DC – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Talon #0 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/10/01/talon-0/ Mon, 01 Oct 2012 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2425 Plot by James Tynion IV and Scott SnyderScript by James Tynion IVArt by Guillem March32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

Talon is, at its heart, a slightly odd book at a glance. It’s a book that has obliquely spun out of the last year’s worth of Batman issues and its Court of Owls storyline, but [...]]]> Plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Script by James Tynion IV
Art by Guillem March
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

Talon is, at its heart, a slightly odd book at a glance. It’s a book that has obliquely spun out of the last year’s worth of Batman issues and its Court of Owls storyline, but the main character didn’t actually appear in any of those issues. But at its heart? Talon #0 reminded me of not one but two different past DC Comics series, and has merged them into a title that I think can end up working quite well.

The Court of Owls, introduced in Batman #1-11, is a shadowy organization with assassins known as Talons. Calvin Rose was once a Talon for the Court, but unlike the others who have left the service only by death, chose to escape being a hitman. But of course, like all super-secret groups that employ killers, Calvin is quickly learning that the Court doesn’t take "goodbye" for an answer. It’s a very simple set-up, one that’s easy to follow. With the Court’s connection to Batman and Calvin’s own experiences as an escape artist, though, it’s hard to stop from thinking about past titles Azrael and Mister Miracle; the former about a former-brainwashed assassin for a secret organization in the Batman titles, the latter about a escape artist who finally escaped from the evil place where he was raised. Fortunately, Talon doesn’t feel like a copy of either, but rather sharing some elements from each. The similarity-yet-difference from those titles is something that I think can work in Talon‘s favor; it gives an easy "this is what it’s about" jumping on point, but avoids any direct elements from copying over.

This is James Tynion IV’s most high-profile project at DC Comics to date; he’s been writing and co-writing some back-up stories in Batman as of late, but aside from a co-plot credit from Scott Snyder Talon #0 is his baby. It flows well in his hands; as the book shifts back and forth you get Calvin’s life story, and a clear example of Calvin’s voice as narrator. Calvin’s by no means a perfect person—after all this is someone who killed for the Court of Owls—but Tynion gives us a character that is clearly wanting to be free of that past. It’s not quite a drive for redemption just yet, but you can see that lurking around the corner. For now, it’s a solid introduction.

Guillem March over the past few years has become so associated with the ladies of DC Comics (first in Gotham City Sirens, then Catwoman) that it’s a breath of fresh air to see him as the regular artist for Talon. When you get him away from the scantily-clad big-chested women and the reader expectations that seem to come with them, March is actually a strong artist. His use of thick heavy lines for shading and texture reminds me of the late great Joe Kubert; he’s excellent with the usage of shadow and darkness to help frame his pictures, a>nd little details like circus posters have a nice art nouveau feel to them. Layouts are good and easy to follow, with March only changing things up when the story warrants it (like a still-groggy Calvin having his world at a slight tilt).

Talon #0 was a comic that could have easily gone wrong, but succeeds thanks to the strong creative talent helming the title. It’s got a road that’s wide open to it, and with the hint that this might be a book with a moving setting, that feels apt. Things could easily change, but for now Calvin Rose feels like a protagonist that could carry a title. That path to redemption feels like it’s going to be stepped on sooner rather than later, and it should be a good journey for both character and reader alike.

]]>
Batman: Earth One http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/07/18/batman-earth-one/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/07/18/batman-earth-one/#comments Wed, 18 Jul 2012 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2346 Written by Geoff JohnsPencils by Gary FrankInks by Jonathan Sibal144 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

It’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re supposed to laugh at a comic or not, and that’s the uneasy feeling I got when reading Batman: Earth One. DC’s "Earth One" series of graphic novels recasts their characters into the modern [...]]]> Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Gary Frank
Inks by Jonathan Sibal
144 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

It’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re supposed to laugh at a comic or not, and that’s the uneasy feeling I got when reading Batman: Earth One. DC’s "Earth One" series of graphic novels recasts their characters into the modern day, tweaking and changing the origins as necessary. (Not to be confused, of course, with Marvel since unveiling their "Season One" line that does the exact same thing.) Of course, with DC since re-launching their entire main line of comics, I couldn’t help but wonder if Batman: Earth One was even necessary. Reading this graphic novel, with its uneven tone and wholesale changes to the character, I’m still not sure.

The idea of changing Batman’s origin and rogue’s gallery is hardly unique. Director Christopher Nolan’s re-interpretation of Batman in his films Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises are certainly the most well-known of these shifts, unafraid to change origins and backstory as part of an introduction to a new audience. That’s also the idea with Batman: Earth One, but some of these changes seem a bit too much "because we could" rather than ones that will excite a new reader. Batman: Earth One opens with Batman chasing a bad guy across a rooftop, and in rapid succession we get the wire on Batman’s mini-harpoon gun snarl, Batman leap for a building and miss the edge (and plunge to the alley), and then finally Batman ignoring a shopkeeper’s store getting robbed. It feels like a parody, but one that isn’t being played for humor. Eventually Johns makes the point that Batman is in over his head, but the way that Johns and artist Gary Frank present those opening pages, it doesn’t initially come across that way.

From there, Batman: Earth One continues with numerous recasting of familiar faces into new positions—Jim Gordon as a spineless cop! The Penguin as Mayor of Gotham City! Harvey Bullock as a television show host! Alfred Pennyworth as a retired Marine and drawn like an older Christian Bale!—but almost never do any of these changes feel natural or somehow more interesting. Add in moments like Bruce Wayne being directly responsible (multiple times) for his parents attracting the attention of their mugger/killer, and this rapidly degenerates into one word thought over and over again: "Why?" None of these changes feel intriguing or somehow able to grab a new reader’s attention more than picking up the current runs of any of the Batman comics being published by DC Comics; Batman: Earth One seems determined to merely be different for the sake of being different.

That’s not to say that Batman: Earth One is a complete failure. There are some bits here and there that work well. When Frank draws a map of Gotham City with the streets almost swirling around in a vortex around the center, it’s wonderfully unsettling just as it’s supposed to appear to the reader. The final page of Barbara Gordon is also a knock out, both visually and in terms of writing; it’s a great moment for the character, with her pile of books in front of her and that satisfied smile with her single word comment, "Cool." But still, those bits aside, Batman: Earth One feels deliberately unlikable in places. Bruce is never a character you can warm to, either as a child or adult, and I found myself a little mystified on why I’d want to read more about him. That’s also true with most of the supporting cast, with their scowling and pinched faces and unpleasant attitudes.

In trying to recast the Batman characters for 2012, I feel like Johns and Franks lost sight of what made the character interesting. Add in that there are so many good Batman comics being published right now that each take a different tactic, and it makes the presence of Batman: Earth One all the more mystifying. This might have been a good idea when it was announced a couple of years ago, but this updated version of Batman has managed to feel outdated upon arrival.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/07/18/batman-earth-one/feed/ 3
Legends of the Dark Knight #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/06/13/legends-of-the-dark-knight-1/ Wed, 13 Jun 2012 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2308 Written by Damon LindelofArt by Jeff Lemire20 screens, colorPublished by DC Comics

DC Comics has been entering the digital comics realm more and more over the past year; with the arrival of their new digital series Legends of the Dark Knight, there’s now a new original digital comic available each weekday from the company. It’s [...]]]> Written by Damon Lindelof
Art by Jeff Lemire
20 screens, color
Published by DC Comics

DC Comics has been entering the digital comics realm more and more over the past year; with the arrival of their new digital series Legends of the Dark Knight, there’s now a new original digital comic available each weekday from the company. It’s been a nice surprise to see that these aren’t comics getting tossed out for the sake of having something in the digital realm, though. With this new Legends of the Dark Knight comic, the first installment is by Damon Lindelof and Jeff Lemire, two talents hardly worth sneezing at. And at 99 cents a comic, it feels like a steal.

Lindelof and Lemire take advantage of this new Legends of the Dark Knight‘s non-continuity, anything-goes remit to give us a story about Batman’s one weakness. It’s set early in Batman’s career; he’s feeling cocky and invulnerable, and has clearly yet to suffer any major defeat. Lindelof’s Batman feels in some ways to be crossed with Christopher Nolan’s take from his Batman Begins/The Dark Knight films; the line "there is only war" feels like it’s pulled right from those movies. Still, there’s a unique take on the character from Lindelof in Legends of the Dark Knight #1 too; I don’t recall a possibly-drunk Bruce Wayne taunting Alfred and making bets, for example, although Lindelof hedges his bets with the possibility that it’s an act. Alfred himself also comes across a little more forceful and with an edge than one might remember. If this was in one of the regular Batman titles I can just imagine readers screaming bloody murder, but serving as the first story in a non-continuity series, it’s a great choice. It lays down the groundwork that anything can happen here, then gives us a prime example of how a creator’s voice can be strong and present without worrying about an entire line of titles getting derailed. All in all, it’s a good, different take on the character.

What I found more compelling, though, was Lemire’s art. Lemire’s been getting more and more work from DC Comics these days—writing and drawing Sweet Tooth, and writing both Animal Man, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., and Justice League Dark—but seeing him drawing Batman is a surprising but pleasing turn of events. I love how Lemire’s ragged style fits Lindelof’s script; this is an early-days Batman, and the trademark cape looks as much like a series of tatters as it does a single unit. He’s a Batman without a massive support network, someone still learning the trade, and it shows in Lemire’s art. Even better, though, are a lot of the minor details; the treads on Batman’s boots, the streaks of rain falling every which way, the bruising on Batman’s face. Jose Villarrubia’s colors mesh perfectly with Lemire’s art; stronger and more concrete when Batman’s in charge, but slightly more gentle and wispy when Batman pictures his rogue’s gallery and wonders which of them is behind this trap.

DC’s original digital comics initiative is taking off quite well, and if the upcoming Legends of the Dark Knight comics are as good as this one, well, it’s 99 cents well spent. Regardless, though, Lindelof and Lemire’s opening issue is worth your time.

]]>
Superman Family Adventures #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/06/04/superman-family-adventures-1/ Mon, 04 Jun 2012 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2301 Written by Art Baltazar and FrancoArt by Art Baltazar32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

After a 50-issue run on the all-ages series Tiny Titans, I was a little sad to hear that Art Baltazar and Franco were wrapping up the title. Fortunately, they’ve promptly moved over to a brand new comic, Superman Family Adventures. And [...]]]> Written by Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by Art Baltazar
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

After a 50-issue run on the all-ages series Tiny Titans, I was a little sad to hear that Art Baltazar and Franco were wrapping up the title. Fortunately, they’ve promptly moved over to a brand new comic, Superman Family Adventures. And like Tiny Titans, it’s a book that I think really does appeal to all ages; little kids will like the fun adventures, while more comic-savvy readers will get a good chuckle over some of the inside jokes aimed at them.

With Superman Family Adventures #1, Baltazar and Franco have a slightly more iconic and recognizable cast than in Tiny Titans. Sure, the Teen Titans Go! animated series didn’t hurt, but at times it feels like just about everyone knows who Superman, Lex Luthor, and Lois Lane are. Of course, Baltazar and Franco include the whole shebang; Supergirl, Krypto, Superboy, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen all make appearances here. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until they dig up Comet the Super-Horse or Streaky the Super-Cat. The story itself is in many ways traditional Superman fare; Lex Luthor uses robots to attack Metropolis as part of a plot to gain super-powers of his own. And while it’s a simple story, it’s easy to follow for young readers, and more importantly they’ll find it fun. Characters use teamwork to defeat the robots, and there’s just the right amount of peril for both ordinary people and superbeings alike.

I did have to laugh at the nod to the new costume from the regular Superman comics being used here. "I really like the new V-neck collar!" made me chuckle; it’s the sort of thing that Baltazar and Franco like to toss in for the parents (or perhaps just older readers who like fun comics regardless of whom they’re aimed at), and that’s what helps keep this title entertaining for all ages. I also have to commend Baltazar for being able to draw quite the heroic looking Superman. His younger-aimed style might seem simple at a glance, but it’s got more heft than you’d think. His Superman comes across as manly and strong, and the progression from one panel to the next is quite frankly showing more storytelling ability than some comic artists meant for older readers.

Superman Family Adventures #1 might be primarily aimed at the kids, but I bet older readers are getting just as much fun out of this series. And if you like it, well, there are 50 issues worth of Tiny Titans (helpfully collected into multiple volumes, too) to let you catch up on all the fun. It might be simple, but it’s also simply fun. As long as there are comics by Baltazar and Franco, I’ll be reading and grinning.

]]>
Fairest #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/03/09/fairest-1/ Fri, 09 Mar 2012 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2189 Written by Bill WillinghamPencilled by Phil JimenezInked by Andy Lanning32 pages, colorPublished by Vertigo

The idea behind Fairest, the new spin-off from Fables, seemed simple enough. The back cover declares it to be about "the fairest flowers in the land" and in interviews creator Bill Willingham has talked about it being a place to tell [...]]]> Written by Bill Willingham
Pencilled by Phil Jimenez
Inked by Andy Lanning
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo

The idea behind Fairest, the new spin-off from Fables, seemed simple enough. The back cover declares it to be about "the fairest flowers in the land" and in interviews creator Bill Willingham has talked about it being a place to tell stories about characters like Snow White, Rose Red, Cinderella, Rapunzel… in other words, the female characters of Fables. So why is it, then, that Fairest #1 is starring Ali Baba?

To be fair, Ali Baba is hiding on the back half of the wrap-around cover for Fairest #1 (along with twelve women), and nowhere does it say point-blank that this is solely a book about Fables‘ female characters. I actually see the merit in occasionally mixing up Fairest by throwing in a particularly good looking male character. But doing so right off the bat feels like it’s sending the wrong message, that whatever you wanted Fairest to be, you’re not getting it.

A bigger problem with Fairest #1 is that even if this had just been an issue of Fables, it’s an awfully dull story. Ali Baba and a bottle imp named Jonah Panghammer are within the ruins of the capital city of the Empire, with Ali Baba being promised to get taken to where Sleeping Beauty awaits a prince to wake her from the slumber that brought the Empire to its knees and saved the residents of Fabletown. It’s not a bad concept, but both Ali Baba and Jonah are distinctly uninteresting characters. As a sidekick, Jonah comes across as irritating rather than funny, and Ali Baba is full of himself in a way that is annoying rather than entertaining (like Prince Charming was in Fables). Neither of them can carry this first issue, which in many ways has the same fault that the earlier spin-off series Jack of Fables did; the creators think the main character is clever and charismatic but never actually give us that.

It also doesn’t help that in terms of plot, it feels like the events of Fairest #1 are mostly a throwaway. Open the book with the final page, give a brief summary of Ali Baba meeting Jonah a page or two later, and you can move forward with the first issue at least having Sleeping Beauty as a co-star, if not the outright lead. This comic feels like a huge amount of padding, and when you consider that this is only issue #1, that’s a bad sign.

The saving grace for Fairest #1 is the art. Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning rarely disappoint, and this is not one of those moments. Their two-page opening spread of the ruined capitol city looks gorgeous in its devastation, with intricate pillars and stairways alongside charred vines of thorns and ashes. And while I’m not a fan of Ali Baba being the star of this opening story, I will give Jimenez credit in that he draws a quite attractive man. The pout when Ali Baba says, "No wishes?" is great—a good remind of how much the art can help tell the story—and in general we get more characterization from Jimenez’s poses and postures that he places Ali Baba in than the actual dialogue.

Fairest is fortunately an anthology title, with each new storyline being from a different creative team, and to that I say, "Thank goodness." Jimenez’s pencils are amazing and the Adam Hughes cover is beautiful, but at this point I feel fully prepared to wait until the next storyline kicks off. Who’s the fairest of them all? Not this comic.

]]>
Ray #1-2 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/01/20/ray-1-2/ Fri, 20 Jan 2012 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2003 Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin GrayPenciled by Jamal IgleInked by Rich Perrotta32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

I still remember when DC published the revamp of The Ray back in the early ’90s, with Jack C. Harris and Joe Quesada taking the core concept and creating Ray Terrill, a new character with the power [...]]]> Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Penciled by Jamal Igle
Inked by Rich Perrotta
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I still remember when DC published the revamp of The Ray back in the early ’90s, with Jack C. Harris and Joe Quesada taking the core concept and creating Ray Terrill, a new character with the power to transform into and manipulate light. With this new The Ray mini-series 20 years later, I’m getting a similar vibe from Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Jamal Igle. And that’s a very good thing indeed.

Palmiotti and Gray’s main character of Lucien Gates opens his mini-series with an internal monologue to the reader, saying that the audience probably wants his origin story, because everyone has one, no matter how ridiculous. He then goes on to mention that at the moment, he’s fighting gigantic telepathic jellyfish. And that, to me, sums up The Ray. The writing here is light and fun, as we see that the accident that gave Lucien his superpowers also did all sorts of other strange things, like creating a two-story tell horned lizard, or the previously mentioned flying telepathic gigantic jellyfish. A lot of this story feels like an excuse to whip up bizarre things and throw them both at the reader and the main character.

Palmiotti and Gray write The Ray in a conversational, almost intimate style. It gives you the sensation that you’re being sat down with the main character and are listening to his rambling, never-ending saga. It’s a style that in comics is probably best associated with Christopher Priest’s work on comics like Quantum & Woody and Black Panther; since Priest himself wrote an ongoing The Ray series (and edited the Harris/Quesada mini-series), it’s a rather fitting approach to take. This also isn’t a book that too concerned with the normal trappings of superhero books. The Ray focuses less on the flying mutant manta rays, and more on how Lucien’s trying to make his girlfriend Chanti’s parents like him (despite the fact that he’s not Indian, but in fact of Korean descent). And as a hook, I like it. Lucien and Chanti’s relationship feels real, and Lucien’s fumbling through figuring out his powers (controlled in part by meditation and yoga practices his hippy mother taught him) and how to deal with the fact that putting on clothes causes them to incinerate is entertaining. There’s something about The Ray‘s breezy style that makes me wish that this had been one of the launch titles for DC’s "New 52," because this is the sort of ongoing series I’d cheerfully read every month.

Igle’s pencils are, as always, attractive. He’s got a good sense of anatomy (and let’s face it, as Lucien keeps vaporizing his clothes initially, we see a lot of anatomy here), the backgrounds look good, and most importantly Igle is able to bring across the sensation of speed whenever Lucien uses his power. Every time the Ray zooms off, it feels genuinely fast; considering this is a print medium, that’s no small feat. There are lots of good little touches too; the faint wrinkles around Lucien’s father’s eyes, for instance, or how a hovering Lucien is drawn in a streamlined manner that matches up with the diagonal zap of light in the next panel over.

I’m actually a tiny bit disappointed that we’re halfway through The Ray mini-series. This is fun, pure and simple, and Palmiotti, Gray, and Igle feel like they’re paying homage to the old Ray comics while still defining their own title character. The Ray might not be getting a snazzy "New 52" logo on its cover, but trust me, this is one of the better new comics to launch from the company these past few months. If you’re looking for a fun, darkness-free comic (both figuratively and literally), you can’t go wrong with The Ray.

]]>
Justice League Dark #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/03/justice-league-dark-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/03/justice-league-dark-1/#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2011 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1896 Written by Peter MilliganArt by Mikel Janin32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

Justice League Dark is simultaneously one of the stranger and more logical books from DC Comics’ re-launch. With characters like John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, and Shade the Changing Man now back in the main DC Universe (while in the case of Constantine, still [...]]]> Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

Justice League Dark is simultaneously one of the stranger and more logical books from DC Comics’ re-launch. With characters like John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, and Shade the Changing Man now back in the main DC Universe (while in the case of Constantine, still continuing his mature-readers Hellblazer comic), it was just a matter of time until they all teamed up. Having them in their own Justice League comic, and written by Vertigo mainstay Peter Milligan? It’s so strange it could just possibly work.

The book opens in a fairly standard manner; introduce the characters one-by-one, putting each of them in different places and situations and then slowly inching them all towards one another. While few of them get to do much, they all get their little character moments. Shade is shown as the unbalanced madman, Enchantress as the dangerous being, Madame Xanadu as the voice of calm, and so on.

Shade is the only one that truly stands out, but considering the modern version of the character was created by Milligan, that’s not much of a surprise. Ironically, the only one that feels a little eyebrow raising is this DC Universe version of John Constantine; perhaps because Milligan’s so used to writing him in Hellblazer, this one feels almost (but thankfully not quite) like Dick Van Dyke’s fake cockney character from Mary Poppins. At least he doesn’t actually say "crikey," although his brief cameo comes close.

The big superstar of Justice League Dark #1 is Mikel Janin, who feels like the next generation of Gene Ha. Janin’s art is packed with detail, from a crazy multi-car pile-up on the freeway, to candles and stained glass windows in the background as Madame Xanadu and her cards make their first appearance. Fortunately he’s more than just a "pack all the detail in you can" kind of guy. I love the petrified look on poor Kathy’s face as her reality is revealed, and the crazy emaciated form of the Enchantress comes across as menacing.

What pleased me the most about Janin’s art, though, is how well he’s able to draw the truly strange. Not many artists get a script telling them to assault Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg with hundreds of flying teeth, but Janin draws it like it’s something he has to handle all the time. It’s creepy and menacing, and it gives us a strong reassurance that Janin is up to the challenge of drawing the odder nature of Justice League Dark.

Having the actual Justice League make an appearance here was a little surprising, but I feel like Milligan’s already shown us where he’s going with their guest star role. As the three Justice Leagers get buried under the teeth, it’s a reminder that all three are out of their element. It’s the beginning of a justification for Justice League Dark‘s team to exist, no doubt to tackle the far out and bizarre menaces that the Justice League isn’t well-equipped to fight. It works as well as any other idea to get them together, and more importantly, it lets us see the Justice League buried under a pile of teeth. That’s always a nice change of pace.

Justice League Dark #1 was an entertaining debut, and the script was good enough to make me want to read a second issue. More importantly, though, Janin’s art is just beautiful. I have a sneaking feeling that even if the script hadn’t been up to par, I’d have been back for Justice League Dark #2. It’s no surprise that DC Comics just hired Janin to an exclusive contract; with art this good, I’d want to make sure he stuck around for a long time, too. This is a fun new book.

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/03/justice-league-dark-1/feed/ 1
Wonder Woman #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/09/26/wonder-woman-1/ Mon, 26 Sep 2011 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1875 Written by Brian AzzarelloArt by Cliff Chiang32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

Poor Wonder Woman. A lot of high-profile creators have taken stabs at the character over the past decade or two (J. Michael Straczynski, Gail Simone, Jodi Picoult, Allan Heinberg, Greg Rucka, Phil Jimenez, John Byrne, to name just a few), but none have [...]]]> Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

Poor Wonder Woman. A lot of high-profile creators have taken stabs at the character over the past decade or two (J. Michael Straczynski, Gail Simone, Jodi Picoult, Allan Heinberg, Greg Rucka, Phil Jimenez, John Byrne, to name just a few), but none have managed to create a definitive, high-excitement run that kept its momentum going. Next up are Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, who both have the benefit and hindrance of getting the opportunity to start as much or as little from scratch as they wish. The end result? If I didn’t know better I’d think this was a hot new Vertigo series debut.

What’s fun about Wonder Woman #1, right from the start, is that Azzarello has brought his own voice and take on the comic which both fits with what we’ve seen before, but at the same time could just as easily be the start of something utterly brand new. At its core is the most important parts of Wonder Woman for me; a strong, self-assured main character, and the influence of the Greek gods. The latter might not sound like much, but when the title was rebooted in 1986, George Perez, Greg Potter, and Len Wein’s addition of the gods into a major part of the title is one of those pieces that fit in perfectly. After all, both the Amazons and Wonder Woman herself have major connections to the Greek gods in their origins, and it helps set the character apart from most other superheroes. And here, we’ve got gods galore: a rendition of Apollo with dark, rocky features by night and bursts into flame in the morning; a bird-footed, willowy Hermes; a peacock-cloaked Hera who leaves weapons and destruction in her wake. All three are instantly memorable (especially Apollo), and I like Azzarello’s twists on them. Azzarello dips into Apollo’s portfolio to remember his influence over oracles for a grim two-page opening that then is threaded throughout the comic—another reminder that seeing the future is not always a good thing—and the modern take on Hermes’ helmet and winged sandals is a clever one.

But more importantly, Wonder Woman herself is good here. She doesn’t get a lot to do, with more focus on new character Zola, but it’s still a surprisingly good introduction. She’s short on words but no nonsense; as she fights the beings surrounding her and Zola, you are instantly given the impression that this is someone who is not easily stoppable. Wonder Woman is supposed to be one of the most powerful characters of DC Comics, and it’s a pleasant reminder here that she’s one of the "big three" characters for a reason. When Wonder Woman tells Zola in her home, "You’re safe here," you can tell that she doesn’t just mean it, she knows it to be true.

Just as important to this debut issue of Wonder Woman is Chiang’s art, which is crisply drawn and beautiful from start to finish. When it comes to motion, Chiang’s got it down to a science. Just look at the three panel sequence where Wonder Woman takes down a centaur running away from her. First we get the heft of the blade, then in the second panel a tight focus on Wonder Woman right as she’s thrown it. We don’t need to see the sword leave her hand, or even her hand itself. The way she’s got her mouth open and leaning forward, the motion lines around her arm, it’s clear what has just happened. And sure enough, in the third panel, we have the sword whipping through the air. Not only do we get a strong sense of movement in that panel with the multiple images of the sword, but Chiang has lined it up with the second panel so that at a glance it actually looks like it is moving away from her body.

Of course, the figures themselves look fantastic. As Wonder Woman suits up for battle she’s got a beautiful, confident expression on her face, doubled up with the way that she puts her iconic bracelets onto her arms. The previously mentioned redesigns of the gods look great, making them both alien and human at the same time. And Zola gets a lot of attention from Chiang; with just a few lines we get everything from panic to anger to fear echoing across her face. Best of all, even though some characters are in various states of undress throughout the comic, Wonder Woman never comes across as sleazy or exploitative. If I had to describe how Chiang’s characters looked in two words, beautiful and strong would probably the the ones chosen.

Wonder Woman #1 is a big success. It’s recognizably the right character, and it’s a good take on her iconic nature. The story moves briskly, has a good cliffhanger, and it feels like it’s heading towards something even bigger. Without the Wonder Woman name or costume, I could see the ideas here being used in a totally different comic and being a success, but having Wonder Woman star in it adds an extra little punch to the story that makes it all click together. I feel like Azzarello and Chiang have a clear, distinct vision for the character, and hopefully they’ll be delivering it to readers for some time to come. While Wonder Woman #1 serves well as a template to follow, I think I’d be much happier with them just providing the end product month in and month out.

]]>
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/09/19/frankenstein-agent-of-shade-1/ Mon, 19 Sep 2011 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1867 Written by Jeff LemireArt by Alberto Ponticelli32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is one of the odder choices from DC Comics to be part of the big re-launch of their line. A comic about a group of classic monsters working for a secret organization to stop strange things is hardly the [...]]]> Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto Ponticelli
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is one of the odder choices from DC Comics to be part of the big re-launch of their line. A comic about a group of classic monsters working for a secret organization to stop strange things is hardly the sort of book that feels commercial, after all. But for readers who aren’t scared off by analogues of the Wolfman or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, there’s enough in Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 to make this title feel like it fits in with the larger DC Universe.

Writer Jeff Lemire is in a strange position with Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.; despite this being the first issue of the series, he actually got an earlier stab at the title this summer with the three-issue miniseries Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos. Looking back now, that story felt like a warm-up rather than an actual prelude. Leaving out the more important fact that Creature Commandos was set in an alternate timeline and "didn’t happen" in regards to Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., this newer series feels like it’s taking a slightly different and potentially more interesting tactic than its predecessor.

Here, Lemire is playing up the strangeness factor of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. After all, this is a character that got brought back into the spotlight a few years ago courtesy Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke in the Seven Soldiers mini-series, and that pair of writer and artist exude nothing both strangeness whatever they work on. So here, we get a barrage of big concepts and creations in the first handful of pages; a headquarters hovering above the Earth that you need to be both teleported and also shrunken into, humanoids created for 24 hours that are then absorbed back into headquarters, an aging leader randomly regenerated into the form of a little girl. It feels almost like Morrison’s Doom Patrol on fast-forward, with Lemire throwing out these ideas in rapid succession to try and grab the reader’s attention before they can catch their breath and look away from the comic. So far, the idea feels like it’s working. It’s not the smoothest of information dumps at times (although the S.H.A.D.E. Net computer answering Frankenstein’s questions throughout the comic is a nice touch), but there are enough little sparks throughout the comic that I felt myself nodding along with the different ideas. It balances out the only-slight bits of characterization for the supporting cast, but since they only even show up at the halfway point of the first issue, I’m willing to cut Lemire a bit of slack on that front.

Alberto Ponticelli is an interesting choice for Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., in no small part because Ponticelli’s art style is quite similar to Lemire’s. Both draw in that raggedy, textured style that is full of excess lines and edges; it’s the antithesis of smooth. (Why they then put the incredibly-smooth-lines of J.G. Jones on the cover is slightly beyond me, mind you.) It’s a good choice for Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., with the S.H.A.D.E. headquarters coming across as dingy and almost alien, or the ghoul invasion in the town feeling that much more violent and dangerous. And boy oh boy, can Ponticelli draw monsters. One big difference between Ponticelli and Lemire’s art, though, is that Ponticelli’s feels a tiny bit more exaggerated in places. It actually brings to mind the deliberate grotesqueness of Mahnke’s art when drawing the character years ago, and it feels like Ponticelli is trying to bridge the gap between then and now.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 is a solid debut. I’d like to see more about the supporting cast, but as an opening issue it achieves its purpose. We get an instant feel for this monsters-fighting-bigger-monsters series, and the hints of strangeness to come is an attraction. Lemire’s proven on books like Sweet Tooth and Animal Man that he’s not afraid to go down strange paths, and I fully expect Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. to show us more and the same. I’ll be back next month, absolutely.

]]>
Batwing #1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/09/12/batwing-1/ Mon, 12 Sep 2011 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1856 Writen by Judd WinickArt by Ben Oliver32 pages, colorPublished by DC Comics

There’s something odd and initially off-putting about a book that is pitched as, "The Batman of Africa." Why Africa seems to get repeatedly lumped into a single region while similarly diverse continents don’t is beyond me (there’s much more respect for the different [...]]]> Writen by Judd Winick
Art by Ben Oliver
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

There’s something odd and initially off-putting about a book that is pitched as, "The Batman of Africa." Why Africa seems to get repeatedly lumped into a single region while similarly diverse continents don’t is beyond me (there’s much more respect for the different areas of Europe or Asia, for instance), but at the same time there’s so little in American comics set on this continent that my curiosity got the better of me. As it turned out, I’m glad it did; it’s a book that I suspect won’t be long for this world, but was definitely worthy of some attention.

Judd Winick sets Batwing in Tinasha, a fictional city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s described as "one of the most crime-ridden cities in all of Africa," a phrase that made me instantly think of Hub City in The Question, which isn’t a bad direction in which to go. Winick does fall into the trap of having his characters constantly refer to all of Africa as a single unit, though, despite the fact that they’re living in a country that’s a quarter the size of the United States. That’s more than large enough in its own right to have its inhabitants refer to their own country rather than an entire continent that’s quite varied in culture, language, people, and just about anything else you can think of.

Once you get past that distracting fact, though? Aside from some pacing issues, it’s a solid opening. Winick opens the comic with a brief fight between Batwing and a new villain named Massacre, before shifting back into flashback to begin telling the story of how we got to this point. Lead character David Zavimbe comes across a bit slight, but with room for growth; one of those people who is clearly good at his job and as a police officer, a ripe choice to become Batwing. The scene with him and Batman is in some ways "Superheroing 101" as David learns how to use the costume and the mask to frighten wrong-doers, and the sort of attitude and mystique needed to make himself an effective hero.

Winick is also trying to create a history for superheroes on the African continent, with the invention of the Kingdom, a seven-person superhero team that operated across Africa and specifically helped free the Democratic Republic of Congo. While it’s a little hard to buy the death of Earth Strike from the group as part of the central mystery (the lack of a body to be identified as his makes it more than likely that Earth Strike really isn’t dead), it is at least a small hook to make readers interested in what’s to come. That’s a good thing, since the cliffhanger is still set in the flashback and we already know that Batwing is going to survive the otherwise violent moment at the end of the issue.

The bigger attraction for most readers, I suspect, will be Ben Oliver’s art, coupled with Brian Reber’s colors. The two have created a spacious, larger-than-life look for Batwing; lots of diagonal-shaped panels that stretch across the page, and with a sharp look into how colors, shadows, and outlines work together to create something stronger. Oliver’s faces look at times like photographs in their stark realism; as he zooms the view in on a villain’s eyes, you can actually see the terror building in them. And while a cloaked-in-darkness image of Batman rising up is hardly unique, Oliver and Reber still make it look awe-inspiring, which is a particularly nice touch.

A comic launching a new character (save for a brief appearance in Batman Incorporated), set in an African nation instead of the United States, and in the same month as 51 other new and revamped titles? Let’s be honest, the deck is stacked firmly against Batwing. But it’s a good enough beginning, although I do wish we’d had a bit more happen in this first issue. I fear it could be the inadvertent death knell of the title right out of the gate; with so many other books to compete for attention from the reader, this slow start might not be enough to bring readers back for a second helping. For now, though, consider me curious enough to read a second issue. I’d like to see this be the little book that could.

]]>