Archive for the ‘Comics/Graphic Novels’ Category

A Death of Wolverine Review – Going Out Like a Champ…or a Chump?

TITLE: Death of Wolverine
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Steve McNiven
COLLECTS: Death of Wolverine #1-4
PUBLISHER: Marvel
GRAPHIC NOVEL PRICE: $24.99
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE: January 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder 

Death of Wolverine is a surprisingly quiet story. Quiet in the sense that there were so many paths it could have taken with Logan’s death. He’s an X-Men and an Avenger after all. Half the Marvel Universe could have been incorporated into a big, explosive, cosmic battle, culminating in the death of this once immortal hero.

Instead, Charles Soule, Steve McNiven and the rest of the creative team give us something more reserved, and perhaps more personal for Logan. We see traces of his larger role in the Marvel Universe. But for the most part, it’s a rather intimate affair. It’s Logan, plus some characters that have a special connection to him. It’s not necessarily what you’d expect, but it has a nice feel to it.

Having lost his healing power, Logan is now a marked man. An unknown enemy has put a price out for his capture, and now Logan finds himself vulnerable in more ways than one. In the end, Logan does pay the ultimate price for that vulnerability. But as one might expect, he doesn’t go without a fight. And that fight brings him face-to-face with more than one person from his past.

Death of Wolverine isn’t terribly inventive or surprising. But does it need to be? We already know the outcome, after all. The story is structured like a mini farewell tour for Wolverine, as his quest to find the mystery villain brings him to Canada, Madripoor, and finally a site not unlike the facility where Wolverine as we know him was created. Soule, McNiven, and the creative team seem more intent on making us ponder and appreciate the character, which is fair enough. The execution has its flaws. But I tip my hat to this piece for its intentions, as well as the amazing artwork.

McNiven is definitely in top form here. His art has a lot of detail to it, and in Logan’s case a lot of soul. In the first issue alone, McNiven does an awesome job of showing us a man who’s emotionally and physically exhausted from decades of brutality and violence. Then we move on to hopelessness, pain, depression, and then a bit of that classic Wolverine rage. Over the course of the story, he also gets to draw Logan in a variety of costumes and scenarios. We get good ol-wife beater wearin’ Logan, Logan in costume, Logan in samurai garb, and even sharp-dressed Logan. Again, paying tribute to the character and where he’s been. McNiven is able to maintain that quality over all four issues, which demonstrates just how good he really is.

Under Soule’s pen, Logan seems a bit more introspective as he ponders his own mortality. At first he seems pretty depressed and despondent about the whole thing. But by issue #3 he seems to have found some hope that this change will allow him to live a normal life away from all the fighting. During a conversation with Kitty Pryde, Logan says: “No more doing something horrible and telling myself I’ve got until the end of damn time to make up for it.” The idea that, in the face of his own mortality, Logan has guilt over what he is and what he’s done is interesting. Soule revisits that idea during the story’s climax, which is appreciated.

The story also uses different colored text boxes to illustrate Logan’s different senses. Red for pain, blue for smell, yellow for sounds, etc. The novelty does wear off gradually. But it’s a good choice given who our lead character is, and the kind of story we’re in.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Death of Wolverine is its need for breathing room. All things considered, Soule might have overcomplicated things. The first issue moves along at an appropriate pace, both setting the table, giving us some action, and establishing Logan’s mindset. But by issue two we’re shoving different characters in front of Logan, simply for the sake of having these epic fights. But they’re so condensed that they don’t necessarily have the time to be as epic or gripping as they could have been.

Take the Wolverine/Sabretooth fight, for instance. Theoretically, the entire story could have been built around one last fight between Logan and Creed, where one of Wolverine’s arch rival finally kills him. Instead, we got a daydream sequence (shown above), followed by a fight that featured Sabretooth in an oddly submissive position courtesy of Viper. And in the end, any potential consequences brought on by the fight (most notably Logan losing his eye) are undone when Kitty Pryde pops up with a dose of “regen serum.” What’s the point of taking Logan’s healing factor away if you’re simply going to give him a miracle cure when he’s in a jam?

I also wasn’t thrilled with the way Logan actually kicks the bucket. While staying spoiler free, it’s poetic in its own way. And again, I appreciated Soule’s nod to the journey Logan has been on as a human being. But in the end, Logan essentially takes himself out, and winds up looking more like a depressed Silver Surfer (if you’ve read the book you know why) than a dead Wolverine. So not only do we not give a villain the distinction of having killed our hero, Logan winds up going out like a chump. All those decades of blood and heroism, only to die like that?

Soule and the folks at Marvel seem to have had a decent take on Wolverine’s demise, and the artists are able to give us a stellar looking Logan. But in the end the presentation got watered down, and quite needlessly in certain cases. But regardless, the end result is the same. Wolverine is off the table…for now.

RATING: 6/10

Front page image and image 3 from comicbookresources.com. Image 1 from denofgeek.us. Image 2 from comicbookherald.com. 

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A Batman: Gordon of Gotham Review – Tales from the Nasty ’90s

TITLE: Batman: Gordon of Gotham
AUTHORS: Chuck Dixon, Denny O’Neil
PENCILLERS: Klaus Janson, Jim Aparo, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dick Giordano
COLLECTS: Batman: Gordon’s Law #1-4, Batman: GCPD #1-4, Batman: Gordon of Gotham #1-4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $15.47
ORIGINALLY RELEASED: 1996 (Batman: GCPD), 1996-1997 (Gordon’s Law), 1998 (Gordon of Gotham)
COLLECTION RELEASED: September 24, 2014

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

I’m pretty sure that there is exactly one reason that the name of the third story included in this trade paperback was used as the collection’s title. Calling it Gordon of Gotham makes the most sense (from a Doylist standpoint) for one reason and one reason only: Marketing.

Yes, this collection was probably released for the sole reason of promoting the televised travesty that is Gotham. It sure as heck wasn’t released to cater to rabid ‘90s era Chuck Dixon fans like myself. It even says on the back, “He’s Jim Gordon. And he’s tough as Gotham.” What the heck does that even mean? I always envisioned Gotham City as being mean or moody or dirty, occasionally creepy, definitely scary, frequently depressing, and sometimes incredible. “Tough” isn’t the word that comes to mind when I want to describe Gotham.

But you know what really is tough? How much this trade let me down.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jim Gordon. He’s one of my favorite characters in all of comics. I also love it when they take old, rarely highlighted characters like Shotgun Smith and Harvey Bullock and give them a chance to shine. However, I hate it when we get prequels and Serpico rip offs which range from mediocre to craptastic. And it annoys me to no end when entirely new characters are made up for a miniseries who are supposed to prominently figure into a major character’s backstory, and were obviously meant to have been really cool and memorable. But they come off as ridiculous and dumb. Like Cuchulain. But we’ll get to him.

Batman: Gordon of Gotham collects a trifecta of four-issue stories from the mid-to-late-’90s, the era of the great mega-series which later spawned those monstrous, phonebook-sized digests that we have today. Knightsend was just wrapping up, No Man’s Land was a twinkle in Denny O’Neil’s eye, and Chuck Dixon was in the middle of his beneficent reign as chief writer in the Bat-group. A lot of good stuff was being put out in books like Robin, Nightwing, and Detective Comics.

These three miniseries are not among that good stuff.

The Gordon’s Law story revolves around Gordon teaming up with Shotgun Smith to take down a criminal conspiracy involving some rip-off of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang and a bunch of corrupt cops. GCPD is about, well… the GCPD, but proto-Gotham Central it ain’t. Gordon of Gotham doesn’t even take place in Gotham City, but rather is a flashback to Chicago. I’m not sure whether it’s about how Gordon first came to be a police officer in Gotham. Or perhaps it’s about how he botched something up during his 20-year sojourn in Chicago prior to Batman: Year One, which resulted in him going back to Gotham City again. He looks too young here for the latter, but I’m not completely sure.

Gordon of Gotham is essentially a rehash of Gordon’s Law, only this time Gordon’s walking around with one arm in a sling the whole time, and he’s still a novice lawman. Plus, you’ve got this leprechaun-like hitman named Cuchulain hopping in and out of the story whenever it’s convenient. Man, I absolutely hate that guy, just like I absolutely hate all caricatures that are meant to be taken completely seriously.

All of these stories have their own unique, individual faults, but they all suffer from a single defect: Aside from Batman’s token appearances, you would never guess that these stories took place in a shared superhero universe. Instead of a crime story with the larger DC Universe in the background, we just have standard issue crime stories guest starring Batman.

This of course raises the question: Why do these stories need Batman at all, if they’re supposed to be about Jim Gordon?

This question brings up a valid, point which I will phrase in the form of another question: Can you have Commissioner Gordon without Batman?

The answer is, “Yes… and no.” It’s perfectly fine to have a story almost entirely about Gordon. We had one just before the New 52 blew everything to Hades, Batman: The Black Mirror. That was a great Commissioner Gordon story because it focused both on Gordon the lawman and Gordon the man. It intertwined details about Gordon’s reaction to his son returning to Gotham with his ongoing investigation into a serial killer. But that story had its fair share of Batman too.

In my opinion, the key to writing a good Gordon story, or any good story with people like Bullock or Montoya, is to have figuring into the background the guy around whom Gordon was constructed to orbit: Batman. That’s not to say that Gordon and the rest of the GCPD can’t stand on their own. Simply take a look at Rucka and Brubaker’s Gotham Central. It’s just that most writers haven’t been able to pull it off without churning out another Serpico rip-off.

The other big roadblock to writing a good Gordon story is that it’s hard to write one when the character in question has no real arc. When you think about it, Commissioner Gordon is usually only in the story to give Batman missions and make him look heroic by heading up an overwhelmed police force. He has no arc. This isn’t because he’s a stale character, but because his arc is already complete before we ever see it start. In the words of David Uzumeri of ComicsAlliance.com, “I almost find early Gordon more interesting than later Gordon, because once he’s become Commissioner, he’s won. Now he’s just directing an awesome police department. There’s way more drama in the good man stuck in the corrupt organization.”

That’s why Batman: Year One is such a great Gordon story, not to mention one of the best overall Batman stories of all time. It’s basically Serpico in Gotham City, with Batman, and yet it’s not a rip-off. And it’s awesome! It shows Gordon fighting against a corrupt system, and how he can’t do much of anything unless he chooses to work with Batman and his cohorts. Of course he wins, just like the good guys always do.

In Batman: Gordon of Gotham, we are faced with two Gordon stories (Batman: Gordon’s Law and Batman: Gordon of Gotham), one of which is blatantly a prequel to Year One, and a story which is generally about the GCPD. That is, Batman: GCPD.

Gordon’s Law is a drag to read because Batman is locked out of it pretty early, due to Gordon suddenly getting all gung-ho about investigating police corruption being a purely police matter. It would have made more sense to have Batman be simply unavailable due to all the busy stuff going on with the fallout with Bane and Azrael, with only Robin answering the Bat-Signal. In the meantime, we’re saddled with large cast of one-shot, cookie-cutter characters, a stupid and predictable mystery, a ludicrous amount of backstabbing, even for Gotham, and a boring and anticlimactic conclusion. It doesn’t help that the art is cartoonishly gritty and overly penciled, which might make for a good effect in the hands of a writer who knows how to write a good Gordon story. Sorry Chuck Dixon, but you have failed this city…

GCPD puts Gordon in a less prominent role, focusing more on Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, Sarah Essen, and a couple more obscure cops who didn’t even make it to Gotham Central. Bullock gets reassigned to a new partner after a spat with Renee, and they work together to track down a serial killer. Montoya poses as a foreign ambassador’s wife in order to protect the ambassador from members of an insurgent cell, which is for some reason operating in Gotham. Meanwhile, these other two detectives, Kitch and Caz, investigate a corrupt lawyer while the desk sergeant tries to solve the mystery of missing office equipment. Also, there’s the standard stuff about Bullock getting dragged in front of an Internal Affairs tribunal.

In short, GCPD is a failure. Why? Because, once again, there’s nothing in the book that directly connects it to Batman. The genius of Gotham Central was that it was about Batman, his associates, and his rogue’s gallery through the viewpoint of his unwilling allies, the police, who don’t share the reader’s privilege of knowing Batman’s side of the story. GCPD just takes Montoya, Bullock, and the rest and throws them into a bunch of standard cop show adventures, and all the clichés that go with them. It’s entirely dull and uninteresting, being shoddily built and poorly executed.

Finally, we have Gordon of Gotham. This story is slightly better than the last two, but only slightly. I like how it’s pretty clearly set several decades in the past, probably the ’60s or ’70s. There are also a couple of great moments with Gordon being a tough guy lawman. But that’s about it. The story’s greatest strength is that it has a good reason to not have Batman in it: The entire story is actually Gordon relating to Batman his memories as a rookie cop in Chicago. This in and of itself makes a minimal amount of sense, as Batman and Gordon are not generally known to engage in idle chitchat. Thankfully, there is once again a barely sufficient reason to explain this glaring error.

The story itself is your usual Serpico rip off about Gordon going outside the law to unearth a political conspiracy based in police corruption, blah blah blah. It’s not incredibly bad, but it’s not incredibly good either. It’s just the blandest shade of mediocre. We’ve got lazy plotting, barely competent dialogue, and an altogether sorry story.

My least favorite part of the story, however, was Cuchulain. He’s literally some cartoonishly Irish pretty-boy who says things like, “Me country” and “Jimmy-boy.” He’s just impossible to take seriously. This is plainly dumb writing, I don’t care if it was Denny O’Neil at the helm. And who in the world of contract killing uses a flipping handgun to snipe people? The conclusion was rushed and poorly handled, but we did get a fairly cool fight scene with Gordon, which just goes to show that he’s still one tough old son-of-a-gun. The one great redeeming value of this story is the art by Klaus Janson and Dick Giordano. It’s pretty great, and would go great with the story…if the story was actually good.

To summarize… Tough as Gotham? More like tough as five day old donuts, and leaving almost as bad a taste in your mouth. I wanted to like Batman: Gordon of Gotham, I really did. But there’s just not really anything to like. Save your money and go check out Batman: Turning Points. That one’s worth the read.

RATING: 5.5/10

Front page image from dccomics.com. Images 1 and 2 from hradzka.dreamwidth.org. Image 4 courtesy of ifanboy.com. Image 5 from wikia.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter at @levi_sweeney
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A Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple Review – Scandal and Realism

TITLE: Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Power Couple
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Tony Daniel
COLLECTS: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE:
$24.99
RELEASE DATE:
September 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Charles Soule is good. He’s really good. And how do we know? Well, Marvel is trusting him to kill Wolverine. That’s a hell of an example. But personally, I prefer this one: He took Superman and Wonder Woman, two of the most fantastic and over the top creations of popular culture, and make them feel like real people. Even the best writers have trouble in that front. What’s more, he made them real people in a relationship. As implausible as the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is to some, Soule (with help from Tony Daniel and the rest of the art team, of course) makes it feel real within the context of the DC Universe.

Clark and Diana’s relationship is still very new when we open Power Couple, and only a select few know about it. But that will soon change, as the world comes to know that arguably the two most powerful beings on Earth are a romantic item. As if that weren’t enough, Clark and Diana must deal with a Phantom Zone breach. Wonder Woman meets Doomsday for the first time, and Superman comes face to face with someone from his father’s past. A man named Zod.

I find it somewhat fateful that I’m reviewing this particular book in the wake of yet another “Fappening” celebrity photo leak. Secrets are part and parcel to the whole superhero gig. But now two of the world’s greatest heroes have had their privacy violated. A guarded secret is now out for allies and enemies alike to see. Their response, and those of their supporting cast, are very telling from a character standpoint. Soule and Daniel pull off an awesome two-page spread (shown left), giving us reactions from across the world. Amongst a litany of everyday civilians, we get responses from Green Lantern and Flash, Eros and Apollo, Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor, even the President of the United States. Later on we get Lex Luthor, as well as Batman. The issue does a great job capturing just how fast and how far news/scandal can travel in the 21st century.

My only complaint about the “leak” falls back on DC’s tendency to “over-Baturate” things. While almost everyone else’s response to the leak was condensed into the two-page spread containing the kiss, Batman’s response somehow merited a two-page spread of its own. This is completely out of whack within the context of the story. Yes, we know Batman is cool and important. But his moment really only consists of throwing some Batarangs at a big screen to keep people from seeing some distasteful news coverage. We needed two whole pages for that? Right…

Skewed perspective notwithstanding, what’s truly impressive about Power Couple are the one-on-one scenes between Clark and Diana. Soule absolutely nails them. Given the culture she’s from, Wonder Woman is clearly the more aggressive of the two, and she’s not afraid to assert herself. At one point when she and Superman are fighting Zod and Faora, she actually tells Clark, who is trying to offer her advice, to “Pay attention to your own fight!” Indeed, if Diana has her way, Superman/Wonder Woman will see the Man of Steel become a better fighter. “You’re so strong, Clark. But you’ve never been trained to fight. Power isn’t everything…” she says. “You have much to learn, and I’m just the woman to teach you.”

But Wondie isn’t strictly a warrior. She also has a nurturing, loving side. When Superman learns about Doomsday’s return, she assures him he won’t be fighting alone. For Christmas, she gives him a gift that perhaps only a fellow superhero can truly appreciate. We even see a bit of a sensual side, as Tony Daniel renders her walking barefoot on the beaches of Paradise Island.

On the other hand, Clark is more the conventional romantic. He brings Diana a flower from the Fortress of Solitude. He beats himself up when he says something cheesy to her. He even stands up for her when Apollo condescends.

This is such great character work by Soule because it rings true to the essence of both Superman and Wonder Woman. They both have a strong set of ideals and principles, and they’re not as similar as one might believe. And yet, they care for each other because at their core, they both fight for things like peace, justice, truth, and defending the defenseless. Again, it feels very real within the context of the DC Universe. And despite their differences, we see just how similar they are during the book’s climax.

Tony Daniel does mostly good work here. But the one thing that really holds this book back, and much of Daniel’s work for that matter, is the color palette presented by Tomeu Morey. There’s a certain dullness to almost everything that robs the book of a certain epic feel. We’ve got such flamboyant and iconic characters on the page, and yet they feel subdued in a sense. Still, this is some of Daniel’s best work in recent memory. The final page of the book certainly resonates in a powerful way.

DC lost a hell of a player when Soule signed his exclusive contract with Marvel. What he gives us here is no small feat. The Superman/Wonder Woman romance isn’t necessarily one we can relate to, or project ourselves on to. But in Power Couple, Soule, Daniel, and the creative team make it one we care about. I can’t help but tip my hat to them for that.

RATING: 8.5/10

Front page image/image 1 from dc.wikia.com. Image 2 from dreamwidth.org. Image 3 from comicbookmovie.com. 

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A Justice League: Forever Heroes Review – Feelings. Nothing More Than Feelings…

TITLE: Justice League, Vol. 5: Forever Evil
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis
COLLECTS: Justice League #24-29
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Books like Forever Heroes tend to frustrate me. They run alongside event comics like Blackest NightCivil War, or in this case, Forever Evil, providing us with valuable insight into certain characters and their actions. But without the main plotline to follow, books like this are essentially useless. It’s like only watching the even numbered episodes of a TV drama. You continuously have to catch up with each new issue. The solution, of course, is to publish all the issues together, which we typically get in some sort of big omnibus. But for now, books like Forever Heroes stand as islands unto themselves. That’s a shame in this book’s case, as there’s some cool stuff here.

Set during the events of Forever EvilForever Heroes gives us an abbreviated backstory of almost every member of the Crime Syndicate of America. The plot thread that ties the issues together deals with Grid (essentially an evil version of Cyborg) and his quest to feel emotions. But when Cyborg returns, he’s out for justice. And he’s bringing back up: The Metal Men!

Indeed, Forever Heroes is tasked with introducing the Metal Men into the New 52. These heroes made up of various types of metal (Platinum, Mercury, Gold, etc.) have been a part of the DCU since the ’60s, but one can argue they haven’t been relevant in decades. I’ve been a regular DC reader for decades, and I’ve yet to receive a valid reason as to why I should care about the Metal Men, or their scientist creator Will Magnus.

Still, Johns gives us a decent start here. He establishes who the Metal Men are, and how they came to be. He also gives them a certain underdog appeal, by casting them as a failed government experiment, who now must return as one of the world’s last lines of defense. That’s a great role for them. They’re also selfless, which is obviously endearing. Cyborg also makes for a fitting partner for them. And Johns does get you to care about the romantic tension between Magnus and Platinum.

On the down side, there’s a certain awkward, corny factor to the Metal Men’s dialogue. For instance, this is one of Gold’s first lines in issue #28…

“Name’s Gold, bro. I’m one of the most malleable and conductible metals in existence. And I’m also the most desired throughout the globe — worth over $15 million by myself. I’m the Metal Men’s brilliant leader, literally speaking. Aren’t they lucky?”

Not with dialogue like that, they aren’t. That’s certainly not the only line in the book that’s needlessly clunky and expository. Some of this sounds like fiction written for grade schoolers. We know they’re made of metal, and everybody more or less knows that gold is valuable. So why not just leave it alone and let the characters be in a room together?

Metal Men dialogue notwithstanding, it’s not a bad introduction, per se. The Metal Men are an endearing concept. The question is, where do you take them from here? How do you make them a commodity in the DCU? The first Metal Men story of the New 52 is done, but hopefully the second one will give us a clue as far as that question goes.

In contrast to the selfless Metal Men, you of course have the entirely selfish Grid, an addition to the Crime Syndicate created by Johns in Trinity War, who essentially acts as an evil version of Cyborg. While the Metal Men actually feel too many emotions (according to Magnus), Grid is a lifeless robot desperately searching for a chance to feel any emotion. That’s a great juxtaposition. Forever Heroes sees Grid search through the Syndicate’s backstories looking for something to incite feeling. Johns does a nice job of keeping him unsympathetic and ruthless, and Grid manages to give Cyborg a nice character moment at the end of the book.

The Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick characters aren’t new, but Johns mixed with bits and pieces of their pre-established history with his own work to give them some mostly cool backstories. Granted, they’re all essentially the classic DC mythos turned upside down. For instance, the New 52 Owlman is Thomas Wayne Jr., Bruce Wayne’s older brother, who killed his parents and brother with the help of Alfred. Power Ring, the Crime Syndicate’s version of Green Lantern is a cowardly janitor at Ferris Air who is terrified of the ring entity, Volthoom. Johnny Quick and Atomica are a sort of supervillain Bonnie and Clyde. The only backstory I wasn’t a fan of was Ultraman’s, which unfortunately starts out the book. In that instance, Johns and Ivan Reis went so far on the opposite end of the moral spectrum that it almost became funny.

Forever Heroes also allows us to dive into Owlman’s longing to connect with the Dick Grayson of our Earth. We’re  not given a lot in terms of their interaction with one another, but I like the notion of Thomas Wayne Jr. wanting to make a connection with Dick, even though he’s not the same Dick he knew on Earth 3. And Johns tosses in a nice twist at the end of issue #25 that adds an extra dimension to their relationship.

Obviously Forever Heroes is supplemental material for Forever Evil. It’s not the best supplemental stuff I’ve ever seen. But Johns is definitely in his element here, working with frequent cohorts Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke. And the book is noteworthy for introducing the Metal Men into the New 52, flaws and all. So all things considered, it’s not the worst thing you could spend money on at the comic shop. Just make sure you also have Forever Evil next to it on your shelf.

RATING: 6.5/10

Front page image from kingrexkidd.blogspot.com. Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from offthecomicstore.blogspot.com. 

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A Death of Wolverine #1 Review – Old Story, New Consequences

TITLE: Death of Wolverine #1
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Steve McNiven
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 3, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

While I haven’t exactly had my eye on the man called Logan lately, two elements attracted me to Death of Wolverine. Firstly, the notion that it would be a (more or less) self-contained story, told in four weekly issues. You wouldn’t need to do any research or back tracking to get into the story, and it wouldn’t drag like a lot of event comics do. Secondly, Charles Soule is the writer. Soule impressed me with this work on Superman/Wonder Woman, so I was interested to him work with Wolvie in a story that’s pivotal, to say the least.

When we open the book, Logan has lost his healing power. The issue doesn’t dive into the how and the why of it, it simply sets that notion on the table and keeps moving. (FYI, Logan got infected with a virus that suppressed the ability.) But now that our hero is vulnerable, a price has been put on his head and the bad guys are coming out of the woodwork to take him down. The question is, who has their sights set on Logan? Who is it that’s put him in harm’s way like never before? We find out at the end of this issue, and it’s someone we know quite well.

Of course, Death of Wolverine isn’t a new concept by any means. There’ve been a lot of “Logan fights his way through a lot of people” stories before. Hell, a few years ago we actually had Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine. So it’s not an uncommon story motif. And let’s not even get into superhero deaths. Coming into Death of Wolverine, we’re not even asking who or what will kill him, but rather how long he’ll actually stay dead. Still, the Wolverine vs. The World plot is as good as any to use if you’re going to kill off Logan. It’s a perfect way to give us some of his trademark violence and rage along the way.

We open the issue with a quiet scene, a calm before the storm (shown left). The reveal on pages four and five then gives us a strong sense of foreboding, and just what that storm will consist of. Soule stays pretty quiet from a narration standpoint, letting McNiven’s art do the talking. Considering the character we’re dealing with, and the quality of artist we have, that’s a wise move.

Soule also uses red, one-word caption boxes with white lettering to indicate intense pain, which Logan isn’t used to feeling the way normal people do. He simply tosses a body part out there (“Neck, “”Head,” etc) and lets the reader fill in the blanks. I’m interested to see how this trend progresses as we get closer to Logan’s demise.

Our villain for the issue is Nuke, a character created during Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil run. I’d just as soon not talk about Miller after Sin City: A Dame To Kill For bombed so badly. But the character serves his purpose here. He’s a meathead and a brute for Logan to beat up and get information from. He’s the kind of character Logan wouldn’t necessarily bat an eye over if he was his normal self. But now a fight with Nuke takes a different toll. Plus, McNiven and the artists make him look pretty good.

While it’s hardly a work of stunning originality, Death of Wolverine does what it sets out to do: Make me want to see how Logan dies. Soule’s writing rings true to the character, and the art sets the tone nicely. I’m curious to see where we go from here.

Front page image and image 1 from comicbookresources.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead, Vol. 21 – Hook, Line, and Sinker

TITLE: The Walking Dead, Vol. 21:  All Out War – Part Two
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
PENCILLER: Charlie Adlard
COLLECTS: The Walking Dead #121-126
FORMAT:
Softcover
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASED: July 23, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This All Out War story arc is a milestone in The Walking Dead comic book, but not necessarily for the reasons one might suspect. Sure there’s a lot of great content here, and we see some cool character stuff from Rick, Carl, Negan, among numerous others. But the six issues in this book, along with the six issues collected in the previous book, marked the only time the series has gone bi-weekly since its start in 2003. Obviously, this meant the creative team had to pump out twice their usual content over a six month period. As such, one man in particular deserves a hell of a lot of credit: Charlie Adlard.

Adlard without question proved his status as a rock star by essentially doubling his work load over such an extended period of time. And the biggest compliment you can give the guy is that the work doesn’t suffer for it. At times, Adlard even seems to thrive under the pressure.

Naturally, this book picks up where Part One left off, as Negan and the Saviors seem to have won their war with Rick’s group of survivors. Negan has found a new, horrifying way to infect those that oppose him, and at one point we see he’s willing to do something truly mortifying to Eugene. But Rick, Andrea, Michonne, Ezekiel, and the others still have hope, and the will to fight. And they’ll reap all the benefits, and suffer all the consequences that come with that.

In Part One, Kirkman fleshed Negan’s character out a bit more by giving presenting a scene where he saves Holly from being raped. He emphatically tells the would-be perpetrator that the Saviors DO NOT rape, and that after this war was over, they’d still have to live with Rick and his group. This obviously indicated that Negan wasn’t a full blown psychopath. He was a man who lived by his own set of principles. Somewhat psychopathic principles, but principles nonetheless. Oddly enough (and without spoiling anything), it would seem that those principles work against him at the end of Part Two. There’s a big climactic dialogue scene between he and Rick in issue #124, in which they essentially compare ideologies. And there’s a moment where Negan seems to have an epiphany, and finally get where Rick is coming from. I’m not sure I liked that moment. In essence, Rick gives one of his big speeches and Negan takes the pitch. I suppose it’s not impossible, especially given they’ve all been under the stressors of war. But the notion that someone as stubborn, pig-headed, and downright tyrannical as Negan could just fall hook, line, and sinker for one of Rick’s speeches is somewhat hard to swallow. Perhaps it speaks to a lack of intelligence on Negan’s part. Either way, I didn’t take Rick’s bait quite as easily.

Part Two is also a very important book for Eugene. I haven’t talked much about Eugene in previous books, as in all honesty, the character never did much for me. He was involved in an awkward love triangle between Abraham (another character I never enjoyed) and Rosita, in which his longing for her is never reciprocated. But when you look at how he’s developed sine we first saw him in issue #53, you can see that Kirkman, whether he intended it to be this way or not, has done a sort of slow burn character arc with Eugene. He started as a liar and a coward, and has now become someone willing to take risks and make sacrifices for the greater good. Ironically, he now seems very much worthy of Rosita’s love, and might just get it before all is said and done.

The world of The Walking Dead is a much more intriguing place after All Out War – Part Two, partially because they didn’t completely blow things off the way they did with the Governor in issue #52. But we’ve also got a more interesting cast of heroes than we’ve had in quite some time. Ezekiel has another great character moment with Michonne in this book. Maggie also steps up in a big way, taking on a hell of a responsibility. Carl, of course, is Carl. We get more of that good vs. evil inner conflict that has become so synonymous with him. I’m also interested to see what they do with Dwight post-All Out War. He’s essentially accomplished his mission. So what does he do now?

And on the subject of now, things change quite a bit after issue #126, as we do a two-year time jump. So this book, to an extent, marks the end of The Walking Dead as we know it. In the next volume, characters will be a bit older, they’ll look different, and we’ll have a brand new status quo. In Kirkman’s own words: “This will be a drastically different book starting with Issue 127.” But if we’ve learned anything from The Walking Dead over the years, it’s that no matter what the status quo is, chaos is never far away.

RATING: 9/10

Front page image from thewalkingdead.com. Image 1 from maxmangas.com. Image 2 from whatelseisonnow.wordpress.com.

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Action Comics #1 Fetches $3.2 Million Online

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A copy of Action Comics #1 in near-perfect condition sold for a record $3.2 million on eBay this past Sunday.

This transaction gives Action Comics #1 the distinction of being the most expensive comic book in the world. The issue also held the previous record with $2.2 million.

Published in June of 1939, Action Comics #1 featured the first Superman story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Source: Yahoo! News

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A Review of The Multiversity #1 – Justice League vs. The Avengers (Sorta…)

TITLE: The Multiversity #1
AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PENCILLER: Ivan Reis
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 20, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Grant Morrison tends to lose me when he goes cosmic. In my ever-so-humble opinion, he tends to talk over his readers’ heads with the complexity of his stories. That’s why I prefer his Batman stuff to stories like Final Crisis, or even his work on JLA. But this far, he’s got my interest with The Multiversity, possibly because it harkens back to Crisis on Infinite Earths, which will satisfy some of us that have been longing for the pre-New 52 DCU.

Oh, and there’s also a publicity stunt involving a bunch of analog Marvel characters. Yay…?

The Multiversity sees Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors (a group of cosmic watchmen, basically) and his chimp sidekick Stubs lured to Earth 7, which has been laid to waste by demonic entities called the Gentry. He saves a hero named Thunderer (a Thor analog), who then returns to a big Death Star looking watchtower base to summon heroes from all 52 worlds in the multiverse. Among them are the Superman of Earth 23 (who is also the president of the United States), Captain Carrot, and an analog for Savage Dragon. Together they must find a way to save the multiverse from Nix Uotan, as he fights against the influence of the Gentry.

The core concept of The Multiversity is, of course, awesome. We get a good look at the New 52 DC multiverse while spending time with characters we’ve either never seen before, or in the case of Earth 23 Superman and Captain Carrot, don’t see very often. We also get some fan service for longtime readers, what with Nix Uotan being the “multiversal monitor,” plus a computerized simulation of Harbinger (again, see Crisis).

Oddly enough, the issue solicitation also makes note of Earth Prime, another old school DC concept. Earth Prime is the world where we, the readers, live. In older stories, writers have used Earth Prime for meta purposes, most notably with our old friend Superboy Prime. The comic book we’re reading seems to know it’s being viewed on Earth Prime, and as such is pleading with the reader to stop reading! Similarly, The Multiversity reintroduces the notion that one Earth’s reality is another’s fiction. For instance, Superman’s adventures on Earth 23 are by Red Racer (the book’s resident comic book reader) on Earth 36. So if you know what you’re looking at, you can essentially look in on other worlds.

You’ll also meet Aquawoman of Earth 11, which I’m guessing was the inverted gender Earth that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness showed us way back in 2005′s Superman/Batman #23 and #24. We also see a pint-sized Wonder Woman and Steel, presumably from the “Li’l Leaguers” story done in Superman/Batman #51 and #52. Gypsy is also in one of the group shots. Whether she’s the Gypsy we met in the Vibe ongoing series remains to be seen. All these different characters are a lot to take in, but having them all together makes for a hell of a visual. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Nei Ruffino do an awesome job with the art.

But while it’s cool to see the reintroduction of some older multiverse concepts, starting off with a bunch of Marvel analogs turned me off. While this is by no means a new trick, the way DC and Grant Morrison featured it so prominently in the first issue of a story that’s been anticipated for five years is…disappointing. They even make a point to allude to all the Marvel movies. Okay, we get it. Marvel exists. And oh, look! Some of these analogs are getting beat up! How cute. But this little stunt isn’t edgy or cool. If anything, it makes DC look even more like the definitive number two publisher, because they feel the need to jab their competition in a big book like this. Really? That’s the best they can do for the first issue of a story that has practically limitless possibilities?

Still, The Multiversity, which will continue as a series of standalones before bookending with issue #2, is undeniably packed with potential and intrigue. But thus far we haven’t gotten much in terms of substance. It’s a pretty book, but Morrison spent much of this issue explaining things. Who people are, what the multiverse is, what the Gentry wants, etc. Once we get into these one-shots, Grant will have more time to stretch out and do some storytelling. But I’m hoping against hope that he keeps things as simple and straightforward as he can. Let’s be creative, but let’s also not get lost in what Captain Carrot himself refers to as “cartoon science.”

Front page image from wired.com. Image 1 from bamsmackpow.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. 

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A Ghostbusters: Mass Hysteria! – Part 1 Review – Chaos Unleashed!

TITLE: Ghostbusters, Vol. 8: Mass Hysteria! – Part 1
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
PENCILLER: Dan Schoening
COLLECTS: Ghostbusters #13-16
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: 
August 6, 2014

(Need to catch up on IDW’s Ghostbusters? Check out Check out volumes OneTwoThreeFourFive, Six, and Seven.)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve said this before. I’ve been saying it since 2011. But it was true then, and it’s still true. So for my money, it’s still worth saying. If you’re a Ghosthead and a child of the ’80s and ’90s, Ghostbusters is a dose of pure, unadulterated, nostalgic fun. This Erik Burnham/Dan Schoening run is something really special, and there are no two men better qualified to spearhead a Ghostbusters 30th anniversary event comic like Mass Hysteria.

Tiamat, the Mesopotamian goddess of chaos and the sister of Gozer, has come to Earth. In ancient times she and her followers were responsible for banishing Gozer from the terrestrial plane. Now, after her brother’s defeat, she’s taken an interest in Earth and the Ghostbusters. And because “I want to start this game with everything that my brother had,” she’s targeted Dana Barrett and Louis Tully. That, combined with this attack coming on the heels of Winston’s wedding to Tiyah, and Tiamat’s attack is going to be extremely personal for the boys in gray.

As a long time Ghosthead, the most exciting aspect of this book is the return of Dana. Her presence evokes so many memories and emotions from both the audience and the other characters that you could almost do a story solely about her re-entering the picture, without any ghostly threat. Case in point, in issue #15 Venkman gets a call from her. Three words in, he leaps over his desk, gets on a motorcycle, and speeds off to her apartment. His trademark coyness and wit is nowhere to be found. Anyone or anything that can make Venkman take life seriously is obviously a hefty story element.

Dan Schoening draws a nearly perfect Dana Barrett. Her face is done slightly less cartoony than the other characters, with defined cheekbones and an accented chin. Out of all the characters from the films, she looks like the most like her corresponding actor. Schoening even gave her Sigourney Weaver’s haircut circa 1994/1995. My only complaint is an unconventional one: Her fingernails. This has actually been a consistent complaint of mine about Schoening’s work, as it has applied to almost all the female characters. But it’s never been immensely noticeable until now. I’m not sure if these girls are supposed to be wearing acrylic nails, or if they’re just long. But the effect makes them look like – I’m just going to say it – witch fingers. Very few things in these Burnham/Schoening books are weird in a bad way. But this is weird in a bad way.

I almost wish they’d saved Louis for another story. Because of everything that’s happening, he doesn’t necessarily get time to shine, save for a scene in a bar. Also, Louis is uncharacteristically depressed in this book. It’s understandable given the circumstances, I suppose. But it’s not really the character we’re hoping to see. Still, Schoening fits him right into the books cartoony style.

As for Tiamat, she’s got a sort of Medusa/snake lady thing going on, which is cool. I like the chaos element she brings to the story. Blood rains from the sky, cars start floating, the Ghostbusters run into future versions of themselves. It’s a lot of fun, and I actually wish they’d amped it up a bit more. But then again, this is only the first half.

As ever, Schoening injects the proceedings with plenty of Easter eggs from Ghostbusters lore and ’80s/’90s culture. The “future” Ghostbusters, for instance, are wearing the same outfits as the Real Ghostbusters ”Fright Features” action figures from he late ’80s. That’s a goddamn riot. There are also a bunch of cool guests at Winston’s wedding, including Ivan Reitman, Bobby Brown, Stevie Wonder, Martin Short as he appeared in Father of the Bride, Roland Jackson from Extreme Ghostbusters. We even see Estelle Winslow from friggin’ Family Matters! Why? Why not? As always, it’s those little details that make this series not only a lot of fun, but great for repeat reading.

Unfortunately, we may need to do a lot of repeat reading if we want our IDW Ghostbusters fix in the near future. This volume (the second Burnham, Schoening, and their cohorts have done) is ending with issue #20 in September. Granted, they haven’t ruled out a third volume, and Burnham and Schoening will are actually working with Tom Waltz on the epic Ghostbusters/Ninja Turtles crossover miniseries, which debuts in October. But the fact is, Burnham and Schoening’s days with the boys in grey could be coming to an end. Would a 30th anniversary event like Mass Hysteria! be a fitting way to cap off what they’ve done with the Ghostbusters? Yes. But it would still be heartbreaking to see such a phenomenal team break up. Their stories have had their share of flaws (I still don’t know why Mel needs to be around). But as far as I’m concerned, this is still some of the best GB content ever produced.

RATING: 8.5/10

Front page image/image 1 from majorspoilers.com. Image 2 from followingthenerd.com.

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A Superman #33 Review – “You’ve Out-Neiled Him!”

TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 23, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For John Romita Jr’s big DC Comics debut, he and Geoff Johns have pulled an “alternate Superman” story out of their hats. At face value that’s a bit of a let down, just because we’ve seen so many of those. Hell, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are essentially doing that in Superman Unchained. Thus, the pressure’s on our creative team to give this “The Men of Tomorrow” story a completely different feel than Snyder and Lee’s story…

Ulysses, a.k.a. Neil, was transported from Earth to an alternate dimension as an infant. His parents, two scientists at the Ulysses Research Center in Nebraska, had feared the impending destruction of Earth. Upon returning to Earth, Ulysses is shocked to discover that didn’t happen. He’s quickly taken in by Clark Kent. But getting Neil accustomed to Metropolis, and teaching him certain boundaries will prove difficult. All the while, Superman investigates what has become of the Ulysses facility, and sees what he can learn about Neil’s past.

One thing “The Men of Tomorrow” has going for it thus far that Superman Unchained doesn’t is that we haven’t seen Batman, Wonder Woman (aside from a brief phone conversation where we don’t actually see her), or the Justice League. What frustrated me about Unchained from the start was how Batman kept being unnecessarily shoe-horned into the proceedings. Hell, half of the most recent issue consists of the Batcave being destroyed in a fight between Batman and Wraith (that story’s alternate Superman). Johns and Romita haven’t done anything like that yet. They haven’t fallen victim to the “over-Baturation” trend. They’re not taking the cheap route. They’re on Superman, and they’re using Superman characters. That’s a very respectable move.

Another plus? This story is being published in the ongoing Superman series. Obviously, big name creators reinstate that sense of value to staple books like this, in contrast to some prestige format series that abruptly ends when the creative team has told their initial story. Yeah, my Superman Unchained review is going to be a bit…volatile.

As for Romita’s art, he continues to give us what we came to see: His take on Superman’s world. In this issue, he gives us Clark Kent, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, The Daily Planet building, and a bit of Lois Lane. However, in my experience every John Romita Jr. story has at least one panel that’s drawn awkwardly. This issue has such a panel, and it’s a close up shot of Neil’s face. Unbeknownst to him, Neil is about to come face to face with a huge part of his past. Before the reveal, Romita gives us the panel at left.

What is this face, exactly? Skepticism? Trying to play it cool in the face of anxiety? Boredom? Curiosity? Whatever it’s supposed to be, it took me out of the scene immediately.

From a writing standpoint, Johns makes abundantly clear that Superman is looking at Neil’s life and asking: “What if?” He uses an old photo of Jonathan and Martha Kent as a storytelling tool, although they don’t look like the people we saw in Action Comics, or even Batman/Superman. Still, the advantage Ulysses has over other “alternate Supermen” is that he’s easier to relate to. He’s human, and as such it’s that much simpler for readers to project themselves on to him. This also plays up Superman’s alienation from humans, literally and figuatively. He’ll never truly be one of them, and his parents, the two people who made him feel most at home on Earth, are gone. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how start to tell an emotionally gripping Superman story. Mind you, it’s merely a start. Lord knows we may venture off into all sorts of crazy directions at any point.

But at this point, I’m willing to trust Geoff Johns with Superman. He’s done well with the character in the past (See: Superman: Brainiac, Superman and the Legion of Superheroes), and has a firm grasp on how to write Superman as the compassionate idealist that he should be, without making him into a wuss with a cape. That’s the kind of Superman I want to see, and that’s the kind of Superman that’s worthy of a John Romita Jr. pencil.

Front page image from blastr.com. Image 1 from blacknerdproblems.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.

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