Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 06/22/11

Sorry for the lack of reviews the last week or two. I've been having some fatigue related issues and the DC revamp stuff kinda took up the brunt of my energy.  Only two full reviews for tonight in the form of Batman: Gates of Gotham #2 and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160.  I've got a couple of quick shot reviews for some Flashpoint tie-ins as well.  Hit the jump for my thoughts.

Written by Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins
Art by Trevor McCarthy

I enjoyed the first issue of Gates of Gotham a great deal and this second issue had some high expectations to meet.  I'm happy to say that it's actually better than the first issue and has managed to play up all the parts I enjoyed most about the previous issue while fixing what few minor flaws it had.  

If you missed the first issue, the basic plot is that there's a mystery villain plotting to blow up the three major bridges, known as the Gates of Gotham, leading into Gotham.  Batman (Dick in this case) is on the case and we jump back and forth between the past, when the bridges were first commissioned, and the present.  Snyder and Higgins are doing an excellent job of balancing the past and present and the use of the flashbacks really helps flesh out the city of Gotham's history while simultaneously giving the reader the 'origin' of the villain as we learn about the events that led to the present vendetta against the Waynes, Elliots (Hush's family) and Cobblepots (Penguin's family) who funded the bridge building project in the past. 

This issue continued from last issue with the mystery villain kidnapping Hush from Arkham.  Batman and Red Robin are investigating that while Cassandra Cain, who apparently is going by the new name The Black Bat instead of Batgirl (not sure if that name was mentioned in Batman Inc or not, but first I can recall hearing her called by it), and Damian stake out the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge. 

Damian has no internal filter.
Last issue, Dick read like a generic Bruce Wayne Batman.  Many writers outside Grant Morrison and a handful of others simply write him like Bruce.  Here, while playing off Tim, he's written much better and that continued throughout the issue when he was by himself saving Hush, at the expense of letting the old Wayne Tower blow up. 

On the Cass and Damian side of things, the duo steal the show in the few pages they appear in.  I loved Damian sizing her up and Snyder and Higgins nail Damian's character with the verbal sparring with Cass.  He not only brings up her failed 'leading' of the League of Assassins, but also rubs in how she was shipped off to Hong Kong while he became Robin and was left to look after Gotham.  I like how Tim gave her a quick acknowledgement and some Damian tips on the radio afterwards.  And can I just say I'm happy to see Cass actually being in a book again and written properly? 

On the art side of things, Trevor McCarthy is doing some great things here again this month.  I noted his action sequences were especially great last month while the rest was fairly average.  Not the case this month.  Very little action outside of some racing to try, and fail, to stop the bombs, so mostly a 'talking heads' issue, but McCarthy was excellent in all aspects, particularly on many of the character moments where subtle expressions and nice panel layout made all the difference. 

Verdict - Must Read.  Great issue that moves the story forward, but still leaves us wanting more with the mystery of who the villain is and why they are doing this.  Excellent character moments and art round out the package.

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

And so ends another era of Ultimate Spider-Man as the book ends with Spider-Man's death.  Again.  What?  You thought a story named the Death of Spider-Man would end with him alive?  Okay, he's probably not really dead at the end, what with the series relaunching and everything, and it's kind shades of his last "death" in Ultimatum but let's run with it. 

The biggest problem I had with the issue is pretty much that it's a by the numbers fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.  Really, if you've been following Ultimate Spider-Man at all, you've seen him fight Osborn a half dozen times or so already.  Osborn attacks his family/comes to his home/invites him to his place with a threat, they say some stuff, they fight, Osborn gets a quick upper hand and then Peter overcomes it with his sheer determination and ends pretty worse for wear, but victorious. 

This fight was no exception and there was not one swerve or slightest change in the basic Ultimate Spidey vs Goblin fight pattern to make it noteworthy.  Not even Bagley's excellent art could really spruce up what was the same fight sequence we've seen over and over again between the two.  There's also the 'death' that lacks any real impact after they already did the same thing back in Ultimatum and ran a bunch of death related issues.  So the fact he "didn't survive" this battle doesn't really change the fact it was the same thing we've seen over and over again already. 

With the entire issue pretty much dedicated to this fight, and it's subsequent failure to deviate from the norm, the best parts of Ultimate Spider-Man - the characters - don't even get time to add some oomph to the issue like they usually do.  The best part of the issue, though, has to be Mark Bagley's art.  It's easily some of his best work on the title, so the issue does have that going for it.

Verdict - Check It.  While I'm fairly negative in tone, the issue isn't bad - just fairly underwhelming in the deja vu nature of the reading the same exact fight sequence over and over again between Ultimate Spider-Man and Green Goblin making up the entirety of the issue didn't really wow me at all.  Even Wile E Coyote tries something new every time he tries to catch the Road Runner.  Osborn or, better yet, Bendis should take some tips.

Quick Shot Reviews

Flashpoint - Lois Lane & The Resistance #1 - Wasn't really considering getting this, but Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writing combined with my enjoying the Aquaman and Wonder Woman tie-ins made me reconsider.  This first issue is hit and miss.  Expands some more on the whole Atlantis vs Amazons 'history' and shows how Lois became a resistance informant/got behind enemy lines, but some obvious rushed storytelling trying to cram a bunch of stuff in/get the story moving along in the few issues they have.  Art is serviceable, but little bit on the cheesecake side of things.  Unless dying for more Flashpoint related material, I'd stick with just the Wonder Woman and Aquaman tie-ins for their story. 

Verdict - Check It

Flashpoint - Kid Flash Lost #1 - Sterling Gates and some nice art from Oliver Nome that reminded me of Francis Manapul at times made me consider picking this one up.  Kid Flash is lost in time and turns out it's Brainiac that plucked him out of the time stream and imprisoned him.  He breaks out and story ends up being a Back to the Future-like 'have to get back before I disappear' type of deal.  Nothing really stood out to me, though.  The only catch is Brainiac controlling the planet with a Matrix-like vibe/human battery tubes everywhere.  Doubt I'll stick with this with so many other books on my plate. 

Verdict - Check It

Flashpoint - Reverse Flash #1 - Was expecting something big from this one, but was let down with what was basically Reverse Flash's origin and some expanding on what he did to Barry Allen's past during Flash Rebirth.  I actually thought we'd find out more about what he did at the end of the Flash series that led to Flashpoint (it was fairly ambiguous as to what he did or that the issue even led into Flashpoint to be honest) or at least see what he was up to since he's only been briefly mentioned so far in the main series.  The issue wasn't bad and it makes an excellent issue for non-Flash readers to get caught up on who he is, what he's done to Barry, etc, so definitely not a waste of money.  I like how the narrative flowed as well.  Most stories like this end up just your standard Wikipedia entry going through the recap bit by bit.  Not the case here.

Verdict - Check It.

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Tony Soldo said...

Ugh, about Ultimate Spider-Man, this is the last issue before the relaunch. Don't know where you got that there are two more. And it has been revealed that the relaunch will feature someone else as Spider-Man.

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