Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Best of Batman & Superman: A New Era Begins

***It’s easy to put Batman and Superman against one another, as they’re so different. But those who truly understand them know that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are better together! “Best of Batman & Superman” celebrates their best moments as a team!***

TITLE: Superman/Batman #1
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
ARTISTS: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines (Inker), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL COVER PRICE: $2.95
RELEASED: Fall 2003

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s hard to believe this issue is creeping up on 20 years of age. And yet, among Batman and Superman stories, it’s a timeless classic.

If I could bring one person back to work on Superman and Batman, seperate or together, it would be Jeph Loeb. He understood both characters, and cut to their core better than almost any of his peers. That’s why, in the early 2000s, DC tapped Loeb and his former Superman collaborator Ed McGuinness to work on an all new title featuring the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: Superman/Batman.

Loeb would do more than 25 issues of Superman/Batman, roughly half of which were with McGuinness. Almost all of them were great. But the book’s inaugural issue, Superman/Batman #1, delivered pure magic. You’ll won’t find a better example of why these two characters are better working together than against each other.

The series is narrated by both characters simultaneously. Thus, we get duel perspectives on the events of the story. Loeb makes perfect use of this tool right out of the gate, as our heroes narrate their origins in alternating sequences (shown below).

Loeb, McGuinness, and the team start out with dueling sequences in which Superman and Batman narrate their origins. What’s brilliant about this is that it showcases not just the differences between these two characters, but their similarities. Yes, they have different methods and demeanors. But its this common ground that ultimately brings them together. These are two heroes born of tragedy, who used that tragedy to forge their identities for the betterment of mankind. That mutual desire to better the world serves as the foundation of every Superman/Batman story we’ve ever seen.

Our main antagonist for the issue (though not the story at large) is Metallo, a machine with the brain of John Corben, and a heart of pure Kryptonite. Coming out of the opening sequence we get a fight between he and Superman in Metropolis. We then jump to Gotham City Cemetery, where Batman is examining Corben’s grave.

Here we get a great little moment between our heroes. One of my favorites in the entire six-issue story. Superman talks about going through Corben’s files at S.T.A.R. Labs, and speculating about his actions of late. Batman asks, “Which one of us is the detective again?”

Superman replies with a line I absolutely love: “It’s called investigative journalism.”

I love this moment because it illustrates that while Superman isn’t the detective Batman is, he’s not just some brute with super powers. Writers like to emphasize that Batman is the brains of the team, while Superman is the braun. But the best writers are the ones who show us it’s not as simple as that. Superman is perfectly capable of putting on a detective hat, just as Batman can hold his own against some of Superman’s more powerful enemies.

We’re reminded of that moments later as Metallo attacks, shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. And of course, he falls directly into John Corben’s exhumed grave. After briefly incapacitating Metallo, Batman goes to work trying to extract the bullet. Loeb provides us with another great little moment as we get this little exchange…

Batman: “Do me a favor, Clark. Lose the sense of humor.”
Superman: “Do us both a favor, Bruce. Buy a sense of humor.”

We get a cliffhanger for next issue as Metallo then proceeds to dump a mountain of dirt on top of our heroes, burying them alive. Then to close the issue, we go to the Pentagon and President Lex Luthor. We’ve got a crisis on our hands, as an asteroid made of Kryptonite is headed for Earth. To complicate matters, President Luthor has recruited his own team of heroes…

Visually, the issue is gorgeous. Everything is bright, crisp, and clean. Ed McGuinness’ superhero figures are always jacked beyond belief. Practically every muscle in both Superman and Batman’s bodies are bulging for display. It’s not my favorite style choice. But it works for McGuinness in a cartoony, popcorn-flick sort of way.

Simply put, this issue has it all. Action. Drama. Beautiful art. Character exploration. Character origins. It’s appealing to fans, but 100% accessible even if you’ve never picked up a comic book before. What’s more, it’s the first chapter in one of the best Batman & Superman stories ever told.

Now that’s how you kick off a series.

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

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Bendis’ Superman Finale, Spider-Man, 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: Batman: The Adventures Continue #16
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer). Cover by Mirka Andolfo.
RELEASED: December 18, 2020

This issue and issue #15 are weird in that they essentially repeat a story from the New Batman Adventures episode “Double Talk.” Arnold Wesker, the Ventriloquist, tries to reform and ultimately fails. That’s a really strange thing to have happen, as these guys obviously worked on the old shows as well…

This story seems primarily like an excuse to put Harley and Ivy together. On the upside, we get a cool villain Christmas party at the Iceberg Lounge with plenty of cameos. Including, oddly enough, a panel where Captain Boomerang and Roxy Rocket are making out.

TITLE: Superman #28
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Kael Ngu.
RELEASED: December 15, 2020

I’d love to know when Bendis’ run on the Superman books was originally supposed to end. Or if they even had an endpoint in mind. In the grand scheme of things, this feels like a fairly abrupt finale. But at the end of the day, Bendis did right by Superman. That’s more than a lot of writers can say. I respect him that much more for that.

Reis and the artistic team did too. There’s a beautiful panel in here of Lois looking lovingly at her husband. Amongst all the space alien grandeur in this issue, it’s an unlikely highlight.

TITLE: Power Rangers #2
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio.
RELEASED: December 16, 2020

A neat issue, conceptually. Jason, Zack, and Trini against a bunch of space vampires. But this series is having trouble holding my attention even earlier than I anticipated. The foundations of a good book are there, but I think Power Rangers needs a stronger hook. Here’s hoping this book can up its game in a big way soon.

There’s a pretty cool splash page early in this issue. It’s just Jason posing with a sword. But between the pose, the framing, and the lighting, it’s got an epic feel to it that works really well.

TITLE: Spider-Man #5 (of 5)
AUTHORS: J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS: Sara Pichelli, Elizabetta D’Amico (Inking Assisant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel & Stewart.
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

This story was compelling enough, and the premise was enjoyable. Plus, Sara Pichelli was apparently born to draw Spider-Man. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: The presence of the Iron Man characters took away from Ben Parker’s journey as Spider-Man. Especially here in this final issue. This was supposed to be a family story about Peter Parker, his son, and the passing of the proverbial Spider-Man torch. Instead, the waters got a little too muddied.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #112
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story), Sophie Campbell (Script)
ARTISTS: Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

Just when I think these TMNT issues can’t add any more depth, we get a story about a fight breaking out during an “I used to be a  human, but now I’m a mutant” support group meeting. Love it.

To help differentiate between the Turtles without their multi-colored bandanas, Ronda Pattison is giving them different skin tones. The IDW Turtles have had different skin tones since issue #1. But note they aren’t given such tones on this otherwise pretty cool cover.

TITLE: Star Wars #9
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jan Bazaldua, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, & Rain Beredo.
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

You’d think a story about Lando and friends trying to break into a museum on Coruscant would be a lot more fun than this. But somehow this issue managed to bore me with it.

I’ve been on the brink of dropping this Star Wars title for a long time. This might have been the issue to push me over the edge. There’s a certain fun, a certain spark, that’s missing here.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #11
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Jeremy Roberts.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

I’m not a Harley Quinn mark the way a lot of people are. But even I’ve got to admit: That’s an awesome cover.

In hindsight, this series was better than it had any right to be. As expected, Taylor leaves the door open to work more with the characters he created in Suicide Squad. He and Redondo are about to start a run on Nightwing. So I expect we might see them there.

In the end, this may go down as one of the more underrated runs Suicide Squad has ever seen.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #14
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Max Raynor, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

“I’m calling for my Bat-spaceship to come get us.”

*cringe* That feels like a line out of a post-Wertham comic in the ’50s.

Still, while this story looks uninspired on the surface, it manages to be a decent amount of fun in its execution. A fairly interesting take on the composite Superman/Batman concept, with some fun art by Max Raynor and beautiful coloring by Alejandro Sanchez. I’ve seen much better. But in all fairness, it could have been much worse.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Rorschach, Crossover, 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

We’re going to be spending the next few weeks catching up on “Weekly Comic 100s.” So you’re going to see a variety of books from late November into December. Starting with…

TITLE: Rorschach #3
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Jorge Fornes, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 15, 2020

This issue gives us an origins story for Laura Cummings, Rorchach’s apparent sidekick. To its credit, it strikes close to home, as Laura’s father leads a home-grown militia preparing for the arrival of squids, a la the one we saw at the end of Watchmen. And of course, the ones we often see on the news nowadays…

It’s a brilliant thing to pluck from modern headlines. It feels not only poignant, but something Rorschach would appreciate.

TITLE: Crossover #2
AUTHOR: Donny Cates
ARTISTS: Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

This issue was a better read for me than the last one was. I was so baffled by the inciting incident and the whole “comic characters come to life” premise that I couldn’t enjoy the issue. This time around things settle down, and we get an idea of what where the book is going.

I still can’t say I’m a huge fan of Crossing Over. Despite this issue being a little more grounded, I still have trouble wrapping my head around the premise. But I’ll say this much: I’ll be back for issue #3. For curiosity’s sake, if nothing else.

TITLE: Juggernaut #4
AUTHOR: Fabian Nicieza
ARTISTS: Ron Garney, Matt Milla (Colorist), Joe Sabino (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

“Sorry. I know it’s hard to breathe inside me.”

A villain says that to Juggernaut in this issue. I’ll just let that statement speak for itself, I think.

While the novelty of this series is starting to wear off a bit, I must admit Nicieza, Garney, and the Juggernaut team have a good outing with this issue. We fill the action quota, while also doing some nice character work with both Cain Marko and D-Cel, who I’m starting to warm to more and more.

TITLE: Batman/Catwoman #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 1, 2020

This book jumps around to different scenes at different times quite frequently. Not my cup of tea in terms of story structure.

This book introduces Phantasm, as in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, into the DC Universe proper. Fair enough. Though her inclusion doesn’t tip the scales one way or the other in terms of quality.

Clay Mann and Tomey Morey are on point here. The issue has a certain sensuality to it, which I suspect is by design. I just wish I could stop having Heroes in Crisis flashbacks when I see Mann’s work.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika #2
AUTHOR/ARTIST: Brahm Revel
RELEASED: December 2, 2020

This month, we learn that New York City has de-funded all the fire departments in Mutant Town until they can figure out an aid package. I’d say that doesn’t reflect too well on New Yorkers. But then I remembered: This is the universe where Baxter Stockman is the mayor. That ship may have already sailed…

I know I’m a broken record, but I can’t say enough good things about the “sketchy” aesthetic Brahm Revel brings to this book. What’s more, he gets to flex some horror muscles in this issue, which is a tribute to his versatility.

TITLE: The Other History of the DC Universe #1
AUTHOR: John Ridley
ARTISTS: Giuseppe Camuncoli (Layouts & Cover), Andrea Cucchi (Finishes), Jose Villarrubia (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by Camuncoli & Marco Mastrazzo.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

This could very well be the best Black Lightning story ever written.

The Other History of the DC Universe #1 takes you there. It brings you into the mind of Jefferson Pierce, and shows you how he feels. Not just about John Stewart strictly being a substitute Green Lantern, or the Justice League being comprised of mostly white men. It draws you into the head and heart of a man trying desperately to save the community he grew up in, and bring a little more justice into the world.

This issue is worth the $6.99. Worth every penny.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Rorschach, Sea of Sorrows, 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: Rorschach #2
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Jorge Fornes, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Variant cover by Peach Momoko.
RELEASED: November 17, 2020

Heh. Peach Momoko. I love that name. Hell of a variant cover too.

This issue paints our Rorchach doppleganger as a sympathetic nerd type who took things a step too far. It feels somewhat reminiscent of what Alan Moore did with the Jon Osterman character.

That’s not the only echo from Watchmen here. We’ve got a high rise apartment building. We’ve got the whole fiction-within-fiction thing with a comic book called “The Citizen.” It’s all very…noticeable. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

TITLE: Sea of Sorrows #1
AUTHOR: Rich Douek
ARTISTS: Alex Cormack, Mark Mullaney (Colorist), Justin Birch (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 18, 2020

I wouldn’t call this the easiest issue in the world to get through. But I’m intrigued by how it portrays the sea as a deep, dark, seemingly endless void. Coming in, I actually wondered if an oil spill was part of the story.

Regardless, the darkness certainly lends itself to the horror-with-a-touch-of-fantasy vibe Sea of Sorrows seems to be going for. I’m not sure I’m coming back for issue #2 on this one. We’ll see…

TITLE: Batman #103
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Carlo Pagulayan, Guillem March, Danny Miki (Inker), David Baron (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED: November 17, 2020

Harley Quinn calls out the teenaged Clownhunter for having B.O. in this issue. Then she knees him in the balls. That got a laugh from me. Damn teenagers…

Also, Tynion is apparently aware that Ghost-Maker is a dumb name. Good on him.

About halfway through the issue we abruptly switch from Pagulayan to March. Weird transitions like that are never good. But this issue pulls it off as well as one can expect. The color consistency from Baron helps to that end.

TITLE: Juggernaut #3
AUTHOR: Fabian Nicieza
ARTISTS: Ron Garney, Matt Milla (Colorist), Joe Sabina (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 18, 2020

That’s a really cool over. Juggernaut and the scales of justice. It pops.

In this issue Cain fights the Sandman. I mean, technically it’s a villain named Quicksand. But she’s got the same powers, and for all intents and purposes is Sandman.

So far I’m digging this cast. Cain is teaming with D-Cel, a young woman with the power to create “deceleration fields.” In other words, she slows things down. That’s a nice contrast to the Juggernaut powers. Then of course, you have Damage Control, the Marvel Universe’s resident clean-up crew.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #12
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED: November 18, 2020

There’s a shot in this issue that’s pretty bad ass. Four members of the Order of St. George emerging from total darkness, wearing their white face masks. Little did these creators realize just how…relevant such masks would be as the series unfolded.

Dell’Edera and Muerto turn in some really nice art here. The red that Muerto uses for the blood really pops, and Erica Slaughter’s “acting” is pretty good too.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika II #1
AUTHOR/ARTIST: Braham Revel
RELEASED: November 3, 2020

The best thing this series has going for it thus far is its general “sketchy” aesthetic. It’s unlike what we usually see in TMNT books, and it makes for a fun read.

Jennika spends most of this issue fighting a monster. But it leads into a potentially interesting development. What happens if/when the inhabitants of Mutant Town actually become the monsters that so many think they are? And how does media coverage effect the world’s view of Mutant Town?

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Power Rangers Double-Feature, Crossover, 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: Power Rangers #1
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

There’s a really cool scene in here between Jason and Rocky, where they talk about the latter being the Red Ranger, but not the team leader. Parrott is so good at creating character moments for characters who were pretty thinly written to begin with.

That being said, Mortarino draws Rocky like…there’s no other way to put it…a whiny little bitch.

Adding Drakkon to this book is smart. Between BOOM’s two new Power Rangers titles, I suspect this is the one that’s going to have more trouble staying afloat, simply because the characters aren’t the iconic Power Rangers.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #766
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: November 10, 2020

Tamaki is taking a page out of Greg Rucka’s playbook and blinding Wonder Woman. For a few issues, at least. I’ll say this much: It makes for a pretty cool fight sequence in this issue.

It seems like they’re wrapping up the story of the reluctant Wondie/Maxwell Lord team, which is a shame. For my money, the concept had a lot more mileage to it. It had become something I looked forward to seeing with each new issue.

I know I’m a broken record, but I still miss Mikel Janin on this book…

TITLE: Darth Vader #7
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Daniel Acuna.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

Boy, some of this is really dumb.

I like the idea of the Emperor giving Vader a sadistic test by leaving him to die on Mustafar. But early in the issue we once again backtrack to a location from the prequels, and literally see Nute Gunray’s corpse. Is that all this series has to offer? “Hey! This is something you remember from the movies!”

This character, and this universe, deserve better.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1030
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: November 10, 2020

I think this is the first time I’ve seen Evely’s art. It’s got a cool sketchy look to it that doesn’t always go well with Batman’s world. But paired with Lopes’ colors, it works. Evely really gets to flex in this issue, drawing much of Batman’s surrogate family.

Tomasi is looping Damian into things, which bodes well for the book’s immediate future. His work with Bruce and Damian on Batman & Robin is some of his best. I’m interested to see if he can recreate some of that magic.

TITLE: Champions #2
AUTHOR: Al Ewing
ARTISTS: Simone Di Meo, Bob Quinn, Federico Blee
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

The division among civilians over Kamala’s Law, the law against teen superheroes, is really compelling. Mostly because it’s such an unsettling reflection of the actual division we’re seeing in the United States. It’s a tremendous example of how superhero comics can reflect what we see in the real world.

We open up this issue in a “reeducation center” that’s straight up chilling. It’s actually downright dystopian. I can’t remember the last time a comic book left me this unsettled.

TITLE: Superman #27
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: November 11, 2020

Superman spends a small portion of this issue trying to avoid hitting the big scary alien. Imagine that. A superhero trying to dodge conflict with someone who looks and talks differently. God damn, Superman is so the hero this world needs right now. While I may not be in love with his work over on Action Comics, make no mistake about it, Bendis gets Superman. That’s so important, as the vast majority of writers don’t.

Reis, Miki, and Sinclair have been killing it, giving us some of the best art we’ve seen in Superman in years. Don’t sleep on them here.

TITLE: Crossover #1
AUTHORS: Donny Cates, Mark Waid (Story Edits)
ARTISTS: Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by Shaw & Dave Stewart.
RELEASED: November 4, 2020

There’s a character in this book wearing a shirt that says “Wertham was right.” That’s a pretty cool Easter egg for people up on their comic book history.

Crossover is a book about comic book characters coming to life in the real world. All of them. It’s a silly concept, but the book treats it pretty seriously. As such, we have a series that people with a passion for the comic book medium will likely enjoy, but more casual fans may find a little too out there. Heck, I’m passionate about comics and it’s pretty far out even for me…

TITLE: Mighty Morphin #1
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Marco Renna, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Daniele Di Nicuolo.
RELEASED:
November 4, 2020

The way Parrott writes Zordon in this issue is a departure from how we’re used to seeing him. Less a wise sage and more of a friendly uncle. It’s a risk that doesn’t pay off, in my opinion.

So wait…Drakkon’s not the Green Ranger? I’m confused…

I prefer Marco Renna’s work on this book to what we’re seeing in Power Rangers, particularly when it comes to action sequences. His panels with the Green and White Rangers are particularly strong, and the colors really pop. I’m hopeful this book will keep building momentum going forward.

TITLE: Batman #102
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Carlo Pagulayan, Carlos D’Anda, Danny Miki (Inker), David Baron (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey. Variant cover by Francesco Mattina.
RELEASED: November 3, 2020

Tynion says he came up with this new Ghost-Maker villain while he was writing back-up stories for Zero Year. That counts as a strike against him, in my book…

I’m not crazy about the name Ghost-Maker. But he’s pretty cool nonetheless. He’s got a cool costume, and a nice ninja aesthetic.

Carlos D’Anda pops up for a few pages in this issue to draw a scene where Harley Quinn gets a new apartment. It feels randomly dropped in. But I’m assuming that means Harley is sticking around in Batman for the near future.

TITLE: Star Wars #8
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Ramon Rosanas, Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, & Rain Beredo.
RELEASED: November 4, 2020

I’m in awe of just how much detail some artists put into these starships and the machinery. It’s a credit to not only to the talent of the artists they get on these Star Wars books, but the devotion they have to the franchise.

The writing, on the other hand, has been fairly stale across the entire line. In this book’s case, Commaner Zahra, a disciple of Grand Moff Tarkin, is a fairly interesting villain. But this just isn’t a terribly interesting story. She’s after Leia. Big whoop.

On the bright side, it’s not another story about a damn lightsaber…

TITLE: Young Justice #20
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: November 3, 2020

Teen Lantern gets a nice spotlight here. Now if only this weren’t the final issue.

It’s an honest-to-God crime that this series is ending at only 20 issues. It’s one of the best teenage superhero books I’ve read in a long time, in that it delivers on both the action front and the teen angst front. I dig the expansive roster, as well. Sort of a Young Justice League Unlimited feel. If there’s any justice in this world, this team will be back with a vengeance.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Rorschach #1, Commanders in Crisis, 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: Rorschach #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Jorge Fornes, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

This is one of those first issues that doesn’t really try to hook you until the last page. As such, we spend most of Rorschach #1 setting up our characters and their world. Which, considering this book takes place 35 years after Watchmen, is hardly the worst idea in the world.

Thus far, Rorschach is every bit the noir exhibition we expected it to be, with Jorge Fornes turning in some excellent pencil work. I’m just hoping when it’s all said and done we get Vision Tom King on this book, and not “City of Bane” Tom King.

TITLE: Commanders in Crisis #1
AUTHOR: Steve Orlando
ARTISTS: Davide Tinto, Francesca Carotenuto (Colorist), Fabio Amelia (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 14, 2020

This book was obviously written with a Crisis on Infinite Earths type event comic in mind. As if we didn’t get the hint, Dan friggin’ Didio writes an introduction to Commanders in Crisis.

I’m still a little bit confused about how the CiC universe works from a comic book science perspective. But hopefully it’ll be easier to grasp on to as the story, about a bunch of multiverse survivors trying to save the last surviving Earth, continues to expand.

I’m on the fence on Commanders in Crisis, but there’s enough potential to bring me back for issue #2.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #14
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer). Cover by Justin Erickson.
RELEASED: October 15, 2020

This issue, which wraps up the “Red Son Rising” arc, is much like this Batman: The Adventures Continue series at large. Which is to say, it doesn’t blow you away. But it’s still pretty much what you want it to be. We get our climactic sequence with Batman, Jason Todd, the Joker, and Robin. And as one might expect, it leaves the door open for more of Jason in the future.

I’m always happy to see a new B:TAC issue pop up. I’m hoping our adventures continue for at least the foreseeable future.

TITLE: Superman #26
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

Reis, Miki, and Sinclair really nail a couple of iconic Superman shots here. Though I confess, I’m a sucker for that kinda stuff.

What I’m not necessarily a sucker for is a Superman vs. Alien of the Week story. That feels like what we’ve gotten these last two issues. As far as Bendis’ Superman run is concerned, we’re about to wrap up. If we end like this, it’ll be a disappointing end to an otherwise positive stretch of time with the character.

Still, Bendis’ handling of Clark Kent and his supporting cast is strong as always.

TITLE: Darth Vader #6
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by InHyuk Lee.
RELEASED: October 15, 2020

New story. Same trick. We’re once again using a location from the prequels. Though at least this time we’ve got an interesting story to tell. The Empreror tests Vader by breaking him and seemingly leaving him to die on Mustafar. Now Vader must crawl back from the abyss without the use of the Force…

Alright. I’m interested.

Like the main Star Wars title, Darth Vader started off with something of an eye-rolling tale. But now both books seem to be upping the intrigue. Here’s hoping they both find success in that regard.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #764
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Variant cover by Joshua Middleton.
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

Tamaki makes Wondie and Maxwell Lord into a bantering good cop/bad cop duo here. I’m not sure how I feel about that, as Max is supposed to be one of her worst enemies…

And yet, I can appreciate what they bring to the table as a duo. The Wonder Woman character doesn’t necessarily lend itself to partnerships like this. So even with an unlikely partner, there’s an intrigue to it.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Three Jokers, Marvels X, Spider-Man, 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: Three Jokers #2
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 29, 2020

Three Jokers is much more about Jason Todd than I imagined it would be. That’s not a bad thing.

This issue contains a romantic moment between Jason and Barbara Gordon. That is a bad thing.

Johns tries to tie the events of this story back to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which I find forced. I’d much rather spend those pages exploring the fact that there are, y’know, three Jokers!

Still, Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson present us with one of the most beautiful Batman books we’ve seen in a long time.

TITLE: Marvels X #5
AUTHOR: Alex Ross (Story), Jim Krueger (Script)
ARTISTS: Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED: September 30, 2020

There’s a page in here that’s particularly poignant, given the times we’re living in today. Our main character is talking to the Falcon about Captain America.

Falcon says it’s hard to be Cap’s friend at the moment, given all the anger in the country. As a hero, he has to worry about controlling his fellow citizens, as opposed to protecting them.

“It’s not a democracy anymore. It’s not about different voices. It’s about one voice. An angry, frightened one.”

Powerful stuff.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #763
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: September 29, 2020

First and foremost, Liar Liar is a really stupid name for a villain. Better that she just go by Emma Lord.

Indeed, we found out last issue that Maxwell Lord has a daughter. I can’t say I saw that coming.

Carlo Barberi’s art is growing on me. He turns in some really dynamic and attractive work here. But I still can’t help but miss Mikel Janin, who’s not an easy act to follow for anybody.

This Diana partnership is growing on me too. Enough to get me to start picking up Wonder Woman again.

TITLE: Spider-Man #4
AUTHORS: J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS: Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico (Inking Assistant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel.
RELEASED: September 23, 2020

On the whole, I’m liking this book. Especially the “sketchy” looking art, which is different than a lot of what Sara Pichelli has put out over the years. I really only have one major issue: Tony Stark.

Iron Man pulls focus. It’s a rule that’s osmosed into the comics from the movies. Thus, Tony’s presence in this story, even as a supporting character, takes some much-needed emphasis off this new Ben Parker character. We’ve only got one issue left in this mini. All the more reason to keep this a Spider-Man story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #9
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Travis Moore & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: September 22, 2020

We get a guest appearance from Superman in this issue, and I’ve gotta say, Redondo draws a hell of a Man of Steel.

The decision to make Ted Kord a villain in this series is an interesting one. He’s not a character that long-time readers would be inclined to hate, or even dislike.

It feels like Taylor wanted to do more in this series with Deadshot and his daughter. Here’s hoping he gets another chance somewhere down the line

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman, Vol 11: The Fall and the Fallen Deep Dive – Too Much Canvas

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 11: The Fall and the Fallen
AUTHORS:
Tom King, Andy Kubert, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (Inker). Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason. Cover by Kubert.
COLORIST:
Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Andworld Design, Tom Workman, Tom Napolitano
COLLECTS:
Batman #7074, Batman: Secret Files #2
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As a whole, City of Bane, which essentially starts here, is Tom King’s version of The Dark Knight Rises. Or if you want to go back further, the Knightfall storyline from the ’90s.

It’s also where the wheels come off King’s Batman run. I take no joy in saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, kids. So let’s dip our spoons in…

1. Daddy’s back.
The Fall and the Fallen is when we finally see Bane and Flashpoint Batman, a.k.a. Thomas Wayne from an alternate universe, team up to break our hero once and for all.

Yes friends, Thomas Wayne, one of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is here. You know about Bruce Wayne’s parents, right? They were murdered in front of their young son. It was that heinous act of violence that inspired Bruce’s vow to wage war on criminals for the rest of his life, and ultimately the creation of Batman. We saw these two come face-to-face in The Button, and it was a tremendously emotional experience for Bruce. One can only imagine what would go through his head if his father, even an alt-universe version, masterminded some kind of plot against him…

So tell me something: Why is Bane our big bad in this story? Why bring him into this when Bruce’s father shakes his son’s world to its core simply because he exists? Add the fact that this version of Thomas Wayne is his universe’s Batman, and Bane becomes redundant by comparison.

Batman #72 takes us back through the events of the series and outlines Bane’s plan, which all centers around the Bruce/Selina marriage. In the end, Thomas proposes a partnership.

But picture this, Thomas Wayne somehow survives the destruction of the Flashpoint universe and winds up in the DC Universe proper. He initially wants to seek out his “son,” but this alternate world intrigues him. So he opts to lay low, observe, and learn.

Remember, in The Button, Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and simply live his life. Devastated that Bruce hasn’t heeded his words, he decides he’s the only one that can stop his “son.” So he opts to do what must be done, by any means necessary.

In the end, it comes down to Batman against Batman. Father against son. It can be on the rooftops of Gotham, the Batcave, or anywhere really. All we need is the emotional impact of that showdown.

In the end, Catwoman shoots and kills Thomas in an act of desperation. Bruce then has to decide if he can forgive her or not. This would pay off the revelation from The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Not bad, huh? But no, instead we got another big fight with Bane. Yippee…

2. Father/Son Time
And what of what we actually get from father and son? They journey through the desert to get to a Lazarus Pit, occasionally stopping to fight members of Ra’s al Ghul’s personal guard. They take turns riding a horse, which is dragging a casket behind it. I won’t say who’s in it. But if you consider who we have in this scene and where they’re going it’s not too hard to figure out. There’s a really nice subtle reference to Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which is low key one of the best Batman stories of the last decade.

Old timey music has been a theme during Tom King’s run. In issue #73, he has Flashpoint Batman singing “Home, Home on the Range” to himself. Fun fact: It’s really weird to read that scene while playing Bing Crosby’s version of the song in the background…

Issue #74 is where things finally boil over between our Batmen. Thomas’ motivation, as always, is to get Bruce to surrender his life as Batman and live a normal life. That’s a hell of a premise for an issue. The trouble is, King spends far too much time harping on a story about a bedtime story Thomas told Bruce as a child about a bunch of animals eating each other in a pit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s an actual story written by Alexander Afanasyev, who’s widely considered to be the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm. Father and son talk about the horror of it all, and why Bruce supposedly liked the story. They eventually get to the real meat of their conflict. But by the time they do, you feel frustrated because they’ve spent so much time talking about that damn story. Even during their inevitable battle in the pit, King uses the story as a narrative backdrop.

And all the while, I can’t help but think…Thomas Wayne, Batman’s dad, is standing right there. And this was the best they could do?

3. Dump the Duster
Okay DC, we get it. Batman v Superman was a thing. You guys liked the image of Batman in a duster and goggles, so you decided to use it. Fair enough.

But these issues came out in 2019. The movie came out in 2017. There was no need whatsoever to put the Flashpoint Batman in a duster and goggles just like the ones his “son” happened to wear several issues earlier in The Rules of Engagement.

If it looked cool, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t. Plus, it’s impractical and redundant even by superhero standards, and therefore silly.

What’s done is done. But let’s make this right. If you want to have Batman wearing his costume in the desert, that’s fine. Heck, if you want to have Bruce Wayne wear a duster and goggles, that’s fine. But you can’t have Batman wearing his costume in the desert with a duster and goggles. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. That’s got to be a rule in writing Batman from now on.

4. Batman Gone Batty?
Issues #70 and #71 focus on a needless, and at times silly plot point about people thinking Batman is losing it, and Jim Gordon severing ties with him.

When we open the book, our Caped Crusader is punching his way through Arkham Asylum, facing off with most of the supervillains you’d expect to see. It’s a great opportunity for Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes to draw virtually all of the iconic rogues gallery.

The trouble is, King once again supplies us with bad Batman dialogue. Not the least of which is: “You challenge me with…nightmares? I live the nightmare! Bane! Why can’t you understand! I’m Batman! I am the nightmare.”

Shut up, already.

Given how convinced Batman is that Bane is faking insanity to remain in Arkham, and how intense and violent he is in his pursuit of the truth, Gordon becomes convinced that the Dark Knight has gone off the deep end. In issue #71 he tries to kick him off the roof of police headquarters (shown above).

That skepticism spreads to his extended family of superheroes, who are convinced Bruce is still grieving over his broken engagement to Selina Kyle. The situation is punctuated when he punches Tim Drake in the face.

There’s no worthwhile payoff to any of this. It all comes off like padding. Because it is padding. You can revolve an entire story arc around either of those moments. But instead they just come and go. That’s particularly a shame when it comes to the Gordon story, as there could have been some real substance to that.

5. Where’s Wesker?
This trade also contains Batman: Secret Files #2, which in theory is supposed to spotlight all “the villains who broke the Bat.” Okay, sure.

For what I think is the first time since Batman #23.1, Andy Kubert gets to write a Batman/Joker story. Things fare much better this time, largely because he goes the comedic route. Also, Amancay Nahuelpan draws a hell of a Clown Prince of Crime.

Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put together a so-so story about the Psycho-Pirate leading a cult. Artist Carlos D’Anda overachieves on this one, which I did not expect.

Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli turn in a Riddler story that holds up pretty well. More amusing to me is the fact that “Sideburns Riddler” is still a thing.

Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso steal the show with a Hugo Strange tale featuring multiple Batman “specimens.” Given he’s a mad doctor, I’ll let you jump to your own conclusions on what that story is about…

Tim Seeley teams with one of my personal favorites, Patrick Gleason, for a story late in Bane’s pre-Gotham days. I’m used to Gleason working with a much brighter color palette than John Kalisz provides here. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

My big problem with this issue? No story about Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. the Ventriloquist. He’s on the cover, and plays one of the more interesting roles in Bane’s big scheme, as sort of Bane’s counterpart to Alfred. It’s a little disturbing, considering what happens to Alfred in the next volume.

6. Consistence and Versatility
The Secret Files issue notwithstanding, our drawing duties are split between Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes. While The Fall and the Fallen may have its share of story problems, I can’t find much to complain about artistically. Both these men are awesome Batman artists very much in their element.

Mikel Janin was a star coming into this series. But he’s a superstar coming out of it. Speaking for myself, Janin’s art can now sell a book on its own. His line work is always super clean, his figure work consistent, and his character acting on point. I now look forward to specifically seeing his versions of Batman, the Joker, and even less flashy characters like Alfred and the Penguin. The fact that he’s got colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire backing him up in this book does nothing but help, of course. But Janin’s style on its own is versatile enough to handle any story. Whether we’re on the streets of Gotham, the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, or anywhere in between.

Objectively, Janin’s best work in this book is probably issue #74, as that’s where the book hits its emotional crescendo and is really firing on all cylinders. But selfishly, I’m partial to issue #70 because Janin gets to draw some of the more obscure Batman villains. Calendar Man, Doctor Phosphorus, the Cavalier, etc.

It’s difficult to look at Jorge Fornes’ work without thinking of what David Mazzucchelli did with Batman: Year One. The figure rendering is similar, the texture is similar. Bellaire’s coloring doesn’t have the same faded palette that Richmond Lewis’ did. But it’s still reminiscent.

I can’t bring myself to complain about the similarities, because Year One is obviously one of the all-time greats. But that means Fornes is better in environments that are a little more mundane, and can have that noir-ish spin put on them. Street level scenes, Wayne Manor and Batcave scenes, etc. It’s no accident that a hero like Daredevil is also on his resume. But something tells me that, like Janin, he’s got a versatilty to him. One that isn’t necessarily apparent here. I’m anxious to see what he does next.

7. Too Much Canvas
When someone mentions Tom King the first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is his 12-issue run on Vision. That was such a masterclass in comic book storytelling. It’s frustrating to think that someone who wove such a classic at Marvel could make these kind of mistakes on Batman.

What it all comes down to is too much canvas. Give an artist too much canvas to work on, and suddenly the focus of the art wavers. If any story has ever had too much canvas it’s City of Bane.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman, Vol.10: Knightmares Deep Dive – Over His Head

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 10: Knightmares
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Yanick Paquette
COLORISTS:
Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Dave Stewart, Lovern Kindzierski, Paul Mounts, Timms, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #6163, #6669
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: September 11, 2019

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

Need to catch up? Boy, have I got you covered. Check out Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Vol. 7: The Wedding, Volume 8: Cold Days, and Volume 9: The Tyrant Wing.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

He did it again, didn’t he? That sly son of a…

You’ll recall back in Batman #24, Bruce Wayne proposed to Selina Kyle. Huge deal. Huge. A historic moment for both characters. One that could shake up Batman’s whole world depending on Selina’s answer. But of course, they left us with a cliffhanger.

But when Batman #25 came out, we didn’t get one. What we got was the beginning of The War of Jokes and Riddles, a tale from Batman’s past that he had to tell Selina about before she answered. Issue #24 came out on June 7, 2017. Batman #32, the issue where we finally get Selina’s response, didn’t come out until October 4. We had to wait until fall to get the answer because…um…because DC said so. (Although it was pretty obvious she was going to say yes.)

Fast-forward to December 5, 2018. Batman #60 is released, and another bombshell is dropped. The Batman of the Flashpoint universe, Thomas Wayne, not only survived the events of The Button, but has teamed up with Bane against his alt-universe son. Thomas Wayne vs. Bruce Wayne. Father vs. Son. Batman vs. Batman! The stage was set!

Then in the very next issue we got…no answers. Instead we got the issues collected in this book (with two exceptions that we’ll get to in a later date). We wouldn’t see Flashpoint Batman again until May 1, 2019.

Why DC and Tom King loved making us wait so long for cliffhanger payoffs is a mystery to me. But I’ll say this much: Knightmares is a better book than The War of Jokes and Riddles.

1. I Dreamed a Dream…
Toward the end of the book, we discover Batman is hooked up to a contraption that’s giving him very vivid nightmares. I say that not to spoil anything, but to provide context. Plus, between the Knightmares title and what happens once the book starts rolling, it’s pretty easy to see something’s up. Each collected issue contains one of our hero’s bad dreams.

This is the final volume before we get into the “City of Bane” story, which is an astounding 16 issues long. With that many pages to fill, it’s no wonder it felt immensely padded. Like they were just trying to fill space between plot points. While I consider Knightmares a good read, I’ll argue King starts to do that here. It’s a trend that ultimately forces him to limp into the home stretch. For the most part, these issues work. The “City of Bane” issues don’t.

We kick things off in issue #61, as Batman investigates the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The catch? We seem to be in the present day, and young Bruce Wayne is very much present and able to interact with his older self. Obviously it’s a “What if?” story. But it’s not what you might expect.

Travis Moore returns for this story. Once you reach the end, you’ll see how that’s fitting. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain really shines, especially early on. Her use of reds and oranges to depict the lights of Gotham City, contrasted with the deep blacks you’d expect from a Batman story are reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s more recent work on the character. That’s damn good company to be in.

2. “They call me MISTER PIG!!!”
Issue #61 is a good start. But here’s where business really picks up. Our sole artist is Mitch Gerads, who almost always does phenomenal work with King. With Batman #62, they create something truly unsettling. At times even horrifying. It opens with our hero hanging upside down in the back of a butcher’s shop, and he’s got some company: Professor Pyg.

And there’s blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

I think Professor Pyg, or at least this King/Gerads version of Professor Pyg, is what a lot of fans want the Joker to be like. A horror movie villain with a funny gimmick. Of course, the Joker is so much more than that. But Professor Pyg? As far as that horror villain territory is concerned, he’s got a solid cut of the market share.

This is a really beautiful issue in a twisted sort of way. It’s like a Saw movie with terrifying, horror flick lighting. Perhaps more importantly, when we start the story, Batman is scared. Not that fear gas-induced fear either. He’s genuinely afraid, as any of us would be. Thus, we’re pulled that much harder into the issue. There’s also a lot of confusion on Batman’s end. Why is he there? How did he get there? Why is he unable to hear what Pyg is saying? We follow Batman’s train of thought as he pushes through his fear to defeat his opponent.

And every bit as unsettling as the setting, the villain, and the frantic confusion, is the swerve turn on the final page.

3. Guest-starring…
A Batman/Constantine team-up sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what we get here. Not exactly, anyway.

In issue #63, Mikel Janin returns to give us the ending we all wanted for Bruce and Selina. They get married, go on a tropical honeymoon, share big romantic kisses on rainy Gotham City rooftops. All seems well. Then Constantine shows up to tell Batman not only is this a dream, but something awful is going to happen. Remember this is a Batman story, where everybody has dead parents, dead spouses, etc. So even if it weren’t a dream, there’s a 50/50 chance he’d be right anyway.

Why Constantine? I think the logic is “Why not?” Are there characters from Batman’s world that might fit this role better int theory? Sure. But no one so obvious that it ruins anything. I get the sense King just wanted the chance to write Constantine, so he wound up in this issue.

Ditto for the Question in issue #66, in which the framing device is Selina being interrogated about why she left Bruce at the altar. Jorge Fornes is on the pencil here, and he fits a Question story like a glove. Less fitting is Selina smoking a cigarette during the exchange, which I don’t think we’ve seen her do at all in King’s run up to this point. It feels very forced. Like they were looking for that one detail to hit that noir-ish nail on the head, and they just gave her a cigarette because they could.

Issue #66 is also where we start re-treading ground. All this stuff about how Selina sees Bruce? We’ve been reading about it for much of the last 60 issues. There’s no reason to go back there, with the Question no less, unless you’re trying to fill space. It’s a fun issue. But its intentions are clear in hindsight.

Issue #67 consists of one long chase scene, as Batman pursues another masked man across Gotham City. Telling you who the individual in question is would take the punch out of the issue. But it’s worth it for those last two pages. There’s some subtext that you have to read into. But it’s pretty easy to get. Fornes is back for this one, alongside the amazing Lee Weeks. Both those men do a hell of a job capturing that Batman: Year One vibe. Again, mostly stuff we’ve already seen. But there’s still greatness here, in one of the best single issue’s of King’s Batman run.

4. “Make a lane for Lane!”
Amanda Conner does a guest spot for issue #68. As such, it’s not surprisingly we focus mostly on female characters. Superman and Lois Lane are back, as we see what might have been a bachelor and bachelorette party respectively. While Bruce and Clark have a quiet night in, an intoxicated Selina Kyle and Lois most certainly do not. The Fortress of Solitude has never seen that kind of fun…

Yes, King backtracks again here. But if I had to choose one thing for him to go back to, there’s a hell of an argument to be made for the “Super Friends” dynamic. Specifically between Catwoman and Lois Lane. Their dynamic in this issue specifically is sheer joyful and colorful comic book fun. The kind of story that’s practically begging to be adapted into animation. Though if it’s for one of the kids shows they’ll have to cut out the liquor. (Not to mention all the stripping Superman robots.) By God, that almost defeats the whole damn purpose.

The downside? With just three pages left we lose Conner. As her style is so distinct, it’s an abrupt jolt to suddenly switch to fill-in artists. Pun intended: It’s a real buzzkill.

5. “Will You Dance With Me?”
The book closes with, of all things, a dance.

It’s only natural that we close with Bruce and Selina. Especially since almost this entire book takes place in Bruce’s head. While the issue does bounce back and forth between them and a Mikel Janin training scene with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, the meat of the issue is in an extended dance sequence. But it’s hardly the Batusi. Yanick Paquette puts out a career issue as the two characters literally slow dance through a dream, through Gotham, through their history.

It’s a positively outstanding, and truly unique usage of the visual nature of the comic book medium. In yet another backtrack, Selina goes through multiple costume changes as she did in issue #44. But in two-page spreads such as the one above, we literally track our characters’ dance steps across the page. The use of sheet music is an absolute stroke of genius, which instantly makes this comic distinct among the thousands upon thousands in Batman’s history.

What’s more, because this is a dream there’s a subtext to it that I really enjoy. The scene is written as Bruce asking Selina why she left him. Her response involves his vow as a child, and how he can never really love her because of his devotion to the Batman, etc. But of course, the question Bruce is really asking is, “Why did she leave me?” Via a dream, he’s venting his own doubts about whether he can ever really love another person. And it ends in pretty much the manner you’d expect such a dream from Batman to end.

But the creme de creme, the moment of moments, comes on the final page of the issue and the final page in Knightmares overall…

Batman friggin’ cries. He doesn’t openly weep. But he cries. It’s not even played up at all. It’s beautifully subtle. Just two little strokes of Paquette’s pencil.

Issues like this are part of what makes Tom King’s Batman run so frustrating. Because he is a good writer. He’s a good Batman writer! He knows what he’s doing. But it feels like he got in over his head. The larger story he was trying to tell got too large and in the end he lost focus. That’s such a damn shame, given how many little gems we find in this run.

Incidentally, the song from issue #69 is one King has used before in his series. Sophie Turner’s “Some of these Days.” It dates back to the ’20s. It’s not required listening. But it’s a great little supplement. I recommend it.

6. Waking Up
There are a few collections in this Batman series that you flat out don’t need to read. Technically, this is one of them. But like Cold Days, it gets a recommendation from me. It’s not an amazing character study altogether. But like Tom King’s Batman run as a whole, it surprises you with moments that are absolute classics.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Iron Man 2020, Go Go Power Rangers, 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

Oye. Not a good comic book week for yours truly. Not only am I still reeling from the demise of my local shop, but my pull list was uncharacteristically small this week. So what’s a frustrated fanboy to do?

With only three issues in my stack this week, I’ve added a mini-review of Detective Comics #1000, as we learned this week that it was the highest selling comic book of 2019.

Shout out to Jay’s Comics in Gurnee, IL. I’m pretty sure they’re my new shop.

TITLE: Iron Man 2020 #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR:
Dan Slott, Christos Gage
ARTISTS:
Pete Woods, Joe Caramagna (Letterer).
RELEASED:
January 15, 2020

Thanks to a lot of backstory, (which the issue is nice enough to provide us post-script), Tony Stark’s adoptive brother Arno Stark is now Iron Man. Straight out of the gate, he’s got a rebellious robot uprising to contend with.

As someone who hasn’t kept up with Iron Man lately, there’s not much here to excite me. It’s inferred that Arno has sinister intentions. But when friggin’ Doctor Doom has played the role before, everyone else pales from a “villain as the hero” perspective. Ironic, as Dan Slott’s work on The Superior Spider-Man drew me to this book.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #27
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini.
RELEASED: January 15, 2020

Excellent issue, which includes a fight between Tommy and Lord Zedd over the White Ranger powers.

So between what’s happening in this book, and in the main MMPR title, you’re telling me the all-wise Zordon has no idea what’s happening with Jason, Zack, and Trini? The kids he himself chose to be Power Rangers? Like, not even a little? That’s the one aspect of “Necessary Evil” I’m having trouble buying. Other than that, I’m really enjoying what we’re getting from the PR titles right now. The main book was shaky for awhile, but things are definitely back on track.

TITLE: The Low Low Woods #2
AUTHOR: Carmen Maria Machado
ARTISTS: Dani, Tamra Bonvillain (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by J.A.W. Cooper.
RELEASED:
January 15, 2020

Something felt off here. I’m not sure if the issue was paced to fast, or I was having trouble recalling things from the first issue, or the bizarre-but-not-in-a-scary-way thing we see on page three. But I wasn’t into this issue as much as the first.

I do, however, appreciate the way they’ve developed the town of Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania as almost a character unto itself. The town apparently has “an extremely unhealthy relationship with its dead.” As I said last time, it’s very reminiscent of a Stephen King story.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1000
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Denny O’Neil, Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV, Tom King, Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neal Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Tony Daniel, Joelle Jones, Doug Mahnke. Cover by Lee.
INKERS:
Jonathan Glapion, Scott Williams, Derek Fridolfs, Raul Fernanxes
COLORISTS:
FCO Plascencia, Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Tomeu Morey
LETTERS:
Tom Napolitano, Todd Klein, Steve Wands, Simon Bowland, Andworld Design, Willie Schubert, Josh Reed, Rob Leigh, Clayton Cowles
RELEASED:
March 27, 2019

Yeesh. No wonder this issue sold so well. The sheer amount of talent on this thing, many of whom shaped the mythology of Batman, is outrageous.

I was pleasantly surprised to find something I liked in each tale from this 96-page multi-story anthology. But ultimately, it’s Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev that steal the show with “I Know.” An elderly Oswald Cobblepot confronts an equally elderly, wheelchair-bound Bruce Wayne to tell him he’s known his secret for a long time. It’s a quieter story compared to the rest. But it’s no less impactful for it.

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