Tag Archives: Diogenes Nieves

A Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best Review – A Return to Glory?

TITLE: Teen Titans, Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLERS: Jonboy Meyers, Diogenes Nieves, Khoi Pham
COLLECTS: Teen Titans #15Teen Titans Rebirth #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 14, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Teen Titans have had a pretty awesome run on television over the last decade and a half. The comics, on the other hand? They’ve been a mixed bag. But this new Teen Titans series under the DC Rebirth banner offered yet another fresh start for one of the most iconic and prolific superhero teams in all of comics. A chance to make the Teen Titans great again!

I wouldn’t call Damian Knows Best a great book. But these still manage to be the best Teen Titans comics we’ve gotten in several years. Since 2011 at the very least.

In the wake of his 13th birthday, Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, summons his own team of young heroes to combat a threat from his past. Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, has sent his own team of young assassins after the Boy Wonder. Their mission? Either bring Damian back into the League of Assassins or kill him. But as his new teammates are about to find out, Damian isn’t one to make things easy.

Damian should have been on the Teen Titans a long time ago. That last really good Teen Titans story I alluded to above? It sees Damian barge in and briefly anoint himself team leader. Why it took so long to get him back on the team is beyond me. Sticking a character as abrasive as Damian in a team environment is a natural source for tension and conflict. Making it a team of adolescents ups the ante even more. It’s an update this book has desperately needed since…well, 2011.

Perennial team members Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven are back. I’ve lamented previously about how the series can’t move away from them, presumably because DC wants to match the cartoon show. Plus, they’re synonymous with the iconic Wolfman/Perez era. Swapping one or two of them out for newer characters might open the door for even more new possibilities. That’s what a relaunch is supposed to be about, after all. We at least get a little of that with the inclusion of Kid Flash.

However, Ben Percy does a commendable job turning up the teen angst with most of our heroes. The common theme among them is the feeling they don’t belong anywhere. Like so many young people, they feel isolated.. That commonality that makes them feel like they belong together, instead of being lumped together for no real reason (other than editorial mandate). The opening sequence with Beast Boy is one of the character’s best in quite some time. As he behaves in his typical animated and boisterous fashion, the narration captions highlight his inner turmoil, most notably over the “death” of Tim Drake. Throw in how wonderfully drawn and colored the whole thing is, and you’ve got a knock-out intro.

That’s one of the things DC has failed to do with Teen Titans for so many years: Really amp up the teen element effectively, making this book considerably different from Justice League and the other team books out there. Need an example? Look what Mark Waid is doing in Champions. All those characters feel like teenagers trying to find their way in the world and blaze a new trail that’s different from the previous generation’s. Teen Titans doesn’t have that rebellious streak to it. But having these characters feel young and a little less sure of themselves is damn sure a step in the right direction.

Most of the Demon’s Fist characters are forgettable. They’re led by Damian’s cousin Mara. Despite being fairly forgettable herself, she has a strong origin story. She trained alongside Damian growing up, competing with him but never quite besting him. Damian was intended to lead the Demon’s Fist, but Mara took over in his absence. If you subscribe to the idea that all of Batman’s villains represent a distorted mirror image of him, then Mara would be the equivalent for Robin.

Jonboy Meyers was supposed to be the regular artist for Teen Titans. He made it through issue #1 before leaving due to “creative differences.” That’s a damn shame. Meyers breathed so much new life into this series, giving us an Anime-inspired expressiveness, and thus a sense of fun the book has sorely lacked for a long time. Make no mistake about it, the guy knows his way around a superhero action sequence. I’ll specifically cite the Kid Flash pages from the Rebirth issue as evidence.

Diogenes Nieves has the unenviable job of tagging in for Meyers in issue #2. To his credit, the transition goes about as smooth as you could ask. He gives us a couple of gorgeous pages of a rainy rooftop scene between Damian and Talia al Ghul. Still, the little quirks in Meyers’ art are still sorely missed. The same, sadly, can be said for when Khoi Pham takes over on issues #3-5. Objectively, he’s a fine artist. When it’s time for our team to rise up in issue #5, Pham nails it. It’s just that Meyers has that certain flair. Starting with it and then taking it away doesn’t do the book any favors.

Thankfully, one constant in the book is colorist Jim Charalampidis, who brings a valuable consistency to the series despite the changing artists. These pages look a touch darker than I might have expected. But it’s still the beautiful blaze of color you’d hope to see from a superhero team book like this.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up Teen Titans on a consistent basis. This new series changed that. Did Damian Knows Best make Teen Titans great again? No. But it made the series good again. That’s more than you can say for any other book to bear it’s name in the last several years. Now, here’s hoping things stay good for quite some time. These characters, and this series deserve at least that much.

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A Green Arrow: Into the Woods Review – Robin Hood Meets…Galahad?!?

Green Arrow: Into the WoodsTITLE: Green Arrow: Into The Woods

AUTHOR: J.T. Krul
PENCILLER: Diogenes Neves, Vincente Cifuentes. Cover by Mauro Cascioli
COLLECTS: Green Arrow #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASE DATE: July 6, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I always understood the motivation behind DC Comics breaking up Green Arrow’s marriage to Black Canary and making him a forest-dwelling loner. It puts the character in touch with his Robin Hood-esque roots. But that doesn’t mean it was a good decision.

After murdering the villain Prometheus in Justice League: Cry For Justice, Green Arrow’s identity as Oliver Queen has been made public, his marriage to Black Canary is over, and a large portion of Star City lays in ruins. G.A. now lives in the forest that suddenly sprouted in the middle of the city at the beginning of Brightest Day. As Oliver continues to serve Star City as best he can, a mysterious woman calling herself The Queen has taken over Oliver’s company, Queen Industries. Her motivations are questionable, to say the least. But Green Arrow will soon discover this woman is linked to the father he barely knew.

Green Arrow #3, Galahad, Diogenes Nieves, 2010This book was a disappointment for me. After reading some of J.T. Krul’s previous work, I was hoping he’d be able to really knock this one out of the park. He doesn’t. It’s not that putting Ollie in the forest was a bad move, per se. It was an interesting attempt at shaking up his status quo, and the fact that the forest seems to be the center of the white entity from Brightest Day adds a bit of intrigue. But the creators either don’t play the forest element up in a way that’s interesting enough, or they push the Robin Hood thing so far it becomes silly.

For instance, in this book Ollie gains a new sidekick/confidant in Galahad, a man who claims to be a knight from King Arthur’s Round Table. This character, in my opinion, was a ridiculous and feeble attempt to make Green Arrow more akin to Robin Hood by pairing him with someone with a medieval vibe. Apparently being a bow and arrow wielding, forest dwelling outlaw wasn’t enough. It’s one thing to be reminiscent of a classic character, it’s another thing to rip that character off. This book pushes Green Arrow a bit too close to the latter for my tastes. Personally, I’d rather have seen him find a civilian to bounce dialogue off of. Oddly, we almost get that in a reporter who Ollie gets information from. The reporter would have been a much better choice than some dude who thinks he’s a knight.

Green Arrow #2, 2010, Green LanternWhen I picked up this book, I was hoping to see Ollie really use the forest to his advantage in battle. I figured we’d see him eying targets from treetops, setting up clever traps, and really using the environment to his advantage. We really don’t see much of that. He and Hal Jordan have a battle scene with some of The Queen’s “Royal Guard,” and there’s a moment where he uses such a trap on an out of control Martian Manhunter. But that’s the best stuff we get in that regard, which obviously left me wanting more. I was hoping to see the forest really become a part of Green Arrow’s persona. Instead, it really just acts as a new setting that happens to act weirdly sometimes.

What I did enjoy about Into The Woods was the look at Oliver Queen’s parents. It was interesting to see how their influence made Ollie the character he is, and their relationship to The Queen does make for an interesting dynamic.

Though it’s all very well drawn by Diogenes Neves, everything else this book offered fell into “meh” territory. That’s a shame, as this book could have been much better. It likely isn’t a coincidence that the Green Arrow we’ll meet in September via the DCU reboot is essentially placed in the exact opposite circumstances as this version of the character. Instead of being a forest-dwelling outlaw with little use for technology, Green Arrow will be flying around the world apprehending criminals, using illegally gained intel to his advantage. In short, Ollie will be out of the woods very soon.

I can’t say I’m sad about that.

RATING: 5/10

Image 1 from craveonline.com. Image 2 from xmanscomicblog.blogspot.com. 

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A Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages Review – The End of an Era

Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five StagesTITLE: Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five Stages
AUTHORS: Andrew Kreisberg, J.T. Krul
ARTISTS: Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz, Renato Guedes, Diogenes Nieves. Cover by Jose O. Ladronn.
COLLECTS: Green Arrow/Black Canary #27-30
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I miss the Green Arrow/Black Canary monthly title. Or at least Andrew Kreisberg’s version of it. It was usually somewhere in the bottom half of my stack. But in retrospect, it should have been higher.

Sadly, this is the sixth and last volume of the series, collecting the final four of the 30-issue series (technically there were 32, but the last two only had Green Arrow’s name on them) starring the newlywed emerald archer and sexy siren. It picks up where Big Game left off, wrapping up the story line with Cupid, Green Arrow’s sadistic stalker. With the help of the shape-shifting villain Everyman, who now bears Arrow’s likeness, she’s wreaking havoc in Star City. Along the way, we learn her origin story, and what exactly caused her mind to snap.

Green Arrow/Black Canary, Vol. 6: Five Stages, interiorIssue #30 takes us into the events of Blackest Night, as Ollie has become a Black Lantern. Now Black Canary, Speedy and Conner Hawke must find a way to stop the zombified archer before he rips their hearts out…literally!

The book moves back and forth between the present day, and Cupid’s origin story, the latter beautifully pencilled by Renato Guedes. It’s a refreshing shift from shifting between Ollie and Dinah’s perspective for no apparent reason, as we saw in Big Game. It looks like Kreisberg was trying to add to Green Arrow’s rather dismal rogues gallery, even throwing in a tragic and disturbing twist for the Lieutenant Hilton character. Sadly, what with everything that’s happened in the aftermath of Justice League: Cry For Justice, it may be a long time before we see some of these characters again, if at all. That especially sucks in the case of Lieutenant Hilton, or “Hilt” as he comes to be called. I’d have enjoyed seeing where they were going with that character. His scenes toward the end of the book were really ominous.

The Blackest Night story is told from Ollie’s point of view, as his consciousness struggles to gain control of his body, which has been taken over by Nekron. He agonizes as he’s forced to reveal secrets to Dinah, and his son Conner, that he hoped would remain buried forever. It’s the best Blackest Night story they could have told for Green Arrow, and unlike most of the other Blackest Night one-shots I read, it has long-term ramifications.

Green Arrow/Black Canary #30, Blackest NightFive Stages does manage to include a bit of foreshadowing. The final Kreisberg-written scene takes place just before Ollie and Dinah are beamed up to the Watchtower for the first scene in Cry For Justice. One might even argue that the evil Everyman wearing Ollie’s likeness is a bit of a prelude. Sadly though, Five Stages serves as the end of an era for Ollie and Dinah. And although J.T. Krul’s work on the new Green Arrow is compelling, I can’t help but feel like this era ended much too soon. This book is good, but the series itself could have been so much better.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from comicattack.net.

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