Tag Archives: Carlos D’Anda

A Suicide Squad: Going Sane Review – The Harley Quinn Show

TITLE: Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Going Sane
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLER:
Jim Lee, Riley Rossmo, Sean Galloway, Stephen Byrne, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Gamuncoli
COLLECTS: Suicide Squad #58Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Day Special #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 7, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Suicide Squad, Vol. 2 should really be called The Harley Quinn Show. The story doesn’t revolve around her, but she’s clearly the star. We even learn that one of the characters is a Harley fangirl. DC obviously knows what side its bread gets buttered on…

Our main story picks up from where The Black Vault left off, with General Zod and the vault being held in Belle Reeve Penitentiary. But the vault, a gateway into the Phantom Zone, is effecting everyone in the prison. It’s pushing them to the brink of insanity, enticing them to kill. But it’s having the opposite effect on Harley Quinn. Her sanity is restored. Thus she may be the only one capable of saving the world from Zod.

Oddly enough, several years ago there was a Batman story called “Going Sane” that shares a similar concept with this book. The Joker thinks Batman is dead, so his sanity recedes and he tries to live a normal life. It’s not a great story. But the whole sanity reversal thing has a little more depth to it than what we get here, which is essentially the flick of a light switch.

I actually don’t have a problem with how they handle the whole sanity/insanity turn. But whenever Suicide Squad gets too Harley heavy, I have the same reaction to when a Justice League story lays it on too thick with Batman. “Over-Baturation,” if you will. That’s how Going Sane left me feeling. A team story where a specific character has an arc is one thing. Laying it on too thick is another.

What puts it over the top is that the one-shot Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special is collected in this volume. I imagine they put it here, as opposed to Vol. 1, because the story goes with the whole going sane theme. It sees Harley trying to use her skills as a psychotherapist to redeem other supervillains, Most notably Man-Bat. It’s mostly fine on its own. But when paired with our main story, it’s too much Harley. To some, I’m sure that notion is blasphemous. I don’t care. Too much of anything is a drawback.

Going Sane is more or less a superpowered prison riot popcorn flick. I can get behind that. In a lot of ways, that’s what Suicide Squad should be. Aiding in the proceedings is that it’s all pencilled by Jim Lee. Thus, it’s got an added sense of epicness and gravitas. Lee, inkers Richard Friend and Sandra Hope, and colorist Jeremiah Skipper obviously make everybody look good. Harley in particular (see above). Skipper gets to have some fun with the lighting at various points. Most of this takes place in Belle Reeve. But they shake the scenery up with red and yellow sunlight generators, the purple glow that surrounds the Black Vault, the power going out, etc.

I can’t recall seeing Lee draw Man-Bat prior to the April Fool’s one-shot. But he makes him every bit as detail-rich and monstrous as you’d expect. We also see Batman, Joker, and the Justice League in that issue, bringing back plenty of memories from Hush and Justice League: Origin. Lee’s frequent collaborator Alex Sinclair colors that story, which ups the nostalgia factor in that regard.

One thing I still don’t understand: Why did Zod have to be so damn huge? They explained it by saying it had to do with how he came out of the Black Vaullt. At one point they have him clamped down on this giant contraption like he’s Doomsday or Bane. Later, he nearly crushes Captain Boomerang by simply falling on him. Was this an artistic choice so he’d look more imposing? I suppose it fits with the tone of the book. But you know what’s really imposing? A guy who can bend steel with his fists and melt flesh with heat vision. Take that into account, and it doesn’t really matter how tall you are, does it?

Also, Killer Croc and June Moon (Enchantress) apparently have sex in this book (shown above). So, there’s that. Their romance is actually a nice little addition to the book. In issue #5, Croc has what I would guess is his most romantic line ever: “I…want to eat everyone. I don’t want to eat you.” But much like with Hulk and Viv Vision, I can’t help getting caught up in the physical “mechanics” of it all. How does it even work? Do I even want to know? Probably not.

As was the case in Vol. 1, we get a bunch of character-centric back-up stories. This time we focus on a new character called Hack, as well as Killer Croc, and Enchantress. We also get a look at Killer Frost in preparation for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad.

The best of the bunch is the Killer Croc story, pencilled by Carlos D’Anda (shown below). We see Waylon Jones as a vulnerable young boy with a tragic skin condition. Rob Williams plays the sympathy card with Croc, as we often see with other Batman villains. But it’s as effective as always, especially with the big expressive eyes D’Anda gives Waylon.

Hack, a young woman who can transform herself into digital data, found herself inspired by Harley Quinn as she grew up impoverished in Africa. Like Harley with the Joker, Hack’s choice of role model was to her own detriment. The backup, illustrated by Stephen Byrne, is fine. Hack is intriguing, and as this book illustrates, her powers open up some interesting doors. But if you’ve read ahead, you know Suicide Squad doesn’t necessarily use her to her fullest potential.

The series loses a little bit of its momentum here. But Harley Quinn fans and comic art buffs will find something in Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Going Sane. It’s not a creative highlight, but it’s at least worth a glance.

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A Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin Review – Galactic Throwback

Star Wars, Vol. 1: In the Shadow of YavinTITLE: Star Wars, Vol. 1: In the Shadow of Yavin


AUTHOR: Brian Wood
PENCILLER: Carlos D’Anda. Cover by Alex Ross.
COLLECTS: Star Wars #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: September 17, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With this new Star Wars series, Brian Wood was going for a throwback to the “classic” Star Wars era. Before The Clone Wars, before the prequels, before all the video games. Wood was going for the Star Wars of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the universe he fell in love with as a child. That’s a very relatable sentiment for those of us who fell in love with the series before the prequels came out. What Wood and Carlos D’Anda give us in this first volume isn’t perfect. But it is special, in that it offers something very nice for an older generation of fans, without alienating kids in the audience.

One of the ways In the Shadow of Yavin accomplishes this is by keeping the story simple and accessible. Arguably, the only required viewing you need to understand what’s happening here is the original Star Wars film. The book is set a few weeks after the destruction of the first Death Star. While the Rebels have scored a major win over the Empire, they are now on the run after the discovery of their base on Yavin 4. What’s more, there is a spy in their midst, feeding valuable information to the Imperials. Princess Leia promptly pulls together a team of pilots, among them Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, to help expose the spy and find a new base for the Rebellion. Meanwhile, Darth Vader is under immense pressure from the Emperor to redeem himself after the loss of the Death Star. All the while, the name of the Rebel responsible for it’s destruction, Skywalker, weighs heavily on his mind.

Star Wars #4, Alex RossAs if a Brian Wood-authored throwback wasn’t enough to hook fans, Dark Horse gave fans buying the monthly books a heck of an added incentive with four months of Alex Ross covers. As anyone who’s seen his work knows, Ross is truly in a class by himself. So to see his take on the Star Wars is, to say the least, a treat. We’d seen him do some Star Wars art before. But these covers take the cake, particularly the first one (shown above). The image of Darth Vader with his lightsaber raised above his head is a nice nod to one of the original North American movie poster by Tom Jung, where Luke is in a similar pose. His characters are drawn with unparalleled photo-realism, and the colors are gorgeous. There’s just nobody like Ross. Period.

If you’ve read some of my prior reviews of this series, you know I’m a little more critical of Carlos D’Anda’s work. (Though in all fairness, anyone who has to follow Ross is in a difficult position.) His art certainly fits with the overall tone of the series, and perhaps of Star Wars itself for that matter. His shots of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, particularly on the first three pages when they’re in the X-Wing cockpits, are beautiful. As we see later in the book, he also draws a mean Boba Fett. And when he’s tasked with drawing all the trademark Star Wars hardware, he does a beautiful job. In issue #3 he’s tasked with drawing a two-page spread of the under-construction Death Star II, as it’s being guarded by four Star Destroyers (including Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer). The result is beautiful, and so detail-rich one can only imagine the hours of labor that went into it. So I’m by no means saying D’Anda does a bad job. The majority of his work here is awesome.

Star Wars #1, Darth Vader, Carlos D'AndaHowever, I’ve never been able to enjoy the way D’Anda draws Darth Vader. Some of this may be subjective, but I think D’Anda’s Vader channels a bit too much of the David Prowse bodybuilder vibe. This is especially apparent in issue #1, when we see Vader walking toward an Imperial officer (shown below). What is that pose, exactly? He looks like he’s stomping down an evil runway. I’m also not a fan of the way D’Anda draws the classic Darth Vader death mask. He seems to distort it to make it look angrier. But for yours truly, that mask is so distinctly ingrained in my memory, that any kind of stylized take on it just seems categorically wrong.

D’Anda has a similar problem with C-3PO. He has trouble nailing down the robot’s face, and in his first few appearances his positioning and posture seem a bit off. Thankfully, this issue corrects itself a bit as the issues go on. In any event, Threepio’s appearance doesn’t effect the book nearly as much as Vader’s, as the latter gets much more page time.

I give Brian Wood a lot of credit for making Luke a teenager in this story. It’s much more in line with the character we saw in A New Hope, and makes sense for the story being told here. One of the very first ideas Wood explores is Luke’s uncertainty about his feelings, his future, and what the next step is. Twice in the first issue alone, we see Luke’s father’s lightsaber used as a symbol of his uncertainty, and his unavoidable destiny. And yet, we also get to see him have a little bit of fun. He has an off-panel hookup with one of his fellow pilots, to Leia’s apparent dismay. This of course, raises various unspoken questions about Luke and Leia’s feelings for one another, which of course, most Star Wars fans know the truth about anyway. But it’s still interesting to see the characters try and figure out.

Darth Vader, lightsaber kill, Carlos D'AndaI also credit Wood for not making use of the easiest Star Wars parlor trick in the book. It’s something I’ll call FLA: Frequent Lightsaber Activation. The prequels, of course, were big on FLA. The trouble is, FLA ruins the novelty of the lightsaber, and waters down the coolest weapon in all of science fiction and fantasy. While we do see the weapon referenced in scenes with Luke, we only see a lightsaber actually used once, very briefly, in a scene where Darth Vader kills an Imperial officer. Seeing the weapon used so sparingly is reminiscent of the classic trilogy, A New Hope in particular. It also speaks to Wood’s talent as a writer.

For yours truly, this Star Wars series represents a return to, dare I say, a more innocent time in the franchise’s history. A time before fans debated about whether Han shot first, environments created entirely via CGI, or Hayden Christensen’s acting skills. It’s a return to the Star Wars that I, and countless other fans fell in love with. In that sense, for some of us it’s not only a trip back to a more innocent time in the franchise, but a more innocent time in our lives.

RATING: 8/10

Image 2 from comicsalliance.com. Image 3 from terrazero.com.

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A Justice League: The Villain’s Journey Review – Love and Heroics

Justice League: The Villain's JourneyTITLE: Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey AUTHOR: Geoff Johns 
PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Gene Ha, Carlos D’Anda COLLECTS: Justice League #7-12 FORMAT: Hardcover 
PUBLISHER: DC Comics 
PRICE: $24.99 
RELEASE DATE: January 30, 2013

By Rob Siebert Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well, the readings on the douche-o-meter have gone down a bit since Justice League: Origin, they’re still a little high for my taste.

Set five years after the team’s formation, The Villain’s Journey pits the Justice League against the newly super powered David Graves, formerly an author who rose to stardom after writing a book about the League. Graves blames our heroes for the death of his wife and children, and now intends to exploit their personal weaknesses. He starts by kidnapping Steve Trevor, the League’s government liason, and an old flame of Wonder Woman’s Now the team must face their personal demons to rescue their friend and defeat the enemy. And interestingly enough, amongst all the anguish and the chaos, a new romance will bloom.

Justice League, Jim Lee, Green Lantern, Wonder WomanOne of the major problems I had with Justice League: Origin was the way some of the heroes acted like immature, douchebag teenagers trying to one up each other. They said things like: “Chains? You’re funny Green Lantern” and “So, who’s in charge here? I vote me.” Not to mention the big fight Superman got into with Batman, GL and the Flash. Obviously, Johns and Lee were playing up the many differences between these characters, and the idea that most of them were meeting each other for the first time. But the constant bickering got to be irritating. Thankfully, the readings on the douche-o-meeter decrease in this book, but they’re still a little high for my taste.

Our primary offender is Green Lantern, who is still an arrogant, quippy comic relief character whose demeanor grates on the other heroes. He winds up in a fist fight with Wonder Woman, which is accentuated with an eye-roll inducing sex joke from Wondy. And yet, just like in Origin, Johns redeems him at the end. Obviously, a character with this kind of personality tends to help a story come alive a little bit more. But at times it feels like we’re dressing a stock character up in a Green Lantern costume and throwing him into the mix.

Justice League: The Villain's Journey, Jim LeeThe Green Lantern issue happens to feed into a larger one: This book does NOT feel like it takes place five years after Origin. Five months seems more likely. While some of the characters seem calmer and more experienced (most notably Superman), the constant dissension in the ranks, mixed with the way most of these heroes don’t seem to know any more about each other than they did five years ago, shatters the illusion that they’ve been working together as a team for an extended time frame. Whether they don’t quite understand how Cyborg’s powers work, or they’re drilling Superman about what he does in his civilian life, I don’t have any kind of feeling that these characters have spent time with each other longer than a few months. Even in the outrageous world of comic book superheroes, it’s pretty bold to ask us to believe that a group of people on such shaky grounds could co-exist for so long.

I have no problem with DC wanting to rebuild the Justice League’s continuity for the New 52 initiative. It gives readers a fun chance to watch the team grow from the ground up. But human relationships usually don’t stay so stagnant for five years at a time. If you want us to believe it, we need more evolution in the rapport between the team members than what we got here. Trying to fill that big gap with throwaway lines about Aquaman and Green Arrow, or even that big two-page flashback about Martian Manhunter, isn’t enough.

Justice League #12, Superman, Wonder Woman, kissAll this talk of human relationships brings us to the highly publicized Superman/Wonder Woman romance that blossoms toward the end of the book. For the most part, I was fairly pleased with it. When you read all the issues back to back, as opposed to on a monthly basis, it’s fairly obvious that there’s some sort of unspoken bond between the two characters, which culminates in a big romantic moment. Perhaps that chemistry is one of the few things we can say did build up in the five years we haven’t seen. The book uses Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor to convey that neither she nor Superman feel they can have a romantic partner without endangering them somehow. It’s the old “if the bad guys ever found out I was a hero…” routine. But with this story there’s an added dimension to it, as these are literally the two strongest heroes in the world. They could literally take on some of the most powerful beings in the known universe (i.e. Darkseid). Would you want to put someone you love in the path of such cosmic danger? With this romance, both parties have chosen one of the few people in the world that they know for certain can defend him/herself against whatever threat opposes them. It’s a “safe” relationship, in that sense. And when you factor in that both characters are outsiders, in the sense that neither comes from the society they protect, it makes sense that they’d be drawn to each other. Given what we know about Superman and Wonder Woman, the romantic connection isn’t difficult to believe in.

Despite some of the flaws in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s run on this title, one thing that can’t be denied is that it has restored a certain must-see quality to the book, which I’ll call the “big fight atmosphere.” That was one of the reasons the previous volume of Justice League fell off so badly. We had no Superman, no Wonder Woman, no Flash, no Hal Jordan. At the end, the closest thing we had was Dick Grayson standing in as Batman. Without at least a few of those iconic staples of the Justice League, all you’ve really got is just another team book. The New 52 was, and still is, ripe with questionable editorial decisions. But putting all of DC’s big guns back where they belong was never one of them.

Justice League: The Villain's Journey, Jim Lee, Martian ManhunterThe book is also jam packed with foreshadowing for Johns and David Finch’s upcoming Justice League of America title. After you read the book, look at that team’s roster. Things’ll make sense pretty quickly.

At the end of the day, things still aren’t where I want them to be in the land of the League. I’d put this book at about the same level as the first, if not marginally better As a long time fan, it’s sometimes irritating to see these characters you grew up with (arguably) robbed of some of their depth by a company-wide reboot. But the spirit of the tried and true Justice League is still present in this new incarnation of the team. You just have to look harder to see.

RATING: 6/10

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from galleryhip.com. Images 3 and 4 from comicvine.com.

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