Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com Your source for comic book commentary Sat, 06 Feb 2016 10:17:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.7 Toil and Trouble #6http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/06/toil-trouble-6/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/06/toil-trouble-6/#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 10:17:52 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47919 Toil and Trouble #6 -

I don’t know if you read it, but Toil and Trouble #5 was pretty intense. Everything that had been building - since issue #1, since the Romans arrived, since the first line of Act I, since the first woman laid down her life and humanity for Alba - came to a climax on that final page! It all leads to one of the most dramatic moments in one of the most beloved plays in the English language and the collision between Macbeth and the Third Witch.

...

So what do you do with a sixth issue? Well, if you’re Mairghread Scott, you don’t try to top that, but you do take the time to show why only you could write this story and to answer those nagging problems with it that just weren’t as sexy without context.

One of the greatest flaws of this miniseries throughout its run has been the fact that you can’t really forget that it’s a shadow on the wall of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. Macbeth has been largely at the mercy of his island goddesses and they have been at the mercy of Shakespeare’s plot. So, basically, no one was fully in command. But Scott tackles those complaints head on. Admittedly there’s a moment where she has to do some creative justification in order to stay in line with the text, but all of the characters feel more agentive and that feels like both an answer to natural and reasonable criticism and an important story development.

Even more important is the degree to which Scott makes this story her own. For the last few issues this has been a very traditional story told in Scott’s voice, but here there’s a real feeling of who she is as a writer. Some of this will be familiar to fans of her work on Transformers: Windblade, but it’s much clearer than it usually was there. The definitions of words like sisterhood, victory, and strength weigh heavily upon this issue and, clearly, Scott’s mind as a writer. This feels like a story that could have been swept into a far more familiar ending by the tides of storytelling, a tragedy behind the tragedy, but Scott ably navigates those waters and steers it towards something more thoughtful and personal. Especially with a major revelation that some readers probably didn’t even think to expect, she refocuses this series as a pull between the nation and the individual and an examination of a lonely, heavy head’s insufficiencies in that regard.

Of course, you may notice that I’m using too many big words and metaphors, and that’s not a coincidence. Even with the emotional moments of this issue, Toil and Trouble remains heady to the last. Though it shows and tells, the series never escapes the sense of academic detachment. This series was born of passion and it’s perfect for tumblr, but it’s the intense, lengthy, deconstructive side of tumblr rather than the excited, feels-having side, despite trying to appease both.

I think my favorite scene in this issue is a confrontation between two of the witches that really drives home the restrained power that Scott can bring to bear. I love that it has become a recurring trait of Scott’s fiction that victories are less valuable than the work it takes to make and keep peace. Looking at this, it’s no surprise that Scott was drawn to a kingly tragedy. Even as the stories begin to diverge, questions of leadership and selflessness play an essential part in both the mystic and the mundane sides of this story.

I feel like this might be the least visually striking issue of the miniseries. That’s not to say it isn’t lovely to look at, but it lacks some of the majesty of previous installments. Comparatively, many close ups feel simple and the detail in long shots is lacking. Cait seems to be a frequent lightning rod for these flaws.

But, of course this is still the Matthews sisters, so it still looks gorgeous. The aforementioned problems can’t hide the fact that the color work is sumptuous, even as it leans towards a birthing white, nor can it disguise how much emotion is packed into the faces and the framings of the panels. But to say that on its own does this issue a disservice, for, without negating its weaknesses, it also just contains some gorgeous images, worthy of its predecessors.

The imagery of Macbeth’s second meeting with the Weird Sisters is phenomenal. From the hauntingly gorgeous designs of the witches as they appear to human eyes to the intensity of Macbeth’s stone-cold response, it’s an impressive page. And there are plenty of others. Clever and inventive panels tend to come with beautiful and expressive artwork and the Matthews don’t waste their last chance to bring out the inhuman beauty of Smertae.

The post Toil and Trouble #6 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Toil and Trouble #6 -

I don’t know if you read it, but Toil and Trouble #5 was pretty intense. Everything that had been building - since issue #1, since the Romans arrived, since the first line of Act I, since the first woman laid down her life and humanity for Alba - came to a climax on that final page! It all leads to one of the most dramatic moments in one of the most beloved plays in the English language and the collision between Macbeth and the Third Witch.

...

So what do you do with a sixth issue? Well, if you’re Mairghread Scott, you don’t try to top that, but you do take the time to show why only you could write this story and to answer those nagging problems with it that just weren’t as sexy without context.

One of the greatest flaws of this miniseries throughout its run has been the fact that you can’t really forget that it’s a shadow on the wall of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. Macbeth has been largely at the mercy of his island goddesses and they have been at the mercy of Shakespeare’s plot. So, basically, no one was fully in command. But Scott tackles those complaints head on. Admittedly there’s a moment where she has to do some creative justification in order to stay in line with the text, but all of the characters feel more agentive and that feels like both an answer to natural and reasonable criticism and an important story development.

Even more important is the degree to which Scott makes this story her own. For the last few issues this has been a very traditional story told in Scott’s voice, but here there’s a real feeling of who she is as a writer. Some of this will be familiar to fans of her work on Transformers: Windblade, but it’s much clearer than it usually was there. The definitions of words like sisterhood, victory, and strength weigh heavily upon this issue and, clearly, Scott’s mind as a writer. This feels like a story that could have been swept into a far more familiar ending by the tides of storytelling, a tragedy behind the tragedy, but Scott ably navigates those waters and steers it towards something more thoughtful and personal. Especially with a major revelation that some readers probably didn’t even think to expect, she refocuses this series as a pull between the nation and the individual and an examination of a lonely, heavy head’s insufficiencies in that regard.

Of course, you may notice that I’m using too many big words and metaphors, and that’s not a coincidence. Even with the emotional moments of this issue, Toil and Trouble remains heady to the last. Though it shows and tells, the series never escapes the sense of academic detachment. This series was born of passion and it’s perfect for tumblr, but it’s the intense, lengthy, deconstructive side of tumblr rather than the excited, feels-having side, despite trying to appease both.

I think my favorite scene in this issue is a confrontation between two of the witches that really drives home the restrained power that Scott can bring to bear. I love that it has become a recurring trait of Scott’s fiction that victories are less valuable than the work it takes to make and keep peace. Looking at this, it’s no surprise that Scott was drawn to a kingly tragedy. Even as the stories begin to diverge, questions of leadership and selflessness play an essential part in both the mystic and the mundane sides of this story.

I feel like this might be the least visually striking issue of the miniseries. That’s not to say it isn’t lovely to look at, but it lacks some of the majesty of previous installments. Comparatively, many close ups feel simple and the detail in long shots is lacking. Cait seems to be a frequent lightning rod for these flaws.

But, of course this is still the Matthews sisters, so it still looks gorgeous. The aforementioned problems can’t hide the fact that the color work is sumptuous, even as it leans towards a birthing white, nor can it disguise how much emotion is packed into the faces and the framings of the panels. But to say that on its own does this issue a disservice, for, without negating its weaknesses, it also just contains some gorgeous images, worthy of its predecessors.

The imagery of Macbeth’s second meeting with the Weird Sisters is phenomenal. From the hauntingly gorgeous designs of the witches as they appear to human eyes to the intensity of Macbeth’s stone-cold response, it’s an impressive page. And there are plenty of others. Clever and inventive panels tend to come with beautiful and expressive artwork and the Matthews don’t waste their last chance to bring out the inhuman beauty of Smertae.

The post Toil and Trouble #6 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Vertigo Quarterly SFX #4http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/03/vertigo-quarterly-sfx-4/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/03/vertigo-quarterly-sfx-4/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:53:10 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47909 Vertigo Quarterly SFX- Bang!

Well, it’s been a long while, but it’s time to check in on Vertigo’s Quarterly anthology series. 2015’s offerings have been focused around sound, an admirable and interesting  follow-up to their four-color experiments in 2014. This series rounds out with stories inspired by one of comics’ most frequent and most defined onomatopoeias: BANG.

We open with the final chapter of Nathan Fox’s “Ekoh”. Particularly if you haven’t read the  other installments, this one might take a few moments to acclimate to, but it’s not so obtuse as to require its other pieces. That said, it was something of a ballsy move to start the anthology with this piece, as it could easily alienate readers picking it up off the shelf.

Regardless, “Ekoh” pulls together very nicely. In the end this single multi-part tale turns out to be about loss and acceptance and communication and a very real fear for many of us, one that will show up again in this anthology, no less.

Though there are moments that will hit or miss depending on preference, the visuals of the piece are pretty excellent. Lee Loughridge’s acidic colors combine with Fox’s carved-into-the-page linework to create something rather electric. And, of course, the lettering and sound effects are fantastically rendered and cleverly integrated.

Jonathan Case and Leila Del Duca’s “Monkey See” is definitely cute and it has some surprising polish to it. This was an early favorite, but subsequent reads have revealed that some elements didn’t connect as cleanly as I thought. Nevertheless, if you have a love for old crime movies and a sense of humor - and, let’s face it, if you have the first then you either really do or really don’t have the other - you’ll get a big kick out of this one.

The dialogue rings really true, full of the weight of the era, and the art is clean and lush at the same time. Line weight does prove to be a problem, though, and the pattern on a robe is a bit too much for my taste. But it’s got all the weirdness and charm of an old movie and possibly even a reference to the very first detective story!

Cavan Scott‘s “Not with a Bang” was the first story to truly capture my imagination. It’s odd, because I’m certain I must have seen this idea before - in fact, I may have seen every element of this story before - but, regardless of whether I have or haven’t, it felt new here. Scott finds the heart of their protagonist very quickly and connects the reader to them very strongly considering how little of specificity he actually says.

The ending might feel distressing to some, but that’s why I like this one so. It really encourages you to put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and that’s what gives it its punch. Well, that and Nimit Malavia’s art.

Malavia seems an expert in knowing where to draw the line - pun unintended - on the issue of realism. Malavia’s smart, futuristic color choice, really gives a sense of a world of tomorrow without joy. These same features help guide the simple but effective arc of the story.

Unfortunately the connection to the sound bang is mysterious at best. The text refers to it, but it doesn’t quite make sense of things. It feels out of focus, perhaps like if it were more important in earlier drafts. It’s a notable blemish on a strong piece of work.

Despite coming from two of the biggest, and most exciting, names in the issue, Jordie Bellaire and Declan Shalvey’s “Mary” falls flat for me - I admit to that pun. The story lays out an acknowledgedly familiar tale and, while it shows promise along the way, it utterly fails to innovate. This failing is all the more tragic for the short’s feminist themes, which lack bite without something new or controversial to say.

The tone is moody and the art only gets better as the story goes on, but its limited scope and familiar tropes rob it of potency for me.

This trend is continued by D.A. Bangz, a very different story that I can’t decide whether to praise or judge for the unbelievable pun that serves as its beating heart.

Technically speaking, this story is very strong, as you would expect from Howard Chaykin. The attempt to do something different with “bang” is appreciated, but the story its telling is simple and uninteresting. Especially on the tail of “Mary” it’s disappointing to see dialogue littered with casual misogyny without anything to justify those choices. I suspect Chaykin was satirizing these poor saps, but it’s not enough to endear the story to you.

Despite a thoroughly simplistic story, the art is very nice and Chaykin’s knowledge as an artist gives Jed Dougherty plenty to work with. Dougherty is obviously looking to conjure up Chaykin’s style in your mind and, you know what, he does a pretty excellent job. He also does a very nice job of presenting the frenzy of (pre-)Beatle-Mania sans audio. It’s a nice looking piece, but if Chaykin’s artistic style doesn’t move you, this won’t do anything for you either.

Samantha Shannon’s “Message From Yonder” is one of those quiet, indie-style sci-fi stories where it’s debatable if it’s technically sci-fi and hard to notice it either way. Still, that’s really the charm of it. ‘World without art’ isn’t a concept that’s going to seem fresh by its nature any time soon, so the quiet restraint of this story is critical in carrying the execution. It wisely decides to take the scarier parts of the 1984 concept without taking the blatant propaganda and speculative tech along for the ride and leaves the heavy lifting to its artwork.

Marco Rudy is an incredible talent and more than a ‘mere’ contributor to this story’s success. This short is absolutely gorgeous. With realism and impressionism commingling expertly in the watercolor art, and high contrast inkwork to punctuate the piece, it really is quite a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately, as beautiful as it is and as clever as the layouts are, it doesn’t always communicate well. In fact, occasionally its just terrible at it. This is not an easy story to follow in its brevity and style and there are also just some simple mistakes. It’s very difficult in places to know where to look next and, in one instance, two pages run together in a very distracting way. I suspect the repeated format will do better digitally. Though then again, panel view would destroy this one. Whatever, it’s still stunning.

“Bang for your Buck” is a fun little story. It doesn’t quite deliver on its title though, lacking punch in a couple of crucial places. The idea is cute enough though. The old circus setting is a definite strength and its unapologetic horror influences really work for it. This is true for Emma Needell’s writing almost as much as it is for the art.

Bold colors and caricatured designs make this a memorable addition to SFX: Bang. Alé Garza conveys malice really well. Unfortunately the show-stopping cannon act that sets the plot in motion is kind of a dud visually, thanks to a lacking sense of depth and scale in the panels depicting it.

It might seem surprising or it might seem expected but “Beat for the Gods” is probably this issue’s strongest story. This story could have failed so many different ways, but K. Perkins imbues it with reality and heart. The narration straddles that delicate balance of universal and personal very nicely. And though these events could seem very trivial or the stand being taken very limited, what makes this a winner is the degree to which it acknowledges that little, trivial things make up everything. These are the choices that inform the choices that inform the choices. That awareness, and self-awareness, helps support the entire story and pitch perfect pacing and use of understatement make for something that’s impressively moving.

Travis Moore doesn’t do anything flashy or overwhelming with the art, but it never distracts and it’s solid through and through. Just good storytelling with strong use of size and layout and confidence in itself.

“Little Bang”, the final story, is probably one of the most complex and confusing of the issue, which is should say something. On first read, it’s visually beautiful and full of interesting nuggets of ideas. In reading and rereading, however, it proves a spectacularly rewarding piece of comics art and it may just be my personal favorite.

Once you start to piece this one together it quickly becomes a fascinating origin story - or should I say creation myth? - with all the archetypal grandeur of a Stan Lee original but a much greater grounding in science and current events. It walks that rope very nicely and it feels relevant without attempting to be topical. Short as it is, I’d love to see more, even if I’m not sure that there should be more. That’s a good sign for a short story.

I also have to say that Christian Ward takes an essential second step that many writers neglect by doing the hard work of telling his tale in a way conducive to understanding it. So often stories treat the expectation of an active reader as a magic bullet that simply alleviates the writer of any responsibility to clarity, but here you can really feel the thought Ward put into laying the clues. Some are less necessary, but there’s a craft ad consideration put into it that does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by me.

This kind of story needed some incredible art to hold attention while it laid out all its pieces, but, luckily, it more than has it. Christian Ward’s particular style is a perfect fit for the story he’s woven here. The colors are stunning; the layouts and storytelling clear and effective; and, frankly, there’s some great imagery to work with.

The post Vertigo Quarterly SFX #4 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Vertigo Quarterly SFX- Bang!

Well, it’s been a long while, but it’s time to check in on Vertigo’s Quarterly anthology series. 2015’s offerings have been focused around sound, an admirable and interesting  follow-up to their four-color experiments in 2014. This series rounds out with stories inspired by one of comics’ most frequent and most defined onomatopoeias: BANG.

We open with the final chapter of Nathan Fox’s “Ekoh”. Particularly if you haven’t read the  other installments, this one might take a few moments to acclimate to, but it’s not so obtuse as to require its other pieces. That said, it was something of a ballsy move to start the anthology with this piece, as it could easily alienate readers picking it up off the shelf.

Regardless, “Ekoh” pulls together very nicely. In the end this single multi-part tale turns out to be about loss and acceptance and communication and a very real fear for many of us, one that will show up again in this anthology, no less.

Though there are moments that will hit or miss depending on preference, the visuals of the piece are pretty excellent. Lee Loughridge’s acidic colors combine with Fox’s carved-into-the-page linework to create something rather electric. And, of course, the lettering and sound effects are fantastically rendered and cleverly integrated.

Jonathan Case and Leila Del Duca’s “Monkey See” is definitely cute and it has some surprising polish to it. This was an early favorite, but subsequent reads have revealed that some elements didn’t connect as cleanly as I thought. Nevertheless, if you have a love for old crime movies and a sense of humor - and, let’s face it, if you have the first then you either really do or really don’t have the other - you’ll get a big kick out of this one.

The dialogue rings really true, full of the weight of the era, and the art is clean and lush at the same time. Line weight does prove to be a problem, though, and the pattern on a robe is a bit too much for my taste. But it’s got all the weirdness and charm of an old movie and possibly even a reference to the very first detective story!

Cavan Scott‘s “Not with a Bang” was the first story to truly capture my imagination. It’s odd, because I’m certain I must have seen this idea before - in fact, I may have seen every element of this story before - but, regardless of whether I have or haven’t, it felt new here. Scott finds the heart of their protagonist very quickly and connects the reader to them very strongly considering how little of specificity he actually says.

The ending might feel distressing to some, but that’s why I like this one so. It really encourages you to put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and that’s what gives it its punch. Well, that and Nimit Malavia’s art.

Malavia seems an expert in knowing where to draw the line - pun unintended - on the issue of realism. Malavia’s smart, futuristic color choice, really gives a sense of a world of tomorrow without joy. These same features help guide the simple but effective arc of the story.

Unfortunately the connection to the sound bang is mysterious at best. The text refers to it, but it doesn’t quite make sense of things. It feels out of focus, perhaps like if it were more important in earlier drafts. It’s a notable blemish on a strong piece of work.

Despite coming from two of the biggest, and most exciting, names in the issue, Jordie Bellaire and Declan Shalvey’s “Mary” falls flat for me - I admit to that pun. The story lays out an acknowledgedly familiar tale and, while it shows promise along the way, it utterly fails to innovate. This failing is all the more tragic for the short’s feminist themes, which lack bite without something new or controversial to say.

The tone is moody and the art only gets better as the story goes on, but its limited scope and familiar tropes rob it of potency for me.

This trend is continued by D.A. Bangz, a very different story that I can’t decide whether to praise or judge for the unbelievable pun that serves as its beating heart.

Technically speaking, this story is very strong, as you would expect from Howard Chaykin. The attempt to do something different with “bang” is appreciated, but the story its telling is simple and uninteresting. Especially on the tail of “Mary” it’s disappointing to see dialogue littered with casual misogyny without anything to justify those choices. I suspect Chaykin was satirizing these poor saps, but it’s not enough to endear the story to you.

Despite a thoroughly simplistic story, the art is very nice and Chaykin’s knowledge as an artist gives Jed Dougherty plenty to work with. Dougherty is obviously looking to conjure up Chaykin’s style in your mind and, you know what, he does a pretty excellent job. He also does a very nice job of presenting the frenzy of (pre-)Beatle-Mania sans audio. It’s a nice looking piece, but if Chaykin’s artistic style doesn’t move you, this won’t do anything for you either.

Samantha Shannon’s “Message From Yonder” is one of those quiet, indie-style sci-fi stories where it’s debatable if it’s technically sci-fi and hard to notice it either way. Still, that’s really the charm of it. ‘World without art’ isn’t a concept that’s going to seem fresh by its nature any time soon, so the quiet restraint of this story is critical in carrying the execution. It wisely decides to take the scarier parts of the 1984 concept without taking the blatant propaganda and speculative tech along for the ride and leaves the heavy lifting to its artwork.

Marco Rudy is an incredible talent and more than a ‘mere’ contributor to this story’s success. This short is absolutely gorgeous. With realism and impressionism commingling expertly in the watercolor art, and high contrast inkwork to punctuate the piece, it really is quite a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately, as beautiful as it is and as clever as the layouts are, it doesn’t always communicate well. In fact, occasionally its just terrible at it. This is not an easy story to follow in its brevity and style and there are also just some simple mistakes. It’s very difficult in places to know where to look next and, in one instance, two pages run together in a very distracting way. I suspect the repeated format will do better digitally. Though then again, panel view would destroy this one. Whatever, it’s still stunning.

“Bang for your Buck” is a fun little story. It doesn’t quite deliver on its title though, lacking punch in a couple of crucial places. The idea is cute enough though. The old circus setting is a definite strength and its unapologetic horror influences really work for it. This is true for Emma Needell’s writing almost as much as it is for the art.

Bold colors and caricatured designs make this a memorable addition to SFX: Bang. Alé Garza conveys malice really well. Unfortunately the show-stopping cannon act that sets the plot in motion is kind of a dud visually, thanks to a lacking sense of depth and scale in the panels depicting it.

It might seem surprising or it might seem expected but “Beat for the Gods” is probably this issue’s strongest story. This story could have failed so many different ways, but K. Perkins imbues it with reality and heart. The narration straddles that delicate balance of universal and personal very nicely. And though these events could seem very trivial or the stand being taken very limited, what makes this a winner is the degree to which it acknowledges that little, trivial things make up everything. These are the choices that inform the choices that inform the choices. That awareness, and self-awareness, helps support the entire story and pitch perfect pacing and use of understatement make for something that’s impressively moving.

Travis Moore doesn’t do anything flashy or overwhelming with the art, but it never distracts and it’s solid through and through. Just good storytelling with strong use of size and layout and confidence in itself.

“Little Bang”, the final story, is probably one of the most complex and confusing of the issue, which is should say something. On first read, it’s visually beautiful and full of interesting nuggets of ideas. In reading and rereading, however, it proves a spectacularly rewarding piece of comics art and it may just be my personal favorite.

Once you start to piece this one together it quickly becomes a fascinating origin story - or should I say creation myth? - with all the archetypal grandeur of a Stan Lee original but a much greater grounding in science and current events. It walks that rope very nicely and it feels relevant without attempting to be topical. Short as it is, I’d love to see more, even if I’m not sure that there should be more. That’s a good sign for a short story.

I also have to say that Christian Ward takes an essential second step that many writers neglect by doing the hard work of telling his tale in a way conducive to understanding it. So often stories treat the expectation of an active reader as a magic bullet that simply alleviates the writer of any responsibility to clarity, but here you can really feel the thought Ward put into laying the clues. Some are less necessary, but there’s a craft ad consideration put into it that does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by me.

This kind of story needed some incredible art to hold attention while it laid out all its pieces, but, luckily, it more than has it. Christian Ward’s particular style is a perfect fit for the story he’s woven here. The colors are stunning; the layouts and storytelling clear and effective; and, frankly, there’s some great imagery to work with.

The post Vertigo Quarterly SFX #4 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Grayson #16http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/02/grayson-16/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/02/02/grayson-16/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 05:50:07 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47904 Grayson #16

What's your favorite Bond movie?  I am one of those old-fashioned types who prefers the halcyon days of the 1960s, of Sean Connery and shaken not stirred and secret volcano lairs.  And most of all I prefer 1964's Goldfinger.  In many ways it was the first complete Bond movie.  Dr. No and From Russia With Love are both fine films, but it is in the third Bond outing that all the classic elements of a Bond movie come together: the girl, the villain, the henchman, the hideout, the cold open, the stylized credit sequence, the specially commissioned theme song.  Grayson has toyed with the conventions of the spy genre since its first issue, but in this installment it means into them with rapturous joy.  And when it leans, it rests on Goldfinger.

The book is one part comic, one part Bond parody, and one part music video.  The middle of the story features Dick Grayson fashioning his own theme song to the tune of the Goldfinger anthem once belted out over cinema screens and radio waves by the inimitable Shirley Bassey.  You know, "Goldfingerrrrrr! (Ba Bow Bow)," except for Dick it's "Agent Thirty-seveeeen! (Ba Bow Bow)."  The music serves as accompaniment to a montage in which he and his ally, the Tiger (now dubbed "Tony" by the aspiring spy-vocalist) take out the agents of Spyral.  Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox rise above their usual standards of excellence in this sequence, and in the opening pages, which feature a breathtaking two-page splash of a car jumping the Alps.

Having said that, for all the amusement inherent in this issue, and that is a very great deal, nothing much actually happens until the end of the story.  Helena, in desperation, turns to the seven figures in shadow that have been teased for several issues.  These are the Syndicate, the greatest spies in the world.  Whether that name is meant to invoke organised crime or the Crime Syndicate of Earth 3, only Seeley and King know.  Guessing the identities of the Syndicate members has been quite the contest on several discussion boards over the last several months, and a number come as a surprise.  One that is no surprise at all, or should not be, is King Faraday, patriarch of all spies in the DCU.  There are two characters from the WildStorm Universe, Grifter and Tao.  Frankenstein represents SHADE, and Bronze Tiger is present as well.  Then there are two new characters, Kenshi, a mannequin-like figure whose name is the Japanese word for "eraser," and Gwisin, an eerie creature named for a kind of Korean ghost.

Grayson and Tiger, however, seek allies of their own.  Learning that Helena has enlisted the Syndicate, Grayson decides to seek help from an organization that can counter Spyral's power.  As the issue closes, he and Tiger are in the headquarters of Checkmate, shaking hands with Maxwell Lord.

The post Grayson #16 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Grayson #16

What's your favorite Bond movie?  I am one of those old-fashioned types who prefers the halcyon days of the 1960s, of Sean Connery and shaken not stirred and secret volcano lairs.  And most of all I prefer 1964's Goldfinger.  In many ways it was the first complete Bond movie.  Dr. No and From Russia With Love are both fine films, but it is in the third Bond outing that all the classic elements of a Bond movie come together: the girl, the villain, the henchman, the hideout, the cold open, the stylized credit sequence, the specially commissioned theme song.  Grayson has toyed with the conventions of the spy genre since its first issue, but in this installment it means into them with rapturous joy.  And when it leans, it rests on Goldfinger.The book is one part comic, one part Bond parody, and one part music video.  The middle of the story features Dick Grayson fashioning his own theme song to the tune of the Goldfinger anthem once belted out over cinema screens and radio waves by the inimitable Shirley Bassey.  You know, "Goldfingerrrrrr! (Ba Bow Bow)," except for Dick it's "Agent Thirty-seveeeen! (Ba Bow Bow)."  The music serves as accompaniment to a montage in which he and his ally, the Tiger (now dubbed "Tony" by the aspiring spy-vocalist) take out the agents of Spyral.  Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox rise above their usual standards of excellence in this sequence, and in the opening pages, which feature a breathtaking two-page splash of a car jumping the Alps.Having said that, for all the amusement inherent in this issue, and that is a very great deal, nothing much actually happens until the end of the story.  Helena, in desperation, turns to the seven figures in shadow that have been teased for several issues.  These are the Syndicate, the greatest spies in the world.  Whether that name is meant to invoke organised crime or the Crime Syndicate of Earth 3, only Seeley and King know.  Guessing the identities of the Syndicate members has been quite the contest on several discussion boards over the last several months, and a number come as a surprise.  One that is no surprise at all, or should not be, is King Faraday, patriarch of all spies in the DCU.  There are two characters from the WildStorm Universe, Grifter and Tao.  Frankenstein represents SHADE, and Bronze Tiger is present as well.  Then there are two new characters, Kenshi, a mannequin-like figure whose name is the Japanese word for "eraser," and Gwisin, an eerie creature named for a kind of Korean ghost.Grayson and Tiger, however, seek allies of their own.  Learning that Helena has enlisted the Syndicate, Grayson decides to seek help from an organization that can counter Spyral's power.  As the issue closes, he and Tiger are in the headquarters of Checkmate, shaking hands with Maxwell Lord.

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Strayer #1http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/31/strayer-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/31/strayer-1/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 19:39:19 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47900 Strayer #1

One of the things about Aftershock Comics that’s most interesting is that it can really go any number of ways. With each book representing a different creator’s world, there is both nothing to limit the series’ creativity and nothing for these series to fall back upon except their inherent quality. Now, with the initial slate of books out of the gate, Aftershock has expanded into Science-Fantasy with Justin Jordan’s Strayer.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Strayer is that it doesn’t necessarily star Strayer. Though we spend most of our time with the titular character, we don’t start with him and he’s not the one whose dreams and aspirations move the plot forward. And, to be honest, that’s one of the most promising elements of this series so far.

Strayer is very much in line with previous Justin Jordan protagonists, a gentle giant with a quick wit and an enormous capacity for violence. I don’t think he’s too redundant or lacks the required distance, but perhaps it’s not surprising to think that Jordan would tell a story about a man with a wild red beard and an appreciation for ultra-violence. But, that’s hardly all Jordan can write and the presence of Mala Tenboom helps to give voice to another side of this story. Mala keeps the story from feeling aimless and helps keep Strayer from feeling like another unstoppable Ubermench of a comic hero, while Strayer, himself, brings the series’ charm.

But despite the intriguing mystery of Strayer, Mala, and their world’s origins, I have to admit that, as of yet, we’ve seen it all before. Strayer #1 is archetypal at best and recycled at worst. Perhaps we haven’t seen the pieces in this specific combination before, but we have seen them and there isn’t really a new twist on them, at least not in this issue.

There’s also an awkward bit of storytelling that hampers the issue. I believe that Jordan was attempting a smash cut, but the final product feels more like we’re missing a page, especially given that there’s never any explanation as to how Strayer fell unconscious. Throw in a consistent issue with the characters just knowing the Titan’s whereabouts and you’ve got a somewhat flawed middle section.

Still, Jordan’s dialogue is charming and the issue ends strongly, if in a somewhat predictable manner.

The art, courtesy of of Juan Gedeon, is very interesting. Slipping back and forth between the sharp and distinct and an oddly appealing lack of detail, there’s no denying that this book has character, even if it’s kind of odd. The characters look just right for their roles and they emote with a charmingly cartoonish force.

Gedeon certainly knows how to make his pages dynamic, and that’s from top to bottom. The characters all have believable movement, the panels are well composed, and the pages are laid out in engaging ways. There are a couple of places where things get a little unclear but, for the most part, the visual storytelling is a definite strength of the issue.

The post Strayer #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Strayer #1

One of the things about Aftershock Comics that’s most interesting is that it can really go any number of ways. With each book representing a different creator’s world, there is both nothing to limit the series’ creativity and nothing for these series to fall back upon except their inherent quality. Now, with the initial slate of books out of the gate, Aftershock has expanded into Science-Fantasy with Justin Jordan’s Strayer.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Strayer is that it doesn’t necessarily star Strayer. Though we spend most of our time with the titular character, we don’t start with him and he’s not the one whose dreams and aspirations move the plot forward. And, to be honest, that’s one of the most promising elements of this series so far.

Strayer is very much in line with previous Justin Jordan protagonists, a gentle giant with a quick wit and an enormous capacity for violence. I don’t think he’s too redundant or lacks the required distance, but perhaps it’s not surprising to think that Jordan would tell a story about a man with a wild red beard and an appreciation for ultra-violence. But, that’s hardly all Jordan can write and the presence of Mala Tenboom helps to give voice to another side of this story. Mala keeps the story from feeling aimless and helps keep Strayer from feeling like another unstoppable Ubermench of a comic hero, while Strayer, himself, brings the series’ charm.

But despite the intriguing mystery of Strayer, Mala, and their world’s origins, I have to admit that, as of yet, we’ve seen it all before. Strayer #1 is archetypal at best and recycled at worst. Perhaps we haven’t seen the pieces in this specific combination before, but we have seen them and there isn’t really a new twist on them, at least not in this issue.

There’s also an awkward bit of storytelling that hampers the issue. I believe that Jordan was attempting a smash cut, but the final product feels more like we’re missing a page, especially given that there’s never any explanation as to how Strayer fell unconscious. Throw in a consistent issue with the characters just knowing the Titan’s whereabouts and you’ve got a somewhat flawed middle section.

Still, Jordan’s dialogue is charming and the issue ends strongly, if in a somewhat predictable manner.

The art, courtesy of of Juan Gedeon, is very interesting. Slipping back and forth between the sharp and distinct and an oddly appealing lack of detail, there’s no denying that this book has character, even if it’s kind of odd. The characters look just right for their roles and they emote with a charmingly cartoonish force.

Gedeon certainly knows how to make his pages dynamic, and that’s from top to bottom. The characters all have believable movement, the panels are well composed, and the pages are laid out in engaging ways. There are a couple of places where things get a little unclear but, for the most part, the visual storytelling is a definite strength of the issue.

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Starbrand and Nightmask #2http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/28/starbrand-nightmask-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/28/starbrand-nightmask-2/#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 06:52:16 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47883 Starbrand and Nightmask #2

To be honest, based solely on these two issues and the limited information I’ve been able to pick up online, it’s the latter half of Starbrand and Nightmask that interests me more. Kevin Conner’s archetypal appeal and great power/great responsibility story is classic and interesting but it can’t hold my attention the way Adam’s stranger in a strange land confusion and psychedellic powers can. Therefore the second issue of Starbrand and Nightmask has an immediate leg up on its predecessor for being narrated and framed from the perspective of Adam Blackveil.

At this stage I’d be tempted to say that this series’ greatest strength is probably the willing distance it keeps from pure heroics. The superhero supporting cast and alterego have decreased in importance in recent years in favor of bigger and more meaningful adventures in costume, but Starbrand and Nightmask, while still delivering a sizable supervillain brawl, is willing to give perspectives other than our heroes. Most notably this comes through Adam, the cosmically powerful homunculus who is still dwarfed in power by Earth’s Starbrand, and his attempts to play Jimminy Cricket to someone with a vastly stronger understanding of what it means to be human than him. However, there’s also Kenny Kong, who nearly reveals that he knows our heroes secrets before being cut off by orientation. Working on these various levels - Starbrand and the central character of the series, Nightmask as our POV, Kong as something of an audience surrogate - allows the series to do something different, even as it is required to spend most of its time establishing the balance between heroes and college students.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that our protagonists are seriously powerful. Oftentimes attempts to revive a lighter and more character-driven superhero choose to utilize the limited scope of a mid level character, but with these two that couldn’t be farther from the truth. That allows Avenger-level threats like Graviton to team up with two other villains and still not make for an overwhelming opposition. If anything, the battle is too easily won, something that Adam explicitly points out. But while the series has yet to produce a threat able to directly match its protagonists for power, the presence of an unseen puppet-master seems to promise that such foes not only exist but are waiting in the wings.

Perhaps even more surprising is the possibility that Kevin, himself, may prove to be one the duo’s greatest dangers.

While the series steps into deeper territory and less formulaic structure, it still feels like one of Weisman’s animated projects, a medium in which we are typically more forgiving of familiar plot elements and appeals to younger fans. It is pretty cool that this series seems to be trying to be a true all-ages title, smart enough for older fans with nothing to make it inappropriate for newer ones, but the perfect balance this requires still eludes this book.

I also have to mention that some readers may not appreciate the slow burn Weisman is taking with his villains. I’d hate to see this series’ chances undercut by trade-waiting, but I don’t think I could blame some readers for taking a wait and see approach. But while it is a problem, there are few writers I trust more to devise a truly excellent evil plan that Weisman, so if you’re on the fence, take his stirling record in this regard into account.

Domo Stanton’s artwork retains its scratchy cartoonish style from last month. I can’t say that his weaknesses have cleared up, however. Eyes are still oddly placed and faces change from panel to panel. There’s also some occasional stiffness in the characters that doesn’t help convey a sense of naturalism.

But while there are significant technical issues, Stanton really succeeds from a storytelling perspective. The flow of action is clear and the intended effects are communicated well by the panels. For any weaknesses in anatomy or realism, Stanton knows what he wants out of an image and so does the reader. Plus the wild and varied power sets Weisman has given him to play with allow for some pretty cool looking moments.

It doesn’t hurt that Stanton has Jordan Boyd to back him up. Boyd uses orange and blue beautifully and in a way that avoids comparison to the much overused palette of similar colors often employed on the big screen.

A Thought:

  • Does Norman Osborn still get his name on a Dormitory? Didn’t he invade a foreign country and then go on a Hulked up rampage through New York?

The post Starbrand and Nightmask #2 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Starbrand and Nightmask #2

To be honest, based solely on these two issues and the limited information I’ve been able to pick up online, it’s the latter half of Starbrand and Nightmask that interests me more. Kevin Conner’s archetypal appeal and great power/great responsibility story is classic and interesting but it can’t hold my attention the way Adam’s stranger in a strange land confusion and psychedellic powers can. Therefore the second issue of Starbrand and Nightmask has an immediate leg up on its predecessor for being narrated and framed from the perspective of Adam Blackveil.

At this stage I’d be tempted to say that this series’ greatest strength is probably the willing distance it keeps from pure heroics. The superhero supporting cast and alterego have decreased in importance in recent years in favor of bigger and more meaningful adventures in costume, but Starbrand and Nightmask, while still delivering a sizable supervillain brawl, is willing to give perspectives other than our heroes. Most notably this comes through Adam, the cosmically powerful homunculus who is still dwarfed in power by Earth’s Starbrand, and his attempts to play Jimminy Cricket to someone with a vastly stronger understanding of what it means to be human than him. However, there’s also Kenny Kong, who nearly reveals that he knows our heroes secrets before being cut off by orientation. Working on these various levels - Starbrand and the central character of the series, Nightmask as our POV, Kong as something of an audience surrogate - allows the series to do something different, even as it is required to spend most of its time establishing the balance between heroes and college students.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that our protagonists are seriously powerful. Oftentimes attempts to revive a lighter and more character-driven superhero choose to utilize the limited scope of a mid level character, but with these two that couldn’t be farther from the truth. That allows Avenger-level threats like Graviton to team up with two other villains and still not make for an overwhelming opposition. If anything, the battle is too easily won, something that Adam explicitly points out. But while the series has yet to produce a threat able to directly match its protagonists for power, the presence of an unseen puppet-master seems to promise that such foes not only exist but are waiting in the wings.

Perhaps even more surprising is the possibility that Kevin, himself, may prove to be one the duo’s greatest dangers.

While the series steps into deeper territory and less formulaic structure, it still feels like one of Weisman’s animated projects, a medium in which we are typically more forgiving of familiar plot elements and appeals to younger fans. It is pretty cool that this series seems to be trying to be a true all-ages title, smart enough for older fans with nothing to make it inappropriate for newer ones, but the perfect balance this requires still eludes this book.

I also have to mention that some readers may not appreciate the slow burn Weisman is taking with his villains. I’d hate to see this series’ chances undercut by trade-waiting, but I don’t think I could blame some readers for taking a wait and see approach. But while it is a problem, there are few writers I trust more to devise a truly excellent evil plan that Weisman, so if you’re on the fence, take his stirling record in this regard into account.

Domo Stanton’s artwork retains its scratchy cartoonish style from last month. I can’t say that his weaknesses have cleared up, however. Eyes are still oddly placed and faces change from panel to panel. There’s also some occasional stiffness in the characters that doesn’t help convey a sense of naturalism.

But while there are significant technical issues, Stanton really succeeds from a storytelling perspective. The flow of action is clear and the intended effects are communicated well by the panels. For any weaknesses in anatomy or realism, Stanton knows what he wants out of an image and so does the reader. Plus the wild and varied power sets Weisman has given him to play with allow for some pretty cool looking moments.

It doesn’t hurt that Stanton has Jordan Boyd to back him up. Boyd uses orange and blue beautifully and in a way that avoids comparison to the much overused palette of similar colors often employed on the big screen.

A Thought:

  • Does Norman Osborn still get his name on a Dormitory? Didn’t he invade a foreign country and then go on a Hulked up rampage through New York?

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Batman #48http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/27/batman-48/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/27/batman-48/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:52:47 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47884 Batman #48

Scott Snyder has never been shy about his philosophical musings.  That is one of the most distinctive aspects of his writing, and one of the things that make his public discussions and panel appearances potentially interesting.  He has ideas he wants to explore and is willing to talk at length and with sophistication about those theories and metaphors and analogies.  In an era when many writers seem to regard the story of ideas as being hopelessly old hat, Snyder's enthusiasm for philosophical discussion is refreshing.  Unfortunately, his enthusiasm is also often quite tiring.  He seems incapable of telling a story that isn't the "biggest ever!"  Despite a professed desire to focus on shorter, more intimate narratives, he inevitably ends up spinning arcs that take up a dozen issues and months of real time.

That means we sometimes end up with issues like Batman #48, which consists almost in its entirety of two conversations.  The first is an extraordinarily odd exchange between the amnesiac Bruce Wayne and the amnesiac Joker on the shores of a lake.  It is filled with the former Joker lamenting the infestation of the lake by a rather disgusting form of parasite while he fondles a revolver.  It seems to be meant to suggest the infestation of Gotham by crime, and to set up a series of double entendres as Bruce, who has become aware of his life as Batman, misunderstands the Joker's remarks.  Or does he?  Is the Clown Prince also more aware than he admits?  Regardless, the insinuations fall flat amid a tangle of strange images.

The second conversation is between Mister Bloom and Gotham as the villain, triumphant over Jim Gordon, sets out his own philosophy.  He is, in essence, a demonic libertarian.  In his view all systems are useless.  All governments will fail.  All people secretly loathe all others.  There is no help or love or comfort. There are no heroes.  There is only strength.  And the essence of Mister Bloom is to allow each person to realize strength.  And in strength, each may join the war of all against all.

Finally there is one page, disconnected from the rest, that appears to take place in a laboratory and speaks of "straneglets."  I presume that is a misprint for "strangelets," a kind of extremely dangerous subatomic particle.  A setup for a crisis to come?

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Batman #48

Scott Snyder has never been shy about his philosophical musings.  That is one of the most distinctive aspects of his writing, and one of the things that make his public discussions and panel appearances potentially interesting.  He has ideas he wants to explore and is willing to talk at length and with sophistication about those theories and metaphors and analogies.  In an era when many writers seem to regard the story of ideas as being hopelessly old hat, Snyder's enthusiasm for philosophical discussion is refreshing.  Unfortunately, his enthusiasm is also often quite tiring.  He seems incapable of telling a story that isn't the "biggest ever!"  Despite a professed desire to focus on shorter, more intimate narratives, he inevitably ends up spinning arcs that take up a dozen issues and months of real time.That means we sometimes end up with issues like Batman #48, which consists almost in its entirety of two conversations.  The first is an extraordinarily odd exchange between the amnesiac Bruce Wayne and the amnesiac Joker on the shores of a lake.  It is filled with the former Joker lamenting the infestation of the lake by a rather disgusting form of parasite while he fondles a revolver.  It seems to be meant to suggest the infestation of Gotham by crime, and to set up a series of double entendres as Bruce, who has become aware of his life as Batman, misunderstands the Joker's remarks.  Or does he?  Is the Clown Prince also more aware than he admits?  Regardless, the insinuations fall flat amid a tangle of strange images.The second conversation is between Mister Bloom and Gotham as the villain, triumphant over Jim Gordon, sets out his own philosophy.  He is, in essence, a demonic libertarian.  In his view all systems are useless.  All governments will fail.  All people secretly loathe all others.  There is no help or love or comfort. There are no heroes.  There is only strength.  And the essence of Mister Bloom is to allow each person to realize strength.  And in strength, each may join the war of all against all.Finally there is one page, disconnected from the rest, that appears to take place in a laboratory and speaks of "straneglets."  I presume that is a misprint for "strangelets," a kind of extremely dangerous subatomic particle.  A setup for a crisis to come?

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Batman and Robin Eternal #15-#16http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/27/batman-robin-eternal-15-16/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/27/batman-robin-eternal-15-16/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:50:09 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47889 Batman and Robin Eternal #16

Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, authors of Hacktivist and, announced this week, incoming authors of Grayson, have been given one of the least enviable assignments associated with Batman and Robin Eternal, the portion of the story devoted to the adventure of Tim Drake and Jason Todd.  That isn't because these two are not worthy characters.  However, it has to be admitted that the current continuity has not been kind to either of them.  The 2011 reboot and its associated five-year timeline placed an extreme pressure on the Batman Universe, as DC wished to retain all of the canonical Robins.  Dick Grayson, the first Robin, and Damian Wayne, the current one, managed to come through relatively unscathed (although many of their dedicated fans might disagree).  Tim and Jason, unfortunately, suffered the fate of middle children, with Tim even losing his history as a Robin in the new continuity.

Lanzing and Kelly have bravely made the best of that, building off the work of Scott Lobdell and others to emphasize the relationship between these two middle children.  It is surprising effective and affecting.  Tim becomes the rationalist young dweeb capable of being moved to awkward and deep affection while Jason is a fighter with the soul, not of a poet, but at least of a loyal brother.

More of a problem is the storyline Lanzing and Kelly have to deal with, a poorly explained side-quest designed to reintroduce the Order of Saint Dumas and its chief fighter, Azrael, into continuity.  Most of these two issues consists of Tim attempting to infiltrate the order by pretending to hand over Jason.  In that, he is only partially successful, coming face-to-face with Saint Dumas himself.  That worthy is actually a man plugged into a harness of cables rather similar to the Great Machine from Babylon 5.  He is not a supernatural being, and not even the first Saint Dumas.  He is more like the Old Man of the Mountains, the head of a fanatical criminal order based not, in this case, on a schismatic, sect of Islam but on a technologically based Gnostic mysticism.

The Order has devised a neurobiological treatment called Ichthys.  Why it is named after the Greek word for fish (and also a symbol for Christ) is not explained, only that the treatment resides the victim's brain by making them face their greatest fear and triumph over it, thus destroying fear, as well as compassion and empathy.  Azrael, provided to the Order by Mother, is a product of her process and illustrates its flaws.  He periodically begins to doubt, as he has done upon his encounter with Tim and Jason, and must be corrected.  Ichthys  promises a permanent change.

Jason has become infected with Ichthys, and finds himself facing the Joker.  Tim talks him through the ordeal, recognizing that in order to resist Ichthys Jason must allow himself to feel the pain and terror, and to retain his compassion and empathy.  It is a powerful scene, but a redundant one.  Jason and the Joker is a trope that has been played many times, and is dangerously close to exhaustion.

 

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Batman and Robin Eternal #16

Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, authors of Hacktivist and, announced this week, incoming authors of Grayson, have been given one of the least enviable assignments associated with Batman and Robin Eternal, the portion of the story devoted to the adventure of Tim Drake and Jason Todd.  That isn't because these two are not worthy characters.  However, it has to be admitted that the current continuity has not been kind to either of them.  The 2011 reboot and its associated five-year timeline placed an extreme pressure on the Batman Universe, as DC wished to retain all of the canonical Robins.  Dick Grayson, the first Robin, and Damian Wayne, the current one, managed to come through relatively unscathed (although many of their dedicated fans might disagree).  Tim and Jason, unfortunately, suffered the fate of middle children, with Tim even losing his history as a Robin in the new continuity.Lanzing and Kelly have bravely made the best of that, building off the work of Scott Lobdell and others to emphasize the relationship between these two middle children.  It is surprising effective and affecting.  Tim becomes the rationalist young dweeb capable of being moved to awkward and deep affection while Jason is a fighter with the soul, not of a poet, but at least of a loyal brother.More of a problem is the storyline Lanzing and Kelly have to deal with, a poorly explained side-quest designed to reintroduce the Order of Saint Dumas and its chief fighter, Azrael, into continuity.  Most of these two issues consists of Tim attempting to infiltrate the order by pretending to hand over Jason.  In that, he is only partially successful, coming face-to-face with Saint Dumas himself.  That worthy is actually a man plugged into a harness of cables rather similar to the Great Machine from Babylon 5.  He is not a supernatural being, and not even the first Saint Dumas.  He is more like the Old Man of the Mountains, the head of a fanatical criminal order based not, in this case, on a schismatic, sect of Islam but on a technologically based Gnostic mysticism.The Order has devised a neurobiological treatment called Ichthys.  Why it is named after the Greek word for fish (and also a symbol for Christ) is not explained, only that the treatment resides the victim's brain by making them face their greatest fear and triumph over it, thus destroying fear, as well as compassion and empathy.  Azrael, provided to the Order by Mother, is a product of her process and illustrates its flaws.  He periodically begins to doubt, as he has done upon his encounter with Tim and Jason, and must be corrected.  Ichthys  promises a permanent change.Jason has become infected with Ichthys, and finds himself facing the Joker.  Tim talks him through the ordeal, recognizing that in order to resist Ichthys Jason must allow himself to feel the pain and terror, and to retain his compassion and empathy.  It is a powerful scene, but a redundant one.  Jason and the Joker is a trope that has been played many times, and is dangerously close to exhaustion. 

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Uncanny X-Men #2http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/26/uncanny-x-men-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/26/uncanny-x-men-2/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 04:23:55 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47879 Uncanny X-Men #2

I don’t know that there is a period where the X-Men brand has been regarded positively by the majority of readers since at least Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, though it’s possible that we haven’t seen it since Chris Claremont left the books. Every X-Men status quo of the last ten years has been divisive at best, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that this is a particularly dark time in their history. I say this with confidence not because I wish to judge the current era, but because Marvel has made it clear that, no matter how comics history looks back on this time in X-Men, dark is a word they want it to be remembered for.

No longer the flagship title of the franchise, Uncanny X-Men seems poised to be the dark and gritty X-Men book in a time of dark and gritty X-Men books. With the team established last issue, writer Cullen Bunn turns to establishing the high stakes of the current environment. The choice to have an X-Men team living in a world of Terrigen does have one major difference from the post-"House of M" world of the last ten years in the sense that this is an ongoing crisis rather than a single cataclysmic event. Though Bunn doesn’t really do anything to highlight this difference, it can be felt through the race for mutant healers.

The dialogue is much less expository this month and begins to establish the specifics of the characters. I say begins because many lines represent variations on a single character trait by which we can define our characters. Magneto is concerned for the mutant people, Psylocke is worried about Archangel, Monet is sassy, Sabretooth is uncomfortable being a good guy, etc. It’s simpler writing than I’m used to from Bunn, but while it isn’t all it could be, it must be said that, in some cases, Bunn turns these simplistic motivations into tonal languages.

This Sabretooth is probably Bunn’s strongest creation so far. He owes quite a bit to Wolverine, but Creed’s voice is strong and natural. Best of all he’s the character who most takes advantage of Bunn’s proven ability to convey the tone and emotion of a character’s voice. One line near the end of the issue is undoubtedly the issue’s emotional center and possibly the single best of the series so far.

Similarly, and probably relatedly, Bunn accomplishes something that many writers have failed in by making Monet feel as cool as she thinks she is. She isn’t a breakout character yet and she doesn’t get to show off that much, but her competence and the respect it earns her is felt within the narrative, rather than the informed ability it often becomes.

Strangely enough, Bunn seems to struggle with Magneto, despite a long history of success. There are hints of Bunn’s comfort with the character; the distinction of seeing first hand, for instance; but where Bunn seems to be trying to give the impressions of plans within plans, it ends up reading like Magneto is just being awfully thoughtless. An attempt to draw in Erik’s childhood in Auschwitz feels similarly forced, reaching for an interesting comparison but utterly failing to touch it.

With the shadow of Apocalypse hanging large over this series, Bunn is wise to use some of the mutant Darwinist’s lesser known followers as an introductory threat, and wiser still to show that they’re not to be trifled with. But I think the best part of the Dark Riders, and one of the strongest elements of this issue, is what enormous dorks they are.

That sounds mean, but, assuming it’s intentional, it’s actually a really lovely bit of character. The Dark Riders are not Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen; they’re not even his subordinates. They’re fanboys and, like Kylo Ren, they’re delightful in their pretensions of meaning.

We also get a dose of Mystique this month, though it seems she’s still working on her own at this point. Bunn clearly has some fun with the idea of a character whose ego is so malleable, but her quipping is unnatural and only furthers the action movie feel of this series. It’s also odd that Mystique is also investigating Someday but the X-Men seem to have let it drop. I suppose this is a way to keep that plot bubbling on the back burner but something about it feels off.

Greg Land’s storytelling remains strong. The art in this issue speaks loudly to the emotional part of your brain, communicating tone and urgency through original usage of familiar tropes. The reader really does bring quite a lot to this issue, their own knowledge of storytelling automatically creating connective tissue that makes the story really move. In some comics outsourcing that duty to the reader smacks of weak sequential artistry, but it feels so intentional here that it’s kind of great.

Even so, Land’s usual problems flare up again. For some reason he simply cannot draw Monet’s body. You’d think a man famous for tracing from porn would be particularly able to draw anwoman’s body, but for whatever reason Monet in particular is rendered like Mr. Fantastic. Add in a greater number of porny expressions on women than last issue and you have an issue has some seriously distracting moments.

On a more personal note, I really don’t like the face that Land has chosen for Magneto. It just doesn’t look like him to me, not only as classically depicted but as feels true to the character.

It also must be said that Nolan Woodard is a huge part of this issue’s visual success. You can’t really do realistic color art without realistic color and Woodard’s attention to lighting does a lot to trigger the imagination. As mentioned, this is crucial to the issue and it also helps to distract from some of Land’s wonkier moments.

A (Very Spoilery) Thought:

  • While I’ve seen more than enough premature tantrums over very similar endings, I have to say that there is a part of my brain that is really disappointed in how this issue treats a beloved young mutant. It’s way too early to call it and knowing comics, and especially this character, there are plenty of ways out, but the flow of the narrative strongly suggests that this is the last we’ll see of Elixir. Yes, I see that an Omega Level healer kind of ruins the whole ‘mutants are getting sick’ plotline and I won’t deny that his powers had become difficult to use efficiently in a team book, but Josh was a fascinating character from the day he was introduced and it’s a shame to see him killed off with little fanfare. The fact that the X-Men couldn’t stop it doesn’t speak too well of them and the choice to gun down a young man in a church is a dark one, especially in the current environment. It just feels like this book is aimed squarely at young teenage boys and, perhaps worse, it’s not quite willing to abandon some loftier aspirations and commit to being fun popcorn entertainment.

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Uncanny X-Men #2

I don’t know that there is a period where the X-Men brand has been regarded positively by the majority of readers since at least Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, though it’s possible that we haven’t seen it since Chris Claremont left the books. Every X-Men status quo of the last ten years has been divisive at best, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that this is a particularly dark time in their history. I say this with confidence not because I wish to judge the current era, but because Marvel has made it clear that, no matter how comics history looks back on this time in X-Men, dark is a word they want it to be remembered for.

No longer the flagship title of the franchise, Uncanny X-Men seems poised to be the dark and gritty X-Men book in a time of dark and gritty X-Men books. With the team established last issue, writer Cullen Bunn turns to establishing the high stakes of the current environment. The choice to have an X-Men team living in a world of Terrigen does have one major difference from the post-"House of M" world of the last ten years in the sense that this is an ongoing crisis rather than a single cataclysmic event. Though Bunn doesn’t really do anything to highlight this difference, it can be felt through the race for mutant healers.

The dialogue is much less expository this month and begins to establish the specifics of the characters. I say begins because many lines represent variations on a single character trait by which we can define our characters. Magneto is concerned for the mutant people, Psylocke is worried about Archangel, Monet is sassy, Sabretooth is uncomfortable being a good guy, etc. It’s simpler writing than I’m used to from Bunn, but while it isn’t all it could be, it must be said that, in some cases, Bunn turns these simplistic motivations into tonal languages.

This Sabretooth is probably Bunn’s strongest creation so far. He owes quite a bit to Wolverine, but Creed’s voice is strong and natural. Best of all he’s the character who most takes advantage of Bunn’s proven ability to convey the tone and emotion of a character’s voice. One line near the end of the issue is undoubtedly the issue’s emotional center and possibly the single best of the series so far.

Similarly, and probably relatedly, Bunn accomplishes something that many writers have failed in by making Monet feel as cool as she thinks she is. She isn’t a breakout character yet and she doesn’t get to show off that much, but her competence and the respect it earns her is felt within the narrative, rather than the informed ability it often becomes.

Strangely enough, Bunn seems to struggle with Magneto, despite a long history of success. There are hints of Bunn’s comfort with the character; the distinction of seeing first hand, for instance; but where Bunn seems to be trying to give the impressions of plans within plans, it ends up reading like Magneto is just being awfully thoughtless. An attempt to draw in Erik’s childhood in Auschwitz feels similarly forced, reaching for an interesting comparison but utterly failing to touch it.

With the shadow of Apocalypse hanging large over this series, Bunn is wise to use some of the mutant Darwinist’s lesser known followers as an introductory threat, and wiser still to show that they’re not to be trifled with. But I think the best part of the Dark Riders, and one of the strongest elements of this issue, is what enormous dorks they are.

That sounds mean, but, assuming it’s intentional, it’s actually a really lovely bit of character. The Dark Riders are not Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen; they’re not even his subordinates. They’re fanboys and, like Kylo Ren, they’re delightful in their pretensions of meaning.

We also get a dose of Mystique this month, though it seems she’s still working on her own at this point. Bunn clearly has some fun with the idea of a character whose ego is so malleable, but her quipping is unnatural and only furthers the action movie feel of this series. It’s also odd that Mystique is also investigating Someday but the X-Men seem to have let it drop. I suppose this is a way to keep that plot bubbling on the back burner but something about it feels off.

Greg Land’s storytelling remains strong. The art in this issue speaks loudly to the emotional part of your brain, communicating tone and urgency through original usage of familiar tropes. The reader really does bring quite a lot to this issue, their own knowledge of storytelling automatically creating connective tissue that makes the story really move. In some comics outsourcing that duty to the reader smacks of weak sequential artistry, but it feels so intentional here that it’s kind of great.

Even so, Land’s usual problems flare up again. For some reason he simply cannot draw Monet’s body. You’d think a man famous for tracing from porn would be particularly able to draw anwoman’s body, but for whatever reason Monet in particular is rendered like Mr. Fantastic. Add in a greater number of porny expressions on women than last issue and you have an issue has some seriously distracting moments.

On a more personal note, I really don’t like the face that Land has chosen for Magneto. It just doesn’t look like him to me, not only as classically depicted but as feels true to the character.

It also must be said that Nolan Woodard is a huge part of this issue’s visual success. You can’t really do realistic color art without realistic color and Woodard’s attention to lighting does a lot to trigger the imagination. As mentioned, this is crucial to the issue and it also helps to distract from some of Land’s wonkier moments.

A (Very Spoilery) Thought:

  • While I’ve seen more than enough premature tantrums over very similar endings, I have to say that there is a part of my brain that is really disappointed in how this issue treats a beloved young mutant. It’s way too early to call it and knowing comics, and especially this character, there are plenty of ways out, but the flow of the narrative strongly suggests that this is the last we’ll see of Elixir. Yes, I see that an Omega Level healer kind of ruins the whole ‘mutants are getting sick’ plotline and I won’t deny that his powers had become difficult to use efficiently in a team book, but Josh was a fascinating character from the day he was introduced and it’s a shame to see him killed off with little fanfare. The fact that the X-Men couldn’t stop it doesn’t speak too well of them and the choice to gun down a young man in a church is a dark one, especially in the current environment. It just feels like this book is aimed squarely at young teenage boys and, perhaps worse, it’s not quite willing to abandon some loftier aspirations and commit to being fun popcorn entertainment.

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Robin War #2http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/21/robin-war-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/21/robin-war-2/#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 06:06:47 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47846 Robin War #2

"It was the owl that shrieked, that fatal bellman."  So says Shakespeare in the second act of Macbeth, reflecting the belief of his time that owls were heralds of death and to hear one booting on the roof was to know that someone in the house would soon perish.  Gotham City has little in common with Elizabethan England, but rather more similarities with the imagined Scotland of Shakespeare's cursed play.  Murderous treachery abounds among the elites of Gotham, and it doesn't take much effort to envisage Lady Macbeth ensconced in one of Wayne Manor's neighboring mansions.  For that matter, who would be surprised to find the three witches of the Scottish play living amidst the trash of the Narrows?  Most of all, Macbeth and Batman share a sense of darkness in broad daylight, of creeping unease just below the surface of all events and interactions.

The Court of Owls was, under Scott Snyder's pen, the embodiment of that unease, the ironic but powerful presence of lethal privilege waiting to strike from the shadows.  In Robin War 2, Tom King turns them into much more than that.  First, however, he deals with the confrontation between the Talons of the Court, led by Damian Wayne, and the small army of Robins together with the armored Batman.  At first, it does not go well for the Robins.  Damian displays skills undreamed of in rapidly defeating both Tim Drake and Jason Todd.  It is only when Duke Thomas reminds him of his identity, calling him back to the mantle of Robin, the Damian switches sides.  It seems that he joined the Owls because they threatened to destroy Gotham, along with a currently amnesiac Bruce Wayne.

Damian's choice is echoed in the confrontation between Dick Grayson and Lincoln March.  March reveals that he regained favor with the Owls by contriving a plan whereby the Gray Son could be returned to Gotham.  All of the events of the Robin War have led to this moment, where March explains that the Owl mask the Court provided to Damian was laced with explosive nanites that have now sunk into the boy's skin.  If Grayson does not join the Owls, Damian will die.  The Gray Son complies, and puts on the mask of the Owls, revealed now not to be a Gotham-based court, but a world-spanning Parliament.

If there is a major weakness in Robin War 2 it is in the art.  The book boasts almost as many artists as it does Robins, and the constantly shifting styles create a choppy, uncomfortable situation where the narrative can never really develop a smooth flow.

The post Robin War #2 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Robin War #2

"It was the owl that shrieked, that fatal bellman."  So says Shakespeare in the second act of Macbeth, reflecting the belief of his time that owls were heralds of death and to hear one booting on the roof was to know that someone in the house would soon perish.  Gotham City has little in common with Elizabethan England, but rather more similarities with the imagined Scotland of Shakespeare's cursed play.  Murderous treachery abounds among the elites of Gotham, and it doesn't take much effort to envisage Lady Macbeth ensconced in one of Wayne Manor's neighboring mansions.  For that matter, who would be surprised to find the three witches of the Scottish play living amidst the trash of the Narrows?  Most of all, Macbeth and Batman share a sense of darkness in broad daylight, of creeping unease just below the surface of all events and interactions.The Court of Owls was, under Scott Snyder's pen, the embodiment of that unease, the ironic but powerful presence of lethal privilege waiting to strike from the shadows.  In Robin War 2, Tom King turns them into much more than that.  First, however, he deals with the confrontation between the Talons of the Court, led by Damian Wayne, and the small army of Robins together with the armored Batman.  At first, it does not go well for the Robins.  Damian displays skills undreamed of in rapidly defeating both Tim Drake and Jason Todd.  It is only when Duke Thomas reminds him of his identity, calling him back to the mantle of Robin, the Damian switches sides.  It seems that he joined the Owls because they threatened to destroy Gotham, along with a currently amnesiac Bruce Wayne.Damian's choice is echoed in the confrontation between Dick Grayson and Lincoln March.  March reveals that he regained favor with the Owls by contriving a plan whereby the Gray Son could be returned to Gotham.  All of the events of the Robin War have led to this moment, where March explains that the Owl mask the Court provided to Damian was laced with explosive nanites that have now sunk into the boy's skin.  If Grayson does not join the Owls, Damian will die.  The Gray Son complies, and puts on the mask of the Owls, revealed now not to be a Gotham-based court, but a world-spanning Parliament.If there is a major weakness in Robin War 2 it is in the art.  The book boasts almost as many artists as it does Robins, and the constantly shifting styles create a choppy, uncomfortable situation where the narrative can never really develop a smooth flow.

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Uncanny Avengers #4http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/18/uncanny-avengers-4-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/01/18/uncanny-avengers-4-2/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 22:02:33 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47858 Uncanny Avengers #4

I finally figured out what was that weird feeling I get when reading this series. You know how you order something familiar from a new restaurant because you’re really excited to see that dish on the menu, but when it arrives it’s nothing like what you remember from the original place? Yeah. It’s that kind of feeling reading the latest iteration of Uncanny Avengers.

All the showcase-y moments feature characters that I really don’t warm up to. One or two unfamiliar or unfavorite characters are welcome to take up space in my comic. In fact, that’s kind of nice. But when it’s just a bunch of characters like Synapse, Deadpool, and Cable… well, it’s just weird that they make their quacamole with tomatoes, you know? There was a nice moment for Quicksilver (a character who doesn’t often get some of those) with someone even giving the guy some genuine respect (which, ditto.) But overall, the whole thing hinged on the newest character, the newest villain, and their relationship to one another, with all the other characters doing their own things several pages removed. Even with four issues with this character, that’s not enough buy-in for a grace period to allow that.

Even with the unwelcome intrusion of another not-so-flavorful Cable, the story was not without its tension. Cable did save the day, in a force-quit kind of way, that was surprising, and also a bit ruthless. It’s nice that the dramatic end may be with some consequence, too. Not only does it set up the villain to be potentially recurring, but the Cable was pretty drastic and Synapse seemed a bit shaken. A genuine reaction, I think.

The artwork continues to bounce from being a bit too strange to being a good fit for the book, since it, too, is a bit strange, I guess? The designs for the Shredded Man is creepy and effective, particularly his bug-filled demise. Yikes and yuck! But Synapse’s costume still just doesn’t make sense, especially with the art style making her hair appear flat and a wet mass. Quicksilver’s motion lines are more distracting then just being a way to convey a sense of movement, and Cable is both glorious and hilarious in his display of the excess of the 90s aesthetic. He even holds a giant gun that is by far the most ludcrious thing since Rob Liefeld was in a jeans commerical.

The art also pays attention to backgrounds, both actual and metaphorical. There’s green dripping from all surfaces of the cityscape, and sometimes it’s just patterns of lines or opportunities for the colorists’ glows and gradients. It’s too bad that so much of it is just.. green. I mean, I understand that it’s the whole point of the plot, but it begins to suffocate the artwork, too. That’s probably deliberate but comes across as empty.

After four issues, the team can finally triumphantly take a Right Stuff-inspired slow walk away from their helicopter in a full page splash. It just doesn’t feel like this is an assemblage of Earth’s Mightiest Clubhouse, since they are more or less just professionals, showing up to do their job, and then going back to their office. I can see that every day at work; I don’t need my favorite comicbook hero team to do that, too. Where’s the camaraderie? The sense of family? Either it happened in the “eight month gap” between old and new volume of the series, or Deadpool’s banter is meant to compensate for that.

As intriguing as that cliffhanger is, I’m going to drop the book, I’m afraid. Lable this one: Not for Me.   

The post Uncanny Avengers #4 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Uncanny Avengers #4

I finally figured out what was that weird feeling I get when reading this series. You know how you order something familiar from a new restaurant because you’re really excited to see that dish on the menu, but when it arrives it’s nothing like what you remember from the original place? Yeah. It’s that kind of feeling reading the latest iteration of Uncanny Avengers.

All the showcase-y moments feature characters that I really don’t warm up to. One or two unfamiliar or unfavorite characters are welcome to take up space in my comic. In fact, that’s kind of nice. But when it’s just a bunch of characters like Synapse, Deadpool, and Cable… well, it’s just weird that they make their quacamole with tomatoes, you know? There was a nice moment for Quicksilver (a character who doesn’t often get some of those) with someone even giving the guy some genuine respect (which, ditto.) But overall, the whole thing hinged on the newest character, the newest villain, and their relationship to one another, with all the other characters doing their own things several pages removed. Even with four issues with this character, that’s not enough buy-in for a grace period to allow that.

Even with the unwelcome intrusion of another not-so-flavorful Cable, the story was not without its tension. Cable did save the day, in a force-quit kind of way, that was surprising, and also a bit ruthless. It’s nice that the dramatic end may be with some consequence, too. Not only does it set up the villain to be potentially recurring, but the Cable was pretty drastic and Synapse seemed a bit shaken. A genuine reaction, I think.

The artwork continues to bounce from being a bit too strange to being a good fit for the book, since it, too, is a bit strange, I guess? The designs for the Shredded Man is creepy and effective, particularly his bug-filled demise. Yikes and yuck! But Synapse’s costume still just doesn’t make sense, especially with the art style making her hair appear flat and a wet mass. Quicksilver’s motion lines are more distracting then just being a way to convey a sense of movement, and Cable is both glorious and hilarious in his display of the excess of the 90s aesthetic. He even holds a giant gun that is by far the most ludcrious thing since Rob Liefeld was in a jeans commerical.

The art also pays attention to backgrounds, both actual and metaphorical. There’s green dripping from all surfaces of the cityscape, and sometimes it’s just patterns of lines or opportunities for the colorists’ glows and gradients. It’s too bad that so much of it is just.. green. I mean, I understand that it’s the whole point of the plot, but it begins to suffocate the artwork, too. That’s probably deliberate but comes across as empty.

After four issues, the team can finally triumphantly take a Right Stuff-inspired slow walk away from their helicopter in a full page splash. It just doesn’t feel like this is an assemblage of Earth’s Mightiest Clubhouse, since they are more or less just professionals, showing up to do their job, and then going back to their office. I can see that every day at work; I don’t need my favorite comicbook hero team to do that, too. Where’s the camaraderie? The sense of family? Either it happened in the “eight month gap” between old and new volume of the series, or Deadpool’s banter is meant to compensate for that.

As intriguing as that cliffhanger is, I’m going to drop the book, I’m afraid. Lable this one: Not for Me.   

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