Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 09/15/10

Four reviews on tap for you in tonight's Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews as we look at Batman Beyond #4, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #2, Shadowland: Power Man #2 and Shadowland: Ghost Rider #1.  Hit the jump to see what I thought about each.

Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Rran Benjamin & John Stanisci

While I've been enjoying the Batman Beyond revival with this miniseries, I had some concerns with the last issue, particularly when it came to Bruce and Terry's relationship.  Bruce is acting way out of character, going so far as to threaten to shut down Terry's power suit midfight because Terry did not instantly respond to him.  He's also building Batmen robots to replace Terry, saying things like he cant rely on him and how Terry is not dedicated enough to the cause. 

I'm disappointed to say that this franchise has officially been Beechen'd.  Much like his work destroying Batgirl, he manages to take everything good about the Beyond universe and tear it down in this single issue.  For starters, Bruce sends one of his untested robot Batmen out into the field and confronts the new Hush, who is in combat with Catwoman at the time.  The robot is faulty and full of bugs and promptly locks up midfight.  When Bruce finally regains control of the robot, he forces it to self-destruct, attempting to kill Hush with the explosion or at least prevent him from stealing any secrets from it.  I can't stress how wrong this is on every level.  Batman not caring about Terry and going behind his back with an untested robot replacement?  Blowing it up and almost killing someone? 

If this wasn't bad enough, the butchering of Nightwing takes the cake.  While Bruce was busy dealing with his Hush fight, Terry was doing some detective work and following up on Dick Grayson's whereabouts.  We learn of Dick's final battle as Nightwing and why he no longer fights crime.  Turns out he went on an ill fated outing with Batman against the Joker.  Nightwing claims Batman had not had a partner for so long that he became sloppy and landed in front of Nightwing.  It's explained that Batman landed too close to Nightwing and his cape, which normally acts as a shield and misdirection, making it harder to target vital areas, completed blinded Nightwing, making it nearly impossible for Dick to dodge the incoming gun fire from the Joker.  Bruce strips Dick down, applies basic first aid and calls an ambulance before going off to chase the Joker.  Nightwing could no longer fight crime because of a bullet lodged near his spine and he and Bruce never spoke after that.  Bruce didn't even visit him in the hospital and the only acknolwedgement was sending Dick his bullet hole ridden costume and a note saying there was a new one waiting for him at the cave.

So, the basis for Nightwing's backstory in the Beyond universe is that a) Batman is a complete incompetent on every level and b) Bruce is a complete asshole to the boy he adopted and one of the few people he considers an equal.  I was face palming the entire time I was reading this.  I didn't think it could get worse, but it does. Hush's identity was also revealed in this issue.  As Beechen is cribbing from the Jeph Loeb school of mysteries, there can be only one person that is Hush.  That's right, Nightwing.  Despite the fact he provided video and other detailed information regarding his whereabouts during the previous murders and the fact he has a bullet near his spine and couldn't be Hush, he does in fact turn out to be Hush.  I can only hope this is Clayface or some other disguised villain ala Loeb's "brilliant" plotting in the original Hush storyline because this is just complete nonsense at this point.

There was one redeeming aspect to this issue that I enjoyed - the new Catwoman.  From what I can tell, she controls a dozen or so of those suits at one time and that is how she was getting away from Terry in their previous encounters.  It was a neat twist, but doesn't explain why she didn't send a dummy suit in to collect the money from the potentially dangerous mystery man that turned out to be Hush in the first place. 

Verdict - Avoid It.  This story went off the rails in this issue.  Bruce Wayne is painted as incompetent both in his younger days as Batman and as Terry's mentor and is nothing like Batman or his Beyond appearances prior to this series.  The Hush mystery/Dick Grayson debacle is just the final straw.  It'll take some serious work to redeem this series after this issue with only two issues left.

Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin

Hmm, I'm conflicted on how to view this issue.  It's another good issue of Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, but there is still nothing really concrete about what this series is about.  Again, they go out of their way to obscure what the goals of Guy (and Atrocitus and Ganthet, who do not show up in this issue for some reason) are.  He wants to go to the unknown sectors, but there's little else said. 

In fact, upon leaving, we find out he's taking a detour from that trip already, so even that is not the end game for him.  I feel like I'm stuck waiting for the actual plot to be revealed at some unrevealed time over in Brightest Day so they can discuss it in this book.  The lack of explanation for what he is doing/going to do just makes moments like Guy's waxing philisophical on how he will be remembered in the opening pages that much more frustrating to read as we are left in the dark intentionally as the character, even when by himself, beats around the bush and acts cryptic about what he will be doing. 

However, that is a minor complaint.  This still reads like an issue of Tomasi's Green Lantern Corps and I loved his GLC, so I can't really be too upset over the lack of any indication for where this new series or this story are going.  When my biggest complaint is that Atrocitus didn't show up, I guess the book is doing alright by me. 

I believe my favourite part of this issue had to be with the Arisia/Sodam Yat sequence.  It starts out with Sodam Yat appearing in Arisia's apartment and a conversation beginning and quickly we realize this is a dream sequence that gets real crazy, real fast as Arisia's guilt gets the better of her when Sodam Yat begins discussing how painful it was inside Daxam's star and how she abandoned him.  He then begins melting and proceeds to burn the entire apartment and Arisia with him.  Makes your naked in public dreams sound a little tame in comparison, huh?  My description does not do the whole moment justice and the art really sold the dream sequence to me.  Great insight into Arisia's mindset and how she wants to save Sodam.

Kilowog gets some great character moments in this issue as well.  One is with a recruit in which he lashes out at the rookie seeking only to talk with the living legend ex-drill sergeant, clearly showing that Kilowog still isn't over his perceived failures during Blackest Night when his own former drill sergeant told him big a failure he was.  The countless dead rookies and veterns alike from that event still weigh heavily on the old soldier's mind, too.  Later in the issue, he has another great scene with Guy. 

Both Arisia and Kilowog's moments in this issue built towards their joining Guy on his mission to the unknown sectors, though Arisia immediately prompts to have them all detour to Daxim to try and save Sodam, whom she has a gut feeling is still alive somehow.  This also makes for a great cast of characters in this title and I almost feel bad for the Green Lantern Corps book with so many of their best characters migrating to Emerald Warriors. 

Verdict - Buy It.  Tomasi gets these characters and continues his great Green Lantern Corps work in this new title.  I'm still a little miffed at the lack of concrete details regarding Guy's mission and his secret meetings with Atrocitus which were the basis and build up leading into this new series, but I'm more than happy with what we're getting and am sure we'll learn more in time.  Oh, as an aside, that cover image?  Not really indicative of what happens in the issue.  She only appears on the last page if you were buying it to see her in action.

Written by Rob Williams
Art by Clayton Crain

This was an unexpected pick for me this week.  I had no intention of even buying it as I could not recollect having read anything from Rob Williams and Clayton Crain's artwork has been very dark and muddied lately and that usually made it almost impossible to make out what was actually going on in anything he drew, particularly Necrosha

However, upon picking this up to flip through, I was blown away.  The art was fantastic, possibly indicating Crain was rushed with his Necrosha work, and Ghost Rider never looked this good.  It was like Crain was born to draw him.  On top of that, what little I had read in the shop was enough to impress upon me that I must own this comic and I immediately closed it and added it to the pile. 

For some context, the Kingpin used ancient Hand magic to summon Ghost Rider. This magic forced him to do the Kingpin's bidding.  He used Ghost Rider as a weapon against Daredevil in Shadowland #3 and this issue picks up after that with Ghost Rider wondering why he is still forced to do Kingpin's bidding, despite having done what he was asked. 

Turns out Kingpin has another mission for the Rider and sends him to Japan to assault Snakeroot in their castle fortress.  While every moment with Ghost Rider in it was stunning from Crain, this scene saw him riding his bike across the Pacific through waves and even on top of a whale as he shouted at God for salvation from this slavery to the Kingpin.  It was a nice nod at the continuity from Ghost Rider's recently ended series that didn't bog down the story or feel out of place and it just made for a great moment as Ghost Rider pleads to God and receives no answer, leaving him only to shrug his shoulders and soldier on. 

From there, it only gets better.  Ghost Rider won't be a slave to anyone again and, because he was summoned by Hand magic, he cannot even harm the Hand when he arrives.  What's he to do?  He staggers in drunk and in human form and is promtply killed off.  He would rather die than be a slave again.  However, God is not finished with him and sends him back, but not before Ghost Rider requests some backup to free himself from his contract - the Host of Heaven.  The entire Hand army in Japan is massacred by the angelic Host and Ghost Rider rides off, free again. 

Verdict - Must Read.  This is just a fantastic issue from page one.  The art is the main attraction and this is easily the best work from Clayton Crain that I've seen yet.  His Ghost Rider leaps from every page and is a moment in and of itself everytime he is on page.  On top of the art, we get a great story showing insights into Ghost Rider's character and how he will not be a slave to anyone, even if it kills him.  Great done in one story that nails the character in every way. 

Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Mahmud Asrar

Shadowland: Power Man continues to be an entertaining series.   I'm liking the new Power Man more and more every time I see him and Van Lente is doing a good job throwing readers a bone and stringing us along on the mysteries of his origin.  I feel like I know a lot about the character and his motivations, but there is still a whole lot of question marks on his origin and how he obtained these powers and just what the extent of them are that has me anxiously awaiting each new issue. 

After some quick backstory on how Power Man's father died during the explosion caused by Bullseye back in the lead in to Andy Diggle's run on Daredevil, this issue quickly gets into the continuation of the Luke Cage/Iron Fist vs Power Man fight.  There's some great trash talking from Power Man towards Luke Cage and the fight is energetic and full of mystery over Power Man's power set.  He can go toe to toe with Luke and Iron Fist and we're told he drains Iron Fist's chakra later in the issue. 

Their fight is eventually interupted by a group of old 70's characters related to Luke Cage and Iron Fists days as the Heroes for Hire.  I'm not familiar with them, but they appear to be a joke appearance as even Cage makes fun of their outdated looks and behaviour.  This added some levity to the book while still keeping up with the action and The Spear will definitely show up in the Moments of the Week for his hilarious introduction during this fight. 

Luke and Power Man have a nice moment at the end of the issue where they come to terms with how each is trying to make up for past mistakes (Luke with his criminal life and Power Man with how he treated his father just before he was killed). As Iron Fist and Cage have to make it to Shadowland for the fight with Daredevil from Shadowland #3, they let Power Man go at this point. 

Verdict - Buy It.  All in all, I'm enjoying this miniseries a great deal.  I wasn't sure what to expect from the new Power Man, but he's been compelling and Van Lente has done a great job introducing us to the character and building him up so far. 

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Dennis N said...

Thank you thank you thank you, I was thinking the same things as I read Batman Beyond. Anyone else see it as a basic retread of Return of the Joker? Former Robin goes bad? Also, shades of The Dark Knight Strikes Back. What is it with people turning Dick evil? He's probably the nicest guy in the DCU (full disclosure: he's also my favorite character). Barring a twist next issue, this one kind of ruined the whole Beyond continuity at this point, which had at that point been pretty awesome in it's entirety.

Basically Emerald Warriors is a continuation of GL Corps. It's following off a lot of those storylines with Arisia, Sodam Yat, and Kilowog. There were so many storylines building in Corps, it's a natural splitting of GLCorps into Corps proper and Warriors, giving you Kyle and John in Corps, Guy, Arisia, Sodam in Warriors, and Hal in GL obviously. It definitely feels as if it exists only to expand the GL line of titles, and I'm cool with that, because there's a lot of story opportunities there.

As as side note, I liked the way Kyle and Guy would play off of each other, it's a shame they won't be on the same title anymore. John Stewart has been used poorly recently and won't fit as well as the main foil to Kyle.

Andddd waiting until all of Shadowland is out until I choose what to pick up...

The Dangster said...

I feel if handled differently, Ghost Rider on a whale would've been ridiculous. But Crain pulls it off. I really hope that and the Host of Heaven's slaughter goes up on the moments of the week.

Kisame said...

Every single page of Batman Beyond #4 was loaded with stupidity. Beechen clearly doesn't understand anything about these characters on any level. I don't know what is the biggest offender this issue. Is it Batman and Nightwing apparently tripping over each others feet, despite being repeatedly acknowledged as one of the best coordinated duos in comics history? Or is it Bruce not even bothering to visit Dick once in the hospital? Nah, it's probably Bruce using untested technology against a clearly competent villain and then trying to kill Hush before he can dismantle the robot. And as for the twist ending, I think you nailed it with the "Jeph Loeb school of mysteries" line.

I hate to rant, but if this is the best DC can do with the Batman Beyond universe, I would have preferred they just left it untouched.

Jank said...

The sad part is that DC will blame readers for not supporting Batman Beyond after we (rightfully so) refuse to buy Beechen's crap. Was it too much to ask to have a competent writer on board?

Anonymous said...

Kirk, are you not reading Spider-man anymore?

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous #5 - No, I quit again with OMIT and Origin of Species features a creative team I have not enjoyed in the slightest on ASM. Ill probably check back in on it with Big Time.

Anonymous said...

I think its a clone of dick grayson. cause he definitely escaped from the cloning store (i dont remember what it is, cadmus?) and that fits with them wanting to clone the original bat family- Terry's dad's sperm was replaced with Bruce's genetic material (ha! I love comic book science) so that Terry and his brother would actually be like Bruce's kids and could take up the mantle. So its not outside of possibility that they would have cloned dick greyson too.

Fenris said...

I have a question for those of you that have read Batman Beyond #4. Does the comic in any way acknowledge that the cover design is based upon Marshall Rogers' cover for Detective Comics #471?

Anonymous said...

I only agree with you on Batman Beyond, terrible book. But Beechen is kinda garbage on whatever he touches, so that's not shocking.

But Ghost rider was awful (pretty much like the whole Shadowland event in general), and Emerald Warriors has been slow cookin' from the get go. We've had two issues of character development and VERY little actual plot development (I assume it'll be some grand revelation by issue 6 or something)

twobitspecialist said...

Hey, wait a minute. No Thunderbolts?

Chris said...

I'm not sure why that first comment showed up as anonymous, but anyways, yeah you didn't miss a whole lot with OMIT, but if you can get past the bad artwork, I actually think Orgin of the Species (especially this weeks issue) has been pretty good.....except for the art....the art is not pretty good.

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