Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Issue 16: At least they actually HAVE a logo...

"Things the logo also sort of looks like:  A ripped condom being removed from a wrapper.  A large sticker being pulled off of a toilet seat cover." -Dylan Todd, Comics Alliance

DC Comics are forging ahead with a new logo.  It’s almost as if their recent success has given them more money than they know what to do with.  This logo is a huge jump from the current one, and as a result has freaked a few fanboys out.  Personally I think it would look better moulded out of metal and stuck to the wall behind the reception desk at DC’s offices, but less so in the corner of the SHIT-TON of comics I pay them for, although this basic one here is just really for the letterheads.  Most titles will get to have they’re own take on it, and you can check some of them out here at Comics Alliance.  But will it be on the opening credits of The Dark Knight Rises?  I think yes, and in some animated form.  How better to shove the new logo down everyone’s throats?

If I worked at DC and had a say in where to funnel extra finances I’d have opted for a large catapult that can also set it’s payload on fire, and aim it at a razor wire net smeared in junkie bile and dogshit.  Then you could simply put those two fucks that put out Legion Lost in it and let her rip.

The Flash #3  After giving Wolverine the boot last month I decided to fill the void with another DC title, and The Flash was at the top of the list.  This issue opens on the previous cliffhanger of a plane hurtling toward a bridge after a major EMP has caused a blackout. Against impossible odds The Flash manages to really tap into his power set to avert catastrophe.  Meanwhile old friend of The Flash Manuel is being held captive by his clones as they search for a way to use him to extend their own limited lifespans.  Barry heads in to rescue his friend sans-costume, but also seemingly sans-powers as the issue ends with Barry on the end of a bullet.  Something tells me DC haven’t killed off a member of the Justice League just yet though. 
This book has a likable pencil style courtesy of Francis Manapul, particularly in the washed out flashback scenes of Manuel’s soldier stuff (check out his gallery at Deviantart here).  I think The Flash will replace Wolverine in my collection nicely, as it manages to show off the character’s powers well each month, maintain a reasonably engaging story, and (so far) always ends on a “what the fuck” last page.  -Jem

Batman #5   Oh wow.  Not only is Batman #5 the issue where this arc ramps up, I think I can safely say this is the best single issue of any comic I have read in recent memory.  Yep, better than Daredevil #1, Batman #1, or any other issue I can think of.  I’m going to drop some spoilers from here on, but I insist if you have any interest in Batman in comic book form and you haven’t read any yet, stop reading this and buy yourself a copy as soon as possible.  What’s so good about it?  Aside from the genius pairing of Snyder and Capullo that I make a point of not taking for granted each month when I read this, we have a story arc that goes over the falls.  Batman is trapped in a labyrinth, finding his way in the dark until a flash bulb goes off in front of him, and the room is lit with white light, with a single camera on a tripod facing him.  Batman steps deeper into the maze only to be met with another camera room, then another, each with some unique feature to differentiate it from the last, all the while being stalked by the Court Of Owls’ assassin.  Eventually we return to a room with walls morbidly adorned with framed photographs of previous victims of the labyrinth, arranged in lines showing each victims descent into madness from left to right….. and someone’s been adding Batman’s photos to the collection.  It’s really stirring stuff, especially as by this point the reader is already well aware that the real danger to Bruce is his battle to keep his own mind together long enough to escape.  This is visually underpinned by the insane wide eye staring at you from behind Batman’s damaged mask.

  Talking to your long dead parents is a sure fire sign the old ticker has well and truly gone south.  There’s no sense of how time is moving (apart from a mention that Batman has not been seen in eight days) which disorients the reader along with the character, and Batman has some scary hallucinogens picking at his brain, but the real moment when you realise it’s all gone pear shaped is when the pages of the comic, having shifted ninety degrees to change the viewpoint to a long two-page arrangement, then shift another ninety degrees to become upside down.  It’s a glorious moment where a truly talented and creative team manage to exploit the format of comics in such a nice way, I can’t help but pat myself on the back for recognising this as my must-have title from the whole DC 52 early on.  This is a brilliant comic book, and anyone with even a passing interest in the character needs to buy themselves this run.  -Jem

Thanks kids.  Got a lot more reading to do.  Back soon.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Issue 15: Hmmmm.... needs more Batman.

Eeek, a too long hiatus this month, and I’m afraid we’re a little lower on content than we should be.  Not that we haven’t been reading a lot, but it’s been a busy month in each of our lives.  Until we hire a blog-writing droid you’ll have to accept our human reasons for shunning the burger a little.

This week DC announced their “second wave” for the 52.  This involves giving six titles the arse and replacing them with six new titles.  Sadly, O.M.A.C. is a title I’ll have to say goodbye to, while  Hawk & Dove also gets the chop (I think we were the only two people in Melbourne that didn’t completely hate it).  Liefeld haters shouldn’t throw a party yet though, as DC has confirmed he’ll head up three unannounced projects in the future.  Personally we think his style is pretty sweet.  You draw better if you disagree.  Send it to us via the facebook group.  We promise we’ll judge it fairly.  Bet we get sent fuck all.
The other four titles are Blackhawks (we’ll live), Men Of War (liked it but ended up dropping it), Mister Terrific (likewise) and Static Shock (one of the shittest pieces of shitty shit ever).  These are to be replaced by Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, World’s Finest, Dial H, The Ravagers and G.I. Combat.  Check our source story here for more details.  This will bring the number of core Batman titles to five, or fifty if you simply count the books Bats appears in.  We’ll be picking up the lot and reviewing each one when they drop in May.

Amazing Spider-Man #675   Many comic book fans have those one or two titles they’ll buy by default.  It doesn’t matter who’s working on it or where the story’s at, but more about either the collector angle, or that it’s close to the heart.  Amazing Spidey is one of mine.  I had a few issues as a small kid, and I’ve collected it on and off over the years.  At the moment it’s far from it’s best but it is what it is, and for me that’s still entertaining enough.  Amazing Spider-Man has been a book Marvel are happy to frequently change artists for, and I happily accept the look of the book constantly changing.  Italian artist Giuseppe Camuncoli pencilled this issue, and while his work’s not bad I don’t think he’s right for Spidey simply because the action doesn’t leap off the page like Spidey should.  But there’s another reason why the artwork here lacks vitality, and that’s the colouring.  Just take a look at the washed out colours here, then compare them to Avenging Spider-Man.  Would Marvel do this deliberately so that the casual reader comparing the two would buy the latter this month?  Who knows, but with The Amazing Spider-Man being the title of this year’s fast approaching movie I’ll bet bright, colourful splash pages will make a return before long.  -Jem

The Incredible Hulk #3   Marc Silvestri is moving on from The Incredible Hulk after this issue, but not before winning me over in a big way.  In a very short time Silvestri’s Hulk has become my all time favourite look for the character, and I’ll likely follow him to his next endeavour (which despite frantic googling I am unable to discover).  The thin lined style and swift strokes present beautiful detail for both expression and all-out action scenes.  Anyone who draws Hulk needs to convey the brute strength of the character and make it believable, and Silvestri seemingly does this naturally and without effort.  The story arc isn’t done with though, as Hulk does battle with Banner’s mutant warthog brothers before vowing to take revenge and face Banner’s island of freaks head on.  Next issue sees another Image founder Whilce Portacio on pencils, which should continue to do the book justice.  –Jem

Batman and Robin #2  The cover to this issue annoyed me initially, as what took me a while to realise was the Batmobile, seemed to resemble a giant pig’s head or some similar porcine beast.  Then it grew on me until I now find it almost classic!  I love Damien’s pose through the red tinted glass, showing his unrestrained excitement at whatever destination he and Batman are speeding towards.  As Jem noted in issue #1, this will definitely be Damien’s book, and primarily Batman’s constant need to keep him in check, with more than a little help from a terrifically written Alfred along the way.  The art is pleasing so far, with very fine lined pencils and inks to match. The book opens with great scenes of Robin training with the total intensity and focus that makes him who he is.  Page 9 is a splash page with Batman and Robin launching into the back of a truck to take out a weapon shipment and its delivering henchmen.  A swift fight scene showing Robin’s newly learnt forced restraint is integral to the plot.  The henchmen are left hanging from a street pole, awaiting collection from the Gotham Police, when our new, still as yet unnamed villain arrives in the shadows.
Henchman: “...blood’s rushing to my head...”
SLIIIKKK  (Throats are slashed with his bladed gloves)
Villain: “Not anymore”.
Cut to Robin doing more training, straight after patrol, and Alfred expressing his concerns at this behaviour along with fatherhood advice to Bruce.  A foreboding spread of panels follows: As Bruce heads away, calling over his shoulder to Damien to get some rest, the stoic faced 10 year old snatches a bat out of the air, crushes it in his hand, looks at the dead creature impassively, and throws it down into the depths of the Batcave.  Alfred watches, hidden in the shadows; the look on his face one of fear and concern for this latest Robin. The book is nicely end capped with a civilian garbed Bruce buying a dog for Damien as a gift for not killing people!  The villain, also sans costume, casually arrives and becomes identified to us as Morgan, Bruce addressing him as such. Engaging in an intriguing conversation, we learn in the final four pages that this character has killed one of Batman’s agents in Batman Inc., and has some connection to “Ducard”, who I only know from the Batman Begins movie.  I think this character will definitely be challenging Batman’s non-lethal methods and this is a great set up for the rest of the arc.  Looking forward to more. -Ty      

Thanks kids.  Next week I'll be catching up on The Flash, along with one or two others.  Cheers.  -Jem

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Issue 14: The Defending Bat-Panther-Spider!

DC have come out this week to announce that the name of the character we like to call “Wally” (or Waldo for our readers in the States) is actually “Pandora”.   Check out the source here.  While Pandora’s whole deal is still under wraps, she is set to appear in future issues of Justice League, though given that she time travelled to make appearances in every single DC 52 #1 we’re tipping she’ll be central to some kind of crossover event at some point.  Imagine every single 52 tying together.  Then imagine they actually got it right.  Really right.  Could be cool.  As long as they figure out what her feet look like by then.

Avenging Spider-Man #1     Why another Spider-Man book? The hook here is Avenging Spidey is going to be “Spider-Man Team-Up” in every way except the title.  Spider-Man is arguably Marvel’s most recognised character and what a great way to put him in stories with either other iconic characters just for the sheer fun and joy of it,  but more so,  give exposure perhaps to some lesser known or under-used characters.  Not to mention two huge Marvel films coming out in 2012 named “Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Avengers” will encourage new readers to check this book out.  The most exciting part of this new title though?   Hands down Joe Madureira’s, (or as us fans call him “Joe Mad”) absolutely glorious artwork on every single page, in every single panel.   Joe Mad has been away for several years working on video game projects and when he expressed interest in coming back to comics, specifically drawing Spidey, like Todd McFarlane years before, Marvel launches a whole new title for him!  That’s how good he is. I first fell in love with his art back when he was drawing Uncanny X-Men over a decade ago.  His was one of my all time favourite runs on that title.  His renditions of each individual X-man were stunning, second to, but only by a micron, Chris Bachalo; to who admittedly I am biased as he is my favourite artist.  I could cite so many amazing past issues of Joe Mad’s work, but I leave it to you to pick up this new title for yourself and see his work now! I have wanted to collect a Spidey title for a fair while and a new #1 with sensational art it looks as if I’ve hit the jackpot!  On to the review!

Issue #1 opens with a nicely detailed 4-panel page with Spidey riffing a little exposition to remind us all, or inform any new comer, where he’s currently at in his life.  “Girl problems, a full-time job, membership on any super-team that will have you... including two (two!) separate teams of Avengers.  Spider-Man, where do you find the time?”  I liked this as right away I had a sense of respect for his current continuity from the writer, (Zeb Wells, of Amazing Spidey fame) but also a clever way of immediately not getting bogged down in it and feeling that this will be a book  all of its own.  I don’t want to have to know what’s going on in any other book in order to read this title, and I get the feeling  right away that it won’t be that way. Turning to page 2 & 3 and seeing Spidey in action with some fellow Avengers battling a giant robot and you know what you’re in for art wise!  Although anyone needing an intro to Joe Mad’s art should skip straight to pages 10 & 11 where you’ll be treated to a line up of Spider-Woman, Steve Rogers, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man and the Red Hulk.  I guarantee you will look at this and be in instant anticipation for more and already debating inside your head who you’d like to see appear in this book!

Back to page 5 though which is J. Jonah Jamieson, being the Mayor of New York (which for me not being a regular Spidey reader was news) about to gun-start a marathon.   To switch the praise to the writing for a minute, I actually laughed out loud when I read the following line he utters just before firing the gun: “ – Let’s get this over with so you jog-hippies can go back to dressing like normal human beings ...”  Perfect dialogue encapsulating  in one speech bubble JJJ’s personality indeed!  I’m not going to make a habit of listing page numbers in my reviews but this issue is exceptional;  pages 6 & 7 are a double splash page that the sheer volume and detail of what’s going on needs a special  mention.  It is probably fifty or so “Moloids” running headlong into just as many of the aforementioned marathon runners and it is stunning!  I would love to know how long a piece of art like this takes to complete.  I needed no further explanation as to what these Moloids were all about, other than New York was under attack by them.  JJJ appears to make the same assumption, yelling it out loud, then stating: “And they called me psycho when I demanded real bullets for this thing...” as he is making ready the revolver he used to start the race.  With a hilarious cry of: “Eat lead, Bilbo...”  contained within a panel comprised of inked out silhouette, we see JJJ manage to get off two shots  with red lettered “BLAM BLAM” before he is overwhelmed by Moloids.  The art and writing come together perfectly in the next panel,  with the sheer indignation pencilled on his face coupled with the dialogue explanation: “Blanks?! Oh, you patronizing sons of - -“  Love it.

Without giving too much of the plot away, this first team-up comprises Spidey of course and the Red Hulk.  JJJ is kidnapped by the previously mentioned Moloids and the pair are then off to rescue him.  If you’re any kind of a Hulk fan you’re in for a treat as this is one of the best renditions of the character I’ve ever seen. His size, especially in ratio to Spidey, is just perfect. The muscle tone and poses are beautiful, helped along by some superb colouring by “Ferran Daniel”, who I will be keeping a look out for in the future.  A panel with Spidey riding on Red Hulk’s back as he’s “flying” through the air is a favourite.  Thunder clapping a flock of birds because Spidey yells: “Incoming” is both comedic and one of the most kinetic images in the book.  The second half of the book is mostly based in “Subterranea”; the world of the Moloids, and without discussing anymore of the plot, the art quite intentionally sinks into shadow and stark inks. The splash page that ends this comic is one of the most detailed in the book and is a classic cliff hanger, nicely leading into issue #2. (Check out the cover!!) 
Forgive me for sounding like a fan boy in any of all this, but it is truly wonderful to see such a talented artist from such a great period of comics back in the ring. If the writing stays sharp too, I will be with this title for a long time... Who am I kidding? George Lucas could write this and as long as Joe Mad is drawing I will be looking!! Till next time where I’ll get to my Bat-Family share as promised and issue #2 of Avenging Spidey!!   -Ty

O.M.A.C. #4     Kevin Kho is already sick of feeling controlled by the self aware satellite Brother Eye in an issue that explores hopeless defiance that is followed by begrudging submission.  But don’t let the underlining narrative fool you – there’s also talking alligators, mad scientists and an angry girlfriend to pad out this book!  Kevin realises he’s free of Brother Eye’s signal when he enters the subway, only to find himself in a situation where he really needs to omactivate to save his own life.  As mentioned in an earlier review, O.M.A.C. relies on an art style peppered with sweet winks in the direction of the golden age, and the six-panels-to-a-page layout seems to be a staple for the book.  This title is about to crossover with Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. too, which should be a nice monster mash.  -Jem

Batwoman #4  Geez, it’s like someone at DC decided that nobody reading Batwoman realises that Kate Kane is gay, and they really, really want it to be as bloody obvious as possible.  In it’s defense, the sex scene on it’s own is tasteful in it’s soft focus black and white tones, but unfortunately it’s cut against a fight that borders on violent sexual attack.  Perhaps this is to accentuate that oral sex may be the only blissful ignorance one can enjoy in a hellhole like Gotham, or maybe it’s another DC attempt at being “adult” that was already penned before internet comic fans insisted they didn’t want to see Batman chock-a-block up Catwoman.  I’ve been enjoying Batwoman but this is a lazy issue.  It feels shorter too, it isn’t, but with a fight interspersed with a fuck for a third of the issue it’s finished in moments, and what’s left doesn’t move the story forward with the same pacing we’ve been spoiled with thusfar.  Please, please don’t let the wheels have fallen off this one already.  –Jem

Black Panther #525 & #526   A couple of issues back I said I was looking forward to this book being able to hit it’s stride now that all the hammer stuff and spider plagues were dealt with.  Sadly it turns out Marvel have scheduled the most dangerous man alive for the chopping block, but at least the Black Panther seems to be going out with a bang.  Immediately obvious is the expanded colour palette, a welcome break from the almost-one-colour look of the book until now.  The Kingpin, now head of the Hand, is murdering Wakandans in New York and T’Challa is naturally hellbent on getting to the bottom of it.  Rescuing one survivor, he faces off against Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary, while desperately trying to get his patient to safety.  The fight scenes against Hand ninjas are a highlight as T’Challa’s inner monologues remain calm, explaining the science of the combat as he dispatches numerous enemies.  This is so cool, and it’s why I like this character so much.  The Black Panther knows a million ways to break every bone, and often toys with his opponent just long enough to find a crucial weakness.  The Kingpin is used to good effect here too, mirroring BP’s methods and mindset of the fight, and each of these men is so convinced they have the perfect surprise attack planned for the other, the reader is left with a sense that this one may go either way.  The Black Panther rapidly approaches his final issue, after all.  –Jem

Wolverine #19  This book’s gone to shit.  Admittedly, it was probably the title I was most likely to drop even from early on, though I did enjoy the arc about the group of people whose lives were made worse by Wolverine’s actions banding together to get their revenge.  What we have here with this Regenesis branding is a shame, mainly because it’s just blind Saturday morning cartoon fare in the vein of Power Rangers or something.  There’s nothing here to keep me interested.  How hard can it be to have Wolverine doing cool Wolverine shit?  Impossible apparently, so fuck this comic and fuck everyone who’s had something to do with the creation of the last three issues.  Seriously, some of the most boring bullshit I’ve ever read.  -Jem

The Defenders #1   An interesting team book here featuring the likes of Dr. Strange, Namor, Red She-Hulk, Iron Fist and The Silver Surfer… there’s not much that couldn’t be put down with the combined might of this lot.  The recent mini series Fear Itself: The Deep featured a team with three of these characters together and I didn’t mind that one too much, but it’s a little perplexing that the setup didn’t begin there, and we go through the motions of the defenders being assembled without any real reference to half of them hanging out underwater a month ago.  This is even more odd considering the nemesis of the story, the spirit that possessed the Hulk in Fear Itself, is on the rampage, and the creators rely heavily on the reader to have read Fear Itself #7 and know exactly what’s going on.  I’m up to speed though and found this one to be an enjoyable read, and intend to stick with it for a while.  I’ve been catching up on some old school Dr. Strange stuff recently and digging that.  There’s a slight re-invention of the character here as the book opens with a scene of morning after regret following a sexual encounter with one of his students.  I wanted a new Dr. Strange title and this is it.  A word of warning though: this is not a book for the casual Marvel reader.  If you don’t have the background from Fear Itself this will read like garbage, and most will find the artwork on the wrong side of average too.  -Jem

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