Tag Archives: Ethan Van Sciver

A Green Lanterns: Rage Planet Review – A New Chapter Begins

Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage PlanetTITLE: Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage Planet
AUTHORS: Sam Humphries, Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Robson Rocha, Ed Benes, Ethan Van Sciver, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Eduardo Pansica.
COLLECTS: Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1Green Lanterns #16.
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 25, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Green Lanterns almost makes me sad that there are human ring-slingers besides Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Hal Jordan. This feels like such a natural next chapter in the Green Lantern saga. The next generation learns to overcome fear, while Jordan mentors them from afar. Makes perfect sense to me.

Rage Planet sees Earth’s newest Green Lanterns, Simon and Jessica, become co-protectors of Sector 2814. But Simon isn’t convinced he needs a partner, and Jessica is plagued by her crippling anxiety. Not exactly ideal circumstances. Especially when Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps are about to bring “Red Dawn” to Earth. Simon and Jessica will soon have no choice but to work as a team.

Green Lanterns has its share of problems. It feels a little bit padded to fill the six-issue main story, has a revolving door of artists, and essentially features a stock story about reluctant partners. But Sam Humphries does some terrific character work in this book, particularly when it comes to Jessica Cruz.

green-lanterns-5, Jessica CruzA Green Lantern who suffers from clinical anxiety seems like such a natural development that I’m surprised it’s taken this long for us to get one. The entire mythology revolves around the idea of overcoming fear, after all. But Humphries makes up for lost time by taking us inside Jessica’s head and perfectly conveying her anxiety. The constant second-guessing, the belief that she’s not good enough, the panic attacks, the isolation (she didn’t leave her apartment for three years prior to becoming a Lantern). Hokey as it may sound, as someone who has dealt with anxiety myself, Jessica makes me feel represented. She’s a tremendous addition to the Green Lantern mythos.

This series gets us recaquainted with Simon Baz, who in many ways fell to the wayside prior to the Rebirth relaunch. His character can be tough to nail down, as he’s stubborn and distrustful. But also overly confident at times. I’ve always thought him carrying a gun despite wearing a Green Lantern ring was silly. I understand the need to distinguish him from the other Lanterns, as there are so many of them. But logically, that’s like keeping a pocket knife with you in case your chainsaw breaks down. Still, he and Jessica make a good buddy cop duo. I’m hoping Humphries resists making them a couple.

On a surface level, the Red Lantern stuff makes for a fine first arc. But there’s not much to it. It’s essentially Atrocitus wanting to make Earth a giant ball of pulsating rage.  It’s not nearly as interesting as the Phantom Lantern material, which really gets moving in the next volume. But fans generally know who/what the Red Lanterns are, and they have a little mainstream recognition from different TV shows and video games. So it makes sense from an attention-grabbing perspective. The book’s most interesting moment with the Red Lanterns involves Simon temporarily relieving Bleez of her rage. It’s a nice “What have I done?” moment.

Ethan Van Sciver, Green Lanterns Rebirth #1, 2016Ethan Van Sciver tags in, and then quickly tags out again on the pencil for the initial Rebirth issue. There’s been tremendous value in his work on these characters since he did the original Green Lantern: Rebirth story in the early 2000s. I’m always impressed by his attention to little details. His images never look real, per se. But there are often enough little details to evoke a feeling of realism, even when he draws weird aliens. Case in point: Our little blue friend in the image above. Look at the little details in his helmet, his five o’clock shadow, the wrinkles in his sleeves. You don’t necessarily notice things like this at first. But go a long way in making Van Sciver stand out.

Various artists start and stop in this book. But the one with the most page time is Robson Rocha. Like Van Sciver, his work is very detailed. His facial work isn’t exactly subtle, but it makes an impact. Jumping ahead a bit, that’s part of what made his work on Green Lanterns #9 so good. His rage-possessed civilians look downright beastly. So much that at certain points he nearly veers into comedic territory. He also draws Jessica and Bleez a little too sexy at times. But by and large, he’s a solid fit for this series.

This book doesn’t break a lot of new ground in terms of the Green Lantern mythos. But the buddy cop format is charming as hell, and the characterization of Jessica Cruz is terrific. Relative to some of DC’s other offerings, Green Lanterns isn’t making a lot of noise in terms of sales. But it’s bound to be a pleasant discovery for readers.

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A DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review – “How Could I Ever Forget You?”

DC Universe: Rebirth #1TITLE: DC Universe: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 25, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Part of the idea behind the 2011 “New 52” reboot at DC Comics was to modernize and simplify the characters and continuity for new readers. They largely succeeded. A lot of great comics were sold, and new readers were given a fresh jumping-on point for the DC Universe.

But lets be honest. If you were a longtime DC Comics fan, you lost a lot more than you gained. The timeline of the DCU was condensed down to five or six years. As such, the characters lost a lot of their depth. Certain characters, relationships, marriages and families were altered, if not erased altogether. As such, this new DC Universe suffered from a lack of heart and emotional connection.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is DC’s attempt to remedy this problem by restoring some of these lost characters, and injecting some much needed love into the proceedings.

A LOT of big things happen in this issue. So lets touch on most of them individually…

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, 2016, Wally West, Barry Allen hugWally West returns, reunites with Barry Allen, warns of a new enemy. Most of us can relate to being forgotten about on some level. It’s heartbreaking. That’s the feeling Geoff Johns taps into when he shows us the plight of Wally West. Lost to time, left as mere kinetic energy in the Speed Force, he’s so desperate to be remembered. Even his former wife replies to his presence with a heart-wrenching: “I don’t know you.” So it’s a genuine tear-jerker when Barry suddenly does remember him, then wraps him in a hug and says: “How could I ever forget you?” After almost five years without Wally, this was every bit the epic reunion it was designed to be.

The explanation we get for the other Wally West, who’s set to become Kid Flash in upcoming issues, is a little corny. Something about them being cousins and both named after their great-grandfather. I’ll grant them that there was no easy way to get out of that scenario. There was bound to be confusion. At least Johns connected them. Hopefully that’ll be a unique meeting eventually.

I’m not clear on what Barry and Wally remember at this point. In this issue, Wally remembers his wife Linda Park, the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, his time with the Teen Titans, and other odds and ends. At least some of that seems to have been transferred to Barry. But Wally also says it’s becoming harder to remember his old life. I imagine more will be revealed in the new Titans series.

Per events in Justice League, also written by Johns, we learn there have apparently been three Jokers. I balked when I first saw this. Having three Jokers seemingly takes away the character’s unique evolution and versatility. Now, instead of one multidimensional Joker, we’ll have three one-dimensional Jokers. That, at least, is my takeaway from the revelation.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Jokers, Ethan Van SciverI am happy, however, that they didn’t give us any names. We didn’t find out The Joker’s real name is Jack Napier or anything like that. My love for The Killing Joke notwithstanding, I like my Joker somewhat de-humanized, conveying the idea that absolutely anyone could be behind that twisted grin. “One bad day” and what not. They may still do that, but hopefully they don’t.

It’s easy to make snap judgments about dramatic reveals like this. (Captain America, anyone?) But ultimately, it’s all about the story they’re telling. The true merit of this twist lies with what they do with it.

Wally reaches out to an elderly Johnny Thunder, who has been searching for the Justice Society. Justice Society got a little out of hand before the reboot. The team was split between two titles. If they’re bringing back the JSA, my hope is the team will be smaller. My question is, if the Society comes back does that mean the timeline gets adjusted so Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and all those characters were indeed active during World War II?

Ted Kord, DC Universe Rebirth #1Partnerships are established between Ted Kord & Jaime Reyes and Ray Palmer & Ryan Choi. Dr. Fate reveals that Jamie’s Scarab is actually magic. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Ted until this issue. Gary Frank perfectly captures that boyish enthusiasm, which is part of what’s so great about Ted. This new partnership with Jaime should make for good comics.

Ray Palmer has a line about Jean Loring in his scene with Ryan Choi, which seems to indicate that Identity Crisis is out of continuity. I’m a big Brad Meltzer fan (mostly). But if we have to abandon Identity Crisis in favor of a more hopeful DC Comics, with some of our favorites back in the picture, I’m okay with that.

Aquaman proposes to Mera. Jackson Hyde returns to the DCU.  Well heavens to Betsy. Marriage is okay again! With the reboot, Superman, The Flash (both of them), and Aquaman all had their marriages retconned. Batwoman was also not allowed to marry her love interest. Arthur at least got to keep his relationship with Mera. This seems to be a very positive step away from the “heroes can’t be happy” approach DC seemingly had in place a few years ago.

Why Jackson Hyde wasn’t a part of the New 52 reboot is a mystery to me. They had spent all that time building him up in Brightest Day, and then he was just gone. Hopefully they can now capitalize on what for years has been a wasted opportunity.

And now, for the biggest reveal of them all…

Batman, WatchmenWatchmen characters are incorporated into the DCU. Dr. Manhattan implicated as the mysterious force manipulating time. Ah, here’s the kicker. I mean, c’mon. We couldn’t have a villain manipulating the time stream somehow. We had to drudge up Watchmen again, as the book and the characters continue to be profitable 30 years after its original publication.

I won’t lie, there’s a certain excitement at the prospect of a post-Watchmen Dr. Manhattan interacting with the DC Universe. Seeing Batman find the iconic Comedian button with the bloodstain, hidden in the Batcave, of all places, was a legit shocker. Even watching Pandora perish the way Rorschach did was kinda cool.

But here’s my big question: Will it be worth it in the end?

The last time DC pulled this crew out of retirement was for Before Watchmen, a line of prequel miniseries’ featuring all the classic characters. It gave us some good stuff, particularly Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen story. But even with all the A-list talent involved, when you look at Before Watchmen cumulatively, you aren’t left with a feeling of justification. The sense that this was worth doing without Alan Moore and arguably taking some of the luster off Watchmen.

I’m really hoping they thought about that before making this move. Is this going to be worth bringing Watchmen out of retirement Especially when we presumably won’t be seeing Dr. Manhattan, and whoever else pops up, in the context of their own world.

DC Universe Rebirth #1, montage, Gary FrankThis oversized issue is divided into four chapters, plus an epilogue. For these various sections, Geoff Johns is working with three of his longtime collaborators. The MVP by far is Gary Frank, who draws chapter 2, and also assists with chapters 1 and 3. His art drips with pure humanity. When Wally bursts in on Johnny Thunder, we can feel the old man’s desperation, heartbreak, and fear. In the scene with Ted and Jaime, Ted’s enthusiasm is contagious. On the other hand, Jaime’s apprehension is palpable, and comes off very natural. Frank also draws the big reveal with Batman and the pin (shown above), and even drew the cover. What an amazing issue for him.

It’s very fitting to have Ethan Van Sciver on the pencil for chapter 1. As the artist on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth, it creates a nice consistency. What’s more, having worked on those books, and contributed to projects like The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, his work inevitably conveys a sense of importance. He very much lives up to that, as its Van Sciver that gives us our first look at the returning Wally West.

In chapter 3, Ivan Reis gives us a gorgeous scene with Aquaman and Mera. But the scene with Wally and Linda, where he’s so sure she’ll remember him and he gets rejected…it’s amazing. Their faces, their body language, it’s just perfect. You can make an argument that this is the most important scene in the issue. The impact of Wally’s failure with Linda makes the scene where Barry saves him that much more impactful.

There’s a certain artistic symmetry to Phil Jimenez drawing the reunion between Barry and Wally. In Infinite Crisis, Jimenez drew Wally and his family disappearing into the Speed Force, as well as Barry briefly emerging from it. Now, he gives us an emotional sequence where Barry pulls Wally from the Speed Force. He was the perfect choice for this moment.

Aquaman and Mera proposalFinally, let’s talk about Geoff Johns for a moment. The guy gets his share of flack these days. He’s got a reputation as Mr. Retcon. And I’ll admit those early Justice League issues where pretty flawed. But by and large, he tells gripping and often emotional stories. In the case of DC Universe Rebirth #1, he and the team give us a much-needed break from the grim and largely joyless DC Comics we’ve come to know since The New 52 began. There’s a place for hope, love, and wonder in this universe. Most readers always knew that. Let’s hope DC never forgets again…

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image Image 3 from pastemagazine.com. Image 3 from observer.com. Image 4 and 6 from observer.com. Image 5 from terrazero.com. 

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A Convergence #0 Review – Cosmic Conversation

STK665787TITLE: Convergence #0
AUTHORS: Dan Jurgens, Jeff King
PENCILLER: Ethan Van Sciver
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 1, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Convergence #0.***

Ready for some cosmic conversation, featuring Superman and pretty much every version of Brainiac that’s ever existed? I know I wasn’t. Come to think of it, I really had no idea what to expect when I picked Convergence #0 up, except for maybe a general prologue for the weekly Convergence event series, which begins next week. We did indeed get a prologue. But didn’t expect this much…dust. And rocks. And sand. And talking. Lots of talking.

Convergence #0 takes place during the Superman: Doomed story arc, as Superman and Brainiac are trapped in a black hole outside of time and space. At this point, Brainiac has seen the scope of the multiverse, and has watched other versions of Superman die numerous times, most notably against Doomsday in The Death of Superman. (“His death would inform your transformation into the Doomsday monster.”) He has thus captured various cities from various timelines across the DC Multiverse, and his holding them captive under various domes. He tells Superman all of this, with the promise that although Superman will forget everything he’s just been shown, he’ll return to Brainiac when the time is right.

blogger-image--1647092081At the end they reveal the real villain for Convergence: Telos. We don’t know much about him at this point. But we do see him lowering one of the domes, as he talks about allowing certain cities to return to the universe, and that only the strong will survive. Via an appendix, DC is nice enough to give us an inventory of all Brainiac’s stored cities. No matter how long you’ve been around the DC Universe, chances are there’s something here for you.

As for Convergence #0, there’s some obviously important information here. I just wish they’d thought of a way to get it to us in a more creative way than just Brainiac telling Superman everything. Not to mention a way that didn’t harken back to Superman: Doomed. For readers that opted out of Doomed (*raises hand*), we start this issue in a confusing place. Readers starting here also don’t know why Superman is mysteriously growing a 5 o’clock shadow as the issue progresses. If we’re trying to bring back readers that were turned off by the New 52, or simply haven’t read a DC comic book in awhile, we’re giving them an awkward start.

Convergence #0, cities, BrainiacAll this being said, Ethan Van Sciver is still an all star. Having him on this issue certainly gives it an epic feel, akin to his work on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth. I can’t complain at all about his renderings of Superman and Brainiac, past and present. And there’s a great two-page spread of Brainiac (one of them, anyway) bending this weird reality to his will, and showing Superman some of the city’s he’s collected. It’s certainly enough to make you wish Van Sciver was sticking around. Sadly, he’s not.

The main Convergence series is still very much worth checking out if you’re interested in where the DCU is heading in 2015. And obviously we’re in for some cool time-bending stories. But from a writing standpoint, this didn’t wet my appetite as much as it wanted to.

Image 1 from infinitecomix.com. Image 2 from comicsbeat.com.

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A Green Lantern: Revenge of the Black Hand Review – The Line Between Hero and Villain…

Green Lantern, Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black HandTITLE: Green Lantern, Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke, Renato Guedes, Ethan Van Sciver.
COLLECTS: Green Lantern #712, Green Lantern Annual #1

FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99

RELEASED: January 2, 2013

While the Blackest Night throwback is a high point in the latest Green Lantern volume, the real draw is one of the most heinous villains in all the universe attempting to to be a hero again. Or at least his version of a hero.

When Sinestro is abducted by the Indigo Tribe, Hal Jordan must travel to the tribe’s homeworld of Nok out to rescue him (remember, Sinestro’s a Green Lantern again). Once there, he not only learns about the origins of the Indigo Tribe, but about how they’re connected to the Guardians, as well as Abin Sur. He also finds Black Hand, his old nemesis, and the harbinger of the Blackest Night. Before it’s all said and done, Hal Jordan and Black Hand will collide, and the dead will rise again.

Green Lantern Vol. 2 Revenge of the Black Hand, image 1Geoff Johns continues to tease Sinestro’s redemption in Revenge. While he’s hardly an upstanding citizen at this point, Johns tugs at our heart strings through Sinestro’s relationship with his protege-turned-nemesis Hal Jordan. At one point, while under the influence of an indigo ring, he flat out tells Hal: “I’m sorry for all I’ve done to you.” We also flash back to the relationship he had with Arin Sur, Abin Sur’s sister. We see his heart break when she dies, and how much pain he’s still in over her. And perhaps most importantly, we see that Hal has hope for him. Is Sinestro about to side with the angels full time? Probably not. But that’s not necessarily the point. In expanding Sinestro’s backstory like this, Johns is turning him into a tragic figure. The type of villain to be hated and feared, but also pitied for all he’s lost. He’s allowing us to relate to the character on a more human level, and as such invest in and root for him. Thus, when he inevitably heels on us again, there’ll be a heart-wrenching, and all the more tragic aspect to it.

Green Lantern Annual #1, 2012, interiorWhenever I think of Black Hand, I can’t help but think of 2009′s Green Lantern #43, which was also done by Johns and Doug Mahnke. The issue revamped William Hand’s origin story, portraying him as a bizarre character fixated on corpses and the dead since early childhood. The most memorable part of the story was a full page shot of Black Hand laying in a puddle with some skeletons, as peaceful as if he were in his own bed, caressing one as if it were a loved one. Johns and Mahnke gave the character a creepy, almost perverse vibe that’s fascinating to read about. We get more of that here, as Black Hand resurrects his family and seats them around the dinner table, taking to them as if they were alive. There’s a great sci fi/horror feel to it all, which works great in a Green Lantern story.

While all this is happening, the Guardians are plotting against not only Hal Jordan and Sinestro, but the entire Green Lantern Corps. As far as this book is concerned, it’s a bit early to judge that particular plot line. What we see does look interesting, but I’m reserving my judgment until we’ve seen more.

Green Lantern #7, 2012, Sinestro punch outWhile this is likely the best book Johns has done in the last few years, it’s not flawless. The backstory of the Indigo Tribe and how they’re connected to Abin Sur, the Guardians going crazy, etc., all seems a little too convenient from a plot standpoint. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, the Hal Jordan we see in this book doesn’t quite match up with the one we see in Justice League. I’d be more forgiving on that front of Johns weren’t writing both. It seems like the guy we see hear is the real Hal Jordan, and the guy in that other book is being forced to act like a cocky douche to fit a traditional team book role.

On the plus side, I gained a new respect for Doug Mahnke as a result of Revenge. Three things in particular stood out to me here from an art standpoint. The first is the Black Hand content, the second is a two-page shot of Hal punching out Sinestro on a balcony (shown above), after he interrupted a quiet moment between Hal and Carol Ferris. The third is the lovely new character of Natromo, an elderly dwarfish character involved in the inception of the Indigo Tribe.

In terms of the Hal/Sinestro dynamic, we may have to be patient in terms of how that develops. Green Lantern #0 introduced us to Simon Baz, the newest Green Lantern of Earth, and his adventures with the ring. But thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the immediate future. That’s a very good thing.

RATING: 8.5/10

Images 1 and 2 from comicbooked.com. Image 3 from gamespot.com. 

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A Review of The Flash: Rebirth – The Silver Age Icon Returns

The Flash: Rebirth, coverTITLE: The Flash: Rebirth
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Ethan Van Sciver
COLLECTS: The Flash: Rebirth #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE: April 28, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So you’re a superhero who’s been dead for several years. The world goes on, life goes on. Then suddenly, you’re back….What do you do?

If Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver have something to say about it, you’ll probably star in a 6-issue Rebirth miniseries. Hoping to recapture the success they found with Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2004, the duo launched The Flash: Rebirth in the aftermath of Barry Allen’s return to his role as The Flash in Final Crisis.

But The Flash: Rebirth is a completely different animal. The Barry Allen character, who unofficially started the silver age of comics with his first appearance as The Flash in 1956, had been dead for about 25 years. He was killed off in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even so, he remained a perennial fan favorite, and was occasionally seen in flashback and time travel stories. But Rebirth made it official: Barry was back, and this story served as his welcome home.

The Flash: Rebirth #2, Ethan Van Sciver, Barry AllenUnfortunately, Barry isn’t entirely convinced his return is a good thing. Having been trapped in the Speed Force (the energy source that other Flash characters have tapped into for their speed) for several years, he is convinced that he “wasn’t supposed” to come back. But unbeknownst to Barry, one of his enemies is plotting against him. As the Speed Force begins to behave erratically, Barry Allen must once again embrace his role as the scarlet speedster if he and his loved ones are to survive.

One of the great things about Geoff Johns’ writing is that he’s truly able to grasp the ins and outs of the characters he works with, and what they represent. In Rebirth, he’s able to add on to what readers know about Barry Allen, without tarnishing any of the history.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the character, Johns quickly points to Barry’s emotional soft spots. He spotlights his relationship with his beloved wife Iris, and adds a new heart-wrenching aspect to his backstory. This provide the reader with an emotional tether to Barry, drawing into the story line whether they know him or not.

The story’s biggest problem lies with the complexities involving the Speed Force, and how it ties into everything. What the Speed Force is and does, how it’s used, how it effects the characters, these are all things that Johns needs to explain within the context of the story. He does it, but the information is all a bit much to take in. I actually had to re-read several passages just so I could fully understand what was happening.

The Flash: Rebirth, Flash Family, Ethan Van SciverAlso, while it doesn’t necessarily hurt the story, we end up with a LOT of speedsters in the picture at the end of the book. In addition to Barry Allen, we have Wally West (who took over as The Flash after Barry died), Kid Flash, Jay Garrick (the original Flash from the 1940’s who still his his powers), Wally’s daughter, in addition to two other returning characters. That’s SEVEN characters with super-speed powers. Johns did great character work with Barry here, but the idea that he’s been restored to his role as the DC Universe’s primary speedster comes out tarnished.

Van Sciver’s art hits the mark, as usual. He has the unenviable task of drawing both Barry Allen and Wally West in their Flash uniforms, which are basically identical. To his credit, there’s seldom confusion as to who is who, but Johns throws him a plot point at the end to help him out a bit.

Did DC Comics need to bring Barry Allen back? No. Still, amid the confusion (and perhaps redundancy) Johns and Van Sciver made me appreciate that he is back. Despite its flaws, The Flash: Rebirth is, at it’s core, a story about a man coming to grips with the circumstances life has dealt him, and appreciating the wonderful things he has.

RATING: 6.5/10