Saturday, December 31, 2011

Savage Hawkman #4

"The Savage Hawkman vs. The Black Plague" by Tony Daniel marks the conclusion of the series' first arc as the winged wonder fights the terrible menace of Morphicius.  This issue was 100% action, no dull moment, no interludes, and as a result, is the best of the run so far.  Even the art by Philip Tan, which I have been so critical of, found its groove in the fight sequences, and the explosions, and the crashes.  The colors by Sunny Gho were great as well; there is this panel in page 15 that I just loved for its simplicity -see below.  Story wise, we see Hawkman make some new acquaintances -wouldn't call them allies- and the layers of the proverbial onion let themselves be seen as a development regarding the hero's identity is revealed.  If there is a lesson to be learned, is that the book works best when there is more focus on Hawkman and less in Carter Hall.

Art by Philip Tan and Sunny Gho

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Dark Knight #4

Batman's tour through his rogue's gallery in search of the one responsible for the newest toxin in town, takes him to Poison Ivy's lab where he finds further clues.  Many things I liked about this issue: It connected this series' events to those of Detective Comics, it continued the parade of super hero guests, and it used the fear theme of the arc to get inside the Dark Knight's head and let us know his aprehensions through inner dialogue that was very well written.  The sense that Batman is falling and dragging everyone he cares for with him is evident, so let's hope that with everything that's going on, Paul Jenkins and David Finch follow up on all of it.  The art was pretty good, especially the colors by Jeromy Cox, who despite using the whole palette, was able to convey a somber and mysterious atmosphere.  Great issue overall.

Wolverine and the X-Men #3

The comedic adventures at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning continue as students and faculty are attacked by Krakoa, the living island.  I cannot take this book seriously, so I went in with a different mindset: forgot all about continuity, all the context of X-Men history, and just thought of it as an issue of ArchieScooby Doo, or Tiny Titans, and it actually went down a lot better.  The editorial team still needs to do their homework better, though; I understand the need to appeal to a younger demographic, its consequent use of "hip language", and even the Twitter references; so why is a brat like Quentin Quire bringing up Gilligan's Island?  Kids don't know about that stuff nowadays.  This issue was better than the previous two, but the book is definitely not my taste, so for now I will stop reviewing it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Flash #4

Heralded by a fantastic variant cover by Eric Basaldua, this issue of The Flash features a Rogue Profile starring Mob Rule.  If you like J.H. Williams' style in Batwoman, then you are going to love what Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are doing here as they tell the gruesome origin of this new character.  All the stops are being pulled by this creative team in order to deliver their stories, and everything they are throwing at the walls is sticking: the flashbacks, the colors, the inner monologues, and the new concepts.  Speaking of that, the new aspect of Barry's power is already proving to be an actual problem for him, so it is pretty cool to see him struggle trying to get over that learning curve.  Being a Rogue Profile issue, our hero only makes a brief appearance, but this is not detrimental to the story by any means, as there is plenty of character development for Barry Allen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Aquaman #4

Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis present the final chapter of "The Trench" as Aquaman and Mera immerse themselves in the depths of the mid-Atlantic ridge.  This is a complete change of scenery, and the challenge and complexity of drawing, inking, and coloring an obscure environment such as the bottom of the ocean, have just earned the artistic team a standing ovation; what a great job.  The resolution to the story makes you empathize with the trench critters despite their "Aliens" quality; on the other hand, that same resolution forces the question: did this story really need four issues to be told?  The end of the arc brings readers full circle regarding the jokes and the awkward reactions from the public in the initial chapters; now that everyone can see how totally awesome Aquaman is, let's hope that's the end of that.  Next stop in this thrilling ride:  Who sunk Atlantis?

X-Men Legacy #260

Rogue makes up her mind in the second part of "Half a Step" by Mike Carey, which is also the final issue of X-Men Legacy by this writer.  There are no big surprises here as the southern belle's decision to go to Wolverine's gold team has been known for months, so this story is more about her reasoning behind that choice.  There are also developments for minor characters, such as the return of Ariel, a farewell for Korvus, and some vindication for Hellion.  Going back to Rogue, I used to be a fan of she pairing up with Magneto, but now I find the whole thing just creepy; he's like 40 years her senior!  Anyway, her departure from Utopia was  explained to satisfaction.  The art by Khoi Pham was okay; it felt flat and kind of forgettable, but it reminded me at times of Paul Smith's old run in Uncanny X-Men.  Verdict: an average issue for an average run.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Green Lantern Corps #4

Yup, that's the Martian Manhunter!  But we'll get there in a minute.  "Prisoners of War" by Peter J. Tomasi follows John Stewart and his squad as they are imprisoned by the beings known as the Keepers after last issue's cliffhanger, and their origin has its roots in an old plot device familiar to Green Lantern followers; it will be interesting to see where this is going.  The issue also takes a quick look at some of the lanterns who were able to escape from Xabas; Hannu, Isamot, and Sheriff express very distinct emotions resulting from their recent experience, and I hope we keep seeing more of that.  Now going back to J'onn J'onnz, his presence was unexpected, but well received, especially because it introduces an element of conflict between he and the Corps that I had never considered.  I don't follow Stormwatch, but it looks like we might see a crossover in the future.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wonder Woman #4

Like it used to be back in the not-so-old day, Diana gets her thunder stolen from her by the supporting characters in her own title.  Undoubtedly, the most intense parts of "Blood" were played by the Queen of the amazons and the Queen of the gods.  Hera's presence was magnificently portrayed in this issue; she is a force to be feared, and this fact was well conveyed in the writing and the art; while the burden on Hippolyta's shoulders, her remorse, and her anguish were almost palpable in every page.  From beginning to end, the events on Paradise Island were superbly written by Azzarello, while the art perfectly reflected how horrifying, depressing, and inevitable the situation was.  Conversely, Wonder Woman's side of the story seemed lackluster and of little contribution to the story.  Let's hope Diana's role is vindicated in issue #5.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Birds of Prey #4

The Birds of Prey welcome a new member in "Absolutely Mental" by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz.  Whereas Batgirl's guest role in Nightwing #4 was carefully crafted and in synch with previous events, her joining the female squad was disjointed and made little sense.  I was thrilled to know Batgirl was going to appear in this title, and later on, when it was confirmed she would actually join, I was ecstatic; however, it's been months since the initial announcement, yet her sudden presence felt improvised and last-minute; like the story was supposed to go a different way, and then five minutes ago someone said "hey! throw Batgirl in there, draw her in the pages you haven't done yet and let's see where that goes".  There is no explanation, no actual reason, and worst of all, in complete contradiction to Dinah and Barbara's talk in issue #1.  Perhaps issue #5 will smooth Batgirl's induction to the team.

Happy Holidays!

Daredevil #7

Mark Waid continues his praised Daredevil run with a special story just in time for the holidays.  Matt Murdock and a bunch of kids find themselves in a dire situation after the bus they travel in crashes and they are left to fend by themselves in the middle of a blizzard.  You hear stories like this one on the news all the time, so what takes place in this issue is really not that far-fetched; what I found really compelling was the fact that Daredevil was kind of freaking out.  The man without fear.  The one who has fought against impossible odds.  He was actually at a loss.  There was no big baddie to fight, there was no nuclear device about to go off; it was just he and the responsibility of saving these children from nature.  Of course, this story could not have been this perfect without Paolo Rivera, Javier Rodriguez, and Joe Rivera's pencils, colors, and inks.  What a well told holiday tale.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #18

So "The Dark Angel Saga" a.k.a. "This is how comics are written" has come to its conclusion, and rather than a review of the final chapter of the story, this is more of a reflection about what went well with this arc.  Was it a problem that encompassed 18 issues, lasting about a year and a half? No.  Was it a problem that it featured more than one artist? No.  Was it a problem that it involved characters from an alternate dimension not every reader is aware of? No.  Why? Because the writing was so well executed that none of that mattered.  Without pretensions, Uncanny X-Force has surpassed the flagship mutant titles, and has certainly put the never-ending Marvel events to shame.  For once, Wolverine was not the last man standing to save them all, and we did not have to be annoyed with companion mini series and tie-ins.  The creative team led by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña has just schooled everyone on what real comic book writing is *cough, Brian Michael Bendis*.  Hands down this was the best Marvel story of 2011.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nightwing #4

Kyle Higgins brings Nightwing and Batgirl together in "South Beach Connection."  It is so pleasant to see when creators  communicate and are in synch with each other; this issue not only is a nice stand-alone story for Nightwing, but also a nice follow-up of sorts to Gail Simone's Batgirl #3.  This team-up serves not just to go after some bad guy, but also to patch things up between Dick and Barbara; the combination of action and character development was just right.  By the end of the issue, the road takes us back to the ongoing story and sets the stage for next issue with a new mystery in Haly's circus.  While I missed Eddy Barrows' pencils, Trevor McCarthy did a great job with his movie-like action sequences, and continuing with the theme of after-images when illustrating acrobatics.  Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable issue that no fan of Nightwing or Batgirl can miss.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Batman #4

The soon to be classic "Court of Owls" takes a break to visit Memory Lane in a story written by Scott Snyder.  This issue reveals Batman's reasons to deny the existence of the legendary order, and is an excellent jumping point for anyone who was not following the series from the start, as the events from the past three issues are summarized in a reader friendly manner that also helps the story move forward by putting lots of pieces together. My favorite moment was the reveal of the rhyme itself, which was very ah-ha! and creepy at the same time; but the question remains... has the Court existed all along, or is someone making it look like it has?  Greg Capullo continues rocking in the art department, and although his civilian faces are kind of funny looking, his action panels are just amazing.  The flashback sequences are enjoyable as they are presented as an old film; all in all, this was a very well done issue.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Justice League #4

The genesis of the greatest superhero team continues courtesy of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.  If there was a soul out there that by the end of Aquaman #1 wasn't convinced that the Sea King is a badass, then this issue will take care of it.  Aquaman's place among the DC pantheon is cemented in the fourth instalment of "Justice League", and not even big-mouth Jordan can argue with it.  From Cyborg's ongoing origin, to Green Lantern's lasso incident, to Batman's off-panel laughter, this issue was filled with character development, action, and light moments, right before the big cliffhanger.  There is still some misuse of space with too many splash pages and lack of dialog and text, that otherwise would have been helpful to get inside the heroes' heads and see what they think of each other.  A solid issue, but not the best of the four published to date.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Ray #1

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray present the newest incarnation of a legacy character in the DCnU.  Thing with #1 issues of a new character is that most of the content is dedicated to backstory and introductions; here, the reader does not have to be concerned with that, as the story skips the boring part and jumps right into the meaty stuff; this keeps the attention focused on the hero while the inner monologue provides characterization.  Without the shadow of a doubt, I am positive we will hear great things of artist Jamal Igle; his pencils are just great: well defined, detailed, and dynamic; DC needs to sign him up quickly before someone else gets him.  This new Ray is likeable and relatable, and if the title is intended for younger readers, it will not be hard for it to find its niche.  I hope he starts interacting with the rest of the DCnU soon because he is a keeper.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Batgirl #4

"An end to Dreams" is the final confrontation between Batgirl and Mirror, presented by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf.  The final chapter of this first arc takes us inside the minds of both characters, and while Mirror believes no one deserves to have a second chance, Batgirl feels she is undeserving of the one given to her; they are indeed twisted reflections of each other.  Their conflict is resolved, not in a predictable manner, but in the only one that made sense, bringing to a close the first adventure for the dominoed daredoll in her new beginning.  Ardian Syaf was absolutely fantastic in this issue; each one of Batgirl's expressions, her movements, the dynamics, and the flow of the panels, were exceptional; while Cifuentes and Arreola did an amazing job with the shadow and light contrast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Batwoman #4

An issue not for the faint of heart, "Estuary" picks up right after the end of last month's chapter and introduces in a gruesome way a new menace to Batwoman's world.  The intensity of the opening pages is something I had never seen in a "conventional" comic book, and while it might provoke an uproar among the non-readers, it was tastefully done.  If anyone was on the fence regarding Cameron Chase, you will make up your mind here, and if you like Flamebird, there are huge developments for her.  With the exception of the first and last pages, the story is told in its entirety in double spreads, without sacrificing content.  Williams III and Haden Blackman are building a masterpiece that will for sure reverberate beyond the world of comics for many years to come; the storytelling, the art, and the characterization make of this book a winner.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

X-Men #22

Launched with the sole purpose of capitalizing on Twilight and the vampire craze, the creators of this book did not seem to think in the long term; what was important at the time was publishing a title with Wolverine and vampires in it; there was no planning ahead.  Since then, X-Men has tried to interact with other corners of the Marvel Universe, but the stories have been bland and whimsical.  Now that Regenesis is here, a stealth team that includes big guns like Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, and favorites like Domino, still does not seem enough to sustain this series' redundancy.  The cherry sitting on top of this inconsequential title is Vampire Jubilee, without a doubt the most insulting development for a character that used to be fun and relevant.  The art by Will Conrad is neat and evoking of Mike Deodato Jr.'s style, but it needs to come with a good story; sadly, it doesn't.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Action Comics #4

The debut of the man of steel in Metropolis continues in a story written by Grant Morrison.  Taking the spotlight from Superman, another hero makes his first appearance in public: Dr. John Henry Irons (only the coolest name ever) a.k.a. Steel.  While Morrison establishes the character as a member of the Superman family, Sholly Fisch gives Steel his own motives and inspiration to become a hero in the backup story; both writer doing more for Irons in this one issue than other creators did in the past few years.  About the rest of the story, it felt rehashed, considering that two arcs featuring Brainiac bottling cities have been published in less than three years.  Very solid art by Rags Morales in the main story and Brad Walker in the back-up.  Minor complaint: Why was Superman's shirt almost white instead of blue?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Huntress #3

The adventures of Huntress in Italy continue in the third chapter of "Crossbow at the Crossroads."  Helena's search for Moretti is forcing her to deal with more dangers than initially expected, and as in real life, corruption goes all the way up to the highest circles of government.  Her hunt is about to make her clash with even heads of state; a very dangerous game for her opponents, but even more so for her.  In this issue, more than in previous ones, the scenary comes to the forefront; Marcus To does an excellent job illustrating streets and landmarks of Pompeii, giving the story an absolute Mediterranean flavor and a unique identity.  His action scenes are also great; you can see how well coreographed they are when you don't question how the character when from one position to another between panels.  Another great issue!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Batwing #4

Batwing recalls his past as he follows the trail of destruction Massacre is leaving behind him in "Better at Terrible Things" by Judd Winick and Chris Cross.  As crude and violent as this story is, the sad thing about it is that it is rooted in reality; take the super heroics aside, and you will find yourself not reading a comic book, but basically looking at a documentary.  This is what impacted me the most about this issue.  Not that I am getting political or anything, but a little push and this book could actually send an awareness message out there.  Going back to comics, Winick is weaving a complex and compelling story, while creating a whole new corner in the DCnU that could eventually be the cradle for many new characters and stories.  Ben Oliver was missed and I wish he had at least pencilled the present-day sequences, as his art is a staple of this series.