become a believer. After Batman #1 I can tell you that I am completely converted.

Can I just say, Batman & Joker versus the inmates of Arkham? Wow.

I'm a huge fan of pacing in a story, and Snyder's pacing is something to behold. This issue does an exceptional job of laying out a steady progression, with escalating climaxes that leave us satisfied as we advance through the book to the pinnacle of the issue; the final panel. The ending of this book is not to be missed.

The artwork in this book is an entirely different matter. I love the way Capullo draws Bats, but I hate the way he does some of the other characters. His backgrounds are gritty and harsh, which I love, but sometimes his people come off as cartoonish. The funny thing is that his Joker is less cartoon and more Heath Ledger, but his other villains are more cartoon than I'd like. It probably would help if I didn't find that all the Robins look like they actually are Bruce's sons. The art doesn't hurt the book, but it doesn't do enough to enhance it in my opinion.

All in all though? Solid book.


There is an opportunity here though for me to continue judging books on DC's relaunch and the idea that new readers have to pick the books up. Like the rest of the Batman titles, this book offers little in the way of a fresh start and could frustrate new readers. It isn't as egregious as Batman & Robin though.

(and no I'm not going to explain the comment about Batman & Joker. Read the book.)

The New 52: Batman & Robin #1

Damien is a little a**hole.

I just needed to get that out of my system. There is almost no redeeming quality to this kid, unless you consider the fact that he's Bruce's kid to be redeeming. There are few things I would enjoy more than watching Dick or Tim absolutely slap the taste out of his mouth the next time his condescending, arrogant attitude emerges (which will be the next time he says anything.) Bruce can't slap him because then we'd have to address the issue of child abuse, but man would I pay good money to see Tim knock him on his butt.

Sorry, I really needed to get that out.

This book leaves me scratching my head in regards to DC's relaunch. I'm not sure I would have found this book to be particularly reader friendly if I'd been new to the DCU, and isn't that the point of the relaunch? To appeal to new customers? There was simply too much going on that demanded explanation, and nothing in the way of clarification from the author. Is that a failing on Peter's part, or a shortcoming of the entire plan to relaunch the universe without strong editorial direction on a complete revision of history to make it user friendly? As a relaunch book I'd say this fails terribly.

With that said, I'm old school DCU (I remember when Batman & Superman were 'chums') and to me this read like an extension of the Batman & Robin that I invested a great deal of time in under Grant Morrison. It doesn't explain to me why Bruce is willing to tolerate a Robin whose actions make Bruce himself less effective, but I'm hoping that's a theme that will play out as the book progresses. I like the new villain, and the inclusion of the Batman Inc. theme as fundamental to the storyline that Peter is building. The art is terrific with the right blend of fun and darkness.

I wonder how many people will overlook the plan for Crime Alley, and its significance? Tomasi is making a major statement about how he wants to impact The Bat.

All in all, Id' rate the book like this:

New to DCU Reader: 'C-'
Old Reader: 'A'

The moral of this story? Screw the NEW. If you wanna know why things are the way they are, pick up a trade and get caught up!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The New 52: Animal Man #1

Let's get one thing out of the way really, really quickly.


When I drop the name Animal Man to friends, and non comic fans, I get strange looks and barely disguised chuckles, occasionally finishing with a hearty laugh and the shake of a head. After all, the only thing more lame than a guy who has animal powers is a guy who speak to fish. Right?

The difference here is that this book hits all the right (wrong) notes and is a perfect blend of artwork, coloring and writing, all working together to let you know that you're in the opening scene of a horror story. When the bombshell drops, I can't say you'll be surprised, or even that you didn't see it coming, but I can say that it is downright creepy. Going into this book I had absolutely no expectations.

Now? I'm expecting greatness. It's one of the best of the New 52.

It's an 'A+' book.

If it continues to deliver like issue number one did, it will be a breakout hit.

One last thought; sometimes new series or relaunches have this need to pour into you as much backstory and information as they can dump into the first issue. It's as if you can't survive the book without learning the protagonists history. This book does an exceptional job of giving you just the right amount of information, without making it into a blatant LEARN THIS NOW moment. Maybe more importantly, Lemire understands that you really don't need to know everything Buddy Baker in order to get engrossed in his story.

Well done.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The New 52: All Star Western #1

Western comics? Meh.

Revisiting a classic title like All-Star Western rather than beggin a man like Ennis to revisit Hitman? Seemed like a sketchy choice going into the book. All of that changed when I read it though. While I found the title a little too rife with cliche relatives of Gotham City staples in the modern books, the story was intense, dark and conspiratorial. All things I found compelling.

Mixing Jonah Hex with Amadeus Arkham, a fledgling Gotham City, a serial killer and a conspiracy that potentially reaches to the upper heights of Gotham's power elite? Brilliant. What's more, the artwork actually works with the tone of the book, setting a mood for the reader that enhances and powers the author's theme. It's a spectacular synergy of author and writer supporting each other to put out a book that exceeds either of their individual contributions.

Hex is the ideal late 19th century replacement for Batman, in an environment that demands a vigilante with no regard for the law, and a mercurial psychological profile. With Arkham appearing to play the straight man, we may be seeing the first works of a brilliant story.

This book gets an 'A+'.

The New 52: Aquaman #1

King Arthur has too often been the laughing stock of the DCU. Fans have mocked him. Comics have mocked him. Even pop culture (say.....The Big Bang Theory or Family Guy) has mocked him. In the opening salvo of what I hope will be the definitive Aquaman series, even Geoff Johns mocks him; albeit in the form of a brash, rude blogger seeking to elicit some reaction from the calm, reserved King of the Sea.

My hope is that the book sets the tone for a new investigation of a largely under appreciated member of the Justice League. The last time I felt like a writer was going to dig right into Orin's life and peel back the layers like an onion, inviting us to care about the otherwise uninspiring fish-man was when Peter David took the title in the mid '90s. The unique approach that Johns seems focused on providing us with is a fresh perspective on the hero, while directly confronting the popular opinion that he is a weak hero, with ineffective powers.

I'm not surprised that the opening issue reads well, and sets us on a path I'm very interested in exploring, but I am very pleased. The character has long deserved better, and now we have a chance to see him get it. If Johns can bring to this character some of the compelling storylines he has infused into Flash and Green Lantern in the last decade, we may finally see Aquaman for the major hero he deserves to be. That he ranked #147 in a Wizard poll on the greatest super-heroes ever was a travesty.

This book? So far it's an inspiration!

I'll give it an 'A'.