Marvel NOW! – Review Post 5

 

SavageWolverine

Savage Wolverine

“Humid, tropical pollen, volcanic ash, polar breeze… smells like the Savage Land.”

Okay, this is a weird series, and not in a good way. The basic setup is that we will have Wolverine killing dinosaurs in the Savage Land, which has happened so often it may as well be a trope, hell, Wolverine’s other series’ arc involves him in the Savage Land. Okay, now my first impression of this book was that it was trying to be a horror movie… which is stupid for a Wolverine book, and not an entirely correct analysis but it does reek from certain horror cliches. First off the opening pages involve a science team from SHIELD investigating, and I am not shitting you here, The Forbidden Island….. which quite naturally is located just beyond Terror Bay. Seriously, who writes like that? Oh, and what does the Forbidden Island look like? IT IS A MOUNTAIN CARVED TO RESEMBLE CTHULHU! You don’t go up to investigate places like that! Shanna the She-Devil is accompanying SHIELD and providing her knowledge of the area where we then get the single dumbest line of Marvel NOW:

SHIELD Agent: Black Magic, huh?… You’re not superstitious are you, Shanna?

Seriously? What the hell! That is the kind of stupid ass line you expect from the dumb jock before reading from the Necronomicon. Not from a SHIELD agent in the Marvel Universe. SHIELD who works with the Avengers! You know like Doctor Strange and Thor? Magic is a fact of life in this universe, and this kind of ignorance is beyond baffling because it just seems impossible that in this stage of the Marvel Universe you could have trained SHIELD Agents, Agents who are leading missions into a region of Earth where dinosaurs still roam, who do not know about magic existing. Its just shit writing!

So that gets us up to page two… dear god. Is it any wonder why it took me so long to review this?

Anyway, I was wrong about this being a horror film, because once Wolverine shows up it becomes evident what the author is going for… this is a Conan story. Its Wolverine trapped in the Savage Land with a scantily clad bombshell, fighting cultists and monsters. Hell, I could enjoy that if it was done competently… this is not. I have read through the issue a number of times but honestly I could not tell you what really happens beyond SHIELD agents crash, Wolverine wakes up mysteriously in the Savage Land, Wolverine kills dudes, Wolverine meets up with Shanna, Wolverine kills dudes…. Its just… filler.

The art in this book is actually really nice. Shanna is drawn scantily and sexy as hell… which while normally would be complaints? It is kind of her thing. I actually was fine with her here and really appreciated her strong musculature that made her actually appear like a warrior woman. However what kills the art completely for me is the lack of continuity. Wolverine’s costume should be sufficiently battle damaged over this first issue: He wakes up on the ground, possibly having fallen from a great height, his hand and glove are bitten through by a dinosaur, he takes an axe in the shoulder, a spear through his stomach(which is the most grievous omission as the spear piercing him is the focus of an entire page), he is then carried through the air via talons in his shoulders and dropped… the last panel is of Logan falling after being released from the talons… and his suit is in perfect condition?! Seriously, it just bugs the crap out of me. I mean yes, if they wanted to they could easily say that Wolverine has a new suit that patches itself, that would be fine, the FF could have totally set him up with that… but it would need to be explained, a single panel showing the suit healing would have done it! Hell, it makes even less sense as this is Logan in the jungle fighting dinosuars, like I said its a Conan story, you would expect his suit to get as battle damaged as possible over the course of this! At the end of the arc he should be fighting Lovecraftian cultists in the shredded rags that remain of his uniform.

I love Wolverine when he is done well, which unfortunately isn’t often. Oddly enough I find that he is at his best when he is not the main character, a story arc here and there are great, but he works best as part of a team. Slipping in the one-liners, occasionally showing the heart of gold, fighting alongside people he is willing to die for… these are all things he excels at, however once you put him as the focal point and get inside his head, you have Logan constantly talking to the audience and you can get sick of him really damn quickly.

SuperiorSpiderMan

The Superior Spider-Man

“Farewell Otto Octavius. From now on my name is Peter Parker”

I don’t really like Spider-Man comics. I really enjoy Peter Parker and have really loved him in certain books, hell even his spin-off Avenging Spider-Man is great, and Spectacular Spider-Man is one of the very best cartoons ever made…. that being said, I have never enjoyed the main comic series. It is just… ridiculous I think is the word I want. Spider-Man suffers from years and years of really bad continuity and hell, he is still dealing with fallout from the Clone Saga! When this series was announced, it hands-down got the biggest buzz by announcing that Peter Parker would not be Spider-Man. This definitely grabbed my attention. Personally I felt like they had done so much to Peter over the years, and driven off so many fans that maybe be laying him to rest and having someone carry on the mantle it would allow many people to enjoy the title again. Hell, that’s what happened with Miles Morales, I despise the Ultimate Universe but I still love that particular title.

So I did something I hadn’t done in awhile and actually read the Amazing Spider-Man issues leading up this this title and was reading along with everyone else when it was revealed that the new Spider-Man would be Dr. Octopus in Peter’s body. With Peter’s memories, he saw Peter’s life and realized what a hero Peter was, and that with great power comes great responsibility. Otto was genuinely mournful when Peter then died in his arms, and he swore to become the Superior Spider-Man. With that I was pretty much sold on this title. It was a completely unique setup for a book, and the audience always loves a good redemption story. That being said… this first issue was both a lot of fun and disappointing.

Seeing Otto in his new life was fantastic. He is now handsome, has a great job where he is paid to create and advance scientifically, and he is dating Mary Jane. All the while his arrogance is shining through and while everyone can tell something is up… it honestly just comes across that Peter has finally gained some confidence. Seeing Otto take charge of Peter’s life is thrilling for me because I always hated seeing how much Peter got in his own way, whereas Otto came from nothing and thus realizes all the gifts he has been given and begins to thrive. As Spider-Man he fights the new Sinister Six… which outrages Otto that someone would have the gall to call themselves that after his death. Otto does take them down, but in a completely different way. Otto bugs them and instead of charging into their lair, he finds out where their next crime will be, and sets up the area so he can control the battle. All the while he is fighting them, the scene becomes surrounded by press and police that Otto called before hand, everyone sees Spider-Man being a hero not a menace and with the police called in and present they are able to assist. I was really enjoying this book until the last page reveal… Otto is about to kill one of the villains and is stopped by a ghostly hand…. it is then revealed that Peter Parker is still present in his body, however he is unable to take control. The issue ends with Peter swearing he will find a way back.

Personally, I am almost always in the favor of change with comics so long as the are moving things forward. Characters can die, relationships can end, people can graduate from high school… So this was a pretty big blow for my overall enjoyment of the issue. I actually really loved Peter’s death, because it ended with him redeeming one of his greatest foes, saving one last person. This last, unwelcome development simply means that this storyline is not the start of something new… its just an interesting detour before everything goes back to normal… and I stop reading the series again.UncannyXForce

Uncanny X-Force

“The drug is called TAO… the bad news is that it makes you susceptible to some sort of hive mind mentality(it also seems to make you dance like a complete jackass)”

Reminder’s run on Uncanny X-Force is tied for my favorite overall X-book alongside Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, so I was thrilled when this book was announced. Wolverine is completely done with the squad after he killed his son on their last mission, and Psylocke is seemingly lost in the world and without purpose. After living in this dark part of the world, where she lost the love of her life, she simply couldn’t return to normal life. Logan eventually sends her out on “not-a-mission” to go investigate some things. Storm tags along to talk to Psylocke as she is worried about her. Storm is… well Storm is great. She too, is rather lost in the world after her divorce and she is still figuring things out after AvX it feels, but she seems much more in control than Betsy and it shows. They fly off and meet up with their contact, Puck. I know nothing about Puck… but so far the little dude is pretty damn awesome.

They wind up at a rave where they encounter Spiral, the multi-armed mutant warrior who I vaguely remember from the animated series… She and Psylocke have a past… not a good one.

And it turned into a ballroom blitz.

Besides that we have Bishop show up, happy to be back in our timeline and then he roars at some cops. Okay….

This is by no means a bad comic, but it does fall short of what it could have been. The first issue of the last series was action filled with the team on a mission to kill Apocalypse now reborn, the last page shockingly revealing that their target was a young boy. This issue is very dialogue laden and the last page while certainly a shock…. is more squicky than anything else.

Overall this is a good first issue with some pretty fantastic art at points, especially great are the black, white, and pink panels which represent flashbacks… but this issue is still simply good when I feel it could have easily been great. This book is still fun and I feel pretty confident that the author will find their legs soon enough… and then take off running.

YoungAvengers

Young Avengers

“I have no powers and not nearly enough training, but I’m doing this anyway. Being a super hero is amazing, everyone should try it.”

FUCK YEAH! Seriously, I can’t even begin to explain how pumped I was for this series. They combined one of my all time favorite super hero teams with Kid Loki from Journey into Mystery, I swear this kind of series is the sort of thing one normally needs to make a crossroads deal to get made, but here I stand with my mortal soul intact(mostly) and a copy of Young Avengers.

One of the things I really, REALLY love about this issue is that it doesn’t fall into the biggest pitfall of a first issue. This is dragging along showing out heroes being recruited, and it just become a slog of getting the band together during the first issue. Here, however, we have our heroes all doing there own things and are split nicely into pairs. Hawkeye and Marvel Boy wake up in space after a one night stand and then end up fighting Skrull… its a completely awesome scene and they have yet to even meet up with the rest of the group. Wiccan and Hulkling are still together and the main focus is on them, their relationship, and how they are dealing with their grief. Loki is stalking them and is keeping an eye on Wiccan for some purpose… Miss America in turn is keeping and eye on Loki as she knows he is up to no good. Our players are all there and on the paths of intersecting… but they are allowed to breathe and be themselves and do their own things, which is really damn refreshing. They aren’t all suddenly called in and forced to be a team.

The biggest development in this issue comes at the hands of Wiccan, who saves Hulkling’s dead mother via chaos magic and alternate realities. It is super complicated but luckily Teddy doesn’t care and just is so happy to have his mother back… it is a really great, strong panel of him embracing her. No question, no screaming of “How could you do this, you aren’t god!”, just a boy who is happy to see his mom again. Of course Wiccan is an idiot however because well.. he pulled her from an alternate reality and by the end of the issue things take a dark turn and it is apparent that she will be the teams first villain to vanquish.

This series is exciting and bold. The artwork throughout is great and the layouts are daring. This is a series that you need to be reading, and I am already waiting impatiently for the next issue!

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Counting To Midnight- Best Comic Series of 2012

1

Welcome to a new segment of Sparrows With Machineguns that I like to call Counting to Midnight!

Okay, its a pretentious name for my top twelve lists, I admit that. But anyone who has read anything I have written prior has knowledge of my love for elaboration. My coverage of Marvel NOW! has been nigh all-consuming, so I decided to shake things up with this segment. For our first Counting to Midnight, I am going to cover my top 12 favorite comic book series of 2012. A bit of explanation on this topic: these are my personal favorite and sorted by my own preferences. While I consider myself a reader of quality, some titles may have ranked a higher slot than others by virtue of simply being more entertaining. Once I had the list of candidates I had an extremely difficult time ranking them. Some I was able to say “Did I really enjoy X more than Z?” however with other titles I had to look at them by their length. If a comic had more issues than others  and had a bad issue that was fine, however a smaller series would rank higher than a series that I felt had a boring story arc. Another very important aspect was only judging a comic by issues released this year, something I feel that many other reviewers neglect and allow continuing favorites to be elevated by some residual nostalgia.

Without further ado- My personal favorite comic series of 2012:

XII

ST

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is a storm of contradictions. He is a large brutish character but one of the most soulful characters in DC’s stable of characters. Swamp Thing is a character that most people actually have heard of due to his uncanny media saturation: 2 films, a surprisingly long running TV show, and an animated series, however few people would be able to tell you there character’s name or any details than “Uh, he was the plant guy right?”. Many comic fans know the character when through a renaissance under the pen of Alan Moore and became something great and wondrous… However I like many other comic fans have not read Moore’s Saga. Yes I know, I am a terrible person. Focusing on the matter at hand though, this current incarnation may well end up being the new definitive telling of the Swamp Thing.

At the start of this year, Alec Holland was still on the run from the Rot, the forces of decay and death that had sent horrific creatures after him and his lover Abby Arcane. Alec had yet to take up the mantle of Swamp Thing, denying the power in order to remain both a human and himself. As an audience it was hard not to root for Alec,we wanted him to manage to stay himself and win out against his fate. Just as much though we wanted to see him become the warrior-king he is destined to become. The issue where he finally is forced to kneel to his fate is my favorite of the series to this day. Abby is revealed to be the avatar of the Rot, just as Alec is to the Green, and she is captured and begins her transformation into an abomination. Meanwhile, the Rot has moved and set blaze to the Parliament of Trees, the place where the Green pulls its strength from… oh and Alec then takes a chainsaw to the chest. Finally willing to undergo the transformation in order to save his life and give him a chance to save Abby. With the Parliament burning, the Green lacks the strength to trigger the transformation and only has the power to slow Alec’s death, drawing out his last moments with the realization that this could have all been avoided had he embraced his heritage earlier. Naturally our hero comes out of it, and I am happy to say that due to Alec’s own ingenuity is he able to spark his transformation, becoming the Swamp Thing.

Taking a moment aside to talk about the art. This book is gorgeous, the colors are lustrous, the Rot-monsters are sickening and horrifying, and the designs throughout are spectacular. Of particular note is the design of the new Swamp Thing. Usually depicted as a being that expresses both horror and melancholy of Frankenstein’s Monster, this new incarnation is the multiple time referred to as the Green’s Warrior King, the design fits that perfectly. There is not sorrow in this design, it is glorious, fully elemental and powerful. The little touches such as moss growing on him and the branched crown on his brow really sell things, however it is at the end of his birth when he grows leafy wings and swears to the Rot that “he will show them war” that we realize how magnificent this creature truly is. The layouts in this book are great throughout this arc, showing brilliant creativity. The first time Swamp Thing takes flight we get to see through his eyes, the outline lines around the panels creating the lines of the Swamp Thing’s face as we see the desert below us springing into green life.

The beginning arc that was finished this year was a personal favorite and turned me into a fan of this series and this would have ranked much higher if I enjoyed the later issues nearly as much. Eventually Swamp Thing would team up with Animal Man, the Knight of the Red, teaming up to fight the Heart of the Rot. They end up being tricked by the Rot’s newest Avatar(the Rot is a cheater and has like three) and both the Green and Red’s champions are thrown into the future where the Rot has already won. Which in itself is a good premise, hell I loved it on Samurai Jack. The problem being that these two are not the only heroes in the world and this would have made a GREAT event comic. Screw the upcoming Trinity War(hooray MORE superheroes fighting each other) lets have the heroes of our planet united underneath Swamp Thing and Animal Man fighting to save the world from the forces of death and decay! However I can understand why they wouldn’t go that route with the similar event, Blackest Night, still being fresh in people’s minds. The main problem here is that with the Rotworld arc, we see Swamp Thing in a post apocalyptic DC universe and fighting against corrupted heroes and villains who boil down to pretty bland cameos half the time. However this story is self contained between two books that are now set in the future where all the heroes are dead, so yeah guess what is going to happen? They are going to end up fixing things and winding back up in the past again. That is how this will end. We all know it, nothing will change and it will have zero impact on the other books. I know this fact shouldn’t make me as angry as it does but the Rot was built to be such a huge threat that we want to see the fight between it and the rest of the world, that is the story we want to read… Instead the entire thing is hand-waved and instead we get to see our heroes fighting in order to retcon the enemies from winning. That coupled with the fact that later books just aren’t as entertaining or engrossing as the earlier issues this year, regrettably drops Swamp Thing down to the number twelves spot on this year’s list.

XI

Punisher

The Punisher

I loved this series so much and the fact that it was thrown to the side for Thunderbolts is a tragedy. Frank Castle, much like John Constantine, is a character that tends to suffer from something of a split characterization where you have the more serious, down-to-earth stories where they are grounded and age realistically and then others where they fall into the ageless category that most superheroes wind up. For years my favorite run of a Punisher series was Punisher MAX by Garth Ennis and it fell firmly into the former, with the key touchstone of Frank’s age being that he served in the Vietnam War. This book falls into the latter category and does a magnificent job of fitting the Punisher into the Marvel Universe.

If they were ever to make a Punisher TV series, this series should be its template. Not so much starring The Punisher in many issues so much as the world he inhabits. The main characters are the victims, cops, and criminals and how they are affected by the Punisher. Frank Castle here isn’t so much a character here, as he has already become something primal, he is Godzilla, this natural calamity that sweeps through and on its own its exciting, but the drama comes from how people react to its wake. Key among them is the character I would name the main character, Rachel Cole-Alves, a veteran whose circumstances mirror those of The Punisher’s own. It is all a very intelligent way at viewing the Punisher mythos as very rarely are we ever seeing the book from Frank’s point of view but almost always are seeing him while following others, whether its a cop describing a shooting he was involved in or a young boy who is sneaking food to the strange veteran who has taken residence nearby.

As I had stated earlier, this book is heavily engrossed in the Marvel Universe and it does this exceedingly well. Throughout most of this run Frank is heavily bandaged and healing from a run in with The Vulture. Soon he ends up going toe to toe with Megacrime, a collaboration between various supervillain organizations like A.I.M. and Black Spectre. This confrontation with Megacrime leads into the Omega Effect, a 3-way crossover between The Avenging Spider-Man, Daredevil, and The Punisher. I really, REALLY enjoyed most of this crossover, it made sense how they got these three working together, I loved how Spider-Man was written as unable to keep himself from joking even though he is scared shitless by Frank and how everyone is unsure what the hell to call Rachel(Punisher-ette?) However at the end of the arc, it ends with nothing having progressed and the arc would simply be wrapped up later in the Daredevil series, leaving a rather bland taste in everyone’s mouths. The last portion of this series deals mostly with the Punisher helping Rachel, you can tell that he is seriously considering taking her on but still hoping that she isn’t as broken as him and that she has a choice about not being… him. The last few issues are wonderful, with Frank and Rachel spending one issue simple pulling a heist on a Supervillain auction in order to get supplies they will need. You know you should be scared when the Punisher gets his hand on adamantium.

This series ends on a bittersweet note as far as Frank and Rachel go however I really liked how things end up shaking out. If you enjoyed this series then there is an ongoing epilogue called Punisher: War Zone which follows the aftermath of the main series that has created a situation where Frank is being hunted down by the Avengers. I really loved this series and it was killed off far too quickly in order to push Frank onto the Thunderbolts. We can only hope that someday soon Rucka and Castle will be reunited.

X

AM

Aquaman

I never thought I would have Aquaman become one of my favorite comics but its hard to dislike such a quality series. Adhering to the mantra of “There are no bad characters…”, Geoff Johns has turned Arthur into one of the premiere heroes of the New 52 and is quickly turning popular perception of Aquaman on its head. Arthur is a man struggling against how his homes view him. Atlantis wanting him as their king but not needing him, and the surface needing him but ridiculing him to his face. His perseverance throughout is one of his most admirable traits. His wife Mera is a full partner throughout the series, possibly even more powerful than he is, she is a character in her own right without having to rely on her husband. Every scene between these two is a joy and they are remain my favorite couple in the current DC universe.

This year in Aquaman was focused entirely on Atlantis. Arthur and Mera had just taken down the Trench, a race of powerful, cannibalistic monsters when Aquaman’s past comes back to haunt him. Beginning with an Atlantean hit squad coming after Arthur and attacking him in the desert, things kick into high gear with the introduction of Arthur’s old team, the Others and emergence of his nemesis, Black Manta. Manta is one of those characters who can be either horrifically goofy or incredibly imposing depending on the team behind him and he quickly establishes himself in the latter. Hunting down on of the Others, a woman with pre-cognitive abilities, he establishes himself as a cunning hunter who may just be a match for our Atlantean hero. The Others themselves are all varied and interesting, of particular note is The Operative who needs his own series right-the-hell now! Reuniting after years as Arthur’s past is dredged up and we discover the reason for his fued with Black Manta. They killed each others’ fathers. Manta had been going after Aquaman and discovered his dad instead who fought him off but died of a heart attack. In retaliation Aquaman kills Black Manta’s father and scars Manta’s face. It is a really dark turn but it irrevocably locks these two in a cycle of vengeance and it shows our hero in a more tragic light. Any flashback we see him amongst the Others, he is so full of rage that he could hardly be called a hero, it is wonderful to see how he came from that angry young man to one of the world’s finest. I also really enjoyed the last moment’s of Aquman and Black Manta’s duel, with Aquaman sparing his life to be the better man that day but acknowledging the fact that he knows that he will have to kill him someday.

More recently we have been introduced to Orm the Ocean Master, current King of Atlantis. Again, Johns knocks the characterization out of the park. Orm does not in any way come across as a villain but as law-abiding monarch who truly does care about his older brother. The final issue of the year ends up placing the two at end with an event crossing over with the Justice League series. First off, how awesome is it that the first crossover event for the Justice League isn’t with Batman or Superman but with Aquaman?!(Answer: Very) Atlantis is attacked by the surface world and war is declared with Aquaman caught in the middle between the two nations. It is building up to be a very cool event and hopefully it will a worthy addition to this series. One major gripe from me on that issue and its Justice League counterpart is that for some reason Mera decided to rip off a quarter of her costume to be more revealing. I adore Mera and she was already sexy with her skin-tight scalemail… the fact that she shows up wearing this outfit when they are at war is groan-inducing and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

IX

AA

Archer & Armstrong

Archer & Armstrong is so much fun that it every time you open a fresh issue it may as well play its own theme music and dispense candy. A long, long time ago, on a Tuesday, three princes changed the world. The youngest, Gilam, had died in battle and the eldest had decided to activate a strange device known as the Boon to save him. The middle child, Aram fought to stop its activation, scared of the price it would ask. Aram strikes too late and his older brother Ivar activates the boon. Their kingdom is wiped off the planet and only they remained.

Cut to modern day where we have a fundamentalist theme park in Middle America where there is a secret assassin training regime in the model of Noah’s Arc.

Go ahead, feel free to read that again and let the happiness take over. Inside the arc our hero Archer is beginning his final exam, fighting off all his adopted brothers and sisters in a battle royale. Archer wins easily due to his super power, which may be one of the best abilities I have ever heard of in a comic. Archer can tap into humanity’s racial muscle memories, essentially tapping into skills that people have used at different points in the past or present. Lockpicking, Karate, obscure Greek wrestling developed by Hercules, all are at his disposal. Given a golden artifact, he is sent to hunt down the anti-christ… who turns out to be Aram. Our ancient prince has put on many pounds over the years and is currently working as a bouncer in a biker bar under the name of Armstrong. The boon granted him with the ‘gift’ of immortality, which he has been using to drink, read, sleep, and be awesome. Both of our heroes are soon set upon by one of the many Sects who are out to reconstruct the Boon and gain immortality. It is during this time that Archer realizes that his parents don’t care for him, that he is merely a pawn in their quest for power and so he and Armstrong set off to ensure the Boon is never re-assembled.

Since becoming partners their troubles have only increased and have since fought against Da Vinci’s deathtraps, deadly nun-jas, and a Sect of Shaolin Nazis. This series specializes in its own brand of irreverent irrelevance that just makes it a true gem. The series has just started its second arc and is still going strong. This series had no bad issues or missteps in it, and if it had run all year it would have been a serious contender for the number one spot(we will see about 2013). For now though its five issues earn it the number 9 spot and a serious recommendation from myself.

VIII

DD

Daredevil

It can be a slow and painful thing to watch a man who takes himself to seriously. Daredevil was in serious danger of falling into that chasm. Thank God for Mark Waid. Returning Matt Murdock to the happy swashbuckler from days past, our hero decided to stop being sad and be awesome instead.

Daredevil’s year began with the Omega Drive, a strange device that was once a “4” badge from a Fantastic Four costume. As their costumes are made from unstable molecules and have been exposed to unknown radiations and energy from their travels, it had become something more, a data drive with unlimited capacity. It was in this unassuming vessel that Megacrime placed their secrets. During his first adventure of the year, Matt gets his hands on the Omega Drive and Megacrime begins hunting him down.

Daredevil soon enters the Omega Effect cross-over with Spider-Man and The Punisher. This event is covered in the Punisher review(entry 11) and my thoughts are expressed there. However I will say that I really loved Matt’s arc in the story, as he attempts to talk Rachel out of becoming like the Punisher. Matthew believes that maybe he could have talked Frank out of being how he is if he had gotten the chance earlier and gets that chance here with Rachel. Its very telling seeing Matt attempting to save someone during all the chaos and even more so seeing him blame himself for Frank’s own darkness which he has no control over.

Personally I felt that the Omega Drive storyline should have been wrapped up during the Omega Effect. The eventual ending felt like a wrap up as Daredevil turns to the Avengers to assist him. They could have done this at anytime but instead the storyline got carried on for a few issues too long. However two good story threads did come during this time, Matt’s relationship with the new District Attorney and Daredevil’s capture at the hands of Dr Doom. Daredevil is spirited away to Latveria, his senses destroyed by toxins, and he is left truly unable to comprehend his surroundings. Its a great arc and his escape is particularly thrilling.

Then comes Coyote, a new villain who uses his powers to destroy Matt’s life and credibility. He does so through out this year, planting the seeds of doubt in his best friend’s mind and even getting Matt to doubt himself. I am not going to reveal the who, why, or how Coyote does this but I will say that I really liked this villain and his storyline led to some of the creepiest imagery I saw all year.

Daredevil is in fine form this year and I am so very glad that Marvel decided to keep this series running rather than give it a relaunch in NOW! This series is still going strong and next issue we have Daredevil vs Spider-man and the return of Stilt-Man. Hell Yeah!

VII

WW

Wonder Woman

This may well be the best thing to come of DC’s New 52.  One year later and I am being constantly shocked at the lack of cohesion, between time compression and retcons, the whole universe has become a minefield. Successful series generally exist because they did not have their continuity disturbed, Wonder Woman is the exception.

Years ago Wonder Woman had her origin retold and in that story she was formed by her mother from clay and had life breathed into her by the gods. It was a fitting origin that suited her mythological roots and was wholly original to her. At the beginning of the year, Diana has just learned that the story of her being formed from clay was a lie she had been told her entire life to conceal the truth, that she is a demigod and the child of Zeus. Hippolyta kept this fact from her to keep Diana safe from Hera’s jealous wrath and when this fact becomes revealed, Hera strikes down all the Amazons. Diana is now on the run protecting Zola, a pregnant girl who is carrying another of Zeus’ children and is accompanied by Hermes. This year is very dedicated to Diana learning more about her divine heritage as the supporting cast throughout the series is either a God, a demigod and sibling, or Zola who is carrying a new demigod. All this is happening while Zeus has disappeared and the gods begin warring over the Throne of Olympus.

This is a great story. The author really gets Wonder Woman, she is a great and fierce woman but you never doubt for a second her love and compassion. I also love the way the Greek Gods are rendered. They are all very alien, Hermes being avian, Hephaestus is squat and volcanic, Poseidon is a grand leviathan. They also generally refer to each other by their function which makes an interesting amount of sense, with Poseidon being called ‘Sea’ or Hades ‘Hell’. Hades is the only design which I simply don’t understand… he is rendered as a child in armor whose head is covered in candles, the wax coating his face. Its a very interesting design I just don’t really get why that is Hades, especially the reason he is drawn child-like. Still that is simply a personal preference.

I would say this series very much is the deconstruction of Wonder Woman and is done very well. One of the most controversial aspects of this has been the Amazons who have become more monstrous in their actions and it has been polarizing to some fans. It is now explained that the Amazons board ships that sail near their home, take the men by force and then kill them. This is how they are able to have daughters and continue their race of only women. Male children it is explained are given to Hephaestus to work his forges in exchange for the magical arms and armor the amazons bear. I personally really liked this explanation, as it answers a lot of questions about the Amazons that many would take for granted. Also the idea of a Amazons reaving and raping, to me at least, works with the old Greek Mythology… however  I can understand how many, especially female readers, can take umbrage to this retcon. Many readers boycotted the series after this issue came to light, and that is why I felt it necessary to cover it here so you could make your decision fully informed on whether or not to read the series.

In more recent issues, the battle for Olympus has resolved(for now) and an Olympian has claimed the throne. Diana is now searching for Zola, who was kidnapped, and is turning to her other demigod brothers and sisters for help. However the biggest news of this arc is the re-introduction of another mythology, that of the New Gods. I am really excited to see more of Orion and Genesis in the future and this series has become a perfect place, I feel, to introduce the Fourth World.

This has been a fantastic series and is a personal favorite of mine. The best depiction I have read of Diana in years, you can tell the author really understands the character and how to write her. The return to a more mythological bent in the story is greatly appreciated and serves to set the series apart from the rest of the DC universe in an appreciable way. Lastly the art is just superb, it has a style all its own that is unlike any other series on the shelves right now. If you are at all intrigued by this series, then you owe  it to yourself to check it out!

VI

Harbinger

Harbinger

Harbinger instantly became a favorite of mine, as soon as I read it I got the same feeling I get when I revisit some of my favorite books from my childhood, this comfortable sense of joy when catching up with an old friend. Its a rather shocking accomplishment for such a modern book.

Peter Stanchek is a young man with psychic powers, constantly bombarded with the thoughts of everyone around him. He is currently attempting to keep ahead of the police and is on the run with his psychotic best friend. Peter slips up when he decides to go back to his hometown and lay low for there for a bit. When he runs into a childhood friend/crush and she doesn’t remember him he uses his abilities to make her love him. What I really loved about the book was how they used this plot. Using powers to change someone’s perception of you or make someone you long for love you is a fairly common wish, everyone has felt that way. There is no denying that doing this is plan wrong, and it quickly goes into a rape situation where you lose any empathy for the characters. Peter however very quickly realizes that he has done the wrong thing here but doesn’t release her from these feelings immediately, partly because he is scared for how she will react towards him and also because… he just needs someone right now. Its a very dark situation that is handled well by making the main character very human and understandable. Things quickly spin further out of control when the people hunting him find him and send in an assault team.

This is the moment where we get to see Peter unleash and show us why they are so scared of him and yeah we can see why… he rips them to shreds. Surrounded by fire and chaos he is approached by Toyo Harada of Harbinger. Harada is like him, a psiot, and he has been gathering them together to keep them safe from themselves and others. Peter agrees to go with them on the condition that his friends are taken care of, and off he goes. It is during this time that we get to know Harada more, and I really like this guy. Harada’s powers activated to protect him from the nuclear attacks on Japan and he is the oldest known psiot. The reason for grabbing Peter is that a prophetic vision has been shown to Harada that Peter will one day destroy civilization, and while many urged him just to kill Peter, he decided to bring him in and try and ensure that he didn’t go down such a dark path. During this time Peter begins to feel more alienated around the other psiots due to his insane power level, constantly hearing their thoughts against him and regularly trouncing them in training, he is outside everyone. Harada continues to advise him and eventually discovers Peter’s greatest ability, that he can awaken latent psiots. Usually accomplished with a surgical procedure that kills a quarter of patients, Peter is asked to try this again so that hopefully they can do this without killing any others in the future. However after almost killing the girl brought in for activation, he flees Harbinger to find his best friend again. And in a heroin den in the city he find him, laying dead from an overdose. When Harbinger comes to collect him, he begins to follow until he realizes that everyone in the building has been mind-wiped. His best friend’s murder was all to manipulate him into falling in line. Peter rages and attacks the Harbinger building directly until he is taken down by Harada and is thrown from the building… only to be caught by the girl he had tried to activate, who flies him to safety.

The story since has introduced new cast members as Peter has begun building up of psiots that he has activated himself, so that they can take down Harbinger and Harada. I enthralled monthly by this series and have enjoyed every character who has been brought in, each of them reminding me of actual people. The series just seems so open that things could go anywhere and I am really excited to see where things go.

V

JMS

Journey Into Mystery

I will admit that I scoffed at the idea of turning Loki into a teenager. At first it sounded like a gimmick forced on the character due to unimaginative writers, much like the idea of giving Loki tits(yes that happened). However I was pleasantly surprised by this series and I adored Loki’s new direction. After sacrificing himself for Asgard, Loki had manipulated things so he would be reborn younger without his past experiences. This is a Loki who looks up to his older brother and wants to be a hero like him, but is unable to and so has to solve things by being well… Loki. He has no magic, no strength, he must rely entirely on his ability to talk himself out of and into increasingly worse trouble. They make it very clear early on in the run that Kid Loki is his own entity, the mind of the old villain had been placed into a magpie named Ikol who serves Kid Loki as an advisor of sorts and who is manipulating events from his own end. What makes this series heartbreaking throughout is how Loki, this child, is so universally hated in his home. Everyone knows Loki is a trickster and trying to earn their trust so he can hurt them again, so everywhere he goes he is met with hatred, all towards this child who has never done anything to them. For a long time it was this treatment that I feared would cause Loki to turn back to a villain, but Thor’s compassion gave him quite a lot of strength… even if Kid Loki did arrange his death.

Three separate arcs run this year with Journey into Mystery, and to be honest none of them were personal favorites of mine with Kid Loki. The first arc dealt with the Fear Lord Nightmare seeking to claim the fear of humanity as a weapon, eventually weaponizing the fear of Loki into a crown. This was an insanely powerful artifact tied directly into Kid Loki, powered by the fear of God. Most comics would have had the simple out of having our hero overcome his fears and making the crown shatter or some such tripe… Loki on the other hand calls in the rest of the Fear Lords, all of whom desire the Crown for themselves, thus creating a never-ending skirmish between them for the crown and ensuring its non-use. The next arc dealt with new gods emerging in Britain and Loki being sent in as a spy for the Asgardian guards(he is the perfect spy because everyone already suspects him!). The final arc is a tie in with Thor called Everything Burns. Dealing with the return of Surtur and his attack on the Nine Realms. This is very bad news for Loki seeing as how he is the one who freed Surtur in one of his earlier dealings. However due to a team up of Loki’s treachery and Thor’s brawn they manage to deliver to Surtur a most mighty smackdown.

So why is this series placed so highly if I wasn’t that big of a fan of this year’s books? Yes I was a fan of previous issues, most of which were fantastic with Loki’s quest in Fear Itself to kill Thor to save everyone, or the single issue of Mephistopheles in a bar(this series has done more to explore Marvel’s underworld than any other I feel). The reason why the series ranks so highly is due to its ending. The end of Kid Loki’s saga is a heart-wrenching thing to endure, but at the same time… it couldn’t have ended in any other way. Loki is informed by Ikol(old Loki in bird form) of what is coming due to both of their machinations, the end of everything good. The next day, Mephistopheles will take the Fear Crown from the Fear Lords and with its power, unite all the underworlds underneath him. “It wouldn’t be Hell on Earth, it would be Hell Everywhere” Ikol informs him that it is too late to stop this from happening, and that there is only one way left to save the realms from this fate. Kid Loki must give up himself to Ikol, everything he is will die and be replaced will Old Loki in his body, his fear will be erased and the crown will shatter. As a gift, Kid Loki is allowed to speak to three people and say goodbye, but is not allowed to mention anything of the plight. Loki’s first action is the most telling and sets out for the Underworld to see Hela. There he asks Hela for one last favor, to send his only friend Leah far, far away from him. Leah has been Loki’s companion for most of the series and you could see there was a great caring that had developed… many thinking their relationship had turned romantic towards the end. This is the first thing Loki sets out to do, save his friend, because he knows once Ikol takes him over he will manipulate and use her. So Leah is sent away, and Loki is unable to even say goodbye or explain himself to her because there are others he needs to speak to more. On the way he encounters on of the Disir(fallen valkyries once cursed with hunger and the ability to destroy both mind, body, and soul) and asks if they still could destroy him, for if they could then he would save everyone without returning as a villain… but due to his own heroic actions in the past, the Disir are no longer cursed. The last person Loki speaks to is Thor.. and this scene always makes me cry. Loki approaches his brother and asks him to promise “that if he ever goes evil again, to kill him” Thor however is appalled at this, Loki has become a hero in the eyes of Asgard and has Thor’s trust and he tells him that he is a good person. He knows that if Loki turned to the wrong side that he would help him find his away again because he is a better man now, he will never kill him. It is everything Loki ever wanted, he is redeemed, he has the love and respect of his brother… but he completely misses the point of his warning and through his own actions he has paved the way for the return of his old self.

So resigned to his fate, Kid Loki returns to Ikol. Ikol says that he tried his best but the game was stacked against him and he never could win this… Loki’s last words are that, in the end he had won. Ikol had set this entire thing up in order to earn everyone’s trust, to change and be unexpected. But Ikol had never changed, he was the same old villain, Loki had made done those things, he had become the man they both wanted to be, he could change while Ikol never could. And as Loki kills himself to save everyone he spits that venom at Ikol “I WIN” And all that is left is Loki, in a younger body… grieving for a part of him that would never be again.

The series was a tragedy that played out in a perfect ending. Kid Loki will not soon be forgotten, and the fans have been given all new reasons to despise Loki. While some of the stories this year of Journey into Mystery may have been lacking in my eyes, the ending was so complete and awesome that it shakes me up even on a re-read. Kid Loki’s saga is one of the most epic stories ever told in the Marvel Universe, and he will be missed dearly by those that know he his gone.

IV

UXF

Uncanny X-Force

This is the series that got me into the modern day antics of the Marvel mutants. The Uncanny X-Force is the darker side of the X-Men, going out and assassinating the threats to mutantkind. This book has been incredibly written and beautifully illustrated throughout and is now a personal favorite comic run.

The main drawback from this year’s run comes at the beginning with the Otherworld Arc. Fantomex is captured by the Captain Britain Corps. and put on trial for his crimes. The story is strange and off the wall which usually works, but with the series coming straight off the Dark Angel Saga, the series strongest storyline, Otherworld felt rather boring at times, especially if you don’t know or care who Captain Britain is… The series then kicks it into high gear again for its Final Execution arc, where X-Force is set upon by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Everything comes to a head here, and the series does a fantastic job of tying up all its plot threads together while delivering massive action. We see a destopian future where the X-Force took control, with Psylocke ruling with an iron fist and where the Punisher serves as their top enforcer. The Brotherhood however brings things back to square one by kidnapping Evan, a teenage Apocalypse who was raised by Fantomex to be a good man. The brotherhood intends to get Evan to accept his future as Apocalypse and wipe out humanity. You really can feel the tension as things continue as Evan is subjected to the truths that his whole past was just a lie engineered by Fantomex to ensure that he didn’t wind up a monster, his parents never existed, and he has been manipulated. The final battle to recapture Evan is insane and continues for many books, however there are two moments that people still are talking about. One is Nightcrawler killing the Blob by teleporting himself past his invulnerable skin, and leaving a live shark inside of him, trying to eat its way out. It is an insanely brutal way to see someone go and it serves as the perfect companion for the other huge moment. Wolverine kills his son. Remender sets the rule down that people like Wolverine, Daken, and Deadpool can be killed by drowning, it takes much longer but eventually their brain cells all dye of oxygen starvation and there aren’t able to regenerate. Daken nearly kills his father with this method earlier on, and during their last fight Wolverine drowns his son with his own hands. It is strange in how… non violent the whole thing is, with the amount of blood throughout the fights, Wolverine doesn’t even pop his claws. He simply holds his son’s head under water until he is dead. It is such an uncharacteristic fight for him, not flashy, no blood, no snarling or screaming… just silence.

This series had my favorite characterizations of its cast. My personal favorite being Deadpool, Rememder gave my favorite interpretation of the character ever. The tragedy, humor, and badass-ery of the character are all intact and he DEVELOPS AS A CHARACTER… that is so insanely rare for Deadpool its not even funny. Wolverine is done well, and is written competently without overshadowing the other characters. Psylocke is a complete badass who is thrown through the ringer here, she gets broken mentally and is still picking up the pieces which is why it makes so much sense for her to pick things back up in the next series. Fantomex is just… Fantomex is just cool man, he is the epitome of cool, and a lot of people picking up this series had no clue who he was but they love the guy now.

One of the things brought up throughout the series is whether what they are doing is right or merely necessary, it haunts the characters in their own way. Everyone has to deal with the fact that they are assassins and have entered a darker world. Eventually it is revealed that they can’t all continue this way, doing the hard thing for as long as they could survive it because they thought it was right…but they all have their breaking point. The series ends with X-Force disbanded, and they have all had their losses but they are not broken, there is still hope and the world is still spinning… and that is thanks to the hard decisions they made yesterday.

III

HE

Hawkguy 

Hawkeye

You should totally be reading this comic, bro(Something I went into depth on in my Marvel Now .1 post, more Hawkeye coverage there!) I say this without hesitation, Hawkeye will remembered as one of the most important comicbooks of this generation. Following the exploits of Hawkeyes, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, when they are not being Avengers and just running around being awesome while getting beat up by tracksuit draculas.

The single fault with the series is that its length, there isn’t enough and when a new issue does emerge it is immediately devoured by adoring masses. The film may have made Hawkeye a household name, but this series is making him an icon. What I truly love though is how much time is devoted to Kate Bishop, a character who could have easily been forgotten but who was brought in as Hawkeye’s partner Hawkeye in what I still consider to be the smartest thing done in the series so far. Their relationship just works, they click and have great chemistry in a way that is entirely non-romantic and beyond that of mentor and apprentice. They are friends and partners, they give each other shit all the time, and I also love that there is never, EVER a discussion about changing Kate’s name, they are both Hawkeye.

The best comics are always a union of story and art, Hawkeye is no exception. David Aja’s art is exciting, using a minimalist style and making brilliant use of purples, the style is quickly becoming iconic. Marvel has started a trend of switching out artists during arcs that can lead to some visual whiplash but the replacement artist’s so far have done a great job of keeping the style of Hawkeye the same while allowing for their own embellishments. While Avengers or All-New X-Men may be the most technically arresting comics that Marvel has… Hawkeye is hands down its most stylish.

Allow me to sum up this series as simply as I can: Hawkeye is the Cowboy Bebop of comics. If it had ran the entirety of this year, it would be taking the top spot. Unfortunately we have reached the point where we must judge the “quantity of quality” when it comes to our final three.

Officially the best arrow in Marvel’s quiver. The best arrow of course being a boomerang arrow.

Because boomerangs.

II

Saga

Saga

*Fan-Girl Squealing*

Ahem… okay, now that is out of the way. I need to explain a little bit about my own preferences before I get into this review. When I first started reading comics it was only stuff from Japan, hell I was reading Korean comics before I was reading stateside. Eventually I decided to give American comics a shot but I was intimidated about Marvel and DC as their continuity had grown so large, two series however did grab my attention and bring me into the fold of American superheroics. The first was Image’s Invincible, and the second was called Runaways. While the series’ run was woefully short, the author Brian K. Vaughan had immediately captured my attention and I would continue following his work, to Y: The Last Man, then Ex Machina, and now to Saga. With my personal experiences with the author and my views of him as one of modern comic’s greatest writers, I can honestly state from Saga’s strong start and imaginative landscape that this may well be his magnum opus.

Landfall is the largest planet in its galaxy and is at war with its moon Wreath. The people of Landfall are a winged race using technological weaponry whereas Wreath is the home to horned individuals capable of wielding magic. Their war had reached the point where it would have destroyed one of the them, and with the destruction of either planet or moon, would have destroyed the other in its wake. Now the war is fought amongst proxy planets amidst the cosmos, becoming something that is touching everywhere except the planets on which it started, no one remembers why the bloodshed started and no end is ever in sight, the war simply is. This story is not about the war, it is not about heroes trying to save the galaxy or trying reach a common ground. This is the saga of two parents trying to protect and raise their child. Marko and Alana were both soldiers who abandoned the fighting and ran away together, getting married and giving birth to their daughter Hazel. The problem begins and ends with the fact that they were fighting on opposite sides of the war. Seen as traitors by both sides, they are now being hunted down. One of the fascinating facts is that many people who hear about them simply cannot comprehend that these two are two people in love, the notion of members of these two species being in the same room together without killing each other is so alien that the idea of them falling for one another is beyond understanding. The high commands of both worlds realize how things could look if these two were discovered in any sort of public fashion and must be taken care of, both sides hiring someone to deal with their problem.

One of my favorite aspects of this story is how well the characters are developed as even the assassins sent after them are fully realized people. Landfall assigns a powerful robot prince to track them down, Prince Robot is a recent veteran of a horrific battle and is still suffering the mental trauma of it however he is hellbent to finish this assignment so he can be done with this war and start a family. The Wreath powers hire two freelancers to take on the contract, The Will and the Stalk. The Will is still a rather enigmatic character whose personality reminds me of a gunslinger from an old western, he is partnered with a Lying Cat… which is cat that can tell when you are lying(duh). The Will is fantastic and halfway through the series so far says “fuck it” and just buggers off the spend his employer’s money at a sex planet. However he is now set deep in this entire ordeal by a personal vendetta.

If you hadn’t notice, this series adores taking advantage of the fantastic, giving the entire story the feel of a child’s bedtime story created by Jim Henson studios and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Hell, Marko and Alana’s first goal is to get off the planet they are stuck on, so naturally they seek out a rocketship forest with the aid of their spectral babysitter! As for our protagonists, I find its actually hard to describe them. Its like describing a friend you have known for a long time, you can give some basic adjectives about them but you can’t fully explain your own comprehension. Marko is a noble and peaceful soul, Alana is fierce and dependable, both are caring and try their hardest with Hazel. But they are so much more than that. More than many other characters they truly feel like real people and we are still getting to know them. All I really want to say is that they are good people to know, and I recommend meeting them.

Now I have gone on and on about Vaughan’s writing and characters, however its only with the help of Fiona Staples that this world is giving its living vibrancy. I had never read a single issue of her work before, but I have fallen head over heels for her detailed, yet simple style. The lines are vibrant and her faces are filled with emotion, the colors are understated giving credence to the preceding that lends a believability to everything. No matter how strange things get, you never question the fact that what you are seeing does not fit into this universe.Much like the pages she creates, Fiona Staples is a wonder, and I can’t wait to see how she continues to improve and shine throughout this series run.

I adore Saga and I would recommend it to anyone I met, whether or not they read comics. Saga had eight absolutely perfect issues this year, and would have taken my top ranking if another series hadn’t beaten it out by five awesome issue…

I

BM

Batman

Let me start off this with a disclaimer in full honesty: I love Batman. I love the character to a frankly unhealthy degree; my apartment door plague proclaims the residence as ‘The Batcave’, I have oodles of DVDs of both animated series and live action exploits, I even have an Arkham City t-shirt signed by Kevin Conroy. Hell, I am the proud creator of the Batmania drinking game(which will never be described here for fear of a lawsuit from grieving loved ones). This all needs to be said because I am well aware of my Bat-bias, I honestly don’t feel it pushed affected the outcome of this ranking. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were unstoppable and gave Batman a perfect year with twelve fantastic issues.

While the newest issues were fresh in my mind, the main thought as I began double checking 2012’s issues was “if the labyrinth issue was released this year than that is going to lock this for the number one spot”, and it was. The issue in question was the first release of 2012 and features Batman at the mercy of the Court of Owls, trapped in their underground labyrinth. Bruce has already been trapped down there for quite some time, injured, delirious, and walking in circles. Every room he reaches tells him a bit more about his foes and how powerful they are, that this is their city and that they will be here long after he dies. All the while you get glimpses of the Talon, their court assassin, ghosting Batman in the background, and you know he could kill him at any time but is simply giving the Court their show. The pages start inverting and flipping as Bruce falls further into madness and breaks… finally the issue ends with the order being given and the Talon stabbing Bruce through the chest. Bruce manages to take control of his rage long enough to fight off the Court of Owls descending upon him, the art style mutating into delusions as Bruce sees himself as a hulking Bat-beast attacking these owls, he has been broken but is still thrashing. I love this whole sequence, its great and Capullo has a lot of fun with the Bat-beast while keeping the Court of Owls super creepy in both the delusions and in reality. Batman being Batman, defeats the Talon and escapes the labyrinth, staggering back to the Cave. It is at this point that the Court of Owls awakens their army of Talons, with all their previous assassins having been stowed away and preserved, the sends their newly awakened army of zombie assassins into the Gotham night to kill those who stand in the way of the Court’s agenda and to bring back the Bat’s head.

This leads into the next arc, The Night of Owls. This event crossed into all the other Bat comics series which.. was a mistake. I love these characters but DC has overplayed Batman and has his symbol everywhere, with 4 Batman titles (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin) and 5 series starring his supporting characters(Teen Titans, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Birds of Prey) which is now 5 with a Talon series spinning off of this event. It becomes a massive problem with events revolving around Gotham because with that many writers and issues in play it leads to messiness and makes the story bloated. Night of the Owls suffered from it and the current Death of the Family is as well. However that said, the main series is not hindered by it. You do not have to read through any of the other stories to get what is going on in the Batman series and so I don’t hinder the ranking of this series for being shackled down by so many other characters.

During the finale of the arc we see the reinterpretation of the character Owlman. For the uninitiated, Owlman was Thomas Wayne Jr. and served Batman’s role in the Justice League of a parallel dimension(The storyline was adapted into the film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths). Bringing in Owlman as the final villain of this arc was a brilliant move as its an intelligent way to use the New 52’s continuity shift to bring in a villain that no one expected but that we knew. Hell, there have been Owls everywhere throughout the series and we were all shocked when Owlman showed up, THAT is a good author.

We then have what I consider to be the strangest issue in the year, fittingly issue 13. Focusing on a new character named Harper Row, it is a good issue and gives us a much needed breather between dark storylines… it just is strange because we have no idea yet why this character is important but she hovers in the background of the series, daring the audience to figure out what the hell her deal is… Again, not a bad issue, I simply want to know how she will become important in the future. My two thoughts being either a. She will become a new Batgirl… which I hate the idea of because we have two utterly fantastic Batgirls waiting in comic limbo to be called into the action. My other thought is that she will become the new Oracle, fulfilling the role that Barbara Gordon vacated once she started wearing the cowl again.

Now we have reached our current event, The Death of the Family. Quickly becoming one of the definitive Joker stories, its focus is on the Joker returning after a year of plotting in order to tear apart Batman’s little team. To kill the family. As it is still ongoing I will refrain from delving too deeply but I will say this is the most menacing Joker you will ever read, and this is the first comic I ever read that has ever scared me. I have a fair amount of disconnect between psyche and page, but Joker’s attack on the Gotham Police Department drew me in and scared the hell out of me. Blackness everywhere as Gordon hears Joker killing his men… its brilliantly executed. Capullo has made Batman his character, and years from now will be remembered for this run more than he will be for Spawn. Ruling from the shadows in this series, he uses the dark shadows of Gotham as his blank page, drawing them back to reveal our characters and surroundings, but they are always present.

Honestly, any single one of my top 3 series could have ranked highest. They are all a perfect union of artist and author and flow seemlessly. However one of this is one of those times where the quantity outweighs, because even though they are all of the highest quality, Batman published more than either Saga or Hawkeye, and in this case more is a very, very good thing.

Marvel NOW! – Review Post .1

HA! Take that Marvel! You aren’t the only one who can use the bullshit “.1” numbering system!

Not all Marvel NOW! titles will be restarting with a #1, as some are new enough to not require the renumbering. These following titles are the continuing series that I feel are good enough to bring to your attention and should not be lost in the shuffle of new premiere comics.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

“You all right?” 

“You kidding me? I’m the best.”

Ah, Carol Danvers, we love you. For years your fans have been saying you needed a series to show you the love you deserved and here it is, and it is breathtaking.

The series starts off with Captain America and Ms. Marvel fighting side by side and Captain America trying to convince her to take on the Captain Marvel name, as Mar-Vell is now gone and since she has always been the one to carry his legacy, she is the one who deserves to use the name. Carol has obviously been going through some changes with her new look and eventually decides to take on the name. She isn’t giving up her own identity as Ms. Marvel to take on a new name… she is stepping up to accept a legacy that has always been a part of her character in such a way that all the audience can say is, well, its about time!

This series is incredibly new reader friendly, if you have no idea who the hell Carol is, you will discover that quickly by her attitude and actions, her origins being revisited along the way. I am not going to say much for the story as I really don’t want anything to be spoiled, but it may just be the definitive Carol Danvers story.

As for the artwork. I really liked Carol’s new look from the get-go, even her weird new hairdo, but I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about the interiors. When I first saw them they looked sloppy and slapdash. However I now realize how to describe it properly… the artwork is emotional. Captain Marvel more than any other series has artwork that makes me feel something, whether its beauty, joy, fury, or sorrow. Like its protagonist, this series is a wonder to behold.

Bottom Line:

If you want to read something that will make you feel something all while watching Marvel Comic’s premiere superheroine smash robots till they explode, this is the book for you. If you aren’t one of those people, I still recommend giving this one a shot.

Daredevil

Daredevil

“Turns out in the era of internet surveillance, Homeland security, and DNA evidence, secret identities are a BITCH to maintain.

Matt Murdock has had a life filled with regret, sorrow, betrayal, and darkness. This series takes the decidedly beautiful choice of saying, “Well, FUCK THAT” and had Daredevil cannonball into the deep end of the fun pool. Matt chose this himself after realizing that yeah, life sucked and he had made some bad choices, but he wants to be happy, so he is happy. To get people up to speed on DD; Daredevil was possessed by a demon or something and ruled a gang of ninjas(this is unimportant overall but yeah he just came away from some bad times), and more important to the series, is the fact that everyone knows that Daredevil is Matt Murdock. His face was plastered all over the tabloids, and he is currently trying to live this down by hiding in plain sight and simply denying it until people move past it. However this brings up some new issues in his life, like how it affects the courtroom when everyone there believes he is a law-breaking vigilante.

The stories are fun and definitely comic-book superhero faire. Daredevil so far in the series has fought a conglomeration of criminal organizations, a supervillain made of sound, the Mole Man, Dr. Doom, and STILT-MAN. It is glorious! Something else I have to say is that the art is good throughout but where it really shines is during the radar sections where you see everything through Matt’s eyes. This is my favorite interpretation of his radar sense that I have seen in comics so far, it also tickles me immensely that he sees in pink.

Bottom Line:

Daring, fun, and masterfully crafted. This is a series that shows in modern days, how you can have a relevant comic without turning to darkness and ultraviolence.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye

“Okay… this looks bad”

The new Hawkeye series immediately reminded me of the Daredevil series above, and for all the right reasons. It is firmly entrenched in the Marvel Universe, brilliantly executed, and show our hero in a different light than we would normally see them. In opposition to my usual style, I am going to begin by talking about the art… Aja is a mastermind. This series is beautiful crafted in a  minimalist style that doesn’t have me comparing its art with comics, but its art with art. Special mention goes to issue 2, which takes place mostly at a circus and almost the entire issue is done in shades of purple. The covers also reflect the minimalist style and are always a favorite to see at comic stands. Less really is more here.

Hawkeye_2_Code

Now onto the show.

This series focuses on Clint’s time when he is not running around with the Avengers or saving the world. You would think that may sound boring, but you would be surprised how much shit one man can get into. The smartest move this series made though? Bringing in Kate Bishop. For those who don’t know, Kate Bishop is Hawkeye… okay let me re-explain. Kat Bishop was a member of the Young Avengers before they split(she will be a member when they reform later in NOW!), she loves purple and is an amazing fighter and archer, so she took the Hawkeye name while Clint was dead… only he wasn’t really dead… and then he was a ninja…. comics. The two of them have a good relationship and one of the things I love is that they have never fought over the name, they are both Hawkeye, a fact that amuses them greatly as they enjoy their call and response of it. “Good shot, Hawkeye.” “Why thank you, Hawkeye. Bad guy to you left” “I see him, Hawkeye”, etc. That and the overuse of “bro” are my favorite words gags in the series. Still the reason why bringing Kate in is so smart is because it gives us a character who belongs there and the Clint can trust, but without any sexual tension or angst(unless you are Hawkeye/Hawkeye shipper in which case FOR SHAME) Adding her to this series is the equivalent to teaming up Power Man and Iron Fist back in the day, its chocolate and peanut butter, bro. I really could just continue gushing about this series, hell, issue 3 is built on a single car chase and Clint using trick arrows, but I am going to let you guys experience this one for yourselves.

Bottom Line:

If you like comics then you should be reading this, bro!

Scarlet Spider

Untitled-1

“All my life I was dying, I did terrible things. But now I have a second chance.”

I find it really curious how many anti-heroes have spawned from the antics of Peter Parker. We have the new Venom, the Super Spider-Man, Morbius, and with this series, Kaine. For those uninformed few, Kaine is a clone of Peter Parker…

Wait! Where are you going?! Come on, it won’t be that bad…

Okay, welcome back. Kaine was a character introduced during the much reviled and editorially lengthened Clone Saga. It lasted forever and there were Spidey clones everywhere. Kaine was a failed clone whose body was scarred and so he decided to start killing people and angst… I really hated him. Kaine was trying so hard to get his own series back then, he really wanted to be Spawn…. but yeah, no dice. However he was recently brought back during a recent arc in Spider-Man and cured, he stole a Spidey suit, and decided to leave the country. Kaine makes it as far as Houston before his heroic heritage kicks in and he ends up becoming the guardian hero of the city. One of the most striking things in this series is its humor. I really expected this series to be an angst-fest but it has been really fun and amusing. Hell, the most recent issue had Kaine beating up burglars dressed like Santa Clause! Hell, the first time he stops an old lady crossing the street from getting run over he begins yelling out her for not looking both ways before crossing the fucking street!

Bottom Line

For everyone who is worried about the direction of The Superior Spider-Man, don’t worry, Marvel has your joyfully fun arachnid needs covered.

Venom

Venom

“We don’t have to run or be afraid of anything ever again. As long as we are together.”

In many ways I would consider Venom to be a sibling series to Scarlet Spider and vice versa, however while Scarlet Spider is rowdy and fun, Venom is dark and painful.

After high school, Flash Thompson joined the army and became a hero before losing both his legs. Flash was given a new chance to serve his country as Agent Venom, bonding to the symbiote for 48 hours at a time, the maximum time before the creature begins to invade Flash’s mind. Essentially he is forced to run all his missions on a timer less he releases a monster upon whatever populace he was deployed against. It’s a pretty damn cool premise and a really neat direction to take Venom.

One of the things I truly applaud here is how much we dive into Flash’s psyche. Flash is in no way a well adjusted person, with most of his issues stemming from an abusive, alcoholic father. We understand and empathize with this man who was a completely atrocious person in high school and became even worse after his injury and alcohol abuse. This series pulls no punches when it comes to the emotional situations. A few personal stand outs to me were: Flash’s conversation with a man who he had tormented in high school, to the point that they young man still has night terrors over the experiences, as well as Flash’s reaction to his father approaching his deathbed. The series really is as good as I am making it out, Remender’s hands are masterful at the helm here, and his final issue and its conclusion was one of the most satisfying comics I have ever read.

That is not to say the series is perfect. There are some really slow parts that don’t work well with the series(anything dealing with Hell and/or Mephisto). However I do like how entrenched the series is inside the Marvel Universe. Flash eventually goes on to join the Secret Avengers, The Thunderbolts, and even starts dating an Asgardian! Flash has come a long way since bullying Puny Peter at Midtown High.

Bottom Line

Recommended for everyone who likes their soul searching, intellectual series with a side order of alien goo and ultraviolence.

Wolverine and the X-Men

Wolverine and the X-men

“Welcome to the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. Welcome to the future.”

Oh, hell yes!

Love this series… oh damn do I love this series.

I know a lot of people who love Cyclops and Utopia and his Extinction Team, but for me THIS is where all the mutant action is at. After the Schism tore apart Wolverine and Cyclops, they went their own ways, with Wolverine shocking everyone by opening his own school for mutants. Now Headmaster Logan of the Jean Grey Institute, he is balancing being an Avenger and running the X-Force all while trying to keep the school from blowing up. This is seriously some of the most fun you will have outside of Nextwave people!

Look I could seriously gush about this series but honestly I would just go on and on and spoil things, so I am just going to name off some things I love about this series in no particular order:

Psychic shotguns, Steampunk Adventurer Beast, Extra-Dimensional Imps who steal your whiskey, Dr. Xantos Starblood- Action Zoologist, BROO, the Hellfire Babies, Beast and Sabretooth fighting IN SPACE, and KRAKOA!

Bottom Line

Go out and start reading this series. You WILL laugh!… or I will kick you and you will then explode.

Marvel NOW! – Review Post 3

Avengers

Avengers

“Assemble at dawn.”

This is officially the dawn of a new era. The Avengers is the premiere team of the Marvel Universe, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.  In 2004, the team was devastated in Avengers Disassembled, when Brian Micheal Bendis took over the book and destroyed the team in order to rebuild and make it stronger. Instead of being comprised of B and C-listers that most people were unaware of, he created the New Avengers and created a team of the best Marvel had to offer at the time. And now as Bendis has moved on to write the ongoing Mutant Revolution, the reigns of the Avengers has been passed to Jonathan Hickman.

Issue One begins with an ominous look at things to come, panels are giving us little glimpses of an unknown future and a look at how bad things are going to get(I am nigh certain on of which pertained to the Age of Ultron). We then cut to Tony and Steve talking about the future of the Avengers, where they are going to go in the future in order to keep things safer then they have been of late. Something I like is that its really nice seeing these two stand side by side and with complete trust again, after the Civil War and the clashing egos over the past few years, it makes me glad to see them standing side by side talking out the future together. Something else I really liked is that this issue gives us two insights into where it fits into the timeline of NOW!. Firstly we get a one panel look at the Illuminati, including Black Panther, which is haunting Steve, which shows that this takes place after the upcoming New Avengers #1. Secondly, at the end of the issue, Steve dons his new armor for the first time, this giving us a clearer view of where things are in other books, as any story including “fish-scales” Cap, takes place before this…. these are both subtly done but allow us to build a timeline. Bravo.

We are soon introduced to our threat, Ex Nihilo, a cosmic level enemy and his band of rogues who have terraformed Mars and have attacked Earth in the hopes of doing the same there and replacing humanity with a new species. Two cities have been wiped off the planet and the Avengers confront their enemies on the Red Planet. Yeah, screw the first issue team building stigma, before the comic is even halfway in we have our heroes fighting on MARS. Hell YES.

The roster at the start of the comic is familiar to everyone, its our movie Avengers. This is a smart albeit obvious play, anyone walking into a book store who has seen this movie can pick up the title and immediately know who these people are and what they are doing. However things go to hell damn quickly. The Avengers are taken down, and taken down hard. Ex Nihilo is especially angered by Captain America’s arrogance of daring to attack HIM. So Cap is loaded back into the Quinjet and shot back at Earth in order to show humanity that their heroes have fallen and they should stop resisting. Captain America Survives. The last of the core team standing he activates the plan that Tony and he had devised at the start of the issue and with the activation code of “WAKE THE WORLD”, assembles a whole new team of Avengers. This was amazing. I got goosebumps as we saw Captain America summoning his new teammates and suiting up in his new armor. I was extremely excited to see who would be on the new team and was not disappointing. One of the things that may disconcert some fans but excited me? I didn’t have a clue who some of the people were. Some are new, some are old or fringe characters I had never heard of… But when Captain America called, they came, and that tells you all you need to know about them for issue one.

Assembled
Bottom Row
Left to Right:
Smasher, Captain Universe, Hyperion, Captain America, Manifold, Wolverine, The Falcon, Shang Chi, Sunspot
Top Row
Left to Right:
Spider-Woman, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Cannonball

Now that I have talked about the comic proper let’s talk about the new team. Hickman is a writer whose star is still rising in Marvel, and most will know him from his recent run on Fantastic Four and FF, and I credit him for being the first Author to get me to care about those characters. Writing both Avengers and New Avengers in tandem, Hickman is going to be one of the driving forces of the Marvel U from now on, and he has received a large amount of fan support going into this, we are all expecting great things. And then there is Jerome Opeña, who is hands down one of the best artists working in the medium today. Opeña’s pencilwork is immaculate and I fell in love with it in his run on Uncanny X-Force, and with the team backing him up here? Avengers is the best looking book in Marvel’s current library. I know that this team team will be sticking with the book through the initial arc and then returning periodically throughout the series’ run, and while I wish they could have a book that looks this great coming out monthly for the entirety, I am just as excited to see what we will be getting from other artists down the road.

Bottom Line:
This was the one-two punch of art and story that Marvel NEEDED to make Marvel NOW! work, and its a knockout.

FF

FF

“Scott, there is a room of children out there, unique and singular, and all of them need the family the FF provides”

My initial reactions to this book were wrong. I was wrong. The main thing holding me back from wanting to check out this series was Allred’s artwork, who while possessing quite the fanbase, was the main concern I heard over this series. I was still unsure how I felt about the series until I saw the panel above and it clicked into place. It’s Pop Art…. this an entire comic series rendered in Pop Art. Which is… really kind of brilliant. While I am still not a fan of the cover to this issue at all, I will address most people’s initial concerns about the art by stating that it is good throughout, just not everyone’s kind of thing.

This series spins out of two series, the original FF and the Children’s Crusade. The former dealing with the origins of the Future Foundation, its conception and the people who have made it their lives. The latter series was that last of the Young Avengers series, the aspect of it being so important was the resurrection of Scott Lang(Ant-Man) and the subsequent death of his daughter at the hands of Dr. Doom. Scott has been pulled out of time and his life has gone to hell since Cassie’s death, he is now driven by his grief and revenge. With the Fantastic Four going out into space for their four minute family vacation, Reed approaches Scott to take his slot on the team. This is my favorite part of the issue cause I have always loved Scott and Cassie, so the anguish he is feeling hits me hard. Reed’s hope for having Scott join this team is to help him heal… allowing him to be around people, but more importantly the bright young minds that the FF is instructing. Sue Storm goes to Attilan and asks Medusa to take her spot… which she does after the spending their portion of the issue drinking many glasses of wine. Thing knows they are going to need someone powerful to take his place, and gets She-Hulk for his spot. For these two it is really nice to see them approaching friends and their relationships together, its well done. The thing I hated about this issue? Johnny Storm. I personally felt that Johnny had grown a lot since his original brash, hot-headed debut in comics but here? He seems like he has never developed as a character. Waking up next to his girlfriend(maybe) he remembers that he had a thing to do and since she is the first person he sees upon remembering that he asks her to take his place… seriously… THAT is his reasoning. Johnny then asks her how she feels about the Thing, and she responds that he is alright… she guesses. Which apparently is enough for her to be piloting a Thing mech suit in the future issues. The main thing that bugs me about this, is that there is an absurdly obvious choice for Johnny to pick… Peter Parker. Spidey was his roommate, they are good friends, and Spidey was even a member of the FF before… if Johnny called Peter and asked him then there would be no reason why he wouldn’t say sure I can watch over the kids for you while your are gone. The fact that he has become this stupid… it really makes me hate a character I had started liking.

Bottom Line

This book vastly exceeded my expectations. The presentation and story are both unique and enthralling.  However Johnny Storm and Miss Thing are both aggravating sore thumbs in this otherwise enjoyable issue.

Thunderbolts

Thunderbolts

“…you don’t possess the requisite firepower. ”
“I do now.”

Marvel NOW! has created a new poster child for the problems of a first issue. I was really looking forward to this story, it has some of the biggest hitters in Marvel and should have been bombastic. This was just boring. You can sum up the entire thing with one sentence; General Ross recruits people to the Thunderbolts.  There isn’t any action or twists here… okay well there is action, there are a few frames of mooks having been shot in the head…. but why should I care about that? Ross recruits Venom, Elektra, and Deadpool in pretty much one page each… none of them showing any resistance to that at all. Most of the issue is dedicated to Ross monologuing at a bound Punisher while mobsters show up and surround their building. I actually really liked what Ross was saying here, it was written well enough that I believed that these people would give his team a chance its just… the whole issue is essentially alternating between talking and exploding heads.

Onto the art… Sigh, I like Dillon well enough and he did a good job on Punisher MAX, but… this isn’t the book for him. It probably hurt that I read the Avengers before reading this one but… yeah, Dillon should NOT be drawing for the main Marvel U. Dillon draws everyone in a way that makes them look incredibly similar, Ross appearing like an older Frank with cleft chin and mustache, that can work well in down to earth, more realistic faire…. This is Thunderbolts. This is a team with Red Hulk, Deadpool, and fucking VENOM. Things are going to crazy and this is not the artist for that. This is made apparent on the last page when Ross finally becomes the Red Hulk and… it lacks any sense of awe. They had done a good job with building up to that transformation, showing his shadow change and such but that last page… it has Punisher and Ross taking on the mobsters who are storming the building together… just one page showing them mowing through the baddies. That is an excuse to get as crazy as you want…. instead we have a picture of badguys in suits, all of whom look similar enough to be video game minions, with Punisher in the fore shooting people in the head, and Red Hulk in the background smashing people. That page was supposed to be the promise of things to come. It should show, okay, here is the crazy action you came for and that we will be providing! But in the end I felt completely uninvolved and frankly, unimpressed.

Bottom Line:

I still love this team line-up, however this is a terrible issue one, falling for most of the major pitfalls of a first comic outing. This does not speak highly of the writing and it could get better once we get into an actual story arc. Besides that? Get a new artist as quickly as you can, otherwise I don’t see this series lasting long.

The Valiant Effort

So with my admittedly failed effort to cover the DC 52 reboot and my new posts on Marvel NOW! relaunch, I was in danger of letting the most exciting relaunch effort in comics this year. Valiant Comics. Now many of you have no idea what I am talking about, and others upon hearing the words ‘Valiant’ and ‘Reboot’ are barely confining your nerd rage at past mistakes. So to start with I am going to speak a bit about the company history, naturally you can skip past this and start reading my thoughts on the new launch titles below.

Valiant- The Little Company That Could

Confession, first off, I never read Valiant Comics before this relaunch, so my knowledge that I am sharing now is confined to that which I have learned from other websites(namely TvTropes and Wikipedia). So if I get any information incorrect on here, please feel free to correct me, I would gladly welcome the information and criticism, mostly I am trying to offer some base information for the informed here.

“Jim Shooter was once the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and spent a year trying to buy Marvel alongside a group of investors, their bid came in second.  Shortly after he was contacted by Steven Massarsky, the former manager of the Allman Brothers Band, who was looking for a writer for his Marvel live action children’s show. While Shooter initially was disinterested he agreed when Massarsky told him “I want it to be a good story.” They spent a good portion of the next years working and pitching the show which never ended up going anywhere, eventually looking into the idea of creating their own comic company. With backing from Triumph Capital, they bought Voyager Communications in 1989 and began work on the Valiant imprint with the goal “to create original superhero comic books”.

In 1992, Valiant released original titles, including Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman, followed by a major crossover event called Unity, during which Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong were introduced. Valiant stood out among the comic fanbase at the time because while DC, Image, and Marvel were seemingly focused on art, Valiant had chosen to stand out by ‘out-writing’ the competition. Their characters were given clearly defined powers that were then based in the modern understanding of physics. Perhaps their biggest innovation came with their use of continuity, which was concurrent with the reader. For the most part the time frame a reader was reading was the same as their own, save for the occasional two part story or flash back, so unlike the other companies Valiant had aging character who were affected as time marched inevitable onwards.

Sounds all pretty awesome, right? So what happened you may ask? While I can’t say that all the blame lies on one thing, I can quite happily give a good portion of blame to Rob Liefeld.

To be fair, this is actually one of the best Liefeld drawings I have seen. There are two pairs of feet visible and I count less than ten pouches.

Both Image and Valiant was formed by disenchanted members of the Marvel and DC, so they had friends in both companies and while talking they decided to have a crossover: DEATHMATE!  It is undoubtedly one of the most 90’s thing I have seen in comics. Still that was the style of comic that was popular then, and while I am puzzled and shocked by its popularity, I am sure 20 years from now people are going to be shocked by our comic sensibilities too(personally I hope it due to our reliance of hero vs hero wars). Deathmate was a mess, the issues were designed to be standalone despite it being part of a larger narrative and the issues were assigned colors instead of numbers.  The main problem with Deathmate was the communication and shipping problems between the two companies, much like trying to program a Mars Lander with one team using Metric and the other using Imperial… it does not end well. Valiant was very strict on themselves about their continuity and scheduling, whereas Image, while they have gotten much better nowadays, was quite infamous at the time for letting the schedule slip away by weeks and months. So by the time the issues shipped, no one was interested anymore, and comic shops had stacks and stacks of unsellable comics.

Eventually Valiant was bought out by Acclaim Entertainment, and the entire universe was revamped. What is shocking is that, Acclaim hired TALENT, some of my favorite authors of all time are on that list, the problem was that they decided to change everything. Fans did not transfer over after discovering their beloved characters had been well… bastardized versions of themselves. The most remembered aspect of this is probably the fact that Acclaim, being a Video Game company, published several games based off of Valiant characters like Turok and Shadowman. Acclaim’s comics eventually died slowly and painfully and is not remembered well by the masses. Valiant on the other hand is still remembered quite fondly as one of the best companies to publish during Comic’s Dark Age.

In 2007 until recently there was a lot of legal battles and fighting over the rights to the Valiant characters. It’s a mess and I won’t get into besides to say that it kept characters from seeing print for that period of time. Fast forward to now, Valiant Entertainment rising from the ashes.  Valiant Entertainment is led by Jason Kothari,  Dinesh Shamdasani, Gavin Cuneo, Fred Pierce,  Hunter Gorinson, and Atom! Freeman(This is after a cursory glance at the company, if anyone’s name was left out, apologies and if informed I will alter my information). For a period Jim Shooter was with Valiant Entertainment but now is working with Dark Horse. Beginning with an event called The Summer of Valiant this year, we have got our initial offerings from the company.

What is the initial response from the comic community at large? Quality. This has been an amazing effort and so far every series, every ISSUE, has been outstanding work. Every individual series is just that, individual, being a different genre with its own identity, however we are beginning to see that they do inter-connect into a larger universe. So now without further ado, my thoughts on Valiant’s relaunch:


X-O Manowar

TvTropes Description of Original Series: A 5th century Visigothic Warrior who gained an alien robotic suit, and gets set though a timewarp to the modern era, where he befriends by a Corrupt (but imcompetent) Corporate Executive (who he doesn’t know is just using him to steal his technology). Hilarity and awesomeness ensue.
Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure
Fun Fact: This series introduces Ninjak, who is pure awesome and asides from his airship fights like one would expect a ninja to fight in modern times. Besides, I have never been one to deny a man his airship.

I grabbed all the Valiant books recently after hearing about their level of quality and not knowing the first thing about them, I read X-O Manowar first and for the most shallow reasoning. It has gorgeous cover art. Whoever does the cover art deserves a raise because this series stars a man in a blue and yellow body suit and they make it look fantastic. This series also suitably intrigued me from the start, from the cover you can tell this is going to be a Sci-Fi, however the story begins with the Romans and Visigoths fighting. Also a quick word of praise to page 1 of issue 1, it is a quick spreadsheet very well laid out that gives a quick impression of both cultures and allows even someone like me who knows nothing about the Visigoths to understand where they stand as opposed to the Romans, very well done and a really unique page. Our main character is Adric of the Visigoths, whose life is shattered when his wife is captured by the Romans. The disparity in their technology is so great that Adric and his soldiers set upon a landing party of alien invaders believing them to be Roman scouts in new battle armor. Adric is captured and used as a slave for years by this race known as the Vine. After years of planning, Adric and the slaves revolt and make their way to the armory where Adric dons the sacred Manowar armor, the God of the Vine has always rejected each wearer of the armor and thus are thrown into an existential crisis when the Manowar armor accepts Adric.

Adric uses the armor and warps back to Earth, however when the armor arrives on Earth, it is 2012 and his captured wife has been dead for centuries. After destroying a portion of Rome in his confusion, Adric is now being hunted by governments and the Vine who have infiltrated Earth since their initial landing in Adric’s era and now control much of Earth.

Harbinger

TvTropes Description of Original Series: A group of super powered teens are on the run for their lives from an evil business man.

Genre: Modern-Day Young Adult Superhero

Fun Fact: Zephyr is a younger version of my sister, its pretty damn cool.

Holy Hell, I love this series. While many people may be turned off by the Young Adult qualifier I attached to the Genre… it is just too fitting to ignore. Parts of this series remind me far too much of the Hunger Games and Ender’s Game for me to ignore and understand that the YA quality here is by no means a diminishing quality to the overall product. Peter Stanchek is a very powerful Psiot, when the series begins he is a runaway living with his psychotic best friend, knocking over pharmacies in order to keep in drugs to keep his friend sedated and the thoughts of others outside of Peter’s mind. Peter is being hunted down by an agency that he has attracted the attention of, and when he makes the mistake of squatting in his childhood home they come after him in force. He is then contacted by the Toyo Harada, leader of the Harbingers, and informs him there is a place where he will be accepted and trained. One of the things I love outright about this series is Harada because he is, so far, NOT evil. Even though he is quite obviously going to become our villain, Harada’s goal is to keep humanity from destroying itself and has been leading it from the shadows. Peter attracts his attention due their most powerful psychic seeing that Peter will destroy the planet. Harada however shows mercy and doesn’t have Peter destroyed instead trying to lead him away from that path, however his manipulations on trying to lead Peter into the fold may be his undoing. While Peter is our de-facto main character at the moment, I have heard that POV will switch amongst the Harbinger faction members as the series continues.

Bloodshot

TvTropes Description of Original Series:  A Mafia hitman is betrayed by his family and left for dead. His Body is found by “Project Rising Spirit” who inject him with Nano-machines that resurrect him and turn him into a Japanese flag themed superhero who doesn’t remember his past.

Genre: R-Rated Action Blockbuster

Fun Fact: Bloodshot surprisingly enough is NOT related to Mister Sinister, who would have guessed?

I almost didn’t pick up this series. The name, the look, everything about this comic SCREAMS the 90’s dark antihero that just chaffs me. However as I was looking at the Valiant relaunch as a whole I really came to respect how they modernized their character while still respecting their past designs and motivations. Also I give Bloodshot points above most other 90’s fair for being A. An actual term or phrase and B. Being spelled correctly. The series begins with a page 1 sheet giving us a rundown on nano machines and how they related to our main character’s powers, I especially appreciated them giving mention to the Grey Goo doomsday. Bloodshot is a US operative who is powered by Nanites in his body which makes him incredibly powerful, able to heal from most injuries, and a stable of other abilities. So far the main limit I have seen of his abilities is that in order to heal he needs protein for the nanites to make use of, so he needs to power his healing with a steak… or entire cow. His first mission we see goes South very quickly when he is caught by a rogue scientist who had worked on his creation, and then reveals that he is not who he thinks he is. Every time they send him on a mission he is given a specific memory engineered to push and motivate him on the mission. The wife and child he had been thinking of going home to? Don’t exist. The scientist reveals the truth in the most cruel way… activating all Bloodshot’s memories at once, leaving him to sort with all the false memories of loved ones. When they realize what has happened his handlers send missiles to end Bloodshot before he can fully sort himself out.

This series very quickly becomes a hard action revenge series. I am surprisingly enjoying it despite it not being my usual comic style. One of my favorite things is that despite Bloodshot’s vast assortment of powers they have shown a few different ways to take him out and made him vulnerable, also at this time he has recruited some people to his cause and given him a team, allowing him to avoid the lone wolf anti-hero aspect that I was dreading. Surprisingly good series and just as strong as the rest of the launch.

Archer & Armstrong

TvTropes Description of Original Series: Archer is a martial artist monk with Charles Atlas Superpowers. Armstrong is an effectively immortal brawler and drunkard. Both are being pursued by a largely incompetent cult as they have adventures and Armstrong tries to corrupt Archer.

Genre: Globe-Trotting Buddy Comedy

Fun Fact: The One Percent IS out to get you!

Okay, This and Harbinger are my favorites so far from Valiant. I barely know how to describe Archer & Armstrong besides saying… it just FUN! Seriously as odd as it is, the thing this reminds me most of is if someone had rewritten the Da Vinci code starring the cast of Talespin. Archer was raised in a militant, fundamental Christian theme park and Armstrong is an immortal Mesopotamian prince who currently works as a bouncer in a biker bar. Okay let that line sink in and your smile finish forming. The series begins showing the Mesopotamian cataclysm that gave immortality to Armstrong, a strange device known as the boon that was activated by his brother. Cut to modern day where Archer is being thrown against a gauntlet of his brothers and sisters(inside a Noah’s Arc shaped battle arena). Archer is special due to his eidetic muscle memory, he is able to master pretty much any fighting style. After defeating his adopted brethren in battle royale he is sent on his holy mission, to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named. This is naturally Armstrong, however both are soon captured by a Sect who are hell bent on reconstructing the Boon. Archer soon stumbles upon the fact that his parents are the leaders of another Sect, and besides which are willing to sacrifice him in exchange for the artifact they sent with him.

Realizing Armstrong is both an ally and the only one who has any clue what is going on, they form a partnership and set out to stop the Sects and stop them from reuniting the Boon, which besides giving Armstrong immortality also wiped out most of the life on the planet. All the while they are having to deal with Archer trying to convince Armstrong to be a better man so his soul will be saved. Armstrong trying to get Archer to pull the stick out of his ass and be a better human being. So far they have fought the evil forces of demon-worshiping wall street brokers, Armstrong’s drunken poetry(its awful), nunjas, and in the next issue shaolin nazis. Why aren’t you reading this yet?!

Shadowman

TvTropes Description of Original Series: An African American living in New Orleans discovers he is a powerful voodoo magician.

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Fun Fact: New Orleans is the most tolerant place on the planet, hell, even ten-foot tall intestine monsters can get a tailored suit without prejudice!
So far out of all of the Valiant titles, Shadowman feels the most cinematic to me. This entirely due to the pacing which is scripted as a well executed film. Jack Boniface is our hero, being granted his abilities from a Loa spirit that once possessed his father, and is currently fighting off demons that view him as a threat. Meanwhile in the shadows we have our villain, Darque (damn you 90s naming conventions!), a mysterious and powerful eldritch figure who killed Jack’s father. This series is only two issues in so far and it is taking its time and breathing with the story, so don’t take my lack of words as a lack of plot on this comic. Shadowman is a series that so far is be likened to a good stage magician, showing us one part of its performance, allowing us to ponder on it and think before moving on to the next act. However the pace of the performance may be slow, it is deliberate and it is this speed to its narrative that gives the story tension and allows us to be further drawn in. The other thing that allows you to be drawn in is the artwork which is probably the best interior work that Valiant has given us yet. It is gorgeous, expressions are finely done, and the demons are GLORIOUS. Of special mention is Mr. Twist, a malfeasant fellow made from human entrails and faces, all lovingly rendered in ink and color.

Returning Characters

Valiant Comics has a large stable of characters and are reintroducing many of their past stars in other series. These are a few of the returning characters in the Valiant relaunch.

Ninjak

TvTropes Description of Original Series: Basically “What if James Bond was a ninja warrior?”

I could have just left things with that single line, but Ninjak deserves more. Ninjak was introduced in X-O Manowar as an assassin hired to take out our main character. I am not going to reveal anymore than that because its something you really should read for yourself. However with Ninjak now gaining knowledge of the Vine threat to Earth its going to be interesting to see where that leads him in the future… hopefully to his own series.

The Eternal Warrior

TvTropes Description of Original Series: An immortal warrior, one of only a handful of characters to see both the 20th and 41st centuries.

This issue to introduce this character has yet to be released. However I know that a lot of people are excited for this character who also happens to be Armstrong’s brother who supposedly died back in the Mesopotamian era.


Geomancer

This character’s re-emergence was just announced so not much as known besides her making her into in A&A. Geomancers were a legacy hero with the powers and titles passed down. One of the interesting things is that the Geomancer of Valiant’s time was Clay McHenry and the new one will be Kay McHenry, this is the biggest deviation we have seen with a character so far, still with the Geomancer being a legacy character I don’t see this as any kind of betrayal to the nature of the character. Besides which Geomancers ran in that family so we may still see Clay as a non-active member.


Timewalker

The last of the trio of immortal brothers who inhabit this universe. Ivar the Timewalker as of now does not have an announced debut, however I did stumble upon some rather great Doctor Who inspired concept art for his new look. My money is on Timewalker entering into A&A the issue after Geomancer to wrap things up between Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior. Personally I really love the look this character has now, even though he was essentially the same style-wise originally… though it must be said the ponytail HAD to go. There really are acceptable causalities in any reboot.

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So that is the Valiant re-launch so far, and I hope that some of the titles piqued your interest. As always please feel free to leave your questions, comments, or criticisms. As another note these series are all very new reader friendly and none have even reached their 10th issue yet so it would be very easy to get into them at this point. You have no excuse my friends, go and pick up a book. Now I leave you with some of Valiant’s most famous heroes rendered through the lens of the Simpsons. Why? Sparrows With Machineguns.

We are going to break you so we can fix you.

People are strange. Authors doubly so.

Today we are going to talk about deconstruction and reconstruction. Personally I am unopposed to deconstruction of characters and even universes… however I feel that too many authors have forgotten the purpose behind this and never got to the reconstruction phase. I am here to explain what this process is, its importance, and why its so often a mess.

For those of you already familiar with the character above, please note that my hope is to not turn this into another rant, I simply feel he is the best character to illustrate this literary device.

There are three stages to this process:

The Core Character

Totally Ridiculous, Completely Harmless, Absolutely Fun.

While reconstruction can be applied to any genre, it will be easiest for me to explain and show its process with comics. To start with you need a core character, this is a full character who in many cases was created years ago… the author made them and hopefully they are a well-rounded character who the author felt never needed to be reconstructed.

The Core Character is where the character’s essence is held, and is apparent throughout any adaptation of the character. Batman is probably the best example here as he has been viewed through so many different lenses but his core values and ideas remain the same. Batman had his parents killed, he doesn’t use guns, he fights crime, and he has the best belt ever. However the way this character is portrayed can be completely different while still not moving into deconstruction, both Adam West and Michael Keaton fit here without moving onto the next stage. Which is completely fine, there is absolutely nothing wrong with NOT going though deconstruction.

If it’s not broke don’t fix it.

The character that I feel represents this part of the process is Squirrel Girl. Doreen is a PURE core, she doesn’t need to be reconstructed because everything she is, she wears on her sleeves. A silver age character who now lives in the modern age, she is a breath of fresh air amongst the modern character who have been rebuilt because she doesn’t need to be.

Love her so hard.

So now lets get to the character that we will be following through this, Robbie “Speedball” Baldwin. Speedball was a silly character who could throw energy balls and fly. He liked to joke around and while not a big character wasn’t a horrible one. Mostly Speedball was left unused and forgotten, which is the kind of character author’s LOVE to deconstruct, because even it allows them to do horrible things to these characters and drastically change things and their editors will let them because these characters don’t sell comics i.e. don’t matter. So they decide to change things up which gives us…

The Deconstructed Character

I AM A ROLE MODEL!

Yes that is Robbie Baldwin, no not the guy on the ground, the guy covered in spikes. What happened? Deconstruction.

While many would confuse this with making a character darker and more extreme, this is a general side effect, not the cause. Deconstruction is where you take a character and begin adding in real world cause and effect on them. The entire Dark Knight film series by Norton is a deconstructive take on the Batman Mythos. Bruce gets damaged over the years, he loses someone and is in mourning for years, for the first time in the movies we see how and why he became what he became.

Cause

At this moment, the character I feel best sums up deconstruction is Cyclops. Scott currently fought a war against the Avengers and was possessed with the Phoenix Force. When given this power he then started working on making the world a better place, we see that he is at his core a good person. However over the course of it we see him spiraling, he wants to be listened to, respected, and eventually obeyed. While it is hard to separate Scott from Phoenix as far as actions here, looking at Scott post AvX continues his deconstruction best. Now imprisoned and considered the world’s worst terrorist, he regrets what happened in so far as what he did, but looking at the bigger picture he views that he has won because the mutant population was saved. Scott is being deconstructed here, obviously being torn apart, and while its not pretty, we are getting a better idea of who he is today.

 

Effect

Now with Speedball we have an example alongside an extreme example of darker and edgier. Speedball was part of a team called the New Warriors who got a reality tv series that would follow them around being superheroes. However while being douchebag reality tv stars they screw up a mission and a good portion of a town, including the school, gets nuked. Speedball survives and carries the guilt with him. The world blames the New Warriors for their actions and Speedball goes crazy and starts wearing spiked armor that has spikes on the INSIDE and calling himself Penance… cause symbolism and depth?

Squirrel Girl’s rebuttals are examples of how Core and Reconstructed characters dealt with similar things. The last panel is just an example of why darker and edgier can be utterly wretched.

The core of deconstruction is that you are taking a character apart to see how they tick. You are applying real world psychology and environment to characters who generally occupy a static environment to see how they deal with things. By learning from this we can, hopefully, improve the character, this is best stated by Kurt Busiek.

“It strikes me that the only reason to take apart a pocket watch, or a car engine, aside from the simple delight of disassembly, is to find out how it works. To understand it, so you can put it back together again better than before, or build a new one that goes beyond what the old one could do. We’ve been taking apart the superhero for ten years or more; it’s time to put it back together and wind it up, time to take it out on the road and floor it, see what it’ll do.”


This leads us to….

The Reconstructed Hero

The same core but stronger because of what it has gone through. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Once you have learned what you needed to from Deconstruction its time to see what happens when you pick up the character. While results may vary, this is usually a return to the light from the darkness. A great example of this in a Universe is the Dark Reign of Marvel, where the Avengers and SHIELD were being run by Norman Osborne aka The Green Goblin. Once he was defeated Captain America took charge and started the Heroic Age and it was a return to form, with the deconstruction having begun with Civil War and Reconstruction beginning with the Heroic Age. This is further illustrated by the return of Robbie Baldwin as Speedball. He gave up the darkness and became well.. a fully rounded character, an adult. Speedball didn’t joke as much anymore, he took safety and training very seriously, and you knew why. In a fantastic issue of the Avengers Academy he returns to the town that he had damaged and you can see that he is still in essence working through his penance, trying to make up for what happened because it has become something at the core of the character, but he is no longer punishing himself.

Wow, its almost like she is a person with dreams, desires, and a rounded personality!

The character that best represents this stage is Jessica Jones. Jessica is from a series known as Alias, she was a private eye who used to be a heroine, and when we meet her she was already a reconstructed character, having reached a new place in her life based off of her deconstruction that we would get to see later. Jessica was a character created for the modern age and had a history the represented a past through the other ages of comics, but when we meet her she is already a fully-rounded person due to her past experience and what she learned from them, they have become part of her core and she is better for it. Since we met her, Jessice has never undergone deconstruction, she is always moving forward, her life changes and she adapts and grows with it. Jessica became a wife and mother, joined the Avengers with her husband, and then they left to raise their family safely, everything about her is natural, unforced, and a delight to read. Hands down, Jessica Jones is the spirit of reconstruction.

Reconstruction is an important process as it allows us to make character more relevant in a modern age, we get to see our heroes break apart and see them for human… but its always important to see them rise back up. Because at the end of the day that is why they are here, to inspire us to be better. The main problem with deconstruction is that it became popular with being combined with darkness, the prime example of deconstruction most likely being The Dark Knight Returns. A dark story that showed Batman as old and helped introduce the idea that he may be just as crazy as those he fights. These stories are popular, they sell well, so deconstruction is attached to darkness now, but it isn’t always so and the darkness isn’t a bad thing. The worst thing is that some authors never make it to reconstruction… allowing their characters to constantly be taken apart till not even the core remains, these are the things that betray the audience who have come to love their character. Reconstruction is not however a return to the static core. One More Day could be viewed by some as a deconstruction of Spider-Man albeit not a good one, however when Brand New Day started and he was happy and joking again… it wasn’t a reconstruct because he didn’t remember what had happened before, the act of taking him apart didn’t matter because nothing we learned matter because he had learned nothing, it was a reboot. Stepping back to square one, not moving forward to something new. My advice for this process is as follows:

 

Always move forward, always keep learning, never give up hope.

Rapidfire Reviews: The DC 52 Part 1

Welcome to a new segment I am calling Rapidfire Reviews. This review type will be for when I am reviewing many items at once, as such each review will be shorter. The first of these segments will be DC comic’s reboot, The 52. I will be ordering these reviews in order of their chronological releases, as that really does seem to be the best way to do this.

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1. Justice League “There was  a time when the world didn’t know what a superhero was.”
This one is a pretty solid first issue. It begins a trend that is seen throughout the 52 of having a team’s full roster on the cover and having more than half the team not make an appearance in the issue. This series is showing the start of the League, before everyone knew what a superhero was and whether or not they could be trusted. Our issue begins with Batman pursuing an alien over Gotham’s rooftops with police helicopters pursuing Batman. Pretty quickly Green Lantern joins the fray, and the two end up pursuing the alien together. Banter ensues.

The fun if this issue is the interplay between Batman and GL, my personal favorite being when Batman snags Lantern’s power ring when he is not focused. It is discovered that the alien serves Darkseid, who I think is a great choice for antagonist for the new league. We also get a look at Cyborg before he becomes the world’s first mobile Radio Shack, this series apparently will serve us his origin story… however I do feel his name rather nicely sums up where his abilities come from. The issue ends with Superman making his entrance and a teaser of a battle between Superman and Batman in the next issue. All in all it was a good issue, and while not really pushing any boundaries yet, I am curious to see what comes from this series.
Art: Very Good. Jim Lee is the artist in this book, and I am always happy to see him providing me Batman when he isn’t spouting out Frank Miller-isms. Still I did notice some inconsistencies with character designs, particularly with faces and chins. While nothing horrid, there are time where Batman’s head will change during the same page. Still with this being the first issue I think its fair to allow time to cement the design. Also must say the Lee’s detailed style lends itself very well to making Green Lantern’s constructs. I do love that Hal’s answer to putting out fires is to make green light firetrucks.
Verdict: If you are interested in the Justice League, this is a very good starting point. While definitely not for everyone, I do believe that this is a good effort and the series could lead become very strong. In short if you think you might like it, give it a try. I will continue reading this series.

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2. Action Comics “Because that ain’t Superman!”
It’s like All-Star Superman! Wait. I mean it’s like All-Star Batman starring Superman! Wow, that is a LOT worse. Okay for everyone who thought that first part was jibberish allow me to explain. You know that guy you knew in college who was way too into political protest and sticking it to the man? The guy who would always bring the conversation back to his ethics and how people were doing the wrong things. Just way too into it like he had something to prove or just was hiding behind his agenda? Okay, now make him a Kryptonian.

Yep, it’s a pretty unsettling idea. Really the best I can describe this issue as is… well it is Superman being a massive douche. I mean he flies in, threatens people with his eyes glowing, and holds a guy off a building and tells him to confess his crimes, all while spouting how Superman doesn’t believe that the system treats the rich and the poor the same. What kills me is there are intelligent ways to have Superman address impartial justice is America due to wealth without completely betraying Superman’s character. I mean what does it say when I am rooting for Lex Luthor to beat the shit out of Superman. Really the only thing I can say I liked about the story is how Lex takes out Superman.

Art: Yay, I get to say positive things about this comic. The art is excellent in this one, the colors are great, as is the shading. Unfortunately there is no way in hell it is getting considered for best art in the new 52 due to Superman’s design in this one… HE IS WEARING JEANS AND A T-SHIRT WITH A CAPE SOWED ON… I mean come on, that is just… so lazy, actually no. Lazy would just be drawing the preconceived design from other comics. This is just uninspired and ill conceived.

Verdict: Certain Christian comic book stores are boycotting this series due to Superman saying “GD”… which apparently is an abbreviation for God Damn. Trust me, that is the very least reason to avoid reading this one.  The only reason to read this one is to see how long it takes for Superman to pull his head out of his ass. A journey I will not be undertaking. Pass.

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3. Animal Man “… Maybe I just need to punch someone.”

Well this one took me completely off guard. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this one, and well… wow. This book starts off with an interview with our hero, Buddy Baker. I really like comics that due interviews as one page of text. The alternative regularly seen is an interview conducted between talking heads, which gets boring immediately, sucks away the pace, and wastes space. Which is something I really got to say is the strongest point of Animal Man, it wastes nothing. The one page interview at the beginning quickly gives you background on the character, a superhero who realized he could do more good as an animal rights activist than a superhero. When he goes out in his tights to defuse a situation at the hospital he ends up hemorrhaging from his eyes after using his powers, and suddenly we have got one freaky mystery on our hands.

One completely deranged dream sequence later we are treated to one hell of a last page twist… and hell, I realize I am completely sucked into the comic. Still the comic is not just darkness and WTF moments. It is really nice seeing a superhero who is a father and husband first and foremost, and for Animal Man, being a superhero is not his primary concern. I do love the reason he never gave up being a hero is because he enjoys it so much, loves using his powers and enjoys flight. Its always great to see characters who get to enjoy the powers and see the positives rather than mope and moan about the curse the must endure. Animal Man is a positive character in a completely deranged situation. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Art: Sigh, there just HAD to be a downside didn’t there? The art on this book really had me almost stop from reading it, I had put it off up until doing this blog. While I am very glad I read it, I can understand why it would put people off. The artist has some problems with drawing people. Proportions are off, especially with the face. Still I didn’t really see anything off with his animals, which I suppose might be the important thing? Still the art is a too dark for me, and not in a stylistic way… more like the “I made a mistake while inking and had to fill it in black to hide it” way. And while Animal Man’s new costume is not horrible, I really did prefer the old.

Verdict: So long as you can get past some sub-par artwork, this one is a must buy. Great place to start with this character for new readers, and great place to continue if you are already a fan. One thing I must say is that this one is not for children, there is a lot of blood and lots of disturbing imagery, if you read it and think your kids can handle it, then go for it. More kids should read good comics. I will absolutely be reading this series

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4. Batgirl “I’ve got upper arm strength like a mother at this point.”

Welcome back, Barbara. This issue is a very big deal in the comic book community as with this issue, Barbara Gordon is no longer wheel-chair bound, and has stepped out from behind the computer and is once again Batgirl. I think the people who will have the hardest time going into this comic are fans of the most recent Stephanie Brown “Batgirl” series. While I like many am going to miss Stephanie, I am hopeful she will make an appearance in the new DC sooner than later. Anyways back to Barbara. Many of you will be wondering how she is out of the wheelchair? Well, that is an answer for a later issue, the question is rather obviously sidestepped in this issue in order to focus on Batgirl kicking ass rather than an origin story.

Personally I think this is for the best. Honestly its great seeing Batgirl take to the skies again and get back into the fray. Who will she be facing in this issue? Why, psychopaths in cheap Halloween costumes! Haha, but a good writer can make villains wearing dime-store masks threatening. Luckily for us, Gail Simone is an excellent writer. While her initial romp against these punks would go as you expect, there is a much more sinister threat in the form of a new villain, Mirror. This villain appears to target people who escaped death, and then kills them in methods mirroring how their near death experience, and Barbara Gordon is on Mirror’s list. I would have to say the best parts of this issue are Barbara’s inner monologue, you really get into her head and it is near impossible not to connect with her when Mirror points a gun at her old injury and she locks up with fear. Batgirl comes out of the gate swinging, kicking, and batarranging the competition. Gotham bless her aim.

Art: Quite good. The art here is much better than a lot of the 52, however I would have to say that many of the shots of Batgirl in action seem to be more poses than dynamic movement. Still I gotta say that I love that they kept Barbara’s look and didn’t attempt to reduce her by forcing her into some smutty costume. Speaking of design, Mirror is one of my favorite new designs of the 52.

Verdict: I recommend this one to everyone, it is great to see Barbara back and to see it handled intelligently and more importantly to make sure to have fun. I will most definitely be following this one.

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5. Batwing “Myths are something we do very well in Africa.”
DAMN!

Take notes everyone, this is how you do an issue 1. Batwing is almost nearly a perfect issue, the only thing holding it back is the fact this being a new series with new characters… well it has a lot of introduction, but it is handled well. Batwing follows an African police officer who becomes the Batman of Africa, with the blessing and technology of the original. Right away we are introduced to Batwing’s nemesis, Massacre, who more than lives up to the name in issue 1. Batwing himself utilizes a very technological suit, including the eponymous wings that give him flight capabilities. This first issue introduces us to the main characters of the series but also gets our first mystery rolling. With one of Africa’s original superheroes hacked to pieces and left in a bizarre crime scene, it leaves Batwing and co. wondering who is behind the attack and who is next. All the while he is trying to use his persona to lead a corrupt and uncaring police force into action by example. To be completely honest, I like many was worried that this series was an affirmative action comic from DC, having a black hero and have him riding on the Bat-name to give him some credibility. It feels amazing to be wrong some days. Batwing is most definitely a hero in his own right, and the setting of Africa is something wholly unique in the DC universe. This is not a someone merely riding on the Bat-family’s coattails but is looking to be a legitimate member of the family. Welcome to the DC Universe, Batwing.

Art: Wow. This comic has some of the best comic art I have ever seen. Period. I really have to gush on the design of Batwing, I love how they went for something so different for him. In no ways do you look at him and go “Oh its like Batman but with… or It like Nightwing sans…” It is all his own, and I really do love the blue color scheme which is offset beautifully by the natural browns and oranges of Africa. Also a good design is Massacre, while simply, is done very effectively. A very strong contender for best art of the 52, and it shows a lot on DC’s side that they put such a strong team on a new series.

Verdict: GO BUY IT! This was an excellent comic and worth supporting. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this book to everyone, it is very bloody and gruesome, and while not gratuitous it is a sign of the very dark subject matter that this book will be dealing with. NOT FOR CHILDREN! I will absolutely be supporting this one, my only fear is that after such a strong first effort that it won’t live up to its initial potential.
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6. Detective Comics “I am Gotham… and Gotham is a hellhole.”

THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR KIDS! IF YOU BUY THIS BOOK FOR YOU A CHILD THEN YOU OFFICIALLY FAIL AS A PARENT!

So yeah… now that THAT is out of the way. Right away I have to say I am a bit disappointed with this book, we have four different new series starring Batman, not including books that he makes a cameo appearance or is a team member. As Detective Comics doesn’t HAVE to be about Batman I personally would have loved to have seen it focus on someone else, a series focusing on the Gotham Police would have been a welcome addition to this line up. Anyways let’s talk about the book that we did end up with. While this book does a good job of setting up its mystery with the Joker as our antagonist… this book really does rely far too much on gore it seems, which is sad there is some obvious intelligence in the writing. Now I really must call out the quote for this one. Batman proclaims that “He is Gotham” in this book, and while I definitely can agree with the statement, it is something that seems completely out of character for Batman to say about himself, I could see Gordan saying it, or many other cast member… but the the man himself saying that he is Gotham? It just falls flat. Which is the problem with this book, you do not feel like you are reading Batman… you feel like you are reading someone trying to write Batman. I was at least hopeful that this being Detective Comics, it would focus more on Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective, focusing more on his cases and showing his keen mind. But this book really is more of a gory mess, focusing on the darkness of Batman and Gotham(which is what I would have expected more from Batman: The Dark Knight) And while the final page is an interesting twist, it is handled in the goriest way they could get away with.

Art: Okay right away from our first glance with Batman, I spot one of the big issues with having so many series with Bats in it. With so many different artists, we end up multiple variations and instead of a unified new design of Batman, we instead end up with cluster of “whatever the artist wanted”. Still that is a symptom of 52, not just this comic. That being said I am not terribly fond of Batman’s design here. Still the art is quite competent, and if it wasn’t for the artist’s talent then the violence wouldn’t be quite so sickening… so… yay?

Verdict: This is a book which seems to rely more on shock value than story, at least from the first issue. Still I have heard good things about this author and, while grotesque, the final page did grab my curiosity. I will be grabbing the next issue to slate my curiosity, so this series has one more chance to grab me as a reader, but it doesn’t seem bloody likely. I would probably recommend this one to fans of Garth Ennis and fans of the torture porn film genre… keep out of the hands of readers younger than 14.

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7. Green Arrow ” I have a lot of toys. But I don’t play games.”

Poor Green Arrow, you deserve so much better than this. After Flashpoint delivered a truly wonderful one-shot, Green Arrow Industries, I had high hopes for the return of Oliver Queen. Alas, this is not meant to be. So here we are reading Green Arrow #1. Mediocrity ensues. Having just read this one, and even looking through my notes, I have a hard time recalling what was going on in this issue or why we are supposed to care. I remember there being an executive meeting at Queen’s billion dollar company, which apparently is not doing so well, despite Oliver apparently having the tech to make arrows that can hack computers and flash freeze supervillains. Besides that is the fact that Oliver’s company is apparently Apple in this new Universe, with the biggest hits being the Q-Pad and the Q-Phone… honestly I don’t know if I hate or love this idea, and its because they went either too far or not far enough with the concept. As is it is a joke that just got repeated a few times too many, but they could have done much more with it. Have the company symbol be an apple with an arrow piercing it, hell have Oliver wearing a turtleneck in his off-time.

I would have to say my main issue with this issue was that… I was simply bored while reading it. Green Arrow showed up, fought some… weird looking mutated villains. Showed off some trick arrows that just… ugh, I mean, yes the ridiculous arrows are part of his charm, and while some are just deliciously silly like the boxing glove arrow. Other are are not silly or fun enough, falling into an uncanny valley, and become groan worthy. This book ends with some villains talking about needing to get Green Arrow, followed by a last page splash off a gang of supervillains all ready to take him down… and I didn’t recognize one of them. See if you are going to introduce villains dramatically on the last page there needs to be a reason for it, either because it is an important or particularly threatening villain, someone you thought was dead and is being revealed alive, or it is being revealed that a villain is someone you didn’t expect. This simply revealed that a lot of goons were going to go after Green Arrow… which isn’t at all threatening as all this issue had was Green Arrow beating up a lot of goons. I mean if you wanted to have an exciting showdown with him, pit him against someone like Deadshot, both are ranged weapon masters and it could lead to a really tense sniper battle between the two marksmen.
There were a lot of issues like this one amongst the 52, a standard introductory story for new readers. This one just comes off as bland and unexciting, it plays things too safe and as such there is no real drama, excitement, or mystery… creating no reason to want to come back for the next chapter.

Art: Like the rest of the issue, nothing stands out here. Green Arrow gets a revamped look here and… while not bad, he is not recognizable as Green Arrow. Honestly he looks more like Red Arrow if he bleached his hair and took on his mentor’s mantle. While what they added is not detrimental, they took away his beard and hood, which honestly are his two most recognizable features. Really I can’t think of a better way to put this book, they took Green Arrow and then made him as generic as they possibly could. I would also like to talk about the villains designs in this book… but I have already forgot them. Take that as the insult it is meant to be.

Verdict: This issue left me overall unsatisfied and uninterested in the series. While I have never been what you call a fan of Green Arrow, I know the character and like him. So if someone like me is unwilling to pick up the rest of the series, how is DC planning on picking up the new readers they were wanting to grab with the 52? This one is a pass for me, everything about this one is just uninspired, and too generic to even be so bad that its funny.

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8. Hawk and Dove “Dove could sense danger, and I could smash it.”

My first thought on hearing about this series was, “Really?… Them? You are giving those guys, their own series?” Which is not to say that I dislike Hawk and Dove… what I did know of them just made them see them so one-note that I was mystified that they were chosen as one of the 52. I mean there are plenty of other heroes that could use their own series, I mean come on where the hell is Captain Marvel?! Hawk and Dove are just a duo where one is constantly angry and violent and the other is peace-loving and well…. boring. What could they possibly bring to the 52 to make them worthwhile??

Fun. A whole hell of a lot of fun.

I mean hell the first time we see our heroes they are fighting zombies… on a crashing plane… on a collision course with Washington D.C. I mean come on this is just awesome. In my mind there are two philosophies when it comes to writing a great comic; there are those who attempt to push the medium in new ways and attempt new things, and then there are those who simply embrace the lavishly ludicrous that made the medium so great to begin with. Hawk and Dove dive headfirst into the latter from the get go.

Unfortunately, the execution of this issue does get a bit sloppy as it goes on. Hawk and Dove are admittedly lesser known heroes, so you need some back story for these two, but it does bring things to a grinding halt, when the characters themselves are quite simple to sum up. Hawk and Dove were granted powers by the gods and are the Avatars of War and Peace, and thus a superhero buddy cop duo was born. Still that is not to say this backstory is bad, I actually enjoyed the story.  The original Dove was Hawk’s younger brother who died recently, and out of the blue a new Dove is chosen by the gods and he has no choice but to partner with her. So Hawk is still dealing with his brother’s death, while adjusting to a new partner that he frankly doesn’t like and who in his mind can never measure up to the original Dove. The drama between the two is nice because it comes from a very real, emotional place and not simply from very different philosophies. This issue focuses mostly on Hawk but we do get a bit from Dove who is remaining mostly a mystery to the audience as well, as she apparently has a secret connection to the original Dove that Hawk can never know(but obviously will find out at some point to create drama) Also she is strangely enough dating Deadman…. so she is dating a ghost? Okay I gotta say that DC is doing very strongly on showing the multiple sexual preferences, we have multiple gay and lesbian heroes in the lineup and now apparently even a Necrophiliac.  Go Progress!

Still I will say that this issue lost me a bit at the end with the introduction of its villain which is… a pallet swap of Hawk? Wow… lazy. I honestly wasn’t sure if the character was supposed to be Hawk but was simply colored wrong, or a clone, or what. After looking up the comic on DC’s website I found out that this character is part of a villainous duo called Condor and Swan, who are avatars of a different sort? But honestly when your villains are simply recolored versions of your heroes you are running low on ideas… and this is the start of the series so that is not promising. Still with the backstory out of the way, I am hopeful that this series can simply focus on having fun, and to be fair Condor only got one page and maybe two lines, so who knows he may prove to be a threatening villain in future issues.

Art: I enjoy the art in this issue, it is stylized and cartoonish… There is NOTHING wrong with that, honestly it is the best choice for a series like this. Still I really have to call out the design for Condor, while I like the idea of a villains that mirror our heroes. They don’t need to mirror the design, by all means keep the avian designs and even similar costumes, but the exact duplication is just lazy. They really could have had fun and make some sinister villains here… well you get the point. At the end of the day it will come down to the writing to save these initial villains, and here’s hoping they pull it off.

Verdict: While I am gonna go ahead and guess that very few of you know these heroes, but if you are a fan of the ridiculous then go ahead and give this one a shot. I am gonna check this one out myself as it is nice to have something fun amidst all these serious comics, my only real worry here being that this series does not live up to its initial awesomeness of Crashing Plane-Zombie Smackdown!

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9. Justice League International “It’s Booster Gold! The guy from the beer ads!”

Wow, this is another very strong, surprising series. I was wondering about the necessity of this series as well… the Justice League already operates worldwide, I mean their base of operations is a space station so the can monitor the planet. However the setup for this team is actually rather brilliant. The United Nations decides to create a superhero peacekeeping group, deciding that if it works out they can take the credit and if it doesn’t they can always say it was the hero’s fault. And who did they decide for the villain for this group?

Booster Gold! Okay, I love that they gave Booster Gold a Justice League to run. Also they really do go with a group of multinational heroes, including my new favorite hero name ever, the Chinese superhero, The August General in Iron! This again is a really fun first issue, and I am excited to see where it goes. This is a group of superheros composed of mostly heroes that are unknown to new readers. So both the team and the readers are getting to know each other, learning their powers, making it very natural.  I also like the fact that this is a team getting assembled but its not by some shadowy organization, its by the United Nations, sure there is one guy who pushes for the idea and sure he may be working for some other organization. However I really do like the idea that they are working in the open for the good guys.

Art: The art in this issue is really good. From what I have seen they kept most of the original costume designs for the heroes… of if there were changes it was not enough to distract or disturb the audience. So overall this is a very strong first issue, both written and visually.

Verdict: A very pleasant surprise. So far in my reviews I think this book best captures a group of super heroes who are working towards becoming a team, and even better they actually have all their member introduced in the first issue! I will be following this series and if you are a new reader or a comic vet looking for something new, I suggest trying this one out.

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10. Men of War “I am not ashamed of doing what I do.”

In many ways Men of War is looking to become The Punisher of DC comics. Okay, wow, I REALLY need to quantify that statement before I scare you off. This is looking to be a dark, gritty view of the DC universe from a much more real perspective. This story focuses on an army grunt named Rock, who, while obviously leader material, wants to stay an infantry soldier. Rock’s next mission throws him into a battle zone where superhumans become involved which then goes to hell. One of the things I love is that you have NO idea what heroes or villains are involved. A flying red blur shoots across the battlezone, is it Superman? No one knows, but what that the field is now a blazing inferno after he passed. At first I was worried that this series was going to be an advertisement for military service. Don’t get me wrong I think our troops truly are heroes and I thought the idea of a war comic among DC’s lineup was a great idea, I don’t think there is anyone who likes reading enlistment advertisements. I wasn’t sure if this would figure into the DC Universe at large or if it was simply going to focus on soldiers and what they have to deal with… Surprisingly we get both. The only time I have ever seen a series that dealt with humans dealing in the world of superhumans it has either been police or reporters, so it is really interesting seeing the military having to deal with it. And its not simply a division being sent to go fight a supervillain for fodder, superhumans showed up, possibly to help or hinder, but everything gets FUBAR and mayhem ensues. Haha, oh and one consideration I must admit an appreciation for is the caption boxes that define some military terms or acronyms that the layperson would not be familiar with. They were very useful and allowed a layperson like me to know what our characters were talking about without resorting to dumbing down dialogue.

This issue showed something that a lot of comics struggle with, the impact of superhumans on normal people. The dark side of having these powerful individuals amongst us. The series has already handled the issue infinitely better than many comics I have read… namely The Boys. Also please do not be alarmed when I said this issue is dark and gritty, it is not a bad thing here. However I would warn parents that as a war comic, there is blood and violence, however it has not been gratuitous so far. If you would let your child watch a war movie then they will have no problems reading this.
Art: I think this is one of the strongest offerings from from the 52, this book has a unique style, great lighting and use of colors. Most impressively it manages to show the chaos of a battlezone without the reader losing their sense of what is going on.

Verdict: In quite a few ways, this could be the most unique offering in the 52. This series excites me with the possibilities and I am looking forward to where it goes from here. Also this is a great gateway issue for people who don’t normally read superhero comics as it shows them in a very unique way as we see them from a realistic perspective.

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11. O.M.A.C. “I AM O.M.A.C.”

And the winner for Worst Hair in the 52 goes to… O.M.A.C.

I really must question who this book is for, because it certainly isn’t meant for me. The issue starts with some water cooler conversation on the upper levels of Cadmus, the DC universe’s premiere cloning facility. O.M.A.C. then shows up and starts smashing things… and this is the comic right there. O.M.A.C. himself has no personality at all, the only dialogue he gives is repeating the last part of the orders he is receiving. The comic is very simple with, obstacle appearing, and the our hero hitting it until it goes away… this is essentially the comic book version of watching your friend play Double Dragon.

Art: While there are worse artists working in comics… this series just lacks any real substance or originality. Also who thought that giving our hero a giant, flowing, neon-mechahawk was a good idea?!?

Verdict:  O.M.A.C. both as a comic and as a hero can be summed up with two words, no personality. While I freely admit that over time the character can evolve and become something more. As of right now this issue failed to interest me in seeing that happen. Skip it.

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12. Static Shock “Time for Plan B… That, I’m also making up as I go!”

Welcome Back, Static! Static got something very few superheros actually get, a damn good cartoon show. I am coming into this series with the knowledge of the television show, however you won’t be needing prior knowledge of Static going in. That out of the way this… is not a great issue. It just ends up falling directly into the middle, not taking any real chances. It is definitely still Static, with him throwing banter as much as ball lightning and using science to defeat his enemies. Still one of the things I will give the issue is a really good last page.

Art: Good use of colors throughout the issue… umm I can’t really think of anything else to say. NEXT!

Verdict: If you like the character than you may be willing to go for another issue, but this first story does little to entice new reader.

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13. Stormwatch “The Moon seems to be threatening Earth.”

And the Winner for Best New Villain: The Moon.

Stormwatch is the continuation of The Authority, a comic that has the distinction of being damn awesome. This issue does a great job of establishing mystery and intrigue, something essential to a first issue. We are introduced to our team by seeing them in action. Stormwatch being a very large group of very different people. One group is at their base investigating the fact that the Moon appears to be growing claws… or fangs. Another is investigating a giant horn that has fallen to the ground, while the last is trying to recruit a new member. This new member is Apollo, who may very well wield powers on par with Superman, but has no interest at all in becoming a superhero. New to the team is the Martian Manhunter, and while I didn’t know what to make of his addition at first I must say that it is a solid fit. The Manhunter is strange and powerful enough to feel right at home aboard Stormwatch. I am very intrigued by this first issue, and this is a great starting point. Also and series with The Midnighter will get a look through from me.

Art: Very good art throughout with some great color work. However I will admit that essentially any character’s designs that have been changed, have been changed for the worse. The changes aren’t terrible… just wholly unnecessary, I don’t know why any of these characters needed a change, but I am personally hopeful that we will see a return of the old uniforms later on.

Verdict: A very solid first issue and a great starting point. If you are looking for a new comic series to try out, this is in my top recommendations for you. I am already looking forward to the next issue, and will definitely be following this series.

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14. Swamp Thing “Plants can scream… they’re screaming all the time.”

Swamp Thing is a tricky character to write because it is so easy for the character to be a joke. Luckily you can tell the author respects the character and his history after reading this book. This first issue is most definitely a jumping on point for new readers, as most of the issue is introducing our hero. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a strong mystery already in place. At the start of the story, hundred of animals all across the planet are just falling down dead. Later dead animals are seen to rise and become a storm of carrion. Elsewhere flies enter people’s ears, their necks then snapping around, becoming horrific, zombie-like creatures. One of the things that was very unique is that Swamp thing doesn’t show up until the last page. The focus is on Dr. Holland, a man who is intrinsically linked with the Swamp Thing. Still I won’t go into too much detail here as the comic does a good job of introducing the character. Also points given to this series for having a superhero cameo that doesn’t feel forced.

Art: The thing I really have to point out with the art so far is how creepy they managed to make the threat so far. We have no idea what is happening so far, there is no villain giving monologues here, it is just this pervasive wrongness happening across the planet, and that has to be expressed just through the art. And it is done wonderfully. This book could have come across looking very cheesy but is done very well. Bravo.

Verdict: This already seems to be a smart, well written series. While this first issue is mostly introduction, it is very well done and it has me wanting to read more. Go give this one a read.

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15. Batman and Robin “Why is dying always cheaper?”

Okay two things about this book. 1) This is a very good book. 2) Yeah this book will confuse new readers. Batman and Robin picks up right were things left off for Bruce Wayne. With him currently leading Batman Inc., wearing the cowl again after coming back from being “dead”, and his son Damian as the newest Robin… Okay so I am pretty sure that there will be plenty of new readers who have no idea what was going on with any of that… but it is not my job to explain, it’s DC’s. As of yet I am not 100% about how friendly this book is towards new readers, but you should be fine reading it after a few trips to Wikipedia, if not going out and simply reading Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

Still that aside this a good issue and much to my surprise I am beginning to like Bruce and Damian’s pairing. Mostly because Damian is actually trying here, sure he messes up and puts people in danger, but honestly that is progress for him. He is trying to do thing his dad’s way, and he is struggling with it. This is great because it shows that he isn’t just this asshole kid who likes murder, he is very broken from how he was raised by his mother, and it is a struggle for him to not be that person. The main focus of this issue is Bruce deciding to move on from his parent’s deaths… which sounds odd, but is a really nice moment. Bruce has decided that his parent’s memory deserves better than to simply be mourned, and besides that while they were his original reason for becoming Batman, it has become so much more, so that he doesn’t need to carry that weight with him anymore. We also get a new villain here named Nobody, who has a VERY cool design and is killing members of Batman Inc., with the final reveal teasing that Nobody may actually be a member of the organization.

Art: Solid art throughout this book. Very creative during combat and utterly chaotic when needed. Loved the design for Nobody… however I do think its funny that Gordon now has brown hair instead of white in all the new books. Apparently he got de-aged so he can be kept around?

Verdict: Batman and Robin is carrying the torch from Morrison, so for fans of the Bat before the reboot, this is the book you will be wanting to follow. For new-comers there is going to be a learning curve and while I am not sure how much leeway the author is going to give you, this is a book you will receive more if you put in more. I will be reading this series

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16. Batwoman “… Dark red angel of the night… she promised.”

Batwoman… okay to be fair I am completely unfamiliar with this character. Let’s see what we have… a goth-y, pale, redhead, covered in tattoos who dresses like Batman. Wow, if she had some daddy issues she would be perf- oh wait there they are! Hello Perfect Woma– OH… wait she is a lesbian… damn.

Anyways… This one can be confusing to new readers, as instead of letting us get to know the character through her actions, we instead get a very awkward two page splash that tries to squeeze her whole backstory in… yikes. As for Batwoman herself I can say that… umm… okay I honestly don’t know much about her character after this first issue. She is a lesbian and Batwoman and her cousin is currently her sidekick but refuses to let her wear her superhero costume because… its too flamboyant?… Really? Coming from the lady dressed as a bat with a bright red wig? Okay, entirely ignoring the point that the Bat-family has a grand history of flamboyant costumed sidekicks, the whole thing about costumes seems to be an excuse to show the two getting undressed. There are way too many shots of our heroes out of clothes. Okay so Batwoman is hunting after this… ghost who drowns people? And is being pursued by Black Mask… who is running a government agency now.

What? This book is… kind of a mess to be honest, at least from the perspective of a new reader. Perhaps if I read her series from beforehand I would know what is going on and maybe care about these peoples. But again, it’s not my job to do that, it’s DC’s.

Art: So with all of those issues, why would most of you pick up this book? Because it is gorgeous. Or at least Batgirl is. I was really drawn into this comic by the artwork and then I noticed that Batgirl gets thrice as much detail as any other character, she pops off of the page, which for the covers is great. But not as great when you are supposed to have her working with a partner, who just fades into the background along with everything else. The comic also has a habit of having artwork or other panels behind the main panels, at times this works well and the non-standard artwork works exceptionally well in the beginning. As things go on it begins to feel lazy, as though they are shoving in this artwork to take up space… space that the story and characters so desperately needed.

Verdict: Reading this comic was very similar to opening a book to the middle and picking things up from there. I am pretty damn certain that there is substance and story here… but without any context I feel like the family in the beginning of this comic. Drowning and confused. I may give this series a shot… but probably not.

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17. Deathstroke “A Major Damn Badass”

This is Deathstroke, and apparently he wants you to know how bad a dude he is… which honestly makes me feel a lot less like this guy is a deadly assassin/mercenary as he is some guy whose deadly deeds are the answer to his mid-life crisis. Some get the sports car and a mistress and others get a suit of armor and talk about how badass they are. Which has got to be the strangest thing about Deathstroke is the fact that I think he is much more intimidating outside of his armor. I swear he looks like Captain Ahab if he was born in Sin City. See, if he went around just wearing his street clothes beating the shit out of people with his bare hands, I would be much more inclined to believe the whole badass thing.

So for Deathstroke’s first outing in the 52, they really needed to put his best foot forward. Which is why this issue is about Deathstroke teaming up with some young mercs called… the Alpha Dawgs.

No, that is not a typo. They chose to call themselves the Alpha Dawgs… with a W. Oh and their mission? Apparently they need to get a briefcase away from… Nosferatu? Okay no it’s not Nosferatu but I mean… look at that guy and tell me your first thought isn’t vampire? Anyways… so this book seems mostly to be about how everyone is looking down on Deathstroke, for some reason. He gets teamed up with another team because he is getting old and… okay bullshit. What little I do know of Deathstroke is that he is capable of making some very scary people tremble in their boots. And you are telling me people don’t want to hire him anymore, that in order to make DEATHSTROKE a worthwhile transaction someone thought “oh hey let’s team him with the Alpha Dawgs!” The thing is… it could have been interesting. If Deathstroke really was losing his edge due to age, it could have been really interesting to see him have to deal with that and swallow his pride to work with a team. But he hasn’t lost his edge, so where the hell is this thinking coming from? The issue ends with Deathstroke killing the Alpha Dawgs(I cheered) chewing out his manager for putting him in a group with others. There was also something about the briefcase holding something all sinister and shit, but honestly? I stopped caring long before that.

Art: The art in this book is good… and thus wasted on this book.

Verdict: If you have no idea who Deathstroke is, this is not the book you want to read to be introduced to the character. So new readers should stay away. If you are a fan of the character, then you have even more reason to keep your distance. I will not be reading this series.

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18. Demon Knights “We find the source of our problems and we throw dragons at it.”

HELL YES! This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me glad the 52 happened. DC essentially took a group of their characters who were kicking around during the medieval ages and decided to play Dungeons and Dragons. The book stars Jason Blood, better known as his alter-ego the demon, Etrigan. Alongside him is his lady love, Madame Xanadu, however which form of the protagonist she really cares for is up for debate. Years after the fall of Camelot, they walk into a bar and run into Vandal Savage and the Shining Knight. And then dragons(actually dinosaurs) show up and the bar fight ensues…

Why aren’t you buying this book yet?

Art: This book has very strong art throughout, as the preview shows. I really like the design they went for with Etrigan, as I always dislike his original outfit and how he was always hunched over, whereas here he looks like… well.. a Demon Knight. This book and Batman are my favorite art styles of the 52, both being a pleasure to look at.

Verdict: Yes, really. That is all I am going to write about this one. It is ridiculous, awesome, and incredibly fun. I love that they took a group of  characters in the medieval ages and make them a team fighting dragons. I love that they tapped Vandal Savage, an immortal supervillain who really doesn’t appear so villainous during the dark ages. I just love this book, I will be following this series and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

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19. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

ugh.. really?

Really, DC?!? Okay, I have to admit that this one is responsible for much of the hiatus in reviewing these… I just froze in my tracks when I reached this comic. I mean it Frankenstein teamed up with a mummy, vampire, werewolf, and black lagoon creature fighting monsters. Besides being a pretty blatant Hellboy wannabe… it just so stupid.  I am not going to lie, there are times where it embraces the silliness and becomes kind of fun… but the parts where I started to enjoy the comic just made me feel guilty, like laughing at a really low-brow joke. Anyway the comic is about Frankenstein being sent in by S.H.A.D.E….. because all comic book organizations must be forced acronyms. Frank has to go with his new team and clear a town full of monsters in six hours or S.H.A.D.E. will simply nuke the site from orbit. Honestly, when your options are sending in the monster squad or nuking a town overrun with thousands of monsters… nuking the place seems the more rational choice!

Art: This book…. is very messy. Tons of black heavy lines feel like they are there more often to cover up mistakes than any sort of style, and faces contort into strange shapes while speaking. As for designs… yeah no. No points to this comic. Father Time is in the body of Hit-Girl and for some reason there vampire is wearing red and yellow checkered arm warmers(maybe he is really into Gryffindor?)

Verdict: There are some points where this book really does veer into being fun, but much like meeting that hot blonde at the bar, sure she may give you some enjoyment… but you know you will hate yourself in the morning for lowering yourself down to something that stupid. I will not be following this one.

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20. Green Lantern “We expect you to do what other Lanterns do, Sinestro. Protect your sector.”

I have to admit that I was intrigued after the first couple pages of this book. Sinestro, one of the Green Lantern’s greatest enemies has been forced back into the Corps. The Guardians forcing him to recite their oath again and saying while he may not have to listen to them, he will protect his sector like any other Green Lantern. Upon Sinestro’s return his homeworld he finds that his subordinates who he had ordered to protect his planet, have instead enslaved it. He then has to kill Sinestro Corps members and escape. This is all really interesting. It’s cool to see Sinestro having to be a Green Lantern again and possibly even go down the path of redemption, and the fact that he was forced into this path at first creates a possible way for him to rejoin the Lanterns without betraying his character. If the story had focused entirely on Sinestro, with him being the Green Lantern and that struggle, this could have been an interesting and complex series…

And then Hal Jordan comes in. Honestly I am not too familiar with Hal… but I swear he is written as the least likable person ever. Every scene he is in just drags… yes I get that they are trying to show Hal at a low point so he can rejoin the Corps and get back on top… but Sinestro would have been so much more interesting of a main character. Still my hopes of Hal being a cameo or possibly killed off in this issue were sadly wrong as the issue with Sinestro offering Hal the chance to rejoin the Corps. With that… I officially do not care anymore. It’s not a story about redemption anymore, or a villain forced to work for the side of good anymore… It is a story about a villain working to abuse the system while teaming up with a massive jerk… whee…

Art: OH GOD IT BURNS!!! Most of my pictures for the comics are either action scenes or frames that popped out at me, either way I try to either show the best, most dynamic, or most iconic picture in each… Look again at the picture I put for Green Lantern. That is Hal Jordan… go ahead and scroll back up to the first review, Justice League. That is supposed to be the same character. This frame of Hal Jordan will haunt me forever. The strangest thing though, is that the I had no problem at all with the aliens in this book, they were done fine. But the humans… dear god in heaven.  Some things cannot be forgiven, that panel of Hal is one of them.

Verdict: Honestly there are some interesting ideas here, but I feel the execution is severely lacking.  If they had made this book focusing on Sinestro’s return to the Green Lanterns, I feel it would have been much more interesting. I will not be following this book… but I may be willing to give it a chance later if they switch artists.

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21. Grifter “Overconfident con-artists are like sorority girls…”

Grifter is very different than most of the other comics reviewed because this issue is almost entirely set up. Not that this issue is bad, it actually is quite interesting. Our hero protagonist is a conman who gets snatched by invading… aliens? Anyways he wakes up while one of the creatures is attempting to possess him, but he manages to break loose. The thing that I found really interesting is that he didn’t gain any superpowers from this, or have any to begin with. What did end up happening was that he ended up attuned to their telepathic feed. He knows that they need to kill him, to keep their invasion a secret, however he can hear them coming for him. However after getting attacked by one of these creatures on a plane and killing it, he is labelled a terrorist and is now on the run from the authorities and the invaders.

As far as origins go I enjoyed this one. I like that all he has as far as abilities is that he essentially has the frequency for the bad guy’s radio… and that makes him a threat. While him donning a mask/bandana at the end seems a little strange… especially as he has been very resourceful throughout. I think its strange that he would jump straight for a disguise that draws attention instead of say… a haircut and dye job?

Art: I really enjoyed the art in Grifter. I liked the character design and the bright use of colors was very nice throughout.

Verdict: So far I am intrigued by this series, but I can see it going either way. It could continue its mystique and have some very interesting hero on the run stories… or it could get really drawn out. It comes down to the author really, so here is hoping. I will be optimistic and continue reading this one. If it sounds interesting to you, I recommend checking this one out.

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22. Legion Lost “You go back to a doomed future.”

A team of superheroes goes back in time, chasing down a supervillain from releasing a dangerous pathogen in the past. However they arrive too late, their time craft is destroyed and they are now lost in the past with an uncertain future in front of them.

While it is pretty clear to mark this off as a cookie cutter creation. I mean there is a Wolverine rip-off who called himself Lone Wolf. Still the part that really got my attention? The villain. He is going on this rampage, in this monstrous rage. But as he is walking through the rubble, a little girl comes up to him with tears in her eyes, clearly scared but needing help finding her sister. And you see all the rage just flow out of the villain. I really enjoyed that scene and it’s always nice to see villains be more than walking, monologuing disaster zones.

So far I am going to go ahead and label this one in the fun category. I like the concept, even if it has been done before… a lot. Still the thing that I like so much about this first issue is that… everything that can go wrong does. It’s like starting off Star Wars by watching Empire Strikes Back. Sure you may be jumping into the middle, you may not know who all of these characters are… but it leaves with everything in such peril that you really wanna know what comes next.

Let’s just hope that Legion Lost has a better answer than George Lucas… because Ewoks suck.

Art: The art is… okay. It is bright, colorful, and you can tell characters apart. But honestly… it just didn’t stand out for me, which may be what kills this series to be honest. It honestly comes off as generic enough, but without art that will get someone to pick it up at comic store… then this series is doomed.

Verdict: It is hard to tell how this series is going to do in the future. While the premise has been done before, it is still an interesting one, and perhaps this comic can do something interesting with it. So will I be reading it? Well… maybe. This series will have to sell me on the next issue. So far I am curious, but the series doesn’t have anything that sets it far enough apart yet. So maybe the future holds greatness for this series, maybe it hold more of the same… or maybe it holds ewoks.

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23. Mister Terrific “Looks like a space biker riding three snooker balls.”

Actually a simple “Thanks black guy, for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor” will do.

Okay, I love this character. I have seen him once or twice in other books, but this issue firmly cemented him for me… why? Because as completely unbelievable as it is that someone like him exists, he is incredibly human.

Mister Terrific will quite proudly tell you he is the world’s third smartest man, an atheist, and a firm believer in SCIENCE!!!!! This issue gives us Mister Terrific’s origin, which is very simple honestly but I felt was very well executed. He loses his wife in a traffic accident(cue atheism) and ends up diving into his work… and then realizing that isn’t enough. So he decides to kill himself. Then his son shows up… from the future. His son tells him that he can change the world for the better, but he has to live to do it. His superpower is his wealth and super-intelligence… I mean the guy keeps his homebase in a pocket dimension… he is like a likable Reed Richards! Which I never thought was possible. Huh, wait… Mister Terrific… Mister Fantastic, wait that can’t be a coincidence…. huh, anyways…

As for the threat in this issue? Well something is causing people to become smarter… but also sociopathic assholes. As far as threats go… I found it pretty lacking. I mean we see a guy get smart and then go outside and kill a homeless man because he contributed nothing and thus it was illogical for him to continue draining the world’s resources. And honestly I just don’t feel too threatened by the whole thing, especially when there is very little mystery about what’s behind it seeing as how the end teaser tells us that we will be introduced to a supervillain named Brainstorm… yeah.

Still the issue gets points from me because it referenced Doctor Who… Hey it’s my blog and my review, I can give points for whatever I like!

Art: This book’s art was all over the place. Some panels like the one above are gorgeous. Generally the more exciting scenes get some really great art… but things slack elsewhere with transforming faces during conversations on other pages. So it ends up evening itself out as okay, but if the artist improves over the run of this series then it could be something to be reckoned with.

Verdict: It’s always nice to read a superhero book and find that they are an actual character and not just tights and special effects, and that is what makes this book work. I suggest this one to everyone, give it a chance. I will be following this series.

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24. Red Lanterns “The universe cries out for vengeance.”

This comic opens with a Red Lantern cat spewing blood, and scalping space pirates.

Okay do I really need to say anything else? Well, actually yes… yes I do.  Atrocitus, the leader of the Red Lanterns and co-winner of most obvious villain name alongside Sinestro, makes this book worth checking out. See the thing is that I do not like the Red Lantern Corps at all. They are fueled by wrath, and spend their time with blood flowing out of their mouths, barely able to talk, shouting rage. They are just… boring. Atrocitus appears to be the only one who kept his intelligence, and honestly has a very interesting arc inside this single issue. The leader of the Red Lanterns was one a psychiatrist, and then his whole planet got wiped out. He created the Red Lanterns and was able to ignite his pain and rage as power… but time goes on and his rage is lessening, the pain isn’t as bright anymore and as such he isn’t as powerful. So there he is, losing his power as time goes on and he has surrounded himself with berserkers who only respect power.

Over this issue, Atrocitus discovers its not mindless rage that is the purpose of the Corps, but vengeance. There is so much needless pain in the universe, and that is what fuels the anger and rage. The purpose of the Corps is to avenge that pain, to make those responisble accountable for their actions. So essentially… Atrocitus decides to make the Red Lanterns into a super-powered squadron of Punishers… HELL. YES.

The fact that they actually have given this Corps a purpose makes them actually interesting, something I didn’t at all expect. Still there are problems on the horizon as one of the more powerful Lanterns is starting a coup against Atrocitus… which while making sense and is good drama for the story, is hard to take serious due to the fact that she can barely speak and has blood spewing out of her mouth constantly. It just makes her well… silly.

Art: The art here is okay… but the blood pouring out of their mouths and the way that the leader of the coup is always shown standing so that it shows off her ass… yeah comic, you lose points for that.

Verdict: This is an interesting comic because it succeeds in spite of itself. Surprisingly Atrocitus is a very interesting character who is honestly justified in his anger, and the idea that he could turn the Red Lanterns towards a purpose is very interesting… despite the Red Lanterns themselves not having any character. For me this one is worth continuing because of the main character and because if we are lucky Atrocitus will just wipe out the other cast for being insubordinate… except the cat… he can keep the kitty.

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25. Resurrection Man “I die, the plane crashes, everyone dies. Then half an hour later I un-die.”

Umm… okay so stuff happens in this book, but how to put it…

Okay so at the start of the issue, our hero is dead. Then he comes back to life… and has the power of magnetism. Apparently this is our hero’s ability. He comes back to life if killed, each time with a new superpower, which is REALLY cool. As for the rest of the book… umm.

Okay so he gets on a plane… and this blonde sits next to him… and turns into… an angel? I guess. Anyway they fight… stuff happens. Okay honestly, this book was confusing. It tries to have a lot of mystery but it is holding all the cards, so I came away more confused than curious. Mostly the series has a main character has a character with a really cool ability. Again that is all I can tell you about him as well… I can’t think of anything at all you learn about his personality from this issue.

Honestly it’s strange, because I enjoyed the issue, but when I sit down to write this review… I am having a hard time thinking of anything positive to say for it.

Art: I disliked the artwork in this book. It has some merit but is far too dark and could use a better colorist. Also character’s physiques can change from panel to panel. There were some cool designs here, the “angel” was very creepy, still this book needs to work on its art.

Verdict: A cool power does not a cool comic book make. I will not be following this one.

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26. Suicide Squad “You’re mission is to wipe out the entire stadium. Six thousand people. You have six hours.”

Deadshot screams as a masked goon places a blowtorch to a metal bucket on his chest. The bucket is removed to reveal a pair of rats, still smoking from the heat. The rats have been attempting to find a respite from the heat by clawing and biting their way into Deadshot’s chest. So as far as first pages go…. DAMN.

For those unfamiliar with the Suicide Squad(aka Task Force X), it is an ever changing roster of supervillains on death row who are given dangerous missions by the government in exchange for a reduction in their sentence. If they manage to survive long enough they will be set free… but most die horribly in the field. I have always loved the idea for this team and I like the crew we get this time. Two members of the Secret Six are present, but don’t be mistaken into thinking that this is a sequel to that marvelous series, it appears to be its own beast. So our roster contains Deadshot, Harley Quinn, King Shark, El Diablo, Savant, Black Spider, and Voltaic. If you don’t know some of these characters, than it is fine as most of them get an intro here, and others… well… everyone wears a red shirt in the Suicide Squad so maybe it’s good not to get too attached to any of them. In true series fashion, they lose a member in this first issue and death is promised in the next issue as well.

This is not a series for children. This issue has a lot of blood and torture… but I am completely fine with that here. This is a series about supervillains doing there thing, there should be death and blood. While I have issue with the amount of gore in books like Detective Comics, its absence would seem odd here. This first issue serves mainly as an introduction so we don’t get to see our team in action yet, so while its not at all an action packed issue, I found it far from boring.

Art: Excellent art here with a lot of new character designs. I really liked Deadshot’s new look, his helmet getting a very cool redesign. King Shark is now a hammerhead which is… well fine, but seems a bit unnecessary. Harley Quinn is now showing… a LOT of skin, which while is unabashedly a fan service move… I really can’t complain because its Harley showing a lot of skin. Biggest points lost in the redesign is for Amanda Waller, who used to be this big imposing woman called “The Wall” who now looks like a model. Still it wouldn’t surprise me for that to be a fake out and the real Amanda pulling strings from somewhere, but as is, that redesign was pointless.

Verdict: If you are fine with ultraviolence and like supervillains, this a comic for you. While many readers like me are looking for something to fulfill our Secret Six needs, this isn’t the book… at least not yet. So if you are coming into this one, let it be its own book and enjoy it for its own merits and not judge it by what it could have been. I personally will be going along for this crazy ride.

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