Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

An All-Star Batman: My Own Worst Enemy Review – Road Trip!

TITLE: All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr, Declan Shalvey
COLLECTS: All-Star Batman #15
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: April 19, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s get the usual Scott Snyder spiel out of the way early. I like Snyder’s Batman stuff. He’s one of the best writers to pen the Dark Knight’s adventures in the last decade. But he does so many little things that are just infuriating. As such, otherwise brilliant stories become tainted so needlessly. Sadly, All-Star Batman, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy is no  exception.

The dark side of Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face, is gradually taking over his twisted psyche. Harvey enlists Batman’s help to take him across the country and eliminate his dual identity once and for all. But Two-Face counters by blackmailing everyone in Gotham City. If Batman isn’t stopped, he’ll release every dirty secret he has. What’s more, the person that brings Batman down gets a fortune in untraceable cash. Batman, and his new apprentice Duke Thomas, are about to be hit from all sides.

Snyder’s premise is tremendous. The great thing about doing this kind of chase story with Batman is the near limitless amount of enemies you can bring in. In My Own Worst Enemy we see Killer Moth, Firefly, Black Spider, and Gentlemen Ghost. And that’s just the first issue. Of course, we also go higher up on the food chain with baddies like Killer Croc and the Court of Owls.

Snyder, John Romita Jr., and the team are clearly having fun with these action sequences. The opening scene with Batman, Firefly, and Killer Moth in the diner has some blaring flaws (more on those later). But the two-page spread on the left packs a hell of a punch.  The book as a whole has some of the most intense and energetic work Romita has done in quite some time. Certainly since he’s come to DC. We later get a sequence on top of a train, which leads to a gorgeous fight in a river between Batman and Two-Face. I also loved the fight with KGBeast in issue #3, which is so bloody it’s actually reminiscent Romita’s work in Kick-Ass.

As such, it makes sense that All-Star Batman and Kick-Ass had the same colorist: Dean White. As the blood continues to spill, the panels start to take on rusty colors, similar to what we see in the climax of the original Kick-Ass. What’s more, White’s touch makes some of the outdoor sequences really pop. That’s especially the case in issue #2, with the greens, browns, and blues. Though if I may say, Killer Croc might be a bit too bright. He’s Killer Croc, not Kermit the Frog.

What Snyder really nails in this book is the twisted psychology of Two-Face. The emphasis on secrets hammers home the point that everyone has a certain duality and dark side to their personality. A side which, if you believe Two-Face represents who they truly are. Snyder even takes us into the mechanics of Harvey and Two-Face. The two personalities can keep secrets from one another, influence each other’s behavior, etc. You get the sense these are aspects of the Two-Face character that Snyder has wanted to explore for awhile, but hasn’t had the chance. Details like this help to make My Own Worst Enemy one of the more compelling Two-Face stories in recent memory.

That’s why it’s all the more frustrating when Snyder sprinkles in moments that seem tremendously out of character for Batman. The most notable ones occur during fight sequences in the first two issues. In the aforementioned diner scene, Batman says: “Hey. All of you in this diner. Look at me. Not them. Look at my face. No one is dying today.” He then winks at them (shown right). On the next page, he makes a crack about the life cycle of a moth before stabbing Killer Moth through the hand.

Later, during he train sequence in issue #2, Batman says to Killer Croc: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Batman is a silly character. Silly, and versatile enough to be both dark and brooding, yet somehow funny in the same issue. That being said, lines like this are just bad. And they’re so out of character for the Dark Knight that they leave a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the story. As good as Snyder is, and as fun as these action sequences are otherwise, this is a Batman story, not a Lethal Weapon movie.

As our story continues, we see that even Batman isn’t immune to Two-Face’s little secrets scheme, as Jim Gordon and the GCPD are about to walk into the Batcave. Snyder somewhat blurs the lines as far as what Gordon does or doesn’t know about Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the middle of issue #5, as the cops are about to break into the cave, Gordon pulls Alfred aside. He tells him to “I don’t know what’s true, you hear me? I never have. … Call him and get him to do whatever he has to do to turn this back. You tell him he has one chance.”

This is somewhat reminiscent of what we got toward the end of “No Man’s Land” almost 20 years ago. Only in that story, we had a little hint of doubt that maybe Gordon did know the truth. In this story, it’s the reverse. We’re literally standing in Wayne Manor as everything is about to be revealed, and we get a hint that maybe Gordon doesn’t know. Frankly, that’s not nearly as effective as what happened in “No Man’s Land.” Here, it’s fairly obvious that Gordon knows. And if he doesn’t, then he’s a complete moron.

Snyder did something similar with the Joker back in “Zero Year.” He and Greg Capullo made it pretty clear that the Red Hood One character was the guy that becomes the Joker. But then he threw in a twist that cast doubt over the whole thing. With both the Joker and Jim Gordon, it’s pretty obvious what Snyder wants to do. But for some reason, he doesn’t fully pull the trigger on it.

This first volume of All-Star Batman also collects “The Cursed Wheel,” which is comprised of back-up stories from the first four issues by Snyder, penciller/inker Declan Shalvey, and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story is fine for the most part. It centers around Batman training Duke Thomas to be…whatever he’s going to be. There’s an argument to be made that Shalvey’s art is actually superior to Romita’s. It’s crisp, it’s clean, and it’s beautifully complimented by Bellaire.

Snyder sprinkles a little Joker dust on things by showing us Duke’s parents, who’ve been driven insane and in effect “Jokerized” after the events of “Endgame.” In issue #4, Duke poses the theory that the Joker is not pure evil. He simply attacks what he loves, and his serum prompts it’s victims to do the same. The idea isn’t explored much, but it’s a tremendous character insight.

On the flip side, you have the concept of the Cursed Wheel. It’s meant to be a condensed version of all the training Bruce did to become Batman. Each portion/color represents a different part of the human psyche. This could have been really interesting. But they got a little too cute with it. What spoiled it for me was this…

“Look at the colors. You see hints of them in the colors of your allies. Dick leans blue. Damian, green. Barbara, purple. It’s a secret history that unites them, connects them and differentiates them.”

So the colors that Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and other characters wear isn’t a simple color choice? Rather, it has some kind of deep-rooted psychological attachment to this wheel? So what about when Nightwing was wearing red? Or when Batgirl’s costume wasn’t purple? Hell, what about the other colors Robin wears? Furthermore, what traits to these different colors represent, exactly? Simply put, I don’t get it. The idea isn’t fleshed out enough, and the color coding is a little too silly for me. Sometimes a blue shirt is just a blue shirt.

The one word I would use to describe My Own Worst Enemy is “consistent.” Like Snyder’s work on Batman, we’ve got some really big and creative ideas here. It’s just that the bad ideas tend to flop as spectacularly as the good ones soar.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Wonder Woman: The Lies Review – Wonder Woman Reloaded

TITLE: Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: The Lies
AUTHOR: Greg Rucka
PENCILLERS: Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark
COLLECTS: Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1Wonder Woman #1, #3, #5, #7, #9, #11
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: February 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

You don’t have to be a regular on the review sites to know fans have hit the jackpot with a lot of these DC Rebirth titles. I said this about The Flash. I said this about Green Arrow. But it rings true even more so in this case: We need a good Wonder Woman book now more than ever. Not just because of the movie coming out, but because of what America looks like right now. This character and what she stands for are as important now as they’ve ever been. You’ll find many magazine covers, t-shirts, dolls, and action figures, online games featuring her. There are even online casino sites that offer DC themed inspired slot games with her and other DC character. But it’s not always easy to find, say, a good Wonder Woman graphic novel.

With that in mind, giving Wonder Woman back to Greg Rucka was a good move. He’s done right by the women of DC Comics. He wrote the famous “Half a Life” story about Renee Montoya in the pages of Gotham Central. He co-created the current iteration of Batwoman, and had a damn good run with her in Detective Comics. He’s done some really good, though perhaps lesser known work with Huntress. He’s also one of the most heralded Wonder Woman writers of the past two decades. If anyone was qualified to give Diana a fresh start, it was him. His Wonder Woman is regal, yet grounded. Tough, sometimes even violent. But also nurturing and kind.

Diana’s memories have become muddled. The lines between fantasy and reality are blurred beyond distinction. Was she sculpted from clay by her mother and granted life by the gods? Or is she the child of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus? Why did she journey to the world of man? What is her truth? To find the answers, Wonder Woman seeks help from dear friend turned mortal enemy: Barbara Ann Minerva, the Cheetah. Meanwhile, Steve Trevor is on the hunt for a brutal terrorist who just happens to be in league with Urzkartaga, the monstrous deity in control of the Cheetah. Once again, Diana and Steve’s paths will cross. But is there any sort of future between them?

For clarity’s sake, it’s worth noting that Wonder Woman took a different approach to the company’s new bi-weekly scheduling. Simply put, the odd-numbered issues contained the story collected in The Lies and the even-numbered ones told a “Year One” story penciled by Nicola Scott. A cute little trick to give the artists more breathing room.

In the Rebirth issue, Rucka puts all the cards on the table regarding the character’s conflicting origin stories, then wipes the slate clean. A bold move, to be certain. But a welcome one. Diana’s origin and the mythological elements involved have always been tougher to grasp. At least for yours truly. The Lies is more about a personal quest than an epic battle of gods and monsters. She’s quite literally asking, “Who am I?” That’s very grounded and relatable.

That’s not to say that Diana’s memories suddenly changing makes a lot of sense from a story perspective. The Rebirth initiative restored a lot of great continuity. But to do that you often have to jump through a lot of storytelling hoops. Look no further than the Superman books for your examples. Rucka keeps things pretty vague in that sense. Ultimately, that’s for the better, I suppose.

But we’re not just learning about Diana. We also get a tremendously valuable look at the Cheetah. She’s arguably Wonder Woman’s greatest rival. But I’d wager that even more devoted comic book readers (myself included) struggle with her, even down to basic details. It’s easy to write her off when you put her next to villains like the Joker and Lex Luthor. You can almost mistake her for a Catwoman knock-off. But Rucka and Liam Sharp spend a good chunk of issues #1 and #3 laying her groundwork. Hell, a large portion of our plot revolves around her. Their partnership doesn’t necessarily end the way you think it will, either. Also, Barbara in human form is a dead ringer for Kate Winslet.

We also re-establish our supporting cast, most notably Steve Trevor and Etta Candy. The New 52 did Steve Trevor a lot of good. The earlier stories, at least. We get more of that here. As he’s done many times before, Steve plays the gentleman-in-jeopardy here. But he’s obviously more than that. Like Diana, Steve has to strike a delicate balance between toughness and sensitivity. Yet again, Rucka is able to walk that tightrope. Especially when we get to issue #9. In many ways, Steve Trevor is the embodiment of an enlightened male for the 21st century.

Liam Sharp is a tremendous pick for Wonder Woman. It goes back to balance. Sharp’s Wonder Woman looks like a gladiator, every bit at home in a fight. But then you also have the quieter, more emotional sequences like the one with Cheetah in issue #3, the reunion with Steve in issue #9, etc. Wonder Woman is more multi-faceted than most people realize, and Sharp illustrates that beautifully here.

Sharp’s take on Cheetah is also tremendous. She’s animalistic, but not beastly. She’s got those big, expressive, and very human eyes. Sharp’s line-work and shading also give her a texture we don’t often see. Yet another reason this book is one of the character’s finest hours.

Depending on when you were picking it up, Wonder Woman was hit or miss during the New 52 era. Thankfully, the Amazon Princess is once again in good hands. It’s a damn good time to be a Wonder Woman fan.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Suicide Squad: The Black Vault Review – Squad vs. Zod

suicide-squad_-the-black-vaut-jim-lee-coverTITLE: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: The Black Vault
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Philip Tan, Jason Fabok, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1Suicide Squad #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED: February 28, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If The Black Vault isn’t the most important and most notable Suicide Squad book DC has ever published, then it’s absolutely in the top two. This is the biggest that Suicide Squad has ever felt, and may be the best its ever looked.

Thanks to the movie, the Suicide Squad “brand” has never had more eyes on it. The Black Vault features almost all of the characters from the movie, including a few pages of the Joker. So it’s bursting with crossover appeal for casual moviegoers. With this in mind, DC loaded the book up with A-list artists, most notably Jim Lee. Indeed, the master of the modern superhero epic is drawing characters like Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, and the Enchantress. Talk about something you don’t see every day…

Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad, is a black ops group assembled by government agent Amanda Waller. Comprised primarily of imprisoned supervillains, the team is sent on covert missions. They serve as both soldiers, and built-in patsies. Should they refuse an order or become compromised, Waller detonates a nanite bomb in their skulls. Like the movie, in The Black Vault our team consists of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and the Enchantress. They’re accompanied by Colonel Rick Flagg and Katana.

suicide-squad_-the-black-vault-harley-quinn-jim-leeTheir latest mission sees our heroes sent to a secret Russian prison to neutralize a secret doorway to the Phantom Zone. In the process, the team meets none other than General Zod.

People can say what they want about Jim Lee’s influence, for better or worse, on DC’s “house style” right now. But when he’s in his element, he’s one of the all-time greats. Lee is at home with the dynamic and the awe-inspiring. As such, it seems like Lee’s work on the book starts out rather slow. He starts on issue #1 and has to re-tread some of the ground covered in the Rebirth issue, specifically Waller’s motivations. He takes us from the team’s home base at Belle Reve Penitentiary to the Russian facility, giving us a few cool shots in the process. He and Rob Williams also have a really fun take on Belle Reve, where the prison cells are plucked and moved by a giant claw arm.

But once Zod enters the story at the end of issue #2, Lee gets to flex his muscles. He makes Zod surprisingly large, literally twice the size of the other characters (save for Croc). But the ultra powerful Kryptonian against these mostly street-level characters makes for a fun fight, particularly when the big guy goes against Katana. At the end of issue #3, we bring in a few other characters to oppose the Squad. But the good stuff is with the general himself. Issue #4 gives us a cool interaction between Zod and Croc, and a nice climactic moment involving Rick Flagg. It’s not Lee’s best work. But it’s still pretty damn awesome.

suicide-squad, Joker, Harley Quinn, Gary FrankThe notoriously deadline-challenged Lee was massaged into Suicide Squad‘s a bi-weekly format with a reduced workload. He only had to produce 12 pages per issue, with the rest going to an oversized back-up story spotlighting a particular team member. I suspect most fans will find Gary Frank’s look at Harley Quinn the most enjoyable. While on a mission with Flag, she struggles with some of her more villainous impulses. These are personified, of course, by the Joker. I’m not in love with Frank’s rendering of Mr. J. But his Harley is delightfully expressive in a way that’s exaggerated, but not quite cartoony. Naturally, this compliments both her character and Williams’ script.

But artistically, Philip Tan gets “Best in Show” as far as these back-ups are concerned. In addition to the Rebirth issue, he does the Katana story for issue #3. Tan shows off his versatility with an anime-inspired look at her origin. The script isn’t the strongest, but Tan and colorist Elmer Santos provide visuals that range from haunting to downright heart-breaking.

Rick Flag gets a lot of quality page time here. The Rebirth issue is essentially about him. Williams writes him as unwaveringly loyal, even to his own detriment. He’s the conscience of the team. A good guy tasked with leading all these bad guys. Flag is easy to root for and empathize with. Considering he’s the least flamboyant and colorful character in this book, that’s a good thing.

General Zod, Suicide Squad #2, Jim LeeOn the other end of the spectrum, Zod is an oversized caricature of himself, spouting lines like…

– “Prostrate yourself before your general, sub-creatures!”
– “I will boil and eat your magic!”
– “I have incinerated your human flesh and reveled in it’s pungent stench!”

I understand humor is a valuable component here. But c’mon, really? You’ve got Harley for that. You’ve got Boomerang for that. We don’t need Zod for that.

On the subject of weird comedy, this book has a recurring bit about Killer Croc throwing up. Oddly enough, it works. Can’t say I ever imagined Jim Lee drawing that.

The Black Vault represents the first time Suicide Squad has been elevated to a top-tier title with A-list talent. That alone makes it one of the most noteworthy stories in the team’s history. And while this isn’t the best scripting I’ve ever seen, Rob Williams knows how to put together a good Suicide Squad story. One can argue the book has never been in better hands.

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Posted in Wrestling

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Ninja Turtles: City Fall – Part 2 Review – The Brainwashed Brother

Ninja Turtles, Vol 7: City Fall Part 2TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall – Part 2
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Mateus Santolouco, Charles Paul Wilson III
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #25-28
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a life long Ninja Turtles fan, I can’t even tell you how cool it was to see that last page in issue #27, where Bebop and Rocksteady finally make their IDW debut (a portion of which is shown below). Not only that, but they look bad ass. They’ve busted through a wall, and instead of holding ray guns like they did on the old cartoon show, Bebop is holding a friggin’ chainsaw, and Rocksteady’s got a sledgehammer. They look every bit like the sawed off (yet dimwitted) monsters you’d hope they’d be. Granted, it doesn’t really make sense for Rocksteady to have a sledgehammer, given that his fists are twice as big as it’s head. So he should really have the chainsaw. But you know what? Who the hell cares! It’s Bebop and Rocksteady, and they look bad ass!

And hell, that’s just one page of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall – Part 2.

As The Shredder tightens his grip on the organized crime factions in New York City, he has a new second-in-command at his side: Leonardo. Having been brainwashed by the witch Kitsune, Leo now believes his brothers to be dead, and Splinter to be a twisted manipulator. Now the Turtles must fight to bring their brother home, and once again face the Foot Clan head on. But in doing so, they’ll have to form an uneasy alliance with Old Hob and Slash. Meanwhile, Casey Jones sees a side of his estranged father he never knew existed. Sadly, father and soon seem destined to be on opposing sides.

Bebo & Rocksteady, TMNT: City Fall, Part 2The City Fall story feels like something the entire series has been building up to. Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and the artists have had time to establish this version of the TMNT universe, who everyone is, etc. Thus, a story like this, which alters and shifts a lot of those relationships, is much more meaningful. Our climactic battle between the Turtles and the Foot successfully capitalizes on those high stakes, and is much better than the disappointing first encounter in Shadows of the Past.

The Turtles come into this fight shortly after losing two major battles to the Foot in the previous book, so we’ve got a good sense of just how merciless and powerful our bad guys are, and that it’s entirely possible for our heroes to lose again. Then, we crank up the intensity with the introduction of Bebop and Rocksteady, two enemies who are bigger and stronger than the Turtles, with Shredder, Karai, and a brainwashed Leo waiting in the wings. And all the while, we’ve got an entirely different battle happening elsewhere between Casey and his father, who has become the massive behemoth Hun. It’s a much better constructed, and because of the higher stakes, much more suspenseful than what we saw in Shadows of the Past.

The vision sequences between Leo and his mother Tang Shen are fairly strong, particularly the one at the beginning of issue #26. For one thing, the simple image of an anthropomorphic turtle walking beside a human woman, and looking up at her with such reverence, makes for a compelling visual. But in previous incarnations, we haven’t heard much about the Turtles having a mother. The reincarnation angle used in the IDW series opens up a new creative door in that respect. It might be compelling to see Eastman and Waltz play with this a bit more as the series progresses.

Leonardo, mother, Ninja Turtles, IDWThe biggest drawback in City Fall – Part 2 is that there are technically two fairly significant holes in the story. One involves Alopex, and the reasoning behind a major decision she makes during the book’s climax. The second involves Casey’s father, and how he makes the transformation into Hun. Both these things were addressed in issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries: Villains, which runs alongside the regular series. Neither of those issues are collected here. It doesn’t necessarily ruin anything, and for Hun, an annotation is made referencing his particular issue. But it’s frustrating that we don’t get to see how and why these two rather pivotal events take place. It’s one thing for the microseries issues to supplement what’s happening in the main book. It’s another thing entirely to stick major events in there that readers should know about. Ideally, we should be able to get all of our pertinent plot points from the main series. That didn’t happen with City Fall – Part 2.

What I said about Mateus Santolouco’s art in the last volume still stands here. The way he draws their faces, with the beaks that are subtly framed like human noses, and the larger bandanas, they almost have a cutesy quality to them. Cute is definitely not what we’re aiming for here. Still, he does a fantastic job of injecting so many different emotions into not only our resident mutant turtles, but a mutant cat, a mutant snow fox, a mutant rat, etc. However, the best panels in the book are drawn by Charles Paul Wilson III, who handled the first exchange between Leo and his mother (a portion of which is shown above). The brief change in texture and color scheme lent a lot to the notion of it being a vision or a dream sequence.

Ninja Turtles #27, IDWWithout giving too much away, the last page of this story is encouraging. It seems to indicate that Eastman, Waltz, and Ross Campbell (the next artist in the rotation) are going to spend some time examining the consequences of Leo being brainwashed. City Fall tore this family apart, and it looks like the next chapter of this series will be about putting the family back together. Considering we didn’t get that kind of story when Raphael re-joined the team after Change is Constant, that’s good to see. It also looks like the events of this series will, to an extent, be mirroring certain events from Eastman and Peter Laird’s original series for the next several issues.

In the end, City Fall – Part 2 is the best we’ve yet seen from IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. By and large, it’s an emotional story about families being torn apart, and the lengths some will go to in order to bring them back together.

RATING: 8.5/10

Images from tmntentity.blogspot.com. 

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Review of Star Wars: Blood Ties – Jango and Boba Fett – Father and Clone

Star Wars: Blood Ties - Jango and Boba FettTITLE: Star Wars: Blood Ties – A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett
AUTHOR: Tom Taylor
PENCILLER: Chris Scalf
COLLECTS: Star Wars: Blood Ties #1-4
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: April 27, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Does EVERYONE in Star Wars have daddy issues? Luke’s got them, Boba Fett’s got them…

Blood Ties dives into some of the unseen backstory between Boba Fett and his clone/father Jango. Evidently Jango was into tough love. In this issue, he sends a massive beast after his son, telling him: “Bring back a tooth.” But things get more complicated when Jango’s next bounty turns out to be one of the clones that were created using his DNA (see Attack of the Clones). The results of this confrontation will effect Boba years later when he meets this clone’s son, whose name is Connor Freeman (Get it? Free man?).

Star Wars: Blood Ties #1, Chris ScalfFirst and foremost, I LOVE the art in this story. Chris Scalf captures the faces of Jango and Boba Fett almost perfectly, and he’s great at drawing all the weird aliens, creatures and locations in the Star Wars universe. The colors are perfect too. The art makes it seem like you’re watching supplemental material from one of the films. As far as I’m concerned, the more I see of him down the line, the better.

Blood Ties is pretty much what you’d expect, with a few nice twists. There’s a pretty nice moment where Jango Fett pulls a blaster on his prey, and sees he’s been hunting a man who looks exactly like him. There’s something you don’t see every day. The way he ends that confrontation might surprise some.

Whether a reader will like Blood Ties likely depends on whether they like their Boba Fett pre or post Attack of the Clones. George Lucas himself once said that Boba Fett is popular because he’s mysterious in that old western, man-with-no-name kind of way. That element of the character is still there, but Fett isn’t as mysterious as he used to be. We know one of his weak spots, and he’s been humanized a bit. Personally, I think this weakens the book’s ending by making Fett seem like a bit of a softy at heart. You can call Boba Fett a lot of things, but soft-hearted isn’t one of them. Though I suppose one can argue that nobody’s a hard ass ALL the time…

Star Wars: Blood Ties, A tale of Jango and Boba Fett, image 2The ending left me unsatisfied. This is one of those stories that ends simply because the action stops. I’d like to think this isn’t entirely Taylor’s fault. Creators only have a certain number of pages to work with, and it seems like they simply came up a little short. I figure two more pages would have done the trick.

The book also pulls a bit of a fast one on you by making you think Boba Fett is the narrator. When we find out he’s not, it’s something of an eye-roller. At least in my case. When you think your narrator is a bad ass bounty hunter, almost anyone else is a letdown by comparison.

For what it is, this book is okay. Just okay, though. It started out pretty hot, but cooled significantly after the second issue. You can’t deny the art is fantastic. But the story left me wanting more, and not in the “can’t wait for the sequel” kind of way.

RATING: 5.5/10

Image 1 from tomtaylormade.com. Image 2 from starwars.wikia.com.

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