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A Dark Nights: Metal #1 Review – More of the Same

TITLE: Dark Nights: Metal #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 16, 2017

***Warning: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like every time I review something Scott Snyder writes I have to go through the same spiel: I generally like his stuff, but he does certain things that make me mad as hell. As such, it’s difficult for me to look at Dark Knights: Metal in an unbiased manner.

In truth, I love the premise of Metal. It involves Batman, and later the entire Justice League, trying to unravel the ancient mystery behind Nth Metal. DC Comics aficionados will recognize that term from Hawkman’s mythology. This leads to the theory that Nth Metal came from a “Dark Multiverse,” existing outside the multiverse we’re familiar with. From this Dark Multiverse, a full scale invasion force is coming. A war with these dark forces is about to begin. And apparently, the one who will open the door to this Dark Multiverse is none other than Batman, who’s been looking into this Dark Multiverse for quite some time. As we’re told at issue’s end, the nightmare has only just begun…

I commend Snyder for weaving classic DC Comics elements into the fabric of Metal. Not just the perennially under-appreciated Hawkman, but the Challengers of the Unknown and the Metal Men as well. We even get little nods to places like Dinosaur Island. The League even travels to Blackhawk Island for briefing. It makes the whole Dark Multiverse concept feel a little more organic. We even get an appearance by a famous Vertigo character as part of our cliffhanger.

Kendra Saunders, leader of the Blackhawks and the reincarnated Hawkgirl (long story), exposits that iconic DC settings like Themyscira, Dinosaur Island, and Nanda Parbat exist in areas “where cosmic energy conducted through the Earth’s metal core cancels itself out, creates a kind of ‘static’ that disrupts space-time.” I’d never heard this explanation before. I assume it’s a Snyder original. I love it. It answers a question I never knew I had…

It’s great to see Greg Capullo back in the DC Universe. He, inker Jonathan Glapion, and colorist FCD Plascencia give us an opening sequence with the League in a battle arena on a new Warworld. Naturally, it’s ruled by Mongul. Capullo puts our heroes in armor that is ironically attuned to their weaknesses. Thus, they’re essentially fighting as regular civilians. I’d say there’s at least a 50/50 chance we see these made into toys eventually.

My two favorite pages in the issue are back-to-back. The first is when we see Red Tornado attack the League on Blackhawk Island. Capullo’s take on the character’s cyclone powers are interesting, as they engulf the entire scene. Then on the very next page, we get a shot of Batman riding a dinosaur off the island (shown below). Hokey? Yes. But Capullo plays it somewhat comedically. Plus, there’s a giant dinosaur in the Batcave. So in a ludicrous way, it fits.

Alright, now I get to poo-poo the Snyder party like I always do. Let’s talk about robots, shall we?

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have a thing about big (sometimes giant) Batman robots. I’ve talked at length about this before. They just can’t help themselves. So it really should have come as no surprise that in the Warworld arena, the Justice League is fighting a bunch of giant robots attuned to their specific abilities. And of course, what’s better than the League bunch of giant robots? The League taking control of the robots and forming one GIGANTIC robot! Justice League Megazord, power up! OMIGOD U GUYZ!!!!!!!

On it’s own, this is fine. A little stupid for my tastes (And that’s coming from a Power Rangers geek!), but fine. But when you take in to account how much these guys have used big awful Batman robots before, it’s actually laughable. Honestly, did we have to go with the giant robots again? I understand the story is called Metal, and it behooved them to go with a mechanical threat. But this scene with Mongul and the Megazord doesn’t connect to the Dark Multiverse stuff anyway. So why not give Capullo and the team something new and fun to draw instead of going back to the giant robot well?

My second big complaint with the Metal story overall has to do with Batman and the “chosen one” narrative. In all fairness, this is a problem that goes beyond Snyder and Capullo. I’ve called it “over-Baturation.” On Blackhawk Island, Kendra warns of a beast as old as the universe itself, Barbatos, arriving from the Dark Multiverse through a human doorway. Based on clues she’s discovered, she theorizes Batman is that doorway. She then tries to spring a trap on him, and thus the Dark Knight escapes on said dinosaur.

Metal is meant to be Batman-centric. Yet another milking of DC’s biggest cash cow. As a DC reader, I’m used to that by now. I just wish they didn’t have to portray Batman and the Wayne family as a cosmic centerpiece to so many things. From an in-story perspective, it makes him more prominent than he should be. Even as a founding member of the Justice League, the world’s greatest detective, and all that stuff, what is Batman at the end of the day? A street-level crime fighter. So the idea of a demonic entity from another universe depending on him to open a cross dimensional gateway doesn’t fit for me. Why can’t Bruce just be investigating the Dark Multiverse, and let the bad guys in by accident? Why does it have to be a prophecy?

Hell, why is it that the Dark Multiverse creatures we’ve glimpsed all seem to be twisted and evil amalgamations of Batman and various Justice League characters? (For instance, the spin-off Batman: The Murder Machine is about an evil Batman/Cyborg blend. Batman: The Red Death is Batman/The Flash, etc.) For that matter, why can’t we use this Metal aesthetic on other characters and not drag Batman into it? Yes, he has the iconography of a demon, and is thus more suited to it. But are you telling me no one has any kind of take on a “metalized” Wonder Woman? How about Cyborg or Aquaman? You can make your event Batman-centric without having to put Bat-ears on everything!

Does everything have to be a giant Batman circle jerk?

*whew* Okay. I’m done. No, seriously. I am.

In the end, I’m sure DC will make decent bank on Metal, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of cool creativity on display. The heavy metal inspired tonality is something fairly different for a superhero event comic. Greg Capullo’s art may be worth the price of admission on its own. But as far as I’m concerned, for better or worse, Metal represents more of the same from Snyder and Capullo. A lot of awesome ideas, mixed in with a lot of infuriating ideas. And giant robots. Lots of giant robots.

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A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2 Review – Hello, Goodbye

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2TITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 6, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

When I reviewed Batman #40, a few people got on my case for my subtitle being “Dead Again.” It was, “Spoilers, man! Spoilers!”

Well, take a look at your primary cover for Nightwing/Oracle #2. Not much I can do about this one, kids. So don’t blame me!

Indeed, Gail Simone gives us a little bit of closure on pre-New 52 Nightwing and Oracle here. But not before a showdown with Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman. It may seem like Dick Grayson is fighting alone. But as always, Barbara Gordon has more than a few resources to call on, including one that longtime Simone fans will very much appreciate.

Naturally, much of what I said about the first issue still applies here. So lets hit our bullet points…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, Jan Duursema– Nightwing’s costume is too overdone, much akin to what was done in Injustice: Gods Among Us. That said, it’s great to see him back in blue.

– Duursema nails the older version of Barbara. It’s awesome to see her back, and in the hands of the writer who arguably wrote her the best.

– Hawkman and Hawkwoman have a nice bird motif that’s very fitting for Gail Simone, but other than that, I’m not hugely invested in them as villains.

It’s interesting that the Chip Kidd-designed variant covers for both Nightwing/Oracle issues featured art by Don Kramer. Jan Duursema’s art definitely has a Don Kramer vibe to it at times. For whatever reason, I see it whenever a character it looking toward the camera with a determined look. Oracle, Nightwing, and our two Thanagarians all have moments like that. It brings back fond memories of Kramer’s runs on Nightwing and Detective Comics.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2, BarbaraThis issue has a surprise guest, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not going to tell you who it is (Spoilers, dude!). It’s a nice surprise, but there is once drawback to it. In order to conceal this person’s identity from the reader for a bit, Simone has them dressed in brown robes during a scene with Oracle. That struck me as an odd choice. Why the robes? Is there a risk of them being recognized by the Thanagarians? Even if there is, why keep the disguise on while you’re in a private setting with Oracle? That was a head-scratcher.

The wedding of any incarnation of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon is obviously pretty cool to see. Sadly, we only see it for half a page. But it’s still pretty impactful to not only see our couple in a matrimonial setting, but some pretty notable guests in the foreground. One might argue this is a moment we should have gotten several years ago. Then again, DC’s recent track record with superhero marriages isn’t exactly stellar…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2My only nitpick with the wedding scene is Barbara’s dress. That’s a weird thing to pick at (especially considering I’m a guy), but it bothered me a bit. On the cover, Jill Thompson draws Barbara wearing a white dress with something of a computerized texture, which obviously wraps around and envelopes most of the image. In the issue, the lower portion of Barbara’s dress has the same texture. For yours truly, that ventured into hokey territory. It’s simply a matter of something working in the context of a cover, but not in the actual issue.

And with that…here they go, out of our lives again. DC brings them back, just to put them right back on the shelf. *sigh* It’s painful to see this happen to Oracle in particular. That character had so much depth to her, and on top of that, she was so damn cool. Obviously, a lot of good has come from DC giving Barbara her legs back and making her Batgirl again. The recent issues by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr come to mind immediately. But many longtime fans like myself have never stopped missing Oracle.

What can I say? It still hurts, damn it. It still hurts.

Image 1 from bleedingcool.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from shadowneko003.tumblr.com.

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A Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 Review – Under the Dome

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1 coverTITLE: Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1
AUTHOR: Gail Simone
PENCILLER: Jan Duursema. Cover by Jill Thompson.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Having Gail Simone write Oracle again is almost worth DC not publishing any New 52 content for two months. That’s how badly this character has been missed. At least by me. And to see Nightwing wearing blue again, as opposed to red? Bonus!

Via the events of Convergence, Gotham City in the pre-New 52 Gotham City has been under a mysterious impenetrable dome for a year. Some, like Dick Grayson/Nightwing, have adapted to the situation as best they can. Others, like Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Mr. Freeze, have begun to lose their resolve. The city is struggling to survive amid depleted resources. Oddly enough, Poison Ivy has supplied the city with produce. (“I think of the times I jailed her, laughing about it, and I’m ashamed.”) But as Dick is preparing for a monumental moment in his relationship with Barbara, the dome comes down, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman of the Flashpoint universe are looking for a fight. And while Oracle might not be much of a physical challenge for the super-powered Thanagarians, they would be fools to underestimate her…

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #2The notion of Barbara losing her hope is obviously off-putting. This is a character that’s been through so much already. Not just with the loss of her legs, but everything that’s happened to her father, and her discovering that her brother is a psychopath. This development in a character so famously full of resolve is hard to swallow at first. But Gail gets us there. It does make sense that a character whose passion in life revolves around the flow of information would grow depressed being cut off from the world at large for a year. To the best of my recollection, she’s never been in a situation quite like this before.

From an artistic standpoint, this is very much the Oracle we remember. She’s a bit older, with the longer hair and the familiar glasses. We also get her narration via familiar green text boxes. It’s all wonderfully familiar.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle #1, NIghtwing, Mr. FreezeOn the downside, while it’s great to have Nightwing’s blue V-stripe back, the rest of his costume is a disappointment. It’s very overdone, complete with built-in abs and shoulder pads that don’t really make sense. It’s very much in line with what we’ve seen from Injustice: Gods Among Us and the Arkham games. I gave DC a lot of crap over their putting red into the New 52 Nightwing costume, the artists on that book were able to maintain the costume’s sleekness most of the time. This one just seems too…lumpy.

I’m not hugely invested in Flashpoint Hawkman and Hawkwoman being the bad guys in this book. But it makes sense, what with the whole bird motif. The ending was enough to get me to come back for part two next month. The impression we get is that next issue, Oracle strikes back. That, along with Nightwing being in the mix, is more than enough to get me to put down another $3.99.

Image 1 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.

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A Brightest Day, Vol. 3 Review – Prelude to a New Dawn

Brightest Day, Vol. 3TITLE: Brightest Day, Vol. 3
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi
PENCILLERS: Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado
COLLECTS: Brightest Day #17-24
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $29.99
RELEASED: September 7, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So here we have it: The third and final Brightest Day collection, which ties everything together, and lets us know who Earth’s ultimate champion is. I’m going to stay spoiler free here, but I talked at length about the big reveals at the end when Brightest Day #24 was originally published. So that’ll be your fix for spoilers on this one.

When we open the book, all the characters are in the middle of their respective storylines. Boston Brand (Deadman) reunites with his only living relative, Hawkman and Hawkgirl do battle alongside Star Sapphire in space, Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch race to save Ronnie’s father and Professor Stein, Martian Manhunter continues to be tormented by a most unexpectd foe, and Aquaman and the new Aqualad prepare for what may be the battle of their lives. All the while, the entity that resides within the mysterious White Lantern is becoming more aggressive in preparation for a moment that may decide the fate of the world.

Deadman, Brightest Day #22Until we get to our big reveal at the end, this book is pretty good. In all fairness, while I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, it did make sense given what had been established in Blackest Night and other stories. I found myself wanting to see more from the Deadman story arc, but it’s likely best that things turned out the way they did. If they overdid it, the arc could have been tainted. The Hawkman/Hawgirl story never really did it for me, but it ends on an interesting enough note.

Aquaman and his cast of characters get a nice spotlight in this particular book, as the “Aquawar” story within a story played out. Particularly strong were the moments between Aquaman and Black Manta, two rivals whose contempt for one another rivals that of Batman and The Joker (yep, I said it). Aquaman and the new Aqualad, Jackson Hyde, also have a few interesting moments together, which leads me to believe the two will have an interesting partnership.

This book has what some would consider to be an all-star team of artists. Ivan Reis’ work with Johns has been well publicized, and he delivers yet again here. Ardian Syaf continues to have strong showings (despite his talent being wasted on that damn Grounded story). Those two turn in the strongest performances here in my opinion, though the art is great all around.

Brightest Day #24 (2011), Hawk & Dove, DeadmanI’m interested to see if this entire story remains in continuity with the New 52. Apparently, the romance between Dove and Deadman will still be in continuity. And as our mystery savior at the end is getting his own book as well, one can conclude his arc is canon. Firestorm may be as well. To an extent, one can only speculate.

In any event, Brightest Day certainly created a decent amount of momentum for its stars, which may be evidenced by most of the stars getting their own ongoing books this month. Deadman will also be featured in the first story arc of DC Universe Presents. From my perspective, this final volume saw the quality dip a bit, but not much. Brightest Day is a worthwhile venture.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from x-mensupreme.blogspot.com. Image 2 from panelxpanelcomics.wordpress.com.

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