Friday, September 28, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 - Review




Frank Miller’s seminal tale of Batman returning from retirement has gotten an animated film adaptation. And it’s glorious. For those not familiar with the story, it’s been a decade since Batman was last seen in Gotham City, and it’s worse than it ever was before. A horrible militant gang called the Mutants is killing anyone they cross, and the police are helpless against their numbers and firepower.

Bruce Wayne sees a world without Batman and won’t stand for it. Now, as an elderly man, Batman returns to Gotham City with new enemies and unlikely allies. If its war the Mutants want, its war they’re going to get.

Elderly Bruce and WAY old Alfred

 I can remember the first time I read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Once you’ve experienced that graphic novel you can never look at Batman the same way again. The gritty characters, the much darker tone, and the natural progression of The Dark Knight make for one of the best sequential art pieces ever created.

Batman on his first night back out on patrol

 I was worried when the film was scheduled to be the next DC Universe animated feature, but after five minutes into the story I knew that it was one of the best Batman adaptations ever. Not only does it capture the essence of the graphic novel, it also digs deep into an elderly Bruce Wayne’s psyche. There are some scenes that are just plain mind-bending, and the film is exceptional because of those risky moments.

The Dark Knight and Robin take on the Mutant Leader

The voice cast is outstanding. Peter Weller (Robocop) plays Batman/Bruce Wayne and nails the old and gravel-filled voice of The Dark Knight. Ariel Winter (ParaNorman) voices Carrie Kelly/Robin and makes anyone who watches it believe that she’s the character through and through. The only thing that I wish I got more of, though I know it’s coming in the next film, is Michael Emerson (Lost) as the Joker. His closing line is completely worth the wait until the next installment.

Carrie Kelly - Robin

Here’s the bottom line – this isn’t your dad’s version of Batman. This is the book, paired with Watchmen, that helped usher in the new age of comics in the 80’s. It’s dark, powerful, and examines crime-fighters in a very realistic light while still being based in fantasy.

This adaptation is faithful and expands upon the original story in a brand new medium. If you thought The Dark Knight Rises was good, you should see the book it took most of its influences from.

RATING: 9.5/10

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14 - Review




Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #14 – Review

If there’s one thing that IDW Publishing does right, its licensed properties. I’ve been vocalizing how much I enjoy the ongoing Ghostbusters title that they put out each month, and I recently rediscovered how much I enjoy the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series that they’ve been doing. It’s a re-imaging of the origin story by original creator Kevin Eastman, and it might be the update that older Turtle fans have been looking for.

With that said this issue by itself was very emotional and touching.

Casey Jones is much younger in this incarnation of the franchise, and has an abusive father who beats him within an inch of his life nearly every night. Raphael had rescued Casey before, and when Casey shows up with even worse injuries he rushes off to do the same to Mr. Jones.

But Splinter has a much different idea of how to handle the situation, and it results in a wonderful philosophic discussion about violence creating violence between the master and student. It’s also a wonderful story about how people who are physically abused by a parent feel that they have to deal with the pain and problems alone. Then goes on to help victims realize that there’s always someone willing to help, as long as you’re willing to let them in.

The story by Eastman and Tom Waltz is really heart-felt and makes for a great new take on the mutant heroes. Aside from the touching story about Casey Jones, we get a story of inter-dimensional conquest with Krang, who is set up as the next big villain in the series.

This issue is a great jumping on point for new readers. I had only read the first issue of the series and picked up #14 on a whim. I had no problem understanding what was going on, and I was immediately pulled in by the story and characters.

If you’re looking for a take on the heroes in half shell that you’ve never seen before, this is the material that you should be reading.

RATING: 9/10

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wonder Woman #0 - Review



Young Princess Diana is on a quest to prove herself as a true Amazon warrior by training with an unlikely ally. When she faces off against one of mythology's most powerful monsters, it'll take everything that Diana's teacher and the Amazons have shown her in the art of war.

This comic was just plain fun.

The new Wonder Woman title by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang has been dynamite, and this issue changed things up by returning to a more retro-styled comic book narrative. The whole thing reads like an adventure story from the 40's, which is a type of whimsical storytelling that sometimes gets overlooked in the modern world of gritty and dark comics.

The artwork by Chiang has a little bit of an older looking style this time around, but it really fits the story that Azzarello is telling. The characters are all very expressive and lively in every panel. The cartooning jumps off the page just as much on scenes where characters are just exchanging dialogue.

Diana has always been the heaviest hitting woman in the DC Universe. Her previous series have sometimes gotten shaky after a few issues, but the team on the New 52 version of the character knows how to treat the fairer member of the Trinity (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman).

If you're looking to get girls into comics, or if you just love retro storytelling, this issue is perfect.

RATING: 9/10

Monday, September 17, 2012

Justice League International Volume 1: The Signal Masters – Review


It's like pure 80's Action and Adventure




The world is changing. People with extraordinary abilities are showing up quickly on both sides of the law. The Justice League is here for our protection, but they don’t answer to the governments of the world. A radical new idea creates a new Justice League, an international team designed to work for the United Nations to combat threats. But before the JLI can stop the world from being destroyed by giant machines, they’ll have to learn to trust their shaky team leader, Booster Gold.

Written by Dan Jurgens, this whole series is a throwback to the wacky adventures of the DC Universe and its lesser known characters. The team consists of Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Green Lantern (Guy Gardner), Godiva, August General in Iron, Rocket Red, Vixen, and Batman (unofficially).

Now if you don’t recognize some of those hero names, don’t be scared, neither did I. But I’ve always had a fascination with the B and C list characters, and this book uses them in a really creative way. It’s interesting to see the characters we never rely on to save the world take up arms against gigantic cosmic threats.

It’s all a part of what gives this series its charm and Jurgens seems to have a high respect for these characters.

The artwork by Aaron Lopresti has an open and classic feel to it. In fact, the whole book reads like a series from the 80’s. Which really makes it all the more fun to devour. The scenes where Booster Gold and Batman chat with each other are a treat in terms of comic book fandom.

The only thing that might detract readers from this book is that it doesn’t have many heavy hitting characters on the team. If you’re the type of person who won’t read anything that doesn’t have the main JL team involved, this isn’t the book for you.

But if you’re looking for something to read on a rainy day with lots of action and adventure, this would be a good book to pick up and have with a hot beverage.

RATING: 7/10


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Manhattan Projects #6 - Review



Jonathan Hickman’s alternate history epic about the men involved in the Manhattan projects is outstanding. Every issue has given us laughs, dark turns, and visions of a super science era that only exists in Hickman’s mind. This issue kept in line with the rest and gave us a peek at Star City, the hidden gem of the U.S.S.R.

This series reminds me of Doctor Who in the sense that it’s a great place for fans of history and fans of science fiction to meet in the middle. Hickman takes actual events and spins them into his own web of make believe that nearly convinces you that there are inter-dimensional gates and multiple alien encounters in our hidden history.

The artwork by Nick Pitarra is very expressive and original. The displays of violence, technology, and human emotion all seem to work flawlessly on the panels and pages. When you pair it with Jordie Bellaire’s colors, you get bright and expanding art that feels like it has a life of its own on the paper (or screen if you’re reading digital).

Image Comics has been pumping out books that are breaking the boundaries left and right, and The Manhattan Projects is one of the genre-bending series that shows that there’s more room in comic books for original concepts.

RATING: 9/10

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday Attack Stack - 9/12/12

A Wednesday full of Emotions

This Wednesday didn't have nearly as many issues waiting for me in my pull box at the comic book store. But I was surprised at the amount of strong emotions I got in the few that did show up.

Out of the comics pictured, Batman, Batman and Robin, and Action Comics were the most poignant. American Vampire and Punk Rock Jesus were still great issues. All of them were great stories, but the first three really had strong and iconic moments this month.

BATMAN #0

In Batman #0 they explore one of Bruce Wayne's first missions as a vigilante, but without a costume or clear purpose. We also get to see The Red Hood in his early days, which is a real treat.

The part of the issue that was so powerful was the backup story about the different members of the bat-family when they were younger. Each of them experiences the idea of Batman in a different way and are finally inspired by the signal being flashed up in the sky. It really made me hope that the message and symbolism that Batman carries stands out to as many people as it does to me.

What does it mean?

It means something different to everyone. But the Batman symbol, at least to me, means standing against the darkness of the world and doing what you can to help others who can't fight back.

ACTION COMICS #0

A very similar sort of thing happened in Action Comics #0 this month. Now it didn't come out this week, I forgot to pick it up last Wednesday, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still really powerful. The main story has to deal with Superman losing his cape during one of his first conflicts, and a young kid taking the indestructible cloth home.

The kid who takes the cape home stands up to his abusive father (or his mom's boyfriend) and saves the lives of both himself and his brother. The story was about standing up to the bully, which the original incarnation of Superman was all about.

I think that people really forget that he was supposed to be the symbol of the oppressed. Much like how Batman's symbol means something that comes from the urge to fight back the darkness, Superman's symbol reminds us that if just one of us is willing to stand up to villains in the world, it would be a better place.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #0

I like Robin. There, I said it. I like all the Robins as a matter of fact. I think that the position of The Dark Knight's sidekick gets played down and dumped on a lot, but it's one of the most important in all of comic book lore.

This story focused on Damian, Bruce Wayne's son, who trains all his life to earn the right to know who his father is. There's an adorable and creepy moment where he discovers one of Bruce's old costumes and puts it on as a young child.

Damian has always been interesting because he's far more dangerous that Batman is. He has a taste for murder and is more likely to send someone to the hospital or the morgue than any other member of the bat-family. Even Jason Todd (The Red Hood), and that's saying something.

WRAP UP

I might talk a little bit about my Image titles that I didn't get to read, what with all the school work I had to do, but I just wanted to share these thoughts about these iconic characters.

I think that people forget that it's not so much about the punching and explosions when it comes to superheroes, but it's more about what they stand for. DC characters have always been about being people you could aspire to if given great power. These issues were examples of why it's important to remind everyone about them.

Marvel, that's a whole different set of importance for a different day.

Enjoy your Wednesday!



Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Which Mr. Ken Porter Becomes Spider-Man (Nearly)


AN ARACHNID FAKE-OUT


I was sitting in AuSable Hall at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, when I was given an incredible false hope. While my face was buried in a textbook about document design, I suddenly got a tingle in the back of my neck to look up from where I was sitting.

A spider was descending from the roof on a single thread of web.

-Dramatic Reenactment-

Some people are afraid of spiders. It’s supposedly a big deal. Personally I think spiders are wonderful for getting rid of flies. I mean really, spiders are silent, but flies are loud as hell and never leave you alone. It’s like the annoying person at work that wants to show you all their family photos when you could give two shits about them.

Hell, I don’t even give a single shit.

So anyway, back to my nerdy train of thought.

As the spider came down my first thought wasn’t, oh my god, here comes a spider, I need to get the hell out of his way. In fact, my real line of thought was, oh my god, here comes a spider, he’s going to dramatically bite me and give me superpowers.

It was just the perfect setup. Here I am, at a university, minding my own business AND wearing glasses, and BOOM! Spider bite.

It’s really unfortunate for the citizens of Michigan that it only rested on my hair before hopping down to the bench I was sitting on. A whole era of crime fighting ended with a spider that just didn’t have the balls to bite a young man with a laptop.

-This looks like it hurts-


Now I don’t have any way of proving that he would have given me powers. I’m not a scientist. But I do know science fiction, and the laws of science fiction really purely on coincidence and awesome made-up words.

So based on that style of logic it did have radioactive properties and I just missed out on an excuse to buy that skintight spandex suit I’ve always wanted. Although I feel like I might have a better chance at Christmas to get the suit if I’m good, and a relatively slim chance of this ever happening again with superpowers involved.



Zeroes to Heroes - Wednesday Attack Stack 9/5/12



WEDNESDAY ATTACK STACK


I always get incredibly excited for Wednesdays. Not only do I get to go to my local comic book shop to pick up the week’s releases (which I’ll talk about below), but I also get that rush for wanting to write my own comics to someday grace the racks across the country.

Until that happens I can deal with the methadone clinic type of satisfaction I get from new stories every week.

In terms of writing comic scripts and working on projects I’m nearly 100 percent back on track. I spent much of my free time, outside of work and school, working on pitches for a couple of stories that I had written.

After that I went into a writer’s block sort of state that my therapist tells me shouldn’t be disclosed openly on the web. Okay, so I might have caused a few pile-ups on the freeway, but I swear that the animals were escaping the zoo long before I pulled the switch to let them all out.

In short, I’m writing new stories and things couldn’t be better.

But that’s not all!

Since I’m starting to gain more momentum and actually work in the comics industry, I’ve decided to stop reviewing on my own site.

Now that doesn’t mean I won’t talk about books I recommend to other people, or about other forms of media that strike my fancy, but I need to stop critiquing so much.

Why?

Because I don’t feel comfortable telling other people in my field how to do their job when I’m trying to do the exact same thing. Plus, many of them are much better at it than I am right now and I don’t need to make any enemies.

So will there still be reviews? Yes. It’s called “Sequential Review.” I’d be stupid not to have them. But I’m going to start outsourcing my reviews to some of my friends. I know that makes my friends sound like a third world country, but I’m okay with that until one of them says something about it.

BOOKS I READ THIS WEEK

These are the books I read this week and some blurbs about how I felt about them. They’re not reviews. Although they might sound that way because I'm so used to doing it. I really just want to discuss the craft of sequential storytelling every Wednesday.

I’d say it’s more like you and I are sitting at a table, having a cup of coffee, and we’re going through my stack together. Maybe we catch a glance of a beautiful woman walking her dog outside the coffee shop window, and maybe you spill a frozen drink on my MacBook. Either way, we’re going to have a good time.

But you still owe me a new MacBook.

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #14 – Marvel Comics


What can I say about Miles Morales that I haven’t already said? He’s a fun character who should have been in the Marvel Universe a long time ago, even if it is the Ultimate Universe.

He’s got a good back and forth with Ultimate Captain America, and I can’t wait to see how their training goes after Morales’ interesting approach against The Rhino.

PHANTOM STRANGER #0 – DC Comics


I bought A LOT of DC Comics this week. The zero issue bugs bit me and I fell into the marketing trap. But to be honest, I really enjoy DC and the characters they have in their stable.

The sad thing is that I just really didn’t enjoy this too much. He’s got an interesting angle, but it didn’t hook me.

I do think that people who like Dial H will enjoy this, so if you read that series you should pick this up.

GREEN LANTERN #0 – DC Comics


Green Lantern has been surprising me lately. I dropped off around the sixth issue, but I’m finding myself being drawn back in.

Simon Baz is the GL who is introduced in this issue, and has a very different back-story than many of the other characters that use a power ring.

Many people are just freaking out over the fact that he’s an Arab American, but that doesn’t define who he is. It’s a very different approach on the Green Lantern series, but I’ve found that every GL has their moment to shine.

Also, big props to Geoff Johns for throwing another Michigan city in there.

BATWING #0 – DC Comics


Batwing is a title I got into after the New 52 premier. I actually just read the first issue only a week ago. I just got the first trade paperback in the mail and I’m excited to read it.

I’ve been all about Batman Incorporated, but I haven’t delved into it as deeply as I should be.

The African setting and the whole new set of problems that this character has to deal with intrigue me.

EARTH 2 #0 – DC Comics


This is a series that I really enjoy, but I felt a little lost on this one. While I do remember the inclusion of the narrator of this issue in previous stories, I don’t feel like this was as naturally woven in as much of the other stuff.

Is Earth 2 still worth it? Of course it is. Just because I didn’t follow it doesn’t mean other people didn’t like it.

Side note – I really enjoy that they’re called “wonders” in this alternate universe. It makes Mr. 8, the 8th wonder of the world, have a little bit of a cool factor, even if he’s a version of Lex Luthor with a full head of hair. Though he might play a bigger role in the future.

GUARDING THE GLOBE – Vol. 2 #1 – Image Comics


I love the world that Robert Kirkman has built in Invincible. In this title we get to see some of the world’s greatest and strangest heroes fight evils of immense proportions.

And by that I mean the monsters that exist in everyday life.

Just a warning, the part about Brit’s child is a very sad read, but very inspiring.

ANIMAL MAN #0 – DC Comics


Buddy Baker’s newly fleshed out origin is detailed in this issue. Animal Man has been my favorite series for this whole past year. Grant Morrison made me love Baker with his run on the character and Jeff Lemire is expanding that appreciation.

The story is really all about family and how important it is to Baker and how he’ll do anything to protect them or others from harm. It gives him much more motivation for his heroic deeds against threats like The Rot.

It was an added bonus that we got to see The Tailors in an earlier issue to describe their role in making it look like an alien incident the first time around (to change the continuity to that of the New 52), so that it didn’t seem forced in at the last second.

I also love the fact that Baker ended up becoming more powerful on his own and recently received an upgrade to that of a true avatar of The Red in the most recent issues.

It’s made me rethink whose powers I would chose to have if I met a genie. Come on, the whole animal kingdom to mix and use at your disposal -- strength, speed, longer life, and regeneration? Sign me up!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did pick up a ton of other books this week, but due to school and having that annoying habit of eating and sleeping I won’t be able to get to them.

One thing I will post about is an incredible treasure I found in a back issue box at my local comic book store.

Maybe I’ll replace my usual body functions so that I can post about it. I mean, who needs to breathe anyway?