Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Flash #6

An improved and more powerful Captain Cold makes his debut in the DCnU courtesy of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. Long time readers will be pleased to know that Cold is still Leonard Snart, just an updated version of him; one that not even the scarlet speedster is familiar with. That's probably the main takeaway of this issue: the changes to the character are not just thrown at us, there is a mystery involved as to how he went from using pistols to generating cold biologically.  The artwork steals the show in this installment. The dynamism and fluidity in the panels pop in each page. There's a scene where Iris and Patty are falling down a tilting ship, and the pencils truly covey that sense of dizziness. The colors are also very inviting thanks to the contrast of Flash's reds and Cold's blues. Great issue.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Aquaman #6

No supporting character in comics has been due a solo story longer than Mera, but her moment has finally come thanks to Geoff Johns, who ever since "Blackest Night" has taken great strides to ensure that everyone gets to know and love her. In this spotlight issue, Mera goes to town and things go wrong as soon as she starts interacting with the locals.  Although somewhat pedestrian and a bit condescending, the story shows an aspect of Mera's power that had never been seen before: not only can she move the oceans, but also manipulate water at a molecular level and display fine motor control; amazing. "Deserted" also touches on her past; one that had been visited briefly prior to the reboot in "Brightest Day," but here, the added elements clearly connect her family to whatever it is that's coming next. Joe Prado did a good job with the art, but Ivan Reis was greatly missed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birds of Prey #6

Cliffhangers in this series are pointless. By the end of issue #5, Sterling was being shot at by some black-ops dudes, but then in this book, the moment is reduced to an inconsequential event resolved in a flashback. It's not the first time Swierczynski pulls the same move in this series, and it is aggravating because it trivializes what are supposed to be the most energetic parts of the story. The pencils by Pina are also somewhat awkward in this installment, and have a certain something that reminds me of Greg Land's traced artwork; the strange poses in some of the scenes make it look as if they had been taken from a fashion magazine. Katana does very little in this chapter, Batgirl even less; which begs the question once again: what is she doing here? I want to see her in the team, but only if her presence is relevant. Iffy issue.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Avengers #21

A menace from a past they would rather soon forget, returns to haunt the New Avengers.  First the good:  The Thor clone who caused so much pain and grief during Civil War looks truly menacing and intimidating thanks to Mike Deodato's pencils and Paul Mounts' colors.  No one does Thor like Deodato, after all, he's had more than 16 years of experience drawing him; the whole battle sequence is stunning.  Now the bad: Despite the nice artwork, the arc is still a rehash of storylines that are relatively recent; the clone, the Dark Avengers, and Tommy Lee Jones -er... Norman Osborne, are all elements from events that are still fresh. Then there's Wolverine being ridiculously indestructible, and the lack of attention to other team members.  Why isn't Daredevil front and center?  Why is Ms. Marvel being used as background filler? I liked this issue for the confrontation, but all else is forgettable.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nightwing #6

After the demonic events of last issue, Nightwing returns to more grounded action when Haly's circus makes a stop in Texas.  Searching for clues that could take him to Saiko, Nightwing does not realize that the enemy is right in front of him, or that he's being played by friends.  From there, the story focuses on characterization, including a visit by Alfred Pennyworth, who is seldom seen outside the mansion or the cave. The art team led by Eddy Barrows delivers another great visual experience; particularly notorious are the detailed and vivid backgrounds featuring the city of Austin.  The plot does not advance significantly, except at the end, when Saiko makes his presence known and reveals his identity to Nightwing right before committing an atrocious act.  The last page is yet another example of the edgier side of this new universe.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #6

Hardcore. That is enough to describe this issue; but if you need more than that, allow me to elaborate.  In "Fearsome," Guy Gardner and the gang he put together go to Urak to free the P.O.W. Lanterns who are being tortured by the Keepers. Things quickly spin out of control when the rescue party realizes that the Keepers are willing to die in order to protect their masters, and a bloody battle ensues. But that is not what gives this issue the designation at the beginning of this review; is what John Stewart does to protect the central power battery that really provides the jaw-opening moment of the entire arc. Even with his military background, and the direness of the situation, John's actions were indeed shocking, and even more surprising was his choice of keeping them a secret. But if that is not enough, Guy also goes to great measures to stop the Keepers.  Hardcore.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Daredevil #9

While trying to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of several coffins from a local cemetery, Daredevil finds himself in the bowels of the Earth fighting the Mole Man and his Moloids.  Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, and Javier Rodriguez provide the most fascinating visuals for this rarely seen underworld; from the magma-illuminated caves, to the subterranean rapids, the creative team builds the perfect atmosphere to tell the story.  Mark Waid does his part as well by using inner monologue that serves multiple purposes: complement the art, bring new readers up to date so they don't feel lost, and project Daredevil's inner thoughts.  The issue also offers some insight on guest star Black Cat and her never ending walk along the fine line between good and naughty, a very creepy moment courtesy of the Mole Man, and trouble for Daredevil.  Excellent issue!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to Earth-Two

DC Comics announced a few weeks ago a second wave of titles that will be incorporated into the New 52 starting in May.  Among those titles there are two that expand the possibilities for stories beyond the confines of "our" universe: Earth Two and Worlds' Finest.

Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Art by Brian Hitch (Variant Cover)

EARTH TWO – Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Nicola Scott. Cover: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

“I’m excited and eager to let people know all the facts about the new EARTH TWO comic, but for now I have to remain vague.  Earth 2 is a world that’s very like our own, but at the same time vastly different. It has known great conflict and danger... a dark menace defeated but at a great cost both to the Earth and to its superheroes of that time.  Now, in the present as new menaces emerge to attack the Earth, new heroes must emerge too, learning to work as a team (or perhaps Society is a better word) while facing these new threats head-on. Who are these heroes?  Will their powers include speed, bestial fury, and maybe even green light? Wait and see.”
- James Robinson

Art by George Perez

WORLDS’ FINEST – Writer: Paul Levitz. Artists: George Perez and Kevin Maguire.  Cover: George Perez.  Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth Two. Perez and Maguire will be the artists on alternating story arcs.

“Nothing’s quite the same... the world they’re in, the rules of the game, the stakes... so Helena and Kara are facing dilemmas in WORLDS’ FINEST that are nothing like any version of either of their previous lives... learn the identities they used on Earth 2... watch why those change when they get here... and see the choices they face.  It’s a layered puzzle, pulling on the rich history of the DC Universe... but even more on the potential for explosively different lives in the New 52 universe... and over time, it’ll all pull together to affect the lives of so many.”
- Paul Levitz

Batman #6

With his mind shifting between hallucination and reality, Batman makes his desperate move in the sixth chapter of "The Court of Owls."  After the mind-boggling events of last month, Scott Snyder is able to maintain the emotional intensity at its highest levels through yet another issue marked by agony and anguish, directed not just at the main character, but also at the readers.  The most powerful moments in this installment were those where Batman struggles to keep his mind clear as it toggles back and forth from what's real to what's not; and later on, as he puts up a fight trying not to drown literally and figuratively.  Also worth of mention are Batman's promise to the Court, the chilling last page of the story, and of course, the use of creepy children; one can never go wrong with that.  Page by page, this issue was a worthy continuation of last month's blockbuster.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

X-Men #24

Jubilee gets the spotlight in a story by Victor Gischler.  It is disheartening to see how the once fun, sharp, and outspoken mall rat who was destined to be "the last x-man" has been relegated to such a depressing role, and this issue is like salt in a wound that just keeps widening.  With some luck, the Scarlet Witch, the Phoenix, or someone else will feel sorry for the character and give her some dignity back.  Guest artist Al Barrionuevo does not break any ground, and his pencils are average at best; to be fair, however, he is not given much to work with as the story is just filler.  Another sign of Marvel's complete disregard for its current storylines, in favor of the upcoming A vs. X.  By the time readers get to the last page, instead of being covered by excitement at the prospect of next issue, they'll find themselves yawning at the underwhelming cliffhanger.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Batman and Robin #6

Robin picks sides and shows everyone "The Real Me."  Tomasi inserts a lost chapter of Bruce Wayne's early days into the Batman mythos, and through it has introduced NoBody into his rogues gallery.  The thing with this new enemy, though, is that his vendetta is almost of a childish nature, or at least that's how he is making it look like, despite the crudeness of the reality in which it is rooted.  NoBody just does not have that je ne sais quoi other bat-villains have that makes them endure through time.  Damian on the other hand, is being magnificently written; one can never tell which road he is going to take even though his attitude makes it seem like the answer is obvious.  This is a very complex character with lots of layers and much depth.  Batman's emotions are also being exploited here in a way rarely seen before; very different to what is taking place over at "The Court of Owls," but just as intense.  Good writing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Huntress #5

Huntress makes her move against the big bad guy in the penultimate chapter of her mini-series.  With disguises, explosions, gas bombs, masks, and stealth, this was the "Mission Impossible" issue of the run, and it was a task she was happy to accept.  Strategically removing one by one all those in service of the "Chairman," Huntress finally reached her target to exact justice, but just exactly what kind of justice, remains to be seen.  Now the larger picture.  This title has become much bigger than itself, and like mist that clears to reveal the road, some of the internal dialogue in the issue confirms it.  It is expected that the finale of this mini will open the gates to the fantastic world of Earth Two and its rich history, and whether it was originally planned that way by DC or not, the execution has been flawless.  Huntress is the harbinger of a new era in the DCnU and beyond.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Green Lantern #6

Hal Jordan tries to rebuild his life, while Sinestro goes in search of a loose end in "The Other Hero" by Geoff Johns.  At the beginning of this series Hal was at the lowest point, but now he is getting out of the hole without the help of a ring and with his feet on the ground.  In the meantime, Sinestro is on the hunt for Lyssa Drak, but he finds much more than what he was looking for.  Both men have changed a great deal, and in the particular case of Sinestro, I am starting to wonder whether his role as a Green Lantern will actually become a permanent one.  Guest artist Mike Choi does a good job with the characters and that particular style that has the faintest touch of Manga in it; however, his artwork falls flat on the backgrounds, which robs the visuals from their context.  Mostly a filler issue, but with strong characterization.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Batgirl #6

Lots of stuff happen in this issue.  Batgirl fights a brainwashed Bruce Wayne, and along the way, we learn more of her past and current relationship with him and with Batman.  There were a couple of nice, touching moments that clearly establish the solid dynamics between them going forward.  Following the line of character development, there is more of Barbara's mom, who is looking very creepy right now, and Batgirl's ongoing conflict with Det. McKenna.  Then there's Gretel.  While Mirror brought forth Batgirl's survivor guilt, Gretel was the device used to show the two paths offered to one who has been victimized, and once again Barbara sees a piece of herself in her enemy.  The art team does a great job fitting the equivalent of two (modern day) issues of story in 20 pages without making it look crowded or eye-straining.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scarlet Spider #2

From the get-go, this book is fun.  The credits and summary page has a nice format with newspapers, pictures and a tablet on a desk; that by itself is enough to get the reader engaged and excited about the content, which doesn't disappoint either.  Written by Chris Yost, "After Life" gives Kaine a new purpose, a new home, maybe new allies, and even new fans -inside and outside the comics world.  While the goal of the first issue was to introduce Kaine, the point this one makes is that he and Peter Parker are not the same; point that is clearly driven during the fight scene when the character shows his enemy he is not Spider Man.  Ryan Stegman once again shines with his artwork and the help of Babinski and Garcia with inks and colors.  In just two installments, Kaine has become a very likeable and sympathetic character, and the Scarlet Spider, a cool modern day hero.

Batwoman #6

It was one of the most anticipated arrivals in comics' recent history, but she is finally here; Amy Reeder joins the creative team as Batwoman's enemies threaten "To Drown The World."  With a style all her own, Reeder brings tons of energy and vigor to the art department, while keeping true to the fluid and versatile layouts that are so distinctive in this title.  The art transition between Williams III and Reeder is indeed seamless despite their talents being so different.  The writing is fantastic as well; telling the story from six points of view at different points in time, Williams III and Blackman create a strong sense of inevitability; as if the characters are spiraling down towards an unavoidable fate where they are bound to collide with each other.  And this is only the first part of the arc!  The Weeping Woman was just the tip of an amazingly well written and illustrated iceberg.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Batwing #6

Using the iconic city of Giza as the stage, and cleverly taking readers back to the events of issue #1, Judd Winick presents "I am Happiest When at War."  Batwing and Massacre fight each other once again, and this time the round goes to the hero; sadly for him, just to barely do it, and save the lives of innocents, he was willing to cross the line heroes are not supposed to cross.  This forces the question: does the end justify the means in this case?  Winick also reveals what motivated David Zavimbe to become a vigilante, and his first encounter with Batman; but his past also catches up with him, when he realizes who Massacre might truly be.  Great way to toss away linear narrative and play with flashbacks to tell the story so readers can put the puzzle together themselves.  Just a couple more of issues before the truth is uncovered and the final battle ensues.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Action Comics #6

Morrison goes all Morrison on us in "When Superman Learned to Fly."  To be fair, this is not one of those psychedelic trips that leave readers scratching their heads afterwards; with some careful attention, the story makes sense and is fun to read.  More geared towards long time readers, this issue brings present-day Superman and a mature version of the Legion's founding members together, in a mission to save baby Kal-El's rocketship five years in the past, where Action Comics takes place -see how it's weird, but not so much?  Having the Legion be a part of Superman's past -and vice versa- is such a relief, because it avoids all the workarounds DC came up with back in the 80's to explain the team's legacy.  Andy Kubert's artwork is another reason to get this comic; despite a few awkward faces, his style is one fans can count on to be top quality.  Good read.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Detective Comics #6

The grand opening of Penguin's "Iceberg" casino is the backdrop of a "Kill Game."  Using elements from private eye novels dating the early 20th century, Tony Daniel introduces new characters and situations into the Batman mythos.  Among those characters, are Penguin's new associates, who evoke rogues from Batman's golden age; Snakeskin, who could become a plot device for the ongoing Joker storyline; and someone with ties to the otherwise sweet and innocent Charlotte Rivers.  After last month's disenchanting 12-pager, it was great having a full story this time around.  Daniel has cemented definitive artistic and narrative styles for the series, both very distinctive and unique, when compared to the rest of the New 52.  My one objection has to do with Charlotte's scenes, as it is not clear how she got out from a difficult situation at the beginning of the chapter.  Other than that, fantastic issue.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hawk and Dove #6

Chasing a villain and looking to boost sales for their title, Hawk and Dove end up "One Night in Gotham."  In an interesting twist, the tables turn for Hawk, and the issue opens with him running from old-school Blockbuster, while Dove is the one delivering punches left and right, until the pair crosses paths with the Dynamic Duo in their pursuit of a supernatural menace.  This was an okay story; however, it felt bland and lacking the conflict one would expect from the clash of strong personalities like Hawk's, Batman's, and Robin's.  Speaking of, Liefeld's pencils failed to properly represent Damian; he is only ten years old, yet he looked more like an adult Robin, while Blockbuster's size varied from one panel to the next.  Despite the flaws in this issue, there should be more self contained stories like this one, as part of DC's promise to stop writing comics for the trade.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Red Lanterns #6

Let this story be a cautionary tale: This is what happens when you bottle your anger.  Earth has a new Red Lantern, and we spent the past six months watching his rise; "All Too Human" by Peter Milligan takes readers into Jack Moore's head as he is consumed by the red, but immediately we see there is something different about him; something that will place him in direct conflict with Atrocitus, who at the same time seems to be going through the opposite experience: is his rage subsiding?  The shared art duties in this issue are almost seamless, especially in its digital version; however, there are places where the inks are too thick and make the panels look awkward, at least in print.  Undoubtedly, the best moment in the story is the cliffhanger, where Rankorr comes face to face with someone who understands all too well what he is going through.  With lots of characterization, and closing on a high note, this issue is a winner.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Most Viewed in January 2012

And the most checked reviews in January by the followers of this blog were:

1.  Batgirl #5

2.  Wonder Woman No More

3.  Uncanny X-Men Omnibus I

4.  Hawk and Dove #5

5.  The Avengers vs. Ultron