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The Flash #14 Review — December 24, 2012

The Flash #14 Review

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The Flash is doing everything I want it to, to be honest. It’s a superhero comic that is consistently fun to read that looks absolutely spectacular every issue and though the dialogue and over-arching plotlines aren’t anything the special the series benefits from expert pacing. My only real complaint is that the big showdown with Grodd doesn’t have as much gravitas as it should. There just isn’t the chemistry between hero and big bad here that there is between Batman and the Joker or any other historically brilliant superhero rivalry. And Gorilla Grodd is just that; He’s the big bad of the Flash’s world. He’s not bound by any honor-among-thieves like the Rogues. Grodd is a larger than life king mixed with a brutal savagery and while he has been suitably established as such thus far in the series there’s just nothing palpable between him and the Flash.

The already sizeable cast of this comic is expanded further as we find out about the Gorilla Solovar who appears to have been the same Gorilla that attacked Barry as a kid back in the flashback of issue 8. Turbine also gets more of a spotlight and to be honest I’m kind of hoping this guy turns into a recurring ally or villain of the Flash because he has a pretty cool backstory being a fighter pilot sucked into the speed force. It’s always entertaining to see the Rogues playing a heroic role and there’s even time to find out what Iris West has been up to (nothing interesting) and Patty Spivot finally learns Flash’s identity, which might inject some excitement into their vanilla relationship. All in all there’s a lot going on but I fear that Manapul is better at buildup than payoff. As we approach the big final punch-out between Flash and Grodd I realize that this is the climax the series has been building up to but the road here has been a lot more entertaining, paved as it was with Gorillas falling from the sky and fun banter from the Rogues.

Earlier I mentioned the pacing in the series and I stick by the idea that it’s the greatest strength of the writing. Francis Manapul has structured each issue so that it was an entertaining in and of itself but fed into a greater storyline, without either aspect detracting from the other. What we’re left with is something that many books in the New 52 envy; a product of world-building filled with challenges and allies for the protagonist. Frankly I think this is what should have been done across the board in the New 52, the Flash has almost his entire Rogues Gallery of villains with Zoom being the only major exception, and that is a lot more than books like Justice League can say, having used its 1+ year of content to encounter three whole antagonists.

Issue 14 isn’t the strongest issue but it’s entertaining and an important issue to a series that is worth sticking around for. If you want to see a truly great villain then do what everyone else is doing and go read Scott Snyder’s Batman – But for classic superhero fun I can’t see how you could do any better than the Flash.

8/10

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Teen Titans #14 Review —

Teen Titans #14 Review

Titans fans, this is the issue we’ve been waiting for. Finally Lobdell gives a hint of the kind of TT stories I want to read. The origin of wonder-girl arc, by far the best story arc in the Teen Titans so far, comes to a rather abrupt but all around satisfying conclusion. I’m not really reading to see how the story of Diesel ends seeing as he lacks substance as a character let alone a villain. The real reason to read this issue is seeing the interactions between DC’s junior trinity and seeing Kiran, Bart and Miguel just hanging out back home. Finally we get some believable teen writing in these three as they are just hanging out, out of costume. There’s also some foreshadowing to future plotlines with Kiran but who cares because these little hints always end up being unnecessary details that are covered later anyway. And man alive, there are so many little hints to other comics. We get plugs for Superman, Batman and Birds of Prey because that’s what happens when you have characters from the Super-family, Bat-family and Team 7 floating around.

The art by Alé Garza is, in retrospect, far more suited to Teen Titans than Brett Booth’s art. While I was originally a fan of Booth’s art it really fell apart when not doing blurry action scenes which frankly this series has had more than it’s fill of by now. Alé Garza’s more cartoonish style offers less realistic proportions but far more serviceable depictions of the Titans’ costumes and facial expressions. Superboy is back in his Super-tee & jeans look and though I liked his tron costume from earlier issues it makes sense that he’d drop it after leaving N.O.W.H.E.R.E and he looks a lot better in his usual outfit.

If I were to pick out one problem with this series it’s probably the fact that it hasn’t spent nearly enough establishing the team, meaning there’s no structure. These Titans have no Titans Tower, no specific roster, no credo, nothing binding them together other than the fact that the writers through them into a team together. And by the way, where the heck is Skitter? She disappeared while I snoozed through the bore-fest that was the Culling and no one’s even really made any attempt to find her. She had potentially the most interesting story of all!

I’m glad the book is doing some origins now but it really should have some time to settle down first and establish the team before it establishes the individuals. Who are the Titans, why are they hanging out together, what are the relationships? Who’s even in charge? What are their goals? Where’s that team member that went missing roughly five issues ago? What is their base of operations? Basically, I want to know what the Titans do besides just waiting around for another catastrophe to strike that they have to deal with. This series has already been derailed from these questions thanks to the Culling storyline and it’s about to happen again as Death of the Family is rearing it’s gargantuan head in the Titans world along with a Red Hood & the Outlaws crossover. I don’t know when this book is going to get a chance to take a breather and do some world-building but I hope it’s soon.

Either way, this is a solid issue on its own. If you need something to renew your faith that some good can come out of this series, pick up Teen Titans #14

8/10

Green Lantern #15 Review — December 20, 2012

Green Lantern #15 Review


After already confronting the Justice League last issue, this one finds novice Green Lantern, Simon Baz, resuming his mission to find out why there was a bomb in the van he stole, in the hopes of clearing his name from being labeled a terrorist by the FBI. What makes Simon an unusual choice for a Green Lantern is that he has a criminal record for car theft, as just mentioned. He also happens to be of Middle Eastern descent, which automatically makes him a prime suspect, as far as the authorities (and most everyone else) are concerned. In other words, things aren’t looking so great for Simon.

The political thriller aspect of his story is what makes Simon such an interesting character, as well as the fact that he’s, essentially, a good person, who just happened to make the wrong decisions in trying to help his family. His mission to clear his name and get to the bottom of who the real terrorists are makes for a compelling read. Although, it’s hard to say if he’ll maintain any longtime resonance with readers, after this aspect of his story is resolved. Much of this issue’s excitement is derived from Simon’s confrontation with the supposed original owner of the van he stole, who turns out to be much more than he appears. Writer Geoff Johns continues to provide just the right amount of action, intrigue, and humor, particularly when Simon discovers his ring has run out of juice. His discovery of what it means to be a Green Lantern and the requirements and limitations of his power are fun to read. Johns also scores bonus points for writing in one of the best surprise appearances of the year, as well as revealing what might have happened to Sinestro and Hal Jordan, who will both, most assuredly, make a triumphant comeback by the time this event is over. At least, that is my hope. By the end of the issue, we are also introduced, by name, to the mysterious First Lantern, who the insane Guardians of the Universe are using to make their Third Army. It still remains to be seen if this First Lantern is friend or foe, but there is no doubt he will seek retribution on the Guardians, if he survives their abuse.

Artist Doug Mahnke is in top form, as always. His use of size and angle – particularly in an incredible title splash page – both convey a sense of epic galactic scale. His renderings of the horrific Third Army transformations and the hopeless black realm that Sinestro and Hal Jordan find themselves in really make an impression on the reader. It still isn’t clear, however, if their ordeal has any connection to what’s happening with the Guardians or if it’s something separate entirely. At any rate, this issue was a great read and another intriguing installment to this monumental event. 9/10

Batgirl #15 Review — December 15, 2012

Batgirl #15 Review

Continuing the Death of the Family event taking place throughout the Bat books, this issue has The Joker threatening to torture and kill Barbara Gordon’s mom… if Batgirl doesn’t marry him. Yep, you’re reading that correctly. This is The Joker, though, so one shouldn’t be surprised by anything he does.

Writer Gail Simone really captures The Joker’s unique form of insanity perfectly, constantly reminding the reader and Batgirl, herself, of the heinous acts he is capable of committing. As readers know, Joker was responsible for shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon a few years back, which left her in a wheelchair for a time. Only now has Babs managed to regain mobility and resume her career as Batgirl… but not without a nearly crippling mental post-trauma resulting from these events, which threatens her effectiveness as Batgirl once again.

Meanwhile, it seems that Babs’ serial killer brother, James Gordon Jr. has a hand to play in it all, as he is called on for help from Babs’ roommate and friend, Alysia. As of now, Alysia doesn’t realize who James Jr. is, so it should be interesting to see her reaction when she finds out… if she lives long enough. It isn’t exactly clear what role he has to play in The Joker’s plans, but you can be sure there will be some crazy shenanigans going down very soon, with these two psychopaths involved.

What I found most compelling about this issue, though, was Batgirl, herself, and what separates her from Batman and her allies. While Babs has always followed the “no killing” code that Batman has reinforced to his various protegés through the years, she actually considers breaking the code, just this once. While it is highly doubtful she would ever follow through with these urges, the fact that she is having them at all says a lot about the impact The Joker has had on her life and those around her. To Babs, The Joker is, essentially, the Boogey Man. Someone who has to be stopped, at all costs.

With Simone’s run on this title coming to a close when the Death of the Family arc ends, she will leave behind one of the most memorable hallmarks of Batgirl’s career… if not THE most memorable. To me, Simone *is* Batgirl, with all intents and purposes. In my opinion, it’s a huge mistake for DC to let her go from writing this book, but something tells me this isn’t the last time Babs and Gail will have a chance to work together again. They’re too associated with each other on an almost spiritual level for that not to happen again. It’s written in the stars. Still, one has to wonder why this decision has been made. It simply doesn’t make sense to me.

While I still consider Ed Benes to be my favorite Batgirl artist, Daniel Sampere does a fine job here, especially in his rendering of The Joker. Sampere really showcases just how insane the Clown Prince of Crime is in this issue, with some great facial expressions and random acts of violence. In short, this is probably one of Simone’s best issues of her entire run, which is saying quite a bit. Shame on you, DC, for letting her go from this title. At least she’s going out with the proverbial bang. 10/10

Batman #15 Review —

Batman #15 Review

The Death of the Family story arc continues here and, once again, the dynamic duo of writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, outdo themselves, creating enough suspense, action, and intrigue to effectively draw the reader in. This issue immediately picks up right where the last left off, with Batman confronting the Joker on a bridge, surrounded by the GCPD.

The Joker claims he knows the secret identities of the entire Bat Family, which is understandably alarming to them all, save for Batman, who isn’t buying it in the least. He figures that Joker is simply attempting to get into their heads, but the others aren’t so sure. This difference in opinion appears to be leading to a lot of resentment and strife among them, which may or may not be Joker’s plan all along.

Right from the start of this issue, Snyder accentuates the utter lack of conscience and humanity of The Joker, creating a sense of dread that permeates the entire issue and puts the reader on edge the whole time. We still don’t know what’s happened to poor Alfred. The Joker and his reign of terror is so strong, in fact, that even Batman’s stoic and unrelenting demeanor is shaken to its very core. Not only has Joker returned with a grotesque new look, he’s also returned with a ravenous vengeance and ferocity unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. This Joker is the deadliest he’s ever been and Batman knows it. On the flip side, the personalities of each of Batman’s allies really shine here. Particularly Batgirl, who has more of a bone to pick with Joker than anyone else. Snyder does a great job showcasing each of them as different individuals. As each Bat hero chimes in on their concerns, they learn of a secret that Bruce has been keeping from them that could have a long-lasting effect on their relationship to Batman. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Artist Greg Capullo has never looked better than he does here, particularly in illustrating the various members of the Bat Family and the horrifying apparition of The Joker. Capullo’s gothic horror-influenced style is perfect for this story and he’s never been more on his game than here.

The backup story, which features a meeting between The Joker and The Riddler, really doesn’t contribute much to the main story, but it does establish that even The Riddler thinks The Joker is certifiably insane. Which is saying a lot, coming from The Riddler. In the previous DC continuity, The Riddler was well on his way to becoming an actual ally to Batman, much the way Catwoman has turned over a new leaf in recent years. It remains to be seen if that carries on in The New 52, but one gets the sense that that could happen from this backup story. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Regardless, this issue is, quite possibly, the strongest yet of Snyder and Capullo’s entire run. It easily earns a 10/10 from me.

Action Comics #15 Review — December 8, 2012

Action Comics #15 Review

Action Comics #15 is just a fantastic comic book that is full of all things that makes the comic book medium special. Sometimes you have to be a patient reader when reading some of Grant Morrison’s work, and here all the long term readers are being rewarded for their patience. Many questions that I have had throughout Action Comics were not only answered, but tied into the main plot in an interesting way.

The last issue ended with the “Little Man” revealing his identity as Vyndktvx, an evil imp from the 5th dimension. This issue we learn the back story of Vyndktvx, what is his motives and how they tie in with Mrs. N, Mxyzptlk, and Superman. The best part of this issue is how there are three separate timelines occurring simultaneously. Morrison does an excellent job providing smooth transitions from the past, present, and future. The way Vyndktvx has been portrayed as such an unlikeable villain. This is really great textbook storytelling from Grant. He has built this villain from essentially the first issue whom as been meddling in Clark’s life, so as a reader I just can’t for the hero to overcome the villain in the finale.

The backup stories in the past few issues has been exceptionally well compared to the those at the beginning of this series. This backup feature from Sholly Fisch is must read material. Once again he is working with artist Chris Sprouse to tell the origin Mxyzptlk. This story fits so well with the main title, at first, I didn’t realise that there was a change in the stories. Sprouse’s pencils combined with colourist Jordie Bellaire deliver great artwork. The bright colours and crisp lines make the perfectly suited style for the 5th dimension world. It’s good to read superhero stories that do not have to be excessively dark and violent to be successful. Morrison is showing us how superheroes can just be fun and entertaining. Overall I have to give this issue a 10/10. Morrison have been doing such fantastic job with this series. Every issue keeps getting better than the last; I can’t wait for the next issue.

Earth 2 #7 Review — December 6, 2012

Earth 2 #7 Review

To my surprise, Earth 2 has been one of the most consistently enjoyable books of DC’s New 52. Granted, it’s part of the “Second Wave” of New 52 titles and has plenty of time to screw up. However, I have yet to read an issue that didn’t utterly satisfy me completely. This issue mainly serves as a prologue to the next story arc, which seems to be where the team finally comes together as a whole, while the World Army deals with the inner turmoil of betrayal and corruption.

We get a welcome look at the personal lives of both Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Kendra Saunders (Hawkgirl), as they have a conversation with each other in their civilian identities. Well, as civilian as Kendra can be, considering she has wings coming out of her back. Alan is still distraught over the death of his boyfriend, Sam, while Kendra bemoans the fact that she’ll probably never be able to lead a normal life. We learn that Kendra’s Earth 2 origin has some similarities to her Earth 1 counterpart, Carter Hall, with a major difference being that it seems the World Army is responsible for her condition. The original Kendra Saunder’s personality, however, is intact, with only her ethnicity being tweaked a bit. Other than that, this is the Hawkgirl we all know and love, for all intents and purposes. The moments between she and Alan are touching and heartfelt and bring a bit of a humanity to these “wonders,” as they are known on Earth 2. We also are privy to a different sort of conversation in another part of the world, as Terry Sloan and Amir Khan have a bit of a verbal confrontation. It seems Khan knows more than he’s letting on about Sloan and even enlists the aid of Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen to infiltrate Sloan’s facilities. It’s a nice bit of intrigue that puts a whole new twist on the characters. Curiously absent from this issue, however, is Jay Garrick (The Flash), who is only mentioned in passing in one panel. That’s easy to forgive, though, as I know he’ll probably be in the next issue and James Robinson’s writing was so damned absorbing.

Also absent from this issue is artist Nicola Scott, with the more-than-capable Yildiray Cinar filling in for her. While his pencils aren’t as detailed as Scott’s, they’re clean and pleasant to look at. Still, I did miss seeing Scott’s gorgeous artwork and I hope her absence isn’t for too long. Other than The Flash not being in this issue and Nicola Scott taking a break for a while, I can’t really complain much about issue #7. I only wish some of the other characters had appeared. (Where’s The Atom?) This title still continues to impress, however, with Robinson’s refreshingly traditional, yet clever, new take on DC’s Golden Age characters and the beautiful artwork and sleek new costume designs. This issue gets a solid 9/10 from me.