It’s that time again! And lucky for you this time the reviews are on time. I hope you appreciate how much effort goes into that because I really don’t feel like being analytical at 8:00 am on a Thursday morning. I’m doing this all for you. Really. Because I sure as hell am not getting paid to do this.
I’m apologetically pro-Damien. I think he’s one of the best things to come out of Grant Morrison’s Batman run. There’s something about him that sets him apart from all the other Robins and I would say that it’s mostly the fact that he’s what Jason Todd could have been. The whole “Sidekick with an attitude” thing works for some and doesn’t for others and Damien works. Now, I will admit that too much of his schtick can be tiresome. But the same can be said for any character. I love me some Deadpool but I got some serious DP burnout following the 87 series he had going on at once last year. Luckily, DC seems to realize that Damien provokes strong reactions and therefore uses him with a deal of finesse. What I mean by this is that usually his personality is either downplayed or dialed up depending on the context of the story. In this debut issue, he’s far more antagonistic than usual because we’re being reintroduced to his dynamic with Bruce. That level of mutual respect that we had seen in previous stories seems to have been scaled back because of this new timeline and as such we get some interesting character beats from both Bruce and Damien in regards to their views on the sentiment of death and the ethos of fighting crime.
Like some other books this week, it’s clear that some holdover elements from the old continuity will be front and center for certain characters. In this case, it’s the worldwide enterprise of Batman, Inc. The fact that Batman has only been around for five years in this continuity doesn’t seem to hinder that storyline at all. We’ve yet to see exactly what parts of Batman’s history are still relevant. I don’t know if Knightfall, No Man’s Land, Murderer/Fugitive, etc. have happened in this timeline but we do know that Damien is still around and Batman Inc is still happening around the globe. Again I have to point out how troublesome this is to new readers if that’s truly what DC is trying to draw in with this relaunch. Someone picking up Batman and Robin # 1 without a prior knowledge of Morrison’s work on the character might be a little perplexed as to when exactly Batman had a son and what the hell Batman, Inc. is. Fans of those particular storylines will not be let down however, as this is a pretty direct continuation of those themes in a similar sort of style.
Overall Rating: 3/5
I’ll just go ahead and say upfront that this is my favorite title of the bunch so far and if you haven’t already you need to go buy a copy and read it right now. The rest of this review is just going to be me gushing over how amazing the book is and how lucky we as readers are to have someone like Paul Cornell writing a book like this. Seriously, if there is one thing that I have to applaud DC for in this whole stunt it’s giving good writers chances to work on books that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. There are a lot of people who are going to pick this up just because of its connection to the “new 52” and they’re going to find one of the most fun, well-written fantasy adventure comics to come along in a long damned time.
I’ve always been a fan of Etrigan. I think he’s one hell of a character and he really hasn’t been given his due in the last few years. That changes here and I think it’s mostly due to the fact that Cornell knows how to write him and that he is a character that works best when he has appropriate characters to bounce off of and he gets that here with Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, and a whole host of medieval side-characters. The fact that this is set entirely in the middle-ages allows Cornell to go wild and do whatever he pleases without worrying about bumping up against someone else’s plans. The recent dust-up with Gail Simone being displeased about Batgirl’s appearance in Birds of Prey without her prior knowledge comes to mind. I don’t think anyone is going to try to appropriate anybody in Demon Knights anytime soon. There is an artistic freedom that comes with a book like this that I really can get behind.
Seriously, go buy the book. It’s the shining pinnacle of what this relaunch has to offer.
Overall Rating: 5/5
This one is hard to review. It’s not a bad book. It’s actually quite an interesting read. It’s just so hard for me to disconnect this version of the character from the previous incarnation. Even more so than last week’s Green Arrow, not a whole lot of this book felt like what I would associate with Superboy. That having been said, what we’re presented with is a fresh take on the character. The scientific procedural element of the story is interesting and provides an excellent framework for progressing the issue. My only problem with the book has been that Superboy’s personality is defined by NOT having a personality. That can only last for so long before it becomes a chore to read through. I think that Scott Lobdell knows this, but he’s trying to match the character’s personality to the expected tropes of the genre he’s presenting the character in. He’s a clone, so he needs to be a blank slate at the beginning. That’s how these stories work. I think he’s trying to play with expectations a little bit and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes with it.
Superboy is a title that I’m cautiously optimistic about. The final page seems to indicate that this storyline somehow informs the new Teen Titans, which doesn’t look very interesting at all to me. I can’t really say for sure how much I’ll enjoy this past the first issue. I’ll just have to keep reading to find out.
Overall Rating: 3/5
I am very tempted just to write *facepalm* and leave it at that. There really are no words to express how much I disliked this book. Anything not involving King Shark (he’s a shaaaaarrrk!) was pretty much terrible. Deadshot has lost his mustache and Amanda Waller is a young, thin slice of bland. This was just…well, a mess. I don’t imagine any other DC book has missed the mark as hard as this one has. Or let us hope, at least. I’d hate to see what could be worse than this slap in the face to what was once an amazing title.
I don’t want to sound like a cranky fanboy, but seriously…I just can’t imagine how anyone would find this interpretation of the title appealing. It’s generic, bland, and brings nothing new to the table while disregarding the elements of the characters involved that made them interesting in the first place. It’s just one big ball of missed opportunity, because these characters in their pre-reboot forms on the same team would have been interesting to see. Now? not so much.
Overall rating: 1/5
So, controversy, huh? We’ve got an African-American/Hispanic Ultimate Spider-Man and that has some people angry and other people bored and other people happy as hell. Emotions! Does any of that have any bearing on how good the book is or isn’t? Not really. The initial PR stunt nature of the book is a bit disheartening because I think it might have been a little bit better received if it had come out of the box as a surprise. It’s actually a pretty decent book. It doesn’t feel like a continuation of the old series as much as it feels like an entirely new story where someone who isn’t Peter Parker somehow winds up getting spider-based powers. It’s got Bendis’ usual sense of story-flow, that is to say that it begins a bit slowly, but the slice-of-life soap-opera elements of Bendis’ writing were what made that book work so well in the early days.
I’m not going to call this one better or worse than the Parker years because it’s only been one issue and it’ll be another twenty-three or so until I’m able to see what sort of book this is really going to be. All we know right now is that Miles is going to have a little bit of a different power-set from Parker judging from that final page cliffhanger, and that he probably won’t have a costume until around issue six if Bendis keeps to his usual pace. But if everything between then and now is well written as it was back when he first launched USM, then I doubt we’ll really care.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
And that’s our show everybody. Join us next week for another round of my telling you what you should do with your money. See you then.
And as the cold weather breezes into Houston about a month later than it should have, we get the first new books of November. It’s an interesting haul of titles filled with debuts and final touches. This is all very poetic and whatnot, but the truth is I’m hopped up on leftover Halloween candy and could make a bowel movement seem melodic.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #647 4.99
AVENGERS ACADEMY #6 2.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #16 3.99
BOYS #48 (MR) 3.99
BUFFY VAMPIRE SLAYER #38 2.99
BULLSEYE PERFECT GAME #1 (OF 2) 3.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA MAN OUT OF TIME #1 (OF 5) 3.99
GENERATION HOPE #1 3.99
JONAH HEX #61 2.99
PUNISHER IN BLOOD #1 (OF 5) 3.99
SCARLET #3 (MR) 3.95
SECRET SIX #27 2.99
SUPERBOY #1 2.99
WOLVERINE #3 3.99
WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 3.99
YOUNG ALLIES #6 2.99
I’ve bolded the issues I will review. Which is redundant, as the reviews will now begin and you will be able to see what I have reviewed.
Here it is. The conclusion of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman & Robin before he jumps onto the new “Batman Inc.” title which should be one hell of a ride given the setup he provides for us in this issue. Morrison has been the architect of the Batman universe now for about as long as I’ve been working in comic book retail. Close to five years or so. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seems like he’s moving into the third act of his overall story with Batman Inc. The fact that his overarching story has an act-structure ties into the melodrama he’s crafted. His Batman reads like a sci-fi/action opera and it’s evident that he’s put a great deal of effort in making sure the parts all come together.
The biggest achievement that he can lay claim to in regards to his Batman ouvre is his ability to shake things up in ways that other writers have teased for the short term but never committed to in any real way. Plot twists that Morrison uses as the long-term theme of his story seem like ideas that other writers would love to pursue but only for six issues or less. Morrison seems to think that shaking things up and doing so in a way that shifts the paradigm of how Batman operates on a level that is not easily reversible is the key to telling a good story. I won’t argue that it’s made for some of the most compelling reading for quite some time.
What I really appreciate about Morrison on the Bat books is that in a few years time we’ll be able to view him as one of the better Batman showrunners in the history of the character. There aren’t many creators who leave such a lasting mark on the character that fans can easily identify. Most of the time you get the requisite Denny O’Neil or Frank Miller. Morrison is going to be the next name on the immediate go-to list when all is said and done.
Bullseye is a character who can be used to absolute perfection or to an end that simply does not work. There’s not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to the character. He’s been front and center for so many great and memorable moments and then again he’s been wasted or misused by writers who simply want to use him in a way that doesn’t really make sense.
Here we get a story where there’s very little actual Bullseye. The story is all second-hand, but it gives us an insight into how the character operates that we don’t really see. That part that deals with how and why he picks his targets. The montage showing some of his more unique and violent kills is a perfect example of why Bullseye sometimes doesn’t work out in the hands of an unskilled writer. He’s the perfect killer. He knows he’s the perfect killer. He’s got the same problem Superman does in the sense that he’s so above and beyond the range of his peers that he can come off as boring in his superiority.
The biggest downfall of this book is that lack of Bullseye. The second hand narrative structure is interesting but ultimately unless they give us something a little more substantial it’s basically not even like reading a comic at all but reading a comic about someone who read a comic about what Bullseye did for a year. That sounds stupid, but it gives off a little of that vibe.
It’s a Captain America miniseries written by Mark Waid. I’m not going to pass that up. Seriously, I don’t care that it’s essentially a retread and that no matter how they take the story it’s essentially inconsequential because it’s one of a hundred takes on the same story because it’s such a great part of the Captain America mythos that’s being retold.
The stuff set in World War Two is pretty good. We get some fun banter between Bucky and Cap amongst some soldiers who don’t know who they are and we get some fun, if cliched, introspective moments where the two discuss what they would like to do when the war is over and the fighting is done. Of course all of this happens mere moments before Bucky gets caught in the explosion that “kills” him and Cap winds up frozen in the ice.
What really works in this issue is the dichotomy between that old world and the new one that Cap wakes up to. You really can feel how directionless and confused Steve is when confronted with a world that has grown leaps in bounds in technology and regressed equally in its brutality. The dangers of being a hero in such a world become readily apparent and the ending of the book packs quite a punch.
I think this one could be one that people regret not picking up if they let it slip under their radar because it is an excellent read. However, Marvel needs to learn that these arbitrary books aren’t going to get the same readership they would at a lower price point. $3.99 is a warning siren to a lot of consumers nowadays, even if the book is worth the cash, as this one seems to be.
They’ve been building to this one for a while. I need to begin by saying that I would have been just as happy had this been the central running plot of Uncanny X-Men or Legacy. Or hell, run it through both titles as a crossover. It would have worked just as well. This has the smell of a cash grab by throwing it out as an independant mini-series. It’s like if Marvel had done the Inferno followup they’re doing in New Mutants as a mini-series and let the ongoing title move along as if nothing happened. I think the logistics of this miniseries are flawed, and I needed to get that out of the way up front.
As to the book itself, it’s hard to tell what direction it will take. Whether the fifth “light” will be the villain for the whole of the series or if there is something more is not readily apparent. The book seems to indicate as much, but to what end they are going with the character in question is unknown.
If you haven’t been reading X-Men, this book is not very new-user friendly. All the characters have been introduced over in Uncanny, which backs up my assertion that it should have been continued there. So if you need the background, pick up the last few months of Uncanny after the end of Second Coming. That should fill in some gaps for you.
I’m hoping there’s a bigger endgame here than I’m seeing at the moment. To justify its existence, the miniseries better have one hell of a closer.
All you whiney fanboys can quit your bitching, Frank Castle is back in non-monster form to do what he’s done for the last thirty or so years. It’s still got the same gritty flair that Remender brought to the title under the Franken-Castle banner but in an easily digestible, familiar package so that frightened fans don’t feel offended by change.
The first issue feels like a classic Punisher riff, it builds upon years and years of 616 Punisher lore, with Microchip and the long feud with Jigsaw coming back into play. It feels a bit more natural than the early parts of the last volume did, as Punisher shouldn’t be anywhere near storylines that have anything to do with alien invasions. He’s at his best when the capes don’t make an appearance.
This could be the beginning of a great new chapter for the character, if Remender’s past work is any indication of what he can do with Frank now. He certainly kicked the show off with an impressive debut, so it’s his ballgame to lose. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get too inventive, or people will get frightened and claim that he’s “ruined the character again” and run to the hills like stampeding fear-cattle.
Jeff Lemire is in a position to be a hot item. Sweet Tooth is an amazing book and he’s got that good buzz to his credit as well as being hailed by just about everyone as the next big thing. With Superboy he has the chance to really let loose and show the world what he can do with the mainstream DCU characters. Superboy isn’t a sacred cow. He has a following but he has room to be molded into something more concrete. The building blocks are there, Lemire just needs to move them around.
He certainly doesn’t waste any time with this issue, utilizing a familiar old Superman villain to write some great action scenes that are drawn out spectacularly by artist Pier Gallo whose work has a very classic feel to it, which fits the Smallville setting wonderfully.
Where Lemire also garners some good will is the manner in which he sets up the supporting cast. This is the first issue, and for many new readers this is their first exposure to the character, but the interactions with the Smallville community are written in the same manner that they would be had the title been running for five years. The familiarity works. Lemire doesn’t get overly expository with everyone in the first issue. He knows that the time will come to fill people in when the moment is appropriate. He gives just enough to let the story work itself out organically and the book is better for it.
I think this one could end up being a long-running fan favorite. Let’s just hope Lemire stays on the title for a long enough time to truly leave his mark on the character, because judging from the first issue it could be quite an interesting and fun take on a character who until this point has basically been defined by his association with the Titans, his relationship to Wonder Girl or his overly violent death.
And them’s the reviews. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Now I’m going to finish this bowl of leftover candy and watch old episodes of the Simpsons while I work on a poetry paper for my creative writing class.