Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Flash Annual #2 Review

It's not easy being Red and Green

The New 52 is starting to focus a bit more on the "past".  Most of the old continuity went out the window two years ago with the start of the new universe, but titles like Batman Zero Year and Batman/Superman are reinventing it.  The Flash Annual #2 shows the history of one of the best DC duos, The Flash and Green Lantern.

The annual shows how Barry Allen and Hal Jordan first met and became friends.  Brian Buccellato does a great job writing the banter between the two and the story is as fun as you'd expect.  Not surprisingly, Hal gets the two in hot water and they end up on Arena World.  This is not just a play on words and the two are forced into gladiatorial combat against monsters and each other.  The battle, like the whole issue, is exciting and funny.

The Flash has been a standout title in the art department and Sami Basri doesn't dissapoint with his effort.  The action pops off the page with the help of Stellar Labs' vibrant colors.  This is how a fun book should look.

The Flash Annual #2 is what I like in an annual.  We get a stand alone story that establishes the origins of two of the best DC characters.  The Flash and Green Lantern have always been a great duo and this annual shows why.  Please DC, make a Flash/Green Lantern Monthly now.


Batman Annual #2 Review

Annuals are a funny thing.  Sometimes you get a continuation of what is going on in the series.  Other times you get a stand alone story outside of the current arc.  What we get with Batman Annual #2 is more of the later.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been killing the last two months with Year Zero, a retelling of the Batman origin story.  The annual breaks the flow and deals mainly in current Gotham which is a bummer.  Instead of Snyder and Capullo we get a story by  newcomer Marguerite Bennett and art by Wes Craig which is not a bad thing at all.

The story begins with Batman being locked in Arkham.   Spoiler alert...he is there to test the security of the Asylum.  It' s cool to watch him escape while pointing out flaws that the rougues gallery can, have and will exploit.  While this is happening, his presence is felt by Arkham's oldest patient, the Anchoress. 

The introduction of a good new villian is always tough, especially into the Batman universe.  Bennett succeeds in bringing a villian who is both sympathetic and scary.  The Anchoress has a fleshed out backstory and with ties to Year Zero, a reason to hate Batman.  She also does what most villians only dream of doing.  She takes Batman by surprise.  The issue ends with the reader (and hopefully Batman) wondering if Batman's methods are always right.

Batman readers have been spoiled by Greg Capullo's art, but Wes Craig does a really good job.  I like his depiction of Arkham and the Anchoress is great.

The stars of the book are writer Marguerite Bennett and the Anchoress.  I expect Bennett to graduate soon to her own title and the Anchoress to haunt Batman in the future.  Batman Annual #2 is a good stand alone issue worth the price of admission.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2 Review

            Oh the sins are at it again.  Pride summons Envy to meet her in Giza.  She knows that Pandora is trying to find a way to open the box, and wants Envy to delay her, or stop her.  To what end is unknown.  Meanwhile outside Bell Reve, both S.H.A.D.E. agents and A.R.G.U.S. agents are investigating the site that Superman freaked out at, when Pandora handed him the box.  Pandora seems to be the priority of both agencies.  While the two head agents Agent Kincaid, of S.H.A.D.E., and Agent Chang of A.R.G.U.S. bicker about jurisdiction, Pandora is arming herself to the teeth, to complete her mission, to open the box and send the evil back.

            Later, the Secret Society investigates the scene, to try and find traces of Pandora for themselves.  Vandal Savage (who appears a lot more regal than last scene in his DC Presents: SAVAGE), Giganta, and Signal Man, go over the energy readings in the area.  Signal Man informs the team that if Pandora shows up again, he'll find a way to spot her.  After hearing on the news of Superman's involvement in Dr. Light's death Pandora realizes that if she cannot find a heart of pure good, she will have to find a heart of pure darkness to open the box. 

            Pandora goes to the Secret Society members, but take them by surprise.  Signal Man panics and tries to blind her to no avail.  Giganta says she'll handle this and smashes Pandora in the ground.  She pulls a Rocky and gets back up, Giganta tries to keep her down, but Pandora uses and exploding knife to take out Giganta's eye.  Vandal Savage moves in.  The two of them have a "who's more immortal fight".  In the end Pandora tells him that she wants to give him the box.  Savage takes the box, but collapses to the ground crying about all the pain he has caused.  Pandora remarks that he is useless to her.  She takes the box, and moves on.  Back at the A.R.G.U.S. field office, Agent Kincaid, and Chang work over the files on Pandora and determine whoever she is, when they find her she will be "liquidated with severe prejudice".

            A bit more to the story, introducing new characters, and giving us some baddie goodness, but it worked all through-out.  I never felt bored, and this issue just makes me want to know more about the secret society's plan for Pandora's Box, and who Pandora will find to finally open the box.  Solid issue, can't wait for the next


Detective Comics Annual #2 Review

            This Annual actually ties into the story going on, while it's not uncommon, but it doesn't always happen.  This issue continues the police officer murders that started in issue #22 of Detective Comics with the Wrath but the main focus is in an ally Wrath makes in someone simply named Jane Doe, and who I'd rather call False Face.  A master of disguise and mimicry, who Wrath has enlisted to infiltrate the police on his quest of murder.  This issue is a heavy Bullock story where the Lieutenant finds love in a new department psychologist, Abigail Wilburn. 

            The story wraps up with Batman tracking down the Jane Doe, and we have Harvey Bullock and Abigail Wilburn in a mannequin factory.  There each of them tells Batman that the other was attacking them.  Batman makes a decision and batarangs Bullock in the face.  The false face tears and Batman has to take down the dubious doppelganger.  In the end Abigail takes the final shot to knock her out.  The entire time that the false face was impersonating Bullock, Abigail had been falling in love with him.  Now that Harvey Bullock had been found alive in the basement, Abigail can barely look at him.  All she can see is the mask.  As the story ends Jane Doe is put in the back of a police car and driven off, mimicking Batman.      

            The back up story to this issue is about the psychosis of Jane Doe and how she needs to continue the lives she takes over.  It appears that Abigail Wilburn has transferred to Arkham, and Bullock has come to seek closure.  During the conversation it is made apparent that neither is actually there, but Jane Doe is keeping their lives active by seeing them lived out in her head and continuing to be them.   

            A second back up story finds Harvey Bullock, trying to figure out how this psycho was able to take over his life, and not only have no one notice, but actually live his life better.  A little bit of psychology into Harvey Bullock's life.

            This annual was most enjoyable, we got a new and interesting villain in the Batman world and it was a fun Detective story.  My only gripe with it is, that it could of gone on and been a decent story arc over the course of a few issues.  It's because of stories like this that John Layman got Detective Comics out of the funk it was in, before he started writing it, and at this point couldn't see anyone else writing it, so hopefully Layman's work is far from over.  Highly recommend this title to Batman fans.  It will help get some of the bad taste that Dark Knight leaves in your mouth after reading it.


Batman Incorporated #13 Review

            In Batman Inc. #1 Bruce Wayne is arrested by the police, and then we travel back a month ago.  All thirteen issues encompass that month, and as we start out on this final issue of Batman Inc. We see Bruce Wayne being arrested and then questioned by Jim Gordon.  During the questioning we see flashbacks of the final confrontation between Batman and Talia Al Gul.  Talia informs Batman that if she fails to return, leviathan will release Gotham.  So it comes down to if Batman wants to save the city he needs to kill Talia, or she will kill him.

            During the battle Talia tells Batman that she has used a new poison on the blade of her sword.  He only has ten minutes to live.  Wing Man shows up with the Oroboro trigger and is willing to exchange it for the antidote for Batman.  Batman takes the antidote and Talia tries to push the trigger, but it has already been deactivated.  Batman gets up and gives some informed speech, and tells her to run.  Talia refuses and then BLAM!  out of nowhere Kathy Kane shows up and shoots Talia in the head.  I don't know.  I just don't know.  Kathy comes out of nowhere with a golden gun like some assassin out of a Bond picture, shoots Talia, tells Batman he should not try to find her, and  I don't know Batman is instantly left alone with Bat Cow, and Alfred the cat.  Kathy gone, Wing Man gone, and Talia's body gone.  I don't know. 

            The story ends with the charges being dropped on Bruce Wayne, and Alfred taking him home to see two empty plots in the cemetery on the grounds.  No names, I can only imagine that these to open graves are for Batman, and Bruce Wayne.  Throughout the issue Bruce talks about Batman being dead, but in the end he suits up, and kicks the hell out of some street punks.  Batman style.  During the epilogue we see that Ra's is planning his revenge on Batman by raising an army of the son's of Batman.

            Well it wasn't the issue I wanted, but it's what I got and it's the end.  I don't know if I missed something but Kathy Kane coming out of nowhere just seems forced, and an easy way to end the story.  The cover states that this is the "EPIC CONCLUSION", it might be the conclusion but I didn't find anything about this issue to be epic.  Readers of Batman Inc. will get it to complete their story, but this issue will not draw people in to read the rest of the series.  Sorry Grant, but yet again you have left me wanting.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Batman/Superman #2 Review

Picking right up where the last issue left off. Superman E1 (this will be easier) found himself back in Smallville in front of his father, and Batman E2 where he proceeded to beat the hell out of him. We have a brief narration by the villain letting us know that she will be called Kaiyo The Trickster. Now Batman E1 is transported to the Batcave. He is concerned because if he was brought here, then someone knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne. Batman E1 calls to Alfred but is greeted only by Cat Woman E2. Batman E1 confronts her but she quickly takes him down, and comments on him being slopping, and a little wild. Being completely confused on the situation Batman E1 looks at the Bat computer and see a picture of him and Cat Woman.... A wedding picture..Dun Dun Duuuuun!

Back to Smallville Superman E1 looks upon his dead father, and when he reaches out to him his father recoils in fear, and shame. Superman E1 now turns back to the beaten Batman E2, and wants answers. Batman E2 realizes what is going on and Kaiyo doesn't want him to spoil her fun to soon. BOOM! Batman E2 is transported away. Having no time to process what happened Superman E1 hears a SHAKOOOOM! of a sonic boom and then the earth shaking sound of THOOOOM! Superman E2 has arrived. Meanwhile at the Batcave. Batman E2 knows that whoever is behind this transported him here, moving the pieces on the board, and that it has the power to breach dimensions, or alter reality. Then the realisation of him having a double makes him worried as he comes across Batman E1. The two fight and as awesome as that is, it aways works itself out the same way. They realise that they are the same only Batman E2 is older than the other Batman. They try to work out how this is possible but Batman E1 has bigger concerns. When he was transported he was fighting a villain wearing red and blue and that he was the most dangerous being he as ever seen. Batman E2 responds that he has a friend handling it. Superman vs. Superman HA! Superman E2 knocks the other down real easy and the fight might of escalated worse if not for Ma Kent's intervention. She walks out to the young Superman and looks him in the face, and know that it is her boy, just younger. All hostility is gone when Martha realises this is also her son if Jonathan and her had died.

Moving on, Batman and Batman are bonding in Wayne Manor, as I would think Cat Woman is having interesting thoughts of the possibilities. Gotham is cleaner, crime is gone, and Arkham is now an amusement park, oh the wonders of Earth 2. The Supermen move onto Metropolis where Superman E2 wants to introduce his counterpart to his wife Lois Lane. Wonder Woman interrupts the conversation. And we get a funny little quip about how young Clark seems to have the hots for Wonder Woman, and old Clark has to explain how he only ever had eyes for Lois. The story ends with Wonder Woman stabbing through Lois with her spear. Jaws drop, but Lois is now emitting a glow around her, claiming that they just picked a fight with a God.

Wow. This book is a lot of fun, my only gripe thus far is that I can't get behind the art work of Jae Lee. Now don't get me wrong everything looks beautiful, but for a comic book it just doesn't work for me. I'm really looking forward to next month when Brett Booth takes over, who is probably in my top 5 of DC artists right now. But that's another article entirely. Earth 2 has been since it came out one of my favorite books in the New 52 and I'm really happy that the first meeting between Batman and Superman is apart of Earth 2 Batman and Superman. I just have been wanting more back story on our heroes Earth 2 counterparts since Earth 2 began. Killing them off in the first issue of that title had me crying foul so hopefully we get that with the continuation of this story.


Justice League Dark #22 Review

The Phantom Psycho

Alright part 3! We see that Madame Xanadu is still alive after the explosion at her place, by Plastique. Madame Xanadu is strapped to a chair with her eyes blind folded. She is in the presence of the Outsider. He explains that she had to be taken off the board because of her ability to see the future. He goes on to say that there are so many pieces playing on the board that by the time the heroes have figured it out, he will already have won. Meanwhile at A.R.G.U.S. HQ Firstorm has successfully created Kryptonite, and the the rest of the team looks over Dr. Light's body trying to figure out if some outside factor made Superman kill him. Enter the Phantom Stranger.

Stranger tells them that they have to stop Wonder Woman who has recently recruited The Justice League Dark to seek out Pandora. He tells them that if she finds her all will be lost. Back down in Superman's holding cell The Question gives Superman information on who really killed Dr. Light. Superman breaks free, and informs Cyborg that there was a villain in Kahndaq named Psycho Pirate who was there around the time Dr. Light was killed, and that this villain's speciality is mind control. Back at the House of Mystery the amalgam Justice Leaguers (with Shazam and Phantom Stranger) confront Wonder Woman about what she plans on doing. Wonder Woman very physically gives her side of things and the team breaks up some following Wonder Woman, some staying with Batman. At the same time, another set of heroes battles the soldiers of A.R.G.U.S. The JLA ers decide that they are done following Waller and leave with Superman to follow the new lead. As the issue ends we go back to where we started with The Outsider and Madam Xanadu. The Outsiders tells us that he has a mole within the Justice League. (cue dramatic music)

This issue had us all over the place giving us a little more answers and a lot more of our heroes fighting each other, which is sadly half the reason we want the book. Who says that gimmicks are always bad? I loved Mikel Janin's take on the rest of DC heroes, and Jeff Lemire is really making a go at this arc with Geoff Johns. Another great installment to this story arc.


Constantine #5 review

Bloody Shazam


Constantine and Shazam walk into a bar.... Insert punch line here. This sentence alone, makes me happy to be reading the New 52. Who would of ever thought that these two would ever be walking around together? Now you want to read Justice League Dark #22 first to get the full effect. This story continues where Constantine and Shazam left the other heroes in JLD. Constantine lures Shazam away with the promise of information concerning Shazam's birth parents. But when they get to the bar, Constantine informs Shazam that he really asked him there to warn him of a surge of power that is following him and that he believes it's a weapon spell, and Shazam needs to power down so that he can neutralize the magic. Shazam agrees and well SHAZAM!. Billy Batson emerges and Constantine starts his double cross. Constantine produces a magical artifact, and as Billy realizes something is wrong. Ta-Da, Constantine and Billy Batson switch voices, giving John the power of the word.


Elsewhere, a magical degenerate named Mop Mop calls Mr. E with Constantine's location, and proves his devotion to the cold flame by speaking a magic word given to him by Mr. E. A demon emerges from Mop Mop and goes back to the bar with the specific instruction that he must kill John Constantine. Back at the bar, Constantine talks about the power of Shazam trying to tear it's way out of him, and that he bottle it up so that Billy and him can talk. He continues to say that he is trying to get Shazam off the playing board, because he believes that Shazam will cause pain and darkness. But before he can cork the power up, the demon bursts through the door. Constantine left with no other option.....SHAZAM! Awesome. Pure Awesome. Constantine fights the demon, but unable to control the power, does rather poorly. Billy Batson comes up with a plan since he has Constantine's voice, he yells to the demon that he is Constantine and that he switched bodies with the boy. The demon takes the bait. As he moves across the bar Constantine uses the distraction to rip the demon's head off.

During the tussle Billy snatches the artifact, and uses it to reverse the spell. Constantine collapses to the ground. Constantine warns Shazam that Pandora's Box is a global bomb, and no matter what good Shazam thinks he's doing, do not touch it. It will only light the fuse. Shazam walks off in a huff, and we finally see that Constantine was badly wounded in his fight with the demon. The owner of the bar tries to patch him up when Constantine has an out of body experience. He floats above himself looking down, when his attention is swayed by Chris. The poor boy Constantine got killed in issue #1 and he informs us that it's payback time.

Just another one right out of the ball park. This is a tie-in done right. The only complaint I have for this issue is that it wasn't longer. Well that and Shazam still being a little snot. It isn't really his fault this time, creepy British dude kidnaps him, lies to him, and steals his power. Just miss the days of Billy Batson being a naive true force for good, but maybe we'll get there. Plus the ending bringing Chris back for his revenge is great. Best part of issue #1 was Constantine getting him killed, and not really caring about it. That part alone made me want to continue this title and made me believe that Constantine would be in good hands in the New 52.


Larfleeze #2 Review

Cosmic Butler for Hire

We start issue #2 with Larfleeze battling N'Odens, of the House of Tuath-Dan, Laord of the hunt. Stargrave finds himself sitting on the side lines with N'Odens hound that Larfleeze didn't kill, Lou. Lou tells Stargrave that they are from beyond the cosmic membrane on the other side of the creation point. (Oh yeah lots of this) We're also introduced to a gremlin like creature named Herb, who goes on and on about how he's a certified lackey, how he went to school got a diploma. (Ugh). Exposition continues explaining that N'Odens is a God, and that there are six in the House of Tuath-Dan, and that the others are worse than N'Odens, and that they are all in this universe to destroy and conquer.

Larfleeze eventually loses the fight, when he is ensnared by plasma coils, and Stargrave is taken by N'Odens, to be his man servant. N'Odens continues hunting and killing things for six weeks with his lackey, his hound, and now his man servant by his side. They set up a base camp on a lifeless planet, and Stargrave is asked an interesting question. If is orange bubble is gone then how has he been able to breath this whole time? Stargrave has no answer and doesn't have time to contemplate as N'Odens summons him to his side.

N'Odens orders Stargrave to skin and mount all the things he killed which he sees in a giant cage. Stargrave begins to miss being the butler of Larfleeze as he sees the task in front of him. Going through the cage he finds the body of Larfleeze and realises that the plasma coils have preserved him like a mummy. Stargrave pulls Larfleeze out of the pile and is instantly startled by a shout behind him. The character behind him tells Stargrave that she is keeping him alive, but she is not doing it so he can get himself killed. She claims that men call her The Wanderer. FIN

Okay what to say about this issue? This was a very tough read for me. It made me think about all the worst issues of Threshold. Characters just sitting around giving long exposition, and Keith Giffin trying to make the characters funny, but failing severely. It is just so very tough. I wanted to put this issue down, and just say the hell with the review, but people need to be warned. Larfleeze is a fun character, maybe a little single minded but this issue reminds you why Threshold was cancelled and if things don't change this title will follow. Just Ugh.


Red Hood and the Outlaws #22 Review

Untitled Assassins

In the city of 'Eth Alth'eban Bronze Tiger tries to convince Jason Todd to lead the league of assassins against the "Untitled" and that with the league he will be doing the greater good he always wanted to do. Elsewhere StarFire battles Essence to retrieve exposition on who the All-Caste, The Untitled, and Ra's Al Ghul. Essence's mother taught Ra's about the well of sin's. Which lesser points of this well became the Lazarus pits that Ra's loves so well. Ra's built his city of "Eth Alth'eban around the well of sin's and a pack was created to keep balance between the light and the dark. Ra's would be the keeper of the well, and if any side light or dark attacked the walls of this city the truce would be broken. Now the Untitled have recruited Arsenal to break the seal of the well and take down the city's perimeter, so that he may rescue his friend as the Untitled finish off the League of Assassins. The Essence tells Starfire that she must stop Arsenal at all costs, because if he succeeds all will be lost and the Untitled will be unstoppable. Inside the walls Bronze Tiger continues to find out what Jason knows about their enemy but to every one's annoyance, no memories are coming back to him. Their discussion is interrupted, by something on the perimeter of the city. Cut to Arsenal looking badass beyond belief with homemade BFGs.

A lot of exposition in this story, but for the most part it was all pretty fun. The story was dragged down by Starfire and Essence, which sadly was the majority of the book. Really I just want this story line to end because I'm tired of reading The Outlaws. I want Red Hood back. Until that happens I think this title is going to suffer.


Teen Titans #22 Review

 The Chewbacca Treatment

Continuing the Trigon story arc, everyone except Raven, Beast Boy, and Red Robin are bewitched by Trigon. Red Robin and Beast Boy have some funny banter, and Raven goes on to explain everything in long winded exposition, oh and we find out that Red Robin's wings are something called "inertrite". A very odd sounding version of adamantium for DC. I guess we need to know that they are inertrite and supposedly unbreakable because Red Robin uses them to stab Trigon through the back of the head, and out a set of eyes. Trigon gives some warnings about how they are all doomed, the world will be his, yatta, yatta. POOF! Gone in a puff of smoke.

The Titans regain themselves, and are surprised to see Amanda Waller there with a team of agents. (man she really gets around the New 52) She tells the Titans that all the destruction will be blamed on an earthquake, and everyone in the area has been psychically altered to believe it. Oh and it turns out that all the soldiers Psimon killed were just illusions from Trigon. We are then led to believe that's just something he does.

Back at the yacht the Teen Titans welcome Raven as a part of the team. It's funny how big a deal the whole team is making it too. Yeah she's the daughter of a devil like figure, but Beast Boy is left like Chewbacca at the end of New Hope. Everyone gets a medal but him. Anyway, Raven goes on to tell Red Robin that all the strange things he has done was a way of Trigon breaking down his will, and since she mentions every strange thing he's done the whole team knows about him hooking up with Wonder Girl, and Solstice. So Cassie, Kira, you have some splainin to do. After she sets off that bomb she tells the rest that she needs to be alone for awhile. Back at her quarters she contacts Trigon and tells him that she is in, and that his plan worked. Now we return you to "The Young and Heroic", Bart runs off to his room, Kira tries to follow, Conner, and Cassie walk off to talk about things. Bart in the middle of a "I can't believe my girlfriend hooked up with a side kick" tantrum, realizes he's not alone. A figure in a portal tells Kid Flash that he is a criminal and that he has been sent to take him back.

This issue was alright, nothing over the top fantastic. I'm just tired that all Solstice has to do, is be Kid Flash's girlfriend. Now we have to new members of the team, so she'll have even less to do. Super Boy hasn't done much in awhile, and Wonder Girl with the exception of taking charge while Red Robin was kidnapped by the Joker, hasn't had much to do since her origin story around issue #11. We're just having a lot of characters that are being under utilized. Now I don't know what I would do with that many characters and make them all interesting, but luckily that's not my job. I've liked almost everything that Scotty Lobdell has done with this series, hopefully he can bring back the freshness and keep people reading.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

All-Star Western #22 Review

Have Gun will Time Travel

Jonah Hex traveled to present day Gotham in the last issue and now he is a resident of Arkham Asylum.  Dr Jeremiah Arkham is interviewing him and is disturbed by Jonah's claims of knowing his Great-Great-Grandfather, Amadeus Arkham.  It seems that the one person who can verify Jonah's claim is Bruce Wayne.

This issue was really fun.  The dialogue between Jonah and Jeremiah Arkham was the highlight for me.  The revelation that this crazy man could actually be a time traveler with ties to his family's past is played out so well with Jeremiah's expressions and actions that you can't help but get excited yourself.  As an added bonus, Jonah mentions his connections with the Wayne Family, which brings Bruce into the mix.  The issue ends with a shoot out with the mutants from The Dark Knight Returns on the Gotham Bridge.  Missile launchers, machine guns and Jonah Hex.  Awesome. 

Though the issue uses a few "man out of time" cliches, it never over does it.  It is used to show how Gotham has not changed (or gotten worse) from Jonah's time.

The art is good, mixing a cartoony feel with some grisly images.  Moritat pays particular attention to Jonah's facial scars which are cringe worthy.  I really like the look of his modern Gotham.  It's good to see him get a chance to show he is more than dusty plains and one horse towns.

Like I said, this was a really fun read.  You get intrigue, an escape, a huge gun fight and Batman.  I was wary about Jonah Hex in modern Gotham, but so far it's been a hell of a ride.  I can't wait to see what happens next.