Weekly Comic 100s: Iron Man 2020, Go Go Power Rangers, 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

Oye. Not a good comic book week for yours truly. Not only am I still reeling from the demise of my local shop, but my pull list was uncharacteristically small this week. So what’s a frustrated fanboy to do?

With only three issues in my stack this week, I’ve added a mini-review of Detective Comics #1000, as we learned this week that it was the highest selling comic book of 2019.

Shout out to Jay’s Comics in Gurnee, IL. I’m pretty sure they’re my new shop.

TITLE: Iron Man 2020 #1 (of 6)
AUTHOR:
Dan Slott, Christos Gage
ARTISTS:
Pete Woods, Joe Caramagna (Letterer).
RELEASED:
January 15, 2020

Thanks to a lot of backstory, (which the issue is nice enough to provide us post-script), Tony Stark’s adoptive brother Arno Stark is now Iron Man. Straight out of the gate, he’s got a rebellious robot uprising to contend with.

As someone who hasn’t kept up with Iron Man lately, there’s not much here to excite me. It’s inferred that Arno has sinister intentions. But when friggin’ Doctor Doom has played the role before, everyone else pales from a “villain as the hero” perspective. Ironic, as Dan Slott’s work on The Superior Spider-Man drew me to this book.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #27
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini.
RELEASED: January 15, 2020

Excellent issue, which includes a fight between Tommy and Lord Zedd over the White Ranger powers.

So between what’s happening in this book, and in the main MMPR title, you’re telling me the all-wise Zordon has no idea what’s happening with Jason, Zack, and Trini? The kids he himself chose to be Power Rangers? Like, not even a little? That’s the one aspect of “Necessary Evil” I’m having trouble buying. Other than that, I’m really enjoying what we’re getting from the PR titles right now. The main book was shaky for awhile, but things are definitely back on track.

TITLE: The Low Low Woods #2
AUTHOR: Carmen Maria Machado
ARTISTS: Dani, Tamra Bonvillain (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by J.A.W. Cooper.
RELEASED:
January 15, 2020

Something felt off here. I’m not sure if the issue was paced to fast, or I was having trouble recalling things from the first issue, or the bizarre-but-not-in-a-scary-way thing we see on page three. But I wasn’t into this issue as much as the first.

I do, however, appreciate the way they’ve developed the town of Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania as almost a character unto itself. The town apparently has “an extremely unhealthy relationship with its dead.” As I said last time, it’s very reminiscent of a Stephen King story.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1000
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Denny O’Neil, Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV, Tom King, Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neal Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Tony Daniel, Joelle Jones, Doug Mahnke. Cover by Lee.
INKERS:
Jonathan Glapion, Scott Williams, Derek Fridolfs, Raul Fernanxes
COLORISTS:
FCO Plascencia, Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Tomeu Morey
LETTERS:
Tom Napolitano, Todd Klein, Steve Wands, Simon Bowland, Andworld Design, Willie Schubert, Josh Reed, Rob Leigh, Clayton Cowles
RELEASED:
March 27, 2019

Yeesh. No wonder this issue sold so well. The sheer amount of talent on this thing, many of whom shaped the mythology of Batman, is outrageous.

I was pleasantly surprised to find something I liked in each tale from this 96-page multi-story anthology. But ultimately, it’s Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev that steal the show with “I Know.” An elderly Oswald Cobblepot confronts an equally elderly, wheelchair-bound Bruce Wayne to tell him he’s known his secret for a long time. It’s a quieter story compared to the rest. But it’s no less impactful for it.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

Weekly Comic 100s: Kylo Ren, Doomsday Clock, Batman Finale

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Yeesh. Talk about a loaded week. Big finales, big debuts, and some Star Wars backstory we’ve been waiting years for. And of course, with big issues, come big upticks in pricing. Mostly at DC. They actually had the gall to charge $4.99 for the Tom King Batman finale. Oye.

But next week is largely a throwaway week. (Unless you’re Marvel. Kudos to them.) So I’ll be able to play a little catch up. So next week’s batch will include Family Tree #2, Shazam #9, Star Wars: Empire Ascendant, Batman/Superman #5.

But for now, we’ve got a lot to get to…

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #1 (of 4)
AUTHOR:
Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney. GuruFX (Colors). Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Clayton Crain.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

I was ready to be mad at this issue for giving us stuff we should have gotten in one of the movies. As it turns out, this was benign.

In The Last Jedi, Luke says that after burning down the temple, Ben Solo left with some of his other students. Here, we learn that doesn’t quite mean what it sounds like. We also learn who the Knights of Ren are, which is welcome information.

Not the strongest first issue I’ve ever seen. But the intrigue around what happened to Ben Solo is enough to bring us back for more.

TITLE: Doomsday Clock #12
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTIST: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer).
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

From the beginning, we’ve known this book has been building toward Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan. A symbol of hope against a symbol of cynicism. The implication being that Superman would ultimately get through to Doc, and bring about a change of heart.

We do get a scene like that in this issue. But it’s so brief, and frankly a little contrived, that it was hardly worth the two years of build-up.

That’s right, folks. Doomsday Clock #1 came out in November 2017. It’s taken us more than two years to get here. Really takes the edge off, doesn’t it?

TITLE: Batman #85
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: December 19, 2019

Here we have yet another big finale that ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Tom King is a good writer. I believe that. But for whatever reason, this “City of Bane” story went on way too long, and he ended up overstaying his welcome on Batman. The truly sad part? There’s a good story in here if you rifle through it, and maybe rearrange some pieces.

On the upside? Mikel Janin’s work on Batman has been consistently great. As far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome back in Gotham any time.

TITLE: American Jesus #1
AUTHOR: Mark Millar
ARTISTS: Peter Gross, Jeanne McGee (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by McGee and Frank Quitely.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

A 14-year-old Hispanic girl becomes the modern-day Virgin Mary in a story written by the guy who did books like Kick-Ass and Nemesis? Sure. Sounds harmless enough…

Maybe it’s me, but the art in this book seems a little weird. Like the proportions are just a touch off. It’s minor, just just prominent enough to be noticeable.

There’s a lot of intrigue here, given the sensitive topic and Millar’s penchant for the outlandish. While there’s nothing blasphemous in this issue (at least as far as I can see), I figure it’s just a matter of time.

TITLE: Spider-Man #3 (of 5)
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: December 18, 2019

Tony Stark pops up in this book, and now our story has an Avengers angle to it. That’s disappointing. This is a story about the legacy of Spider-Man, and the strained relationship between a father and son. So why not keep the lens focused on Spidey’s world, and not open things up to the larger Marvel Universe until later? We need to be focusing on Ben right now. Not some wacky take on Tony Stark as an old man.

On the upside, we get further into who Cadaverous is. Good stuff, with Pichelli’s art on point.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis.
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

While it lacks the impact and sizzle of a Jim-Lee-drawn debut, this issue has some intrigue to it. We’ve got three mainstays in Deadshot, Harley, and King Shark. But we’ve also got a big group of new characters. They kind of look like what Marv Wolfman and George Perez would produce if asked to produce a modern team of superheroes.

Mind you, some of them are dead when we close the issue. But if even one of them sticks for a decent amount of time, that’s an accomplishment.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #46
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: December 18, 2019

A few little things I noticed that aren’t out of character per se, but perhaps show how these characters are different in this time period…

– Tommy’s more relaxed demeanor now that they’re seemingly no longer Earth’s last line of defense.

– Kimberly stepping up into more of a leadership role with the three new Rangers.

– Trini’s more sarcastic personality. It’s not how I would write the character, as she’s normally more reserved. But we can chalk it up to her gaining confidence through her experiences as a Power Ranger.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT #100, Dark Knight ReturnsSuperman

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Word recently broke about Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird working together again after all these years for a Ninja Turtles story called “The Last Ronin.” How fitting then, that not only does IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100 comes out this week, but we’ve also got a new Frank Miller book. It’s no secret that Eastman and Laird drew inspiration from Miller’s work in the early to mid ’80s.

Imagine what would have happened if it had the modern Frank Miller back then. Back then you had his work on characters like Daredevil and Wolverine. Now? We’ve got the Dark Knight sequels and Holy Terror. *shudders*

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz (Script)
ARTISTS: Dave Watcher, Michael Dialynas. Variant cover by Eastman.
SUPPLEMENTAL ARTISTS: Mateus Santolouco, Adam Gorham, Dan Duncan, Cory Smith
COLORISTS: Ronda Pattison, Bill Crabtree
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

TMNT #100 is more or less exactly what you want it to be. All recent plot threads converge, and as expected, we see the return of a major villain. Can’t say I expected that death, though. And make sure you don’t miss that epilogue…

The only real complaint I have is that I felt half a step behind because I couldn’t keep up on the Shredder in Hell mini. I suppose that’s the problem when you’ve created a world so rich and dense. You can’t always pack everything into one series. But that’s not necessarily a terrible problem to have.

TITLE: Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child
AUTHOR: Frank Miller
ARTIST: Rafael Grampa. Cover by Grampa and Pedro Cobiaco.
COLORIST: Jordie Bellaire
LETTERERS: John Workman, Deron Bennett
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

My impression when I closed this book was that Miller must either have a ghostwriter working with him, or the editors are heavily involved here. Because this is a surprisingly competent issue to have his name on it in 2019. But if it was mostly Miller? Good on him.

No Bruce Wayne here. Which is kind of odd, but fine with me. Carrie Kelley, Lara, and this Dark Knight universe Jon Kent are more interesting anyway. They’re taking on Darkseid here, and Raphael Grampa’s art looks amazing.

A really good start. But keep your expectations tempered.

TITLE: Superman #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST:
Ivan Reis
INKER:
Joe Prado
COLORIST:
Alex Sinclair
LETTERER:
Dave Sharpe
RELEASED:
December 11, 2019

Ugh. Why?

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. The same thing they did in 2015, in a storyline that, fittingly, was also called Truth.

It’s not that I don’t think Bendis and this team can do a good job with it. But we were just here. And inevitably, when you do this kind of thing you have to come up with some convoluted way to get the genie back in the bottle. So why even bother?

I will say, though, there’s a single silent page depicting the big moment between Clark Kent and Perry White that’s absolutely beautiful.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #4
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTIST: Werther Dell-Edera
COLORIST: Miquel Muerto
LETTERED BY: Andworld Design
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

In this issue, we get a major revelation about the nature of the monsters devouring children in Archer’s Peak. Tynion takes what I’ll refer to as the “Do you believe in magic?” approach. It’s an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming, and for my money, helps separate this book from the pack. Hopefully he’s given the time to expand on it.

As cool as Erica Slaughter is, part of me actually wants to see her killed off so James can take her place and learn about all this monster stuff. Probably won’t happen. But could be cool.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1017
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTIST: Fernando Blanco. Cover by Tony Daniel.
COLORIST: John Kalisz
LETTERER: Travis Lanham
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

A nice little one-and-done. I like when they do these. In the context of Detective Comics, it reminds me of Paul Dini’s run all those years ago.

Our story deals with missing children at the Martha Wayne Orphanage in Gotham. Taylor shows us a more sensitive and empathetic side of Batman and Robin. Also, the art in this issue really stands out, as Kalisz uses a more saturated color palette, while our inks are darker. He even gives us a sort of saturated sepia tone for the opening flashback that sets the scene really well.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #26
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino
COLORIST: Raul Angulo
LETTERER: Ed Dukeshire
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

One of the big selling points of this book early on was it was set in the pre-Green Ranger days. Tommy, one way or another, inevitably pulls focus from the other characters. It’s a little sad that the emphasis has shifted that way.

But Parrott is still the best PR writer we’ve seen from this BOOM! Studios run with the license. Oddly enough, what I enjoyed most about this issue was a flashback to Tommy eating a meal with Rita at the palace. As a kid, I always wanted to see him in there interacting with the other villains.

TITLE: Dying is Easy #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Joe Hill
ARTIST: Martin Simmonds. Cover by J. Lou.
COLOR ASSISTANT: Dee Cunniffe
LETTERER: Shawn Lee
RELEASED: December 11, 2019

Cop turned stand-up comic. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

If grim-and-gritty is your thing, this book is right up your alley. If there’s a seedy underbelly to the world of stand-up, this book is smack in the middle of it. Simmonds and Cunniffe do a tremendous job using the colors to create an ominous, foreboding vibe. Ultimately, that pays off on the last page…

Fittingly, the book also manages to be funny in a black comedy sort of way. I’m not totally sold yet, but I may indeed be back for more.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: MMPR/TMNT, Over the RopesBatman

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

***Author’s Note: If I display a variant cover, it’s because I purchased the issue in question with that cover.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
AUTHOR:Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Simone di Meo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Variant cover by Goni Montes.
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

Surprisingly, they don’t go the trans-dimensional portal route with this one. This book seemingly has the Rangers and the Turtles living in the same universe. So…does that mean these are the Next Mutation Turtles that go on to meet the Space Rangers? *gulp*

This looks like it’s going to be a pretty standard first-time team-up story. The two teams start out against one another, then work together to face the enemy. But our heroes are in good hands with Ryan Parrott and Simone di Meo.

God damn, those Goni Montes covers are instantly iconic…

TITLE: Over the Ropes #1
AUTHOR: Jay Sandlin, Francesco Segala (Colorist), Justin Birch (Letterer).
ARTISTS: Antonello Cosentino
RELEASED: December 5, 2019

“Wrestling is like religion. You get it or you don’t.”

That’s amazing. Both as an opening line, and a simple philosophy regarding pro wrestling.

Wrestling comics have never really done it for me. Which makes no sense, of course. They’re my two big interests, yet I don’t like them together. But Over the Ropes held my interest, at least. They start off seemingly going with a standard “underdog’s quest for the title” story, but then we get a twist that shakes everything up.

I’ve got a good feeling about this one. I’ll be back for issue #2.

TITLE: Batman #84
AUTHOR:
Tom King
ARTISTS:
Jorge Fornes, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Mikel Janin.
RELEASED:
December 4, 2019

We should have gotten this content several months ago. It wouldn’t have saved “City of Bane,” but it would have added some valuable depth to Thomas Wayne.

This book consists mostly of flashbacks, but done in reverse order. We start with the Flashpoint Batman’s recent actions in Gotham City, and go all the way back to before young Bruce Wayne was murdered. (See Flashpoint.)

The reverse order thing is cute in theory, but I found it tough to follow. It didn’t always jog the memories it was supposed to. You might be better off reading this issue back to front.

TITLE: Young Justice #11
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

A decent issue. But it left me with some questions…

So let’s say I get transported elsewhere in the multiverse. Then somebody goes back in time and causes a dramatic temporal shift, altering the course of the world, and my life with it. If I’m elsewhere in the multiverse when that happens, am I somehow unaffected? Wouldn’t my memories change? And if/when I come back to my now altered world, does my mere presence restore their memories of me from the prior timeline? Do the ripples caused by a said shift not reach across the multiverse?

Asking for a friend.

TITLE: Collapser #6
AUTHORS: Mikey Way, Shaun Simon
ARTISTS:
Ilias Kyriazis, Cris Peter (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED:
December 4, 2019

You know what sucks? When you really get into a new series, and then remember it’s not a series. It’s a six-issue mini. Rrrrgh.

Either way, Collapser wound up being pretty damn good. This is a book you can hold up as an example of what the Young Animal imprint is capable of, and how it’s different. In terms of both writing and art.

Here’s what I will say: This issue felt a little rushed. I’m inclined to think that means they had a bit more story they could have told. If that’s the case, it’s a cryin’ shame.

TITLE: Lois Lane #6
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 4, 2019

This issue is all about the death of General Sam Lane, Lois’ father, in Event Leviathan. Perhaps fittingly, the pre-New 52 Sam Lane was killed off in an event comic as well. The poor guy is just snake bit…

It’s frustrating that we’ve brought the story to a full stop just so we could lament the death of Sam Lane. But with the exception of an awkwardly drawn facial expression Lois has while accepting an American flag at the funeral, the issue is at least done well. It also sticks its landing with a genuinely touching final page.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Undiscovered Country, Legion of Superheroes

*”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Undiscovered Country #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Matt Wilson. Lettering by crank!
RELEASED: November 6, 2019

This is one of those stories that’s just close enough to being possible that it’s…unsettling.

The United States of America walled itself off from the rest of the world 30 years ago, with no foreigners coming in or out. Now, as war and disease ravage the rest of the world, an American representative mysteriously invites diplomats behind the wall. What they see is…unexpected.

While it’s got a lot of the standard exposition you need in a first outing, I highly recommend this one . It’s worth the price alone for that first two-page shot of the border wall…

TITLE: Legion of Superheroes #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger (Co-Inker), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 6, 2019

I’ve never been able to get into the Legion of Superheroes. Long story short: Too many characters to keep track of, and not enough reasons for me to care about any of them.

This first Legion issue is gorgeous, and there are a few cool ideas in it (most notably what’s happened to the Earth). We even have Superboy as our fish-out-of-water main character. But for me, it ultimately suffers the same fate as every other take on this world. They really needed a strong hook with this first issue. I didn’t see one.

TITLE: Young Justice #10
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Timms, Nick Derington, Gabe Eltaeb and Dave Stewart (Colorists), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 6, 2019

While Naomi is advertised on the cover, she appears on exactly one page and says nothing. Just sayin’…

Still, Bendis fares much better with this group of teen heroes. Ten issues in, Young Justice is still a lot of fun. This month, Tim Drake gets a new hero name (“Drake”) and costume that the verdict is still out on for me. But at least now he’s got his own identity, independent of his history as Robin.

In addition, our main story is juxtaposed with an origin story for Jinny Hex, which adds a grounded, almost gritty texture to her.

TITLE: Batman #82
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by David Finch and Alex Sinclair.

This cover has a weird gimmick to it. A thin plastic with the logo and the explosions, with the shot of Bane on the inside page. But said page is just another cover. So…what was even the point?

Thankfully, Mikel Janin is back as Batman and Catwoman take on Bane. It’s got all the quips we’ve come to expect from Tom King at this point. Frankly, it’s gotten too over the top for me.

While ambitious, “City of Bane” is starting to feel padded and drawn out. Keep in mind, we’ve got three issues to go.

TITLE: Lois Lane #5
AUTHOR:Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: November 6, 2019

The opening pages of this issue are awesome, as Lois talks to another passenger on a plane. Rucka plays devil’s advocate about “fake news.” Later, he actually dives into what terms like “off the record,” “on background,” and “deep background” mean. As a former journalist, I love that stuff.

While Lois Lane is a great read, I admit I’m having trouble keeping track of what the central mystery actually is. The murder of a journalist sparks Lois and Renee Montoya’s investigation into a high-level government conspiracy. Still, they’ve got me coming back for more, and that’s what matters.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman: The Rules of Engagement Review – Woundmates

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Joelle Jones, Clay Mann, Lee Weeks, Michael Lark
COLLECTS: Batman #3337, Batman Annual #2
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
April 25, 2018

***WARNING: One or two minor spoilers ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Didja catch that? See what they did there? “Rules of Engagement.” Only it’s like, engagement. You know, to be married and stuff. Yeah, you get it. See, it’s that kind of clever wordplay that’s kept the Batman mythos alive for 80 years…

So before DC went and made a lot of people mad with the Batman/Catwoman wedding storyline, this was the early portion of the build-up. Basically, this is the part where most of Bruce Wayne’s closest allies react to his decision to marry Selina Kyle. Damian, Dick, and his various surrogate sons. Superman. Even Talia al Ghul. Hijinks and violence ensue.

Oooo! I’ve got one! Ready? Together, Bruce and Selina are about to learn that the only “rules of engagement,” are that there are no rules.

Oh c’mon! If they can get away with Rules of Engagement

1. A Walk Through the Desert
The first part of the book sees Batman and Catwoman enter the Middle Eastern country of Khadym, which the U.N. and the Justice League have designated off-limits. It also happens to house Talia al Ghul and the League of Assassins. But Talia has something Bruce and Selina need to move forward with their marriage. Thus, the two sides are on a collision course. As you might expect, there are swords involved. Like, a lot of swords.

Presumably because of Batman v Superman, this book sees Batman don a duster and goggles, despite also being in full costume. It was stupid in the movie. It’s no less stupid here. The look would eventually return for another desert story, and it was no less stupid there either. I’ll be incredibly happy when this damn trend fades away.

As she would later do on the Catwoman series, Joelle Jones turns in some marvelous work, alongside colorist Jordie Bellaire. While her style, complete with the dark jagged lines, doesn’t exactly mesh well with the quiet scenes in Wayne Manor, it’s a tremendous fit for all the desert stuff. Jones often shines when the dramatic and the grotesque come together. So when things get bloody, slicey, and stabby, she’s right at home.

Not surprisingly, things culminate in a fight between Talia and Selina. It manages to be a pretty good fight. Not because of the physicality, but because of a stretch of dialogue where Selina proves she knows Bruce in a way Talia never has. She has a kind of insight into his mind and heart of which Talia may be incapable. From a writing standpoint, it’s one of the highlights of Tom King’s entire Batman run.

King also revisits the “Can Batman be happy?” idea he touched on during I Am Gotham. He uses Damian, grief-stricken that his father is marrying “that woman,” and Dick Grayson. Again, very poignant and effective stuff that cuts to the heart of the Batman character. I’ll leave it at that for now, as we’ll need to revisit it down the road anyway.

2. Double Date
The book shifts from bloody to comedic for a double date story that tips its hat to the sillier Superman/Batman stuff from the Golden Age. In “Super Friends,” Bruce and Selina take in a night at a carnival with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. King, Clay Mann, co-inker Seth Mann, and Bellaire go all out with the premise. The characters wear each other’s superhero costumes. Lois and Selina get drunk from a flask. Superman and Batman swing at baseballs. By and large, it’s genuinely fun. Clay Mann’s rendering of Clark Kent in the Batsuit, glasses and all, is hilarious.

It does, however, raise one of the issues I often have with King’s writing: He can go a little off the deep end with the banter. It’s not so much an issue in “Super Friends,” as it’s a blatant comedy. But when you have, for instance, a high-stakes tale about Batman and Catwoman confronting Talia and the League of Assassins, going too heavy on the banter can cut into the drama.

Case in point, when we open issue #34, Batman and Catwoman are surrounded by assassins, hell bent on cutting them to pieces. This is a portion of the dialogue we get just before the fighting gets underway…

B: “Cat, I may be wearing a leather bat costume. But do I look dumb enough to make fun of you?
C: “I don’t know, Bat. Do I look dumb enough to not know what ‘a lot’ is?”
B: “No. You look lovely.”
C: “Sure, you say that now. Wait’ll I’ve got their blood all over me.”

One of King’s greatest strengths in writing Batman is how he conveys the connection between Batman and Catwoman. But even by couple-bickering standards, stuff like this is overindulgent. Sadly, this book is hardly the end of it.

3. Woundmates
I read an article not long ago that introduced me to the term “woundmate.”  Long story short, it’s someone with whom you share a similar kind of trauma, or unsolved emotional problems and as such they feel like a soulmate. But in the end, they aren’t.

Re-reading “Some of These Days” from Batman Annual #2 reminded me of that article. Because in the end, that’s what Bruce and Selina are. Woundmates. That’s beautifully, and literally, illustrated by Lee Weeks as he channels his inner David Mazzucchelli. The story is obviously meant to be an extension of Batman: Year One, but it doesn’t work at all without Weeks.

Michael Lark is tagged in for the last few pages, as we time-jump to a potential future where Bruce and Selina have grown old together. Again, poignant. And downright touching when you get right down to it. I love Gotham Central as much as anybody, so I’ll never complain about seeing Lark back on a Bat-book.

4. A Deeper Connection
King uses the annual to retcon Batman and Catwoman’s history so they have a deeper connection. Most notable is that they discover one another’s identities very early on. I can’t say I love that, but I don’t hate it either.

What I’m not necessarily a fan of is Catwoman’s motivation in the story. She breaks into Wayne Manor multiple times, and later reveals she’s been doing it to essentially sharpen Batman’s edges so he doesn’t get killed. (See above image.)

Frankly, I just don’t buy it. Maybe I’m too hung up on the classic Batman/Catwoman presentation where they’re simply flirtatious. I can accept Selina being able to penetrate the walls Bruce has put up and catch him off guard. I can accept the idea that she cares about him. But something just isn’t right about the notion that she takes time out of her life to sharpen Batman’s skills. Remember how early in her career this is supposed to be. Early on, Catwoman is a hardened thief out for herself. She may have a heart of gold underneath it all, but that only extends so far…

5. The Verdict
The Rules of Engagement isn’t a must-read, even if you’re simply following the wedding storyline. It has the same flaws as most of Tom King’s Batman run. There is, however, some amazing art to be seen. I can’t help but be partial to Lee Weeks, but it’s also a strong outing for Joelle Jones. And if, like me, you’re a fan of the way King writes Bruce and Selina’s chemistry, you’ll enjoy it.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, and The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Imperial Machine Review – Year One, Day One

TITLE: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine
AUTHOR: 
Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson.
COLLECTS: Darth Vader #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: 
November 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the lightsaber for a minute? Because to be honest, I’m getting sick of them. Specifically, their overblown importance.

I’ve talked previously about how I subscribe to what I’ll call the Red Letter Media theory on lightsaber use. Generally, the less we see of them, the more impactful it is when someone finally ignites one. This becomes apparent when watching the prequel trilogy. But in recent years, lightsabers have been getting a strange in-universe reverence. Not just as cool or dangerous weapons, but artifacts with an increasing amount of personal and spiritual symbolism. They’re almost characters unto themselves. I understand this from a marketing standpoint, as a lightsaber is a fanboy’s wet dream. But to me it makes little sense from an in-story perspective.

Mind you, there is a certain precedent for it. Lightsabers act as an instantly recognizable symbol for the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which later plays a prominent role in The Force Awakens. Luke builds his own lightsaber, which we see in Return of the Jedi. General Grievous collected lightsabers like trophies from fallen Jedi. So let’s not go so far as to say they have no significance at all.

But while I appreciated the use of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens as a link to the past, and a sort of symbol of for the Skywalker family, the notion that the weapon itself “calls to” Rey was a little much for me. What the weapon symbolizes is one thing. Giving it special powers is another.

Rarely will you find a better example of this strange lightsaber reverence than in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine. Immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine sends Vader on a mission to obtain a new lightsaber for himself. “I have very high hopes for what we might achieve together,” the Emperor says. “But first…you will need your lightsaber.” Vader must take a lightsaber from a surviving Jedi and use the dark side to corrupt the kyber crystal inside. Make it “bleed.” Obtaining this new weapon won’t be easy. But it is the first trial the former Anakin Skywalker must now face as a dark lord of the Sith.

So because the kyber crystals are “alive” in their own way, Sith lords use their anger to make them “bleed,” thus the red lightsaber. The idea itself is actually pretty neat. But did it merit an entire story based around it? Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really need an origin story?  I don’t think so.

This strikes me as the kind of thing they could have explained in a scene before Vader goes off on his first big mission. Or maybe a one-shot where Palpatine gives Vader a kyber crystal, and shows him how to corrupt it. At first Vader has trouble, but he conjures up images of Obi-Wan and Padme and gets the job done. It didn’t need to be the motivation for an entire story arc.

More interesting than Vader’s quest to steal a lightsaber is the surviving Jedi he’s tasked with taking it from. Kirak Infil’a has taken the “Barash Vow.” Under said vow, the individual in question must cut themselves off from Jedi affairs, living only for the Force. It sounds suspiciously like what Luke is doing when Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Kirak also has his hair pulled back in two braids, just as Rey’s is in the Last Jedi footage we’ve seen. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…

It’s almost always interesting to see Vader’s agony at the loss of Padme, the state of his body, and all that’s come as a result of his actions. It’s a glimpse into the hellish reality his existence has become. We see surprisingly little of that in Imperial Machine, given how soon this is after Revenge of the Sith. It is touched on effectively, however, in issue #5. As Vader is trying to bend the crystal to his will, a scenario plays out in his mind in which he turns on Palpatine and re-unites with Obi-Wan. He’s fantasizing about making things right, and perhaps atoning for his actions. In theory, that’s a path he can take. But of course, he doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

I spent a good amount of time ragging on Salvador Larroca for some of the work he did on the previous Darth Vader book. Namely drawing certain characters based off still shots from the various movies. The upside to this approach, however, is that Larroca draws a picture-perfect Vader. For me, if you can get that mask right then half the battle is won.

Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a different kind of Darth Vader. It’s hardly picture-perfect. For instance, I’m not a fan of the panel at left. But I nevertheless find Camuncoli’s version more artistically pure. He’s creating of his own mind, and at no point do I feel taken out of this book when I see a familiar image of Vader or Palpatine, pulled from a movie still. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Camuncoli, along with inker Cam Smith and colorist David Curiel, waste little time in ripping up Vader’s iconic suit. It’s already in tatters by issue #2. Things only get worse when we get into the fight with Kirak Infil’a. We end up with a partially skeletonized version of Vader’s suit, which he pieces together using droid parts after being incapacitated and effectively broken in combat. In the opening pages of issue #4 we see him using the Force to put all the little pieces into place so he can haul himself to his feet. It’s an awesome visual, and a fun callback to Anakin’s expertise with machines. It’s later followed up on in issue #6, when Vader gets to repair the suit to his liking.

Issue #6 takes us into the next arc, which will feature the Inquisitors we saw in Star Wars: Rebels. We get a confrontation between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor in the Jedi Temple, which is pretty decent. Fittingly, Vader’s next target will be someone Star Wars fans recognize as a face from the Jedi Temple…

I maintain there was no need to end the previous Darth Vader book. We all knew Marvel would come back to the character eventually. There’s no shortage of creators to work on the life and times of the dark lord. While I have a major gripe with a lightsaber being Vader’s motivation in this story, Imperial Machine is still a solid read with mostly good art. Star Wars fans who aren’t as finicky as I am will enjoy it.

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