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Posts tagged “Comic Review

Trade Review – Rachel Rising vol 1.

I’m a big fan of Terry Moore’s work and I count myself lucky in that I have been able to meet with him face to face more than a few times. He’s one of the most affable and instantly likable professionals I’ve ever met and he’s a joy to talk to. I think Strangers in Paradise is a comic classic and Echo is vastly underrated. With his latest work, Rachel Rising I wasn’t as immediately blown away as I was with some of his previous work. This isn’t a book that hits the ground running at breakneck pace. It’s a definite slow burn. By comparison, Echo moved at a mile a minute. Rachel Rising is a textured piece that requires you to be patient while layers of the narrative unfold. The structure and the nature of the story dictate that you may find yourself confused, as I admit I was with my initial reading.

The fact that you want to fight through the confusion to savor the answers is what makes the book a success. Mr. Moore has a talent for unraveling the interwoven threads of the narrative and making something intriguing. Couple that with the fact that he is one of the most distinct and well rounded artists of his generation and you get a stunning final product. Moore seems to relish the way he plots the action, in such a manner that the build and deconstruction of the mystery intertwine and strengthen each other. This is definitely a story that Mr. Moore has been eager to tell and it shows on the page. There is an excitement to the construction of Rachel Rising that is missing from a lot of graphic literature.

I can’t say that this book is for everyone. It’s certainly a great companion piece for something like The Walking Dead. People that prefer long-term, slow-build storytelling will enjoy it a great deal. Those who prefer something a bit more slapdash and breakneck may find it tiresome. I think it boils down to perspective. But if you’re looking for something different than 90% of what is on the racks this is an excellent place to start.

Review – Batman : Earth One

I didn’t rush out to get this particular book because after the hooplah surrounding the Superman Earth One graphic novel I didn’t want to find myself let down. I was seeing more than a few positive and glowing reviews and figured that a little distance would do me some good. I have been anticipating the book a little bit, as the announcement for the title was made back when I still had a bit more regard for Geoff Johns as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe he is a great talent and one of the best guys working in the mainstream today but his more recent work does seem to lack the sort of focus he had back when he relaunched the Green Lantern franchise.

With Batman Earth One there is at least something to be said for Geoff Johns getting the tone of Batman. JMS’s work on Superman Earth One was passable but I don’t think he get the tone of what the book should have been. It was far too, as much as I hate the phrase, “street level” in its execution. Batman has that same feel but it goes with the character. JMS would have been smart to study Morrison’s work on All-Star Superman for the sort of tone that really works for big blue. Johns seems to want to play in the Nolan sandbox and that is appropriate. Johns also realizes that because there is no continuity to follow he can throw everything up in the air and be a little dangerous. Some of the changes to established lore might upset a number of Batman fanatics, but that’s okay. Again I point to the sort of people whose heads exploded over Ultimate Spider-Man. Johns’ idea of Harvey Bullock coming from Hollywood as a reality tv cop trying to regain his former glory is something that comes wildly out of left field. Alfred being a grumpy old army colleague of Bruce’s father is also somewhat odd. But within the confines of the book Johns is able to make it work.

More than JMS’s Earth One book, Johns really swings for the fences here and while not everyone will be pleased, I can say that I feel like I got my money’s worth this time around. Nothing here felt particularly rehashed the way that it did in Superman Earth One. The parallels to Superman Birthright in that OGN are almost unmistakeable. Even the death of Bruce’s parents has a different spin. It’s not entirely original. It’s just a retelling. But it feels different in the way that The Magnificent Seven was different from Seven Samurai. The flavor is refreshing.

I hope the inevitable second volume is as willing to play with conventions as this is. Johns teases a personal favorite villain of mine as the centerpiece and for not immediately jumping to the Joker he has scored major brownie points with me.

Trade Review – Angel & Faith vol. 1 : Live Through This

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs, Phil Noto
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Cover Artist: Steve Morris
Genre: Horror, Action/Adventure
Publication Date: June 20, 2012
Format: FC, 136 pages; TP, 7″ x 10″
Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Angel has made bad choices in his life. Most recently? While possessed, he killed Giles. However, he believes he’s found a way to make amends, by bringing the Watcher back from the grave! Cue Faith–rebel Slayer, and Angel’s only ally–who only supports this harebrained scheme in order to keep her friend from catatonia. New threats emerge as this unlikely duo struggles against real and personal demons alike, while hitting the dark streets of London! Collects Angel & Faith #1–#5, plus the Harmony one-shot.

In order to fully appreciate this book you will have had to have read Buffy season 8 from Dark Horse. In order to appreciate that you will have had to watched the Buffy series in its entirety. Basically, this book has a very limited audience going in. If you were not a fan of Buffy or Angel on TV, this is not going to change your mind. This is a book entirely for the people who did love those shows and are still saddened that they aren’t on the tube anymore. I’ll admit I fall into that camp. I even read that Angel series from IDW, the one that they reference in this book casually but is ultimately forgettable in most every way. I give Gage credit where it is do for dropping enough exposition to catch people up who may not have followed through with Season 8 of the Buffy comic, but this is still very much a continuation of what has come before. I liken this book to taking part two of a math class. If you missed the first semester you’re not going to be able to pick things up without a little extra effort.

So how does the book measure up to what has come before? First and foremost, this is the best Angel based comic book I’ve ever read. He’s getting a much better shot here than he did at IDW. His characterization and circumstances are infinitely more interesting this time around. The tone feels closer to his own show than the IDW series did and I feel like it is important to point out that the biggest difference between the two series is that this one is absolutely gorgeous. I cannot say enough how amazing Rebekah Isaac’s work here blows me away. The detail she puts into every little scene really wows me. The background carnage in the wake of a demon attack is something most might miss but caught my eye, with bodies hanging from coat-hooks in a quite grisly manner. I also liked the fact that for a few panels she stuck faith in a Boston Red Sox shirt. That’s something that really works to give us little looks at the character without wasting exposition. Isaacs is as good a visual storyteller as Gage is a scriptwriter and it holds the story together quite well.

Of all the Buffy comics I’ve read recently, this comes out on top. Hands down it is one of the best made spinoff comics I’ve ever laid eyes on. It is wonderfully drawn, the characters are written well and seem to fit with what has been established. I like where they are going with the title and if you were turned off by Buffy season 8 this might be a good place to jump back in. I certainly am going to follow it for at least as long as this creative team is on board.

The Dark Nostalgia Rises – Knightfall vol. II : Knightquest


Synopsis: Mentally defeated and physically broken, Bruce Wayne suffered a crippling blow while battling the brutal Bane. Now, the mantle of the Bat must be passed on to another, and Jean Paul Valley answers the call! But as the new Caped Crusader slowly loses his grip on sanity, his idea of justice takes a violent and deadly turn. Witnessing this dangerous behavior firsthand, Nightwing and Robin try to come to grips with Bruce’s highly controversial decision while the new Batman sets his sights on taking revenge against Bane! Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #667-675, BATMAN #501-508, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #19-28, CATWOMAN #6-7 and ROBIN #7!

When I reviewed the first volume of Knightfall, I spoke about how the book had a charming old-school quality that seemed to rage against the pitfalls of nineties comics’ tropes. The first installment seems to rally against the idea of comics in the Image mold of the time where everything was grim and gritty and the hero must be as violent as the crime he combats. In the second volume, it seems that the nineties enveloped the Batman mythos and everything about the title got flipped upside down to fit with the established status quo of the time. Readers apparently wanted my blood, more bullets, more outlandish mechanical costumes, and a darker, more violent Batman. Or maybe they didn’t and these issues were written to show them that point.

I don’t want to say that Knightquest is a terrible story. I appreciate the fact that the arc of the narrative does build to a satisfying climax and that Jean-Paul’s decent into madness is very carefully spelled out and detailed. That having been said, his story could have been truncated because after a while it begins to get repetitive. His constant struggle with his own inner programming as well as his progressive upgrades to his armor become staples of the story and you can tell when we are going to get a scene with Jean-Paul talking to the ghost of St. Dumas or becoming frustrated with his own results and redesigning the suit. There are several scenes like this and by the end of the book you wonder why they couldn’t have streamlined it a little bit.

My other major gripe with this collection is that Bruce Wayne’s side-story of flying off to rescue Tim Drake’s father is introduced but then never followed up on. He simply returns and we don’t know what exactly happened on that trip. It is a somewhat frustrating element to the collection because it feels like there is something important to that story and yet they do not bother to tell it.

All in all, it is not a horrible story but the first volume is superior in every way and makes these issues look poor by comparison.

The Dark Nostalgia Rises – Knightfall vol. I


Synopsis: In the first installment of this classic storyline, the Dark Knight’s greatest enemies have all simultaneously escaped from Arkham Asylum and are preying on Gotham City. With his city under siege, Batman pushes his body to the limit as he takes on The Joker, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, The Riddler and the Scarecrow. But things get much worse when Bane, the man behind all the madness, confronts an exhausted Batman – and breaks his back.This massive first KNIGHTFALL volume collects BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE SPECIAL #1, BATMAN #491-500, DETECTIVE COMICS #659-660, SHOWCASE ’93 #7 and 8 and BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #17-18, including chapters never previously reprinted.

With The Dark Knight Rises coming out soon, DC Comics has decided to collect the entirety of the now-classic Knightfall storyline into three massive volumes. Never before has the entire story been collected in trade. The tale spanned multiple books and is one of the largest crossovers I can think of. I have all of these issues in their original magazine form stuffed in a longbox somewhere but haven’t revisited the series in quite some time. This collected edition makes that task much simpler by assembling all the pieces of the puzzle together for the first time. Previous collected editions have only contained the very core of the story, leaving out the ancillary pieces. By creating a multi-volume omnibus style collection of the story, it is much easier to get a real feel for one of the biggest cornerstones of the Batman mythos. I have to say that Bane’s introduction and the breaking of Bruce Wayne’s spine is one of the most important stories in Batman’s history. It’s definitely up there with the death of Jason Todd. As far as crossovers go, I would say it’s one of the better handled ones I can think of. I think the closest comparison would be something like the Death of Superman or Spider-Man’s The Other. I would argue that it is easily better than either of those.

The story begins with a special issue detailing the origins of Bane, from his birth and time spent in prison on Santa Prisca to his eventual escape and migration to Gotham. I feel like this is where the story makes its best effort to ensure that it is differentiated from something like The Death of Superman in that we get a true feeling for Bane as a character. His introduction strikes me as gloriously silver age in design despite being a character very much cut from the nineties cloth. There is a deliberate nature to his creation and his motives that seems very much like what you would have seen for a new character in the seventies. The only difference is that Bane was created with the storyline of taking Bruce Wayne out in mind and so arguments will be made that he came secondary to the story itself. It could have been anyone who pulled his scheme on the Batman. However, Bane is such an inventive character that you truly have to respect the effort that went into his creation. Imagine if Doomsday had this sort of development instead of having the personality of a rock. I think The Death of Superman would hold up much better. Bane was created to serve a purpose, but he was created in such a manner that after this storyline ran its course he could be used again and allowed to evolve. Doomsday never had that option. Nor did the villain in Spider-Man’s The Other storyline whose name I can’t remember, thereby proving my point. Bane made an impact. He wouldn’t be around now if he didn’t. He wouldn’t be the focal point of a new Batman film if he hadn’t made an impact. He’s been in two major motion picture adaptations of the Batman mythos. There are other high profile villains who don’t even have that honor.

Looking back at this particular volume it is easy to see that it does have some of the trappings that we hold against stories of its time. There is a definite 90’s feel to some of the story but there is a lingering feel of classic Batman style to it as well. Only when Azrael begins upgrading his Batman armor do we get a tinge of the ninetiess comics era that was dominated by the hard-edge pioneered by the folks at Image where violence and grit became the status quo. This story however, utilizing Tim Drake as the audience surrogate, seems to intimate that by going in that direction you lose what makes comic characters like Batman special. While some will call this story the epitome of what was wrong with comics in the nineties, its easy to see how, just as easily, it can be a crusade to uphold what has come before. I never truly recognized that until I gave it a read-through again this time around.

Anyhow, the book is a great deal even at the 29.99 cover price, but many retailers are selling it for almost half of that. You really could find worse things to spend your money on. DC has plenty of lesser offerings at the moment, if that’s what you’re going for. This thing does deserve the title of classic. I’m convinced of that now.

Timely Review Is Timely – Captain America # 1


The regular ongoing Captain America series, which has been damned amazing since Brubaker came on board with # 1 a few years back has become Captain America & Bucky, and will retain its original numbering, focusing on the pair of heroes and their numerous adventures under the watchful eye of a new creative team. A brand new Captain America # 1 hit stands last Wednesday, again under the direction of Ed Brubaker with art by Steve McNiven, he of Civil War and Old Man Logan fame. It marks a new chapter for the Captain America saga. One that builds off of Brubaker’s already elaborate work and provides a new jumping-on point for new readers as well. It’s a strategy that has worked well for other books in the past, with Invincible Iron Man under Fraction and The Mighty Thor under…Fraction again.

The book begins in a cemetery where Cap is mourning the loss of an old friend. If you’ve been reading Fear Itself, you’re almost immediately convinced that it’s (**spoiler alert**) the recently deceased Bucky Barnes. But that’s not the case at all. In fact this introductory issue doesn’t address Bucky at all. Brubaker instead hits the ground running and plunges us into the story that, in a manner consistent with the rest of his run, is tied heavily to Steve’s adventures in World War II. The interplay between the past and the present is a defining element of Brubaker’s run. The Winter Soldier storyline would have had no impact if Ed and company hadn’t been able to skillfully craft the narrative in such a way that all the pieces fit like a jigsaw puzzle. Steve remarks that he sometimes still has trouble reconciling the fact that even after all these years he is still a man out of time. He’s displaced. Despite being the representation of America itself, the modern landscape is never fully going to be his home. While some writers take this and run with it in precisely the wrong direction, as was the case with Civil War Frontline, Brubaker’s Steve Rogers is a character who always tries to retain the elements of himself that shine brightest while trying to evolve to fit into a world that, quite frankly, does not deserve a hero of his caliber.

Some fans will be put off by the fact that the manner in which Steve becomes Captain America once again is not immediately addressed, but this is just as much a book for new converts from the film as it is for longtime fans. Brubaker is not one to ignore those elements, but they will have to be introduced organically over time so that everyone feels at ease. This is a very classically written book in that regard. Half of the fun will be having answers revealed over time as it is appropriate. Brubaker’s crime-fiction background shows heavily in his writing here. Little snippets surface to make the big picture appear clearly but they don’t come at you on every panel. Brubaker is a master of the slow burn, if his prior work on the title has shown us anything. I would expect that tradition to carry over here.

As for McNiven’s art, it’s as clean and crisp as ever and I can only hope that he’s got the issues finished because I would weep at the thought of a fill-in artist. He draws Cap with amazing skill and his artwork matches the tone of the book perfectly. You couldn’t ask for a better artist, though many in his caliber have worked with Brubaker on Cap in the past and I’m hoping that Steve Epting and Michael Lark get their turns on the new title as well. Rotate them all through the different arcs and you’d have as close to a perfect Captain America title as could be managed.

I strongly advise picking this up. Captain America is and has been one of Marvel’s best properties for quite some time now and this issue seems to indicate that’s not changing anytime soon.