Dean Ambrose: WWE Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWEBy Rob Siebert

Well, what do you know about that.

I didn’t even think Dean Ambrose was winning the briefcase, much less getting the belt, much less on the same show!

This is overdue by at least a few months. I’d have gone with Ambrose at Wrestlemania over Roman Reigns, and I know I’m not the only one. I don’t think this represents a changing of priorities on WWE’s part. Roman is still “the guy.” But it never hurts to have another guy around, does it? Or in Ambrose’s case, “the dude.”

So congrats, dude. You earned it. I don’t know how long this is going to last. But I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you do too.

Ponderings From Raw:

Dean Ambrose arrives as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vie to be top contender. The best part of this segment? Roman responding to those “You can’t wrestle!” chants. “Calm down, take a sip of your beer and shut up.” Not the best line I’ve ever heard. But at least he got to throw one back.

WWE Raw, June 20, 2016, Seth Rollins, Roman ReignsAs Jim Ross tweeted during Money in the Bank, Reigns “has a natural, heel-like demeanor that’s difficult to teach.” I’d be blown away if Reigns goes heel. But it bears repeating.

Meanwhile, Rollins continues to come off like a babyface. He beat Reigns clean at the pay per view, then got jumped from behind when Ambrose cashed in. He’s not exactly wrong when he talks about having a claim to the title.

Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens. Zayn and Owens always hit each other with those same punches at the start of every match or fight. Left hand behind the other guy’s head, while the right hand is throwing the blows. Seriously, guys. I love you both. But change it up.

That being said, this was a fun match. We don’t see guys go into the crowd nearly as much as we used to. I’m hoping this paves way for a street fight between the two at Battleground.

John Laurinaitis, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016John Laurinaitis returns to Raw, schmoozes for Smackdown General Manager job. I don’t know how WWE ever justified giving this guy a regular role on television. People give Roman Reigns a hard time about his mic skills. But honest to God, this guy cannot speak in public.

Enzo & Cass def. The Vaudevillains. Nothing of any consequence here. The Vaudvillains didn’t end up eating the pin at Money in the Bank the way I thought they would. But I expect them to now be out of the title picture. At least for the next few months.

Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows apologize to AJ Styles and John Cena for interfering in their match at Money in the Bank. The Club beats Cena down after he defeats Anderson in a match. The in-ring segment was decent. About what I expected, I suppose. We may be building to a cage match between Cena and Styles. 

Karl Anderson didn’t exactly get a great shake in that match with Cena. But I suppose it makes sense. Anderson hasn’t been there very long, and he’s strictly a tag team guy. Wouldn’t be the most logical thing to have him dominate Cena, would it?

Baron Corbin, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016Baron Corbin def. Zack Ryder. I’m now convinced WWE didn’t have anything resembling a worthwhile plan for Corbin. He’s been floating, trading wins back and forth with Dolph Ziggler. But what happens now? How does he make himself stand out? All else fails, I suppose he can always go back to NXT.

Charlotte def. Paige to retain the WWE Women’s Championship. Sasha Banks shows up to assert herself. There were rumors that Paige had been arrested after Money in the Bank. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though she was put in handcuffs. But if it were something serious, she wouldn’t have been on television.

I can’t remember the last time Sasha Banks was on Raw. But this seemingly confirms all the rumors about her facing Charlotte at Summerslam. As for what happens at Battleground…another tag match? This time with Sasha and Paige? I admit that’s pretty lame. But last long as we get to Summerslam, that’s what matters.

The Wyatt Family returns, is interrupted by The New Day. Earlier in the show, they aired a vignette for Bray’s return. Then they cut to the announcers, and Cole says they’re returning “later tonight.”

Bray Wyatt, WWE Raw, June 20, 2016Uh…what?

Many of us in the internet wrestling community have read about the last-minute re-writes to shows over the years. Based on some of the things Bray Wyatt has tweeted in recent weeks, it seems like this has been in the works since late May, but they’ve been putting it off. If I had to guess, I’d say they didn’t know this was going to be on the show until Monday, so they didn’t have time to promote it they way they should have. A Wyatt Family return is something they could have promoted for weeks. But instead we go an hour’s notice. Pitiful.

Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns goes to a double disqualification. Ambrose volunteers to defend against both in a triple threat match at BattlegroundThis Shield triple threat is something they could have done at Summerslam. Or better yet, Wrestlemania. For my money, this announcement can only mean these three are being separated in the draft. So as I said, let’s enjoy the united roster while we still can.

Tuesday Morning Talk Point: Dean Ambrose as WWE Champion.

Jerry LawlerIn Other News:

Jerry Lawler and fiancee arrested and jailed after alleged domestic abuse incident. Lawler is indefinitely suspended by WWE. It’s always sad when this kind of thing happens. The frustrating thing is, it’s Lawler’s word against his fiancee’s So who really knows what happened? I’m certainly not taking one person’s side over the other. But if Lawler is at fault here, then he deserved what he got. If he isn’t, then let’s just hope things get resolved quietly.

Image 1 from cagesideseats.com. Image 6 from variety.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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A Star Wars: Han Solo #1 Review – The Panel Duplication Effect

Star Wars: Han Solo #1, 2016TITLE: Star Wars: Han Solo #1
AUTHOR: Marjorie Liu
PENCILLER: Mark Brooks. Cover by Lee Bermejo.
PUBLISHER: 
Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Why it took so long for us to get a Han Solo miniseries from Marvel is a mystery to me. You’d think he’d have been one of the first characters they took a swing at. It seems like a lay-up. They could do a whole series on Han if they wanted to. Hell, I’d buy it.

In any event, here we are. In an attempt to flush out a mole in the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia recruits Han and Chewbacca to fly the Millennium Falcon in a race that would put him into contact with the turncoat. But the race takes an unexpected and deadly turn…

Lee Bermejo’s covers are a nice selling point for this title. It’s fun to see him playing in this universe again. Though it must be said: His Han Solo doesn’t look much like Harrison Ford. His work on issue #2 isn’t much better, though it looks like by issue #3 he starts to get the hang of it. His Princess Leia, however, is spot on.

Han Solo #1, panel duplicateMark Brooks, however, does a pretty good Han Solo. The presentation we get here is very clean, and the colors by Sonia Oback pop in a way that really fits this universe.

Let’s talk about what I’ll call panel duplication, i.e. the process of using the exact same image Han Solo #1, panel duplication #2for two consecutive panels. Full disclosure: I’m not an artist. And I understand what deadlines are. But as a reader, this trick always feels cheap to me. By no means is Brooks the only perpetrator in the industry, and I don’t want to take anything away from his talent. But he did it twice in this issue. So I’m going to call him on it.

Typically, this trick is done to indicate the passing of a beat or two for comedic effect. But in the first instance, in which Han is talking to another bounty hunter, there’s no pay off for it. It’s just an image of Han and the alien dude staring off into space. At least in the second case, we get Han leaning into frame. But look at the renderings of Leia and General Cracken (Unleash the Cracken!). They’re the same as the ones in the previous panel. I can’t help but be jerked right out of the story.

We also see Han with a pretty bad case of puppy dog eyes (shown below). Brooks got a little too animated on that one. He even looks right into the camera.

Han and Leia, Han Solo #1Our story looks promising. Han and Chewie flying around in the Falcon, meeting different aliens and getting into trouble. It’s tough to ask for more than that. This issue is essentially a big pointer scene, where we find out where our heroes are going, what their goals are, etc. But it looks like the action will pick up next issue.

I’m hopeful this is the first of several Han Solo stories we have coming our way. I’m sure there are no shortage of creators looking for a crack at the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler. This one has its ups and downs thus far. But it’s a decent read, and will be worthwhile for Star Wars fans.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Batman #1 Review – Batman Begins Again

Batman #1, 2016, David FinchTITLE: Batman #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: David Finch
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 15, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s not kid ourselves. Tom King, David Finch, and this crew have their work cut out for them with Batman. In so many ways, this DC’s flagship book. It’s certainly one of their biggest cash cows. Top that off with the fact that we’re coming out of the Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo era, and there’s a lot to live up to.

But, you know, no pressure…

The new Batman era kicks off with a hijacked missile and a commercial airplane flying over Gotham City. When the two meet, countless lives are at stake and our hero is put to work. As always, Batman is ready to lay his life down for “his” city. But when two new heroes emerge, the game may change dramatically. Gotham may not be Batman’s city anymore.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, upside downI can’t say I was overjoyed to hear David Finch was returning to a Bat-book. He’s definitely got his critics and nitpickers. Having been one of them, I would know. But Finch is at home in the dark, grim, and shadowy corners of comic books. This is the case because so much of what we get from him is dark, grim, and shadowy. Even if the story or the characters don’t call for that at all (Justice League of AmericaWonder Woman, etc), that’s what we get from him. That’s why it puzzles me when Finch gets assigned to the more colorful heroes, and not something like Hellblazer or Swamp Thing. But if you must put him with one of the big guns, Batman is the best choice for obvious reasons.

Our art team also compliments Finch better than previous ones did. Inker Matt Banning and colorist Jordan Bellaire aren’t as quick to plunge things into sheer blackness. There’s a much better balance between dark and light. The city lights pop in contrast to the often dark and dreary sky. But the color palette for Batman himself is also dim enough that you believe it. As for Finch’s pencils, he may win or lose me depending on how he draws this new heroine. I’ve previously said Finch only knows how to draw one woman. All his women have the same face. The same skinny waist. The same big boobs. If he can find a way to draw her (and any other lady that pops up in this series) so she looks like someone other than Superhero Barbie, I’ll be impressed.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, I'll Save ItThis looks like it’s going to be about super-powered heroes trying to take Batman’s spot as guardian of Gotham. Midway through the issue, he even dismisses potential involvement from Superman or Hal Jordan. He caps it off with the line: “This is my city. I’ll save it.” This is an interesting route for Tom King to take, seemingly casting Batman as the underdog when so many readers already believe Batman can kick Superman’s ass. But a super-powered duo operating in Gotham could play into the idea of the city as its own unique character. How does Gotham react to its new saviors? And how does this transform the city’s criminal element?

There’s also a line (or at least part of a line) late in the book that’s really nice, albeit subtle. As Batman seemingly staring death in the eye, he tells Alfred: “I prepared messages for the boys in case I…” The boys. I like that. Like a father referring to his sons.

The buzz around this story has a lot to with what Gotham City deserves. What kind of hero does it deserve, is Batman the hero it deserves, etc. At this point, I’m just hoping King and Finch can give The Dark Knight the kind of series he deserves. I’m not sure we’ve got that yet. But King has earned his shot. So let’s let him take it.

Image 1 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 2 from author’s collection. 

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A WWE Money in the Bank 2016 Preview – Change Is Coming

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

We don’t know much about the upcoming WWE brand split at this point. We don’t know who the general managers will be (though presumably it’ll be Shane on one and Stephanie on the other), we don’t know how the titles or the rosters will be divided, and we don’t know who we might see called up from NXT. But let’s take the time to appreciate the current landscape of WWE. Because by the time Battleground gets here next month, the rosters will be divided. This is our last pay per view with a single, unified roster.

For better or worse, we move onward…

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Dear God, this is still going on. Someone make it stop! Make it end!

Alright, so that segment on Raw where Ziggler kicked Corbin in the balls was pretty cool. But other than that, there’s not much to sink your teeth into here. Just like there wasn’t at Payback. Or Extreme Rules. Or Battleground, if they end up going again next month. I hope Corbin’s learning from Ziggler. Because we at home certainly aren’t getting much out of this.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews, WWE Money in the Bank 2016PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews

I like this match. I like that it’s actually about something. Sheamus feels threatened by the “new era” wrestlers coming in, and targets Apollo Crews. And they’re such polar opposites that it makes sense for them to dislike each other.

I see Crews stealing a win from Sheamus. With the brand split looming, WWE needs to keep building new stars to hype for these separate rosters. Crews could be a great asset, depending on how they book him.

PREDICTION: Apollo Crews

Charlotte, Dana Brooke, Natalya, Becky LynchCharlotte & Dana Brooke vs. Natalya & Becky Lynch

It seems like the plan is to do Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the title at Summerslam. If that’s the case, everything Charlotte does until she gets to Sasha should be about building her character. She’s a bratty and arrogant champion, but she needs help to keep the title. They could play that up here by having Nattie and Becky win this match. That could naturally lead to a triple threat match for the title at Battleground.

I’m confused about where Dana Brooke fits into this. On TV they’re planting seeds of dissension between the two. I’m not sure that makes sense, unless they’re either planning to put the two against each other or draft them to separate shows. Frankly, I don’t like either option. Charlotte and Dana are a good team, and I’d like to see them together at least a little longer.

PREDICTION: Natalya & Becky Lynch

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, Rusev vs. Titus O'NeilWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Titus O’Neil

I haven’t been riveted by anything I’ve seen from this Rusev/Titus program. But on paper, everything is positioned the way it should be. Rusev is back to being a a monstrous brute, Titus is the natural babyface, and the more patriotic elements of the US Title are being played up. There’s not much to sling mud at here. I just wish it were more interesting.

Rusev just won the belt back, so I see no point in taking it off him. He needs to be built back up after everything he’s been though in the past year. A successful title defense against Titus will help in that regard.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE Money in the Bank 2016, The New Day, Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson, The VaudevilliansFATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Vaudevillians vs. Enzo & Cass

I’m not crazy about Enzo & Cass being in this match. Like Sasha Banks with Charlotte, I feel like they should be kept away from the titles until they’re really ready to pursue them. This feels like they were just thrown in there because they needed another pair of bodies in the match. They’re better than that.

As I’ve said previously, this match feels like a way to get the belts off New Day without actually beating them. I fully expect either Simon Gotch or Aiden English to eat the pin here, and for Gallows & Anderson to walk away with the belts. From there, it wouldn’t shock me if they wind up actually beating New Day at Battleground, and then facing Enzo & Cass at Summerslam.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Money in the Bank Ladder Match 2016, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, Alberto Del Rio, Cesaro, Chris JerichoMONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH:

Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens. vs. Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Cesaro

WWE wasted the briefcase on Sheamus last year. So there’s extra pressure on them not to waste it here. Thankfully, I don’t think that will be the case. They’ve got two really good candidates in this match: Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens. Owens would be great with the briefcase, as it really is a heel’s instrument. But babyfaces have used it effectively, with Rob Van Dam being the best example. Hearing Dean Ambrose on Monday talk about cashing in was simply awesome. I don’t see it happening at this show. But a Shield triple threat is money. Money in the bank, if you will.

But in the end, I think Kevin Owens would be too great to pass up in this role. The mic work alone would be priceless. Let him gloat, let him threaten, let him do all the things a heel Money in the Bank winner should do. The results should make for good TV.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. AJ Styles, WWE Money in the Bank 2016John Cena vs. AJ Styles

So this is a dream match, huh? I never imagined this match being billed as such. But kudos to WWE for playing off the crowd reaction these two got that first night in the ring. They’ve consistently been the most interesting thing on Raw in the last three weeks.

AJ needs to win this match. He lost at Wrestlemania, and he lost two consecutive pay per view matches to Roman Reigns. He needs this win. I doubt he comes out on top in the end. But they still talk about Kevin Owens beating Cena in his first match on the main roster. Maybe one big win is enough. I hope he gets it here.

WINNER: AJ Styles

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, WWE Money in the Bank 2016WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Seth Rollins

In case you haven’t figured it out, Roman is The Guy. That’s what they want him to be, so that’s what he’s going to be. As such, I don’t see him dropping the belt to Rollins, or anyone else anytime soon. But the match itself should be good. It’s Rollins’ first go-around since November. He’s obviously anxious to make an impact.

But going along with what I said up top, let’s appreciate the novelty of having one WWE Championship. By the time Battleground is here, we may have two belts again. They finally got the titles sorted out, and now they may be about to screw ’em up all over again…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

Images courtesy of WWE.

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John Cena’s Ultimatum, The Shield (Briefly) Reunites, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, July 27, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s disheartening that despite all the hours of WWE content we get these days, less and less seems to be happening on these shows.

I’ve been listening to the occasional Vince Russo podcast over at PodcastOne.com. A few weeks ago, he and Glenn Gilbertti (the former Disco Inferno in WCW) were talking about what one would theoretically be missing without tuning into Raw every week. So often, these shows seem inconsequential. If you’d missed the episode entirely, you really wouldn’t have missed anything at all. For the “longest running weekly episodic show in TV history,” that’s odd, isn’t it? Where are the moments we’re supposed to be talking about on Tuesday morning? What do we remember, then bring up at school or work?

For the foreseeable future, I want to highlight those moments, or the lack thereof. At the bottom of each “Ponderings,” there’ll be a spot for “Tuesday Morning Talk Points.” Those will  be the moments that make Raw worth watching each week. And if there aren’t any talk points to speak of, that’s an indictment on what WWE puts on their flagship show.

The New Day, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

The New Day open the show with Enzo & Cass. They spent a solid minute talking about Kofi Kingston’s shoes. See, because they were the weird Steph Curry shoes. Because people are talking about those. And WWE is obviously hip to what we’re all talking about. Unless it’s Roman Reigns. They can’t seem to hear all the boos directed at Roman Reigns.

Then they started talking about Xavier Woods’ trumpet. I was mildly surprised to hear them go into Enzo having his hands and lips all over her, and what not. Despite being obviously scripted, that’s not nearly as sanitized as typical WWE dialogue. It was still stupid, and nothing like what I expected an encounter between the two teams to be like. Better luck, next time.

Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, & The Vaudevillians def. The New Day, Enzo & Cass. I really wish they’d just call him Enzo, as opposed to referring to him as Amore. It’s needlessly awkward.

Right now, my money is still on Gallows & Anderson to walk out of Money in the Bank with the belts. I don’t see any other motivation for putting four teams in this match other than to create a scenario that softens the loss for New Day. I can easily see The Vaudevillians eating the pin. But you never know.

McMahons, Kane, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016Corporate Kane lobbies for the job of Smackdown General Manager. Has Kane been on Raw since Wrestlemania? If so, I forgot all about it. I only wish he’d returned in the mask, as opposed to a suit. I can only assume he’ll be a regular on TV again once the roster splits.

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose reunite in The Ambrose Asylum. Why wasn’t this in the main event spot? Because the third hour loses viewers? That’s a valid reason, I suppose…

This was fine. The crowd was definitely having fun. And once they started cranking up the heat, it got interesting. Rollins definitely shined here. All those long Authority promos might not have been great for us. But they definitely sharpened up his mic skills. He’s so much more comfortable in front of those big crowds nowadays.

It was important that Ambrose bring up the Money in the Bank contract and threaten to cash in at the pay per view. He deserves to be viewed in the same light as these two. Especially if they want to play up how important The Shield was, and one day build to these three reuniting for another run. But for now, I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in a triple-threat as we head toward Summerslam

WWE Raw, June 13 ,2016, Paige, CharlottePaige def. Charlotte. Remember when Paige beat Charlotte last month? And now she’s beaten her again. What does this girl have to do to get a title shot?

So Charlotte gets pinned when Dana Brooke throws her back in the ring, and now we’re teasing tension between those two. These two just got together, and now it looks like they’re already breaking up. Seems like a waste to me.

Sami Zayn def. Cesaro. After Cesaro’s win over Chris Jericho last week, I was disappointed to see him lose here. Especially after Alberto Del Rio’s emphatic win over Zayn last week. Come to think of it, they might have put Cesaro with Del Rio this week. Either way, this one got hot toward the end. I’d love to see these two go at it on a pay per view someday.

AJ Styles and John Cena sign the contract for Money in the Bank. This was a good segment. Cena’s ultimatum for Styles, to allow or forbid Gallows and Anderson from being at ringside, made this better than your usual WWE contract signing. Also, Cena put AJ over really well when this segment began. He even name-dropped PWG. That made some of the Twitter marks happy. He also seems to like making little inside references to the Bullet Club, though.

AJ Styles, WWE Raw, June 13, 2016What I really wanted from this segment was for Styles to elaborate on the “Guys like you bury guys like me” comment from last week. That didn’t happen. But we did get some really nice tension. And I’m not sure how scripted this was, either. That’s to say, it felt like they were really talking to each other, not reciting memorized dialogue. Also, much like the story with Styles and Reigns, there was a nice simplicity to it. Both guys think they’re better, they’ve never had a chance to fight before. So now they’re going to settle the score in a big match. It’s tough to go wrong there.

Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio def. The Lucha Dragons. The stipulation here was that if The Lucha Dragons won, they’d get Owens and Del Rio’s spots in the ladder match. Because, you know, that could happen…

Dean Ambrose def. Chris Jericho. In theory, Raw should build to that final segment right? But Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose is a feud that just ended, and they had this Shield reunion thing built up for a week. Why not air those little Shield retrospectives throughout the show, and have the Ambrose Asylum segment go on last? We didn’t know what was going to happen in that Shield segment. We all knew what would happen here. A big brawl to close the show. They may as well have advertised that.

Tuesday Morning Talk Points: Dean Ambrose threatening to win the briefcase and cash in on Reigns and Rollins at Money in the Bank. John Cena and AJ Styles’ contract signing.

Images courtesy of WWE. 

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A Darth Vader #21 Review – The Hunt For Aphra Continues

Darth Vader #21 (2016)TITLE: Darth Vader #21
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was really surprised to hear Darth Vader is ending at issue #25. The series isn’t quite what it was when it began. But it’s got a solid cast in Doctor Aphra, Triple-Zero & BT-1, and of course, Darth Vader himself. It’s still very much worth picking up. But apparently Gillen is done. That’s fair enough. But I’m not sure why Marvel wouldn’t hand this series off to another writer. I guarantee you that’ll be the case when Jason Aaron is done with Star Wars. So why not here?

In any event, things aren’t looking good for Aphra, as the droids have been tasked with hunting her down. Meanwhile, the Emperor has tasked Vader with bringing an end to Cylo, a former servant of the Empire. But neither Cylo or his “abominations” will go down without a fight.

I’ve been turned off by Salvador Larocca’s art lately, particularly his drawing of the characters from the movies. At certain points it’s painfully obvious he’s rendering them based on specific shots and moments in the films. He’s hardly the only artist to have done this. But that doesn’t make it better. At this point, my favorite Darth Vader issues are the ones that don’t feature any classic characters other than Vader. The only instance of what I’ll call “movie rendering” in this issue is a shot of Vader in his TIE Fighter (shown below).

Darth Vader #21, Salvador Larroca, movie renderingI don’t consider this panel a major offense. I’m such a stickler on the rendering of the Darth Vader mask that I’m just happy to see it done this well. Plus, it’s the exact same cockpit we saw in A New Hope. There’s only so much Larroca could change.

On a happier note, Larocca’s work on Aphra is very endearing here. She looks tired, beaten down, and ready to give up. As if being hunted by the Empire isn’t enough, readers of the Star Wars ongoing know Aphra just narrowly escaped death at a prison. She’s not a sympathetic character per se. But you feel for her here.

Triple-Zero and BT-1 are great here, as usual, as they lead a battalion of Vader’s battle droids in search of Aphra. Triple-Zero’s dialogue is always the riot, as you can’t help but hear it in a prim and proper accent. He’s ever the diplomatic protocol droid with a delightful violent streak. His best line this month is: “I’m afraid we’re going to have to hunt you down like the human meatbag you are, Mistress Aphra.”

Darth Vader #21, Doctor Aphra, Salvador Larroca

Our final page also sets up a pretty epic fight for next issue. I won’t spoil it. But Vader must feel like he’s back in Jabba’s palace

Darth Vader may be ending, but I’m hoping the characters that were created in this book can cross over into other books in the future. Though it’s looking Doctor Aphra may not survive much longer. That’s what happens when you make a deal with the devil.

Images from author’s collection.

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A Detective Comics #934 Review – Rebirth and Redemption

Detective Comics #934, 2016, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #934
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I dig this issue for no other reason than it rights a wrong that’s been present since 2011. It fixes the Red Robin costume. That thing had been far too ugly for far too long. It was a damn embarassment.

But there’s plenty more to like here. A mysterious force is targeting Gotham’s heroes, some of whom are not prepared for this new threat. Batman comes to Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, to help train the next generation of heroes. Red Robin, The Spoiler, Orphan, and (of all people) Clayface are chosen to train under The Dark Knight and his new partner. A partner who knows more about Batman than he suspected, and is hungry for more knowledge. Such as what Batman isn’t saying about this new threat to costumed heroes.

This “reborn” Detective Comics has a feel-good vibe to it by virtue of its cast, which consists largely of characters who were screwed over creatively during the New 52. Tim Drake lost so much of his depth and backstory in the reboot, and given that silly costume. I’ve got high hopes that James Tynion IV, an accomplished Batman writer himself, can do some justice for him. And of course, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were wiped from continuity and didn’t return until later. With their respective backstories altered, of course. Fans may remember the shakeup in 2013 over DC not allowing Kate Kane to marry. The road to this title has been frustrating. But there’s a nice opportunity for redemption here.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, ClayfaceOn the subject of redemption, the addition of Clayface to this team is surprising. He obviously doesn’t qualify as a costumed hero. But it plays to the idea that on some level, Batman really is trying to rehabilitate the villains he fights. The smart bet is this goes bad at some point. But in the meantime, the dynamic Basil Karlo will have with his more virtuous teammates is intriguing.

This issue is also particularly noteworthy for the return of Jean-Paul Valley, the original Azrael, and the man who replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early ’90s Nightfall storyline. How he connects to the Michael Lane version of Azrael (if at all) remains to be seen, and I can only assume Knightfall is no longer canon. But longtime fans may get a kick out of seeing him again, and hopefully not for the last time. As we open the issue, Batman seems to be trying to recruit him. I’d love to see him return as either a part-time ally, or even an enemy.

It’s not often you see Batman playing the good cop. But that’s exactly what we get here, with Batwoman in the bad cop role. She comes off as a hardened drill sergeant, while Batman plays the supportive mentor. It’s a side to him that don’t see quite as regularly. At least not since Batman & Robin ended. What’s more, Batwoman gets put over really well. Especially when she surprises Bruce with the knowledge of his secret.

Eddy Barrows has earned this run on Detective Comics. He’s had memorable runs on both Nightwing and Superman and recently spent some time on Martian Manhunter. He’s good with acting, and emotion, which shows here. From the fear in Azrael’s eyes as Batman closes in, to the intensity and anger from Kate when a mysterious figure appears in her apartment. He’s able to inject sympathy into the otherwordly Clayface as well as any artist I’ve ever seen (shown above). He connects you to the characters well in that sense.  Barrows’ rendering of Batman’s cowl evokes memories of Michael Keaton’s costume from the Tim Burton movies. Inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas also deserve credit for making the presentation so clean, and beautifully shadowy.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, BatmanIt’s Barrows’ body proportioning I’m not certain about. There’s a panel in which The Spoiler is looking down on a crime in progress, and it looks like her legs are separated from her torso. There’s an otherwise beautiful shot of Batwoman swinging through the city in which our heroine looks just a bit too lanky. Barrows also has a weird thing about leg positioning, as we see in a shot of Batman swooping into a building (shown right). It’s a similar bizarre position to the one we saw on his Nightwing #1 cover.

Part of what made DC Universe: Rebirth #1 such a feel-good issue was the combination of story intrigue, and justice finally being done to characters that had gotten a raw deal in recent years (Wally West, Ted Kord, etc.) Detective Comics #934 is similar in that respect. The two issues also weren’t afraid to show us some emotion and humanity. Between Kate’s often volatile nature, the villainous tendencies of Clayface, and the presence of the younger heroes, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of those things going forward. That’s a good thing.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com.

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