Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Pop Goes the World

Human Bomb #1
“Chapter One: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist/Cover artist: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I’ve a huge fan of legacy characters, especially when it comes to DC’s Golden Age super-heroes (or “mystery men,” as they’ve been called). My favorite storyline from Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron was the one in which he revealed the “untold” origin of the Freedom Fighters, which included the original Human Bomb. That being said, DC has apparently tasked writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray to retool and reinvent the Freedom Fighters characters for the 21st century (for the second time, as they penned a couple of Freedom Fighters series in the years right before DC’s New 52 relaunch). As is the case with Earth 2, DC has apparently decided to sever its Golden Age properties’ ties to the Second World War, and from a nostalgic perspective, I find that disappointing. While I was interested to see what Palmiotti and Gray were doing with these concepts with a series of limited series, I figured I’d wait to see what the word online about such comics as The Ray and Phantom Lady. If the buzz was positive, I’d seek out the collected editions. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about them, and since I think the Human Bomb concept is a cool one, I decided to check out this first issue. While it’s devoid of any connection to the preceding spins on the character, the writers have crafted an interesting story that manages to overcome some significant challenges posed by the subject matter that didn’t exist when it was created in the 1940s.

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People Are Strange, When You’re a Stranger

Phantom Stranger #0
“A Stranger Among Us”
Writer: Dan DiDio
Pencils/Cover artist: Brent Anderson
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

It was clear from the title character’s appearance in DC Comics – The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1, he’s intended to be a part of a larger event-driven story, likely the first of DC’s New 52 continuity, as he’s been linked to Pandora, the mysterious woman who appeared in all 52 first issues of the line back in September 2011. And judging from this origin issue, DC is employing the Phantom Stranger as a catalyst to bring more of its classic characters into the New 52 fold. There’s just one problem: the Stranger doesn’t seem to have much of a story of his own. Sure, there’s his effort to redeem himself by performing divine tasks to rid himself of his cursed coins, but his real purpose appears to be to make things happen for other characters. And it all seems rather pointless.

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Blackest Knight

National Comics: Eternity #1
“Kid Eternity”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Cully Hamner & Derec Donovan
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artist: Cully Hamner
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Jeff Lemire has done some solid work with DC’s supernatural/weird characters as of late, and Cully Hamner’s artwork is always something to which I look forward. So when DC announced this comic book, the first in a series of one-shots spotlighting some of its more obscure and odd characters, I was eager to get my hands on it. The story here is entertaining, and the art embraces a dark tone that suits the macabre elements of the premise. Ultimately, though, Lemire’s plot and premise felt rather familiar. This feels like by-the-numbers storytelling. While I enjoyed what I was reading, I also knew exactly what to expect, not only from page to page, but from panel to panel. I had an odd feeling when I reached the end of the comic book, realizing a writer so well-known for his unconventional stories and characters had offered up something so conventional.

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Alternative Comic

Batman: Earth One original hardcover graphic novel
“Earth One”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Inks: Jonathan Sibal
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $22.99 US/$25.99 CAN

DC’s “Earth One” line of graphic novels (though one can hardly call it a line at this point) really got lost in the shuffle when the publisher relaunched its entire stable of ongoing super-hero comics last fall. I think it’s a safe bet these graphic novels — which, like many of the New 52 comics, offer new takes on familiar characters — was something that was dreamed up and had resources dedicated to it long before DC embarked on its successful New 52 initiative. The problem with Batman: Earth One lies not with the storytelling or creativity. Instead, it confuses the DC brand, especially at a time when the publisher is garnering more headlines for a gay character in Earth 2 than with a retooling of its most popular property in a book awkwardly subtitled “Earth One.” Once one ignores the poor management and marketing decisions, though, one will find an entertaining and offbeat take on DC’s Darknight Detective. Describing it as a “fresh take” would be a misnomer, though, as the choices writer Geoff Johns makes here for the Batman aren’t entirely new.

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Minute by Minute

Variant coverBefore Watchmen: Minutemen #1
“The Minute of Truth, Chapter One: Eight Minutes”
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Colors: Phil Noto
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
“The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep, Part One”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: John Higgins
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Cooke (regular)/Michael Golden (variant)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (print only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)

Truth to be told, I wasn’t among comics readers who are interested in new Watchmen-related comics. I am, however, keenly interested in new comics crafted by Darwyn Cooke, so picking up this controversial curiosity of comics was a no-brainer for me. I knew I’d love the artwork, and given Cooke’s affinity for moody, 20th-century period pieces (The New Frontier, Parker), I was interested in what he had to offer.

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A New 52 Review: The Ravagers #1

Variant coverThe Ravagers #1
“Children of Destiny”
Writer: Howard Mackie
Pencils: Ian Churchill
Inks: Norm Rapmund & Ian Churchill
Colors: Alex Sollazzo
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Churchill (regular)/Brett Booth & Rapmund (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum & Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I knew going in this wasn’t going to be the sort of comic book I normally enjoy, the first sign something was amiss was apparent on the cover, with the six protagonists all identified with bold captions. It’s not often one sees that incorporated into cover art, at least not in a composition such as this one. Still, I kept an open mind, interested in how DC and its creative talent have reinvented some familiar and not-so familiar characters. Unfortunately, this comic is exactly what it appears to be: an inaccessible, uber-violent exercise in “Kewl” comics storytelling of the mid-1990s. In other words, it’s an example of How Not to Do Comics. I hope DC will be content with circulations numbers at the same level of Teen Titans, because there isn’t a prayer of this title bringing in any more readers than that. And it’s far more likely The Ravagers will find itself kicked to the curb to make way for another wave of New 52 titles in the future.

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A New 52 Review: Batman Incorporated v.2 #1

Variant coverBatman Incorporated v.2 #1
“Batman, Incorporated: Leviathan, Part One: Demon Star”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Burnham (regular)/Frank Quitely (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While Grant Morrison acknowledges in this script some of the events from various Batman comics he didn’t write, what he really does here is pick up where he left off in the first volume of Batman and Robin. In that series, he impressed readers with his presentation of a new dynamic between the Dynamic Duo. In that previous project, Batman was Dick Grayson, the original Robin, and the new Robin was a genetically engineered child assassin. The dark and light aspects of the pairing were reversed. Now Morrison has Bruce Wayne back, and the Dynamic Duo is the Dark and Dismal Duo. Peter J. Tomasi has been doing some solid work with the two characters in the New 52 incarnation of Batman and Robin, but Morrison has something else in store here. His focus isn’t so much on character but on plot, but given the scope and inventiveness of that plot, it’s a worthwhile read. More importantly, Morrison’s Batman work has served as a great spotlight for Chris Burnham, who quickly went from being an unknown illustrator with a couple of obscure graphic novels under his belt to a go-to talent for DC.

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A New 52 Review: DC Universe Presents #9

DC Universe Presents #9
“Savage, Part One: Daddy’s Little Girl”
Writer: James Robinson
Artist/Colors: Bernard Chang
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artist: Ryan Sook
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Well, this series has only struck out once in three times at bat. James Robinson’s reinterpretation of Vandal Savage is the third feature to grace the pages of this series, which offers stories spotlighting different characters by different creative teams. There’s an undeniable Silence of the Lambs riff at play in this story, but the familial dynamic keeps it from seeming derivative. The writer blends the serial-killer genre with the periphery of that of the super-hero (or villain, to be more precise), and the result is thoroughly entertaining. While I enjoyed the strong, new female protagonist Robinson introduces here, what stands out as the greatest strength of the issue is Bernard Chang’s artwork. He did such a great job on the inaugural Deadman story arc in DC Universe Presents and on this new one, it seems to me DC ought to just make him the regular artist for the series across the board. Chang is a skilled comics artist whose traditional style nevertheless boasts a great deal of nuance and impact when the story calls for it.

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A New 52 Review: Worlds’ Finest #1

Variant coverWorlds’ Finest #1
“Rebirth”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils: George Perez & Kevin Maguire
Inks: Scott Koblish & Kevin Maguire
Colors: Hi-Fi & Rosemary Cheetham
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover artists: Perez (regular)/Maguire (variant)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Of the four New 52 second-wave titles to debut this past week, this one offers the most traditional, purest approach to the super-hero genre, and consequently, it’s a thoroughly fun title. It also stands out as writer Paul Levitz’s strongest work since leaving his executive position at DC Comics and returning to writing full-time. The strength of his storytelling stems from a couple of sources: a strong friendship built on a shared tragedy, and the disparate ways those two friends chose to deal with it. What will like draw a number of readers to this book is the strength of the artistic talent. George Perez and Kevin Maguire are deservedly popular artists, and they demonstrate here why they’re so sought after. The writer and artists aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but they’re building on a solid foundation. Despite the cosmic catalyst of dimensional displacement and the title’s connection to the continuities of two different worlds, at its heart, Worlds’ Finest is about a friendship that’s strengthened due to a shared obstacle.

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A New 52 Review: G.I. Combat #1

G.I. Combat #1
“The War That Time Forgot”
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Ariel Olivetti

“The Unknown Soldier”
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Dan Panosian
Colors: Rob Schwager

Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Brett Booth (regular)/Ariel Olivetti (variant)
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Of all of the entries in DC’s second wave of New 52 titles, this was the most curious. When G.I. Combat was announced as one of the six replacement titles, it seemed an odd move to move this title into the slot of the cancelled Men of War. Furthermore, the two features DC planned for the revived G.I. Combat — “The War That Time Forgot” and “Unknown Soldier” — had both been the subject of scuttled reinventions in titles of the same name. Nevertheless, I went into this debut issue with an open mind, as it features the work of some creators — notably Ariel Olivetti and the writing team of Gray and Palmiotti — I normally enjoy.

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A New 52 Review: Dial H #1

Variant coverDial H #1
“What’s the 411?”
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Colors: Tanya & Richard Horie
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Brian Bolland (regular)/David Finch & Richard Friend (variant)
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

You couldn’t find a better target audience than me for this new title. I’ve loved the “Dial H for H-E-R-O” concept since I discovered it in Adventure Comics in the 1980s in a stint by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino and Don Heck. I never submitted a hero for inclusion in the book, but I devoured every issue and marvelled at how DC accepted ideas from its readership. Skip forward a decade or two, and I was gobbling up just about every title being offered by DC’s Vertigo imprint, headed by Karen Berger, the mature-readers’ brand’s editor, who also happens to be editing this new spin on the H-Dial (heh, “spin”). I suppose if I was familiar with China Mieville’s prose works, I’d represent the perfect demographic trifecta. Admittedly, I was receptive to this book going in, but one could argue I had high expectations as well. Well, if I did, Mieville and artist Mateus Santolouco lived up to them. Despite my love for the title concept, I really didn’t know what was in store for me, and what I found was unreal, unconventional and unique. The creators have crafted something dark but goofy, surreal but grounded.

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A New 52 Review: Earth 2 #1

Earth 2 #1
“The Price of Victory”
Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Inks: Trevor Scott
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (regular)/Bryan Hitch (variant)
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

When DC announced Earth 2 would be a part of its second wave of New 52 titles, I was thrilled. There were rumors of the book long before the official announcement, so I was already a bit keyed up for it. I’m a huge fan of DC’s Golden Age characters and the Silver Age notion of World War II super-heroes’ adventures taking place on “Earth 2.” Hell, one of the purchases I made at the same time as picking up the first issue of Earth 2 was Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1. In any case, as the weeks passed and we neared the release date of this new project, the promotional images made it increasingly clearer writer James Robinson wasn’t restoring the icons of DC’s Golden Age to their former glory. Earth 2 isn’t a bad comic book. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, the kind of thing that made comics released under DC’s Elseworlds imprint years ago such a success. The problem with the book is the title and the creators’ decision not to fulfill the promise that title makes. Those hopeful for the return of the Justice Society of America and other related characters will be somewhat disappointed with what they find here as a result.

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A Manhattan Project

Captain Atom #s 2-5
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US per issue

I undertook last fall to review all 52 first issues of DC’s relaunched lineup, which it dubbed “the New 52.” It was a lot of comics, and as a result, I reviewed a lot of comics I never would have read otherwise. Among them was Captain Atom #1, to which I had a lukewarm reaction. In my review of the first issue, I dismissed the series, positing the title character was “a standard super-hero now, and aside from the terminal nature of his powers, he doesn’t seem particularly special anymore. Captain Atom #1 is, unfortunately, a rather boring read, and I’d rather my super-hero comics be campy or cheesy than boring any day of the week.”

That was the last I thought I’d see of the relaunched series, but thanks to my local comics retailer’s efforts to clear out surplus backstock, I had the chance to sample subsequent issues at a bargain-basement price. I couldn’t resist revisit the book at a buck an issue. I discovered Captain Atom wasn’t the boring comic book I thought it to be. However, while I’m pleased I took a second look, I still wasn’t won over, finding the pacing to be lacking and the concepts being explored too strongly influenced by a landmark comic of the 1980s that DC’s about to mine for new stories and sales this summer.

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The Magic Is Gone

Justice League #7
“The Villain’s Journey, Prologue”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gene Ha
Colors: Art Lyon
Letters: Patrick Brosseau

“Shazam!”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano

Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Gary Frank (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (regular)/$4.99 (digital combo pack)

The good news is this is the first issue of this series to deliver enough content to merit the $3.99 US cover price. With the main story and the backup, it finally feels as though we’re getting value for that extra dollar. Furthermore, writer Geoff Johns offers an unexpected story in the main piece, distinguishing this incarnation of the title team from past iterations of the super-hero group. But for every strength to be found in this issue, there seems to be an element that’s irksome and detracts from the reader’s enjoyment. And most of those elements are to be found in the thoroughly wrong-headed reinvention of the Shazam! property in the backup feature.

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Dark Shadows

The Shade #5
“Memoria Roja”
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Javier Pulido
Colors: Hilary Sycamore
Letters: Todd Klein
Cover artists: Tony Harris (regular)/Javier Pulido (variant)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

As a fan of writer James Robinson’s Starman series of the 1990s, I, of course, have been enjoying this revisitation of some of the supporting characters from that landmark series. However, this issue stands out as particularly well crafted, and the reason has nothing to do with the Shade or any Starman elements. I had thought this comic marked the debut of a new super-hero, but a quick Google search reveals Robinson introduced La Sangre in the pages of Superman v.1 a couple of years ago. I missed that introduction, but I’m thrilled I got to discover the character here. La Sangre is a wonderful concept for a super-hero — a benevolent, centuries-old vampire frozen in the form of a teenager — but what really makes the character pop is the elegance Robinson instills in her with his dialogue. Adding to the appeal of this issue is the artwork by Javier Pulido, who conveys a number of exotic elements with seeming ease, all while toying with page layouts and figure movement.

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