Category Archives: Reviews – Dynamite

Spectrum Visions

Rainbow Brite #1
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Britney Williams
Colors: Valentina Pinto
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Paulina Ganucheau, Tony Fleecs & “Classic Art”
Editor: Kevin Ketner
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Rainbow Brite? There’s a Rainbow Brite comic? And I’m reviewing it? Really?

Really. Writer Jeremy Whitley sent a digital review copy of this latest licensed-property adaptation, and while I had absolutely no interest or knowledge of Rainbow Brite, I decided to give it a look, based solely on the strength of the creative reputations of the writer and artist, Britney Williams. While this book definitely wasn’t crafted with a middle-aged comics enthusiast in mind, it was crafted adeptly and will appeal to younger readers. I can’t go so far as to call Rainbow Brite and all-ages comic, but it’s a perfect comic to put in the hands of young girls will an interest in reading, adventure and wonder.

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We Walk With Keys of Gold

The Sovereigns, Volume 1: End of the Golden Age trade paperback
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Johnny Desjardins
Colors: Mohan

Magnus: Kyle Higgins, Jorge Fornes & Chris O’Halloran
Turok: Chuck Wendig, Alvaro Sarraseca & Triona Farrell
Doc Spektor: Aubrey Sitterson, Dylan Burnett & Triona Farrell

Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Stephen Segovia
Editors: Matt Idelson & Kevin Ketner

It was only when I started reading this collected edition that I completely clued into the fact that the classic Gold Key heroes had been pulled out of the Valiant stable and launched anew in a separate continuity by Dynamite Entertainment. The publisher appears to be trying to reimagine these recognizable figures into new properties so as to attract new readers. It’s probably a wise strategy, as Dynamite would essentially erase the Valiant association and accompanying expectations. The Sovereigns appears to be Dynamite’s attempt to give the previous incarnations of these characters a final sendoff. Again, not a bad idea, but the script is lacking — notably when it comes to characterization.

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Stag Party

Batman/Shadow #2
“Batman/Shadow, Part Two”
Writers: Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rossmo (regular)/Chris Burnham & Tim Sale (variants)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publishers: DC Comics & Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been trying to limit the number of four-dollar comics I’m buying these days, as they can make for expensive weekly trips to the local comic shop. However, given Scott Snyder’s and Riley Rossmo’s involvement in this series, I couldn’t resist the first issue. I was pleased enough with what I found to seek out the second issue this past week. And now I’m hooked on the series. Not surprisingly, Snyder and Steve Orlando don’t disappoint with their take on the Batman and his dark world, but I’m quite intrigued by this eternal, supernatural take on the Shadow. I really don’t know all that much about the anti-hero who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men, but I rather enjoyed him as a figure who throws the Dark Knight off his game. Rossmo’s exaggerated and dynamic interpretation of Batman and Gotham are as sharp as ever, but his fluid, elongated portrayal of the Shadow and his eerie presentation of the serial-killing antagonist of the book really grab the eye as well. This is a thoroughly accessible and entertaining inter-company crossover that clicks in no small part because of the compatibility of the two title properties.

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What Lurks in the Hearts of Men

The Twilight Zone: The Shadow Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Dave Acosta
Colors: Omi Remalante
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Francesco Francavilla
Editor: Joseph Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $15.99 US

Nostalgia for 1960s and ’70s TV shows has been a mainstay of Dynamite Entertainment’s publishing strategy in recent years, and while I don’t doubt there’s an audience for it (as Dynamite’s adherence to the approach would suggest), it’s not really something that interests me. That being said, the unusual pairing of The Twilight Zone and the Shadow struck me as inventive and potentially intriguing. Ultimately, the schtick is used to force the title anti-hero into introspection, and it’s an effective plot device, even though the results are a little clichéd. They’re still diverting and entertaining, though, and capably executed. The script hits the right beats (though with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), and the art conveys the concepts — from the mundane to the surreal — clearly. Though not mind-blowing (as the title might suggest), The Twilight Zone: The Shadow represents competent comics storytelling.

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Now With More Pulp

Masks #1
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Alex Ross
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Ross, Jae Lee, Francesco Francavilla & Ardian Syaf
Editor: Joe Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Dynamite Entertainment has slowly been resurrecting classic pulp/adventure heroes that pre-date the super-hero genre, and it’s built a decent stable of titles in that niche. With Masks, their go-to guy Alex Ross brings them together in what’s a fairly typical super-hero team book, penned by Chris Roberson (which took me by surprise, given his declaration about creator ownership some time ago). The first issue looks great; it was fun to delve back into Ross’s painted artwork, which we don’t see gracing the interiors of comics that much these days. While it was fun seeing these like characters interacting with and reacting to one another, it’s a fairly ordinary, formulaic story about a group of heroes meeting and joining forces. Unfortunately, the plot that sees them come together is ridiculously over the top, ham-fisted and rather difficult to accept as a premise.

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A Not-So Friendly Neighborhood Spider Man

Variant coverThe Spider #2
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Colton Worley
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: John Cassaday (regular)/Francesco Francavilla and Ron Lesser (variants)
Editor: Joe Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I learned of the release of the first issue of The Spider just before it hit the stands at comics shops, and I missed out on getting a copy until a second printing was made available a couple of weeks later. I wanted to read it for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was penned by David Liss, whose Mystery Men for Marvel was an overlooked gem. And the other draw was the overall look of the series. The title character’s design was striking, and the noir leanings reminded me of what Liss and artist Patrick Zircher accomplished in Mystery Men. I loved the first issue and had the manager at my local comic shop add it to my pull list. But after reading the second issue, I’ve rethought that decision. The Spider boasts a protagonist that exhibits strong influences. He’s part Batman, part Shadow, with a hint of Superman thrown in for good measure. While I found the property to be dynamic and entertaining in the first issue, I found the second to be rather generic in tone. It’s solid, capable super-hero genre material, but suddenly, it seemed rather… ordinary.

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Holmes Sweet Holmes

Sherlock Holmes #1
“The Trial of Sherlock Holmes, Part One: A Smoking Gun”
Writers: Leah Moore & John Reppion
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colors: Tony Avina
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.50 US

Being a comics writing team consisting of the daughter and son-in-law of Alan Moore must be something of a daunting prospect. The family association no doubt brings a lot of expectations along with it. Of the various Leah Moore/John Reppion comics I’ve read in the past, they’ve ranged from capably crafted, entertaining works to groan-inducing, creative flops. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t fall into either category, as it stands out as the strongest bit of writing I’ve seen from this team thus far in its career (albeit, I admit I haven’t sampled every one of their published efforts to date). Moore and Reppion capture a classic Holmes tone (or least what passes for one as far as I can tell), and they do so with some fun, intriguing mystery storytelling. There’s not just one mystery for Holmes to solve here, but several, all intertwining with one another. This was a strong debut issue, and I await the next episode with bated breath.

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The Buck Starts Here

Buck Rogers #0
Writer: Scott Beatty
Artist: Carlos Rafael
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: 25 cents

Dynamite Entertainment adds to its lineup of well-known, even classic genre-fiction characters with this latest foray into science-fiction comics. While hardly obscure, it’s safe to say that Buck Rogers is a character with which much of the publisher’s audience might not be familiar. After all, the last major pop-culture endeavor revolving around the title character was the Gil Gerard television of the late 1970s/early ’80s, as far as I know. He certainly doesn’t have the cachet of such characters as the Lone Ranger and Zorro, so one could argue that Dynamite might face a bit of an uphill battle in its bid to develop an audience for this title. Releasing a prologue issue for only 25 cents is a solid strategy in that battle, one the publisher has employed in the past. With super-hero scribe Scott Beatty at the helm of this book, it’s off to a solid start, with some slick sci-fi writing and even more polished artwork to draw one into the weird adventure. Beatty and artist Carlos Rafael achieve a nice balance between modern storytelling and elements more in keeping with Buck’s roots as pulp action-adventure hero.

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The Alex Ross Project

Project Superpowers #0
“Last Gleaming”
Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Krueger
Artists: Doug Klauba, Stephen Sadowski & Alex Ross
Colors: Captain Moreno
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $1.00 US

The creative team that’s delivered big hits for Marvel and DC — such as Earth X and Justice — comes to a smaller publisher to tell a similar kind of story — same atmosphere, same approach to the visuals — only with public-domain super-hero characters. I rather enjoyed the idea of such high-profile talent working with a smaller publisher, and there’s no doubt that Project Superpowers will serve as a feather in the cap of the relatively new publisher with a nice diversity of titles. Still, there’s no doubt the creators on this comic book are facing something of an uphill battle. They’re trying to tell a story about iconic super-heroes with properties that are, at this point, little more than obscurities and curiosities. Furthermore, their target audience tends to be super-hero fans whose interest rarely ventures outside of the Marvel and DC Universes. Furthermore, Marvel beat Dynamite to the punch with its story about little-known Golden Age heroes in the 21st century with J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s The Twelve.

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Boys Will Be Boys

The Boys Volume 1: The Name of the Game trade paperback & The Boys #7
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist/Cover artist: Darick Robertson
Colors: Tony Avina
Letters: Greg Thompson & Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $14.99 US (TPB) / $2.99 US (comic)

When this property debuted under DC’s Wildstorm Productions banner, I made a point of checking it out. After all, I’m a fan of both writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, and their gritty, extreme sensibilities are a good match. Ultimately, the first couple of issues failed to really grab me, as I felt I had seen this sort of over-the-top satire of the super-hero genre many times before from Ennis. With Dynamite Entertainment’s decision to publish the property in the wake of some skittishness over content at DC Comics, The Boys is receiving a second promotional push, and I’m pleased I took a second look at the title. Had I stuck with the first story arc, I would have discovered that Ennis tries to balance the more extremist tendencies in his plotting with some moments of vulnerability and actual optimism. Those brief instances of grounded characterization were welcome, but ultimately, The Boys is still defined by its typically Ennis-ian characters. The disdain for unchecked authority, a common theme in Ennis’s work, remains entertaining, but at this point in this career, it’s becoming cliched.

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A (Less Than) Stellar Performance

Kid Kosmos: Kidnapped original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jim Starlin
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $19.95 US

Jim Starlin certainly left his mark on super-hero comics in the 1970s and ’80s, and it’s showing up prominently in recent event comics from Marvel Comics, such as Thanos’s role in Annihilation and the resurrection of Captain Marvel in Civil War: The Return, a Silver Age character that Starlin took and made his own. In many ways, Starlin is the acknowledged king of cosmic super-hero storytelling. Just look at the free rein DC seems to have given him with the current Mystery in Space limited series. Starlin was also one of many pioneers in the 1980s when it came to creator-owned comics. His Dreadstar comics are still considered classics, and it’s encouraging to see that he’s still crafting astral adventures for new, cosmic crusaders, even three decades after he started. Apparently, he’s still doing what he loves. This book is a spinoff from Starlin’s Cosmic Guard comics, also publisher by Dynamite Entertainment, but as the title suggests, it stars a younger protagonist. In many ways, this is a typical story about a greenhorn teen hero who’s in over his head, dressed up with some of the trappings of DC’s Green Lantern Corps. It’s colorful and full of energy and imagination, but it’s also burdened by an unwieldy and redundant supporting cast as well as a lack of the kind of history and continuity that might allow this story to work within the confines of a shared super-hero universe.

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By George, I Think He’s Got It

George Perez: Storyteller hardcover
Writer: Christopher Lawrence
Cover artist: George Perez
Publisher: Dynamic Forces
Price: $29.99 US

I’m a huge George Perez fan and have been since I was a kid. I first remember sampling his work in the early 1980s on New Teen Titans and Justice League of America. There was just something about his work that set it apart from the art in other comics. The detail, the density of the panel layouts, the expressiveness of the characters’ faces… it all stood out as being unique, at least in my mind as a pre-teen and teenage comic fan. This isn’t the first time someone has published a book about Perez’s career — I have a copy of Focus on George Perez hiding around here somewhere — but this book strikes me as being more blunt and honest about the twists and turns on the path the artist has taken over the years. The writer examines not only Perez’s successes but instances in which he faltered or circumstances did not play out to his advantage.

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The Truman Show

Scout Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer/Cover artist: Timothy Truman
Artists: Truman & Tom Yeates
Colors: Steve Oliff, Sam Parsons & Mike Kelleher
Letters: Timothy Harkins
Editor: Cat Yronwode
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $19.99 US

I have to give smaller publishers such as Dynamite Entertainment, Checker Publishing and IDW Publishing credit for bringing a number of harder-to-find comic properties from the 1970s and ’80s back for today’s readers. There was a lot of strong work being produced in those decades, and not all of it was coming from DC and Marvel Comics. I’d only sampled one Scout comic before, but I was interested in seeing more, especially given the respect I have for Truman works I discovered after he wrapped up Scout. This collection serves as an interesting look at the creator’s most personal work but also as a look back to a different time in comics.

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