Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Micro-Reviews

A Deathstroke Inc. #1 Micro-Review – Simple and Easy

***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

TITLE: Deathstroke Inc. #1
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Howard Porter, Hi-Fi (Colors), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 28, 2021

I like this Deathstroke/Black Canary combination. The book’s premise is fairly simple, in a villain-who-wants-to-do-good sort of way. So Deathstroke Inc. is easy to dive into, which is always a plus.

Joshua Williamson has turned in some of the more compelling stuff DC has come out with over the last several years. So I’m inclined to stick with this one on good faith alone. Having the great Howard Porter attached certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Weekly Comic 100s: Future State: Green Lantern #2

***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

TITLE: Future State: Green Lantern #2
AUTHOR: Geoffry Thorne, Josie Campbell, Robert Venditti
ARTISTS: Tom Raney, Andie Tong, Dexter Soy
COLORISTS: Mike Atiyeh, Will Quintana, Alex Sinclair
LETTERERS:
Andworld Design, Dave Sharpe, Steve Wands
RELEASED: February 9, 2021

Exactly how old is Keli Quintela supposed to be? Her superhero name is Teen Lantern. But, although Andie Tong does a fine job here, she looks like she could be about 10.

Also, I wouldn’t complain at all if they want to team her with Mogo again. Their dynamic was kinda cute.

I give colorist Alex Sinclair so much credit. He gives almost all of his work a truly epic feel. I suspect that comes largely via his association with so many classic stories over the years.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: The Next Batman #3

***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

TITLE: The Next Batman #3
AUTHOR: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas, Paul Jenkins
ARTISTS: Laura Braga, Nick Derington (Breakdowns), Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez (Co-Inker), Jack Herbert
COLORISTS:
Arif Prianto, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb
LETTERERS:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh
RELEASED: February 2, 2021

Drones are a big part of Batman’s side of Future State. This issue sees Batman defeat a drone using the oh so super-heroic method of throwing a rock at it. I got a kick out of that.

There’s already a Future State Suicide Squad story. That being said, this Arkham Knight back-up, with its team of Batman villains assembled under the title character, has a definite Suicide Squad vibe to it. And Arkham Knight, the Peter Tomasi Detective Comics version that is, actually makes a pretty good leader.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Future State Continued…

***”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: Future State: The Next Batman #2
AUTHOR: John Ridley, Vita Ayala, Paula Sevenbergen
ARTISTS: Laura Braga, Nick Derington (Breakdowns), Aneke, Emanuela Lupacchino, Rob Haynes (Breakdowns), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker). Cover by Ladronn.
COLORISTS: Arif Prianto, Trisha Mulvihill, John Kalisz
LETTERERS:
Clayton Cowles, Becca Carey
RELEASED: January 19, 2021

Our Batgirls and Gotham City Sirens back-up stories are underwhelming. It’s also a little disappointing to see Nick Derington strictly on breakdowns this time around (though Laura Braga is more than capable). But I’d still call The Next Batman among the best, if not the best, of Future State.

John Ridley is giving us a slightly more realistic, tech-conscious look at the Batman mythos. There’s a heavy emphasis on facial recognition technology, which we don’t necessarily see in the regular books. This is a smarter, more socially conscious Batman.

TITLE: Future State: Justice League #1
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson, Ram V
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Marcio Takara. Cover by Dan Mora.
COLORISTS:
Romulo Fajaro Jr, Marcelo Maiolo
LETTERERS:
Tom Napolitano, Rob Leigh
RELEASED: January 12, 2021

The main story here is among the best released under the Future State banner, and one of the more fun Justice League stories I’ve read in awhile. We don’t focus on the heroes as individuals, but rather the League as an organization and what it’s become. There’s an intriguing idea here about keeping the group small and impersonal.

The Justice League Dark back-up story didn’t do much for me. But there is an interesting, somewhat funny character bit between Detective Chimp and Etrigan. It doesn’t make or break the story. But it’s fun.

TITLE: Future State: Dark Detective #1
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg
ARTISTS: Dan Mora, Carmine Di Giandomenico
COLORISTS: Jordie Bellaire, Antonio Fabela
LETTERERS:
Aditya Bidikar, Andworld Design
RELEASED: January 19, 2021

Really happy to see former Power Rangers artist Dan Mora get a big shot on a Batman book. Hopefully this is just the next step in what will be big things for him.

The Batman portion of this issue has a lot of intrigue to it, with a sort of gritty, Commando-type approach to the Dark Knight. There’s not a lot of substance to it, but they’ve got the luxury of four issues to expand on things.

Oddly enough, the Grifter back-up story is the superior of the two. It’s not every day Grifter outdoes Batman…

TITLE: Future State: Superman of Metropolis #1
AUTHORS: Sean Lewis, Brandon Easton
ARTISTS: John Timms, Valentine de Landro, Cully Hamner, Michael Avon Oeming
COLORISTS:Gabe Eltaeb, Marissa Louise, Laura Martin
LETTERERS: Dave Sharpe, Andworld Design
RELEASED: January 5, 2021

I miss the cape. It’s just not Superman without it.

In this issue, Jonathan Kent has supposedly been in the Superman role for about a decade. And yet, there’s some doubt as to whether he truly deserves it or is ready for it. There’s a weird disconnect there. Seems like if he’s had the job for 10 years, he must be pretty good at it…

Still, I like the notion of the Superman legacy casting a long shadow, while also trying to be his own man. It feels natural.

TITLE: Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1
AUTHOR: Dan Watters
ARTISTS: Leila Del Duca, Nick Filardi (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Lee Weeks and Brad Anderson.
RELEASED: January 12, 2021

So in this one he does have the cape? What the hell?

This one was disappointing, as there wasn’t much of substance between our two title heroes. I gather there’s supposed to be some kind of intriguing dynamic between Jonathan Kent and our Future State Wonder Woman, but I don’t see it.

One thing I will say: This issue’s introductory Superman scene is pretty awesome, showing us that a “mundane” morning for the Man of Steel is anything but mundane. Plenty of charm to go around.

TITLE: Future State: Green Lantern #1
AUTHOR: Geoffry Thorne, Ryan Cady, Ernie Altbacker
ARTISTS: Tom Raney, Sami Basri, Clayton Henry. Cover by Henry & Marcelo Maiolo.
COLORISTS: Mike Atiyeh, Hi-Fi, Maiolo
LETTERERS: Andworld Design, Dave Sharpe, Steve Wands.
RELEASED: January 12, 2021

Our main story here is about John Stewart and a group of now powerless Green Lanterns. We’ve also got a back-up about Guy Gardner. But the back-up about Jessica Cruz is what steals the issue.

Jessica Cruz has a special place in my heart because of her battle with an anxiety disorder. This story sees her trapped on a space station with three Yellow Lanterns, who are literally powered by fear. But as she stays hidden, she’s got the element of surprise, and thus has the ability to turn the tables on them.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Weekly Comic 100s: Rorschach, Crossover, 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 going to be spending the next few weeks catching up on “Weekly Comic 100s.” So you’re going to see a variety of books from late November into December. Starting with…

TITLE: Rorschach #3
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Jorge Fornes, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 15, 2020

This issue gives us an origins story for Laura Cummings, Rorchach’s apparent sidekick. To its credit, it strikes close to home, as Laura’s father leads a home-grown militia preparing for the arrival of squids, a la the one we saw at the end of Watchmen. And of course, the ones we often see on the news nowadays…

It’s a brilliant thing to pluck from modern headlines. It feels not only poignant, but something Rorschach would appreciate.

TITLE: Crossover #2
AUTHOR: Donny Cates
ARTISTS: Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

This issue was a better read for me than the last one was. I was so baffled by the inciting incident and the whole “comic characters come to life” premise that I couldn’t enjoy the issue. This time around things settle down, and we get an idea of what where the book is going.

I still can’t say I’m a huge fan of Crossing Over. Despite this issue being a little more grounded, I still have trouble wrapping my head around the premise. But I’ll say this much: I’ll be back for issue #3. For curiosity’s sake, if nothing else.

TITLE: Juggernaut #4
AUTHOR: Fabian Nicieza
ARTISTS: Ron Garney, Matt Milla (Colorist), Joe Sabino (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 9, 2020

“Sorry. I know it’s hard to breathe inside me.”

A villain says that to Juggernaut in this issue. I’ll just let that statement speak for itself, I think.

While the novelty of this series is starting to wear off a bit, I must admit Nicieza, Garney, and the Juggernaut team have a good outing with this issue. We fill the action quota, while also doing some nice character work with both Cain Marko and D-Cel, who I’m starting to warm to more and more.

TITLE: Batman/Catwoman #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Clay Mann, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: December 1, 2020

This book jumps around to different scenes at different times quite frequently. Not my cup of tea in terms of story structure.

This book introduces Phantasm, as in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, into the DC Universe proper. Fair enough. Though her inclusion doesn’t tip the scales one way or the other in terms of quality.

Clay Mann and Tomey Morey are on point here. The issue has a certain sensuality to it, which I suspect is by design. I just wish I could stop having Heroes in Crisis flashbacks when I see Mann’s work.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika #2
AUTHOR/ARTIST: Brahm Revel
RELEASED: December 2, 2020

This month, we learn that New York City has de-funded all the fire departments in Mutant Town until they can figure out an aid package. I’d say that doesn’t reflect too well on New Yorkers. But then I remembered: This is the universe where Baxter Stockman is the mayor. That ship may have already sailed…

I know I’m a broken record, but I can’t say enough good things about the “sketchy” aesthetic Brahm Revel brings to this book. What’s more, he gets to flex some horror muscles in this issue, which is a tribute to his versatility.

TITLE: The Other History of the DC Universe #1
AUTHOR: John Ridley
ARTISTS: Giuseppe Camuncoli (Layouts & Cover), Andrea Cucchi (Finishes), Jose Villarrubia (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer). Cover by Camuncoli & Marco Mastrazzo.
RELEASED: November 24, 2020

This could very well be the best Black Lightning story ever written.

The Other History of the DC Universe #1 takes you there. It brings you into the mind of Jefferson Pierce, and shows you how he feels. Not just about John Stewart strictly being a substitute Green Lantern, or the Justice League being comprised of mostly white men. It draws you into the head and heart of a man trying desperately to save the community he grew up in, and bring a little more justice into the world.

This issue is worth the $6.99. Worth every penny.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman, Vol 11: The Fall and the Fallen Deep Dive – Too Much Canvas

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 11: The Fall and the Fallen
AUTHORS:
Tom King, Andy Kubert, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Mairghread Scott, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Amancay Nahuelpan, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (Inker). Eduardo Risso, Patrick Gleason. Cover by Kubert.
COLORIST:
Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Luis Guerrero, Tomeu Morey, Dave Stewart, John Kalisz
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Andworld Design, Tom Workman, Tom Napolitano
COLLECTS:
Batman #7074, Batman: Secret Files #2
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASED:
December 18, 2019

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As a whole, City of Bane, which essentially starts here, is Tom King’s version of The Dark Knight Rises. Or if you want to go back further, the Knightfall storyline from the ’90s.

It’s also where the wheels come off King’s Batman run. I take no joy in saying that. But the proof is in the pudding, kids. So let’s dip our spoons in…

1. Daddy’s back.
The Fall and the Fallen is when we finally see Bane and Flashpoint Batman, a.k.a. Thomas Wayne from an alternate universe, team up to break our hero once and for all.

Yes friends, Thomas Wayne, one of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is here. You know about Bruce Wayne’s parents, right? They were murdered in front of their young son. It was that heinous act of violence that inspired Bruce’s vow to wage war on criminals for the rest of his life, and ultimately the creation of Batman. We saw these two come face-to-face in The Button, and it was a tremendously emotional experience for Bruce. One can only imagine what would go through his head if his father, even an alt-universe version, masterminded some kind of plot against him…

So tell me something: Why is Bane our big bad in this story? Why bring him into this when Bruce’s father shakes his son’s world to its core simply because he exists? Add the fact that this version of Thomas Wayne is his universe’s Batman, and Bane becomes redundant by comparison.

Batman #72 takes us back through the events of the series and outlines Bane’s plan, which all centers around the Bruce/Selina marriage. In the end, Thomas proposes a partnership.

But picture this, Thomas Wayne somehow survives the destruction of the Flashpoint universe and winds up in the DC Universe proper. He initially wants to seek out his “son,” but this alternate world intrigues him. So he opts to lay low, observe, and learn.

Remember, in The Button, Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and simply live his life. Devastated that Bruce hasn’t heeded his words, he decides he’s the only one that can stop his “son.” So he opts to do what must be done, by any means necessary.

In the end, it comes down to Batman against Batman. Father against son. It can be on the rooftops of Gotham, the Batcave, or anywhere really. All we need is the emotional impact of that showdown.

In the end, Catwoman shoots and kills Thomas in an act of desperation. Bruce then has to decide if he can forgive her or not. This would pay off the revelation from The War of Jokes and Riddles.

Not bad, huh? But no, instead we got another big fight with Bane. Yippee…

2. Father/Son Time
And what of what we actually get from father and son? They journey through the desert to get to a Lazarus Pit, occasionally stopping to fight members of Ra’s al Ghul’s personal guard. They take turns riding a horse, which is dragging a casket behind it. I won’t say who’s in it. But if you consider who we have in this scene and where they’re going it’s not too hard to figure out. There’s a really nice subtle reference to Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which is low key one of the best Batman stories of the last decade.

Old timey music has been a theme during Tom King’s run. In issue #73, he has Flashpoint Batman singing “Home, Home on the Range” to himself. Fun fact: It’s really weird to read that scene while playing Bing Crosby’s version of the song in the background…

Issue #74 is where things finally boil over between our Batmen. Thomas’ motivation, as always, is to get Bruce to surrender his life as Batman and live a normal life. That’s a hell of a premise for an issue. The trouble is, King spends far too much time harping on a story about a bedtime story Thomas told Bruce as a child about a bunch of animals eating each other in a pit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s an actual story written by Alexander Afanasyev, who’s widely considered to be the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm. Father and son talk about the horror of it all, and why Bruce supposedly liked the story. They eventually get to the real meat of their conflict. But by the time they do, you feel frustrated because they’ve spent so much time talking about that damn story. Even during their inevitable battle in the pit, King uses the story as a narrative backdrop.

And all the while, I can’t help but think…Thomas Wayne, Batman’s dad, is standing right there. And this was the best they could do?

3. Dump the Duster
Okay DC, we get it. Batman v Superman was a thing. You guys liked the image of Batman in a duster and goggles, so you decided to use it. Fair enough.

But these issues came out in 2019. The movie came out in 2017. There was no need whatsoever to put the Flashpoint Batman in a duster and goggles just like the ones his “son” happened to wear several issues earlier in The Rules of Engagement.

If it looked cool, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t. Plus, it’s impractical and redundant even by superhero standards, and therefore silly.

What’s done is done. But let’s make this right. If you want to have Batman wearing his costume in the desert, that’s fine. Heck, if you want to have Bruce Wayne wear a duster and goggles, that’s fine. But you can’t have Batman wearing his costume in the desert with a duster and goggles. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. That’s got to be a rule in writing Batman from now on.

4. Batman Gone Batty?
Issues #70 and #71 focus on a needless, and at times silly plot point about people thinking Batman is losing it, and Jim Gordon severing ties with him.

When we open the book, our Caped Crusader is punching his way through Arkham Asylum, facing off with most of the supervillains you’d expect to see. It’s a great opportunity for Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes to draw virtually all of the iconic rogues gallery.

The trouble is, King once again supplies us with bad Batman dialogue. Not the least of which is: “You challenge me with…nightmares? I live the nightmare! Bane! Why can’t you understand! I’m Batman! I am the nightmare.”

Shut up, already.

Given how convinced Batman is that Bane is faking insanity to remain in Arkham, and how intense and violent he is in his pursuit of the truth, Gordon becomes convinced that the Dark Knight has gone off the deep end. In issue #71 he tries to kick him off the roof of police headquarters (shown above).

That skepticism spreads to his extended family of superheroes, who are convinced Bruce is still grieving over his broken engagement to Selina Kyle. The situation is punctuated when he punches Tim Drake in the face.

There’s no worthwhile payoff to any of this. It all comes off like padding. Because it is padding. You can revolve an entire story arc around either of those moments. But instead they just come and go. That’s particularly a shame when it comes to the Gordon story, as there could have been some real substance to that.

5. Where’s Wesker?
This trade also contains Batman: Secret Files #2, which in theory is supposed to spotlight all “the villains who broke the Bat.” Okay, sure.

For what I think is the first time since Batman #23.1, Andy Kubert gets to write a Batman/Joker story. Things fare much better this time, largely because he goes the comedic route. Also, Amancay Nahuelpan draws a hell of a Clown Prince of Crime.

Colin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put together a so-so story about the Psycho-Pirate leading a cult. Artist Carlos D’Anda overachieves on this one, which I did not expect.

Mairghread Scott and Giuseppe Camuncoli turn in a Riddler story that holds up pretty well. More amusing to me is the fact that “Sideburns Riddler” is still a thing.

Steve Orlando and Eduardo Risso steal the show with a Hugo Strange tale featuring multiple Batman “specimens.” Given he’s a mad doctor, I’ll let you jump to your own conclusions on what that story is about…

Tim Seeley teams with one of my personal favorites, Patrick Gleason, for a story late in Bane’s pre-Gotham days. I’m used to Gleason working with a much brighter color palette than John Kalisz provides here. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

My big problem with this issue? No story about Arnold Wesker, a.k.a. the Ventriloquist. He’s on the cover, and plays one of the more interesting roles in Bane’s big scheme, as sort of Bane’s counterpart to Alfred. It’s a little disturbing, considering what happens to Alfred in the next volume.

6. Consistence and Versatility
The Secret Files issue notwithstanding, our drawing duties are split between Mikel Janin and Jorge Fornes. While The Fall and the Fallen may have its share of story problems, I can’t find much to complain about artistically. Both these men are awesome Batman artists very much in their element.

Mikel Janin was a star coming into this series. But he’s a superstar coming out of it. Speaking for myself, Janin’s art can now sell a book on its own. His line work is always super clean, his figure work consistent, and his character acting on point. I now look forward to specifically seeing his versions of Batman, the Joker, and even less flashy characters like Alfred and the Penguin. The fact that he’s got colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire backing him up in this book does nothing but help, of course. But Janin’s style on its own is versatile enough to handle any story. Whether we’re on the streets of Gotham, the Source Wall at the edge of the universe, or anywhere in between.

Objectively, Janin’s best work in this book is probably issue #74, as that’s where the book hits its emotional crescendo and is really firing on all cylinders. But selfishly, I’m partial to issue #70 because Janin gets to draw some of the more obscure Batman villains. Calendar Man, Doctor Phosphorus, the Cavalier, etc.

It’s difficult to look at Jorge Fornes’ work without thinking of what David Mazzucchelli did with Batman: Year One. The figure rendering is similar, the texture is similar. Bellaire’s coloring doesn’t have the same faded palette that Richmond Lewis’ did. But it’s still reminiscent.

I can’t bring myself to complain about the similarities, because Year One is obviously one of the all-time greats. But that means Fornes is better in environments that are a little more mundane, and can have that noir-ish spin put on them. Street level scenes, Wayne Manor and Batcave scenes, etc. It’s no accident that a hero like Daredevil is also on his resume. But something tells me that, like Janin, he’s got a versatilty to him. One that isn’t necessarily apparent here. I’m anxious to see what he does next.

7. Too Much Canvas
When someone mentions Tom King the first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, is his 12-issue run on Vision. That was such a masterclass in comic book storytelling. It’s frustrating to think that someone who wove such a classic at Marvel could make these kind of mistakes on Batman.

What it all comes down to is too much canvas. Give an artist too much canvas to work on, and suddenly the focus of the art wavers. If any story has ever had too much canvas it’s City of Bane.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

A Gotham City Sirens: Division Retro Review – Gotham City Stumble

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Gotham City Sirens: Division

AUTHOR: Peter Calloway
ARTISTS: Andres Guinaldo, Ramon Bachs. Cover by Guillem March.
INKERS: Lorenzo Ruggiero, Bachs,
COLORISTS: JD Smith
LETTERERS: Steve Wands, Dave Sharpe, Carlos M.Mangual, Travis Lanham, Raul Fernandez.
COLLECTS: Gotham City Sirens #2021, #2326
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: March 7, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Kenosha Kicker. Polka! Polka! Polka!

Reading all 26 issues of Gotham City Sirens is kind of like dating a woman who’s really hot, but who you eventually realize has a lot of personality issues. Eventually you find yourself wondering whether the whole relationship was even worth it at all.

The final volume of this series sees Harley Quinn bound and determined to kill the Joker. She breaks into Arkham Asylum, causing a massive riot. Caught in the mix are Black Mask, Clayface, our Sirens, and even Batman/Bruce Wayne himself (“Anything involving The Joker I take care of personally.”) Amidst the chaos, Harley, Catwoman and Poison Ivy will be placed at odds. Allegiances are tested, and friendships may be broken beyond repair.

I have two major issues with this book, both of which I touched on in my review of the previous volume: The way Joker is drawn and the way Harley is written.

The problem with Guinaldo’s Joker is that it’s trying to mix the look of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight with what Grant Morrison did during his run on Batman. In all fairness, after Morrison’s run DC never came up with a definitive look for the Joker to match the events of those stories. As such, creators working on different books didn’t necessarily know how to portray him. As a result, we usually got something along the lines of the traditional Joker with a bullet-shaped scar in the middle of his forehead (shown above).

The Joker we get in Division looks, quite frankly, like a pasty-faced geezer with some smeared lipstick on his cheeks. Though Guinaldo does supply us with a pretty good manic Joker face every so often, this take on the character isn’t nearly as maniacally menacing as it should be. For yours truly this became a big annoyance as the story went on.

And then there’s Harley. This story takes her to a pretty grim, dark place, especially in the beginning. She’s got a lot of rage directed at the Joker, and as a result we get a lot of inner monologue that seems out of character to me…

“There’s a place. A place in my head. A place on the other side of happy-go-lucky. The one part of me that isn’t looking for the joke. In that dark place–lurks rage…when the laughter breaks down–and humor can’t quiet its hunger–the rage gets out. And then it runs the show.”

I reject this portrayal of Harley not because of principle, but execution. We’ve seen her get angry before. It’s to be expected from a crazy lady who loves a homicidal clown and commits crimes while dressed like a Commedia dell’arte character.

But in Division, Harley becomes a cold, calculated strategist and murderer. We get inside her head and follow her thought process as she systematically breaks into Arkham. This portrayal robs the character of some of her charm. We’re not supposed to be able to follow Harley’s mindset when she does these things. She’s insane. Is she, deep down, a good person who could potentially be saved? Yes. But her infatuation with the Joker has also placed her on a different plane of reality than the rest of us. The reason she can be so goofy, so sick and twisted, with such drastic emotional swerves, is that she’s not playing with the same deck the rest of us are. This book defies that notion by simply making Harley an overly emotional, hopelessly attached girlfriend in a clown suit. She looks sane.

And as we all know, this chick ain’t sane.

The book does have its moments, though. We spend a little time with Aaron Cash, the asylum’s head of security whom we met in the Arkham Asylum video game. We’re with him when he learns about The Joker’s role in the death of his infant son, which is simply haunting. The Arkham Asylum riot is given the right amount of weight by Calloway. He doesn’t play it off like an every day occurrence the way some writers do. There’s a nice aura of panic about it.

Gotham City Sirens started out on such a high note. Unfortunately the memory of how good the series was during that first seven months or so never stopped haunting it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping for this series to be something of an action/comedy, akin to what we sometimes saw in Batman: The Animated Series and Gotham Girls. No such luck. In the end, Gotham City Sirens was just like every other Batman book on the stands. And what’s the point of putting this oddball trio together if you’re not going to have some fun with it?

At one point in this book, Harley asks Ivy: “Did the three of us make sense as a team? Ever?” (shown above)

The answer is no. But that was where all the fun should have come from.

***In Hindsight***
I wish I could say my opinion had changed on this one. Paul Dini wrote a total of 10 issues, which are collected in the first and second volumes. If you want to check out this series, those are the books you need to read.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Panels of Awesomeness

Panels of Awesomeness: Francis Manapul Draws Smallville (and Also Superboy)

By Rob Siebert
Suddenly Wants to Be a Farmer

THE ISSUE: Adventure Comics #1 (2009)
CREATORS: Geoff Johns (Author), Francis Manapul (Artist), Brian Buccellato (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 12, 2009
THE SCENE:
The newly resurrected Conner Kent (long story) enjoys a morning sunrise in Smallville alongside Ma Kent and Krypto.
WHY IT’S AWESOME: Because it’s legitimately one of the most gorgeous images I’ve ever seen in the pages of a comic book.

I remember picking this issue up from Graham Crackers Comics in Downer’s Grove, IL, and feeling my jaw hit the ground when I opened to these pages. It’s been over a decade, and this image has never left me.

As much as Francis Manapul shines here, the real star is Brian Buccellato. That sky is absolute magic. Corny as it is (See what I did there?), how can you look at that and not feel the morning breeze on your face?

There were some additional warm fuzzies here because Conner Kent, a.k.a Superboy, had been gone for a couple years. He’d been killed off in Infinite Crisis, then brought back in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. Both written by Geoff Johns. When Johns was writing Conner in Teen Titans, he was living with the Kents in Smallville and wasn’t happy about it. So the line, “I can’t believe I ever hated Smallville,” adds the extra exclamation point to the image.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit Retro Review – Hate that Joker!

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit
AUTHORS: Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway
ARTISTS: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun, Guillem March
INKERS: Lorenzo Luggiero, BIT, Walden Wong
COLORISTS: JD Smith, Tomeu Morey
LETTERER: Steve Wands, Travis Lanham, Dave Sharpe
COLLECTS: Gotham City Sirens #1419
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASED: August 16, 2011

By Rob Siebert
The same Rob from up top.

It was somewhere during this story that I gave up on Gotham City Sirens ever being the book I wanted it to be. As it started out as a title written by Paul Dini, I was hoping we’d get something more light-hearted, akin to the work Dini did with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy on Batman: The Animated Series. Over the first several issues, we did get that. But it tapered off as different writers started to come on to the book.

Strange Fruit is fairly low on humor, and it’s the first trade in the series without Dini’s name on it, but a high-stakes storyline keeps the title from taking a steep plunge in quality.

The first two issues continue the story that was started in the last book. It’s about Poison Ivy helping an alien or something. In all honesty, my distaste for a random alien appearance in a Bat-book pretty much took me out of the story. It’s not terrible. But I wasn’t a fan.

We then move into a story in which Talia al Ghul and Zatanna are trying to stop a group of bad guys from targeting Catwoman so they can learn Batman’s true identity. What further complicates things is that Catwoman lied to Harley and Ivy, telling them she didn’t know his identity. Trust issues galore can be found in this story, which will lead to Harley making a VERY dramatic decision.

Something’s been nagging at me about Gotham City Sirens for awhile, and it traces back to the events of this book. The way Andres Guinaldo draws the Joker (see below) irritates me terribly. We only see him through sporadic flashbacks, but I’m consistently bothered with the way Guinaldo puts those Dark Knight-ish red etches at the corners of his mouth. He’s not the first artist to do it, but the way he does it is really distracting. They’re much too big. It looks like he’s smeared lipstick on his cheeks. I understand part of it is just Guinaldo’s style. But The Joker’s Dark Knight look doesn’t lend itself to that style.

The story with Zatanna and Talia isn’t the strongest I’ve ever seen, but it’s good. Both have been romantically linked to Bruce Wayne in the past, and those connections make for interesting storytelling. Selina and Zatanna also have a history, which adds to the fire.

While there are a few Harley Quinn moments that harken back to the tone the series started with, the book sets more of a traditional tone, which essentially makes it just like all the other Bat-books, which means it loses a huge part of its selling point. At least for me. I’m certainly not heartbroken this series won’t be part of the New 52 reboot.

***In Hindsight***
My mind about Andres Guinaldo’s Joker has not changed. Thankfully, that trend has died down in the years since.

At the time, I gave this book a 6/10. Upon re-reading, that feels about right. I liked that they played with Selina’s knowledge of Bruce’s identity. Though ironically this was post-Final Crisis, and the Batman we see in this book is Dick Grayson.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing Deep-Dive – Penguin Steals the Show

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 9: The Tyrant Wing
AUTHORS: Tom King, Ram V, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Taylor,
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Elena Casagrande, Jill Thompson, Otto Schmidt
COLORISTS: Bellaire, Matt Wilson, Trish Mulvhill,
LETTERERS: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Deron Bennett, Troy Peteri
COLLECTS: Batman #58-60, Batman Secret Files #1, Batman Annual #3
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: March 20, 2019

***WARNING: There’s a minor spoiler ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Tyrant Wing is more or less a transitionary book. Bruce and Selina’s wedding has happened. Or rather, not happened. We dealt with a lot of the fall-out from it in Cold Days. In The Tyrant Wing we start setting the stage for Tom King’s big finale. A new opponent for Batman emerges. One that even the world’s greatest detective couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

But along the way King, Mikel Janin, and the Batman team unexpectedly do some justice for a character that doesn’t always get the love he deserves: The Penguin.

1. Penny In Your Thoughts
If you’re a guy who happens to be down on his luck romantically, I offer you this bit of consolation: If the Penguin can find a bride, so can you.

Then again, she’s dead now. So maybe that’s not the hopeful example we wanna go with.

Yes, apparently ol’ Pengers had a wife we never saw or heard about. Her name? Penny Cobblepot. Though almost 30 years younger than him, it’s quickly obvious Penguin loved her dearly. Suddenly, he’s a man with nothing left to lose. So he starts spilling secrets. Secrets about Bane…

To Tom King’s credit, this might be the most multi-dimensional take on the Penguin I’ve ever seen. We see pieces of virtually every version of the character. We get the squawking supervillain with the trick umbrellas. We get the freakish, portly gentleman with the soul of a poet. We get the unspeakably cruel crime boss. We even get a small trace of the fish-slurping monster we saw in Batman Returns. Like many Batman villains, we’re against him but we also manage to find some sympathy for him.

Like a lot of fans, I’ve given King my share of grief over some of the choices he’s made on this series. I’ll continue to do so, in fact. But he knocked ol’ Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot right out of the park.

This is most evident in issue #60. A blindfolded Penguin is locked up in the Batcave talking to Alfred. This is instantly compelling, as we don’t often see Alfred interacting with the villains, much less one he might have something in common with. They bond over, of all things, poetry. At one point, Penguin even calls his anonymous keeper, “my friend.” Alfred then feeds him raw fish by hand. It’s one of those scenes that, considering both characters have been around for decades, it’s shocking it hasn’t been done.

As the Penguin endures heartbreak, Batman punches his way across Gotham searching for the truth about what Bane is plotting. Naturally, this causes a hell of a lot of friction with Gordon and the GCPD. None of this really grabbed me, as we’ve seen this kind of story many times before. Things get a little more engaging in issue #60 when Jorge Fornes tags in for the Batman sequences.

Unfortunately, I do need to make note of one the clunkier lines in this entire run. When Batman barges into Arkham to confront Bane, he’s met by a SWAT team. As he’s dismantling them, while generally being a raging prick about the whole thing, he says among other things…

“Right now, each of you has a choice to make. Do I pull that trigger and get a Bat-boot shoved through my face? Or do I let the man go about his business?”

Yup. Bat-boot. Our legendary hero, everybody.

2. The Butler Does It All
We shift gears here. Venturing away from the main plot, we move to author Tom Taylor and artist Otto Schmidt and one of the best Alfred Pennyworth stories of the modern era. If not all time.

Given the stunt DC recently pulled with Alfred, they put out an issue dedicated to him. Various members of the Batman family shared memories of him. But frankly, something like Batman Annual #3 is a much better tribute issue. It touches on the various things Alfred does to make the whole Batman operation work. But more importantly, it dives  into why he does it and what he gets from it.

Think of it this way: Gotham needs Batman. Batman needs Alfred. So at the end of the day, what does that make Alfred?

3. Batman in Quarantine (Kind of…)
The trade closes out with a Secret Files issue that’s very much a mixed bag. We open up with a three-page Tom King/Mikel Janin story. Or rather, part of a story. As Batman is feeling the wear and tear on his body, Superman just happens to offer him access to a new kind of Kryptonite. Platinum Kryptonite, of which a single touch will grant him the same powers as Superman. The story ends with Bruce asking Alfred, “Am I enough?”

I call BS on this for two reasons.

Firstly, to just end the story on that note, even if it’s only meant to serve as an introduction, is a crime. Batman is literally offered all the same powers as Superman. And you don’t give his answer? What kinda lazy garbage is that? Over a decade ago, DC put out a story called Super/Bat that more or less had this same premise, and Batman does get Superman’s powers. It was amazing. If you want to give your own take on that story, but all means go for it. But to leave it open-ended like that? Screw you.

Secondly, while it’s not a direct line of dialogue, it’s indicated that Superman tells Batman if he touches this new Kryptonite, “Then you can fight as I fight. As you should fight. With true strength.”

No. Wrong. I understand the implication they’re making about where true strength comes from. But Superman’s “true strength” does not come from his powers. It comes from his character. From his ideals. The way he views the world. I don’t have an issue with him offering Batman super powers. But for him to suggest that’s where “true strength” comes from is out of character. Bad form.

After a story about a cop feeling long-term effects from Scarecrow gas, we get one about Waynetech drones winding up in the wrong hands and what Bruce does about it. I actually got more of an Iron Man vibe from that one. The book closes with a team-up between Batman and Detective Chimp, which is fun.

But the only other story in the issue that really sticks out is a tale written by colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire. On Man-Bat’s trail, Batman secludes himself in a cabin amidst Gotham’s snow-covered mountains. As it turns out, this notorious loner doesn’t do so well when he’s forced to be on his own.

The operative line of the story is, “Truth is, I’m not such a fan of myself.”

The central idea here is really compelling. What does Bruce Wayne’s self image look like? What does a man who goes out every night dressed like a bat to beat up criminals think of himself? You could do a whole story on that.

While this was written some time ago, it’s timely to discuss it now. As I type this we’re in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. People around the world are quarantined in their homes. Naturally, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Even if you’re Batman.

4. A Bridge Worth Crossing
Is The Tyrant Wing an essential read? No. But is it a good read? Yes. I enjoyed this book more than many of the earlier books in this series. Mostly because of the Penguin. I’ll go ahead and say it: Too many people sleep on him as a character. He’s more than just a portly dude with an umbrella. He’s a scoundrel. He’s a gentleman. He’s an iconic villain.

For more of Tom King’s run on Batman, check out I Am Gotham, I Am Suicide, I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Rules of Engagement, Bride or Burglar?, The Wedding, and Cold Days.

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