Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Daredevil #23

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee

Someone out there is sick enough to put a group of men through the same horrific accident that took away Matt Murdock's sight and gave him his amazing abilities. That same individual is unleashing these crazed men into the city, and it's up to Daredevil to stop them. Amidst this crisis, the man without fear also stands next to his best friend Foggy Nelson, as he is about to face one of the most nerve wracking moments anyone can experience in their lifetime. Waid and Samnee orchestrate a great story that mixes the heroics everyone loves with the mortifying hours prior to Foggy's doctor appointment. All the anxiety, silly joking, and false optimism are perfectly played out in the dialogue and the visuals, while Rodriguez's colors make a huge contribution to the different moods of the book. The issue is also an excellent jump-in point for new readers as Daredevil's origin is retold parallel to the still unknown villain's plan.

Daredevil by Chris Samnee and Javier Rodriguez

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Green Lantern #17

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Doug Mahnke, Dan Jurgens, Phil Jimenez

Even though Rise of the Third Army was a somewhat weak arc, Peter J. Tomasi was able to bring it to a solid, exciting conclusion; however, that effort is reduced to crumbles with two single panels during the first chapter of Wrath of the First Lantern. What was intended to be a menace deadlier than the Black Lanterns, is turned to ashes in almost a footnote; a move that feels very much like an editorial mandate to wrap things up. Phil Jimenez pencils the opening sequence of the issue, that in plot and art is an intentional nod to Crisis on Infinite Earths, signaling the approach of something big for the DCnU. Simon Baz is again the highlight of the book, thanks to his introspection, his encounter with Black Hand, and his eventual fate inside the black ring. Everything involving Volthoom, the First Lantern, does not fare as well, and actually comes off looking a lot like Parallax in Zero Hour. Not the best issue of this run.

Green Lantern Simon Baz by Doug Mahnke

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Avengers #6

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Adam Kubert

In the third spotlight issue of this series, the past of Captain Universe's human host is explored with some help from Shang Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu. Perhaps because it is not presented in the context of an Avengers mission or action-heavy sequences, Zen and the Art of Cosmology does not have that wow factor that the previous issue had, despite being the most emotional of the three stories. On the other hand, Zen allows Shang Chi to have some panel time after being just a background figure for five installments. As it was mentioned in a previous review, the Captain Universe character is too similar to that of Sentry: extremely powerful with an extremely damaged, fragile host; it seems too soon to use the same plot device. One point this issue wants to make clear is that going forward, readers and Avengers will be dealing with the Superior Spider-Man, rather than the Friendly Neighborhood one. Overall, both, writing and art suffer a bit when compared to the exciting issue dedicated to Smasher; however, the larger story keeps moving along, which is good.

Captain Universe by Adam Kubert and Frank Martin

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Black Beetle #2

Writer and Artist: Francesco Francavilla

Don't ever say that perseverance doesn't have its rewards. After working for several years on a character of his own making, releasing self-published ashcans, and posting pages and tidbits in his blog, artist Francesco Francavilla hits the jackpot with the first mini-series for his creation, The Black Beetle. Debuting in the anthology series Dark Horse Presents, The Black Beetle is a mysterious crime fighter whose adventures are set in the 1940's and take place in the equally enigmatic Colt City. No Way Out, the name of this first mini, follows the hero as he tries to solve the puzzle behind the death of two major mob families. By making use of the main character's voice to narrate the story, low-key lighting, dramatic shadow patterns, and Labyrinto, an antagonist that in many ways represents the almost-alive Colt City, Francavilla and his award-winning artistic style invoke the most fascinating elements of the noir period. From the beautifully made teasers emulating cinema lobby cards, to the captivating pages of the final product, this one is a must have.

"No Way Out" series teaser. Art by Francesco Francavilla

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Justice League #17

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier

Another story that comes to a titanic conclusion is Throne of Atlantis, the crossover between the Justice League and Aquaman books. As if the previous chapter had not been explosive enough, this fifth installment takes the action to yet another level with a three-factioned war involving Atlantis, the League, and the Trench. Regardless of the outcome, the true winner is Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, because in just a few issues, Johns was able to develop his character to make him complex, multi-layered, and easy to sympathize with; not a trace of the stereotypical villain he used to be. Another one who takes the glory with Throne is Ivan Reis; there is no limit to his versatility. From the stormy first page focusing on the lighthouse in Amnesty Bay, to the breathtaking spread featuring the reserves against everyone else, to Arthur and Orm's moving expressions at the end, Reis shows why he is an invaluable asset to DC. The satisfying resolution to this story proves that crossovers and big arcs need to be the ones doing the talking, and not the hype around them.

The Justice League by Ivan Reis

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Batwoman #17

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

She swore she would bring them home... that she would soldier on, and the time has come at last for Batwoman to honor that promise in the final chapter of World's Finest. The past year and a half worth of stories, sorrows, and losses, comes down to a colossal conclusion where there is nothing but the good guys -girls actually- finally reaping the much deserved reward of their sacrifice and brave acts of heroism. Batwoman and Wonder Woman cementing their camaraderie, Bette rising above her fears, Chase getting schooled on heroics, and the history-making development for Maggie Sawyer, make of this issue the best one in the series to date. J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart kill it with their art; every single panel teems with details and color. Staying in the fringes of the bat-verse has paid off for this title, because it's been able to grow and evolve without depending at every turn on whatever is happening to Batman and company. Then there is that last couple of pages... holy mother of crap!

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ame-Comi Girls #24

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Artist: Steven Cummings

Queen Mera of Atlantis makes her first appearance in Ame-Comi continuity. The issue successfully builds another corner of this alternate universe by establishing the current state of affairs between the surface world and the underwater kingdom, as well as defining the role Mera plays being a daughter of both. Small details like turning Seattle into "Little Atlantis" make of the story a fun discovery ride, just like the fight that later ensues between the Queen and the mysterious Black Manta. Palmiotti and Gray write an exciting confrontation that is not only entertaining, but also revealing, as dark secrets of the Royal family of Atlantis come out in the open. Despite the limitations of this series' format, this self-contained adventure is rich and eventful. Steven Cummings and Randy Mayor capture the beauty of the Mera PVC figure that inspired this tale. Enough ends are let loose to revisit these characters in future issues of this digital title.

Queen Mera vs. Black Manta by Steven Cummings and Randy Mayor

Monday, February 18, 2013

Batman and Robin #17

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

With Death of the Family now in the rear view, Peter J. Tomasi switches gears and tries to give the Dynamic Duo some downtime after a busy night fighting evil in the city; not that these individuals can ever have a minute of peace, even in their sleep. Life is but a Dream explores Batman, Robin, and Alfred's subconscious minds at a time when their guard is down, and what lies there ranges from the sweet and nice to the downright disturbing. The sequence that is easiest to empathize with is Alfred's; after his traumatic experience with Joker, it wouldn't be hard to feel the way he does. Batman's dreamscape is not that surprising; with all the horrors he experiences day in and out, it is almost obvious that even at rest his mind is in overdrive, so nightmares must be a "default setting" for him. Then there's Damian, whose dreams bookend this story and feel like an epiphany, one that may have dawned on him a little too late if what is being said on the Internets is to be believed. Little bit of a filler issue, but not bad at all.

Batman and Robin by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scarlet Spider #14

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Khoi Pham

Guess what? Kaine died last issue, and we didn't even know it! And that's just page one of this month's Scarlet Spider. Chris Yost pays a visit to the horror genre to tell the second chapter of In the Midst of Wolves, which has not only Scarlet Spider going through a horrific afterlife encounter, but also has young Aracely running from the vicious Lobo siblings. Last issue's gruesome conclusion was only the beginning of a spine-chilling journey for Kaine through a nightmarish landscape where he comes across a creature from Spider-Man's past. Yost makes the whole experience feel like The Exorcist meets Aliens, a very well done sequence made even better by Khoi Pham's pencils; he is coming into his own after his stint in this title. More background info should have been given on the entity haunting Kaine and its connection to Spider-Man, but thanks to that jaw-dropping cliffhanger, this can be overlooked for now.

Kaine Parker by Khoi Pham and Antonio Fabela

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Batgirl #17

Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Daniel Sampere

Given the hard task of dealing with the aftermath of Joker's attack, and moving forward James Gordon Junior's rampage on his own family, writer Ray Fawkes takes the helm for a couple of issues during Gail Simone's forced non-vacation from the title. The most significant change in this temporary hand-off is observed in the narrative, which instead of coming from Batgirl's inner monologue, originates from a third party; an almost jolting transition. Part of the clean up process after the business with Joker, is capturing his gang members, and for Batgirl, this is not just a matter of catching them, she wants the GCPD to be seen by the public doing it, not only because it's important for the citizens to believe in the authorities, but also because it's cathartic to the cops who lost so many of their peers. This is a nice element of the story, and so is the intriguing choice of villain. Obscure bat-rogue Firebug (not Firefly) debuts in The New 52. Back in the day he was a soldier gone nuts; here, he might be a GCPD cop seeking revenge, but that remains to be seen. Not a bad issue, but Simone needs to return.

Batgirl by Daniel Sampere, Vicente Cifuentes, and Blond

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Uncanny X-Men #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Chris Bachalo

The third volume of Uncanny X-Men takes off on the verge of The New Revolution with Cyclops as its Che Guevara, and the whole world as the battlefield. The story quickly defines the status quo and the main players, making it accessible to anyone who has not followed recent events. The addition of Maria Hill to the cast is an interesting choice, because she represents the other side of a conflict where it is not easy to tell who the bad guy is. One thing we learn from the get-go, however, is the face of betrayal. Promoting the book with the tag line "One of these X-Men is a traitor," Bendis does not beat around the bushes, and makes his revelation upfront, instead of dragging the mystery that once resolved would have had half the readership loving it and the other half hating it. With that element of the plot out of the way, he can focus on the traitor's mission, and for once, fans will walk that road as accomplices. Good start.

The Sentinels are back. Art by Chris Bachalo

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Batman #17

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

DC spent the past several months using lines like "who dies?" to advertise and market Death of the Family, and even though no one is saying that every story arc needs to end in casualties or with cataclysmic game changers, when lines like that are used to sell a book, one expects characters to actually die. This is my way of saying, "I don't blame Scott Snyder -entirely- for the way this went down."


Covers by Greg Capullo and Tony Daniel

Had it been left alone, without all the over-exposition, tie-ins, and noise, the story could have actually been fulfilling; however, I can't help but feel cheated when the answer to the question formulated above is "absolutely no one." It turns out that the joke is on the reader, because no one died, and the elaborated subplot with the covered platters that ran through all the bat-titles, was a red herring that ended in nothing. Even the alleged disintegration of the family is no more than a temporary awkwardness that will soon go away. This arc's downfall was the hype machine that overrated it. Beautiful artwork, though; can't compliment it enough.

Joker vs. Batman by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia

Monday, February 11, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #3

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Stegman

After taking a cheap shot at Marvel's distinguished competition by way of the bat-signal, Dan Slott pits Doctor Octopus -now in Spider-Man's body- against one of his fellow villains, the Vulture. Looking at his former Sinister-Six ally through new eyes, Octavius understands a little bit better why Spider-Man did the things he did; however, this is not by any means stopping him from delivering his rough brand of justice after their confrontation goes awry. While this is happening, Peter Parker, who is lost inside Octopus' consciousness, starts a discovery journey of his own. Thus far, readers had seen the bad guy accessing the memories of the good one; now, it is the other way around, and Peter will begin to understand his arch-enemy's tragic life and motivations. Another huge development takes place in the form of officer Carlie Cooper and her realization that something is off with the web-crawler; her road to find the truth is about to get very rocky. Good issue.

The real Spider-Man, Peter Parker. By Ryan Stegman and Edgar Delgado

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Young Romance #1

Writers: Nocenti, Castelucci, Fawkes, Milligan, Higgins, Diggle
Artists: Lupacchino, Miranda, Gopez, Bisley, Greene, Rocha

With Valentine's Day around the corner, DC brings back to life a romantic comic book that had its origins in the late 40's: Young Romance. In this modern-day edition, six stories feature some of the most popular characters of the New 52. Think it Through retcons the first encounter between Batman and Catwoman. In The Lighthouse, Aquaman and Mera relive a tragic love story from Victorian times as they prepare for a coming storm. Batgirl has yet another encounter with Ricky, the young man she saved from Knightfall's madness, in a tale titled Dreamer.


The dark and stylistically polarizing Seoul Brothers, has Midnighter and Apollo breaking up but not really, as they fight a band of uranium dealers. Nightwing meets a butt-kicking bodyguard named Ursa, who is not easy prey to Mr. Grayson's charm, in Another Saturday Night. Finally, Truth or Dare stars Wonder Woman as she battles Eros and a couple of evil sirens to save Superman from their influence. The issue includes 18 Valentine mini-cards as well. Fun book, but a steep cover price.

Mera by Iñaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Avengers #5

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Adam Kubert

With a trip down memory lane to the days of Grant Morrison's New X-Men, and more specifically, the Imperial arc, Jonathan Hickman lays the ground for the origin and premise of new Avenger recruit, Smasher. Hickman does more than anchor the character's roots to that storyline; he grabs the Superguardian concept, also introduced by Morrison, and turns it into an entire system that perfectly fits the idea behind the always cool Shi'ar Imperial Guard.

Covers by Dustin Weaver and Carlos Pacheco

The issue is filled with exciting moments, such as Smasher's first contact with the empire, her brave charge against the enemy along with her new teammates, and the most amazing rapport-building exchange with The Hulk; that one is an instant classic. Adam Kubert's pencils flourish in this chapter, and Frank Martin's colors bring the art much closer to that of Jerome Opeña in the first three issues. The large scope of the overarching plot is once again enforced by the time the story concludes. You've got to read this one.

Majestor Gladiator and the Imperial Guard. Art by Adam Kubert and Frank Martin

Friday, February 8, 2013

Detective Comics #17

Writer: John Layman
Artists: Jason Fabok and Andy Clarke

Continuing with his exploration of Joker's influence on a band of deranged Gothamites called the League of Smiles, and their boss, the Merrymaker, John Layman takes Batman to the scene of their latest crime and to darker corners of the human psyche. The Pursuit of Happiness channels the old-book atmosphere and noir feel that Tony Daniel brought to the title during his tenure through the narrative style and the way the caped crusader's detective work and process are fleshed out. In the backup feature Doctor's Orders, the origin of Merrymaker and his connection to the clown prince of crime are revealed, in a story that serves both as prequel and sequel to the two-parter that just concluded. Other than proving how crazy everyone in Gotham is, the tale is not of much consequence, although it leaves a small window open for anyone who wants to revisit this short-lived villain that has not only the potential, but also the motivation and capability to be a major troublemaker.

Batman by Jason Fabok and Jeromy Cox