(COMIC) THE RAVAGERS #1

STORY: Howard Mackie
ART: Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund


If you (at all) have been following my coverage of Superboy and Teen Titans since January, you’ll know how much I’ve come to dislike both series for their condescending narrative tones oddly juxtaposed against overly-complicated plots. These issues have been persistent since the ‘New 52’ relaunch back in September when each series relied on one another to keep a single, but painfully fractured story moving forward. Of course, two series wasn’t enough for Scott Lobdell who pens both TT and Superboy – over the past month, “The Culling” has spanned both of Lobdell’s series as well as Legion Lost to (not really) flesh out a story that ended with a fizzle. Apparently, even that wasn’t enough and now, The Ravagers takes some of the most disposable characters from Lobdell’s ridiculous imagination and spins them out into their own title.

Fan-favorite Caitlin Fairchild from Wildstorm’s Gen13 takes center stage as she attempts to keep the victims of Harvest’s culling safe in the real world after the Titans and Legionnaires managed to annoy him enough to make him run off to one of this other super-awesome underground facilities. Notice I did not say they defeated him. Other characters include the mysterious, lizard-like Ridge; the brother and sister duo, Thunder and Lightning; along with Terra and Beast Boy, two characters who have panel time only as fan service and nothing else. Seriously, both Terra and Beast Boy are little more than cardboard cutouts placed into panels so other characters can talk at them. They rarely interact with anyone else, and they go off on their own within the first five pages. DC pulled a big grift with this one, pulling buyers in with the promise of two beloved characters from an awesome TV show. These two will be the main reason I read The Ravagers at all, but if their panel time continues to be this sparse, it won’t be worth the effort at all.

Thunder and Lightning are pretty stupid too. I mean, I’m no expert – nor even a scholar of Lobdell, and now Mackie’s, work – but shouldn’t these two have developed more control over their powers if they’d been fighting in the Scarlett Letter The Crucible all those years? A lot of tertiary characters are out of sight and out of mind, as well. Fairchild led dozens of kids away from Harvest, and now we only get to see six or seven of them.

What’s worst about The Ravagers is that it’s boring. When N.O.W.H.E.R.E. agents arrive and offer a surrender, many of the kids go off on their former captors, spewing ridiculousness like “I’ll make you pay!” and “I’ll have my revenge!” While Mackie doesn’t insult the reader with his charmless syntax and diction like Lobdell, his overall narrative is so long in the tooth that it seems pointless to read it again. Why would I need another series about emotionally scarred super-kids to follow? I’ve already got countless X-Men titles, the constant awkwardness of Teen Titans, and the amazing quality of Young Justice over on Cartoon Network to keep me sane.


The Ravagers is just unnecessary, and that’s a big weak point when it comes to a series that’s supposed to be all-action all the time. The series is called The Ravagers, yet these MAIN CHARACTERS are not Ravagers! Rose Wilson and Warblade are Ravagers, and they appear and attack Fairchild & Co., but the entire title of this book is a total and complete misdirect. Who knows, maybe Mackie has amazing plans for this title down the line and I’ll just need to sit it out and wait. Unfortunately for me, I have to endure characters like Ridge until DC gets it’s shit together.

GRADE:
C

(NIGHT OF THE OWLS) BATMAN ANNUAL #1

STORY: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
ART: Jason Fabok

While not exactly a tie-in to “Night of the Owls”, Batman Annual #1 does a fantastic job of bookending the event and bringing a revised Mr. Freeze into the ‘New 52’ with a mixture of elegance and horror that is impossible to put down. Scott Snyder has been deftly handling Batman since the relaunch, and this first Annual really delves into the characterization of one of the Dark Knight’s most notorious villains. In Red Hood and The Outlaws, we learned that Mr. Freeze invented the compound that the Court of Owls was using to resurrect their legions of Talons. It was a quick revelation, and Freeze is quickly defeated by Jason Todd and taken to Batgirl for transport to Arkham Asylum, which is where Batman Annual #1 begins.

Snyder and James Tynion IV take us six years into the past, when Victor Fries worked for Wayne Industries and hadn’t become all iced out yet. Upon Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City – after his initial globetrotting training expedition – Fries explains his research to Wayne’s complete dismay. Bruce doesn’t much care for cryogenics research and wants it halted in favor of newer procedures like organ vitrification. Fries is none too happy about this and fights to keep his program going, and Bruce reluctantly gives in. A short jump forward in time takes us to Fries continuing his research after Bruce finally decided to end the cryogenics work. Bruce confronts Fries and fires him, even after Fries begs on behalf of his frozen wife, Nora, who he wishes to reanimate.

The entire scenario is chilling (not to get too punny) and masterfully shows how Fries could develop a grudge against Bruce Wayne. Honestly, it’s hard to spend a lot of time creating rich histories for most characters these days. More often than not, readers have to learn to love their favorite heroes while said hero is growing one issue at a time. Snyder and Tynion IV handle Mr. Freeze with such care and dedication that all I want is to read more Batman/Mr. Freeze stories. Hell, I’d even settle for a viewing of Batman: Sub-Zero.

Freeze is super-pissed at the Court of Owls, who used his compound before attempting to assassinate him (in the pages of Red Hood and The Outlaws #9). Now he just wants to retrieve Nora and get out of Gotham. Nightwing and Robin show up at Wayne Industries and switch Nora’s cryogenic tank, and hold of Freeze until Batman arrives

This final confrontation between Batman and Mr. Freeze is the gut-punch point of the entire issue. Freeze is a lot more nutty than his pre-‘New 52’ self. Turns out, Nora isn’t his wife at all! She’s actually the first human ever cryogenically frozen and she was put under almost 100 years ago. Snyder and Tynion take the old Freeze mythos and make him even more demented. Of course, the man is still a scientific genius – he did invent the reanimation process, after all – but the meaning he has prescribed to his relationship with Nora is disturbing. Freeze is no longer a good man with a frozen heart, but rather a demented psychopath with a wholly perverted notion of love.

Along with his newfound neuroses, Snyder and Tynion have given Freeze more than just a biological condition and an ice gun. His skin now exudes cold and he can spit ice from his mout. While Greg Capullo’s artwork in Batman has been fantastic thus far, Jason Fabok does a ridiculously good job conveying the sub-zero temperatures and all the insane new ways Freeze has at his disposal to kill people. All around, Batman Annual #1 is great – Mr. Freeze is not firmly established, not only in the ‘New 52’, but as a reimagined horror that has been part of Bruce Wayne’s life for years.

GRADE:
A+

(THE WEEK) MAY 30 – JUNE 5, 2012

COMIC COVERAGE


Batman Annual #1
(Snyder, Tynion IV, Fabok)
“Night of the Owls” continues as Mr. Freeze’s connection to the Court of Owls is revealed! Extra-long premier Annual issue for Batman!

The Ravagers #1 (SPECIAL COVERAGE)
(Mackie, Churchill)
DC’s ‘New 52: Second Wave’ finishes up it’s first month with the aftermath of “The Culling”, the crossover event connecting Superboy, Teen Titans, and Legion: Lost. See what happens to the ‘other’ metahuman teenagers that didn’t get to go with the Legionnaires or the Titans.

Superman #9
(Johns, Reis)
I know, I know: this issue was released last week and I never reviewed it! Well, this week is a little scarce on new material – being a 5th week, and all – so I’ll be going back to cover this issue of Superman for your reading pleasure.


Wonder Woman #9
(Azzarello, Akins)
Another issue this month I neglected to review. Check out how Diana’s trip into Hell is going.

(DC NATION) MAY 26, 2012

Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Season 1, Episode 13
“Homecoming”

SAINT WALKER!!!!!!
I know I’ve ragged on GL: TAS before. Multiple times, actually, and with some pretty solid malice behind my words. And honestly, this show struggled for the first six or seven episodes before it really shifted into it’s groove and became comfortable with Hal and Kilowog actually using their power rings. Fortunately, the latter half of this group of episodes has been getting better and better each week. Bruce Timm, the show’s Executive Producer, obviously has a lot of love for Green Lantern, as evidenced by his various fan service inclusions this season like the Zamarons, the episode about killing a GL for his ring, Saint Walker, Mogo, the Thanagarians, and oh so much more. “Homecoming” is by and far the best episode of GL: TAS, marking a turning point in quality and content.

This episode, the Red Lanterns are moving in full-force toward Oa as Atrocitus has stolen the GL Interceptor, and the rest of the fleet moves toward the path through the asteroid field and into Oan space. Oh, and Hal, Kilowog, and Razer are stuck at the edge of Guardian space, and 18-month flight away from the Guardians and Oa. It’s not looking too good for the Green Lanterns right now.

Hal and Razer travel to Zamaron to get help teleporting across a great distance like the Sapphire’s did to Carol Ferris in “In Love and War”, while Kilowog stays at the asteroid field to stave off the Red Lantern invasion fleet all by himself. Though Hal is able to travel to Earth – based on his base emotions for Carol – and therefore much closer to Oa, he loses his memory in the process. This sequence seems somewhat unnecessary since amnesia usually lasts a long time, and it takes Carol all of ten minutes – after she realizes Hal doesn’t even know what a Green Lantern is – to find Hal’s power battery and “reboot” him. Again, it simply feels unnecessary. Why couldn’t Hal just come to Earth and fly off? That’s what ended up happening anyway, it just took longer.

Kilowog, on the other hand, has a very necessary role and is soon joined by Saint Walker, complete with his new Blue Lantern ring and the ability to super-charge Green Lantern power rings. Of course, “two soliders won’t change anything,” as Kilowog points out. That’s when Mogo shows up. Like I mentioned earlier, this is my favorite episode of the series thus far and part of it comes from this scene. Seeing Kilowog, Mogo, and Saint Walker ripping up some Red Lantern armadas was breathtaking and something that should have been on the screen years ago. It’s such a compelling scene that I had to pause my DVR and just sit for a moment and think about how awesome it was.

Atrocitus succeeds by landing on Oa and nearly bringing the Guardian’s to their knees. I was a bit confused by this scene at first. I kept wondering, “where are all the GL’s?” Of course, they’ve all been sent toward the asteroid field to prepare for Atrocitus’ armada. But this is a plot point that was only glossed over a few times in the past couple of episodes, and it just kind of felt like a way to get rid of the Green Lantern Corps so the animators wouldn’t have to render 3,600 GL’s at the same time. Salaak – the Guardians’ right-hand-man/secretary/assistant – makes a fantastic appearance and even throws his computer module aside in favor of four energy daggers that seriously make Salaak cooler than he’s been in years in the pages of the comic books.

I really have loved watching Green Lantern: The Animated Series grow from a childish, non-ring-having show that could be about any old space travelers, to a solid series that takes the legacy of Green Lantern and molds it into a more digestible form for a wider audience. If Blue Lanterns, Mogo, and Villius Vox as the leader of the Red Lanterns doesn’t excite you for second season (which, at the time of this writing, hasn’t been announced), then this just might not be the show for you. If space odysseys, the Rainbow Brigade, and action is your thing, I’ll see you right here when season two begins!

GRADE:
A+


Young Justice
Season 2, Episode 5
“Beneath”

So far, what’s made Young Justice: Invasion compelling has been the deft way the writers balance the A and B stories each episode. In the first season, there was a group of six main characters to follow, so splitting them up was usually confined to one-on-one interactions. This season, however, the extended cast gives writers room to create diverse teams that can be interchanged whenever they want. At the same time, more characters means more character development, which is never a bad thing. This week, Blue Beetle stars in his own solo adventure, while the Team’s female furies – Miss Martian, Bumblebee, Batgirl, and Wonder Girl – gather to investigate one of Queen Bee’s many illegal military compounds for signs of alien technology.

The girls, the girls.

Jaime Reyes’ background has been tweaked a bit (as seen in last week’s “Salvage”), but he’s still the same character at his core – constantly fighting with the voice of the Scarab in his head. This episode, though, Jaime spends little time as Blue Beetle, instead forced to keep the Scarab at bay as he attempts to investigate the disappearance of his friend, Ty. It’s not the most interesting plot, but it’s nice to see any character in street clothes and it gives Jaime more personality that simply being the crazy kid who seems like he talks to himself.


On the other side of the globe, the girls’ mission in Bialya takes a turn for the worse when Wonder Girl is spotted and taken down by a group of metahumans led by Psimon – who was thought to be safely under watch in an induced coma. Again, this is not a very plot-heavy tale. I would even argue that it was simply a narrative designed to bring the female members of the Team together in some meaningful way. There didn’t need to be a very deep story, so there wasn’t.


Overall, this might be one of the weaker episodes of the season plot-wise, but as far as fan service and character inclusions, this one’s a winner.

GRADE:
B-

(COMIC) JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #9

STORY: Jeff Lemire
ART: Mikel Janin

With a name like Justice League Dark, it’s not hard to see why this series might not be high on most readers’ radar. You’ve already got the main Justice League, along with the extremely competent Justice League International, as well as Teen Titans and Green Lantern Corps to round out the whole ‘team-based series’ quota, so why the need for an occult-related team and why call it the JLD? The answers: because the team is awesome and the name is as much a satire as it is an indicator of what these folks are actually up to. Alien invasion? Superman and Green Lantern have you covered. Some witch bending reality as a result of her inherent madness? You call these guys.

I came to Justice League Dark a little late, as my aforementioned quandaries regarding the series kept me from even flipping through it’s pages. That, along with my normal aversion to horror-or-magic-based titles meant it simply wouldn’t be something I would be interested in. So, I sit here at my desk a corrected man. Justice League Dark is great.

That being said, I’m mostly impressed with the last three issues, including the one for this review. For the past two months, Justice League Dark has crossed over with I, Vampire for “Rise of the Vampires”, an event that resulted in Andrew Bennet becoming the new leader of all vampires, complete with a whole new host of awesome powers. This month, JLD begins it’s third arc (technically) with a new team roster or “the new band” as John Constantine puts it.

Steve Trevor (from the pages of Justice League and the one who coins the term ‘Justice League Dark’) tasks a reluctant John Constantine to rescue stop a mad Felix Faust and rescue the reimagined Dr. Mist in exchange for five minutes in the Black Room, a single warehouse filled with every single mystical piece of paraphernalia ever ascertained by the United States government. With his own interests always at heart, Constantine rallies the troops to travel to Egypt.

I was only halfway impressed with the lineup choices for the first six issues of JLD. John Shade and Mindwarp were very odd choices to throw into the mix, and they get written out this issue as Constantine explains that he needs to reorganize his magical buddies. John’s successful in getting Zatanna and Deadman back into the game, but chooses Andrew Bennet as a new ally, cashing in a favor to guarantee his loyalty. Madame Xanadu refuses based on her past repor, and newcomer Black Orchid – a shapeshifter – acts as Trevor’s liaison and extra manpower when magic isn’t enough.

Well, it turns out that in defeating Felix Faust, the JLD would also be able to retrieve a mystical artifact lost to the government before it turned up in Faust’s hands. After a cunning sleight-of-hand maneuver, Faust is defeated and the team takes a look at the real focus of their trip: the map to the ancient Books of Magic.

GRADE:
A

(NIGHT OF THE OWLS) BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #9

STORY: Judd Winick
ART: David Finch and Richard Friend

While this is the correct Talon, Red Robin does not fight him….?

As you probably know either from experience or simply just from prior knowledge of DC’s business practices, Batman has a big presence in the ‘New 52.’ Not only is he DC’s most popular hero, but it’s possible the sales numbers for Bat-related books keep others afloat (I’m looking at you, Demon Knights.) But with a big presence comes a larger potential for shitty, unnecessary titles that add bloat instead of important – or even interesting – plot or character development. Batman: The Dark Knight falls right in the middle; it’s not a terrible book, but it’s also not the best Batman-related title that DC offers. That being said, Batman: The Dark Knight #9 happens to be my favorite crossover issue for “Night of the Owls”. It’s an issue that focuses mostly on a Talon named Carver who’s career lasted too long. Technically, he was the final talon before Dick Grayson’s generation, giving him a closer connection to the events of Batman’s life.

Inner monologue is a tricky thing to successfully convey. If – at any moment – the reader feels like the character’s thoughts are corny, cheesy, or downright ridiculous, it’s a lot harder to relate to that particular title. No one thinks in sentences about their grand plans and how their unique abilities will help them complete said plans (i.e. – I never think to myself, “I’m going to use my skill in writing to keep up with my blog now!” and then proceed to write.) We call this the ‘Scott Lobdell Principle’ here at “The Endless Reel.” The trick is to integrate the reader so smoothly into the thoughts of the desired character, that the reader becomes connected (no matter how temporarily) to said character. Judd Winick is one of those writers who gets it – he makes inner monologue feel less forced.

Batman: The Dark Knight #9 follows Talon Carver’s life from childhood to undead resurrection. It’s been interesting to see how DC’s conveyed these Talons as enemies. At first, it seemed like they were somewhat mindless drones that obeyed the Court of Owls without question. As we near the end of “Night of the Owls”, it’s becoming more and more clear that these Talons have control over their own thoughts, and some choose to be completely loyal, while others explore the undead life they’ve been given. In this case, Carver obeys the Court, but mostly for his own sense of redemption. Carver’s career as a Talon ended in disgrace after he botched an assassination, was seen by the Batman, and then fled.

Carver was the Talon sent after Lincoln March that we met a few weeks ago in Batman #9. B:TDK reinterprets the scene to include Talon Carver’s perspective on the events. In the end, Carver is still old, slow, and weak. The difference is that this time, he accepts his fate; he feels deserving of the cruel end he’s been dealt because he’s no longer good enough for anything else.

“Night of the Owls” has been at it’s best when it gives the Talons compelling characterization. Batman: The Dark Knight #9 does the best job – so far – of making an emotional connection between the reader and Talon Carver. And he escapes at the end! Does this mean we haven’t seen the last of Carver? Will he return as a Talon or as a new villain? Next month promises the return of Scarecrow, but part of me just wants to change this series’ title to Carver and follow this Talon on his quest to understand where he fits into the world.

GRADE:
A

PS – The cover is a total mislead – Red Robin shows up for exactly one panel, and it’s only to listen to orders from Batman. A total letdown. This grade would have been an ‘A+’ if not for that tease.

(COMIC) GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #9

STORY: Tony Bedard
ART: Tyler Kirkham and Batt

Green Lantern: New Guardians is the least straightforward of any GL-related titles in DC’s ‘New 52.’ Hal Jordan and Sinestro are battling the Indigo Tribe, while Guy Gardner and John Stewart are getting ready for an Alpha Lantern incursion. Kyle Rayner, on the other other hand, is on his own, cut off from Oa and forced to ally with the other colored Lanterns in a string of events that’s been somewhat hard to follow, but enjoyable nonetheless. After an initial arc where the Rainbow Brigade is pitted against galactic archangel Invictus, subsequent issues have focused on individual characters rather than the ensemble cast.

This month, the Reach has arrived Odym – the Blue Lantern homeworld – and plan to drain it’s natural resources. The Reach is the alien cult responsible for the beetle Scarab that attached itself to Jaime Reyes in the pages of Blue Beetle. In fact, every member of the Reach wears a blue scarab that takes control of the host and turns he/she/it into a living weapon at the disposal of this galaxy-conquering parasitic force.

Saint Walker is revered as a demi-god on Odym – all of the new Blue Lantern recruits idolize him as The Blue Lantern, the first of their kind. It’s not too far off base, as Walker has proved his tenacity over and over again. When the Reach invades, Walker is who they look to as their leader, and he takes the mantle with conviction.

One of the best scenes of the entire issue comes from a new character, Shon. A relatively new Blue, Saint Walker sends Shon off-planet to find a Green Lantern so the Blue Lanterns can use their rings offensively. When young Shon finds that the foot solider blitzkrieg was just a diversion for the ‘cocooner’ machines wrapping the entire planet in the Reach’s control, he loses hope and his ring. With a cold, “HOPELESS”, the ring flies off Shon’s finger and drops him to his death. It’s a harrowing scene that drives home the idea that the Reach is not to be messed with.

It’s hard to make beetle-men seem intimidating, but Tony Bedard does a fantastic job of keeping the pace steady and giving more information on a need-to-know basis. Tyler Kirkham’s art is spectacular in conveying the hopelessness of the Blue Lanterns’ defense against the Reach. This GL: NG / Blue Beetle semi-crossover looks to be very interesting, not only from a narrative standpoint, but also for it’s ramifications on the DC universe in general!

GRADE:
B+