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.

A Batman/The Flash: “The Button” Review – Take the Good with the Bad

TITLE: “The Button”
AUTHORS: Joshua Williamson, Tom King
PENCILLERS: Jason Fabok, Howard Porter
COLLECTS: Batman #2122The Flash #2122
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
TENTATIVE COLLECTION PRICE: $19.99
COLLECTION RELEASE: October 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I want to like what I’m seeing here. And I guess I do, for the most part. I just have to turn a certain part of my brain off. Namely, the part that registers guilt about a company cashing in on imagery and characters from a landmark story without their creator’s blessing.

After months without any leads relating to the mysterious button Batman discovered during the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the Dark Knight gets a surprise visitor: The Reverse-Flash. But what’s his connection to the Button? Where does it come from? How does it connect to the apparent changes made to the timeline? And how does all of this somehow involve the world of Flashpoint?

“The Button” doesn’t give us any answers. But it does wet your appetite for the just-announced Doomsday Clock event in November. It also manages to tug at your heartstrings with some pre-New 52 imagery and characters. So it does what it’s supposed to do. We even catch a little glimpse of Dr. Manhattan at the end…sort of (shown below).

While we’ve known about the DC Universe/Watchmen stuff for about a year now, I still feel dirty when I see the Watchmen imagery. It doesn’t do much good to complain about it, as what’s done is done. But considering what an achievement Watchmen was, and how revered it is to this day, without Alan Moore’s blessing there’s a certain lack of purity here.

Our inciting incident occurs when the button comes into contact with the Psycho-Pirate’s mask, causing the Reverse-Flash to materialize in the Batcave. After a fight, Batman and the Flash attempt to trace the button’s unique radiation to locate it’s source using Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill (Yup, that’s a thing.) After the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot came and went in the mid-’80s, the Psycho-Pirate was the one character who retained his pre-Crisis memories. I assume Reverse-Flash’s reemergence has something to do with that memory retention. There’s no other explanation…is there?

“The Button” definitely gives us the vibe that this New 52 continuity we’ve been in for the past several years is an injustice perpetrated by Dr. Manhattan. Several years have been from the timeline, forcefully robbing our characters of their memories and in some cases their very existence. We check back in with Johnny Thunder, who at one point cries, “We lost the Justice Society! It’s all my fault!” We also see Saturn Girl of the Legion of Superheroes, who’s screaming about a future only she knows about. As Batman and Flash make their way through the timestream, we see glimpses of events from Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, and other stories that have seemingly been out of bounds for the New 52.

Then there’s the big surprise in the final issue: Jay Garrick’s brief return. Jay comes back much the way Wally West did in Rebirth, but is unable to find a tether to reality the way he did. He’s seemingly jerked back into non-existence via some familiar blue energy.

There’s a surreal and almost meta element to seeing characters like Jay and Wally pine to come back. Jay has a line, “They took everything from me, Barry. I don’t know how. I don’t know why.” Odd as it may sound, it feels like he’s talking about DC itself, doesn’t it? I’ve enjoyed the DC Rebirth initiative as much as anybody. But it does entail the company eating some crow. Yes, we’re happy to see so many familiar elements back in our books. But who took them away to begin with? Would they have gone through with the reboot if they knew they’d be backtracking it just four years later?

Oddly enough, the emotional meat of the story isn’t so much the return of Jay, or the drama of what’s been lost. It comes in when our heroes accidentally find themselves in the Flashpoint universe, and they come across that reality’s Batman, Thomas Wayne. Thus, we get a reunion of sorts between father and son, each Batman in their own world.

We’ve seen stories where Bruce somehow gets to talk to his parents again. Whether they’re ghosts, visions, or what not. But Batman #22 gives us two unique moments that manage to really hit home. The first is when Bruce tells Thomas, “You’re a grandfather. I have a son.” For older fans, that’s a really strong, relatable moment. The second comes as the Flashpoint sequence is ending. In their final moments together, Thomas asks Bruce not to be Batman anymore, and to instead find happiness. That’s a really compelling use of the Flashpoint Batman. I wasn’t expecting it here, but it creates a hell of a potential conflict for down the road. Can Bruce continue his crusade now?

Jason Fabok handles the Batman side of things, and handles them quite well. You can’t deny quality when you see it. His work has a definite epic quality to it, and is very much worthy of what we see here. The Flash issues are pencilled by Howard Porter, who I have a lot of respect for. That being said, his style has never really been my cup of tea. As cool as the time stream sequence in The Flash #21 is, Porter’s work gives it a certain awkwardness. For instance, there’s a panel where we can almost see up Batman’s nose. Not necessarily what we’re supposed to be looking at, is it?

“The Button” is a fine bridge between DC Universe Rebirth #1 and Doomsday Clock. For some of us, there’s going to be a lot of Watchmen-related discomfort on the horizon. But it looks like we’ll be getting our share of feel-good moments too. Take the good with the bad, I guess…

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A Suicide Squad: The Black Vault Review – Squad vs. Zod

suicide-squad_-the-black-vaut-jim-lee-coverTITLE: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: The Black Vault
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Philip Tan, Jason Fabok, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1Suicide Squad #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: February 28, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If The Black Vault isn’t the most important and most notable Suicide Squad book DC has ever published, then it’s absolutely in the top two. This is the biggest that Suicide Squad has ever felt, and may be the best its ever looked.

Thanks to the movie, the Suicide Squad “brand” has never had more eyes on it. The Black Vault features almost all of the characters from the movie, including a few pages of the Joker. So it’s bursting with crossover appeal for casual moviegoers. With this in mind, DC loaded the book up with A-list artists, most notably Jim Lee. Indeed, the master of the modern superhero epic is drawing characters like Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, and the Enchantress. Talk about something you don’t see every day…

Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad, is a black ops group assembled by government agent Amanda Waller. Comprised primarily of imprisoned supervillains, the team is sent on covert missions. They serve as both soldiers, and built-in patsies. Should they refuse an order or become compromised, Waller detonates a nanite bomb in their skulls. Like the movie, in The Black Vault our team consists of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and the Enchantress. They’re accompanied by Colonel Rick Flagg and Katana.

suicide-squad_-the-black-vault-harley-quinn-jim-leeTheir latest mission sees our heroes sent to a secret Russian prison to neutralize a secret doorway to the Phantom Zone. In the process, the team meets none other than General Zod.

People can say what they want about Jim Lee’s influence, for better or worse, on DC’s “house style” right now. But when he’s in his element, he’s one of the all-time greats. Lee is at home with the dynamic and the awe-inspiring. As such, it seems like Lee’s work on the book starts out rather slow. He starts on issue #1 and has to re-tread some of the ground covered in the Rebirth issue, specifically Waller’s motivations. He takes us from the team’s home base at Belle Reve Penitentiary to the Russian facility, giving us a few cool shots in the process. He and Rob Williams also have a really fun take on Belle Reve, where the prison cells are plucked and moved by a giant claw arm.

But once Zod enters the story at the end of issue #2, Lee gets to flex his muscles. He makes Zod surprisingly large, literally twice the size of the other characters (save for Croc). But the ultra powerful Kryptonian against these mostly street-level characters makes for a fun fight, particularly when the big guy goes against Katana. At the end of issue #3, we bring in a few other characters to oppose the Squad. But the good stuff is with the general himself. Issue #4 gives us a cool interaction between Zod and Croc, and a nice climactic moment involving Rick Flagg. It’s not Lee’s best work. But it’s still pretty damn awesome.

suicide-squad, Joker, Harley Quinn, Gary FrankThe notoriously deadline-challenged Lee was massaged into Suicide Squad‘s a bi-weekly format with a reduced workload. He only had to produce 12 pages per issue, with the rest going to an oversized back-up story spotlighting a particular team member. I suspect most fans will find Gary Frank’s look at Harley Quinn the most enjoyable. While on a mission with Flag, she struggles with some of her more villainous impulses. These are personified, of course, by the Joker. I’m not in love with Frank’s rendering of Mr. J. But his Harley is delightfully expressive in a way that’s exaggerated, but not quite cartoony. Naturally, this compliments both her character and Williams’ script.

But artistically, Philip Tan gets “Best in Show” as far as these back-ups are concerned. In addition to the Rebirth issue, he does the Katana story for issue #3. Tan shows off his versatility with an anime-inspired look at her origin. The script isn’t the strongest, but Tan and colorist Elmer Santos provide visuals that range from haunting to downright heart-breaking.

Rick Flag gets a lot of quality page time here. The Rebirth issue is essentially about him. Williams writes him as unwaveringly loyal, even to his own detriment. He’s the conscience of the team. A good guy tasked with leading all these bad guys. Flag is easy to root for and empathize with. Considering he’s the least flamboyant and colorful character in this book, that’s a good thing.

General Zod, Suicide Squad #2, Jim LeeOn the other end of the spectrum, Zod is an oversized caricature of himself, spouting lines like…

– “Prostrate yourself before your general, sub-creatures!”
– “I will boil and eat your magic!”
– “I have incinerated your human flesh and reveled in it’s pungent stench!”

I understand humor is a valuable component here. But c’mon, really? You’ve got Harley for that. You’ve got Boomerang for that. We don’t need Zod for that.

On the subject of weird comedy, this book has a recurring bit about Killer Croc throwing up. Oddly enough, it works. Can’t say I ever imagined Jim Lee drawing that.

The Black Vault represents the first time Suicide Squad has been elevated to a top-tier title with A-list talent. That alone makes it one of the most noteworthy stories in the team’s history. And while this isn’t the best scripting I’ve ever seen, Rob Williams knows how to put together a good Suicide Squad story. One can argue the book has never been in better hands.

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

A Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1 Review – The 2016 Playbook

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, cover, Jason FabokTITLE: Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Josh WIlliamson
PENCILLER: Jason Fabok
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 21, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It’s fitting that Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is DC’s last big release of the year. This is essentially a snapshot of the Warner Bros/DC movie playbook for 2016. Of course, it’s a also hook for new readers who’ve seen the movies.

And in a very pleasant development, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is pretty damn good. At least, so far.

When the Justice League learns of Amanda Waller’s Task Force X program, they interrupt a the Suicide Squad’s latest mission to bring them in. Naturally, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and the team aren’t coming without a fight. Meanwhile, several prisoners have been broken out of the Catacombs, “the most top secret prison in the world.” A threat is emerging that may give the Justice League and the Suicide Squad a mutual enemy.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, two-page spread, Jason FabokI think one of the reasons this story works so well is that there isn’t an exorbitant amount of exposition to get through. Yes, we have the typical captions that introduce the characters (i.e. “Deadshot. Expert marksman. Has a death wish.” We also have a two-page scene where the League finds out about the Squad, and we go over why they don’t like them. But other than that, we’re mostly doing the business of the plot. It’s easy to understand why these two groups wouldn’t get along. You don’t need all of the build-up and the layers you would for, say, Civil War or Avengers vs. X-Men. The mere knowledge of the Squad’s existence is enough to prompt a fight.

The only downside to that additional time for character moments is that Williamson’s use of Captain Boomerang for comic relief comes off grating. One thing this book hammers home as much as anything is that ol’ Digger is horny as hell. I guess it makes sense, given he’s in prison. Plus, whenever he goes out he’s got the over-sexualized Harley Quinn with him. But he doesn’t need to be Captain Innuendo. We also have a little exchange where Simon Baz asks, “Aren’t boomerangs a little lame?” Not nearly as lame as that line. Way to go, Simon. Antagonize the murderer who Flash just told you was no joke.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, team shot, Jason FabokThe larger story Williamson is setting up involves a third team, led by our mystery prison breaker…the returning Maxwell Lord, dressed in his Omac Project and Justice League: Generation Lost era garb. Per usual, Lord is hardly a mustache-twirling villain. He’s out to save the world. What that means exactly remains to be seen. But the team he’s assembled (shown below) consists of Lobo, Dr. Polaris, Emerald Empress, Johnny Sorrow, and Rustam. Certainly an…eclectic crew. But they all have one thing in common: They hate Amanda Waller. Considering how expansive the cast of this book already is, we can’t guarantee all these characters will get a chance to shine. But I can definitely appreciate Williams putting a renewed spotlight on some of the company’s more obscure characters.

Jason Fabok is in top form here. As I’ve said previously, his is art has an undeniably epic quality to it. So he’ll always be a solid fit for big event stories like this, or Darkseid War. I compare him to Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, or Ivan Reis in that sense. He’s very much like Lee in the way he makes use of splash pages and two-page spreads that are either explosive, or have a lot of intrigue. His characters also tend to be very charismatic and expressive. Particularly Harley Quinn, despite the over-sexualization. There’s also a really nice splash page where Superman catches Deadshot in mid-air. Those two characters are such a great contrast. That image almost sells the premise by itself.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1, Jason Fabok, two-page spreadBy the way, the country that the big confrontation takes place in is called Badhnisia. I was blown away when I typed that into the ol’ Google machine, and found out it’s actually a long standing country in the DC Universe. A little on the nose, don’t you think?

Lending a certain subtle consistency with other big DC event comics are Alex Sinclair’s colors. Sinclair has worked on big books like Batman: Hush, Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, Flashpoint, Justice League: Origin, etc. Sinclair’s work is always quality, and he’s a tremendous asset.

Based on the solicitations, it looks like the artistic teams on this book will fluctuate as the weeks go by. We’ll see names like Fernando Pasarin, Robson Rocha, and Howard Porter tag in. I can’t say I’m looking forward to those transitions, especially given the quality of what Fabok and his cohorts gave us here. But from a plot perspective, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad starts out strong. Now it becomes a matter of telling a compelling story while balancing all these different characters, and not letting it all become a mess.

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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.

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A Justice League #47 Review – Green Potato Chips and Chemicals

Justice League #47TITLE: Justice League #47
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Jason Fabok
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 30, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A lot has happened since we last checked in with Justice League. The Anti-Monitor and Darkseid fought, Darkseid died, we met the New 52 versions of Mister Miracle and Big Barda, and various members of the League were made “Justice Gods.” Batman is the God of Knowledge (and has the Mobius Chair), Superman is the God of Strength, and Shazam is the friggin’ God of Gods!

So yeah, they’re not quite themselves. Cases in point: Batman and Green Lantern are hanging out at Ace Chemicals, and Superman is trying to kill Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, Cyborg, Power Ring, Mister Miracle, and Big Barda look for answers about The Anti-Monitor from the remaining members of the Crime Syndicate of America. But a very unwelcome surprise awaits them.

Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League #47, Jason FabokJason Fabok is back on the pencil this issue after being absent for issues #45 and #46, tagging out to the awesome Francis Manapul. I’m a big Manapul fan, but this is Fabok’s story. Fabok cites Jim Lee as an influence, and that influence is evident in his work. Like Lee (who coincidentally started this series), Fabok’s art has a certain epic feel to it, which obviously makes him a great fit for this story in particular. But Fabok’s art also adds weight to quieter moments, such as the Batman/Green Lantern moment we open this issue with. Granted, the subject matter helps: Batman in the Mobius Chair, inside the chemical plant where the Joker originated. But Fabok is having a great run on Justice League, really making the most of this opportunity.

I do have one question, though. Can Green Lantern actually eat the chips in that construct (shown above)?

The early solicitations for Darkseid War indicated this event has been in the works since the first issue. Considering what we get in this issue, combined with Johns’ track record on books like Green Lantern, I believe it. This story has touched on much of the continuity the book has established, i.e. Darkseid, Lex Luthor as a member of the Justice League, and now the Crime Syndicate. I wasn’t a huge fan of Forever Evil, but it’s interesting to see these altered versions of the characters. Ultraman’s brief scene with Mister Miracle is interesting, as his body is withered away, and he’s become more of a cowardly weakling. Certainly a stark contrast to how he was when we last saw him. It’s evident the Syndicate will be playing a major role going forward. That’s a risky move, considering how crowded this story already is. But the Syndicate’s presence does have the potential up the epic factor Darkseid War is going for. And with some help from Power Ring, we do see the return of a Syndicate character I’m very happy to have back. So it’s worth a shot.

Justice League #47, Jason Fabok, Ultraman

Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth gets put over nicely in this book, as does her relationship with Superman. It’s refreshing to see how central Diana and her mythology are to this story. Darkseid’s daughter Grail is an Amazon by birth, and she apparently has plans for Steve Trevor…

I’m very grateful this book hasn’t been effected by events outside it’s own pages. For instance, we don’t have the Jim Gordon Batman, Wonder Woman doesn’t have the gaudy David Finch costume, Superman has his costume and all his powers, etc. This is a Justice League worth of something like Darkseid War.

This story seems to get bigger and bigger with each passing month. In addition to all the Justice League issues, we had the various character one-shots (most of which I skipped). A double-sized Justice League Darkseid War Special is also solicited for February. At this rate, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some sort of Crime Syndicate special also gets released. Clearly Johns needs a lot of canvas to paint his latest masterpiece. Which is fine, as long as its worth it in the end. If this issue is any indication, that is indeed the case.

Image 1 from inside pulse.com. Image 2 from comicvinecom. 

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A Batman, Vol. 2: City of Owls Review – Owl City

Batman, Vol. 2: The City of OwlsTITLE: Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Fabok.
COLLECTS: Batman #8-12, Batman Annual #1
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: May 20, 2013

Need to catch up? Check out Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls.

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

I never really took to the Court of Owls. They’re a bunch of hammy ninjas and evil rich people who share an obsession with a nocturnal bird. Maybe it’s because I just don’t buy the fact that there’s this evil cabal secretly running Gotham City for whatever reason. What do they hope to gain? Money? They’re already rich. Power? They could do that without resorting to murdering people and training ninja-zombies. I can almost imagine it: The Court of Owls Political Action Committee (COPAC).

My feelings on the Court of Owls aside, The City of Owls is a decent read. Following a harrowing encounter with the Court in their secret lair, Bruce Wayne suddenly finds himself under attack by a legion of Talons in his own home. What’s more, the Court has sent Talons to target important individuals across the city. Alfred quickly scrambles the Bat-family to try and save as many as they can, but who will win the “Night of the Owls?” More importantly, who’s really behind it all?

Batman #8, Greg CapulloEasily the best thing about this issue is the build-up and suspense. I have a renewed appreciation for Snyder’s skill in building momentum. It’s almost like climbing the stairs in a multistory building: You march up to the top, get to the landing, and you’re relieved, and then you’re faced with another set of stairs. In this case, Snyder and Capullo demonstrate their ability to make a comic which is visually compelling and interesting to read.

My favorite parts of the book, however, had little to do with the main plot. I most enjoyed the stories with Jarvis Pennyworth and Harper Row. In the Jarvis Pennyworth story, we see how Jarvis met his end while trying to be a good man trapped in a bad situation. The Jarvis story in particular has art by Rafael Albuquerque that fits the mood and story. The coloring and texture have a vibrant darkness to them, sort of like impressionist noir.

The Harper Row story gives us the kind of Batman tale I’ve always really liked: a look at the superhero situation from the P.O.V. of a normal bystander. Harper herself manages to be her own character without becoming a stand-in for Stephanie Brown. The smorgasbord of artists assigned to her issue managed to mesh well, and actually produced a nice effect.

Batman #11, Greg Capullo, Bruce Wayne, Dick GraysonI can’t say Snyder’s Batman is particularly memorable here. I will say, however, that we get a lot of good, classic Batman moments that were enjoyable to read. For instance, when Batman finally gets rid of that outrageous mech suit, and he’s suiting up, he smiles slightly when he puts on the cowl. He’s enjoying getting ready to kick some Talon butt with his own hands. The final scene with Bruce and Dick was a great one, with Greg Capullo’s art capturing the mood perfectly. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Snyder write a run on Grayson or Nightwing, as he seems to have a good grasp on Dick’s personality. We saw this plainly enough back in The Black Mirror.

The thing is, I know that Snyder can do better than what he gives us here. Maybe he could try doing something with the classic villains, like The Riddler or Scarecrow or The Penguin. The Mr. Freeze-centric story in the annual gave us a fine example Snyder’s new approach being applied to older villains and ideas, and it turned out beautifully. I’d like to see more of that from him and his other collaborators, especially Jason Fabok, who draws such beautiful renditions of the classic villains.

The City of Owls wasn’t the best Batman story I’ve ever read, but it’s not bad either. It’s one of those things that just above average. It had the potential to be great, and it succeeds as a page turner, but it’s not going to make it onto my top ten list. At the very least, I admire Snyder and Capullo for trying to shake things up a little, and I hope to find more substantial stuff in the future

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from dccomics.com. Image 2 from popmatters.com.

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A Justice League #40 Review – His Mama Named Him Mobius

Justice League #40, coverTITLE: Justice League #40
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot Kolins, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee. Cover by Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This issue is HILARIOUS.

It’s not meant to be a funny issue, but it’s still hilarious. In putting together this issue about Metron and the Anti-Monitor, Geoff Johns has spotlighted a problem with not just DC Comics, but entertainment in general: Reboots, retcons, and remakes. This is particularly the case in the world of superheroes. We’re now on our third modern cinematic versions of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. And as this issue points out (in so many words), the DC Universe has had five (maybe sixth, depending on what happens in Convergence) continuity adjustments in the last 30 years. Even Marvel is about to do a massive reboot.

Keep all in mind as you read these lines from Metron…

“Although it is unknown to all but a very few, the birth and destruction of the universe has been an ongoing cycle. And overtime, that cycle has accelerated. Because of that acceleration, the fabric of this universe is losing its cohesion. Reality has been taken apart and been put back together too many times.”

Metron, Justice League #40, Justice League #40That last line is hysterical, especially considering the man writing this is the chief creative officer of DC Entertainment! It’s funny, but also somewhat gratifying as a fan, just to see this sort of thing acknowledged in a story. All things considered, I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue this “meta.”

As we learn in Justice League #40, the Anti-Monitor, in his latest conquest to consume universes and realities, has somehow “cracked open” the Multiverse (again, see Convergence) for others to exploit. Metron, the designated observer of the space-time continuum in the DCU, tries to reason with the Anti-Monitor, citing that reality cannot survive another crisis. What follows is a revelation that The Anti-Monitor is on a collision course with one of DC’s most powerful entities. And indeed, the very fabric of reality may unravel.

Evidently the coming conflict (Hint: The story is called Darkseid War.) is a very personal one for The Anti-Monitor. We even find out he has a birth name: Mobius. His involvement suggests cosmic, potentially time-altering consequences in the coming issues of Justice League. Of course, the stakes seem to be just as high in Convergence. How they’re connected, if at all, remains to be seen. But it would seemingly behoove them to connect the two stories in some way.

Justice League #40, two-page spread, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scot KolinsWith an artistic team like this one, it’s no surprise this issue is gorgeous. I’m a huge Kevin Maguire fan, so opening the book with his work was big thrill for yours truly. He has such a gift for the little nuances in human expression, and that’s on great display with Johns goes over some of the Jack Kirby Fourth World stuff, specifically the switch involving Scot Free (later Mister Miracle) and Orion). After nine pages from Maguire, we get a two-page tribute to Crisis on Infinite Earths from Phil Jimenez. This is followed by nods to Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, and Scot Kolins respectively. After that, it’s a two-page callback to Justice League: Origin from Jason Fabok. Jim Lee, one of the true masters of the explosive superhero comic book, finishes it out from there. Most of this stuff is really gorgeous. It’s a tribute not only to the artists, but Johns’ ability to take what is essentially a giant info-dump, and turn it into a gorgeous issue.

Supposedly, this storyline has been planned since the New 52 began. I believe that. Justice League hasn’t been perfect. But it has had a certain flow to it, not unlike Johns’ Green Lantern run. We’ll be seeing a lot of heavy hitters on the pages of this book in the months to come. Let’s hope we see a home run.

Image 1 from dc.wikia.com. Image 2 from waitwhatpodcast.com. 

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A Divergence #1 Review – The New Batman, a New Era for Superman, and More Mobius

Divergence #1 (2015)TITLE: Divergence #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff Johns.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: Free Comic Book Day Release
RELEASED: May 2, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This year, we actually got something nice from DC for Free Comic Book Day. Not only do we have three talented writers matched with three equally talented artists, but the three mini-stories we’re given are actually pretty amazing! Snyder, Yang, and Johns are all in top form today, and if these stories are any indication of what’s to come post-Convergence, then I think I might just take a look.

Divergence #1 seeks to set up the new status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League after Convergence. Batman gets top billing, as he often does these days. In “The Rookie”, Gotham City without Batman has thankfully not descended into chaos and fire following the events of Batman #40. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see Gotham at peace for once, though the narrating TV reporter speaks of unhealed wounds. Indeed, Capullo treats us to a beautiful splash page of a crowd of Gothamites shining miniature Bat Signals in the sky, looking positively sullen.

Batman, Divergence, Greg CapulloBut all hope is not lost! The Hillary Clinton-esque Geri Powers appears to reassure the citizens of Gotham City that a new Batman is about to be born. Who’s behind the cowl this time? I think I’ll leave that for you readers to find out for yourselves. But I’ll tell you this: It’s equal parts astounding and amusing. It was also nice to see the seeming end of Batman through the point-of-view of the ordinary, mundane folks like the reporters and cops. The inner circle of the Bat-family is nowhere in sight, except for the new “Batman.”

In “Exposed,” we’re introduced to Gene Luen Yang’s take on Superman. We start with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen chatting sometime after Clark’s had his secret identity outed by Lois Lane. To top it all off, he’s operating with weakened powers. In my opinion, Superman has behaved in pretty much every single New 52 appearance as an irrepressible jerkhat. This includes Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League, which features Superman and his fellow heroes engaging in petulant bickering while, you know, saving the world.

Divergence #1, Superman, John Romita Jr. So Superman here is kind of a jerk, understandably so. But he then beats up this super-strong thug who tries to kill him and some innocent bystanders. At least he tried to avoid the fight, and he actually saved some people. Jimmy Olsen then plasters pictures of the fight all over social media, and excrement hits the fan for the Man of Steel. He then tells off Lois Lane when she tries to help him.

I like Yang’s story, but I don’t like his Superman. Yang’s a talented writer, but I wish the people at DC would get over themselves and get the message that their heroes don’t all have to be jerks. Superman is one such hero, and he’s a good place to start. At the very least, the story was still pretty fun. Yang’s writing style is free of any grim-and-gritty pretentions, a theme reinforced by the bright, easy-lined artwork of John Romita Jr.

And that brings us to the final story in this issue: “The Other Amazon.” Fittingly enough, this story by Geoff Johns focuses primarily on the lore of Wonder Woman, using it to highlight the origin of The Anti-Monitor, a.k.a. Mobius. The long and short of it is that this rogue Amazon named Myrina gives birth to Mobius, whose father is revealed to us at the end, and we get a preview of Darkseid War. She will apparently be a major player in this latest hullaballoo. I really hope that this will end up being a feather in Wonder Woman’s cap. From what we see here, it certainly looks likes it will be the case.

Divergence #1, Wonder Woman, Jason FabokThe mini-story itself does its job well. It gives us a window into what’s going on in Darkseid War, and makes you want to check it out. It actually looks pretty epic! On the other hand, I’m beginning to get fed up with these Geoff Johns-led super-mega-events. First there was Blackest Night, and then Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, etc. I mean really, when will it end? At least Jason Fabok’s art was nice. It manages to be bright and flashy even when most of the background is dark brownish and grayish.

On the whole, this Free Comic Book Day issue was by no means of low quality. DC really invested a lot into this issue, bringing in some real heavy hitters, and boy, did they hit hard. Divergence #1 gave us three engaging, entertaining stories with lovely artwork and solid writing. This is a far cry from last year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where they just reprinted the origin of Chris Kent. That was just lazy.

Fortunately, Divergence #1 is anything but.

Image 1 from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.wordpress.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter @levi_sweeney, or at his blog, The Stuff of Legend.

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A Detective Comics #27 Review – An All-Star Let Down

Detective Comics #27 (2014)TITLE: Detective Comics #27
AUTHORS: Brad Meltzer, Gregg Hurwitz, Peter Tomasi, Francesco Francavilla, Mike Barr, John Layman, Scott Snyder.
PENCILLER: Francavilla, Bryan Hitch, Patrick Gleason, Neal Adams, Jock, Ian Bertram, Kelley Jones, Guillem March, Graham Nolan, Jason Fabok, Mike Allred, Sean Murphy. Cover by Greg Capullo.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $7.99
RELEASED:
January 8, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Oye. We’re barely into 2014 and DC has already put out another overpriced Batman issue. Well that’s just great…

At least this one is somewhat justified. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight’s first appearance in the original Detective Comics #27 in 1939. As such, the 27th issue of the New 52′s Detective Comics gathers numerous creators of note to pay tribute to the character with a 96-page collection of short stories celebrating Batman and his legacy. Among those along for the ride are iconic artist Neal Adams, current Batman scribe Scott Snyder, Identity Crisis author Brad Meltzer, as well as the book’s current creative team, John Layman and Jason Fabok. The issue also features pinups by Patrick Gleason, Jock, Kelley Jones, Graham Nolan, and Mike Allred.

Detective Comics #27 (2014), Francesco FrancavillaI can’t say I was blown away by anything I saw here, but Francesco Francavilla’s four page contribution to the book, “Rain,” is pretty cool. Ironically, from a plot perspective there’s really not much to it. Batman saves a mother and child from a car wreck during a rainstorm. But at the very end, Francavilla ties it into not only Batman: Year One, but also his own work on Detective Comics. As a longtime fan, and someone who’s still getting over the fact that Year One is being replaced in current Batman canon by Zero Year, I appreciated the respective nods. But it’s Francavilla’s art that really makes “Rain” the standout story in the book. His color palette in particular is perfect for Batman, and the tone of his world.

On the flip side, if you get a chance, Google the variant cover Frank Miller did for this issue. It’s…*ehem*…interesting.

I was sadly disappointed in Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch’s retelling of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the story Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced Batman with in the original Detective Comics #27. Via text boxes, Meltzer lets us read the first entry in the “Journal of the Bat-Man,” as we move through the story. That’s an awesome idea, but the execution gets old after awhile. Most of the entry is just Bruce listing the various reasons why he’s becoming Batman. “I do it because people are afraid. I do it because the world needs heroes. I do it because the police can’t be in every alley.” It goes on like that for most of the story. In his previous work at DC, Meltzer has told some really emotional, touching stories, and I understand this is his attempt at doing that again. But the “I do it because…” method gets irritating after awhile.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, Neal AdamsOddly enough, this issue teams Neal Adams, the man who helped redefine Batman after the camp era in the ’60s, with Gregg Hurwitz, the man who’s been overdoing the horror element in Batman: The Dark Knight. But surprisingly, their story, “Old School,” a story which cracks the fourth wall and deals with Batman evolving over the course of his career, goes fairly well. It’s not fantastic by any means, but it’s more satisfying than Adams’ more recent work on the character (see Batman: Odyssey, and a weird zombie story from Batman: Black and White #1). He even gets to draw Bob Kane at the end, which is nice.

We also get a story from Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram, which seems to take place in the Batman #666 timeline. It sees Damian Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Tim Drake as the pre-New 52 Red Robin, a very elderly Alfred, and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon celebrating Bruce’s 75th birthday with him. Unbeknownst to them, he ends up going out in costume again, which results in what I deem to be a pretty awkward tribute to The Dark Knight Returns (shown above). Mike Barr and Guillem March bring Phantom Stranger into the mix to give Bruce a look at what the world would be like if his parents hadn’t been murdered, and he hadn’t become Batman. It’s a little too short to be as effective as it wants to be, and Phantom Stranger’s last few lines are a little corny. But it’s a decent attempt. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy close out the issue with a story set in the future, which deals with Bruce Wayne clones. Meh.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, birthdayWe also get a story from Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram, which seems to take place in the Batman #666 timeline. It sees Damian Wayne/Batman, Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Tim Drake as the pre-New 52 Red Robin, a very elderly Alfred, and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon celebrating Bruce’s 75th birthday with him. Unbeknownst to them, he ends up going out in costume again, which results in what I deem to be a pretty awkward tribute to The Dark Knight Returns (shown above). Mike Barr and Guillem March bring Phantom Stranger into the mix to give Bruce a look at what the world would be like if his parents hadn’t been murdered, and he hadn’t become Batman. It’s a little too short to be as effective as it wants to be, and Phantom Stranger’s last few lines are a little corny. But it’s a decent attempt. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy close out the issue with a story set in the future, which deals with Bruce Wayne clones. Meh.

The issue isn’t all warm fuzzies, mind you. Layman and Fabok also get 27 pages to kick off the “Gothtopia” crossover, which will apparently branch into Catwoman, Batgirl, Batwing, and Birds of Prey. The story brings us a very different Gotham City where crime and unemployment are at all-time lows, the economy as booming, and the city shines in the light of day. Clad in a black and white costume, Batman and his cohorts are honored as heroes. Bruce Wayne has also allowed romance to enter his life via Selina Kyle, who patrols the streets at his side as Catbird.

Detective Comics #27, 2014, Gothtopia*groans* Catbird? Really? That’s the name we’re going with? We couldn’t come up with anything better for an amalgamation of Catwoman and Robin? Do we even need to give the character a new name? The red shirt is a pretty clear connection to Robin. I think we all get that. So couldn’t we just call her Catwoman? Or anything else besides Catbird? That name puts me in the mood to watch reruns of CatDog

In any event, as you might imagine, things in Gotham City aren’t quite as they seem. And being the detective that he is, Batman is already starting to unravel things by the end of the issue. At this point, I can’t say I’m dying to read the next issue, or add the corresponding tie-ins to my pull list. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, this story seems like a “this is all too good to be real” story, which has been done plenty of times before. Heck, it was done in this same issue. Granted, it’s still early, and we can still explore quite a bit of this new world that’s unfolded before us. But thus far I’m not impressed.

And sadly, that’s pretty much my verdict on Detective Comics #27 overall. In all honesty, Batman fans would be better off checking out recent issues of Batman: Black and White if they’re looking for some good short Batman stories. They’re not all winners, but chances are you’ll find at least one  that’s more fulfilling than most of what we see here.

Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from inter-comics.com. Image 3 from 13thdimension.com. Image 4 from uncanny.ch. 

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