Pearl #1 Banner

Comic Review – Pearl #1

Pearl #1 Cover

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”

That line and variants of it have been credited to many people over the years. Yogi Berra. Mark Twain. George Bernard Shaw. Even Honest Abe Lincoln! And as is usually the case with this sort of line, none of them can be credited as the original source.

The line was originally written by a man named Artemus Ward, who I was surprised to find out was a 19th century humorist and not the lead character of an urban fantasy series about a wizard detective. Sadly, it’s probably the most famous funny thing he ever said, but nobody today ever quotes him on it.

I mention this bit of trivia because that quote was the first thing that came to mind after I finished reading Pearl #1, as I wondered who the target audience for this book was and who might enjoy it.

Pearl #1 is the first new title produced for Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld imprint, since he set up shop at DC Comics. It is also his first collaboration with artist Michael Gaydos since the two of them worked on a little series for Marvel Comics called Alias, which introduced the character of Jessica Jones. You might have heard of her from a show on Netflix that was rather popular and well-received.

So what is Pearl about? Beyond “a girl named Pearl” that’s a bit hard to say after just one issue. All we get are a simple series of factoids – she’s a tattoo artist, she’s an albino, she’s part of a Yakuza family in San Francisco and she’s uncommonly good with a gun. As is typical with Bendis’ writing, he’s taking his sweet time letting the main character’s backstory unfold and there’s no internal monologue. This places a greater burden on Bendis’ partner to make the characters’ reactions clear through their facial expressions, but usually leads to some amazing artwork.

Unfortunately, this is a burden that Gaydos is ill-equipped to handle. Gaydos sports a fine, photo-realistic style but he’s never been very good at drawing expressive faces. Most of his characters look bored or stoned, even in the middle of a gun fight! A larger problem with the artwork is the color tints Gaydos lays over each page, which make it unclear that Pearl is an albino until another character outright tells us she is one.

In fact, most of the story of this issue is unclear unless you’ve read the interview where Bendis explains the ideas behind Pearl, which basically come down to him wanting to do a Yakuza story that avoided the usual cliches and how nobody ever makes albino characters the protagonists in popular fiction. Unfortunately, Bendis has yet to give Pearl much of a character beyond being an albino and there’s nothing much to the Yakuza elements of the story so far beyond the usual cliches.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy Pearl much, but I was also equally unimpressed by Alias when it first came out. That’s fine. Some people enjoy Bendis’ and Gaydos’ work. I am not one of them. That is my right and if you think they’re awesome, more power to you.

Which brings us back to that quote – “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”  If you’re the sort of person who likes Bendis’ and Gaydos’ work, you’ll almost certainly like Pearl. If, like me, you’re not a fan of decompressed storytelling and the Bendis/Gaydos ouvere, this probably won’t change your mind.

One other note of trivia: this issue also contains a reprint of a story called Citizen Wayne, which has the distinction of being the only thing Brian Michael Bendis wrote for DC Comics before being signed to an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics for the better part of two decades. Coincidentally, Michael Gaydos was also the artist on this piece, which is basically the movie Citizen Kane only with Bruce Wayne reworked into the Charles Foster Kane role and Clark Kent as the reporter trying to figure out why Bruce Wayne’s last words were “Rosebud.” Bat-fans may be tempted to pick up this issue for that reason, given that the original issue has become something of a pricey  collectors’ item.

5/10

Pearl #1 releases on August 15, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Fantastic Four #1 Banner

Comic Review – Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1 Cover

It’s been a rough couple of years for the Fantastic Four. Both in the real world and in the Marvel Universe. The on-going battle between Marvel Studios and Fox over the film rights to the franchise saw Marvel Comics stop publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic in a bid to deny any sort of cross-promotion to the 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Given how infamously awful that film turned out to be, they needn’t have bothered, but that’s another story.

Regardless, the past few years have seen Reed and Susan Richards lost in space, Ben Grimm joining the Guardians of the Galaxy and Johnny Storm living with The Inhumans. They also saw Doctor Doom reinventing himself as a new Iron Man during the time when Tony Stark was presumed dead.

Thankfully, with Fox recently sold to Disney, the time has come for Marvel Comics’ First Family and their greatest enemy to return!

Fantastic Four #1 Page 1

It spoils little to say that we don’t actually get to see the glorious return of the Fantastic Four promised by the cover in this issue. The first steps are taken, however, to see The Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic reunited with The Human Torch and The Thing. That’s not really what this issue is about, however. What this comic is about is reminding us of who these characters are and what made The Fantastic Four so revolutionary.

While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would go on to refine the formula more strongly with later creations, Fantastic Four was the first superhero book to challenge the usual character cliches of the genre and develop its main characters into more distinct personalities. Reed Richards, for instance, looked like the usual stock scientist character common to Atomic Age science-fiction but was also a pompous jerk. The hot-tempered and impatient Johnny Storm seemed like a more realistic teenager than the clean-cut, golly-gee Robin and Bucky. The Thing was a noble monster – Frankenstein’s creation in orange rock. And Invisible Woman… well, eventually she became a more proactive heroine. (Sorry, Stan! Gotta be honest!)

Dan Slott’s love for these characters is apparent and he does a fantastic job of handling both The Thing and The Human Torch, who are the focus of most of the first story. The artwork by Sara Pichelli, with colors by Marte Gracia, is vibrant and animated. The story and the artwork feed each other perfectly, balanced yet piercing, like a finely made sword.

Fantastic Four #1 Page 7

Where this issue truly excels, however, is in its back-up story. It is here that Slott and artist Simone Bianchi begin to restore Victor Von Doom to his proper place as the greatest hero in the Marvel Universe. Hero? Yes, you read that right, True Believers! Because nowhere did Lee and Kirby more masterly subvert the order of superhero comics than with their creation of Doctor Doom – a villain who was, in many ways, more heroic than the “heroes” he routinely fought against.

The story here is a prime example of this, focusing on a Latverian peasant who dares to enter into the long-vacated Castle Doomstadt, after spying a light inside of it. It is here that she finds Doom, wounded in body and spirit, lamenting as only the truly great can after a fall from grace. Yet Doom puts his cares aside, after the woman informs him that the forces that have taken over Latveria in his absence now threaten to destroy his people with Doom’s own technology.

Fantastic Four #1 Page 39

Slott writes Doom in a Shakespearean fashion, with all the gravitas that the character demands. Bianchi’s artwork proves a perfect match for this dialogue, possessing a similar dark complexity. Even those who dismiss Doom as a mere villain will find it hard to reconcile that portrait, forged by lesser writers, when they consider his actions here.

Fantastic Four #1 may not bring about the return of Marvel Comics’ first superhero team. It does, however, take a solid step in that direction. It’s also a darn good read and well worth picking up.

9/10

Fantastic Four #1 releases on August 8, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Sandman Universe #1

Sandman Universe 1 Cover

The only real flaw with Sandman Universe #1 is a presumption that the reader is already familiar with the universe of The Sandman. This is a fairly safe assumption, however, as the original Sandman series by Neil Gaiman and a host of fantastic artists is one of the few undisputed classics of the graphic novel medium. Thankfully, what little information the book itself doesn’t give you is easily looked up on-line. But in the interest of speed and keeping you reading, I will explain…

There are seven beings called The Endless. They are personifications of forces we believe need to have an intelligence behind them, like death or destiny. So there is a Death and a Destiny. And there is a Dream, who is known by many names, including The Sandman. Dream is the personification of creation and imagination. He is the Prince of Stories and his realm, The Dreaming, is the place where gods are born, ideas are forged and anything is possible.

Sandman Universe 1 Page 1

The Dreaming is also home to many strange beings who came from elsewhere to become a part of its stories. There are the brothers Cain and Able (yes, THAT Cain and Able), who safeguard Mysteries and Secrets and the houses that hold them. There is Eve the raven woman, who guards her own sinister house when it is not a sinister cave. At the center of it all, in the ghostly castle at the center of The Dreaming, lies the Library of Dreams where every story ever written and never written can be found. And at the center of that may be found Lucien – the Librarian of Dreams and the servant Dream leaves in charge of his realm when he goes off to do business in The Waking World.

As the issue opens, Lucien is informed that a crack has appeared in the sky of The Dreaming and the people are fearful that history may be about to repeat itself, as The Dreaming was all but destroyed in a similar manner once after Dream was bound and held captive for several decades. With Dream not responding to Lucien’s summons, Matthew The Raven – the messenger of Dream – goes forth to find his master by following the magical bond that connects them. This leads Matthew into The Waking World and through a number of scenes that suggest whatever forces are changing The Dreaming are also altering the rest of reality as well…

Sandman Universe 1 Page 6

What follows sets up the various spin-off series that will make up the new shared reality of the revamped Vertigo Comics universe. Matthew and Lucien will continue to try and solve the mystery of Dream’s disappearance in The Dreaming. The adventures of newbie magician Tim Hunter (another of Gaiman’s creations) will continue in a new Books of Magic series. A new house, overseen by the Vodou deity Erzulie, will be introduced to The Dreaming in House of Whispers. Finally Lucifer, the fallen angel and one-time ruler of Hell, will once again headline his own series that will have nothing to do with the recent Fox television series that was VERY loosely based on the original Lucifer series that spun out of The Sandman.

Of the four stories we see here, it is the one setting up The Dreaming that attracts the most attention, largely because it promises to directly continue the story introduced here. It is Lucifer that is the hardest to get a read on, being so alien in reference even to those who read the most recent Lucifer series by Holly Black and Richard Kadrey. Strangely enough, House of Whispers looks the most intriguing despite barely tying into the narrative of this issue, thanks to some eye-catching artwork. Even the weak link – the section with Tim Hunter – is not bad and it suffers only because of how short it is and how disconnected it is from the main story, with Matthew The Raven basically saying “This looks interesting, but I can’t stop to help this kid.”

So what’s the verdict? If you’re a fan of The Sandman and Neil Gaiman, Sandman Universe #1 will prove a welcome return to form and an exciting promise of what dreams may come. Based on what we see here, this will be one of those rare anniversary events that will live up to the legend of what inspired it. If this is your first time venturing into the Vertigo Universe, you should be fine, but you may want to treat yourself to the original Sandman books that lay the foundation for what we see here anyway.

8/10

Sandman Universe #1 releases on August 8, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Infinity Wars #1

Infinity Wars #1 Cover

I must confess that I’m not a big fan of the the cosmic side of Marvel Comics’ universe. No disrespect intended to Jim Starlin and everyone who enjoys his grandiose space operas but it just isn’t my cup of nutrimatically replicated dried leaves infused with boiling water. And Infinity Wars is a prime example of why that is so.

First of all, if you haven’t been reading the many Infinity series that Marvel Comics has been publishing this year to build off of the hype of Avengers: Infinity War, you may find yourself largely lost. Despite being largely promoted as the perfect entry point into the ongoing saga of The Infinity Stones, there’s a lot of backstory to unpack and a lot of characters who will be totally unknown to casual readers, much less those seeking an entry point into the comics having only seen the movies. The only concession made to new readers is a cast list and chart showing who currently holds the six Infinity Stones.

Infinity Wars Cast Page

Even this guide offers more questions than it answers. While fans of Marvel’s Netflix series will know who Turk Barrett is (i.e. the unluckiest crook in New York), most of his crew is made up of villains who haven’t appeared in the movies or TV shows, such as The Spot and Tombstone. Even this amounts to little, as they’re mostly background fodder for when the inevitable fighting begins.

Ignoring that, there’s some drastic changes from the movies that may confuse new readers. As the issue opens, The Guardians of the Galaxy have broken up and their membership has largely separated. Also, Groot is either now speaking with an extensive vocabulary or the comic is just automatically translating everything he says. It isn’t really clear and that’s the biggest problem with this book as an entry-point — there’s too many differences from the movies to be comfortable to newbies and too many things it is assumed that the reader already knows.

Ironically, those who have been keeping up with the on-going Infinity saga of the past year are likely to find this book largely repetitive. Until the very end, there’s no real new information introduced. Most of the comic’s story is concerned with running down who currently holds the Infinity Stones and their gathering at Doctor Strange’s request to discuss spreading the stones out so there aren’t as many on Earth if Thanos comes looking for them.

Infinity Wars #1 Page 19

The book’s one saving grace is its artwork, which is uniformly fantastic. Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin’s work here invites comparison to Alex Ross’ art in Kingdom Come, being full of detail and rendering everything in an epic scope. Unfortunately, while the story flows well between panels, most readers may find themselves having to stop and Google certain character names or look up a synopsis of an earlier storyline.

Is Infinity Wars #1 worth picking up? Certainly, if you enjoy the cosmic side of Marvel Comics or are highly invested in learning how The Infinity Stones will be forever changed. Casual readers and newcomers will have a harder time without investing some time in studying Recent Marvel History 101. If you don’t mind a little homework, this is a rewarding book with fantastic artwork, but it’s hardly the marvelous entry point to the Marvel Universe it’s been promoted as.

5/10

Infinity Wars #1 releases on August 1, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Justice League Dark #1 Banner

Comic Review – Justice League Dark #1

Justice League Dark #1

Ever since the invasion from The Dark Multiverse and the destruction of The Source Wall that marked the boundary between universes, magic has ceased to act reliably. Now simple spells summon monsters from beyond reality and the mages of Earth fear that the nature of magic itself may be changing to reflect the broken universe.

It is a mystery that Diana of Themyscira would solve but she does not know where to begin. Despite her inherently magical nature, the mages of Earth do not see her as part of their world. Even Zatanna, the one magician with whom Wonder Woman is friendly, is standoffish on the subject and The Oblivion Bar – once home away from home to mages in need of refuge or a drink – is all but empty, as Earth’s mages seek shelter from the storm they sense coming.

Still, heroes are needed. And if the mages will not act, the outcasts of the magical world will.

An Amazon Princess empowered by the gods of Ancient Greece. A scientist turned monster seeking redemption within the mysteries of magic. A swamp monster connected to a power he barely comprehends. A stage magician just now starting to understand the true magic she commands. And an an immortal talking chimp with a magical sword, who owns a bar and works as a private investigator. It’s an unlikely group but they may be all that stands between us and total destruction.

Justice League Dark #1 Page 1

Those who are familiar with James Tynion IV’s work on Detective Comics will not be at all surprised to find that Justice League Dark is cut from the same cloth, despite featuring an entirely different cast. Tynion’s greatest gifts as a writer are his ear for dialogue and the ability to balance an ensemble. Both talents are well-displayed here, as we are introduced to the line-up of the new Justice League Dark.

Tynion also has a great gift for delivering exposition naturally and subtly working references to classic comics into the narrative. Fans of Shadowpact (the series that was the director ancestor of the first Justice League Dark series) and Tynion’s Constantine The Hellblazer series will appreciate some of the nods that this story includes. There’s even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths!

Justice League Dark #1 Page 2

The artwork is of equally excellent quality, produced by Tynion’s former partners on Detective Comics. Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez were a wonderful art team and prove as adept at depicting otherworldly creatures and magical way-stations as they were the thugs and dark alleys of Gotham City. Martinez lends an aura of mystery to everything he draws, resulting in sights I never thought I’d see within the pages of a comic, like a chimp with an enigmatic stare. Fernandez’s finishes, paired with Brad Anderson’s colors, result in some truly atmospheric panels where the fire light on the page seems to radiate heat.

Justice League Dark #1 may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I loved it. And I think you’ll love it too if you’re a fan of magical heroes, Wonder Woman, unique ensembles, good, dark artwork, John Bloody Constantine, chimps, detectives, chimps who are detectives or have been following the on-going collapse of the DC Comics Universe since No Justice.

10/10

Justice League Dark #1 releases on July 25, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – The Life Of Captain Marvel #1

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 Cover

Before she turned 30, USAF Major Carol Danvers was a top-notch pilot, a highly-decorated intelligence agent and the head of security for NASA. It was in this capacity that she befriended an alien named Mar-Vell and was caught in the explosion of a piece of advanced technology that gave her unparalleled superpowers.

Since that time, she has joined The Avengers and the led them. She’s battled alcoholism and her teammates. She has gone by many names and had her powers change more than once.

Now, she is known as Earth’s Mightiest Hero – Captain Marvel. But before she was Captain Marvel or Ms. Marvel or even Major Danvers, she was “Beans” Danvers. Before she was a hero, she was a tomboy. Before she was saving the world on a weekly basis, she was an ordinary girl from the Boston suburbs, who liked The Red Sox, science and playing with her brothers.

And before that… are a lot of things she’d rather not remember.

When a bout of PTSD and repressed memories during a fight leaves Carol struggling to breathe, it is suggested that she take some time off from saving the world. This prompts a visit to Harpswell Sound, Maine – the small town her family visited every summer and the current home of her mother and brother, Joe. It is here that Carol must face a battle where all her powers are useless and a new tragedy that will change her life forever.

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 Page 1

The Life of Captain Marvel #1 is that rarest of all origin stories, capable of informing new readers while simultaneously showing long-time fans something they haven’t seen before. I know something of Carol Danvers’ background and to the best of my knowledge, her father was never depicted as physically abusive before this story. It does fit the facts of what came before, however, as Joe Danvers was incredibly cruel toward his only daughter, belittling her ambitions as pointless because “girls can’t do that” and choosing to send her brother to college instead of her, despite her having better grades.

Margaret Stohl – most famous for her work as a young-adult author, co-writing the Beautiful Creatures series with Kami Garcia – does a fantastic job of balancing the story between the flashbacks of Carol’s troubled past and her current day encounters with her family as she tries to come to terms with how utterly complicated her family life was and her guilt over walking out on them to live her own life. What’s truly impressive is how Stohl subtly works in some nods to older comics that long-time fans of Carol’s character will appreciate (such as Carol’s friendship with fellow recovering alcoholic, Tony Stark) without dragging down the narrative to the point that new readers will be lost in the shuffle. There’s not a lot of action in this issue, but as a character-driven drama, it’s first-class.

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 Page 2

 

The artwork is equally impressive, with different teams handling the flashback and modern-day sections of the stories. Marguerite Sauvage renders Carol’s past with muted pastels that hint at the faded nature of her memories while subtly painting it with a false aura of cheer that clashes with some of the depicted events. The modern-day scenes, penciled by Carlos Pacheco with inks by Rafael Fonteriz and colors by Marcio Menyz – show an equal level of skill and care, despite being handled by a team rather than a single artist.

Bottom LIne: Whether you’re a long-time fan of Carol Danvers, or just want to learn more about her before the Captain Marvel movie comes out next year, this is a book you’ll want to pick up!

10/10

The Life Of Captain Marvel #1 releases on July 18, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Superman #1 Banner

Comic Review – Superman #1

Superman #1 Cover

A SPOILER warning before we start. If you haven’t read Man of Steel #1-6, which directly lead into this book, you may want to do so. A summary on the first page of this book will spoil it for you otherwise. So will this review. Please bear that in mind and thank you for reading.

***

Superman is feeling uncharacteristically depressed. His wife and son are beyond his reach, taken into space by his father, Jor-El. His only means of communicating with them has been destroyed, along with The Fortress of Solitude and The Bottle City of Kandor. Between that and his cousin, Supergirl, having gone into space in search of information on Rogol Zaar – the madman who apparently also engineered Krypton’s destruction and is now trapped in The Phantom Zone – Superman is feeling more than a little bit sad and lonely.

Clark Kent isn’t one for sitting around feeling sorry for himself, however, and soon he is throwing himself back into his work and building a new Fortress Of Solitude in a new location. Still, he is troubled by something his father said to him  – about how he should be guiding his adopted home world to a better future rather than devoting himself to fighting crime and natural disasters.

It is a sentiment echoed by J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter, who feels that Earth is approaching the point where it will be ready to enter the galaxy as a power to be reckoned with and that Clark is the person best equipped to guide the way. Thoughts of Superman as a political leader will have to wait, however, as a new crisis threatens the Earth…

Your enjoyment of Superman #1 will ultimately come down to how much you enjoy the writing of Brian Michael Bendis. Personally, I think Bendis is a decent writer, though often overrated and increasingly given toward lapsing into laziness in recent years. That said, there are certain things he does well as a writer and his flaws and talents are both well displayed in Superman #1.

Bendis has a great gift for dialogue and character. Unfortunately, he has also has a tendency to write many characters according to the “types” he enjoys writing. He writes a good snarky genius, but his snarky geniuses all sound like Peter Parker. He writes a good strong woman, but his strong women all sound like Jessica Jones.

It turns out that Bendis writes a good Clark Kent, a good Lois Lane and a good Jonathan Kent. Unfortunately, the best moments of the book – the flashbacks in which Clark thinks on the family he is missing – are all too brief and not the focus of the story. Had Bendis elected to continue the Super-Family stories started by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, this would be a fantastic book.

Sadly, happy families apparently hold little interest for Bendis, who has secluded Clark in order to make him dwell on a question that has been tackled before and tackled far better in earlier stories – Should Superman Run The World?

I think anyone who has played the Injustice series of games can tell you what a tremendously awful idea that is. Ditto anyone who remembers Elliot S! Maggin’s classic Must There Be A Superman? In fact, one of Lex Luthor’s key motivators in the modern age is the fear that Superman will someday try to do that, because that’s what Lex would do if he had that kind of power. It also seems to be the main motivation of new villain Rogol Zaar, who apparently destroyed Krypton over his fears of the Kryptonian people becoming a race of world-conquerors.

It’s possible that Bendis may wind up crafting a fantastic parable out of this conceit, exploring the nature of how power can corrupt even the most noble of men. Unfortunately, all I can think of while reading this book is the ludicrous Superman IV: The Quest For Peace movie, which was also based around showing why Superman shouldn’t involve himself in political matters. And it seems horribly out of character for Martian Manhunter to be pushing Clark to take the lead in preparing humanity to enter a bigger universe – particularly when J’onn is far more qualified to tackle that mission!

Politics and story aside, the artwork for this issue is fantastic and a welcome change after the ever-changing inconsistency of Man of Steel. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are rightly praised as one of the greatest artistic duos since Miller and Janson. The colors by Alex Sinclair are phenomenal and Josh Reed does a great job keeping the word balloons from obscuring the action, despite some lengthy monologues and dialogues.

It remains to be seen where Brian Michael Bendis is ultimately going with his efforts to revitalize Superman. So far, I’ve seen little to justify the belief that he is attempting anything truly revolutionary. Despite this, Superman #1 is a competently handled first issue that sets the stage for the story to come.

6/10

Superman #1 releases on July 11, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Batman #50 Catwoman #1 Banner

Comic Review – Batman #50 & Catwoman #1

Batman #50 Cover

There is no real way to review Catwoman #1 without also discussing Batman #50 and the long awaited wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. The one informs the other, as the cover of Catwoman #1 helpfully informs the reader that they should read Batman #50 before opening it up.

This proves ironic, given that The New York Times spoiled the story of Batman #50 three days before it ever hit the shops! Despite this, I will endeavor to dance around any major spoilers in both books as best I can.

As a tribute to the relationship of Batman and Catwoman and the history of the two characters, Batman #50 is a smashing success, with much of the issue being devoted to Bruce and Selina’s thoughts about one another as we are treated to a historical montage of sorts, illustrated one page at a time, by some of the greatest Batman artists of all time.

As an actual story, however, Batman #50 doesn’t quite work. It’s anticlimactic, to put it mildly. The pageantry far outweighs the actual event. To put it plainly, this book isn’t worth the hype that has been invested in it.

Batman #50 Page 10

Don’t get me wrong. Batman #50 is a beautiful book and there’s some poster-worthy artwork. Even the main story, as illustrated by Mikel Janin looks fantastic. Yet those who have a low tolerance for Tom King’s style of writing, where consistency of character is sacrificed for the sake of the story he wants to tell (as in his recent story where Booster Gold was turned into a complete idiot for the sake of a dark comedy), will not enjoy themselves here.

Ultimately, Batman #50 is a spectacle and nothing more. If you enjoy collectible covers and fine art, it’s well worth picking up. As an actual book, unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired.

4/10.


Catwoman #1 CoverThere is a cruel irony that Catwoman #1 should be so closely tied to Batman #50. Much like how Selina Kyle is so much more interesting as a solo act than when she when she is joined at the hip to Bruce Wayne, so too is this book at its best when it is separated from its ties to Batman #50.

Thankfully, those ties are dealt with early on and we are soon thrown into a high-action adventure, where Selina Kyle is suddenly a wanted woman. It seems that some woman in a cat-suit is killing cops and the police are targeting the most obvious suspect, having also somehow learned Selina’s secret identity!

This is apparently the work of a mysterious new enemy named Riana Creel, whose motivations and reasons for holding a grudge against Catwoman are unclear. Raina is a striking character whose presence immediately grips you and it will be interesting to see her developed in the coming issues.

Catwoman #1 Page 20

Joelle Jones spins a wonderful first issue, which, apart from the first few pages, stands strongly on its own terms, much like Catwoman herself. The artwork – also by Jones – is utterly amazing, with Laura Allred’s colors and Josh Reed’s letters providing the perfect finishes. The story flows naturally and smoothly from panel to panel and its hard to imagine any artist who was better born to draw Catwoman in action than Joelle Jones after reading this issue.

The only imperfection in this diamond is its unfortunate need to be placed in the setting of the fool’s gold ring that is Batman #50. Get past the first few pages, however, and you have one heck of a book that should be on everyone’s subscription list.

9/10

Batman #50 and Catwoman #1 releases on July 4, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Captain America #1 Teaser

Comic Review – Captain America #1

Captain America #1 Cover

Steve Rogers was a loyal American, who wanted to serve his country as a soldier during World War II – not for glory or out of bloodlust, but because Steve Rogers believed in The Dream. The American Dream. The biggest Dream there ever was. The most advanced science of the age gave the sickly Rogers that chance, transforming him from a 98-pound weakling into what was meant to be the first of a platoon of Super Soldiers. Unfortunately, a Nazi saboteur killed the scientist who held the key to the whole process, leaving behind an army of one.

Thankfully, Rogers rose to the challenge and as Captain America he gladly gave his all to fight the scourge of fascism and the forces of HYDRA. Steve Rogers was ready to give his life to the cause as well, but fate had other plans for Captain America. And what should have been a watery grave instead preserved Steve Rogers for decades, until he was revived to find an America divided but still in need of heroes.

America is more divided than ever in the wake of a HYDRA plot that saw them rewriting time so that The Nazis won World War II and Steve Rogers was one of their top agents. Somehow, the true Captain America returned, and defeated his dark doppelganger, but by that point the damage was done.

Captain America #1 Page 15

Now the image of Captain America is one that inspires fear and nausea among the freedom fighters who work to reclaim the world from the HYDRA forces that are on the run. Of course the top brass know the truth of things, but, as always, the politicians are more concerned with the appearances of things than the truth. That is why, when a new organization is formed to protect the world in the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s destruction, Steve Rogers is politely told that there is no place for Captain America in it.

What place is there for The Dream in a military where the likes of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross can be reinstated and pardoned for past crimes because of his leading an team of resisters against HYDRA?

What place is there for The Dream in a government where The White House praises unashamed Nazis like Baron Von Strucker for their actions in fighting HYDRA, which were motivated purely by self-interest and a struggle for positon?

What place is there for The Dream in this new world? Steve Rogers doesn’t know.

What he does know, however, is that there are still people – either brainwashed by HYDRA’s plotting or true believers – who plan to hurt the innocent. And with or without the backing of a team, an organization or a government, Captain America will be there to protect them.

What he doesn’t know, is on the other side of the world, a new group is already plotting against him and The Dream…Captain America #1 Page 36

Unsurprisingly, given his previous politically-charged work on Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates exits the gate at a full run with his first issue of Captain America. While not quite so politically charged as the comics from the 1970s which revealed Richard Nixon as a secret HYDRA agent, there are many metaphorical parallels to be found between this story and current events. Thankfully, the politics don’t get in the way of the action, and there’s a number of fantastic fight sequences throughout the issue.

Leinil Francis Yu seemed an odd choice for an artist on this book at first, boasting a gritty style that is dependent on vague pencils, heavy inks and deep shadows. While this would be inappropriate for a typical four-color kiddie comic, Yu’s aesthetic proves a perfect partner for Coates’ script, lending a perfect aura of ambiguity and mystery to the proceedings.

The only real flaw with Captain America #1 is, sadly, a rather big one. One presumes, when a series starts over with a #1 issue, that there is some base intention of attracting new readers. Yet the greater portion of this comic depends upon knowledge of recent events in the Marvel Universe at large and some of the characters involved. While this is less of a problem in the Internet Age, when one can generally find up-to-date biographies of major comic book characters and summaries of old storylines somewhere, it still puts a burden on the reader that a clever writer could avoid.

To Coates’ credit, he does manage some clever exposition to handle a few plot points. Of course it helps that he can presumably depend on those new readers who were lured in by the Marvel Comics movies to know who General Ross and Bucky Barnes are after Avengers: Infinity War. One can’t say the same of Sharon Carter (despite a role in the Captain America movies), who is now old before her time thanks to the events of a previous storyline. Little is done to explain what happened to her and nothing is done to explain the presence of Selene – former Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, psychic mutant and sorceress – or why Captain America is seemingly fighting multiple clones of the villain Nuke in the opening battle.

In the end, Captain America #1 is well-worth picking up, promising to be the first chapter in a strong story with amazing artwork. Just be prepared to do a bit of additional reading to understand it all.

6/10

Captain America #1 releases on July 4, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Detective Comics #983

Detective Comics #983 Cover

Back in The Dark Age of Comics (roughly 1986 to 2000, by most historians’ reckoning), there was a rather odd divide in the DC Comics Universe. If you read only the comics starring Batman, he was portrayed as a lone Dark Knight and was considered an urban legend by most of the people of Gotham City. Read any other DC Comics’ book, however, and Batman was operating openly as part of The Justice League.

This gave way to an argument, which rages to this day, about what vision of Batman is the “proper” one – the lone vigilante who strikes terror into the hearts of criminals or the patriarch of a like-minded “Batman Family” made up of other masked heroes.

This argument lies at the heart of both subplots in Detective Comics #983 – the first issue by new series’ writer Bryan Hill. Half of the issue’s action concerns itself with Batman seeking out Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning), whom Bruce wants to recruit as the first member of an elite team he is building who can operate “outside” of The Justice League. The other story concerns a new villain, who is targeting Batman’s sidekicks, due to his belief that Batman has become less powerful as he has come to trust more people with aiding him in his mission.

The story with Black Lightning is fairly standard superheroics. One oddity is that the script identifies Black Lighting as operating out of Metropolis, when his most recent reboot for DC Comics Rebirth depicted him as the defender of Cleveland, Ohio. Despite this glitch, Hill has a solid take on the character and writes Jefferson Pierce true to form.

The subplot involving the new villain is more interesting, if only for the metatextual parallels he suggests. The arguments delivered by this unnamed baddie mirror those of Bat-fans who argue that Batman should be a loner and an urban myth and that the DC Rebirth initiative made a mistake by bringing back characters such as the Cassandra Cain Batgirl, The Spoiler, the Helena Bertinelli version of The Huntress and Batwoman or by introducing new characters such as Gotham Girl and The Signal. Indeed, The Signal – a metahuman with light-based precognitive powers whom Batman recruited specifically to protect Gotham City during the day – is the first target of the new villain, along with a young Bat-Fan who became YouTube-famous for talking about how he thinks Batman is inspiring rather than scary.

Gate-keeping fanboy metaphors aside, it’s a brilliant conceit and one that is remarked upon ironically in the artwork, as Batman listens to the villain’s rantings while chasing another criminal down a busy street in full view of dozens of witnesses, all of whom snap pictures with their phones.  This is but one example of the fine detailing that Miguel Mendonca works into the art. His pencils find a perfect partnership with Dianna Egea’s inks and the colors of Adriano Lucas.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming issues. For now, it is enough to say that if you’re a fan of Batman looking for a good entry point into the comics or a fan of Black Lightning from the new TV series, this is a book you’ll definitely want on your subscription list.

8/10

Detective Comics #983 releases on June 27, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.