Weekly Comic 100s: Black Widow, Batman, 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

TITLE: Black Widow #1
AUTHOR: Kelly Thompson
ARTISTS: Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Adam Hughes
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

This one’s fairly low on action considering it’s the debut of a Black Widow series. The issue tries to make up for it with intrigue, but there isn’t quite enough to wet my appetite for more.

This, despite some awesome art from Elena Casagrande and Jordie Bellaire. I found it had a slightly similar vibe to the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye stuff. And of course, yet another breathtaking Adam Hughes cover.

TITLE: Batman #98
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by David Finch.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

As the cover suggests, there’s a big fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline in this issue. As obvious as her inclusion is given the nature of the story, “Joker War” has been a little too Harley-heavy for my taste. It feels like yet another case of DC shoehorning her into a story that’s not necessarily about her.

On the plus side, Jimenez and Morey are on their game here. So is Tynion, as as get a pretty powerful exchange between Batman and…Alfred’s memory? It’s not Alfred’s ghost, I know that for sure.

TITLE: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
AUTHOR:
Al Ewing
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Mariasara Miotti (Color Assistant), Andworld Design (Letterer)
RELEASED:
 September 2, 2020

Spaceships that carve up space gods to mine humanity’s new resources? Alright book, you’ve got my attention…

This first issue is a little hard to follow, as we’re getting adjusted to how the book works and what’s going on. But by the end we get a decent hook to bring us back for next issue. Take into account how gorgeous this issue is, particularly from a coloring standpoint, and they’ve got me signed up for next time.

TITLE: Shazam #14
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Dale Keown.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Ugh. What an awful final issue. It feels like they tried to cram in about two years worth of content. The resolution of the plot threads with Mr. Mind, Billy’s dad, and Black Adam. A pathetically condensed fight with Superboy-Prime. Then of course, they have to end the series on a happy note, though it’s hard to imagine this issue making anyone happy.

It’s not the creators’ fault, mind you. The book got cancelled. But still, the characters, the creators, and the series itself deserved better.

TITLE: Lonely Receiver #1
AUTHOR: Zac Thompson
ARTISTS: Jen Hickman, Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

I’m not sure what I expected from Lonely Receiver, but it wasn’t what I got. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This strikes me as a story with a lot of layers to it. It’s a story about a woman falling in love with a robot designed specifically to be her partner. But we’ve got undertones dealing with our needs as human beings that are really interesting. Thus far, this books is a little like I, Robot meets an old fashioned romance comic, with some more, shall we say, mature elements mixed in.

TITLE: Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror
AUTHOR: J.M. DeMatteis
ARTISTS: Matthew Dow Smith, Candice Han (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

What we have here is a look at the Khan Noonien Singh of the Mirror Universe. And with that in mind, the story and the characters are about what you’d think they’d be. In that sense, this one-shot almost writes itself.

The solicitation heralded the return of J.M. DeMatteis to Star Trek after almost 40 years. For what it’s worth, I can see why. This issue feels just like an episode of the original series. Definitely worth a look for fans.

TITLE: Young Justice #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Had a nice Powers flashback looking at Michael Avon Oeming’s work. Seeing him work on the Spoiler is a little surreal.

This wasn’t quite the “Tim and Stephanie go on a date” issue that I was hoping for. That makes this one a disappointment for yours truly.

By the end of this issue Drake is back to being Robin. But is he actually Robin, or is he Red Robin? Just when we thought Tim had his identity crisis solved…

TITLE: Justice League #52
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Way too much Batman to cap off a two-part filler story before the book starts to tie in with…*sigh*…Dark Nights: Death Metal.

We’ve seen all kinds of stories that dive into the psyches of various League members. It always seems like five or six issues is too long. But I’d have been happy to see “The Garden of Mercy” go another issue or two. What Loveness, Rocha, and Henriques turn in here is perfectly fine.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Power Rangers, Magneto, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Been a rocky couple of weeks on the comic book front for yours truly. Wasn’t able to get to the shop a couple weeks ago. Then last week my local shop had a problem with Lunar Distribution, the company that now distributes DC in the wake of their split from Diamond. So there are still some holes left to be filled in my pull list. In the coming days, expect to see the most recent issues of Superman and Detective Comics, along with the final issue of Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane maxi-series.

But still, the train rolls along. I was even able to throw an issue of Batman: Gotham Nights in for good measure.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #8
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 16, 2020

This one went by pretty quickly. But it does Azrael some nice justice. We put over the violent tendencies we saw all those years ago in the comics, while also tying yet another classic Batman villain into the story.

With few exceptions, Ty Templeton and the artistic team have been as consistent as you could hope for on this title. What we see is more or less what we remember from those old tie-in comics, and I’m not sure what more you could ask in that sense.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #51
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
July 15, 2020

Not a huge fan of Moises Hidalgo on this book. I usually like my MMPR art on the crisp, clean side. His has a little more of an exaggerated look. And as nitpicky as this is, I don’t enjoy the way he draws Tommy or Rocky’s hair.

As good as it got at various points, I’m very happy to see we’ve mostly moved on from “Necessary Evil.” We’ve got Zedd back, as well as Lord Drakkon. Yes, I’ve heard about the upcoming “split.” But hopefully we can enjoy ourselves in the meantime.

TITLE: Giant-Size X-Men: Magneto
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Ramon Perez, David Curiel (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED: July 15, 2020

In this issue, Emma Frost recruits Magneto to find her an island where she can set up a base. Fair enough. If you want somebody to find an island for you, Magneto’s not a bad choice. Good call, Emma.

But yeah…that’s about it. Certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price. Completely and utterly skippable.

TITLE: Batman #94
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Guillem March, Rafael Albequerque, David Baron (Colors), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel & Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED:
July 7, 2020

Not necessarily the strongest issue we’ve seen from Tynion and the crew thus far. But I will say that this issue goes a long way in creating that vibe of foreboding dread that comes when an event comic villain really ramps it up.

Batman #94 is, for my money, the first time we really start to deal with the ramifications of Alfred not being around. Lucius is treating an injured Batman, and at one point laments that he can’t be as focused or single-minded as Alfred was.

No offense Lucius, but we knew you weren’t gonna cut it.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #106
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consulting), Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED: July 15, 2020

This issue is refreshingly Turtle-centric. That sounds odd for a book called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But the TMNT have such a vast crew of supporting characters, it can work against them in that they feel lost in their own book. This issue gives us a chance to catch up.

Nelson Daniel is doing a fine job with the Turtles. I’ve said this before, but for some reason TMNT artists are make or break for me based on how they draw the bandanas in relation to the faces. Daniel does that very well.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #8
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto
RELEASED:
July 8, 2020

This issue brings up an interesting question: How do you walk the line of good taste in a book about monsters eating and dismembering children? Or do you? If your book is already about that, do you just embrace the uncomfortable gore of it all?

Issue #8 shows us part of a dismembered corpse and a bloody shoe. As long as the art isn’t going for photorealism, I’d say that’s a nice balance. Werther Dell-Edera’s combination animated/painterly style works well with it too.

TITLE: Young Justice #16
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: July 7, 2020

Now that we’ve taken a dive into what Conner Kent’s relationship to the space-time continuum is, this issue dives into Impulse’s. I’ll say this much: I didn’t expect it to involve Arkham Asylum.

It’s interesting that Bendis has continued to portray Superboy and Impulse as outliers from another reality. They don’t really belong. And as we’ll see next issue, he’s about to open it up that much further by bringing the in the Justice League. It gives this team an enduring misfit quality. That sort of thing is great if you like some teen angst in your superhero books.

TITLE: Marvels X #4
AUTHORS: Alex Ross (Story), Jim Krueger (Story and Script)
ARTISTS: Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED: July 8, 2020

This issue gives us a nice old-school Avengers moment. It’s very Alex Ross, with the heroes in their classic outfits. Well-Bee’s style darkens it. But that makes the colors pop that much more.

There’s an exchange in this issue that I love between Kraven the Hunter and Captain America. It’s about how anyone can put Cap’s costume on, and it’s simply a disguise. But of course, that’s not true. The costume is part of something much larger than the sum of its parts. Again, very Alex Ross.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #12
AUTHOR:
Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea (Inker), Andrew Dalhouse (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 7, 2020

A nice little Robin reunion that I was at one point convinced was drawn by Brett Booth. Is it common knowledge among supervillains which heroes used to be Robin? That’s what this issue seems to suggest. And if so, why? How would they know?

Interesting that they put Spoiler among this little alumni group. I was under the impression Stephanie Brown’s tenure as Robin wasn’t canon. I won’t complain, though. It’s actually rather refreshing to see.

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

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.

Robin’s Animated History by Noah Sterling

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Awhile back, we looked at Noah Sterling’s animated history of Green Lantern. Or rather, Green Lanterns plural. There have been a lot of Earth-born ring-wielders in the 80 years since Alan Scott first graced the page.

Thankfully for us, Sterling is also well-versed in the history of Robin, who also turns 80 this year. And the iconic sidekick of all sidekicks got an animated treatment that’s every bit as fun as what Green Lantern got…

For more, check out Noah Sterling’s official site or his YouTube page.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: A Star Wars Trifecta, Bendis, 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

We’re strictly looking at Marvel and DC this week, as that’s just how things shook out. Seems like a catch-up edition of “Weekly Comic 100s” is in order sooner than later…

Incidentally, Wolverine #1 was February’s top-selling comic. And no, I still won’t be reading or reviewing it.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1
AUTHOR:
Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Covers don’t usually play a big part in whether I’ll try a new series, or an issue I otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to pick up. But if ever one could, it’s this one. Epic work by Lee Bermejo.

I’d call this a strictly okay start. The success of this series is largely riding on how the Vance character comes off as these early issues are buoyed by classic characters like Boba Fett and Bossk. He’s got a kind of Terminator-like appearance, and a mysterious backstory that piques my curiosity.

Tell me more, comic. Tell me more…

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #4 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney, Guru-eFX (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by E.M. Gist.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

This mini ends exactly how you think it will. Some questions we now have answers to. Some we don’t. But we did get a really nice character moment that illustrates a really interesting, though in hindsight obvious parallel between Kylo Ren and Luke.

During a fight with one of Luke’s other Jedi pupils, Ben says that neither Luke and Snoke see him as a person. “I’m just a…legacy. Just a set of expectations.” From a certain point of view (wink wink), that’s exactly what Luke talks to Rey about in The Last Jedi. The burden of his bloodline.

TITLE: Darth Vader #2
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS:
Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon, Joe Caramagna. Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

In this issue, we supposedly meet a surviving Padme. Funny thing is, the character looks older in the interior art than Natalie Portman does in real life.

Later on, Vader tells someone that if she’d lived, Padme would have joined the Empire. I wonder if he means the Empire that would have existed had he overthrown Palpatine, or the Empire that actually came to pass. I can’t bring myself to believe that he believes the latter. Unless he’s deluded himself that much over the course of two decades.

TITLE: Superman #21
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oscar Albert (Inkers), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Bryan Hitch and Sinclair.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

More Superman vs. Mongul here. Bendis turns the story horizontal and we get a series of slimmer top-to-bottom panels depicting various locations. It’s a nice little trick.

What I’m really liking about this “Truth” story is it illuminates the larger scope of what it means to be Superman. He’s not just some guy flying around in a cape punching things. The United Planets plotline emphasizes something that certain people never seem to understand. Superman is an idealist. Peace. Justice. Unity. Teamwork. Courage. These are the things he really stands for, and I love that Bendis gets that.

TITLE: Young Justice #14
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Inker), Wes Abbott (Letterer).
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

I’m wondering what the deal is with all these alleged new members. Are we doing a Justice League Unlimited type thing, where characters rotate in and out depending on the mission? Either way, it’s great to see Jackson Hyde back.

Bendis’ old Powers colleague Michael Avon Oeming handles some of the art here. The work he does here is fine. But if he’s going to be on the book, I’d prefer he be the sole artist.

TITLE: Cable #1
AUTHOR: Gerry Duggan
ARTISTS:
Phil Noto, Joe Sabino (Letterer)
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Well hey there, Phil Noto. Always good to see you.

Here we have the X-Men once again shamelessly tampering with the space time continuum as a younger Nathan Summers lives with present-day mutants on Krakoa.

Outside of a sparring session with Wolverine during the opening pages, and Noto’s art in general this issue didn’t do much for me. There’s something of a novelty in seeing this character in a jungle atmosphere he’s not normally associated with. But in the end, not much to write home about. Not yet at least.

TITLE: Shazam #11
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dale Eaglesham and Atiyeh.
RELEASED:
February 26, 2020

Alright, let’s talk about it: Superboy-Prime is back. His next target? Shazam.

If it were somebody other than Geoff Johns writing this book, I’d be a little apprehensive. But because it’s him, I’m actually looking forward to their big showdown.

Superboy-Prime is pretty much the anti-Shazam. Billy Batson is a young man given great power who ultimately uses it for good. This version of Superboy? A young man whose power made him spoiled, bitter, and angry. These two have more in common than they’d ever admit.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Batman: Night of the Monster Men Review – Hollow Monsters

Batman #7, 2016, cover, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: “Batman: Night of the Monster Men”
AUTHORS: Steve Orlando, Tom King, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV
PENCILLERS: Riley Rossmo, Roge Antonio, Andy MacDonald
COLLECTS: Batman #79Nightwing #78Detective Comics #941942
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
CUMULATIVE PRICE: $17.94
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE: March 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This “Night of the Monster Men” crossover boasts some extremely talented creators, stars Batman and some of his more popular allies, and is even inspired by one of the very first Batman stories. It also began a week after DC “killed” Tim Drake. So there was a lot of potential here for a creative, emotional, thrill ride.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Running through BatmanNightwing, and Detective Comics, this story sees Hugo Strange create giant monsters that attack the city. Much of Batman’s surrogate family gets wrapped up in the chaos. But despite all the innocent lives that hang in the balance, Strange’s entire plot is about Batman himself.

Batman #1, Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters, 1940, Bob Kane and Bill FingerAll this Hugo Strange/Monster Men stuff is inspired by a story from 1940’s Batman #1 entitled “Professor Hugo Strange and the Monsters.” It’s a respectable early outing for the Dark Knight in which Strange creates a bunch of big ogres to terrorize the city. Matt Wagner took the same cue for his 2006 miniseries Batman and the Monster Men, which was exponentially better than this book.

“Night of the Monster Men” suffers from a variety of problems. Chief among them is a lack of emotional stakes. That’s an odd problem to have, considering what just happened with Tim, and how many of Batman’s surrogate family members are in this fight. Batman repeatedly emphasizes that no one else is dying. This gives the impression that we’re going to get an overprotective Batman, frantically trying to micromanage the efforts of his partners. This would be futile, of course. But it would have made sense. We also had the perfect cast for such a story, with Bruce having recently trusted Batwoman to train this new crop of young heroes. And of course, we’ve got his original partner, Dick Grayson. Hugo Strange’s motive also would have been more poignant.

Instead, we just get a story about Batman fighting monsters. Monsters created from cadavers, no less. We can’t even go the route of, “Don’t kill the monsters! They’re people!” Later, two of our heroes are turned into monsters, but they don’t mine this for much emotion either.

Granted, they’re cool looking monsters. “Night of the Monster Men” enlists Riley Rossmo and Andy MacDonald, both of whom excel on the fantasy/horror side of things. We also have they very capable Roge Antonio, who gives us a nice blend of horror and naturalism. Instead of going the ogre route, the story opts for a mix of mutant aberrations and giant kaiju type monsters. They’re fun, but they’d be more fun if they were more than mere physical threats to our heroes. There’s little or any substance to them, and what the final issue attempts to pass as such via Strange’s motivation doesn’t connect in a meaningful way. (That monster represented fear? But weren’t we supposed to be afraid of all of them?)

Detective Comics #942, monster two-page spread, 2016So instead of a coherent crossover that ties into and takes advantage of Batman’s fragile emotional state, what we essentially get is a bunch of fluff that they attempt to tie together at the end with some psych mumbo jumbo. It’s all so hollow.

“Night of the Monster Men” also suffers from being a little too long, and a little too crowded. The story struggles to give Spoiler and Orphan something to do in all of this. Like Booster Gold in his Justice League Unlimited episode, they’re mostly relegated to crowd control. There’s a cave sequence (not that cave) involving Spoiler, Orphan, and Harvey Bullock that largely feels like padding. If they’d cut that out, along with the ridiculous scene where our heroes use giant guns and harpoons on top of buildings (conveniently adored with the heroes’ insignias) to stop a monster, they’d probably have been able to trim this down from six issues to four. Five at most.

Nightwing #8 and Detective Comics #942 also make full use of the “Hugo Strange dressed as Batman” trope, as we learn that Strange himself wants to be Batman. A fine motive, though not necessary in this case. “Night of the Monster Men” would have worked fine as Strange’s attempt to spotlight Batman’s inadequacies and force him to hang up the cowl, in the process pouring salt in the wound left by Tim’s departure. Perhaps the urge to use the only piece of classic Batman/Hugo Strange imagery was too intense. Admittedly, at that point I was just happy we were finally getting a scene between two human beings, as opposed to hollow monster battles.

batman-clayface-suit-detective-comicsOn the upside, this story makes fine use of Clayface’s new status as one of Batman’s allies. He plays a practical role at first, spreading himself out to guide people out of the city. He also plays an integral role in the finale. But his highlight here, and one of the highlights in “Monster Men” as a whole, comes in Batman #8. As the Dark Knight is about to face one of the monsters head on, Clayface envelops him, effectively becoming a suit of armor. Does technically this fall under the banner of giant awful Batman robots/armor? Absolutely. But the execution is unique enough that it gets a pass from me.

“Batman and the Monster Men” offers good showings from the artists attached, and a bright spot here or there. But by and large, this was a turn off and a waste. Nightwing and Detective Comics were both on a solid course up to this point, and things were starting to look up for Batman. Hopefully we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming in short order.

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

A Detective Comics #939 Review – Tim Drake’s Return to Glory

Detective Comics #939, cover, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #939
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 24, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Did any character get a more of a raw deal in the New 52 than Tim Drake? Not only was he put in a horrendous new costume, but his 20-year history was compressed and retconned to the point that we were essentially dealing with a new character. Almost four years later, and things aren’t much better for him.

That being said, Tim Drake fans should send James Tynion IV a thank you note. Detective Comics #939 is the best Tim Drake story I’ve read in years. New 52 Red Robin may finally become more than a shell of his pre-reboot self, and really set himself apart from his “brothers” in Batman’s surrogate family. Though in a way it’s a shame, as it’s looking like he’ll soon be either retired or dead…

The quaint team of heroes assembled by Batman and Batwoman have begun to mount a comeback against the military force Jacob Kane has dedicated to eliminating caped heroes in Gotham. But as drones prepare to swarm the city, Kate Kane suspects Batman knows more than he’s letting on about her father’s efforts. Meanwhile, Tim Drake ponders a future without superheroics. But he may not live to see such a future, after he makes a drastic choice that terrifies his teammates.

Detective Comics #939, Tim and Steph, Eddy BarrowsSince Tynion came aboard Detective Comics, Tim has been debating whether to leave Gotham to attend Ivy University full time. This is consistent with the Tim Drake we often saw in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At that point, Tim was unsure of his future as a superhero, often insecure when comparing himself to Dick Grayson and the like. This college storyline seems to play off that idea. As much of a Tim Drake fan as I am, seeing him walk away might not be the worst thing at this point. Batman has a lot of legacy characters that tend to simply drift in the status quo, serving no real purpose. Letting Tim hang up his cape might freshen up his character, and his relationships with the active heroes. And as a bonus, things would be a little less crowded in Gotham.

But of course, Detective Comics is really about Batwoman these days, giving her the spotlight she deserves. What stands out prominently about Tynion’s take on her is the relationship she has with Batman. They’ve been established as cousins, and early in the issue we see a young Kate try to comfort Bruce Wayne at his parents’ funeral. Because they have that deep-rooted connection, she’s able to talk to him in a way few people can. Her words have weight with him, as illustrated when she calls him out for keeping something from her, and he’s forced to admit fault. How often does that happen to Batman? She may be his cousin, but Kate often acts like his big sister.

I’ve been mostly pleased with Eddy Barrows’ work on this series thus far. In recent issues he and the other artists have emphasized certain panels, usually those that transition to another scene, by adjusting to a more painterly style. The above image of Stephanie is an example. Often it will occur when something dramatic or important is said. Other times it just enhances a nice character shot. It takes some getting used to. But it’s a fun way to liven up dialogue scenes, and can leave lasting impressions.

Clayface, Detective Comics #939, 2016Barrows is also very good at showing us the dichotomy of Basil Karlo, a.k.a. Clayface. Case in point, the page at right. On one hand, we’ve got a great shot of this bulky, gooey monster. But in the next panel, that same monster almost looks like a sad puppy. Here’s hoping this book devotes some more time to Basil in the near future. We could potentially see some really good stuff here.

Barrows does love that legs spread and knees bent pose, doesn’t he? We saw Batman in this pose in issue #934, and now Tim. On the cover, no less. I opted for the Rafael Albuquerque variant.

Like Tim Drake, Detective Comics is better than it’s been in quite some time. In terms of consistency, we’re talking pre-New 52. This book isn’t simply housing for Batman’s legacy characters. It’s in contention for the best Bat-book on the stands. My only question now is whether it’ll be down a Robin going forward…

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A Detective Comics #934 Review – Rebirth and Redemption

Detective Comics #934, 2016, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #934
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I dig this issue for no other reason than it rights a wrong that’s been present since 2011. It fixes the Red Robin costume. That thing had been far too ugly for far too long. It was a damn embarassment.

But there’s plenty more to like here. A mysterious force is targeting Gotham’s heroes, some of whom are not prepared for this new threat. Batman comes to Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, to help train the next generation of heroes. Red Robin, The Spoiler, Orphan, and (of all people) Clayface are chosen to train under The Dark Knight and his new partner. A partner who knows more about Batman than he suspected, and is hungry for more knowledge. Such as what Batman isn’t saying about this new threat to costumed heroes.

This “reborn” Detective Comics has a feel-good vibe to it by virtue of its cast, which consists largely of characters who were screwed over creatively during the New 52. Tim Drake lost so much of his depth and backstory in the reboot, and given that silly costume. I’ve got high hopes that James Tynion IV, an accomplished Batman writer himself, can do some justice for him. And of course, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were wiped from continuity and didn’t return until later. With their respective backstories altered, of course. Fans may remember the shakeup in 2013 over DC not allowing Kate Kane to marry. The road to this title has been frustrating. But there’s a nice opportunity for redemption here.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, ClayfaceOn the subject of redemption, the addition of Clayface to this team is surprising. He obviously doesn’t qualify as a costumed hero. But it plays to the idea that on some level, Batman really is trying to rehabilitate the villains he fights. The smart bet is this goes bad at some point. But in the meantime, the dynamic Basil Karlo will have with his more virtuous teammates is intriguing.

This issue is also particularly noteworthy for the return of Jean-Paul Valley, the original Azrael, and the man who replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early ’90s Nightfall storyline. How he connects to the Michael Lane version of Azrael (if at all) remains to be seen, and I can only assume Knightfall is no longer canon. But longtime fans may get a kick out of seeing him again, and hopefully not for the last time. As we open the issue, Batman seems to be trying to recruit him. I’d love to see him return as either a part-time ally, or even an enemy.

It’s not often you see Batman playing the good cop. But that’s exactly what we get here, with Batwoman in the bad cop role. She comes off as a hardened drill sergeant, while Batman plays the supportive mentor. It’s a side to him that don’t see quite as regularly. At least not since Batman & Robin ended. What’s more, Batwoman gets put over really well. Especially when she surprises Bruce with the knowledge of his secret.

Eddy Barrows has earned this run on Detective Comics. He’s had memorable runs on both Nightwing and Superman and recently spent some time on Martian Manhunter. He’s good with acting, and emotion, which shows here. From the fear in Azrael’s eyes as Batman closes in, to the intensity and anger from Kate when a mysterious figure appears in her apartment. He’s able to inject sympathy into the otherwordly Clayface as well as any artist I’ve ever seen (shown above). He connects you to the characters well in that sense.  Barrows’ rendering of Batman’s cowl evokes memories of Michael Keaton’s costume from the Tim Burton movies. Inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas also deserve credit for making the presentation so clean, and beautifully shadowy.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, BatmanIt’s Barrows’ body proportioning I’m not certain about. There’s a panel in which The Spoiler is looking down on a crime in progress, and it looks like her legs are separated from her torso. There’s an otherwise beautiful shot of Batwoman swinging through the city in which our heroine looks just a bit too lanky. Barrows also has a weird thing about leg positioning, as we see in a shot of Batman swooping into a building (shown right). It’s a similar bizarre position to the one we saw on his Nightwing #1 cover.

Part of what made DC Universe: Rebirth #1 such a feel-good issue was the combination of story intrigue, and justice finally being done to characters that had gotten a raw deal in recent years (Wally West, Ted Kord, etc.) Detective Comics #934 is similar in that respect. The two issues also weren’t afraid to show us some emotion and humanity. Between Kate’s often volatile nature, the villainous tendencies of Clayface, and the presence of the younger heroes, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of those things going forward. That’s a good thing.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com.

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A Batgirl Annual #3 Review – Ladies Night

Batgirl Annual #3TITLE: Batgirl Annual #3
AUTHORS: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher
PENCILLERS: Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: July 29, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In my experience annuals are, by and large, nothing to get too excited about. More often they’re not, an annual is simply a bonus standalone issue of a series that’s a little longer, and a little more expensive. No more, no less.

Batgirl Annual #3 is a rare exception to that rule.

Penned by series writers Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher, the issue pairs Babs with a several different heroes as she works to uncover the secret of a superweapon with a power to destroy the world. The mystery willl reunite our hero with Dick Grayson (sort of) and Batwoman, as well as introduce her to The Spoiler, and later Olive and Maps of Gotham Academy.

Batgirl Annual #3As good comics are prone to doing, Batgirl Annual #3 switches artists to coincide with Batgirl switching partners. Bengal gets the lion’s share of the issue with our inciting incident, and Barbara’s run-in with Dick and the Spyral crew. Bengal’s European/Asian style is a nice fit for this version of Batgirl. It’s light and funny when it needs to be, and has a certain intensity when it’s called for. As for the story itself, Babs and Helena Bertinelli agree to work together in a manner so quick it’s unintentionally funny. It takes less than a page. You’d think someone as smart as Barbara Gordon would be a little more cynical about a new partner in the field. As for Dick and Barbara, their being so close, with the latter completely oblivious, is seemingly played for comedy at times. At one point their fingers are nearly touching, yet Batgirl can’t tell there’s another human being mere inches from her. Purely from a fan perspective, I was feeling Dick Grayson’s agony at deceiving her. So the comedy not only landed with a thud, but was out of place.

Bengal passes the baton to David Lafuente for Babs’ brief meeting with The Spoiler. As a huge fan of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series, seeing Barbara and Steph at the same age is surreal. Still, I suppose they mesh well. Lafuente is certainly no stranger to drawing teenage superheroes (see Ultimate Comics Spider-Man), so I’ve got no issues with his work. Stewart and Fletcher also do Stephanie justice.

From a writing standpoint, the Batgirl/Batwoman team up is fine. But Ming Doyle’s art is, at times, very awkward. This is particularly true of her work on Barbara’s face, so much so it takes you out of the story. Her figure rendering, particularly during a battle scene, leaves something to be desired as well. Doyle has done some great work, but it won’t be found here.

Batgirl Annual #3, Mingjue ChenWe cap things off with what looks like something out of an old Disney 2D animated film. In this case, that’s a good thing. Minjue Helen Chen very much captures the spirit of Gotham Academy. Olive, Maps, and Batgirl hunt for answers in the school library in a sequence that’s very reminiscent of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, etc. Chen captures some of the manga vibe that Karl Kerschl brings to the monthly book, while adding her own sense of wonder and excitement. She’s tailor made for this “Youth Gotham” line DC is marketing.

 It’s very much fitting that Batgirl Annual #3 is the exception to the annuals rule. For the past year, the series itself has been the exception to what were seemingly a lot of rules about the Bat-books. Gotham City can, and should, be a dark and scary place. But it should also be a fun place to read about, and lose yourself in. That’s the true appeal of Batgirl, and the Young Gotham line in general: DC remembering that comics can be fun.

Image 1 from the outhousers.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com.Image 3 from @mingjuechen.

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A Batman #28 Review – Back to the Future

Batman #28, coverTITLE: Batman #28
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV

PENCILLER: Dustin Nguyen

PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99

RELEASED: February 12, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: SPOILERS LAY AHEAD FOR BATMAN #28***

After living in the past for quite some time, Batman comes back to the present in issue #28 to give us an appetizer for the upcoming weekly series, Batman Eternal. While I’ve given the guy a decent amount of criticism for his run with the Dark Knight, I’ll freely admit that issue #28 is very effective. It gets the reader psyched and asking questions about Eternal. And indeed, there is no shortage of questions…

Set “soon,” Batman #28 sees Harper Row finagle her way into The Egyptian, “the only nightclub left in New Gotham.” Yes, New Gotham, a city which is apparently in some kind of crisis. Citizens live under an 8 p.m. curfew, the police wear S.W.A.T. gear and aren’t at all shy about brutality. People have apparently been dying, possibly due to some sort of infection. Once inside, Harper allows the Dark Knight to make a hell of an entrance before donning her uniform and becoming the gun-toting character we’ve seen sketches of in recent months, Bluebird. Yes, Harper Row seems to have officially joined the Bat-family. But Batman calls her off when they come face-to-face with Gotham’s newest crime lord….Selina Kyle. Apparently something has happened to Selina, as “that Catwoman is gone,” because “[Batman] left her to die.” But apparently, there is enough good will left between the two that Selina allows this new Dynamic Duo into a top secret safe, which imprisons “the only one in this city who knows how to stop what’s coming next.”

Batman #28, Spoiler reveal, Dustin NguyenEnter the Spoiler.

Yes friends, Stephanie Brown has returned. Poor Spoiler. She’s only been back for one page, and she already in deep trouble.

When I read the line about Spoiler being the key to stopping what’s next, the first thing that popped into my head was the big War Games crossover from 2004-2005 (My God, has it been that long?). In an attempt to regain Batman’s trust after being fired as the latest Robin, Stephanie, as Spoiler, tries to enact one of Batman’s contingency plans to unite all the city’s crime factions under a single crime lord. The whole thing goes to hell, resulting in a gang war in Gotham City. A great many lives are lost, and it’s a huge disaster. It wouldn’t shock me if something similar has happened here. Stephanie found herself in the middle of something, made the wrong move, and madness erupted.  That’s pure fan speculation, mind you. But it would certainly be consistent with the Stephanie we knew before.

One side note: I like the new costume. The colors make it somewhat reminiscent of her Batgirl suit. *sigh* It still hurts, damn it…

In terms of Catwoman being Gotham’s new kingpin of crime, my biggest impression thus far is that the Egyptian is pretty damn cool. When we first walk in, we see two gigantic golden cat statues (the Egyptians worshipped cats, after all), and when Selina makes her entrance we see a smaller black one. The safe in which Steph is imprisoned is also covered in hieroglyphics, and the backgrounds give it a really nice ancient Egyptian throne room feel. To an extent, it seems like a lair we’d have seen Julie Newmar prancing around in on the ’60s Batman show. In terms of how this will effect Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, well…at least they’re used to things being complicated.

Batman #28, Bluebird, Batman, Dustin NguyenBluebird is different, to be sure. She’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as I’m concerned. If you’ll indulge me as I argue with myself…

I’ve never been in love with members of Batman’s crew using firearms. That’s one of the reasons I have issues with Red Hood and the Outlaws. Jason Todd wields twin guns while wearing a Bat symbol on his chest. It just seems off to me. I even had trouble with the use of rubber bullets in The Dark Knight Returns. Given what happened to Bruce’s parents, it doesn’t make sense to me that he would endorse someone who uses them. I bring this up because in Batman #28, a thug calls Batman out on Bluebird’s use of guns.

Thug: “And here I thought Batman hated guns.”
Batman: “I do. She doesn’t.”

Sorry folks, I don’t buy that logic. From where I sit, if you work with Batman and carry on his legacy, you play by his rules. And “no guns” is like…rule #2. It’s right behind “No nipples on the Batsuit.”

However…

Bluebird’s use of shock pellets means she’s not as big an offender as Jason. The incorporation of electricity into her heroics is also undeniably fitting with her backstory, and her work on the Gotham power grid. It also makes her stand out among the rest of Batman’s allies. Plus, her costume is pretty damn cool, as was that trick with the zip line and the clip on her boot. The blue portions of her suit seem to be a callback to Nightwing’s old v-stripe, which I don’t think is a good sign in terms of Dick Grayson’s fate in Forever Evil. But that’s a different issue entirely. All in all, while I’ve got my issues with her, Bluebird gets a pass from me for now.

Batman #28, Dustin Nguyen, BatcaveWe’ve also got a mystery character in the Batcave, essentially playing the Alfred/Oracle role. The most obvious candidate for this role would be Carrie Kelley, given what we’ve seen in Batman & Robin recently. But the hair doesn’t seem to match up. Could it be Cullen, Harper’s brother? That seems a bit more likely, but the figure on this character looks very feminine. Ah, the joy of speculation.

Frankly, I’m a little sad to go back to Zero Year after this issue. This is the most satisfying installment of the series since #23.2 in September. Zero Year is selling, and nobody can deny it that. But personally, I’m ready for Snyder, Capullo, and the Batman crew to come back to present day. Especially if we get more issues like this.

Image 1 from bleedingcool.com. Image 2 from darkknightnews.com. Image 3 from newsarama.com.

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