Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/15/09

I delayed the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews from Wednesday to Thursday in favour of a spotlight, image laddened review of Blackest Night #1 yesterday. I saw quite a few scans of BN #1 online, so saw an opportunity to do a special post for the highly anticipated book and, if people enjoyed that, I might consider doing more like that in the future, so let me know.

As for the rest of the books this week, I was quite pleased with my haul. Streets of Gotham really established itself with its second issue, Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter is like its own event book that no one seems to be talking about and Superman/Batman was just a plain, fun read that I'm glad I picked up. The only issue I was mildly disappointed with was the Tales of the Corps, which read more like a series of backups, but at a $3.99 price tag. Good, but felt a bit cheated with the cost for how little was given.

Hit the jump for the full reviews.

Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
Co-feature written by Marc Andreyko
Co-feature Art by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story

I failed to write a review for the first issue of this, at least for me, much anticipated series. The reasons I didn't write a review for the first issue was because I just didn't know how to take it. It was a series of seemingly random scenes, jumping from street level reactions to Firefly to Batman and Robin and even Hush, who's being kept prisoner by Alfred, Dick and Damian. If you read Gotham Gazette, it was similar to that in how it was more like a series of backups rather than one cohesive story. However, it wasn't bad and I loved Dustin Nguyen's art and the Firefly and Hush parts of the first issue. It just made for an odd title to write a review for and I opted for 'easier' ones last month.

Getting back on track, this second issue, while picking up on what happened last month, is acts as a better first issue than the actual first issue. It has a clear focus in the reaction and fallout of Firefly's mass killings, follows up on Dini's work with Hush and even picks up on threads from Battle for the Cowl with Black Mask. This issue had a purpose and everything flowed from each subplot to the next, something the seemingly disconnected scenes from the first issue lacked.

The highlight of the issue had to be Hush's big reveal at the end. After faking he was a victim of Firefly's immolation tracers, Alfred rushed to save him and was quickly overpowered, freeing Hush. While Batman and Robin were busy with Firefly and Black Mask, we were left wondering what Hush was up to and, as the heroes learned of his escape, so did we, too, learn of his plot - to replace Bruce Wayne. He invited dozens of reporters, the new DA, Kate Spencer (aka Manhunter), and even Commissioner Gordan, to a news conference announcing his return to Gotham and, in an even better twist, donating a billion dollars of Bruce Wayne's money to act as a stimulus for Gotham City and pledging a billion more each month until the economic crisis passed. This act made it impossible for Dick and Alfred to recapture or out Hush and also acts as a way to destroy Batman by doing the same thing that happened to Hush - losing all of his money and assets. Great twist that has me looking forward to reading more.

However, the book isn't without its faults either. I found Batman and Robin to be generic interpretations of the character. If one didn't know, you'd be hard pressed to tell his Batman and Robin from any other Batman and Robin to exist, despite this iteration being Dick and the petulant Damian. There's also the lack of a main character or focal point to the stories. It jumps between narratives for each subplot and there's no real character development. It's like each character is a prop moving a story along more than a person, with few exceptions.

Another problem I had came with Firefly, who was almost on the verge of being an interesting and compelling character. I was liking his inner monologues and buildup over the last issue and a half and, then, as soon as he starts being interested, it turns into a standard Batman captures nutcase story. I'm pretty sure I've seen Batman capture Firefly in this exact same manner - hooking him with a grappling cable and then shorting out his jets - several times before and it just killed any momentum that plot had and ended it without much of an impact or payoff.

Verdict - Check It. All in all, it's a solid read, but the book seems unclear as to what it wants to be about. I'd love to see the Hush angle played up more and maybe even see him taking over the book as its main character, but I suspect we'll continue with the series of interconnected plots playing up Gotham City as the character while the actual characters are just the set pieces.

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Kano

I skipped the first issue expecting more mistreatment of one of my favourite characters ever, Beta Ray Bill. I then heard the first issue was amazing. Finally, I saw scans from the first issue and instantly put the order in at the shop for issue one and had the rest of the miniseries put on my pull list. Issue one did not disappoint and, after reading issue two, I'm seriously considering this miniseries for some kind of end of the year award for series that are mini.

Since I didn't review the first issue, here's a breakdown of what this miniseries is about. Beta Ray Bill, the greatest horse faced, hammer wielding hero you'll ever know, recently learned of his homeworld's destruction at the hands of Galactus. His people, ever the warrior's, refused to leave and fought to the bitter end, but, ultimately, all died, leaving Bill the last survivor of his race. Bill, being more man than any horse faced person has any right to be, decides the only course of action is to kill Galactus. His plan? Starve him to death by destroying any planet Galactus tries to feed on. That takes a huge pair to even contemplate and even bigger to actually do and do it Bill does.

After destroying one planet last issue, Bill was confronted by the Silver Surfer, who asks him to stop. Bill tells him he can just try and stop him, which leads to the brief fight this time around. In fact, the fight between Bill and the Surfer is the only disappointment I have with this issue and it wasn't because it was bad, but because the fight was too short. Surfer had a slight advantage, but Bill and his sentient ship, Skuttlebutt, decided their mission was more important than a fight with the Surfer and fled to the next planet on Galactus's menu.

There he found a race that many believed to be peaceful. However, they had actually had significant defenses and refused to leave their world when Bill tried to explain to them his plan to deny Galactus his meals. Bill, being Bill, doesn't take no for an answer and promptly poisons the entire planet, blackmailing them with the cure. They cede to his demands and leave their planet, but tell him they will forever curse his name among their people. Bill then destroys the planet.

However, each victory has its price to pay and, back aboard Skuttlebutt, Bill tries to lift his hammer, which has the same 'worthy' enchantment that Thor's has, and fails. It's an great end to a great issue and Bill, sitting in his chair knowing full well that his vendetta against Galactus and actions he's taken has caused him to be unworthy of his own hammer, can do nothing but soldier on to the next planet, hammer or no hammer. Just a great moment in my eyes and this makes two top notch issues of this miniseries. Can't wait for the next issue.

Verdict - Must Read. If you're only experience with Beta Ray Bill has been the lackluster appearances in Omega Flight and what not, you owe it to yourself to see why this character is beloved by so many people. The miniseries even has backups of the first appearance of Bill, showing you some of his best stories. As of right now, this is an early front runner for my Best Miniseries award and this could be compared to the Thor: Ages of Thunder series from last year.

Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Rags Morales, Chris Sprouse, Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke and others

Remember a couple years ago when the Sinestro Corps War was something barely anyone knew about and the Green Lantern titles were featuring some buildup to it with backups dedicated to introducing the sick and twisted origins of the various Sinestro Corpsmen? How some of those backups were better than the main stories at the time?

Tales of the Corps is like that, except shunted off into its own book and you have to pay $3.99 for three forgettable tales that did little to introduce you to anyone. The first tale dealt with Saint Walker's origin and while mildly interesting, from the point of view of someone that has already been introduced to the character and interested in his past more so than an enthralling origin story on its own strengths, while the second tale was a fun, albeit inconsequential, story about Mongul's early days as a child growing up idolizing his father.

The third tale was the one I was buying the book for and it was our first introduction to the mysterious Indigo Tribe. At 8 pages, the story was far too short and told me nothing of the compassion using corps other than that they can absorb other ring's energy and channel it back at their users. The Indigo Tribe speak a primitive language made up of short syllables, but the advanced rings of the Green Lanterns could not translate it, despite having knowledge of every language in the universe, so we were forced to endure a series of grunts and various monosyllabic replies from the Indigo's.

The muddied art, combined with the lack of translated text, made it difficult to even understand what the story was about or what the Indigo Tribe's goals were. I believe the Indigo leader, in an act of compassion, killed the wounded Green Lantern, preventing him from suffering any further, but could not make a clear distinction either way.

Verdict - Check It. I enjoyed these stories for what they are and will continue to pick up the series due to wanting to know everything Blackest Night related, but I'm pretty confident in saying that, at $3.99, you can easily skip this and not miss a beat when the Indigo Tribe finally shows up in Blackest Night. Nothing here is required reading and only the most diehard fans need apply.

Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

I'm not a regular reader of Superman/Batman and have only really read a handful of issues, two of which were the mini JLA'ers arc that Rafael Albuquerque pencilled about a year ago. The nostolgia of those two issue combined with my missing Albuquerque's artwork since Blue Beetle ended prompted me to test the waters on this book now that he is coming on as the ongoing artist with this issue.

I was not disappointed, to say the least, as this was just a plain, old fashioned fun read, from start to finish. Albuquerque's art is easily the highlight of the issue. He's clearly improved since Blue Beetle and it shows in the expressiveness and storytelling abilities on display here. His renditions of Joker and Zsasz here are dark and twisted as hell and yet perfect all at the same time, capturing the essence of both characters.

However, the issue isn't completely perfect. The plot of the book is a fairly generic with the main story revolving around a riot at Arkham, Batman being busy somewhere else and, thus, Supergirl and Robin, have to step up to stop it. It's all framed with the two sidekicks reminiscing about their meeting at a coffeeshop, but, in the end, we've seen riots at Arkham a million times, so nothing new there.

While it does use a cliched Batman plot, the riot does show off the differences between Supergirl and Robin through their reactions and the characterization was spot on. I'd actually consider buying this book if it just followed the adventures of Supergirl and Robin if they wanted to take it in that direction. The riot also provided a nice visual treat as Albuquerque got to draw a who's who of Batman's rogues gallery, so I'm not going to complain too much about it.

Verdict - Check It. Tempted to bump this up to Must Read status, but it's basically out of continuity and a little weak on plot. I'm also biased towards Albuquerque's art. However, despite not being an absolute Must Read book, I highly recommend giving this issue a shot. Just a fun read with some beautiful visuals.

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Andrenn said...

I must say I found Streets of Gotham to be a Must Read rather than a check it, but you make some good points as to why it's a Check It.

Sebastian said...

I loved the Blackest Night post! Some of it had a "liveblogging" feel, so that was cool. I picked up some things I missed the first time around (Bruce's skull.)

The Tales of the Corps book was pretty neat. The stories were all solid and I thought Rags' art was alright, just nothing to write home about. The Indigo story was just a big tease, a long "???" moment. It left me with some serious curiosity. Whatever is up with those guys is going to be nuts.

As for Superman/Batman, I hear that for the most part, it is a consistently solid, fun read. I think I've heard enough for me to go out and pick up some recent trades.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Dini can quite pull off a book with an ensemble cast. I've really disliked both of his new books, while I rather liked his work on 'Tec before. Nguyen is still as awesome.

The ONLY reason to buy Superman/Batman was for the art, which is fantastic. The story was so slight an cliched that I was surprised to reach the end so quickly. The plot felt super thin.

Anonymous said...

Superman/Batman is out of continuity?!?! I just figured it was like Batman Confidential, i.e. in continuity but sort of in the past....ish.

Kirk Warren said...

Actually, I think its more selective continuity than it is out of continuity. I know some of the stories taht just plain dont fit any way you look at it while ones like this could be consider just a flashback story that fits anywhere.

Kirk Warren said...

@Sebastion - Im not sure how well the rest of the series holds up compared to this issue. As I said Ive only read ahandful of issues in the 60+ issue run. Might want to try some issues out before taking the leap on a trade.

JP said...

Excellent reviews as always.
For myself, Blackest Night #1 and Streets of Gotham were my top two, and I was looking forward Superman/Batman #62 since it was first soliciated, surprisely not because of the artist, but rather the concept of a Robin/Supergirl team-up.
Tales of the Corps was a great read, I couldn't ask more from Johns and Tomasi, the two who have building up the various lanterns since the end of Sinestro Corps War.
My surprise read was Titans #15, I know, I know, this book has been bad since the beginnig, but that fact this was the only other ongoing the besides GL and GLC to bear the "Prelude to Blackest Night" banner, I gave it try. It was a great read. Up until now I was planning to pass on the Blackest Night: Titans mini-series all together, but J.T. Krul's story has convinced to atleast pick up the first issue. And on top of that, the story hinted at the role Black Lantern Aquaman will play in Blackest Night.

JP said...

Also, forgot to mention,
I really like how whenever you add a new Lantern Corps primer for Blackest Night, you chance the image on the banner to a member of that corps.
Pretty cool.

workin on it said...

More More More! in response to; "and, if people enjoyed that, I might consider doing more like that in the future, so let me know. "

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