Saturday, 14 September 2013

Issue #34: I heart Harley.

Back already!  There's not much time to rest if I'm throwing in on all 52 Villains Month issues.  That's thirteen a week!  Apologies, because I could have got this up earlier, but I scored NHL 14 this week so I disappeared into that for a while, and since GTA V is out in three days... well look, I'll do my best.

With so many of these out I've decided to award a Villain Of The Week title to the comic I liked best from each week's releases for DC Villains Month.  As I didn't do this last post, I'll award last week's one to Cyborg Superman.  Braniac ran a close second, but this issue's Villain Of The Week is....


Read what I thought of Harley Quinn below!

Aquaman #23.1  Black Manta #1   This issue has a lot going for it compared to most of these villain one-shots for several reasons.  Firstly, if you’ve been reading Aquaman, the previous events regarding Black Manta are directly referenced.  Second, there is some insight in to Black Manta’s motivations and psychological state not previously offered.  Third, it’s sets things up for a tie in to Forever Evil that looks like it might actually be worth reading.  Black Manta is one of the prisoners in Belle Reve freed during the Secret Society’s mass break out.  He receives his invitational coin and recovers his suit from storage.  At the Secret Society meeting aboard the fallen Justice League headquarters he also finds Aquaman’s trident.  He’s not too impressed with what’s on the table though, and when Ultraman does what he does (see Forever Evil #1, no spoilers here) he finds good reason to oppose the Secret Society.  This comic is one of the better ones of the bunch, fleshing out Black Manta well.  He may be a bad guy, but he is a human with human motivations on his own path.

Lenticular cover rating: 5/5.  It’s awesome.  The ribbons of blood jump off the cover and contrast beautifully with the light blue whirlpool of water in the background, the depth of Manta’s arm, then head, then backpack is perfect.  The whole thing exemplifies the savagery of the character.

Batman #23.2  Riddler #1   One of the Dark Knight’s top villains, the Riddler has been laying pretty low in the New 52.  We saw Edward Nygma fired from Wayne Enterprises and that’s about it, but if we learn one thing here, it’s that the Riddler can hold a grudge.  We follow him as he executes a meticulously planned entry and shutdown of Wayne Tower, remaining wonderfully calm as he comfortably kills anyone that attempts to halt his ascent… or touches him, Ed doesn’t like to be touched.  There’s not much more than that, other than the fact that the Riddler seems to be the only one so far who is convinced Batman must be still alive, and the book finishes promising to continue in Batman #25.  Not bad, there’s none of the cookie cutter plot I complained about last week which is a plus.

Lenticular cover rating: 4/5.  Almost top marks, because the 3D effect here is excellent.  Riddler’s staff is pencilled at the perfect angle to make the effect work.  One point off though for the unimaginative background, as I can easily picture it being a psychedelic pattern of question marks, nodding to the TV series.

Batman & Robin #23.2  Court Of Owls #1   When Scott Snyder wrote the Court Of Owls at the beginning of the New 52 he achieved something remarkable – the introduction of new villains for Batman that resonated with fans in such a way that we expect them to be around for a long time to come.  I’m not a fan of Talon, but I like this opportunity to revisit the Court and discover more about them.  From that storyline, there’s two particular standout moments; Batman’s hallucinogenic torture in the labyrinth, and Batman’s discovery of all the different bases the Owls have occupied, each tying them to a different generation through history, and the beats of the latter echo through this issue.  A masked member of the Court and his daughter flee below a post-Forever Evil Gotham as he recounts to her stories of the history of the group, each one reaching further back in time.  What a creepy bunch of individuals they are.  A small gripe though, as this story is to continue in Talon, why the Batman & Robin branding?  Is it simply because B&R is a better selling book?  Is your average New 52 fan really so fickle about what logo is on the cover?  And even so, considering the villain title is written across the original logos, does it really matter?

Lenticular cover rating: 4/5.  A sepia portrait of a family all in those creepy masks is cool, backed by more masked portraits.  Nice and freaky, but nothing reaches out.  This would be a cool cover without the 3D effect.  The wallpaper, however…. what a delightful nightmare.

The Dark Knight #23.2  Mr. Freeze #1   I’m surprised there wasn’t more noise when in Batman Annual #1 last year, Mr. Freeze’s continuity was changed to reveal that his frozen “wife” was simply an abductee, and his tragic love story merely part of his psychosis.  I actually liked it a lot though, thinking it made the character much more fucked up.  This issue sees Mr. Freeze discover he has more family members while in prison, and following a breakout, attempt to track them down.  It’s a good development, that he needs adoration as the basis for his actions and behaviour.  I really like this one too.  Batman’s bad guys make for such fun reading.

Lenticular cover rating: 4/5.  Great depth here as Freeze points his gun right at you.  Batman encased in ice is pretty blurry but this seems to add to the illusion.  Freeze’s right shoulder appears a bit further back than it should, and the skinny head is an odd artistic choice.

Detective Comics #23.2  Harley Quinn #1   I’m a little disappointed to learn that Matt Kindt and Neil Googe are not the creative team for the upcoming monthly title Harley Quinn, because I was instantly won over with what they’ve done here.  Googe presents a slightly cartoonish, almost cheeky style that compliments the character exceptionally well, and Kindt pens a serviceable one-shot that treads the childhood flashback stuff without it feeling repetitive, because Harley didn’t have a turning point event that set her on the bad girl path, she just chose violence and crime because it excites her.  I find the sassy/crazy nature of Harley very interesting, even a little bit sexy, and her amusing spree of violence just to put together her outfit is gold.  One of my favourites so far.

Lenticular cover rating: 3/5.  Harley is strong in the foreground, but the hammer loses focus, and I had to look closely to see that’s the Batcave in the background.  The floating card symbols might have looked better in front of all of it.

Earth 2 #15.2  Solomon Grundy #1   This one is also written by Matt Kindt, but Solomon Grundy and Harley Quinn are chalk and cheese, mainly because all we get is an origin story of Grundy killing everyone at his workplace after his wife kills herself, then he comes back to life.  There’s no explanation of how this might be possible, or why he is the only one resurrected.  Couple this with the modern day zombie Grundy lumbering towards a city killing everyone he comes across and… well, that’s it.  Probably one of the most pointless comics I’ve read in recent memory, and so far for Villains Month it’s the dud of the bunch.  See that panel below from this comic?  The whole thing pretty much amounts to that one panel.

Lenticular cover rating: 3/5.  The cover artwork is good but perhaps too detailed to get the effect across well.  With too little contrast the image can’t jump like it should.

The Flash #23.2  Reverse Flash #1   This issue fits right in to the final story arc for The Flash with Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato on creative duties, and it’ll be sad to see them go.  There is a lot of the childhood flashback stuff here, but…. shit, how can I describe how it’s relevant without spoiling the final page?  I don’t think I can, but look, for Flash fans it’s pretty fucking good!  This book has an almost Hitchcockian influence in that it drags on with detail that doesn’t grab you much, only to snap your attention back when it does.  The origin tale of Reverse Flash admittedly isn’t great, but it does tie in to events from the previous issues pretty well.  And his redesign is so badass.  Looking forward to the rest of it.

Lenticular cover rating: 5/5.  How can anyone ignore this?  Layers all work really well. An excellent image of the character running towards the reader and the shards do a much better job than Deadshot’s bullets did.  Almost lost a point for The Flash looking too big back there, but I don’t care.  This one’s ace.

Green Lantern #23.2  Mongul #1   This book opens with a huge space fleet surrounding Warworld in an effort to defend their home planet, when the Admiral is beamed from his bridge and given a tour of Warworld by all-round space bastard Mongul.  Mongul extends polite courtesy at first, but soon soapboxes about his survival-of-the-fittest creed before admitting he is in the process of destroying the Admiral’s entire homeworld.  Yep, when it comes to fucking shit up around the universe, Mongul is hard to match, with intelligence, determination, and the tools to back him his attitude, and the Green Lantern Corps is next on his list of parties to poop.  Some nice artwork by Howard Porter, recently confirmed for duties on the upcoming Justice League 3000.

Lenticular cover rating: 2/5.  Kinda cool, with the bloody boot stomp pose, but his chest looks like it’s floating about twenty centimetres further forward than it should be.  Not into it.

Justice League #23.2  Lobo #1   My social media sparked with a little internet rage last week as a redesigned Lobo reminiscent of Capcom’s Dead Or Alive Dante reboot drew the ire of a few in the comic book community, so I couldn’t help but smile at the opening dialogue of this book: “You think you know me.” [next page is reveal of new design] “Screw you.”  There’s so much I’d like to say about this one, but I simply cannot bring myself to hint at any details.  I simply recommend you read this well written one shot and decide for yourself how it stacks up against its 51 brethren this month, because I am all over whatever book this story continues in.  Great stuff.

Lenticular cover rating: 2/5.  Look, I want to like it, but the disjointed hair and the chain that is almost completely out of frame isn’t doing it for me.  The necklace works nicely though.

Justice League Of America #7.2  Killer Frost #1   This story is more or less by the numbers, but it served as an introduction to a character I know nothing about, so it was entertaining enough.  Killer Frost’s origin… well, she gained her powers being locked in a scientific machine.  Yawn.  The better stuff comes in the second half, where we learn Firestorm has the power to warm her back to normal… temporarily.  Given that she has a black belt in physics, Killer Frost wants the scientific answer for this.  She’s yet another walkout for the Secret Society though, when it looks like Ultraman’s gang have done away with Firestorm along with the Justice League.  Not bad.

Lenticular cover rating: 4/5.  Really nice, with some of the ice shards deliberately out of focus to convey distance.  Is it something about light blue that makes the effect look more convincing?

Superman #23.2  Brainiac #1   I was immediately struck by the artwork of Pascal Alixe in this book, a beautiful pencilled style with subtle cross hatching over hard inks that I’d really like to see more of.  As a planet called Noma is attacked by Brainiac, a brilliant scientist named Victoria Viceroy is informed of Brainiac’s intentions by her robotic assistant Pneumenoid.  He also recounts an untruthful and glorified account of Brainiac’s origins.  Too late to save her own people, Victoria sends a distress signal deep into space to warn others, a signal picked up by Dr. Veritas on Earth.  Perhaps I’m viewing this one through my pro-Kryptonian prism but I loved it.  At least check it out for the artwork alone.

Lenticular cover rating: 3/5.  I’m leaning more towards the covers that have creative backgrounds over the standard backdrops, like the lab in this one, which looks pretty slapped together.  I wish Braniac didn’t just look like a green Lex Luthor considering how great he’s drawn in the book.  Still, the 3D effect is great here, with nice believable depth on the character and the sharp robotic arms creeping in to the foreground.

Teen Titans #23.1  Trigon #1   Trigon, eh?  I’ve never heard of him, but there was an interesting concept here, that a kind of hell exists somewhere in space, a floating black “heart” that feeds on evil itself.  It’s here that Trigon gains his powers, and er… sets about busting a nut into as many poor female aliens as possible to sire an heir.  All his heirs either die or don’t end up badass enough for him though – ooh how convenient!  Better bring Trigon more space vagina!  It’s all kinda fucked up in an entertaining/imagine-a-demon-fucking-an-alien way, so yeah, I thought it wasn’t too bad.

Lenticular cover rating: 3/5.  Almost on the money, except Trigon’s head is a little too detached.  The glowing hands look great though.

Action Comics #23.2  Zod #1   Another good one.  Greg Pak’s Zod as a boy is stranded in a remote part of Krypton for a year forced to defend himself against wild beasts to survive, a nice explanation as to why Zod has a warlike temperament in a peaceful Kryptonian society.  Yearning to return his people to their warrior roots, he engineers a war with an old foe which he wins, but Jor-El discovers the plot, and it is for this crime he banishes Zod to the Phantom Zone.  Nice artwork, particularly in the action sequences, courtesy of Ken Lashley.

Lenticular cover rating: 2/5.  Not much lending itself to the effect here, and Zod’s right bicep armour pokes out strangely.  My cover seems to have a couple of speckled dots across the front, and I’m not even sure if it’s intentional or an error in the printing process, but it just looks like someone spilt something on it, and I literally attempted to wipe it off before realising it was under the lenticular coating.

Thanks kids, more next week.

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