Who is Nightwing? – Bludhaven Begins

***As Nightwing’s public profile grows higher via the Titans TV series and the upcoming Gotham Knights game, “Who is Nightwing?” looks at Dick Grayson’s early solo adventures after stepping out of Batman’s shadow.***

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

Pretty good, that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Black Widow, 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

TITLE: Black Widow #1
AUTHOR: Kelly Thompson
ARTISTS: Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Adam Hughes
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

This one’s fairly low on action considering it’s the debut of a Black Widow series. The issue tries to make up for it with intrigue, but there isn’t quite enough to wet my appetite for more.

This, despite some awesome art from Elena Casagrande and Jordie Bellaire. I found it had a slightly similar vibe to the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye stuff. And of course, yet another breathtaking Adam Hughes cover.

TITLE: Batman #98
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by David Finch.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

As the cover suggests, there’s a big fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline in this issue. As obvious as her inclusion is given the nature of the story, “Joker War” has been a little too Harley-heavy for my taste. It feels like yet another case of DC shoehorning her into a story that’s not necessarily about her.

On the plus side, Jimenez and Morey are on their game here. So is Tynion, as as get a pretty powerful exchange between Batman and…Alfred’s memory? It’s not Alfred’s ghost, I know that for sure.

TITLE: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
AUTHOR:
Al Ewing
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Mariasara Miotti (Color Assistant), Andworld Design (Letterer)
RELEASED:
 September 2, 2020

Spaceships that carve up space gods to mine humanity’s new resources? Alright book, you’ve got my attention…

This first issue is a little hard to follow, as we’re getting adjusted to how the book works and what’s going on. But by the end we get a decent hook to bring us back for next issue. Take into account how gorgeous this issue is, particularly from a coloring standpoint, and they’ve got me signed up for next time.

TITLE: Shazam #14
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS: Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Dale Keown.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Ugh. What an awful final issue. It feels like they tried to cram in about two years worth of content. The resolution of the plot threads with Mr. Mind, Billy’s dad, and Black Adam. A pathetically condensed fight with Superboy-Prime. Then of course, they have to end the series on a happy note, though it’s hard to imagine this issue making anyone happy.

It’s not the creators’ fault, mind you. The book got cancelled. But still, the characters, the creators, and the series itself deserved better.

TITLE: Lonely Receiver #1
AUTHOR: Zac Thompson
ARTISTS: Jen Hickman, Simon Bowland (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

I’m not sure what I expected from Lonely Receiver, but it wasn’t what I got. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This strikes me as a story with a lot of layers to it. It’s a story about a woman falling in love with a robot designed specifically to be her partner. But we’ve got undertones dealing with our needs as human beings that are really interesting. Thus far, this books is a little like I, Robot meets an old fashioned romance comic, with some more, shall we say, mature elements mixed in.

TITLE: Star Trek: Hell’s Mirror
AUTHOR: J.M. DeMatteis
ARTISTS: Matthew Dow Smith, Candice Han (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED: September 2, 2020

What we have here is a look at the Khan Noonien Singh of the Mirror Universe. And with that in mind, the story and the characters are about what you’d think they’d be. In that sense, this one-shot almost writes itself.

The solicitation heralded the return of J.M. DeMatteis to Star Trek after almost 40 years. For what it’s worth, I can see why. This issue feels just like an episode of the original series. Definitely worth a look for fans.

TITLE: Young Justice #18
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Had a nice Powers flashback looking at Michael Avon Oeming’s work. Seeing him work on the Spoiler is a little surreal.

This wasn’t quite the “Tim and Stephanie go on a date” issue that I was hoping for. That makes this one a disappointment for yours truly.

By the end of this issue Drake is back to being Robin. But is he actually Robin, or is he Red Robin? Just when we thought Tim had his identity crisis solved…

TITLE: Justice League #52
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques (Inker), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer). Cover by Cully Hamner.
RELEASED: September 1, 2020

Way too much Batman to cap off a two-part filler story before the book starts to tie in with…*sigh*…Dark Nights: Death Metal.

We’ve seen all kinds of stories that dive into the psyches of various League members. It always seems like five or six issues is too long. But I’d have been happy to see “The Garden of Mercy” go another issue or two. What Loveness, Rocha, and Henriques turn in here is perfectly fine.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Seven Secrets, Billionaire Island, 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

TITLE: Seven Secrets #1
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
ARTISTS: Daniele di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte & Katia Ranalli (Colorists), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer).
RELEASED: August 12, 2020

Take a shot every time the word “secret” appears in this book. I dare you.

We’ve got a compelling main character here. The trouble is, we don’t actually meet him. He’s merely our narrator giving us a bunch of flowery language about secrets, their importance, etc. Things pick up once we get past the halfway point, and I am curious enough to check out issue #2. But I’d still call this an underwhelming debut. Especially given the talent involved.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #10
AUTHORS:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 13, 2020

We’re still working our way through Jason Todd’s DCAU origin. Thus far it’s closer to his classic origin than I would have preferred. Though they do give him his own unique Robin costume. It’s a little tacky, but somehow I find that it suits Jason…

You know what I’m hoping this all comes down to? Jason Todd vs. Tim Drake. The current Robin proves himself at the expense of the failed Robin. And hopefully we hear from Dick Grayson, the original Robin, along the way.

TITLE: Billionaire Island #4
AUTHOR:
Mark Russell
ARTISTS:
Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry (Colorist), Rob Steen (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 12, 2020

It’s getting harder to tell what aspects of Billionaire Island are satirical and which aren’t. It’s a fun read, but the writing manages to tap into a part of our basic humanity  that’s not exactly flattering: The laziness that comes with privilege, and what we’re willing to do to accommodate it.

Let’s not forget our stupidity. And I quote, “This is what their world is…a billion-dollar mansion undone by a two-dollar lock.”

TITLE: Superman #24
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Kevin Maguire & John Timms, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED: August 11, 2020

I know I say this every time he draws an issue, but the novelty hasn’t worn off: Yay! Kevin Maguire!!!

I had no clue there was a new Doctor Fate. This is why I need to catch up on Justice League Dark

As great as it is to see Maguire’s pencils, this issue and issue #23 are filler until we get to the “Double-Size 25th Issue Spectacular” next time. The art is worth the cover price. But if you’re looking to save some cash, it’s skippable.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1025
AUTHOR:
Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Kenneth Rocafort, Dan Brown (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
August 11, 2020

Just because they called the Batmobile a tank in Batman Begins doesn’t mean Batman should literally be driving a tank. He does that in this issue. It’s about as stupid as is sounds.

Far less stupid is Batwoman’s return to Detective Comics. She’s a breath of fresh air in what has been a pretty stale series of issues as of late. Even the Joker wasn’t able to liven things up. And that’s coming from a big Peter Tomasi fan.

TITLE: Batman #96
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Jorge Jimenez, Tomey Morey (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer).
RELEASED:
August 4, 2020

With the Joker, you often walk a fine line between the frightening and the funny. Batman #96 shows us what happens when you step on the wrong side of that line.

The issue builds up to a climactic moment involving Batman and a room full of what I can only call “Joker zombies.” The trouble is, it also includes a headshot of Mr. J himself, and he’s making a funny face. Ergo, much of the tension in the scene is dissolved and the end of the issue is ruined.

No one ever said drawing the Joker was easy…

TITLE: Young Justice #17
AUTHORS:
Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED:
August 4, 2020

This issue introduces us to Yolanda Chan. As a character she’s perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with her. I’m just not sure why she’s here. I mean, we find out what her job is at the end of the issue. I’m just not sure why we’re focused in on her. Time will tell, I suppose.

Don’t let the cover fool you. Superboy, Drake, and Impulse don’t meet their ’90s/old universe counterparts or anything. Which is almost a shame. That ’90s Robin costume…all the feels, man.

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Been a rocky couple of weeks on the comic book front for yours truly. Wasn’t able to get to the shop a couple weeks ago. Then last week my local shop had a problem with Lunar Distribution, the company that now distributes DC in the wake of their split from Diamond. So there are still some holes left to be filled in my pull list. In the coming days, expect to see the most recent issues of Superman and Detective Comics, along with the final issue of Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane maxi-series.

But still, the train rolls along. I was even able to throw an issue of Batman: Gotham Nights in for good measure.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #8
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 16, 2020

This one went by pretty quickly. But it does Azrael some nice justice. We put over the violent tendencies we saw all those years ago in the comics, while also tying yet another classic Batman villain into the story.

With few exceptions, Ty Templeton and the artistic team have been as consistent as you could hope for on this title. What we see is more or less what we remember from those old tie-in comics, and I’m not sure what more you could ask in that sense.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #51
AUTHOR:
Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Moises Hidalgo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
July 15, 2020

Not a huge fan of Moises Hidalgo on this book. I usually like my MMPR art on the crisp, clean side. His has a little more of an exaggerated look. And as nitpicky as this is, I don’t enjoy the way he draws Tommy or Rocky’s hair.

As good as it got at various points, I’m very happy to see we’ve mostly moved on from “Necessary Evil.” We’ve got Zedd back, as well as Lord Drakkon. Yes, I’ve heard about the upcoming “split.” But hopefully we can enjoy ourselves in the meantime.

TITLE: Giant-Size X-Men: Magneto
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS: Ramon Perez, David Curiel (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Ben Oliver.
RELEASED: July 15, 2020

In this issue, Emma Frost recruits Magneto to find her an island where she can set up a base. Fair enough. If you want somebody to find an island for you, Magneto’s not a bad choice. Good call, Emma.

But yeah…that’s about it. Certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price. Completely and utterly skippable.

TITLE: Batman #94
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Guillem March, Rafael Albequerque, David Baron (Colors), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Tony Daniel & Tomeu Morey.
RELEASED:
July 7, 2020

Not necessarily the strongest issue we’ve seen from Tynion and the crew thus far. But I will say that this issue goes a long way in creating that vibe of foreboding dread that comes when an event comic villain really ramps it up.

Batman #94 is, for my money, the first time we really start to deal with the ramifications of Alfred not being around. Lucius is treating an injured Batman, and at one point laments that he can’t be as focused or single-minded as Alfred was.

No offense Lucius, but we knew you weren’t gonna cut it.

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #106
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz (Story Consulting), Sophie Campbell (Story), Ronda Pattison (Script)
ARTISTS: Nelson Daniel, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED: July 15, 2020

This issue is refreshingly Turtle-centric. That sounds odd for a book called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But the TMNT have such a vast crew of supporting characters, it can work against them in that they feel lost in their own book. This issue gives us a chance to catch up.

Nelson Daniel is doing a fine job with the Turtles. I’ve said this before, but for some reason TMNT artists are make or break for me based on how they draw the bandanas in relation to the faces. Daniel does that very well.

TITLE: Something is Killing the Children #8
AUTHOR:
James Tynion IV
ARTISTS:
Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto
RELEASED:
July 8, 2020

This issue brings up an interesting question: How do you walk the line of good taste in a book about monsters eating and dismembering children? Or do you? If your book is already about that, do you just embrace the uncomfortable gore of it all?

Issue #8 shows us part of a dismembered corpse and a bloody shoe. As long as the art isn’t going for photorealism, I’d say that’s a nice balance. Werther Dell-Edera’s combination animated/painterly style works well with it too.

TITLE: Young Justice #16
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS: Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by John Timms & Eltaeb.
RELEASED: July 7, 2020

Now that we’ve taken a dive into what Conner Kent’s relationship to the space-time continuum is, this issue dives into Impulse’s. I’ll say this much: I didn’t expect it to involve Arkham Asylum.

It’s interesting that Bendis has continued to portray Superboy and Impulse as outliers from another reality. They don’t really belong. And as we’ll see next issue, he’s about to open it up that much further by bringing the in the Justice League. It gives this team an enduring misfit quality. That sort of thing is great if you like some teen angst in your superhero books.

TITLE: Marvels X #4
AUTHORS: Alex Ross (Story), Jim Krueger (Story and Script)
ARTISTS: Well-Bee, Cory Petit (Letterer). Cover by Ross.
RELEASED: July 8, 2020

This issue gives us a nice old-school Avengers moment. It’s very Alex Ross, with the heroes in their classic outfits. Well-Bee’s style darkens it. But that makes the colors pop that much more.

There’s an exchange in this issue that I love between Kraven the Hunter and Captain America. It’s about how anyone can put Cap’s costume on, and it’s simply a disguise. But of course, that’s not true. The costume is part of something much larger than the sum of its parts. Again, very Alex Ross.

TITLE: Batman: Gotham Nights #12
AUTHOR:
Tim Seeley
ARTISTS:
V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea (Inker), Andrew Dalhouse (Colorist), Troy Peteri (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 7, 2020

A nice little Robin reunion that I was at one point convinced was drawn by Brett Booth. Is it common knowledge among supervillains which heroes used to be Robin? That’s what this issue seems to suggest. And if so, why? How would they know?

Interesting that they put Spoiler among this little alumni group. I was under the impression Stephanie Brown’s tenure as Robin wasn’t canon. I won’t complain, though. It’s actually rather refreshing to see.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: Dark Nights: Death Metal, Wynd, 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

You know what I miss? Star Wars comics. C’mon Marvel. DC is cranking out its silly heavy metal event comic. The least you can do is get back in the full swing of things!

I also miss TMNT comics. But at least we get half of one this week…

TITLE: Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
ARTISTS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion (Inker), FCO Plascencia (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer)
RELEASED: June 16, 2020

If this Metal stuff is your cup of tea, then by all means I encourage you to drink. The comic book industry could use your bucks right about now. But boy is it not mine…

While Dark Nights: Metal did have some nice moments, to me this stuff has always come off overly indulgent and stupid. Need proof? Batman not only wears a duster in this book, but one with spikes on the shoulders. I’m a Greg Capullo fan, but *barf*.

TITLE: Wynd #1
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
ARTISTS: Michael Dialnyas, Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

As much of a Tynion fan as I am, Wynd isn’t really my cup of tea. Just like The Woods, also by Tynion and Dialnyas, wasn’t really my thing. But obviously there’s an audience for this sort of thing, and I think Wynd will do well among them.

The most interesting thing about this issue is we have a kid, Wynd, who’s clearly been touched  by magic, as he’s living in this renaissance type world where magic is outlawed. We steer away from that a little too soon for my tastes. I’d have devoted the entire issue to Wynd himself.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #6
AUTHORS:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 18, 2020

“Mentors” wraps up in more or less the way you’d expect. As a bonus, this issue also establishes that Tim Drake has been with Batman for about a year.

At the end, we’re left with more questions about our mystery observer, who we know is actually Jason Todd. Most notably, the question of what he wants. Thus far, Jason has occupied that gray area between hero and villain. In the main DCU, it was crystal clear that Jason was back as a villain. So I’m thrilled to see they’re taking things in at least a slightly different direction.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS:
Simone Di Meo, Alessio Zono (Pencil Assist), Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Igor Monti (Color Assist), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 17, 2020

This finale pulls a hell of a rabbit out of the hat for the big zord battle. I won’t spoil it, except to say it’s pretty damn cool.

My only critique of said battle is Di Meo’s Dragonzord is a little awkward in its body language. It looks very rigid.

I maintain that MMPR/TMNT was pretty paint-by-numbers. But in the end, that’s exactly what we wanted from it. We wanted these characters to meet and interact. That’s precisely what the story gives us. No harm, no foul.

TITLE: Superman #22
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
Kevin Maguire, Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I love me a good Kevin Maguire interlude. When you haven’t seen him in awhile and then he pops up for an issue, you really get to see just how good he is.

It certainly helps that he’s got some great subject matter. As an FBI agent questions Lois Lane, we have Superman in an intergalactic space battle with Mongul. Obviously, Maguire’s exaggerated faces tend to skew him more toward the comedic side of things. But if he’s fairly selective about the “acting” choices he makes, he’s every bit as capable as anyone else of delivering that epic battle sequence.

TITLE: Young Justice #15
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer). Cover by Ben Caldwell & Eltaeb.
RELEASED:
June 16, 2020

I didn’t realize just how much I missed this book. It’s definitely one of my favorites at DC right now. Especially now that they seem to be taking a Justice League Unlimited sort of approach, with lots of different members as opposed to a single core team. Any kind of JLU approach is rarely a bad thing…

We finally get some answers about Superboy in this issue. If you’ve read a fair amount of DC multiverse stories, the answers we get shouldn’t be too surprising. Not bad. Just not particularly surprising.

TITLE: X-Men #5
AUTHOR: Jonathan Hickman
ARTISTS:
R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho.
RELEASED:
January 9, 2020

This is a good issue if you aren’t as familiar with who some of the newer X-Men are. Hickman uses Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Xavier to lead into a re-introduction to X-23, Darwin, and Synch.

It also introduces is to “the Vault.” Its inhabitants, according to Xavier, are “the single greatest existential threat to mutantdom.” What it is and how time works inside are a little complex. But the Vault does have a Sentinel head on top of it. So it’s got that going for it.

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.

Robin’s Animated History by Noah Sterling

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Awhile back, we looked at Noah Sterling’s animated history of Green Lantern. Or rather, Green Lanterns plural. There have been a lot of Earth-born ring-wielders in the 80 years since Alan Scott first graced the page.

Thankfully for us, Sterling is also well-versed in the history of Robin, who also turns 80 this year. And the iconic sidekick of all sidekicks got an animated treatment that’s every bit as fun as what Green Lantern got…

For more, check out Noah Sterling’s official site or his YouTube page.

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

Weekly Comic 100s: A Star Wars Trifecta, Bendis, and More!

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We’re strictly looking at Marvel and DC this week, as that’s just how things shook out. Seems like a catch-up edition of “Weekly Comic 100s” is in order sooner than later…

Incidentally, Wolverine #1 was February’s top-selling comic. And no, I still won’t be reading or reviewing it.

TITLE: Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #1
AUTHOR:
Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Paolo Villanelli, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Covers don’t usually play a big part in whether I’ll try a new series, or an issue I otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to pick up. But if ever one could, it’s this one. Epic work by Lee Bermejo.

I’d call this a strictly okay start. The success of this series is largely riding on how the Vance character comes off as these early issues are buoyed by classic characters like Boba Fett and Bossk. He’s got a kind of Terminator-like appearance, and a mysterious backstory that piques my curiosity.

Tell me more, comic. Tell me more…

TITLE: Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren #4 (of 4)
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Will Sliney, Guru-eFX (Colors), Travis Lanham (Letterer). Cover by E.M. Gist.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

This mini ends exactly how you think it will. Some questions we now have answers to. Some we don’t. But we did get a really nice character moment that illustrates a really interesting, though in hindsight obvious parallel between Kylo Ren and Luke.

During a fight with one of Luke’s other Jedi pupils, Ben says that neither Luke and Snoke see him as a person. “I’m just a…legacy. Just a set of expectations.” From a certain point of view (wink wink), that’s exactly what Luke talks to Rey about in The Last Jedi. The burden of his bloodline.

TITLE: Darth Vader #2
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS:
Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon, Joe Caramagna. Cover by Inhyuk Lee.
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

In this issue, we supposedly meet a surviving Padme. Funny thing is, the character looks older in the interior art than Natalie Portman does in real life.

Later on, Vader tells someone that if she’d lived, Padme would have joined the Empire. I wonder if he means the Empire that would have existed had he overthrown Palpatine, or the Empire that actually came to pass. I can’t bring myself to believe that he believes the latter. Unless he’s deluded himself that much over the course of two decades.

TITLE: Superman #21
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oscar Albert (Inkers), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Bryan Hitch and Sinclair.
RELEASED: March 11, 2020

More Superman vs. Mongul here. Bendis turns the story horizontal and we get a series of slimmer top-to-bottom panels depicting various locations. It’s a nice little trick.

What I’m really liking about this “Truth” story is it illuminates the larger scope of what it means to be Superman. He’s not just some guy flying around in a cape punching things. The United Planets plotline emphasizes something that certain people never seem to understand. Superman is an idealist. Peace. Justice. Unity. Teamwork. Courage. These are the things he really stands for, and I love that Bendis gets that.

TITLE: Young Justice #14
AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker
ARTISTS:
John Timms, Michael Avon Oeming, Gabe Eltaeb (Inker), Wes Abbott (Letterer).
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

I’m wondering what the deal is with all these alleged new members. Are we doing a Justice League Unlimited type thing, where characters rotate in and out depending on the mission? Either way, it’s great to see Jackson Hyde back.

Bendis’ old Powers colleague Michael Avon Oeming handles some of the art here. The work he does here is fine. But if he’s going to be on the book, I’d prefer he be the sole artist.

TITLE: Cable #1
AUTHOR: Gerry Duggan
ARTISTS:
Phil Noto, Joe Sabino (Letterer)
RELEASED:
March 11, 2020

Well hey there, Phil Noto. Always good to see you.

Here we have the X-Men once again shamelessly tampering with the space time continuum as a younger Nathan Summers lives with present-day mutants on Krakoa.

Outside of a sparring session with Wolverine during the opening pages, and Noto’s art in general this issue didn’t do much for me. There’s something of a novelty in seeing this character in a jungle atmosphere he’s not normally associated with. But in the end, not much to write home about. Not yet at least.

TITLE: Shazam #11
AUTHOR:
Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Scott Kolins, Michael Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Cover by Dale Eaglesham and Atiyeh.
RELEASED:
February 26, 2020

Alright, let’s talk about it: Superboy-Prime is back. His next target? Shazam.

If it were somebody other than Geoff Johns writing this book, I’d be a little apprehensive. But because it’s him, I’m actually looking forward to their big showdown.

Superboy-Prime is pretty much the anti-Shazam. Billy Batson is a young man given great power who ultimately uses it for good. This version of Superboy? A young man whose power made him spoiled, bitter, and angry. These two have more in common than they’d ever admit.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Detective Comics #965 Review – Robin Resurrected

TITLE: Detective Comics #965
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 27, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever shared: My first trade paperback was Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying. I picked it up during what might have been my first ever trip to a comic shop in the mid-90s. I had no idea what the story was about. Just that it had Batman and Robin on the cover. At this point they still looked pretty similar to Adam West and Burt Ward on the classic TV show. So I found myself pulled in. It remains in my library to this day. It’s easily the most tattered and worn trade I own. But it’s earned its spot up there. A Lonely Place of Dying introduced me to Batman’s current status quo. It’s how I learned about Jason Todd. It was my first Nightwing story. It also introduced me to Tim Drake, a character I would practically grow up alongside.

That’s what makes Detective Comics #965 a special issue for me. I’m sure it’s special for a lot of fans my age. It’s a love letter to A Lonely Place of Dying and much of the early Tim Drake material, bringing it into modern canon. We also see an intriguing component from Geoff Johns’ work with the character in Teen Titans. For those of us who hated what happened to Tim in the New 52 reboot, it’s fanboy nirvana. I imagine this is how die-hard Flash fans felt when Wally West came back in DC Universe Rebirth.

It’s been quite awhile since Tim was imprisoned by the mysterious Mister Oz. But what drew this ominous hooded figure to Red Robin in the first place? We get the answer to that question as Tim prepares to finally strike back. But in attempting to escape, our hero will come face with the last person he ever expected to see…

During our first seven pages, we alternate between present day and flashbacks to Tim’s early days with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Most of this material is pulled from A Lonely Place of Dying. James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, and our creative team focus on very specific moments from that story. For the most part, they pull the exact dialogue written by Marv Wolfman, and take care to honor but not duplicate the work done by artists like Jim Aparo and George Perez. Clothing and hairstyles have been updated, and the classic Robin costume has been switched out for its New 52 counterpart (shown left). I think we can also assume certain specifics from Lonely haven’t translated into modern canon. But by and large, the spirit of that story is intact. That’s such a beautiful thing to see. For so long,the events of Lonely have, for whatever reason, been glossed over. Even before the New 52, writers would always allude to Tim deducing Batman’s identity on its own. But it would rarely go further than that, presumably because certain aspects (Tim seeing Batman and Robin on TV, for example) didn’t match current continuity. But this material deserves as much attention as any part of Batman’s history. In that respect, this is justice done.

Detective Comics #965, and Tynion’s run on the series as a whole, also resurrects an idea introduced in the mid to late-90s: That Tim Drake has no intention of being Robin forever. He certainly doesn’t want to be Batman. His superhero career has an expiration date, and that has weighed heavily on his actions as of late. One of the things that makes Tim distinct amongst his fellow Robins is his independence. He’s willing to disagree with Batman, even if it creates a conflict between them. That’s a trait that suits Tim well, and Tynion uses it to inject some really nice drama into the big reveal later in the issue.

Eddy Barrows compliments Tynion’s writing very well. So I’m always happy to see him on Detective. He hits all the right emotional notes for the retro Tim Drake material. He made me feel like I was actually flipping through A Lonely Place of Dying, which is above and beyond what they were going for here. Colorist Ariano Lucas also lends a very nice sepia tone to those flashback scenes.

There are, however, a pair of light stumbles in the issue. On the page at left, Barrows has the unenviable task of recreating the debut of Tim Drake’s Robin costume from Batman #457 (shown left). By and large, he does very well. But that face is a miss. Something about the simple white slits for the eyes combined with the smile, which is slightly too big. Two pages prior, Barrows and the artistic team hit another smile related stumble with Tim. They weren’t aiming for creepy. But creepy is what we got.

I called this issue a love letter to Tim Drake. But James Tynion’s entire run on Detective Comics seems like a tribute to beloved ’90s characters either tossed aside or gutted in recent years. We’re talking Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and even Anarky. It’s very much in tune with what the DC Rebirth initiative has been about, in that it celebrates the legacy of these characters while continuing to tell new stories. If that’s not Detective Comics #965 in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

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A Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best Review – A Return to Glory?

TITLE: Teen Titans, Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLERS: Jonboy Meyers, Diogenes Nieves, Khoi Pham
COLLECTS: Teen Titans #15Teen Titans Rebirth #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 14, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Teen Titans have had a pretty awesome run on television over the last decade and a half. The comics, on the other hand? They’ve been a mixed bag. But this new Teen Titans series under the DC Rebirth banner offered yet another fresh start for one of the most iconic and prolific superhero teams in all of comics. A chance to make the Teen Titans great again!

I wouldn’t call Damian Knows Best a great book. But these still manage to be the best Teen Titans comics we’ve gotten in several years. Since 2011 at the very least.

In the wake of his 13th birthday, Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, summons his own team of young heroes to combat a threat from his past. Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, has sent his own team of young assassins after the Boy Wonder. Their mission? Either bring Damian back into the League of Assassins or kill him. But as his new teammates are about to find out, Damian isn’t one to make things easy.

Damian should have been on the Teen Titans a long time ago. That last really good Teen Titans story I alluded to above? It sees Damian barge in and briefly anoint himself team leader. Why it took so long to get him back on the team is beyond me. Sticking a character as abrasive as Damian in a team environment is a natural source for tension and conflict. Making it a team of adolescents ups the ante even more. It’s an update this book has desperately needed since…well, 2011.

Perennial team members Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven are back. I’ve lamented previously about how the series can’t move away from them, presumably because DC wants to match the cartoon show. Plus, they’re synonymous with the iconic Wolfman/Perez era. Swapping one or two of them out for newer characters might open the door for even more new possibilities. That’s what a relaunch is supposed to be about, after all. We at least get a little of that with the inclusion of Kid Flash.

However, Ben Percy does a commendable job turning up the teen angst with most of our heroes. The common theme among them is the feeling they don’t belong anywhere. Like so many young people, they feel isolated.. That commonality that makes them feel like they belong together, instead of being lumped together for no real reason (other than editorial mandate). The opening sequence with Beast Boy is one of the character’s best in quite some time. As he behaves in his typical animated and boisterous fashion, the narration captions highlight his inner turmoil, most notably over the “death” of Tim Drake. Throw in how wonderfully drawn and colored the whole thing is, and you’ve got a knock-out intro.

That’s one of the things DC has failed to do with Teen Titans for so many years: Really amp up the teen element effectively, making this book considerably different from Justice League and the other team books out there. Need an example? Look what Mark Waid is doing in Champions. All those characters feel like teenagers trying to find their way in the world and blaze a new trail that’s different from the previous generation’s. Teen Titans doesn’t have that rebellious streak to it. But having these characters feel young and a little less sure of themselves is damn sure a step in the right direction.

Most of the Demon’s Fist characters are forgettable. They’re led by Damian’s cousin Mara. Despite being fairly forgettable herself, she has a strong origin story. She trained alongside Damian growing up, competing with him but never quite besting him. Damian was intended to lead the Demon’s Fist, but Mara took over in his absence. If you subscribe to the idea that all of Batman’s villains represent a distorted mirror image of him, then Mara would be the equivalent for Robin.

Jonboy Meyers was supposed to be the regular artist for Teen Titans. He made it through issue #1 before leaving due to “creative differences.” That’s a damn shame. Meyers breathed so much new life into this series, giving us an Anime-inspired expressiveness, and thus a sense of fun the book has sorely lacked for a long time. Make no mistake about it, the guy knows his way around a superhero action sequence. I’ll specifically cite the Kid Flash pages from the Rebirth issue as evidence.

Diogenes Nieves has the unenviable job of tagging in for Meyers in issue #2. To his credit, the transition goes about as smooth as you could ask. He gives us a couple of gorgeous pages of a rainy rooftop scene between Damian and Talia al Ghul. Still, the little quirks in Meyers’ art are still sorely missed. The same, sadly, can be said for when Khoi Pham takes over on issues #3-5. Objectively, he’s a fine artist. When it’s time for our team to rise up in issue #5, Pham nails it. It’s just that Meyers has that certain flair. Starting with it and then taking it away doesn’t do the book any favors.

Thankfully, one constant in the book is colorist Jim Charalampidis, who brings a valuable consistency to the series despite the changing artists. These pages look a touch darker than I might have expected. But it’s still the beautiful blaze of color you’d hope to see from a superhero team book like this.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up Teen Titans on a consistent basis. This new series changed that. Did Damian Knows Best make Teen Titans great again? No. But it made the series good again. That’s more than you can say for any other book to bear it’s name in the last several years. Now, here’s hoping things stay good for quite some time. These characters, and this series deserve at least that much.

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