New Teen Titans #22

newteentitans22I’ve always been a big fan of Brother Blood, mostly due to picking up some comics that had the Teen Titans fighting him. That, and a really wicked cover of him rising out of a vat of blood. The New Teen Titans #22 is the second appearance of this highly underrated villain.

The issue is joined in progress, with Brother Blood’s cult having kidnapped Robin and Wonder Girl, both of whom are being tortured by a very generic looking cult member called the Confessor. Robin also spends most of the issue running around in his underwear, until Cyborg and Kid Flash rescue their missing team members.

Brother Blood attempts to escape, but a staged accident frames the Titans for killing the cult leader. Things don’t look good for the next issue, as Starfire’s evil older sister Blackfire is en route to planet earth.

The art is awesome; it’s George Perez at his peak. And the story is fine. Good book.

Nightwing #30

I’ll admit it; sometimes I purchase comics because of the hype that is around them. And that is precisely why I bought Nightwing #30. It features the debut of the New 52 (although it feels really odd still calling it that nearly three years later) of Helena Bertinelli, better known as the Huntress.

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The issue starts out at a refugee medical camp in the Congo that has fallen under attack by a “depopulationist” group called the Fist of Cain, which is made up of some of the most random looking assassins and murderers they could hire. One is decked out in corpse paint, looking like the lovechild of a Norwegian black metal band and King Diamond. The other looks like he walked straight out of Disney World’s Adventurers Club.

One of the relief workers was Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Batman’s long-time doctor. She is conveniently rescued by Helena, who is wearing some sort of white disco suit and has a bit of a fro going on. Leslie is taken to her headquarters where she talks with a man with an unrecognizable face and might have spilled the beans about Batman being Bruce Wayne. We know this because she’s telling Batman the story, and he doesn’t look too happy. Leslie also mentions the group has a weird insignia that she keeps remembering, an eye at the center of a spider-web.

The story then shifts to the Batcave, where Batman and Nightwing are involved in some sort of weird Fight Club style conversation. Basically in the last few months Nightwing has had his secret identity revealed by the Crime Syndicate, turned into a living bomb and apparently “killed” by Lex Luthor. It has been quite the rough past few months for him. So instead of talking about why he should join the cover black-ops group Spyral, they have a fight to the death to see if he is up to the challenge. Of course he is. The book ends with Dick going off with Valerie, setting up the new Grayson series for next month.

As an issue, it nicely ties up everything from the Nightwing series, but I really could have done without the Bats/Dick fight to the death. It just seemed over the top. I think Batman really needs to learn how to communicate with people without using his fists so damn much.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #31

ImageThis is a series that I’ve been picking up every now and then. To be honest, I’m not up to date with the book, but the fact that it has the lead characters fighting with Lobo gave issue #31 the potential to be awesome in at least my mind.

We’re joined in progress on some alien space station and Lobo is standing victorious. He has defeated the Outlaws and is ready to unleash some sort of over the topic, only-in-comics type of weapon that will turn the planet earth into a black hole.

Why?

Lobo goes on a rant about how destroying the planet would be great for his business, especially since there is some sort of Rann/Thangar war brewing. Luckily for everyone on the planet, Arsenal brings his A-game, breaks Lobo’s war machine and sends him to the other side of the galaxy. It’s back home for the Outlaws.

Who cares what is up with them, but the ending teases the long-awaited bad-ass Lobo versus the New 52 Lobo. Hot damn.

Ben Affleck’s Batman Suit

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I might as well join the bandwagon and put in my two cents about the new Ben Affleck/Batman suit; everyone else seems to be.

I have to say that I like it.

It reminds me a lot of the way that Jim Lee or Frank Miller would draw the character; it looks right out of the duo’s All Star Batman from a few years back. The suit looks right to me, much more than the plate armor that the character was sporting in the Christopher Nolan trilogy.

I think even Butters would agree; this is going to be awesome.

Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench

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I think I’m the only person in the world who finds Geoff Johns’ writing to be very hit or miss. I know I’m not the only person in the world who thinks that Aquaman can be pretty lame as a character. That said, when I picked up Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench I had really low expectations. What I wound up reading was a really fun story pitting Aquaman against an army of aquatic subterranean creatures.

The main story featured in this collection is from Aquaman #1-4, with the cannibalistic deep-sea dwellers called the Trench invading the surface world. It’s up to Aquaman and his wife Mera to stop this invasion. Think of Night Of The Living Dead meets The Abyss, except with a lot more humor worked in. Eventually it’s revealed that the reason that the Trench are invading the surface world is that they are facing extinction and trying to stop it, but at the expense of the surface world. Eventually Aquaman saves mankind (and probably the rest of the residents of the ocean as well) by trapping the Trench. And along the way he rescues a Golden Retriever who winds up being named Aquadog.

The other two stories in this collection feature Aquaman stranded in a desert and a story that tells more about Mera’s origin as an Atlantean assassin. These are perfectly acceptable, but the main story line is what makes the collection. It’s certainly sold me on the series; I have the next two volumes waiting for me at the library.

 

Red Lanterns #27

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I don’t know half of what’s happened leading up to this but it’s got a cover that makes me happy. As a long-time fan of the JLI era, getting to see Guy Gardner and Ice getting into some mischief is enough for me.

Red Lanterns #27 starts on some planet that Guy and the rest of the Red Lanterns liberated. He’s also had a bit of a change in appearance from the cover, as he now sports a mustache that Burt Reynolds would be jealous of.

The main story features Guy trying to win his ex-girlfriend Ice back, who lives in an icy cabin in the woods of Norway. It’s just like the movie Frozen, except a million times cooler. They broke up because he’s an angry, miserable son-of-a-gun but he’s much better now.

The subplot has two teams of the Red Lanterns out on patrol, two looking for the missing ring of the late-RL Ratchet, and the other two go sight-seeing around the planet Earth. Unfortunately they make fun of Guy’s hometown Baltimore, which also happens to be one of my favorite places.

Perhaps I’ll follow this series more…

John Romita Jr’s Superman May Be The Coolest Thing Ever

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Superman just became awesome again.

I will admit that I’ve grown away from Superman as a character. At one point he was definitely one of my favorites; I loved the whole Dan Jurgens/1990s era of the character when they were putting out four tightly knit Superbooks a month. But over the years, I wound up losing interest, especially all of the undoing of the John Byrne post-Crisis aspects and replacing them with a more Geoff Johns/Richard Donner theme.

The Superman in the New 52 books has peaked my interest on and off, mostly due to Jurgens’ involvement on the title. Fast forward to the recent announcement that there was going to be a new Superman series with Geoff Johns at the helm and I wasn’t that excited. But with them announcing that John Romita Jr. would be drawing Supes with Klaus Janson on the inking side, suddenly this is something I want to read.

This is the first DC work that JRjr has done and having it be on one of their–if not the–highest profile characters certainly is exciting. Color me optimistic.

Batman: Death Of The Family

 

death_of_the_familyThanks to my friendly local public library, I’ve been on a bit of a New 52 kick. Scott Snyder’s Batman: Death Of The Family is a suspenseful collection that pits the Dark Knight against his most sadistic foe–the Joker.

The story is simple; the Joker has returned to Gotham City and is recreating some of his greatest most horrific encounters with Batman. Not only that, but he’s attempting to kill of Batman’s allies. Batman kind of expects that he would go after Batgirl, Red Hood and even Red Robin. But things get taken to another level when the Joker sets his sights on Bruce Wayne’s long-suffering butler Alfred. It’s up to Batman to stop the Joker and save his extended Batfamily.

The conclusion of the story isn’t the most satisfying. One of the plot points is that the Joker has somehow figured out the connection between Batman and Bruce Wayne, to the extent that he knew that a way to get to Batman would be by attacking Alfred and how to access the Batcave (which is presumably still connected to Wayne Manor). This was explained in a flashback at the story with Batman as Bruce Wayne confronting the Joker at the Arkham Asylum over a Joker card that was mysteriously found in the Batcave. That in turn gives away everyone else’s identity. But at the end of the story, it was pretty much stated that the Joker didn’t know any of this information. That part I’m still not clear on.

The other interesting reveal was that Batman does indeed know who the Joker was before be became a sociopath. They didn’t reveal it but I would assume that it would mean that he is connected to some of the more prominent characters in the Bat universe.

Death Of The Family did get my attention and I did enjoy it. I really wish that the big reveals at the end were more concrete and not just spring boards for future stories. If you have any thoughts, please comment because I’m still trying to put it all together.

Teen Titans #0

ImageI know it’s been a while; I’ve been spending more time reading comics than blogging about them. Well, that and being increasingly busy in my professional life. So here’s a quick one so I can get back on track.

Teen Titans #0 gives us the backstory of the New 52-ized Tim Drake. Previously Tim was the son of two Bruce Wayne-level wealthy parents, and over the years he had several encounters with both Bruce and Dick Grayson. He eventually figures out their secret identities, and after the death of his mother and crippling of his father Tim becomes the third Robin to avenge his family’s losses.

Writer Scott Lobdell takes the origin in a different direction. He’s a superstar high school gymnast and general smartypants who tries to figure out–unsuccessfully–who the Batman is. To get the Dark Knight’s attention, he hacks the Penguin’s bank account.

That was a surefire way to get everyone attention, with Batman having to save them. As a result, his parents have been put into the witness protection program and have been relocated somewhere in the country and he now has to take the identity of Tim Drake, an adopted ward of Bruce Wayne. At that point Bruce finally reveals that he’s Batman and Tim dons the roll of Red Robin.

The one theme that is hammered into this issue was the relationship between Tim and his parents. They were immensely proud of him and everything that he had been able to accomplish. However, he wound up giving that all away in his quest to unmask Batman. Not only is he isn’t living with them and with extremely limited contact, but they will never know about his true greatest accomplishment: being a super hero.

It’s interesting all around and I’m sure Lobdell is planning on revisiting his parents at some point.

Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot #1

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I’m not reading too much  current DC stuff this days, but I did pick up Justice League of America #7.1. That said, writer Matt Kindt should get all the credit in the world for doing something extremely difficult: making Deadshot awesome.

The issue lays out the New 52 version of Deadshot’s origin that kind of models itself after the Batman model. When his super frugal parents were gunned downed by a wasteful and sloppy pair of gang members, he snapped.

Deadshot spent the rest of his life training to avenge their deaths in a cost-effective way…by being completely accurate. And this sense of frugality and perfectionism has made him one of the–if not the–best hitmen available. He has a very odd moral compass and that sets him apart from the more wantonly violent assassins in comics (Bullseye I’m looking at you!).

The story ends with him explaining his relationship with Amanda Waller and her government sponsored Suicide Squad, and how he’ll do anything–good or bad–as long as the price is right.  Kindt did a great job taking an older gimmick comic book character and completely modernizing him. Check this out…you won’t be disappointed.

Batman/Deathblow: After The Fire

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I really thought I was going to like this a lot more than I did. Batman/Deathblow: After The Fire is a collaboration of sorts between Batman and Deathblow in Gotham City. There is a caveat: the two characters never encounter each other and writer Brian Azzarello did an awesome job with that plot twist.

The premise is fairly simple. Ten years ago, Deathblow and another government black ops soldier named Scott Floyd failed to stop a crime syndicate that employed a pyrotechnic hitman. At the current time, Floyd becomes a friend of Bruce Wayne and is murdered by this fiery villain. Bruce/Batman are off to avenge his death and bringing this criminal to justice. The story goes back and forth between Batman’s present and Floyd’s past as they both race to stop this new mysterious villain.

Batman/Deathblow never delivers that big Batman and Deathblow encounter that I assumed would happen, so in that sense the book doesn’t deliver. Instead, there is a slow burning mystery, which you would expect from an Azzarello written Batman. It is certainly not the most exciting or well written story in Azzarello’s bibliography, but if you are a fan of his you will enjoy this.

Art in this was by Lee Bermejo, who later went on to collaborate with Azzarello on the Luthor and Joker books. It’s dark and moody, thanks to Tim Bradstreet’s inking and an extremely muted color palette.

Batman/Superman #1-2

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I know I’ve been kind of harsh on some of the New 52 stuff that DC has been putting out, but I was pleasantly surprised after I read Batman/Superman #1-2. But then again, anything that combines Jae Lee’s art with a Greg Pak script will be great.

This series starts out with the two meeting for the first time, shortly after Clark Kent is investigating Bruce Wayne for an article he is writing. After a costumed encounter, they realize each other’s extracurricular activities and there is a lot of fun super hero battling. This newly found friendship/alliance has them take on the mysterious shape-shifting Trickster and eventually sends them to Earth 2 where they encounter alternate versions of themselves!

It is a bit of a complicated read, with all the shape-shifting and multiple versions of the same characters, but it’s definitely worth sticking with. Pak is a great writer and I’m sure it will all make sense at the end. And for Lee’s art, it’s just awesome.

So I give this a thumbs up. It was a pleasant surprise that I wasn’t necessarily planning to check out.

Superman and John F. Kennedy

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Did you know that today is the birthday of former United States President John F. Kennedy? Did you know that JFK was able to count Superman as one of his close and personal friends?

The first time JFK and Superman got together was back in Action Comics #309. The president helps Superman out of a bind by stepping in to play the role of Clark Kent. The timing of this book was extremely unfortunate, as it came out the week after Kennedy’s assassination and was too far into the printing process to recall the issue.

DC had another Superman/JFK crossover in Superman #170, which was pushed back to spring of 1964 out of respect to the Kennedy family. The story behind it was pretty interesting, and Dial B For Blog explains it in great detail.

He-Man Starts Wearing Pants

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So after about thirty years, He-Man decided that he’s going to do something that the rest of us have to do: wear pants. DC Comics shared his new look on their blog this today.

This is taken from Ed Benes’ cover for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4. I’m sure him and the series’ interior artist Pop Mhan (and probably toy maker Mattel) had some input on these new duds. It tones down his barbarian image a lot and has lots of plate armor. The one thing i’m not to keen on this redesign is that it looks like he is still wearing his furry underwear, and the tufts of hair around the shoulders.

So what do you guys think?

Adventure Comics #467-469: Starman, Plastic Man and Ditko

adventure-comics-467Adventure Comics was a long running anthology series from DC. Issues #467-469 caught my attention due one of the features being the debut of the Prince Gavyn incarnation of Starman. I was drawn to this not because of the character, but more because it was Steve Ditko work from the 1980s.

After reading the Steve Ditko book, I’ve had a lot of interest in this period of his career which is very hit or miss. But in these issues, Ditko was on fire. The script is by Paul Levitz, who wrote a lot of DC’s more cosmic stories during this period.

Gavyn is a prince from the intergalactic empire of Throneworld, and after developing powers he was exiled into deep space while his evil and corrupt sister ascends to the throne. As Starman, he comes back to try to liberate his people. It’s what you would expect from a science fiction/fantasy/super hero comic book from this time. One cool thing about the story is that Starman’s origin isn’t explained till the third appearance of the character. I liked that because you already had a sense about him before that was all explained.

And, I guess another reason why I really wanted to pick these up was because of the Gavyn figure I have from the Justice League Unlimited line that Mattel put out during the mid 2000s. I felt obligated to learn a little more about a character that I wasn’t familiar with.

The other stories in these issues feature Plastic Man, which are pretty silly and kid friendly. I think that’s because this would be the time that the character was horrifying a generation of children on a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Don’t believe me?

This might be a conversation for another day.

Justice League International #7-12: Booster Has A Breakdown

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We are back! I finally got around to looking at the last six issues of Justice League International. This was the second series from the New 52 that I was really excited about that happened to get cancelled. So what happens to the Booster Gold lead group on their final mission?

This final story arc starts with a bang, as the group gets attacked during a public event by a new villain named Breakdown. This guy–along with his squad of villains–wants the world to descend into chaos and anarchy, and what better way to start that campaign by taking out one of the premier super groups while the world watches. There are countless casualties; Rocket Red and some of the JLI’s support staffers were killed. Ice, Fire and Vixen have all been seriously injured.

The rest is a pretty by the numbers super hero story. Booster recruits some new members to the team, including OMAC and Batwing (well, more so Batman brought him to the fold since they’re besties). JLI has to put aside all their fears and what has just happened to them in order to save the world, which they do. The final issue ties up all the loose ends of the series, with the team on the verge of disbandment until Batman is able to secure them a new headquarters and financial support from Bruce Wayne. It’s also stressed that they feel they have to carry on so Rocket Red will not have died in vain. 

The biggest problem that I had with this–and one of my biggest complaints about the whole New 52–is that for some reason, it seems really hard to take any of the villains seriously. They’re all new, for the most part, and seem really generic. Not to mention, not all that threatening. Breakdown’s crew just seemed lacking and it was hard to believe that they were really that much of a threat.

That said, the ending was really weird, especially since it was the last issue of the series. It sets up a pretty firm new status quo and that the story would be continuing as opposed to stopping cold. I don’t think you can blame Dan Jurgens writing for that; perhaps he wasn’t told that the twelfth issue would be the last. 

I still think that Justice League International still has a lot of life in it as a concept, as the lesser super hero team in the DC Universe. I hope that we get to see the members of the team make more appearances in stories to come. 

Batman The Dark Knight: Golden Dawn

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It might be because I’ve read a lot of early 1990s Spider-Man books lately, but David Finch really reminds me of a modern Todd McFarlane, as far as being a superstar artist who gets to write his books as well as dark, more horror-tinged artistic stylings. Not to mention, they’re both Canadian. That said, Batman The Dark Knight: Golden Dawn really reminded me of something that McFarlane might have done.

The main story in this collection is from Batman: The Dark Knight  #1-5 and focuses on a new character named Dawn Golden (which if you flip her name around, becomes a really cool title for the story…get it?). Bruce was friends with her as a child and has turned up missing. Anyway, her disappearance was due for her jilting the affection of the Penguin who with the help of Killer Croc has her kidnapped. It read like there was some sort of ‘dinner with schmucks’ kind of a thing between Dawn and the Penguin. This part I get and then it becomes really confusing.

It turns out that Dawn’s father was a longtime occultist who for some reason needed to kill Dawn so he could open the gates of hell as part of a plan to demonically rule the earth. He’s come back from the dead to murder her. Somehow Ragman gets possessed twice in this story; the first time by underworld queen Lady Blaze to recruit Etrigan the Demon to her side. Batman wounds up talking Etrigan out of this, and the two are in a race to stop Dawn’s father Aleister (who is using Ragman as a conduit to return to the Earth and kill his daughter in part of some sort of demonic ritual). Dawn gets killed as part of this but Aleister doesn’t succeed in bringing hell to earth and Batman is sad that Dawn is dead. Not to mention there was some other subplots going on, including Commissioner Gordon dealing with an upstart detective, as well as another with a child named Mira who was trying to steal the Batmobile as collateral to rescue her father.

So what did I think?

Well on the art side of things, Finch is great at drawing the more supernatural/horror style super hero comics. He draws monsters, demons and even Killer Croc in a monstrous way. At times his depictions of Lady Blaze and Dawn veered to far into the cheesecake realm. But on a whole, he knows how to render a dark and scary world for Batman to explore.

On the writing side, I’m pretty sure that this was Finch’s first project. His concepts made sense, but I really think he needed a co-writer for this. At times, the pacing was off and felt like he was trying to have too much going on.  I guess the good thing about him writing and drawing the book is that he knows what to script to play to his artistic strengths. I wonder if his future projects involve in that regard.

Since this was a collected volume, they threw in some extras. Finch teamed up with Grant Morrison for Batman: The Return which is a great story of Batman setting up his Batman, Inc. super hero franchise. Now that I think about it, I would really like to see more Morrison/Finch Batman stuff. The final extra is a two-page story from Superman/Batman #75 with Conner Kent and Daman Wayne in the future paying tribute to the men who preceded them as Superman and Batman.

Golden Dawn is beautifully rendered; there is no questioning that. But I think the audience of this is a little narrow, mostly to Finch fans. So if you’re one of his fans–or appreciate dark, horror comic art you will love this.

Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads

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Over the years, I’ve gained a certain fondness to the Helena Bertinell/Huntress character. And I think the fact that Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads pretty much eliminates her in the New 52 DC landscape might have soured my reading experience.

This mini-series is written by one of the creators of the original Helena Wayne Huntress, Paul Levitz, and pretty much sets up the return of that character in DC’s current status quo. Huntress is no longer Bertinelli (Levitz makes a nod to this by having the character use this as an alias) and back to the pre-Crisis Earth 2 version that is the daughter of Catwoman and Batman.

The story itself is pretty run of the mill; Huntress goes to Italy to stop a weapons smuggling ring that is supplying the gangs of Gotham City, only to uncover that there is a related sex trafficking scheme as well. And Huntress–regardless who it is behind the mask–has a problem with that and takes down the crime syndicate. So after her work vacation, she leaves with Power Girl to start the new World’s Finest series.

The result is a kind of dull story that is completely passable. I wonder if Levitz originally wrote this as a Bertinelli story and editorial decided to switch it to a Wayne one at some point. Who knows. I hate sounding negative, but I just couldn’t get into the story at all, probably because it symbolized the end of my favorite Huntress. But on a more positive note, I did like the Guillem March art in this.

So should you give Crossbow at the Crossroads a chance? If you are a fan of any of the creators of the book–or even Helena Wayne–then you will be content with this. But if you’re like me and part of the Bertinelli camp, you can skip this.

Arrow Season 1 Episodes 7 and 8: The Ones With The Huntress

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Helena Bertinelli may be out of the DC Universe proper these days, but that doesn’t mean she can’t appear in Arrow. These episodes weren’t a proper two-parter, but thematically they book end each other.

It all starts with Oliver’s mother almost being the victim of the attempted murder of mob boss and occasional business partner Frank Bertinelli. Concerned about what happened, Oliver decides to take it upon himself to get a closer look at Bertinelli only to find himself loosely dating the mobster’s daughter Helena. Unfortunately the two become a couple, only to find out that they both have extracurricular vigilante activities. The only difference is that Helena’s are more vengeful; she was the one who targeted her father, as he had her previous fiancée killed.

So the couple does everything you expect they would; fight the Bertinelli crime family and the Triad gangs (from earlier in the series), and winds up running awkwardly into his previous girlfriend Dinah (now dating his best friend Tommy). The relationship, well, mutually implodes as Helena wants to be more lethal in her approach.

They officially break up when Oliver won’t let Helena kill her father, instead wanting to turn him over to the police. This was officially her “deal breaker” moment, as she dumps him and threatens to kill and expose his identity if he should ever cross her in the future. If I were Oliver, I could be content with this break up. The episode ends with Tommy asking Oliver for a job, since he’s a broke debutante late 20s/early thirty something. If life were only that easy.

There was a lot going on in this episode with the introduction of Huntress, who seems like an appropriate character to add to the show since she’s only tangentially associated with Batman. I like that they introduced her in a way they can use in following episodes, since she knows Oliver’s secret and is a bit of an enemy.

Friday Fights #24: Cable vs. Deathstroke the Terminator

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We’re back after a break do an extreme case of being too busy. We have a battle of Cable vs. Satellite Deathstroke the Terminator! What would happen if these two bad-ass silver foxes did battle? These two might be a little more similar than you may think.

The first thing that comes to mind with Deathstroke and Cable is how similar the two of them are. First, their appearances come to mind. Both are white-haired. They both also happen to be missing an eye, but both manage to overcome that by being amazing supers. They’re master tacticians  And I’m sure that there is no weapon they haven’t been trained to operate, and probably have faced every kind of hand-to-hand combat imaginable.

On the weaponry end of things, I would have to give Cable being that he is from the future. He has access to blaster weaponry that Deathstroke can’t even imagine. That said, I would have to say that Deathstroke is a much more disciplined fighter, being that he is the best assassin/black ops type in the DC universe.

So what it comes down to is their powers. Cable does have some telepathic and telekinetic abilities, but for the most part he uses them to keep the techno-organic virus that plagues his body in check. Deathstroke has enhanced reflexes and physical strength. But it’s not his brawn that tips the scales in his favor.

Deathstroke is able to operate using 90% of his brain power, allowing him to think steps ahead of everyone around him. And at the end of the day, that’s all he needs to terminate Cable. WINNER: Deathstroke