Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Superman, and DC’s Digital Offerings

***”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
A Giant Something or Other

In response to the comic book industry being essentially stuck in limbo due to the Coronavirus pandemic, DC is releasing stories digitally that were previously exclusive to their DC Giants line. The Giants books were originally exclusive to mass market outlets, most notably Walmart. So what we’re getting here are basically re-prints.

But hey, they’re new to me. Plus, there’s some all-star talent attached to this stuff. We’ve got Brad Meltzer and Jim Lee on Batman, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on the Flash. Hey, sign me up!

I was also finally able to purchase that Superman: Villains one-shot. So I threw that in too.

TITLE: Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1
AUTHOR: Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey.
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 20, 2020

Our story here is about the Parasite leeching off the city’s power grid and causing a mass blackout. In response, Superman tells the people of Metropolis to stand by one another. To share food, help find medicine for people in need, check on their neighbors, etc. Seems like a pretty poignant message right now, eh?

It’s so awesome when somebody gets Superman right. What we get here is also very accessible to new readers, and Paul Pelletier absolutely nails the art, particularly with the Parasite.

At the end of the day, this is the Superman I want to read.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #1
AUTHORS: Sal Giunta, Brad Meltzer, Larry Hama,
ARTISTS: Jim Lee, Mirko Colak, Scott Williams (Inker),
COLORISTS: Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz
LETTERERS: Chris Eliopoulos, Travis Lanham
DIGITAL RELEASE: April 21, 2020

What Sal Giunta and Brad Meltzer do with “Medal of Honor” is really special. So I’m simply going to encourage you to read it without going into things.

The Lee, Williams, and Sinclair trio give me Hush flashbacks. In a good way.

The second story follows a similar “service” theme, only with Kate Kane instead of Batman. We go back to her military days, which is unexpected but not unwelcome. But I’m sure it was a surprise for casual fans looking for Batwoman.

TITLE: Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace #1
AUTHORS: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
ARTISTS:
Inaki Miranda, Hi-Fi (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Conner and Alex Sinclair.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 22, 2020

I’m not really a Harley Quinn fan. I know that’s enough to get me strung up in some circles. But I’ve almost always found her more annoying than humorous.

But with Wonder Woman as her “straight man” you get a pretty entertaining team. To their credit, they actually got me to chuckle when Harley appeared wearing what was supposed to be Amazonian armor.

Conner and Palmiotti write a hell of a Wondie. Early on, there’s an exchange between her and two security guards that I got a kick out of. Like Robert Venditti with Superman, they get her.

TITLE: Aquaman: Deep Dives #1
AUTHOR:
Steve Orlando
ARTISTS:
Daniel Sempere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Liam Sharpe and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
DIGITAL RELEASE:
April 23, 2020

“My name is Black Manta. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

That’s basically what this issue is about.

I imagine because these were (at least in theory) released to a different audience, they wanted to start on the ground floor in some of these stories. That means a lot of expository dialogue. Superman: Man of Tomorrow did that. But this one really lays the expository dialogue on thick.

Great fight between Aquaman and Black Manta, though. At the “Museum of Unnatural History.” I adore that.

TITLE: The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1
AUTHOR:
Gail Simone
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dan Panosian.
RELEASED:
April 24, 2020

Coming out of this issue I know two things.

The Flash TV show has indeed ruined Iris West for me. Not because of the actress. Because of how she’s written.

Had it come out a month or two sooner, a few less people would have gotten on those disease-infested cruise ships.

Not surprisingly, Gail Simone writes a great Flash. Gail Simone writes a great almost-anything. Together with Henry, Maiolo, and Leigh, they’ve put together one of the highlights of this DC Giants digital-first campaign.

TITLE: Superman: Villains #1
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jody Houser
ARTISTS:
Michael Gaydos, Riley Rossmo, Scott Godlewski, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood.
COLORISTS:
Gaydos, Ivan Plascencia, Gabe Eltaeb, Alex Sinclair, Dave McCaig, Nathan Fairbairn, Mahfood.
LETTERERS:
Dave Sharpe, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Troy Peteri, Josh Reed.
RELEASED:
March 4, 2020

So here we have a bunch of villains reacting to Superman telling the world he’s Clark Kent. We hear from Toyman, Mongul, and a Joker-ized Supergirl (see Batman/Superman). We also get a story that bridges into future Superman and Action Comics storylines.

But by far the best part of the issue is a two-page Lex Luthor story, as he discovers he has 98 messages on his voicemail. And several of them (Possibly all of them?) are from the Joker. And he’s laughing. Take a wild guess at what he’s laughing at, folks…

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Detective Comics #939 Review – Tim Drake’s Return to Glory

Detective Comics #939, cover, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #939
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 24, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Did any character get a more of a raw deal in the New 52 than Tim Drake? Not only was he put in a horrendous new costume, but his 20-year history was compressed and retconned to the point that we were essentially dealing with a new character. Almost four years later, and things aren’t much better for him.

That being said, Tim Drake fans should send James Tynion IV a thank you note. Detective Comics #939 is the best Tim Drake story I’ve read in years. New 52 Red Robin may finally become more than a shell of his pre-reboot self, and really set himself apart from his “brothers” in Batman’s surrogate family. Though in a way it’s a shame, as it’s looking like he’ll soon be either retired or dead…

The quaint team of heroes assembled by Batman and Batwoman have begun to mount a comeback against the military force Jacob Kane has dedicated to eliminating caped heroes in Gotham. But as drones prepare to swarm the city, Kate Kane suspects Batman knows more than he’s letting on about her father’s efforts. Meanwhile, Tim Drake ponders a future without superheroics. But he may not live to see such a future, after he makes a drastic choice that terrifies his teammates.

Detective Comics #939, Tim and Steph, Eddy BarrowsSince Tynion came aboard Detective Comics, Tim has been debating whether to leave Gotham to attend Ivy University full time. This is consistent with the Tim Drake we often saw in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At that point, Tim was unsure of his future as a superhero, often insecure when comparing himself to Dick Grayson and the like. This college storyline seems to play off that idea. As much of a Tim Drake fan as I am, seeing him walk away might not be the worst thing at this point. Batman has a lot of legacy characters that tend to simply drift in the status quo, serving no real purpose. Letting Tim hang up his cape might freshen up his character, and his relationships with the active heroes. And as a bonus, things would be a little less crowded in Gotham.

But of course, Detective Comics is really about Batwoman these days, giving her the spotlight she deserves. What stands out prominently about Tynion’s take on her is the relationship she has with Batman. They’ve been established as cousins, and early in the issue we see a young Kate try to comfort Bruce Wayne at his parents’ funeral. Because they have that deep-rooted connection, she’s able to talk to him in a way few people can. Her words have weight with him, as illustrated when she calls him out for keeping something from her, and he’s forced to admit fault. How often does that happen to Batman? She may be his cousin, but Kate often acts like his big sister.

I’ve been mostly pleased with Eddy Barrows’ work on this series thus far. In recent issues he and the other artists have emphasized certain panels, usually those that transition to another scene, by adjusting to a more painterly style. The above image of Stephanie is an example. Often it will occur when something dramatic or important is said. Other times it just enhances a nice character shot. It takes some getting used to. But it’s a fun way to liven up dialogue scenes, and can leave lasting impressions.

Clayface, Detective Comics #939, 2016Barrows is also very good at showing us the dichotomy of Basil Karlo, a.k.a. Clayface. Case in point, the page at right. On one hand, we’ve got a great shot of this bulky, gooey monster. But in the next panel, that same monster almost looks like a sad puppy. Here’s hoping this book devotes some more time to Basil in the near future. We could potentially see some really good stuff here.

Barrows does love that legs spread and knees bent pose, doesn’t he? We saw Batman in this pose in issue #934, and now Tim. On the cover, no less. I opted for the Rafael Albuquerque variant.

Like Tim Drake, Detective Comics is better than it’s been in quite some time. In terms of consistency, we’re talking pre-New 52. This book isn’t simply housing for Batman’s legacy characters. It’s in contention for the best Bat-book on the stands. My only question now is whether it’ll be down a Robin going forward…

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Detective Comics #934 Review – Rebirth and Redemption

Detective Comics #934, 2016, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #934
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I dig this issue for no other reason than it rights a wrong that’s been present since 2011. It fixes the Red Robin costume. That thing had been far too ugly for far too long. It was a damn embarassment.

But there’s plenty more to like here. A mysterious force is targeting Gotham’s heroes, some of whom are not prepared for this new threat. Batman comes to Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, to help train the next generation of heroes. Red Robin, The Spoiler, Orphan, and (of all people) Clayface are chosen to train under The Dark Knight and his new partner. A partner who knows more about Batman than he suspected, and is hungry for more knowledge. Such as what Batman isn’t saying about this new threat to costumed heroes.

This “reborn” Detective Comics has a feel-good vibe to it by virtue of its cast, which consists largely of characters who were screwed over creatively during the New 52. Tim Drake lost so much of his depth and backstory in the reboot, and given that silly costume. I’ve got high hopes that James Tynion IV, an accomplished Batman writer himself, can do some justice for him. And of course, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were wiped from continuity and didn’t return until later. With their respective backstories altered, of course. Fans may remember the shakeup in 2013 over DC not allowing Kate Kane to marry. The road to this title has been frustrating. But there’s a nice opportunity for redemption here.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, ClayfaceOn the subject of redemption, the addition of Clayface to this team is surprising. He obviously doesn’t qualify as a costumed hero. But it plays to the idea that on some level, Batman really is trying to rehabilitate the villains he fights. The smart bet is this goes bad at some point. But in the meantime, the dynamic Basil Karlo will have with his more virtuous teammates is intriguing.

This issue is also particularly noteworthy for the return of Jean-Paul Valley, the original Azrael, and the man who replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early ’90s Nightfall storyline. How he connects to the Michael Lane version of Azrael (if at all) remains to be seen, and I can only assume Knightfall is no longer canon. But longtime fans may get a kick out of seeing him again, and hopefully not for the last time. As we open the issue, Batman seems to be trying to recruit him. I’d love to see him return as either a part-time ally, or even an enemy.

It’s not often you see Batman playing the good cop. But that’s exactly what we get here, with Batwoman in the bad cop role. She comes off as a hardened drill sergeant, while Batman plays the supportive mentor. It’s a side to him that don’t see quite as regularly. At least not since Batman & Robin ended. What’s more, Batwoman gets put over really well. Especially when she surprises Bruce with the knowledge of his secret.

Eddy Barrows has earned this run on Detective Comics. He’s had memorable runs on both Nightwing and Superman and recently spent some time on Martian Manhunter. He’s good with acting, and emotion, which shows here. From the fear in Azrael’s eyes as Batman closes in, to the intensity and anger from Kate when a mysterious figure appears in her apartment. He’s able to inject sympathy into the otherwordly Clayface as well as any artist I’ve ever seen (shown above). He connects you to the characters well in that sense.  Barrows’ rendering of Batman’s cowl evokes memories of Michael Keaton’s costume from the Tim Burton movies. Inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas also deserve credit for making the presentation so clean, and beautifully shadowy.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, BatmanIt’s Barrows’ body proportioning I’m not certain about. There’s a panel in which The Spoiler is looking down on a crime in progress, and it looks like her legs are separated from her torso. There’s an otherwise beautiful shot of Batwoman swinging through the city in which our heroine looks just a bit too lanky. Barrows also has a weird thing about leg positioning, as we see in a shot of Batman swooping into a building (shown right). It’s a similar bizarre position to the one we saw on his Nightwing #1 cover.

Part of what made DC Universe: Rebirth #1 such a feel-good issue was the combination of story intrigue, and justice finally being done to characters that had gotten a raw deal in recent years (Wally West, Ted Kord, etc.) Detective Comics #934 is similar in that respect. The two issues also weren’t afraid to show us some emotion and humanity. Between Kate’s often volatile nature, the villainous tendencies of Clayface, and the presence of the younger heroes, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of those things going forward. That’s a good thing.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com.

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