Monday, February 28, 2011

Brightest Day: Green Lantern #62 - Review

Hal Jordan faces the Ultimate Lantern Foe!

Krona, the renegade Oan Guardian, has returned from the past and taken all of the entities of the different Lantern Corps. hostage for his own sinister purposes. Hal Jordan tries to stand alone against him, but even with the help of the Justice League and the leader of each of the colored armies, Krona remains unscathed. Hal has to choose between involving his friends in what could be a coming galactic massacre, or to take the burden on himself for all the trouble he's caused them in the past.

If there's one thing Green Lantern does than any other comic book series right now, it's link the emotions and drives of all the characters in the DC Universe. Hal Jordan's struggle to prove himself and the responsibilities that he has to carry for being the greatest Lantern of them all are weighing down on him and it shows wonderfully. Geoff Johns is leading up to yet another great epic in the DC Universe, and I can't wait to read it.

The artwork in this book is pretty standard by today's work, but the pacing and use of color, especially with the different Lanterns, is absolutely wonderful. At times it seems like the ring constructs and light is going to shine right off the page and hit you in the face, and I mean that in the best way possible.

I just hope that the upcoming movie will somehow capture that same magic.

Detective Comics #874 - Review

A Gordon Astray

Young James Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's son, has returned to Gotham. Last time he showed up, there was torture, murder, and foggy details as to whether or not he was behind it. He's looking for a second chance and hoping that his father and Dick Grayson can give it to him. Meanwhile, Batman (Dick Grayson) and Red Robin (Tim Drake) try to recover a load of endangered animals from a mysterious new gang in Gotham. Dick is still experiencing the side effects of the toxin used on him a few issues ago, when the strange auctioneer sprayed him with advanced Scarecrow toxin.

This issue was a bit of a stand out from the others. The artwork was beautiful, done in a painted style with a color scheme of deep purples, oranges, and yellows. I flipped through it again just to admire the splash of colors against dark backgrounds, almost like a chapter of Watchmen.

The storytelling is what I've come to expect from Synder, who took over the book series not too long ago. This is still my favorite Batman title out there, and if you're looking for good old fashioned crime noir with the Batman punch to it, this is the one to go for.

There's not too much else to say about this issue because it's like a good meal, everyone is too busy eating and savoring it to say anything.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

X-Men #7 - Review

The Mutants Have A New Backdrop

I haven't been much of a Marvel Comics fan over the years, and I thought that since I'm reviewing comics I should give both of the big publishers a shot. I picked up this issue of the new ongoing X-Men series based solely on the cover, which had incredible artwork. Also the fact that Spider-Man was joining the team for an excursion peaked my interest.

Here's what I've gathered from jumping into the story thus far: the X-Men have relocated to San Fransisco in order to have a fresh start and have even hired a PR agent to promote their image. They're doing more crime fighting than they usually do in order to build up a better reputation, probably after the events of Marvel Civil War and the Skrull Invasion. The team gets called in to investigate reports of missing persons and reptilian creatures in the sewers. They're ambushed by a small army of creatures that share the body attributes of The Lizard (Kurt Conners), and run right into everyone's favorite web-slinger, Spider-Man, who tells them that they're going to have to fight through him in order to get a shot at Conners.

The issue was well written, fast paced, and the artwork was wonderful. It had all the humor you'd expect from interactions between characters like Gambit and Wolverine, as well as a very touching moment between him and Cyclops about what direction they need to take their friends and teammates in for the future. I accidentally subscribed to X-Men and Uncanny X-Men on, so I guess I'll be reviewing the two series regularly now. For future reference, they don't have a confirmation page for their subscription orders, just to see how much the total is, so buyer beware. But I think it's a happy mistake. If I was going to give the Marvel Universe another chance, it'd be with everyone's favorite super team.

But who else should I give the same shot? Spider-Man as a character has been falling flat for me, but he's one of my childhood favorites. I think I'll pick up one of his books and if it resonates with me I'll give it more of a shot. Other than that I don't really have any other favorite Marvel characters. Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Batman #706 & #707 - Review

Batman tangles with the Sensei!

In these latest two issues of Batman, the Dark Knight finds himself up against the notorious Sensei, who plans to use a mask hidden in a wing of a museum donated by Thomas Wayne (Bruce's father), in order to suck the life out of his enemies. This Batman story has a bit more of the supernatural in it, and has some guest appearances by famous Batman characters. Though not the best Batman story I've ever read, it's a good serialized piece that delivers all the punches and pacing you expect from a modern Batman story. Watching Dick Grayson take on the same challenges that Bruce Wayne has faced time and time again gives a new atmosphere amongst the crime fighting action.

I recently subscribed to this title, so I'm looking forward to regularly reviewing it every month. The artwork is pretty standard for titles today, and the ending gives a great hook that makes you want to run out and purchase the next issue. Luckily I just have to wait until it's put into my mail box this time next month.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Red Robin #20 - Featuring Teen Titans - Review

Tim Drake takes on Catman!

Tim Drake, or Tim Drake Wayne as he's often called now, was Batman's last Robin before Damian Wayne took on the role of The Boy Wonder. He's since grown up, been given control of Wayne Enterprises, and now prowls the street as Red Robin (I assure you, this character existed in comic book lore before the chain restaurant). Drake's adventures revolve around him being the middle child of the Batman Family, doing things on his own while being given most of the command over the Wayne fortune. Ever since his introduction, Bruce Wayne has known that Tim was destined to take up the mantle of Batman. Though he isn't old enough yet, stories intertwining with the future Justice League of America show that he will eventually pick up the cowl, being the best detective to ever grace DC.

This issue focuses on a plot to take out Tim Drake perpetrated by the deadly Calculator, who is the villain equivalent of the DC heroes Oracle (former Batgirl Barbara Gordon). He acts as the villains resident hacker and strategist, and recently had his system hacked by Red Robin. Calculator hires Catman (Thomas Blake) to track down and send a message to the young caped avenger. Catman is basically the DC Universe's version of Kraven the Hunter (of Spider-Man fame). He can track anyone, has superb fighting skills, and isn't afraid to get his hands red.

When Calculator's plans get too heavy for Red Robin to handle alone, he calls in the current Robin and the Teen Titans to help him deal with the threat.

Fans have long since loved Tim Drake, and his popularity as a self-made character is only growing with every story he's placed in. This series, though still new to me, has already got me hooked, and I'm going to be placing it on my monthly pull list of comics. If there was ever a subject for a one-hour TV show about DC characters, Red Robin would be a great way to explore the Batman mythos without having to rely heavily on Batman. Of course, that's just my opinion, but I'm sure others would enjoy it too. Just as long as it isn't anything like the Birds of Prey show that came out years ago. Ouch.

All Star Superman (Blu Ray) - Review

Grant Morrison's Legendary Superman Story Animated in HD

Grant Morrison wrote the ground breaking All Star Superman series, which finds the Man of Steel on the verge of death after an overdose of solar radiation. He's gained even more power than before, but his cells are exploding at an exponential rate. Clark Kent has to decide how to use his last few weeks in the world, trying to right any wrongs and tie up any loose ends that he might have missed. Lex Luthor, however, has got some plans of his own.

This animated version of the story is incredible, and though I haven't read the comic yet (the Blu Ray comes with a digital version of the comic for free) I can tell that they kept the exact same art style that the books used. The art and animation itself is beautiful, a testament to American animation with a hint of Anime themed direction and movement. On Blu-Ray, the colors pop and the Man of Steel couldn't look any better.

The only drawback with this story is that it assumes that the viewer knows a ton of backstory about the comic book version of Superman, and not the movies that most people are familiar with. If you don't know who Parasite, Brainiac, and Samson are, then you're going to be a bit lost. Especially with the asides about other living Kryptonians trapped in the shrunken city of Kandor.

That being said, knowing the source material doesn't make the movie unwatchable, but it does take away a bit of depth. The voice action and direction does make up for it, because you can believe that the Superman on screen (voiced by James Denton) is the Superman you'd run into if he flew down the street. Lois Lane (voiced by Christina Hendricks) comes off as the lovable and independent woman fans of Superman literature have learned to love, and the supporting cast knocks their roles out of the park.

Not being a huge Superman fan, I actually liked this movie alot. It has a very touching message that all Superman wants when he leaves is for everyone to learn to get on without him. It shows that even a Man of Steel can have his heart broken.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Batman & Robin #2 - Review

A Circus of Horrors for the Dark Knight

The new partnership takes some deadly turns as Robin (Damian Wayne) starts acting of his own volition, ignoring Batman (Dick Grayson) and the team dynamic. The very creepy circus performers under the leadership of the butchering drug lord Pyg attack the Gotham City Police Station, killing nearly a dozen people and injuring many more.

Dick Grayson starts to doubt his ability to pull off his role as Batman, and he and Alfred have a long and engaging conversation about what makes someone The Dark Knight.

Overall this was a buildup issue to the confrontation between Batman and the crime boss Pyg, but it really explores Dick's insecurities about being the head honcho. It was always going to be a matter of time before Bruce Wayne either was killed or moved on, and this series does well to explore the boots that need to be filled when he can no longer be Batman.

The artwork and pacing is just as same as the issue before, which is extremely well done. Dick operating out of the Bat Bunker, similar to that in the movie The Dark Knight, gives the sense of blank walls and a blank slate for the caped crusader, reflecting on how new everything is to Grayson.

So far the series hasn't disappointed me yet, and I still recommend it to any Batman fan. Then again, who doesn't like a good Batman story every once and a while?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Batman & Robin #1 - Review

The Dynamic Duo Reunited for the First Time

Following the events of Bruce Wayne's death in the DC Universe, Dick Grayson has taken up the mantle of Batman and has been given an all new series titled Batman and Robin, with Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son, taking up the role as the Boy Wonder. The series is mainly written by Grant Morrison and this issue's artwork was done by Frank Quitely.

Right off the bat, no pun intended, it jumps into action, with Batman and Robin using a new batmobile that can hover like the Delorean in Back to the Future. The dialogue and exchange between Grayson and Wayne is well played and executed, and the story itself moves at a wonderful pace. I'd honestly love to see the script for this issue, since I'm writing a spec Batman story myself.

The villains, which include a slippery customer named Toad and a butcher-themed crime boss named Pyg, are newer but classically styled Batman villains. Pyg especially, who feels more like he jumped out of a horror movie than from a detective book.

I got this first issue by accident back in August of 2009. It was put in my pull box at Lang's and I just bought it without really looking at it. I'm very intrigued by Dick Grayson being Batman, so I've decided to review all the issues of the series.

As far as this being a debut issue, I think that Morrison nailed the dynamic between this dynamic duo, and I'm excited to see how the relationship develops. I did pick up Batman and Robin #19 and #20 these past two months, so I have an idea of how it's ended up, but I'm still excited to see the road traveled to get there. Especially in that fancy new batmobile.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Batman Incorporated - I Eat My Words

Batman Inc. #1 & #2

I Spoke Too Soon!

When I had first started my venture into Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. storyline, I was very hesitant. I don’t like change, I’ll admit it, but sometimes change is a good thing. For the longest time, Bruce Wayne has waged his war against crime alone. With the introduction of various Robins and the “Bat Family” growing every year, it was only a matter of time before Bruce Wayne would want to expand the reach of Batman across the globe.
I had put down the thought of Bruce Wayne branching out to different countries to create “Batmen” to wage the war against crime, but after reading the new Detective Comics, Batman, Batman & Robin, and now Batman Inc., I’m going to officially eat my words.
Insert chomping sound
Bruce Wayne, as a character, has finally realized that he can’t do everything alone. He’s left Gotham City to Dick Grayson (who is now also Batman), and has spread out his wings to the rest of the planet, recruiting and setting up a Batman for every country. My initial impression from the Batman: The Return book was that he wasn’t going to be doing anything as Batman anymore. That, I think, is what turned me off from the idea. Now that I have gotten into the new expansion of Batman a little bit more, I can see why the decision was made. Granted it’s nothing new, Frank Miller did a similar thing in this story The Dark Knight Returns with the Sons of Batman gang, but the actual training and recruitment process is much more rigorous and based on personality, rather than sheer numbers.
The most recent addition to the Batman Family is Mr. Unknown from Japan. After taking up the reigns from the original Mr. Unknown, a young man named Jiro is targeted by Lord Death Man, a villain who can seemingly escape death and loves to murder anyone who crosses his path. From what I gather, I think that Lord Death Man was a manga-created character for Batman publications in Japan. If that's true, that's an awesome throwback to include it inside the official Batman storyline.
When Batman sees Jiro’s capacity for good and determination of justice, he helps fake the second Mr. Unknown’s death in order to pave the way for Jiro to completely become a new Batman for the land of the rising sun.
Another big element of this story that I was unaware of is Bruce Wayne’s public announcement that he’s been funding Batman the entire time. Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman, whom Batman is now almost completely romantically involved with, asks him what his plans are when everyone starts coming after Batman’s wallet. Bruce answers Selina with a simple “you’ll see” and a smile, leading the readers and myself to believe that it’s part of Bruce’s overall plan.
I try not to jump to conclusions too fast, but I admit that I did that with Morrison’s new expansion on the Batman mythos. I’m not going to make a full decision until I finish it, but for now, I’ll say that I’m willing to give it a shot.
I wonder if Bruce needs a Michigan Batman? I don’t mind wearing a dark blue, like many of his incarnations did, but I think a large “M” on the chest would be a little obvious. I know Detroit could definitely use one, though.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Batman - The Brave and the Bold Seasons 1 & 2 - Review

Suit up for Teamwork Old Chum!

The overall tone for Batman - The Brave and the Bold is a throwback to the glory days of Adam West, paired with the action packed modern flair of contemporary Saturday morning cartoons. Diedrich Bader does the voice of the caped crusader, and adds an old-fashioned feel to Batman's voice. The show is based on the Brave and the Bold comic series from DC, in which two heroes would join forces to thwart an enemy. In every episode, Batman teams up with DC's A-listers, B-listers, and even C-listers to take on villains of the same lettered caliber.

The show is designed to appeal to kids, but the jokes, references, and plays on words are all for comic book fans and adults who grew up watching or reading Batman and DC Comics. The show will often refer to old movies, big comic book moments, or inside jokes that only people from the previous generation will get. Not that it isn't good for kids to watch, my little cousin loves it, but the thing that is great about it is that anyone can enjoy it.

Tones of the show change quickly depending on who writes what episodes. Some of them are very funny and comedic, while some of them can be darker and more brooding. You get crazy episodes where he teams up with Uncle Sam to fight aliens trying to stop Americans from voting, then an episode written by Paul Dini (Batman: TAS) where Bruce Wayne gets to confront the man who killed his parents and decide whether or not to kill him. That's another big surprise in the show -- people die! The second season is much more notorious for this, having heroes sacrifice themselves in order to save others. It's a really gutsy move to do in a kids show, which is the same sort of gusto that Batman: The Animated Series pulled off in the 90's.

If your a parent looking for a way to introduce your kids to the Batman mythos, or just a fan who wants a cheekier look at the caped crusader, this is a perfect show to throw on and smile over.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kingdom Come - Review

The Villains of Tomorrow are the Heroes of Today!

Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come is the story of DC's greatest heroes fighting to stop the metahuman menace that spawns from the "heroes of tomorrow." Heroes who have no interest in stopping civilian casualties, and care more about their image and amount of damage they can cause. After putting himself in exile for years, Superman returns in order to try and bring justice and heroics back to the world, reuniting the original Justice League.

The story is a cautionary tale of what can happen to superheroes if they begin to think of themselves as gods, and how important it is for them to hang on to their basic humanity if they're going to defend the rest of it. The thought of Superman thinking that he doesn't belong in the world anymore is a pretty shocking one, but his reasons for banishing himself from society are justified when the reader reaches the shocking revelations.

As far as a cast of characters goes, this one is massive. Every DC heavy hitter and B-lister is in attendance, as well as their yet to be born offspring that patrols the future. All of the original heroes are in the front lines of the battle, including Batman, Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Wonder Woman, and The Flash (a speed force culmination of everyone who ever shared the name). They try desperately to try and educate the heroes of tomorrow on their methods of protecting the people, but, in the end, it's half of Earth's heroes against the other. Superman leads one side, while Captain Marvel leads the other, twisted after having been under Lex Luthor's control for decades.

Ultimately the story is an incredible look at a DC future that could of have been, where old friendships have faded, and new hatred as arisen. The artwork by Alex Ross is jaw-dropping, imploring his signature painted style, making the characters look more real than they ever have.

Though first time readers would do well to read up on all of the characters that make up the titanic cast of Kingdom Come, the story is put together well enough that a person can go in blind and just enjoy their knowledge of Batman and Superman.

Superman is also another part of this story that I really enjoyed. I usually stay away from most Superman stories, because I feel that he's often represented as being too powerful. By this time in his life, kryptonite won't even affect him, as Luthor puts it, "he's at the height of his invulnerability." The thing that makes him a relatable character in this scenario, is that he's trying merely to stop everyone from fighting, and taking all of the blame on himself, as most of us do in our everyday lives when faced with forces beyond our control.

This wouldn't be a book for people just getting into comics, but for someone who has loved these characters for a long time, or just wants an alternate history story with some of the biggest battles to ever grace panels on a page, this collection is perfect.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Batman: Hush - Review

A New Villain Takes Center Stage

I thought I had read just about every great Batman story that had ever been written . . . I was completely WRONG. I had heard about the character Hush amongst some of my other Batman-loving friends, but never really took the time to read the story. When I got a new comic book viewing program on my computer (Comic Book Lover), I decided to test it out with the complete Batman: Hush series. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by the legendary Jim Lee, this 12 issue story is a tour-de-force of comic book storytelling. The story revolves around a mysterious new threat who seems to be playing every villain against Batman and Bruce Wayne as pawns in a grand scheme to gain revenge. Batman is pushed to his limits, reaching his breaking point multiple times in the story. There are so many cameos by heroes and villains it feels like a giant event in the DC Universe, and its reception has escalated its importance into one.

I don't want to give too much of the details of the plot, for fear of ruining it, but you really should read this if you like Batman. It's stories like these that make me love different takes on the Dark Knight, and proves that the character is going to have a place in all forms of literature for a long time to come.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I Look For In A Comic Book/Graphic Novel/Manga

Sequential art can take many different forms, but good storytelling can take even more shapes when it comes to the world of literature. Though most comics that are popular deal with superheroes, there are, in actuality, just as many genres in the medium as there are in television. In the United States we tend to think of comics in terms of either superhero stories or kid's stories, but over the years slice of life, drama, mystery, and every other type of story has found it's way to panels and pages.

When I'm selecting a comic to read, I often do something that most people say is wrong to do, which is judge the book by its cover. If the artwork isn't something that grabs my attention, be it in a subtle or arresting way, I'm not likely to purchase or read it. The next step for me is to always jump to a page, any will do, but I often find myself in the middle. When I've found a page, I'll take a look at the panel layout and see how the pacing of the story is setup. If it's overly wordy or the format seems to be dull, I might want to shelve the book without another thought. Not every wordy or simple formatted comic is bad, but it often means it isn't being told with as much versatility as the art form allows.

After that's done, I of course consider the overall genre that I'm dealing with. Superhero stories by now are pretty easy, I know which characters I like and what kind of stories I enjoy reading. With slice of life stories, I tend to try and find books dealing with subjects I might have experienced when I was younger, what I might be dealing with now, or intrigue me as "what if" scenarios. Drama and mystery are pretty easily enticed through comic book panels. most often they're mixed with other genres, but I really enjoy a writer or artist who can get me turning the page before I realize I'm actually physically doing it.

In the end, it all comes down to the story. If the story keeps my attention, even for a quick glance of two to three pages, I'm willing to devote the time to read it. I might read a bad one anyway, just to appreciate the ones I do like more. Or, since I'm writing some of my own, I'll look for things that made the comic bad and try to avoid them myself during the scripting process. But the good stories are just as useful tools as the bad ones. Take any comic, graphic novel, or manga out there, and find me one without a compelling story that gets the reader to turn the page.

But what makes a great story?

I suppose it's vastly different for everyone. For myself, I like to emotionally connect with what the characters are going through. If the story is able to make my heart beat at the same rate of the characters at any given time, be it during an action sequence or a string of heartache, I know that the story has been worth my time. That goes for all types of media, not just comics, but this is a blog about sequential art after all.