Alex Ross Spotlight: The Legacy of Neal Adams

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a comic book geek and haven’t heard the name Neal Adams, you haven’t been paying attention in class.

Alex Ross credits Adams as one of his early influences, and it’s easy to see why. Adams is widely credited with revolutionizing comic book art. Specifically in the late ’60s and early ’70s when he worked with writer Denny O’Neil on characters like Batman, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern.

As Ross tells it…

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.

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Batman Incorporated: Demon Star Review – Wanted Dead: The Boy Wonder

Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon StarTITLE: Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star
AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PENCILLERS: Chris Burnham, Frazer Irving
COLLECTS: Batman Incorporated #0-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: April 8, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman Incorporated is like The Walking Dead, in the sense that it’s much better to read as a trade than in single issues. Unlike a lot of mainstream superhero comics, Batman Incorporated doesn’t take any time to recap things on a month-to-month basis. These days, most of Marvel’s books dedicate at least a paragraph on their title/credits page to reminding readers what’s going on. That’s not to say Batman Incorporated is obligated to do so, but it makes it tougher to simply pick an issue up from the shop and read it. But when you read issues #1-6 one after the other, it’s pretty damn good.

More or less picking up where the previous volume left off (It’s the New 52 now, so Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and certain other characters aren’t there anymore.), Talia al Ghul has been revealed as the leader of the terrorist group Leviathan. She has placed a bounty on the head of her son, Damian, a.k.a. Robin. Batman benches Damian just as Leviathan strikes Gotham City. But even the Dark Knight doesn’t know how deeply Talia’s insurgents have penetrated the city, and Damian isn’t about to stand by and watch Gotham be torn apart. Though in the end, it will cost him dearly…

Batman Incorporated #1, Chris BurnhamReaders should take their hats off to Chris Burnham for this one. His characters look very vibrant, expressive, and well defined. The various Robin alums actually look like different people, as opposed to a bunch of dark haired clones of varying ages. Plus, he makes the Brett Booth Red Robin costume look kinda cool. Even Brett Booth couldn’t do that. One might argue that his Damian looks a bit too young. He’s supposed to be 10, right? This one looks like he might be seven or eight. Even so, it’s one of the better Damian renderings I’ve seen. He actually looks and acts like a child.

One of the reasons the Batman Incorporated concept works so well is because it makes a certain amount of sense. Looking at it from an in-story perspective, Batman has so many partners, associates and stringers that to not expand like this is almost a waste. Some fans argued that the concept takes too much away from the character’s dark and shadowy mystique to be worthwhile. I understand that notion, and I’m certainly glad we’ve ditched the  pre-reboot “bat-light” suit. But from a character standpoint, it fits with the whole “war on crime” theme, doesn’t it? Putting aside suspension of disbelief, if you’re a man whose crusade against crime has been reasonably successful for several years, why wouldn’t you attempt to do that kind of good on a grander scale? If you buy into the idea of Batman, it makes sense.

Batman Incorporated, Chris Burnham, Batman & RobinUnlike the first volume of Incorporated, the events we see here take place primarily in Gotham City. Pre-New 52, the series sent Batman to places like Japan, Argentina and France, as he recruited new heroes for the group. This portion of the story feels more focused, and more of an emotional core to it, what with the father-mother-son dynamic. I say this portion of the story, because I can only assume this is more or less where Grant Morrison was taking things before the reboot happened. He and Burnham have had to adjust accordingly, but the basic plot is intact. So it doesn’t seem to be a matter of Morrison downplaying the international elements of Batman Incorporated, but rather this being the next chapter in the story. Either way, the events of Demon Star are better than the “recruitment drive” we saw in the first book.

In truth, the international characters in this book are surprisingly pushed to the side in favor of the “usual suspects,” i.e. Nightwing, Red Robin, even Jason Todd. Granted, there’s a milestone moment in the lives of Knight & Squire. But in the context of this book, characters like Batwing and El Gaucho are interchangeable with any other DC hero who has ties to Batman. I find that odd considering Batman Incorporated is supposed to be a global network of heroes.

Batman Incorporated #0, Frazer IrvingThe Demon Star calls upon just enough of Batman’s rich history to add something extra for longtime fans, while not alienating new readers. Characters like El Gaucho and Hood were hidden gems before Morrison dug them up for Batman Incorporated. But he and Burnham also revisit Talia’s entire backstory, and to their credit, they don’t muck it up and “modernize” it like so many creators did with the #0 issues last September. They add their own unique and intriguing elements, but they also incorporate the classic Denny O’Neil/Bob Brown material from her first appearance in 1972′s Batman #411, and allude to some of the classic Neal Adams stuff. There’s even an allusion to Villains United. It’s nice to see this kind of thing, considering these days DC is going out of their way not to mention it.

All in all The Demon Star builds very well. In that sense, it’s one of the better Bat-books we’ve seen since the New 52. It’s also a very effective set up for what we know lays ahead for Damian, and is a fitting next chapter in the romance-turned-rivalry between Batman and Talia. For Batman fans, it’s a can’t-miss.

RATING: 9/10

Image 1 from dccomics.com. Image 2 from comicpow.com. Image 3 from theweeklycrisis.com.

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A Green Lantern #0 Review – Sensationalist Diversity

Green Lantern #0, 2012TITLE: Green Lantern #0
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 5, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Judging from his first appearance, Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and DC Comics are about a decade too late with the story of Simon Baz, the first Arab American Green Lantern.

The stuff they show us as they introduce this new hero is plucked straight from some of the more scandalous and controversial headlines of the past decade, and it has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Case in point: On the very first page we see the twin towers up in smoke. On the second, we quickly cut between Simon washing graffiti off a mosque wall, then he and his sister being harassed and beat up, then we see him being racially profiled by security guards.

Get it?

Green Lantern #0, 2012, Simon BazSince being laid off from his auto factory job, Simon has turned to stealing cars to make ends meet. But one night, he gets more than he bargained for when he finds a time bomb in his latest acquisition. The cops take him in for interrogation, and we proceed with a scene that includes the line: “I’m a car thief, not a terrorist!” Then, as they prepare to WATERBOARD this poor sap, a Green Lantern ring (presumably the one lost by either Hal Jordan or Sinestro in last week’s Green Lantern Annual #1) bursts in and saves him.

I don’t think most fans have a problem with superhero comics being made a bit more diverse, and of the two major companies, DC is certainly the one that needs it more. Johns himself even said in a recent interview that there was no Muslim representation in the DC Universe. Considering this is the year 2012, that’s a pretty glaring omission. So I appreciate what they’re trying to do, here. And they story that they’re telling would be great…if it were being told 10 years ago. But in 2012 it feels like a pretty safe story that’s being told more for publicity’s sake. Does this kind of racism still occur today? Absolutely. But there’s a certain cheap quality to hitting us with 9/11 imagery, waterboarding, etc. That’s not to say that it doesn’t do what it’s designed to do. Johns and Mahnke make Simon Baz into a sympathetic character who stands up for what he believes in regardless of the cost to himself. Thus, he’s a perfect candidate to wield a Green Lantern ring. I just wish it wasn’t so obvious that, like Alan Scott being made into a gay character, this is DC changing something and then shouting: “Look at us! Look what we did! We’re diverse!!!”

Green Lantern #0, 2012, title page, Doug MahnkeOne thing I find interesting is the number of parallels between Simon Baz’s first appearance, and John Stewart’s first appearance from back in the early ’70s, when the civil rights movement was still in full swing. This was also at the height of the groundbreaking work being done by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Back then John was far from the straight-laced military man we know today. Like in Green Lantern #0, we see our new hero face corrupt cops. John stops a racist officer from harassing a pair of black men playing dominoes on the sidewalk. He then opens Hal Jordan’s eyes by taking down a racist senator. These are the same sorts of themes we see present in Green Lantern #0, except we don’t have Hal there to have his eyes opened as he sees the world through this new hero’s eyes (though perhaps we will, given time). Corrupt peacekeepers, racist government officials, it’s all still there. It’s presented a bit differently, and perhaps it’s a bit more subdued than it was in the ’70s. But John and Simon would have a lot to talk about.

I suppose the DC fan in me would have liked to have seen the company be a bit more gutsy with this kind of material. I don’t doubt that this kind of thing still happens, but the execution feels dated and overly sensationalized. Had this been printed during the Bush administration, we might have had something a bit more special. Still, it’s nice to see the publisher making an effort to diversify things.

Image 1 from fanboymorphine.blogspot.com. Image 2 from gamespot.com.

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