Friday, August 31, 2012

Justice League #12

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, David Finch

Variant coves by Jim Lee

The first year of The New 52 officially closes with this issue of JL. The team has to face ghosts of the past in order to get to David Graves and put a halt to his plans. Having their most private feelings exposed gives the leaguers the touch of humanity that is sometimes missing from the title, while making of Graves a dangerous threat even after being depowered.

The much publicized romance between Wonder Woman and Superman begins with a well written epilogue that makes it seem natural and heartfelt; developments for Green Lantern set the stage for the events in his own book, and a preview of what's to come reveals not only the new JLA, but also intriguing plots involving Shazam, Pandora, and Atlantis. Despite three artists, nine inkers, and five colorists getting their hands on the issue, the final product is seamless for the most part. Great job on the characterization, a bit short on actual story.

Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Flash by Jim Lee

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Aquaman #12

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis


The penultimate chapter of The Others begins with a redemption of sorts. Anyone who may have felt unfulfilled with the Mera solo story in issue #6, will find Johns and Reis splurging on the redhead in the first stunning pages almost arbitrarily; but this is not a complaint, it is a welcome use of page space that showcases some of her abilities and beauty.

The rest of the chapter takes place in the tomb of the first king of Atlantis, where Manta finds the seventh relic, and the past year worth of stories coalesce. Several emotional moments prove -especially to his allies- that Aquaman is not a heartless man, while the well coordinated action scenes are superbly executed to give each of the characters an opportunity to shine. Despite some inking mishaps in the middle of the book, this is a fantastic issue.

Aquaman, Mera, and The Others vs. Black Manta and his minions

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Batman Inc #3

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham

In order to obtain clues that could lead him to Leviathan, Batman brings Matches Malone back to Gotham. Morrison spends most of the issue recreating the gangster's personality and it pays off. This Malone is a quirky, almost comical character, a far cry from the dark and broody cape crusader, which ultimately makes him a formidable master of disguise. Another who also creates an alternate persona is Damian. After last chapter's cliffhanger, the Boy Wonder is presumed dead (by the way, that climatic ending is trivialized and almost ignored in this issue) so he comes up with a new alias for himself; an interesting move, let's see where that goes. This installment also upholds events that took place in the title prior to the New 52 relaunch; among the most notorious is the existence of the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane. Will the rest of the New 52 affirm all of them? Time will tell.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Astonishing X-Men #53

Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mike Perkins

The Astonishing X-Men gather to help Wolverine and rescue the missing Karma after a gruesome encounter that took place during Northstar's wedding celebration. The focus of the story is Cecilia Reyes, a somewhat obscure but well-liked former X-Man who recently rejoined the fray. Her preference to practice medicine over a life of adventure has always been a distinctive quality of this character, and one that makes her very appealing. What Liu does in this issue is play with the idea that despite her reluctance, deep inside Cecilia likes being part of the X-Men's heroics. Her flirting relationship with Beast also goes a long way back, and is brought to the forefront once again; this has potential for interesting dynamics with Agent Brand -Beast's current love interest. This issue establishes a good the balance between characterization and action, but the artwork finishes are somewhat lackluster.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Firestorm #12

Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Yildiray Cinar & Daniel HDR

Warning: This is not a review, it's a whining session with lots of spoilers in it. Several of The New 52 rushed their storylines to be brought to a close as their first year ended; while some did it gracefully, and others less so, The Powers That Be decided that readers of Firestorm deserved neither the former nor at very least the latter. As if following the theme of the book, editorial at DC decided that the best course of action was to drop a nuke on the one-year arc and wipe all of it in issue #12. All of a sudden, the rogue Firestorms of Qurac stopped sprouting from under every rock, the mystery behind Ashra Khan was left unexplained, the fall of Zither took place in the turn of a page without any rhyme or reason, and worst of all, the international Firestorms were destroyed because they were more interesting than Jason and Ronnie. What an insult to the followers, and what a blemish in The New 52's record.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Guardians #12

Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Tyler Kirkham

The final battle against Invictus takes place as the dissolution of the current incarnation of the New Guardians unfolds. While confronting guardian Sayd for her methods and Larfleeze for... well, being Larfleeze, Kyle and his companions come face to face with the archangel from Vega for the last time in an effort that could be considered the ultimate collaboration, and pretty much what this year of stories has slowly been leading to; the entire issue is a visual delight. What comes completely out of the blue and in direct contradiction to what the series has been about, is the team splitting up. The relationships that were simmering for 12 issues, the dynamics, and even the inner conflicts, all come crumbling down in the last page in order to set a blank slate for the second year of the title. A disservice to the characters, and the readers who were vested on them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dark Knight #12

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Artist: David Finch

The updated origin of Scarecrow by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch continues. Mirror Mirror explores Jonathan Crane's childhood and the disturbing events in his early life that turned him into the damaged being he is today. This part of the story is quite unsettling, and every panel is marked by disquieting and even unpleasant elements that cause a sense of uneasiness in the reader. If this was Hurwitz's goal, then he certainly succeeded with his compelling writing. Where things don't go so well is in Batman's part of the story. The murder of his parents has been used many, many, many times in the past as a plot device to get into the Dark Knight's head; and even though the final page may offer a different angle this time around, it is an episode that deserves to be put to rest for a while. Not that it will happen, though... guess what issue #0 will be about?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Flash #12

Writers and Artists: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

After several years absent from the Flash mythos, Lisa Snart, now known simply as Glider, makes her swift return and she is taking charge of things. Holding her brother responsible for the still undisclosed incident that transformed several of the Rogues, Glider puts the gang back together to exact revenge on Captain Cold and in the process get the Flash in lots of trouble. In trying to bring closure to the New 52's first year of storylines, DC has put a rush on the plots of many of its titles so they end with issue #12 or the upcoming annuals; here, the editorial mandate is quite obvious with the quick reintroductions of Pied Piper, Trickster, and Mirror Master. It is fun to see all these characters popping up, but at the same time they are stolen from the elaborate debuts Cold, the Wizard, Heatwave, and Glider had. Great issue, but extremely rushed.

Weather Wizard, Heatwave, Glider, and The Flash by Manapul and Buccellato

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #10

Writers: Aaron, Bendis, Brubaker, Fraction, Hickman
Artist: Adam Kubert

After two very impressive and entertaining chapters, AvX goes downhill when Cyclops comes to K'un Lun to retrieve Hope from the Avengers. While Scott Summers goes at it once again with his tired argument and loses more of the scarce sympathy of the readership, Emma Frost sinks to a new low by forcing the mutants in Utopia to worship her. What is so bothersome about these developments is that they will be washed away by simply blaming the Phoenix, and all will be forgiven. There are a couple of salvageable bits, though, like Xavier and Magneto finally realizing it is time to put an end to the madness, or Shao Lao the dragon making an appearance; dragons are cool. Art wise, Adam Kubert makes a big contribution to the things that go well with the book, but the story fails to take advantage of his talent. This one is a blatant Avengers vs the bad guys issue, and the X-Men per se are nowhere to be found.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Green Lantern #12

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Renato Guedes and Jim Calafiore

As The Revenge of Black Hand continues, the dead rise once again and one more prophecy is about to be fulfilled. While it may seem at first sight that this is a remake of Blackest Night, it is not; Johns has made of this arc a natural progression, a next step to that story, and it shows by quickly having Hal and Sinestro try to counteract Black Hand using what they learned from that horrific experience; sadly for them, and to Mr. Hand's surprise, the rules have changed... they always do. What never changes is that despicable band of conspirators known as the Guardians. Their reasoning behind the Third Army, their strategy, and their final goal are laid out in three pages that leave one wanting for more and craving to see the execution of their plan. Guest artist Jim Calafiore shares duties with Renato Guedes from Secret Avengers fame; his style in this issue is less indie and more mainstream. The transition between artists is a bit brusque, but nothing to panic about.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wonder Woman #12

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Solo books are on a roll this week -that includes female solo books; now the turn is for the amazon warrior's title to kick butt. During Wonder Woman's decisive fight against Hera and Apollo for the life of Zola and her unborn baby, three rocking moments close the first year of the series on the highest note. There is no easy way to sing this issue's praises without spoiling its contents, but it is worth it, so here it goes. Diana flies. Seeing the amazon princess finally take flight is the most welcome sight; it's as if the entire year of stories had been leading to this glorious instant; it is fantastic. The bracelets. This new aspect of Wonder Woman's might is the biggest surprise of all; completely unexpected and revealed in the most dramatic fashion. The betrayal. This issue has so many twists and turns that a chiropractor is recommended afterwards; Birth Right gives a new meaning to the term backstabbing. All this, plus Cliff Chiang's amazing pencils, and a BOOM!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Captain Marvel #2

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Dexter Soy

Following a successful and very high-profile debut, the adventures of Earth's mightiest hero pick up the pace as she honors the memory of a departed friend. After an enigmatic flight incident, Captain Marvel somehow ends up 70 years in the past and way out of her comfort zone. Kelly Sue DeConnick is able to seamlessly switch from emotionally intense scenes, to action heavy sequences, to light and funny moments, all without missing a beat. Cap's encounter with the Banshee Squad will surely have a profound effect on her and her new purpose; if 70 years ago, women without super powers were able to fight against impossible odds in the name of freedom, then she will have the huge responsibility of maintaining that legacy in the present. Dexter Soy's quasi-painted style is a magnificent fit for the title, and his depictions of Carol charging to action are nothing but a delight to see. Go Cap!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Batwoman #12

Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III

Batwoman keeps her promise to soldier on and continues searching for the missing children from the barrio. In Bloodtides, the heroine's search takes her to a twisted house of mirrors, where she and werebeast ally Abbot find Bloody Mary, one of the creatures of myth. J.H. Williams III makes his triumphant return as the title's artist to tell Mary Worth's origin, show Kate winning a few and losing a few, and illustrate the initial stages of Flamebird's rise from the ashes. At the same time these stories are told, Wonder Woman fights a handful of Medusa's minions. The narrative is completely different in this sequence, using a poetic approach in the writing, and extremely intricate details in the art; the amazon's portion of the issue is almost a completely different book, but beautiful nonetheless. This first chapter of World's Finest has set the bar really high for the new arc.

Wonder Woman by J.H.Williams III and Dave Stewart

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Scarlet Spider #8

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Khoi Pham

While helping a crazy girl -which seems to be a theme with him- Kaine comes across the southern superhero team The Rangers and things heat up. Despite being the second chapter of a multi-part story, this issue reads extremely well, and the use of Scarlet Spider's point of view to introduce The Rangers to new readers is smart and fun. After the mandatory misunderstanding, things quickly get back on track and the adventure moves to the next level. It might be too early to wish for this, but having Kaine form a permanent association with a group like The Rangers would be of mutual benefit; it's easy to see him getting along with Twister, being a mentor to Lighting, getting chastised by Firebird, or being competitive with Shooting Star. Khoi Pham has done a great job succeeding Ryan Stegman with clean and simplified lines that allow the series maintain the high quality artwork it's had from the start.

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Avengers #29

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato

The Illuminaughty... ehem! nati, Illuminati come together once again, this time to assess the threat of the Phoenix. In hindsight, this is an important story that needed to be told, mainly because most of the mysterious group's members are directly involved in the conflict, and exploring their dynamics during this crisis is certainly worth seeing. Reed Richards is another reason to validate the telling of this tale. With the exception of The Thing, the Fantastic Four have remained isolated from the AvX ruckus, but this tie-in gives readers Mr. Fantastic's point of view, which is not only honest, but also quite surprising. Just like Stark's anxiety, Xavier's frustration and despair are amazingly conveyed, while Cap and Namor's heartbreaking talk is haunting to no end. Led by a breathtaking flashback that sets the stage for the story, this issue is a success by its plot, as much as by its art.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Batman and Robin #12

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

Batman and Robin make a rare daytime appearance in the last chapter of Terminus. After using the cape crusader's symbol to create terror in Gotham's citizens, Terminus deploys the final phase of his plan, only to find that the dynamic duo is not alone in its fight against evil. Even after being the subjects of Damian's tantrum, Dick, Jason, and Tim rise to the occasion and look like the heroes they are with their last minute save. Patrick Gleason nails it artistically from beginning to end not just in this issue, but the entire arc by throwing caution to the wind and playing with different angles and proximities. His crowning moment, however, is the iconic pin-up of the four Robins watching Batman rocketing into the sky; one can make a poster out of that beautiful image. With a shining closing for Batman, and a humbling one for Robin, Terminus is an entertaining adventure.

Robin, Red Hood, Nightwing, and Red Robin by Patrick Gleason

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gambit #1

Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Clay Mann

Marvel gives the charming mutant thief another chance at an ongoing title, this time reined in by writer and performer James Asmus. While his current duties have turned Gambit from hero to teacher, this new series focuses on the more naughty aspects of the character; and it is not just the thieving, but also the smooth and seductive ways of Mr. LeBeau's that take the forefront in the book. Speaking of, Remy's charismatic and downright sexy qualities are visually played out to perfection by artist Clay Mann; the words cool and hot come to mind at the same time when trying to describe his pencils. Seth Mann uses super-fine ink lines that set the stage for Rachelle Rosenberg's beautiful watercolors, thus delivering picture-like renditions in every page. With a mix of James Bond and Mission: Impossible, Once a Thief... is a fantastic new beginning for this fan favorite.

Gambit, by Clay Mann, Seth Mann, and Rachelle Rosenberg

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Batgirl #12

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf

The first year of Batgirl ends on a high note when the dominoed daredoll meets Batwoman for the first time ever. This one is huge; two years ago the team-up would have been unthinkable, only a dream; now it is a sweet reality. The inner monologue was perfectly used, and Batgirl's assessment of Batwoman during their fight quickly establishes differences between one and the other, and clarifies to anyone who doubts it: they are not redundant. Lots of stuff in this issue: The Disgraced gain some depth, the revelation of Knightfall's associate comes as a surprise that was right in front of everyone the whole time; the connection was obvious, and Jim Gordon's anguish is but a sign of the disturbing times coming ahead. Ardian Syaf simply excels, starting with the amazing spread that renders homage to J.H. Williams III's style in Batwoman. A classic issue.

Together for the first time. By Syaf, Cifuentes, and Arreola

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Worlds' Finest #4

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: George Perez, Scott Koblish & Kevin Maguire

Huntress and Power Girl deal with the menace of Hakkou and the threat of nuclear fallout. The final chapter of Rebirth falls short compared to its previous installments; no answers are provided regarding Hakkou's origin, nature or agenda; there was no payout for following the story for four months; even the yesterday sequence failed to add a significant contribution to the backstory. The dialog, meanwhile, felt forced and almost trying too hard to sound current. On the plus side, there is non-stop action, giving both heroines the opportunity to showcase their respective skills, and the art continues thriving with clean finishes and vibrant colors. Despite its flaws, the story is still entertaining, and the arc overall is a good introduction for the characters. Next month comes issue number zero featuring Robin and Supergirl from Earth-2, and that one for sure will be a gem.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Avenging Spider Man #10

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artists: Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson 

Spider-Man and Captain Marvel's campy adventure in Boston concludes with a KA-PAW! Thanks to his smart mouth, sometimes it is easy to forget that Peter Parker is a very smart guy; this quality is brought to the forefront -albeit in a somewhat humorous way; meanwhile, Carol Danvers shows what a great strategist and leader she is. DeConnick writes both characters as if she has been doing it for years. Even though the conclusion is kind of a buzzkill, the overall story is bubbly and more important, fun. The Dodsons match the mood with crisp and popping artwork, while Edgar Delgado's colors make everything look vivid and fresh, with that nice sky blue being the recurring theme of the adventure. The epilogue between Peter and Carol proves to be a nice piece of characterization, that leaves the reader longing for more of this modern Bonnie and Clyde. Nice story!

Spider-Man and Captain Marvel by Terry and Rachel Dodson