Tag Archives: Kid Flash

A Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best Review – A Return to Glory?

TITLE: Teen Titans, Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLERS: Jonboy Meyers, Diogenes Nieves, Khoi Pham
COLLECTS: Teen Titans #15Teen Titans Rebirth #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 14, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Teen Titans have had a pretty awesome run on television over the last decade and a half. The comics, on the other hand? They’ve been a mixed bag. But this new Teen Titans series under the DC Rebirth banner offered yet another fresh start for one of the most iconic and prolific superhero teams in all of comics. A chance to make the Teen Titans great again!

I wouldn’t call Damian Knows Best a great book. But these still manage to be the best Teen Titans comics we’ve gotten in several years. Since 2011 at the very least.

In the wake of his 13th birthday, Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, summons his own team of young heroes to combat a threat from his past. Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, has sent his own team of young assassins after the Boy Wonder. Their mission? Either bring Damian back into the League of Assassins or kill him. But as his new teammates are about to find out, Damian isn’t one to make things easy.

Damian should have been on the Teen Titans a long time ago. That last really good Teen Titans story I alluded to above? It sees Damian barge in and briefly anoint himself team leader. Why it took so long to get him back on the team is beyond me. Sticking a character as abrasive as Damian in a team environment is a natural source for tension and conflict. Making it a team of adolescents ups the ante even more. It’s an update this book has desperately needed since…well, 2011.

Perennial team members Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven are back. I’ve lamented previously about how the series can’t move away from them, presumably because DC wants to match the cartoon show. Plus, they’re synonymous with the iconic Wolfman/Perez era. Swapping one or two of them out for newer characters might open the door for even more new possibilities. That’s what a relaunch is supposed to be about, after all. We at least get a little of that with the inclusion of Kid Flash.

However, Ben Percy does a commendable job turning up the teen angst with most of our heroes. The common theme among them is the feeling they don’t belong anywhere. Like so many young people, they feel isolated.. That commonality that makes them feel like they belong together, instead of being lumped together for no real reason (other than editorial mandate). The opening sequence with Beast Boy is one of the character’s best in quite some time. As he behaves in his typical animated and boisterous fashion, the narration captions highlight his inner turmoil, most notably over the “death” of Tim Drake. Throw in how wonderfully drawn and colored the whole thing is, and you’ve got a knock-out intro.

That’s one of the things DC has failed to do with Teen Titans for so many years: Really amp up the teen element effectively, making this book considerably different from Justice League and the other team books out there. Need an example? Look what Mark Waid is doing in Champions. All those characters feel like teenagers trying to find their way in the world and blaze a new trail that’s different from the previous generation’s. Teen Titans doesn’t have that rebellious streak to it. But having these characters feel young and a little less sure of themselves is damn sure a step in the right direction.

Most of the Demon’s Fist characters are forgettable. They’re led by Damian’s cousin Mara. Despite being fairly forgettable herself, she has a strong origin story. She trained alongside Damian growing up, competing with him but never quite besting him. Damian was intended to lead the Demon’s Fist, but Mara took over in his absence. If you subscribe to the idea that all of Batman’s villains represent a distorted mirror image of him, then Mara would be the equivalent for Robin.

Jonboy Meyers was supposed to be the regular artist for Teen Titans. He made it through issue #1 before leaving due to “creative differences.” That’s a damn shame. Meyers breathed so much new life into this series, giving us an Anime-inspired expressiveness, and thus a sense of fun the book has sorely lacked for a long time. Make no mistake about it, the guy knows his way around a superhero action sequence. I’ll specifically cite the Kid Flash pages from the Rebirth issue as evidence.

Diogenes Nieves has the unenviable job of tagging in for Meyers in issue #2. To his credit, the transition goes about as smooth as you could ask. He gives us a couple of gorgeous pages of a rainy rooftop scene between Damian and Talia al Ghul. Still, the little quirks in Meyers’ art are still sorely missed. The same, sadly, can be said for when Khoi Pham takes over on issues #3-5. Objectively, he’s a fine artist. When it’s time for our team to rise up in issue #5, Pham nails it. It’s just that Meyers has that certain flair. Starting with it and then taking it away doesn’t do the book any favors.

Thankfully, one constant in the book is colorist Jim Charalampidis, who brings a valuable consistency to the series despite the changing artists. These pages look a touch darker than I might have expected. But it’s still the beautiful blaze of color you’d hope to see from a superhero team book like this.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up Teen Titans on a consistent basis. This new series changed that. Did Damian Knows Best make Teen Titans great again? No. But it made the series good again. That’s more than you can say for any other book to bear it’s name in the last several years. Now, here’s hoping things stay good for quite some time. These characters, and this series deserve at least that much.

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A Review of The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice – Teacher and Student(s)

The Flash: Lightning Strikes TwiceTITLE: The Flash, Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
PENCILLERS: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neil Googe, Felipe Watanabe. Cover by Karl Kerschl.
COLLECTS: The Flash #1-8
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Barry Allen got his powers from a bolt of lightning, and the Speed Force has always been somewhat electric in nature. So it’s natural that at certain points the Flash crackles with energy. But that doesn’t mean he should constantly look like a lightning rod in a storm. But that’s how our main artist draws him in this first volume of The Flash under the DC Rebirth banner. At certain points it’s cool, but it eventually becomes a distraction that drags the entire book down. Which is a shame. From a story standpoint, Lightning Strikes Twice is pretty good.

We open the book with the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, this time seen from Barry’s point of view. A short time later, numerous citizens of Central City are struck by lightning bolts just like Barry was, and are imbued with the power of the Speed Force. Now our hero must not only mentor those who would use their powers for good, but corral those who abuse them. All the while, a mysterious killer calling himself Godspeed is killing off these new speedsters. Thankfully he’ll have help from not only Iris West, but a young man who’ll soon call himself the new Kid Flash.

The Flash: Rebirth #1, Carmine Di GiandomenicoThat classic Carmine Infantino Flash costume is so sleek and cool. Many consider it the best costume redesign in history. It’s one of those things I wish they wouldn’t tinker with. Granted, artistic tweaks are always gong to be part of he industry. But drawing lightning all over the Flash in every panel is overindulgent, not to mention redundant and annoying. We go over Barry’s origin at the beginning of the book, and the whole story is about people getting hit by Speed Force lightning. We get it. He’s electric. (Boogie woogie, woogie.)

I like the idea of Barry being a teacher or a mentor. It’s almost part and parcel to the superhero concept. Sidekicks, inspiring people to do good, etc. First he finds a new partner in fellow scientist August Heart. Then the Speed Force lightning storm gives him several new trainees. Of course, it all culminates in Wally West becoming the new Kid Flash. (That’s the New 52 Wally West, not the pre-Crisis one that just came back. Thank God that’s not confusing.) It all ties nicely together with the original Wally West’s return, and it’s cool to see the gratification Barry gets from it.

the-flash-8-dc-comics-rebirth-spoilers-new-kid-flash-5I can appreciate that when he got his powers, young Wally wasn’t immediately thrust into the Kid Flash role. We all knew that’s where he’d end up anyway. But Williamson does a fine job taking him from a kid who’s content to sit on the sidelines and help out occasionally, to a hero who realizes he can’t be on the sidelines. It gives him that much more depth.

As for the other Wally, the first issue in this collection, The Flash: Rebirth #1, gives us a little bit of follow up on the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1. The reunion continues, as Wally tells Barry about Linda Park, and we see how they part ways. We also get a very brief corroboration between the Flash and Batman. But that plot thread is mostly dropped for the remainder of the book. It’s obviously a larger story for down the road. We do, however, get a very interesting reference to what happened to Barry in Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s obviously out-of-sync with what they set up in the New 52. It’s a little reminder that they haven’t dropped that story. It’s just a slow build.

On paper, the identity of Godspeed shouldn’t be hard to figure out. But I’ll admit: They got me. The character’s motivations are believable, and they spend a good amount of time building them up. Godspeed represents Flash’s darker impulses. The ones he doesn’t allow himself to follow. The character asks some classic questions about why those impulses shouldn’t be followed. It more or less boils down to “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” Or in this case, why doesn’t Barry just kill Zoom? They leave the door open for him to come back, and there’s potential for some more interesting stuff with him.

the-flash-6-carmine di diandomenicoI’ve avoided picking up The Flash on a monthly basis, largely because of Di Giandomenico. The whole lightning thing aside, he knows how to convey the speed and energy of a character like the Flash. The characters hit most of the right emotional notes, and I’m into the story. But the line work is so dark and heavy that it ends up weighing down the impact of the art. It’s almost like you have to look through all the senewy lines to register what’s going on. When Neil Googe tags in for issue #4, and Felipe Watanabe for issue #5, it’s a welcome break.

With the CW TV series still going strong, Wally West’s return, and Barry being linked to what’s sure to be DC’s next big event comic, It’s a pretty good time to be a Flash fan. If we could find an artist that fit the book a little better, it’d be downright amazing. But for now, we’ll have to settle for pretty good.

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A Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 Review – Make the Teen Titans Great Again!

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, cover, Jonboy MeyersTITLE: Teen Titans: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLER: Jonboy Meyers
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s a sad truth: It’s been almost 10 years since we had a really good Teen Titans book.

Geoff Johns’ last issue as a regular writer for the book was in the summer of 2007. The man has his critics. But he knew how to write the Teen Titans, and the book hasn’t been nearly as good since he left nearly a decade ago.

Benjamin Percy, Jonboy Meyers, and their cohorts are the newest team to take a crack at it. To their credit, their take is the most promising I’ve seen since the Johns run. This issue sees Robin assemble the team in his own unique, forcible manner. Our members are Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, and the newly christened Kid Flash, Wally West (not that one). From a plot perspective, the issue doesn’t give us much more than that. But there are some hopeful indicators for the books future.

First and foremost, Jonboy Meyers gives the series a much-needed face lift. Teen Titans has desperately needed a fresh look and energy for years now. As much respect as I have for the likes of Brett Booth, Kenneth Rocafort, and Ian Churchill, they didn’t give us that. The energy here is similar to what we’d find in the pages of Gotham Academy, or what Babs Tarr gave us in Batgirl. There’s a sense of fun in these pages. It’s been far too long since we had a fun Teen Titans book.

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, Jonboy Meyers, Kid FlashDamian becoming a permanent fixture in this series is long overdue. They put him on the team for a few issues in 2011, and it worked out so well it became part of the inspiration for the Justice League vs. Teen Titans animated film. Part of what’s so great about the Damian character is if you add him to a story, he stirs the pot. He’s an agitator, which makes for for memorable chemistry with other characters.

For awhile now, I’ve been a proponent of removing most of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez characters, i.e. Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy, from this series. At least for awhile. I assume they’re there to tie-in with Teen Titans Go! But this series needs new blood to couple with its new look. Damian is back, and we’ve also got the new Kid Flash (shown left). Both characters offer a lot of fresh intrigue, and I’m longing for more of that. In a perfect world, I’d have swapped out Starfire and Raven for Supergirl and Emiko Queen (the latter Percy is still writing in Green Arrow), and kept Beast Boy. We can also toss Natasha Irons in there as as a techno-whiz. Notice that not only gives us an even male to female ratio, but it further diversifies the team.

Still, Percy and Meyers make the most of the characters they have by playing up the emotional isolationism so many teenagers feel. The first line in the book, from Beast Boy, is: “I’m alone…” Then we go to Starfire, who talks about how working makes her feel like she has “a place in this alien world.” In the next scene, Raven goes to a museum to “commune with my sadness.” Then we get some real-world commentary, as Wally gets mistaken for a thief, and says he can’t “outrun the assumption I’m up to no good.”

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, Beast Boy, Jonboy MeyersThese elements were present to a lesser extent at the start of the Scott Lobdell/Brett Booth series, and again in the Will Pfiefer/Kenneth Rocafort series. But in Rebirth it feels like the thread that unites the characters. It makes them more than just teammates. A unifying factor like that is something you find in a lot of great superhero team books, and its a really good omen.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the restoration of hope to the DCU. This new Teen Titans book is barely established yet, but it’s already instilled me with a lot of hope that the series can be a hot commodity. It’s time to make the Teen Titans great again!

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A Titans #2 Review – The Path to Redemption

Titans #2, 2016, Brett BoothTITLE: Titans #2
AUTHOR: Dan Abnett
PENCILLER: Brett Booth
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 24, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

By God, I knew it! The dastardly villain responsible for making Wally West “disappear” from the timeline is none other than…Abra Kadabra? The guy with the top hat and the magic wand? I’ll say this much, I didn’t see that coming…

But indeed, in following up on the events of DC Universe Rebirth #1, Abra Kadabra is the first villain the Titans come up against. He hits them with a classic supervillain plot: Mirror opponents. In this case, the Titans fighting younger versions of themselves. Nightwing against Robin, Wally West against Kid Flash, etc. Though I may jest, this is actually quite fitting. We’re still re-establishing the idea that these characters were a team. So in effect, Dan Abnett is giving us a fight, and adding depth to the team at the same time.

Our penciller for the series thus far is Brett Booth. Objectively, there’s very little wrong with what we get here. Booth injects a nice energy into things. During action sequences his characters have a great sense of motion, Wally and Kid Flash in particular.

Titans #2, group shot, Brett BoothBut justified or not, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Brett Booth and anything Teen Titans-related. The Teen Titans haven’t been good for years. That isn’t his fault. He didn’t write any of the material he’s worked on. But Booth was the penciller when things really started to go south: The New 52 reboot. He spent over a dozen issues on the interiors, and even more on cover duty. I’m sure everybody tried their best. But during that time the book was, by most accounts, bad . Booth drew some god awful costumes, too. From that horrible Red Robin look, to the seemingly TRON-inspired suits they wore in the “Culling” crossover. It’s been a dark time for DC’s younger heroes. So to see Booth attached to Titans didn’t fill me with confidence, despite the solid work he’s since done on books like The Flash and Nightwing.

Perhaps, like Wally West, he hopes to find redemption in these pages…

There’s an undeniable sentimental quality in seeing these characters together, especially after having them apart for so long. Abnett tugs at our heartstrings a little bit with Wally and Linda Park, and the question of whether she’ll remember him. We also have what appears to be a revelation from Roy Harper, which definitely catches Donna Troy off guard.

Titans #2, variant cover, Mike ChoiThere’s been confusion on my part regarding Bumblebee. The solicits have her entering the series at issue #3, but she was on the regular cover for issue #1, and the Mike Choi variants (lovely, by the way) for issues #1 and #2. I’d rather not tell you how long I spent looking at the Choi cover for this issue trying to figure out who that top left person was. Hopefully next issue will alleviate any future confusion.

I’m interested to see just how close the Titans get to uncovering the real mystery behind the DC Universe’s wonky timeline. But either way, this is a solid series for the time being. The band is back together, and it’s nice to hear them playing some familiar tunes.

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A DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review – “How Could I Ever Forget You?”

DC Universe: Rebirth #1TITLE: DC Universe: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 25, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Part of the idea behind the 2011 “New 52” reboot at DC Comics was to modernize and simplify the characters and continuity for new readers. They largely succeeded. A lot of great comics were sold, and new readers were given a fresh jumping-on point for the DC Universe.

But lets be honest. If you were a longtime DC Comics fan, you lost a lot more than you gained. The timeline of the DCU was condensed down to five or six years. As such, the characters lost a lot of their depth. Certain characters, relationships, marriages and families were altered, if not erased altogether. As such, this new DC Universe suffered from a lack of heart and emotional connection.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is DC’s attempt to remedy this problem by restoring some of these lost characters, and injecting some much needed love into the proceedings.

A LOT of big things happen in this issue. So lets touch on most of them individually…

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, 2016, Wally West, Barry Allen hugWally West returns, reunites with Barry Allen, warns of a new enemy. Most of us can relate to being forgotten about on some level. It’s heartbreaking. That’s the feeling Geoff Johns taps into when he shows us the plight of Wally West. Lost to time, left as mere kinetic energy in the Speed Force, he’s so desperate to be remembered. Even his former wife replies to his presence with a heart-wrenching: “I don’t know you.” So it’s a genuine tear-jerker when Barry suddenly does remember him, then wraps him in a hug and says: “How could I ever forget you?” After almost five years without Wally, this was every bit the epic reunion it was designed to be.

The explanation we get for the other Wally West, who’s set to become Kid Flash in upcoming issues, is a little corny. Something about them being cousins and both named after their great-grandfather. I’ll grant them that there was no easy way to get out of that scenario. There was bound to be confusion. At least Johns connected them. Hopefully that’ll be a unique meeting eventually.

I’m not clear on what Barry and Wally remember at this point. In this issue, Wally remembers his wife Linda Park, the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, his time with the Teen Titans, and other odds and ends. At least some of that seems to have been transferred to Barry. But Wally also says it’s becoming harder to remember his old life. I imagine more will be revealed in the new Titans series.

Per events in Justice League, also written by Johns, we learn there have apparently been three Jokers. I balked when I first saw this. Having three Jokers seemingly takes away the character’s unique evolution and versatility. Now, instead of one multidimensional Joker, we’ll have three one-dimensional Jokers. That, at least, is my takeaway from the revelation.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Jokers, Ethan Van SciverI am happy, however, that they didn’t give us any names. We didn’t find out The Joker’s real name is Jack Napier or anything like that. My love for The Killing Joke notwithstanding, I like my Joker somewhat de-humanized, conveying the idea that absolutely anyone could be behind that twisted grin. “One bad day” and what not. They may still do that, but hopefully they don’t.

It’s easy to make snap judgments about dramatic reveals like this. (Captain America, anyone?) But ultimately, it’s all about the story they’re telling. The true merit of this twist lies with what they do with it.

Wally reaches out to an elderly Johnny Thunder, who has been searching for the Justice Society. Justice Society got a little out of hand before the reboot. The team was split between two titles. If they’re bringing back the JSA, my hope is the team will be smaller. My question is, if the Society comes back does that mean the timeline gets adjusted so Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and all those characters were indeed active during World War II?

Ted Kord, DC Universe Rebirth #1Partnerships are established between Ted Kord & Jaime Reyes and Ray Palmer & Ryan Choi. Dr. Fate reveals that Jamie’s Scarab is actually magic. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Ted until this issue. Gary Frank perfectly captures that boyish enthusiasm, which is part of what’s so great about Ted. This new partnership with Jaime should make for good comics.

Ray Palmer has a line about Jean Loring in his scene with Ryan Choi, which seems to indicate that Identity Crisis is out of continuity. I’m a big Brad Meltzer fan (mostly). But if we have to abandon Identity Crisis in favor of a more hopeful DC Comics, with some of our favorites back in the picture, I’m okay with that.

Aquaman proposes to Mera. Jackson Hyde returns to the DCU.  Well heavens to Betsy. Marriage is okay again! With the reboot, Superman, The Flash (both of them), and Aquaman all had their marriages retconned. Batwoman was also not allowed to marry her love interest. Arthur at least got to keep his relationship with Mera. This seems to be a very positive step away from the “heroes can’t be happy” approach DC seemingly had in place a few years ago.

Why Jackson Hyde wasn’t a part of the New 52 reboot is a mystery to me. They had spent all that time building him up in Brightest Day, and then he was just gone. Hopefully they can now capitalize on what for years has been a wasted opportunity.

And now, for the biggest reveal of them all…

Batman, WatchmenWatchmen characters are incorporated into the DCU. Dr. Manhattan implicated as the mysterious force manipulating time. Ah, here’s the kicker. I mean, c’mon. We couldn’t have a villain manipulating the time stream somehow. We had to drudge up Watchmen again, as the book and the characters continue to be profitable 30 years after its original publication.

I won’t lie, there’s a certain excitement at the prospect of a post-Watchmen Dr. Manhattan interacting with the DC Universe. Seeing Batman find the iconic Comedian button with the bloodstain, hidden in the Batcave, of all places, was a legit shocker. Even watching Pandora perish the way Rorschach did was kinda cool.

But here’s my big question: Will it be worth it in the end?

The last time DC pulled this crew out of retirement was for Before Watchmen, a line of prequel miniseries’ featuring all the classic characters. It gave us some good stuff, particularly Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen story. But even with all the A-list talent involved, when you look at Before Watchmen cumulatively, you aren’t left with a feeling of justification. The sense that this was worth doing without Alan Moore and arguably taking some of the luster off Watchmen.

I’m really hoping they thought about that before making this move. Is this going to be worth bringing Watchmen out of retirement Especially when we presumably won’t be seeing Dr. Manhattan, and whoever else pops up, in the context of their own world.

DC Universe Rebirth #1, montage, Gary FrankThis oversized issue is divided into four chapters, plus an epilogue. For these various sections, Geoff Johns is working with three of his longtime collaborators. The MVP by far is Gary Frank, who draws chapter 2, and also assists with chapters 1 and 3. His art drips with pure humanity. When Wally bursts in on Johnny Thunder, we can feel the old man’s desperation, heartbreak, and fear. In the scene with Ted and Jaime, Ted’s enthusiasm is contagious. On the other hand, Jaime’s apprehension is palpable, and comes off very natural. Frank also draws the big reveal with Batman and the pin (shown above), and even drew the cover. What an amazing issue for him.

It’s very fitting to have Ethan Van Sciver on the pencil for chapter 1. As the artist on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth, it creates a nice consistency. What’s more, having worked on those books, and contributed to projects like The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, his work inevitably conveys a sense of importance. He very much lives up to that, as its Van Sciver that gives us our first look at the returning Wally West.

In chapter 3, Ivan Reis gives us a gorgeous scene with Aquaman and Mera. But the scene with Wally and Linda, where he’s so sure she’ll remember him and he gets rejected…it’s amazing. Their faces, their body language, it’s just perfect. You can make an argument that this is the most important scene in the issue. The impact of Wally’s failure with Linda makes the scene where Barry saves him that much more impactful.

There’s a certain artistic symmetry to Phil Jimenez drawing the reunion between Barry and Wally. In Infinite Crisis, Jimenez drew Wally and his family disappearing into the Speed Force, as well as Barry briefly emerging from it. Now, he gives us an emotional sequence where Barry pulls Wally from the Speed Force. He was the perfect choice for this moment.

Aquaman and Mera proposalFinally, let’s talk about Geoff Johns for a moment. The guy gets his share of flack these days. He’s got a reputation as Mr. Retcon. And I’ll admit those early Justice League issues where pretty flawed. But by and large, he tells gripping and often emotional stories. In the case of DC Universe Rebirth #1, he and the team give us a much-needed break from the grim and largely joyless DC Comics we’ve come to know since The New 52 began. There’s a place for hope, love, and wonder in this universe. Most readers always knew that. Let’s hope DC never forgets again…

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image Image 3 from pastemagazine.com. Image 3 from observer.com. Image 4 and 6 from observer.com. Image 5 from terrazero.com. 

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A Review of The Flash: The Road to Flashpoint – Grudges and Time Gymnastics

The Flash: The Road to FlashpointTITLE: The Flash, Vol. 2: The Road to FLashpoint
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Scott Kolins, Francis Manapul
COLLECTS: The Flash #8-12
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: November 16, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m a bit confused as to why DC chose to publish this book.  It’s the lead-in to Flashpoint, the story that altered the timeline of the DC Universe. Thus, we now have a book that takes place in an old continuity, leading up to an event that takes place in an alternate timeline, which features characters who, in the current continuity, are either different or don’t exist altogether. On top of that it’s only five issues long, as opposed to the typical six or seven that usually make up a trade paperback. That’ll be $22.99!

The Flash #8, 2011, Scott KolinsLogistical complaints aside, The Road To Flashpoint isn’t so bad. It gives us the events leading up to the big chronological shift that caused the timeline to nosedive into chaos. We meet a new character called Hot Pursuit, a traveler from an alternate Earth who uses a motorcycle to tap into the Speed Force. He’s determined to stop what he deems to be a catastrophic shift in the timeline, without The Flash’s help. Meanwhile, Barry Allen’s family is growing concerned that he’s spending too much time on his heroics, and is avoiding something in his personal life which may or may not involve Kid Flash. But most importantly, The Reverse-Flash has escaped from Iron Heights and he’s planning something that will change the world forever.

Geoff Johns’ regular Flash partner Francis Manapul tags out to Scott Kolins quite a bit in this book, which isn’t great. But it’s alright. Johns and Manapul have proven that when they’re on their game, they can be as good as any other creative team out there. But Kolins is no slouch. His art adorns the best part of this book, which is the look back at The Reverse-Flash’s origin story. We see how he has manipulated the time stream to alter events in his life and twist them to his own advantage. Johns does a great job portraying him as a twisted, psychotic madman.

The Flash #12, Francis ManapulIt’s nice to see Barry and Bart get a chance to resolve the issues they have with one another, for which the seeds were placed way back in The Flash: Rebirth. Sadly, it won’t ever amount to anything, as these versions of the characters (presumably) won’t ever be working as a team again, given the reboot. But I appreciate Johns taking the time to tie up the loose end. The idea of Barry being “addicted” to the Speed Force is a stretch in my book, simply because he’s a superhero. In that position, it would certainly benefit one to have as much balance in their life as possible. But in the DCU there’s constantly someone trying to blow up the world or something. I actually found myself saying: “Quit nagging the guy! He’s got a lot on his plate!” Hot Pursuit is a decent character, and the idea of a speedster using a vehicle instead of his feet is interesting. But again, don’t invest too much in him, as we likely won’t see him again for quite some time, if ever.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on this book simply because it happens to predate the New 52. It provides some fantastic insight into The Reverse-Flash’s character and sets up a few things going into Flashpoint. But in the grand scheme of things, did that warrant a $22 book? Probably not. The Road to Flashpoint is one of the few Geoff Johns books that doesn’t stand very well on it’s own.

RATING: 5/10

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicvine.com.

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First Impressions: Superman, Aquaman, Ghostbusters, Teen Titans

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman #1 (2011)TITLE: Superman #1
AUTHOR: George Perez
PENCILLER: Jesus Merino
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This was a FANTASTIC first issue, which carried over one of my favorite elements from Action Comics #1: Superman searching for truth and justice on the social level in a world that seems dominated by corporate interest.

In this issue we learn that The Daily Planet has been sold to a corporation called Galaxy Communications, which apparently uses illegal tactics and yellow journalism in its reporting. Furious, Clark Kent refuses to attend the big gala in honor of the sale. Galaxy proceeds to change it’s name to the Planet Global Network, and names Lois Lane as their nightly news producer and executive vice president of new media. Suddenly, the city is attacked by a giant fire monster (who apparently has ties to Krypton). Superman battles the creature, and at the end we get a glimpse into Clark and Lois’ personal lives in the new DCU (Remember, they’ve never been married in this continuity.).

Superman #1, 2011, Clark and Lois, Jesus MerinoAs a former reporter, I found the insight into the current state of the news industry to be an effective way to illustrate Superman’s views on white collar corruption. We also see the battle between Superman and the monster from PGN’s vantage point, which is very effective. During the fight, much of the narrative consists of text from a news story later written by Clark Kent, which is cheesy. Still, it’s forgivable.

Superman spends a portion of this issue brooding, which is something we’re not necessarily used to. When the old Superman got angry, often times he was like a parent who’d lost his temper. This character isn’t like that. He seems inclined to be much more emotional, which isn’t a bad thing. I just hope we get a balance between the grim and the optimistic. Superman has been a rather angry young man this month, and he has reason to be. But let’s not turn him into Batman, okay?

All in all, a complete 180 in quality from what we’ve been seeing in Superman recently. I’m very excited about this book.

***

Ghostbusters #1 (2011)TITLE: Ghostbusters #1
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
PENCILLER: Dan Shoening, Tristan Jones
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2011

I once said that any writer of a Ghostbusters comic book would likely never recapture the magic Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis created in the movies. I maintain that to this day. However, the first issue of IDW’s new Ghostbusters series comes the closest out of any GB book I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few).

We start the book with Ray having a nightmare, which features a delightful appearance by Ray’s brother, who looks exactly like John Belushi’s character from Blues Brothers. It’s a very endearing tribute. We then go into Winston and Peter tracking down a ghost at an apartment complex, who turns out to be someone that fans know VERY well. Then, in a back up story, we see that Walter Peck (William Atherton’s character from the first movie) will be butting into our heroes’ lives very soon.

Ghostbusters #1, 2011, Dan ShoeningThis book really has the total package for Ghostbusters fans. Burnham’s writing is solid. It’s not too corny, but not too serious either. To me, there’s a delicate balance that goes into creating a Ghostbusters story. You’ve got to make the threat believable and scary, but also be lighthearted and funny. That’s tough to do. But Burnham’s off to a great start.

Dan Shoening’s art is always a treat for me. I’ve loosely followed his Deviant Art page for a few years now, and it’s obvious he’s a Ghostbusters nut. He even co-manned a pitch for a new Ghostbusters comic a few years ago. His art fits the style and tone of the story, and it’s obvious he’s as passionate about the content as any diehard fan would be.

If the book keeps up with this kind of content, Ghostbusters #1 could very well become one of my favorite ongoing titles. I could gush about this book for awhile, but I’d prefer you go out and read it for yourself.

***

Aquaman #1, 2011TITLE: Aquaman #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Ivan Reis
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2011

Well, how about this? An Aquaman who’s aware of his status as a pop culture punch line.

The most interesting moments in Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’ first issue of Aquaman are when ordinary citizens are either chuckling at the character, or saying weird things to him. At one point, Aquaman attempts to have lunch at a seafood restaurant, and someone says: “You can’t get the fish and chips…you talk to fish!” The character himself is getting a chance to respond to the public’s perception of him, which is interesting. Though, I find the idea of Aquaman sitting down in a seafood restaurant in full costume to be pretty stupid.

As a threat known as The Trench makes its way up from the Atlantic ocean, Aquaman and Mera decide that they’re going to live on the surface, and attempt to start a new life. One would assume their lives as superheroes won’t allow this transition to be easy.

Fans have wanted to see Geoff Johns tackle Aquaman for awhile now. They got that in Brightest Day, and they’ll get more of it here. I’ll stick with this series for the near future, simply out of interest for what Johns will do. Plus, Ivan Reis’ art is always lovely.

***

Teen Titans #1, 2011TITLE: Teen Titans #1
AUTHOR: Scott Lobdell
PENCILLER: Brett Booth
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2011

I don’t think I’m ever going to dig Red Robin’s new costume. It’s just…wrong. It just looks way too cumbersome and silly. In this issue, Tim Drake uses his new wings to block a storm of bullets coming at he and Wonder Girl courtesy of a helicopter. That’s great and all, but the old Red Robin would have simply EVADED THE GUNFIRE!!!!

My disgust with the costume aside, Teen Titans #1 isn’t so bad. We kick the issue off with Kid Flash (who is apparently still Bart Allen, not Wally West), rushing to help with a burning building, but ends up making the situation a LOT worse. This apparently adds fuel to the media’s claims that many teenage meta-humans are menaces. Meanwhile, Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (see Superboy #1) is hunting down teenage metas, and the poorly dressed Red Robin rushes to save Cassandra Sandsmark, who the press call Wonder Girl. In response to the resulting battle, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. decides to release their secret weapons (or at least one of them): Superboy.

Teen Titans #1, 2011, Brett BoothA few things that caught my attention in this issue:
– It seems to run side by side with the current Superboy story arc.
– Tim Drake will apparently be the one who to bring the Teen Titans together, much like Batman will be the one to form the Justice League (according to solicitations at least). Funny how these two loners are inclined to create superhero teams…
– Wonder Girl’s costume is slightly reminiscent of Donna Troy’s, from the standpoint of the stars in space design. Curious.

Will I come back for more Teen Titans? Probably. The concept of teenagers being reckless with their superpowers intrigues me, as that’s something real teenagers would likely do. But I’m telling you, Red Robin’s costume might ruin it for me. I’m THAT bothered by it.

Interior image 1 from insidepulse.com. Interior image 2 from bleedingcool.com.

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