Comic Review – The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #5

The Further Adventures Of Nick Wilson #5 Cover

It’s the opening day of The Nick Wilson Experience – a museum devoted to Earth’s first (and so far only) superhero. All-American Nick Wilson lost his powers almost as quickly as he gained them, falling far from the heights of fame and fortune he once enjoyed. He had been squeaking out a shameful living as a Nick Wilson impersonator at children’s birthday parties. Now, he’s getting ready to start earning an even more shameful living working for his former arch-enemy – billionaire genius Clive Morganfield – who financed The Nick Wilson Experience as a tax dodge and a way to finally “win” their rivalry by putting Nick under his control.

At least, that was Clive’s plan. There’s just one problem. Nick is MIA!

Has Nick regained his powers? Or maybe his self-respect? No, he’s searching downtown Cleveland for the bookstore that employs some woman he met at a bar, whose contact info he forgot to get.

Will Nick find the woman of his dreams? Will he find a way to be a hero and strike a blow for good without superpowers? Will Clive succeed in his evil schemes? And most importantly, will we see Further Adventures of Nick Wilson after The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #5?

The Further Adventures Of Nick Wilson #5 Variant Cover

Clearly, I’m not going to answer those first few questions, but the last question can be answered with a resounding “yes”! At least, if writer Marc Andreyko’s afterword about this being “the end of the first Nick Wilson mini-series” can be believed. I think it can, but it’s worth noting that Andreyko also notes that he doesn’t know “when I will visit with Nick and Jane and Xavier…”

Hopefully the wait between visits will not be a long one, because this little series was something magical. The characters created by Andreyko and Eddie Gorodetsky feel like real people despite inhabiting an unreal world. The odds are good you know a lovable shlub like Nick or a woman like Jane who was the girl everyone wanted to be or be with in high school only to have everything go south after graduation. If you’re unlucky you probably know someone like Clive Morganfield, who will use whatever power they can get their hands on to indulge their petty grudges and devote their lives to feuds that no one else cares about.

Another interesting note is the way the series turns the city of Cleveland itself into a character. Cities have character, of course – personalities all their own. Yet few comic book settings ever seem to establish their own unique aura, with the notable exceptions of Gotham City as envisioned by Tim Burton, Metropolis as written by Dan Jurgens or James Robinson’s Opal City in Starman.

Talking of Starman, former Starman artist Stephen Sadowski brings it home with his performance on this final issue. His work is always fantastic, but the work here sets a new high-water mark. The colors and lettering, by Hi-Fi and A Larger World respectively – are also fantastic.

I don’t know when we’ll meet Nick Wilson and company again. I just hope that we do. And if we do not, we still got one heck of a story with great artwork before it ended. If you haven’t been picking up this series, be sure to order the trade-paperback collection that will be coming out soon. I will be very surprised if this series doesn’t get nominated for at least one Eisner.

10/10


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 – Quicksilver: No Surrender #1

Quicksilver No Surrender #1 Cover

Pietro Maximoff is the fastest man in the world. When it comes to running, there is no one better. Hence why, when two immortals with a fondness for games incapacitated most of Earth’s heroes for the sake of a wager, he was chosen to run a race for the sake of The Earth itself.

With his sister, The Scarlet Witch, using her powers to push his speed beyond its previous limits, Pietro was able to win the race and save the world. Or so he thinks. The world is still there around him, albeit frozen in a single moment in time.

As far as Pietro can tell, he is moving so fast that time itself can’t touch him. Worse yet, there’s something else in the space between seconds. Something as fast as him. Something that looks like him. Something that is trying to kill innocent people in the time it takes to blink…

Despite some impressive portrayals on the Silver Screen (including the best scenes in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse), Quicksilver has yet to benefit from the same level of popularity and name recognition as a certain “Fastest Man Alive” on a different Earth. Part of that may be due to the complicated status regarding the character in the comics, thanks to the legal shenanigans involving his status in The Real World.

In order for Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch – long portrayed as the long lost children of X-Men villain Magneto – to be used in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, their backstories had to be changed so they were no longer mutants. This is because Fox Studios owns the film rights to all of Marvel Comics’ X-Men characters as well as any characters who are mutants.

The practical upshot is that this has left Quicksilver with nowhere to go in the comics. The Avengers writers can’t use him on a regular basis due to editorial fiat that the book has to promote characters from the movies. The X-Men writers don’t want him now that he’s not a mutant.  And while Pietro does have a long association with The Inhumans… well, hanging around with your ex-wife’s family? ‘Nuff said.

The good news is that Quicksilver: No Surrender #1 avoids a lengthy discussion of these matters, beyond Pietro having been an Avenger and a hero as well as a terrorist who fought The X-Men. The bad news is that without an explanation of who he is outside of his powers, Pietro comes off as rather shallow and dull as a character.

The best bits of the book come when Pietro shows off the one thing that has ever distinguished him from Barry Allen and Wally West – his bad attitude. By his own admission, Pietro is “a petty man” who finds “great amusement in mocking the people who annoy me.” Yet one can’t help but smile as Pietro tracks down Magneto purely for the purpose of dressing him up like a clown and taking pictures. The fact that his camera phone shouldn’t be able to work if time is frozen does not diminish the power of the joke.

Apart from that, virtually every aspect of Saladin Ahmed’s story seems to have been lifted from earlier The Flash comics – even Pietro’s introduction where he introduces himself as “The Fastest Man On Earth!” The idea of a speedster being trapped in a world where everything around them is frozen? It’s been done. Repeatedly. A super-fast superhero fighting a dark duplicate who is as fast as they are? Speedster Problems 101.

The artwork is nearly as bland as the story, with the frozen world represented by a complete lack of color. This is a stylistic choice which, ironically, this only helps to highlight Eric Nguyen’s pencils, which are lightly but visibly inked, apart from Pietro. This has the interesting visual effect of making Pietro appear to be the ghost he feels like. This also makes what few colors Color Artist Rico Renzi utilizes burn all the brighter. The final effect makes it appear that a four-color superhero has somehow forced his way into a Japanese Manga!

In the end, Quicksilver: No Surrender #1 works far better for the set-up for a bigger story than it does as an introduction to one of Marvel Comics’ most conflicted and interesting characters. Hopefully later issues will delve deeper into Pietro Maximoff’s rich history. For now, at least, this comic serves as a decent continuation of the No Surrender storyline but it’s no great character piece.

6/10


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: No Justice #1

Justice League No Justice #1 Cover

It was Earth’s darkest hour. The Collector of Worlds known as Brainiac had come and immediately sought battle with the World’s Finest heroes. The Justice League, The Teen Titans – even The Suicide Squad faced him. They failed and were captured, taken to the deepest reaches of space.

The fact that they had been spared at all stunned them. What shocked them even more was that Brainiac had come not in conquest but with a warning of a cosmic threat that could lay waste to all reality!  It is a menace that operates wholly on logic and thus can only be bested by something never before attempted – unions of hero and villain never before seen in the history of any world in the Multiverse!

The question remains – will the greatest enemies of The Justice League and Teen Titans kill them before this new enemy can? Or will they all find a way to work together even as all reality goes mad around them?

Justice League No Justice Teams

When the concept for Justice League: No Justice was announced, fans were flabbergasted. How can you have a Justice League team with the likes of Lobo, Lex Luthor and Deathstroke? Who thought pairing Beast Boy and Batman was a good idea? What is Starro The Flipping Conqueror doing in this thing?

The reasoning of this became apparent after Dark Nights Metal and the reasoning is that there is no reasoning. Picking up from where that mini-series ended, we learn that space is warping and the laws of magic, science and everything that keeps everything moving are going awry. The Green Lantern Corps are busy trying to hold back something from beyond their universe – hence why Brainiac is taking the lead in organizing a group of heroes to deal with a threat that completely passed by The Lanterns.

The most amazing aspect of the script by Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson and James Tynion IV is how easily they explain all of this for the benefit of new readers who might not have seen Dark Nights Metal and set up the cast of characters. Despite the heavy focus on exposition, there are also a number of character moments that introduce the more obscure players.

While it’s a safe bet everyone knows Batman and Wonder Woman well enough, there’s a fair chance they might not be familiar with the Damien Wayne version of Robin or the likes of Etrigan The Demon. The best of these scenes involves (of all people) Lex Luthor having a strangely meta conversation with J’onn J’onzz about where everyone’s favorite Martian has been the past few years and how it feels to once again be in the role of holding together a team – a nod to how, until The New 52 reboot, Martian Manhunter was the heart of The Justice League and its most stalwart member.

A big story like this deserves powerful artwork and the art team delivers that. Francis Manapul is one of best creators in the business, as anyone who reads Trinity can tell you. The character designs and modified Brainiac armor for all the characters look fantastic and there’s not one badly drawn panel in the whole issue. The colors chosen by Hi-Fi are all vibrant and eye-catching, helping add to the warped nature of the story by showing the characters in ways that look like them yet not like them at the same time. Superman’s costume, for instance, looks rather odd yet familiar tinged in violet rather than blue.

Bottom Line: If you haven’t been keeping up with DC Comics and need a good entry point to the universe as a whole, this is where to start.

9/10


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 – Red Sonja/Tarzan #1

Red Sonja Tarzan #1 Cover

Though best known for her work on DC Comics’ Birds of Prey, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, writer Gail Simone has become equally famous for her work in the sword and sorcery genre in recent years. She first found glory with a revamp of Red Sonja that proved popular enough that it was quickly expanded from a 12 issue engagement to 18 issues. She co-authored the first team-up of Red Sonja and Conan The Barbarian in decades and later teamed Cimmeria’s favorite son with Wonder Woman in a six-issue miniseries. She also edited Swords of Sorrow – a major event for Dynamite Comics that saw Red Sonja leading a team of pulp fictions’s greatest heroines.

Red Sonja/Tarzan follows after this final story, but the connection is little more than an Easter Egg that should appeal to fans of Swords of Sorrow without confusing those readers who pick this book up on a whim. While the fact that the witch who facilitates the meeting of our two heroes is The Traveler from Swords of Sorrow is a nice nod to continuity, the exact means to the end is ultimately immaterial.

Red Sonja Tarzan #1 Page 5

This first issue is largely devoted to set-up, with brief introductions of Sonja and Tarzan’s characters and showcases of their awesomeness. In Sonja’s case, this involves her treating her own wounds with strong liquor and a heated dagger. In the case of Tarzan, the involves his showing restraint when dealing with a nobleman whose personal zoo is horrible even by the standards of the 1920’s. The issue also introduces our villain, Eson Duul – a trophy hunter who somehow exists both within the realms of Hyboria and Interwar Era Britain.

Red Sonja Tarzan #1 Page 1

One interesting note about Simone’s script is her depiction of Tarzan, who spends the entire issue in England rather than Africa. It’s a safe bet that most readers think of Tarzan as a chest-pounding warrior who wrestles with rabid lions and commands the animals of the jungle with a shout. The Tarzan we see here is an older lord Greystoke, taken from the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, where Tarzan had learned the ways of civilization and proved as capable of navigating the savagery of aristocratic society as the wild. The Tarzan sequences of the book also establish Tarzan’s sense of compassion – a trait not often considered in most pastiche works involving the character – which makes for another interesting contrast given the Sonja scenes’ focus on her skill as a fighter and her sense of endurance.

Simone is joined in this crossover by Walter Geovani – her artistic co-creator on her original Red Sonja run. Unsurprisingly, Geovani proves as skilled in depicting the forests of Australia and the estates of Enlgand as he does the world of Hyboria. Geovani possess a remarkable gift for depicting vivid details yet keeping his art smooth and streamlined. He’s also a wonderful choreographer and the action of the story flows easily from panel to panel under his direction. The color art by Adriano Augusto is also worthy of praise.

For those who are unfamiliar with Tarzan or Red Sonja, this series will prove a perfect introduction to both characters. Those who have already traveled alongside them through the wastes of Hyrkania or the jungles of the Congo in will also find this story to their liking. This unique merger of two of pulp fiction’s greatest heroes is certain to stand the test of time as a true classic.

10/10


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 Hunt For Wolverine #1

Hunt For Wolverine #1 Cover

Wolverine died, entombed in molten Adamantium.

The X-Men took his metal-encased body and hid it away, keeping its location secret.

But nothing stays buried.

It was only a matter of time.

With these words, Charles Soule opens the first chapter of The Hunt For Wolverine – what may well be the most eagerly anticipated Marvel Comics event of the year. (Well, apart from that movie that’s coming out later this week that you might have heard of, but we’ll stick to the books today, thank you.)

Logically, we all knew that James “Logan” Howlett would not stay dead forever. It’s the nature of comics. No matter how much the writers and editors may insist that dead is dead and that the torch has been passed and that a successor will be forever taking up their mentor’s name, it is as the introduction to this issue says – nothing stays buried and it was only a matter of time.  To that end, The Hunt For Wolverine contains two stories, which begin the epic tale of just how Wolverine apparently came back from the dead and had to be hunted down afterward.

The first, Secrets And Lives, centers upon The Reavers – a group of mutant-hating mercenaries who went through a series of surgeries to become literal killing machines. The Reavers have fought the X-Men on more than one occasion and they fight them again here, after the gang of cyborgs somehow learn the location of Wolverine’s body and decide to indulge in a bit of grave-robbing.

This is the weaker of the two chapters by sheer virtue of the fact that The Reavers are hardly the most exciting group of antagonists. With code names like “Pretty Boy” and “Starshine” and costume designs that resemble rejected characters for the He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe toy line, The Reavers wouldn’t be memorable even if Charles Soule had bothered to introduced them individually. The artwork by David Marquez doesn’t make this action-based story any more exciting, somehow managing to be over-inked in a way that leaves everything cloaked in shadows while still leaving some of the defining pencils untouched!

The second story, Hunter’s Pryde, is a marked improvement. The action here focuses on Kitty Pryde as she seeks out various figures from around The Marvel Universe and asks for their help in trying to find the missing Wolverine. This leads to the formation of several groups, including various X-Men and Avengers.

Despite this chapter largely being expository and devoted to setting up the teams that will be the center of the action of the upcoming Hunt For Wolverine mini-series, Soule’s script is full of a wit and humor that the first chapter with The Reavers lacks. If nothing else, it’s funny watching Tony Stark’s reaction to finding out he wasn’t the first person Kitty approached and then seeing who she did go to first. The artwork by Paulo Siquiera is stronger for its clarity – a quality the fight scenes earlier in the book might have benefited from. Still, the artwork here is somewhat flat due to their being no action and most of the book being devoted to characters standing around and talking.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of The Hunt For Wolverine #1 will come down to how big of an X-Men fan you are. The chapter with The Reavers is largely pointless and only serves to balance the lack of action later in the book. The second chapter has some great character moments and conversations but it doesn’t really do anything but set the stage for the books that are coming out later where people will actually start hunting for Wolverine. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything here that is absolutely necessary to the crossover but neither is it so pointless as to be worth skipping entirely.

6/10

The Hunt For Wolverine #1 releases on April 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 – Action Comics #1000

Action Comics #1000 Cover
Let us take it as a basic truth that Action Comics #1000 is a book of some significance.

It is the first of DC Comics’ series to hit the 1000 issues milestone, despite a number of divergences where the book was renumbered during those times when it was thought that starting everything over at #1 would lead to increased sales.

It contains the first published work for DC Comics by Brian Michael Bendis – recently signed to an exclusive contract – whom you might know as the writer who made Spider-Man fun again and created Jessica Jones. (If you don’t know who Brian Michael Bendis is, click the link. You’re welcome!)

It also features multiple collectible covers, for those who enjoy collecting multiple covers.

None of this, however, has anything to do with why I’m writing these words that you’re reading. I’m here to tell you if this $7.99 tome is worth picking up if you have no interest in collectibles or historical significance. I’m here to calm the nerves of those rare few souls who actually still read comics, who want to know one simple thing: Is Action Comics #1000 worth reading?

The answer, in a word, is yes.

Superman Crowd Shot From Action Comics 1000

It would take most of my word limit to list all of the creators involved in the creation of this volume, never mind describing all of their work. Suffice it to say that if you have ever loved any version of Superman, there is something here that will appeal to you.

If you’re a fan of the current Superman series, Dan Jurgens, Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi are given a chance to take a bow and pay tribute to The Man of Steel while closing out their own runs.

Were you a fan of the 1990s’ Superman animated series? There’s a Paul Dini-penned story with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez you’ll get a kick out of.

Are you an old-school Super-fan? There’s a classic Lex Luthor vs. Superman story by Paul Levitz with artwork by Neal Adams that is well-worth checking out, as well as some previously unpublished work by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan.

Supposing you’re a Bat-fan who is too cool to read Superman comics? There’s even something for you, with Batman writers Tom King and Scott Snyder having created comics with artists Clay Mann and Rafael Albuquerque that number among the more thoughtful works in this anthology. And I’m just scratching the surface describing these seven stories. There’s even more than that!

Superman Fights Rogol Zaar in Action Comics 1000

The flip side to this format is that there will almost certainly be something in this book that you won’t enjoy. For me, ironically enough, it’s the story that is supposed to be the book’s main selling point – the final chapter by Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Lee. Lee’s artwork, I’m sad to say, has looked far better and there’s a number of continuity problems with Superman’s wounds changing from panel to panel. The uneven and frequently sloppy inks of Scott Williams don’t help matters.

The biggest disappointment, however, is the story, which largely devotes itself to Superman fighting a new seemingly invincible villain. It also ends with a cliffhanger urging you to read the upcoming Man of Steel mini-series to see what happens next. Unfortunately, the brief sample here offers little reason to read on, with Bendis’ new villain differing from Doomsday in only three respects – he has better fashion sense, he wields an axe and he won’t shut up.

There’s some irony that this book devoted to The Man of Tomorrow does a better job in honoring its past than in encouraging readers to look to the future. As a tribute to the last 80 years of Superman, it’s fantastic. As a preview of what is to come, I fear it’s better at inspiring fear than hope.

7/10

Action Comics #1000 releases on April 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.

Comic Review – Domino #1

Domino #1 Cover

Confession: I don’t know much about Domino. To be honest, I don’t know much about any of the X-Force/Six-Pack/Liefeldian side of the 1990s X-Men, because what little I’ve read from that time period suggested the characters had more pouches than personality traits.

Here is everything I knew about Domino. She was a mercenary who worked with Cable and Deadpool a lot. She was a mutant who had the power to alter probability in her favor. There was some controversy regarding the actress playing her in Deadpool 2, but most people (including comic fans) didn’t much care about the complaints.

Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect going into Domino #1 beyond the fact that I would probably enjoy this book. Why? Because I have yet to not enjoy anything written by Gail Simone. Simone has an amazing ability to add a sense of fun to even the darkest and most ill-developed of characters.

Domino #1 Page 3

I can’t vouch for how well Simone’s presentation of Domino in this issue conforms to Neena Thurman’s past characterization. What I can say is that I found her to be a likable heroine and I would love to see more of her once this limited series is over.

The basic action of the issue is split into two halves. In the first we witness Domino in action, teaming up with fellow female mercenary Outlaw (a Gail Simone creation from her brief but beloved Agent X series) to take down a team of timber pirates. (Yes, that’s an actual thing!)  The second half of the issue sees Domino suffering through a surprise birthday with several cameos, including a certain Merc With A Mouth! Where It goes beyond that, I shall leave for you to discover.

The action of the issue is as fantastic as it is funny. Domino’s cartoonish probability powers are a good fit for Simone’s twisted sense of humor and Outlaw proves a perfect foil for Neena. The banter here is reminiscent of Simone’s work on Birds of Prey for DC Comics and it goes without saying that this issue passes The Bechdel Test.

The artwork by David Baldeon is a perfect fit for the story. Baldeon boasts a kinetic, animated style that suits the frantic tone of the action sequences. Far from the grim-and-gritty aesthetic that dominated most of Domino’s past comic book appearances, the artwork here is bright and silly as befits someone whose powers honestly could cause everyone around her to pratfall at just the right moment to allow for a hasty escape.

Bottom Line: Domino #1 is a fun romp through a side of the Marvel Comics universe that is often portrayed as far too serious. No previous experience is required. In fact, you may enjoy this book more if you’re going into ignorant, as I did. Agent X fans will definitely want to check this out for more Outlaw, as will fans of any of Gail Simone’s previous work on series like Secret Six and Deadpool. Here’s hoping this one goes series!

10/10


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 – Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1

Frank Miller’s 300 was something of a revelation when it first came out in 1998. Based in equal parts on the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus and the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, it told the tale of The Battle of Thermopylae from the perspective of King Leonidas of Sparta. Though Leonidas and the Greek forces were defeated by the invading Persian army, their stand helped inspire the various Greek city-states to unite as one in a larger force. This would lead to the war that ultimately halted Persia’s attempts to conquer Greece. For that reason, The Battle of Thermopylae is held alongside The Alamo as one of the greatest last stands in military history.

300 is widely considered to be Frank Miller’s greatest work. It won the 1999 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, with Miller being honored as Best Writer & Artist and colorist Lynn Varley winning Best Colorist. The book was later successfully adapted into a 2006 film directed by Zack Snyder, fueling his rise to fame.

Despite being a critical and commercial success, 300 did not go uncriticized. Many took Miller to task for the story being historically inaccurate in certain respects, such as depicting The Spartans as homophobic or going into battle essentially naked. Writer David Brin specifically criticized Miller’s ignoring the greater historical context of Thermopylae and how The Spartan’s involvement in the battle was driven by their shame at having sat-out The Battle of Marathon a decade earlier, due to it occurring during the holy festival of Carnea, in which martial combat was forbidden.

This bears consideration when one reads this first chapter of Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander – the five-issue follow-up to 300. The title and cover are a bit misleading, with Xerxes – the villain of 300 – not making any appearance in this book apart from being seen on the cover. Rather than focusing on a single battle, Miller is now exploring the long history of Persian/Greek conflicts, starting with the first attempts of Darius (father of Xerxes) to invade Greece and ending, eventually, with the rise of Alexander The Great.

This first chapter is devoted to The Battle of Marathon and seems to have been written purely in rebuttal to Brin’s criticism in specific and complaints of Miller’s failure to profile the contributions of the Greek city-states besides Sparta in general. The focus here is on the Athenians, as they lead the charge against The Persian Army, driving them back to their ships.


Xerxes #1 Page 4-5 Xerxes #1 Page 6-7


Xerxes #1 Page 8-9 Xerxes #1 Page 10-11

(Click To View The Full Image In Another Window.)

Those who enjoyed 300 will find more of the same intense action here. All issues of historical accuracy aside, Miller can block a fight sequence better than most and the battles here are as gloriously over the top as you would expect. The fact that our heroes are now the playwright Aeskylos and a young Themistokles, years before he would go on to become a great Athenian general and politician does not stop them from unleashing Hades upon the Persians, Unfortunately, Miller’s tendency towards unnecessary homophobic remarks continues, though it may be more historically accurate for The Athenians to be making jokes about how The Spartans can’t join the battle because of a fertility festival, because that is the only time Spartan men share beds with women.

A larger problem is that Miller’s glory days as an artist are behind him and it is clear now why his most recent efforts have seen him focusing on writing with other artists illustrating his stories. While Miller’s work here is far stronger than his most recent works at DC Comics, it’s a far cry from the level of quality we saw in 300, with Miller’s tendency toward cartoonish exaggeration not serving the story well. The colors by Alex Sinclair don’t help matters, putting a vibrant coat on artwork that was always at its best when kept half in shadow. One wonders if age is starting to make the old master’s hand falter but he’s too proud to admit it.

Ultimately, there’s little reason to pick up Xerxes #1 unless you’re a fan of Frank Miller and the original 300 looking for more of the same. There’s nothing new here, beyond Miller showing that The Athenians were more than capable of winning a war without The Spartans’ assistance. It’s good for what it is but it’s ultimately an unnecessary prequel.

5/10

Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1 releases April 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 – Aquaman #34

Corum Rath had long been a thorn in the side of The Aquaman, Arthur Curry. As leader of The Deluge – a xenophobic terrorist group which resisted Aquaman’s efforts, as King of Atlantis, to establish peaceful relations with the surface world – Rath led an attack on the American city of Boston. He was imprisoned until certain traditionalist elements with the Atlantean Council of Elders grew equally tired of the king’s progressive attitudes and decided to appoint Rath as the new King of Atlantis.

Rath’s first act as King was to seal off Atlantis from the outside world, using an ancient magical artifact known as The Crown of Thorns. He ordered the ancient houses of Atlantis to turn over their own hereditary magical objects and launched a campaign of terror against the so-called “taint-bloods” – those Atlanteans changed by the influence of the ocean, growing to resemble the animals of the deeps.

Despite his orders that the Aquaman be executed before he could leave Atlantis, Arthur Curry has survived and joined with the resistance to Rath’s reign. Now, as the councilors who placed him on the throne begin to question their wisdom in doing so and if Rath might still be an exploitable figurehead while they secure their own positions, Rath ponders his own past and takes steps to secure the future of his reign. 

Given the time it takes for a comic script to become a comic book and how far in advance books are prepared for publication, it seems unlikely that Dan Abnett meant for Aquaman to be the political parable it seems to have become. Certainly history is full of mad kings and despots like Corum Rath, who were driven to extreme measures by paranoia. Still, with a villainous ruler obsessed with destroying the legacy of his predecessor while promising to restore a nation to greatness, it’s hard not to see some obvious parallels to real world events in Aquaman #34.

Thankfully, whatever subtext may be gleaned from this, Abnett’s text is primarily concerned with exploring the background of Corum Rath and tying his background in to another villain – the street mage Kadaver – whom Abnett introduced in previous issues. The character study here is fascinating and while this issue is light on action until the very end, the issue’s cliffhanger conclusion promises big things in the future.

The artwork by Kelley Jones confused me at first. Jones is best known for his work on various horror titles and I found his style an odd fit for Aquaman at first. The first few pages of the issue are a little rough, but the reason for Jones’ inclusion on this series becomes apparent  by the issue’s end. Suffice it to say that fans of H.P. Lovecraft and weird horror will want to check this issue out for Jones’ art alone.

For what my money is worth, Aquaman is one of the most underrated treasures of the DC Rebirth initiative. Aquaman #34, in turn, is a great introductory issue for those looking to dive in to this series.

8/10

Aquaman #34 releases March 21, 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 #976

Detective Comics 976 Cover

Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) had a plan.

Years earlier, he had taken up the mantle of Batman’s sidekick, realizing that Batman functioned best when he had a partner. Tim also realized that Bruce Wayne – much as he might deny it – was mortal and would not be able to be Batman forever. Tim devised a plan – to take all of the many vigilantes operating in Gotham City, and unite them officially as one group, training together and working to watch one another’s backs. This would establish a chain of heroes who could continue Batman’s legacy, generation after generation.

Dubbing this group The Gotham Knights, Tim pitched the idea to Batman, who approved it. He then placed the assembled team – consisting of Red Robin, Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. The Spoiler), Cassandra Cain (a.k.a. The Orphan) and a reformed Basil Karlo (a.k.a. Clayface) – under the control of Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman).

Now, Clayface is dead by Batwoman’s hand and she has left The Gotham Knights to join with The Colony – a militaristic vigilante group established by her father, who aim to protect Gotham City with lethal force. Stephanie Brown has hung up her cowl and broken off her relationship with Tim. And Cassandra – who was never all that stable to begin with – is in an even worse state following the death of Clayface, who was her closest friend.

Tim thinks he knows how he can fix The Gotham Knights but Batman is refusing to give him that chance, retreating into himself as he always does when he loses someone close to him. And as Tim Drake is approached about a new partnership by a most unlikely ally, The Colony moves to recruit more of Batman’s disillusioned trainees.

Detective Comics seems to be the least appreciated of DC Comics’ many Batman comics at present. It lacks the flash of Tom King’s Batman, which has redefined the Batman and Catwoman relationship and has now inspired a wedding between the two. It lacks the weight of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal, which has built upon seven years of Batman comics by one of the longest partnerships in American comics. This is unfortunate, because James Tynion IV has done the impossible with little fanfare, restoring many beloved Gotham City vigilantes who were long neglected during The New 52 era to new prominence and introducing them to a new generation of readers.

Sadly, Detective Comics #976 – the first chapter of the Batman Eternal arc – is not the best issue of this series to start with. While all of the new arc openings on this series to date have been good entry points for new readers, the mythology James Tynion IV has established has finally become too involved to be easily summarized and absorbed. While a new reader could pick up this issue, it would lack the punch that is felt by those who are, much like Cassandra, still coping with the loss of Clayface. There’s also a distinct lack of explanation regarding who certain characters are and why they are significant to the story.

A larger problem is the artwork by guest artist Javier Fernandez, which is incredibly inconsistent. Fernandez’ style is largely sketchy and thinly outlined, save for the occasional panel that is drowned in black ink with shading that almost seems to be randomly applied. This leaves the book with an odd look that is further distinguished by the muted colors chosen by John Kalisz. Those who have been reading Detective Comics since the start of DC Rebirth won’t have much trouble muddling through the artwork for the sake of the story, but new readers would do better to start with Vol. 1: Rise Of The Batmen and work their way up to this issue.

5/10

Detective Comics #976 releases March 14, 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.