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Batman Incorporated (2012) #1

July 31, 2012 Leave a comment

June 10, 2012

Title: Leviathan Part One: Demon Star

Writer: Grant Morrison
Art:
Chris Burnham
Letters:
Patrick Brosseau
Colors:
Nathan Fairbairn
Cover Art:
Chris Burnham
Editor:
Mike Marts
Publisher:
DC Comics

Returning for what promises to be the finale of his Batman run, Grant Morrison kicks off the second volume of Batman Incorporated with a pretty startling story. Talia Head’s Leviathan is growing in power, attacking on several fronts, targeting members of Batman, Inc. and bringing the conflict straight to the doorstep of the Dark Knight.

This issue is surprising on several fronts. Morrison has wasted absolutely no time getting into the heat of the moment, starting us in the midst of the action with several attacks already executed and several battles already over and done. The energy here is about as high as it’s ever been during Morrison’s tenure with the Bat.

This is a New 52 title, but aside from a few cosmetic changes it doesn’t appear that Morrison has been forced to make too many concessions for the sake of setting it in the changed world. Bruce and Damian are still Batman and Robin, Dick was Batman for a time in the not-too-distant past, and the assorted members of Batman, Inc. are virtually untouched… even Batwing, who now stars in his own solo title. This is basically a good thing. Morrison had quite a momentum built up, and the lapse since the previous Leviathan Strikes one-shot may actually have served to help keep the pace brisk. The differences in the New 52 have all been suitably explored in the other titles and there’s no pressure to do so here.

Chris Burnham came into the previous series rather late in the game, but he’s making it is how. His style is influenced somewhat by frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely, but not so much as to deem him a copycat. He’s drawing a classic Batman and a strong Damian, with the more monstrous characters depicted in a fashion that feels very consistent with what’s been done in the past.

The end of this issue, of course, is the real shocker, and if it were anybody but Morrison behind the wheel I’d be virtually certain there’s a stunt in the works to reverse what we seem to see on the last page. There still could be, of course, Morrison could be playing his own game, but from him it does feel more organic and less forced than it would be in many titles.

All in all, this issue stands as a fine beginning to a final act.

Rating: 8/10

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Recent Reviews: September 21 & 28 Releases

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

August 30, 2008

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Conversions

What would you do the night before the end of the world?

Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: John Dell & Joe Kubert
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Dan Didio
Cover Art: Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert & Nei Rufino (Cover A); Adam Kubert, John Dell & Laura Martin (Cover B)
Publisher: DC Comics

Since Brad Meltzer is the one who started the DC Universe in its current direction way back in Identity Crisis, it’s only fitting that he come back to make his case as line reaches the end of that road with Final Crisis. It’s the night before the last battle, the night before the heroes of the DC Universe expect the world to end, and everyone is preparing in their own way. What they do, who they choose to be with, how they spend their final night… these are the choices who make the characters who they are.

Much of the book is made up of short vignettes. Powerful father-son moments with Clark and Jonathan Kent and Batman and his two true sons, sister moments with Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, and tender moments between husbands and wives are plentiful, and are to be expected. There are unexpected moments, too. A villain almost chooses to be a hero, a hero almost chooses to be a villain. Those heroes who seek spiritual guidance find it in a surprising but highly satisfying place. One hero spends the night pining for a lost love, while others spend it with their soul mates.

The core of the book, however, is Geo-Force. In his Justice League of America run, Meltzer established Geo-Force’s drive to get revenge against Deathstroke for the death of his sister. On his last night on Earth, he chooses to make good on that vow. Even at the height of the Outsiders’ popularity, Geo-Force has never been more than a B-list hero, but this issue he’s a B-lister who steps up and delivers a powerful, emotional punch that even the top heroes in the DC Universe would have trouble matching.

Adam Kubert’s pencils are good as well, and John Dell’s inks compliment them very well. The real shocker on this book, however, comes in when several of the pages (as well as the variant over) are inked by the legendary Joe Kubert. His pages have a wonderfully classic look to them, as though they fell right out of the war comics of the silver age… and for a book like this one, a war story look feels wonderfully appropriate.

It’s not entirely clear why this isn’t specifically labeled as a Final Crisis crossover. Although they don’t specifically refer to the events of that book, the thumbprint of the series is obvious. I can only think of two real reasons the book is marketed the way it was. First off, there’s a clear effort in the company to make DC Universe a brand in and of itself (as evidenced by the zero issue from a few months ago, the several reprint specials we’ve seen, and the upcoming Decisions miniseries). Second, although the book clearly deals with the Crisis, you don’t really need any knowledge of that larger crossover to understand, appreciate, and get absorbed by this wonderfully emotional story. It’s part of something larger – something that goes back to Identity Crisis itself – but it stands on its own. And it’s well worth the read.

Rating: 8/10

Richard Dragon #2

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

June 29, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Enter the Dragon Part Two

Richard Dragon faces down his old enemies on the streets of Bludhaven.

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Scott McDaniel
Inks: Andy Owens
Colors: Tony Avina
Letters: Phil Balsman
Editor: Michael Wright
Cover Art: Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens
Publisher: DC Comics

Nightwing fans, do not be fooled. While it’s always great to see Scott McDaniel penciling the former Boy Wonder, he makes little more than a cameo appearance in this issue, setting up a full-fledged guest-starring role next month. This issue is about Richard and Ben Turner going to Bludhaven to begin their war with the enemies who drew Richard out of retirement last issue.

This issue is a definite step up from issue one – there’s still plenty of action, and it’s all done well, but we get a little character development as well. Dixon serves up a flashback sequence that shows how Richard and Ben first met, as well as providing a little more insight into why our title character made himself into the warrior he is. It’s a well-done bit that has me liking the character a bit more.

That’s not why you buy this book, though, you buy it for the fights, and the Dixon/McDaniel team do some of the best street-level fighting sequences in comics today. We’ve got fists of fury, flying kicks and great marital arts moves that make this title what it is.

That said, I still feel like I should be liking this title a bit more than I do now. It’s good. It’s fun. But it’s not giving me that “zowie” feeling I want out of it. Perhaps as the first story arc continues, the book will continue in that direction, but right now it still kind of feels like “Nightwing-Lite” instead of having an identity of its own, and that’s exactly what it needs.

Rating: 7/10

The Flash (1987 Series) #211

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

June 18, 2004

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Animal House

It’s Flash and Nightwing together against the might of Gorilla Grodd!

Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Howard Porter
Inks: Livesay
Colors: James Sinclair
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover Art: Michael Turner & Peter Steigerwald
Publisher: DC Comics

Last issue the Flash and Nightwing walked straight into Grodd’s lair in the Flash Museum. This issue picks up a few seconds and a ton of rubble later, as Grodd lays into the two ex-Titans and best friends. Johns does one of his best fight scenes yet in the series, utilizing Flash’s powers to a degree he doesn’t normally attain, something that’s sure to stir up a new round of debate over in the Comixtreme Arena.

The aftermath of the fight may seem a little corny to some, but to me it felt like it fit perfectly. It’s very reverential, very much what this title is all about, the legacy of the Flash.

Johns uses the rest of the issue setting things up for what promises to be the next major storyline, which if this issue is any indication, will hearken back to one of the most memorable tales of Barry Allen’s career. It seems like every issue of Flash these days ends exactly the same way – leaving me in agony waiting for the next one.

Howard Porter does a great Grodd. It’s just not easy to draw a giant gorilla tearing apart a museum without it looking silly, but this is a deadly serious fight and a brutal, vicious Grodd. The entire art team, including Livesay and Sinclair, deserve credit for tackling the task of putting together the Flash, one of the brightest heroes of the DCU, with the much darker Nightwing. While not as dark as his mentor, Nightwing is still a character that usually keeps to the shadows, and continues to do so in this issue, while Flash still gets to be bright and colorful and symbolic, everything a hero should be.

Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald, who are currently turning out some of the best looking DC covers every month, also do a fantastic job this issue, with a beautiful, iconic cover. I have to complain, though, that the logo obscures a bit too much of the art, and since the whole thing is against a black field I can’t help but think that the artwork could have been moved further down to get more of it in view. I also have to be consistent here and point out that it’s a cover that, like far too many covers these days, bears absolutely no significance to the story… but man, when the cover is that pretty, how can you make yourself complain?

I love this book. Every month, I love this book all over again. Geoff Johns has found a way to make this title one of the best DCU books of the 2000s just as Mark Waid made it one of the best of the 90s, and I keep waiting to see the sales of this book rise to the level they deserve.

Rating: 8/10

 

Recent Reviews: August 10 Releases

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Robin (1993 Series) #125

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

April 21, 2004

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: In the Shadow of Two Fathers

Jack Drake has learned his son’s secret… will it be the end of Robin?

Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencils: Francisco Rodriguez De La Fuente
Inks: Aaron Sowd
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Nick Napolitano
Editor: Michael Wright
Cover Art: Jason Pearson
Publisher: DC Comics

Did I say Bill Willingham had a slow start on this title? Man, has he made up for it. Last issue Jack Drake figured out one of the best-kept secrets on the planet: the secret identities of Batman and Robin. This issue, he confronts them, and Tim Drake’s career as Robin is at stake.

Let’s give Willingham credit for a major-league fake out here. He had everyone believing that the much-ballyhooed news that a new Robin will debut in issue #126 had something to do with Tim’s guilt over the apparent death of Johnny Warlock. Nope. He went somewhere else entirely, somewhere that works better for the characters and that makes for one of the best issues of Robin I’ve ever read.

Willingham has all of these characters spot-on. There’s a particularly good sequence where Alfred suggests ways to deal with the discovery that split my sides. Even in an issue as heady as this one, the writer finds room for fun, and Robin should be the fun character in the Batman mythos.

Would that the artwork was as good as the writing. I’m very grateful that Damian Scott will take over the penciling chores next month, because the De La Fuente/Sowd team has been up and down, and this issue is way, way down. Poses are awkward, faces are mangled, and in a few scenes they even drift into what appears to be the sort of idiomatic language that appears in manga comic books, but has no place in this one. I wish someone could take this book and redraw it from panel one because the fantastic script deserves better artwork.

If the story in this issue is any indication of what is to come, Robin fans are in for a hell of a ride. I still don’t believe Tim’s departure will be permanent, but the story that brings him back promises to be a great one.

Rating: 8/10