Weekly Comic 100s: Ranger Slayer, Joker War, and More!

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

Bad form, folks. Bad form.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Comic 100s: TMNT, Batman, Superman, 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 finally caught up on the March 25 releases. But, a special thanks to Jay’s Comics for mailing my books to me as all this Coronavirus madness unfolds.

So yeah, this could be the last “Weekly Comic 100s” for awhile. It will most certainly return once new issues start shipping again. But until then, perhaps you’ll see more deep-dive reviews in its place. Perhaps I’ll simply select some random indie comics to review.

But for now…

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Jennika #2 (of 3)
AUTHORS: Braham Revel, Ronda Pattison
ARTISTS:
Revel, Megan Huang, Pattison (Colorist), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED:
March 25, 2020

Poor Jennika gets friend-zoned in this issue. I was shocked. I didn’t know guys could do that. I thought it was just a thing for women…

Are we sure we only want this to be three issues? It seems like between Jennika’s past, and the promise of a mutagen “cure” they could easily stretch this to four or even five issues. But we’ve only got one left. C’mon! This is a new Ninja Turtle we’re talkin’ about! Let’s give this thing some room to breathe!

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #104
AUTHORS: Kevin Eastman (Consultant), Tom Waltz (Consultant), Sophie Campbell (Script)
ARTISTS: Campbell, Ronda Pattison (Colors), Shawn Lee (Letterer).
RELEASED: March 25, 2020

When this series started in 2011, they did something really interesting. They made Raphael the long lost brother of the other three Turtles. It opened up a lot of doors for great storytelling. It was over in four issues.

After issue #100 the Turtles were split up again. Not just physically, but very much emotionally. Once again, some great story opportunities. Once again, it’s over in four issues.

What the hell, guys? Yes, we’re shaking up the status quo as it is. But why do that to the Turtles if you’re just going to undo it so quickly?

TITLE: Batman/Superman #8
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Nick Derington, Dave McCaig (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer). Variant cover by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson.
RELEASED: March 25, 2020

Wait…that’s it? This whole General Zod/Ra’s al Ghul thing is just a two-issue story? Ugh. I need to do a better job reading the solicitations…

I enjoyed last issue’s cliffhanger, with all the miniaturized Kryptonians essentially becoming superpowered killer insects. But the way the whole Bottle City of Kandor thing wrapped up felt rushed and contrived. Even by superhero comic standards. Hopefully this is something they revisit in the future.

Still, if nothing else these issues were worth it for Nick Derington’s art.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #49
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Walter Baiamonte (Colorist), Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
March 25, 2020

There’s a two page spread in this issue where all nine of our Rangers morph. Epic. Absolutely epic.

Also, it turns out the Tigerzord is capable of space travel. Reminds me of when the original Megazord had to go underwater…

In this issue we get a fight where Jason and the others pit their Omega Zords against the Blue Omega Zord, piloted by Garrison Vox. I suspect it’s because I’m not as familiar with the Omega Zords, but the whole thing came off like a big colorful blur. And I say that as a huge Daniele Di Nicuolo fan.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1021
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS:
Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED:
March 25, 2020

This whole “Two-Face starts a cult/religion” story makes a lot of sense to me. The world is complex, screwed up place. A simple flip-of-the-coin simplifies everything. At least in theory.

Okay…this is something I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around even though it’s been the case for a few years now: Harvey Dent knows Bruce’s secret. But Two-Face doesn’t. I like that idea, and it looks like we’ll be playing with it here.

Still liking this Walker/Hennessy/Anderson team. Looking forward to more.

TITLE: Action Comics #1021
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Lucio Parillo.
RELEASED: March 25, 2020

*Checks the solicitations for the next two issues*

Nope. Romita ain’t goin’ away any time soon.

The creative missteps in this book lately aren’t his alone, though. It ties into both Year of the Villain and Event Leviathan. Not to mention Young Justice. So if you don’t come into this story with at least a passing familiarity with those books, you’re pretty much screwed.

Still, I like what they did with the Red Cloud. She may or may not be riding the line between hero and villain as we move forward…

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

Panels of Awesomeness: Joker in the Court

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: The following contains a spoiler for Batman: The Long Halloween. If you haven’t read it, run (do not walk) and do so right this minute.***

THE ISSUE: Batman: Dark Victory #7

CREATORS: Jeph Loeb (Author), Tim Sale (Artist), Gregory Wright (Colors) Heroic Age (Colors), Richard Starkings (Letters)

RELEASED: June 2000

THE SCENE: In an underground “courtroom” setting, Batman’s enemies try to ascertain the identity of the “Hangman” killer. The Calendar Man takes the stand as Two-Face prosecutes.

WHY IT’S AWESOME: After recommending The Long Halloween to a friend, I recently took the time to re-read the pivotal entry into the Batman mythos, along with its sequel, Dark Victory. While Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work might be my favorite take on Batman and his world, I came away realizing Dark Victory wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. While it’s nowhere near bad, and it’s still great to be in that Loeb/Sale world again, it’s a sequel that doesn’t live up to the original.

Odd as it may seem, this page is my favorite in the entire book. Specifically because of that last panel, in which the Joker lets out a tiny “Ha.”

In the scene, Julian Day, a.k.a. the Calendar Man is about to reveal the true identity of the Holiday killer from The Long Halloween, whom the world believes to be Alberto Falcone. But Day knows the truth. And without spoiling too much from the book, Harvey Dent has a very personal investment in the truth not getting out. So he pulls a gun on the Calendar Man before he can get out a name. Then the Joker laughs.

I’m not sure if Julian Day knew the truth or not. Hell, even Batman never knew. But to me, that one little word bubble with those two little letters reveal one hell of an untouched detail: The Joker knows. I don’t know how he knows, but I suspect it may have something to do with his appearance in Harvey and Gilda Dent’s new home in The Long Halloween. It would certainly explain the way he behaves toward Two-Face in Dark Victory.

I also love the way this panel is colored. The ultimate evil standing off in the shadows. Laughing. Because he knows your dark and dirty little secret. Most likely because part of that awful, unthinkable evil that resides in him, now resides in you too.

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

Toy Chest Theater: Two-Face by Gabriel Arndt

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alright, so it’s a little late for a Halloween pic. But it’s never too late to tip your had to The Long Halloween, as Gabriel Arndt has done with this piece.

What’s interesting about this shot is that Two-Face doesn’t get the starring role. The friggin’ pumpkin does. But it works. I don’t think that came with the actual Long Halloween action figures. But it looks like something Tim Sale would draw. And the blood spatter is a nice touch. The contrast of the black-and-white background goes a long way in creating that noir vibe that most of those Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman stories had.

Some people crow about The Long Halloween, and Jeph Loeb’s writing of Batman in general, being overrated. I really couldn’t disagree more. Especially if you’re someone just being introduced to Batman comics, or even comics in general. Two of the first trades I gave my wife to read were The Long Halloween and Hush. Obviously, you’re entitled to your opinion. But for me, Loeb is an all-time great.

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

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

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Created in the early ’90s, Bane was essentially the Bat books’ answer to what Doomsday was in the Superman books. A big brute who could physically overpower the hero. A ‘roided up dude in a luchador mask, he certainly looks the part. But unlike Doomsday, who was basically a mindless killing machine, Bane was intended to have more depth. He had a tragic backstory and a cunning mind to match his physical dominance.

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, dude. We get it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A Batman/TMNT Adventures #1 Review – These Kids Today…

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, coverTITLE: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1
AUTHOR: Matthew K. Manning
PENCILLER: Jon Sommariva. Cover by Hilary Barta.
PUBLISHERS: DC Comics, IDW Publishing
PRICE: 
$3.99
RELEASED: $3.99

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I can understand why people liked the first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It was the first time the Dark Knight and the boys in green met in any medium. While it had its flaws, for some of us, it was a big moment in fanboy culture.

But this? This is more like it. While we have to repeat numerous story points, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 is so much more fun than its predecessor. While the first story seemed to be aimed at older fans, this one is squarely directed at a younger audience. In this case, that makes for a more entertaining sandbox for these characters to play in.

As is often the case with these crossover stories, there’s a dimensional portal involved. After a recent breakout at Arkham Asylum, members of Batman’s rogues gallery are finding their way into the TMNT world. Case in point: The Turtles and April run into Clayface in the New York City sewers. And as we see by issue’s end, someone much worse is also there. But Batman isn’t fair behind, and the Turtles will gain a new and unexpected ally in the Dark Knight.

batman-tmnt-adventures-1-alfredQuestion: Do kids today watch Batman: The Animated Series? Those of us who grew up with it understand what a milestone it is. But for younger fans, is there any significance to seeing this version of Batman teamed up with this version of the Turtles? Or is it just a matter of this being a simpler version of the character that anyone can understand? Either way, it’s great to see these characters back on the page. They’re more cartoonish and exaggerated than they were on screen. But It matches the tone set by the Turtles.

Matthew K. Manning is no stranger to either Batman or the Turtles, having worked on the comic book spinoffs for The BatmanBeware the BatmanJustice League, and the current TMNT cartoon. Oddly enough, he runs into a similar problem James Tynion IV did with the first issue of the other series. The Turtles come out sounding and feeling alright. But he has trouble capturing the Alfred so distinctly carved out by Efram Zimbalist Jr. He sounds too American, and is lays on too much sarcasm. Granted, he’s in the issue for all of one page. A minor offense to say the least.

Clayface was the perfect villain to crossover against the Turtles. He has the dark and twisted edge of a Batman villain, but also the ugly monster element that a lot of TMNT villains have. You can easily picture him alongside some of the weird creatures of Dimension X. His scene with the Turtles is a lot of fun, particularly when he briefly masquerades as Michelangelo (shown below).

Batman/TMNT Adventures #1, ClayfaceThe glory for that scene goes to penciller Jon Sommariva, inker Sean Parsons, and a colorist with the fitting name of Leonardo Ito. Look at the close-up of Mike on the page at right, with the one telltale drip coming off his face. We get that great subtlety, and in the next panel he goes full on monster. You also have that nice glowing green color. It’s very TMNT.

After reading the freshmen issue of the first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, I opted to wait for the collection. That’s not a bad thing, per se. I just didn’t feel the need to fork money down for it month after month. I’m happy to say that’s not the case here. There’s something about this story, or at least this first issue, that speaks to my inner child. I suppose that’s because, as a kid, I would have crawled through mutagen to read a story like this. Damn kids today. They don’t know how good they’ve got it… *mutters*

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An All-Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Deadshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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An All-Star Batman #1 In-Depth Review – Sh*t Batman Says

All-Star Batman #1, John Romita Jr., 2016TITLE: All-Star Batman #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 10, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What exactly is “out of character” for Batman? He’s one of the most multi-faceted figures in all of popular culture. In comic books alone, we’ve seen him do virtually everything. He’s spit in Superman’s face (long story) and beat people to a bloody pulp. But he’s also worn zebra stripes and fought on the keys of a giant typewriter. Much depends on the angle you’re looking at him from. Are you going for the more mature, moody and broody Batman? Or is this a more colorful Caped Crusader for all ages?

This being said, a few things happen in All-Star Batman #1 that struck me as out of character. Both of them deal not with something Batman does, but something he says. More specifically, how he says it.

All-Star Batman takes our hero out of Gotham City, and on to the open road. Harvey Dent believes he can dispose of his alter-ego Two-Face if he can somehow get to a mysterious house nearly 500 miles away. Two-Face counters Dent’s offer by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. What’s more, if Batman reaches his destination, Two-Face threatens to spill every dirty secret he has about the Gotham underworld. This makes our protagonists the target of supervillains, civilians, and shockingly, one of Batman’s most trusted allies.

All-Star Batman #1, John Romita Jr., faceThis book comes from our old friend Scott Snyder, who writes really good Batman stories, despite at times annoying the crap out of yours truly. Most of what we get here falls into the really good category. Heck, our premise involves Batman hauling Two-Face across the country in a semi-truck. As a Batman geek, I’m immediately interested.

But Snyder makes some grating choices in this issue. The most notable is in the above image. Our opening scene sees Firefly and Killer Moth crash through the window of a diner, Batman in tow. They threaten to kill everyone inside if he doesn’t tell them where Harvey is. Batman responds with: “Hey. All of you in this diner. Look at me. Not them. Look at my face. No one is dying today.” He follows up with a wink and a smile.

These two panels feel completely out of character. They seem like something we might get from Superman or Captain America. Particularly the “look at my face” bit. I understand that saving those lives is Batman’s primary motivation that scene. But this isn’t his first rodeo. Why would Bruce Wayne, a public figure, want to intentionally draw attention to his masked face?

All-Star Batman #1, 2016, John Romita Jr., shut up and dieThen you have the wink and smile. I’m not sure if he’s looking at the villains or the diner patrons. Either way, it’s completely out of left field for this version of Batman. It’s one thing to make bold choices. For instance, Snyder later has Batman stab Killer Moth through the arm, and hack off Black Spider’s cybernetic limbs with a chainsaw. Edgy? Yes. But fair enough. However, if you push the boundaries too far the character itself begins to change. For this Dark Knight version of Batman, Snyder pushed the boundaries too far, and too early in the issue. Readers are just getting settled in, and he’s already throwing them awkward curve balls.

The whole “shut up and die” line (shown above) wasn’t great, either. I’m also prepared to get another big awful Batman robot at some point in this book. You know it’s coming.

All of this in a series called All-Star Batman, which obviously prompts memories of the controversial and much-maligned All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder. Why would they choose that title? Because the All-Star name evokes a reaction? Because Snyder will be working with “all-star” talents on this book?

But to repeat: Most of what’s in this issue is good. Snyder’s characterization of Two-Face is spot-on. We establish he’s colorblind in his left eye. Meaning his dual personality sees the world in (you guessed it) black and white. Two-Face knowing people’s secrets, their hidden dark sides, is very strong writing and fits him like a glove. There’s also a point to be made for money bringing out the dark side in everyday people.

All Star-Batman #1, John Romita Jr., chainsawAnd admittedly, I like the image of Batman using a chainsaw. As a one-off, it’s a lot of fun.

Though his art has an undoubtedly epic feel to it, John Romita Jr. has good issues and bad issues. One in awhile, you’ll seen one of his panels and just cringe. Thankfully, this is a good issue. Also, Dean White’s colors allow you to really feel the heat of the Indian summer they mention early on. The intense red that White puts into Two-Face’s scarred half is very striking, specifically that big eye. It’s like he has the all seeing, all knowing eye.

Snyder also gives us a back-up story drawn by Declan Shalvey, whose sleek and clean work I prefer to Romita’s. We get a lovely appearance from the Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile. The story features Duke Thomas, who is also in the main story. But between his appearances in this book and Tom King’s Batman, we still have no idea what the end goal of him being there is. It’s been emphasized that Duke is not going to be Robin. Batman, in his own words, is “trying something new.” My interest is piqued.

All-Star Batman #1, 2016, DeclanHowever, this story also introduces us to something that, if it’s what I think it is, infuriates me. The Cursed Wheel is supposed to be a condensed version of all Batman’s training, sharpened and applied to tenets taught by Alfred. Each color on the wheel apparently represents different psychological traits. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this concept, until you get to this dialogue…

“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, differentiates them.”

No, it really doesn’t.

We don’t need to overthink the colors that Dick, Damian, Barbara, and everybody that’s trained with Batman wears. If Duke needs to have a model for his training, so be it. But let’s not overdo it. This concept has just been introduced, so it deserves a chance to grow. But at this point it’s an eye-roller.

Just before we’re introduced to the wheel of contrivance, Duke is telling Batman that he’s fine on his own, and that today “Robin doesn’t need a Batman.” The Dark Knight replies with “Good. Batman doesn’t need a Robin either.” That line feels very wrong coming from Bruce, considering just how many Robins he’s trained. What’s he getting at?

There’s definitely some nitpicking to be done with All-Star Batman. I’ve credited Scott Snyder with not being afraid to have big ideas. Some of them pay off, some of them don’t. But it’s the little things that chip away at this issue, and cumulatively bring it down a notch. Still, Snyder has earned the right to say what he wants to say with Batman. It’s obviously too early to call this story a success or failure. But because Snyder is attached to it, All-Star Batman will at the very least be noteworthy.

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A Batman: The Court of Owls Review – What a Hoot!

Batman: The Court of Owls coverTITLE: Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
COLLECTS: Batman #1-7
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: May 9, 2012

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This book represents the start of a lot of new things. It’s the start of a new chapter in the Batman ongoing series. It’s the start of Scott Snyder’s run with Bruce Wayne, as opposed to Dick Grayson, who he worked with in books like The Black Mirror. It’s the start of Batman’s battle with the elusive Court of Owls. These are all good things. But as good as they are, and as much acclaim as Snyder and Capullo’s run has gotten from fans, it’s not spotless as far as I’m concerned. There are a few little things that put a damper on this story for me. Yes, I’m going to be that annoying, nitpicky fan here. But I nitpick because I love these characters and this world. That’s my excuse.

In one of our first outings with Batman and company in the “New 52″ universe, Bruce Wayne is looking to breathe some new life into Gotham’s more troubled territories with an aggressive rebuilding initiative. This attracts the attention of not only mayoral candidate Lincoln March, but the Court of Owls. Thought to be merely the stuff of Gotham folklore, the centuries-old Court makes their presence known with a grisly murder. To make matters much, MUCH worse, the DNA of none other than Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Nightwing, is found at the crime scene. Now Batman must unravel the mystery of the Court of Owls. Little does he know how the Court will push him to both his physical and psychological limits.

Batman #5 (2012), The Court of Owls, maze, eyeOne of the things that really impressed me about this book was the way Snyder and Capullo sold the Court of Owls to us by having them put Batman through the ringer. For most of the second half of this book, Batman is trapped in a big maze the Court has set up. He desperately fights to stay in the shadows, as much of the maze is coated in white light. He’s been drugged, so he keeps hallucinating that he’s transforming into an owl, among other mental atrocities. They also have one of his “lenses,” i.e. the little white slits that always make up his eyes, knocked out. So he’s got one slit, and one eye that’s really wide and bloodshot. That’s a great little touch. And of course, they beat the heck out of him. But it’s tough to remember a time when Batman was pushed to the brink on every level like that. The only other instance that immediately comes to mind is the Knightfall storyline during the early ’90s.

The Court of Owls are a nice addition to Batman’s iconic gallery of foes. The Talons, assassins that work for the Court, are designed quite nicely and prove to be tough opponents for even Batman to match up with. The fact that owls have that predatory connection to bats is also really cool.

Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Batman #4 (2012), Greg CapulloAlright, let’s get picky. I would argue that Capullo’s Dick Grayson looks much too young. Compare how he looks here to how Eddy Barrows is drawing him in the monthly Nightwing series right now. Under Barrows, Dick looks like he’s in his early to mid twenties. Under Capullo, he could still be in his late teens. I’m not sure how old the New 52 Nightwing is supposed to be, but I’m leaning toward Barrows’ side on this one. Nightwing has always been portrayed as the Robin who matured and grew into his own. I’m not sure Capullo captured that here, and he may have realized that as the issues progressed. Nightwing looks a tad older during the tail end of the book, and in recent issues of Batman.

The computerized contact lenses we see Bruce use in this book are incredibly corny. I understand Batman’s got more than his fair share of gadgets. But c’mon, really? He even uses them to read lips during the first issue. Because he’s smart enough to invent friggin’ computer contact lenses, but reading lips is just too far outside the realm of possibility.

c573This is a really small detail in the grand scheme of things, but when we open the book we see Batman facing off against the inmates of Arkham Asylum as they have him cornered. It’s a wonderful way to kick off this new chapter of Batman, but his renderings of the Joker, Two-Face, and particularly the Riddler rubbed me the wrong way. Mr. J. looks too scraggly and smeary for my taste, a bit too much like the Batman: Knight of Vengeance version of the character. Two-Face has a similar issue. In the very beginning of this book, there’s a two-page splash shot of Batman’s enemies staring him down (shown left). At in the front we see Two-Face, and the deformed skin on his right side literally appears to be falling off his head. I’ve never seen Two-Face look so…flappy.

But poor Riddler got the worst of it. That’s him on the far right side of the image. Not only does he have little question marks either shaved or tattooed into his head, but Capullo felt the need to give him a green mohawk shaped like a question mark (which you can clearly see on the cover). Hey Greg, here’s a riddle for ya: Why????

Relentless nitpicking aside, The Court of Owls is actually my favorite Batman story Scott Snyder has done so far. It introduces a cool new group of villains, and gives his a compelling glimpse into the mind of Bruce Wayne. I’m hopeful Snyder and Capullo can do better, but this is a fine start.

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from comicsbulletin.com. Image 2 from 4thletter.net. Image 3 from author’s collection.

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