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Archive for January, 2013

Comic Review: Batman: The Dark Knight #16

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Batman: The Dark Knight #16 Ethan Van Sciver Gregg Hurwitz New 52

New artist.

New villian.

Same writer.

More problems.

Batman: The Dark Knight #16 is overwhelmingly flat in every way, as Gregg Hurwitz fails to build any measure of excitement or anticipation with the opening of his Mad Hatter storyline, and Ethan Van Sciver’s debut fails to impress.

In fact, Van Sciver’s only unique addition is an annoying stylistic change to Batman’s cape. Van Sciver has transformed it into something more like real wings, complete with ridges and hooks that look okay in some cases, but downright silly and awkward in others.

Van Sciver’s strongest moment is, coincidentally, Gregg Hurwitz’s weakest. Bruce and his Ukranian girlfriend Natalya part ways over a piano in Wayne Manor, and Van Sciver artfully arranges the panels to look like whitewashed piano keys. The scene looks beautiful, but sounds like a cat is rolling over the keys because Hurwitz’s dialogue is so poor.

After giving Bruce a nice tender moment with Natalya in issue #15, Hurwitz suddenly transforms her into a thoroughly unlikeable, self-important whiner and cliche Eastern European girl before marching her (mercifully) out of Bruce’s life.

The breakup is, quite honestly, the most memorable section of the comic. The rest is typical Mad Hatter fare: mind-controlled goons are abducting people across the city, and Batman is left struggling to find what connects their disappearances.

B-list villains like the Mad Hatter can be fertile ground for new, inventive writing, but they can also be a tired amalgam of cliches and unoriginal ideas. Sadly, Hurwitz seems firmly planted in the latter approach to the character. His Hatter is an irritating, cockeyed little troll made all the more annoying by the fact he needs a stepladder to get up in people’s faces. As ever, Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum are in tow, and mind control hats abound.

After reading the first issue in this new arc, the direction for Batman: The Dark Knight is certainly clear.

This baby’s going nowhere but down.

5 out of 10

Comic Review: Aquaman #16

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Aquaman #16 Throne of Atlantis Geoff Johns DC Comics New 52

Throne of Atlantis marches on with its penultimate chapter in the action-packed Aquaman #16.

Aquaman and Batman are the only ones awake in the dark pit where Orm has sent them to die, and the Justice League call-ups are doing their best to defend Boston against the Atlanteans. Meanwhile, Cyborg continues to earn a more prominent role by sacrificing himself to a robotic implant, but he also holds the key to determining who started the whole conflict with Atlantis.

The instigator is a twist you will never see coming, proving yet again that Geoff Johns is a wonderful shepherd for the DC universe’s grand crossover stories.

Johns is equally adept at providing character moments against the Justice League backdrop. Here, he’s been using Throne of Atlantis to explore the alpha male relationship between Aquaman and Batman, and putting them alone in a dark cave proves to be a great pressure cooker situation for their character development.

Cyborg’s the one you really feel for, though. He needs to make a lot of sacrifices to be a part of the team, and he does it stoically and without complaint. Throne of Atlantis means a lot for Aquaman, but it’s quietly becoming a big deal for Cyborg, too.

Not that Cyborg is quiet here. He gets to show up guns blazing, and artist Paul Pelletier renders him in full red and gold glory when it’s his time to shine.

Pelletier’s art is strong, especially in the spread where Hawkman, Firestorm, Vixen and the rest of the League are battling the Atlanteans. The barnacle shoulder pads on the Atlanteans are a standout detail that speaks to the strength of Pelletier’s work. It’s not as grandiose as Ivan Reis’ work on Justice League, but this title is centered on Aquaman. For a tighter focus, Pelletier gets the job done admirably.

A lot happens in this issue, and a lot more needs to happen in next month’s Justice League #17 to bring this excellent storyline to its worthy conclusion.

With great visuals, exciting plot points and some great character dynamics, Aquaman #16 is a must-read for lovers of the DCU.

9 out of 10

Comic Review: Hawkeye #7

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Hawkeye #7 Hurricane Sandy David Aja cover Marvel NOW! Matt Fraction

Hawkeye #7 is a phenomenal one-off split issue that combines two Hawkeyes, two artists, one writer and one killer hurricane to create a funny, poignant, and genuine response to the Hurricane Sandy disaster.

Matt Fraction has always made Hawkeye about the everyday life of Clint Barton, and while that usually means exploring the nuances of holding an apartment building barbeque or helping a dog that’s been hit by a car, it also means dealing with the kinds of problems a superhero with a cape can’t save you from.

That’s exactly what happened when Hurricane Sandy flooded New York and New Jersey.

In times of disaster, people cling to their loved ones, both living and gone. They band together to help one another get through crisis. Community drives them, and anonymous charity is everywhere.

Fraction captures that perfectly in Hawkeye #7. Clint Barton and Kate Bishop are both heroes and victims because ultimately, they’re just like everyone else. Their acts of heroism are inspiring, but we see the same acts from the everyday people in this story.

In times of disaster, anyone can be a hero.

The story follows Clint Barton helping a friend in Brooklyn while Kate Bishop attends a wedding in New Jersey. When the hurricane hits, they do their best to keep people’s heads above water, and they do it with the typical Fraction combination of wit and understated heart.

Steve Lieber takes the art duties for Hawkguy’s half of the book and delivers some excellent work that’s very much in the spirit of regular David Aja’s hand. Jesse Hamm draws in for the second block to render Kate Bishop in a more cartoon, Archie-like style that perfectly captures the feel of a New Jersey wedding Kate really doesn’t want to go to.

Hawkeye #7 is a compelling fiction based on real events. It’s worth it for the story alone, but know that when you buy this comic, all of Matt Fraction’s royalties are going straight to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Read Hawkeye. Be a little bit of a hero yourself.

Not that you need another reason to read one of the best comics at Marvel today.

9.5 out of 10

Comic Review: Batman and Robin Annual #1

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Batman and Robin Annual #1 New 52 DC Comics Damian Wayne Andy Kubert Cover

Batman and Robin Annual #1 is at times amusing, at times painful, and overall a forgettable side trek that superficially prods at the Bruce and Damian Wayne relationship without really bringing anything new to the table or hitting any strong emotional notes.

Writer Peter J. Tomasi provides the amusing moments by making this Damian’s version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Damian sends Bruce on a European scavenger hunt to retrace the steps of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s courtship, but it’s a ploy so Robin can rule the roost. With Wayne Manor to himself, Damian takes the opportunity to try on Daddy’s cowl and go for a joy ride as Batman for a few days.

Damian’s Batman costume is a fun nod to the grown up, post-apocalyptic Damian of Batman #666, and it’s cute to see him put on a scary voice and try to be the tough guy with criminals and Commissioner Gordon, but Tomasi doesn’t offer any compelling conflict for Damian to resolve. With the real Batman gone, Batman Jr. does little more than chase down a gas thief and – if you’ve ever been to a gas station – you know they have security cameras that make a 10 year-old in a trenchcoat seem like overkill.

Story quibbles aside, the real flaw with this comic is the art.

Ardian Syaf just doesn’t cut it. His action panels are horribly twisted and disproportionate, and he can’t keep consistency between them. At times Bat-Damian is wearing tights, yet the next panel he’s got grey trousers on.

The inconsistencies would be forgivable if things looked good, but they don’t. There are multiple shots of Damian firing his grappling hook where his hips and shoulders are twisted in strange, Gumby-like poses that make you ache to look at. Even when the action is muted, Syaf’s facial expressions border on crazy-looking.

Ultimately, the art here is poor and the story is flat.

Batman and Robin Annual #1 is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a Bat cowl, but it’s not nearly as fun.

5.5 out of 10

Comic Review: Avengers #4

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Marvel NOW! Avengers #4 cover Hyperion Adam Kubert

Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers #4 dials back the epic scope and dials up the character focus as the expanded Avengers begin to deal with the aftermath of Ex Nihilo’s attack on Earth.

Avengers #4 sees a squad of Avengers doing mop-up work, chasing an origin bomb to the Savage Land and running into A.I.M. along the way. Thor is hilarious and Captain Marvel is badass, but the lesser-known Hyperion is the real center of the story.

This issue does with Hyperion what Avengers #3 should have done with Captain Universe: it organically introduces a lesser-known Marvel character by blending him with more established Avengers.

At first blush, Hyperion is a ginger-haired Superman knock-off, but Hickman takes the time to establish that the character has a dark, unknown side to him that makes him worth a closer look. He’s got the Blue Boy Scout’s powers and origin, but he’s not wholly on board with being a shining crusader for truth.

If Hickman takes this approach with the rest of the expanded Avengers crew, he’ll do well in making Avengers about more than it’s core heroes.

Hickman has promised that his Hyperion focus isn’t a one-off; Hyperion will play a major role in the grand three-year narrative ahead, so this issue will be an important plot point for the series going forward.

Hickman’s dialed-back, character-centered story goes hand in hand with the dialed-back art in this issue, as Adam Kubert takes over pencil duties from Jerome Opena. Kubert does alright – particularly in that he gives Carol Danvers a better haircut – but he struggles with drawing mouths on his characters. Frank D’Armata brings a more muted color palette to this comic, making it less flashy in every respect when compared to the first arc.

Those hoping for a return to the energy of the first storyline will be disappointed. Avengers #4 is part epilogue for Ex-Nihilo, part prologue for Hyperion. It’s a lot of narrative heavy lifting without a lot of payoff.

7 out of 10