NewU Reviews: Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1

So, it’s finally over – Flashpoint ends today, and with it, the DC Universe as we know it.  But every ending is just the beginning of something new, so I’m going to briefly discuss – since lebeau has already handled both books already – the beginning of the DCnU as well, including how DC’s same day digital release process treated me.  As always, spoilers ahead…

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Review: Flashpoint #4

What can I say about Flashpoint that hasn’t already been said before?  It’s a lost series, a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be.  It certainly isn’t an adventure story – every time a team is formed to deal with a problem, they collapse or fail immediately.   Every attempt to become epic quickly backfires, every attempt to become post-apocalyptic is thwarted by the mundane.  In service of a more fully realized story, this dedication to defying expectation might be noble; in Flashpoint, it just feels like padding to keep a simple story running for the proper number of trade-worthy issues.

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Review: Flashpoint #3

After Flashpoint #2, I was legitimately concerned for the series.  The last issue was scattered and uneven, trying to do a bunch of different things and failing at just about every single one of them.  The book was torn between being a big action book and a big ideas book, and it was failing at both.  Flashpoint #3, however, brings us right back on track, telling a clear, focused adventure story.  Spoilers below…

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Top 5 Best Comics of June 2010

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Still incredibly late, but I will catch up soon. I read 30 comics in June, and these were the best.

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Review: Batman and Robin #2

Writing: Morrison delivers another outstanding adventure comic. If any of you were displeased with the symbols, hallucinations, and 50’s Batman references that plagued Morrison’s earlier Batman issues, have no fear! Morrison is just trying to entertain here, while Quitely does his thing. The Dick/Damian relationship is handled particularly well. Morrison has a good handle on both characters, especially Dick, for those of you who were worried, since Dick spent most of “Batman: RIP” drugged. Also, the Circus of Strange is a welcome addition to the Batman rogues gallery. It’s no accident that Dick’s first foes are circus-folk, and Dick even gets to show off his circus slang.

Art: Frank Quitely is arguably the star of the show. He’s already adapted his style to better fit the Batman universe, providing looser and scratchier pencils, as opposed to the cleaner, cinematic style of All Star Superman. This new style works particularly well for the fight scenes. Batman and Robin’s battle with the new villain, Siam, who is basically three men fused together, is especially memorable. I also have to mention the fine coloring of Alex Sinclair, who captures the funhouse vibe perfectly.

Final Word: This is a crowd-pleasing, extremely enjoyable comic that you’re almost sure to like. Though it may not be as deep as Morrison’s earlier Batman work, with all of the crazy villains, and a new, likable Dynamic Duo, you’re sure to find plenty to like here.

Grade: A

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Top Ten August 2009 DC Covers

Illustrated by Ed Benes

No, this isn’t my number ten. I thought we’d kick things off with the worst cover. Oh, Benes. Must we have a zombie ass shot? Really? Yeah, DC, get that man on the Blackest Night: Titans series and he’ll draw all the dead Titans in one big zombie orgy. Terrific.

10. Illustrated by Fabrizio Fiorentino

Whose hand is that? Will the JLA DIE??? No, but is that Plastic Man as the King? That’s cool. I kind of want to read this. Oh wait, this book is terrible. Nevermind.

9. Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a striking image. It’s not every day that someone has a hand in Batman. Will DC kill off their new Batman already?

8. Illustrated by Amanda Conner

That’s an interesting cover. I wish it had a background, but it’s been awhile since I saw Power Girl in a monster’s paw. And PG’s expression is awesome! Well done, Conner!

7. Illustrated by Frank Quitely

As much as I love Quitely, his covers aren’t always the best, but I like this. It’s like we’re in the POV of some giant. Look at our huge hands, and our minions are beating up the heroes way off in the distance. The pencils are unusually loose for Quitely, and I dig the coloring.

6. Illustrated by J. Bone

Take note, Benes. That’s how you do ass shots! It’s the generic JLA cover backwards! Sweet!

5. Illustrated by Simon Bisley

Who hurt you, Constantine? Who hurt you?

4. Illustrated by Dave Johnson

“I killed him, Horatio.”

3. Illustrated by David Lapham

The last Young Liars issue. Too bad. Great cover, though. Sad, absurd, and tells you something about the comic. It involves Mars.

2. Illustrated by Brian Bolland

Brian Bolland back on Animal Man covers, everything is right in the world. How amazing is that? Wonderfully drawn, striking, who’s pointing at Animal Man? What’s happening to Animal Man? The only downside is Starfire. She just radiates “skank” doesn’t she? Oh, well. At least Bolland didn’t draw Starfire naked.

1. Illustrated by JH Williams III

Williams is amazing. This cover isn’t as spellbinding as last month’s, it’s a bit more conventional. But this is a cover you will notice. That wolf makes it look like Coppola’s Dracula is involved. I have no idea who that guy embracing Batwoman is, and I love the way Batwoman’s blood blends with her red hair. I am so looking forward to this comic!

So, that’s my list. What’s yours?

Top 5 Best Comics of April 2009!

This is a new feature. Let me know what you guys think. I read 26 comics in April, and these were the best.

But first, let’s kick things off with the worst book of the month:

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 (of 3)

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2

Written by Tony Daniel

Illustrated by Tony Daniel

Published by DC Comics

No, this wasn’t actually the worst book of the month, but it was the worst I read. And the fact that it’s so high-profile, gives me all the more reason to bash it. But, to be fair, this isn’t a terrible comic. In fact, I wish it were a terrible comic, because then, at least, it’d be a bit interesting. What we have here, is forgettable, generic hogwash. I suppose, if you were a huge fan of Tony Daniel, you might have a bit of a good time. I’m not that fan. Again, Tony Daniel isn’t terrible. In fact, if we were ranking mediocre 90’s, Post-Jim Lee artists, Daniel is near the top of the list. However, that’s still not nearly enough to keep me entertained while reading a story completely written for the art. Why the hell did DC let Daniel write this? “Hmm, what writer should we get to follow Grant Morrison? I know! Tony Daniel!” I could write more, but I’ve bashed this comic more than enough. This book isn’t even that fun to hate.

Secret Warriors #3 (Wolverine Art Variant)

5. Secret Warriors #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman & Brian Michael Bendis

Illustrated by Stefano Caselli

Published by Marvel Comics

Wow! Who knew I was craving a book like this? Oh wait, I did! I’m awesome! Only three issues in, and Secret Warriors is arguably the best comic that Marvel is currently publishing. It’s definitely the most exciting. First, we got that kick in the pants about Hydra. Then, we got the return of the freakin’ Gorgon. This issue’s Dum Dum reveal really wasn’t that exciting, but who knew that some of Phobos’ prophecies from the second issue would already come to pass? Oh, and Gorgon said something like, “Someday, I will kill a god.” Yeah, whenever a badass talks about killing gods, it’s always pretty cool.

Boys #29 (Cover B)

4. The Boys #29

Written by Garth Ennis

Illustrated by Darick Robertson

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

This was the conclusion of “We Gotta Go Now,” an arc that spent a little too much time on masturbation jokes. But man, did this issue blow the damn doors down. First, we get the chilling truth about the G-Men. Then, Hughie gets his badass moment. And…well, the shit pretty much hits the fan after that.

Walking Dead #60

3. The Walking Dead #60

Written by Robert Kirkman

Illustrated by Charlie Adlard

Published by Image Comics

It’s always hard to rate The Walking Dead on an issue to issue basis. That’s probably the reason why most people read it in trade. However, with this issue featuring  the conclusion of that horde business, the ever-growing madness of Morgan, and the feeling that Dale may finally turn on Rick, this was a terrific installment.

Read my full review here.

Secret Six #8

2. Secret Six #8

Written by Gail Simone

Illustrated by Carlos Rodriguez

Published by DC Comics

Ah, Secret Six, a title that never fails to put a big, stupid grin on my face. Actually, I wasn’t too impressed with the last issue. It wasn’t bad, but for the conclusion of the first arc, which was pretty awesome, it just wasn’t completely satisfying. This issue, however, was sweet and charming, while still managing to provide all that sick, twisted humor that the book continues to deliver. Oh, and Tiny Secret Six? Classic.

Detective Comics #853

1. Detective Comics #853

Written by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Published by DC Comics

So, I guess this arc wasn’t nearly as well-recieved as people hoped, huh? Then again, a lot of people don’t care for Morrison’s run, either. So what the hell do people know? Gaiman managed to pack everything he could about Batman into just two issues. He does a good job expressing the appeal of Batman, touching on everything from his love to his mortality. However, the undisputed star here is Andy Kubert. He produces possibly the best work of his career. Well, I don’t know if it’s better than Batman #666. I love that issue.

Read my full review here.

Pretty even between Marvel, DC, and Indies, but DC did snag the top two. Then again, DC was also responsible for the worst book of the month. Overall, I’d say that April was a pretty good month for comics. All five of these books were a hell of a read.

Review: Detective Comics #853

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I admit to being a few days behind the time on this one.  I read it the day it came out – I devoured it, in fact.  However, I was unsure of what to make of it.  As I read it, I was struck by the extreme anti-climax of it all.  I put it down, disappointed, and moved on to the next book in my read stack.

As the day and then week wore on, however, I found my thoughts often returning to Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?  This second part featured some of the best work Andy Kubert has ever done, I recognized that right away.  I also appreciated the continuation of the stories from issue 1, as they remained skillfully handled.  Though the full stories are no longer shown, the snippets we do get are emotionally powerful – from the Mad Hatter being haunted by Batman’s last words, to the redemption of Clayface – and through them, Gaiman mines the mythology of the character to find its hidden heart, the vast, powerful supporting cast that Batman has developed over the years.

Like Morrison, Gaiman realizes that Batman isn’t about tragedy, but hope.  Batman isn’t about fear, but love.Not loss, but family.  Batman will fight the devil, fight off the God of Evil, and afterwards, he’ll be right back to fighting off muggers in Gotham.  In a way, Gaiman’s issue comments on that perfectly as Batman is led by a figure from his past to witness these stories, his many deaths, and learn what the purpose of this ordeal is, and while the ultimate message of the issue does serve as metacommentary on the Batman comics themselves, it also fits in quite well with his Omega Sanctioned fate in Final Crisis.

In some ways, perhaps Whatever Happened came a little too close at the heels to The Butler Did It, a more exciting, storyline relevant two-part meta-commentary Bat-arc by a famed writer from across the Atlantic.  That is up to each reader to decide for him or herself.  What I do know is that part 2 of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? was a deeply respectable, emotional send-off to a character who is, at least for now, gone, but not forgotten.

Grade: B+

Review: Detective Comics #853

Detective Comics #853

(*****)

“Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” is a wonderful tale, about paying homage to seventy years of storytelling while providing a new, unique tale that gets to the core of what Batman is really all about. It’s masterfully drawn by Andy Kubert and…wait? This isn’t written by Grant Morrison? Yes, as I talked about in my previous review, this arc is very much in the style of Morrison’s run.

So, story-wise, if you loved Morrison’s run, you’ll probably love this. If you didn’t, for now…courage. Really, and I’m sure Neil Gaiman would agree, the art is the star here. This is easily Andy Kubert’s best work. He completely nails everything here, from the technical aspects like storytelling and tone, to the multiple artistic references. Just about every artist who’s ever made his mark on Batman is part of this book, but Kubert still manages to put his own spin on the classics. Hell, you’ll even get some Dave McKean in here. So, the art is fabulous, and the story, for my taste, is fantastic as well. For all the darkness that Batman is known for nowadays, Gaiman keeps things positive, and I thank him for that.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Batman #686

Batman #686 (Cover B)

(****1/2)

Neil Gaiman’s Batman is here! Does it live up to the hype? Yes. Will it please everyone? I don’t think so. In fact, it’s a lot like Morrison’s run.

As you probably know, in the 80’s, Alan Moore wrote Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? This is Gaiman’s answer to that. Moore’s tale was supposed to be the Man of Steel’s last adventure. It was packed with action and memorable moments. Gaiman’s tale is, appropriately, more of a mystery. It’s full of absurdities, quasi-realities, and references to old comics. Sounds Morrisonian, right? As I said, this is a mystery. So I’m not entirely sure where this story is going, but this first part was thoroughly entertaining. It’s surprisingly lighthearted, full of humor, and it even pokes fun at the goddamn Frank Miller!

It’s nice to see Andy Kubert return to Batman. His work looks good as always. Maybe this means he’ll be back for some of the upcoming Morrison issues. Though there’s still more to come, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader is a proper homage to seventy years of Batman.