Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT: The Last Ronin, Three Jokers #3, and More!

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1
AUTHORS: Peter Laird (Story), Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story & Script)
ARTISTS: Eastman (Layouts), Esau & Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Samuel Plata (Color Assists), Shawn Lee (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

There’s a certain Batman Beyond vibe to the world of The Last Ronin. Some of The Dark Knight Returns too. And our villain almost a Kylo Ren rip-off. But none of this is necessarily bad. This book has a lot of intrigue going for it, and is off to an interesting start.

As this is supposedly based on an old story by Eastman and Laird, I came into it thinking it took place in the original TMNT comic canon. There’s a character on the last page who indicates that’s probably not the case.

TITLE: Batman: Three Jokers #3
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
October 27, 2020

Another beautiful issue by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. Though not what I would call a satisfying ending to the whole Three Jokers premise.

The story had a lot of interesting ideas, particularly when it came to Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon. Even Joe Chill, the man who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. There’s also a new, interesting twist on the events of The Killing Joke. But in the end, this should remain out of continuity. A well written, gorgeously drawn idea exhibition. Nothing more.

TITLE: The Department of Truth #2
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer), Dylan Todd (Designer)
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

“Collective belief shapes the world, so everything is a little bit true, or has the potential to be true.”

That’s a quote from this issue which essentially sums up the premise of The Department of Truth. And every time I find myself getting into it, that premise pulls me right out of the story. Because even using comic book logic, I just can’t get behind it.

Plus, we see something in this issue that turns me off. Any kind of violence against children has been doing that since my daughter was born.

TITLE: Batgirl #50
AUTHOR: Cecil Castellucci
ARTISTS: Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage, Aneke, Wade Von Grawbadger (Inker), Mick Gray (Inker), Scott Hanna (Inker), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Trish Mulvihill (Colorist), Becca Carey (Letterer). Cover by Joshua Middleton.
RELEASED: October 27, 2020

What’s interesting about this book’s take on Batgirl is that she’s integrated into her community in a way Batman has never been. She’s helping an old lady with her groceries, she’s teaching self defense classes, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s yet another example of why the Batgirl costume in this series doesn’t work. Barbara Gordon is part of the community too. So, as she’s only wearing a domino mask as Batgirl, it would be that much easier for people to recognize her. 

Now that this series is over, hopefully she gets a new outfit. And soon.

TITLE: Power Rangers: Drakkon New Dawn #3
AUTHOR: Anthony Burch
ARTISTS: Simone Ragazzoni, Raul Angulo (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jung-Geun Yoon.
RELEASED: October 28, 2020

This mini started to get interesting at the end of issue #2, when it looked like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as we knew them were about to return to the “Drakkonverse.” But this issue doesn’t follow through on that, which pretty much killed it for me.

But apparently Lord Drakkon sells comics. So I’d be surprised if we don’t get some kind of follow-up to this story. As one might expect, they leave the door wide open for it.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Three Jokers, Marvels X, Spider-Man, 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: Three Jokers #2
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 29, 2020

Three Jokers is much more about Jason Todd than I imagined it would be. That’s not a bad thing.

This issue contains a romantic moment between Jason and Barbara Gordon. That is a bad thing.

Johns tries to tie the events of this story back to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which I find forced. I’d much rather spend those pages exploring the fact that there are, y’know, three Jokers!

Still, Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson present us with one of the most beautiful Batman books we’ve seen in a long time.

TITLE: Marvels X #5
AUTHOR: Alex Ross (Story), Jim Krueger (Script)
ARTISTS: Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED: September 30, 2020

There’s a page in here that’s particularly poignant, given the times we’re living in today. Our main character is talking to the Falcon about Captain America.

Falcon says it’s hard to be Cap’s friend at the moment, given all the anger in the country. As a hero, he has to worry about controlling his fellow citizens, as opposed to protecting them.

“It’s not a democracy anymore. It’s not about different voices. It’s about one voice. An angry, frightened one.”

Powerful stuff.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #763
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Carlo Barberi, Matt Santorelli (Inker), Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Cover by David Marquez & Sanchez.
RELEASED: September 29, 2020

First and foremost, Liar Liar is a really stupid name for a villain. Better that she just go by Emma Lord.

Indeed, we found out last issue that Maxwell Lord has a daughter. I can’t say I saw that coming.

Carlo Barberi’s art is growing on me. He turns in some really dynamic and attractive work here. But I still can’t help but miss Mikel Janin, who’s not an easy act to follow for anybody.

This Diana partnership is growing on me too. Enough to get me to start picking up Wonder Woman again.

TITLE: Spider-Man #4
AUTHORS: J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams
ARTISTS: Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico (Inking Assistant), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by Olivier Coipel.
RELEASED: September 23, 2020

On the whole, I’m liking this book. Especially the “sketchy” looking art, which is different than a lot of what Sara Pichelli has put out over the years. I really only have one major issue: Tony Stark.

Iron Man pulls focus. It’s a rule that’s osmosed into the comics from the movies. Thus, Tony’s presence in this story, even as a supporting character, takes some much-needed emphasis off this new Ben Parker character. We’ve only got one issue left in this mini. All the more reason to keep this a Spider-Man story.

TITLE: Suicide Squad #9
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Variant cover by Travis Moore & Alejandro Sanchez.
RELEASED: September 22, 2020

We get a guest appearance from Superman in this issue, and I’ve gotta say, Redondo draws a hell of a Man of Steel.

The decision to make Ted Kord a villain in this series is an interesting one. He’s not a character that long-time readers would be inclined to hate, or even dislike.

It feels like Taylor wanted to do more in this series with Deadshot and his daughter. Here’s hoping he gets another chance somewhere down the line

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.

A DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review – “How Could I Ever Forget You?”

DC Universe: Rebirth #1TITLE: DC Universe: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 25, 2016

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Part of the idea behind the 2011 “New 52” reboot at DC Comics was to modernize and simplify the characters and continuity for new readers. They largely succeeded. A lot of great comics were sold, and new readers were given a fresh jumping-on point for the DC Universe.

But lets be honest. If you were a longtime DC Comics fan, you lost a lot more than you gained. The timeline of the DCU was condensed down to five or six years. As such, the characters lost a lot of their depth. Certain characters, relationships, marriages and families were altered, if not erased altogether. As such, this new DC Universe suffered from a lack of heart and emotional connection.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is DC’s attempt to remedy this problem by restoring some of these lost characters, and injecting some much needed love into the proceedings.

A LOT of big things happen in this issue. So lets touch on most of them individually…

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, 2016, Wally West, Barry Allen hugWally West returns, reunites with Barry Allen, warns of a new enemy. Most of us can relate to being forgotten about on some level. It’s heartbreaking. That’s the feeling Geoff Johns taps into when he shows us the plight of Wally West. Lost to time, left as mere kinetic energy in the Speed Force, he’s so desperate to be remembered. Even his former wife replies to his presence with a heart-wrenching: “I don’t know you.” So it’s a genuine tear-jerker when Barry suddenly does remember him, then wraps him in a hug and says: “How could I ever forget you?” After almost five years without Wally, this was every bit the epic reunion it was designed to be.

The explanation we get for the other Wally West, who’s set to become Kid Flash in upcoming issues, is a little corny. Something about them being cousins and both named after their great-grandfather. I’ll grant them that there was no easy way to get out of that scenario. There was bound to be confusion. At least Johns connected them. Hopefully that’ll be a unique meeting eventually.

I’m not clear on what Barry and Wally remember at this point. In this issue, Wally remembers his wife Linda Park, the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, his time with the Teen Titans, and other odds and ends. At least some of that seems to have been transferred to Barry. But Wally also says it’s becoming harder to remember his old life. I imagine more will be revealed in the new Titans series.

Per events in Justice League, also written by Johns, we learn there have apparently been three Jokers. I balked when I first saw this. Having three Jokers seemingly takes away the character’s unique evolution and versatility. Now, instead of one multidimensional Joker, we’ll have three one-dimensional Jokers. That, at least, is my takeaway from the revelation.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Jokers, Ethan Van SciverI am happy, however, that they didn’t give us any names. We didn’t find out The Joker’s real name is Jack Napier or anything like that. My love for The Killing Joke notwithstanding, I like my Joker somewhat de-humanized, conveying the idea that absolutely anyone could be behind that twisted grin. “One bad day” and what not. They may still do that, but hopefully they don’t.

It’s easy to make snap judgments about dramatic reveals like this. (Captain America, anyone?) But ultimately, it’s all about the story they’re telling. The true merit of this twist lies with what they do with it.

Wally reaches out to an elderly Johnny Thunder, who has been searching for the Justice Society. Justice Society got a little out of hand before the reboot. The team was split between two titles. If they’re bringing back the JSA, my hope is the team will be smaller. My question is, if the Society comes back does that mean the timeline gets adjusted so Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and all those characters were indeed active during World War II?

Ted Kord, DC Universe Rebirth #1Partnerships are established between Ted Kord & Jaime Reyes and Ray Palmer & Ryan Choi. Dr. Fate reveals that Jamie’s Scarab is actually magic. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Ted until this issue. Gary Frank perfectly captures that boyish enthusiasm, which is part of what’s so great about Ted. This new partnership with Jaime should make for good comics.

Ray Palmer has a line about Jean Loring in his scene with Ryan Choi, which seems to indicate that Identity Crisis is out of continuity. I’m a big Brad Meltzer fan (mostly). But if we have to abandon Identity Crisis in favor of a more hopeful DC Comics, with some of our favorites back in the picture, I’m okay with that.

Aquaman proposes to Mera. Jackson Hyde returns to the DCU.  Well heavens to Betsy. Marriage is okay again! With the reboot, Superman, The Flash (both of them), and Aquaman all had their marriages retconned. Batwoman was also not allowed to marry her love interest. Arthur at least got to keep his relationship with Mera. This seems to be a very positive step away from the “heroes can’t be happy” approach DC seemingly had in place a few years ago.

Why Jackson Hyde wasn’t a part of the New 52 reboot is a mystery to me. They had spent all that time building him up in Brightest Day, and then he was just gone. Hopefully they can now capitalize on what for years has been a wasted opportunity.

And now, for the biggest reveal of them all…

Batman, WatchmenWatchmen characters are incorporated into the DCU. Dr. Manhattan implicated as the mysterious force manipulating time. Ah, here’s the kicker. I mean, c’mon. We couldn’t have a villain manipulating the time stream somehow. We had to drudge up Watchmen again, as the book and the characters continue to be profitable 30 years after its original publication.

I won’t lie, there’s a certain excitement at the prospect of a post-Watchmen Dr. Manhattan interacting with the DC Universe. Seeing Batman find the iconic Comedian button with the bloodstain, hidden in the Batcave, of all places, was a legit shocker. Even watching Pandora perish the way Rorschach did was kinda cool.

But here’s my big question: Will it be worth it in the end?

The last time DC pulled this crew out of retirement was for Before Watchmen, a line of prequel miniseries’ featuring all the classic characters. It gave us some good stuff, particularly Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen story. But even with all the A-list talent involved, when you look at Before Watchmen cumulatively, you aren’t left with a feeling of justification. The sense that this was worth doing without Alan Moore and arguably taking some of the luster off Watchmen.

I’m really hoping they thought about that before making this move. Is this going to be worth bringing Watchmen out of retirement Especially when we presumably won’t be seeing Dr. Manhattan, and whoever else pops up, in the context of their own world.

DC Universe Rebirth #1, montage, Gary FrankThis oversized issue is divided into four chapters, plus an epilogue. For these various sections, Geoff Johns is working with three of his longtime collaborators. The MVP by far is Gary Frank, who draws chapter 2, and also assists with chapters 1 and 3. His art drips with pure humanity. When Wally bursts in on Johnny Thunder, we can feel the old man’s desperation, heartbreak, and fear. In the scene with Ted and Jaime, Ted’s enthusiasm is contagious. On the other hand, Jaime’s apprehension is palpable, and comes off very natural. Frank also draws the big reveal with Batman and the pin (shown above), and even drew the cover. What an amazing issue for him.

It’s very fitting to have Ethan Van Sciver on the pencil for chapter 1. As the artist on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth, it creates a nice consistency. What’s more, having worked on those books, and contributed to projects like The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, his work inevitably conveys a sense of importance. He very much lives up to that, as its Van Sciver that gives us our first look at the returning Wally West.

In chapter 3, Ivan Reis gives us a gorgeous scene with Aquaman and Mera. But the scene with Wally and Linda, where he’s so sure she’ll remember him and he gets rejected…it’s amazing. Their faces, their body language, it’s just perfect. You can make an argument that this is the most important scene in the issue. The impact of Wally’s failure with Linda makes the scene where Barry saves him that much more impactful.

There’s a certain artistic symmetry to Phil Jimenez drawing the reunion between Barry and Wally. In Infinite Crisis, Jimenez drew Wally and his family disappearing into the Speed Force, as well as Barry briefly emerging from it. Now, he gives us an emotional sequence where Barry pulls Wally from the Speed Force. He was the perfect choice for this moment.

Aquaman and Mera proposalFinally, let’s talk about Geoff Johns for a moment. The guy gets his share of flack these days. He’s got a reputation as Mr. Retcon. And I’ll admit those early Justice League issues where pretty flawed. But by and large, he tells gripping and often emotional stories. In the case of DC Universe Rebirth #1, he and the team give us a much-needed break from the grim and largely joyless DC Comics we’ve come to know since The New 52 began. There’s a place for hope, love, and wonder in this universe. Most readers always knew that. Let’s hope DC never forgets again…

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image Image 3 from pastemagazine.com. Image 3 from observer.com. Image 4 and 6 from observer.com. Image 5 from terrazero.com. 

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