Comics: Batman & Robin #1 (2009)

B_and_R1For fans of All Star Superman and The Authority, you’re in for a treat with Batman & Robin #1 (Batman Reborn arc) with the infamous creative team of writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely.

Coming off the heels of the supposed death of Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis #7 and the ensuing ‘Battle for the Cowl’ story arc (yawn), the Batman Reborn arc kicks off with Dick Grayson (the original Robin and more recently Nightwing) assuming the Bat mantle and Bruce’s estranged son Damien as the new Robin in a new DC series.

A little background first on the ‘bat’ universe within DC:  At the end of Final Crisis we are supposed to believe that Bruce Wayne mortally perished, yet in the last page it hinted very heavily that Bruce did in fact ‘not’ die, but taking a self imposed sabbatical for a while.  What this was supposed to accomplish for us comic fanatics I’m just not sure, because if DC was trying to shock us or make us care about Batman, they failed, at least in my opinion.  As a matter of fact Final Crisis in itself was a disappointment, especially since it was so drawn out and late with several issues.

So we are supposed to ‘believe’ Bruce is indeed dead, and thus a vacuum of power has been been created within Gotham City with many of the B-list hero’s in and around Gotham are going to pick up the pieces and continue on with Batman’s brand of justice.  So we have Robin, Huntress, Batgirl, Jason Todd, The Outsiders, Nightwing, Batwoman, etc., etc., etc. all vying for the lead spot in the totally predictable and utterly boring “Battle for the Cowl” arc. 

I’m sorry if I seem a little sour on this, but really, did anyone truly believe that Dick Grayson would not come out on top after all this and become the new ‘temporary’ Batman?  And I say temporary only because if you think Bruce is truly dead, then you may as well give up reading comics now.  Also, if you are one to believe that the next Batman movie will be out in 2010 or 2011, do you think DC would have one of their main characters in limbo when all the merchandising hoopla begins?  Nah, at best (or worst depending on how you look at it), Bruce will be back within 2 years….the same way most of DC’s ‘dead hero’ roster always returns back in time.  As far as the other titles go, I’m not so excited….so Red Robin is set in Europe, and Outsiders is just plain lame since it became ‘Batman and the Outsiders just over a year back witha  direction change that took the fun out of the book.  And sadly, while the new Batwoman may be something to look at as far as eye candy goes, nothing over there has made me care all that much.  Clearly Gotham is still too saturated with Bat-esque goodies and baddies running around in spandex…sigh.

Anyway, I’m off point.  Back to the comic at hand.  Morrison and Quitely’s take on Batman & Robin is very fun witha  mixture of dry humor and sarcasm.  Batman overall needed a nice change up within any of their titles, and this one looks very promising.  You can’t really go wrong with Morrison’s writing, and Quitely’s unique art style is both detailed and fresh on the characters within. 

While Dick Grayson is the lead in this title, it’s clear that a lot of focus and development is in store for Damien, and his character while coming off as a little spoiled prat at times is a good counter contrast to Dick’s. 

Introduced in this issue is a few minor tweaks to the traditional costumes (I particularly like Batman’s new belt), a new batmobile, and a new ‘lair’ (underneath a Gotham skyscraper that coincidentally is shaped like a bat if you look hard enough).  Also look for a new rogue in ‘Pyg’, a sadistic new villain whose minions are probably the most ‘eerie’ I’ve ever seen within the pages any Batman title.  It’s refreshing for a new criminal face other than another rehash of the Joker, Clayface, Penguin or whomever.

Morrison and Quitely have the first three issues here and are setting up the foundation for a hopefully solid run for future writers and artists on this title lik ethey did for X-Men #114 some eight years back.  Anyway, this title is fun and exciting and really does qualify as a ‘shake up’ within the established universe without throwing everything out the window before it, but again, in all seriousness, do we really expect Bruce to be gone for more than 2 years?

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Comics: Batman Cacophony #1

Cacophony 1

Cacophony 1

I generally have a very favorable response to anything writer/director Kevin Smith touches.  I enjoy his movies immensely, although at times I find the abrasive language a bit much and sometimes overdone.  But when it comes to his comic book writing, who can deny that he helped re-elevate many DC and Marvel characters who seemed at one time very cool, but were losing their ‘it’ factor.

He helped me discover Daredevil when he took over the relaunch of that title years ago, and I still collect and read that avidly (of course M. Bendis has a lot to do with that today).  He brought Green Arrow back to the forefront of DC (although I’m not sue how that title is doing today).  And even the often delayed and criticized Spiderman & Blackcat series helped bring Felicia Hardy into her own again.

With that said I was excited to learn that Smith would be involved in a three issue series starring Batman, although I was a bit surprised Smith chose this character to tackle.  There’s been a lot of focus on Batman as of late with the Final Crisis/R.I.P storyline, All Star Batman project, Batman & The Outsiders (personal yawn), The Dark Knight movie this past summer, in addition to all the other Bat titles that DC is churning out.  I often think Batman is becoming DC’s own Wolverine….over exposed and involved in way too many titles to keep his continuity in check.

A Batman story needs to be impressive and handled well in my opinion to hold my attention, and to grab my $3.99 anymore, and I believe that Smith can usually turn out gold.  With what I personally think is becoming a fiasco over at DC with the very drawn out and sometimes confusing and continuity challenged chaos which is Final Crisis, I despretly want to like this book.

I just finished issue 1 (of three), and I’m happy to say I approve and look forward to the next two installments.  However, while it was indeed good, it was not ‘great’.

As always, Smith’s intricate dialogue and creativity are what help make this book such an enjoyable read.  Smith, like Bendis can tell a fun story with snippets of humor and dark and scary content and seem to blend the overall theme and direction fairly well.  That said, the initial setup with and backstory with the Joker and Deadshot was intriguing and a very fresh idea for once in the often rehashing of anything dealing with Arkham Asylum.  The interaction between these two is classic, both funny and disturbing at times.  However, the one gripe I have is the stated $20,000 a disgruntled guard agrees upon to sell all of Arkham’s secrets.  It should have been much higher, and the explanation as to why the guard was let go to begin with was a bit weak.

Smith’s prior creation, Onomatopoeia, also shows up to run interference with Deadshot.  Onomatopoeia, doesn’t talk, but instead, mimics the sounds of his surroundings and my first thought upon seeing his costume was a possible homage to Bullseye (Marvel).

The Joker is also portrayed a bit more disturbing than I remember him in the past, with some homosexual and necrophilia tendencies.  With Smith at the helm of writing, this doesn’t really surprise me too much, and adds an additional ‘creep’ factor to the clowned prince of crime.

There is a scene about half way through the book between Onomatopoeia and The Joker which seems to be the initial setup for act two and a hint towards Onomatopoeia’s motivations.

So by now you’re wondering, “Where is Batman in all this?”.  In an abrupt cut, Smith takes us to witness villain Zsasz commit a heinous crime, and once again Smith throws in a very disturbing moment in which Zsasz turns his back to the panel and commits self mutilation on what can only be suggested as his genatalia before Batman crashes in to take him down.   All in all, I’m not exactly sure what the point was in all this other than Smith wanting to inject a twisted moment into the book and shoehorn Batman in at this point.  It’s not that it doesn’t work and detracts from the overall story, but its placement and abrupt cut over to seemed a bit off.

That also goes for another character, Maximillian Zues, who is introduced to the story in another abrupt cut scene.  My first thought was “What?  Of all the characters to choose from, why Zues?  Well, I’ll just have to trust Smith to flesh this out in the next issue as only he can.  I just hope I won’t be scratching my head at the end of issue 2 as I am now. 

The pencils provided by Walter Flanagan also leave me a bit unsure how I feel in the end.  In some panels I think Flanagan did a fine job, especially with Jokers expressions and mannerisms.  Yet in others, the artwork felt simplistic and rushed and ‘under-developed’ like with Zsasz and Maximillian.

Overall, even with a few jarring interuptions in the flow of the book and inconsistent art, this is still a buy and already more cerebral than what happening over in Batman & The Oustiders…once a fine book that seems to have lost its way (already much like the newly revamped Titans)

Comics: Rogue’s Revenge #2

Heat Wave Unleashed

Heat Wave Unleashed

Admittedly I’m a bit behind on my reading as of late.  I’m behind on both DC and Marvel books as things such as work tend to get in the way.

On a related note, I really don’t know what to say about DC right now.  With all the hype of Final Crisis, the main arc hasn’t been able to hold my interest and so far hasn’t delivered like I was hoping for or what it was hyped up to be.  It doesn’t help matters either that the book is shipping late, and there is quite a bit of time between issues 3 and 4 right now for readers to follow closely enough.

Since I personally consider Final Crisis a ‘bust’ so far, I’m really banking on the upcoming Green Lantern maxi ‘Darkest Night’.  Perhaps that will be DC’s redemption.

With that being said, the best tie-in book so far has to be Rogue’s Revenge.  I commented on issue one a few weeks back and was so impressed with the tone and story direction that I was really looking forward to issue two.

And it totally lived up to my expectations.

Once again, this book delivered more insight and action into the [The Flashes] Rogue’s mythos and lore in one issue than many regular books do over the course of many arcs. 

Libra draws the battle line as he and the Secret Society he now leads mount an ultimatum to lure the Rogue’s into his fold.  Libra musters up a ‘replacement squad’ of Rogue’s who imitate our wary villains in both powers and looks to take out Captain Cold’s estranged father and taunt them into action.  What the replacements don’t figure into their initial plans is that Captain Cold and his allies have been pushed too far and really don’t care so much as to the fate of Cold’s father.  The original Rogue’s (with the help of Mirror Master) track down the ‘new’ Rogue’s and unleash a very brutal and lethal ass whooping unlike what the reader usually sees in monthly books.  Devoid of compassion, empathy, and emotion the original Rogue’s maim, destroy, and kill their would-be replacements before the ‘new’ Rogue’s even know whats going on.  Of course Libra seemed to know this would happen and this fits into his plans nicely.

Cold is able to confront his father, and in a great flashback scene and strong dialogue between the two, new readers who may not even know the history of Captain Cold are quickly brought up to speed on his background and motivations.  In a sudden twist of self-morals, Cold can’t end his fathers life, but turns to Heat Wave who does so both willfully and unsympathetically.  All this action is a way for the Rogue’s to mentor the ‘new’ Trickster (Alex Walker) in their ways, a sort of ‘trail-by-fire’ to see if he has the mettle to hang with the boys.  It’s a hard lesson for Trickster to swallow at first…but he does, and thus we are witness to the ‘hardening’ of the new Trickster.

Meanwhile Zoom continues his forceful tutelage on the futuristic young villain of Inertia (who Zoom helped escape from captivity at The Flash Museum) and forces him into the deceased Bart Allen’s Kid Flash costume for his own designs.  It appears that Zoom is working for Libra and that Inertia will play a big part in issue 3.

The Rogue’s want Inertia dead for his role in having them ‘accidently’ kill Bart Allen.  Inertia is now with Zoom.  Zoom is in league with Libra.  Libra has plans for the Rogue’s.  The Rogue’s who wanted to be left alone feel that they have been pushed back into action, and aren’t gonna hide any longer.  They are coming for Libra.  Wow!  Oh, and lets not forget Pied Piper…it seems Libra has plans for him as well.  How is this going to pan all out in one more issue?  I don’t know.  This is so good, I would like to see it pan out over the course of 4 issues instead of 3.  This is the best thing Final Crisis has going for it right now, and Geoff Johns really elevates the Rogue’s here into a force you can get really excited about and be fearful about at the same time.  Who needs hero’s when you have some bad ass villains going after each other?

Comics: Rogue’s Revenge #1

Cold as Ice

Cold as Ice

I finally got my hands on a copy of Rogue’s Revenge #1.  I had an idea it was going to be pretty popular if it was anything like arc of Rogue’s War, especially since it would be a tie into both Final Crisis, and return of Barry Allen (The Flash who sacrificed himself during the original Crisis on Infinite Earths).

I was more excited to actually get the alternative Captain Cold cover (pictured) as opposed to the Barry Allen crisis like cover.  Isn’t it a beauty?  Very powerful image and it simplicity in color and art style makes this cover just iconic in my opinion.

I can very happily report that Rogue’s Revenge #1 by writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins was everything I was hoping for and perhaps a tad bit more.  Again, in my opinion, this one book so far (two more to go) does more for the excitement of Final Crisis arc than Final Crisis itself.

I felt it revealed much more about Libra, his mindset and his attitude, than the core series is right now and felt that Libra came across as a much more potent villian here than elsewhere.  (On a side note, I still feel that Libra is someone we know in the DC Universe who just hasn’t revealed his true identity yet.  Wouldn’t it be something is it was Ralph Dibney himself, or some other hero who turned traitor?  I’m expecting a surprise on his origins soon enough.).

Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Heat Wave and the new Trickster (Trickster II, Alex Walker) are on the run from their part in the death of Bart Allen (Kid Flash).  The reformed Pied Piper is after them, as well as the hero’s and even the newly formed Secret Society of Villains (headed by Libra).

It just seems these four rogues have great chemsitry together, and Captain Cold’s authoritative roll as default leader of this band of cons on the run is great.  His moral compass is both strict, unforgiving yet compassionate at times makes Snart a very complex character and is way beyond one dimensional.  That is the strength of writer Johns here.  He takes these B and C list characters and reveals so much they truly take on their own unique humanistic identities and the reader can really begin to get in their heads and begin to understand their motivations.

Cold’s message to Libra, and Libra’s reaction just sets the stage for yet another Final Crisis subplot I’m actually very eager to get my hands on moreso than than what’s happening to Green Lantern, Batman, and Wonder Woman right now.

Let’s not forget Inertia who masterminded the death of Bart Allen, and the jarring way he is brought back into this book as well.  I won’t spoil the surprise right now, but the means behind bringing Inertia back and what he is thrust into the very last two pages just amps this alrady solid book up to an eleven!  There’s plenty of cameo’s from the Flash-verse as well, but they aren’t thrown in for cameo’s sake,…clearly each has a purpose and al the groundwork was laid out masterfully in this opening issue.

Get this book!.

Comics: Final Crisis #3

WW hiding in the shadows of this book...for good reason...it blows.

WW hiding in the shadows of this book...for good reason...it blows.

After a longer than usualy delay in reading my monthly books, I final got to tackle Final Crisis #3, and I can say so far I am still not impressed.

I can’t say I’m totally confused on whats going on in this 7 issue series, but there’s really nothing I am compelled to get excited about so far, perhaps because the book jumps around so much with no real flow.  It didn’t help there was a delay between issues #2 and #3 that helped me even forget further what ‘may’ be important.

I picked up the alternate cover with a very nice painting of Supergirl on the cover, and then realizes she wasn’t in this book at all.  Odd.  In issue #2 we saw that Batman was captured, yet nothing in #3 even mentions his whereabouts. 

There’s a few pages of Frankenstien and The Question that for me came out of left field and alludes to the Anti-Life equation.  Um,…Okay….

Then there is the ridiculous turn of Mary Marvel…yet again….in as so many months.  I liked her look and turn when she was first granted the corupted powers by Black Adam.  That was interesting until the female version of Eclipso came around and muddled up what I thought was an exciting chracter re-emergence in Mary.  By the end of Countdown, Mary seemed to be her old self again, rejecting the evil side and got yet another new outfit.  Now I don’t pick up every DC book, but what the heck happened in the last few weeks where Mary Marvel is now eveil again (I surmise by Granny Goodness) and wearing one of the most hideous costumes that DC has green lit in a while (I take that back…DC seems to be okay with numerous ridiculous costumes as of late).  Anyway, the whole Mary Marvel thing in my opinion is a colossal cluster.  Why are we dedicating Wonder Woman to this sub-plot?

It appears the only thing that really continues is that Hal Jordon has been taken custody by teh Alpha Lanterns which can only be a set up for the upcoming Green Lantern maxi-series.

The reforming and handling of the All Star Squadron seems baffling.  If there is a common threat to Earth and the Universe, why now do the heroes need an act of Congress (article X) to be imposed upon them?  I don’t get the logic or purpose there.  So all the other times the heroes got together before, why didn’t they enact article X?  They just come together here and pose in some splash page for who knows what.

The only redeeming plotline was Sumo being rescued at the airport by some of the Japanese teen heroes.  That was fun.

Also a brief explanation of Barry Allen’s possible return was building to an exciting moment for me, but just came short of delivering there as well.  Perhaps issue 4.

Finally, I thought Libra was supposed to be the main villian here and his sub-plot also seems to be over shadowed by all the other chaos within the book.  I suspect Libra is actually someone we already know, perhaps a goon of Darksied that will be revealed later on.

I know other reviews of the book, like over at CBR gave this issue a 4.5 out of 5.  I just don’t see it.  I give this issue a lukewarm 2 out of 5 at best.

Comics: Secret Invasion #4

1 of 4 covers

1 of 4 covers

While it seems that DC’s Final Crisis is taking its sweet time to come out for its next issue and taking a little criticism to boot, (I heard that first few issues had lower than expected sales and there’s a notable percentage of readers who seem to be slightly let down so far, me included) Marvel is plugging away at Secret Invasion.

With issue 4 now out, (and four different covers) it seems there’s a brief sidestep of the agressive soryline that the first three issues really delivered on.  That’s not to say there is no action here in issue 4, we just aren’t hit with any new revelations or jaw dropping panels.  It seems that the heroes are taking a quick breath to collect their wits after what transpired in the Savage Land and the intense battle with the all new Super Skrulls downtown Manhattan.

We open with a captured Reed Richards being stretched out and interogated by the Skrulls, and a few panels updating readers the major hotspots.

Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) spies a confused Tony Stark and Jessica Drew (aka Spider Woman) Skrull imposter as Tony tries to repair his armor in a secluded area of the Savage Land (BTW: Where the heck did Ka-za and Sheena go?)  Natasha chases the fake Jessica away and tries to snap Tony out of his mental paraylsis when Wolverine comes on the scene.  Natasha has a few great lines here as she confronts the identity of Wolverine (I won’t give it away, but it’s classic Bendis).

In Manhattan it seems Nick Fury arrives with the calvary ( a group of new amateur/green heroes who just debuted last month) and helps the heroes limp away so they can regroup.  It appears many of the heroes are surprised by his return, and not quite sure if they can trust him or not wondering if this is just another Skrull imposter and another trap is about to be sprung.  For me, this story line and overall arc is a great way to bring Fury back into the mainstream Marvel universe.  Probably one of the best overall re-treatments of a character in a long, long time.

The one exciting moment for me, while brief, was the was the villain The Hood reacts to the Skrull invasion.  While his minions are happy to see the heroes duke it out with the Skrulls, he sees the bigger picture and to The Hood, it’s not about the heroes right now.  It’s about the humans and the Skrulls, and no way are the Skrulls taking over his territory.  So it looks like The Hood and his goons are going to join the fray on the sides of humanity,….another great way to take a B-list villian and not only flesh him out but elevate him in a way a reader would not normally expect.  Go Bendis!!

We close this chapter with everything in flux, but the last panel shows a sneak peak of what can only be Capt. America.  But which one?  Is it the new Bucky?  Is it an alien imposter?  Is it the time displaced Cap. from Secret Invaders?  Or is it our beloved Steve Rogers back from the presumed dead?

Comix: Final Crisis #2

Final Crisis #2So I eagerly picked up FC #2 yesterday trying to see if my slight dissapointment with the first issue could be alleviated.

Well, after devouring it from cover to cover all I can say is that I have mixed feelings, and not for the better.

Again, like issue number 1, the first few pages just seem like they came from left field.  We are introduced to a Japanese nightclub filled with numerous 20-something old powered patrons shown dancing and drinking and taking in the nightlife.  There is a brief altercation between a reknown popular superpowered sumo fighter and a mecha- suited guy looking to make a name for himself via a challenge.  So after 6 pages or so of this set up and build…..cut…new scene: DC heros mourning Martian Manhunter.

Um….okay?  What was that all about?  Why introduce all these Japanese characters in a nightclub scene?  It actually made me think about more questions such as: Why has DC never really focused on this segment before…that is supposedly established groups or even established metahuman cultures in other countries?  Yeah, there’s been some exposure to Soviet and even Chinese hero’s, but this just came across as way too casual.  See, when Superman flies by, even though he’s an established character, he still inspires awe and wonderment from the citizens of Metropolis or the world over….like ‘seeing’ a superhero is a ‘big deal’.  Apparently not so in Japan….it’s part of the ‘norm’?

Is it me or does Libra just not yet inspire grandeur of being a main player?  I still look at Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage as power players, and Libra just comes across as a costumed B-lister.  I don’t think Grant Morrison has done a well enough job yet in defining Libra’s motivations or powers.  After 2 issues (of the scheduled 7), I just don’t “get” Libra.

The rest of the DC Universe is investigating the murder of Martian Manhunter and Batman finds himself in a confrontation with an Alpha Lantern who seems to be shutting him down at every turn.  Hal Jordan also faces his ring being shut down by the Alpha Lanterns as he is to be arrested and investigated as well for his supposed ‘role’ in the Manhunters murder.  This upsets Superman.  But these sequence of events aren’t explored enough in detail to make logical sense.  I mean, how does an Alpha Lantern shut of Hal’s ring?  This is the same Hal whose ring as Parallex was virtually unstop-able…leading me to wonder why then if OA and the Lanterns have the ‘ability’ to shut off a ring at will…..then why the hell didn’t they do that eons ago when Hal was on a rampage?  And Batman being bested in his general approach to things and then captured via a Boom Tube by this rogue Alpha with ulterior motives…I dunno.

I have a suspicious feeling the way the Lantern Corps and OA are involved so far that Final Crisis is really no more than a pilot to get the next big DC arc of the ground…The Blackest Night…which would do the whole Final Crisis resolution a big disservice.