Archive for the ‘Comics/Graphic Novels’ Category

A Ghostbusters, Vol. 7 Review – Sinterklaas is Coming to Town

TITLE: Ghostbusters, Vol. 7
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
PENCILLERS: Dan Schoening, Burnham, Felipe Torrent, Erik Evensen
COLLECTS: Ghostbusters #9-12
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: April 9, 2014

(Need to catch up on IDW’s Ghostbusters? Check out volumes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

First and foremost, R.I.P. Harold Ramis. Never forget, Ghostheads, never forget.

Normally, it’s difficult for me to get into holiday-themed comic books or TV shows. For instance, there’s a wonderful episode of Justice League called “Comfort and Joy,” which takes place during the holiday season. I can never bring myself to watch it because something feels off about watching a holiday episode in, say, April. In this case, however, I’ll take whatever excuse I can get to see Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening do more Ghostbusters. And that’s exactly what they give us with Happy Horror Days!

This book sees the boys (and girls) in gray go to work on Halloween, El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), the Sinterklaas celebration (more on that in a bit), and New Years Eve. Most of the cases involve children in one way or another. But how are they connected? And is it all leading to something terrible on the horizon…?

As a life-long Ghosthead, this series remains an absolute joy. Burnham’s writing is as close to the tone of the movies as we’ve ever seen from a Ghostbusters comic, Dan Schoening gives us delightful cartoony likenesses of the actors, set in a world that seems to be a hybrid of the movies, The Real Ghostbusters, and ’80s culture in general. There are so many little Easter eggs in these issues it’s almost impossible to spot them all in one sitting. But if you go to Ghostbusters.wikia.com, and look up the individual issues, they actually go panel-by-panel for you. For instance, in this book alone you’ll find a ghost based on Bill Murray’s Caddyshack character, a quick look at Laura Summer, the voice of Janine from the first two seasons of The Real Ghostbusters, and a litany of other RGB references. It’s an honest-to-God treasure hunt for children of the ’80s.

Vol. 7 sees Mel character come back to the team as a Ghostbuster/FBI liaison, and we see quite a bit of her in this book. I continue to have trouble getting into her character. To yours truly, she still comes off like a stand-in for Dana Scully. One would think the more time we spend with her, the less that would be the case. But she still seems very vanilla. I appreciated her being placed in a Day of the Dead story, as it texturizes her a bit differently than the other characters. But simply put, I just don’t find her very interesting. I’ve recently wondered if that’s because, unlike most of the other characters, we’ve never seen Mel in the movies or on a cartoon. But by that logic, Ron Alexander would be a boring character by comparison, and that’s certainly not the case. It’s unfortunate, as there’s certainly nothing wrong with injecting a bit more femininity into the Ghostbusters.

The creative highlight of the book is issue #11, in which Peter, Egon, and Mel investigate a haunting by Sinterklaas, the mythical figure whose legend helped inspire the creation of Santa Claus. Like Santa, Sinterklaas leaves gifts for good children. But he also punishes the bad ones, fairly severely in some cases. Hearing Egon get picky about how it’s not Santa Claus, it’s Sinterklaas,” is amusing. But what really makes it special is what Venkman does when he comes face to face with the spectral Sinterklaas, who has a small child in his grasp. He maintains his trademark Venkman snark and wit. But the scene also illustrates that deep down, under all the scheming and womanizing, he has a kind heart. It’s a fantastic character moment.

This book also plants some seeds for Mass Hysteria, the big story IDW is doing to commemorate the 3oth anniversary of Ghostbusters. These occur in the main story, as well as the various back-ups Burnham does with various artists. Particularly notable is the debut of Eduardo, who fans may recognize from the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon. Like Kylie, he helps out at Ray’s book store. But this book sees him sucked back into ancient Mesopotamia, to deliver a message to the Ghostbusters from an entity called Tiamat. Google that word. It’ll give you some interesting insight into what Burnham, Schoening, and the gang are planning.

In issue #12, we see the Chicago Ghostbusters run into a familiar face: Alyssa Milano’s character from Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Dr. Alyssa Selwyn. Dr. Selwyn has brought the “World of Gozer” exhibit to the Windy City, and as one might expect, things go bad. Erik Evensen’s art isn’t done any favors when it’s put next to Schoening’s work. But all in all, it’s nice that they connected the Chicago team to Mass Hysteria that way, and incorporated a familiar character in the process.

Ghostbusters, Vol. 7 is less fulfilling than its predecessors (as I said, I’m not a fan of holiday episodes). But by the standards Burnham and Schoening have set, that’s still more satisfying than a great many other books you’ll find on the stands. But it does give the reader a sense that something big, and not-to-be-missed is coming. And again, based on Burnham and Schoening’s reputation, I’m inclined to believe it.

RATING: 7/10

Front page image and image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from uwstout.edu. 

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New Suicide Squad to Debut in July

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This July, DC Comics will relaunch its Suicide Squad series with a new creative team, new team members, and a new title: New Suicide Squad.

As the cover obviously indicates, the new team members are Deathstroke, Black Manta, and Joker’s Daughter. They are standing behind the inprisoned Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot, who were on the previous team.

Sean Ryan will write the series, and Jeremy Roberts will pencil.

According to IGN, the team’s first mission will be in Russia, and Waller no longer has “the autonomy she used to.”

The company will similarly relaunch Teen Titans in July

Image from newsarama.com.

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A Batman/Superman: Cross World Review – Turn the Lights On!

TITLE: Batman/Superman: Cross World
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLERS: Jae Lee, Ben Oliver, Yildiray Cinar, Paulo Siqueira
COLLECTS: 
Batman/Superman #1-4, Justice League #23.1
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER:
 DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This book did not need to be as complicated as they made it. As a DC Comics fan, what I was looking for in Batman/Superman: Cross World was a simple “When Clark Met Bruce” story. In the New 52 canon, the Superman/Batman dynamic isn’t nearly as frosty as it could be in the old continuity. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are downright chummy these days. They not only talk superheroics, but Bruce is giving Clark relationship advice. Their friendship seems to be much more personal than it was in the pre-New 52 universe.

This begs the question: How do two people who are so different get to be so close? That sounds like a heck of a question to answer in the first arc of a new Batman/Superman series. And ultimately, that question does get answered. Unfortunately, Greg Pak, Jae Lee and their cohorts answered it for the WRONG SUPERMAN AND BATMAN!!!!

Set some time before “five years ago” (i.e. Justice League: Origin), a young Batman butts heads with a jeans and t-shirt-wearing Superman. But moments later, they’re transported to Earth 2 by Kaiyo, a trickster from Apokolips who takes it upon herself to “borrow” our heroes. Our heroes soon come into contact with their Earth 2 counterparts, none of whom have any idea about Kaiyo’s connection to Darkseid, or how she may impact their future.

The decision to bring this book’s first story to Earth 2 is a curious one, especially when you consider that with the Superman/Batman movie coming up in 2016, this would ideally be a book Warner Bros. and DC could point new fans to, so they can get a preemptive taste of the standard Superman/Batman chemistry. But this book is NOT friendly to new readers at all. The first few pages do give us a nice look at Bruce and Clark’s respective outlooks, as they watch a boy getting beat up by his classmates, but from there we move into a convoluted story involving an alternate universe, featuring alternate and older versions of characters we’re already familiar with, and ties into Justice League: OriginSuperman and Batman DO end up teaming up at the end, but ultimately we learn more about the Clark and Bruce of Earth 2 than we do about the characters we read about in the ongoing books every month. Thus, Cross World fails to be an adequate jumping-on point for both new readers, and fans who want to learn more about the Superman and Batman of the New 52.

But even if one is of the mindset that Greg Pak isn’t obligated to be inviting to new readers, this book still has a crippling drawback: Jae Lee.

I say that with with the utmost respect, because Jae Lee is a star, and I typically enjoy his work (most recently, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias). But the God-honest truth is that he’s terribly miscast as the artist for a Superman/Batman story. He’s perfectly suited for Batman, but he’s a fish out of water with Superman.

As we see in our opening scene, Lee and colorist June Chung present a very dreary and shadowy Gotham City, complete with bare tree branches that almost give it a Tim Burton-esque feel. In contrast, his Smallville and Metropolis renderings have lovely colored skies, but are frustratingly shadowy and dark beyond that.

For instance, there’s a page where “regular” Superman meets the Jonathan and Martha Kent of Earth 2. As our Clark lost his adopted parents in a car crash, this is a very emotional moment for him. And Pak gives us some decent dialogue to go with this emotional moment. The problem? Aside from Chung’s skies, the entire page takes place in total darkness. How much more powerful would this moment have been if we’d been able to see Clark’s eyes as he looks up and sees his mother’s face again? How much more meaningful would that embrace in the last panel have looked if the friggin’ lights had been on?

Clark and Ma Kent aren’t the only victims of the Jae Lee blackout, either. When Batman and Earth 2 Catwoman duke it out in the Batcave, their shrouded in near total darkness. When Earth 2 Superman bursts on to the scene to interrupt his counterpart’s initial meeting with his parents, his face is completely cloaked in shadow, save for his glowing red eyes. Throw in the fact that everyone’s skin is needlessly pale, and this simply becomes a case of a book that caters to its artist’s needs, as opposed to an artist catering to the story’s needs. Yanick Paquette takes the pencil during a flashback in issue #3, and it’s such a breath of fresh air because we can finally see things. Faces, colors, and settings that effect the mood and tone of what we’re seeing. But of course, then we’re plunged back into semi-darkness.

What’s more, Cross World sees the debut of the Mangubots (pictured on the cover), i.e. giant robots developed by Waynetech to do…something. They have  a role on Earth 2 that’s never fleshed out. On “regular” Earth, we see Batman use them against Superman in issue #1. Why Batman, a silent avenger of the night, would have giant, structure crumbling robots at his beckon call is beyond me. There goes his whole Dark Knight modus operandi right out the window. Batman and giant robots don’t go together. Please don’t make me say it again.

I’ll never say Jae Lee’s art isn’t great on its own merits, but the decision to put him on this book comes off ill-conceived, and not thought out. That’s consistent with a lot of DC’s decisions over the last few years. Sadly, they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with Jae Lee and Batman/Superman to this day.

In addition to our main story (which lasts four issues), Cross World also contains Justice League #23.1, which was part of DC’s month of villain spotlights. We get some cool info on Darkseid, and how he became who and what he is. We also learn about his connection to Kaiyo, and how she has lured him from world to world on an endless path of destruction. This naturally sets us up for Cross World, and Justice League: Origin. Paulo Siqueira also seems very comfortable in a sci-fi setting, and the issue is actually one of the better Villains Month stories I’ve read.

Another Villains Month inclusion in this book is Batman/Superman #3.1, which Brett Booth drops in for. The issue focuses on Doomsday, who has no bearing on anything else in the book…but what the hell? I’m not the world’s biggest Brett Booth fan, but he draws a pretty good Doomsday. Not as good as Tony Daniel’s on the cover, but still pretty good. In the issue, a young Supergirl’s father tells her some sort of prophecy in which Doomsday defeats the “Last Knight of the House of El.” It’s essentially The Death of Superman, only not really…I guess. The most intriguing aspect of the issue involves young Kara Zor El talking to a projection of General Zod from the Phantom Zone, whom she has apparently been in contact with for some time. I like the notion that Zod is haunting the House of El, and a vulnerable young girl no less. It makes him that much more slimey and evil.

The Darkseid and Doomsday spotlights indicate Greg Pak is obviously capable of telling good stories in the DC Universe. So how he ended up giving us this convoluted mess as the kick off to a Batman/Superman series is beyond me. All we needed was the equivalent of a basic turkey sandwich, and this creative team gave us some bizarre tofurky casserole from some crazy lady’s Pinterest account.

RATING: 5/10

Front page image from comicbookmovie.com. Image 1 from cosmicteams.com. Image 2 from dreamwidth.org. Image 3 from gregpak.com. 

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A Justice League: Trinity War Review – Leagues United, Leagues Divided

TITLE: Justice League: Trinity War
AUTHORS: Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire
PENCILLERS:
Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Mikel Janin
COLLECTS:
Justice League #22-23, Justice League Dark #22-23, Justice League of America #7-8
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE
DATE: March 12, 2014

***EDITORS NOTE: This review covers the events that take place in the main Trinity War story beat, i.e. the content from Justice League, Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve gotta tell ya, I expected this threesome to be a lot more satisfying.

*ehem* I’ve been told I should rephrase. So how about: Justice League: Trinity War, the first three-way crossover between all the Justice League books, consists largely of superheroes standing around talking, walking around talking, or talking while they’re fighting with one another. Trinity War was probably the most conversational crossover I’ve ever read. That being said, it does manage to deliver a pretty cool cliffhanger ending, which set the stage quite nicely for Forever Evil.

The immortal Pandora is one third of the “Trinity of Sin,” a trio deemed long ago by the Circle of Eternity as mankind’s greatest transgressors. Pandora was charged with releasing the seven deadly sins into the world via a golden skull-shaped box (“Pandora’s Box,” a la the Greek myth), thus bringing evil into the world. As such has been cursed to wander the Earth for eternity so she can witness the pain she’s brought upon mankind. But now, Pandora seeks to rid herself of her curse once and for all by opening the box and imprisoning the sins once again. To do this, she seeks out Superman, whom she believes to be without sin, and able to withstand the box’s touch. Surprisingly, the box seems to have an adverse effect on the Man of Steel.

But he has no time to waste, as Shazam is risking a diplomatic incident by journeying into Kahndaq. When Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League rush to confront him, Steve Trevor and the Justice League of America head them off, seeking to expose them as a threat and prevent a catastrophe. During the confrontation, something terrible happens between Superman and the JLA’s newest recruit, Dr. Light. This results in a conflict that will bring the Justice League, the JLA, and the Justice League Dark together. Yet none of them realize the true threat that’s looming…

Trinity War has a very strong beginning and a very strong ending. The middle is where it runs into trouble. My biggest issue with Trinity War is how the boundaries between our three Justice Leagues begin to blur. After the initial blow up between the League and the JLA occurs, various characters go various ways in terms of dealing with both the Superman problem and the Pandora’s box problem. The teams don’t stick together, and this muddies the waters as far as knowing where everyone’s loyalties are. For instance, there’s a scene where Pandora brings the box to Lex Luthor. But they’re soon interrupted by a group of heroes. Said group consists of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Stargirl, Frankenstein, and Black Orchid. I understand the appeal of these different heroes working together. But the story blends the three teams to the point that the notion of Trinity War being an epic crossover/collision between the Leagues loses its edge.

In addition, because of the sheer volume of characters running around, many of whom might not be familiar to casual readers, the heroes have to engage in something I’ll call “needless naming.” One of the best examples of this occurs on a two-page spread in Justice League of America #7, as a group of heroes are bursting in on a villain named Dr. Psycho…

Cyborg: “So. We going to do this easy or hard, Psycho?”
Green Arrow: “I’d prefer hard myself, Cyborg. My bow finger’s itching.”
The Atom: “We need to get those people out of harm’s way first, Arrow.”
Green Arrow: “Roger that, Tinkerbell.”
Element Woman: “Tinkerbell? He name’s The Atom.”

While I understand why it was done, this type of dialogue took me out of the story repeatedly because it sounds contrived and unnatural.

The upside to all these heroes interacting, however, is that there’s less macho posturing between the heroes. That element is there, as different heroes have different ideas on how to deal with the Pandora situation. We also see Douchebag Superman rear his his ugly head again. His initial confrontation of Shazam, in a war zone no less, consists of a flying punch to the face. Smooth, Big Blue. Very smooth. Still, by and large the heroes act less like high school jocks trying to lead the team, and more like actual heroes.

Despite his initial douchebaggery, it’s good to see Superman given the emphasis he receives in this story. He’s made to look like the centerpiece to the new DCU, as it should be. So often it’s Batman that seems to be given that spot, when in the context of this universe, that’s ill-fitting. After the Dr. Light incident, Superman is made to look very powerful, yet also very empathetic, and conscientious regarding his own power. It’s an interesting balance, and thankfully they don’t go too far overboard and make Superman look like a whiner or a wuss.

I have no complaints about Ivan Reis or Doug Mahnke getting to draw all these DC heroes. Their resume with Geoff Johns alone speaks for itself (Blackest Night, AquamanGreen Lantern, etc). But it was also really cool to see Mikel Janin get to play in a sandbox this big. His work has a bit of a softer feel to it than Reis’ or Mahnke’s, but it nonetheless holds up well when placed next to theirs.

As for what’s actually in Pandora’s Box, and what that means for the DCU, it’s not original by any means, but then again, neither is much of this stuff. The important thing is that it manages to be a surprise, and it manages to hook readers in for Forever Evil. We also get a couple of decent swerves on the way…

Trinity War is by no means the epic crossover that it should have been. But it’s a decent one-and-done to get you to Forever Evil. At the very least, it’ll give you some awesome art to look at.

RATING: 6.5/10

Front page image from comicsalliance.com. Image 1 from retcon-punch.com. Image 2 from new52flash.blogspot.com. Image 3 from latimes.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 20 – The Art of War

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War – Part One
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #115-120
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2014

***WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for The Walking Dead, Vol. 20 – All Out War, Part One***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

More than any collection we’ve seen so far, The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War – Part One illustrates that the true threat to humanity’s existence is humanity itself. As zombies freely roam the Earth, and threaten to literally eat them alive, our survivors continue to kill one another off. There’s a raw, naked truth to that, which is ultimately one of the keys to this series’ longevity and success.

Fifteen issues after Negan smashed Glenn’s skull in with a baseball bat covered in barb wire (“Lucille,” as he affectionately calls it), the F-bomb dropping leader of the Saviors finally finds himself at war with Rick Grimes and his group of survivors. And to say the least, there will be casualties…

One of the characters readers will close this book thinking about is Holly, who essentially sacrifices her life to save Rick’s. Personally, I can’t say I’ll miss her much. Her main contribution to the book consisted of a love triangle, which also involved Abraham and Rosita. None of that did anything for me, but Kirkman and Adlard do give her a very strong exit. She’s defiant when confronted by Negan, and in the end proved tougher than fans may have given her credit for.

Holly’s predicament also allows Negan to have what is undeniably a character moment at the end of issue #17.  When one of his henchmen is about to rape a bound Holly, Negan bursts in and says, among other colorful statements, that after the Saviors win the war they have to be able to work with the people they’re fighting against to rebuild society. He also recites what is apparently one of the cardinal rules of the saviors: “We don’t rape.” The scene ends with Negan assuring Holly that “We aren’t monsters.” Granted, what happens to Holly later in the book would suggest otherwise. While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Negan demonstrate something resembling compassion, it IS the first time we’ve heard him talk about a plan for the grander scheme of things. We see that he’s not just a big, sadistic, foul-mouthed bully, but a man who, in his own way, wants to rebuild society. Thus, a comparison can be drawn between Negan and Rick.

Interestingly enough, a comparison could have also been drawn between the Governor and Rick. Like the Governor, Rick has a child in his life. But the Governor’s young daughter ultimately became a zombie, whom he nonetheless cared for as if she were alive and well. Considering how we’ve seen Carl’s life endangered in this series, and how Rick’s sanity has at times been put to the test, it’s not far fetched to imagine Rick becoming twisted and sadistic like the Governor if something were to happen to his son. Similarly, were Rick not the compassionate leader that he is, he could have easily become a bizarre brute like Negan. It’s a similar dynamic to the one comic book writers discuss in relation to Batman’s rogues gallery. To an extent, many of them are a reflection of what Bruce Wayne could have been, had he taken a different path.

Sadly, Holly isn’t the book’s only casualty. Shiva, Ezekiel’s loyal tiger companion, goes out defending him from a zombie attack. As one might expect, it’s a touching moment, which strikes Ezekiel at his core. As such, his relationship with Michonne takes a turn, resulting in a pretty powerful exchange where she attempts to give him a wake up call. It’ll be interesting to see where his character goes now that his “gimmick” is gone. As for Shiva herself, readers should likely be thankful she didn’t hang around too long. When you do something outrageous, like give a character a pet tiger, the last thing you want is for the novelty to wear off. And the way Shiva went out, combined with what we learned about her shared backstory with Ezekiel in the previous book, made it a really impactful exit. Charlie Adlard deserves extra praise for his renderings of the tiger. It’s not like we’ve seen an abundance of animals in The Walking Dead, so it’s cool to see him flex some different muscles in that respect.

As ever, I’m curious to see what happens to Negan as the series progresses, and whether he’ll meet the same fate as the Governor once All Out War comes to an end. But for now, The Walking Dead is at a fever pitch thanks to Kirman’s use of that character to shake things up. And in all likelihood, as far as character deaths in All Out War are concerned, Holly and Shiva are just the tip of the iceberg.

RATING: 9/10

Want more of The Walking Dead? Check out Vol. 14: No Way OutVol. 15: We Find OurselvesVol. 16: A Larger WorldVol. 17: Something to Fear, Vol. 18: What Comes AfterVol. 19: March to War

Front page image from craveonline.com. Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from thewalkingdeadwiki.com.

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A Batman #28 Review – In the Land of Women

TITLE: Batman #28
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Dustin Nguyen
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 12, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: SPOILERS LAY AHEAD FOR BATMAN #28***

After living in the past for quite some time, Batman comes back to the present in issue #28 to give us an appetizer for the upcoming weekly series, Batman Eternal. While I’ve given Scott Snyder a decent amount of criticism for his run with the Dark Knight, I’ll freely admit that issue #28 is very effective. It gets the reader psyched and asking questions about Eternal. And indeed, there is no shortage of questions…

Set “soon,” Batman #28 sees Harper Row fineggle her way into the Egyptian, “the only nightclub left in New Gotham.” Yes, New Gotham, a city which is apparently in some kind of crisis. Citizens live under an 8 p.m. curfew, the police wear S.W.A.T. gear and aren’t at all shy about brutality. People have apparently been dying, possibly due to some sort of infection. Once inside, Harper allows the Dark Knight to make a hell of an entrance before donning her uniform and becoming the gun-toting character we’ve seen sketches of in recent months, Bluebird. Yes, Harper Row seems to have officially joined the Bat-family. But Batman calls her off when they come face-to-face with Gotham’s newest crime lord….Selina Kyle. Apparently something has happened to Selina, as “that Catwoman is gone,” because “[Batman] left her to die.” But apparently, there is enough good will left between the two that Selina allows this new Dynamic Duo into a top secret safe, which imprisons “the only one in this city who knows how to stop what’s coming next.”

Enter the Spoiler.

Yes friends, Stephanie Brown has returned. Poor Spoiler. She’s only been back for one page, and she already in deep trouble.

When I read the line about Spoiler being the key to stopping what’s next, the first thing that popped into my head was the big War Games crossover from 2004-2005 (My God, has it been that long?). In an attempt to regain Batman’s trust after being fired as the latest Robin, Stephanie, as Spoiler, tries to enact one of Batman’s contingency plans to unite all the city’s crime factions under a single crime lord. The whole thing goes to hell, resulting in a gang war in Gotham City. A great many lives are lost, and it’s a huge disaster. It wouldn’t shock me if something similar has happened here. Stephanie found herself in the middle of something, made the wrong move, and madness erupted.  That’s pure fan speculation, mind you. But it would certainly be consistent with the Stephanie we knew before.

One side note: I like the new costume. The colors make it somewhat reminiscent of her Batgirl suit. *sigh* It still hurts, damn it…

 In terms of Catwoman being Gotham’s new kingpin of crime, my biggest impression thus far is that the Egyptian is pretty damn cool. When we first walk in, we see two gigantic golden cat statues (the Egyptians worshipped cats, after all), and when Selina makes her entrance we see a smaller black one. The safe in which Steph is imprisoned is also covered in hieroglyphics, and the backgrounds give it a really nice ancient Egyptian throne room feel. To an extent, it seems like a lair we’d have seen Julie Newmar prancing around in on the ’60s Batman show. In terms of how this will effect Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, well…at least they’re used to things being complicated.

Bluebird (not Bluebelle, thank God…) is different, to be sure. She’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as I’m concerned. If you’ll indulge me as I argue with myself…

I’ve never been in love with members of Batman’s crew using firearms. That’s one of the reasons I have issues with Red Hood and the Outlaws. Jason Todd wields twin guns while wearing a Bat symbol on his chest. It just seems off to me. I even had trouble with the character’s use of rubber bullets in The Dark Knight Returns. Given what happened to Bruce’s parents, it doesn’t make sense to me that he would endorse someone who uses them. I bring this up because in Batman #28, a thug calls Batman out on Bluebelle’s use of guns.

Thug: “And here I thought Batman hated guns.”
Batman: “I do. She doesn’t.”

Sorry folks, I don’t buy that logic. From where I sit, if you work with Batman and carry on his legacy, you play by his rules. And “no guns” is like…rule #2. It’s right behind “No nipples on the Batsuit.”

However…

Bluebird’s use of shock pellets means she’s not as big an offender as Jason. The incorporation of electricity into her heroics is also undeniably fitting with her backstory, and her work on the Gotham power grid. It also makes her stand out among the rest of Batman’s allies. Plus, her costume is pretty damn cool, as was that trick with the zip line and the clip on her boot. The blue portions of her suit seem to be a callback to Nightwing’s old v-stripe, which I don’t think is a good sign in terms of Dick Grayson’s fate in Forever Evil. But that’s a different issue entirely. All in all, while I’ve got my issues with her, Bluebird gets a pass from me for now.

We’ve also got a mystery character in the Batcave, who is essentially playing the Alfred/Oracle role. The most obvious candidate for this role would be Carrie Kelley, given what we’ve seen in Batman & Robin recently. But the hair doesn’t seem to match up. Could it be Cullen, Harper’s brother? That seems a bit more likely, but the figure on this character looks very feminine. Ah, the joy of speculation.

Frankly, I’m a little sad to go back to Batman: Zero Year after this issue. This is the most satisfying installment of the series since #23.2 in September. Zero Year is selling, and nobody can deny it that. But personally, I’m ready for Snyder, Capullo, and the Batman crew to come back to present day. Especially if we get more issues like this.

Front page image from craveonline.com. Images 1 and 3 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from darkknightnews.com.

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A Review of The Superior Spider-Man: Necessary Evil – Back from the Future

TITLE: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil
AUTHOR: Dan Slott
PENCILLERS: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLLECTS: The Superior Spider-Man #17-21
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: 
$17.99
RELEASED: January 15, 2014

Need to catch up on The Superior Spider-Man? Check out My Own Worst EnemyA Troubled Mind, and No Escape

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Necessary Evil doesn’t really pick up steam until we’re past the halfway point, when Otto Octavius (who remember, is in Peter Parker’s body), makes a major change to his status quo, and has an emotional yet confusing reunion with an old flame. But before those things happen, the timestream becomes a tangled web in its own right, as the present and the future become intertwined.

In the year 2099, Tyler Stone, head of the Alchemax corporation, is being erased from the fabric of history. Thus, Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099, and Stone’s biological son, travels through time to find the source of the problem in the year 2013. Low and behold, he finds Peter Parker acting very strangely, and is at odds with his grandfather Tiberius Stone, who has been developing technology for use against the present-day Spider-Man. Thus, to keep his family’s lineage intact, not to mention the fabric of time, Miguel O’Hara must face off against the Superior Spider-Man!

While I have nothing against the 2099 universe, from a plot standpoint, the first three issues in this book represent the low point of The Superior Spider-Man thus far. The time portal at Horizon Labs leads nicely into the creation of Parker Labs, Otto/Peter’s own corporate empire. But the saga of Miguel, his father, and the potential unraveling of the 2099 status quo left me feeling bored.

That being said, the blue costume is still pretty damn cool, as is seeing it in battle against the Superior Spidey outfit. Ryan Stegman gives us an epic two-page spread in issue #17 (shown at left). He also draws the literal “unraveling” of Miguel and Tyler Stone very well. But what takes the cake as far as Stegman is concerned is the creepy memory sequence in issue #19, in which classic Steve Ditko and John Romita panels are used with Otto’s face in place of Peter/Spider-Man’s. It creates a creepy, eerie vibe that meshes wonderfully with the idea that Otto’s villainous impulses are starting to get the better of him. Thus, the art works very well, despite a story that’s somewhat bland overall.

Thankfully, things get back in track in issue #20, when we get the highlight of the book: A scene between Black Cat and Superior Spidey. In the scope of the series as a whole, the scene has no long-term ramifications (at least not yet). But it’s got that great Spider-Man humor/action balance. Spidey encounters Black Cat on a rooftop, and when she comes at him with her “Hello Lover,” routine, he punches her in the goddamn face, and then webs her up for the cops. In the best possible way, it’s exactly what you’d expect from an Otto/Felicia Hardy encounter. What’s more, Giuseppe Camuncoli gives Cat just the right amount of sex appeal, and beautifully turns her from welcoming, to shocked, to enraged within the span of three pages. He’s also excellent with the furry pieces of her costume.

Angelina Brancale, a.k.a Stunner, awakens from a coma. Quick history lesson: Angelina is an obese woman who became a guinea pig for a virtual reality technology created by Doctor Octopus. As such, she was able to become the muscle-bound Stunner. Stunner and Otto eventually fell for each other. Eventually, to save Otto’s life, Angelina takes part in a ritual that places her in a coma. When she wakes up and learns that Otto was “killed” by Spider-Man, she uses Otto’s old virtual reality technology to become Stunner again. The ensuing battle places Otto/Peter’s current flame, Anna Maria Marconi, in harm’s way, and Otto is forced to confront Angelina with the truth. This results in a genuinely sad scene between the two. Surprisingly, Otto doesn’t come out of the situation looking like a heel. He’s simply a man following his heart. You don’t have to do any research on Stunner to get the gist of what her relationship to Otto is, and how impacted and heartbroken she is by his apparent death. From a certain standpoint, she’s actually a rather sympathetic character.

Speaking of sympathy, poor Anna Maria Marconi still has no idea of the heartbreak she’s (presumably) in for. In addition to the returns of Black Cat and Stunner, issue #20 also sees Otto/Peter take Anna Maria out on a picnic dinner above the city on a sheet of webbing, the life of which has now been elongated indefinitely until “I activate a dissolving agent. I always try to keep improving.” To yours truly, this scene cuts the premise of Peter Parker developing technology for Spider-Man a bit too close. It’s a really nice visual. But during a moment like this, an alarm should be going off in Anna’s head. “Hey, wait a minute. This dude might not just be Spider-Man’s tech guy…”

While the 2099 elements were, from my perspective, a flop, Dan Slott continues to give us good Spider-Man. Necessary Evil just doesn’t represent his best Spider-Man. And as far as The Superior Spider-Man is concerned, hopefully the best is yet to come.

RATING: 7/10

Front page image/image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from jthenr-comics-vault.tumblr.com. Image 3 from spidermanreviews.com.

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John Romita Jr. Coming to Superman This Summer

Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

John Romita Jr., a longtime Marvel artist, will reportedly be making the jump to DC Comics this summer as he teams with writer Geoff Johns for a run on Superman.

In an interview conducted with the duo by IGN, Johns, DC’s chief creative officer, said the story will introduce a new character who will  “kind of reset Superman and his universe in the New 52.”

When asked why he was leaving Marvel, Romita Jr. said it was a matter of happenstance, as his contract with Marvel was soon coming to an end. In addition, the emergence of new opportunities intrigued the artist.

I had a meeting with [Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Comics], and I had been talking it over with my wife Kathy,” he said. “My wife had wanted me to try Superman for a long time — Superman or Batman. I never really paid attention to it, only because I had been under contract. So it was a confluence of events: a really good breakfast with Dan, some accepted ideas, and it built on itself. Plus, I’m still going to have a chance to work on my creator-owned properties at some point during this and after this. So it serves all my purposes. The biggest thing for me was I’ve always said I want to do something I haven’t done before, whether it’s draw something in a way that I haven’t drawn before, tell a story in a way I haven’t done before — and this is the ultimate in something I haven’t done before.”

When asked to come up with a tagline for the story, Johns said: “For me, as far as the story goes, my tagline for the story is ‘Putting the Man of Tomorrow back in the Man of Tomorrow.’ It’s really looking at Superman and getting back to the core values and attributes and strengths of Superman. Really, the Man of Tomorrow is the theme, for me, that we’re going to tackle in this first storyline.’

When Romita Jr. answered the question, he said: “To me, it’s a little bit more of the Man of the Unknown, because there are some things about Superman that are unknown officially, now, that we will discover.”

No release date has currently been set for the first Johns/Romita Jr. issue of Superman.

For more John Romita Jr., check out Kick-AssThe Avengers, Vol. 1The Avengers, Vol. 2Avengers vs. X-Men, and Captain America: Cast Away in Dimension Z, Vol. 1

Images from newsarama.com.

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A Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 Review – Serenity Flies Again

TITLE: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1
AUTHOR: Zack Whedon
PENCILLER: Georges Jeanty. Cover by Dan Dos Santos
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PRICE: $3.50
RELEASED: January 29, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Firefly fandom hasn’t had it easy, have they? You’ve got episodes airing out of order, and then you’ve got the show getting snuffed out just as things were really getting good. Granted, the fan response to the DVD release was strong enough to generate the Serenity feature film. But an underwhelming box office performance meant Malcolm Reynolds and his crew were on the backburner yet again.

Dark Horse Comics, Joss Whedon, and various collaborators have worked to keep the franchise alive over the years by offering stories that take place at various points in the Firefly timelineBut Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is undoubtedly the most vital Firefly tale to come from Dark Horse, as it’s the first to take us into events following the feature film. And on the whole, Firefly fans will be very, very pleased.

The first of a six-issue miniseries, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 takes place about nine months after the events of the film. The Alliance finds itself at the center of an intense controversy that spans the entire galaxy. Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity have exposed the fact that in a bizarre experiment, the Alliance created the Reavers, a breed of cannibalistic space pirates. Now, Mal and what remains of his crew are outlaws, hiding on the fringe of the galaxy. But as they run low on food and supplies, and Zoe gives birth to her first child, an uncomfortable truth reveals itself: Serenity must come out of hiding.

Zack Whedon makes a wise storytelling decision by delaying the Serenity crew’s entrance into the story a bit. Instead we kick things off with a pair of talking heads on a galactic news program of sorts, debating the Alliance’s guilt or innocence in the Reaver scandal. We then transition into the search for Mal and Serenity. As it turns out, the Alliance aren’t the only ones on the hunt for our heroes. This beginning sets the stage very well, and also builds anticipation for Mal and the crew to make their first appearance. Much like the characters, readers find themselves asking just where Serenity is.

When we finally are reunited with Mal and the crew, Whedon does a fine job of making the book feel like the TV show, despite the fact Jayne, Wash, and Shepherd Book are no longer present. We get a very significant scene between Mal and Inara that feels very natural and true to both characters. My only complaint is we don’t get to see the big moment where Mal and Inara finally give in to that simmering romantic tension that had been building since the show began. Instead, we’ve skipped over it and jumped right into what appears to be the relationship phase. It’s very disappointing that we don’t get to see that payoff. But at the same time, it’s gratifying to see the two characters together at last.

The short sequence between Zoe and “Wash” in her bedroom is heartbreaking, naturally. But it does seem to open the door to more appearances from Wash in a ghostly Obi-Wan Kenobi sort of way. What’s done with Jayne is also interesting, and plays up his personality as the group’s brutish rogue very well. Whedon also writes Kaylee’s dialogue perfectly during the scenes with Zoe and the baby. Though in contrast, Georges Jeanty is never quite able to capture Jewel Staite’s likeness for Kaylee.

My biggest problem with the issue is Dan Dos Santos’ cover. Mal’s arm looks stiff, lifeless, and perhaps a bit too long. I don’t read a lot of life in his face, either. It almost looks like Inara is cuddling up to a mannequin sculpted to look like Malcolm Reynolds, as opposed to the man himself.

Still, as a Firefly fan, Leaves on the Wind is pretty easy to like. Not only is it new Firefly, it’s Firefly that’s in uncharted territory, i.e. post-Serenity. We’ve waited almost seven years to see what happens after Wash dies and the Alliance is exposed. While it certainly would have been ideal to see Nathan Fillion and the rest of the cast perform it on the big screen, Zack Whedon and Georges Jeanty are no slouches, and manage to deliver in this first issue.

Front page image from comicdomain.wordpress.com. Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from gonnageek.com. 

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A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall, Part 2 Review – The Brainwashed Brother

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City Fall, Part 2
AUTHOR: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
PENCILLERS: Mateus Santolouco, Charles Paul Wilson III
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #25-28
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2014

Need to catch up on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Check out Vol. 1: Change is ConstantVol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies NewVol. 3: Shadows of the PastVol. 4: Sins of the FathersVol. 5: Krang Warand Vol. 6: City Fall, Part 1.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a life long Ninja Turtles fan, I can’t even tell you how cool it was to see that last page in issue #27, where Bebop and Rocksteady finally make their IDW debut (a portion of which is shown below). Not only that, but they look bad ass. They’ve busted through a wall, and instead of holding ray guns like they did on the old cartoon show, Bebop is holding a friggin’ chainsaw, and Rocksteady’s got a sledgehammer. They look every bit like the sawed off (yet dimwitted) monsters you’d hope they’d be. Granted, it doesn’t really make sense for Rocksteady to have a sledgehammer, given that his fists are twice as big as it’s head. So he should really have the chainsaw. But you know what? Who the hell cares! It’s Bebop and Rocksteady, and they look bad ass!

And hell, that’s just one page of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 7: City Fall, Part 2. 

As the Shredder tightens his grip on the organized crime factions in New York City, he has a new second-in-command at his side: Leonardo. Having been brainwashed by the witch Kitsune, Leo now believes his brothers to be dead, and Splinter to be a twisted manipulator. Now the Turtles must fight to bring their brother home, and once again face the Foot Clan head on. But in doing so, they’ll have to form an uneasy alliance with Old Hob and Slash. Meanwhile, Casey Jones sees a side of his estranged father he never knew existed. Sadly, father and soon seem destined to be on opposing sides.

The City Fall story as a whole feels like something the entire series has been building up to. Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and the various artists have had a good amount of time to establish this version of the TMNT universe, who everyone is, what the relationships are, etc. Thus, a story like this, which alters and shifts a lot of those relationships, is much more meaningful. Thankfully, our climactic battle between the Turtles and the Foot capitalizes on those high stakes, and winds up being much better than the disappointing first encounter we saw in Shadows of the Past. The Turtles come into this fight shortly after losing two major battles to the Foot in the previous book, so we’ve got a good sense of just how merciless and powerful our bad guys are, and that it’s entirely possible for our heroes to lose again. Then, we crank up the intensity with the introduction of Bebop and Rocksteady, two enemies who are bigger and stronger than the Turtles, with Shredder, Karai, and a brainwashed Leo waiting in the wings. And all the while, we’ve got an entirely different battle happening elsewhere between Casey and his father, who has become the massive behemoth Hun. It’s a much better constructed, and because of the higher stakes, much more suspenseful than what we saw in Shadows of the Past.

The vision sequences between Leo and his mother Tang Shen are fairly strong, particularly the one at the beginning of issue #26. For one thing, the simple image of an anthropomorphic turtle walking beside a human woman, and looking up at her with such reverence, makes for a compelling visual. But in previous incarnations, we haven’t heard much about the Turtles having a mother. The reincarnation angle used in the IDW series opens up a new creative door in that respect. It might be compelling to see Eastman and Waltz play with this a bit more as the series progresses.

The biggest drawback in City Fall, Part 2 is that there are technically two fairly significant holes in the story. One involves Alopex, and the reasoning behind a major decision she makes during the book’s climax. The second involves Casey’s father, and how he makes the transformation into Hun. Both these things were addressed in issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries: Villains, which runs alongside the regular series. Neither of those issues are collected here. It doesn’t necessarily ruin anything, and for Hun, an annotation is made referencing his particular issue. But it’s frustrating that we don’t get to see how and why these two rather pivotal events take place. It’s one thing for the microseries issues to supplement what’s happening in the main book. It’s another thing entirely to stick major events in there that readers should know about. Ideally, we should be able to get all of our pertinent plot points from the main series. That didn’t happen with City Fall, Part 2.

What I said about Mateus Santolouco’s art in the last volume still stands here. The way he draws their faces, with the beaks that are subtly framed like human noses, and the larger bandanas, they almost have a cutesy quality to them. Cute is definitely not what we’re aiming for here. Still, he does a fantastic job of injecting so many different emotions into not only our resident mutant turtles, but a mutant cat, a mutant snow fox, a mutant rat, etc. However, the best panels in the book are drawn by Charles Paul Wilson III, who handled the first exchange between Leo and his mother (a portion of which is shown above). The brief change in texture and color scheme lent a lot to the notion of it being a vision or a dream sequence.

Without giving too much away, the last page of this story is encouraging. It seems to indicate that Eastman, Waltz, and Ross Campbell (the next artist in the rotation) are going to spend some time examining the consequences of Leo being brainwashed. City Fall tore this family apart, and it looks like the next chapter of this series will be about putting the family back together. Considering we didn’t get that kind of story when Raphael re-joined the team after Change is Constant, that’s good to see. It also looks like the events of this series will, to an extent, be mirroring certain events from Eastman and Peter Laird’s original series for the next several issues.

In the end, City Fall, Part 2 is the best we’ve yet seen from IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. By and large, it’s an emotional story about families being torn apart, and the lengths some will go to in order to bring them back together.

RATING: 8.5/10

For a load of cool TMNT collectibles, check out the Ninja Turtles section of The Collectionary.

Front page image from tmnt-ninjaturtles.com. Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from tmntentity.blogspot.com. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com. 

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