Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.21) the Second


This is a very good week for comics – not only did I really like a couple of the new IDW issues (particularly Smoke & Mirrors), but the crop of DC titles is stellar, as were the others I picked up. Two debut issues, five seventh innings, two second outings, and a final chapter.

There’s one other comic that I picked up this week, but have not included here, and that’s Freedom #1 – it’s a bumper issue (more a graphic-novelette, really) and so I’m going to give it a separate, more in-depth review of its own.

In the meantime, here are mini-reviews of ten pretty great comics.


Reviewed: Avengers X-Sanction #4, Batman #7, Catwoman #7, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1, Justice League #7, Nightwing #7, No Place Like Home #2, Red Hood & the Outlaws #7, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #2, Super Crooks #1

Avengers X-Sanction #4 (Marvel)

Marvel-AvengersXSanction-04Writer: Jeph Loeb | Artist: Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines

As the final hours tick down, Cable must take down a berserker Wolverine and a wise-crackin’ Web-Head to ensure a deadly future does not come to pass!

Not a bad finish to the mini-series, but it’s not an especially great one, either. A little flat, if I’m honest. I also still have no clue why the Avengers and X-Men are about to start duking it out, or why it requires a massive cross-series event to do so.

The artwork’s good, the writing’s pretty good. There’s one interesting surprise at the end, too, which I hope they use properly. Other than that, nothing can be said without a major spoiler. It’ll work well in the collected edition, but if you’ve been reading the series issue-by-issue, then it’s a decent finish to this lead-up to Marvel’s spring and summer event.


Batman #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Batman-07Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion

Batman may have survived the Court of Owls’ first strike (barely), but even as he recuperates, the Court is preparing to launch its most deadly and sweeping attack yet.

Plus: The secrets revealed in this issue will change Batman’s world forever! You won’t want to miss the issue everyone will be talking about!

This issue includes a much longer version of a scene in Nightwing #7 (which I read first – see below), and gives us more and better detail of what’s been going on with Batman’s first Robin and his past. Fleshes out a lot of detail of the Court of the Owls, explains the Talons, and also sets things up very nicely for the upcoming Bat-Family event.

Another superb issue. It’s frustrating that I have to cut back almost totally on single-issue comics, because this is a damned fine comic series. Snyder has pulled out all the stops, and this is a dark, nuanced, amazing story. Awesome. Definitely in the top five of DC’s New 52, and maybe even in my top five comics, period.

I really must get hold of Gates of Gotham, Snyder’s latest Batman graphic novel – if it’s anything like this, then it’ll be amazing.


Catwoman #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Catwoman-07Writer: Judd Winick | Artist: Adriana Melo | Colours: Mariah Benes

In the wake of her run-in with Batman and the loss of someone very dear to her, Catwoman turns over a new leaf.

With a new attitude, a new partner and a new game plan, she embarks on a new journey: She’s stealing hot cars. The competition isn’t too happy about it, and the Gotham PD are that much closer to nailing her.

There’s only one way out: Drive really, really fast.

Catwoman’s got a new, mellowing influence in her life and work, although she doesn’t always listen to her new confidante and fence. She still can get herself into trouble, therefore, just as she does in this issue. Another new friend and potential partner also comes onto the scene, and a good cop starts looking into Catwoman’s grand theft auto activity.

There’s a new artistic team, and they’re pretty great. A couple of early panels made Catwoman look a little more cartoon-y, but then the art becomes pretty awesome, as well as better in some aspects (Selene is a little less wild-looking when out of her Catwoman persona). If I’m honest, I prefer the previous team, but only be a very small fraction. This issue didn’t look as closely at Catwoman’s state of mind as previous issues, focusing far more on the adrenaline-rush of boosting cars and getting out of tricky situations.

This is still one of my favourite series – plenty of action, understated humour, and vibrant and dynamic artwork. She’s a great character, and the whole team working on Catwoman continue to make this a must-read title.


Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 (Vertigo)

DCVertigo-DLVoodooChild-01Writer: Selwyn Hinds | Artist: Denys Cowan | Colours: John Floyd & Dave McCaig

The story of a half-breed, outcast and heir to the Voodoo Queenship of New Orleans, if she can live long enough to claim her birthright.

New Orleans is the most haunted city in America: a town of centuries-old ghosts and newly drowned spirits; where vampires, voodoo spirits and loups-garous make their home. Ruling over this all are the powerful Voodoo Queens, whose influence stretches into politics, business and crime as they maintain a delicate balance between the mortal and supernatural worlds.But in the aftermath of Katrina, all that has changed, for someone or something has murdered the Voodoo Queen and most of her court. The number one suspect is Dominique Laveau, a grad student at Tulane who is about to discover that her entire life has been a lie. Now Dominique must forge alliances with those out to kill her while seeking to uncover the truth behind the royal murders, as she is ultimately forced to deal with a destiny she could never have imagined.

This is a pretty interesting new title, and a very enjoyable one at that. It’s a dark, gothic introduction to a tale of voodoo, family and blood-ties and blood-feuds in New Orleans. A lot happens in the issue, introducing us to key players, if not revealing too much detail of their motives and agendas. It’s a little difficult to go into too much detail without spoiling everything, but Dominique finds herself caught between a very large rock and a very hard place almost immediately, as she’s chased through a New Orleans district by what I assume is a very big werewolf. Her situation doesn’t get much better as she stumbles into a couple more weird and dangerous situations. The artwork is dark and atmospheric, and very much suits the story, adding to the atmosphere and gothic feel beautifully.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this develops in the future. This is definitely a new series to watch.


Justice League #7 (DC)

DCNew52-JusticeLeague-07Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Gene Ha & Gary Frank | Colours: Art Lyon

Now that the team’s origin story is complete, starting with this issue we shift to the present-day Justice League! What has changed? Who has joined the team since?

Featuring artwork by Gene Ha, the story also reintroduces the team’s greatest champion: Steve Trevor!

Also starting in this issue: “The Curse of Shazam!” featuring a story by Geoff Johns and art by Gary Frank! Discover Billy Batson’s place in DC Comics – The New 52 as we reveal his all-new origin story!

Interesting tension between Congress and Colonel Trevor, the League’s contact with the US government. As usual, they want control, don’t trust the Justice League to do what’s best in America’s interests, and so forth. Nothing particularly new, here, but it’s well-handled and well-presented. I keep forgetting, though, that the Justice League is America-centric, and that there is a Justice League International (which also has a New 52 series of its own). Seems odd that Superman is focused on the US, and not a global force. I mean: he’s Superman, after all.

After setting the scene in the first six issues of the series, we seem to be treading water again in this issue, as we’re brought up to speed on what’s transpired since the League’s official formation and recognition. There are a few tantalising hints of who their next big bad guy is going to be, too. Could be interesting.

The back-up story was intriguing, and contains a nice twist for people who are new to Shazam (like me). I couldn’t tell you what to expect in the near future with this story, but I’m eager to read more.

As before, I like the background stuff a great deal – from the quips and the banter between League members, to the artistic flourishes and nice visual touches throughout the issue. All together, this is a very enjoyable series.


Nightwing #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Nightwing-07Writer: Kyle Higgins | Artist: Eddy Barrows & Geraldo Borges | Colours: Eber Ferreira, Paulo Siqueira & Rod Reis

Nightwing vs. Saiko! The truth about Haly’s Circus! A tribute show for the Flying Graysons! They’re all in this amazing issue! Of course, there’s no way they could be related…right? Plus: As the answers regarding Haly’s Circus are revealed, what do they mean for Dick Grayson’s future in Gotham City? And more important, his future as Nightwing?

Ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to bother with this issue, but then I realised it was the last one in this story-arc, so I decided to read it anyway. Saiko, whose identity was revealed last issue, is absolutely nuts and has finally sprung his trap for Nightwing. As all good bad guys should, our villain starts spouting off about how Dick left him with the circus, which meant he was “picked” to take his place but was found “unworthy” by the “ringmaster”. Dick hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about, but we’re given a little flashback to some of the ordeals Saiko was put through. It’s only a little bit more information about the mystery at the heart of Haly’s Circus than we had before. But, all of this changes at the end, after the big showdown between Nightwing and Saiko. The issue finishes at the Batcave, where Nightwing and Batman have a heated exchange and confrontation (this actually presented a couple of spoilers for Batman #7, which I was saving until last – it’s one of my favourites, and I always save the ones I’m most looking forward to until the end).

It’s a satisfying conclusion to Nightwing’s first story-arc, and the final few pages set things up for the upcoming Bat-Family cross-over event. There’s a pretty surprising revelation, too, which ties up the mystery of Haly’s Circus. It’s very nicely done, and actually rekindled my interest in the series. Such a pity issues four-through-six seemed to wander off target. It was probably a result of the writers not knowing when or even if the cross-title event was going to happen. Once it was decided and finalised, though, it became a case of spinning it out to fit the new schedule. [I think Batgirl managed this a lot better, I have to say, with a mini, two-issue story.]

A lot of this issue sees Saiko and Nightwing’s battle high up among the wires of the circus, as explosions tear the circus below apart. It resulted in a good number of striking pages, with very nice, climactic and dynamic artwork.

A return to form, and quite promising for the future. Nevertheless, I can’t say with any certainty if I’ll come back for issue eight, or wait for the collected editions in the future. [Long-time readers will know I go back-and-forth over this issue on a weekly basis…]


No Place Like Home #2 (Image)

Image-NoPlaceLikeHome-02Writer: Angelo Tirotto | Artist: Richard Jordan | Colours:

“HOME AGAIN” Part Two – Dee’s world gets even more complicated when dead bodies, family secrets and a threat from the past set her down a road that will change her life forever! Who said coming home was easy?

This was a very good second issue. It has a thriller’s suspense mixed with a little bit of horror tension and a dash of the fantastic. There are some gothic textures to the story, as we slowly learn more about what might really be going on – there are a lot of questions remaining at the end, but with the cover (and also a variant of issue one), I’m starting to see the Wizard of Oz influence come through.

This is shaping up to be a great series, and I recommend it to anyone looking for something (American) gothic and twisted.


Red Hood & the Outlaws #7 (DC)

DCNew52-RedHood&TheOutlaws-07Writer: Scott Lobdell | Artist: Kenneth Rocafort | Colours: Blond

Red Hood is convinced that the super assassin Essence set him up in his battle against the Untitled… and Arsenal and Starfire are prepared to help him get some payback!

Plus: The trio learn that the super-villain known as Crux might be a kindred spirit after all! And the murderous Suzie Shu waits in the wings for her revenge!

There’s a lot of exposition in this issue, as we learn of Essence’s real role in the whole Untitled-vs.-the-All-Caste fight. Not what I was expecting, but given how important it is, it was rather brushed over. I think this is another bridge issue, so it’s a little difficult to take too much away from it, and therefore write about it.

This issue reminds me, therefore, of certain Under The Red Hood chapters, which as a whole make up a fantastic story, but I imagine would have been considered weak or slow individually.

I think this means Red Hood & the Outlaws has to be, for me, a collected-edition-title from now on. Good, but independently not as satisfying as it has been in the past, and certainly not as satisfying as some other titles are on an issue-by-issue basis.


Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #2 (Dark Horse)

DH-SW-DawnOfTheJedi-02Writer: John Ostrander & Jan Duursema | Artist: Jan Duursema | Colours: Dan Parsons & Wes Dzioba

At the heart of a galaxy far, far away lies the Tython system--home of the Je’daii for thousands of years. Now a stranger has come and the balance of the Force has been disrupted.

Three young students feel the disturbance in the Force and are called to this new, shadowy presence. It is the calm before the storm that will engulf their planet and change the galaxy forever!

This issue helps flesh out this time quite a lot more, introducing us to a few new characters, all of whom receive a vision of… the guy on cover of the first issue). Turns out, all of the hallucinating young je’daii know each other, and they come together at the end of the issue. (Why oh why did they have to add the apostrophe? Serious trope-fail. It doesn’t make words seem more exotic. No seriously, it doesn’t…!) The final page is quite promising for issue three, too.

This was much better than the first issue, it has a different, unhurried tone and instead of trying to dump a lot of history on us in one go, Ostrander has started getting on with the story. The writing is pretty good, overall. I think the series certainly has potential, and this issue drops a few more tantalising hints for the future (the first issue was basically a whole comic of questions, mystery and hints).

I really hope this series doesn’t end up as uneven as many other Star Wars series.


Super Crooks #1/4 (Icon)

Millar-SuperCrooks-01Writer: Mark Millar & Nacho Vigalondo | Artist: Leinil Yu & Gerry Alanguilan | Colours: Sunny Gho

When the market is flooded with competition and the authorities are always on your tail, what’s an All-American Supervillain to do?

Go to Spain, of course!

From the writer who brought you Kick-Ass and The Artist Of Secret Invasion comes a new series about a team of super-powered ne’er-do-wells looking to pull off one last heist in the land of bullfighting and delicious churros.

This is a superb opening act for a new mini-series. The writing is superb and very focused, and a lot of background and motivation is set out in the one issue. The interactions and dialogue between the characters is natural and realistic, and the artwork’s pretty great, too. The only thing that raised an eyebrow is that they don’t actually make it to Spain in this issue, so things might have to pick up the pace a little, if Millar’s going to fit it all in.

I think it’s only going to run for four issues, unfortunately, but I’m very eager to read the next one. Definitely highly recommended to all fans of heist stories, superheroes, supervillains, and actually comics in general. This is very good.

Amazingly, this is my first Millar comic. I’ll be reading more for sure. (I’ll probably start with his latest collected graphic novel, Superior, and follow that up with maybe some of his Ultimate X-Men run.)

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