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.

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT Double-Feature, Wonder Woman #759, 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: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #107
AUTHOR: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Eastman.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

The Turtles have an “old days” moment here where they head down to the sewers and fight a bunch of Mousers. It’s just a couple of cutesy lines. But it does serve as a reminder of just how different this series is from the standard TMNT status quo. Instead of four Turtles striking from the shadows, we’ve got five Turtles living openly in a town full of mutants.

As they roam the sewers, the Turtles mix it up with what basically amounts to an undersea monster. It’s played like a horror movie. Kinda fun.

TITLE: TMNT Annual 2020
AUTHOR: Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Adam Gorham, John Rauch & Michael Garland (Colorists), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Kevin Eastman and Fahriza Kamputra (Colorist).
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

This annual mainly serves as a check-in with our villains. Most notably Shredder, who we haven’t heard much from since issue #100. They color his costume purple and silver, like the old cartoon. I won’t complain about that…

As the cover indicates, they’re doing a symbiosis story with Krang and Leatherhead. Yet another example of how this series continues to bring these characters into uncharted waters. Given how much has been done with the Ninja Turtles universe, it’s pretty amazing to see how much hasn’t been done.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #759
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

So we’ve got Mariko Tamaki, who wrote Supergirl: Being Super, and Mikel Janin, one of the stars of Tom King’s Batman run. On paper, this new team should be great.

Their first issue is pretty ground level. Lots of flowery narration about what a hero is, what heroes do, etc. My only big problem is that Tamaki gives in to the temptation of putting Wondie in an everyday situation, shopping for furniture, and making it seem foreign to her. She’s been in “man’s world” for so long, yet she has no idea how to shop for furniture? Yeah, right.

TITLE: Darth Vader #3
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

How many times have we seen Darth Vader cross paths with characters from the prequels and then get all feelingsy? Enough that I rolled my eyes when Captain Typho showed up in this issue.

However, as someone who read Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, I appreciated the inclusion of Sabe and another character from that book. It’s a nice little tie-in that doesn’t take anything away from the story being told here.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #9
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera.
RELEASED:
July 30, 2020

In this issue we finally get into Jason Todd’s origin story, his connection to Batman, etc. It’s not drastically altered from the comics. But it’s altered just enough to distinguish it. I liked what I saw.

Frankly, I hope they portray Jason Todd as having been with Batman for only a short time. In the DCAU I’d like to see him portrayed more as a tragically failed experiment than a lost son. Again, it would be different. But not so much that it’s unrecognizable. That’s the formula that seems to work best.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #52
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrot
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

We’re still following Jason, Zack, and Trini, despite the events of this issue occurring after “The Power Transfer.” Not a bad thing, but not what I expected either. Especially since they’re getting their own book in a few months.

I’m not sure how I feel about the way Jamal Campbell posed Aisha on the cover. It’s like she’s showing off her butt or something…

We introduce a civilian character in this issue who worries about the holding the Rangers accountable for their actions. Sort of a “don’t trust the Power Rangers” mindset. Very curious to see where that goes.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #9
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

In almost 20 years, I can count the number of Ultra-Humanite stories I’ve read on one hand. So this story is cool for me in that sense.

This issue, and this team, have a really nice energy. Joshua Williamson is often hit-or-miss. But he, Clayton Henry, and Alejandro Sanchez make for a winning combination with these characters. Not a perfect combination per se, but a winning one.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #7
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Jeremy Roberts.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

Our Tom Taylor original characters get a new team name in this issue: The Revolutionaries. Not bad. I don’t know how much of a life they’ll have out from under the Suicide Squad name. But still, not bad.

For at least one issue, Taylor brings Floyd Lawton’s young daughter into the sandbox and gives her a a bow and arrow and a hero name: Liveshot. She almost reminds me of a kid version of the Kate Bishop Hawkeye. Interesting…

TITLE: Billionaire Island #2
AUTHOR: Mark Russell
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 2, 2020

It seems that in addition to the absurdly rich, Billionaire Island is home certain rich, famous, and disgraced. We get an actual Kevin Spacey cameo in this issue. Yes, I wretched. But it’s also a funny little moment.

We haven’t gotten into the bloodshed yet. But the book does crank up the action a little bit with this issue. Something tells me it’s going to be worth the wait.

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

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

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Suicide Squad #1 Review – Life on the A-List

Suicide Squad #1, 2016, cover, Jim LeeTITLE: Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Jason Fabok. Cover by Lee.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 17, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Even with the movie, the idea of Jim Lee working on a Suicide Squad book seems bizarre. This is the man who broke records with X-Men, set a new standard for Batman, and ushered Justice League into a new era. He’s the master of the modern American superhero epic. He’s synonymous with A-list characters and stories. So to see him work on mostly B and C-list characters is an interesting change. Still, it’s great to see new art from Jim Lee.

Even when he’s drawing Killer Croc nearly drowning in his own vomit.

A rogue Russian state is in possession of a cosmic weapon. Amanda Waller calls in Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad to either steal or destroy it. But to avoid detection, the team must drop in from space. But it turns out the squad wasn’t made for space travel…

Our team line-up is the same as the movie’s, minus a few: Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and the Enchantress. Plus Rick Flag and Katana working directly for Waller. Also, Belle Reeve Prison now has a “Select Your Players” feature, in which inmate containers/cells can be retrieved via crane. There are many, which invites theories about who else Waller could select for the Squad. (Black Manta? Deathstroke?)

Suicide Squad #1, 2016, Jim Lee, group shotThe issue doesn’t let Lee be as dynamic as he often is. We do get a cool group shot of the team (shown left), with Harley wearing a cutesy “Rebirth” t-shirt. But the big action sequence of the issue is the team sitting in their spacecraft as it crashes into the sea. I expected something higher octane, akin to what we saw in Justice League.

The trade off, however, is that we get a nice character moment for Rick Flag, a character conspicuous by his absence in the New 52verse until Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1. Flag was cast as the incorruptible hero with a heightened sense of responsibility for his fellow soldiers. Thus, after Croc gets sick in the spacecraft, Flag undoes his restraints and tries to save Croc from drowning in vomit. This sequence, even more than what we saw in Rebirth, distinctively sets Flag apart from his teammates. He’s loyal to a fault.

 Lee also didn’t have as many pages as he usual. DC’s trick for keeping Lee on deadline this time around is reducing his page count, and giving him bulked back-up stories. This issue is about 60% Lee, and 60% Jason Fabok, as we get a story under the banner of “Personnel File: Deadshot.” I can only assume this will be an ongoing theme for the foreseeable back-ups. Predictably, Deadshot’s revamped origin has echoes of the movie. Batman is involved, and we heavily emphasize Floyd Lawton’s daughter Zoe.

Suicide Squad #1, 2016, Jason FabokJason Fabok has cited Jim Lee as an influence, so I imagine it’s quite a thrill to for him to have his work next to Lee’s. Comparatively, Fabok’s pages come out more polished and clean, while Lee’s work is a bit sketchier than usual. Fabok’s colorist Brad Anderson works with a darker palette, which fits with the more emotional tone, not to mention much of the story taking place in Gotham City. If Lee’s job is to deliver an action-packed “A” story, while Fabok handles the quieter and perhaps more emotional “B” stories, we may have a winning combo on our hands. In that sense, the contrast in styles works very well.

Question: Why is Katana working with the Suicide Squad all of a sudden? Yes, that’s how it was in the movie. But how did it happen in this universe? Maybe that’s a question for a future back-up.

Also, i guess we’re discarding the whole meta-bomb in China thing from Rebirth? Too bad, I liked that story.

If the object of Suicide Squad #1 is to lure in movie viewers and entice them to read future issues, then I’d call it a mild success. I was left wanting more action on Jim Lee’s end. Whether that leaves newcomers anxious for the next issue, or disappointed overall, remains to be seen. But there’s potential here, and they’ve got me coming back at the very least.

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