Archive for the ‘Comics/Graphic Novels’ Category

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: 
RELEASE DATE: 

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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A Teen Titans #1 Review – Missed Opportunities

TITLE: Teen Titans #1
AUTHOR: Will Pfiefer
PENCILLER: Kenneth Rocafort
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Teen Titans #1 was DC’s chance to take a series that had fallen on its butt since the New 52 began, and take it in an entirely new direction. There were so many ways the company could have taken this book about teenage superheroes, and made it different than anything else they’re putting out right now. They could have taken a more light-hearted, almost cartoony approach, like Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl did with Teen Titans: Year One. They could have recruited a young adult author to take advantage of the popularity of that genre, while also getting some new eyes on the product. Heck, they could have even played up the teens’ everyday lives more than their actual superheroics.

Instead, they gave the book to the guy who wrote Amazons Attack!

Teen Titans #1 sees a mysterious supervillain hijack a bus filled with schoolgirls and go speeding through Times Square. This quickly attracts the attention of our new line up of Teen Titans: Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Raven, and Bunker. For reasons unclear, the hijacker apparently has a grudge against S.T.A.R. Labs. In any event, the Titans definitely have a new enemy. They also may have a P.R. crisis on their hands, as Bunker snaps on a civilian who nearly uses a slur against homosexuals.

Before we get into why this issue sucks, let’s talk about why Teen Titans has sucked overall since the relaunch happened…

In the New 52 canon, the team that began forming in Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s 2011 Teen Titans is, for whatever reason, the first and only incarnation of the group that has ever existed. While the book itself, along with books like Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batwoman, initially indicated otherwise, all such conversations have subsequently been edited out of existence. Thus, in this continuity, Tim Drake, Cassandra Sandsmark, and the other heroes from the Lobdell series are the original Teen Titans.

To put it plainly, that sucks. It robs a sense of richness and history from not only the Teen Titans series, but from characters around the DCU. Dick Grayson, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire are just a few of those effected. Hell, even if they weren’t called the Teen Titans, can’t we at least say they hung out? Can’t they have been some sort of group to set the precedent?

Secondly, the Red Robin costume. It sucked in 2011, it continued to suck through 2012 and 2013, and it still sucks in 2014. Brett Booth completely butchered any aura of coolness Tim Drake had by giving him a suit that’s way too busy and gimmicked up. The wings are idiotic, and there are way too many belts, capsules, pouches, pads, etc. This new series was the perfect chance to clean Red Robin up. But they missed the boat on that one too.

Thirdly, and most importantly, for the past few years Teen Titans has been just another superhero team book. Again, a GIANT missed opportunity. The element that makes the Teen Titans different, and what can potentially draw in a different demographic than say, Justice League, is the fact that they’re teenagers. They’re young, moody, and haven’t fully discovered who they are yet. That concept has so much fertile ground for storytelling, and that’s why it’s used so often in popular culture. The last writer to really get what Teen Titans should be about in the 21st century was DC’s very own Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. If you look back at the first issue of his run, which began in 2003, you see heroes who are rebelling against the adults in their lives, coming to grips with what’s expected of them, and trying to find their place in the world. They were acting like teenagers. Imagine that…

We got hardly any of that in Lobdell’s series, and in this issue we have next to none of it. We have a cover that looks like a Facebook photo, because social media exists. And we have a young hero that takes exception to his sexuality being demeaned. But that’s certainly not something specific to teenagers is it? So what we end up with is just another superhero story. And not a very interesting one, because we don’t know enough about our villain, or what she (it’s a woman, apparently) intends to do.

Kenneth Rocafort isn’t the best choice to handle the pencil, either. This is especially true when it comes to Wonder Girl. Cassandra Sandsmark’s New 52 redesign essentially turned her into a Power Girl clone wearing a variation on Donna Troy’s old costume. As if that weren’t enough, Rocafort draws her without a trace of human emotion. At one point, she rips one of the kidnappers out of the speeding bus, and subsequently stands atop the bus while holding him up with one arm (shown below). She did this because she was angry he threatened to kill a young girl. But judging by her face, you’d think she was picturing herself laying on the beach or something. She seems to be there just to be the hot blonde with big boobs. What is this, The Big Bang Theory?

As for Bunker’s little outburst toward the end of the issue, I don’t have a problem with superhero comics tastefully addressing and incorporating gay issues in our culture. But I don’t have even the slightest confidence that Teen Titans can do that effectively. Yet another missed opportunity.

At the risk of sounding like a run of the mill fickle comic book geek, Teen Titans #1 gives us almost everything the series shouldn’t be. It’s business as usual. And when I open Teen Titans I’m not looking for business as usual. I’m looking for something different, something that takes on the DCU from a different angle. That’s not what this is. And unfortunately, it may be a long time before we see it again.

Front page image from dccomics.com. Image 1 from comicbook.com. Image 2 from comixology.com. Image 3 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. 

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Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon) is the New Captain America

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Right off the heels of Marvel’s announcement regarding a female Thor, the company’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada appeared on The Colbert Report July 16 to announce that Sam Wilson, a.k.a The Falcon, will take over as Captain America this fall.

Wilson stepping into take Steve Rogers’ place has been suspected in recent months, but Marvel made it official with the announcement of All New Captain America #1, written by Rick Remender and pencilled by Stuart Immonen. Rogers is ultimately forced to retire the mantle of Captain America after losing the effects of the super soldier serum, and aging 65 years.

While Sam Wilson has often served as Steve Rogers’ partner, Remender noted Wilson will be a very different Captain America than his predecessor.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun writing Sam,” Remender said. “It’s a completely different attitude. The fact that he’s not a soldier shifts things up a bit. Sam’s not going to be Steve. Steve can be very rigid. That can be kind of joyless at times, whereas Sam is absolutely not that.”

Marvel editor Tom Brevoort added: “While Sam shares many of Steve’s beliefs in a general sense, he’s also a very different person with a very different background. He didn’t grow up in the 1930s, he’s a modern day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century. For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community. So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged than maybe even Steve himself. He’s also not a military man, so he’s more apt to be instinctively skeptical of any situation that calls for just following orders. Sam, like Steve, will be led by his personal morality and beliefs as to what is right and what is wrong—and where his beliefs may differ in their shading from those of the previous Cap are where the interesting stories will be found.”

Source: Newsarama, Marvel.com 

Image from superherohype.com.

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Marvel to Introduce Female Thor in New Series

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

On the July 15 edition of The View, Marvel broke the news that, starting in October, a new character would wield the hammer of Mjölnir. A female character.

In essence, that means comic book readers will have a female Thor.

“The inscription on Thor’s hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it’s time to update that inscription,” said Marvel Editor Wil Moss said. “The new Thor continues Marvel’s proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn’t a temporary female substitute – she’s now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy.”

The new Thor series will be written by Jason Aaron, with art by Russell Dauterman.

“This is not She-Thor,” Aaron said via press release. “This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor. This is the Thor of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Source/Images: Variety

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