Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Crisis Mismanagement

Heroes in Crisis #1
“Part 1: I’m Just Warming Up”
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Mann (regular)/J.G. Jones, Francesco Mattina, Mark Brooks & Ryan Sook
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

In a short time, I’ve come to have incredible respect and faith in the writing abilities of Tom King, but even more than that, I know that when editor Jamie S. Rich is involved in a project, it’s one that’s worthy of my attention, one that will entertain and even challenge me. Unfortunately, I fear they stumbled a bit with this opening chapter, which focuses far too much on keeping the reader guessing what’s going on rather than telling a story. It also relies heavily on the gimmick of killing off heroes — both obscure and a little better known. Mind you, while King’s script has confused me, it’s also intrigued me, and my disappointment with this disjointed first issue is tempered by my hope for clarity and inventive plotting from a proven creative team.

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The Joke Killing

Batman: Damned #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: Bermejo (regular)/Jim Lee (variant)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $6.99 US

DC announced new imprints and publishing initiatives earlier this year that would bring different formats and content to its readers, and its Black Label branding appears to be a home for more mature super-hero genre storytelling. Basically, we get a strong Batman story from accomplished writer and DC mainstay Brian Azzarello and meticulous crafted, realistic artwork from Bermejo, whose career highlights have also been at DC. Honestly, this new imprint wasn’t all that necessary for the mature-readers content, but it does serve a purpose: to isolate this story from regular DC continuity. Azzarello plays around with some other characters from DC’s supernatural stable, and some of the new spins on these familiar figures were as intriguing as the plot of a Batman broken by his past and his forgotten sins.

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Flea-Market Finds: 1st Issue Special #11

Ist Issue Special #11
“Code Name: Assassin”
Writers: Gerry Conway & Steve Skeates
Pencils: Nestor Redondo & Frank Redondo
Inks: Al Milgrom
Cover artist: Mike Grell
Editors: Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: 25 cents

1st Issue Special was an odd series from DC, featuring a different property — sometimes new, as was the case with this issue, and sometimes established — with every new issue. This particular issue was notably weird, as the execution is so clumsy. This vigilante anti-hero follows a lot of the archetypal elements that one finds in such characters, but this is such a watered-down version of a revenge story that it leaves the reader scratching his or her head by the end of this unfinished 1976 story. I was entertained as I read this issue, mind you, but only for the unintentional amusement of such awkward writing.

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Send in the B Squad

Suicide Squad Annual #1
“For the Wicked, No Rest”
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Paul Pelletier & Mick Gray
Editors: Katie Kubert & Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

As a longtime fan of the Suicide Squad concept that John Ostrander introduced in the late 1980s, I was absolutely elated with this self-contained story. However, this was far from a perfect Suicide Squad comic, as it was highly inaccessible and featured interpretations of characters that really didn’t stay true to the characters’ histories. I was of two minds about this annual, but ultimately, I came away pleased. I hope that DC takes the same approach with future Suicide Squad annuals, using them to introduce alternate teams and to stay true to the dangerous and fatal appeal that its title would suggest.

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The Girl with the Arachnid Tattoo

Pearl #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colors: Gaydos (main story)/Patricia Mulvihill (“Citizen Wayne”)
Letters: Joshua Reed (main story)/Janice Chiang (“Citizen Wayne”)
Cover artists: Gaydos (regular)/Alex Maleev (variant)
Editor: Michael McCalister
Publisher: DC Comics/Jinxworld imprint
Price: $3.99 US

To say that I was highly anticipating this latest creator-owned project from Brian Michael Bendis would be an understatement. I was thrilled to hear that Bendis’s move from Marvel Entertainment to DC Comics wouldn’t bring his creator-owned material under Marvel’s Icon imprint to an end. While I’m champing at the bit to see Scarlet resume soon, the promise of Bendis re-teaming with his Alias/Jessica Jones collaborator on a new female protagonist was exhilarating, given my fondness and appreciation for Jessica, both in comics and in streaming TV. Pearl definitely boasts the sort of relatable humanity yet riveting darkness that makes so much of Bendis’s writing so engrossing, but it was more than a confusing at times. I’m definitely intrigued, but I didn’t quite connect with this story as much as I thought I would.

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Flea-Market Finds: Superboy #226

Superboy #226
“The Dazzling Debut of Dawnstar!” & “Five Against One”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils: James Sherman & Mike Nasser (Michael Netzer)
Inks: Jack Abel
Colors: Liz Berube
Letters: Bill Morse
Cover artist: Mike Grell
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover price: 30 cents

My local comics retailer is blowing out its back issues and sets for half off this week, so I couldn’t resist stopping by to peruse the long boxes. I found a complete set of Peter David’s Atlantis Chronicles (which should make for an interesting read in the lead-up to the new Aquaman movie) and the first 20 or so issues of Power Pack. I also happened upon a bundle of four Legion of Super-Heroes comics from the 1970s, and among them was this gem: the first appearance of Dawnstar. I’d never read it before, so I was keen to delve into the character’s origin. To my surprise, though, writer Paul Levitz really doesn’t offer much in the way of background for her in her introduction, but more disconcerting is how he chooses to depict the better-known heroes’ reactions to her. Given the clunky nature of the plot and characterization in this main story, I’m honestly surprised Dawnstar turned to have any kind of staying power in the DC Universe.

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Pall in the Family

Superman #1
“The Unity Saga”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover artists: Reis & Prado (regular)/Adam Hughes and David Mack (variants)
Editor: Michael Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was discussing Bendis’s weekly Man of Steel with the manager of my local comic shop, and we both agreed liked a lot of what the writer was bringing to Superman. However, he pointed out that Bendis had removed the hero’s family — his wife and son — from the equation, and he felt that was a step back, that it removed an interesting dynamic that had been added to the character in recent years. I had to agree that I liked the notion of Clark as a father, but I was waiting to see what Bendis had in store with the plotline. After reading this new issue of the renumbered Superman title, I’m confident the writer knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to the protagonist’s characterization. The challenge of Superman is making him relatable, given the seemingly limitless nature of his power. Bendis has a great handle on Clark Kent, though, but I have to admit the focus on the man is so strong, I’m not nearly as interested in those elements that dwell on the “super.”

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The Eyes Have It

Batman #50
“The Wedding of Batman & Catwoman”
Writer: Tim King
Artists: Mikel Janin, with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; Becky Cloonan; Jason Fabok; Lee Bermejo; Neal Adams; Tony S. Daniel; Amanda Conner; Rafael Albuquerque; Andy Kubert; Tim Sale; Paul Pope; Mitch Gerads; Clay Mann; Ty Templeton; Joelle Jones; David Finch; jim Lee & Scott Williams; Greg Capullo; and Lee Weeks
Colors: June Chung, with Trish Mulvihill; Brad Anderson; Alex Sinclair; Hi-Fi; Tomeu Morey; Paul Mounts; Jose Villarrubia; Jordie Bellaire; and FCO Plascencia
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Mikel Janin (regular)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams, and Arthur Adams
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

As I read the narration for this milestone issue — presented in the voices of Batman and Catwoman, by way of letters to one another on their wedding day — one thought kept running through my mind.

“It’s like poetry.”

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Winged History

Hawkman #1
“Awakening, Part One: What’s Past Is Prologue”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover artists: Hitch (regular)/Stjepan Sejic (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I honestly had no idea what I expect from this latest effort to relaunch DC’s Winged Warrior and to connect with an audience. I’ve enjoyed past takes on the character – notably Geoff Johns’s tenure on the character from the early 2000s – but ultimately, his history in the wake of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths has been a convoluted mess. The attempt to merge the Golden Age Hawkman with the Silver Age counterpart just never worked properly, and the problem wasn’t just continuity, but clarity in storytelling. Writer Robert Venditti has promised this new vision of Hawkman will be simpler and more accessible, but the script for this first issue doesn’t necessarily bear that out. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. It appears that instead of trying to ignore the many conflicting and diverse takes on Hawkman, the writer will embrace that oddity. My hope is that he’ll arrive at something more focused and new. Meanwhile, the real reason I picked up this comic book didn’t disappoint, and that’s the richly detailed and realistic artwork of Bryan Hitch.

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J’Onzz-ing for a Fix

Justice League #1
“The Totality, Part 1”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Cheung (regular)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Scott Snyder’s writing, and no one can resist the attractive linework of artist Jim Cheung, so picking up this new relaunch of DC’s premier super-hero team was a no-brainer. And there’s a lot to like here. Snyder embraces a return to traditions, to moments of lightness and fun, and to a team of dark reflections of the titular heroes. He also offers some strong interplay among the Leaguers and some poignant characterization for a figure that’s been sadly overlooked in DC’s comics for years. But despite those strengths, Justice League #1 is something of an awkward read. Snyder has offered a quick succession of cosmic Justice League stories in the past year, and it’s starting to look as though cosmic fare such as this might not be in his wheelhouse.

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A Galaxy Zaar, Zaar Away

The Man of Steel #1
“Man of Steel, Part 1”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis & Jay Fabok
Inks: Joe Prado & Jay Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Cory Petit
Editor: Michael Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I recently reviewed Brian Michael Bendis’s final published work from Marvel, and it seemed only fitting to turn my attention to his DC debut. Though he had work published at DC in the last few weeks (in Action Comics #1000 and DC Nation #0), The Man of Steel #1 (evoking memories of John Byrne’s relaunch of the character with the same title more than three decades ago) is his first full issue at his new professional home. Some have described Superman, the original super-hero, as the least interesting super-hero — too powerful, too vanilla, what have you. One could argue that in the hands of the right writer, Superman is the most human of super-heroes, and Bendis is definitely equal to the task. The writer has always been talented when it comes to bringing fantastic characters down to earth, and he does so with the title character here, while at the same time, he explores the wonder of his seemingly limited powers — especially when it comes to his super-senses. The Man of Steel is exactly what I was hoping for from Bendis at DC, and I can’t wait for more.

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Reaction Re: Action

Action Comics #1000
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer & Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund; Patrick Gleason; Curt Swan, Butch Guice & Kurt Schaffenberger; Olivier Coipel; Rafael Albuquerque; Clay Mann; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Kevin Nowlan; John Cassaday; and Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Colors: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin & Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos & Cory Petit
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan, and Lee Bermejo
Editor: Paul Kaminski & Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

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Fire Starter

The Curse of Brimstone #1
“Inferno, Part 1”
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Philip Tan
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

With this new creation, writer Justin Jordan and artist Philip Tan delve into a socio-political reality of rural life in America and beyond, but surprisingly, this comic book, at least so far, isn’t all that political from a partisan perspective. This script is going to speak to a lot of people. While I live and work in an urban area, the Canadian province in which I live is suffering from population decline and a struggling economy. While I don’t find myself in dire straits like the characters in this story, it’s incredibly easy to connect with the despair tempered with hope for change. The socio-economic ideas Jordan explores here are important ones, and not something one typically finds in mainstream super-hero comics, so the first chapter of The Curse of Brimstone was a refreshing change of pace in that regard. What hampers it somewhere, though, is the over-declaration of the plight of the backdrop and insufficient information on the real premise that emerges at the end of the issue.

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A Tale of Two Asylums

Doomsday Clock #4
“Walk on Water”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’s writing for some time, but this single issue may be the best thing he’s crafted in his career. Much to my surprise, this event book takes a bit of a hiatus to explore the background and psyche of the new Rorschach, and it’s a fascinating character study. Despite the controversy over mining Watchmen for new stories over the objections of Alan Moore and his fans, it really feels that Johns does right by the source material here. This is completely unlike anything Johns has written before. This issue feels more like an organic extension of Watchmen than the three preceding it. Even if one hasn’t read the first three chapters of Doomsday Clock, one could easily delve into this character-focused issue for a satisfying read in and of itself.

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Flea-Market Finds: Cosmic Odyssey

Cosmic Odyssey #s 1-4
Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils: Mike Mignola
Inks: Carlos Garzon
Colors: Steve Oliff
Letters: John Workman
Cover artist: Mignola
Editor:
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.50 US/$4.75 CAN per issue

When I saw this bundle of the original, “prestige-format” issues Cosmic Odyssey for sale for less than 10 bucks, I knew I had to grab it right away. That I didn’t own this 1988 series, even as a trade-paperback collection, was puzzling, as I’m a major Mignola fan (who isn’t?) and enjoy big universe-spanning, super-hero epics. While this is far from a masterpiece or an example of the best of these creators’ work, Cosmic Odyssey is a solid read, making room for some nice bits of characterization amid the accessible (if overly predictable and simplified) plot. One needn’t be familiar with all the minutiae of DC history to enjoy what is essentially a fairly traditional. Perhaps what’s best about this book is that it demonstrates that a major cosmic super-hero crisis needn’t cross over into all titles in a publisher’s line and can rather just unfold in a self-contained mini-series.

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