Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Black Widow, Batman, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Black Widow #1
AUTHOR: Kelly Thompson
ARTISTS: Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Adam Hughes
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

This one’s fairly low on action considering it’s the debut of a Black Widow series. The issue tries to make up for it with intrigue, but there isn’t quite enough to wet my appetite for more.

This, despite some awesome art from Elena Casagrande and Jordie Bellaire. I found it had a slightly similar vibe to the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye stuff. And of course, yet another breathtaking Adam Hughes cover.

TITLE: Batman #98
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by David Finch.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

As the cover suggests, there’s a big fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline in this issue. As obvious as her inclusion is given the nature of the story, “Joker War” has been a little too Harley-heavy for my taste. It feels like yet another case of DC shoehorning her into a story that’s not necessarily about her.

On the plus side, Jimenez and Morey are on their game here. So is Tynion, as as get a pretty powerful exchange between Batman and…Alfred’s memory? It’s not Alfred’s ghost, I know that for sure.

TITLE: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
AUTHOR:
Al Ewing
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Mariasara Miotti (Color Assistant), Andworld Design (Letterer)
RELEASED:
 September 2, 2020

Spaceships that carve up space gods to mine humanity’s new resources? Alright book, you’ve got my attention…

This first issue is a little hard to follow, as we’re getting adjusted to how the book works and what’s going on. But by the end we get a decent hook to bring us back for next issue. Take into account how gorgeous this issue is, particularly from a coloring standpoint, and they’ve got me signed up for next time.

TITLE: Shazam #14
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Dale Keown.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Ugh. What an awful final issue. It feels like they tried to cram in about two years worth of content. The resolution of the plot threads with Mr. Mind, Billy’s dad, and Black Adam. A pathetically condensed fight with Superboy-Prime. Then of course, they have to end the series on a happy note, though it’s hard to imagine this issue making anyone happy.

It’s not the creators’ fault, mind you. The book got cancelled. But still, the characters, the creators, and the series itself deserved better.

TITLE: Lonely Receiver #1
AUTHOR: Zac Thompson
ARTISTS: Jen Hickman, Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

I’m not sure what I expected from Lonely Receiver, but it wasn’t what I got. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This strikes me as a story with a lot of layers to it. It’s a story about a woman falling in love with a robot designed specifically to be her partner. But we’ve got undertones dealing with our needs as human beings that are really interesting. Thus far, this books is a little like I, Robot meets an old fashioned romance comic, with some more, shall we say, mature elements mixed in.

TITLE: Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror
AUTHOR: J.M. DeMatteis
ARTISTS: Matthew Dow Smith, Candice Han (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

What we have here is a look at the Khan Noonien Singh of the Mirror Universe. And with that in mind, the story and the characters are about what you’d think they’d be. In that sense, this one-shot almost writes itself.

The solicitation heralded the return of J.M. DeMatteis to Star Trek after almost 40 years. For what it’s worth, I can see why. This issue feels just like an episode of the original series. Definitely worth a look for fans.

TITLE: Young Justice #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Had a nice Powers flashback looking at Michael Avon Oeming’s work. Seeing him work on the Spoiler is a little surreal.

This wasn’t quite the “Tim and Stephanie go on a date” issue that I was hoping for. That makes this one a disappointment for yours truly.

By the end of this issue Drake is back to being Robin. But is he actually Robin, or is he Red Robin? Just when we thought Tim had his identity crisis solved…

TITLE: Justice League #52
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Way too much Batman to cap off a two-part filler story before the book starts to tie in with…*sigh*…Dark Nights: Death Metal.

We’ve seen all kinds of stories that dive into the psyches of various League members. It always seems like five or six issues is too long. But I’d have been happy to see “The Garden of Mercy” go another issue or two. What Loveness, Rocha, and Henriques turn in here is perfectly fine.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Catwoman 100-Page Super Spectacular Deep Dive – Aliens and Feminism

TITLE: Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular
AUTHORS: Paul Dini, Ann Nocenti, Tom King, Mindy Newell, Jeff Parker, Liam Sharpe, Mindy Newell, Chuck Dixon, Will Pfiefer, Ram V, Ed Brubaker.
ARTISTS: Emanuela Lupaccino, Robson Rocha, Mikel Janin, Jonathan Case, Sharpe, Lee Garbett, Kelley Jones, Pia Guerra, Fernando Blanco, Cameron Stewart. 1940s variant cover by Adam Hughes.
INKERS: Mick Gray, Daniel Henriques, Danny Miki
COLORISTS:
Laura Allred, Alejandro Sanchez, Jordie Bellaire, Alex Sinclair, Steve Oliff, FCD Plascencia
LETTERERS:
Wes Abbott, Saida Temofonte, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Tom Orzechowski, Gabriela Downe
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASED: June 3, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

She’s undoubtedly the hottest 80-year-old woman you’ll ever see.

That’s right, folks. Like several other pillar characters in the DC Universe, Catwoman turns 80 this year. So like those characters, she got her own 100-page celebration. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve it. In terms of feminist icons, there are some who would place her in Wonder Woman’s orbit. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but one simply can’t dispute how iconic she is. Thus, DC assembled a brilliant assortment of talent for her big birthday celebration.

We kick things off with Paul Dini, who is always welcome in the Batman universe. Though I can’t say this is one of his most memorable outings. He uses his eight pages to introduce is to a villain called the Taxidermist. That, as Selina herself says in the story, is very “Gotham.” The Taxidermist seems like the kind of idea that was good on paper, but in actual execution…meh. I wouldn’t expect to see him on a best villains list anytime soon.

On the plus side, what little the Taxidermist offers looks absolutely gorgeous. Emanuela Lupaccino, Mick Gray, and Laura Allred give us something truly worthy of Catwoman’s 80th. It’s funny, I wondered why I was so reminded of Mike Allred, despite him not being credited. Once Laura Allred’s name popped up, it was all quite clear.

We dive into Batman Returns territory for “Now You See Me,” as Robson Rocha quite obviously draws Selina in her stitched black leather costume. We even get a brief appearance from the Penguin. Thankfully it all looks pretty. Though the story itself, about Catwoman duking it out with a dirty security guard, is pretty forgettable.

Much less forgettable is Tom King’s follow-up to his “Some of These Days” story from Batman Annual #2. It presents a scenario where a (presumably) married Selina and Bruce Wayne get pregnant and have a baby. Ironically, Selina once had a canonical daughter, though not with Bruce. Poor kid got retconned out of existence by the New 52.

It’s a pretty story that puts King back with Mikel Janin. That chemistry between Bruce and Selina was always his greatest strength during his Batman run. That two-issue “Rooftops” story from issues #13 and #14 will go down as one of the best Batman/Catwoman stories ever published.

My only complaint? We get at least one night of a pregnant Catwoman fighting crime with Batman, costume and all. Ladies? If you happen to be expecting, please don’t try this at home. (As if you needed me to tell you that…)

Our old Batman ’66 friends Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case return for a story about Catwoman and…aliens? I’m sure it’s happened before. But it’s still such an odd match-up. Which, of course, is the point.

Parker and Case take full advantage of the absurd premise, giving us absurd aliens with absurd names and looks that could easily have come from the original Star Trek series. Not to mention the absurdity that the world gets saved by a villainess. Because wouldn’t ya know it, aliens just happened to land when Batman was out of town. Don’t cha hate when that happens?

Things get surprisingly bloody for “A Cat of Nine Tales,” written and drawn by Liam Sharpe. Once again, we have Catwoman and a security guard. When confronted, Selina proceeds to tell the poor guy about nine ways this scenario can end. Most of which involve somebody dying.

I’m not sure the Selina Kyle of 2020 would be this chatty. But I can’t find it in my heart to sling too much mud at this. Aside from Wes Abbott on the lettering, what we see here is all Sharpe. And he manages to tell a coherent story in only three pages. So while by no means perfect, this story is still an achievement.

“Little Bird” is written by Mindy Newell and drawn by…LEE GARBETT!!!! When was the last time he was in Gotham? I’ve still got such fond memories of his work on the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series from…what was it, a decade ago?!? And the man hasn’t lost a step since, as he turns in some fine work here. He and colorist Alex Sinclair do a fine job channeling Batman: Year One. We get a scene where Selina is in similar…er, we’ll call “escort gear” as we see in that story. They also do a hell of a job on the gray David Mazzucchelli Catwoman costume, tail and all.

I was, however, initially confused. The story involves Selina stealing an old mezuzah that belonged to a woman who cared for her as a child. It took me a moment or two to figure out what a mezuzah is, and the identity of this elderly woman in a nursing home. I initially thought we might have jumped into another alternate future for Selina…

Still, they stick the landing. The story speaks to the idea that underneath all the theft and crime, Catwoman has a heart of gold. A great destination, even if the road to get there was a little rocky.

Chuck Dixon, one of the unsung heroes of modern Batman lore, returns alongside Kelley Jones for a Clayface story. Though I hate to say it, this isn’t one of his better outings. Not much to this one. I assume they went with Clayface to suit Jones’ horror strengths. Catwoman finds him, a confrontation ensues, rinse and repeat. I get the sense the only real purpose for this story was to have Selina be in the purple costume from the ’90s.

I know Kelley Jones has his crowd. I’ve just never really been one of them. I will say, though, that his Catwoman is very expressive here. I was pleasantly surprised to see that from him.

Things get downright meta for author Will Pfiefer’s return to the book, as he takes Selina to a comic book convention. He creates a world where the characters themselves are the autograph-signing, question-answering celebrities.

As someone who’s been to a number of these conventions, I found this story charming. Once I got the hang of it, that is. I initially found it difficult to get my bearings. But its a nice little anniversary story, and Pia Guerra’s art is very accessible.

I confess budget constraints caused me to fall off the monthly Catwoman series, so I’m not sure if her sister Maggie has been a regular or not. I have to assume she is, as “Addicted to Trouble” is about the sisters road tripping back to Gotham from Villa Hermosa. Naturally, it’s got a cool car in it. Hijinks ensue.

Thanks to the actions of Black Mask in an early 2000s story by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart (who oddly enough are on the next story), Maggie is unable to speak. But she still makes a nice road-trip buddy for Selina, and we even focus a little bit on that inability. I wish they would have at least mentioned Black Mask in passing, as he wound up being one of Catwoman’s most-hated rivals.

Brubaker and Stewart evoke memories of 2000s Catwoman the same way Kelley Jones does 90s Batman. So their closing story, “The Art of Picking a Lock,” is an automatic sentimental favorite for yours truly. This book wasn’t cheap, but seeing Stewart draw Selina, Holly, and Slam Bradley again is almost worth the price of admission by itself. And as you’d expect, Brubaker’s pulpy writing style is right at home in Gotham City. God damn I miss him being on a Bat-book.

I wouldn’t call this collection memorable. But it’s a nice little tribute to Catwoman with some A-listers contributing, and a couple of nice nostalgia trips to boot. If nothing else, it should make Selina’s fans smile. I certainly did.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Kylo Ren, Gwen Stacy, Superman, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #3 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney, Guru-eFX (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Clayton Crain.
RELEASED:
February 12, 2020

Once again, the most interesting part of this Kylo Ren origin story proves not to be Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side. Rather, it’s Luke attempt to revive the Jedi Order.

What we see doesn’t even have that much meat to it. It’s just Luke working with his students as children, and then a bunch of short scenes to give us a glimpse of what their lives were like as they grew up. But as we’ve been waiting to see this part of the story for so long, any morsel of information feels mountainous.

TITLE: Gwen Stacy #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Christos Gage
ARTISTS: Todd Nauck, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Adam Hughes.
RELEASED: February 12, 2020

The part of “spunky teen girl detective” will now be played by Gwen Stacy.

In a post-script message to fans, editor Nick Lowe tells readers the idea for this mini-series is to add to some of the classic Spidey stories with Gwen, and fill in some details along the way. But it works quite nicely on its own merits. Todd Nauck’s art has a modern feel, but with a retro twinge. It feels like a natural successor to those Spider-Man stories from the ’60s and ’70s.

Though frankly, that Adam Hughes cover alone is worth the price.

TITLE: Superman: Heroes #1
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber, Mike Norton, Scott Godlewski. Cover by Bryan Hitch.
COLORISTS:
Paul Mounts, Gabe Eltaeb, Andy Troy, Nathan Fairbairn. Alex Sinclair (Cover).
LETTERERS:
Troy Peteri, Clayton Cowles, Simon Bowland
RELEASED:
February 12, 2020

This issue is supposed to be about all the superheroes and supporting characters reacting to the big Superman/Clark Kent revelation. But there’s an absolutely beautiful scene between Superman and someone we’ve never seen before: Clark Kent’s high school chemistry teacher.

Clark thanks him for helping to show him the value of hard work, and assures him that despite his powers, he never cheated. Despite being tempted to, of course. It casts this strict, Mr. Feeny type character as a hero in his own right. That’s exactly how (most) teachers should be seen.

TITLE: Superman #20
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Jeremiah Skipper (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 12, 2020

I think I’ve made it pretty clear by now that my favorite thing about Bendis’ influence on the Superman books has been the emphasis on journalism. In this issue we spend a good amount of time in the newsroom of The Daily Star (The Daily Planet‘s competitor) as they process the whole Superman/Clark Kent reveal. We happen to get a very intriguing return as well.

This United Planets story is finally starting to get interesting. As a representative of Earth, Superman is about to take on something of a political role. Things are about to get complicated. Very complicated…

TITLE: Alienated #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR: Simon Spurrier
ARTISTS: Chris Wildgoose, Andre May (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer). Variant cover by Bengal.
RELEASED: February 12, 2020

Slow. Down.

I like this idea a lot. Three outcast high schoolers whose minds become telepathically connected by an alien thing in the woods. Great! Lot of fun to be had there.

But Alienated #1 is so fast-paced that it’s hard to really sink your teeth into anything. I get the sense these characters have been developed and thought out. But perhaps Spurrier figured he only had six issues to work with, and wanted to cram a lot of stuff in early. Why else would he come out of the gate so fast?

TITLE: Marvels X #1
AUTHORS: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
ARTISTS:
Well-Bee. Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED:
February 12, 2020

I think David, our young protagonist, is the only character I’ve ever seen pray to a superhero. Outside of Homer Simpson, that is. (“Please save me, Superman!”) But that was obviously for comedic effect. David seems serious as a heart attack as he prays to Captain America in this issue. Weird, huh?

This series takes place in an interesting time frame. As David makes his way through New York City, it’s clear the age of heroes is over. But we obviously haven’t made it to the dystopian future of Earth X yet. We’re in that in-between period. That’s…intriguing.

TITLE: Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P.
AUTHORS: James Tynion IV, Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Chris Burnham, Marco Takara, Diogenes Neves, David Lafuente, Sumit Kumar. Cover by Lee Weeks.
COLORISTS: Adriano Lucas, Rex Lokus, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERERS:
Travis Lanham, Tom Napolitano
RELEASED: February 12, 2020

Not much to see here. Yes, it’s cool to see the whole Batman “family” come together out of costume. But by and large, this one’s pretty missable. Unless you want to see Barbara Gordon act like a complete asshole. Then you’ll love it.

The issue even contorts the timeline in a weird way. At one point it’s said that the tenth anniversary of the Wayne murders came not long after Damian died in the pages of Batman Incorporated. Wait…what? Yes, I know Damian was created using comic book science. But that timeline still doesn’t add up.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection Review – Walking Tall

Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest ReflectionTITLE: Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Ardian Syaf. Cover by Adam Hughes.
COLLECTS: Batgirl #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: July 8, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Man, I miss Stephanie Brown.

Yep, good ol’ Spoiler. She was Batgirl for just two short years before the New 52 apparently retconned her out of existence. *sigh* She was such a fun, flawed character to read. And then she was just…poof. Gone. Full disclosure: It’s really hard for me not to compare Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection to Bryan Q. Miller’s books with Stephanie, even though this book does feature the return of the iconic Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. But I’m going to try my best to be unbiased here.

At least I’m not the only one who feels a bit iffy about this book. Babs’ return as Batgirl via the New 52 reboot came at the expense of her run as Oracle, the DCU’s post-The Killing Joke wheelchair bound tech guru and queen of the information superhighway. Jill Pantozzi over at Newsarama wrote an awesome piece about this change that I won’t even attempt to top. But in short, a lot of fans feel that giving Barbara her legs back took away an extremely compelling, and at times inspirational aspect of her character.

Batgirl, wheelchairThe Darkest Reflection realizes what a radical and controversial character shift this is, and as such we spend most of the book dealing with it. Our first villain is Mirror, a character who sees miracles as God’s mistakes, and sets out correct them. We also meet Gretel, a mind control villainess who Barbara sees a bit of herself in. All the while, our heroine must come to terms with the fact that she can walk again, and what it means for her as both Barbara and Batgirl. Then later, amidst all of this, the last person in the world Barbara expected to see again comes back into her life!

The book explains Barbara’s return to her feet with a couple of lines about a clinic in South Africa that performed a “neural replacement” operation on her. I suppose this is as good an explanation as any. The less we spend on the pseudoscience of Barbara getting her legs back, the better. I imagine it’s more comfortable for people that way….

From a writing standpoint this story is tricky. Barbara is dealing with a change most people can’t relate to. As a reader it’s sometimes tough to project yourself on to her. But there’s no way they could have gotten away with not telling this story. DC wanted to meet Oracle fans halfway by keeping her in continuity, and they had to have a transition story of sorts. In addition to setting up a new status quo for Barbara and planting some seeds for future stories, that’s basically what this book is. In that sense, the book does its job. We see Barbara’s survivor’s guilt, we see her uncertainty in the field, and we see Batman and Nightwing work with her again. It’s not nearly as fun as Gail Simone’s work on Birds of Prey, or any of the stuff Stephanie Brown did as Batgirl (sorry!), but it’s what we need to see to get us to the next part of Barbara’s story.

Batgirl #3, Nightwing, Ardian SyafIssue #3, which examines Barbara’s relationship with Dick Grayson/Nightwing, sees Dick ask Barbara a pretty heavy question: “Come on, Babs, you’re recovering…I’ve seen the records, Barbara. Do you want to be back in that wheelchair? Is that what this is all about?” Commissioner Gordon also brings up the question of whether Barbara is doing too much too soon, and he (presumably) doesn’t even know about the her superhero career. The book tells us that Barbara learned about the neural replacement procedure about a year before these events play out. Which means she’s been back on her feet less than a year. Even when you take her previous experience into account, that makes for a pretty quick return to swinging from rooftops, trading blows with homicidal maniacs and jumping on to speeding trains. I’m wondering if placing more emphasis on Babs’ quick return to action might have made it a little easier for readers to identify with her plight. Most people know how it feels to sit on the sidelines due to sickness or injury, and want to get back in the game as soon as possible. Seeing Barbara in a position like that, albeit in an exaggerated manner, might have helped play up the returning underdog angle a little better.

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection, MirrorThat said, Mirror is a great villain for Barbara in this book. His M.O. about miracles being mistakes of the Divine make him the perfect opponent for the returning Batgirl. He’s got a really great look to him as well. His hooded costume mixed with the mirrors give him a Grim Reaper vibe that works really well. Since the reboot, DC has made a point to put their heroes up against all new villains, and Mirror was one of the best ones they came up with. Kudos to Ardian Syaf for making him, and the rest of the book look great.

The second villain, Gretel, is essentially a throwaway character who got her mind control powers in a way that’s never really explained. I understand why she’s there, but she’s obviously filler.

I’m not convinced that The Darkest Reflection is ultimately as good as it could have been. Gail Simone is certainly no stranger to Barbara, but I think she handled the character much better as part of a group dynamic in Birds of Prey. Now that Barbara’s return is out of the way, hopefully we can look forward to bigger and better things.

RATING: 6.5/10

Image 1 from christopherbowsman.blogspot.com. Image 2 http://eddiedangeroncomics.blogspot.com. Image 3 from booknerdreviews.com.

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