(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: THE MULTIVERSITY: THE SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES CONQUERS THE COUNTER-WORLD #1
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6
BATGIRL: FUTURE’S END #1
BATMAN FUTURE’S END #1
TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL #3
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #8
Advance Review: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: THE LEGEND OF BALDUR’S GATE #1
In Stores today!
THE MULTIVERSITY: THE SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES: CONQUERORS OF THE COUNTER-WORLD #1Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Sprouse
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Goddamn you, Grant Morrison! I so vehemently want to hate the fourth wall-breaking metaness that is the membrane around your multiversity cell within DC, but then you take us on this transcendent trip to Earth-20 to make us choke upon the grand dreams of the Great Generation that we have so graciously shat upon by crawling into cyberspace versus a continued grasp towards outer space.
Imagine, if you will, America’s boom of prosperity and the optimism of heroes and morality simply were. Imagine that the belief in ourselves and all things always simply ending hunky dory wasn’t a generational phenomenon, but simply just was. A world where gray simply never came into style morally. Welcome to the 20th string in our world, and a new rock from the Rock of Ages on the multiversity map.
What’s genius isn’t simply the random generator kitchiness of this world (two nerds and an algorithm can make that app), it’s the reason why. Remember the rock that fell from the sky and turned Vandal Savage into an immortal and bloodthirsty prick? Flip the reflection to where the rock was actually a beacon of peace and hope, and it created the Immortal Man.
Today we look upon him as a Chet Douchely type who summers in the Hamptons and always smells of freshly air-dried laundry, but this was the guy our Grans and Great Grans hopped into the rumble seat to get on. Handsome, valiant and utterly bored, but hopeful for new adventures, is how one best describes this very anti-savage.
Now, of course this title with more colon interruptions than my parents’ retirement community is clearly indicating more characters being added to this glorious golden grouping, and thus I introduce JUSTICE SOCIETY AWESOME for you to behold.
Add one Dr. Fate, an annoying teenage Atom, a group of sexy and sassy aerial Black Hawkettes and a Green Lantern who is a demonically drawn delight and you get a team that I would have gladly spent another 100 issues with. And here again I am torn between my loving and loathing of Grant, because while I want more I simply can’t deny how Grant crafted such a glorious and complete story arc in one solitary issue. We bemoan constantly as collectors that single issues are too anemic and simply deliver solitary legs of Freytag’s pyramid. One simply can’t here.
Starting in the traditional five year before of the New 52, Immortal Man meets the team and is warned of horror from the multiverse that appeared as a ship in 9/11 style for a minute above Manhattan’s tallest building. In a brief few pages, Morrison breathed life like God to Adam in these characters with neuroses that are Golden Age appropriate yet never Modern Age debilitating in their ability to perform their power-based god-given tasks.
Then we learn that the plane was piloted by a dimension-hopping Savage, a man who thirsts to rein down terror on this and any Earth that exudes beacons of hope and goodness.
The result can best be summed up by saying Earth Prime in the New 52 got off easy with their interdimensional ass-whooping. Hell, even Earth-2, which was totally rocked, looks like a greenfield paradise compared to Earth 20’s charred husk.
See, I’m pissed. Loved these guys, but perhaps I was so enamored because I knew their story was finite and thus consequential.
And it is navel-gazing like this where I remove the knee pads and clean the corners of my mouth to discuss my meta mania with the series. The arrival of Savage is heralded by a comic book in Fate’s library that Atom clumsily thumbs through because ADD is not a recognized affliction in a perfect world and is simply cured by calling it spunk and tussling the little scamp’s hair. I have NO problem with comic books serving as the lexicon or Rosetta Stone to multiversal understanding. None, nada, zip. I actually praised this concept when it was done in another gloriously drawn Sprouse book recently called TOM STRONG.
Leave me the fuck out of it, though. Do not scream at me to draw me in, as was the case with last week’s multiverse Justice League gathering, and don’t ruin the veil of this grand and glorious issue by pulling me in through the prose of the call out box narration. This is a cheap parlor trick, it’s an inescapable Escher drawing, it can not sustain. Unless my face and my name appear in a DC book (and I don’t mean through a shit comic mirror as the last page of the series), this entire plea for help to me personally has now created yet another Earth, membrane layer or ectoplasmic goo sac to dangle off the multiversity map. Once you bring in this Earth and this Earth is not sucked into a comic, YOU CREATE ANOTHER FUCKING stratum of reality that has to be addressed.
Please continue this broad and glorious universe-spanning exercise in Elseworlds awesome, Grant. Stop trying to transcend all realities.
When Optimous isn't reviewing comics he is making the IT words chortle and groan with marketing for MaaS360, Enterprise Mobility Management. He also has a comic coming out sometime soon, for updates head to robpatey.com.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Last issue left us with one of those classic cliffhangers. Peter’s old flame, the Black Cat, teams up with Electro for some sweet revenge by unmasking a helpless Spider-Man on a live television show; hosted by none other than J. Jonah Jameson. Luckily Spidey’s new girl, Silk (a hottie with Spider powers of her own) is there to pull his butt out of this jam.
First and foremost, I’d like to take a crack at the whole Black Cat debate. There seems to be a little backlash from some fans regarding her current attitude shift. To those I say “have you never heard the cliché about a woman scorned”? Remember, she started out as a villain, and it’s not like this is a complete 180 for a character known for her law-breaking larceny antics. Sure she has developed some over the years due to Spider-Man’s influence, but I never really classified her as a true hero. To me, a return to femme fatale status is a comfy change. Nuff said.
The only real problems with this story center on our newcomer Cindy Moon, aka Silk. Let me make something clear: I like Silk as a character. Really, I do. I’m totally on board with the unrestrained magnetism between Cindy and Peter. It’s actually is one of the best things about the book. However, I’m a little dejected with her ever-evolving spider-powers. I mean, if we’re going with this idea of Silk being stung by the same radioactive spider that chomped on Peter all those years ago, then why are some of her powers so dissimilar? Her spider-sense is more attuned, she produces her own organic blend of webbing, and can even adjust its elemental composition for varied affects like insulation from electricity. It’s just a tad much to swallow, and I hope we get some elucidation on this soon.
On the plus side, there’s plenty of delicious superhero action, including a most noble moment that clearly showcases the difference between Otto’s superior heroics to Peter’s amazing selflessness,all superbly illustrated by Humberto Ramos. I know some folks don’t care for his art, but I take no issue with it. In fact, I think his work has improved greatly since the re-launch, although this issue is a little harsh with all the blue lightning, no doubt thanks to the timing of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 movie.
One of the pleasurable things about reading comics is the knowledge that as one narrative ends, another has already been spun up. This chapter brings closure to the Black Cat & Electro team-up while dropping some strong hints at things to come. Felicia’s far from done being a bad girl, and if Peter doesn’t get it together, he may find Parker Industries pulled out from under him.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6 wraps up the first story arc since Peter Parker’s return to the webbed mantle with mostly satisfying results. With the return of our hero, you just know the Parker luck can’t be far behind.
BATGIRL: FUTURES END #1Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Javier Garron
Publisher: DC Comics
I got into the Gail Simone run of BATGIRL rather late, having only read the past seven issues or so. At the end of BATGIRL #34, I felt that we the readers had been given a satisfactory conclusion, setting us up for a smooth transition with the new direction in next month's BATGIRL #35. BATGIRL: FUTURES END is like a little bonus issue. While GRAYSON: FUTURES END, which I reviewed last week, felt like a one-shot that could have been better as part of the current storyline or even a new jumping off point, BATGIRL: FUTURES END feels like a one-shot that works on its own and also as a secondary farewell from Simone.
I'll be upfront in saying that my knowledge of Batgirl is based on her underutilization in the cartoon series and what few memories I have of the short-lived TV series BIRDS OF PREY, so maybe I cannot appreciate all the subtleties, all of the references to past characters that have come and gone from Batgirl's life. Perhaps if I had understood the gravitas of all the moments mentioned in the comic I would have felt the emotional impact that much stronger. But for me, this comic wasn't about Batgirl, it was about BATGIRL the comic.
Two years from now and Barbara has finally gotten her happy ending, sans her new husband being a ginger. Of course, heaven forbid a member of the Bat-family live happily ever after, and so as fast as you can say James Gordon be cray-cray, Barbara's happiness is taken away. Five years from now, there is no Batgirl, but a trio of Batgirls. There is no Barbara Gordon, only the Black Beast. The time-jumping continues as we see just what lengths Barbara went to, how deep into the underground, how dark a path she took in order to provide the protection Gotham never gave her.
I need not go into spoilers to more easily explain how I felt this comic was less about Batgirl as a character and more as a series, though I doubt this was the intentional direction of the creative team. For me, the last few issues of BATGIRL have revolved around her inability to be happy and how all those around her are consumed by the darkness she tries so hard to hold at bay. I guess you could say that about any of the Batman universe comics, so maybe it is Javier Garron’s artwork that makes me feel especially sympathetic towards Barbara. BATGIRL #34 ended with a positive resolution, but BATGIRL: FUTURES END reminds us how fragile such peace can be. Barbara's journey through this comic, the blackening of her soul almost, makes her unfit to carry the mantle of Batgirl again and so it is passed on to a trio of young women who have yet to be stained by the darkness that ekes and oozes out of every nook and cranny in Gotham. We've all seen the artwork for the new BATGIRL #35. This is a young, hip Barbara. She does not hold the weight of the world's and her own sorrows upon her shoulders. Now yes, inevitably that spunkiness will more than likely be utterly destroyed by the death of a loved one, but until then we are getting a fresh start.
BATGIRL: FUTURES END is more than just a piece of this month's DC special. It isn't just a victory lap for Simone’s time at the helm. It is a transition piece, one that reminds us of what we have been enjoying, but also what we have to look forward to.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
ANNIHILATOR #1Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frazer Irving
Publisher: Legendary Entertainment
Reviewer: Matt Adler
ANNIHILATOR is the latest project from Legendary Comics, who have put together an impressive stable of creators for their books. This one features the talents of Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving, telling a story that's simultaneously offbeat and a little familiar. Morrison shifts back and forth between the lives of sci fi/horror screenwriter Ray Spass and Max Nomax, a criminal genius sentenced to imprisonment orbiting a black hole known as "The Great Annihilator." Nomax may or may not be a character that Spass created-- we can't be quite sure since Spass has a brain tumor, and eventually "meets" Nomax in real life.
Morrison does a great job paralleling these disparate characters' stories; he fleshes out Spass as the desperate Hollywood writer who hasn't had a hit in years and is spiraling deeper and deeper into his own personal abyss while making that metaphor literal for Nomax as he orbits the black hole. The house that Spass buys in order to get a fresh start on his writing (shades of “The Shining”) and the prison that Nomax is sent to are both said to be haunted, with the effect of driving past residents insane, and Spass and Nomax are both haunted by past loves now departed.
This blurring of lines between reality and unreality is a theme Morrison has explored quite frequently in his work, most recently in MULTIVERSITY for DC, and on the downside, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of new territory covered here. In parts, the material actually seems a little dated, with even a “Seinfeld” reference thrown in, leading me to wonder if this was a script started by Morrison long ago and picked up by Legendary for development.
However, Frazer Irving's art gives the book a moody, creepy feeling, and he demonstrates equal skill at depicting the Hollywood scenes along with the deep space setting. He also capably serves Morrison's parallel storytelling, using his mastery of facial expression to play out the mania that grips both Spass and Nomax.
Overall there are some interesting ideas here, but they need to be developed a bit more to stand out both within Morrison's oeuvre and the larger marketplace of comics. It's a first issue, though, so I'm willing to see where it goes.
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist currently writing for AICN, among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for more than 25 years, writing about them for more than 10, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of this stuff. He welcomes all feedback.
HAWKEYE #20Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Annie Wu and Matt Hollingsworth
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Relatively speaking, I'm not much of a fan of Hawkeye. As usual, I don't dislike him; he just doesn't excite me. But when people continue to gush about a comic book, I eventually take a look at. So here I am, caving to peer pressure (high school all over again, as they say) and reading my first issue of HAWKEYE.
First off, I was quite surprised Hawkeye wasn't even in this issue--or at least 'the' Hawkeye, Clint Barton. Instead this issue featured the one time replacement Hawkeye, one time Young Avengers Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. Second, reading this issue was kind of a painful experience.
I'll start with the plot the best I can understand it, so beware of spoilers. So Hawkeye (Kate) is involved in some grudge match with Madame Mask (former Tony Stark girlfriend turned villain). Mask has taken it to the next level by killing one of Hawkeye (Kate)'s friends and framing her for the murder; she also burned down Hawkeye (Kate)'s trailer home. So in this issue, Hawkeye (Kate) is out for some payback! Yet as she is released on bail she learns her friend, Harold, isn't really dead. It was just a Life Model Decoy, some S.H.I.E.L.D. tech that Madame Mask has in her hands which she has been somehow selling to rich people--they can keep young new bodies or something. Anyway, she and Harold come up with a plan to take Madame Mask down. The plan works, they get the goods on Mask and for good measure Hawkeye (Kate) burns her house down too, after a climactic brawl in which S.H.I.E.L.D gets involved and helps take Madame Mask down. Kate doesn't believe they will arrest her (unfortunately, I don't follow her logic). Then when she meets up with Harold again, she accuses him of setting her up (ok, now I'm just lost). Finally Hawkeye (Kate) decides it's time to call it a day and catch up with her uber-rich father, who she learns was a client of Madame Mask--look out, daddy dearest!
So aside from the parts I didn't understand, it was a fairly entertaining issue. although Fraction's desire to write this all out of sequence made comprehending the complex storyline harder than it needed to be. That plus the main character Hawkeye (Kate), who I found to be a bit of an obnoxious, entitled jerk, kind of made the whole issue feel pretty pretentious and self-important. I've never had any desire to be one of the hip kids, or even hangout with the hip kids, but I suppose that's my baggage, though one place where I feel Fraction stuck his foot in his mouth is the last page. You see, on the first page he has this cool one-sided phone conversation between Hawkeye (Kate) and her father. We only see/hear his side of it. Being well written and with the events in the issue, the conversation makes perfect sense. Then on the last page he gives us the other side of the conversation, pretty much killing everything that was cool about the first page. It's like someone telling you a joke and then explaining the joke to you.
Artwork-wise, like the writing, I was fairly disappointed. There were some panels of nice drawing and interesting character details, but then some panels that were crud and unappealing. The action sequences were all rather mundane as well.
For a series that gets so much love, I suppose I just picked up a weak issue, so I do plan to check it out again next month. One should never be too quick to judge.
BATMAN: FUTURE’S END #1Writer: Ray Fawkes
Story: Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
DC’s FUTURES END event has been going on for quite some time now, and they’ve finally branched out into other titles, all 5 years into the New 52 Universe.
I’ll be reviewing BATMAN: FUTURES END #1, while I know some of my other @$$hole colleagues will be covering some of the other FUTURES END tie ins, so let me get to it.
Forewarning: this review will contain spoilers, mostly because I think there are some story points I found that could be important to the FUTURES END arc as a whole and some speculation to them. So in order for those to be understood, I have to reveal the whole of this issue’s story.
Now in BFE #1, Bruce is revealed close to death, scarred and with a metal spine (possibly the work of Bane, but I’m not sure about this in the New 52) and seems to be working out of some kind of compound rather than the Batcave.
Fawkes and Snyder, throughout this story, do a really good job of capturing Batman lore and delving into the character. Bruce’s obsessive nature is at its peak and he just cannot give up his crusade, to the point where even when his body is broken and near death he is searching for ways to beat death or his mortality--he has to keep fighting.
Bruce is suiting up into a life support, cybernetics-like suit and setting off for Lexcorp in order to find the last copy of the Caulder Component, something he needs to complete a plan to, as he says it, make sure “Batman can never die.” Once inside of Lexcorp, Batman makes his way through a secret elevator shaft to one of Lex’s labs to be met by the most Lex Luthor-type security. Every level Batman makes it through, a hologram of Lex Luthor is continually taunting him as an intruder, explaining how he won’t make it past this level because he lacks the intelligence, or something to this effect. This goes on every level; at one point the hologram even asks if the intruder is himself, Lex Luthor. Eventually Batman makes it to his goal and steals what he needs; however, he also finds Luthor has been attempting to clone Superman once again. As he attempts to destroy the lab he is attacked by Bizarro, the only security system he missed. This brings back the Luthor hologram, who asks if the intruder is Batman. The system concludes he has to be Batman and begins the final security protocol, destroying the entire lab through various bombs and a thousand liters of liquid helium. Bruce is able to escape, bringing back the Caulder Component and what he needed to complete a clone of his own. That’s right, a Batman clone, with the last panel showing Bruce downloading all of his memories up until the night in his father’s study, ending BFE #1.
I have to say, while Snyder may not be writing this particular issue he still continues to shape the current mythos of Batman. This is to take nothing away from Fawkes, who did an excellent job in the issue’s writing, but Snyder is New 52 Batman and has had his hand in almost everything relating to the character, with the vast majority being very entertaining and well done stories, this book included.
So a Batman clone in the future, huh? Well, I don’t think tin foil hats are needed for this, but I think it’s safe to assume this clone is Terry McGinnis, or at least that’s what I’m speculating. Terry has played a huge role in FUTURES END and it would only make sense this clone is him. Batman is dying, the clone has already aged to maturity as shown in this issue, and Alfred is the only other person to know about what Bruce has been doing, explaining why Tim Drake didn’t recognize this new Batman when Mr. Terrific made his broadcast, claiming this new Batman was a multiverse alien. I even brushed up on some “Justice League: Unlimited”, essentially explaining Terry was a clone or genetic replicate of Bruce in the series, and it would make sense for DC to continue something similar in the New 52. It could even be by doing this, DC can now bring the “Batman Beyond” series into the New 52 in a new continuity.
As far as the art goes, Aco’s work fits great with the feel of this story but doesn’t necessarily stand out. There isn’t anything to complain about, yet it’s not that unique where there’s a lot to comment on. It flows with the tone of “futuristic” and Batman as a character, without anything to make it pop or stand out as “wow”.
Long-winded reviewing concluded, BATMAN: FUTURES END #1 was a great issue and mostly likely holds a lot of information relating to FUTURES END that will be revealed later. I love what Snyder does with Batman he and Fawkes did a great job on the issue in story, character, and potential plot. I don’t know much about the other FUTURES END tie-ins, but I would recommend reading this one or purchasing it.
TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL: ECHOES #3Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Mark Laming
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
The amount of story that can be told in approximately twenty pages varies from comic to comic. Sometimes it is more appropriate to keep the focus on a singular climactic event, and in other issues it may be necessary to juggle multiple storylines. Not to bash other comics I've read of recent that haven't covered a breadth of action in a single issue, but SPLINTER CELL #3 does always surprise with how much it can pack in to twenty-four pages.
Honestly, I thought I would bore of SPLINTER CELL by this point. I was never a huge fan of its original source material, and frankly, the mercenary/spy genre ain't my bag. However, regardless of the comic's subject matter, I just can't ignore quality.
I've pointed out on multiple occasions that SPLINTER CELL is hardly original. What elevates the comic from being a mixed bag of homages is to which tropes writer Nathan Edmondson choose to adhere to. You would think that Sam Fisher’s ego would be his downfall, his underestimation getting the best of him. Sure Sam does end up in the wrong hands every once in awhile, but he sure ain't cocky. He is sure of himself; there's a difference. Yes, you still have the idiotic minions who more than likely went to stormtrooper summer camp, but at least their bosses have yet to slip up. The egregious mistakes, those plot holes that can easily be picked apart, are harder to spot here.
There really isn't much else to be said that I haven't already attested to in my past few reviews. If you are tired of caped comics, pick up SPLINTER CELL. If you like video games, pick up SPLINTER CELL. Fans of all those espionage action flicks I tend not to watch, pick up SPLINTER CELL.
COPPERHEAD #1Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I love it when a creative team has no illusions about themselves and their work. The entire “backmatter” of COPPERHEAD here – a new space western from Image writing veteran Jay Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski – is almost like a broken record of repeating “’Deadwood’ in Space, ‘Deadwood’ in Space…”. I appreciate it for no other reason than it makes me not feel like I’m reducing a work into a bullet point for summation purposes, but there you go. “’Deadwood’ in Space”, everyone, buy it or don’t, review over.
Okay, there’s a little more to it than that, naturally. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that COPPERHEAD is more of a channel for a variety of “space western” and pure Western genre tropes than a comparison to a very vulgar and violent show that was as much a piece about Americana as it was a brutal piece of R-rated TV drama. There’s a lot of good old-fashioned tropes in play here, such as newly hired Sheriff Clara Bronson rolling into the dusty, titular town with nothing behind her but trouble and attitude. Very little is revealed as to why Clara finds herself in such a rambunctious area, but we get plenty of nods as to it being nothing good and that, vile as it may be, Copperhead represents an all too familiar fresh start for her and her boy. It also shows immediately that Clara has herself a bit of a reckless and vicious streak that one has to assume is the reason she is now being placed where she is, and that raises an eyebrow in interest into just what exactly did she bloody well do to get here.
Upon arriving into town the book then turns into kind of a bastardized buddy western as Clara runs into her new partner/unknown competition for the sheriff’s gig, Budroxifinicus. Boo – as he is now referred to by Clara and her son in a nice fit of playful banter that Clara and he readily slide into – is pretty much the epitome of the “cuddly” tank you always want on your RPG squad. He’s got himself a snarky wit but a furry, lovable smirk and intimidatingly fills up a doorway. If there’s anything to look forward to as COPPERHEAD progresses, it will be the interaction between Clara and Boo. There’s definitely an interesting camaraderie to be built between the two characters as they get involved in more shenanigans and adventures together. Speaking of which…
Now if there is any aspect of this debut that it is a little tepid about it’s those shenanigans. Not that they aren’t interesting in their own right, but COPPERHEAD #1 definitely feels like forty pages worth of comic crammed into twenty-eight physical pages (which I appreciate for the cost, btw). In the span of all these pages and panels we see Clara have an altercation with some schmucks on her train into town, meet up with Boo, immediately start up on the job where she gets physical with some green and four-armed alien hillbilly types, exchanges terse words with the local highfalutin’ wealthy type, discovers a murder, and then her son finds himself in a very precarious cliffhanger. For all the playful little dialogue parts or the nice establishing sequences of the kinds of adventures and oddities we can expect to find on this little backwater, the flow of the book sure does race the shit through it all. I definitely enjoyed this first issue and think the parts are greater than the sum so to speak, but I think excitability about what is being crafted here kind of got the better of those involved and it could have used a little more space. I’m not going to hold enthusiasm against anyone, but when I see so many balls go up in the air so soon I immediately get a little anxious that things will be rushed to resolution or we won’t see characters flesh out steadily enough and those spherical objects will go scattering. It’s more a cautious reservation than a any sort of calamity, but it is present.
With that little bit of trepidation out of the way, though, COPPERHEAD is still a damn enjoyable book and I think all these happenings will settle out nicely. The elements are all there, and that’s what is important at the forefront. Clara is a somewhat humorless lead so far, but there’s that maternal instinct and haunted past aspect to make her more alluring. The kind of biting back and forth between her and Boo is absolutely the highlight of the book, and I think will be where this makes more strides in the future as we get it in more volume and we watch the personalities of the two grow off of one another and become more affable. There’s ultimate buddy cop potential here, and I love good buddy cop as much as I like dusty western action. And I think the assemblage of freaks and power players we run into is an okay start. This probably suffered the most from the excess of subject matter being introduced, but it instilled enough color amongst the tumbleweeds to lay a baseline as to the kinds of cases and brawls we will be seeing Clara and Boo tackle, literally and figuratively, and that’s where the destination that is Copperhead will come to life. In that regard of a drab location thriving off its colorful elements, “’Deadwood’ in Space” is a pretty apt start for comparison, but I think COPPERHEAD has a lot more genres and frontiers to cover than just that parallel mark thanks to the limitless wonder that is the comic book page. Like a leaf on the wind, I’m ready to see where this journey takes us and I think there are some excellent and wild adventures forthcoming here in COPPERHEAD.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #8Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The title of this issue, if it had one, would be “Round Two”, as Superman and the United States’ pet superpowered alien being, The Wraith, go toe-to-toe again. Unlike last time, Superman doesn't use his pseudo-kryptonite ring that Batman made to defeat him in one panel. This time Superman decides to defeat Wraith with his bare hands, because—actually, I have no idea. What started as a promising Superman tale by Snyder and Lee has kind of gone off the rails. I suppose this could be due to the fact that it was originally planned as an ongoing story, but now it's wrapping up in like one more issue, so a few eggs needed to get broken, I suppose.
Ever since issue #5, things have gotten a little out of hand here. As I mentioned in previous reviews, Snyder started out by creating a ton of plotlines that were slowly being pulled together, which is how it should be done. But now he's jumping from one plotline to another (without really resolving them), ignoring the others as he goes, which is not how it should be done. I mean Lex Luthor, who was being built up to be a big bad, has been M.I.A. for three issues (he finally appears here). The business of the Earthstone/crystals technology, with some kind of entity inside, has been stuck in neutral for about three issues now too. Other storytelling cracks are starting to appear as well. Like this issue-long brawl with Wraith, it has one fatal flaw: Superman already whipped him in less than a panel, i.e.he's not a creditable threat anymore. If I may, Snyder should have flipped these fights. Back when we were itching to see a big fight between Wraith and Supes, that's when Snyder should have given us one. Then when he attacks for round two, Superman could b!tch slap him with the pseudo-kryptonite.
Now if you were a fan of the movie MAN OF STEEL, I think you will like this issue and series (no, that's not a dig) as Superman pulls out all the stops with superpowers and brains to take Wraith down (SPOILER!!!!!!! and am I wrong, or did he just kill him, too?). Once the dust settles Luthor makes his play, setting up Superman on a suicide mission to save the world. It's all very complex--maybe overly so (like MAN OF STEEL) but could have some nice payoffs (hopefully more than MAN OF STEEL). Actually, from the first issue Snyder has been playing with the double-edged sword of intricate story logic. Sometimes it works very well, like when Superman formulates an unconventional plan to take down a villain. Sometimes it gets out of hand--like I still don't understand Ascension's goals, infrastructure and their connect/use of the Earthstone/crystals.
Artwork-wise, I feel this is a strong issue for Jim Lee. It seems like Lee is never more at home than when he is bashing superpowered beings into each other. Colorist Alex Sinclair does a pretty fabulous job making it all jump off the page, too. From the surface of the moon to the Earth's core and everywhere in between, this is a pretty great-looking issue.
Overall I'm enjoying the main thrust of this comic, which appears to be so many hardcore threats that Superman is being taxed to his limits and he must simply rip loose (become unchained) with all his smarts and superpowers to save the day not only from bad guys, but from good guys who feel Superman himself is a threat to the greater good. I'm just hoping Snyder can finally hit a homer in these last issues after too many foul balls.
CHASTITY #3Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Dave Acosta
Publisher: Chaos! Dynamite Entertainment
Maybe I was born a generation late because, for all their cheesiness, I just love 80s vamp flicks. “The Monster Squad”, “The Hunger”, “Fright Night” and its sequel, “Once Bitten”, “The Lost Boys”, “Near Dark”…heck, I even enjoy “My Best Friend is a Vampire”. Reading CHASTITY is like watching those films. Outside of the all-too-necessary club scene, CHASTITY #3 has anything hardly 80s to it, yet it seems to fit in there somewhere between “Fright Night” and “Once Bitten”, juggling horror and goofiness with more of a focus on the former.
The comic hasn't given too many details as to Chastity's technical state of being. She ain't a full vamp, but I'm unsure how this universe deals with the mythos of turning and such. What the comic has started to delve into is the vampiric society. We are starting to see how pervasive these monsters are, how they are all around us and the type of power and strings that they can pull. They've got the typical hospital cronies, regal Don Draper types, and jumpers which I truly hope were an intentional reference to the famous Chinese fangers.
Frankly, Chastity's storyline is secondary to me. It's not that I don't care about it or that it is being done poorly; I'd just rather delve deeper into the larger world. However, the fight scene between Chastity and her newly-turned brother balanced quite well between the typical and twists. I never knew whether or not the characters would fall into poor horror cliches or act in a logical manner. The same can go for many of the humans scattered throughout the issue.
There are some tropes out there that I just want to die and stay dead. The vampire three-way, whether it be vamp-vamp-human or vamp-human-and some other stupid supernatural being. The Byronic vampire who, even after hundreds of year of existence in the dark, still wants to be "good." These storylines and characters bore me. Chastity Marks is stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead. CHASTITY the comic straddles the line between refreshing and tired, but it walks that line with the grace and elegance of Chris Sarandon strutting though the club, creepily flirting with much too young a girl for him.
In stores October 15th!
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: LEGENDS OF BALDUR'S GATE #1Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Max Dunbar
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Matt Adler
So Dungeons & Dragons comics are back at IDW, but it's a little different this time around. Dungeons & Dragons, for the uninitiated, is a game that allows you to create your own characters and take them on adventures in a fantasy world. You can create your own world, or set your adventures in one of the worlds established by Wizards of the Coast, the makers of the game. The most popular of these worlds is called the Forgotten Realms, and it's known for its legendary characters, deep history, and memorable locations.
When IDW first got the license back in 2010, D&D was in the midst of its 4th edition, a period where Wizards had chosen to focus on a generic D&D setting rather than a particular world like the Forgotten Realms. As such, the first D&D comic to launch from IDW took place in this generic setting, and although it was critically well received for its strong writing by John Rogers and detailed art by Andrea DiVito, it only lasted 15 issues. IDW did do a few miniseries set in the Forgotten Realms, using the authors of popular Realms novels including R.A. Salvatore and FR creator Ed Greenwood, but these comics seemed to go largely unnoticed, and perhaps also showed the difficulties for authors who are experienced in one medium transitioning to another.
Time for a do-over, and the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (also known as D&D Next) provides the perfect opportunity. If you aren't familiar with writer Jim Zub, I highly recommend checking out his series SKULLKICKERS; it's a creator-owned book that proves his chops for writing D&D stories, as well as just writing kick-ass, hilarious adventures. Jim is a longtime D&D fan, and as he tells it, when IDW asked him what property he'd most like to write, D&D was at the top of his list, and it just so happened that Wizards was in the planning stages for its next big D&D event, TYRANNY OF DRAGONS, set in the Forgotten Realms, so everything came together serendipitously.
Now, the Realms are vast, and there are plenty of locales a hero can choose for adventuring. Jim and Wizards mutually settled on the city of Baldur's Gate for the setting of the new comic. You may well recognize that name; Baldur's Gate was also the setting for the eponymous computer role-playing game released in 1998, which went on to be one of the most popular and influential games ever. Baldur's Gate is a port city where anything and everything can happen: battle-hardened warriors, scurvy pirates, dangerous assassins, and powerful wizards all cross paths there.
The computer game introduced several memorable characters, and foremost among these were a man and his hamster, known as Minsc and Boo. Minsc is a ranger, a mighty warrior with a tendency towards berserker rages, who suffered a head injury sometime back that may have left him slightly insane. But he has a gentle side as well, and as with any good ranger, he has a faithful animal companion in the form of Boo. Boo is a miniature giant space hamster. Giant space hamsters are ferocious creatures bred in outer space that can devour a man whole. Boo is a miniature version of these fearsome monsters, which can lead people to confuse him with a normal hamster, something Minsc is quick to correct them on.
One problem: between the time of the Baldur's Gate computer game and the current 5th edition setting, approximately 100 years have passed. Minsc and Boo would have long since gone on to that great hamster wheel in the sky, right? Fear not: this is the Forgotten Realms, where magic abounds. Zub starts the story off with Delina, an elf mage, being chased by a pack of gargoyles (she is NOT a damsel in distress, she will have you know), and after being cornered near a statue of what seems to be a legendary heroic figure, she unleashes a spell at the gargoyles which has an unintended effect (or a wild surge, for you gamers); Minsc and Boo are back!
The joy of this comic is that Jim Zub gets Minsc and Boo perfectly. Even though we don't have Jim Cummings' voice here as in the computer game, Zub understands the cadence of Minsc's speech, and the appropriate mix of boastfulness and befuddlement; Minsc sees himself as a great hero, but isn't clear on much else. Zub's writing allows us to imagine Minsc's voice in our heads; it sounds just right, and the lines he gives Minsc are hilarious. Added to that, Delina's reactions to this clearly addled warrior, who wields a giant sword in one hand and a hamster in the other, are priceless.
Max Dunbar's art pulls off a big challenge, which is depicting the sprawling city of Baldur's Gate. He really gives it a sense of breadth and depth as Delina is chased through the streets. He also imbues Boo with a lot more personality than you would expect, even from a miniature giant space hamster.
Overall, I think this is a terrific relaunch of IDW's D&D comics, and I can't wait to see what threats Minsc, Boo, and Delina will face, particularly as it relates to the TYRANNY OF DRAGONS event which features the return of Tiamat, goddess of evil dragons. I really hope people get on board for it, because I would love to see more comics exploring the Forgotten Realms by Jim Zub and other talented writers. Superheroes are great, but there's just something exciting and epic about the Realms that you can't get at Marvel or DC. Check out DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: LEGENDS OF BALDUR'S GATE #1, hitting comic shops October 15th.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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