BATMAN: RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #5
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Ryan Sook
+ This should have been entittled Batman Noir. Was a great throwback to the old detective stories and really fit Bruce's character. Batman investigating the murder of his own parents shortly after their deaths? This is the type of story I was hoping for when the cover to this issue was originally revealed. Great stuff.
+ Morrison did a fantastic job setting the style and tone of the issue, taking what should be a more modern setting and 'forcing' it to be dated with Bruce made to wear the older clothing that was left in the hospital he woke up in and so on.
+ I also liked how this issue tied back to the whole Black Glove/RIP story with how it showed Bruce unwittingly being involved in the filming of the notorious Black Glove movie.
+ The art was amazing. Easily the best of the series so far and really fit the tone of this story.
+ Lots of nods to past events, like Bruce ending up being the detective mentioned in earlier Batman issues that "mysteriously disappeared" while investigating his parents murder or Carter Nichols (hypno time travelling doctor from Batman #700) showing up again. And can't forget the whole Black Glove movie and evidence for framing Thomas Wayne from Batman RIP being shown here, too.
+ I'm loving the Batman throughout time. Seeing him pushed into different settings and how he reacts to each time period has been the best part of this series and this noir take was my favourite so far.
- Not really the fault of this issue, but the release of the Road Home specials this week really put a damper on this series. It's not even over, but we have aftermath stories showing what happens next.
Verdict - Must Read. Great issue that pushes the Return of Bruce Wayne back to its roots with a noir tale and then rockets us towards the end game with an excellent cliffhanger ending.
DAKEN: DARK WOLVERINE #2
Written by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
+ Love, love, loved the Daken and Mystique sections of this book. The dialogue, the chemistry, the wordplay - it was all amazing to read. The entire 'date' they had was one big moment of the week for me in terms of how much fun it was to read.
+ Camuncoli's art has grown on me since he took over Dark Wolverine and now with this book. I love how he handles character's facial expressions and the reactions they have to the various things Daken does. His action sequences are well done, too.
- The plot is a little lacking. Daken is somehow involved in sending Wolverine to Hell, but not much else is really said and even that was more alluded to than anything. I enjoyed the issue, but so far, nothing substantial for the plot has happened - it's mostly just Daken being a manipulative bastard to people, which also happens to be what I like about his character the most. Just a little bit of focus on the plot would be nice. It's almost aimless so far. The cliffhanger ending to this when Wolverine's possessed body shows up is the only time something happens.
- I'm not a fan of the Wolverine in Hell story and how it's pulling Daken and X-23 into a psuedo crossover. Would prefer they left Daken and X-23's books stand on their own to do their own things, but understand why they are doing it for marketing reasons as well.
Verdict - Check It. Daken is more than just a Wolverine Jr. Marjorie Liu has done some amazing things with him and I love his manipulative nature. It's a shame he isn't portrayed this way in his other appearances, but it makes for compelling reads with moments like his interaction with Mystique in this issue. Little leary about the possessed Wolverine story, but otherwise enjoying this new series.
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Leinil Yu
+ Relatively subdued 'real world' setting. Millar forgoes his usual over-the-top, in your face storytelling and tells a rather straight forward tale of a teenager diagnosed multiple sclerosis and his daily life.
+ While the origin of Superior comes down to 'aliens give him a wish and he becomes a super hero', it is actually a much better story told than described in a single sentence.
+ Superior's introduction is actually that of a movie the main character, Simon, is watching with his friend. Yu gets to stretch his muscles in an action sequence that pits the movie Superior vs his archenemy, Abraxis.
+ Simon gets 'abducted' by a talking monkey in a space suit. Whether this is a projection of something he can relate to instead of an alien or somehow a monkey we launched in space can now talk and grant wishes is open to debate, but I loved the absurdity of the sequence. Simon is granted a single wish and becomes the super hero he just watched in a movie earlier that night. He's told he has one week to show 'what he can do'.
- Only negative I have is that the language used, while realistic to a degree, comes off as out of place in the tone of the story. Highschoolers do call other people 'faggots' and swear a lot when left to their own devices, but it didn't really add anything to a super hero comic. If it was a high school drama or some realistic story without powers and what have you, I think it might be warranted, but just pulls me out of the story when I read it in this type of book. Hardly what I'd call a game breaker though.
- Oh, one more thing that bugs me is that this is another project from Millar where the artist skimps on a decent colourist. Much like how Steve McNiven's Nemesis looks flat and dull compared to his Civil War and Old Man Logan art,Yu's art just sits there on the page in most cases. There's no flare or dynamic to it and it feels like the colours are just too flat. Would have preferred black and white to this. This is most prevalent in the non-super hero sections, which made up the bulk of this issue. The Abraxis/Superior parts looked much better in comparison.
Verdict - Buy It. While I'm not going to say it's in the same league as his Ultimates work, Superior reminds me more of Millar's time on that book than his more recent string of work. Also, it "makes Nemesis look like $%!&".
THANOS IMPERATIVE #5
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda
+ Usually, the penultimate issues of event books are all about moving people into position for the climactic final issue. Writers fall into the pattern of saving everything for that big ending issue and these issues wither on the vine (at least from a monthly perspective, usually read better in trade). This issue does not suffer from this. While the entire event has been constanty pushing forward, this issue in particular delivers in spades with lots of action, story and character moments. There is no dull, 'save it for the final issue' storytelling here. A rare thing with event books these days and I loved this issue for it.
+ The colourist and/or inker have improved greatly from the first issues. No longer does Sepulveda's art, of which we've seen spectacular black and white samples of, look muddied and washed out like the earlier issues. It looks like the art team is meshing together now and working on each others strengths. While I have enjoyed the art of the book in previous issues, this is the strongest group effort to date.
+ Thanos. Easily my favourite cosmic character and he was perfect in this issue. That cliffhanger was epic. Wasn't expecting it, but it was also completely in character for him to do what he did. The execution was really well done.
+ Feels like an event. Few books maintain an event feeling throughout. Thanos Imperative has managed to make every issue feel like it matters to me. Most have that big first issue, lots of promise in the second or third and then just fall flat as they limp to that all important status quo altering conclusion. Thanos has been epic from the start and every issue bangs home that event feeling where you feel like anything can and will happen in that given issue.
- Cancerverse Scarlet Witch's allegience switching didn't feel natural. I know this goes back to the Fault issues for Realm of Kings, but even knowing and having read that, it still felt ike it came out of nowhere. A little more build up or foreshadowing in the earlier issues of the event would have gone a long way to selling me on that plot twist, but it was a very minor complaint overall.
Verdict - Must Read. This is how an event should be. No hand holding or limping to the finish line. Just more of the epic cosmic storytelling that we've grown to know and expect from Abnett & Lanning.
UNTOLD TALES OF THE BLACKEST NIGHT #1
Written by Peter Tomasi, Geoff Johns, JT Krul & Ethan Van Sciver
Art by Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Jay Fabok & Others
This was an odd book to read. It's similar in style to previous 'Tales of' books, like the Tales of the Corps books that accompanied Blackest Night originaly, but feels much more disjoint and all over the place, featuring random deleted scenes without context, alternate perspectives to events that happened in the book and the occasional bit of unique material. If not for the Lyssa Drak parts of the book, I would have been hard pressed to recommend this to all but the most diehard of Blackest Night fans a there is very little content of note in this issue.
The book starts off with Lyssa Drak narration. She's trapped in the Book of the Black and we get similar narration about her situation to what we've heard from her before during Blackest Night. The book quickly moves into the short vignettes. These consist of 'deleted scenes' from Blackest Night, such as showing Black Hand recruiting the countless souls contained within Ragman's costume or showing the Rainbow Riders (Flash villains) partaking of the kool-aid in their ritual suicide that was just awkward to read. They wanted to be on the winning side, so kill themselves in an attempt to become Black Lanterns, but no rings come for them due to the lack of an emotional connection.
From there, we get some alternate takes on events from writers of the assorted miniseries that were attached to Blackest Night, such as JT Krul's Titans story showing some added perspective to Donna Troy's conversion to a Black Lantern. These might have added something to the story or felt at least somewhat relevant back when Blackest Night and these events were occuring, but felt out of place and pointless to read well after the fact. I was incredibly disappointed with these sections.
However, there was one story that really stood out for me and it explored a character that has been under represented in Green Lantern since the Sinestro Corps War. This was the story focusing on Karu-Sil, the female Sinestro Corps member that grew up in the wild and was raised by alien wolf-like creatures. She's the one that always has those three ring constructs that act as her new 'pack'. This explored a bit of her history and, while a standard Black Lantern story of loved ones coming back, saying mean things and then the character fighting back against them, it worked surprisingly well due to the nature of the character and how her loved ones were these alien creatures that raised her. Karu-Sil has interested me a great deal since her Tales of the Sinestro Corps back-up way back when, so I was quite happy to see a story focused on her. Ethan Van Sciver is more known for his art than writing, but he did a good job on this piece and it was the lone stand out in the bunch for me.
Getting back to the Lyssa Drak narrative, the book ends rather strong with her story picking up after the Karu-Sil one. She is saved from the Book of the Black by the mysterious Guardian-like alien that is collecting the entities. He tells Lyssa of how he will be creating a new epoch and how a new epoch will require a new book to be written on it. He wants Lyssa to be his guardian of that book, much like she was for the Book of Parallax. It's only a couple of pages of story, but the only story that was relevant to current events. With his stressing of the word epoch, I wouldn't be surprised if that name took place much like Scar did for the other evil, nameless Guardian working behind the scenes.
Verdict - Avoid It. I don't think the book is worth buying for the content you get. Most of it is retreading relatively new stories that were just released in trade (don't get me started on DC's slow trade department). Only a handful of pages from the issue are really new material as well. Pick it up if you are an absolute Blackest Night junkie, but otherwise not worth it for what you get.
CHAOS WAR #1
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Khoi Pham and Reilly Brown
+ Herc is back!!!
- Not much else happens though.
- In all honesty, it's a recap of Assault on New Olympus and Prince of Power while showing how powerful Hercules is with the godlike power Amadeus Cho gave him upon returning him to our universe.
+ I still enjoyed it despite the 'nothing happens'/recap nature of the issue. There's some good one liners, such as Thing's joke about Herc knowing more about where to find beer on sale than cosmic threats to all life. The ending showed a lot of promise as well.
- Mikaboshi's threat is not clearly defined. We're told some of his history and about how he took over the Skrull pantheon during Secret Invasion, but for those unfamiliar with those events or fuzzy on his backstory, there's not much shown here as to why he's able to do the things he's doing. Even I'm not sure how he is so much more powerful now than he was in previous appearances. He's conquered other alien race's pantheons on his way back to Earth? Okay, but how does that make him stronger?
- Khoi Pham's art does not impress me on this book. I would have much preferred if he swapped places with Reilly Brown, who was doing the backup story in this.
Verdict - Check It. I'm not ready to give up on this title just yet. It wasn't mind numbingly boring or outright bad, but it was a tad too heavy on recap/exposition than actual story. Art was underwhelming as well. There is promise for the future of this story with how this issue ended and it would be hard to imagine the story not picking up based on the past history of the writing on Herc's titles.
SECRET SIX #26
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Jim Calafiore
+ The book seems to be back on track after a string of what felt like filler issues. Finally getting back to the Bane team of Secret Six vs Scandal's team storyline.
+ Some excellent character moments, particularly for Bane, in this issue. Like most Secret Six issues, everyone seemed to get a moment or two to shine with a great one liner or awesome moment.
+ Amanda Waller got told. She rarely gets put in her place or caught off guard, so it was great seeing her so shocked when she was told of the impending nuclear strike on US soil that the US government was going to allow to happen.
+ Bane and Scandal's fight at the end of the issue was an excellent climax to one of the best issues of this book in a long time. Great way to end the book and that cliffhanger has me wondering where they go next.
- Clash between the two teams was a bit short due to the focus on Bane and Scandal, but I expect it will be shown more in the next issue.
Verdict - Must Read. While the last couple of issues were average by Secret Six standards, this one is back up to its usual high standards that cemented this title as one of the best books being published.
ULTIMATE COMICS THOR #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Carlos Pacheco
+ Focus on Thor, Balder and Loki prior to leaving Asgard. They are actually this universe's Warriors Three compared to Volstagg, Fandral and Hogan in the regular universe. I'm glad Hickman didn't focus on random Asgardians with a relatively short miniseries like this.
+ Warriors Three make for a great group in this time frame before Loki goes bad. The three brothers have some great dialogue and their relationships are perfect. I love the way Thor and Loki played off each other and joke together.
+ Pacheco has some amazing art here. Seeing the Frost Giants (in nazi uniforms no less!) and Baron Zemo's forces invading Asgard was a spectacle you could only see in comics. Such a great visual and he nailed it. The entire issue looked great.
+ Hickman did an excellent job balancing present day with past events. I like how they have Thor in captivity during this (I assume it is around the time the Hulk first appeared in Ultimates based on the screens showing old Hitch art) and his "madness" about being an Asgardian related to Dr Donald Blake. The jumps between Thor's past, the end of times with Ragnarok and the present make for some great vantage points for the story as it all comes together.
- Colouring is a bit off at times. Some pages look amazing while others feel like they only applied the flats (base colours like flesh tone or single colour clothing instead of shades of colours from lighting and what not). This makes some pages look like they are half finished or rushed out the door while others look fantastic.
Verdict - Buy It. Only the first issue of this miniseries, but I loved it. Nazi Frost Giants invade Asgard to initiate Ragnarok. Let that sink in for a moment. If that isn't enough to get you interested, this book probably isn't for you.
UNCANNY X-FORCE #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena
+ Good first issue that acts as a continuation of the previous series while still being a good jumping on point.
+ Was not familiar with Opena's art coming in, but really enjoyed his work on this issue. Colouring really from Dean White was excellent. Really complemented the art.
+ Deadpool is a great addition to this team. Remender is playing him up more like the badass smartass than the joke character. I prefer this type of Deadpool, though the comedy centric one is good at times as well. He should be funny and make horrible jokes, but still be competent. This is how Remender writes him and I love him for it.
+ New team is much more diverse than previous Wolverine, Wolverine-lite, Wolverine XL, Wolverine With Fur, etc team. An entire team of Wolverine clones (both literal and figuratively) does not for compelling stories or interaction make. The addition of Psylocke helps offset the grimdark Archangel while Fantomex is good for the glib, dry humour and unique personality. Deadpool, as stated, is more badass than usual, but still the joker/wildcard character. All in all, it actually feels like there's a team here this time around.
+ Character moments. The Yost/Kyle X-Force book started off strong with blood and guts everywhere and potential to explore the effect this has on the characters. They explored the 90s cast of villains and revived a whole slew of them as well. Was promising, but nothing ever happened outside of killing foot soldiers by the dozens every issue. It's what turned me off of the book to be honest. In this single issue from Remender, we've seen more exploration of Angel/Archangel's inner struggle and his relationship with Psylocke than the in the entire run from Yost and Kyle. Wolverine and Fantomex have some great moments together as well that helps introduce Fantomex and combined with how Fantomex keeps hitting on Psylocke throughout the issue, we learn a great deal about the character and what type of personality he has. These types of moments help you relate to the characters in ways that seeing them just kill faceless grunts does not.
- Return of Apocalypse is lackluster. We do not see him until the final page of the book and the team never confronts him, despite an assault on his resurrection chamber. The problem with this is actually has nothing to do with how he was brought back, but what form - a child. He looks somewhere between 5-10 years old and, while it hasn't happened yet, the narration talks about how X-Force will kill him at any costs. Him being a child only makes me believe that we will explore the morality of killing children before they do anything evil or comparisons to the whole 'would you kill Hitler as a child' train of thought from first year philosophy students. This would be a horrible direction to go with the book. This final page is the only negative I have about the book and it has more to do with what it implies than the actual issue, so it's hard to really fault the issue for it.
Verdict - Buy It. Great first issue that did more for me than the entire run of the previous X-Force, which was more of a 90's grimdark spectacle than anything.