Sunday, October 30, 2011

Catching Up On Your Flash Facts

Catching Up On Your Flash Facts
Review of Flash #2
By: Andrew Hines

     Here's a Flash Fact: Things just got a LOT more complicated for Barry Allen.

     This comic has everything that the debut issue had, including some awesome throwback nods to such things as his relationship with Iris West.  It should be no secret that I'm a huge Flash fan, especially of Barry Allen, the Silver Age hero.  That being said, this follow-up issue is actually better than the first.  We have a few things cleared up and get fewer questions than answers here.  There are nods to the old DC and an actual reference to the Speed Force.  There are allusions to the Cosmic Treadmill, a device which allows Barry to travel through and possibly alter time.  The last time this device was actually used was in the last issue of Flashpoint, which saw Barry "fixing" the timeline that he unwittingly created, resulting in the DCnU we have now.

     As a writer, Francis Manapul has given us two great issues that get back to exactly why we love Barry Allen as the Flash.  He's a great mixture of all the other Justice Leaguers, which Manapul uses to full advantage.  You see the shy side (Martian Manhunter) and his more analytical/scientific mind (Batman) on the same pages.  A little later you'll see his child-like demeanor (Green Lantern) juxtaposed with his hopeful side (Superman) in a way that most other writers haven't portrayed him in recent years.  Okay, since he was gone for close to 25 years, there haven't really been many "recent" writers. The point is, he give us a fresh, yet classic take on Barry.

     Brian Buccellato's artwork exemplifies Barry Allen's look down to the lightning bolt logo.  From the buildings of Central City to the grooves connecting the pieces of his costume, nothing out of place or mis-proportioned.  Whether in his Flash suit or in civilian garb, Barry looks about the same as always.  All of the visual effects and panel layouts are wonderful.  Then there are the pages in which Barry realizes how quickly his brain is working.  Those "isolated" page set-ups are perfect.

     Manapul and Buccellato are a wonderful team and I'm looking forward to more fantastic issues from them.  This deserves a 9.2 out of 10.

Cover of Flash #2:
Interior page of Flash #2:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Captain Atom VS The God Complex

Captain Atom VS The God Complex
Review of Captain Atom #2
By: Andrew Hines

     What if one man had the powers of a god at his fingertips?

     Being reborn for the second time and putting himself together again after taking an active volcano out of commission, Captain Atom is this close to over-stepping the bounds of what it means to be human or even meta-human.  He begins to see the energy around him and is able to interact with wireless electronic transmissions in much the same way as Tom Cruise did in Minority Report.  By the end of the issue, a man who can barely keep himself together physically, may bridge the gap between Man and the Divine.

     J.T. Krul has shown us a new side of Nathaniel Adam and given us a slight departure from the origin of the old DCU.  We now see a mixture of Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan, despite the Captain still retaining his humanity.  Pop culture fans may see flashbacks to 1997's Contact, at the sight of the craft that the Captain must pilot.  Krul even allows room for human egos and personality clashes, the likes of which are rarely seen outside of procedural police dramas.  Writing implied confrontation such as this is an art form in and of itself that he is close to mastering.  He is able to hint at the history between the characters without stating it outright.

     Freddie Williams II has brought about his own style to the comics industry.  It borrows from no artist I can think of and has a unique look to it.  It's not crisp, but that's exactly what this book needs.  Fortunately, with a character like Captain Atom, crisp is the last look you need.  Since he's a man who can barely keep his body together and is made up of a googolplex of atoms and molecules, Williams' style is perfect for reflecting that.

     Williams and Krul earn their title a 9.2 out of 10.

Stanley "Artgerm" Lau's cover for issue 2:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Outlaws Can Be Heroes Too

Outlaws Can Be Heroes Too
Review of Red Hood & the Outlaws #2
By: Andrew Hines

     How do you upstage yourself after coming back from the dead?

     If you're Jason Todd, you'll most likely team-up with an annoying former sidekick and a super-powered alien that used to date your rival.  Issue 2 begins with a flashback of Batman's baby mama, Talia al Ghul, explaining Jason's return to the land of the living.  Right after that we get right back to where we left off in the first book.  There's also a huge attitude change from the first few pages to the present.  Jason has gone from the streetwise punk fans know and loathe to the reluctant leader of a small band of heroic outlaws.

     Scott Lobdell gives everyone their own unique personalities, rather than going with the Golden Age rule of everyone having the same basic attitudes.  He puts a comic book spin on everyday scenarios and brings in conversations from the modern day.  From the flight attendant to the driver of the rented limo, we see twists and turns that might happen in every day life.  The difference is that they are meshed with the craziness of comic book reality.  It takes a bit of vision to merge the two worlds.

     Aside from Kenneth Rocafort's art still reminding me a bit of Cory Walker's run on Invincible, he takes the characters and makes them his own.  Each character's design is far different from their incarnations in the old DCU.  It might just be Rocafort's style that makes Red Hood's costume design work.  I can't honestly think of anyone else who could make a full-body suit, a solid red mask and brown leather motorcycle jacket work together.  There's also the fact that in no shot, is anything out of proportion.  Rocafort is a professional and it shows.  Well done, sir.

     Lobdell and Rocafort make a fantastic team.  The story mixes perfectly with the art in a way you rarely see.  This earns it a 9.4 out of 10.

Cover of Red Hood & the Outlaws #2:

A Prelude to Fighting a Mirror

A Prelude to Fighting a Mirror
Review of Nightwing #1
By: Andrew Hines

     Holy mistaken identity, Batman!

     For some reason, we see new hired muscle gunning for Dick Grayson and all he wants . . . is his head.  Now the former Boy Wonder is stuck between a rock and a hard place as his alter ego fights for the life of the man under the mask.  From what this assassin Saiko has told him, Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in Gotham.  This is certainly news to the last surviving member of the Flying Graysons.  Now the younger half of the original Dynamic Duo must carefully juggle his two lives or lose them both.

     Kyle Higgins brings a heaping helping of talent to the second issue of Nightwing. There's mystery suspense and action in a book that shows several sides of Dick Grayson and finally speaks of his past.  Higgins brings out the big guns in this follow-up to Nightwing's "return" to his own title.  The dialogue and narration flow as well as any book involving a member of the Batman Family.

     Eddy Barrows artwork is great once again.  Either in the heat of a battle or a static pose, he shines.  His pencils capture the lithe movements of a born acrobat and classic hero.  You can see in the faces he illustrates just how much love he puts into his craft.  I can safely say that Eddy Barrows should be around for quite a while as an artist in the DCnU.  If he continues to hone his skills, in a few short years, the results should speak for themselves.

     With Higgins and Barrows working together, this title should blah, blah, blah . . . just go buy it already. This is issue earns an 8.9 out of 10 for artwork and story.

Cover of Nightwing #2:

Clash of the Classics

Clash of the Classics
Review of Justice League #2
By: Andrew Hines

     Who would win in a fight; Batman or Superman?

     This is the question in the first few pages of Justice League #2. Thankfully Bruce gets help from Barry (Flash) and Hal (Green Lantern.) After the initial showdown, the race is on to find where the alien device from issue #1 came from and what it's true purpose is. There will also be a new Justice Leaguer born in the issue's explosive ending.
     Geoff Johns redeems himself after the slow first issue.  Here we see DC's premier team finally beginning to come together. We also see their finest scribe doing what he does best, updating classic characters for a modern audience.  Johns is a master of telling us just enough, without revealing too much. There is still an air of mystery and suspense as the larger story unfolds.

     DC co-publisher and master artist, Jim Lee (no relation to Stan), proves one again how he has earned his stripes time and again. Since he designed all of the costumes for the Justice League, it's only logical that he would helm the title that brings them all together. This is allowing him to set the bar for how the costumes should look in every comic from now on.  Well played Mr Lee, You've done our fans proud.

    With not a word or pencil stroke out of place, Johns and Lee have earned an 8.9 out of 10 for Justice League.

Page 1 of Justice League #2:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(Death)Stroke of Luck

(Death)Stroke of Luck
Review of Deathstroke #2
By: Andrew Hines

     Let's do a recap, shall we? When last we met our hero, er...villain, he had just finished a mid-air smash-and-grab and executed his former accomplices.  "Just how does he do all of this and sleep so soundly," you might ask? The answer would be, "With decades of practice."  We now find Slade Wilson in the back of a secret bar facing down certain death with a grin on his face and a room full of hired guns looking for the bounty on his head.

     This is what our writer Kyle Higgins throws at us in the first few pages.  In this issue we briefly see an extra new villain and a comic full of fight scenes.  All the while we get crisp dialogue and some decent narration.  We still have yet to see anything really personal about the character.  Barring some minor expository dialogue, there's really nothing to show in regards to a motivation.  If you want to see any of his family however, pick up the issues of Superboy and look for Rose Wilson.

     Artist Joe Bennett is still quite skilled and manages to make Deathstroke more intimidating than usual.  This is quite impressive, given who we're talking about.  Thankfully the size of his sword has been scaled down a bit so he doesn't seem to be compensating for anything anymore.  At least with all the action, he gets to prove his mettle and that he's not a Rob Liefeld* waiting to happen.

     The second issue is more action-packed and even carries over from the premier issue.  Because of that, the rest of the writing and the artwork, it gets crazy points.  Some are taken away for not adding any backstory or personal information.  That makes this an 8.0 out of 10.

Deathstroke #2 Cover:
Deathstroke #2 Page 5:

*    I defy anyone to prove without a doubt that Rob Liefeld is worthy of being an artist.  Trust me, you can't.

Birth of a Hero

Birth of a Hero
Review of Grifter #2
By: Andrew Hines

     What does a former soldier turned professional con artist do when he can suddenly hear alien voices in his head?  If he's Cole Cash, he waits for the hunters to find their prey so he can turn the tables.  When we left Mr. Cash, he was making the choice to take the fight to his enemies.  Knowing that he was a soldier, it is much easier to understand how he handled himself on the plane.  We also see how he is able to effectively evade law enforcement and the military.

     Nathan Edmondson brings more to the table in this second issue.  We discover that Cole was a Black Ops member for several years before becoming a matchstick man.  We get to know more about Grifter in this issue, though he may have gotten a little too used to the voices in his head at this point.  The basic story structure is solid, especially compared to the first issue.  Given that the first pages of the premier issue looked like a scene from the Lost series, it's nice to finally see something you can actually follow.

     Cafu wows again with fantastic artwork and wonderful panel set ups.  I have seen no discrepancies with design continuity or page layout.  He definitely gets points for that.  The style is consistent and action scenes are beautiful.

     Going back to the "Lost-ness" of #1, if this ends up being a bad dream because he hit his head or the daemonites turn into smoke monsters, I will officially give up on this title.  Thankfully I don't see that happening unless JJ Abrams becomes a writer, so the comic gets an 8.9 out of 10.

Cover of Grifter #2:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deal With A Devil

Deal With A Devil
Review of Green Lantern #2
By: Andrew Hines

     How far would you go to bring back the good in your life?  This is the decision Hal Jordan must make in the second issue of the renumbered Green Lantern series.  Having been stripped of his ring before the reboot, Jordan was replaced by his nemesis and mentor, Thaal Sinestro of the planet Korugar.  At the end of GL #1, Sinestro offers Hal a chance to become a member of the Corps once again.  Now factoring in their "turbulent" history, it's sort of a difficult thing to process.  Imagine your greatest enemy offering to return to you the greatest weapon in the universe and your first thought will most likely be, "What's the catch?" In this case, it's that Hal has to do whatever Sinestro tells him to do.

This is what Geoff Johns brings us in to the story with. The writing is once again sharp and the dialogue fitting of the characters. There's just enough there to link to the past but also to give hints as to where the first arc of the series is going. We see plenty of action and a portion of Sinestro's disdain for Hal and where it comes from. These little bits are part of why Johns is as celebrated as he is.

Doug Mahnke shows more great artwork, though, there are more close-ups, so it's not really that fair. The action shots are better as are the backgrounds.  The colors could be better, though the story sort of makes up for it.

This issue receives an 8.9 out of 10.

Cover art for Issue 2:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Enter the Dollmaker

Enter the Dollmaker
Review of Detective Comics #2
By: Andrew Hines

     There's a new "face" in the Rogues Gallery of the Caped Crusader.  Gotham has long been known for the odd assortment of villains it is home to.  At the end of the first issue, we saw that a new villain removed the Joker's face at his request.  This marks the first time in 71 years that there has been any real change in the Joker's appearance.  Over the decades, however, there have been many new faces joining the ranks of Arkham Asylum's most notorious residents.  None may be so terrifying as the new kid on the block, the jigsaw-faced Dollmaker.

     Written and illustrated by Tony S. Daniel, Detective Comics #2 is simply breath-taking, in several ways.  The story starts off with a rare look at Bruce Wayne without the cape and cowl for which he is primarily known.  We get to see how a hero acts when out of the cape and tights.  Tying in with Ollie Queen, the titular character from Green Arrow and thus the rest of the DCnU, Daniel is quite adept as a scribe.  He proves in these pages just why he has the respect and career that he does.  He even gives us another cliffhanger ending as an ally of the Bat is the Dollmaker's latest victim.

     This is one of those that I and the rest of the comic fan base would definitely recommend.  It gets an 8.6 out of 10.

Detective Comics #2 cover:

Dissecting the Man of Steel

Dissecting the Man of Steel
Review of Action Comics #2
By: Andrew Hines

     The question of Superman's limits has long been pondered by fans around the world.  What sorts of punishment can the Last Son of Krypton take?  We know, at this point what his physical capabilities are and what he can dish out.  Can he stand up to thousands of of volts of electricity at this point or will the Man of Steel end up as crispy as Colonel Sanders' original recipe?  In this issue, that's mostly what we'll be facing as we see the birth of one villain and the engineer of Superman's current predicament.

Grant Morrison is again a writer to be reckoned with in this follow-up to the new Action Comics.  Morrison even includes some familiar faces key to the Superman mythos.  As we begin to go deeper into the story, we find out more about various characters, including: Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, John Henry Irons,  and John Corben.  While most already know Luthor and Lois, it's nice to see an old acquaintances like the men who will become Steel and the villain Metallo.  While we get mere glimpses of them, Morrison shows his skill at foreshadowing events to come.  We also get to see more of Luthor's ego than we ever have before.

Rags Morales shows more of his artistic talent in the details of this issue.  From the cuts and bruises on Superman to the crackling electricity, we see every bit of what is going on in the panels.  While Morrison spins his yarns on the Man of Steel, Morales keeps pace every step of the way in the panels he illustrates.  Few have ever been able to keep up with Morrison and render visuals equivalent to the stories being told. Morales delivers in spades at every turn of the page.

For both the wordsmith and the artist, this issue receives a 9.0 out of 10.

Action Comics #2 cover:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rebirth of the Scarlet Speedster

Rebirth of the Scarlet Speedster
Review of Flash #1
By: Andrew Hines

     The Fastest Man Alive hits his mark in record time.  For those of you who don't know, shame on you,  Barry Allen is the Scarlet Speedster.  While working a case as a police scientist, or CSI for all of you tv-loving crowd, a lightning bolt struck a rack of chemicals which doused him and gave him super speed.  Becoming the Flash, Central City's resident crime-fighter, he is a symbol of hope for both innocents and super heroes alike.  He even wore a Blue Lantern ring (the energy of Hope) during the events of Blackest Night.  As fans learned last year, Barry is also the generator of the energy well known as the Speed Force where all speedsters draw their power.  With each step he takes, Barry adds to the energy of the Speed Force, meaning that he truly is the "Father of All Speedsters."

     Pulling double-duty, Francis Manapul is both the writer and artist of Flash.  I have been a fan of Manapul for a few years now, since his tenure on Legion of Super-Heroes and Green Lantern Corps.  One of the few artists who can also write well, Manapul's obvious talent shines through.  The artwork The new design (aka fitted, flexible armor) is quite interesting, as is the story of the first issue.  He manages to keep things modern and fresh by referring to everyday issues such as traffic and renewable energy.  Those two are actually rolled up into one thing.  Read the issue, if you don't believe me.

     Flash is one of my favorite comics, so it feels great to say that this issue is deserving of a 9.0 out of 10.

Francis Manapul's cover:

A New Dawn

A New Dawn
Review of Green Lantern: New Guardians #1
By: Andrew Hines

     What would happen if you gave a weapon to an artist? The universe's ultimate weapon, the Green Lantern rings are limited only by the bearer's will power and imagination.  Think of the things an artist could create with that and the things such a wild imagination could create. That is what Kyle Rayner has always brought to the GL Corps. New Guardians is essentially the telling of Kyle Rayner and the various other Lantern Corps' place in the new DC Universe (DCnU). So, to kick off, let's do a basic run-down of Kyle Rayner and the multiple Lantern Corps (as of last year's Blackest Night, which somehow still happened.)

     In the old DC, Hal Jordan went mad due to the destruction of his hometown, Coast City, killed all but one of the Guardians and became Parallax in an event known as the Emerald Twilight.  This surviving Guardian, known as Ganthet, created one last ring from the will power and life essences of his fallen brothers.  The red robed Guardian journeys to Earth to find cartoonist Kyle Rayner who is to become the sole Green Lantern.  In the original introduction to the character, Rayner described his benefactor as "a blue midget in a red dress."

     Cut to about a year ago, and we see the War of Light.  Where the strongest light in the universe is the emerald energy of Will which power all Green Lantern rings, there are six other colors that create the spectrum used to power the individual corps.  The colors are as follows: green for Will, blue is the color of Hope, yellow represents Fear, orange for Avarice (greed), red symbolizes Rage, the violet energy of the Star Sapphires is the symbol of Love and the rarest is that of the Indigo Lanterns whose energy is the collection of Compassion.  The reason for these representatives of the different emotional energies is most likely to replace the emotionless and therefore distant Guardians of the Universe.  That would at least explain part of the title, "New Guardians." Now that we've taken care of this expository drivel, on with the review.

     Tony Bedard starts off the issue brilliantly tying in an old Corps-shattering event known as the aforementioned Emerald Twilight.  Even better is the fact that he stuck with the first few pages of the original introduction to Kyle Rayner, without going too far into his personal life. They also thrust it into the present day and to the action of the moment quite efficiently.  The only question raised at that point is how long it has been since the Ganthet, or rather, the ring chose Kyle Rayner.  I enjoyed Bedard's writing because, like Geoff Johns, his writing is perfect for 18-35 year old readers.  This is because he can take a rather mundane scene like sitting at a bar and turn it into a situation that reveals something about the character.  He does the same with the action scenes, wherein a brawler would immediately go in for a kill or a more passive individual would try to find a peaceful way to solve the current dilemma.  Thankfully he also brings in formerly established characters like Fatality and Saint Walker.  The ending is enough to get me excited about another issue, though I'm hoping a few things like the timeline, accomplishments and the like will be cleared up.

     Tyler Kirkham's artwork is a bit distictive, especially in terms of shadows and facial design.  It's a great way to start off a book like this without causing too much hype.  Many fans latch on to an artist whose style matches up with their idea of a given character, causing them to follow only the issues that particular artist works on.  Having someone like Kirkham drawing one of my favorite characters will probably have that exact effect for me.  I hope to see his artwork for at least the next dozen issues.  With Rod Reis' rich colors also featured on both the cover and interior pages, the artwork is a joy to behold.

     There are very few errors in design, or scripting.  The fact that there are even a few mistakes, puts this at an 8.6 out of 10.