Weekly Comic 100s: Power Rangers Double Feature, Spider-Woman #1, 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

No comic shop for me this week. These were strictly digital purchases. Thank God for Comixology.The irony in all of this is that it feels like the prologue for a story you’d read in a comic book…

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 (of 5)
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Simone di Meo, Alessio Zonno, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

You knew it was inevitable. You can’t have this story without somehow getting the Turtles into Ranger costumes. That being said those outfits are pretty goofy. Granted, the premise itself is goofy. And they look about as good as they were ever going to. But even by Power Ranger/Ninja Turtle standards…goofy as hell.

As I’ve said previously, pretty paint-by-numbers team-up stuff here. The TMNT characters do Power Rangers stuff, and vice versa. Shredder and Rita are still the best part. I’m guessing they’re already planning on a sequel, as we get a pretty obvious hint.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #30
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS:
Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

A solid issue. But why is Finster creating monsters for Zedd? On the show he was pretty much on the shelf until Rita came back. Why isn’t Zedd just doing it himself?

I’m liking these Goldar, Squatt, and Baboo scenes we’ve been getting in both the main book and in Go Go. It brings back fond memories from season one.

As we move closer to the end (*sniff*), I can only assume Rocky, Adam, and Aisha will pop up soon. If for nothing else than a cameo in the final issue.

TITLE: Spider-Woman #1
AUTHOR:
Karla Pacheco
ARTISTS:
Pere Perez, Paulo Siqueira, Oren Junior (Inker), Frank D’Armata (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Junggeun Yoon.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

I’ve never read Karla Pacheco before. But in this book I’m getting a Bendis type vibe from her. That’s not a bad thing. As I recall, Bendis did alright in the Spider-Verse…

Our main story is about Jessica fighting a mysterious illness as she’s trying to protect a rich socialite from being kidnapped. It’s a lot of fun, though I’m partial to the back-up, which goes into how she got the job, and why she’s wearing a different costume for it. Why? Because she goes to a store called “Big Ronnie’s Custom Battle Spandex.”

That. Is. Brilliant.

TITLE: BANG! #2
AUTHOR:
Matt Kindt
ARTISTS:
Wilfredo Torres, Nayoung Kim (Colorist), Nate Piekos (Letterer)
RELEASED: March 18, 2020

BANG! was definitely the most fun book in my stack this week. What we have here is a series that isn’t afraid to revel in action movie tropes and cliches. But beneath the surface there’s something more serious with a lot of intrigue. I’ve officially got high hopes.

This month we meet a new hero, John Shaw, who’s looks like he’s based off John McClane. He gets in the middle of a massacre on a speeding train masterminded by a would-be Bond villain with a disfigured face and a speech impediment shamelessly played for laughs. Yup. I’m all in.

TITLE: Batman #91
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Rafael Albuquerque, Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

Amidst all the chaos in this issue, the most interesting exchange is between Batman and Deathstroke. Our hero talks about the stakes in his war on crime constantly being raised. He’s almost pleading with Slade, saying that “you people,” i.e. supervillains, need to step aside so he can save Gotham.

Deathstroke gives the correct response, which is ,”You escalated first.”

This is an interesting scene to juxtapose with everything happening with the Designer, the Joker, Catwoman, etc.

We’re six issues into Tynion’s run, and Batman is still firing on all cylinders. Lord knows, I’m still along for the ride…

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #6
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

As we close this issue we get another glimpse of “the Order,” a bunch of folks in suits who all wear bandanas like Erica. I nice, cryptic little scene with a little glimpse into Erica’s past.

They did a nice job of spreading the layouts over two pages this month. The panels go left to right, then down, then left and right, almost like words in a paragraph. It’s not necessarily a rare thing. But I really dug the execution here.

TITLE: Marvels X #3
AUTHORS: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
ARTISTS: Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED: March 18, 2020

There’s a line in here about Reed Richards being blamed for a global pandemic. That one hits home right about now…

They apparently felt the need to re-emphasize David’s importance. They hammer the whole “He could save us all!” thing home so much in this issue it becomes grating. I would also argue David’s plucky fanboy shtick is getting old.

Still, a fairly enjoyable outing. Well-Bee draws a hell of a Spider-Man. I also noticed the touch of gray he added to Peter Parker’s hair. Ironically, it makes him look like Reed Richards.

TITLE: Hotell #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR:
John Lees
ARTISTS:
Dalibor Talajic, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Kaare Andrews
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

Hotell feels like a horror book with self-contained stories, a la Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. I’m not quite sure if that’s what it’ll end up being, especially with only four issues. But that’s what it feels like.

While it tends to suffer from the kind of awkward dialogue you often get in newer indie comics, Hotell surprised me with its ability to create a genuine sense of fear and dread that few comics do. If this is your cup of tea, I highly recommend it.

But be warned. It earns its Mature rating in spades.

TITLE: Star Wars #4
AUTHOR:
Charles Soule
ARTISTS:
Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto & Rachelle Rosenburg (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva and Guru-eFX.
RELEASED:
March 18, 2020

In regard to Luke, Leia, and Lando returning to Bespin, the solicitation for this issue tells us, “Things did not go well for the trio the last time they visited this place.”

You mean a few days ago? Hell, Luke is basically wearing the same clothes. Because for some reason the heroes in this book are complete idiots.

Luke digs through mountains of garbage to find his lightsaber. Leia has gotten herself frozen. But don’t worry! If you’ve only been frozen for a little while, you can be thawed out and be completely alert with no side effects!

Friggin’ stupid.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Wolverine #1 is EIGHT DOLLARS, and Also Reviews…

***”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

Eight dollars for Wolverine #1.

EIGHT. DOLLARS.

This is the latest volume, mind you. We’re not talking about something historic or particularly significant. This is simply the latest adventure of everybody’s favorite clawed Canadian.

Why eight dollars? Because it’s just a thing Marvel does with a good percentage of its #1 issues. And readers are, for reasons I will never comprehend, willing to fork that money down.

Well, not ALL of them. I was happy to leave that one on the shelf, bub. If Marvel is going to give me the finger, I’m willing to give it right back to them. I just wish others were willing to say no.

If I’m going to put down eight bucks for a Wolverine comic Hugh Jackman better be leaping off the damn page singing Greatest Showman songs as he’s taking out my garbage.

TITLE: Batman #89
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Danny Miki, Carlo Pagulayan, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Variant cover by Francesco Mattina.
RELEASED: February 19, 2020

In essence what we’re getting here is a follow-up to Death of the Family. Definitely a hell of a way to start Tynion’s run. But Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and that whole crew did a masterful job of putting that genie back in the bottle. How do you do that again? Or do you?

There’s a panel in this issue where Lucius Fox refers to the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin as members of Batman’s “Classic Rogues Gallery.” *thud* Yeesh. Did somebody from marketing slip that in?

Loving the perspective on this variant cover.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #103
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman (Consultant), Tom Waltz (Consultant), Sophie Campbell (Script)
ARTISTS:
Campbell. Ronda Pattison (Colorist). Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Eastman.
RELEASED: February 19, 2020

Quite the emotional issue this month. They really try to yank at our heartstrings.

I came away from this issue thinking about Sophie Campbell. She turned in a highly impactful script, and her drawing the issue obviously allows her to accentuate and emphasize certain things.

Campbell also does a tremendous job getting the Turtles to emote, sometimes without any dialogue to support her art. Case in point: The Raphael/Jennika argument. Look at the anger in Raph’s bulging eyes and clenched teeth, or the quiet defiance from Jennika.

Um, are they giving Michelangelo depression? If so, that’s…really cool, actually.

TITLE: The Low Low Woods #3
AUTHOR: Carmen Maria Machado
ARTISTS: Dani, Tamra Bonvillain (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by Sam Wolfe Connelly.
RELEASED:
February 19, 2020

I’m not in love with this book. The texture of the art is “sketchier” than I tend to like. But the haunted small-town setting keeps me coming back. I’m finding myself wanting to meet more people from the aptly yet ridiculously named Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania.

For instance, we meet a thousand-year-old witch in this issue. But she has the body of a young girl. Then we unpack the revelation from issue #1, and things get really weird.

In this case, weird is good.

TITLE: BANG! #1
AUTHOR: Matt Kindt
ARTISTS: Wilfredo Torres, Nayoung Kim (Colorist), Nate Piekos (Letterer)
RELEASED:
February 19, 2020

It’s James Bond meets Doctor Who. I can’t tell you how without spoiling the issue. But you’ll get it.

BANG! is apparently connected to one of Matt Kindt’s previous works, Revolver. I’ve heard of it, but never read it. How it’s connected to BANG! isn’t immediately apparent. But it’s perfectly accessible on its own.

Like The Low Low Woods, I didn’t expect this story to hook me the way it has. As is often the case, issue #2 will be the clincher.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #29
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Co-Colorist), Eleonora Bruni (Co-Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini.
RELEASED: February 12, 2020

There’s an opening battle sequence in this issue where Tommy, who is now the team leader, freezes up. Jason, the former leader, quickly yet briefly steps back into his old role. I like that. By this point, Tommy had been in positions to lead. But he’d never been the leader. There should be some growing pains there.

Jason also has a conversation with Zordon that I’ve wanted to see for over two damn decades. They talk about why Jason was replaced as leader, and whether or not he wants the job back. Some great character work in this one.

TITLE: Ghostbusters: Year One #1
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
ARTISTS: Dan Schoening, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 22, 2020

You’ll never hear me complain about Burnham and Shoening doing more Ghostbusters comics. Ever.

While I wouldn’t count this issue among their best work, there is one bit that I love. We’re looking at Winston’s first year on the job, and he only gets a few minutes of training, shooting a single proton stream before he’s shoved on to a job. That’s perfect. Despite the Ghostbusters being established and experienced, Winston still gets the same seat-of-his-pants training they did. It obviously lends itself to this being a comedy at heart.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Wonder Woman #750, Guardians of the Galaxy #1, 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

With the release of Wonder Woman #750, our resident Amazon Princess had a pretty big week. It was a 96-page issue consisting of multiple short stories, filled with A-list talent. Something like that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a 100-word format. So, as we lead off with it here, I’m going to focus on the story that I liked the best, and will hopefully have a sizeable impact on the DCU going forward. It’s titled “A Brave New World.”

TITLE: Wonder Woman #750
AUTHOR (For Our Purposes): Scott Snyder
ARTISTS (For Our Purposes):
Bryan Hitch, Mike Spicer (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Joelle Jones.
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

It’s always surreal to see a real-life US President in a superhero comic book. Having FDR in this book was no exception. What’s more it worked, setting the period well, and helping create the monumental moment they wanted.

This story establishes Diana as the world’s first superhero, an an inspiration for generations. I’m all for establishing more of a firm timeline for the DCU. With the New 52, everything was so vague and uncertain. This is a step up, and gives Wondie a nice notch on her belt. What’s more, it opens up plenty of new story opportunities…

TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy #1
AUTHOR: Al Ewing
ARTISTS:
Juann Cabal, Federico Blee (Colorist) Cory Petit (Letterer)
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

For someone diving into a Guardians book for the first time in awhile, this was a challenge to follow. Lots of talk about the “Kree Civil War,” the “Cancerverse,” etc.

Still, the familial bond between the Guardians, Quill and Rocket specifically, is enough to get you through. Rocket’s more fashionable look is actually pretty cool. He’s almost got a secret agent vibe to him.

Question: What’s up with Gamora’s eyes? Is that just how they’re coloring her now?

TITLE: Batman #87
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: January 22, 2020

I’ll be honest: I’m not a Guillem March fan. I soured on him when he did the New 52 Catwoman series. So his art took me out of the issue. His Penguin is a little too monsterish for me, and his Riddler was a little too…veiny?

Still, I’m digging this story with all the assassins in Gotham. There’s a definite aura of danger in the air. Cheshire was put over nicely in this issue, despite how things end up for her.

The Bat-books as a whole are also doing a nice job emphasizing Alfred’s absence.

TITLE: American Jesus #2 (of 3)
AUTHOR: Mark Millar
ARTISTS:
Peter Gross, Jeanne McGee (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Jodie Muir and Matteo Scalera.
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

Ugh. I’ve got to start paying better attention to issue numbering. Three issues? That’s all we’re getting? That sucks. It really sucks. There’s potential for a whole series here. But we’re only going to scratch the surface.

I’ve you’ve seen The Path on Hulu, this issue reminded of that. We get a time jump, and our teenaged would-be Messiah is at the center of a cult housed in a secure compound. But of course, she’s a teenager. So she can’t just stay in the compound.

All I can say is they’d better really stick the landing on this one.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #47
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

Awesome cover, with our nine Rangers together. Now that the big secret is out, there’s potential for some really cool moments between the current team and the Omega Rangers. Case in point, we get a pretty cool interaction between Trini and Aisha in this issue.

I’ve become a huge fan of Daniele Di Nicuolo. But in this issue we get the first panel from him that I don’t like. It’s a shot of Tommy sneering at Jason. It’s both ill-executed and I’ll conceived. Tommy doesn’t really sneer, does he? He’s more of a glare guy.

TITLE: Superman #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (Co-Inker), Danny Miki (Co-Inker), Julio Ferriera (Co-Inker), Oclair Albert (Co-Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letterer)
RELEASED:
January 22, 2020

This issue is essentially split in half. The first is dedicated to Superman revealing his identity to the world last issue. The second involves his role in the United Planets. The latter features a pretty awesome fight with Mongul.

I might have to call BS on the public’s reaction to Superman’s “unmasking.” In part, at least. Maybe Bendis simply hasn’t gotten to this point in the story yet, but it feels like there should be more hysteria. Clark’s family and friends being harassed for information, etc. People aren’t so calm about secrets like this. Trust me. I’ve met a few.

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

A Batman, Vol. 8: Cold Days Review – Bruce Wayne Against Batman?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 8: Cold Days
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS:
Lee Weeks, Matt Wagner, Tony Daniel, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepoy, Danny Miki (Inker)
COLORISTS: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Tomeu Morey
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS:
Batman #5157
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$16.99
RELEASED:
December 19, 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A while back, I did a “Panels of Awesomeness” on a couple of the pages in Cold Days. It’s the scene in Batman #51 when Bruce Wayne snaps and rips a urinal out of the wall (shown below). People may criticize Tom King’s writing on this series, but I believe he has the distinction of being the only writer to have Batman do that.

But you can’t blame the guy, can you? I mean, if your wedding had gone that way

1. One Angry Man
As if things weren’t already crappy for him, Bruce Wayne gets jury duty in the titular three-issue story that kicks off Cold Days. Mr. Freeze stands trial for the murder of three women. On paper, it’s an open-and-shut case. Not only did Freeze confess to the murders, but Batman examined the forensic evidence, discovering a detail the police missed. One juror, however, believes Freeze is innocent: Bruce Wayne. Why? Because as Batman, he beat Freeze to a pulp, unintentionally forcing a confession.

This Batman series may have a tendency to go off the rails. But credit where credit is due: I love this story. In fact, it’s the high point of Tom King’s entire run. It cuts right to the core of who Bruce Wayne is, as he’s forced to do something he’s not accustomed to: Confronting a mistake, and making good on it. “Cold Days” even examines the notion that Batman is infallible, at least in the eyes of the public. But as we see all too clearly, he’s not infallible. He’s just a man. A man in a tremendous amount of pain.

The last time we saw Lee Weeks on this book was in Batman Annual #2, illustrating a story set early in Batman’s career. What he turns in here, alongside Elizabeth Breitweiser and Clayton Cowles, is every bit as good, if not better. One of the qualities that makes Weeks’ work so special is that he feels very much at home on a more “grounded” story like this one, without any super-powered exploits. And yet, he can also thrive working on a character like Superman.

King uses “Cold Days” to touch on a subject we rarely touch on with the Dark Knight: religion. He talks about how his father was Christian, and wanted Bruce to find spirituality as well. As one might imagine, that didn’t happen. What we learn is that Batman more or less became Bruce’s religion. And in the eyes of many, Batman has become the equivalent of a deity. It’s a really cool sequence, and I credit King for having the guts to go there.

We also get a fantastic page in issue #51. While Bruce is serving on the jury, Dick Grayson is filling in as Batman. Early on, we get a page on the roof of police headquarters where he’s talking to Commissioner Gordon. The following dialogue ensues…

Gordon: “You’re not him. You’re that other him.”
Batman: “What’s the problem, Commissioner? How can I help?”
Gordon: “Is he alright?”
Batman: *pauses* “No.”

I love that Gordon isn’t written as an idiot, and how this harkens back to pieces of the Knightfall and No Man’s Land stories from the ’90s. Frankly, I wouldn’t have a problem if he called him out as Nightwing.

2. The Dynamic Duo
In the last 20 years or so, writers have made Bruce and Dick a little too friendly for my taste. Until recently, there were times when Dick was acting more like Robin than Damian, the actual Robin. I always liked the idea that when Dick struck out on his own, he developed his own methods and philosophies that at times put him at odds with Batman. He wouldn’t be the estranged son. That role should be saved that role for Jason Todd. I’d simply have Dick be his own man. But when the chips were down, he’d be there if Bruce truly needed him.

That’s precisely the scenario we have in Batman #54. As Bruce tries to power his way through his grief over Selina, Dick simply hangs out. A constant source of levity. And indeed, there’s a fantastic moment where Batman actually does break, and Dick is there for him. This is all intercut with various moments from Dick’s early days at Wayne Manor. It’s one of King’s better written Batman issues.

Our guest artist for issue #54 is none other than the amazing Matt Wagner. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed him working on Batman. What’s so special about Wagner is that he can capture whatever tone you want, with whatever character you want, while still injecting a sense of fun into his art. It’s never not fun to look at a Matt Wagner book.

3. The Beast Unleashed
As much as I disliked Scott Snyder’s Zero Year story, I loved the way it revitalized the Riddler. King, to his credit, continued that revitalization during his run. But one can also argue he did a little revitalizing himself. With, of all characters, KGBeast.

KGBeast, real name Anatoli Knyazev, first appeared in the late ’80s as yet another to stake claim to the DCU’s “world’s deadliest assassin” title. (Think Deathstroke, Deadshot, Lady Shiva, etc.) His most prominent character moment came when he cut off his own arm to allude capture by Batman. But since then, he’s been mostly relegated to what I’ll call the villains ensemble, i.e. somebody to put in a scene where Batman has to fight a bunch of bad guys. Heck, Snyder did it recently in All-Star Batman.

But in Batman #55, the Beast does the unthinkable. As Batman and Nightwing are continuing their father/son bonding of sorts, he uses a sniper rifle to put a bullet in Nightwing’s head. With Dick alive, yet devastatingly wounded, Batman does the only thing he can do: go Beast hunting.

In re-reading this “Beast of Burden” story in trade format, I picked up on something I missed in the single issues: the father/son theme. After carrying out the hit on Nightwing, Knyazev tracks down his father to a remote cabin in “far east” Russia. It may as well be the planet Hoth, as it’s seemingly just miles upon miles of snow, some trees, and that one cabin. We learn that like his son, Vasily Knyazev was once a killer for the KGB, and trained Anatoli to be the same. Seeing the two interact after what has clearly been a long time apart, it’s obvious Vasily was a callous and heartless excuse for a father. And yet, he loves his son in his own unique way…

But Bruce can be cold and callous too. He’s about as dark and withdrawn in these pages as he’s ever been. But he’s not heartless. He showed a great deal of compassion for Dick, and cared for him in the best way he knew how. I suspect that’s why we got the flashback scenes in the Matt Wagner issue. To illustrate the differences between these father/son duos. That makes for a really cool story.

Thankfully, unlike Deathstroke vs. Deadshot in The War of Jokes and Riddles, in this book we actually see the damn fight between Batman and KGBeast blow by blow. It’s easy to follow and project yourself into. It ends with Batman pulling off a maneuver I’m not sure we’ve seen from him before. It’s shockingly merciless, as is the book’s ending.

Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey set the mood perfectly. I’m reluctant to use The Empire Strikes Back as an example again, but the art evokes the same sort of grim, foreboding mood we see in the opening moments of the film. I could almost hear the John Williams score…

Intercut amongst the fight sequences is a folktale Vasily would read to the future KGBeast when he was a boy. Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy tag in for pages that are fittingly drawn like a storybook for a young child. Though it’s certainly more violent and bloody than any book you’ll pick up off shelves today. Or for that matter, any era. There’s a thematic connection of course, and it’s certainly unique to see these cartoony animals drawn alongside this brutal fight.

The only major negative I can find in “Beasts of Burden,” is that it serves as the inciting incident for the “Ric Grayson” stuff that began in Nightwing #50. I haven’t purchased a Nightwing comic since, as that story just doesn’t interest me. But that’s got nothing to do with Tom King or this series, so I can’t hold it against this book.

4. Bright Spot for the Dark Knight
Cold Days is indeed the high point of Tom King’s Batman run. A bright spot in an often bizarre series of issues. The “Cold Days” story is outstanding on its own. But the issues with Nightwing and KGBeast were much better than I remembered. The art is consistently gorgeous. Lee Weeks stole the show for yours truly. Though I’ve certainly got a soft spot for Matt Wagner.

I take no joy in saying much of Tom King’s Batman run is skippable. I do, however, take joy in telling you Cold Days is a must-read for fans of both Batman and Nightwing. Outstanding character work mixed with great action. In the end, you really can’t ask for much more.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Rules of Engagement, Bride or Burglar?, and The Wedding.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Marvels X, Batman #86, 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

Earth X was probably the one big Alex Ross project I knew the least about. So I got myself a nice little education heading into this week’s Marvels X. Low and behold it’s a trilogy. Now a tetralogy, with Marvels X.

Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do. But in the meantime…

TITLE: Marvels X #1
AUTHORS:
Alex Ross (Story), Jim Krueger (Story and Script)
ARTISTS:
Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED:
January 8, 2020

Having not read Earth X, and with this being intended as a prequel, I’m forced to judge this issue simply at face value. And at face value, it’s absolutely fine.

Our main character, a teenager named David, is the one person on in this dystopian future who does not have super powers. Orphaned and alone, he sets out for New York City to find his idols: Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man.

Seeing an artist like Well-Bee tackle a Ross/Krueger concept like this feels different, but intriguing. For now, my interest is piqued.

TITLE: Batman #86
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Tony Daniel, Danny Miki (Inker), Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 8, 2019

For my money, Tynion has a better handle on Batman and his world than Scott Snyder or Tom King. So I’m anxious to see what he turns in.

As Bruce continues to mourn for Alfred, various assassins gather in Gotham. Meanwhile, the issue presents us with an intriguing idea: Over the years, Bruce has randomly sketched, essentially doodled, bits of Gotham’s skyline and architecture as he would have them look. In the wake of “City of Bane,” he has a chance to make those visions a reality. Also, something’s up with the Joker…

So far, so good.

TITLE: The Clock #1
AUTHOR: Matt Hawkins
ARTISTS: Colleen Doran, Bryan Valenza (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 8, 2020

This is not the most gracefully executed issue. Naturally, it needs to get a lot of exposition out of the way, and it falls into the clunky dialogue trap that comes with that. Also, early on some of the the speech balloons are hard to follow. They don’t contrast with the backgrounds (specifically the outdoor ones) enough, so you have a hard time following who is saying what.

But under all that, The Clock might just be a good story about a super cancer threatening to wipe our half the Earth’s population. But the jury’s still out.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #2 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney, Guru-eFX (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Clayton Crain
RELEASED:
January 8, 2020

If you need to be sold on the idea of a book about Luke’s post-Return of the Jedi adventures, look no further than this issue. He faces the Knights of Ren, with both Lor San Tekka and a young Ben Solo at his side. Call it The Adventures of Luke Skywaker, as a take-off of one of Lucas’ early draft titles for Star Wars.

Ben’s interactions with Snoke have a slightly different flavor now that The Rise of Skywalker has come out. Snoke is also wearing his most flamboyant outfit yet. What’s up with the hat…?

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman (Consultant), Tom Waltz (Consultant), Sophie Campbell (Script)
ARTISTS:
Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED:
January 8, 2020

Basically, this book is doing what the 2007 TMNT movie did. Only, you know, better. The Turtles are split up and doing their own thing. And we’ve got kind of an Arkham City spin, as they’ve walled off a portion of New York to throw all the mutants in.

I like this. It’s a big status quo shake-up the series has probably needed for awhile now. Encouragingly, the character that shines the most in this issue is Jennika, our new female Ninja Turtle. Lots of fresh intrigue as this series moves forward.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora.
RELEASED: January 8, 2020

In this issue we find out why Tommy has joined the Foot Clan. He’s apparently trying to save another clan member we don’t know. This new person’s identity, and how he connects to Tommy, is now far more interesting than the interactions the Turtles are having with the other Rangers.

They pull a stunt with Shredder at the end that I can take or leave. Seeing him meet Rita is pretty cool, though.

God damn, these Dan Mora covers are amazing.

TITLE: Young Justice #12
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 8, 2020

At what point do we just make this the new Teen Titans ongoing? Young Justice feels the way that book should feel. At least that’s how I…feel?

This is a pretty dense issue with a lot of standing around and talking. But Superboy does punches a T-Rex. That always counts for something.

We now appear to be headed toward a big Wonder Comics team-up, i.e. Young Justice along with the Wonder Twins and the kids from Dial H For Hero. Thankfully, it looks like it’s all staying within Young Justice, as opposed to a crossover.

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

A Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles Review – Or So We’re Told…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Mikel Janin, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #2532
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: December 13, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The War of Jokes and Riddles is not what I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you come into it anticipating a big, bloody, multi-layered brawl between comic book supervillains. What we get is more character-driven. I almost always prefer something like that to a story that’s simply about people punching each other. But the vibe we got going into this was that it was akin to a big summer blockbuster. There’s a lot more to The War of Jokes and Riddles. While you’ll get some really great stuff, it’s not a hotbed of fighting and explosions.

In the early days of Batman’s career, the unthinkable happens. After losing to Batman so many times, the Joker no longer finds the world funny. Recognizing a similar problem in himself, the Riddler proposes an alliance to kill the Dark Knight once and for all. When the Joker gives him a violent rejection, all out war breaks out. Both the Joker and the Riddler recruit different villains to their side, with Gotham City as their battle field. The winner earns the right to kill Batman. How can our hero stop a war that’s being fought over him? And what happens to the city caught in the crossfire?

I like Joker and Riddler as rivals. They both have mischievous and playful sort of motifs. So it makes sense they’d want to outdo each other. Factor in each one having their own faction of villains, and the scope of this story becomes huge. They could very well have done a bunch of tie-in issues where the different characters fight each other. Scarecrow vs. Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy vs. Killer Croc, Two-Face vs, Scarface, etc. Given how people gobble up Batman stuff, you’d think that would have been an easy cash-in.

Instead, we stay in the pages of Batman. That approach has it’s advantages, of course. But as a result, what feels like a very expansive story winds up being confined. Much is left to exposition. We gloss over the whole recruitment process, and why certain characters choose Joker or Riddler’s side. We don’t see most of the big battles. We’re told what territory each side has. While there’s something to be said for not getting bogged down in too many details, it seems like half the fun of a story like this is watching all the characters butt heads. That’s a giant missed opportunity.

We do, however, see Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. Sort of. In theory, it’s a hell of a fight. But even that fails to deliver, as it’s jammed so tightly into the second half of issue #28. What’s more, the fight stretches logic pretty thin even by comic book standards. The two initially try to snipe each other, but on their first and only shots, their bullets collide. They then proceed to fight for five days, killing 62 people in the process. I get the artistic advantage of leaving it to the reader’s imagination. But they could have dedicated an entire story to Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. This fight could be an event comic on its own. So to be told about it instead of seeing it is frustrating.

On the plus side, almost everybody looks great. Mikel Janin gives us an almost twisted blend of realism and caricature. His Joker, for instance, has a pointed nose and in this story sports an exaggerated frown. But the art is so detailed and the colors so gorgeously rendered that it evokes real life. It’s often fascinating to look at, especially because his Joker seems heavily influenced by Brian Bolland’s work on The Killing Joke. The one character hurt by this approach is the Riddler, who inexplicably looks like John Cena.

Author Tom King frames The War of Jokes and Riddles around Bruce Wayne’s present-day marriage proposal to Selina Kyle. He tells her this story, as he apparently did something horrible during the war that could effect her decision to marry him. The reveal is a good one and makes sense.

But there’s also a larger issue that the story touches on, but doesn’t bring any resolution to. There’s an argument to be made that the real villain in all of this is Batman himself. These two groups of insane people are waging war over HIM. While they’re fighting to decide who gets to kill him, dozens of innocent people are being killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In telling Selina this story, he’s trying to get absolution for something horrible he supposedly did. But it seems like he should want forgiveness for his part in all this. Although to be fair, the King does touch on something like that in the final scene…

Bruce also makes every effort to bring the violence to a halt, including the bizarrely entertaining dinner sequence that makes up the entirety of issue #29. Bruce Wayne invites virtually his entire rogues gallery into his home for a big, fancy, multi-course meal. The idea is for Bruce to servers a mediator and bring things to a resolution. The visual spectacle of seeing all these comic book supervillains together in a normal environment is almost worth the cover price on its own. It reminds me of one of the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman books. But then we dive deeper with both Joker and Riddler. How they’d kill Batman, and what they think of each other. You’ve also got the internalization of Bruce as he sits between them and listens to it all, silently and subtlety trying to maneuver Gotham out of harm’s way. At face value, the whole thing is almost absurd. But once you dive into it, it becomes one of the most delightful Batman character studies of the last decade.

Janin is also on fire in this issue. He has to draw three characters in the same position for several pages. But despite having to draw several consecutive panels of, for instance, the Joker sitting in a chair eating dinner (shown below), there’s almost no panel duplication. There’s a natural flow to it. You believe their body language. It’s beautiful.

Stuck in the middle of all this is D-list villain Kite Man. He becomes the unlikely focus for two interlude issues drawn by Clay Mann. As he plays a role in the finale, it’s called for. It also doubles as an origin story. King tries to set him up as a relatable, down on his luck father who has fallen in with a horrible crowd and pays the ultimate price. I like how King incorporates him toward the end. But I’m not sure we needed two full issues dedicated to Kite Man. Issue #27 gives us all we need, so issue #30 feels mostly like filler. King also attempts to create the catchphrase: “Kite Man. Hell yeah.” Doesn’t work.

The War of Jokes and Riddles wound up being a mixed bag. We didn’t get a war as much as we got moments from a war. The beginning, the end, and the important moments in between. That doesn’t fill all of our dramatic needs in terms of this being a big, violent, bloody fight between crazy people. At one point we see a  bunch of pictures of people who’ve died. But we don’t see where or how they died. There’s a frustrating gap there which leaves you wanting more than the book delivers.

On the flip side, this is some of the best work Mikel Janin has ever done. The War of Jokes and Riddles should absolutely be turned into one of those oversized hardcovers DC puts out. It deserves to be admired for years to come. Tom King also gives us his best character work yet. He illustrates a tremendous understanding of how Batman, the Joker, and the Riddler think. So when he puts them together it feels very genuine. It’s the same kind of magic that made The Vision work so well.

King does have the magic in him, doesn’t he? It’s just a question of how often we see it.

For more of Tom King’s Batman, check out Vol. 1: I Am Bane, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, and Batman/The Flash: The Button

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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A Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane Review – Jokerize Your Fries?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: David Finch, Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #1620#2324
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
Aug 30, 2017

***Need to catch up? Check out the first two volumes: I Am Gotham and I Am Suicide.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bane has never been the most sophisticated of characters. Created in the early ’90s, he was essentially the Bat-books’ answer to what Doomsday was in the Superman books. A big brute who could physically overpower the hero. A ‘roided up dude in a luchador mask, he certainly looks the part. But unlike Doomsday, who was basically a mindless killing machine, Bane was intended to have more depth. He had a tragic backstory and a cunning mind to match his physical dominance.

Oddly enough, I Am Bane explores the character’s more layered side, while at the same time making him look like a big dumb ape at certain points. It’s actually a fascinating balancing act.

After pulling the Psycho-Pirate from Bane’s clutches in Santa Prisca, Batman is now preparing for a full on assault from his old enemy. No one close to Bruce Wayne is safe. Adamant about taking Bane on alone, Batman places Alfred, Claire Clover (a.k.a. Gotham Girl), and the Psycho-Pirate in perhaps the unlikeliest of places to protect them: Arkham Asylum. Now Bane must make his way through a living hell to confront the Dark Knight. Once again, these two arch rivals will square off. In the end, one will be left broken.

I’ll credit author Tom King with giving Bane’s invasion of Gotham the weight it deserves. The first two issues have a grim tension in the air. In issue #16, Bruce insists that most of his surrogate family members flee the city, fearing for their lives. He hides Psycho-Pirate and the others inside Arkham, in a chamber designed by Mister Miracle. But Batman’s obsessive preparation isn’t enough, as Bane still manages to strike at those close to him, including Catwoman. The tone is terrific, the threat feels real, and we seem to have the makings of a hallmark Bane story…until the big man opens his mouth in issue #18.

King, David Finch, and their team are clearly going for classic early ’90s Bane. We get a big, bloody, brutal fight intercut with flashbacks as Bane taunts our hero. Think Batman #497, when the character broke Batman’s back. But King goes way too far over the top with Bane’s dialogue. In issue #18, as he rambles off comparisons between himself and Batman’s other enemies, he almost seems to be reciting a poem…

“I am not a joke! I am not a riddle! I am not a bird or a cat or a penguin! I’m not a scarecrow or a plant or a puppet! I am not your broken friend! I am not your regretful teacher! I am not a child’s fairy tale! I am not a circus act here to amuse and frighten you!”

Alright, dude. We get it…

Things get worse in issue #19, when he storms Arkham and starts running into various villains. He spouts off little one-liners. Thing that would be fine on their own, but clumped together in one issue almost make Bane a parody of himself.

Two-Face: “…what’re you offering?”
Bane: “Pain. I offer pain.”

Scarecrow: “What nightmares are you having?”
Bane: “I don’t have nightmares, I GIVE nightmares!”

Mr. Freeze: “Impossible…”
Bane: “Not impossible. Bane.”

The fight winds up ending on yet another stupid, overblown catchphrase. Not from Bane, but from Batman. The sad thing is that the action itself is pretty good, for the most part. If King had trimmed a lot of this excess verbiage and allowed the art to speak more for itself, this would have been much more effective. I understand wanting to show the animalistic side of Bane. But they overdid it.

I will say, however, that the contrasting flashbacks between Bruce’s childhood and Bane’s are very well done. There’s a school of thought that many of Batman’s villains double as examples of how Bruce could have turned out after his parents were killed, had circumstances been different. This is about as on-the-nose as you can get in that respect. But it works.

What doesn’t work as well for me is the Batman-themed fast food restaurant we see in issue #16. Dick, Jason, Damian, and Duke drag Bruce there for a family meeting of sorts. It’s decked out various paraphernalia from the various Batman heroes and villains. The scene opens with Bruce talking to a kid behind the counter, who’s wearing a cheap Batman mask. He asks Bruce if he wants to “Jokerize your fries?” I get what they were going for. There’s a fun meta aspect to having these characters see their own licensing and merchandising. “Jokerize your fries” is actually a pretty good line. But from an in-story perspective, using the most feared man in Gotham City’s likeness to sell fast food stretches the gag too far for me. I understand that’s part of the joke. But to me that would be the equivalent of selling Bin Laden burgers in the real world.

David Finch handles most of the art in I Am Bane. I’ve been pretty critical of his work. But I’ve also said that if you have to have him, you want him on dark or gritty stories like this. I Am Bane is one of his better recent outings. In issue #16, he has the extremely unenviable task of drawing Bruce, Dick, and Jason, all unmasked in the fast food scene. They’re all handsome, dark haired, clean shaven dudes. Finch has to make them all distinct and recognizable. The job he does isn’t amazing. But it’s serviceable. Thankfully, they’re not all wearing the same clothes, as they were in that creepy splash page in The Court of Owls.

Like many artists, Finch draws most of his superhero characters like competition bodybuilders. Thankfully, that’s right in Bane’s wheelhouse. The character looks every bit as gigantic and chiseled as he should without going overboard, which we saw from Finch’s work on the New 52 Dark Knight series. This version of Bane also has a great ferocity you don’t always see. That obviously works well during the big fight. One complaint: I’ve never liked it when artists put giant green tubes on Bane, as we see Finch do here. It brings back bad memories of Batman & Robin.

Inker Danny Miki (later joined by Trevor Scott) and colorist Jordie Bellaire compliment Finch very well. He’s got a team here that accentuates his strengths. Bellaire in particular is an absolute rock star.

After the main story, Mitch Gerads takes the pencil for issue #23, a standalone story featuring Swamp Thing. Despite being brutally titled “The Brave and the Mold,” it manages to be a fun issue. Gerads’ contributions to this series have been tremendous, going back to issues #15 and #16. He and King give us some fun visuals contrasting the vast difference in stature between Batman and Swamp Thing. A two-page spread with Bruce and the monster in Wayne Manor, shots of them in the Batcave and Batmobile, etc. The issue is broken into chapters that are separated via panels with text designed like silent movie intertitles, which is a cool tone device.

I’ve already talked at length about Batman #24, which contains a pretty big moment between Batman and Catwoman. A few months after its release, what has stuck with me is the exchange between Batman and Gotham Girl about happiness. We learn that Batman is Bruce Wayne’s attempt at finding happiness. As a longtime Batman fan, that notion fascinates me. We’re so used to Batman being dour, moody, and broody. So the idea that he’s doing all this to be happy is a little off-putting. But it makes a certain sense when you boil it down. In the end, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right? Find happiness. In that sense, Bruce is no different than anyone else.

By and large, the Bane portion of this book is a step down from I Am Suicide. But King, Finch, and the team really stick the landing with issue #23, and especially #24. There’s a lot of strictly okay stuff you’ve got to swim through. But when this book hits a homer, it really hits a homer. As far as issue #24 is concerned, that ball is still sailing.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

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