Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Dark Knight #7

"The Final Curtain" falls on the first arc of this title, with Batman taking a serious beating from Bane. Jenkins and Finch put together a read that is somewhat quick for a final act, but entertaining nonetheless. Poison Ivy makes a small cameo, one that airs some gaps in communication at DC as far as character design is concerned. I would like the guest appearances by other heroes to continue as they help tie Batman's world to the rest of the DCU. Art is again the shining star in this installment: pencils, inks, and color have a nice cumulative effect on the visuals, and even though there are some weird faces here and there, the whole experience is very easy on the eyes. The White Rabbit revelation will have many readers saying "I knew it!" I was going for a more outside the box mystery, but I like her -I also say "hot mess" a lot.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #0

And so it begins. The prospect of having Earth's Mightiest pitting against the Uncanny Mutants is certainly exciting, but with a 4 issue lead-in mini-series, a #0 issue, and 21 additional titles for the next 8 weeks alone, it is easy to see how the event is about to march along that very fine line between acclaimed success and failure due to over exposition. Bendis and Aaron split duties in this prologue issue, with the former telling Scarlet Witch's story, and the latter, Hope Summer's tale. Wanda is back in the mainstream Marvel Universe on a full time basis, and it is quite strange to see her acting without her brother, her husband, her father, or even her friends for that matter; that was refreshing. Hope, on the other hand, did not fare that well; her part of the story has been told many times before and did not contribute anything new. Frank Cho's pencils bring consistency and balance to an otherwise unbalanced issue.

Avengers 1  X-Men 0

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aquaman #7

Wow! This single comic by Geoff Johns may as well be the storyboard for a cinematic production. Black Manta is introduced to the New 52 through a fantastic opening sequence that also features one of Aquaman's old associates, and a pretty cool swordfight. From the get-go, readers will be able to see the subtle but significant changes made to Manta's character, and start making assumptions about his role in this new continuity. Ivan Reis returns with the best of his talent to deliver the most amazing art he's done thus far. Panel by panel, one can appreciate the extreme amount of detail and the exquisite lines that only get enhanced to the nth power by Joe Prado and Rod Reis. Yet, none of this compares to the best part of the issue: Cat fight!  Once again, Mera proves why she rocks, and now she has met her match. "The Others" promises to be the best Aquaman story ever told.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Justice League #7 - Shazam!

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank introduce the World's Mightiest Mortal to a new generation as a backup in the pages of Justice League. Gone is the old Captain Marvel name, and now the character will be simply known as Shazam! (which is how I have always called him anyway, and probably most people). Gone is also Goody Two-Shoes Billy Batson, perhaps the most shocking part of the revamp, and the one with most potential for interesting developments. Being only a 12 page backup, it would have been expected for the story to be more compressed, but Johns did not change his style here and dragged it out instead. With four writing assignments plus other projects, the only way for a writer to meet deadlines is to use lots of fluff, and this could be detrimental down the road. Gary Frank's work has evolved with time, and right now it is in a great place stylistically. Nice backup, but it needed more story.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Uncanny X-Men #9

Kieron Gillen presents the last amiable encounter between the X-Men and the Avengers before the big storm. Sequences like the catch-me-up on Magik and the chat between Frost and Namor were nice as they helped anchor the story, bring readers up to date, and provide characterization. A small cameo by "Secret Invasion's" breakout star Abigail Brand, was also a refreshing touch. The choice of villain for this adventure was poor, though. A remnant from 2010's "S.W.O.R.D.," Unit is one of those generic characters one would be complimenting by calling it "blah." It was great to see Carlos Pacheco drawing the X-Men again; he is still a great artist, but no comparison to his first stint in adjectiveless way back when. Told from peculiar points of view, this is a short and sweet two-parter that will go into history as the final team-up between A and X before "vs." gets in between.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nightwing #7

Masterfully played, Mr. Kyle Higgins. Nightwing's final confrontation against Saiko turned out to be just the lid of an ugly, ugly can of worms; one that took Dick Grayson's whole life and in a most unexpected twist put it at the center of a dark and sinister conspiracy. Without making any significant changes to the superficial story, Higgins has retconned the character's origin down to its roots, and bridged the events of this series to those being told by Scott Snyder in "Batman," so revealing the one true enemy in the story: Gotham. There is nothing to say about Eddy Barrows and Geraldo Borges' work that has not been said before; their seamless collaboration delivers some of the best art in the New 52. Their overlapping panels, and the use of scenes as the background for others, make for very distinctive and energetic visuals.  All in all, a great issue with surprising "Turning Points."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Batman #7

With a three-page opening sequence that is both dramatic and stunning, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo prove why they are the hottest team in comics nowadays. From there, the issue gets only better. Batman's reaction upon his arrival to the batcave is priceless; who in his rogues gallery wouldn't sell their soul to the devil to provoke the same response in him? It would be very interesting if this became Batman's permanent weakness, a phobia of sorts. The revelations in the second part of the story were quite shocking, and are evidence of how carefully Snyder planned this story: he is not making this stuff as he goes, dear readers, the guy and his partners in crime are brilliant. This transitional issue closes with the preamble to the already announced "Night of Owls," and if one Talon alone had such a huge impact on Batman, what can one expect after reading that last page?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Captain Marvel

Air Force Major Carol Danvers will receive a promotion this coming July in her new ongoing series "Captain Marvel."  This was probably the most resonating announcement made at WonderCon, held last week in Anaheim, CA, and one that was long, long overdue.

Covers by Ed McGuiness

Most commonly known as the Avenger Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers also had a long stint as the interstellar Binary, and most recently as Warbird.  Not only a member of the Air Force, she also served with the C.I.A., and was even editor of Woman Magazine.

Interior art by Dexter Soy

Spinning out of the events of "A vs. X" Carol will become "Captain Marvel," and will be written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and pencilled by Dexter Soy.  Jamie McKelvie was in charge of her uniform redesign, which is a combination of her former costumes with a military touch to reflect her connection to the Air Force.

Design by Jamie McKelvie

This move will place Captain Marvel not only as one of the primary Avengers, but also as the flagship female character of the entire Marvel Universe.  As a long-time fan of hers, I hope she continues showing facets of her previous incarnations as Ms. Marvel and Binary, while building a solid follower base with her new role.

Justice League #7

This was a key issue for DC. After the six-month introduction of the team and telling events that happened five years ago, this was the first Justice League story taking place in the present; unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. From Jim Lee's obvious absence and Gene Ha's particular style, to the League's sporadic participation in the issue, the momentum the series had built was lost in a sudden and hard stop. Today's Justice League looks exactly like the one that came together five years ago; there is no evident sign of major changes in dynamics or relationships, or even a hint that the roster has evolved to anything close to the ensemble that was supposed to include Hawkman, Firestorm, Mera, Atom, and others. Could the team really have remained so static all this time? This installment needed to be a blockbuster, but ended up being a shameless filler instead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Batman and Robin #7

The first arc of this title comes to its penultimate chapter in "Driven." Peter J. Tomasi pushes the envelope with the use of extreme violence at the same time that the emotional intensity of the story reaches its peak. It is strange to categorize such brutality as justifiable, but in terms of the plot, anything less would not have sparked the passions needed to bring it to such a jarring final act. Patrick Gleason also upped the ante by translating Tomasi's words into energetic panels that conveyed the desperation and anguish this arc has exploited so well; dialog was almost unnecessary with his fine style. Along with Mick Gray's inks and John Kalisz's colors, the whole art team has made of "Born to Kill" an exciting saga with cinematic qualities, and with an epilogue issue still to go, a definitive must have.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Batgirl #7

Just like when you are on the open road driving a stick and switching from second to third, this issue feels like Gail Simone is kicking it into high gear by jumping right into the heart of things. A new menace in the form of a metahuman psycho, a relationship building moment with Black Canary, and an interesting catalyst to retell a classic story make of this issue an "all-included" roller coaster. It is good to see that the apparent clumsiness we have seen since the start of the series is not due to Batgirl's inexperience, but rather the result of a psychological barrier she has erected around herself; each one of these adventures is slowly cracking that barrier to show everyone what Barbara freaking Gordon is truly capable of.  The flashback sequence could have taken better advantage of the shared art duties, but overall, there was no detriment to the book.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Scarlet Spider #3

Super heroes are a magnet for trouble; and even if Kaine does not want to believe he is a hero, the trouble he has just attracted begs to differ. This series has quickly built a world for the Scarlet Spider with locations, supporting characters that have actual personalities, and now enemies. I don't know whether this Assassins Guild is the same as the X-Man Gambit's, but it's clear they will give Kaine a run for his money. There is no question about it, Ryan Stegman is the staple of this title, and the reason why the series is gaining fans by the minute; his style is super dynamic and clean, and as good with splash art as with tiny panels. This issue also adds a new element to the book: subtle humor, and it was just the perfect dose to make it even more enjoyable.  Great writing and great art make this one a winner!

*NOTE: For clarification purposes, the X-Man Gambit belongs to the Thieves Guild; his ex-wife Belladonna belongs to the Assassins Guild.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Batwoman #7

Batwoman's world expands considerably in the second chapter of "To Drown The World" with the formal introduction of an entire rogues gallery composed of both new and familiar faces. The non-linear narrative in this arc adds yet another level of mystery as readers try to connect the different pieces in a cohesive manner that leads to the fateful confrontation between Batwoman and Falchion's monsters. Amy Reeder's pencils get only better here, although it is worth of mention that it is noticeable how throughout the issue she slowly transitions from the layouts and page design themes established by J.H. Williams III, to the more traditional panel-based artwork. It is a shame that after such a long wait, Reeder is leaving the series with only a few issues under her belt. With a great combination of character development, all-out action, and plot progression, this is a fun and entertaining issue.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Green Lantern #7

"The Secret of the Indigo Tribe" starts here. Things are getting interesting in this title once again, as Indigo-1 and her people come for Sinestro to give him the same "compassion" treatment Black Hand received at the end of "Blackest Night."  From the beginning, this arc has a horror element to it that makes it very different from the recurrent theme of the book, and is this deviation that returns the title its spark. Back on Oa, the guardians continue their plans to deploy the "Third Army" and get rid of the corps; this is shaping up to be a major storyline, but I hope that by the end of it we'll be done with the guardians, because their constant evilness is running thin. Carol Ferris has an intriguing moment that enforces the implied idea that the rings have an addicting effect on their wearer.  Doug Mahnke's pencils steal the show in this issue.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Huntress #6

This is the end. Capri serves as the stage for Helena's final hunt, and even with a huge price on her head, the masked heroine neither falters nor disappoints. Her treatment of Ibn Hassan forces one to question whether by the end of last issue she really did what she is being accused of; whatever the answer is, there will be consequences beyond the end of this mini. The art team of Marcus To, John Dell, and Andrew Dalhouse shined throughout the entire run; issue after issue they delivered a top notch product with nice visuals, clean lines, and bright colors.  Paul Levitz also did a great job building a Huntress that will keep new and long time readers happy.  The story ends on a high note with some humor, and of course, the much awaited connection to the world of Earth-2, which becomes the "Yeah!" moment of this month. This is only the beginning.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Uncanny X-Men #8

The final chapter of "Tabula Rasa" could not arrive too soon. As a concept, the arc would have been a great follow up to "The Dark Angel Saga," had it been properly executed; instead, the crisis quickly devolved into the backdrop to a series of interactions between pairs of X-Men that hardly passed for characterizations. Colossus is now a brute with no personality, Magik's purpose within the team remains undefined, Hope's flirtation with Namor was nothing but uncomfortable, and his unnecessary display of diplomatic relations was just the set up for a joke at the end of an issue that was beyond salvation. Speaking of, the only parts of the story with a shred of interest were those featuring Magneto and Psylocke; but her guilt and his knowing of X-Force's secret can only be played for so long.  Greg Land's pencils are the main reason to be glad the arc is over.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Batwing #7

On his way to Gotham, Batwing leans the terrible secret of Africa's prime meta human team. The Kingdom steals the show in this issue by Judd Winick, even though their story is told using flashbacks. The reason why things went the way they did and the choices they were forced to make, were written well within the realm of logic, and showed why a terrible thing was allowed to happen just to prevent one ten times worse. Between The Kingdom's backstory and the Bat-family's appearance in the book, there was not much Batwing to talk about; let's hope this does not become the norm -although some more Kingdom wouldn't be a bad thing. The one factor that was detrimental to the story was the artwork by Dustin Nguyen. It's already been announced that Ben Oliver is leaving the book, but this was the one issue that would have looked fantastic pencilled by him. Overall, great writing, below average art.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Red Lanterns #7

It's a match of red vs. green as Rankorr meets Guy Gardner for the first time. The battle provides a different point of view to explain what Jack Moore is going through now that he has become a Red Lantern; Guy had been in his place not long ago, and he is one of the few who understands what that feels like; this short appearance by Green Lantern moves Rankorr's character forward. There is also an intriguing development for some of the Sinestro Corps members who fled after the events in the main Green Lantern title, and it will be interesting to see what the fate of this group is. Someone who has not fared well is Atrocitus; he is being portrayed as a shadow of his former self; this might be an intentional change introduced by Milligan for story purposes, but it almost hurts to see the once unstoppable leader of the Red Lanterns be overtaken by fear and insecurity.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Ray #3

The Ray gains his first super villain and gets beaten to a pulp in the third issue of his mini-series... welcome to the world of heroes, Lucien! Palmiotti and Gray had made it easy for this new Ray to learn how to use his powers and very quickly become a hero; but now he is being placed in a situation that soon spirals out of control and he realizes things are not as simple or fun as he first thought; great way to develop the character. The choice of villain for this mini may not have been the best. The Director is similar to the X-Men's nemesis Mojo, not only in his obsession with making movies, but also in the comical relief that surrounds him. I am not sure whether the Director was talking crazy when he was explaining his origin or not, but in any case, it connects the Ray's world to the rest of the DCU, which is a good thing. With one issue to go, I hope the character gets introduced to the bigger universe before the finale.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Firestorm #6

After the terrorist attack by the Firestorm from Qurac, Ronnie and Jason are left with an "Aftermath of Rage." While Ronnie's reaction to the heinous act is well written, it's Jason who once again is rendered as a total jerk.  It is not just the perceived indifference, but the words coming out of his mouth that also put the character in a really bad light. The scale of the attack from last issue is huge, and even in the world of comics, such an event would have had worldwide ramifications; so if the next issue does not address reactions from the rest of the DCU, then Van Sciver and Simone may have miscalculated the impact of their onslaught. Yildiray Cinar continues shining with his artwork, and Norm Rapmund's inks and Hi-Fi's colors just make it even better. As a whole, the issue is better than previous installments, but the next one has its work cut out for it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Dark Knight #6

Batman and Superman quickly make amends after their scuffle from last month, as the Dark Knight continues to solve the mystery behind the super powered villains and tries to catch the White Rabbit. Art and dialog have a weak start, led by the non-sense explanation of how the fear toxin works; but they improve vastly during the second half of the book. Coloring by Jeromy Cox is still A+. The identity of the true mastermind behind this new fear toxin would have been an actual surprise, had DC not revealed it three months ago during solicitations; this completely ruined the momentum of the story. There is, however, one piece of the plot that remains interesting and exciting: The White Rabbit. Subtle clues are thrown about her true nature, and I can't wait to see whether my suspicions about it are correct. Despite its flaws and spoilers, the issue is overall a fun read.

Welcome to Earth-Two

The second wave of "DC Comics - The New 52" titles is coming in May, and the most expected of them are undoubtedly "Earth 2" and "Worlds' Finest," featuring the heroes from a parallel universe where things took a completely different turn.  This week, DC Comics released the first set of character sketches designed by Jim Lee and Kevin Maguire:


Superman "Has endured the loss of his home world, and now the Last Son of Krypton must weather the death of his soul mate Lois Lane. Just how far can you bend the Man of Steel before he breaks?" - Editor Pat McCallum

Supergirl "Loves her adopted world with a passion, seeing how the people of Earth have adopted her and taken her to their hearts.  She is definitely the brightest light among this first group of Earth 2 heroes." - Writer James Robinson


The Batman of Earth 2 is "More ruthless, dangerous... the costume is familiar and yeah, there is a Wayne under the mask, but we’re looking at a man desperate to save the only family he has left. Earth 2 is about to become a very bad place to be a bad guy." - Editor Pat McCallum

Robin is “Assured as a detective, fighter, scientist, pilot and all around crime-fighter; she’s been groomed by Batman to be the perfect caped manhunter (or should we say manHuntress) when she grows up." - Writer James Robinson

Wonder Woman is "Already the last Amazon of this world and she is determined to avenge her sisters... at whatever cost." - Writer James Robinson