Posts Tagged ‘Ivan Reis


Recent Roundup: Heroes, Robots, and Something Screwy

Continuing my look at some comics that have hit the stands lately that I think are worth talking about…

Avengers Academy #1: Marvel relaunched their Avengers franchise with a new first issue… heh, just kidding. That’s FOUR new first issues. Actually, six if you want to include miniseries. But I digress. I decided to sample each of the new ongoings to see which, if any, I would want to continue reading. Not surprisingly, the one I enjoyed the most was the one written by my favorite writer in the group: Avengers Academy by Christos Gage. With the Initiative camp shut down, a group of Avengers is given the job of training superpowered teens that were recruited under Norman Osborne’s regime. In the first issue we’re introduced to our core group of six young would-be heroes and the team of Avengers responsible for their training. There’s a lot to like about this issue — the inclusion of Speedball among the trainers not the least of those things. I absolutely despised it when he became “Penance” after Civil War, and bringing him back into the fold this way is keeping true to who the character really is without just ignoring that part of his continuity. The six new characters are well-shaped, well-developed, and each with their own distinct personality. Gage also finishes off the book with a pretty stunning revelation about our young cast. It’s a nice surprise, one that reminds me of the classic reveal at the end of Thunderbolts #1. (It’s not the same reveal, that wasn’t a spoiler, it just gave me the same sort of jolt.) This title has a wealth of potential, and I can’t wait to see what Gage does with it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Batman Beyond #1: Ever since the Batman Beyond TV show went off the air, fans of the character have been waiting to see him get some love in the DC Universe. A couple of years ago, we did get a glimpse of one of DC’s 52 Earths where he seemed to exist. Finally, after a tease in Superman/Batman Annual #4, Terry McGinnis is back in his own miniseries. If you didn’t watch the show back in the day, the premise is simple. We’re in the Gotham City of the future, a “Neo-Gotham,” where Bruce Wayne has gotten too old to continue the fight as Batman. Terry is the heir to the throne, a young man Bruce is training as he once trained his Robins, only this young man has taken on the mantle of the bat. In this first issue, someone has murdered one of Bruce’s old enemies, and as Terry races to save another, it turns out the perpetrator may be someone no one would ever have suspected. The last-page cliffhanger here is fantastic. Adam Beechen has plucked Batman’s most potentially dangerous adversary (even more than the Joker) and put him front and center here. It’s also nice to see a nod to the TV show, with Micron of the new Justice League again trying to get Terry to join up. I hope to see more of those characters as the series continues. Ryan Benjamin‘s style is interesting. It’s not a dark, gritty sci-fi comic, but it doesn’t have the animated feel that the original series did either. It exists somewhere in an in-between place that helps to ease the story into the DC Universe. Great first issue. I can’t wait for the rest of this arc.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fantastic Four #580: Also part of Marvel’s Heroic Age soft reboot, Jonathan Hickman‘s Fantastic Four has become probably their best ongoing title again (as it should be). Reed Richards has assembled a group of child geniuses to be his new apprentices, a group that includes his daughter Valeria, but doesn’t include his son Franklin. (Frank is potentially the most powerful mutant in existence, but doesn’t share Dad’s genius. Johnny Storm instead takes Franklin and his pal Leech to a toy store, where they encounter a pair of old adversaries — the mischievous Impossible Man and the murderous Arcade. Franklin and Johnny’s story makes up most of this issue, and it’s a good one, but what really knocks this issue out of the park is the conclusion, where Reed’s young geniuses decide on a class project, something they can do to help the world. What they decide on is something totally unexpected, something that can actually have a permanent effect on one of the members on the team. There’s something wonderful and brilliant about it. This has always been the book that housed my favorite Marvel characters. I’m really glad that, with Hickman writing it, it’s also a book that finally lives up to the name “The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.”

Rating: 5/5

Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark #1: Sometimes it’s worth it to just do something silly. Artists Ryan Ottley and Jason Howard, best known for their collaborations with writer Robert Kirkman on Invincible and The Astounding Wolf-Man (respectively), were at a convention last year, throwing around some crazy ideas. One of those ideas, the idea of a bear and a shark getting “mixed up,” somehow stuck and turned into this one-shot. In Howard’s Sea Bear story, we watch as a young man undergoes terrible personal sacrifice to destroy the ferocious sea beast that killed his family. Grizzly Shark, on the other hand, follow a group of hunters that delve deep into the forest to try to hunt down the ferocious killer. Both stories are bizarre, crazy, and bloody as hell. They’re also a lot of fun. The stories themselves are somewhat ridiculous, and the one-page origin tale written by Kirkman to explain just how “they got mixed up” is even sillier. But it’s an awful lot of fun. The giant-sized book gives you two complete, full-length comic book stories for your money, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two crazier, more enjoyable stories on the shelves of recent comic books.

Rating: 4/5

Wall-E #7: This issue wraps up the “Out There” story arc, in which an astronaut named Andy (a nice little nod to Toy Story, I imagine) has returned to Earth to find it empty of human life, including his wife and children. With Wall-E’s help, Andy has been trying to repair his spacecraft, and he just may be on the verge of doing it. This was kind of a low-key ending to this arc… kind of quiet, even a little anticlimactic, but it actually sort of fits in with Wall-E and the desolate world he inhabited before the events of the movie. It’s a bittersweet story, and a highly appropriate one for this title. Bryce Carlson and Morgan Luthi have done a good job with this arc. Carlson’s story is sad, but hopeful, while Luthi’s artwork is a little grimy and dirty, which is absolutely perfect for a story set on the BNL-ruined world that we met in the motion picture. Whether or not the next arc (or any future arcs) will be set after the movie, I don’t know, but I hope they get to that part of the timeline sooner or later. I think there’s a lot of potential there for different kinds of stories than we’ve gotten in this comic so far.

Rating: 4/5

Wonder Woman #600: The 600th issue of Wonder Woman’s title (if you add up the three volumes) arrives with a bang. Outgoing writer Gail Simone and legendary Wonder Woman artist George Perez start off with a tale about an invasion force that only has the power to control men. Diana’s solution? Round up a team of DC’s greatest female fighters to take them out. This story really does the job of showing the position that Diana holds in the DC Universe — who she is and what she means to the other female heroes. There’s also a much more personal half to the story, where we catch up on a forgotten member of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast, someone who first showed up in George Perez’s legendary run on the title. In the second story, Amanda Conner writes and draws a team-up between Diana and Power Girl (with a little Batgirl thrown in). It’s a nice “girl’s night” story that’s very cute, but actually seems to fit in more as a chapter of the Power Girl title Conner recently left than a Wonder Woman story. Louise Simonson and Eduardo Pansica give us a Wonder Woman/Superman team-up, which isn’t bad, but is fairly generic.

The last two parts of the issue get more into the real meat. Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins (doing some work that’s very different than his usual style, but in a good way) provide a story that delves a bit into who Wonder Woman is and how people don’t realize her importance. This serves as a sort of prologue to the last part of the story, the beginning of writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Don Kramer‘s Odyssey storyline, in which Wonder Woman finds herself in an alternate reality where Paradise Island is in ruins and she never became the warrior we know her to be. This is also the story that introduces Wonder Woman’s much-publicized new Costume. I actually rather like the new look (although, like many others have said, I don’t care for the leather jacket), but I also recognize that it’s most likely a temporary change. Even if it doesn’t go back when Wonder Woman inevitably succeeds in restoring the original timeline, she’ll go back to the classic costume sooner or later. It’s an interesting starting point for a story, and I sincerely hope it does the job it promises to do — show people why Wonder Woman is so important, not just to the DC Universe, but to the culture of comic books in general. She’s been severely undervalued as a character for years. I don’t know if Straczynski is the man to change that, but I’m willing to give him a chance.

In addition to the stories, the book has an introduction by TV’s Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, a cover by Perez, and an avalanche of pin-up pages by the likes of Adam Hughes, Nicola Scott, Ivan Reis, Greg Horn, Francis Manpul and many more. Some of these are just okay, but many of them are great. It’s a solid issue, and a fitting anniversary for comics’ first female.

Rating: 4/5


What I’m Reading: Brightest Day in May

Okay, technically I this is my second Brightest Day post in the month of May, following this earlier one, but it rhymes, and I had a rough week, and I’m tired, and shut your face.

I’m sorry, I… I didn’t mean that. It’s the last week of the semester and I’m worn down and… I like your face. Really?

Let’s review some comics, okay?

Justice League: Generation Lost #1

The other bi-weekly series that we’re going to follow for the next year kicked off two weeks ago with this first issue. Maxwell Lord was an entrepreneur with a metahuman talent, the ability to control people’s minds, but the power was a weak one and even a small strain caused him to break into nosebleeds. Instead of becoming a hero himself, he settled for organizing the “International” incarnation of the Justice League in the 80s and 90s. But in the opening days of what would become Infinite Crisis, Max revealed that he was in fact manipulating the heroes in concert with Checkmate, and murdered the Blue Beetle. Wonder Woman was forced to put him down to stop him from using Superman as a weapon, and the fallout nearly destroyed her career. But in the wake of the Blackest Night, Max has come back to life, and in this issue he’s pulling the biggest scam of all time — using his power to make the world forget he ever existed.

Keith Giffen, who wrote the original Max stories back in the JLI era, is the plotter and breakdown artist for this series, helping give it a strong continuity. This isn’t the “Bwa-ha-ha” League he wrote back then, however. He’s giving us a more serious story, with real stakes for our heroes. His co-writer, Judd Winick, has often been hit and miss for me. His humor books (like The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius) are great, but his superhero work often fizzles out. I’m hoping that having him work in concert with Giffen, we’ll prevent that sort of thing from happening here.

As this is a biweekly book, there isn’t much chance of a “regular” art team. Aaron Lopresti does the chores on issue one, and he does a solid job. Working from Giffen’s breakdowns, he tells a solid story that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Rating: 7/10

As it’s been three Wednesdays since I talked about Brightest Day, another issue of this biweekly has already hit the stands. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Justice League: Generation Lost #2

In the second issue, Max has cut loose with his power and succeeded in not just making nearly the entire planet forget him, but place some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion that makes people reject the truth when confronted with it. Only four people remember the truth, four members of Max’s former League who were in contact with his blood when he pulled his stunt. Booster Gold is already considered a joke to many of the heroes of the DC Universe, so his word is taken with a grain of salt, but now Max is taking steps to discredit and ruin Fire, Ice, and Captain Atom as well. With no one to turn to except each other, they set out to prove the truth and bring Max to justice.

The plot really kicks into gear this month, as the aftermath of Max’s global windwipe starts to come together. The writers have done a good job of filling in the gaps, even to the point of figuring out who Max would attribute each of his crimes to  in order to make people forget him more readily. The things he allows people to believe about Ted Kord’s death are perhaps more insidious than anything else he’s done, and it kind of makes you hope that Booster Gold is the one who lays the smack-down on him when the time comes. I’m also glad that the writers gave us a more scientific explanation (well… comic book science) for why these four and no one else remember Max. I was afraid it would be more emotional, that these four somehow felt more strongly than anyone else, but an answer like that would really be a disservice to Guy Gardner, the Martian Manhunter, Power Girl, and other members of those JLI teams.

Two issues in, I really think the writers have given us a solid start. I just hope there’s enough meat to the story to last a whole 26 issues.

Rating: 7.5/10

Titans: Villains For Hire Special #1

With the former Titans team pretty much disbanded and its members scattered to the four winds, the assassin called Deathstroke takes the name for his new team of mercenary villains. Their first target? Someone known to the heroes of the DCU all too well.

Plenty has been written about this issue already, so I won’t belabor the point, but there is one positive thing I can say about it. I promised that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to get every Brightest Day related title, but until I read this issue I was afraid that might happen anyway. Now, the chances of me following this story into the ongoing Titans comic are slim to none. First of all, the hero that’s killed in this issue is done so almost in a perfunctory way. I feel like he was discredited, killed just to show how “badass” the villains are. Death in comics, especially in a post-Blackest Day world, should mean something. When Ted Kord died, for example, it was very clearly the opening shot in a war. I don’t get the sense that there are going to be any serious repercussions for what Deathstroke’s team does in this issue.

What’s more, the team doesn’t really make any sense. Deathstroke has never needed a team before, and the only reason this book is called Titans is because no one seems to know what to do with the franchise. There are only two characters in this book I’m interested in reading on a regular basis, Tattooed Man and Osiris, but neither of them are villains. Neither of them belong on a team full of murderers. There’s an attempt to explain what Deathstroke has over them, but it doesn’t make their inclusion seem any less forced.

I was really happy to see Osiris among the living at the end of the Blackest Night, but my happiness was short-lived. I won’t be following his future adventures in this book.

Rating: 3/10

Birds of Prey #1

The birds are back! Barely a year after the title was canceled in the restructuring of the Batman universe, Gail Simone and Ed Benes return to the title they made great. Oracle decides to get the band back together for a new mission, calling up Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk to once again help her protect the heroes of the DC Universe from threats they can’t face on their own. While she’s rounding up her friends, however, the recently-resurrected Hawk is having some issues re-acclimating to life among the living. It seems he and his partner, Dove, may have to find a home among the Birds to figure out where to fly.

This new dynamic offers some really interesting story possibilities that I’m sure Simone will have the guts to address, and I don’t just mean the fact that Hawk is the first male member of this traditionally all-female team. Before he died, Hawk walked around for some time in villain’s clothes, and he killed a lot of people, including several founding members of the Justice Society of America. I can’t imagine the folks at JSA headquarters are going to be wild about him joining the “911 operators of the DC Universe,” as Simone often refers to this squad. This is something that almost has to be addressed. But I have every faith in Simone’s ability to do it.

Benes’ art hasn’t lost a step. He’s still got great, energetic, dynamic pencils and fantastic fight scenes. Coloring has progressed even more since his first run with these characters, and it’s not hyperbole to say this book looks better than ever.

I was really bummed when this title was canceled, but I couldn’t be happier to have it back, and back in the best of hands.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #2

In part two of “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues,” Barry Allen is on the run from a group that mimics his worst enemies, but claim to be from the far future. This group, the “Renegades,” is in our time to arrest Barry because he’s going to murder one of their members 84 days in the future. Barry is none too keen on the idea of being arrested, of course, especially for something he hasn’t done (yet), and the Flash is soon on the run. Meanwhile, the present-day Rogues approach their recently-returned member, Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is none too happy with his old friends, though, as they seem intent on making him “prove himself” before they let him back into the club.

It’s not really clear how much of his time as a Black Lantern Captain Boomerang remembers. Does he remember killing his own son? Does he remember that his teammates basically gave him the boy as a snack? Does he even really want to reunite with the old team? One of the things that made Geoff Johns‘ first tenure on the Flash so memorable was the way he redefined the villains. It looks very much like he’s poised to do the same here.

Something that’s different than when he wrote the adventures of Wally West, though, is the way he’s bringing in more of the goofy comic book science and tech. Things like the Renegades are a very Silver Age-ish concept, and he’s executing them nicely in the present day with a more modern edge. Add in some great art by Francis J. Manapul and you’ve got another book I’m really happy with.

Rating: 8/10

Brightest Day #2

While some of the returnees have splintered off into the other titles we’ve been discussing, here in Brightest Day the focus really seems to be on some of the other characters. Firestorm is in a quandry, with Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond fused together in the Firestorm matrix. The situation is even more uncomfortable because Ronnie doesn’t remember, as a Black Lantern, killing Jason’s girlfriend. Jason, however, remembers it all too well. Also this week, the Martian Manhunter is seeking out the daughter of the scientist who brought him to Earth in the first place, and the Hawks are hunting down their oldest enemy. Firestorm is probably the most interesting part of this book to me, though, with Deadman coming in a close second. Still being jerked around by the White Lantern ring, Deadman gets a fantastic last-page cliffhanger.

The main mystery of Brightest Day seems to be split between this title and Green Lantern, with this book delving into those who returned from the dead and why. I’ve heard a few people understandably perturbed by the lack of Lantern content in this book, but I don’t think that’s what this is about. It reminds me much more of 52, the weekly series Johns co-wrote a few years ago, in that it follows a group of characters in the wake of a major event and examines how it changes their lives and, as a result, their world. Taken on its own merits, I think this story is succeeding quite well.

While I don’t expect a biweekly book to have a regular art team, it bothers me a bit when there are so many different artists on a single issue. Guys like Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Adian Syaf, Scott Clark and Joe Prado are all fine artists, but their styles are too different from one another to transition without a jolt. Hopefully future issues will be able to have a little more consistency.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League of America #45

This issue is part two of the two-part prelude to the five-part Justice Society of America crossover, “The Dark Things.” (They really should have just called it a seven-part crossover.) Jade, a Blackest Night returnee, comes back to earth inside a crystal. This “Starheart” is the mystical artifact that powers her father, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but now Alan Scott’s power is going haywire. The Justice League, Justice Society, and a few friends get together to try to prevent a disaster, but Power Girl seems to have gone mad. There’s only one person Batman can find with the juice to face her — Supergirl.

We know Supergirl is joining the team full-time soon, and this issue works very nicely as an introduction to her membership. She’s called up to deal with a specific threat (a nutcase Power Girl), but she’s already working well with the rest of the group. Robinson seems to want to build a JLA that’s built around all of the main “families” of the DC Universe without actually having the usual members. That’s an interesting idea, and as such, Supergirl is a very good candidate to represent the House of El.

The end of this book is an interesting cliffhanger, if not an earth-shattering one. Future solicits have already spoiled the end of this book (I hate when that happens) and I doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that’s likely to be permanent anyway. Still, it’s a pretty good superhero team-up, and it seems to be helping the League on a much-needed march towards stability.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #54

The other main mystery in this series is that of the White Lantern itself. Fallen to Earth, we see as Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris and Sinestro (the “New Guardians” of the Green, Violet, and Yellow Lantern Corps, respectively) step up and try to lift the Lantern. It becomes clear, though, that the Lantern isn’t there for just anyone. It’s waiting for someone… or something.

Geoff Johns throws in two different B-plots in this issue, and each of them is intriguing. Atrocitus, “New Guardian” of the Red Lanterns, is prowling the subways of New York in search of something, while the entity that captured Parallax a few months ago makes a play for another of the entities that power the seven Corps. The mystery of the entities is one thing that Blackest Night didn’t dig into very deeply, and I’m really glad to see that storyline is being fed here. The whole “Sword in the Stone” analogy for the White Lantern seems a little on the nose, but that may be a red herring (or green or yellow or whatever the case may be). Atrocitus is becoming more and more interesting as a character, and I’m very curious to hear the long-awaited story of Dex-Starr.

I’ve said it over and over, but one of the best things to come out of the Blackest Night are the new characters in the new corps. I want to see more of those guys, and that’s what Johns is giving to me. It doesn’t appear that’s going to change any time soon, and I’m very happy about that.

Rating: 9/10

Green Lantern Corps #48

Closing off our look at the recent Brightest Day releases, we have Tony Bedard‘s debut as the new writer of Green Lantern Corps. As Guy Gardner leaves for a mysterious new mission of his own (which no doubt will be the focus of the upcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors series) John Stewart comes to Oa to help with the rebuilding of the planet after the war. As he and Kyle Rayner help the rest of the Corps with reconstruction, the former Guardian called Ganthet approaches his brothers and sisters with a fateful decision — he is renouncing his status as a Guardian for any Corps, and instead will become the new permanently-stationed Green Lantern of the planet Oa.

The idea of Ganthet stepping down and becoming a “grunt” is an interesting one, and to the best of my knowledge it’s something that’s never been done before. Between that and the trade-off of Guy for John, Bedard has immediately created a very different feel for this book than it had under Peter Tomasi. As good as Tomasi’s run was, this new approach has a lot of promise of its own. John has really been forced out of the spotlight in recent years, ostensibly sharing the main Green Lantern title with Hal, but really getting very little screen time. Putting him in this book is already giving him a higher profile, without sacrificing any of the focus on Kyle Rayner or the rest of the cast. We also get a new mystery surrounding the Alpha Lanterns, characters that seemed to be out of a purpose not long ago. Bedard has re-purposed them and is turning them into something different, ominous, and fun to read about.

It’s a new era for this title, but it’s still a very strong part of Brightest Day.

Rating: 8/10


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #8

Nine months later, I’m finally reaching the end of the saga I’ve been reviewing as meticulously as anything else I’ve ever read in comics. Blackest Night #8 has hit the stands and everyone is having their say. So here’s mine, and I don’t think anyone will be surprised by what I’m going to say. I loved this book.

Sinestro has taken on the power of the Entity, the power of the White Lantern, to lead a final charge against Nekron. As the combined power of all seven Corps swarm the Earth in the hopes of driving him back, Nekron’s Black Lanterns regroup and begin to show that perhaps Sinestro isn’t as all-powerful as he assumed. And when all is beginning to seem hopeless, an unexpected hero pops up to give the Lanterns the clue they need to stop Nekron and destroy the Black Lanterns once and for all.

I’m not going to get into a lot of spoilers here, nor start speculating about what lies ahead for the characters involved. If you want to read that sort of thing, I did it in detail in this week’s Everything But Imaginary column. Let’s focus, instead, on just how writer Geoff Johns succeeded in putting out the best comic book crossover since The Infinity Gauntlet back in 1991. First of all, from the beginning he established a clear set of core characters and a clear endgame. While the events of the story spread out to the whole of the DC Universe, it was clear that the main characters were the seven “New Guardians” plus a few friends on Earth — the Flash, the Atom, and Mera. The goal was clear — stop Black Hand, then (once the Big Bad was revealed) stop Nekron.

The second thing he did right was orchestrate the spin-offs in such a way that most of them were very good, but almost none of them were essential. The six spin-off miniseries, eight one-shot “back from the dead” titles, and assorted crossovers into ongoing titles (most lasting only one or two issues, and only one went three) told their own self-contained stories that were related to Blackest Night and showed how their characters were relating to the war, but were not required reading for the main title. The only exceptions to that were the two GL family books, Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, both of which crossed over with this storyline for the duration of the series and were fairly significant when it came to showing what happened between issues of the core title. But as those were the two titles that laid 99 percent of the groundwork for this story, to me, that’s totally acceptable.

He introduced new characters in the assorted other Corps (most of them, admittedly, in the run-up, but this story really helped us get to know who they were) and reinvigorated old ones, and none so much as Mera. The one-time easily-dismissed “Aquawoman” now has more potential than just about anyone in the DC Universe, and I sincerely hope that her story will continue in Brightest Day.

Finally, he made real, lasting changes to the DC Universe, beyond just the introduction of new characters and the reintroduction of old ones. The old “revolving door of death” shtick which plagues most mainstream comics is addressed here, and the door is closed. Now of course, this will only remain a rule so long as whoever is running the DC Universe wants it to be a rule, but the man currently in charge of DC’s creative end is… you guessed it… Geoff Johns. Does this mean that no one in DC Comics will ever come back from the dead? Of course not. But I believe as long as Johns is there, sticking to his guns, it’s going to be a hell of a lot rarer.

Plus, Ivan Reis and his colorists and inkers gave us page after page of awesome.

Add it all up and you’ve got a series that excited me from the outset, kept me happy throughout, and delivered a knockout punch at the end. Well done, Johns and company. Well done.

Rating: 9/10

By the way, once Brightest Day launches, I do intend to continue reviewing any crossover titles I get here at the ‘Realms, unless I’m already reviewing them at Comixtreme. However, I will not go out of my way to get each and every crossover this time, just the ones I’d get normally or that really intrigue me. That will probably be the majority of them anyway, but a man’s got to have his limits.


What I’m Reading: A Month of Blackest Night!

Okay, so over the holidays I fell behind on my Blackest Night reviews. I’m sorry. I’m so… so sorry. Please forgive me.


Okay, now that that’s done, let’s talk about some comics! First, as promised, let me link you to my review of Superman/Batman #67. (I’m not going to duplicate full reviews from there over here, but I will point you in that direction.) Then, I’ll go through the rest of the tie-ins to the event of the year in the order in which they came out. There’s a lot of ’em here, so let’s get started!

Outsiders #25: Terra confronts her brother, begging him for help. She begs him to kill her, ending her existence as a Black Lantern… but is she being genuine, or is this just another example of Black Lanterns pulling the emotional strings of the living? Katana, meanwhile, faces her late husband, while Creeper does the surprise team-up thing with captive Killer Croc. As I’ve come to expect, Tomasi does a really good job nailing the emotions of each character. He sells us on each of them, working in great stuff for the Outsiders who are forced to face a dead love one, and having fun with those who don’t. Halo gets some very nice moments in this issue, and the Creeper/Croc team-up is a blast. I almost wish Croc was joining the cast of the book. We also get a feel for how the original members are somewhat divorced from the “newcomers” (namely Creeper and Owlman). The dynamic is interesting. Fernando Pasarin and Derec Donovan are the artists this month, and while both of them are good artists, their styles are really quite different. If you’re going to shift artists in one story, you need to get two artists whose styles mesh, and that’s not the case here. I’m sorry to see Tomasi leaving this book, but he had a good run.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League of America #40: In part two of “Reunion,” we watch as the remnants of the Detroit-era Justice League do battle with their less-fortunate teammates, and Gypsy and Vixen find no love lost with the dead Steel and Vibe. Zatanna continues her battle with her dead father, Red Tornado is out and Plastic Man can barely hold it together. James Robinson has a nice feel for these different characters, and even though most of them aren’t going to carry over to his regular JLA team, he makes them feel like significant, important characters, and that this is a story worth telling. The highlight of this issue, however, is the battle between Dr. Light and her late villain counterpart. Between this book and Superman, Robinson is doing really interesting stuff with Dr. Light, stuff I haven’t seen before. This is some of the best screen time the character has ever gotten, and I’m really glad she’s made the cut on the regular team. Mark Bagley has always been a fan favorite artist, but I must admit, all of his characters seem to look really young. Not a problem during his days on New Warriors or Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s been noticable in stuff like Trinity. Fortunately, most of the new team is going to be relatively young, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Really good issue.

Rating: 8/10

Green Lantern Corps #43: After the staggering events of last issue, I have to admit, this one was a bit of a letdown. (If you haven’t read issue #42 yet be warned, spoilers follow.) Last month we watched as Kyle Rayner sacrificed his life to save the main power battery on Oa from an invading army of Black Lanterns. This month, his lover Soranik Natu struggles desperately to bring him back. As Soranik — a doctor as well as a Green Lantern — works on Kyle, his partner Guy Gardner allows himself to succumb to his rage… Guy Gardner is now a Red Lantern. The Guy stuff here is handled really well. Peter Tomasi has done a nice job of selling Kyle and Guy as buddies, and I’ve got no problem at all seeing Guy go red with anger at Kyle’s death. My only real beef here comes in the bits with Soranik Natu. (I’m going to try very hard not to spoil this particular issue, but that won’t be easy.) Soranik’s efforts have an interesting result. Nothing happens here that I didn’t expect, but I didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly, and I feel like there was a missed opportunity to tell an interesting story or two in the meantime. There, I think that did it. I still liked this issue, but not as much as I expected to.

Rating: 7/10

Blackest Night: JSA #1: The last Blackest Night spin-off miniseries starts here with the creative team of Blackest Night: Superman picking up the story they began there. The Justice Society is caught off-guard when several of its Golden Age members — the original Sandman, Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific among others — rise from the dead and attack. Superman and Superboy, meanwhile, have brought the defeated Black Lantern Superman (of Earth-2) and Psycho-Pirate to the current Mr. Terrific to study and — hopefully — find a weakness. This issue takes place on the heels of Blackest Night #5, and it’s a nice way to shine a spotlight on these heroes in the midst of those events. While most of the zombie comparisons to these titles have been derisive, this is one of the few stories I’ve yet seen where the comparison is apt. Watching the still-living JSA members holed up in their headquarters, trying to stave off the swarm of Black Lanterns, has a definite Night of the Living Dead vibe to it, and I mean that as a compliment. James Robinson nails the mood of this piece, giving us a fantastic stand-off between the living and the dead. The plot threads carried over from Blackest Night: Superman are also solid. I don’t know if DC has really considered how these miniseries will be packaged in the inevitable trade paperback releases, but the two miniseries by Robinson and Eddy Barrows really should be collected together.

Rating: 8/10

Teen Titans #78: Why in the world has J.T. Krul not been given one of the Titans family books to write on an ongoing basis? I don’t even care which one. Between this two-parter and the previous Blackest Night: Titans miniseries, he’s shown a better grasp of these characters than any writer since Geoff Johns left. In fact, I’ll say this is one of the beast Deathstroke stories I have ever read. Ravager, last issue, hunted down her father with the intention of killing him. Instead, the two of them found themselves in an uneasy alliance, fighting for their lives against the Black Lanterns of their shared past. And just when things looked their worst, an unexpected ally arrived — Ravager’s brother and Deathstroke’s son, Jericho, who is looking in much better shape than he did the last time we saw him. The richness of the characters here is wonderful. Krul absolutely sells us on a genuine relationship between the father and children that makes sense and works perfectly in the context of the story. And while Deathstroke is still undeniably a bad guy (as he should be), this issue also manages to paint him as a father too, something that hasn’t been done very well since the days of Wolfman and Perez. There are a few things in this issue that make me believe there are plans in the works for Deathstroke, and in fact he’s supposedly joining the regular cast of the Titans series soon, but without Krul at the wheel, it’ll be hard to get me on board. He’s one of DC’s rising stars, and I’ll be anxiously watching where he goes next.

Rating: 9/10

Green Lantern #49: Since this event began, Geoff Johns has used the main Green Lantern title to basically tell the stories in-between issues of Blackest Night. This issue is no exception. While Hal Jordan has been assembling the “new Guardians” and Kyle and Guy are facing the dead of Oa, what’s been up with John Stewart? The fourth Green Lantern of Earth takes the spotlight this issue, as he has to face the dead of the planet Xanshi, a world he failed to save from destruction years ago. If that wasn’t bad enough, his dead wife Katma Tui is part of the assault. John is, in many ways, the Neglected Lantern these days. He had a bit more of a spotlight when he was on Justice League Unlimited, but he’s taken a back seat to Hal in the title they ostensibly share. This is a really good spotlight on John, and it comes not a moment too soon. What makes this issue more interesting, however, is the back-up story. In a “Tales From the Corps” story, we follow the Atom and Mera, who shrank down between the molecules of a Black Lantern ring. With the Black Lantern Jean Loring as their guide, the delve into the origins of Nekron himself, and find a valuable ally in the process — Deadman. This look back into the history of the Black Lanterns is pretty good, and even better is the fact that the always-welcome Jerry Ordway does the art. And when it’s over, it’s time to jump right into Blackest Night #6. So let’s shall we?

Rating: 8/10

Blackest Night #6: The only book that came out on December 30 is likely the book that would have been the best in any given week. Last issue, Nekron revealed that he’s been allowing people to “return” from the dead for years, setting them up as foot soldiers for this invasion. Now he’s turned the likes of Superman, Green Arrow, Superboy, Wonder Woman, and more into Black Lanterns, and the grand prize will be taking Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. As the two of them race for their lives — literally — Ganthet decides a little more firepower is needed for this battle to turn, and he begins a really interesting recruiting drive. The fanboy in me turned as giddy as a child on Christmas when I realized where this was going, and the final two-page spread had me as excited as I’ve been for a comic in a very long time. Beyond just the action figure potential of these pages, we’re seeing something that’s a hell of a lot of fun playing out against an intense backdrop. We’re seeing the restructuring of the Green Lantern Corps and DC’s cosmic side as a whole, we’re seeing characters like Ray Palmer and Mera (freaking Mera) raised to A-list status, and we’re getting it all under the prism of just beautiful art by Ivan Reis. Have I said I love this book? Because I’ll say it again. I. Love. This. Book.

Rating: 9/10

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2: Set between the pages of Blackest Night #6, this issue features Wonder Woman as a Black Lantern. As we’ve come to suspect, we see that the real person and the Black Lantern are separate entities, with one controlling the other. As Black Lantern Wonder Woman battles Wonder Girl and Mera, the “real” Wonder Woman, riding shotgun, struggles for freedom. The book also expands greatly upon the last few pages of Blackest Night #6, showing what happens to Wonder Woman there from a different perspective. In and of itself, the issue is fine. Greg Rucka is a good writer and knows Wonder Woman well. The art, by Nicola Scott and Eduardo Pansica, is very nice. Scott is one of DC’s greatest artistic assets right now, and they’d be insane not to try to get more high-profile work out of her. The issue here is that, unlike the other Blackest Night miniseries, this one doesn’t seem to be telling a solid story of its own. Instead, it seems to exist only to slip between the pages of the main event. That’s not quite enough for me. It’s not bad when it happens in a spin-off issue of an ongoing, especially one as tightly tied to the main book as Green Lantern is, but it seems a bit superfluous to create a miniseries expressly for that purpose. It will also make it a less satisfying read in collected edition later.

Rating: 6/10

Suicide Squad #67: There will be no issue of Blackest Night in January, which is very very sad, but that doesn’t mean the tie-ins will stop. In fact, DC is doing something pretty cool this month to come up with unique tie-ins. They’ve taken eight old series, books that have been canceled for years (or, in some cases, decades) and they’ve brought them back for one more issue. If the characters can come back from the dead, why not the titles, right? First up is Suicide Squad #67, written by Gail Simone and original series writer John Ostrander, with art by Jim Calafiore. As Simone is using former Squad member Deadshot to great effect in her Secret Six series, it only makes sense that this one-shot would tie in to that one. The Six and the Squad find themselves at odds when the Six are hired to break out a convicted drug dealer from the prison where the Squad is based. As the two teams face each other, the dead of the past begin to rise. This isn’t a bad issue, and it’s great as part of a crossover between the two teams, but the Blackest Night connection is actually pretty tenuous. It begins with one character rising from the dead, it ends with several more rising, but otherwise there’s no real connection. The story continues in next week’s Secret Six #17, so there’s more to come, but I can’t help but wish there was more here.

Rating: 7/10

Weird Western Tales #71: The next book brought back this month (and the last in this review-a-thon) is one of DC’s old-school western titles. The light-based hero called The Ray has managed to snare one of the Black Lantern rings, and he brings it to a facility in the west, near the mass graves of a slew of cowboys, soldiers, and Indians slain during the wild and wooly days of the DC Universe. The likes of Scalphunter, Super-Chief, Bat Lash, and the king of DC’s western tales himself, Jonah Hex, all rise to reclaim the ring. Honestly, I didn’t really have high expectations for this book — it seemed a bit more of a stunt than some of the other “dead” titles brought back here — but I was pleasantly surprised. DC’s executive editor, Dan Didio, has put together a story that is suitably creepy — in fact, this too has the hopeless horror movie feel of a great zombie flick — but he also managed to capture the flavor of a western in the process. That sort of combination isn’t easy. Renato Arlem‘s artwork fits in nicely, and the result is a book that’s actually better than it should be.

Rating: 7/10

So that’s it, friends. I’m all caught up, and actually, I kind of like this format. I have no intention of letting another month go by with no reviews, but from now on, I may do a single weekly review post instead of separate ones for each title. Seems more efficient that way, doesn’t it?


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #5

This issue: really bad stuff happens that I refuse to spoil, because you need to read it yourself.

Honestly, I could probably stop typing here and already have said everything I need to say, but I’m not going to do that because I feel like I should at least make the text reach far enough to wrap underneath the image at the right of this post. Awesome cover, isn’t it? Ivan Reis is the man.

Anyway, this issue picks up seconds after the end of Green Lantern #48. The seven leaders of the Corps that make up the emotional spectrum have finally united and are on a quest to seek out and destroy the Black Lanterns’ central power battery, unaware that it has manifested on Earth. Back home, Barry Allen is holding the line, and he’s not alone. The Justice League and Titans are there with him, fighting off the swarm of Black Lanterns and their newly-risen lord, Nekron. What nobody realizes, though, is that they may well be playing right into the God of Death’s hands.

One of the things this series was supposed to do at the outset was address what many people (myself included) have called the “Revolving Door in Heaven.” That comic book phenomenon where some characters just keep dying and coming back, dying and coming back. In fact, if you look at that cover, every character swirling around ol’ Nekron there is one who has come back after taking their own dirt nap, some of them terribly recently. This issue, the explanation brings us to one of the most chilling moments yet in this series.

I wouldn’t want to be one of Earth’s defenders this month, but it’s a great time to be a reader. Geoff Johns pulls off one of the twists of the year, doing something that (as all the best twists do) feels perfectly logical and reasonable, but that we never would have seen coming. This issue, again, shows us just why so many are calling this the best are calling this the best comic book event in years. Again, myself included.

Rating: 9/10


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #4

Blackest Night #4Hal is off in space, so this issue we focus on the Flash, the Atom, and Mera as they serve as the front line against the invading Black Lanterns… a Corps dedicated to consuming the hearts of the living to charge their central power battery… and as the issue begins, the charge is already up to 93 percent.

This issue, more so than the others so far, is really about the great character beats Geoff Johns tosses our way. The main plot isn’t really advanced much until the last few pages, mainly because Hal Jordan is off trying to assemble his anti-Black Lantern force over in his own title. So instead, we watch our Earth-bound heroes in their efforts to kick a little ass. The “new Trinity” of the Flash, Atom, and Mera, works remarkably well. The obvious love Johns has for writing Barry Allen is infectious, it bleeds into the reader and makes you anxious for the upcoming Blackest Night: Flash miniseries more than ever. Even Mera, a character who has never even achieved the popularity of her late husband Aquaman, becomes someone we root for to take a triumphant stand against the darkness.

The final scenes, with the Justice Society, give us a confrontation as dramatic and heart-wrenching (no pun intended) as the stuff with Firestorm last issue. It’s going to be interesting to see which heroes stay dead when all is said and done (the body count on this series has been so high already it’s difficult to fathom that DC would allow all of these characters to “remain dead”), but somehow that doesn’t diminish their war or their sacrifices.

The true “big bad” of the series is finally revealed here, and while part of me is a little irritated that the reveal was spoiled in the Previews solicits a couple of months ago, a larger part of me is geekishly gratified that I called the reveal back in July, before the solicits were released. That’s right. I’m ending this review with an “I told you so.” Nyeah.

Rating: 8/10


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #3

Blackest Night #3As members of the Justice League begin to assemble to battle the threat of the Black Lanterns, an entire League of the Dead sets their sights on the living. In the heat of the battle,the mysterious Indigo Tribe makes its appearance, lays out the history of the Light, and sets up Hal Jordan to make a choice that could decide the fate of the universe.

I realize I sound like I’m gushing over this title whenever I review an issue, but that’s for good reason. There are more moments of pure awesome in each issue of this than in the last three years worth of “event” comics from the Big Two put together. Geoff Johns has pulled out all the stops, nailing us with information, big moments, and real raw emotion. Jason Rusch — the current Firestorm — faces off with Ronnie Raymond, the original. Fans of either version of the character need to read this book — it’s some of the best storytelling in comics. The revelations of the Indigo Tribe are great, confirming a few suspicions I’ve had and raising other questions in its own right. Hal and Barry, practically the co-leads of this series, have an excellent heart-to-heart that really nails who the characters are, and the Atom finds an unlikely but highly fitting ally.

What’s more, this book really has a Justice League feel to it, doesn’t matter that more than half the heroes represented here aren’t currently members of the team. Great superhero teams are about more than whose membership card is up to date, it’s about who answers the call when everything hits the fan. The dynamics here are wonderful, and although I’m very much looking forward to James Robinson taking over Justice League of America, this book really makes me hope that Johns gets a crack at that title someday, preferably with Hal and Barry both on the roster.

Art? You want awesome art? Ivan Reis is nailing it, has nailed it for three issues in a row, and hasn’t missed a ship date. This is so much more important than it seems, but how many big books lately have either been tremendously delayed or put together by a tag-team of pencilers and inkers?

Blackest Night has been absolutely everything I hoped it would be. Keep ’em coming guys. I’m waiting.

Rating: 10/10


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #2

Blackest Night #2Picking up right where Green Lantern #44 left off, this week we got our hands on Blackest Night #2. The dead are rising across the DC Universe, including many, many old friends who will be more than happy to spread their current state of affairs to their still-living loved ones. While Hal Jordan and Barry Allen face off against the Martian Manhunter in Gotham City, Tempest and Mera find themselves under assault by a contingent of risen Atlaneans, including Tula, Dolphin, and Aquaman himself. The Atom reaches out to the wrong people for a little understanding, and the magic users of the DCU see something horrible happen to one of their own.

While last issue was heavy on set-up, this issue is heavy on the action. The GL/Flash/J’onn fight doesn’t miss a beat and the repercussions at the end are pretty terrible for our heroes. Ivan Reis really nails the action scenes, and makes the horror of the Black Lanterns stand out. I particularly liked the battle with the Atlanteans — we see soldiers attacked by Black Lantern-led sharks with pretty gruesome results. T’ain’t no code approval on this book, friends.

This is not, however, a case where we just see an issue-long slugfest that does nothing for the plot. What happens with the Spectre here is very interesting, and there’s anothing surprising tidbit I’ll talk about in the Spoiler Section coming up.

I was really impressed with this issue — a strong action punch that keeps things moving forward.

Rating: 8/10

Okay, now getting into some spoilers and speculation. Geoff Johns has done a really great job working in the plot progression without sacrificing the action at all. In the midst of this, though, he gives us a few little bits that really make you wonder. One involves Deadman, but as that is developed further in Blackest Night: Batman, I’ll wait to discuss those elements in that review.

The transformation of the Spectre into a Black Lantern is also a point of real concern. Here we see a being who is, in fact, dead, but whose form has merged with that of God’s agent of vengeance. The sheer power of the Black Lanterns is what I find incredible here — to overwhelm and take over the Spectre is pretty intense, and the fact that he’s gunning specifically for Hal Jordan is telling. One has to wonder if Johns has been planning this ever since he wrote the stories where Hal lost his link to the Spectre (in Green Lantern: Rebirth) and when the Spectre bonded with its new host, Crispus Allen (in Infinite Crisis).

Finally, there’s a smaller moment that I think may turn out to be a bigger key than anything else. As the black rings continue to fall on Earth, two of them fall on the moral remains of Hank and Donald Hall, the two brothers who were the original Hawk and Dove. Hank, Hawk, rises just like everyone else, but the rings try several times to raise Don only to be met with failure. “Don Hall of Earth at peace,” the rings report, time and again. So evidently, not everyone the rings want can be raised?

What does that mean?

Two theories.

First, we know the Black Lanterns feed on emotion. The murders they’ve comitted so far have all been about absorbing the emotions of the victims to slowly charge their Lantern (until “He” rises). Don, Dove, was the embodiment of the lord of Order, just as Hawk is the embodiment of Chaos. Perhaps Don, a man truly, spiritually content, doesn’t carry with him the emotional turmoil necessary to raise a corpse.

Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s it.

Theory two. Because of what happens with Deadman, we’ve got confirmation that the rising of a Black Lantern does not raise the soul along with the corpse, but does that mean the soul itself is no longer necessary? Part of the idea behind this story is to redefine what death means in the DC Universe, and clearly, the various characters who have returned from the dead over the years are going to be a centerpiece of that theory. What if a body can only rise from the dead if the soul is still present on the Earthly plane? Part of my overall theory of Blackest Night is that, before the end of the story, we’ll see some of these Black Lanterns — the bodies of the dead manipulated by the Black Light — facing the souls that once inhabited the bodies they’ve corrupted. In other words, the ghost of Ralph Dibney vs. the Black Lantern Ralph Dibney. Perhaps the reason Dove can’t rise — and the reason he’s never risen in all the years since his death — is because his soul has moved on somewhere else, to some other plane, something Superman and Hal Jordan and all the other heroes who have risen from the dead have never been able to do?

Just speculation, of course, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.


What I’m Reading: Blackest Night #1

Blackest Night #1And here we go, the main event. Two years of storylines have led up to this point, and yesterday the first issue of Blackest Night hit the stands.

A quick recap for those who came in late: the Green Lanterns have learned that they are not, in fact, the only source of light and power in the cosmos. There are, in fact, seven corps, one for each color of the visible spectrum, and each powered by a different emotion. As a war breaks out between the various Corps in the depths of space, a rogue Guardian of the Universe and a mad enemy of Hal Jordan have joined with an eighth power: Black. On the anniversary of the “Death” of Superman, a day set aside to pay respect to superheroes who have died in the line of duty and the victims of villains that heroes were unable to save, the mad Guardian Scar and the maniacal Black Hand unleash their Black Lantern rings across the universe. Each ring possesses the body of someone who has dead… and with a single word, the dead rise.

This is just the setup, folks. From here, we watch as the grave of a hero is desecrated, a hero recently returned tries to come to grips with everything that’s happened since his death, and the first blood is spilled. Geoff Johns has done an amazing job of building up to this storyline, and now that it’s finally begun, he delivers. The tension, the intensity of this first issue charges things up. The climax is a stunner for reasons that I’ll get into a little bit later, after I give you a spoiler warning.

Ivan Reis, Johns‘ partner on the main Green Lantern comic for some time, gets to play with the entire DC Universe this issue. He’s always done a great job with the Green Lanterns. Here we see him with the Justice League, some hellaciously scary Black Lanterns, and just about everybody else.

This is a fantastic start to this storyline. I’ve been excited for some time now, and this didn’t disappoint in the least.

RATING: 9/10

Okay, that said, there are some specific plot points I want to discuss, so consider this your SPOILER WARNING. Starting with the next paragraph, I’m going to get into things about the issue that you may not want to know if you haven’t read it yet. So if you haven’t, turn around and go elsewhere.

There’s a lot to process with this issue, starting with Black Hand. The kickoff for the launch of the Black Rings seems to be when he unearths the corpse of Batman. At the end of Final Crisis, you see, Bruce Wayne seemingly died. We’ve seen him since then, briefly, scribbling cave paintings, but that doesn’t change the fact that Superman found a corpse wearing a Batman costume. Is it really Bruce Wayne’s body, or is it something else? Whatever it is, Black Hand has that skull right now, and he’s using it to guide the Black Lantern rings to their destinations, not unlike how the living planet Mogo guides the rings of the Green Lanterns to their potential wielders.

Scar also goes pretty ape this issue, slaughtering one Guardian and ripping out his heart, then capturing the rest in a strange, black web of sorts. The Guardians, we learn here, have driven out emotion from their hearts entirely, making them unsuitable for the purpose of the Darkness. The Darkness needs hearts full of emotion to charge up, and we see this for the first time when two Black Lanterns attack and kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The two hearts — one full of love, the other full of rage — each charge up the black rings 0.01 percent. Even with my rudimentary math skills, I can tell that means it’ll take 10,000 murders to charge a ring to 100 percent.

What happens when it hits 100?

Then there’s the question of what, exactly, the Black Lanterns are. We see several friends return in this issue — J’onn J’onzz faces Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, two heroes who have cheated death in the past. The entire dead of the Green Lantern Corps is summoned from the depths of Oa to turn on the Corpsmen that are defending the planet. And most powerful, the dead forms of Ralph and Sue Dibney return to slaughter Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Ralph even mocks Hawkman as he beats him to death, after which their corpses are given black rings and summoned up to join the new Corps.

This is a story that is supposed to examine just what “death” means in the DC Universe. Here’s my question. Does the Black Lantern power simply reanimate a corpse and use the memories associated with that body to establish its identity, or does it corrupt the soul as well? We’ve seen Ralph and Sue since their deaths, floating around in much the same way Boston Brand (a.k.a. Deadman) does. Does the fact that their bodies are moving again change what’s going on with their spirits? Is it possible we’ll see the ghosts of Ralph and Sue doing battle with the corpses of Ralph and Sue?

I actually hope so.

There’s also the questions of the Guardians themselves. A lot of what’s been happening is due to their refusal to face the truths of the emotional spectrum, their refusal to accept emotion as a factor in the universe. By the time this story ends, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a drastic shift in the status of the Guardians — most, if not all of them dead.

There’s a lot happening here, and a lot to process, and I’m sure I’ll come up with even more as the wait for issue two begins. But I’m definitely going to enjoy the speculation.

May 2023

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