Quick Review: WONDER WOMAN Vols. 2-3 (DC Comics, Rebirth)

A new origin, and a conspiracy to discover the location of Themyscira…

Writer: Greg Rucka | Art: Liam Sharp, Renato Guedes, Bilquis Evely, Laura Martin, Romulo FajardoJr., Hi-Fi

The definitive and shocking tale of Diana’s first year as Earth’s protector. Paradise has been breached, Ares stirs, and the Amazons must answer with a champion of their own…one who is willing to sacrifice her home amongst her sisters to save a world she has never seen. Wonder Woman’s journey begins in this epic origin story!

Collects: Wonder Woman #2, #4, #6, #8, #10, #12, #14

In Volume 2 of DC Comics’ latest Wonder Woman reboot, Greg Rucka takes a break from the storyline seeded in the first collection. Instead, he and his colleagues on the art-side pull out all the stops for (yet another) origin-type story. Subtitled “Year One”, it re-introduces us to the two main characters (Diana and Steve), updated for a modern setting. There are some parallels between this book and the recent Wonder Woman movie (if you haven’t see it yet, do so — it’s great), but it is by no means slavish or engaging in recycling. I was just frequently put in mind of certain elements of that movie while reading. Continue reading

Catching up on Image Comics Collections

Featuring: Jupiter’s Legacy, Rat Queens, Saga, Southern Bastards, StarlightVelvet

JupitersLegacy-Vol.1JUPITER’S LEGACY, Vol.1

Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Frank Quitely

The children of the world’s greatest superheroes may never be able to fill their parents’ shoes. When the family becomes embattled by infighting, one branch stages an uprising and another goes into hiding. How long can the world survive when one family’s super-powered problems explode onto the global stage? Just in time for the launch of the prequel series JUPITER’S CIRCLE comes this collected edition from storytelling masters Millar and Quitely.

Collects: Jupiter’s Legacy #1-5

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this — I have had very mixed experiences with Millar’s work in the past. Luckily, Jupiter’s Legacy is a pretty interesting take on super-heroes. Specifically, it’s a great look at the legacy of heroes and their families — what happens when later generations have completely different interpretations of the hero’s responsibility and the solution to the world’s problems? It’s fast-paced, nuanced and action-packed in equal measures. It’s not perfect, and there were some strange or clunky moments, but for the main Millar reigns in his… well, Millar tendencies: there was nothing here that suggested Grant Morrison’s influence was still in evidence. The violence is particularly brutal and graphic, true, but it’s not daft or stupid. Recommended for fans of, among others, Mark Waid’s Irredeemable.

*

RatQueens-Vol.2RAT QUEENS, Vol.2 – “The Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’Rygoth”

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe | Artist: Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Šejić

This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.

Collects: Rat Queens #6-10

The first Rat Queens book was a very pleasant surprise: it mixed up and twisted a whole host of fantasy tropes, creating something both familiar and refreshingly new. It was also wonderfully irreverent, but not to the point where gags overwhelmed the story. In this second collection, Wiebe and Co. up the ante, as the Queens get to the bottom of what’s actually happening to Palisade. It’s a very fast-paced story, with action and humour aplenty. The creative team do a very good job of not letting the story get completely ridiculous, but it’s certainly a grand, fantastical tale with magic and mayhem — playing with tropes in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, while maintaining the sense of wonder and fun that drew oh-so-many people to fantasy in the first place. Highly recommended for all fans of fantasy, great storytelling and humour comics. Excellent.

*

Saga-Vol.4SAGA, Vol.4

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan | Artist: Fiona Staples

Visit new planets, meet new adversaries and explore a very new direction, as Hazel becomes a toddler while her family struggles to stay on their feet.

Collects: Saga #19-24

Saga is one of the few ongoing series that I’m still following — at least, beyond the second collection (I often find that it when a series will either sink or swim). This series has been lauded far and wide, so it’s probably no surprise that I, too, absolutely love it. It’s just the right amount of crazy, just the right amount of faithful to the science fiction genre, but also funny, warm and expertly crafted. In this fourth volume, the strain of running and living in hiding gets too much for our couple of protagonists. Meanwhile, Alana is making it in entertainment, Marko is struggling to remain hidden while raising Hazel. Oh, and bounty hunters and crazy TV-headed royals are still after them. So there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Still a superb series, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A must-read.

*

SouthernBastards-Vol.2SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Vol.2 – “Gridiron”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Jason Latour

The hit new crime series SOUTHERN BASTARDS returns for its second volume, and pulls back the curtain on the dark and seedy history of Craw County and its most famous and feared resident, the high school football coach turned backwoods crime lord Euless Boss.

Collects: Southern Bastards #5-9

If HBO developed Friday Night Lights, this could be the result. A grim look at Southern football culture, blended very nicely with small-town secrets and brutality. A worthy follow-up volume to the first, shifting perspective and focus. This is a really interesting series, and highly recommended.

*

StarlightSTARLIGHT

Writer: Mark Millar | Artist: Goran Parlov

Forty years ago, Duke McQueen was the space hero who saved the universe. But then he came back home, got married, had kids, and grew old. Now his children have left and his wife has passed away, leaving him alone with nothing except his memories… until a call comes from a distant world asking him back for his final and greatest adventure.

Collects: Starlight #1-5

Once again, I was surprised by a Millar book — this one is a nostalgic look at golden-era heroes and sci-fi like John Carter of Mars. The nostalgia lies not only in the setting, but the story itself — Duke McQueen is getting old, he’s buried his wife, and is feeling lost and alone. His family don’t believe him about his earlier adventures. Now, though, the planet he saved decades ago has been conquered by a brutal race of… well, sadists. Called back to help, Duke gets to relive his glory days and, hopefully, do some more good. I really enjoyed this — much more than I expected. Highly recommended for long-time fans of super-heroes and classic science fiction fantasy.

*

Velvet-Vol.2VELVET, Vol.2 – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men”

Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Everything Velvet Templeton ever believed about the worst night of her life has turned out to be a lie, and now she’s coming back to London, taking the hunt back to the hunters, to find the truth or die trying. Don’t miss the second volume in the adventures of comics’ favorite new super-spy!

Collects: Velvet #6-10

Brubaker and Epting worked on my favourite Captain America storylines (Winter Soldier and Red Menace), so I was very much looking forward to Velvet, when it was first announced. The first collection was a great introduction to the characters and the start of Velvet’s investigation into the situation with her husband. In this second book, there’s action and espionage aplenty, while never stinting on the character development and story itself. It’s a fantastic series, frankly. As the book progresses, we learn just a little bit more about Velvet’s goals, not to mention a rather excellent switch-up at the end. Very highly recommended, this is a must for all fans of spy stories and thrillers. Easily one of the best ongoing series at the moment.

*

Quick Reviews: C.O.W.L., MERCENARY SEA, UNDERTOW, WICKED + DIVINE (Image)

COWL-Vol.01C.O.W.L., Vol.1 — “Principles of Power”

Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel | Artist: Rod Reis | Cover: Trevor McCarthy

Welcome to the “Chicago Organized Workers League” — the world’s first Super-Hero Labor Union!

While C.O.W.L. once stood as a beacon of hope against an epidemic of organized crime and an unbeatable “brotherhood” of Super-Villains, the union now faces its fiercest foe yet — a disillusioned public. In targeting the last of the great villains, C.O.W.L. attempts to prove its value to the world and to each other, while staving off villainy from both outside and inside its offices.

In 1962, the union faces a disillusioned public, scandal, and a new era of threats.

Collects: C.O.W.L. #1-5

This was a pretty good start to a new series. Set in Chicago, we get a melange of noir super-hero/detective action, local labour politics, and internal tensions. The story has everything to make it attractive to a large swathe of the comics readership. The artwork is rough, but that suits the story perfectly. It’s pretty slow-moving, though, and “Principles of Power” is very much setting up what I assume will be a large story arc: pieces are maneuvered into position, political and social realities exert pressures on the corrupt and idealistic alike. Obstacles are removed. I think this could end up becoming a classic. Definitely recommended.

*

MercenarySea-Vol.01THE MERCENARY SEA, Vol.1

Writer: Kel Symons | Artist: Mathew Reynolds

Action and adventure set in 1938 — The South Seas. Japan has invaded China. War in Europe is imminent. Ex-bootlegger Jack Harper captains The Venture, a refitted German U-Boat, with a crew of expats, mercenaries and treasure hunters. They do whatever it takes to stay afloat, often running up against pirates, headhunters, spies, and soldiers. They’re always one step away from the greatest score of their lives… or their certain demise.

Collects: The Mercenary Sea #1-6

This series pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin: high adventure, action and shenanigans in the late ’30s. It does a rather good job, too, and was a fun read. It didn’t blow me away, but it was certainly enjoyable. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting a break from super-heroes, but not a break from action and adventure. The artwork is rather simple, not bad, but not always great. Blocky colouring means it’s not as nuanced as many other comic, but it’s an interesting and eye-catching style. Recommended.

*

Undertow-Vol.01UNDERTOW, Vol.1 — “Boatman’s Call”

Writer: Steve Orlando | Artist: Artyom Trakhanov

Atlantis is the world superpower, and Redum Anshargal is its worst enemy. If you want to break free of the system, he can offer you a place at his side, exploring the wild surface world in his watertight city barge The Deliverer. He and his hostage-protege Ukinnu Alal hunt the Amphibian, a legend that could be the key to an air-breathing life on land. But as they become the hunted, can Anshargal’s team survive long enough to turn the tables on the godlike beast they set out for? A brand new pulp monster adventure with Ray Harryhausen at its heart and a look at Atlantis like never before.

Collects: Undertow #1-6

This was an interesting book. It took a bit longer than I usually like to get stuck into the story, but I think it’s pretty cool. I enjoyed the reversal of power and fortune — Atlantis as the dominant power, and the exploration of dry land from under the sea, rather than the usual opposite. The artwork is rough and interesting, but also rather psychedelically coloured. I didn’t love the series, but I think it’s a decent start to a new series. I’ll be back for volume two, but I won’t necessarily be rushing to buy and read it. Worth reading if you’re a fan of science fiction comics with a twist.

*

WickedAndDivine-Vol.01THE WICKED + DIVINE, Vol.1 — “The Faust Act”

Writer: Kieron Gillen | Art & Cover: Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

Collects: The Wicked + The Divine #1-5

This was frankly marvellous. It starts well and just gets better and better. Gillen et al manage to pack in a lot into these first five issues — the scene is set, the mythology explained (elegantly — there’s no clunky info-dumping), the characters established. Lucifer (“Luci” for short) is awesome, and probably my favourite, although the Underground-dwelling Morrigan was also delightfully twisted. The artwork is clear and sharp, brilliantly coloured (alternately atmospheric and vivid). The writing is excellent, never cliche and always engaging. I do love the mash-up of urban fantasy, the divine, and celebrity culture.

Very highly recommended, I can’t wait for volume two.

*

Marvel Graphic Novel Catch-Up: Fearless Defenders, Avengers, and Thor

GraphicNovelsRead-201311-1

Three new Marvel NOW collections that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I had my doubts about the new re-launch/re-boot, but I have actually rather enjoyed the stories themselves (despite, sometimes, only have movie knowledge to get me situated…).

Reviewed: Avengers, Fearless Defenders, Thor: God of Thunder

FEARLESS DEFENDERS, Vol.1 – “Doom Maidens”

FearlessDefenders-Vol.01Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artist: Will Sliney | Colors: Veronica Gandini

New team! New villains! New creators!Valkyrie and Misty Knight are the Fearless Defenders, and not since Power Man and Iron Fist has an unlikely duo kicked this much – well, you know.

Collects: Fearless Defenders #1-6

Cullen Bunn offers up  an all-female team of super-heroines, with a distinctly mythological slant. The story is fun and quirky, with Bunn’s signature, gentle humour often on display – witty asides, amusing narrative moments, and pretty great characterisation. I wasn’t wholly gripped, as I have been with some of his other work (The Sixth Gun remains one of my favourite series of all time). The artwork is good, sometimes a little exaggerated (think Marvel in the 1990s, perhaps). There’s some darkness in the story, too, which offered a nice balance to the levity, although I think I would have preferred to see that a little more developed. By the end, I thought I knew the characters rather well, but that the story had been a bit thin.

It was recently announced, I think, that this is being cancelled. That’s a pity, as I think this could have grown into something pretty cool, if given time. I’ll certainly be reading the remaining issues, though.

*

AVENGERS, Vol.1 – “Avengers World”

Avengers-Vol.01Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Jerome Opeña (#1-3), Adam Kubert (#4-6) | Colors: Dean White, Justin Ponsor, Morry Hollowell, Frank Martin, Richard Isanove (#1-3), Frank D’Armata (#4), Frank Martin (#5-6)

The greatest heroes in comics together on one unbeatable team! The Avengers “go large”, expanding their roster and their sphere of influence to a global and even interplanetary level. When Captain America puts out his call – who will answer? Big threats, big ideas, big idealism – these are the Avengers NOW!

Collects: Avengers #1-6

Captain America and Iron Man are rebuilding the Avengers. They’re using a more sophisticated organisational model, this time (it’s not as dull to read about as that sounds…). Meanwhile, Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph have been terra-forming Mars and lobbing “evolution bombs” at Earth, re-writing Evolution. As you do. And, collaterally, killing whole bunches of people all over the world. Naturally, this irks the Avengers. After the core Avengers team confronted them at the start, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye are held captive by these new baddies. Ex Nihilo likes to monologue. Cap is sent back to Earth to “bring everyone”. And then… We get one of the most anti-climactic conclusions in issue/chapter 3. It’s a total deus-ex-machina, couldn’t-be-bothered moment. Sadly fails to deliver, and I felt rather disappointed.

Avengers-Vol.01-Interior4

Recruiting, Avengers-Style

The second story in the book looks at the clean-up after the evolution bombs, from different perspectives, coupled with the backgrounds of some newer Avengers recruits (new for me, at any rate). First, Hyperion (a rather emo-God-type from another dimension, who seems to miss his former station on his world). Second, Smasher (a female “guardian”, or “subguardian” – basically, a Green Lantern with cool tech, a mask instead of a ring, and attached to the Shi’ar Empire, rather than the, uh, Guardians…). And third, Captain Universe (who appears to be a god… or perhaps the origin of all things… It’s not entirely clear…).

Avengers-Vol.01-Interior9

Three Moments of Levity: Bruce Banner explains himself (top), Thor confuses Tony (bottom, left),
and Thor is unimpressed by puny human’s idea of “Godlike”…

Overall, though, this isn’t a bad start to the new Avengers series. There’s a lot of rather cryptic information. Certainly, the Avengers are going Bigger. Hopefully it won’t become too silly in the future, but I am looking forward to reading Vol.2, “The White Event”. The artwork is pretty fantastic, too. Lots of great detail, rich colors, and it really pops throughout.

*

ThorGodOfThunder-Vol.01Thor: God of Thunder, Vol.1 – “The God Butcher”

Writer: Jason Aaron | Artist: Esad Ribic | Colors: Dean White (#1), Ive Svorcina (#2-5)

Throughout the ages, gods have been vanishing, their mortal worshippers left in chaos. Now, Thor follows a trail of blood that threatens to consume his past, present and future. The only hope for these ravaged worlds is for Thor to unravel the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!

In the distant past, Thor follows the bloody wake of murdered gods across the depths of space. In the present, the Thunder God discovers a forgotten cave that echoes with the cries of tortured gods… and is shocked to find himself among them! And thousands of years from now, the last god-king of a ruined Asgard makes his final stand against the God Butcher’s beserker legions. As three Thors from three eras race to stop the God Butcher, the full extent of his vicious scheme takes terrifying shape!

Collects: Thor – God of Thunder #1-5

Another great start to a new Marvel NOW series. This is the first Thor solo series I’ve ever read, and I think Aaron does a great job of offering a starting point – given that the story hops between three times (past, present, and very far future), there’s no need to be greatly versed in the Thor mythology (Norse or Marvel’s). We see the character develop a bit, and a millennia-long struggle against the God Butcher, who – true to his name – has been working his way through the various pantheons of the universe, culling the numbers of deities. Thor, the only one to give him much of a challenge, has been chosen as the Last, in order that he sees his fellow gods killed, one-by-one.

It’s a solid story, and I’m certainly going to try to stick with the series for a little while. The writing is great, the story and artwork complement each other brilliantly, too. Definitely recommend this one to anyone who either likes the character already, or wants somewhere to jump on.

ThorGodOfThunder-Vol.01-Interior1

Graphic Novels Catch-Up: Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Superman

GraphicNovelsRead-201310-1

Four mini-reviews of graphic novels I have read over the last couple of weeks: Captain America: Road to Reborn and Reborn, Indestructible Hulk, Superman: Secret Identity, Wonder Woman (New 52).

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK, Vol.1 – “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (Marvel NOW)

IndestructibleHulk-Vol.01Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Leinel Yu

Hulk: Indestructible force more weapon than man. Banner: Smartest man alive. Combined, they are the strongest, smartest weapon on the planet! And NOW!, the Indestructible Hulk is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Hulk’s first official missions include taking down the all-new Quintronic Man and battling Attuma on the ocean floor! But not everything is as it seems: What is Banner’s secret hold over S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill? What and where is Bannertown, USA? And which one of Banner’s lab assistants holds a deadly secret? Plus: Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are friends but Hulk and Iron Man are anything but!

Collects: Indestructible Hulk #1-5

I read the first issue of this collection when it was first released, and rather liked the approach Waid took to the character. Bruce Banner is hired on by S.H.I.E.L.D., who continue to be wary of… the Other Guy. He’s given his own research team and lab – located at “Bannertown”. The story is pretty good, to start with, as we get reacquainted with Banner and his constant struggle with the Hulk inside him. He goes on a mission with Tony Stark (Hulk doesn’t like Iron Man very much). Then things get rather weird… The story moves into Exaggerated Comic Story, which was a little annoying, after the rather good, nuanced beginning. I would have preferred a little more investigation of Banner’s state of mind, etc. It’s strange that Waid didn’t offer this, actually, given his stellar work on series such as Irredeemable (still one of my favourite stories of all time – comic or otherwise).

There’s an underwater adventure that seemed to come out of nowhere, a big battle, and then we get sent back to Bannertown, where S.H.I.E.L.D. have hired a young, varied and eccentric staff to help Bruce with his research.

Yu’s artwork is, of course, as excellent and distinctive as always. I love his style, and have done ever since I read Superman: Birthright (which was also written by Waid).

It’ll be interesting to see how this series develops. I’ll be back for at least volume 2.

*

WONDER WOMAN, Vol.4 – “War” (DC New 52)

WonderWoman-Vol.4Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman’s world is shocked to its core when her eldest brother, the First Born, is freed from his slumber. Now, with her family in ruins and her friends scattered, she must turn to Orion and the New Gods of New Genesis to save herself and Zola’s newborn from the First Born’s wrath!

Collects: Wonder Woman #19-23

I think I may be losing interest in this series. It seems to be spinning its wheels, while also occasionally veering into excessive (but abrupt) action. I still think Brubaker and Chiang have developed a fascinating and unique take on Greek Mythology and its leading deities, creatures, and so forth. There are moments of sheer brilliance, but then also moments that just didn’t appeal. Orion, for example. What a pointless addition to the series. (Although, his presence did give rise to one of the best couple of pages, when Diana puts him in his place, tired of his provocative lechery and chauvinism – below.)

WonderWoman-19-Interior6

Chiang’s artwork is great, as I’ve mentioned in reviews of previous volumes – there’s actually nothing I would fault on the visual side of things. I just didn’t love the story as much as I have in the past. Going forward, I may not follow this series as closely or quickly as I have been up to this point.

*

CAPTAIN AMERICA: ROAD TO REBORN and REBORN (Marvel)

CaptainAmerica-RoadToRebornWriter: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Dale Eaglesham, Jackson Guice, Luke Ross, Gene Colan, Dave Gutierrez, Rick Magyar, Bryan Hitch

Road to Reborn: Sharon Carter’s dreams are forcing her to relive the death of Steve Rogers – and her time under the control of Dr. Faustus. But will these dreams also reveal hidden secrets about what she saw and did on the day Steve died.

Reborn: Captain America – Steve Rogers – is reborn, but is he the hero we know and love? Or is the new Captain merely a pawn of the Red Skull, or perhaps something worse? And what is Norman Osborn doing lurking on the fringes?

Collects: Captain America #49-50; #600-601
Captain America: Reborn #1-6

Yup, I’m still working my way through the fifth series of Captain America (Marvel refers to it as “Vol.5”, but given that each collection is a “Volume” as well, it gets confusing – hence the use of “series”). I’m still really enjoying it, and I think Brubaker’s characterisation of Steve Rogers, Bucky, and their myriad companions is brilliant. The antagonists remain delightfully cartoon-y – perhaps the only thing that hasn’t aged quite as well as the concept as a whole. Both of these books were very heavy on the nostalgia – even featuring a story about Captain America memorabilia collectors.

CaptainAmerica-RebornReborn ends with a massive battle on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, as Steve Rogers must wrest control of his body from the Red Skull, whose consciousness has been implanted into the original Captain America’s body. Confused? Yeah, well, it turns out that the “assassination” was not, in fact, an assassination. Apparently, the Red Skull and Arnim Zola had planned to take Cap out of time (or something)… Why? Why didn’t the decades-old nemeses want to actually kill their enemy? Because the Red Skull apparently wanted to become him. Paging Doktor Freud…

Overall, though, not bad. Not the best in the series, but still enjoyable. It’ll be nice to see how the story goes forward, with Bucky still operating as Captain America. I actually rather like Bucky in the role, too – he adds some extra dimensions and insecurities, not to mention methodology. Next in the series is Captain America: Two Americas, which I’ll be reading pretty soon. [I will catch up!]

*

SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY (DC)

Superman-SecretIdentityWriter: Kurt Busiek | Artist: Stuart Immonen

What’s in a name? Everything, if you share it with the Man of Steel!

Set in the real world, SECRET IDENTITY examines the life of a young Kansas man with the unfortunate name of Clark Kent. All Clark wants is to be a writer, but his daily life is filled with the taunts and jibes of his peers, comparing him to that other Clark Kent — the one with super-powers. Until one day when Clark awakens to discover that he can fly… that he does in fact have super-strength! But where did these powers come from? And what’s he going to do about it?

This was a wonderful surprise. Also, a bargain at only $4 (during one of ComiXology’s Superman-related sales, each of the four extra-length issues was only $1). It’s a wonderfully-told story, too. It’s picaresque, following a “real-life” Clark Kent without powers, who has long been plagued by amused relatives and friends gifting him any number of Superman-related memorabilia, toys, and so forth. Then, one day during his teens, he actually develops Superman’s powers. What happens next? Well, that’s the story of this collection, which takes us from Clark’s youth through to old age. We see his life unfold, as he takes a job at a New York journal, gets a book deal, marries someone called Lois (though not “- Lane”, and of Indian descent), and has two daughters. Along the way, he must constantly protect his family and himself from the attentions of the government. He forms a working-relationship with one agent, though, and they strike a deal for moving forward and not getting in each other’s way or on each other’s nerves.

The artwork is pretty good. It’s slightly different from what I’ve seen of Immonen’s other artwork (if I recall correctly), but it does suit the nostalgic and emotional nuance of the story. It’s brilliant, really. Very highly recommended for any lover of Superman stories, looking for something a little different.

*

Some upcoming comic reviews: Sixth Gun, Vol.5; Avengers, Vol.1 (Marvel NOW), American Vampire, Vol.2; Walking Dead, Vol.1 (just in time for Halloween, hopefully); Locke & Key, Vol.2; Atomic Robo, Vol.1; Saga, Vol.2; Thief of Thieves, Vol.1… And no doubt a few others, as I’ve been reading a fair few.

Batman & Robin, Vol.2-3: “Batman vs. Robin” & “Batman and Robin Must Die!” (DC)

Batman&Robin-Banner

I’m still catching up with a huge backlog of comics/graphic novel reviews, but I decided to collect these two books together. Partly because they’re obviously connected, but also because I wanted to get the reviews out of the way. After liking the first volume in Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin run far more than I anticipated (I’ve written plenty of times how I think he’s highly over-rated), I dove in to the second and third volume pretty soon afterwards. (Told you I was being slow with reviewing…) Sadly, my pleasant surprise at the quality of volume one evaporated with these two books. These are, frankly, not so good.

Volume 2: “Batman vs. Robin”

Batman&Robin-Vol.2Writer: Grant Morrison | Artist: Cameron Stewart (#7-9), Andy Clarke (#10-12) | Colors: Alex Sinclair (#7,10-12), Tony Avina (#8-9,11) | Inks: Scott Hanna (#10-12)

The new Batman and Robin uncover clues involving the mysterious death of Bruce Wayne before facing off against each other in a heated battle instigated by Robin’s mother that both heroes will regret – if they live through it! Featuring a 3-issues storyline that ties into the best-selling BLACKEST NIGHT event titled “Blackest Knight,” this new collection is a must-have for both new readers and longtime fans of Grant Morrison’s Batman epic as the superstar writer unveils more of his genre-defying masterplan!

Collects: Batman & Robin #7-12 (pre-52)

We start in London. And this is the Grant Morrison I know. The story contains some thinly-veiled (to a Brit, at least) social and political commentary. Nothing wrong with this per se, but it wasn’t particularly well-done. Also, #7 (the first chapter in this book) was a bit muddled, to be honest. Suddenly, Batwoman’s there (why?), and also the Knight & Squire. Frankly, this was not good, following the previous issues.

Newcastle vs. London? Really? Writing a Geordie accent is never a good idea. Just sayin’.

The Batwoman story and presence was dealt with in two pages. There was some linkage to Morrison’s Event that killed Batman. It was not great, and rather rushed. Oh, and then Damian takes over as chairman of the board for Wayne Enterprises! At age 10! Of course! That isn’t moronic at all!

This book starts the return of Bruce Wayne. The story has moments which are quite fun, but the dialogue can sometimes be awful… (“It’s like the whole house is coming to life.” – #10, p.11) The story jumps forward, after getting us some way through the ‘treasure hunt’, only to not bother with the end of it. This just reinforces my belief that Morrison is a lazy writer. The story was half-assed. Really disappointing. At the same time, I didn’t see the end coming. So there’s that, I suppose.

*

Volume 3: “Batman and Robin Must Die!”

BMROBBMD_DLX_DJ.qxdWriter: Grant Morrison | Artist: Frazer Irving (#13-16), Cameron Stewart (#16) | Colors: ?

On the eve of Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City, the new Batman and Robin team that battled crime during his absence must deal with the return of The Joker.Then, Grant Morrison connects the BATMAN & ROBIN story with the bestselling THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE in the climactic showdown between Batman and The Black Glove.

And in a story illustrated by acclaimed artist David Finch, learn what happens to Dick Grayson after the “real” Batman returns.

Collects: Batman & Robin #13-16 (pre-52)

So, so sloppy.

That is basically how I feel about this book. It feels like Morrison is in a hurry to get things over with. The book ends with Batman Incorporated established – an event that spawned one of the worst books I’ve read. It is a dismal finish. Bruce Wayne just appears back in action at the end. There’s no real development of why or how (I assume one had to read The Return of Bruce Wayne and who knows how many other books/issues to get the full story).

So much has happened to the Bat-franchise during Morrison’s tenure at the helm, and I’m not at all convinced it’s all (or even mostly) good… This was, in many ways, complete gibberish. Maybe, as I’m sure die-hard Morrison fans will argue/wail, I just don’t “get” it, that he’s writing on a level that is above my comprehension. Ultimately, though, I just think he’s a bad writer.

I think I’ll probably just borrow the New 52 Batman Incorporated from my local library (it gets an excellent selection of New 52 books in), as once again he’s been handed the reins for another game-changing event. (Seriously, how can anyone think he’s the best choice, when compared to everyone else currently writing for a Bat-title?!)

I much prefer Peter Tomasi’s take on Damian Wayne, in the New 52 Batman & Robin. Tomasi’s writing overall is also superior in pretty much every way. Actually, everyone else working on Batman-related titles is doing a better job by far. I think I’m done attempting to find the supposed genius and/or magic in Morrison’s work. It just isn’t there, and I’m disappointed every time. Well, always except for one instance: Action Comics #0 wasn’t bad.

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A closing comment for both of the books: the art is good. The one benefit of Morrison’s reputation, is that DC has allowed him to work with some exceptionally talented artists. For that, at least, we can be very grateful. The artists who worked on both of these books do a great job throughout.

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One final comment: At least the Pink Flamingo wasn’t present in these books. He was an utterly ridiculous character.

Ok. I’m done, now.

Trans-dimensional New 52 (DC Comics)

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There are three series in DC’s New 52 that feature inter-dimensional travel shenanigans, so I thought I’d compile a joint review of all three: Earth 2, Mister Terrific and World’s Finest.

Mister Terrific actually travels between these dimensions, too, so he has a way of anchoring the series together (although, he features more in later issues of World’s Finest, which are not reviewed here). I’m not sure if I’m reading too many New 52 titles, now – I seem to have a shorter fuse when it comes to quality, and am finding myself more inclined to drop series quicker. Or, equally possible/likely, I’m more of a traditionalist, and just prefer the ‘core’ characters that make up the Justice League and their solo-series. Certainly, I’m finding myself really liking Geoff Johns’ series (Justice League, Aquaman and Green Lantern).

Anyway, back to these three series… I had very mixed feelings about them all, and was quite disappointed with two of them. I’ll keep these reviews short, therefore, otherwise I’ll just feel like I’m flogging a dead horse. Also, as with most books I read and don’t connect with, there are some spoilers below.

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MisterTerrific-Vol.1Mister Terrific Vol.1 – “Mind Games”

Writer:

Introducing the electrifying new villain Brainstorm, who is determined to bring Los Angeles to its knees – beginning with Michael Holt!

Collects: Mister Terrific #1-8

I picked up all eight issues of Mister Terrific during one of ComiXology’s sales. I read the first three. I’ve not read the rest of them, and each time I open up the fourth to start reading… I just give up before I turn a single page. This is my first DNF of the New 52 series collections (the panel, below, from issue #2 was just too apt to ignore and not include – it perfectly reflects my own feeling when reading this series). I’d be happy to put some of this down to a complete lack of familiarity with the character. But really, I just think this series wasn’t up to scratch.

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I’m always amazed when a comic book, a visual-dominated medium, has more telling than showing in it. It’s littered with pseudo-science, cliché terminology, and frankly sub-par writing. I can understand fully why it was cancelled. Even the revelation at the end of #3 felt forced, where it should have had a huge impact on the story and reader.

The artwork’s not bad, though, and I think the premise has (or, at least, had) a lot of potential. But from what I read in the first three issues, I just can’t generate the enthusiasm to finish it – even though there are only about 100 pages left of the entire series.

If someone can tell me that it got better before the ending, I’ll get back to it. Otherwise…

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Earth2-Vol.01Earth 2, Vol.1 – “The Gathering”

Writer: James Robinson | Artists: Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott & Eduardo Pansica | Colors: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado

Who are the heroes of Earth 2? When the Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman of Earth 2 fall in battle, it’s up to a new breed of heroes to come together to combat the returning evil of Apokolips!

Collects: Earth 2 #1-6

I read and rather enjoyed the first issue of this series, when it came out. As with so many series, I decided to hold off until the first collected volume/storyline was available, and on the strength of the debut issue had pretty high hopes. Sadly, these expectations were not met. The premise is interesting, certainly, and I like the idea of alternative versions of these heroes fighting their own battles, completely removed from the ‘normal’ DC Universe heroes and storylines.

However, despite the strong start, this series is riddled with irritating storytelling. For example, the Green Lantern of this world: before he is the Green Lantern, he’s some high-flying celebrity. He proposes to his partner, and we get a good idea of how devoted they are to each other. Then, a handful of pages later, there’s a train crash. His partner dies, and he… moves on rather quickly and easily. I’m not sure if this was an editorial decision, just a way of quickly providing the character with a motivational life-tragedy (in itself, rather cliché). Certainly, given that the character was trumpeted as the first(?) gay major DC character, the quick dispatch of the love interest (whose name I can’t remember) smacked of tokenism.

The storyline itself was just rather flat, and didn’t compare favourably with Robinson’s other stories and series that I’ve read. Given that he’s broken with DC under not the happiest of terms, I can’t help but wonder if this series suffered from overbearing editorial control. In many ways, it’s playing it safe – great, big bad-guy, terrorising Washington, killing everyone (he’s some kind of death creature, Grundy). Instead of getting a sense of any real peril, the threat posed by this big bad ends up forming the crux of a team-building exercise.

The artwork is rather good, I must say, which only makes the lackluster storyline all the more disappointing.

If I’d taken any notes while reading this, I probably could go on at greater length about the things that niggled, but I don’t really think there’s much point. Overall, this was disappointing, leaving me rather nonplused and uninvested in the characters. Will I try the next story-arc? Well… perhaps. A couple of other comic fans, whose tastes are often similar to my own, enjoy this series quite a bit. So… maybe. But not in the near future. And only if I can find Volume 2 or the individual issues on sale.

Earth2-Vol.01-Content

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WorldsFinest-Vol.1Worlds’ Finest, Vol.1 – “Lost Daughters of Earth 2”

Writer: Paul Levitz | Artist: Kevin Maguire, Wes Craig (#0 & flashbacks), George Pérez | Inks: Scott Koblish | Colors: Rosemary Cheetham (#0 & flashbacks), Hi-Fi

Discover why these two heroes are stranded on our Earth – and what it means for the heroes of the DC Universe.

Collects: World’s Finest #0-5

The #0 issue (which originally came out mid-way through this story-arc) takes place two years before the events of Earth 2 #1. We’re introduced first to Helena of Earth 2. She is Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s daughter. She is also the Robin of this universe. We meet her on the hunt, shadowed by her mother, and afterwards we learn that Bruce is not at all happy that she went out without him.

Then we meet Superman, who is trying to train Supergirl, while mourning the death of Lois Lane. It’s a much quicker introduction than Helena’s, but it gives us pretty much everything we need to know.

The rest of this chapter tells us of how they met, and the tragedy that brought them together (though Supergirl still wishes to keep her identity a secret).

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The first story-arc, then, takes place on the main DC world, is pretty good. The first chapter has a fun nod to Huntress’s past identities in the DCU (Bertinelli, the “mafia princess”, for example – above). I’d already read #1 before picking up the rest of the first issue volumes, and rather enjoyed it. The pair of heroines, who have very different approaches to their vigilantism are nevertheless fast-friends. They end up in Japan, and confront Hakkou, the irradiated man. Each issue also contains flashback sequences, which tells us of the first two years Helena and Supergirl-now-Power Girl spend in their new home. It’s a nice balance of action and a twist on a coming-of-age story (a “coming-to-terms” story, perhaps?).

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There are clear connections between this series, Earth 2 and Mister Terrific – both of which, as mentioned above, were not as good as I’d hoped they would be. This series is more fun, but it also feels like it’s not quite settled, and a bit thinner than it could have been. We’re still learning about the characters, their dynamic, and so forth, so at least Levitz gives the impression of not being in as much of a rush as Robinson to establish this new team’s dynamic. It is pretty good, and I like the characters, so I have no doubt I will read some more. Given the slight shakiness, though, I’m not wholly sold on this – it does bear more examination, though, and I hope things will take off better in the second story-arc.

In terms of the artwork, I really like the style for for the ‘present’, but the flashback art seems much more inconsistent, with characters sometimes deformed or distinctly different in appearance than they should ever be (faces change shape, rather than expression, for example). There were a few emotional moments that were robbed of their punch because the artwork/pencils looked cartoony (especially the tragedy at the end of #0). Both styles feature nice, bright and sharp colours, though.

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