Weekly Comic 100s: Superman, TMNT, Something is Killing the Children, 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: Superman #25
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Julio Ferriera & Danny Miki (Inkers), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 8, 2020

Apparently in the post-New 52 continuity, or whatever continuity we’re in right now, Clark Kent and Lana Lang haven’t been in touch for awhile. Though apparently she was still Superwoman at one point…

For a couple pages here, Ivan Reis gets to take on Clark’s Smallville days. That’s pretty cool. Less cool? He also draws the New 52 Superman costume. Though thankfully it looks less like armor.

I’ll be sad to see Bendis’ run on the Superman books end in December. He did right by the Man of Steel.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #109
AUTHOR: Sophie Campbell, Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Jodi Nishijima, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 9, 2020

It continues to amaze me how this book is breaking the mold of what a TMNT story can be. What we’ve been getting lately is something more akin to a later issue of The Walking Dead. They’re trying to build a new society from the ground up.

Michaelangelo, for all intents and purposes, starts a Mutant Town podcast in this issue. That. Is. Genius.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #10
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto
RELEASED: September 9, 2020

“While you worry about the rules, real people are getting hurt.”

Good line.

This is the first issue of Something is Killing the Children that I think went a little too far with the gore. We actually see a child get murdered in supernatural, yet still pretty brutal, fashion. I still dig the book at large, but that took me right out of the issue.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #12
AUTHOR: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 11, 2020

We start getting into the nitty gritty of what the Joker does to Jason Todd in this issue. Harley Quinn is written as having a problem with it. That’s the first move Burnett and Dini have made that I really don’t buy.

I love that for the flashbacks where Jason is Robin, they switched Batman’s costume back to the old Batman: The Animated Series design. Great little continuity touch.

All in all, I really like the DCAU spin they’ve put on A Death in the Family. And it looks like they’re about to stick the landing.

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.

Weekly Comic 100s: “Joker War,” Billionaire Island, Fantastic Four, 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: Red Hood: Outlaw #48
AUTHOR: Scott Lobdell
ARTISTS: Brett Booth, Danny Miki (Inker), Arif Prianto (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer). Cover by Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

These “Joker War” tie-ins are giving me New 52 flashbacks. When “A Death in the Family” was running in Batman, it seemed like they couldn’t crank out enough tie-in issues.

But as far as Joker-themed tie-in issues go, this is a pretty decent one. It’s suitably focused on Jason, pits another Bat-family character against him, and incorporates a location that’s been a mainstay in the book.

On the downside, they kill off a character for no good reason. One that I thought had a decent fan following too…?

TITLE: Detective Comics #1026
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Kenneth Rocafort, Daniel Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There’s a panel on the opening page of this issue that’s markedly similar to an Alex Ross painting of Batman standing between stone gargoyles. Anyone else notice that? Or am I just an Alex Ross buff?

Actual exclamation in this issue: “Murderize him!”

I’m not the biggest Kenneth Rocafort fan. But in this atmosphere, Batman vs. Killer Croc in the Gotham sewers, he’s at home. His work here is enjoyable.

Tomasi, who has run hot and cold on Detective, is on his game too. This is the best issue this series has seen in many weeks.

TITLE: Batgirl #48
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters). Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

I’ve been away for awhile (mostly because I don’t like Batgirl’s current costume)…since when does Commissioner Gordon call his daughter “Babs?” That feels weird to me.

After reading this issue, I feel bad sleeping on Cecil Castellucci. She writes a damn good Barbara Gordon. Robbi Rodriguez and Jordie Bellaire are a great team too. There’s a really nice fluidity to the work here. And as this issue happens to be the first of a new story, I just might stick around.

For all the good it’ll do. This series ends with issue #50.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #5
AUTHOR: Mark Russel
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

The art by Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry has highlighted Billionaire Island for me. Almost every expression is exaggerated to the point of caricature. But in a dark comedy you can do that.

I’m not sure who that’s supposed to be on the cover. I mean, it’s the President of the United States, obviously. But I thought Billionaire Island had cast a Kid Rock stand-in as POTUS. This guy looks more like Carrot Top with blond locks. *shudders*

I wouldn’t say this book has maintained the same level of interest from me, but it’s still worth a look.

TITLE: Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
ARTISTS: Neal Adams, Mark Farmer (Inker), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This book gave me not-so-nice flashbacks to Adams’ recent Batman work. That’s a shame, as Adams is legitimately an innovator who’s earned his place in American comic book history. His art looks great here (though Thing’s face looks a little awkward), and Laura Martin’s colors pop beautifully. I just wouldn’t hire Adams as a writer.

Thankfully, you won’t find many writers (if any) better than Mark Waid. So Adams is in good hands for what is apparently his first-ever full-length FF story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #8
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniel Sampere, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Deadshot has a puppy named Dogshot? That is absolute perfection, and needs to be in both the new video game and the new movie.

Given both the announcements we just got at DC Fandome, it’s surprising this book is on the recent list of casualties over at DC. It’s a shame for so many reasons, not the least of which is the effort the creative team have put into the creation of new characters. Case in point, this issue, in which we dive into some backstories. Hopefully we can bring them back at some point.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

This issue brings up something I never, ever thought we’d have in a TMNT story. With Mutant Town now existing essentially it’s own city within a city, our heroes are now pondering if they should form their own government and police force. Are the Turtles getting into politics? By God, some things are too evil for even the boys in green to take on…

For whatever reason, since issue #101 the Turtles have been wearing clothes more. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #761
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

Barberi does a fine job on this issue. To the point that I wouldn’t mind him being the regular artist. But because he drew the last two issues, I quickly found myself missing Mikel Janin.

As for Tamaki, she gives Maxwell Lord a great “history is controlled by the victors” speech. Diana refers to him as the villain, and she talks about the Justice League controlling “the flow of justice in this world.” In the context of the story it’s very convincing, and a great character moment for Max.

Then I got to the last page, and my heart broke.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #53
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell
RELEASED: August 26, 2020

I’m diggin’ the designs of these new Dark Ranger suits. Their identities seem like a missed opportunity to introduce new characters. But then again, this series is ending soon. That seems to be a theme this week…

This is the first issue where Moises Hidalgo impressed me. He gets a nice, long battle sequence between our good and evil Ranger teams. So he’s able to really spread his wings, and it shows.

Grace (Remember her?) makes a truly stupid suggestion in this issue. So stupid, in fact, that I’m sure it’ll come to pass.

TITLE: Action Comics #1024
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

There are a lot of Super-people in this book. We’re up to five. If the “Superman family” gets too big, it pretty much makes the Justice League obsolete, doesn’t it? Plus, they spend part of the issue flying over Metropolis, scanning it with X-Ray vision. Creepy much? We’ve also got all the usual problems with John Romita Jr’s sloppy art.

Why am I still buying this book?

TITLE: Batman/Superman #11
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 25, 2020

This story about the Ultra-Humanite and Atomic Skull is essentially three issues of filler. But it’s good filler, I’ll give it that. Clayton Henry and Alejandro Sanchez turn in work that crackles with that great comic book superhero energy.

There’s a subplot in here about Superman not asking for Batman’s advice before he revealed his true identity to the world. It’s a little too far in the background for my taste, though. I’d have liked to see them explore that with some of the page space they used for textbook hero/villain dialogue with the Ultra-Humanite.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Drakkon New Dawn, Star Wars, 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: Power Rangers: Drakkon New Dawn
AUTHOR:
Anthony Burch
ARTISTS:
Simone Ragazzoni, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED:
August 19, 2020

I’m starting to get a little weary of all this Drakkon-verse stuff. It works as part of a story where the Power Rangers go to a dark alternate universe. But as an island unto itself? Meh. As time progresses, it feels like all we’re doing is answering where this person or that person are in the Drakkon-verse. That’s not enough to justify a miniseries like this, in my view.

Then again, it must be selling. So what do I know?

TITLE: Batman #97
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Guillem March & Morey.
RELEASED:
August 18, 2020

The central story of “Joker War” has lots of intrigue. But there are little things that throw if off-balance. For instance, there’s a really cool moment where Batman has to fight a bunch of “Joker zombies” blind-folded. I love that. It’s a wonderful use of all Bruce’s training. But much like Joker’s facial expression at the end of last issue, a small detail taints it…

Batman says, “A good bat knows how to fight blind.”

Ugh. Why? Whatever happened to Batman being the strong silent type?

Also, why does Joker have abs?

TITLE: Justice League #51
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Philip Tan, Jay David Ramos, & Nick Derington.
RELEASED: August 18, 2020

Robson Rocha really gets to flex here with an beautiful two-page montage of some of the League’s most iconic moments. Beautiful work.

The narration in this issue is a little confusing. It takes some time to catch on to not necessarily who it is, but who they’re talking to. Still, you should catch on by the end. I love me a good Black Mercy story. So it’ll be interesting to see what they turn in here.

TITLE: Dead Day #2
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Evgeniy Bornyakov, Juancho! (Colorist), Charles Pritchett (Letterer). Cover by Andy Clarke & Jose Villarrubia.
RELEASED: August 19, 2020

“Nice to see you two lovebirds back together, though. I’m sure rigor mortis has it’s advantages.”

Ew.

These fashionable guys on the cover are “Lifers,” a group of religious extremists somewhat ironically opposed to the whole resurrection thing. They make for a nice bit of world-building. I like ’em.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #4
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Paolo Villanneli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: August 19, 2020

Story-wise, this isn’t the most engaging book you’ll find. I’ve almost completely lost the plot. But Paolo Villanneli and Arif Prianto are killing it on the art. The opening page is beautiful. It’s got a gritty texture, yet is still as colorful as you want Star Wars to be. And of course, Lee Bermejo’s covers are awesome.

TITLE: Darth Vader #4
AUTHOR:
Greg Pak
ARTISTS:
Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by InHyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

Vader basically gets swallowed by a whale in this issue. I mean, c’mon. You’ve gotta love that. A friggin’ whale!

In contrast, this story is trying to get a lot of mileage out of trotting out characters from prequels. As if we care that much what happened to Ric Olie. Don’t know who Ric Olie is? You’re not alone. There was a way to do this without scraping the bottom of the barrel. It might have only been a one or two-issue story where Vader simply visits Padme’s tomb. But sometimes, less is more.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #9
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Werter Dell-Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

There’s a fantastic image in here that takes us into our first ever flashback scene with Erica Slaughter. She’s curled up in a cupboard, and one eye is staring straight out at the reader. That and all the deep blacks make it a really spooky shot.

Should this book count as a guilty pleasure? Because of all the…y’know…child death? Either way, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s one of the best indie comics on the market right now.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #760
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez.
RELEASED: August 18, 2020

I find it so amusing that Maxwell Lord, the character created for Justice League International, has evolved into such a formidable villain for Wonder Woman. And low and behold, he’s once again  casting her in an unfavorable public light.

Last issue, we were introduced to Diana’s new neighbor Emma, who I get the sense will be a civilian-level friend for her. Almost a Jimmy Olsen equivalent. I’m very curious to see how that evolves, as it’s not often we get to see Wondie have that kind of relationship.

 

Weekly Comic 100s: Ranger Slayer, Joker War, 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

DC’s decision to get in bed with Lunar Distribution is starting to feel like a mistake. Because out in my neck of the woods (the mid-west), it seems like Lunar is crapping said bed.

My local comic shop just went three weeks without receiving any product from DC. (Any DC books you’ve seen here in the last few weeks have been purchased digitally.) I’ve been going to comic shops for almost 20 years now and I’ve never see that happen. Not only is it unacceptable from a simple customer service perspective, but it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Retailers are already being hit by the fallout from COVID-19. The least publishers can do is put the damn books in the stores…

Bad form, folks. Bad form.

TITLE: Power Rangers: Ranger Slayer
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Dan Mora, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July  22, 2020

Not really my cup of tea. But if you were into Lord Drakkon’s dark alternate universe, or the “Coinless” Universe as it’s now called, you’ll be into this.

I was hoping for something more tightly focused on this alternate version of Kimberly. But the scope of this story is more about the Coinless Universe at large. Fair enough. I just wish they’d called this issue something different.

This issue gives us something I never thought we’d see, though in hindsight seems obvious for a universe like this: Ghost/Zombie Power Rangers. It was inevitable, I tell you!

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #4
AUTHOR:
Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS:
Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Ranson Getty (Inkers), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 22, 2020

This one ends on something of a whimper, rather than a bang. Which is to say it more or less ends the way you think it will, with Franklin ending up where you think he will.

Still, the appeal of a mini like this is to see characters from different books rub against each other. X-Men/Fantastic Four does that.

There’s also a curious little scene at the end with Reed Richards that I’m curious to see if they follow up on.

TITLE: Batman #95
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 21, 2020

We kick off with kind of a dumb “retroactive foreshadowing” scene with Batman and Alfred. “Good thing Alfred will always be here,” and all that. Lame.

It occurred to me during this issue that “Joker War” is just a sophisticated version of that New Batman Adventures episode, “Joker’s Millions. That’s not a knock. I’m just sayin’.

Now that Joker knows Batman’s secret, it’s extremely foreboding to see him messing around with movie theaters. Especially the one Thomas and Martha Wayne went to with Bruce before their murder…

TITLE: Shazam! #13
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Dale Eaglesham, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Julian Totino Tedesco.
RELEASED:
July 21, 2020

Well damn. If this book is ending in September, we’re not going to get a pay-off for this Superboy Prime stuff are we?

As the book really cranks up the father/son drama with Billy and his dad, I’m struck by just how great Dale Eaglesham has been on this title. It’s clean. It’s expressive. It’s versatile. He fits Shazam like a glove, to the point that this series has become one of my favorite takes on the character. Frankly, his work with Michael Atiyeh is worth the cover price on its own.

TITLE: Shazam!: Lightning Strikes #1
AUTHOR:
Dan Jurgens
ARTISTS:
Travis Moore, Nick Filardi, Marshall Dillon. Cover by Evan “Doc” Shaner.
RELEASED:
July  17, 2020

Now that the Shazam! book is ending, I’m particularly grateful to see the Big Red Cheese join DC’s line of digital-firsts.

What we get here is nice and kid-friendly. One of Billy Batson’s classmates is bragging about knowing Shazam. So Billy shows him up precisely the way you think he will. From there we segue into a fight with a villain.

Travis Moore’s Shazam looks a lot like Zachary Levi in the movie. I wonder if that’s intentional, or just how the character came out…

TITLE: Wynd #2
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Michael Dialynas, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 22, 2020

So far, this book feels a little bit like Saga for young people. It’s got whimsy and wit, but a lot less sex stuff.

After reinforcing some of the world-building they did last time, this issue cranks up the emotion with the prospect of separating Wynd from his adopted family. It’s very well done, and has me invested in not only Wynd, but his sister Oakley.

We also meet a character called “the Bandaged Man.” I really dig how he’s designed, though that may just be my love for Batman: Hush sneaking through.

TITLE: Action Comics #1023
AUTHOR:
Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Lucio Parillo.
RELEASED:
July 21, 2020

This is typically the part of “Weekly Comic 100s” where I complain about John Romita Jr. So here you go: I don’t like JRJR’s art here.

I just wonder if this book is getting over-crowded with Super-people. Remember, that’s part of what prompted the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman didn’t feel as special because he had too many sidekicks, cousins, stringers, etc.

At the end of this issue Jimmy Olsen says, “Guess we’re not putting out a paper today.” That line should have had a lot more weight to it. If you’re a newsman, that’s blasphemy.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1023
AUTHORS:
Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy & Norm Rapmund (Inkers), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 21, 2020

A team-up between the Joker and the Court of Owls? Now that’s the stuff of nightmares.

Detective Comics hasn’t felt like a Tomasi book in awhile. There’s a certain refinement that’s missing. In particular, Batman is a little too talky for my taste.

In this issue, Batman performs brain surgery on Two-Face out in the streets of Gotham (Because why not?). The comic book science regarding how Harvey’s brain is being messed with is a little confusing. Not that I’d put too much stock in it. At the end of the day, he’s still Two-Face.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #1
AUTHOR:
Mark Russell
ARTISTS:
Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
March 4, 2020

A brutally honest, unfiltered look at where our society may be going sooner rather than later. And in all honesty, a clever premise for a book. I was expecting things to get Survivor-esque right off the bat. But they’re taking the time to build to that.

The most unsettling part of this issue? Our lead villain puts his opposition (journalists, etc) into a giant hamster cage. Complete with an oversized water dispenser. The sad thing? That doesn’t even seem that far-fetched anymore.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Dead Body Road, TMNT, 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

Last week I said I missed Star Wars and TMNT comics. This week we got the return of Bounty Hunters, and a double-dose of TMNT. Where are you gonna find a more fair friggin’ deal than that?

This week’s new releases are pretty light. So I’m holding a few back from last week’s pull list. That Texas Blood is one of them. We might also see Marvels Snapshot: Captain America and/or Harley Quin: Black + White + Red.

TITLE: Batman #93
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Guillem March, Javier Fernandez, Tomeu Morey & David Baron (Colorists), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASED: June 23, 2020

The Designer’s role in this story more or less wraps up in this issue. That’s a little sad, as I liked that character concept. Even if the costume was a little bit much.

Punchline, the Joker’s new answer to Harley Quinn, gets put over pretty strong here. They obviously want her to be a big deal. She’s got an interesting worldview, and it’s not as crazy as you might think. Her costume is definitely cosplay-friendly. Not quite as much as Harley, but expect to see her around the convention scene.

TITLE: Dead Body Road: Bad Blood #1
AUTHOR: Justin Jordan
ARTISTS: Benjamin Tiesma, Mat Lopes (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by Matteo Scalera & Morena Dinisio.
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

This issue has a strong hook. For yours truly, most of that has to do with our heroine, Bree Hale. We establish her as a small town girl-next-door type. But obviously she has a history that allows her to kick all kinds of ass and escape perilous situations. She’s particularly strong in the climactic sequence as she fights off a sadistic interrogator.

My understanding is this isn’t connected with the previous Dead Body Road mini at all, and that it’s an anthology book like Criminal. So you should be okay coming in cold.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #105
AUTHORS: Sophie Campbell (Script), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consultants)
ARTISTS: Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

There’s a big moment between Raph and Alopex in this issue that leads me to believe we’re headed toward fairly uncharted waters: Romantic interests for the Turtles.

And no, don’t talk about Mitsu in TMNT III. Please.

I’m game for really putting the Teenage in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Especially now that they’re doing this Mutant Town story. Between the Raph/Alopex scene and the concert setting, this issue really does that well. They’ve got a chance to break some new ground here. Let’s hope they take it.

TITLE:TMNT: Jennika #3
AUTHOR:
Braham Revel, Ronda Pattison
ARTISTS:
Revel, Jodi Nishijima, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letters).
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

I can’t get over how much Braham Revel’s style reminds me of the 2012 Nickelodeon show.

It’s amazing to think how virtually everything The Next Mutation did wrong with Venus di Milo, IDW has done right with Jennika. Although based on how the IDWverse has been put together, we might actually see Venus in the comics at some point.

Bebop and Rocksteady show up here. Why does Rocksteady carry an average-sized sledgehammer? It feels like it should be bigger. Mutant-sized. That, or a giant blaster like on the old cartoon.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #50
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

Ryan Parrott does Rocky, Adam, and Aisha a lot of justice in these books. That’s one of those things that’s expected, but still really nice when you actually see it. Rocky is also sans mullet, which I appreciate.

“Necessary Evil” might have gone a little long. But it was still a story very much worth telling. Well executed too, in terms of both the writing and the visuals.

Definitely a worthy issue #50. And if the cliffhanger at the end is any indication, PR fans are going to want to come back for issue #51.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #6
AUTHOR:
Tom Taylor
ARTISTS:
Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Redondo & Marcelo Maiolo.
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

The humor in this issue is on-point. Especially with Batman doing a guest shot. That’s a high compliment coming from me, as I don’t usually get into Harley-Quinn-style comedy.

We’re teased with a separation of Harley and Deadshot from all the various new characters in the group. That would be interesting, though I expect ultimately a bad move for sales. I’d stick around, though. Again, a pretty high compliment from yours truly.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #3
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS: Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: June 24, 2020

Boba Fett is teased for this issue, but doesn’t show. I’m curious as to how much of him we’ll need to see to keep this series afloat as the months go by. That’s not to say characters like Bossk and Valance aren’t appealing. But Boba’s drawing power is obvious at this point. You could easily make the argument for doing a Boba Fett series, much like the Darth Vader one.

I grow a little weary of the story they’re telling about all these hunters having a common target. The target in question simply isn’t that interesting. Not yet, at least.

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

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

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A slightly abbreviated version this week. I wouldn’t expect that to become a trend. As we continue to get back in the swing of things, they’ll get consistently bigger.

TITLE: Go Go Power Rangers #32
AUTHORS: Ryan Parrott, Sina Grace
ARTISTS: Francesco Mortarino, Simona Di Gianfelice (Inking Assist), Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Eleonora Carlini and Angulo.
RELEASED: June 10, 2020

Fracesco Mortarino draws Rocky with a mullet in this issue. That was most certainly not how he looked on the show…

While I’m very sad to see Go Go Power Rangers…uh…go, the series does end on a satisfactory note. We close with Jason, Zack, and Trini giving up their powers to take on a secret mission in space as the Omega Rangers. But it’s less about the original team splitting up, and more about the growth into two teams. It’s like we’ve gained four new Rangers instead of losing three.

TITLE: Batman Secret Files #3
AUTHORS: Vita Ayala, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Mariko Tamaki, Dan Watters, James Tynion IV.
ARTISTS: Andie Tong, Victor Ibanez, Riley Rossmo, John Paul Leon, Sumit Kumar. Cover by Guillem March and Tomeu Morey.
COLORISTS: Alejandro Sanchez, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, Leon, FCO Plascencia
LETTERERS: Rob Leigh, Troy Peteri, Tom Napolitano, Deron Bennett Carlos M. Mangual
RELEASED: June 9, 2020

This issue spotlights the various assassins sent to kill Batman in the latest story in the titular series. Obviously this includes Deathstroke. Batman scribe James Tynion IV gives us a story about the Joker pitching Slade a plan that will presumably come to pass in the upcoming Joker War story.

From an overall quality standpoint, the story about Mr. Teeth is probably leading the pack, followed by a story featuring Merlyn and Green Arrow. All in all, some great character spotlights make this an issue that’s definitely worth picking up.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #7
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto (Colorist), Andworld Design (Letters)
RELEASED:
June 10, 2020

Tynion is slowly peeling back the layers in terms of what the monsters are, and who this group fighting against them is.

For instance, in this book we learn Erica Slaughter belongs to the “Slaughter House,” and that there’s some kind of hierarchy to it. But of course, we don’t find out what that is or how it works. The approach is effective.

We also get an important bit of info as to why Erica kept young James at her side in the first story. It doesn’t paint her in the best light. But it does make sense.

TITLE: Lois Lane #11
AUTHOR:
Greg Rucka
ARTISTS: Mike Perkins, Andy Troy (Colorist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: June 9, 2020

This thing was disjointed before the COVID interruption. Sadly, things haven’t changed in that regard. I love Greg Rucka, and Mike Perkins gives us some awesome art. But what the hell is going on in this story???

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

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.

A Batman, Vol.10: Knightmares Deep Dive – Over His Head

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 10: Knightmares
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Yanick Paquette
COLORISTS:
Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Dave Stewart, Lovern Kindzierski, Paul Mounts, Timms, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #6163, #6669
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: September 11, 2019

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

Need to catch up? Boy, have I got you covered. Check out Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Vol. 7: The Wedding, Volume 8: Cold Days, and Volume 9: The Tyrant Wing.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

He did it again, didn’t he? That sly son of a…

You’ll recall back in Batman #24, Bruce Wayne proposed to Selina Kyle. Huge deal. Huge. A historic moment for both characters. One that could shake up Batman’s whole world depending on Selina’s answer. But of course, they left us with a cliffhanger.

But when Batman #25 came out, we didn’t get one. What we got was the beginning of The War of Jokes and Riddles, a tale from Batman’s past that he had to tell Selina about before she answered. Issue #24 came out on June 7, 2017. Batman #32, the issue where we finally get Selina’s response, didn’t come out until October 4. We had to wait until fall to get the answer because…um…because DC said so. (Although it was pretty obvious she was going to say yes.)

Fast-forward to December 5, 2018. Batman #60 is released, and another bombshell is dropped. The Batman of the Flashpoint universe, Thomas Wayne, not only survived the events of The Button, but has teamed up with Bane against his alt-universe son. Thomas Wayne vs. Bruce Wayne. Father vs. Son. Batman vs. Batman! The stage was set!

Then in the very next issue we got…no answers. Instead we got the issues collected in this book (with two exceptions that we’ll get to in a later date). We wouldn’t see Flashpoint Batman again until May 1, 2019.

Why DC and Tom King loved making us wait so long for cliffhanger payoffs is a mystery to me. But I’ll say this much: Knightmares is a better book than The War of Jokes and Riddles.

1. I Dreamed a Dream…
Toward the end of the book, we discover Batman is hooked up to a contraption that’s giving him very vivid nightmares. I say that not to spoil anything, but to provide context. Plus, between the Knightmares title and what happens once the book starts rolling, it’s pretty easy to see something’s up. Each collected issue contains one of our hero’s bad dreams.

This is the final volume before we get into the “City of Bane” story, which is an astounding 16 issues long. With that many pages to fill, it’s no wonder it felt immensely padded. Like they were just trying to fill space between plot points. While I consider Knightmares a good read, I’ll argue King starts to do that here. It’s a trend that ultimately forces him to limp into the home stretch. For the most part, these issues work. The “City of Bane” issues don’t.

We kick things off in issue #61, as Batman investigates the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The catch? We seem to be in the present day, and young Bruce Wayne is very much present and able to interact with his older self. Obviously it’s a “What if?” story. But it’s not what you might expect.

Travis Moore returns for this story. Once you reach the end, you’ll see how that’s fitting. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain really shines, especially early on. Her use of reds and oranges to depict the lights of Gotham City, contrasted with the deep blacks you’d expect from a Batman story are reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s more recent work on the character. That’s damn good company to be in.

2. “They call me MISTER PIG!!!”
Issue #61 is a good start. But here’s where business really picks up. Our sole artist is Mitch Gerads, who almost always does phenomenal work with King. With Batman #62, they create something truly unsettling. At times even horrifying. It opens with our hero hanging upside down in the back of a butcher’s shop, and he’s got some company: Professor Pyg.

And there’s blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

I think Professor Pyg, or at least this King/Gerads version of Professor Pyg, is what a lot of fans want the Joker to be like. A horror movie villain with a funny gimmick. Of course, the Joker is so much more than that. But Professor Pyg? As far as that horror villain territory is concerned, he’s got a solid cut of the market share.

This is a really beautiful issue in a twisted sort of way. It’s like a Saw movie with terrifying, horror flick lighting. Perhaps more importantly, when we start the story, Batman is scared. Not that fear gas-induced fear either. He’s genuinely afraid, as any of us would be. Thus, we’re pulled that much harder into the issue. There’s also a lot of confusion on Batman’s end. Why is he there? How did he get there? Why is he unable to hear what Pyg is saying? We follow Batman’s train of thought as he pushes through his fear to defeat his opponent.

And every bit as unsettling as the setting, the villain, and the frantic confusion, is the swerve turn on the final page.

3. Guest-starring…
A Batman/Constantine team-up sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what we get here. Not exactly, anyway.

In issue #63, Mikel Janin returns to give us the ending we all wanted for Bruce and Selina. They get married, go on a tropical honeymoon, share big romantic kisses on rainy Gotham City rooftops. All seems well. Then Constantine shows up to tell Batman not only is this a dream, but something awful is going to happen. Remember this is a Batman story, where everybody has dead parents, dead spouses, etc. So even if it weren’t a dream, there’s a 50/50 chance he’d be right anyway.

Why Constantine? I think the logic is “Why not?” Are there characters from Batman’s world that might fit this role better int theory? Sure. But no one so obvious that it ruins anything. I get the sense King just wanted the chance to write Constantine, so he wound up in this issue.

Ditto for the Question in issue #66, in which the framing device is Selina being interrogated about why she left Bruce at the altar. Jorge Fornes is on the pencil here, and he fits a Question story like a glove. Less fitting is Selina smoking a cigarette during the exchange, which I don’t think we’ve seen her do at all in King’s run up to this point. It feels very forced. Like they were looking for that one detail to hit that noir-ish nail on the head, and they just gave her a cigarette because they could.

Issue #66 is also where we start re-treading ground. All this stuff about how Selina sees Bruce? We’ve been reading about it for much of the last 60 issues. There’s no reason to go back there, with the Question no less, unless you’re trying to fill space. It’s a fun issue. But its intentions are clear in hindsight.

Issue #67 consists of one long chase scene, as Batman pursues another masked man across Gotham City. Telling you who the individual in question is would take the punch out of the issue. But it’s worth it for those last two pages. There’s some subtext that you have to read into. But it’s pretty easy to get. Fornes is back for this one, alongside the amazing Lee Weeks. Both those men do a hell of a job capturing that Batman: Year One vibe. Again, mostly stuff we’ve already seen. But there’s still greatness here, in one of the best single issue’s of King’s Batman run.

4. “Make a lane for Lane!”
Amanda Conner does a guest spot for issue #68. As such, it’s not surprisingly we focus mostly on female characters. Superman and Lois Lane are back, as we see what might have been a bachelor and bachelorette party respectively. While Bruce and Clark have a quiet night in, an intoxicated Selina Kyle and Lois most certainly do not. The Fortress of Solitude has never seen that kind of fun…

Yes, King backtracks again here. But if I had to choose one thing for him to go back to, there’s a hell of an argument to be made for the “Super Friends” dynamic. Specifically between Catwoman and Lois Lane. Their dynamic in this issue specifically is sheer joyful and colorful comic book fun. The kind of story that’s practically begging to be adapted into animation. Though if it’s for one of the kids shows they’ll have to cut out the liquor. (Not to mention all the stripping Superman robots.) By God, that almost defeats the whole damn purpose.

The downside? With just three pages left we lose Conner. As her style is so distinct, it’s an abrupt jolt to suddenly switch to fill-in artists. Pun intended: It’s a real buzzkill.

5. “Will You Dance With Me?”
The book closes with, of all things, a dance.

It’s only natural that we close with Bruce and Selina. Especially since almost this entire book takes place in Bruce’s head. While the issue does bounce back and forth between them and a Mikel Janin training scene with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, the meat of the issue is in an extended dance sequence. But it’s hardly the Batusi. Yanick Paquette puts out a career issue as the two characters literally slow dance through a dream, through Gotham, through their history.

It’s a positively outstanding, and truly unique usage of the visual nature of the comic book medium. In yet another backtrack, Selina goes through multiple costume changes as she did in issue #44. But in two-page spreads such as the one above, we literally track our characters’ dance steps across the page. The use of sheet music is an absolute stroke of genius, which instantly makes this comic distinct among the thousands upon thousands in Batman’s history.

What’s more, because this is a dream there’s a subtext to it that I really enjoy. The scene is written as Bruce asking Selina why she left him. Her response involves his vow as a child, and how he can never really love her because of his devotion to the Batman, etc. But of course, the question Bruce is really asking is, “Why did she leave me?” Via a dream, he’s venting his own doubts about whether he can ever really love another person. And it ends in pretty much the manner you’d expect such a dream from Batman to end.

But the creme de creme, the moment of moments, comes on the final page of the issue and the final page in Knightmares overall…

Batman friggin’ cries. He doesn’t openly weep. But he cries. It’s not even played up at all. It’s beautifully subtle. Just two little strokes of Paquette’s pencil.

Issues like this are part of what makes Tom King’s Batman run so frustrating. Because he is a good writer. He’s a good Batman writer! He knows what he’s doing. But it feels like he got in over his head. The larger story he was trying to tell got too large and in the end he lost focus. That’s such a damn shame, given how many little gems we find in this run.

Incidentally, the song from issue #69 is one King has used before in his series. Sophie Turner’s “Some of these Days.” It dates back to the ’20s. It’s not required listening. But it’s a great little supplement. I recommend it.

6. Waking Up
There are a few collections in this Batman series that you flat out don’t need to read. Technically, this is one of them. But like Cold Days, it gets a recommendation from me. It’s not an amazing character study altogether. But like Tom King’s Batman run as a whole, it surprises you with moments that are absolute classics.

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

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.