Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A Deathstroke Inc. #3 Micro-Review – Deathstroke on a Unicorn?!?

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

Deathstroke Inc 3, cover, 2021, Howard PorterTITLE: Deathstroke Inc. #3
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Howard Porter, Hi-Fi (Colors), Steve Wands

RELEASED: November 23, 2021

Last time we were in space. This month we’re in medieval times, with Deathstroke on the cover wearing knight type armor and riding a unicorn. My theory about Williamson using this book as an excuse to do batty, off the wall stuff definitely has validity…

Pro: Deathstroke fights Cheetah in this issue. That’s a fight we don’t get to see often, if ever.

Con: Deathstroke defeats 100 henchmen off-panel. Kinda lame.

Also lame: Black Canary now has a canary type symbol on her chest. Not unlike the Batman insignia.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A Deathstroke Inc. #2 Micro-Review – Off the Wall

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Deathstroke Inc. 2, cover, 2021, Howard PorterTITLE: Deathstroke Inc. #2
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Howard Porter, Hi-Fi (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 26, 2021

I’m getting the impression this series is going to be Williamson’s excuse to do a bunch of wild, off-the-wall stuff. Which isn’t bad, necessarily. Case in point, this issue sees Slade and Dinah go into space with jazzed up suits and weaponry. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were trying to market toys.

I didn’t necessarily appreciate Howard Porter’s work when I was younger. Nowadays, I’m catching on to why he’s one of the greats.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Deep Dive Reviews

Who is Nightwing? – The Villains Chapter

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

TITLES: Nightwing #918, Nightwing Annual #1
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Greg Land, Karl Story (Inker), Bob McLeod (Inker), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue (Annual: $3.95)
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1997-1998
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 2: Rough Justice

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This first volume of Nightwing has historically been collected in chunks of roughly 8-10 issues. Issues #1-8 are usually the first chapter, and this collection of issues #9-18 and the first annual can be seen as a second chapter. To that mindset, I’d call this the “Villains Chapter.” Dixon, McDaniel, and the team have set up Dick Grayson’s new status quo. Now it’s time to create some new villains for him to fight, as well as bring in some familiar faces from Gotham.

In issue #7, we learned the identity of Bludhaven’s new crime lord: Roland Desmond, a.k.a. Blockbuster. For my money, Blockbuster’s effectiveness as a lead villain largely depends on how much perspective you have as a comic book reader. If you’re simply reading these issues at face value, as I was when they first came out, then he’s fine. A big bad crime boss who, unlike a Carmine Falcone or a Rupert Thorne, can actually be a physical threat to our hero. But with the benefit of hindsight more than two decades later? He feels like an attempt to imitate Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin over at Marvel. But I’ll say this much: He’s a good imitation. And Scott McDaniel is great at juxtaposing this giant monster in a suit with the ultra fast and flexible Nightwing.

As the book continues to develop a mini-rogues-gallery for Nightwing, the book brings in a few icons to help hold down the fort. We see Man-Bat, Deathstroke, and the Scarecrow. The latter is particularly effective, as it doubles as an opportunity for readers to dive into Dick’s psyche and get to know him that much better. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but our former Boy Wonder is living with a hell of an inferiority complex. To that end, I love how Chuck Dixon incorporates Bruce Wayne choosing Jean Paul Valley to take his place as Batman during the Knightfall storyline. It’s a nice way to illustrate that despite wanting to be his own man, Dick still cares deeply about what Batman thinks of him.

We spend about an issue’s worth of pages experiencing these Scarecrow-induced hallucinations with Dick. Some of it’s played for surreal humor, which wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice. But it gets the point across. Less effective is Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, and Roberta Tewes’ visual take on the scenes. I said it last time, and I’ll reiterate here: This team is so much better suited for action scenes than the quiet, existential stuff. Our opening issue, which sees Nightwing evading gunfire in a shopping mall? A delightful read that has a great visual flow to it. Dick Grayson confronting his worst nightmares? Meh.

Another strike against McDaniel, along with other artists of this era, is what I’ll call “shoulder horns Batman” (shown below). For whatever reason, in the ’90s and early ’00s it was acceptable to put pointy horn-looking gimmicks on Batman’s shoulders. I think the idea was to make him look more menacing, and even a little demonic. But I’ve always hated it. Thankfully it gradually went away, and never made its way into any of the on-screen versions of the character.

On the subject of ’90s costumes, I didn’t even recognize Deathstroke at first. I’d completely forgotten about his black and blue suit…

Though it might be blasphemous to some, I prefer what Greg Land turns in on Nightwing Annual #1. The final product is cleaner, and makes for an enjoyable read.

These issues are also where we start to pick up the pace on the slow-burn romance between Dick and Barbara Gordon/Oracle. Chuck Dixon was one of, if not the master of writing the chemistry between these two. It’s not particularly subtle. Dick and Barbara are fairly flirtatious whenever he comes to her for help on a case. At one point, Dick practically talks openly about a potential romance with her. It’s more a case of Will they?/Won’t they? To his credit, Dixon is able to strike a really nice balance in these issues. He makes us want to see Dick and Barbara get together. But at the same time, he’s able to write in some chemistry between Dick and his building superintendent without making either character look like a heel. On paper it’s a very precarious love triangle. But Dixon pulls it off beautifully.

What’s more, it wouldn’t be long before Dick had yet another love interest. Sparks were about to fly as Nightwing crossed paths with none other than Helena Bertinelli…the Huntress!

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekly Comic 100s: Dark Nights: Death Metal, Wynd, 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

You know what I miss? Star Wars comics. C’mon Marvel. DC is cranking out its silly heavy metal event comic. The least you can do is get back in the full swing of things!

I also miss TMNT comics. But at least we get half of one this week…

TITLE: Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
ARTISTS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion (Inker), FCO Plascencia (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer)
RELEASED: June 16, 2020

If this Metal stuff is your cup of tea, then by all means I encourage you to drink. The comic book industry could use your bucks right about now. But boy is it not mine…

While Dark Nights: Metal did have some nice moments, to me this stuff has always come off overly indulgent and stupid. Need proof? Batman not only wears a duster in this book, but one with spikes on the shoulders. I’m a Greg Capullo fan, but *barf*.

TITLE: Wynd #1
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Michael Dialnyas, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

As much of a Tynion fan as I am, Wynd isn’t really my cup of tea. Just like The Woods, also by Tynion and Dialnyas, wasn’t really my thing. But obviously there’s an audience for this sort of thing, and I think Wynd will do well among them.

The most interesting thing about this issue is we have a kid, Wynd, who’s clearly been touched  by magic, as he’s living in this renaissance type world where magic is outlawed. We steer away from that a little too soon for my tastes. I’d have devoted the entire issue to Wynd himself.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #6
AUTHORS:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 18, 2020

“Mentors” wraps up in more or less the way you’d expect. As a bonus, this issue also establishes that Tim Drake has been with Batman for about a year.

At the end, we’re left with more questions about our mystery observer, who we know is actually Jason Todd. Most notably, the question of what he wants. Thus far, Jason has occupied that gray area between hero and villain. In the main DCU, it was crystal clear that Jason was back as a villain. So I’m thrilled to see they’re taking things in at least a slightly different direction.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Alessio Zono (Pencil Assist), Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

This finale pulls a hell of a rabbit out of the hat for the big zord battle. I won’t spoil it, except to say it’s pretty damn cool.

My only critique of said battle is Di Meo’s Dragonzord is a little awkward in its body language. It looks very rigid.

I maintain that MMPR/TMNT was pretty paint-by-numbers. But in the end, that’s exactly what we wanted from it. We wanted these characters to meet and interact. That’s precisely what the story gives us. No harm, no foul.

TITLE: Superman #22
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
Kevin Maguire, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I love me a good Kevin Maguire interlude. When you haven’t seen him in awhile and then he pops up for an issue, you really get to see just how good he is.

It certainly helps that he’s got some great subject matter. As an FBI agent questions Lois Lane, we have Superman in an intergalactic space battle with Mongul. Obviously, Maguire’s exaggerated faces tend to skew him more toward the comedic side of things. But if he’s fairly selective about the “acting” choices he makes, he’s every bit as capable as anyone else of delivering that epic battle sequence.

TITLE: Young Justice #15
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Ben Caldwell & Eltaeb.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I didn’t realize just how much I missed this book. It’s definitely one of my favorites at DC right now. Especially now that they seem to be taking a Justice League Unlimited sort of approach, with lots of different members as opposed to a single core team. Any kind of JLU approach is rarely a bad thing…

We finally get some answers about Superboy in this issue. If you’ve read a fair amount of DC multiverse stories, the answers we get shouldn’t be too surprising. Not bad. Just not particularly surprising.

TITLE: X-Men #5
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho.
RELEASED:
January 9, 2020

This is a good issue if you aren’t as familiar with who some of the newer X-Men are. Hickman uses Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Xavier to lead into a re-introduction to X-23, Darwin, and Synch.

It also introduces is to “the Vault.” Its inhabitants, according to Xavier, are “the single greatest existential threat to mutantdom.” What it is and how time works inside are a little complex. But the Vault does have a Sentinel head on top of it. So it’s got that going for it.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekly Comic 100s: Year Zero, Disaster Inc, DCeased, 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

It seems like this is more or less the last “COVID-19 comic book week” we’ll be having, as next week things start shipping from Diamond again. (DC is a notable exception. But that’s another story.) Planned comics on the docket next week include Justice League, Suicide Squad, Alienated, and Frankenstein Undone. And of course, more X-Men back issues.

But in the meantime…

TITLE: Year Zero #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
ARTISTS: Ramon Rosanas, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer). Cover by Kaare Andrews.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve always wanted to see a story like The Walking Dead, or a similar zombie apocalypse story take this route. It’s even more relevant now that the COVID-19 pandemic has happened. How does a zombie apocalypse effect different parts of the world in different ways? This story is seemingly going to show us via characters in the U.S., Mexico, Japan, Afghanistan, and a polar research base.

I think we’ll get a sense if this book fulfills its potential in about six issues. Which is unusual, for me it usually takes only one or two.

TITLE: Disaster Inc. #1
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
ARTISTS: Sebastian Piriz, Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ll credit Disaster Inc. for being educational. I’d forgotten all about the Fukushima power plant disaster of 2011. Just goes to show you how screwed up things are nowadays. I certainly didn’t know about the “nuclear samurai.” (Google it. It’s worth the read.)

Disaster Inc. is a delicious horror/mystery/ghost story that, thus far, is packed with intrigue and just the right amount of truth. It’s also got a highly unsettling butterfly theme going for it.  I’ll definitely be back for more.

TITLE: DCeased: Hope at World’s End #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Dustin Nguyen, Rex Locus (Colorist), Saida Temofonte (Colorist). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

I’ve mostly stayed away from DCeased. Nothing personal. It’s just not my thing. This issue didn’t change that. But I appreciate a few little things about it. Perry White finally saying how proud he is of Jimmy Olsen. What appears to be a brief appearance by Stephanie Brown in her Robin costume. There’s also Dinah Lance as a Green Lantern. Didn’t realize that was a thing.

It’s always great to see Dustin Nguyen’s work. He’s great with content for young readers. But if this issue shows us anything, it’s that his style is versatile enough to handle more mature content.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #4
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer).

We continue with the Deathstroke story here. I’d previously thought he’d have some kind of previous connection with Dick Grayson, given he’s widely known for being the New Teen Titans’ arch nemesis. But as it turns out Tim Drake, the Robin from The New Batman Adventures, is an ill-advised admirer of Deathstroke’s. That’s a cool little twist.

Another cool twist? This issue also makes Firefly is an exotic bug collector, as well as a pyromaniac.

TITLE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Battle Tales #1
AUTHOR: Michael Moreci
ARTISTS: Derek Charm, Arianna Florean & Mario Del Pennino, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Valentina Taddeo (Colorist), Jake M. Wood (Letterer).
RELEASED:
May 20, 2020

Nothing super special here. But nothing bad either. A flashback from Captain Rex about Anakin being a hero.

Florean and Del Pennino handle the flashback, while Charm handles things in the present. I’m partial to Charm’s work as his style is a little closer to the cartoon. As well as, incidentally, Ty Templeton’s style. But Florean and Del Pennino do just fine.

TITLE: X-Men #4
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan (Co-Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: January 1, 2020

Magneto at the World Economic Forum. That’s really all you need to know about this issue.

Yes, Xavier, Apocalypse, Cyclops, and Gorgon are there too. But Magneto does most of the talking. And yes, there’s violence. But it’s not necessarily what you think it’ll be.

Credit to Yu, Alanguilan, and Gho for spending most of the issue drawing a dinner conversation. That’s not necessarily what people will ask for in their superhero comics. But they make it work. The novelty of Apocalypse is sitting there in a suit certainly helps.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles Deep-Dive Review – Or So We’re Told…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Mikel Janin, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #2532
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: December 13, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The War of Jokes and Riddles is not what I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you come into it anticipating a big, bloody, multi-layered brawl between comic book supervillains. What we get is more character-driven. I almost always prefer something like that to a story that’s simply about people punching each other. But the vibe we got going into this was that it was akin to a big summer blockbuster. There’s a lot more to The War of Jokes and Riddles. While you’ll get some really great stuff, it’s not a hotbed of fighting and explosions.

In the early days of Batman’s career, the unthinkable happens. After losing to Batman so many times, the Joker no longer finds the world funny. Recognizing a similar problem in himself, the Riddler proposes an alliance to kill the Dark Knight once and for all. When the Joker gives him a violent rejection, all out war breaks out. Both the Joker and the Riddler recruit different villains to their side, with Gotham City as their battle field. The winner earns the right to kill Batman. How can our hero stop a war that’s being fought over him? And what happens to the city caught in the crossfire?

I like Joker and Riddler as rivals. They both have mischievous and playful sort of motifs. So it makes sense they’d want to outdo each other. Factor in each one having their own faction of villains, and the scope of this story becomes huge. They could very well have done a bunch of tie-in issues where the different characters fight each other. Scarecrow vs. Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy vs. Killer Croc, Two-Face vs, Scarface, etc. Given how people gobble up Batman stuff, you’d think that would have been an easy cash-in.

Instead, we stay in the pages of Batman. That approach has it’s advantages, of course. But as a result, what feels like a very expansive story winds up being confined. Much is left to exposition. We gloss over the whole recruitment process, and why certain characters choose Joker or Riddler’s side. We don’t see most of the big battles. We’re told what territory each side has. While there’s something to be said for not getting bogged down in too many details, it seems like half the fun of a story like this is watching all the characters butt heads. That’s a giant missed opportunity.

We do, however, see Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. Sort of. In theory, it’s a hell of a fight. But even that fails to deliver, as it’s jammed so tightly into the second half of issue #28. What’s more, the fight stretches logic pretty thin even by comic book standards. The two initially try to snipe each other, but on their first and only shots, their bullets collide. They then proceed to fight for five days, killing 62 people in the process. I get the artistic advantage of leaving it to the reader’s imagination. But they could have dedicated an entire story to Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. This fight could be an event comic on its own. So to be told about it instead of seeing it is frustrating.

On the plus side, almost everybody looks great. Mikel Janin gives us an almost twisted blend of realism and caricature. His Joker, for instance, has a pointed nose and in this story sports an exaggerated frown. But the art is so detailed and the colors so gorgeously rendered that it evokes real life. It’s often fascinating to look at, especially because his Joker seems heavily influenced by Brian Bolland’s work on The Killing Joke. The one character hurt by this approach is the Riddler, who inexplicably looks like John Cena.

Author Tom King frames The War of Jokes and Riddles around Bruce Wayne’s present-day marriage proposal to Selina Kyle. He tells her this story, as he apparently did something horrible during the war that could effect her decision to marry him. The reveal is a good one and makes sense.

But there’s also a larger issue that the story touches on, but doesn’t bring any resolution to. There’s an argument to be made that the real villain in all of this is Batman himself. These two groups of insane people are waging war over HIM. While they’re fighting to decide who gets to kill him, dozens of innocent people are being killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In telling Selina this story, he’s trying to get absolution for something horrible he supposedly did. But it seems like he should want forgiveness for his part in all this. Although to be fair, the King does touch on something like that in the final scene…

Bruce also makes every effort to bring the violence to a halt, including the bizarrely entertaining dinner sequence that makes up the entirety of issue #29. Bruce Wayne invites virtually his entire rogues gallery into his home for a big, fancy, multi-course meal. The idea is for Bruce to servers a mediator and bring things to a resolution. The visual spectacle of seeing all these comic book supervillains together in a normal environment is almost worth the cover price on its own. It reminds me of one of the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman books. But then we dive deeper with both Joker and Riddler. How they’d kill Batman, and what they think of each other. You’ve also got the internalization of Bruce as he sits between them and listens to it all, silently and subtlety trying to maneuver Gotham out of harm’s way. At face value, the whole thing is almost absurd. But once you dive into it, it becomes one of the most delightful Batman character studies of the last decade.

Janin is also on fire in this issue. He has to draw three characters in the same position for several pages. But despite having to draw several consecutive panels of, for instance, the Joker sitting in a chair eating dinner (shown below), there’s almost no panel duplication. There’s a natural flow to it. You believe their body language. It’s beautiful.

Stuck in the middle of all this is D-list villain Kite Man. He becomes the unlikely focus for two interlude issues drawn by Clay Mann. As he plays a role in the finale, it’s called for. It also doubles as an origin story. King tries to set him up as a relatable, down on his luck father who has fallen in with a horrible crowd and pays the ultimate price. I like how King incorporates him toward the end. But I’m not sure we needed two full issues dedicated to Kite Man. Issue #27 gives us all we need, so issue #30 feels mostly like filler. King also attempts to create the catchphrase: “Kite Man. Hell yeah.” Doesn’t work.

The War of Jokes and Riddles wound up being a mixed bag. We didn’t get a war as much as we got moments from a war. The beginning, the end, and the important moments in between. That doesn’t fill all of our dramatic needs in terms of this being a big, violent, bloody fight between crazy people. At one point we see a  bunch of pictures of people who’ve died. But we don’t see where or how they died. There’s a frustrating gap there which leaves you wanting more than the book delivers.

On the flip side, this is some of the best work Mikel Janin has ever done. The War of Jokes and Riddles should absolutely be turned into one of those oversized hardcovers DC puts out. It deserves to be admired for years to come. Tom King also gives us his best character work yet. He illustrates a tremendous understanding of how Batman, the Joker, and the Riddler think. So when he puts them together it feels very genuine. It’s the same kind of magic that made The Vision work so well.

King does have the magic in him, doesn’t he? It’s just a question of how often we see it.

For more of Tom King’s Batman, check out Vol. 1: I Am Bane, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, and Batman/The Flash: The Button

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