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Comic Review – Batman: Damned #1

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The Joker is dead and Batman killed him. That’s the story the local news is running with but Commissioner Gordon doesn’t believe it. Partly because the one witness is a crazed homeless man who is either off his medication or too heavily medicated. But mostly because he believes in Batman.

Batman, for his part, isn’t sure what to believe. It’s all a blur before he woke up in an ambulance as an EMT was trying to pull off his cowl. He was wounded. He was delirious. He was wanted. And just when the night couldn’t possibly get any worse, John Constantine showed up.

There’s more to this murder than meets the eye, and like it or not, The Dark Knight Detective needs help. But can he afford the rather questionable assistance that comes from dealing with The Laughing Magician? And even if he can’t, does he have any other choice?

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When it was announced that DC Comics would be starting a new imprint – Black Label – exclusively for superhero stories set outside of the main continuity that could deal with more mature themes, I was a little bit skeptical. For every work like Watchmen or The Sandman that has pushed the boundaries of the comic book medium and proven that “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!”, there have been roughly 100 graphic novels published by creators for whom “mature content” means “blood, cursing and naked people.”

Brian Azzarello is one these creators, but that is not why I find most of his work distasteful. Azzarello is also one of those writers who bends established characters to fit the stories be wants to tell rather than writing stories to suit the characters. And while a writer could potentially tell some interesting stories by subverting expectations, Azzarello only seems to do it for shock value. Like a stage-magician, Azzarello uses distraction to keep your attention where he wants it. In this case, sudden curse words, surprise cameos and the shadowy outline of Bat-wang serve to distract you from the stunning secret of Batman: Damned #1 – nothing really happens in this book.

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Oh. events occur, but there’s nothing that happens which seems to have anything to do with the plot as described on DC Comics’ website. Weird things happen, but there’s no indication what any of it has to do with anything, especially John Constantine’s rambling narration. The whole thing comes off like a rejected script from Azzarello’s run on Hellblazer, which centered on John Constantine wandering the United States as weird things happened and John just observed them happening, when he wasn’t using magic to troll the Muggles.

This ran completely counter to John’s previous portrayals, where what power he had was used sparingly and he was much more inclined to use his wits than a spell to get out of a jam. Come to think of it, I recall that Azzarello’s Batman stories were far more interested in the villains than The Dark Knight, with Batman coming off as something of an empty suit. I mention this because Batman: Damned has a scene where a naked Bruce Wayne literally fights an empty Bat-suit.

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The damnable thing (see what I did there?) is that the artwork of this comic is as fantastic as the story is non-existent. Lee Bermejo is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Batman artists ever and he also did a great two-issue story for Hellblazer when Mike Carey was writing it. Unfortunately, his most famous works are his collaborations with Azzarello.

It is a rare thing for me, as a writer, to recommend a comic but say you should only look at the pictures. Yet that is how I suggest you handle Batman: Damned. Beremejo’s gift for storytelling is such that you can follow along with all the plot relevant portions of the story without reading the dialogue. Even the random bits seem to make a good deal more sense if you ignore the text. I’d also suggest tracking down a graphic novel called Batman: Noel – a Christmas special which Lee Bermejo wrote and painted, which is far better on every level than this Damned book.

5/10

Batman: Damned #1 releases on September 19, 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 – Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester Special #1

Catwoman Tweety Sylvester Special 1 Cover

It seems obvious that the recent rush of Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes crossover books was motivated more by marketing than good sense. One can picture some junior executive in the Warner Brothers offices trying to sell his bosses on the idea… ‘We own the cartoon characters!  We own the superheroes!  We put them together! It’s gold!’ Or it would be if the average kid today read comic books or remembered the Looney Tunes characters.

Despite this and the general comic reading audience’s refusal to take this sort of thing seriously, some writers managed to pan gold out of the premise. Batman/Elmer Fudd was a neat Film Noir thriller that turned everyone’s favorite hunter into a hired gun in Gotham City. The Snagglepuss Chronicles used Hanna Barbera’s animal characters to spin a complex tale of repression in the age of McCarthyism. And someone has got to be buying Scooby Apocalypse for it to have lasted over two years.

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This brings us to Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester Special #1 – a book which opens with a witches convention and a wager between Witch Hazel and The Kindly Ones as to what is the more witchy animal – birds or cats. This leads to Sylvester and Tweety being sent into the DC Universe and having one night to seek out a champion as they settle the matter once and for all, with the stakes being “reality as they know it!” And the lives of every bird or cat in the universe, along with any superhero and super-villain with a bird or cat theme.

‘No prethure’, as Sylvester would thay.

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Whoever had the idea for this story, I know the title had to have been conceived by one of the aforementioned marketing weasels because they buried the lead. Yes, Catwoman is in this story. So are Tweety and Sylvester. But none of the promotional material for this book mentioned one very important fact: Black Canary is in it.

Oh, I’m well aware that the general public knows who Catwoman is far better than they know who Black Canary is and that she has more star power as it were. But if you wanted to make some serious clams selling this book to people who buy comics, all you need to say is that Gail Simone is writing Black Canary again and watch the Birds of Prey fans come running.

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Certainly DC Comics fans will get the most value out of this book, if only for the fun of spotting all the references artist Inaki Miranda snuck into the background. Those who don’t enjoy this sort of game will have to content themselves with the well-written story and gorgeous artwork that somehow finds a way to translate a Tweety and Sylvester brawl into a more realistic art style. Not to mention the amazing colors of Eva De La Cruz!

So even if you’re not the sort of person who likes “funny animal” books, Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester Special #1 is well worth checking out.  And if you are the sort of person who likes “funny animal” books, you’ll love the back-up story, told in a traditional Looney Tunes animation style, where Tweety has to defend Granny’s home from Catwoman.

10/10

Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester #1 releases on August 29, 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.

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Comic Review – Pearl #1

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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.

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Comic Review – Plastic Man #1

Plastic Man #1 Cover

Patrick “Eel” O’Brian was as slippery and slimy as the animal that prompted his underworld nickname. He was a career criminal. A con artist. A petty thief. A cheap thug. The sort of sordid individual whose best effort to clean up and straighten out his life ended with him taking a job as the night manager of a seedy superhero-themed strip club in the worst part of Cole City.

The funny thing is that Eel O’Brian has been reborn. At least, he’s pretty sure that he died. Or at least felt like he was dead. Or maybe he just wished that he was dead after he was exposed to some weird chemical and his former partners in crime tossed him out of the getaway car following a botched robbery .

Whatever happened to him, Eel O’Brian has seen the error of his ways and is ready to bounce back in a big way. He doesn’t remember much about that night, but he distinctly remembers that a security guard died during the robbery that turned Eel into a nigh-invulnerable, shape-shifting super-freak. And Eel is going to track down his former friends and deliver some justice. Somehow.

That was his plan, anyway. Unfortunately Fate, as represented by an agent of the covert organization called Spyral, has bigger plans for Eel O’Brian. Plans that involve a sinister cabal of the most brilliant and evil geniuses in existence and their plot to take over the world. Only one man has the skills and powers needed to infiltrate their organization while remaining beneath their notice… and unfortunately for us all, that man is Eel O’Brian.

I should note something for the benefit of those readers who are parents who are mostly familiar with Plastic Man from his appearances in various cartoons – this is not a kid-friendly comic! This should, perhaps, be obvious, given the fact that the cover features a blood-soaked body. Then again, you never can tell with some people, so let me say again that the general wacky tone of this book is more in line with Deadpool than anything you’ll see on Justice League Action, Batman: The Brave and The Bold or The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show.

This should be no surprise given that this comic is written by Gail Simone, who got her start in mainstream comics writing Deadpool before going on to horrify decent people everywhere with both volumes of the villain-focused series Secret Six. (Fun Fact: Superiors, the strip club Eel O’Brian manages, is a nod to a business frequented by the main characters in Secret Six.) What is surprising, however, is how neatly Simone has updated the classic origins of Plastic Man for the reality of DC Comics Rebirth.

By way of a for instance, Plastic Man was originally recruited as an FBI Agent after acquiring his powers. Given Eel O’Brian’s criminal record and lack of qualifications, that would never happen today. Recruiting him for Spyral, on the other hand, is a brilliant conceit, given their established history of employing vigilantes and other people with questionable backgrounds. This is one fine detail of many that makes Simone’s script a neat nod to Plastic Man’s origins as well as a fun read on its own terms

Sadly, the artwork by Adriana Melo doesn’t quite equal up to the writing. Melo’s pencils are fantastic, but some of her inks are overly thick and give the finished art a weight that seems at odds with the light aesthetic that Plastic Man demands. Yet these inks perfectly suit the more Noir-based scenes detailing Eel O’Brian’s efforts to play detective. Altogether, the art works more often than it doesn’t, even ignoring the many sight gags Melo sneaks into the background, such as Eel wearing a DC Superhero Girls T-shirt. The colors are nicely applied as well.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of Plastic Man and/or dark comedy, you’ll want to pick this one up.

8/10

Plastic Man #1 releases on June 13, 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 – Justice League #1

Justice League #1 Cover In the wake of the invasion by The Dark Multiverse, the destruction of The Source Wall and the coming of The Omega Titans, The Justice League have expanded their ranks. Though a core team still exists, most of The World’s Finest Heroes have been recruited to act in a reserve capacity to face those threats even greater than The League at large.

One of those threats – six teams of genetically altered prehistoric humans, dubbed Neoanderthals – have taken the world by storm, attacking by land, sea and air. Worse yet, some new being – a Totality containing all of the power of The Source Wall – is coming right for Earth. All of this news comes in the face of an announcement by The Green Lanterns that, by their best estimates, the multiverse has less than a year before it collapses completely!

There is only one group that can stop the coming disaster. And it isn’t the Justice League. Not if Lex Luthor has anything to say about it….

“Epic” is the only word that adequately describes Justice League #1. I’m using the word in its classical definition, meaning a long poem detailing a series of heroic exploits. Though the more modern definition referring to something impressive also applies.

Justice League #1 is the capstone of the tale Scott Snyder has been spinning for most of the past year in Dark Nights: Metal and No Justice. It’s too early to say, but based on this first issue we may be treated to the greatest Justice League comic since Grant Morrison’s legendary JLA run from nearly 20 years ago.

It’s hard to put a finger on precisely why Snyder’s story resonates as well as it does, but two noteworthy aspects of the comic are its treatment of Martian Manhunter and the clever ways in which Snyder utilizes classic elements of DC Comics mythology to create something new. For instance, the opening sequence describes the newly-built Hall of Justice and how it has a museum that is open to the public but the portion of the building utilized by The Justice League is telepathically hidden behind a door that is visible only to those people Martian Manhunter allows to see it.

Likewise, we learn that the basic design of The Hall of Justice was inspired by a Martian symbol that J’onn J’onzz found fitting in describing their goals. While not literally translating as “justice”, the symbol refers to an effort to progress beyond the natural laws regarding what is or is not possible and impose a higher standard upon reality. All of this helps to establish the power and influence of a character long associated with The Justice League in the comics, who was largely neglected by The New 52 reboot seven years ago.

The artists treat this grand story with the reverence it deserves. Jim Cheung’s character designs are amazing and the action of the various fight sequences flows naturally from panel to panel. Mark Morales’s inks properly enhance the original pencils without obscuring them. And the colors by Tomeu Morey are brilliant.

If you haven’t been reading Justice League, this is the perfect time to start. Despite building off of all of Scott Snyder’s more recent works, this book is surprisingly friendly to new readers. It is truly epic in every sense of the word.

9/10

Justice League #1 releases on June 6, 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.