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A Dark Nights: Metal #1 Review – More of the Same

TITLE: Dark Nights: Metal #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 16, 2017

***Warning: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like every time I review something Scott Snyder writes I have to go through the same spiel: I generally like his stuff, but he does certain things that make me mad as hell. As such, it’s difficult for me to look at Dark Knights: Metal in an unbiased manner.

In truth, I love the premise of Metal. It involves Batman, and later the entire Justice League, trying to unravel the ancient mystery behind Nth Metal. DC Comics aficionados will recognize that term from Hawkman’s mythology. This leads to the theory that Nth Metal came from a “Dark Multiverse,” existing outside the multiverse we’re familiar with. From this Dark Multiverse, a full scale invasion force is coming. A war with these dark forces is about to begin. And apparently, the one who will open the door to this Dark Multiverse is none other than Batman, who’s been looking into this Dark Multiverse for quite some time. As we’re told at issue’s end, the nightmare has only just begun…

I commend Snyder for weaving classic DC Comics elements into the fabric of Metal. Not just the perennially under-appreciated Hawkman, but the Challengers of the Unknown and the Metal Men as well. We even get little nods to places like Dinosaur Island. The League even travels to Blackhawk Island for briefing. It makes the whole Dark Multiverse concept feel a little more organic. We even get an appearance by a famous Vertigo character as part of our cliffhanger.

Kendra Saunders, leader of the Blackhawks and the reincarnated Hawkgirl (long story), exposits that iconic DC settings like Themyscira, Dinosaur Island, and Nanda Parbat exist in areas “where cosmic energy conducted through the Earth’s metal core cancels itself out, creates a kind of ‘static’ that disrupts space-time.” I’d never heard this explanation before. I assume it’s a Snyder original. I love it. It answers a question I never knew I had…

It’s great to see Greg Capullo back in the DC Universe. He, inker Jonathan Glapion, and colorist FCD Plascencia give us an opening sequence with the League in a battle arena on a new Warworld. Naturally, it’s ruled by Mongul. Capullo puts our heroes in armor that is ironically attuned to their weaknesses. Thus, they’re essentially fighting as regular civilians. I’d say there’s at least a 50/50 chance we see these made into toys eventually.

My two favorite pages in the issue are back-to-back. The first is when we see Red Tornado attack the League on Blackhawk Island. Capullo’s take on the character’s cyclone powers are interesting, as they engulf the entire scene. Then on the very next page, we get a shot of Batman riding a dinosaur off the island (shown below). Hokey? Yes. But Capullo plays it somewhat comedically. Plus, there’s a giant dinosaur in the Batcave. So in a ludicrous way, it fits.

Alright, now I get to poo-poo the Snyder party like I always do. Let’s talk about robots, shall we?

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have a thing about big (sometimes giant) Batman robots. I’ve talked at length about this before. They just can’t help themselves. So it really should have come as no surprise that in the Warworld arena, the Justice League is fighting a bunch of giant robots attuned to their specific abilities. And of course, what’s better than the League bunch of giant robots? The League taking control of the robots and forming one GIGANTIC robot! Justice League Megazord, power up! OMIGOD U GUYZ!!!!!!!

On it’s own, this is fine. A little stupid for my tastes (And that’s coming from a Power Rangers geek!), but fine. But when you take in to account how much these guys have used big awful Batman robots before, it’s actually laughable. Honestly, did we have to go with the giant robots again? I understand the story is called Metal, and it behooved them to go with a mechanical threat. But this scene with Mongul and the Megazord doesn’t connect to the Dark Multiverse stuff anyway. So why not give Capullo and the team something new and fun to draw instead of going back to the giant robot well?

My second big complaint with the Metal story overall has to do with Batman and the “chosen one” narrative. In all fairness, this is a problem that goes beyond Snyder and Capullo. I’ve called it “over-Baturation.” On Blackhawk Island, Kendra warns of a beast as old as the universe itself, Barbatos, arriving from the Dark Multiverse through a human doorway. Based on clues she’s discovered, she theorizes Batman is that doorway. She then tries to spring a trap on him, and thus the Dark Knight escapes on said dinosaur.

Metal is meant to be Batman-centric. Yet another milking of DC’s biggest cash cow. As a DC reader, I’m used to that by now. I just wish they didn’t have to portray Batman and the Wayne family as a cosmic centerpiece to so many things. From an in-story perspective, it makes him more prominent than he should be. Even as a founding member of the Justice League, the world’s greatest detective, and all that stuff, what is Batman at the end of the day? A street-level crime fighter. So the idea of a demonic entity from another universe depending on him to open a cross dimensional gateway doesn’t fit for me. Why can’t Bruce just be investigating the Dark Multiverse, and let the bad guys in by accident? Why does it have to be a prophecy?

Hell, why is it that the Dark Multiverse creatures we’ve glimpsed all seem to be twisted and evil amalgamations of Batman and various Justice League characters? (For instance, the spin-off Batman: The Murder Machine is about an evil Batman/Cyborg blend. Batman: The Red Death is Batman/The Flash, etc.) For that matter, why can’t we use this Metal aesthetic on other characters and not drag Batman into it? Yes, he has the iconography of a demon, and is thus more suited to it. But are you telling me no one has any kind of take on a “metalized” Wonder Woman? How about Cyborg or Aquaman? You can make your event Batman-centric without having to put Bat-ears on everything!

Does everything have to be a giant Batman circle jerk?

*whew* Okay. I’m done. No, seriously. I am.

In the end, I’m sure DC will make decent bank on Metal, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of cool creativity on display. The heavy metal inspired tonality is something fairly different for a superhero event comic. Greg Capullo’s art may be worth the price of admission on its own. But as far as I’m concerned, for better or worse, Metal represents more of the same from Snyder and Capullo. A lot of awesome ideas, mixed in with a lot of infuriating ideas. And giant robots. Lots of giant robots.

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A Convergence: Justice League International #1 Review – Man, I Miss the ’80s…

Convergence: Justice League #1TITLE: Convergence: Justice League International #1
AUTHOR: Ron Marz
PENCILLER: Mike Manley. Cover by Paul Renaud.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE:
$3.99
RELEASED:
April 15, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

DC Comics has been trying on and off to recapture some of the magic of Justice League International for the past 10 years or so. So it comes as no surprise that JLI is part of the line-up of Convergence tie-ins. It’s also no surprise that this issue doesn’t quite capture the spirit of its namesake. Still, it does manage to be a decent read.

Set in pre-Zero Hour Metropolis, our Justice League must face Metallo and his batalion of “metallic men.” They must also face the harsh reality that their days may be numbered under the dome that has imprisoned the city for a year. But once the events of Convergence #1 set in, the JLI faces a new enemy: Heroes from the Kingdom Come universe.

Convergence: Justice League International #1For this outing, our JLI consists of Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Martian Manhunter, Captain Atom, Fire & Ice, and Red Tornado. Mind you, all the heroes with organic superpowers have been stripped of their abilities by the dome. In addition, much like other cities captured by Brainiac, Metropolis faces depleted resources. And even with their powers, they’ll be hard-pressed to fight the likes of Kingdom Come Wonder Woman, Shazam, etc. So the JLI find themselves in a familiar underdog position, which is a nice touch. It’s also worth noting that the Kingdom Come version of Blue Beetle is among the invaders, which means Ted could meet an alternate version of himself next issue.

It’s not necessarily fair to expect the same brand of humor from this issue that was a trademark of the original JLI title. Ron Marz and Mike Manley are veterans, but to my knowledge neither of them had anything to do with JLI. So they’re in an unenviable position, as is anyone tasked with trying to recreate that lightning-in-a-bottle Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire had in the ’80s. So one can’t be too hard on them.

That being said, you’d think they’d have come up with an initial threat with a more comedic skew than Metallo. Blue Beetle has some decent lines. But certainly nothing snicker-worthy.

Convergence: Justice League International #1I did find myself sympathetic for Ted Kord, though. He’s been tasked with leading heroes that, without powers, are suddenly out of their element. And they’re protecting a city that’s falling apart at the seams. Marz and Manley are able to convey this during a simple scene of expository dialogue between Beetle and Manhunter, so I’ll credit them for that.

Manley’s art is passable. I was by no means blown away. But as we know, he’s very much at home in a superhero story. His opening pages were able to sell me on the grandeur of seeing Metallo take on the Justice League International. But as it becomes clear this isn’t the JLI we’re hoping to see, a damper is put on on the issue at large.

Still, I will indeed be back for the second issue, just to see how these underdogs fare against the Kingdom Come heroes. I’m not expecting great quality, but I’m curious to see what Marz and Manley do.

Image 1 from infinitecomix.com. Image 2 from splittingatomsblog.wordpress.com. 

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A Justice League of America: Team History Review – Will the Real JLA Please Stand Up?

Justice League of America: Team HistoryTITLE: Justice League of America: Team History
AUTHOR: James Robinson
PENCILLER: Mark Bagley
COLLECTS: Justice League of America #38-43
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Some of the creative decisions surrounding Justice League of America in the past year or so have really left me scratching my head. Certain characters have been in the League for a little while, then left, only to be replaced by other characters, who then leave, and are replaced again. The cast/team line up has been in a constant state of flux.

James Robinson’s would-be epic, Justice League: Cry For Justice, is partially to blame for that. First they were going to make that book into it’s own series, then they decided to just make it a miniseries, and that seems to have screwed things up. Robinson was put on the main Justice League book, and proceeded to give us an almost entirely different team.

Still, he and Mark Bagley put on a decent show with Team History.

Justice League #38 (2010)The book begins in the aftermath of Cry For Justice, with Vixen, Plastic Man, Dr. Light and Red Tornado contemplating whether the Justice League should even exist in its current incarnation. Soon, the events of Blackest Night kick in, and Zatanna must confront her zombified father. Meanwhile, Vixen and Gypsy face their old teammates from the Detroit Justice League, and Dr. Light deals with her villainous counterpart of the same name.

Then we jump post-Blackest Night, and everyone but Dr. Light and a bodyless Red Tornado remain on the team. So Robinson throws Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Batman (Dick Grayson), Donna Troy, Cyborg, Starfire, Mon-El, The Guardian, and The Atom together. Plus, we get Congorilla and Starman, who were featured in Cry For Justice. They take on, among other threats, a trio of villains who gain access to the Justice League Watchtower.

For my money, the first part of this book overshadows the second. Robinson does a really nice job with the confrontation between the good Dr. Light, and the sadistic rapist Dr. Light. He taps into some of that Identity Crisis magic really well. The fight with the Detroit League is fun too. I was pleasantly surprised.

Justice League of America: Team History, group shotThe book gets convoluted during its second half. The assemblage of the team is done well enough, but the bad guys are introduced via a series of flashbacks that left me scratching my head. I knew who/what the threat was, I just wasn’t sure how they got to be a threat or why.

What frustrated me the most about this book, is that the new team seems to start imploding before their first adventure is even over. The events of The Fall of Green Arrow/The Rise of Arsenal start to take over, and there’s a big question mark left hanging over the entire team. Plus, based on events that have taken place since Justice League #43 was published, it’s looking like at least a couple of these heroes won’t be sticking around for the long haul.

Team History is a decent book on its own, but it left me frustrated at the lack of consistency in the Justice League’s roster. Heck, even the characters themselves seem to be getting frustrated. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have even complained about the Teen Titans, and saved my frustration for the League.

Seriously…will the real Justice League please stand up?

RATING: 6/10

Image 1 from craveonline.com. Image 2 from dreamwidth.org.

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