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.

 

Who is Nightwing? – Bludhaven Begins

***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 #18
AUTHOR: Chuck Dixon
ARTISTS: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story (Inkers), Roberta Tewes (Colorist), John Costanza (Letterer)
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$1.95 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1996-1997
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Bludhaven

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This is it. I’d argue these are the issues that would define Dick Grayson for the next two decades and beyond. And they’re good!

Pretty good, that is.

When a whopping 21 dead bodies float up river into Gotham Harbor, Batman and Nightwing trace them to Gotham’s sister city, Bludhaven. When the Dark Knight sends him to investigate, Dick Grayson quickly learns that in many ways, Bludhaven is worse than Gotham. What’s more, a mysterious new crime lord has seized control of the city. Thus, Nightwing must discover their identity and take on a city corrupt to its core. And he’ll have to do it on his own…

I credit Chuck Dixon as one of the more underappreciated architects of Batman’s world as we know it. So Dick was in great hands for his first ongoing series. As one would expect, Dixon spends a good portion of these issues laying groundwork. We establish where Dick is in his life, Bludhaven as a character in itself, his supporting cast, and by the end we have our main villain.

Long before the term “quarter-life crisis” was a thing, Nightwing was essentially a quarter-life crisis book. Not simply about a superhero in a new city, this book is about an early-20s Dick Grayson creating a life for himself without his mentor’s help. And we get to see him doing a lot of those “fresh start” things. He gets an apartment without Bruce Wayne footing the bill. He gets a day job as a bartender. He meets a cute girl. He explores his new city and learns to care about it. These are all things young, particularly college-age adults can identify with. Nightwing reached for a key demographic in ways that few superhero books do.

For the first 40 issues of Nightwing, our art team consisted of Scott McDaniel, Karl Story on inks, and Roberta Tewes on colors.  That’s a heck of a run. A downright historic one when you consider all it did for Dick Grayson.

Personally? I have no choice but to acknowledge this team got the job done, as the work still holds up more than 20 years later. But to be blunt: It’s never really been my cup of tea.

To me, Scott McDaniel’s art has always screamed, “Action!” If you want him to draw, say, a sequence where a helicopter takes off carrying a small building that has Nightwing and a bad guy inside, McDaniel is your man. He’s less suited, however, for quiet moments. A recurring nightmare sequence, for instance. Or a scene at Dick’s bartending job. Sometimes they work, case in point the scene in issue #1 where Dick gives a young would-be mugging victim some money to get the hell out of Bludhaven. But just as often they don’t.

What’s more, the coloring choices make the art hard to follow at certain points. For instance, look at the page below. I understand the effect they’re going for with the lighting. But the final product looks, quite frankly, like someone spilled lemonade all over the page.

On a random side note, it’s amazing to think the Black Mask character has lasted 35 years. Especially when you consider his original design looks like a Blue Man Group guy in a pinstripe suit. He makes a quick appearance in issue #1.

Robin/Tim Drake stops by for issue #6. It’s a fun exploration of the brotherly dynamic Dick and Tim have. It does more for Tim, which is a little bit backwards considering it’s Dick’s book. But putting Dick with the current Robin will always be interesting.

We’ll dive into who Bludhaven’s mysterious new crimelord is next time. It has its ups and downs, but the decision lasts almost 100 issues. So suffice to say it worked out for them. That’s emblematic of these first eight issues overall. They’re hardly perfect. But in the long run, they were exactly what the Dick Grayson character needed as he moved into the next phase of its life.

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

Who is Nightwing? – Prelude to Solo Stardom

***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 #14
AUTHOR: Denny O’Neil
ARTISTS: Greg Land, Mike Sellers & Nick Napolitano (Inkers), Cathi Bertrand (Colorist), John Costanza
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
ORIGINAL SELLING PRICE:
$2.25 per issue
ORIGINALLY RELEASED:
1995
CURRENTLY COLLECTED IN:
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Bludhaven

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Dick Grayson officially adopted the mantle of Nightwing in mid-1984 in the pages of Tales of the Teen Titans #44. The move was meant to remove Dick from Batman’s shadow and make him more of his own man. That’s why it’s so surprising in retrospect that the character didn’t get his own solo series until 1996, 12 years later.

Granted, there were one-off issues where Dick would get the spotlight. For a short time in the mid-’90s, he even stood in for Bruce Wayne as Batman. But it wasn’t until 1996 that Nightwing got his own book, and even his own city to protect. After more than 40 years as Robin, and over a decade as Nightwing, Dick was finally spinning off into his own adventures.

DC Comics would test the waters, and ultimately set the stage for a Nightwing ongoing series with a four issue mini published in 1995. Written by legendary Batman scribe Denny O’Neil, the story sees Dick revisit his past while preparing for his future. He also gets a new costume in the process.

Dick starts the story by doing something you probably don’t want to do before you start your own solo series – He quits. Handing his costume over to Batman, saying he’s realized “I’m not you. I was never you. I don’t want to be you.”

And what does Dick want Batman to do with the costume? He has some ideas…

“Put it in a trophy case. Give it to the Salvation Army. Burn it.”

Indeed, Dick Grayson is giving up on superheroics, opting to live a more normal life. A little abrupt? Sure. But I like this idea for Dick. He was and is the most outgoing among Batman’s surrogate family, which makes him the most naturally likable. So as readers, we want to see him happy and fulfilled.

Of course, it can’t last. The poor guy barely makes it to the next morning before he finds an old letter to his parents, threatening them for something they apparently saw in the despotic nation of Kravia. Naturally, he has to investigate.

Our penciller is Greg Land, who’s faced a lot of criticism over the course of his career for his use, and perhaps abuse, of photo reference. He’s been accused of lifting, and even flat-out tracing, images from sources as lewd as hardcore pornography. As far as I know, this Nightwing story pre-dates those allegations. I don’t see anything that stands out as blatantly lifted from somewhere else. Though there are a few images that are a little suspect. Case in point, an image in issue #1 of a briefs-clad Dick Grayson on a bed. I can’t bring myself to complain about that from a sexualization standpoint, given how female characters are often drawn to this day. But it makes you wonder.

There’s also the image above, where Dick, posed like a catalog model, is standing in what has the distinction of being the ugliest shirt I’ve ever seen in a comic book. He unfortunately wears that for much of the second issue.

While he’s unquestionably one of the all-time greats, this is hardly Denny O’Neil’s best work. He has to inject a decent amount of narrative convenience into things to get the story going and to fit it into four issues. The despot in Kravia just happens to remember who Dick is. The assassin he then sends to kill Dick is able to find him very quickly, which provides our hero with a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back to the villain. Makes me wonder why they didn’t keep things a little more simple than a story about whether a dictator was involved in the plot to kill Dick’s parents…

On the upside, this mini is where we see Nightwing’s black and blue costume (shown below) for the first time. His original suit, affectionately called the “disco suit,” worked for a colorful superhero team book in the ’80s. It was later changed to the sleeker, darker-yet-somehow-also-brighter outfit shown above. It was changed again here, presumably because tonally Nightwing was moving into territory closer to Batman. Dark, avenging hero of the night, and all that.

This is the look that practically all subsequent takes on the Nightwing outfit were based on. With Dick’s previous two outfits, especially the first, it feels like there might have been pressure to give the character something with a grandeur befitting his legacy. As it turned out, they were better off keeping it simple. Black with a touch of blue. It’s almost a minimalist’s superhero costume. The black costume also gave Nightwing a certain cool factor he maintains to this day.

At face value, this Nightwing mini isn’t much to write home about. The story is overdone, the villain is generic and forgettable, and by the end the whole thing seems all for naught. But it nevertheless holds an important place in the character’s history as the tale that gave him his new costume, and set him down a path to solo stardom. For that alone, it’s worth a look.

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

A Three Jokers #1 Review – Too Many Smiles?

TITLE: Three Jokers #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Black Label
PRICE:
$6.99
RELEASED:
August 25, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alright, DC. You can have your “Joker War,” and you can have Three Jokers. But after these are both said and done, we put the ol’ Clown Prince back on the shelf for a little while. There is such a thing as too many smiles…

At last, more than four years after it was first teased in Johns and Fabok’s Justice League run, Three Jokers has arrived. Why’d it take so long? No clue. But I’ve gotta say, the end product was almost worth the wait. While he’s obviously used Batman in his larger DC stories, Geoff Johns hasn’t spent a lot of time on a proper Bat-book. But in terms of the overall “feel” of things, i.e. characterization, tone, the sense of sacrifice, and that lingering dread that comes with a great Joker story, Johns and the Three Jokers team absolutely nail it.

Three Jokers presents us with the notion that there are…well, three Jokers. When the Harlequin of Hate seemingly strikes three points in Gotham at the exact same time, Batman, Batgirl, and the Red Hood must figure out where the genuine article is. But certain evidence points them toward something more elusive: That three different men have played the role of the Joker over the years. And unbeknownst to our heroes, a fourth Joker may be on his way…

In a broad sense, I don’t really like the idea of there having been three Jokers. Rather, I like the notion that he evolved over time just as Batman did. But I’ve been around long enough to know these kinds of things often aren’t as they initially seem. So I’ll reserve judgment on the premise and simply judge the content on its own merits.

One thing I give this issue a lot of credit for is quickly and effectively establishing the Joker’s relationship to Batman, and also providing the character with dramatic weight he deserves. It’s all done within the first few pages, using very little dialogue. We see Batman’s scarred and mangled flesh juxtaposed with single images of his enemies corresponding to specific wounds. Characters like Bane, the Riddler, Scarecrow, etc. Then we get one for the Joker. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker yet again. Thus the reader, whether a Batman buff or someone picking up a comic for the first time, understands the Joker isn’t simply another villain. He’s the one who’s given Batman more scars, both physically and emotionally, than anyone else.

Also adding dramatic weight is the presence of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and the Red Hood/Jason Todd. Ask a casual comic book reader to name three Joker stories, and chances are two of them will be (for better or worse) The Killing Joke – Where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara, and A Death in the Family – The infamous story where the Joker kills Jason. So having them around is a nice reminder of what the stakes are when dealing with the Joker. You’d think, with both breathing and walking, the opposite would be true. But both carry a heavy existential burden.

Jason Fabok gets to put his own little tweaks on all the iconic costumes for Three Jokers. The only changes of real significance are to Red Hood’s costume (shown above). Most of what we see is an improvement. The Bat emblem on his chest is thankfully gone. He’s now in a leather jacket with a red tunic that has, you guessed it, a hood. The tunic is supposed to look like the Robin costume. It even has an R on the belt buckle. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it’s grown on me. In fact, it’s probably my favorite take on the costume since Under the Hood in the mid 2000s.

I credit Three Jokers #1 with having one of the best, most cinematic chase scenes I’ve read in quite awhile. There’s not even that much to it. Just Batman and Batgirl trying to stop an ambulance, with Batman coming aboard and fighting inside. But Johns and Fabok made a more exciting sequence out of this than some creators can with four times as much.

This book is also beautifully colored. The palette Brad Anderson is working with feels like it can explode into a bright, beautiful blaze at any moment. But instead we get colors that are very full and that pop, but also feel like they’ve been dipped in darkness. The way Fabok and Anderson capture Gotham City feels definitive. Like this is what it’s supposed to look like.

Jason Todd is really the star of this first issue. That’s mostly because of the climax and a deliciously emotional, character-defining moment between a killer and his victim…

Three Jokers #1 straddles an interesting line. I totally disagree with its premise, yet I can’t deny this is a great comic book. Normally I can’t stand it when even oversized comics are priced above $5. But I can say with full confidence that this one is worth the price of admission.

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

The Lost Carnival Deep Dive – Nightwing, is That Really You?

TITLE: The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel
AUTHOR: Michael Moreci
ARTISTS: Sas Milledge, Phil Hester, David Calderon (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Graphic Novels For Young Adults
PRICE:
$16.99
RELEASED:
May 5, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic  Novel isn’t really a Dick Grayson graphic novel. Or at least it doesn’t feel like one. It’s more like a YA novel about a lost carnival forced into the graphic medium that they slapped the name Dick Grayson on for brand recognition.

All that being said, it’s still a pretty decent book.

The Lost Carnival introduces us to a teenage Dick Grayson, a traveling circus performer with his parents, the Flying Graysons. But the struggling circus is being walloped by a carnival that’s opted to set up shop nearby. Dick, however, soon discovers all is not as it seems. The carnival, and a mysterious young magician named Luciana, are linked to the past in ways Dick could never imagine.

My biggest problem with some (not all, some) of these original DC graphic novels is they don’t necessarily feel like they’re trying to tell a story about their main characters. Rather, it feels like the story was concocted first, and the character pasted on to it. For instance, a story about a girl in a band? It’s obviously about Black Canary! Girl in a wheelchair solving puzzles? Oracle! And if you’ve got a story with a carnival/circus theme, it’s got to be Dick Grayson. (I’m not making any accusations here. I’m just saying that’s what it feels like.)

For a book that claims it’s “redefining Dick Grayson for a new generation,” there’s not much in here that necessarily feels specific to Dick. He’s got a love interest, a best friend, a crush. He’s rebelling against his parents, and ultimately learns a lesson about holding on to those dear to him, All pretty standard YA stuff. Yes, he’s in the circus. But outside of the magic element, the book doesn’t play with that too much. An opening scene with Dick and his parents on the trapeze is about it.

But who is Dick Grayson, exactly? As Robin, he’s essentially the yin to Batman’s yang. He’s the plucky and exuberant light that keeps the Dark Knight from journeying too far into the proverbial darkness. Unlike Bruce, Dick also thrives when working with others. He becomes the leader of the Teen Titans, and develops close friendships with virtually all his teammates. He’s also quite simply an easy person to like and get along with.

Lots of teenagers struggle with not fitting in. The feel isolated. So in Dick’s situation, why not make that literal? The Lost Carnival tells us he only travels with his parents in the summer. But that’s a missed opportunity. Why not make him a year-round circus performer who’s home-schooled, and thus doesn’t know a lot of kids his own age? Thus, his connection to Luciana isn’t just your standard “boy crushing on girl” story.

The book gives Dick a best friend named Willow, a magician and fellow circus performer who will ultimately play into the book’s climax. But why not have the two start the book as virtual strangers, with Willlow having recently joined the circus. Then by the end of the book, Dick has something he didn’t have at the beginning: A new friend his own age.

Y’know. Just a thought.

The pencils and inks are credited to Sas Milledge with Phil Hester. Not quite sure how that breaks down. The figure rendering in this book has the tiniest bit of fluidity to it. It’s not much, but enough to make things feel a little bit off. Still, Milledge’s version of Dick Grayson manages to be pretty strong. Faithful enough that it reminds us of Nightwing, but unique enough to be her own.

The book plays with different color tints for different scenes, with everything else staying black and white. I can’t say it works amazingly in terms of setting a mood or a tone, or even separating parts of the book. But it’s a way to go. David Calderon’s colors look nice at any rate.

I won’t say The Lost Carnival is utterly forgettable. It works as a story about a magic carnival, but it underachieves as a story about a young Dick Grayson. There’s a certain authenticity that’s missing. The Flying Graysons may sour, but this Dick Grayson graphic novel falls short.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars, Bad Mother, Disaster Inc., 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: Star Wars #5
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto & Dan Brown (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva & Guru-eFX.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

This new Star Wars series hasn’t been doing it for me thus far. It had Luke and Lando go back to Cloud City for a really stupid reason. It’s about to give Luke a yellow lightsaber right after he lost his father’s. Now in this issue he meets yet another Force user, who I assume is going to serve as a mentor. Even though adding another person in that role dilutes the impact of Obi-Wan and Yoda.

In exploring the year between Empire and Jedi, I’m starting to think we should have kept Shadows of the Empire as canon.

TITLE: Bad Mother #1 (of 5)
AUTHOR: Christa Faust
ARTISTS: Mike Deodato Jr., Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Dezi Sienty (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

Bad Mother feels a little bit like Taken if the lead role were gender-swapped. Granted, April Walters doesn’t have that “particular set of skills.” But the cover certainly suggests a big attitude change is coming. I’m expecting something cathartic and suitably gory out of this one.

I’m definitely excited to see what Mike Deodato Jr does with this material, as he fares quite well here. There’s one exception, though: Based on the cover and the first page, I thought April might be pregnant. Whoops.

TITLE: Disaster Inc #2
AUTHOR: Joe Harris
ARTISTS: Sebastian Piriz, Carlos M. Mangual (Letterer). Cover by Andy Clarke & Jose Villarrubia.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

The industry hiatus caused by COVID-19 did no favors for Disaster Inc. It took me a decent amount of time to re-familiarize myself with the real-life disaster it’s based on. But once you start to pick up momentum in that respect, you fall back into it.

We get to explore our setting a little bit in this issue, which is nice. We also dive into some samurai folklore, which obviously lends itself to our monster/killer. All in all, a solid sophomore issue with some great art and colors by Sebastian Piriz.

TITLE: Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler
AUTHORS: Jonathan Hickman, Alan Davis
ARTISTS: Davis, Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Davis & Edgar Delgado.
RELEASED:
August 5, 2020

These Giant-Size X-Men titles are a little misleading. I come into them hoping for something tightly focused on the title character. But with the Magneto one, and now this Nightcrawler issue, that’s proving not to be the case. This is less about Kurt and more about the three other mutants that are with him.

This issue takes us back to the mansion in Westchester, which has apparently been abandoned for so long it’s being overrun by friggin’ vegetation. (Not to mention some aliens.) You’re telling me that thing wouldn’t sell? It’s the X-Mansion, for cryin’ out loud!

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

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT Double-Feature, Wonder Woman #759, 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: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #107
AUTHOR: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Eastman.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

The Turtles have an “old days” moment here where they head down to the sewers and fight a bunch of Mousers. It’s just a couple of cutesy lines. But it does serve as a reminder of just how different this series is from the standard TMNT status quo. Instead of four Turtles striking from the shadows, we’ve got five Turtles living openly in a town full of mutants.

As they roam the sewers, the Turtles mix it up with what basically amounts to an undersea monster. It’s played like a horror movie. Kinda fun.

TITLE: TMNT Annual 2020
AUTHOR: Tom Waltz
ARTISTS: Adam Gorham, John Rauch & Michael Garland (Colorists), Shawn Lee (Letterer). Variant cover by Kevin Eastman and Fahriza Kamputra (Colorist).
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

This annual mainly serves as a check-in with our villains. Most notably Shredder, who we haven’t heard much from since issue #100. They color his costume purple and silver, like the old cartoon. I won’t complain about that…

As the cover indicates, they’re doing a symbiosis story with Krang and Leatherhead. Yet another example of how this series continues to bring these characters into uncharted waters. Given how much has been done with the Ninja Turtles universe, it’s pretty amazing to see how much hasn’t been done.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #759
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

So we’ve got Mariko Tamaki, who wrote Supergirl: Being Super, and Mikel Janin, one of the stars of Tom King’s Batman run. On paper, this new team should be great.

Their first issue is pretty ground level. Lots of flowery narration about what a hero is, what heroes do, etc. My only big problem is that Tamaki gives in to the temptation of putting Wondie in an everyday situation, shopping for furniture, and making it seem foreign to her. She’s been in “man’s world” for so long, yet she has no idea how to shop for furniture? Yeah, right.

TITLE: Darth Vader #3
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

How many times have we seen Darth Vader cross paths with characters from the prequels and then get all feelingsy? Enough that I rolled my eyes when Captain Typho showed up in this issue.

However, as someone who read Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, I appreciated the inclusion of Sabe and another character from that book. It’s a nice little tie-in that doesn’t take anything away from the story being told here.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #9
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera.
RELEASED:
July 30, 2020

In this issue we finally get into Jason Todd’s origin story, his connection to Batman, etc. It’s not drastically altered from the comics. But it’s altered just enough to distinguish it. I liked what I saw.

Frankly, I hope they portray Jason Todd as having been with Batman for only a short time. In the DCAU I’d like to see him portrayed more as a tragically failed experiment than a lost son. Again, it would be different. But not so much that it’s unrecognizable. That’s the formula that seems to work best.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #52
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrot
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
July 29, 2020

We’re still following Jason, Zack, and Trini, despite the events of this issue occurring after “The Power Transfer.” Not a bad thing, but not what I expected either. Especially since they’re getting their own book in a few months.

I’m not sure how I feel about the way Jamal Campbell posed Aisha on the cover. It’s like she’s showing off her butt or something…

We introduce a civilian character in this issue who worries about the holding the Rangers accountable for their actions. Sort of a “don’t trust the Power Rangers” mindset. Very curious to see where that goes.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #9
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

In almost 20 years, I can count the number of Ultra-Humanite stories I’ve read on one hand. So this story is cool for me in that sense.

This issue, and this team, have a really nice energy. Joshua Williamson is often hit-or-miss. But he, Clayton Henry, and Alejandro Sanchez make for a winning combination with these characters. Not a perfect combination per se, but a winning one.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #7
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran (Inker), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Jeremy Roberts.
RELEASED:
July 28, 2020

Our Tom Taylor original characters get a new team name in this issue: The Revolutionaries. Not bad. I don’t know how much of a life they’ll have out from under the Suicide Squad name. But still, not bad.

For at least one issue, Taylor brings Floyd Lawton’s young daughter into the sandbox and gives her a a bow and arrow and a hero name: Liveshot. She almost reminds me of a kid version of the Kate Bishop Hawkeye. Interesting…

TITLE: Billionaire Island #2
AUTHOR: Mark Russell
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 2, 2020

It seems that in addition to the absurdly rich, Billionaire Island is home certain rich, famous, and disgraced. We get an actual Kevin Spacey cameo in this issue. Yes, I wretched. But it’s also a funny little moment.

We haven’t gotten into the bloodshed yet. But the book does crank up the action a little bit with this issue. Something tells me it’s going to be worth the wait.

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

Toy Chest Theater: Hawkeye by ssn_ryan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What’s it like to look out the window at night and see a superhero? We have the answer now, thanks to ssn_ryan and this shot of Hawkeye/Ronin.

I love that the moon is our only light source. In that sense, it makes the image both dark and bright at the same time. Clint’s visage is so subdued that it’s actually easy to look right past him. Which of course, is the idea when you’re an avenger (literally an Avenger) of the night.

This concept would actually work really well for Batman. Food for thought…

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

Toy Chest Theater: Fishing with Namor

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I have a lot of respect for anyone that can do comedy in this medium. It’s not just a matter of putting toys in funny poses. You’ve got to have a good premise, the posing and “timing” of the shot has to be precise. It’s a lot of the same rules you find in cinema.

When I came across this image from petemenocal on Instagram, I got an immediate chuckle out of it. Like so many great shots do, it projects an entire moment or scene into your brain. In this case, a very cartoony few seconds in which you’ve got someone fishing in largely tranquil waters. Then suddenly Namor dives upward, only to quickly dive back down again. And the tranquility returns, with no explanation as to what’s happening underwater. It’s all left to the imagination.

It’s such a simple image. Yet it does so much. That’s one of the hallmarks of a great toy photographer.

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

Alex Ross Spotlight: Green Lantern in Isolation

By Rob Siebert
Doesn’t Have a Green Lantern Ring. Wants One.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, these days so many of us know so much more about isolation. Often times there’s nothing worse than simply having time to sit and stew in your own thoughts…

I got my Justice issues out recently. The 2005 maxi-series, written by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, with pencils by Doug Brainwaite and paints by Ross, is essentially Ross’ giant love-letter to the classic Super Friends vs. Legion of Doom premise. All the various Justice League members face off against some of their greatest rivals who’ve all teamed up to take them down.

Part of Justice sees Sinestro trap Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in a black void that’s more or less outside the jurisdiction of the Guardians of the Universe. Jordan’s ring tells him he’s “outside the Guardians’ vast knowledge.” In other words Hal is alone, and no one’s coming to help. He may be on his own for eternity. Literally.

I’ve included some pages from Justice #3, #4, and #5. This is hardly the whole of Hal’s story. But it’s enough to give you a taste, and an idea of what happens to him.

This story is one of the elements of Justice that has always stayed with me, primarily because of that fifth page. Hal is so desperate for human connection of any kind that he asks his ring how he can create people with a will of their own. People, “who I don’t control? Or don’t disappear the moment I’m no longer looking at them.” The ring’s only and repeated response? “I do not understand the question.”

As long as we’re on the subject, here’s Alex Ross talking about the Silver Age version of the Green Lantern costume:

“There’s a unique aesthetic value to the Hal Jordan Green Lantern that sets him apart from all the other heroes – he wears green, and he has brown hair while everyone else has blonde or black hair and blue eyes. And the white gloves – a superhero withwhite gloves? But it works, and it translates beautifully to the aliens of the GL Corps. You can put any life form in that suit and it’s instantly recognizable. Gil Kane’s costume design is perfect.”

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