A Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane Review – Jokerize Your Fries?

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 3: I Am Bane
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: David Finch, Mitch Gerads, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #1620#2324
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
Aug 30, 2017

***Need to catch up? Check out the first two volumes: I Am Gotham and I Am Suicide.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Bane has never been the most sophisticated of characters. Created in the early ’90s, he was essentially the Bat-books’ answer to what Doomsday was in the Superman books. A big brute who could physically overpower the hero. A ‘roided up dude in a luchador mask, he certainly looks the part. But unlike Doomsday, who was basically a mindless killing machine, Bane was intended to have more depth. He had a tragic backstory and a cunning mind to match his physical dominance.

Oddly enough, I Am Bane explores the character’s more layered side, while at the same time making him look like a big dumb ape at certain points. It’s actually a fascinating balancing act.

After pulling the Psycho-Pirate from Bane’s clutches in Santa Prisca, Batman is now preparing for a full on assault from his old enemy. No one close to Bruce Wayne is safe. Adamant about taking Bane on alone, Batman places Alfred, Claire Clover (a.k.a. Gotham Girl), and the Psycho-Pirate in perhaps the unlikeliest of places to protect them: Arkham Asylum. Now Bane must make his way through a living hell to confront the Dark Knight. Once again, these two arch rivals will square off. In the end, one will be left broken.

I’ll credit author Tom King with giving Bane’s invasion of Gotham the weight it deserves. The first two issues have a grim tension in the air. In issue #16, Bruce insists that most of his surrogate family members flee the city, fearing for their lives. He hides Psycho-Pirate and the others inside Arkham, in a chamber designed by Mister Miracle. But Batman’s obsessive preparation isn’t enough, as Bane still manages to strike at those close to him, including Catwoman. The tone is terrific, the threat feels real, and we seem to have the makings of a hallmark Bane story…until the big man opens his mouth in issue #18.

King, David Finch, and their team are clearly going for classic early ’90s Bane. We get a big, bloody, brutal fight intercut with flashbacks as Bane taunts our hero. Think Batman #497, when the character broke Batman’s back. But King goes way too far over the top with Bane’s dialogue. In issue #18, as he rambles off comparisons between himself and Batman’s other enemies, he almost seems to be reciting a poem…

“I am not a joke! I am not a riddle! I am not a bird or a cat or a penguin! I’m not a scarecrow or a plant or a puppet! I am not your broken friend! I am not your regretful teacher! I am not a child’s fairy tale! I am not a circus act here to amuse and frighten you!”

Alright, dude. We get it…

Things get worse in issue #19, when he storms Arkham and starts running into various villains. He spouts off little one-liners. Thing that would be fine on their own, but clumped together in one issue almost make Bane a parody of himself.

Two-Face: “…what’re you offering?”
Bane: “Pain. I offer pain.”

Scarecrow: “What nightmares are you having?”
Bane: “I don’t have nightmares, I GIVE nightmares!”

Mr. Freeze: “Impossible…”
Bane: “Not impossible. Bane.”

The fight winds up ending on yet another stupid, overblown catchphrase. Not from Bane, but from Batman. The sad thing is that the action itself is pretty good, for the most part. If King had trimmed a lot of this excess verbiage and allowed the art to speak more for itself, this would have been much more effective. I understand wanting to show the animalistic side of Bane. But they overdid it.

I will say, however, that the contrasting flashbacks between Bruce’s childhood and Bane’s are very well done. There’s a school of thought that many of Batman’s villains double as examples of how Bruce could have turned out after his parents were killed, had circumstances been different. This is about as on-the-nose as you can get in that respect. But it works.

What doesn’t work as well for me is the Batman-themed fast food restaurant we see in issue #16. Dick, Jason, Damian, and Duke drag Bruce there for a family meeting of sorts. It’s decked out various paraphernalia from the various Batman heroes and villains. The scene opens with Bruce talking to a kid behind the counter, who’s wearing a cheap Batman mask. He asks Bruce if he wants to “Jokerize your fries?” I get what they were going for. There’s a fun meta aspect to having these characters see their own licensing and merchandising. “Jokerize your fries” is actually a pretty good line. But from an in-story perspective, using the most feared man in Gotham City’s likeness to sell fast food stretches the gag too far for me. I understand that’s part of the joke. But to me that would be the equivalent of selling Bin Laden burgers in the real world.

David Finch handles most of the art in I Am Bane. I’ve been pretty critical of his work. But I’ve also said that if you have to have him, you want him on dark or gritty stories like this. I Am Bane is one of his better recent outings. In issue #16, he has the extremely unenviable task of drawing Bruce, Dick, and Jason, all unmasked in the fast food scene. They’re all handsome, dark haired, clean shaven dudes. Finch has to make them all distinct and recognizable. The job he does isn’t amazing. But it’s serviceable. Thankfully, they’re not all wearing the same clothes, as they were in that creepy splash page in The Court of Owls.

Like many artists, Finch draws most of his superhero characters like competition bodybuilders. Thankfully, that’s right in Bane’s wheelhouse. The character looks every bit as gigantic and chiseled as he should without going overboard, which we saw from Finch’s work on the New 52 Dark Knight series. This version of Bane also has a great ferocity you don’t always see. That obviously works well during the big fight. One complaint: I’ve never liked it when artists put giant green tubes on Bane, as we see Finch do here. It brings back bad memories of Batman & Robin.

Inker Danny Miki (later joined by Trevor Scott) and colorist Jordie Bellaire compliment Finch very well. He’s got a team here that accentuates his strengths. Bellaire in particular is an absolute rock star.

After the main story, Mitch Gerads takes the pencil for issue #23, a standalone story featuring Swamp Thing. Despite being brutally titled “The Brave and the Mold,” it manages to be a fun issue. Gerads’ contributions to this series have been tremendous, going back to issues #15 and #16. He and King give us some fun visuals contrasting the vast difference in stature between Batman and Swamp Thing. A two-page spread with Bruce and the monster in Wayne Manor, shots of them in the Batcave and Batmobile, etc. The issue is broken into chapters that are separated via panels with text designed like silent movie intertitles, which is a cool tone device.

I’ve already talked at length about Batman #24, which contains a pretty big moment between Batman and Catwoman. A few months after its release, what has stuck with me is the exchange between Batman and Gotham Girl about happiness. We learn that Batman is Bruce Wayne’s attempt at finding happiness. As a longtime Batman fan, that notion fascinates me. We’re so used to Batman being dour, moody, and broody. So the idea that he’s doing all this to be happy is a little off-putting. But it makes a certain sense when you boil it down. In the end, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right? Find happiness. In that sense, Bruce is no different than anyone else.

By and large, the Bane portion of this book is a step down from I Am Suicide. But King, Finch, and the team really stick the landing with issue #23, and especially #24. There’s a lot of strictly okay stuff you’ve got to swim through. But when this book hits a homer, it really hits a homer. As far as issue #24 is concerned, that ball is still sailing.

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A Champions: Change the World Review – Social Justice League

TITLE: Champions, Vol. 1: Change the World
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
PENCILLER: Humberto Ramos
COLLECTS: Champions #1-5
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2017

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Champions simultaneously is and is not a product of it’s time. Stories about the new generation rising up and righting the wrongs of the world have been around as long as storytelling itself. And of course, it’s a teenage superhero book. Not exactly a new concept.

At the same time, Mark Waid is going out of his way to be contemporary with Champions. You’ve got some standard teenage superhero stuff, sure. But the book also tackles Islamaphobia, Islamic Fundamentalism, feminism, and police brutality. This is very much a book for 21st century issues, as seen from one side of the political aisle.

In the aftermath of Civil War II, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Kham), Nova (Sam Alexander), and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) have left the Avengers. Determined to give the world heroes they can believe in again, they form a team of their own. A team that refuses to punch down or use unjust force, but instead win the day with wisdom and hope. With the addition of Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision, and Cyclops, the Champions are born.

I feel like I owe Humberto Ramos an apology. HIs style is so exaggerated, cartoony even, that one can fall into the trap of underestimating just how good he is. I’ll admit it: That happened to me. But what makes Ramos so special is his versatility. Champions is a potpourri of what superhero comics can offer. It’s a teen dramedy. It’s a superhero action thriller. It’s a look at what it means to be a hero. It’s an inspiring look at what happens when seemingly ordinary people stand up for themselves. But Ramos’ work fits all of it, and ties everything together seamlessly. Visually, nothing feels awkward or out of place. I can only imagine the talent it takes to pull that off.

Mind you, there are some minor bumps in the road. Issue #2 give us a pretty pitiful case of panel duplication. There’s also a splash page where Hulk and Viv are making out that I still don’t get. Hulk is so much bigger than her. I just don’t get how their mouths would…match up? Nothing too intense. But it does briefly pluck you out of the story.

Both Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos have been outspoken regarding the Trump administration, and some of the moves they’ve made. Waid, along with other creators, has made efforts to create “safe spaces” at comic book conventions, and has generally been very public about his feelings toward bullies, hate-mongerers, etc. Ramos, on the other hand, has simply opted not to appear in states that voted for Trump.

Champions, issues #3 and #5 in particular, doesn’t hide that it’s a book written by people with those beliefs. The upside to that is we get some powerful material about standing up to hate, and not being afraid to put yourself at risk to do what’s right. The downside is that this isn’t what a lot of people want in their comics. Though I doubt Waid, Ramos, and the Champions team care who they piss off.

In this sense, the book can overplay it’s hand at times. Especially in issue #3, when we get to the Amal character. She’s a fierce young woman standing up against a militant extremist group committing gender apartheid. It’s pretty obvious how the reader is supposed to feel about her. But Waid makes a point of slipping in little lines about how she should be the leader of the Champions, and how she’s a bad ass. He’s coming from a good place, but that’s overkill.

Gwenpool pops up in issue #5 to join the team’s efforts against a crooked and racist sheriff turning a blind eye to hate crimes. Enraged when a mosque is set ablaze, Gwen and the Champions are tempted to respond with violence. They instead opt to take a more difficult, non-violent route. This has a little bit of a PSA feel to it, but it’s a good message, and an effective use of the Gwenpool character.

Champions has become arguably the most provocative and inviting book Marvel has on the stands right now. It’s not for everyone. But it doesn’t necessarily try to be. It’s also a tremendous example of how the superhero genre can be used for more than just popcorn fun. Change the World has that. But it’s clearly about much more.

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A Logan Review – Old Man Stabby

Logan, 2017, Hugh Jackman, posterTITLE: Logan
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
STUDIOS: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genere, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company
RATING: R
RUN-TIME: 137 min
RELEASED: 
March 3, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a fan of the X-Men film series, Logan is in many ways a frustrating film. It’s very much the expressionistic, character-driven piece it sets out to be. But the Wolverine character is heavily defined by the world he’s in. A world filled with prejudice toward super-powered mutants. In Logan, that world has been heavily altered. While we all love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, what this movie really could have used was a little more world-building.

In the year 2029, mutantkind has been nearly eradicated. Logan, the man formerly known as Wolverine, is one of the last ones alive. In his care is a frail Charles Xavier, suffering from dementia and seizures. Logan isn’t exactly in great health himself. But danger once again finds our clawed hero, this time in the form of a young girl named Laura. Like Logan, she has adamantium claws, healing powers, and a deadly temper. She is hunted by Transigen, the group responsible for wiping out mutantkind. And if they have their way, Logan, Charles, and this mysterious girl are next.

Comic book fans know Logan is somewhat based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan book. That story features a gray-haired Logan in a world conquered by supervillains. The first lines in the very first panel are: “No one knows what happened on the night the heroes fell. All we know is that they disappeared and evil triumphed and the bad guys have been calling the shots ever since.”

logan-image-1-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenThere’s very little information like this in Logan. Information that helps us define the different world we see these familiar characters in. I’m not of the belief that absolutely everything needs to be spelled out for the audience. But the memory of the X-Men team is very much a part of this movie. It even implies that a new generation will pick up where Logan and the others left off. So wouldn’t it be helpful to tell us what happened to the X-Men? Were they all hunted down and killed by Transigen? Was there a big battle, like in Old Man Logan? We don’t have to comb through the roster one by one. But for instance, Logan loved Jean Grey. That could have been used to prompt a line or two about how she and some of the others died.

Instead, the film is chipped away at by these questions about how the established characters got to where they are, and who some of these new characters are. We do get allusions to a tragic event involving the widespread telepathic side-effects of one of Xavier’s seizes in Westchester, New York. To the uninitiated, Westchester was the home of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and home base to the X-Men. So it’s reasonable to assume that’s where many of them died. But casual moviegoers won’t know that. Hell, I’m fairly versed in X-Men lore and it took me awhile to put it together.

logan-image-2-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenHalf the potential of a story like this lies in exploring the dystopian future, and how we got there. Logan doesn’t do much of that, and the movie suffers for it.

Still, Logan is indeed the R-rated Wolverine flick many have waited for. The movie takes full advantage of its expanded parameters. We see severed limbs aplenty, gallons of spilled blood, claw shots through the face, and plenty of F-bombs. If this really is Hugh Jackman’s last go-around as Wolverine, he goes out in a blaze of bloody and cathartic glory.

Jackman’s claim that this is the last time he’ll pop the claws is a downer for sure. In 17 years, he’s played the character seven times. Nine if you count his brief uncredited appearances in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse. He’s left an indelible mark on the character and the X-Men franchise as a whole, bringing tremendous depth and likability in addition to the berserker rage that fans love. What’s more, I’m not ready to fully rule Jackman out of another appearance in the role. He’s publicly flirted with coming back for certain scenarios, and it’s not like he’s been typecast. He was Jean Valjean, for crying out loud. More importantly, he’s a proven and highly lucrative commodity in that role. It’s show business, folks. Anything is possible.

logan-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewartPerhaps less publicized is that Logan is perhaps Patrick Stewart’s last time playing Charles Xavier. Something else this movie has going for it is the novelty of ol’ Captain Picard dropping a few F-bombs. Why the hell not?

Dafne Keen makes her film debut here as Laura, a.k.a. X-23. Not a bad way to make your entrance, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart at your side. She’s quite the find. Keen doesn’t speak for most of the movie, and has to convey a quiet rage beyond her years. She becomes the perfect mini-Wolverine.

There’s been a good amount of talk about Logan defying the genre of superhero movies. While I maintain this genre is more versatile than people give it credit for, Logan feels unlike most, if not any superhero movie you’ve ever seen. At one point, Xavier and Laura are watching Shane. That’s extremely fitting, given the movie’s clear influence on Logan. Mangold has also talked about The Cowboys starring John Wayne, and The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood. Oddly enough, he’s also mentioned Little Miss Sunshine and The Wrestler.

logan-image-3-hugh-jackmanLogan is hardly the most satisfying installment in the X-Men franchise. But it’s absolutely the most unique. There’s an undeniable thrill and catharsis to seeing Jackman rage out as Wolverine, potentially for the last time. From a performance standpoint, he absolutely sticks the landing here. Though that should come as surprise to absolutely no one.

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A Review of The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice – Teacher and Student(s)

The Flash: Lightning Strikes TwiceTITLE: The Flash, Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
PENCILLERS: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neil Googe, Felipe Watanabe. Cover by Karl Kerschl.
COLLECTS: The Flash #1-8
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Barry Allen got his powers from a bolt of lightning, and the Speed Force has always been somewhat electric in nature. So it’s natural that at certain points the Flash crackles with energy. But that doesn’t mean he should constantly look like a lightning rod in a storm. But that’s how our main artist draws him in this first volume of The Flash under the DC Rebirth banner. At certain points it’s cool, but it eventually becomes a distraction that drags the entire book down. Which is a shame. From a story standpoint, Lightning Strikes Twice is pretty good.

We open the book with the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, this time seen from Barry’s point of view. A short time later, numerous citizens of Central City are struck by lightning bolts just like Barry was, and are imbued with the power of the Speed Force. Now our hero must not only mentor those who would use their powers for good, but corral those who abuse them. All the while, a mysterious killer calling himself Godspeed is killing off these new speedsters. Thankfully he’ll have help from not only Iris West, but a young man who’ll soon call himself the new Kid Flash.

The Flash: Rebirth #1, Carmine Di GiandomenicoThat classic Carmine Infantino Flash costume is so sleek and cool. Many consider it the best costume redesign in history. It’s one of those things I wish they wouldn’t tinker with. Granted, artistic tweaks are always gong to be part of he industry. But drawing lightning all over the Flash in every panel is overindulgent, not to mention redundant and annoying. We go over Barry’s origin at the beginning of the book, and the whole story is about people getting hit by Speed Force lightning. We get it. He’s electric. (Boogie woogie, woogie.)

I like the idea of Barry being a teacher or a mentor. It’s almost part and parcel to the superhero concept. Sidekicks, inspiring people to do good, etc. First he finds a new partner in fellow scientist August Heart. Then the Speed Force lightning storm gives him several new trainees. Of course, it all culminates in Wally West becoming the new Kid Flash. (That’s the New 52 Wally West, not the pre-Crisis one that just came back. Thank God that’s not confusing.) It all ties nicely together with the original Wally West’s return, and it’s cool to see the gratification Barry gets from it.

the-flash-8-dc-comics-rebirth-spoilers-new-kid-flash-5I can appreciate that when he got his powers, young Wally wasn’t immediately thrust into the Kid Flash role. We all knew that’s where he’d end up anyway. But Williamson does a fine job taking him from a kid who’s content to sit on the sidelines and help out occasionally, to a hero who realizes he can’t be on the sidelines. It gives him that much more depth.

As for the other Wally, the first issue in this collection, The Flash: Rebirth #1, gives us a little bit of follow up on the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1. The reunion continues, as Wally tells Barry about Linda Park, and we see how they part ways. We also get a very brief corroboration between the Flash and Batman. But that plot thread is mostly dropped for the remainder of the book. It’s obviously a larger story for down the road. We do, however, get a very interesting reference to what happened to Barry in Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s obviously out-of-sync with what they set up in the New 52. It’s a little reminder that they haven’t dropped that story. It’s just a slow build.

On paper, the identity of Godspeed shouldn’t be hard to figure out. But I’ll admit: They got me. The character’s motivations are believable, and they spend a good amount of time building them up. Godspeed represents Flash’s darker impulses. The ones he doesn’t allow himself to follow. The character asks some classic questions about why those impulses shouldn’t be followed. It more or less boils down to “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” Or in this case, why doesn’t Barry just kill Zoom? They leave the door open for him to come back, and there’s potential for some more interesting stuff with him.

the-flash-6-carmine di diandomenicoI’ve avoided picking up The Flash on a monthly basis, largely because of Di Giandomenico. The whole lightning thing aside, he knows how to convey the speed and energy of a character like the Flash. The characters hit most of the right emotional notes, and I’m into the story. But the line work is so dark and heavy that it ends up weighing down the impact of the art. It’s almost like you have to look through all the senewy lines to register what’s going on. When Neil Googe tags in for issue #4, and Felipe Watanabe for issue #5, it’s a welcome break.

With the CW TV series still going strong, Wally West’s return, and Barry being linked to what’s sure to be DC’s next big event comic, It’s a pretty good time to be a Flash fan. If we could find an artist that fit the book a little better, it’d be downright amazing. But for now, we’ll have to settle for pretty good.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Civil War II Review – Lighting Strikes Twice?

Civil War II, coverTITLE: Civil War II
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel, Andrea Sorrentino
COLLECTS: Civil War II #0-8
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $50
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a good event comic somewhere inside Civil War II. You just need to squint really hard to see it. As amazingly talented as Brian Michael Bendis is, what he turns in here doesn’t truly get going until issue #5, and by that point you regret buying in to begin with. The series is also bogged down by a certain been-there-done-that feeling. The original Civil War was one of the biggest hits Marvel has ever had. By comparison, Civil War II feels like a knock-off song played by a shoddy cover band.

In the original story, the question of whether superheroes should register their true identities with the government caused a major rift, and subsequently a war. This time the divisive issue is “predictive justice,” or in essence, profiling. When a young man named Ulysses is suddenly able to see vivid visions of the future, Captain Marvel sees a crucial opportunity to stop instances of crime, injustice, and tragedy before they ever occur. Iron Man, however, can’t live with punishing someone who hasn’t done anything wrong yet. What’s more, the exact nature of these visions are unclear. Is Ulysses truly seeing the future, or just a potential future? As they search for an answer, heroes will fall in more ways than one.

civil-war-ii #4, two-page spreadThe predictive justice idea is a sufficient divider, and reflects recent real-world events involving police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically comes to mind, especially when we see what happens to Miles Morales. But it’s when we drill down on the notion of another war amongst the heroes that Civil War II begins to fall apart.

Civil War ended when Captain America surrendered, realizing how costly and violent the conflict had become. The idea that all of these heroes, most of whom were involved in that same war, would allow things to escalate to this degree a second time makes them all look irresponsible, and even downright stupid. This is especially the case after Hawkeye straight up murders Bruce Banner with a literal crowd of heroes watching. But of course, if the heroes don’t fight, you have no story. So you have to make it work.

The way you massage that into working, for my money, is to have the heroes lament having to fight each other again. The original Civil War is barely even acknowledged in this book. It’s almost as if Civil War II is trying to hide from it. While it goes without saying that this story has to stand on its own, it’s a sequel. A sequel to one of the most renowned stories Marvel has ever done, no less. Instead of dancing around it, why not embrace it? The payoff would seemingly be a deeper story.

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaBut even with that added depth, Civil War II would face the problem that it’s simply not that interesting until issue #5. Ulysses has a vision of Spider-Man clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. Given how young Miles is, and the obvious real-world parallels, this is where the story finally starts to gain some momentum. Hindsight being 20/20, this should have happened in issue #3. You put the Miles vision in issue #3, and Bruce’s death in issue #5. That way, Bruce’s death doesn’t feel so glossed over, and it’s fresh in our minds when we get to the final confrontation.

How about this: Captain Marvel puts Miles in prison following the vision in issue #3. (That opens up issues with Miles’ civilian identity. But we can work around that.) After Banner’s death and Hawkeye’s subsequent acquittal, Iron Man’s crew breaks Miles out of prison. We then get the confrontation in front of the Capitol Building as they were presented in issues #7 and #8. Would this little switch fix everything? No. But it would at least up the intrigue level earlier, and perhaps take us on more of a ride from start to finish. In truth, James Rhodes doesn’t even have to die in issue #1. As was the case with Banner, his death is almost glossed right over.

Our primary artist is David Marquez, with Olivier Coipel and Andea Sorrentino tagging in for specific sequences. Marquez delivers big here, particularly in issues #5 and #6. His stuff with Miles is very strong, which makes sense, as he and Bendis worked on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man together. He gives us an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Spidey overlooking Times Square, watching the Hawkeye trial. And of course, primary colorist Justin Ponsor gives us the Marvel Universe in all its glory.

hawkeye-civil-war II #3, David MarquezWe do, however, see a lot of what I’ve come to call the “Marquez doe-eyed pouty face.” Marquez is good with facial expressions. But we see variations of this one over and over, perhaps most notably when Hawkeye surrenders in issue #3 (shown left). We see it multiple times from Carol Danvers and Ulysses. We see it so much it becomes distracting and borderline comical.

As many problems as I have with Civil War II, I’ll credit Bendis for one thing: Not killing off Tony Stark. That was what a lot of us were expecting, given Rory Williams had essentially taken up his mantle in Invincible Iron Man. Instead Tony ends up in a coma, and we get a vague explanation about how he can’t be treated. Frustrating in its lack of specifics, but better than having to go through the usual death, funeral, and resurrection routine.

Civil War II could have worked. It would never have been what its predecessor was. But it could have at least been a compelling story. What they gave us had its moments. But by the time things finally got off the ground, it was too late. Given how all-encompassing Civil War II was in terms of its effect on other books, this story can be given partial credit for DC Comics regaining all that lost momentum last year.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #6 Review – The Feminist Ranger

MMPR: Pink #6, Daniele Di Nicuolo, coverTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #6
AUTHOR: Brenden Fletcher and Kelly Thompson (story), Tini Howard (script)
PENCILLER: Daniele Di NIcuolo
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 25, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ah, the letter. Given when this story is set, I didn’t think we’d get to address that. But here it is.

During Power Rangers Zeo, the season that succeeded Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Tommy gets a letter from Kimberly. It’s essentially a Dear John letter, as she ends their long-distance relationship, saying she’s met someone else. This left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of fans. Kim was rarely mentioned after actress Amy Jo Johnson left the series. When she returned for the Turbo movie, her relationship with Tommy was barely touched on. Thus, the long-standing relationship between two of the show’s most popular characters ended on a pretty sour note.

That letter turned out to be a piece of what MMPR: Pink is all about. In the end, it became about Kim being her own person and letting go of her old life. About moving on, and becoming a new kind of hero. Fans who’ve dreamt of seeing Kim and Tommy end up together may not be thrilled by that idea. But in the end, it’s pretty damn cool.

MMPR: Pink #6, 2017, Rangers arriveThe issue starts with Kimberly’s makeshift team of Rangers (Zack, Trini, and two civilians she enlisted in France) arriving to save Tommy and the active Rangers on a faraway planet. They arrive in Typhonis, a giant battle machine Goldar constructed using pieces of the destroyed Thunderzords. They also have Titanus and Tor the Shuttle Zord, which the Rangers have used previously. The use of words from previous seasons is cool fan service, though admittedly a little hokey. There’s an epic feel to seeing those old zords next to the Ninja Megazord in the final battle.

Last issue we learned Zack and Trini have become a couple. That’s completely out of the blue, considering how the characters were on the show. But it’s fine. It’s even intriguing in an opposites-attract sort of way. The only sad thing is I’m not sure we’ll ever see this explored more.

As far as I’m concerned, Daniele Di Nicuolo is welcome back in the Power Rangers sandbox any time. He’s a tremendous fit for the PR universe. His work is clean, dynamic, and compliments what we saw on the show very well. He also got pave some of his own ground with the makeshift Ranger suits, Kim’s Katniss Everdeen wardrobe, and the inner workings of the zords. Mind you, I still don’t understand why Zack’s costume has a hood. He’s already got a helmet! What does he need a damn hood for?

Nagging questions: We’re led to believe that Tommy and the active Rangers don’t know who came to their rescue. But Kim communicates with them through the cockpit of her zord, and there’s no indication that her voice is disguised. How do they not recognize her voice? Also, Zordon obviously sent them Titanus and Tor. Couldn’t they have just asked him who the mystery rescuers were?

mmpr-pink-6-motorcycleThere’s been a “life after the Power Rangers” vibe to Pink, which comes full circle at the end. Kim meets Zack and Trini at a cafe, and they talk about their next move, promising to do a better job of staying in touch. When we jump to a year later, we see she’s done just that, including Jason in the mix as well. I like that. Even with as deep a connection as they have, they drift in and out of contact like real people.

There’s obviously a strong feminist angle to Pink, and they hammer that home at the end. A year after the rescue, as Kim is writing the famous letter, she recognizes she and Tommy have very different lives. Not content to “be the woman in pink, at his side,” she sets out to forge her path independently and be her own hero. That ending does a lot of justice to the Kimberly character. It’s really remarkable how, without necessarily intending to, Amy Jo Johnson and the crew on MMPR created this strong female character that resonated with so many viewers. This whole story is essentially a love letter to that character and that performance.

Perhaps the most surprising element of Pink is that Kim and Tommy never speak. He’s never even aware she’s nearby. That’s a hell of a thread to leave hanging, and would make for a hell of a moment in a sequel. Just saying…

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A Green Lanterns: Rage Planet Review – A New Chapter Begins

Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage PlanetTITLE: Green Lanterns, Vol. 1: Rage Planet
AUTHORS: Sam Humphries, Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Robson Rocha, Ed Benes, Ethan Van Sciver, Tom Derenick, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Eduardo Pansica.
COLLECTS: Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1Green Lanterns #16.
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASE DATE:
January 25, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Green Lanterns almost makes me sad that there are human ring-slingers besides Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Hal Jordan. This feels like such a natural next chapter in the Green Lantern saga. The next generation learns to overcome fear, while Jordan mentors them from afar. Makes perfect sense to me.

Rage Planet sees Earth’s newest Green Lanterns, Simon and Jessica, become co-protectors of Sector 2814. But Simon isn’t convinced he needs a partner, and Jessica is plagued by her crippling anxiety. Not exactly ideal circumstances. Especially when Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps are about to bring “Red Dawn” to Earth. Simon and Jessica will soon have no choice but to work as a team.

Green Lanterns has its share of problems. It feels a little bit padded to fill the six-issue main story, has a revolving door of artists, and essentially features a stock story about reluctant partners. But Sam Humphries does some terrific character work in this book, particularly when it comes to Jessica Cruz.

green-lanterns-5, Jessica CruzA Green Lantern who suffers from clinical anxiety seems like such a natural development that I’m surprised it’s taken this long for us to get one. The entire mythology revolves around the idea of overcoming fear, after all. But Humphries makes up for lost time by taking us inside Jessica’s head and perfectly conveying her anxiety. The constant second-guessing, the belief that she’s not good enough, the panic attacks, the isolation (she didn’t leave her apartment for three years prior to becoming a Lantern). Hokey as it may sound, as someone who has dealt with anxiety myself, Jessica makes me feel represented. She’s a tremendous addition to the Green Lantern mythos.

This series gets us recaquainted with Simon Baz, who in many ways fell to the wayside prior to the Rebirth relaunch. His character can be tough to nail down, as he’s stubborn and distrustful. But also overly confident at times. I’ve always thought him carrying a gun despite wearing a Green Lantern ring was silly. I understand the need to distinguish him from the other Lanterns, as there are so many of them. But logically, that’s like keeping a pocket knife with you in case your chainsaw breaks down. Still, he and Jessica make a good buddy cop duo. I’m hoping Humphries resists making them a couple.

On a surface level, the Red Lantern stuff makes for a fine first arc. But there’s not much to it. It’s essentially Atrocitus wanting to make Earth a giant ball of pulsating rage.  It’s not nearly as interesting as the Phantom Lantern material, which really gets moving in the next volume. But fans generally know who/what the Red Lanterns are, and they have a little mainstream recognition from different TV shows and video games. So it makes sense from an attention-grabbing perspective. The book’s most interesting moment with the Red Lanterns involves Simon temporarily relieving Bleez of her rage. It’s a nice “What have I done?” moment.

Ethan Van Sciver, Green Lanterns Rebirth #1, 2016Ethan Van Sciver tags in, and then quickly tags out again on the pencil for the initial Rebirth issue. There’s been tremendous value in his work on these characters since he did the original Green Lantern: Rebirth story in the early 2000s. I’m always impressed by his attention to little details. His images never look real, per se. But there are often enough little details to evoke a feeling of realism, even when he draws weird aliens. Case in point: Our little blue friend in the image above. Look at the little details in his helmet, his five o’clock shadow, the wrinkles in his sleeves. You don’t necessarily notice things like this at first. But go a long way in making Van Sciver stand out.

Various artists start and stop in this book. But the one with the most page time is Robson Rocha. Like Van Sciver, his work is very detailed. His facial work isn’t exactly subtle, but it makes an impact. Jumping ahead a bit, that’s part of what made his work on Green Lanterns #9 so good. His rage-possessed civilians look downright beastly. So much that at certain points he nearly veers into comedic territory. He also draws Jessica and Bleez a little too sexy at times. But by and large, he’s a solid fit for this series.

This book doesn’t break a lot of new ground in terms of the Green Lantern mythos. But the buddy cop format is charming as hell, and the characterization of Jessica Cruz is terrific. Relative to some of DC’s other offerings, Green Lanterns isn’t making a lot of noise in terms of sales. But it’s bound to be a pleasant discovery for readers.

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