REVIEW: TEEN TITANS #16

(w) Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza
(a) Brett Booth

I usually take the time to express my opinions on a given comic book issue as best I can. I put effort into what I write because the people writing and illustrating the comics I read put effort into the work they produce. Unfortunately, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza seemingly do not respect their readers enough to not treat them like dimwitted know-nothings, so I’m not going to give the same effort I usually give for this review of Teen Titans #16.

First off, Red Robin’s internal monologue at the beginning of the issue is as ridiculous and asinine as ever, but the real kicker is that Lobdell tries to convince us readers that Tim Drake and Jason Todd are so close, they’re like brothers. Any fan of DC knows that this is a BIG FAT LIE. In what world are Tim and Jason close? The one where Jason died before Tim was even introduced into the Batman mythos? Or the one where Jason came back from the dead and tried to kill Tim, who was Batman’s sidekick at the time? I would say he was Batman’s Robin at the time, but we all know how Lobdell dropped the ball on that one. 

Also, Tim says there’s no one he’d rather have by his side than Red Hood when facing the Joker. Really? Not Batman? Or Batgirl? Or Nightwing? Or any of the other people in the DC universe that are more trustworthy than Red Hood? What an absolutely stupid idea. Seriously, Scott Lobdell, stop insulting my intelligence.

Oh, and the big thing.

WHY DOESN’T RED HOOD SHOOT JOKER? Jason has his gun the entire time he’s conscious. If 17 issues of Red Hood and The Outlaws, not to mention years of pre-‘New 52’ character development that stayed in-continuity, have shown that Jason has no problem using a gun to kill people, why doesn’t he lift his arm up and unload into the Joker? Because Scott Lobdell can’t write. It’s such an obvious plot hole that can’t be ignored.

Almost forgot about the gas bomb dummy Jason shoots up instead of the Joker because Joker apparently had all the time in the world to keep talking to Red Robin and Red Hood while also escaping without them noticing him replacing his body no more than ten feet away. WHAT? I nearly closed the book at this point because there’s no way this could have happened in a way that would make sense.

There’s a lot of dialogue to hate in Teen Titans #16, but my favorite bit of awfulness comes from Wonder Girl speaking to Arsenal who is right next to her: “So, Arsenal isn’t the moron he made you out to be.” Like nails on a chalkboard, this sentence sounds. She refers to Arsenal in the third person then references some unnamed person who described Arsenal with no further information. So frustrating.

And Raven pops up for no reason other than to awkwardly set up the next arc. And Lance from Team 7 is around for some unexplained reason. God, I just wanted it all to end and it just kept going.

In conclusion, this issue was awful. Just awful.

GRADE
.5/10

And the ‘.5’ is only because the stupid fight between Red Hood and Red Robin was kind of cool looking. Kind of.
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REVIEW: AQUAMAN #16

(w) Geoff Johns (a) Paul Pelletier

**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD**

Hot off last week’s big reveal at the end Justice League #16, Geoff Johns throws “Throne of Atlantis” into fifth gear in Aquaman #16 with some fights, some twists, and a whole lot of new questions that need answering before the end of the crossover. Orm the Ocean Master — aka the current King of Atlantis — sentenced the Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to death by expulsion to the “dark waters”. While Aquaman searches for his beleaguered friends who are sinking to the bottom of the Mid-Atlantic Trench in weird pods, the reserve members of the Justice League bring the fight to the invading Atlantean army on the surface. 

The most exciting part of Aquaman #16 is seeing the extended League roster show up to lend a hand in this time of crisis, and how that affects the League proper. Some choice dialogue reveals that Batman and Cyborg had been developing the idea of having a sort-of emergency call list of Leaguers on stand-by, but Batman’s frustration at Cyborg’s call to arms shows Vic acted of his own accord. Cyborg’s decision to circumvent Batman’s input is an important step for Victor, a relatively popular hero who isn’t featured in any other series of the ‘New 52’, and who desperately needed some character development beyond his father issues. Now, we have some friction between Cyborg and Batman, something that will surely come up in future issues. And seeing more heroes being added into the mix is just plain exciting.

While the extended League takes on the Atlantean forces, Aquaman and Cyborg manage to free Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman while also learning that the monsters Aquaman believed he had sealed away at the end of “The Trench” have mysteriously returned. Up to now, educated assumptions pointed to Orm’s hand moving the chess pieces around the board to force an war that would prove Atlantis’ superiority.   The dramatic irony of the Trench monsters’ freedom finally comes to light for the characters, but their arrival raises even more questions because Orm is as confused about their sudden and seemingly indiscriminate strike as the League. 

Even though everything is coming together, Johns keeps us guessing to the end with the big twist at the end of Aquaman #16. The reveal makes a lot of sense and it points to how and why the events of “Throne of Atlantis” have taken place, but it also leaves things open for a solid resolution in Justice League #17.

GRADE
8/10

REVIEW: THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2

(w) Dan Slott (a) Ryan Stegman

**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #12**

With The Superior Spider-Man, Dan Slott is exploring uncharted territory with the character: critical thinking. Peter Parker has always been a smart person. Incredibly smart, in fact. Unfortunately, that genius was usually squandered by Peter’s one-track mind when it came to being Spider-Man — the mask always took precedent, no matter the cost. And when we take an unbiased look at Peter Parker’s entire career as a vigilante superhero, we can see that many of the tragedies and heartaches in his life were a result of unpreparedness or simple miscommunication. This may sound harsh, but it’s one of the many truths the ghost of Peter Parker is forced to learn as he watches his own life being lived by someone else. The Superior Spider-Man #2 builds upon the events of the first issue without the storyline feeling like a Brian Michael Bendis super-decompression. Octavius isn’t as righteous or ‘good’ as readers want him to be in Peter’s body, but the switch has proved to be a fantastic source for new types of Spider-Man storytelling, and that’s the best thing to happen to the character in years.

“He’s saying super villain stuff! How can no one see through this?” ponders the Ghost of Peter Passed as he watches everyone in his life fall for Octavius’ deception. I was worried Ghost Peter would only be popping up every once in a while when Otto needed a good kick in the pants to do the right thing, like a guardian angel with some alternative agenda. Having Peter float around aimlessly only to be unseen, unheard, and unknown to the world is fun because it lets Dan Slott convey the difference between the Amazing and Superior Spider-Men. Otto is doing things with the concept of being Spider-Man that Peter wouldn’t have thought of in years. Like actively figuring out ways to balance an actual social life against crime-fighting, or being smarter about patrolling the city by employing spider-bots that connect with a tablet app to relay information about various incidents that require Spider-Man’s attention. He makes nice with J. Jonah Jameson so the press isn’t constantly on Spider-Man’s case, and he actually dates Mary Jane Watson (or “the Watson woman”), something that hasn’t happened in a great many years. Of course, it’s not really Peter doing these things.

Ghost Peter isn’t too fond of Otto’s new ways, but just because Peter doesn’t understand something doesn’t make it bad. It happens a lot (in movies, at least) — one scientist discovering the final solution to the chagrin and over-analysis of the other scientists out of jealousy and a feeling of failure. In the case of The Superior Spider-Man #2, ghost Peter mentions, on more than one occasion, that Otto isn’t doing things like Spider-Man would do, and Mary Jane makes the same observation. This sequence feels like the first of many that will put Otto Parker’s identity and reputation up to the test with Peter’s personal relationships. Otto explains that he’s trying to be “a smarter Spider-Man” by evolving the way he looks at being a superhero and a man in general. The most interesting part about Otto’s drive to be better is that — at least in this issue — it’s primarily fueled by his desire for Mary Jane. Otto takes MJ on multiple dates with little more payoff than pecks on the cheek and the cold shoulder one particular night. It’s in the frustration of not even getting to first base that causes Otto to have his greatest revelation about Spider-Man as Spider-Man so far: Mary Jane and Peter’s relationship is dependent on the Spider-Man aspect to keep it alive and healthy — without the mask, there is no spark and no deep connection.

It could be argued that Slott has effectively cheapened decades of history between these characters by implying that their love was little more than some weird superhero/damsel-in-distress relationship that was only good when the world was going bad, or vice versa. Really, it’s an astute observation on the nature of a super hero being in love with someone who isn’t. In the beginning, Peter and Mary Jane had a relationship built upon a mutual respect and love for one another, but as time went on and Spider-Man’s life began to affect Peter’s, Mary Jane was often caught in the crossfire as the one who needed saving, with all the whirlwind emotions that come with being held hostage by a mutated thug or international crime syndicate. Otto’s decision to break things off with MJ is one that merits significance because it’s a decision that shocks ghost Peter because it’s something he could never do, no matter how much sense it made. Otto understands how Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship became dysfunctional and he puts a stop to it before it can even start back up.

The Superior Spider-Man #2 continues Dan Slott’s fantastic look at a villain turned hero. Otto Octavius has a chance to change his life completely (and for the better) without sacrificing who he is at the core, which is something many of us wish we could have done at some point in our lives. The addition of ghost Peter into the mix is risky, and the jury is still out on how that element of the storytelling will play out, but for now, it’s enjoyable and provides the Peter Parker presence fans really want. Giving Otto the chance to make Spider-Man into a better hero was a stroke of genius for Slott because it allows Otto to transfer his mad scientist ideas into competent tech with practical uses. I mentioned it in my review of the first issue and I’ll say it again here: for me, The Superior Spider-Man is a whole lot more fun and interesting than Spider-Man has been in a while.

GRADE
8.5/10

FEATURED REVIEW: GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1

(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(a) ChrisCross

“Rise of the Third Army” concludes this week with Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, a rather fantastic finish to a somewhat lackluster ‘crossover’ event that spanned all four Green Lantern Family titles from the ‘New 52’. Things started out well enough last August with Green Lantern Annual #1, but the actual “Rise” of the Guardians’ new army has been slow-burning, to put it lightly. In fact, the Third Army was rarely more than background noise that happened to pop into the main story every so often. Fortunately, Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 offers a bit of redemption for “Rise of the Third Army” with a satisfying conclusion that smoothly leads into the upcoming follow-up crossover, “Wrath of the First Lantern”.

The Guardians of the Universe have been losing their marbles for quite a while. Geoff Johns provided the catalyst with the reveal that the Blue Ones had been hiding the fear entity Parallax within the Green Lantern central battery for eons. Besides giving explanation to the ineffectiveness of the Green Lantern rings against the color yellow, Johns’ revelations in Green Lantern: Rebirth were the first of many that showed how billions of years of immortality have made the Guardians lose sight of their ethics.

In Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, Peter J. Tomasi picks up all the plot pieces — from Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Red Lanterns — that have been piling up over the past four months. The Guardians’ endgame is near, and part of that includes deceiving all Green Lanterns ignorant to the threat of the Third Army into returning to Oa for a mass genocide. Guy Gardner, new Lantern Simon Baz, and the squirrel-like B’dg concoct a plan to exploit the Guardians and inform the rest of the Corps as to what’s happening by manipulating the Guardians’ massive egos. John Stewart and Star Sapphire Fatality finally manage to see Mogo’s reconstitution through. Kyle Rayner and his Rainbow Brigade show up near the end to add some seriously needed firepower. Finally, Atrocitus’ reprogrammed Manhunters join the fray against the most powerful, most insane beings in the known universe.

This is Green Lantern storytelling at it’s best: crackling interconnectedness that conveys the larger-than-life essence of science fiction storytelling. And unlike Geoff Johns’ previous epic Green Lantern story arcs, the Guardians sit firmly at the center of this conflict, not through past mistakes or misinterpreted intentions, but by the will of their own machinations. Parallax, the Sinestro Corps, the Black Lanterns; all of them pale in comparison to the Guardians of the Universe in terms of raw power. Ganthet and his sorely misled brethren want peace in throughout the universe, no matter what the cost. In one sense, their endeavor is no different than in the past. Just like any other technology, advancements are made as time moves forward. For the Guardians, upgrading their technology means having a singular goal, a shared focus that allows for the best possible results. Under these guidelines, the Green Lantern Corps is like an old PC from the mid-90s: slow, outdated, and not worth the effort it would take to make it better.

Just like any nefarious villain bent on total control, the Guardians bite off more than they can chew, leading to the explosive — if not foreseeable — escape of the mysterious First Lantern, now named Volthoom. Without spoiling the circumstances of his escape or his intentions, the First Lantern’s plans are a natural step forward from “Rise of the Third Army” that will give all the different Lanterns a lot to deal with in the coming months. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern plans have been coming to fruition for the past eight years, and it will be exciting to see how the Guardians’ fall from grace will end. I word it like this because I can’t see an outcome to “Wrath of the First Lantern” where the Guardians are still in power. Already in the ‘New 52’, the rules have changed for the Green Lantern franchise in significant ways, and introducing a First Lantern into the mix makes logical, if not yet evident, sense.

Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 does a great job finishing up one story arc and starting another. While the entire “Rise of the Third Army” event was less fast-paced as I had originally expected it to be, the conclusion makes it worth the build-up because we’ve been able to slowly integrate the idea of a hive-minded army of locust soldiers assimilating sentience into the basic setting of Green Lantern series. Instead of “Rise” being a one-month blitzkrieg (like, say, “Night of the Owls”), Johns and Company opted for pacing that made the threat of the Third Army all the more real and disturbing.

GRADE
9/10

THE WEEK (JAN 30 – FEB 5, 2013)

Featured Review

Green Lantern Corps Annual #1
(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(a) ChrisCross

“Rise of the Third Army” finished up with this oversized annual issue! Now that the Guardian’s new army has ravaged the universe, how will the Green Lantern Corps stop them? Find out here! Plus, GLC Annual #1 also leads into the next Green Lantern Family crossover, “Wrath of the First Lantern”!

Reviews
Aquaman #16
(w) Geoff Johns
(a) Paul Pelletier

“Throne of Atlantis” continues this week as Orm the Ocean Master declares all-out war on the surface world! Plus, remember how the monsters from “The Trench” got out a few issues back? Well here they come to eat your face off!
Batman and Robin Annual #1


Batman and Robin Annual #1
(w) Peter J. Tomasi
(a) Adrian Syaf


Hawkeye #7
(w) Matt Fraction
(a) Steve Lieber

The hurricane issue. All of Matt Fraction’s royalties from this issue’s sales are going directly to Hurricane Sandy relief. So, make sure to drop by your LCS and maybe pick up more than one copy if you’ve got the money to spare this week!

Justice League Dark #16
(w) Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
(a) Mikel Janin

The Superior Spider-Man #2
(w) Dan Slott
(a) Ryan Stegman

Dan Slott promised he would address the issue of rape between Peter and Mary Jane now that Peter is actually Doc Ock. I was very impressed with the first issue, so hopefully Slott can keep the momentum rolling!

Teen Titans #16
(w) Scott Lobdell
(a) Brett Booth

Extra! Extra!
Avengers #4
(w) Jonathan Hickman
(a) Adam Kubert

Batman, Incorporated #7
(w) Grant Morrison
(a) Chris Burnham

The Flash #16
(w) Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
(a) Francis Manapul

Superman #16
(w) Scott Lobdell
(a) Kenneth Rocafort

X-Men Legacy #5
(w) Simon Spurrier
(a) 

EXTRA! EXTRA! (JAN 23-29, 2013)

Green Lantern Corps #16
(Tomasi, Pasarin)

Green Lantern Corps #0 back in September introduced Guy Gardner’s family, a plot element that’s continued throughout “Rise of the Third Army” as Guy’s illustrious rank in the Corps is stripped and he’s forced to go back to Earth, disgraced and powerless. Peter J. Tomasi has done a great job fleshing out Guy’s downward spiral that comes to a head this month in Green Lantern Corps #16 as the Third Army goes after Guy. With guest stars B’dg and Simon Baz from the pages of Green Lantern, Tomasi is building up to next week’s explosive finale of “Rise of the Third Army” that will lead into “Wrath of the First Lantern”, an event that promises to change the cosmic landscape of the DCnU.

GRADE: 8/10

Red Hood and The Outlaws #16
(Lobdell, Green II, Faucher)

While definitely on the ‘not terribly relevant’ end of the spectrum for “Death of the Family” tie-ins, Red Hood and The Outlaws #16 does provide an interesting crossover between the title and the Teen Titans who join Arsenal and Starfire in searching for their respective Red-titled leaders. This issue is about setting up the future of Red Hood and The Outlaws by touching on Roy Harper’s surprising past with Killer Croc, a look at the mysterious Dr. Hugo Strange, as well as an epilogue about Deathstroke pointing toward some re-envisioned classic Titans/Deathstroke action! Of all the titles he’s writing for DC, Scott Lobdell’s work on this series is the best: it’s relatable and meaningful, it’s not saturated with internal monologue, and the characters feel like real people instead of an idea of what people should sound like. Even though the Joker is hardly a focus of this chapter in “Death of the Family”, the tie-in label is still valid because Joker’s actions have caused a lot more consequences than even the Clown Prince of Crime could have anticipated.

GRADE: 8/10

Supergirl #16
(Johnson, Asrar)

While I was a big fan of Supergirl since it started, I’ve found myself liking it less and less every month, starting with the departure of series co-writer Michael Green II, then with the “H’el on Earth” tie-in issues that feel so forced I almost want to just stop reading the book until all this Kryptonian stuff is sorted out. Supergirl #16 continues the odd trend of reworking Kara’s unique personality; instead of being the bold, independent thinker she’d been for 13 issues thus far, Kara’s become a slack-jawed servant to the whims of H’el, a guy who couldn’t look more evil and despicable if he tried. Homesickness can go a long way in influencing actions, but it’s hard to balance Kara’s total support of H’el’s obviously insane machinations against her previous, well-adjusted self. I’m hoping we’ll get the Kara we all know and love back after the conclusion of “H’el on Earth.”

GRADE: 7/10

Uncanny X-Force #1
(Humphries, Garney, Miki)

With a title that requires this series to somewhat live up to the spectacle of it’s predecessor, Sam Humphries and Ron Garney’s Uncanny X-Force is about a new era for some of Marvel’s leading ladies, as well as Puck, the mystical dwarf from Canada. But I digress because UXF (v2) is actually very fun and entertaining — Storm and Psylocke are working together to find and stop classic X-Men villain Spiral from peddling her hive-mind hallucinogenics to club scene ravers. So far, there’s not a lot to explain exactly why all these characters will eventually join forces (including Fantomex offshoot Cluster), but that’s not the point of this first issue: it’s to show how Betsy Braddock — the only remaining member of the previous X-Force team unless you kind of count Cluster — hasn’t moved on from what happened with that team and how those lingering emotions are making her life unlivable. This volume of Uncanny X-Force has the potential to be one of the coolest ‘Marvel NOW!’ series going forward, but it’s going to take a voice of it’s own that’s not drowned out by other female-centric books like the non-adjectived X-Men or even Fearless Defenders.

GRADE: 7.5/10

REVIEW: UNCANNY AVENGERS #3

(w) Rick Remender
(a) John Cassaday

Reading Uncanny Avengers is experiencing a modern classic unfold. Much in the same fashion he rendered Uncanny X-Force one of the best comic book series in modern history, Rick Remender is making sure this new series lives up to it’s top shelf name. Uncanny Avengers sits comfortably and impeccably between the Avengers and X-Men franchises, in terms of team makeup as well as narrative breadth. Jonathan Hickman is going universal in the pages of Avengers and New Avengers, ratcheting up the scope of the threats facing each team, threats that have universe-sized ramifications. Brian Michael Bendis is bringing his unique brand of interpersonal relationship drama to the X-Men by penning decompressed, character-driven stories. Remender’s book and team fall right in the middle, which is kind of the point.

Uncanny Avengers #3 continues “The Red Shadow”, an opening salvo that very much reflects Remender’s attempt to balance the sheer size of the Avengers with the intimacy of the X-Men. There are a number of different elements that showcase the melding of franchises. Like Red Skull, who is traditionally an Avengers villain, focusing his evil intentions upon the biggest perceived genetic monstrosity of all: the mutant gene. Taking the Nazi ideology to it’s extreme conclusion makes Red Skull one of the more foreboding villains in recent history. Or Red’s S-Men, a ramshackle team super humans made special externally, through science, magic, or anything other than being a mutant, really. These S-Men (short for Special Men, one would assume) have undergone alterations to become a facsimile of the very perceived threat they stand against. For them, the ends justify the means when the end is the extinction of all mutants. And their backstories reveal the hatred that fuels their endeavors.

It’s not often that reading a comic book feels like reading a novel. Remender’s narration throughout Uncanny Avengers #3 transforms “The Red Shadow” from a well-written Avengers story into a broad, expansive narrative that’s a fantastic allegory for World War II. While Red Skull’s general ideology remains the same — thus does his position in the symbology — his hatred has shifted from merely one ethnicity to an entire species of mutated humans. Against Red Skull’s metaphorical Axis stand the Allied Forces in the Uncanny Avengers, who seek to throttle Red’s hypnotic amplification of people’s base fears about mutantkind, pushing them to murder those who are different. Captain America vs. Red Skull: sound familiar?

Keeping the gratuitous violence off-panel was a wise choice, artistically, because it gives John Cassaday room to show more with less and to incorporated Remender’s narration to give these sequences the cold, bitter tone the story requires. Cassaday’s artwork for the entire issue is fantastic, especially his Red Skull, who looks verily insane from beginning to end.

Rick Remender and John Cassaday are creating something truly inspired with Uncanny Avengers. The narrative’s underlying symbolism and lasting consequences give it the demeanor of Marvel’s flagship ‘Marvel NOW!’ title. In many ways, Remender has taken the best parts of the Avengers and X-Men franchises and melded them together for stunning results. Uncanny Avengers #3 is the third chapter of “The Red Shadow”, but unlike many middle issues, this one doesn’t lull or rest on exposition to carry the story into a big conclusion.

GRADE
9/10