Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weekly Comic Book Reviews for 7/15/09

Just as a quick mention, if you haven't already, be sure to read my reviews for Batman #688, Red Robin #2, and The Spectacular Spider-Man Episodes 17 and 18 posted now over at the Rokk's Comic Book Revolution. As a bit of warning my review for Blackest Night may contain more spoilers than my average reviews. You've been warned. Now onto this week's reviews:

Batman: Streets of Gotham #2

Creative Team
Writer: Paul Dini (Streets of Gotham) & Marc Andreyko (Manhunter back-up)
Artist: Dustin Nguyen (Streets of Gotham) & Georges Jeanty (Manhunter back-up)
Inker: Derek Fridolfs (Streets of Gotham) & Dexter Vines (Manhunter back-up)
Colorist: John Kalisz (Streets of Gotham) & Nick Filadi (Manhunter back-up)

Story – City on Fire; Who in the Hell is "Jane Doe"

Originally I wasn't going to pick up Batman: Streets of Gotham but after getting it recommend to me by fellow blogger and Revolution member Andrenn I decided to pick it up. Even with all the different Batbooks out right now Paul Dini is able to make Batman: Streets of Gotham stand out on its own as a more grounded book than Batman and Robin, which contains some of Morrison over the top ideas, and Batman, were Winnick is focusing on the emotional aspect of Dick being

Over these two issues Dini has done a very good job laying out the mission statement of Streets of Gotham having a much wider scope by focusing on the Gotham City Police Department, the aftermath of the Heart of Hush storyline, and the Black Mask storyline from Battle for the Cowl along with placing a focus on Dick, Damien, and Alfred. Dini does a good job capturing the true chaos going around in Gotham now that Dick is Batman. This chaotic feel to Gotham presents a good challenge for the new Dark Knight to face.

Even though Gotham City has had similar things happen to it in the past this time around it feels like it is a bit more chaotic because it is not Bruce under the cowl this time around to deal with the problems but someone "new." And Dustin Nguyen, while artwork doesn't fit my tastes, does do a good job capturing the chaos going on in Gotham.

What I like that Dini is making, along with Morrison and Winnick in the other two Batbooks, Dick's transition into being Batman a huge challenge as he has no time to ease into the role and is instead thrust into all of these big problems going around Gotham. While I understand why some fans don't really like this change to Dick being Batman since it is believe to be only for a short period I think stories like the one going on here in Streets of Gotham, as well as in Batman and in Batman and Robin, wouldn't work with Bruce under the cowl. These type of stories have been told a hundred times while Bruce was Batman but now with Dick under the cowl these stories feel somehow new, even if they are a rehash of old stories, which at this point is what
most if not all stories in comics are anyways.

edit - I forgot to mention something about the Manhunter back-up for this issue. As far as back- ups go Marc Andreyko and Georges Jeanty combine to tell a good gritty story that looks to get better with future issues. For now it is hard to judge how good the story is until we get more of it in the future but still it looks like a good solid story.

Issue Rating

Story: 8.7/10 – Paul Dini does an excellent job with all of the dialogue in this issue and keeps the pace of this book moving without there being a slow moment.
Art: 7.5/10 – While I have never been a big fan of Dustin Nguyen artwork he does a good job capturing the chaotic feel of Gotham. Though there are some rough and inconsistent spots in his artwork that can be overlooked because of the story being told.
Overall: 8.1/10 – Batman: Streets of Gotham #2 was a very good read and offers something different that make it stand out within all the Batbooks. I definitely recommend giving this comic book a try to any Batman fan as Dini and Nguyen are able to capture what Gotham is like with someone other than Bruce under the cowl.

Blackest Night #1

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

Story – RISE!

Finally after years of build up the story that began all the way back when Green Lantern: Rebirth happened Blackest Night is finally here. After all the hype this event has gotten to this point Geoff Johns did a very good job launching this event with its first issue. And Ivan Reis provided the necessary artwork to give this issue, and the rest of the series, the proper epic feel
that it deserves

Unlike almost all of Johns work over the past year Blackest Night #1 moved at a very quick pace that immedietly introduced the concept of the War of Lights and who the Black Lanterns are. Even though there is still some mystery behind everything that the Black Lantern Rings can do Johns was able to do a very good job showing why the Black Lanterns may pose the biggest threat out of all the Lantern Corps.

Just like in any zombie flick it looks like the Black Lanterns are unable to be hurt because they are all dead characters and have all the same powers that the dead bodies the rings posses have if not more. What makes the concept of the Black Lanterns interesting is that the rings seem to have brought out all the evil that those who possess a Black Lantern Ring, whether good or bad, have within them. Also the concept that the Black Lanterns get more power the more they kill is
something I did not expect out of the Black Lantern Corps and I wonder what actually happens when they get full power. Also since we only saw the how the dead heroes act with the Black Lantern Rings it will be interesting to see in future issues is how these rings affect the dead DCU villains.

The most interesting aspect of these Black Lanterns was the obsession Black Hand, the leader of the Black Lantern Corp, had with Bruce Wayne's skull. Johns placed a big emphasis on that somehow Bruce's corpse, specifically his skull, is more important than any other. This is probably the most interesting aspect to come out of this issue.

Now while the Black Lanterns were rightfully the stars of this first issue I did like how Johns emphasized how important all the dead characters are to the DCU characters. It helps reaffirm
the weight of how much seeing all these dead characters back will be on the heroes and villains in the DCU.

What was also good is that Johns did a good job showing that the four Green Lanterns of Earth are sort of seen as the stars of the Green Lantern Corps, especially Hal. All the attention and adoration Hal, Kyle, John, and Guy got in the memorial at Coast City really helps to put these four above other Lanterns and gives the reader, both new and old, the idea that all four will have an important part to play in the War of Light. And with the set up Johns did by reminding/informing the reader about all of Hal, Kyle, John and Guy's love interest it will be
interesting to see what happens if they have to face them in the War of Lights.

And as a big fan of Peter Tomasi's run on Nightwing I was glad to see Johns use the underground cemetery the Justice League have under their headquarters that Tomasi set up during his run on Nightwing. The idea the Justice League moved all of the dead villains' corpses to the safest location they could think of was a very interesting concept. With how it looks like all these dead corpses will become Black Lanterns it will make the moment the dead villains get Black Lantern Rings even more dramatic as they will end up blowing one of the symbols the people on Earth view as being impenetrable. It should make for an awesome splash that Ivan Reis, as he showed here in this issue and all of his previous work, will end up drawing.

The thing that was most surprising in this issue was that Johns ended up having the Guardians of the Galaxy be the first casualties of this war. While I expected them to be one of the casualties of this war I did not think they would die in the first issue. But again Johns did a very good job with the scene and it helps to build up Scar, the evil Guardian working for the Black Lanterns, as even more evil and vicious.

With all that said there were a couple problems with this issue. The first thing was that Johns did not really show us that the War of Lights has actually started. All this issue did was set up the Black Lanterns as the bad guys. The reader really never gets the sense that an actual war is taking place in the universe. The war is only mentioned briefly in this issue. Even though I'm sure this problem will be rectified in the following issues I think this first issue actually brings up the question if Johns will be able to handle juggling such a massive cast of characters in this series. It will be something to watch out for as Johns will be seemingly focusing on not just the all the Lantern Corps but also all of the heroes on Earth.

The second problem I had with this issue is that although the issue had a quick pace for most of the issue, especially the beginning, it was all a rehash of information and scenes we have gotten in previous issues of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, and even parts of Flash: Rebirth. While it is fine for readers who have not been reading either titles before this series it is something as someone reading both titles I found to be annoying. At points it actually felt like there wasn't really much plot development in this issue other than learning more about the Black Lanterns.

The final problem I had with this issue is the obsession Johns has with Hawkman and Hawkgirl as he dedicates ten pages to the two characters love problems. Personally I am not a fan of either character. It is not that I don't like them as it is more that I have never found them very appealing. It felt as though Johns used this issue as an opportunity to try and rectify the fact neither character has gotten their own series since Infinite Crisis. And because of that it makes it look like Johns was trying to waste panel space that could have honestly been better used to
build up the War of Lights and some of the characters initial reactions to seeing their dead loved ones brought back to life.

Issue Rating
Story: 8.1/10 – Geoff Johns tells a very good story with great dialogue and pacing. Though for a reader that has been reading Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps some of the dialogue felt
like it was recycled from those series.
Art: 9.6/10 – What can you say about Ivan Reis artwork that hasn't been said. Reis artwork was flat out phenomenal. He gives Blackest Night the epic feel it deserves.
Overall: 8.85/10 – While there were some problems with this issue (rehashing of old dialogue, not showing the War of Lights beginning, and page wasting with Hawkman and Hawkgirl) Blackest Night #1 was everything I expected it to be (and that's a good thing). What will be interesting to see is if Johns will be able to handle the massive cast he has in this event or crumble because of it. Still for this issue I will give kudos to Johns and Reis for providing an excellent start to what should be one wild ride.

Captain America #601

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Gene Colan
Colorist: Dean White

Story – Red, White, & Blue-Blood

With how much attention Captain America: Reborn has been getting one of the things as a Ed Brubaker Captain America fan I have been interested in is how his work on that mini-series will affect his work on Captain America. And from the first issue of Captain America since the announcement that Steve is coming back I can say I was disappointed that a comic that has
always been one of the best comics on the stands since the start of the series over suffered in quality due to an event that looks to disappoint. Now I am not going to say that Captain America #601 was bad but it felt like to much of a filler issue and a waste of the $3.99 cover price. Even though this issue had the legendary artwork of Gene Colan behind it the issue still did not feel right as it didn't have that gritty feel that has been provided by Epting and Guice.

Now I will say that for a story as just a standalone story was not half bad. It provided some more insight on the team of Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Bucky. Brubaker did a good job showing that this team had a Batman and Robin type dynamic as they work very well to stop the bad guys in this issue. If nothing else it gives the reader an idea why Steve and Bucky are held in such high regards as a team within the Marvel Universe.

Still with that said this issue would have been better served as a one-shot and not part of the Captain America series. One of the things that has been so great about this series is how Brubaker has been able to go between the past and present in Captain America's history in such a seamless manner that enhances the story as a whole. But because this issue is completely focused on telling a lost tale of Captain America and Bucky I never felt like the story had an overall impact on what is currently going on for both characters.

Issue Rating
Story: 6.3/10 – As always Brubaker provides solid dialogue but the story falls flat as it is
nothing more than filler.
Art: 7/10 – While I understand that Gene Colan is a legendary artist I felt his art was a bit too rough and does not fit the overall feel that this book has had when Epting or Guice are on art duties. But I am biased as I am used to Epting and Guice's artwork and I though Colan still provide some good artwork.
Overall: 6.65/10 – Captain America #601 was nothing more than filler as Brubaker focus most of his energy on Captain America: Reborn. Hopefully Brubaker gives a much better effort next month with #602.

Superman/Batman #62

Creative Team
Writers: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Colorist: David Baron

Story – Sidekicked

Thinking about how long the new Supergirl (Kara) has been around I can't really think of a time where I have read her and Robin (Tim Drake) have much interaction. Even when they were both on Teen Titans Supergirl mostly interacted with Wonder Girl. So it was cool seeing the first team up between both characters.

Michael Green and Mike Johnson do a great job showing us the first interaction between the two. I like how they begun the issue by showing that the characters are very good friends now and that Supergirl has really become more like a regular person on Earth. The scene at the diner between Kara and Tim actually felt like friends hanging out and not just some superheroes forced to spend time together to fight a bad guy. It was just good honest friends hanging out and catching up.

Also Green and Johnson do a good job capturing how Supergirl was an overconfident superhero when she first appeared. And it was good to see Supergirls reaction to the insanity going on in Arkham Asylum. While for Robin and the reader the stuff that goes on there is normal stuff you expect out of a place filled with psycho we forget that Arkham is really a scary place to be in.

My favorite scene was the "tea party" all of Batman Rogues were having with the employees of Arkham. It was a very funny/creepy scene and I like how both Robin and Supergirl just took out all of the Rogues.

Issue Rating
Story: 8.5/10 – Green and Johnson provide a story that was pure fun and the dialogue between Tim and Kara was spot on.
Art: 8.3/10 – Rafael Albuquerque provided some great artwork that showed a range to fit both the light and dark moments of this issue. I especially loved all of the facial reactions he gave all of the characters.
Overall: 8.4/10 – Superman/Batman #62 was a fun read and a great story of two friends reminiscing about their first meeting with each other. If you have some extra cash I definitely recommend picking this issue up as it is a great one and done story.


Andrenn said...

Glad you enjoyed Streets of Gotham. I myself look forward to reading this issue and hopefully getting to review it for the Revolution. I know it may sound a bit odd but I really think this book could beat Batman and Robin as the best Batman Reborn comic.

Great reviews all around really. Blackest Night especially. I am glad to hear Superman/Batman #62 was so good, might have to check it out sometime soon.

Kevin said...

@Andrenn: Thanks! Streets of Gotham was a great recommendation. And you may be right as Streets of Gotham really does explore almost all the aspects of life without Bruce under the cowl and not just Dick's adjustment to being Batman.

And you'll enjoy Superman/Batman #62 as a fun one and done story.

Andrenn said...

I definitely agree there. It's a much stronger book for not just sticking to one note like all the other books.

Also while I understand not everyone is a big fan of Nguyen, I myself am a huge fan and love his work. I was so excited to see him on the title as artist and I think he's been doing a great job, the best artist on Batman right now (maybe Bagley is a bit better, but still) though at the same time I'm well aware that his art isn't for everyone.

Thanks for the recommendation, will definitely try to check it out.