Thursday, May 31, 2012

Batman Annual #1- Review

Mr. Freeze's chilling new story

The origins and motivations of Mr. Freeze are brought to new light in Scott Snyder’s Batman Annual #1. Victor Fries has had a very tough life. He lost his mother at a young age, his wife fell ill and was frozen in order to preserve her, and he was mutated into a man of living cold. But if there’s one thing we didn’t know about Victor, it’s that he hasn’t been telling us the whole truth.

Snyder has become famous in the comic book industry for revamping The Dark Knight and making all of the characters in Batman’s corner of the DC Universe fuller and richer. This annual issue was co-written by James Tynion IV, and not only changes some of the origins of Mr. Freeze, but it also puts a bold new spin on his relationship with Nora and his involvement with the Court of Owls. Snyder and Tynion took some real risks making these changes, but each risk paid off, right up to the very last chilling page.

Jason Fabok’s artwork is really striking in this issue. He had a take on Mr. Freeze that was both classic and modern at the same time. It’s a blending that tends to work really well in comics when it comes to iconic characters. You want them to be recognizable, but you also want them to fit in the modern world and have a personal touch.

A big question that many people have asked me is whether or not you have to read the entire “Night of the Owls” event in order to understand it. The answer is simple – no. You can pick this up and run with it without having read any of the other issues of Batman or the Bat-Family books. It does tie-in to the Owls story, but it also stands on its own enough to be enjoyed without any prior knowledge.

This was another great annual issue in the New 52 by DC Comics. That being said, I did enjoy the Animal Man annual slightly better. But at the end of the day they were both worth the $4.99 price tag.

RATING: 7.5/10

Animal Man Annual #1 - Review

Animal Men of the past

Maxine is told an old story about the avatars of The Red, The Green, and The Rot back in the late 1800’s. The story is very similar to her family’s situation, but in the previous incarnation of the Red avatar, many lives were lost. War is coming. The only question left now is – can Maxine be prepared for the battles ahead?

The first Animal Man annual issue was a powerhouse of fun storytelling and great action sequences. It really captures the mixture of superhero and horror that has made this book one of the best in the New 52.

Jeff Lemire used the annual as a chance to build the history of the different elements that are constantly at war with each other. The Swamp Thing of the era, Jack Crow, and the Animal Man of the era, Jacob Mullin, are very intriguing characters. The parallels between Alec Holland and Buddy Baker are there, but they exist well on their own. This annual has really cemented the fact that, like members of the Green Lantern Corps, that the titles of Swamp Thing and Animal Man/Woman can be passed down throughout the ages to the worthy.

The artwork by Timothy Green II is very strong in this issue. He captures the line style that’s been present in all of the Animal Man issues so far, but puts his own spin on it when it comes to the designs of The Rot and the movement of the characters. There was even a great depiction of Buddy Baker in a panel that was a great mix of the classic and modern look of the character. There were some great panels of Jacob battling the rot and utilizing his new powers that really make you excited for his skill set.

One thing that’s really gotten to me personally as a reader of this series is how incredibly cool it would be to have Animal Man’s power set. It’s always been overlooked on the playground and those late nights around campfires and six packs when debates between “who would be who” take place. But I think my answer next time will be Animal Man if we’re talking about the DC realm of things.

So the bottom line – is this annual worth the $4.99 price tag? You bet it is.

RATING: 8/10*

*Because of the increasing number of very good comics lately, I’ve decided to up my rating level from 5 to 10. Why? Because it’s getting hard to explain within the classic 5 rating how much I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy something when so many things have been good lately. I just feel that it’ll give it more range and variety.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

FF #18 - Review

Professor Storm has class

The Future Foundation has a substitute teacher for the day – Professor Johnny Storm! As the class gets ready for what they expect to be a boring lecture on the language of love, it soon turns into an unexpected field trip into the negative zone. But when they arrive to take a simple tour, Storm learns that his political power in the negative zone may have been taken out from under him.

Written by Jonathan Hickman with art my Nick Dragotta, this issue of FF had all of the humor, adventure, and super science that have made this secondary Fantastic Four series so wonderful.

Hickman has been playing with Marvel’s first family for a while, but it always feels like an exciting first issue whenever you read a new installment. The pairing of Storm with all of the adopted children and members of the FF has a great chemistry that pits all of their wits against Storm’s more brash approach to things.

Dragotta has a really slick style that translates well to this motley crew of characters. Storm looks like an updated version of the original character design, and I really enjoy the white uniforms that the team has taken on in the more recent series.

The best part of this book is the very different personalities of all the children. They always have something funny to say and I’m excited to see them eventually become a part of the bigger Marvel Universe when they’re unleashed on the world.

Fans of super science, inter-dimensional travel, and field trips that go hilariously wrong will enjoy this. There isn’t a ton of action in this issue, so if you were looking for a slugfest I’d get a different book this week.

RATING: 4.5/5

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #39 - Review

It's a wonderful annual

Peter Parker and his co-worker Grady are working on a time displacement machine at Horizon Labs when Parker is accidentally erased from history! When he arrives in New York City in the new present day, he finds that the world is a much different place without Spider-Man or Peter Parker. The only problem is that it might be better off without him.

The great thing about annual issues of popular characters is that we get a break from the huge continuity and plot lines that are going on in the main titles. They’re not always bad, but it’s good to get a burst of fresh air with a one-shot or single contained story that’s just there for the sake of telling a story.

This is one of those annuals that can really make you appreciate those isolated stories.

Brian Reed writes a version of Parker and Spider-Man that’s a good split between the serious, hardworking hero and the witty quipster with web shooters. There were some great science fiction and It’s a Wonderful Life moments where Parker was reliving memories and seeing the fallout of never existing. It was an all around enjoyable take on the wall crawler.

The art by Lee Garbett had a very impressive shift to the original Spider-Man art back in the sixties. Even the coloring and inking looked just like an issue you’d of found when Stan Lee had introduced the character back in the early days of Marvel Comics. An added bonus is that the supporting characters look and feel authentic as well, which really helps an ensemble story.

The only down point I can really think of is that Uncle Ben didn’t feel quite right to me in this issue. You can argue that he’s a different version of the character, what with time travel and all, but he seemed to speak in a way that felt a little too modern for an old-fashioned character. Still, it’s always nice to see him assure Parker that he’s doing the right thing.

Marvel has really been turning out some great content lately. I haven’t been keeping up on the regular Amazing Spider-Man title, but this story is worth any casual Spider-Fan’s time.

RATING: 4/5 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Irredeemable #37 - Final Issue & Series Retrospective


The world of superheroes in comics is vast and isn’t likely ending any time soon. That’s why it’s so important to notice the stories that break the conventions of the genre and push it into new territory. Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, published by BOOM! Studios, is one of those books.

When I read the first trade of Irredeemable I was blown away at how far Waid was willing to take a Superman-type figure past the breaking point. The Plutonian wasn’t just the public’s worst nightmare; he was the entire universe’s worst fear – an unstoppable force that no amount of power could hold.

The Plutonian’s unique situation was rooted in the fact that he was a product of both environment and his genetics. It was both nature and nurture, instead of being one or the other. I don’t want to ruin his turn from good to evil, or where he really comes from, but the combination of the two factors breeds a sense of sympathy that makes you feel like you might do the same in his situation.

That’s what this story is really about – the irredeemable things that we could do if we were given ultimate power.
I think what really sells the end of this series is the last page of the final issue. I’m not sure if it was planned from the start, but it made me smile from ear to ear. In a story that showed us nothing but a hopeless world where heroes couldn’t stand (except in Incorruptible), we were given that last glimmer hope that even the biggest mistakes could eventually have the greatest outcomes.
Superhero stories have been around since the dawn of time. From The Epic of Gilgamesh to The Odyssey, remarkable men and women have stood up and heeded the call against incredible odds. What this story did was pit us against that character, and showed just how helpless we could be if they went astray.

This story isn’t just for fans of comic books or people in capes and masks. This story is for people who are interested in stories about the abuse of power and how no one should ever give up hope of a brighter future.

And let’s not forget the fact that it’s just a really fun piece of science fiction.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Unwritten #37 - Review

The cult of Taylor has risen

Tommy Taylor’s power has influenced the world in more ways than anyone could have imagined. Now there are entire churches dedicated to the words of Wilson and Tommy Taylor, and those that believe that the stories of the world are dying. But as a police detective investigates missing youths and Taylor cults, a shocking new discovery is made about those that follow the words of Taylor.

I had heard that The Unwritten was going to be ending soon, but I wasn’t expecting a whole new story arc and direction to the story. Mike Carey and Peter Gross have been writing a literary epic that makes readers remember why stories are so important to our culture and society. This new arc seems like it’s going to delve deeper into that, but it does give off a bit of a weary feeling.

The epic confrontation with the Cabal has already happened, and it seemed like the more natural thing to do was move to an epilogue of the story. This new plot line seems a little strange to be doing this late in the game, but it could be part of a larger epilogue to give the readers a bigger sense of Taylor’s impact on the world.

I can’t say that I was thrilled with the addition of more story, but I don’t hate it either. I’ll continue reading because I really want to know how this story is going to end, I just kind of wish they would have gone out on the high note. This issue was just kind of luke warm.

RATING: 2.5/5

Justice League Dark #9 - Review


Jeff Lemire makes his debut as the writer of the new arc of Justice League Dark this month and it’s a welcome shake-up for the title. In this story Steve Trevor approaches John Constantine to get the JLD back together for a covert mission against Felix Faust deep in the heart of the jungle. But Constantine isn’t doing it out of the kindness of his heart – there’s a deal in it for him that’s unimaginable.

When this series started I was really intrigued by the concept of having an occult Justice League team. The first run of this title was okay, but was lacking a certain charm that most of the other dark titles of the New 52 had. This new direction puts Constantine in the lead, gives the characters actually motivations, and is just plain way more fun.

Lemire not only captures the spirit of a young and brash Constantine, but also the personalities of Zatanna and Deadman. You get the sense that Zatanna wants to make something more of herself and that Deadman wants an opportunity to rise to the occasion as a hero.

The art by Mikel Janin was great in this issue. It had just the right balance of cartooning and realism that made it fun, dynamic, and well laid out on every page. I especially liked the way Constantine was presented in this issue. I’m usually on the fence with some of the interpretations of the surly smoking magician, but here I really enjoyed his mannerisms and his design.

This is the Justice League Dark I’ve been waiting for. Magical mystery, tricking villains with elaborate cons, and enough occult touches to keep horror fans wanting more.

RATING: 4.5/5

CLiNT #2.1 - Review


The comic magazine is back this month with four new comics for readers to sink their teeth into. Each comic is of a very different style, tone, and structure, but each one has something interesting to offer.

The comics include Supercrooks, Rex Royd: Kid Detective, The Secret Service, and Death Sentence.

Supercrooks, written by Mark Millar with art by Leinil Yu, is a viewing glass into a world where no costumed thief can make a living in America without being busted by superheroes. This story had a very interesting setup and could lead to some very interesting developments as the villains move out of the heroes’ jurisdiction.

Rex Royd: Kid Detective, written by Frankie Boyle with art by Mike Dowling, is a very meta look at the world of superheroes and the troupes that go along with the genre. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I’d recommend reading it twice to catch everything. Though I’d have to read more to know if it’s something I’d stick with.

The Secret Service, written by Mark Millar with art by Dave Gibbons, is a spy story that takes some interesting turns in the realm of pop culture and the climb from street hooligan to government agent. This made me smile quite a few times. The character moments and dialogue all feel genuine, and there’s some great twists and turns in the story.

Death Sentence, written by Montynero with art by Mike Dowling, is another original take on superpowers where a virus gives people abilities before killing them six months later. Each character has a different reaction to the virus, the powers, and their unique life situations.

This issue of CLiNT has a little bit of everything for every comic reader. There’s science fiction, espionage, drama, mind trips, and action. If you’ve been on the fence about picking up this magazine, now’s the time to hop over.

And right now they're running a special offer:

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fantastic Four #605.1 - Review


The origins of the Fantastic Four are retold in an alternate universe where Hitler is in charge, Reed Richards is a power-hungry Nazi scientist, Sue and Johnny Storm are cutthroats, and Ben Grimm is a Jewish prisoner forced to pilot a spacecraft. When the research expedition in space goes wrong, the four are bestowed with strange abilities and sent back to Earth to face the government. It’s the story you’ve all grown up with, but radically different!

Jonathan Hickman is becoming one of my favorite comic book writers. I had never been a fan of the Fantastic Four, but when I started reading his issues of FF (Future Foundation) a year ago I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This alternate history story had dramatic twists, plays on old standards, and a Richards that was nothing short of absolutely evil. I’m excited to delve more into his past work on the Fantastic Four title, because from what I’ve heard it’s spectacular.

The artwork by Mike Choi was spot on in this issue. I loved the alternate versions of Ben Grimm and the Storm siblings. They don’t just have different appearances, but different powers. I especially liked the design of this universe’s Thing.

The end of this issue promises more terror from Richards, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was brought back in a future storyline. I don’t know what’s scarier – what he’d done to the Earth, or what was on his hand in the last frame.


Hellblazer #291 - Review


This issue is the epilogue of “Another Season in Hell,” which dealt with John Constantine traveling to the eternal pit to face his tormented sister and discover the shocking truths about his family. In this story he teams up with his niece Gemma to try and stop Constantine’s evil twin, the same one that raped Gemma and ruined the trust she had in her uncle. The stakes have never been higher for Constantine than at this moment.

Peter Milligan has been doing a wonderful Hellblazer run. It’s always one of my favorite comics every month, and all though this was a little slow in terms of pacing, it was still very enjoyable. I really liked seeing Constantine perform all of the horrible tasks of Dark Magic in order to help Gemma try to get over the trauma she went through.

The artwork by Gael Bertrand was very stylish and fit the Hellblazer universe very well. Bertrand’s artwork had sharp lines and grim atmosphere that rang true to the characters and story throughout the issue. There was a great moment where we got to see a cross section of the evil Constantine’s head and brain when a syringe goes through his eye.

This wasn’t the most exciting or witty issue of Hellblazer, but it was still entertaining. It was the necessary epilogue to the plot line that had been going on, though I would have liked to have seen Constantine’s wife in it for at least a couple of scenes. But hey, that’s a small complaint.


Daredevil #13 - Review


One of the greatest titles at Marvel continues as Daredevil faces off against the five Megacrime organizations. The fight is for the Omega Drive – a hard drive made from the unstable molecules of a Fantastic Four uniform that holds all of the data of the syndicates. It’s a battle in Time’s Square that can’t be ignored as they descend on the man without fear with extreme prejudice. But just like every issue of this new series, things might be a little more complicated than they look.

Mark Waid’s writing is top notch in this issue, and this end to the omega drive arc was an interesting story. No one would have expected Daredevil to become the target of groups like HYDRA or A.I.M., but he became their number one public enemy overnight. The way that it’s orchestrated and finally taken care of is what quickly will become the new standard for Daredevil comics.

Khoi Pham covers all of the excitement on the pages of this month’s issue with his artwork. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have past artists on the title, but it did fit the tone and feeling of the story. There was a great reveal moment at the end that was depicted well, and he knew how to move Matt Murdock in a combat setting.

The thing that I’ve found really weird about this title is the staggering number of people who won’t give it a try. I guess there are people who think that Daredevil is boring because he’s blind or not as big of a player in the Marvel Universe. As someone who has been following this new run from the start, I can promise all of you that doubt this book that it’s worth the time.