A Batman: I Am Gotham Review – What Did You Expect?

Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, coverTITLE: Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLER: David Finch, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Batman #16
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 11, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The announcement of Tom King taking over Batman was a big deal. At the time his phenomenal run on The Vision was still in progress, and the critics (myself included) were buzzing about him. In addition, he’d already worked on some of the Gotham City characters via his time on Grayson. So hopes were high for him. But coming off the commercially, and often critically acclaimed run that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo had just completed, expectations may have been even higher.

What King, David Finch, and this new Batman team give us is fine. At times it’s even good. But the waters are muddier than we’ve seen from previous Batman runs. We spend a little too much time hyping a future story and there’s a connection to the Suicide Squad that often feels forced. But if you’re patient, there’s some good character work in here, with both established characters and the ones we’re meeting for the first time.

I Am Gotham introduces us to the super-powered brother-sister duo of Gotham and Gotham Girl. Inspired by Batman, they make their debut saving the Dark Knight from a plane crash. Batman takes them under his wing, but soon learns they have demons that will result in blood being shed in Gotham City. All the while, sinister plans are in motion to spill even more blood…

Batman #2, Gotham, Gotham Girl, David FinchLike many of Batman’s supporting characters, allies and enemies alike, Gotham and Gotham Girl are almost skewed versions of Batman himself. After young Hank Clover and his parents are saved from a mugging in Crime Ally by Batman, he and his sister Claire become obsessed with bettering themselves so that they can help others. We later learn they’re connected to Amanda Waller, and she’s using the Hugo Strange and Psycho-Pirate to keep them under control. That connection works out fine, but it’s ultimately unnecessary. All we need is Psycho Pirate, Hugo Strange, and Strange’s accomplice, who we learn about in the closing pages. So why have Waller in there at all? It’s obvious, isn’t it…?

Suicide Squad is a big priority at DC right now, and rightfully so. Case in point, the upcoming Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover. These issues started coming out in August, the same month the movie was released. So Waller was obviously dropped in here for that reason. It’s fine, but disappointing when you look at it from that angle. What’s more, DC is still pushing Suicide Squad via Batman, with the Dark Knight forming his own version of the team. The story is even called “I Am Suicide.” We get it, guys. We get it.

The story also starts hyping “Night of the Monster Men” far too early for my taste. That arc doesn’t start until issue #7. This book starts hyping it in issue #2. I’m all for long form storytelling. But not at the expense of your current story. It feels more like padding than anything else.

One of the themes I Am Gotham touches on is the nature of Gotham City, almost personifying it as a character in the story. What it is, what it does to people, etc. Snyder and Capullo also did that, with more success than King and Finch have here. But in all fairness, they had 50 issues. This team has six. So it pales in comparison. King also doesn’t say much of substance about the city. At least he hasn’t thus far in his Batman run. In the pages of I Am Gotham, the theme essentially goes no where.

Batman #1, 2016, David Finch, upside downI’ve been a critic of David Finch’s for awhile now, and I make no apologies for that. I think all his renderings of women look the same, and absolutely everything he does has that dark and gritty feel to it, even when dark and gritty isn’t what the story calls for. As such, he’s been put on a number of books in which his work often feels terribly mismatched. Wonder Woman and Justice League of America come to mind.

But that’s not to say Finch doesn’t have his place, and it’s on stories like this. The Gotham City he brings us, along with inkers Sandra Hope, Matt Banning, Scott Hanna, and colorist Jordie Bellaire is fittingly dark, illuminated by the glow of city lights and flames. Characters like Batman, Jim Gordon, and even Alfred, have a fittingly grizzled texture to them. He even pulls off a nice visual gag, as we get to see Alfred don the Batsuit.

I was justifiably concerned about how Finch would draw Gotham Girl. She’s basically a skinny blonde in a tennis skirt, after all. Thankfully, during the second half of the story when the masks comes off, Finch is much better at drawing Claire. Once we can see her eyes, Finch gives her a very nice vulnerability and we start to care about her.

Things get more expressive in issue #6 when Ivan Reis tags in on pencils. The issue largely focuses on Claire, and how she’s coping with the events of issue #5. It’s about how you’d expect, especially considering what she’s gone through with Psycho-Pirate. But facially, Reis conveys her emotional highs and lows very nicely. There’s a particularly great image of her toward the end of the issue, as she’s tucked into Batman’s chest. Guest colorist Marcelo Maiolo offers some nice consistency with Bellaire’s work, while still making the issue his own. As such, things are a little brighter. But we still see shades of Bellaire’s color palette. Most notably in the sky, and some of the city lights.

Batman #6, Ivan Reis, Gotham GirlOn its own, I Am Gotham is an okay read. But it’s clearly a first chapter. Based on subsequent issues of Batman, it’s tough to tell where the story is going. Considering the role she played in this book, one might think Gotham Girl would be center stage going forward. That’s not necessarily the case. She’s in “Night of the Monster Men.” But the story isn’t about her, per se. She serves as Batman’s motivation for the current “I Am Suicide” story, but that’s the only role she plays. Solicitations for upcoming issues have a lot of talk about Bane and Catwoman. Granted, the current issues with Mikel Janin are better than what we got here. But I get the sense that King is going for a natural progression, where the events of one story naturally flow into the next. Instead, this all feels somewhat disjointed. That’s disappointing. Thus far, King’s Batman run has been interesting. But coming off the hype and momentum that Snyder and Capullo’s run had, and especially when you consider what a masterpiece King’s run on The Vision was, this feels like a step down.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9 Review – A New Room in an Old House

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, 2016TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 30, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the Power Rangers movie for a second?

They’ve started showing the trailer in theaters, and a few days ago we got our first look at the movie’s Alpha 5 (yuck). For better or worse, it looks very much in the same vein as the darkened, CGI overhauls that franchises like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got. As such, it looks big, epic, mostly serious, and only slightly like the show I watched as a kid. As a longtime Power Rangers fan, that’s disappointing.

I bring this up because, like the movie, this Mighty Morphin Power Rangers book from BOOM! Studios is also big, epic, and serious. At one point in this new issue, the Tommy character finds himself in a life-threatening scenario. Thinking these are his final moments, he starts to ask the other Rangers to tell his mother that he loves her. That’d be a pretty intense moment for a Saturday morning kids show. But it works here. In fact, most of what we’ve seen in this series works. So why does MMPR work, but the Power Rangers movie looks so contrived?

power-rangers-movieI think a lot of it has to do with what seems to be an affection for the source material. Kyle Higgins, Hendry Prasetya, and this team are looking at this world through a different lens. But it still feels like the world and characters that we know. Everyone is in the same role, everyone looks and talks (mostly) the same, and the suits and zords are the same. But it feels like we’re breaking new ground. This series almost feels like magically finding a new room in a house you’ve lived in for years. Whereas the Power Rangers movie feels like a different house, built to vaguely look like the old one.

Even when we’re introduced to an element exclusive to the book, it feels like it’s cut from the same cloth as the show. Case in point, Black Dragon, and the mysterious new Ranger we meet at the end of issue #9.

By splitting Tommy’s powers, Jason, Kimberly, Zack, and Trini have regained access to the Morphin Grid. They once again have their powers and words, albeit with a green tint. Now they must rescue Billy from Dark Dimension and defeat Black Dragon. But during the battle, they learn this new enemy is not all that he seems. This new revelation will lead two Rangers to discover a new world of peril. Literally, a new world.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, Black DragonThe big news from this issue is the introduction of our comfy friend on the right. He’s obviously a mix of the Green and White Ranger (designed by Jamal Campbell), with some nice little additions thrown in. The Black Dragon we’ve seen previously is apparently an empty vessel. We find this mysterious Ranger in another plane of reality, which is dark and decimated, and features big statues of Rita and the Green Ranger. My guess is this is alternate-Earth Tommy, who was somehow victorious with Rita as the evil Green Ranger, and then turned on her to rule the world on his own.

This has been treated as a big reveal, with BOOM! advertising it as the first new Ranger introduced to the MMPR world in over two decades. Indeed, it’s pretty damn cool. With this new Ranger comes a new sandbox for writers and artists to play in, and a boat-load of new story possibilities. I’m guessing (and hoping) this is what Higgins was referring to when he talked publicly about not sticking to the show’s continuity.

Turning the other Ranger costumes green is a neat gimmick. Power Rangers fans like little tweaks like that. Colorist Matt Herms pulls it off very well, and Campbell even gives it a certain grandeur on the cover.

The superhero action stuff is where Prasetya really excels, as opposed to the quieter moments with the teens. So this is a big issue for him. There’s a fantastic splash page (shown below) where the Red-turned-Green Ranger teleports in, with the Tyrannosaurus Dinozord and the Eiffel Tower in the background. There’s a great shot where Black Dragon has his back to the camera as the zords advance. There are also a lot of great little things, like a rubble effect around the Dragonzord’s face when it takes a punch.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #9, 2016Higgins also has a nice handle on Goldar. Via some convincing, he actually releases Billy from the Dark Dimension so he can help the Rangers destroy Black Dragon. When it’s revealed Black Dragon is a robot, the idea is to let Billy dismantle him so that Goldar can take his spot back at Rita’s side. It’s shades of the dynamic he had with Tommy during “Green With Evil.” What made Goldar so intriguing was that while he worked for Rita, and was ultimately loyal to Lord Zedd, he had his own agenda. In this series, and the Pink miniseries, we’re seeing him act on that agenda. The only hole I can poke in the Dark Dimension stuff is why Goldar is so transparent with Billy. Agenda or no agenda, Billy is still his enemy.

Steve Orlando and Corin Howell are also back with more Bulk and Skull. While these back-ups haven’t done much at all for me, But the inclusion of Rita in this one offers a little more intrigue. And this story about Rita wanting the boys to control a monster does seem like something that might have happened on the show.

I admit, I’ve been nervous about this book since Higgins said that continuity stuff to Newsarama. We’ve got such a good thing going. So when the writer says something like that about the continuity that everybody knows and loves, I get antsy. With this alternate reality stuff, he’s found a nice way to have some fun and sell a lot of comics. I’m just hoping the fun continues.

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